Habits = Happiness? Gretchen Rubin – Better than Before [Book review]

Gretchen Rubin is an American author, blogger and speaker on the subjects of habits, happiness, and human nature. Having listened to her podcast ‘Happier’ and found it both fascinating and helpful, I decided to read her book: ‘Better than before’.

Gretchen’s writing about habits is based on academic studies and her own research. She has created a concept called ‘The 4 Tendencies’ (you can take a quiz for free to find yours on her website). Your tendency is determined by how you respond to expectations. It also affects how you form new habits.

The 4 Tendencies are:
-Obliger – responds to outer rules but not to inner rules. (This is my tendency!)
-Questioner – questions all rules, but can follow rules they endorse (effectively making all rules into inner rules)
-Upholder – responds to both inner and outer rules
-Rebel – resists all rules

So far, Gretchen has discussed how habits are formed, the best ways to stick to new habits and the loopholes which we use to break habits. I think this last section has been the most difficult to listen to as I recognised the loopholes I am guilty of using, but according to Gretchen this is normal!


I’ve had a lot of success using what I’ve learnt to start some new habits and avoid the dreaded loopholes. If you would like to do the same or are interested in the psychology of habit formation I would definitely recommend reading this book!

Check out Gretchen’s weekly podcast ‘Happier’ where she discusses her habit research with her sister Elizabeth as it will give you a taster of her work.

happier podcast logo


Snacking Solution – Alpen Light Cereal Bars [Review]

Alpen Light bars cereal bars are available in delicious flavours such as Jaffa Cake and Cherry Bakewell.  I’ve been eating these bars for a while now on the WW plan and was surprised to find out they were not high on smartpoints!

They are a great treat at 4pm when  afternoon hunger kicks in and I’m looking for a sugary snack.  A box of 5 from Sainsbury’s cost £1.99, and they are occasionally on offer.  This is around the same price as other cereal bars and WW branded bars.

I have tried the Chocolate & Fudge, Jaffa Cake, Banoffee and Cherry Bakewell bars so far… Looking forward to testing out the others! They are not too sweet and don’t leave you wanting more.  No real negatives, but the Chocolate Fudge and Double Chocolate ones are higher in points.

Smartpoints for Alpen Lalpen light bars selectionight Cereal Bars:

  • Chocolate & Fudge – 3
  • Double Chocolate 3
  • Jaffa Cake – 2
  • Summer Fruits – 2
  • Banoffee – 2
  • Cherry Bakewell – 2
  • Lemon Drizzle with yogurt – 2
  • Apple & Sultana – 3



Check out these bars if you are looking for a low point sweet snack!



Mikado – Tasty pick up sticks!

I wanted to find a chocolatey snack that satisfied my cravings, but wasn’t too high in points, I think Mikado is the one!  They are thin biscuit sticks with 3/4 of the length covered in chocolate.

I started off with the milk chocolate flavour but have since tried and fallen in love with the white chocolate ones, as they remind me of some delicious chocolate snack from the past (I’m not sure what!? Answers on a postcard!).  

The fact that you can eat 4 sticks for just 2 Smartpoints is great, and if you have more points then you can have lots!  I would say that these are better than the mini Green & Black bars (4sp) because they last a bit longer so you feel like they are better value for points.

Research into the name ‘Mikado’ has interestingly revealed that these snacks were originally created in Japan in 1966 and were called ‘Pocky’.  Only in Europe are they named after the pick up sticks game which they resemble!



The little app of ‘Calm’ – Review

The intention of this blog is to share my journey to becoming healthier and hopefully inspire a few folks along the way.  I think that being healthy in the mind is just as important  as being healthy in the body. Therefore, I wanted to share some info about a new app I have been using.  

Calm – Meditate, Sleep, Relax
Pros:  Lots of guided and unguided meditation, has definitely helped me to feel less anxious and be more mindful, is very relaxing.  This app is really easy to use and very basic in a good way.

Cons:  I haven’t found any yet, I also haven’t tried any other meditation apps so there may be better or worse ones available.  

Availability – I’ve just found out that although I’m using this on the iPad that it was originally created as a web app, so you can actually use this on a computer and it’s also available on android.

I’ve been using the Calm app on the iPad for free since February and decided to take the plunge on Sunday and subscribe.  This costs either £7.99/month or £29.99/year.  As it seemed a lot less and I find I am getting a lot of benefit out of it, I decided to subscribe for a year.  I have been using the guided meditations twice a day (in the morning and evening).  

Before you subscribe you get access to:
-The 7 Steps of Calm – learn how to meditate with this easy-to-follow program
-7 guided meditation sessions from 2 to 30 minutes – for whenever you need a break from your day
-10 beautiful nature scenes – choose the right background sounds to help you relax

After subscribing you gain access to 7 programs of guided meditation, an unguided timed session and 24 single guided sessions on many useful themes such as ‘Deep sleep’, ‘Emergency Calm’ and even ‘Commuting’ (could be useful for anyone who gets the tube in the morning!).  I haven’t tried any of these yet, but I am looking forward to testing them out.  

The app also has a ‘Profile’ section where there is a calendar which shows you your current ‘streak’ (days in a row meditating), longest streak, the total time you’ve spent meditating, and your total no. of sessions.  This is a good feature for habit tracking.

At the moment I am working my way through the ‘7 days of calming anxiety’.  Those of you who know me  will know that I am a bit of a worrier and this program is definitely helping me calm the F down.

In conclusion – I definitely recommend this app and am looking forward to trying out more of the meditations.  If you are like me and are trying to add good habits like meditation to your life then I think this would really help.



Snack experimentation – Nakd Pecan Pie – Raw Fruit & Nut bar

Fourth attempt to find a tasty low smartpoint alternative to  chocolate bars.

Nakd Pecan Pie – Raw Fruit & Nut bar
Bought from:  Holland & Barrett
Cost:  £0.99
WW Smartpoints: 6

Looks:  Brown and mottled – Healthy but not all that appealing
Smells:  Smells Ok, like dried fruit
Taste:  Like fruit cake, dried fruit, nutty kind of a taste, doesn’t really taste like pecan pie
Texture: Like eating squashed together dried fruit and nuts

Conclusion:  Not such a bad price for this bar, but there is no way I would be able to mistake it for a tasty chocolate bar or even a pecan pie!  Ok and probably way healthier but not really worth 6sps for a treat.  I won’t be buying again!  Disappointing!



Rating:  ** (Out of 5)

Note:  Claims to be gluten, wheat, dairy free – Perhaps these are all the things that taste good?


3rd Time Lucky – Possible Chocolate Bar Substitute – PHD Pharma Whey HT Bar – Chocolate Peanut

Third attempt to find a tasty low smartpoint alternative to regular chocolate bars.

PHD Pharma Whey HT Bar – Chocolate Peanut
Bought from:  Holland & Barrett
Cost:  £2.99 (Bought as part of a ‘buy one get one half price’ deal)
WW Smartpoints: 6

Looks:  Both me and OH actually thought this one looked pretty good!  Cut open – Looked OK, not entirely like the picture on the packet as the crispy bit is not as thick.
Smells:  Smelt pretty good, not plasticky and synthetic like some of the others
Taste:  Quite nutty but a bit bland, no after taste
Texture: Cakey/greasy consistency, but you get used to it, the crunchy bits at the top of the bar are good.  Quite stodgy.

Conclusion:  Not horrible but still not as moreish/delicious as the average chocolate bar, although it is a lot lower in points.  A bit expensive for an every day treat?
Rating:  ** (Out of 5)

Note:  Perhaps the cloying texture of these bars is just a characteristic of the whey/protein ingredient? Although these bars are not as tasty as chocolate bars they are more filling and I don’t find myself wanting another one straight away….  The search continues!




Take 2 – Possible Chocolate Bar Substitute – PowerBar 52% Protein Plus Cookies & Cream Flavour

Second Attempt to find a tasty low smartpoint alternative to regular chocolate bars.  As this one is only three smartpoints I was very hopeful!

PowerBar 52% Protein Plus Cookies & Cream Flavour
Bought from:  Holland & Barrett
Cost:  £2.40 (Bought as part of a ‘buy one get one half price’ deal)
WW Smartpoints: 3

Looks:  Like a normal chocolate bar, when cut open:  looks a lot like the image on the packet, pretty impressed!
Smells:  Synthetic, but also tasted of cookies!
Taste:  Plasticky synthetic flavour, but this did improve as I got used to it, no after taste
Texture:  Chewy, cakey consistency

Conclusion:  Bearable for a treat at such low points?  A bit better than the peanut bar yesterday, but still not as good as a regular chocolate bar.  Not the cheapest at £2.40, even as part of the deal is still quite pricey!
Rating:  ** (Out of 5)



Possible Chocolate Bar Substitute No.1 – Pure Protein Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar Review

As I talked about in my previous post, my plan is to ‘beat’ the WW ‘sugar tax’ by finding alternatives to the apparently unhealthy chocolate bars that I used to enjoy on a regular basis.  I’m fast realising that this is a good idea and maybe chocolate bars aren’t the answer as you burn them off quickly and want more.  The first alternative I’ve tried is reviewed here:

Pure Protein Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar
Bought from:  Holland & Barrett
Cost:  £1.99 (Bought as part of a ‘buy one get one half price’ deal)
WW Smartpoints:  5

Looks:  Pretty standard chocolate bar, when cut open:  doesn’t look much like the image on the packet, a bit darker brown and jelly like
Smells:  Disappointed – smells very synthetic and sickly, not like chocolate/peanut butter
Taste:  Doesn’t taste like peanut butter, very synthetic sickly flavour – If I hadn’t already added it to my points for the day I wouldn’t have eaten the second half!  Weird after taste
Texture:  Super chewy, greasy texture, got stuck in my teeth

Conclusion:  May be OK for those who want to build muscle but definitely not a tasty treat.  I’m very disappointed as this was quite low in points and the picture looked delicious!
Rating:  * (Out of 5 and this is me being generous!)