Food Fitness Flora

Flora Beverley, aka Food Fitness Flora, knows the effects of a bad relationship with food, but those times are long gone, and she now channels her energy into helping others lead a healthier lifestyle, as well as training for her next ultramarathon

By Glorious

As a teenager, Flora Beverley did not have a good relationship with food, but now the popular fitness and food blogger is not only ultra healthy, she also runs ultramarathons, as well as partaking in other sports. Flora is a huge advocate of exercising for the mind as much as the body, and for her, all-round health is far more important than any diet or aesthetic goals. Across her platform, Flora shares her story with fact-based, balanced articles and advice on running and how best to achieve a healthy lifestyle, while we find out about her next challenge, her go-to meal and who she would like to invite to dinner.

Flora Beverley exercises for her mind as well as her body. Photography by Neil Irwin.

Glorious: Tell us about yourself and why you became so passionate about healthy living?

Flora Beverley: I’ve always had an interest in being healthy. As a child I wanted to live for as long as possible, so I remember being quite committed to keeping fit, although I was never particularly good at sports at school! I first started my Instagram account 12 years ago when I was recovering from an eating disorder (somewhere between orthorexia and anorexia, although I don’t think the former was a diagnosis back then). I started the account to keep track of my meals and ensure I was eating enough. Because it was just the start of Instagram as a social media platform, there was a really small but great community and support network on there, and for some reason, documenting my recovery helped me lots. During my obsession with food, I learned a lot about nutrition. Back then I used it to harm myself, but the knowledge has certainly come in handy more recently, to ensure I’m eating plenty as I take on my ultramarathons and other races!

Glorious: When and why did you decide to establish Food Fitness Flora – what was your role beforehand?

Flora Beverley: Although I started a version of my current page when I was 15, I didn’t do it full-time until relatively recently. I was lucky that I could dedicate so much time to it – the account spanned my GCSE, AS and A level years, as well as all my years studying Biology at university and through my first jobs in science communications.

Glorious: How would you describe your relationship with food nowadays and what impact has healthy living had on your personality and lifestyle?

Flora Beverley: I have a great relationship with food now – healthier than most people I know! You can’t run the distances I run without eating plenty of food, and it is now a great source of delight for me, as well as a necessary fuel. I think/hope I’ve managed to avoid making ‘healthy person’ a part of my personality, but keeping healthy gives me the energy to do the other things I love.

Exploring Ullswater in the Lake District.

Glorious: Other than running, do you play/have an interest in other sports? If so, what are they and why do you like them?

Flora Beverley: Absolutely – I’ve never been tied down to one sport, and tend to enjoy switching things up every few years. I first realised that I was quite good at sport when I took up squash aged 16 and made it to the National Schools Championships the following year. Once I left school, I took up boxing and competed in two white collar boxing fights in 2018 and 2019. In 2019 I took up running properly for the first time, having dabbled as a method of keeping fit for a few years before. I did the Tokyo Marathon off the back of 10 weeks training, which wasn’t great for me, but it was an interesting experience! After Tokyo I took up trail running and in 2020 did my first 2 ultramarathons in lockdown. I adored them so much that I immediately knew it would be the sport for me.

The thing that unites all these sports is that they’re individual sports – I’m clearly not very good at teamwork – and they all involve a lot of adrenaline, which I love. I still do a lot of cross training, including strength training and hiking, and when I can I’ll do pretty much anything else too. A recent favourite is bouldering. I love the fact that it’s so technique based, and low impact (unless you fall!). I’d love to do it more often but sadly don’t get the chance much.

Flora: "You can't run the distances I run without eating plenty of food." Photography by Alec Brown.

impact

Flora: "In an ideal week I'll run 5 times and cover around 50km." Image by Tamsin Hurrell.

Glorious: Where are your favourite places in the world to run and why?

Flora Beverley: I love hilly technical trails! During lockdown I spent time running along the southwest coast path in Dorset/Devon. No matter what incredible places I get to run around the world, I think those trails will always remain my favourite. I’m also a huge fan of the Scottish Highlands, even if every time I visit, they chew me up and spit me out again. I’m a sucker for an ego check.

Running the Bristol 10K, September 2022.

Glorious: What are your running essentials?

Flora Beverley: Food, good trail shoes, comfy pack, smile.

Glorious: What is your weekly fitness regime and what do you advise your audience?

Flora Beverley: The specifics of my weekly fitness regime vary depending on what I’m training for, but in an ideal week I’ll run 5 times and cover around 50km, including 2 interval sessions, 1 long run and 2 recovery/slow runs. I’ll also do 2 strength/physio sessions. Perfect weeks rarely happen though, so I just do what I can! I’m currently training for a 10k time trial using the Runna app, which I’m actually really enjoying, despite missing the trails! I’ve shared information about Runna loads on my Instagram because I can’t stop raving about it as an alternative to coaching, which can get super expensive. If you’re hoping to train for a race, whether it’s an ultramarathon or your first 5k, the app is brilliant! If you use the code FLORA you’ll also get 2 weeks completely free to check it out. I always advise my audience to start where they’re at – there’s no point trying to copy someone else’s fitness regime, because your timetable, fitness, ability and goals are all different. That’s why Runna is so good, because it takes all these things into account. I’m not sponsored by them, I’m just a huge fan of anything that makes running more accessible and less intimidating to people.

Glorious: Throughout the year you take part in physical challenges. Tell us about these, your highlights and what motivates you to take on the next challenge.

Flora Beverley: I love to have races booked in the calendar because it gives me a focus. My road races and time trials tend to be purely about improving my fitness, not actually about having fun, but off the back of those I can start to train for things that I get excited about, like ultramarathons! I’ve started to book things for next year, and spring is looking busy but very exciting with a variety of challenges. Because I’m still relatively early in my running journey, I’m still improving, and every time I do a race, it gives me the confidence to try something else. There’s a joke in the running community that racing is like childbirth – every time you race you say ‘never again’ but it’s not long before you forget the pain and book the next one!

Glorious: Why do you think you have generated such a significant following? Engaging with your audience must be time consuming, but at the same time hugely satisfying.

Flora Beverley: If you think about the time I’ve had Instagram, it’s not such an insane growth rate, just consistent. I don’t want hype or trends to grow my account, I just try to share what works for me and things I think might help other people. I read all my comments and DMs and reply to what I can, when I can – I think it’s part of the job but also very rewarding. I’ve got immense value from people on Instagram over the years, so it’s nice to be able to hopefully pass some value onto others too.

Flora: "I love to have races booked in the calendar because it gives me a focus." Photography by Jake Baggaley.

Glorious: You studied biology, so does this help to back up your content as a trusted voice?

Flora Beverley: Perhaps, although I don’t think you need to study biology to understand the important aspects of training and nutrition and how they apply to you. I’m neither a coach nor a nutritionist, so I try not to give specific advice in these fields, I just share what’s working for me at the time. Having said that, I do really enjoy reading long form content and watching reels that cite primary literature and contain references, which I think people who have studied science are more likely to include. It just adds credibility.

Adventures in Scotland, September 2022. Photography by Alec Brown.

Glorious: When you’re not outdoors, what are your other interests, do you find it easy to take time out and relax?

Flora Beverley: I’m not particularly good at relaxing in the traditional sense of doing nothing, but have plenty of hobbies outside of running. I find movement very calming – walking the dog, dancing, bouldering – and also have a background in music, so I love to sit down at the piano and play. It’s really meditative for me; if I try thinking about my day, what I’m cooking for supper or work I have to do, I play awfully. So I have to focus, and that helps me to relax almost instantaneously. I love to write and sing too, although I’m not so good at keeping up either of these regularly, and they both suffer as a result.

Glorious: As a food lover, what is your favourite go-to meal and why?

Flora Beverley: Probably beans on toast! It’s simple, full of goodness and so quick. Sometimes I add vegetables, but more often I keep it really simple and basic. It’s unbeatable for its taste:time ratio!

Flora is a co-founder of Leo's Box. Photography by Tamsin Hurrell.

Glorious: Sustainability and mental health are very important to you, so how do you promote awareness of these subjects through your online content?

Flora Beverley: In all honesty, I don’t think I talk about either enough, but I try. Mental health is a tough one for me to talk about, because I know people view my page as very calming and positive, and I don’t want to ruin their experience by talking about some really dark topics. I’ve struggled in the past a lot with depression, and even thinking about it stresses me out, so I hardly bring it up anymore. Having said that, I think it’s also really important to break down taboos around mental health, so if I feel like there’s a conversation that needs to be had, I’ll happily have it. It’s estimated that 1 in 6 people have suffered from a common mental health problem in the past week. That’s roughly 18,500 of the people who follow my Instagram, so it’s far from a niche topic. As for sustainability, I try to incorporate this into everything I do. It’s nice to think that out of the people who come to my channels, 90% will be because they enjoy running, but if I can teach them something about sustainability too, that’s great.

Glorious: You are the co-founder of Leo’s Box. Tell us about this.

Flora Beverley: Leo’s Box is a service that gives members access to sustainable products at wholesale prices. Think Costco, but good for the planet. Membership costs from £3 per month, and gets you up to 70% off loads of well known brands, like REN Skincare, Upcircle, Seep, Homethings and Evolve skincare. The whole premise is making sustainability more accessible to people. We’re a relatively small company, but people seem to really love it. We’ve also been a registered B Corp from day 1.

Glorious: If you could invite three inspirational women for dinner, who would they be and why?

Flora Beverley: This is such a difficult question! It depends if I had to worry about dinner table dynamics, but if not, Mona Chalabi, for her insight into data that changes the way we view the world, Courtney Dauwalter, the GOAT, for her neverending enthusiasm on all things running and Zadie Smith, who I could listen to all day. I’m not sure what we’d choose to talk about though, the dinner might have to be a week long!

Flora: "I've got immense value from people on Instagram, so it's nice to be able to hopefully pass some value onto others too." Photography by Alec Brown.

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