Health Blogger Spotlight: Karen Oliver, 'Beyond the Bathroom Scale'

Please welcome Karen Oliver, full time health blogger, writer and mum. Karen blogs over at Beyond the Bathroom Scale and has written two books designed to help you reach your health, nutrition and fitness goals. I think Karen is such an inspirational person and by the end of this interview, I'm sure you will too! So let's find out a little more about her...

Hi Karen, you have a fascinating story about how you overhauled your life and beat obesity, pre-diabetes and hypertension. Could you tell us a little about that? 
From a young age, I watched my father suffer with obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. To date he has had three strokes and a pacemaker fitted. To the other extreme, my mother has battled with anorexia for many years. So as a child, I grew up surrounded by negative talk about food, body weight and calories. It was seen as something to fear. As a result, I developed a very real phobia of trying new foods and eating in front of people, and as a young child became very underweight. 
When I hit puberty at a young age, I was led to believe that my changing shape was a result of 'gaining too much weight' and so I suffered from very low self-esteem and continued to have issues with food. Once I got a part time job at 16, I sought the freedom to eat what I wanted without criticism. I took to scoffing chocolate on the way home from school and college, eating fish and chips at lunch, and ordering take away pizza to eat in my bedroom in the evenings. As you can imagine, I quickly piled on the pounds and became obese.
It was in 2011 that I was diagnosed as having pre-diabetes and hypertension. This was my wakeup call and what led me to teach myself to cook and love food instead of fear it, and work on improving my fitness (which started with a simple Wii Fit game and Zumba classes!). By 2012 I was no longer obese and had completely reversed pre-diabetes and hypertension. 

Why did you start your blog and what can visitors expect to read there? 
Beyond The Bathroom Scale started back in 2012 as a place to share my recipes, reviews of fitness DVDs & games and my own weight loss story. Nowadays, BTBS regularly features product reviews, alongside expert guest posts from dietitians, nutritionists, personal trainers and doctors. There's also posts on gym fashion, natural skincare, body confidence and the odd lifestyle ramble on the blog.   

What do you enjoy most about running a health blog? 
BTBS has opened a lot of doors for me since its launch. I had the pleasure of going to the Cosmo Blog Awards back in 2012 just months after the blog was started, which was amazing! Since then I've worked with a lot of different brands, launched a smartphone app, two books, a community group and a free resources area, and I now run BTBS as a full time business. I never imagined all that would come from starting a recipe blog all them years ago!
It's hard work some days, but blogging about health and fitness helps keep me motivated with my own health goals.  

What do you feel is your greatest achievement in life?
Before having my son, I would have said my master’s degree in Social Work - but now I'd say it's surviving a horrendous pregnancy! I suffered for 37 very long weeks with Hyperemesis Gravidarum and Pre-eclampsia for the last month, which resulted in me being hospitalised for much of my pregnancy. It takes a lot of mental strength to keep going when your body is failing you so badly. Now whenever I’m struggling with something, I remember how strong I was to come through that and push through.  

If you could give people only one piece of health advice, what would it be? 
It's never too late to turn your lifestyle around and save yourself from a future of ill health and stacks of medication; start today, don't wait for the next Monday or January 1st. 

And what's the most ridiculous piece of health/diet advice you've ever heard? 
Hmm.. there's an awful lot out there! I can't stand all these faddy diets (eating 12 bananas a day, for example!) juice cleanses or diet pills. There's no quick fix for health or weight loss, if there was, our nation wouldn't be having an obesity crisis. And if a 'fix' is quick, I can guarantee it isn't sustainable in the long term or healthy. 

Now a quickfire round! Choose one...
Broccoli or kale? Broccoli - great with chicken or steak!
Squats or burpees? Squats - my favourite exercise!
Gym or nature? Gym - I love my weights!
Low fat or low carb? Low-ish carbs, about 40% of my calories come from carbs.
Blend your fruit or eat it whole? Blend - I love cold-pressed smoothies at breakfast. 

Finally, tell us about your new book, The 12 Week Health, Fitness and Wellness Planner. What's inside, and who could benefit from it?
The planner is designed to work alongside food and fitness tracking apps, by encouraging you to reflect on your daily habits, instead of just mindlessly tracking them and collecting data. I came up with the idea when I realised I was automatically syncing my Fitbit and logging my food without really thinking about how I could improve my eating or fitness habits. With the planner, each day you'll be prompted to review your macros, water intake, activity level, relaxation and mood, log any vitamins or medication you may be taking and track alcohol intake.
For each of the 12 weeks you will be set an exciting challenge, each with the aim of creating an enjoyable, happier and healthier lifestyle, without ever having to resort to crash diets, juice cleanses or any other fad. There's also space for weekly meal and workout plans, a goals tracker and health assessment charts.

I think the planner challenges would be particularly beneficial for anyone looking to start turning their lifestyle around. The planner would also suit anyone finding themselves becoming complacent with food tracking apps and fitness trackers. 

Find Karen at these links: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest
Are you a health or fitness blogger and fancy being interviewed for Nic's Healthy Life? Get in touch with me via Twitter or drop me an email at - I'd love to hear from you!
If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:

Follow Me!