How to lose weight and keep it off – without going under the knife

The best ways to shed the pounds for good

Many struggling dieters turn to gastric band surgery, but there are safer and more effective ways to address unhealthy eating habits and lose weight for good.

Being overweight is bad for our health, increasing our risk of serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer. However, while we all know the risks, losing weight isn’t always straightforward, and many of us struggle to lose the excess pounds and keep them off in the long term.

The risk of surgery

In desperation, many dieters turn to gastric band surgery, but while this approach offers results, it is not without its drawbacks. It requires undergoing major surgery which comes with its own list of risks and complications – from blood clots and post-surgical infections to unpleasant side effects such as acid reflux, vomiting after eating and even gallstones. What’s more, with a gastric band fitted, you will have to follow a severely restricted diet for the rest of your life, potentially facing nutrient and vitamin deficiencies.

And it’s not just the effect on your body that you need to consider. With an average gastric band cost of around £7000, it can also have a significant impact on your bank balance.

Regular exercise

Regular exercise helps to boost metabolism, burn calories and build lean muscle, making it a really effective weight loss method. It also increases your fitness, improves your overall health and, if you choose the right exercise, can be really enjoyable – so it’s a win-win all round. For best results, follow a workout regime that combines cardio, strength and stretching exercises and try to build more physical activity into your daily routine in order to meet the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Even small changes, such as walking to the shops or taking the stairs instead of the lift, can have a big impact over the longer term.

A balanced diet

There’s no getting away from it – following a balanced diet is a crucial element of effective and sustained weight loss. But, contrary to popular belief, this does not have to mean calorie counting and depriving yourself of all the foods that you love. What it does mean, however, is eating plenty of wholegrains, lean protein and fresh fruit and vegetables and reducing your consumption of processed foods. Portion size also plays a big part so make sure you stick to recommended serving sizes and avoid eating more than you need to.


Following a balanced diet and taking regular exercise may sound like common sense, but it’s not always as easy as it sounds. If you struggle to lose weight via these more conventional methods, you may want to consider trying hypnotherapy for weight loss.

A relatively new arrival on the diet scene, this rather unusual weight loss method promises significant results and is gaining a large number of fans in the process. Based on traditional hypnosis techniques and counselling approaches such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, weight loss hypnosis aims to identify and tackle the root causes of your issues with food, providing you with the tools to make healthy long-term lifestyle changes and keep the weight off for good.

Before attempting any serious weight loss, it’s always best to seek advice from a qualified health professional. They’ll be able to assess your health, point you in the right direction and give you the guidance you need to lose weight safely and effectively.

How To Choose The Right Accountant For Your Small Business

Save Money In The Long Run By Outsourcing Your Bookkeeping

Keeping accurate track of your income and expenses is key to succeeding as a small business.

There are 5.8 million small businesses in the UK, which represents around half of the turnover of our private sector. Handling the books is a common frustration for SME owners, who may not have the necessary time or expertise to crunch numbers whilst also trying to manage staff, marketing, customer service and other daily operations. When startups launch, it’s understandable that entrepreneurs try to do everything themselves to keep costs low, but one job which is worth outsourcing from the beginning is accountancy. By letting a professional take charge of tracking expenses, bills and income, you can be confident that you have an accurate picture of how your business is progressing as you grow. The key to success is choosing the right accountant to work with your venture.

Digital Skills

Previously, you may have chosen someone who was local to you as face-to-face interaction was vital for the relationship between accountant and client. However, the digital era has brought with it multiple changes in the accountancy industry and it’s now possible and even desirable to use methods of communication such as email, Skype, Slack and cloud-based accountancy solutions which can offer real-time data about the financial health of your SME. Unless you would prefer the reassurance of having your accountant located physically near to you, find out what your chosen firm can offer in terms of software solutions and whether you would find them convenient for your company.

Qualifications and Experience

UK businesses will likely require the services of a chartered certified accountant who belongs to a professional industry that is regulated by the government. It is possible to hire someone with lower level qualifications in general bookkeeping for example, but this isn’t usually a sensible move if you’re planning to grow as a business. If you hire a professional, then you know that your books are in great hands. In terms of experience, a firm of accountants in Peterborough suggest that you look for an accountant who has worked with similar sized organisations to yours and has handled the tasks that you’re hiring them to do – for example, filing your end of year tax return.

Dividing The Workload

Once you know how much your preferred accountant may charge per hour, it’s important to work out how you plan to split the workload so that you’re receiving value for money. Although it’s possible to send an entire bunch of receipts to your accountant for them to enter and track, you may find that it’s more cost-effective to handle the manual data-entry at your end, and ask your accountant to take charge of tasks such as reconciliation or payroll.

If it’s time to get in the professionals to look at your books, begin by asking your network of contacts, whether through friends and family, business colleagues or on social media for a personal recommendation. It’s always best to go with a firm that you have heard positive things about and the right choice of accountant for your small business should be able to save you money in the long term!

Keep plantar fasciitis at bay this coming winter

Did you know that foot pain tends to worsen in the winter months?

It’s a well-known fact that common foot-related conditions often begin to flare up when the days and nights get colder. Chilly weather and constant shivering can lead to aching joints, muscles and bones; it can also begin to shrink the tissues that connect your joints to your knees and hips, which causes them to pull on your nerve endings and cause sudden, unexpected pain.

Consistently wearing unsupportive shoes during the summer can also lead to aches and niggles when the seasons change. This is because providing your foot arches with little to no support for prolonged periods of time can lead to enhanced wear and tear to the ligaments that run along the bottom of your feet, which are otherwise known as the plantar fascia.

Both of these factors combined can lead to worsening cases of plantar fasciitis, a condition whereby the plantar fascia become damaged and inflamed. Pain in the heel and stiffness in the foot are both symptomatic of this particularly prevalent ailment, which can strike any one at any time of life but is more likely to affect those who are overweight, overly active, or between the ages of 40 and 60.

How to tackle plantar fasciitis in the winter

You may convince yourself that the condition will go away on its own, especially if you haven’t suffered from plantar fasciitis in the past. But taking action now will not only ease your pain – it will also prevent you from causing further damage to your foot and lower limbs, and ensure that wear and tear to your plantar fasciia has a minimal impact on your mobility in the longer term.

There are plenty of things you can do to prevent or manage plantar fasciitis in the winter. Physical therapy can help, as can wearing night splints. In more severe cases, doctors will recommend injecting steroid medication into the affected area to temporarily relieve the pain.

But the single most effective way to deal with plantar fasciitis is to invest in a sturdy pair of watertight shoes that offer good arch support. Doing so will take the pressure off the areas of your feet that are succumbing to excess shock and stress (and it will improve your posture and stability at the same time).

If cost is an issue, or you’re prefer to carry on wearing the shoes you already have, you could always invest in a pair of orthotic insoles instead. The best insoles for plantar fasciitis can be adjusted to deliver the level of support you need using a series of interchangeable metatarsal pads. Some people feel much better after inserting a thin-style pad into the arches of their feet, whereas others, and particularly those who have been suffering from plantar fasciitis for a long time, will benefit from wearing the firmest arch piece possible. Heel pads can be used in conjunction with orthotic insoles to take even more pressure away from the plantar fascia.

A little extra care can go a long way

As we mentioned before, it can be so tempting to ignore the symptoms of plantar fasciitis and just put the intermittent pain down to the changing seasons. But if the condition isn’t addressed, it could have a significant impact on your health in the longer term – especially if you find yourself walking differently to try and manage your discomfort, as this can lead to a whole host of other foot, knee, hip and back problems.

Take our advice: make an effort to manage your plantar fasciitis now, and your feet will thank you later!

Is It Time To Remortgage Your Home?

Get A Better Deal On Your Mortgage Product

If you’re the type of person who shops around for the best deals on your mobile contract or utility bills, don’t forget about your mortgage!

The number of people opting to remortgage their home is on the increase. February 2019 saw 18,200 customers choosing to remortgage to acquire funds, which was a significant increase of 10% in comparison to February 2019. The low base rate and equally affordable fixed interest rates have a lot to do with this trend, which is a situation that is likely to remain stable in the coming months. If you’ve been wondering about remortgaging, either to release some cash or else to take advantage of a better mortgage product, this guide will help you to make the right decision.

Current Deal Due To Expire

The most common reason to remortgage is when your current mortgage deal is about to end. Perhaps you’ve been on a low rate tracker or fixed mortgage for the past 2-3 years. Once your discount finishes, your product will be moved to a standard variable rate (SVR) which often ends up costing hundreds more in repayments each month. Savvy homeowners choose to shop around for a better deal, perhaps fixing at a low rate for a further 2-3 years with a different mortgage provider.

Has Your Home Gone Up In Value?

If your property is worth far more than when you first purchased it, you will find that your loan to value ratios have also changed. A remortgage brokers Wirral based expert explains that if the amount you’ve borrowed is suddenly much less than the value of your home, you may discover that you belong in a lower Loan to Value (LTV) category which means that you’ll also be eligible to mortgage products with lower interest rates.

Releasing Cash for Home Improvements

If you’ve built up significant equity in your home, either because you’ve been paying off the capital for quite a few years, or else the value has changed, then you may wish to release some cash. This is a popular scenario for homeowners who are looking to carry out renovation works on their home. Instead of taking out an additional loan, or putting money on a credit card, it can make sense to release some equity from your home to pay for that kitchen refurbishment or ground floor extension. Due to the value that some home improvements are able to add to the worth of your property, it can make perfect sense to remortgage in this scenario. Effectively, you’re borrowing from your home only to plunge the money straight back into the property again.

If you’ve decided that remortgaging is a good opportunity for you, then you may be wondering what the next steps are. Begin by finding out exactly when your current mortgage deal is due to end; ideally, you’ll start to make arrangements a couple of months in advance of this expiring to give you time to arrange a new product before you get moved to a higher interest rate. It’s best to speak to a professional mortgage broker who will have access to a wide range of lenders and will locate the most suitable product to switch to. Be aware that remortgaging may involve paying penalty and/or arrangement fees, so it’s important to speak to a professional who will be able to get the best deal for you!

How to Welcome Your New Team Members

Showcase Your Workplace to New Employees

If you have new members of staff starting soon, then make sure that you do everything you can to make them feel welcome.

Starting a new job is scary. You probably remember it well – the uncertainty, loneliness and fear that you are going to do something wrong. What if you could make starting a new role as smooth and stress free as possible for people in your workplace? Well, there are a few ways to do so.

Use the buddy system

There is nothing worse than starting a new job and feeling like you have no one to turn to for help and advice. That’s why it’s a great idea to implement the buddy system. When someone new arrives, assign them a workplace buddy who will show them the ropes during those crucial first few days. They’ll be able to show the new arrival where everything is, answer their questions, and give them insider knowledge such as how everyone likes their tea and coffee!

Invest in team building

Team building events are a great idea, especially if you are welcoming a few new members of staff to your workplace. If you get in touch with team building experts such as Zing Events, they’ll be able to help you choose fun activities that will allow everyone to come together and working well as a team. Whether it’s baking, hunting for treasure or making cocktails, the right team building event will bring office newbies out of their shells in no time.

Organise an office lunch

If you can, try to get the team together for lunch. With so much to learn, it can be hard for new employees to find the time to relax and connect with their new colleagues. Organising an office lunch means that everyone can sit down, unwind, and any new arrivals will have the opportunity to get to know their new co-workers outside of an office environment. It doesn’t have to be anywhere fancy – a local coffee bar or cafe would be perfect.

Prepare their desk

Having a new employee’s desk ready for them is a nice way to welcome them to the office. Make sure that their new workspace is clean and tidy, free of anything that’s a reminder of its old occupant, and leave a little welcome note there for them to open. It could also be a good idea to leave a printout with essential info such as passwords and email addresses so that they have the information they need to go about their jobs with confidence.

Keep checking in

It’s important to keep checking in with new members of staff to see how they are settling into their new roles. For the first few weeks, schedule a weekly meeting (nothing too formal or scary!) so that you can talk with them about any concerns that they may have and just get to know them a bit better. Showing that you are a boss who is committed to their happiness and growth in the workplace will make them feel at home.

You know what to do next

As you can see, it only takes a little bit of time and effort to help those starting work at your company to feel welcome. So next time you offer someone a role and send them that all important welcome email, put into motion a plan to show them why your company is the best place to work.

5 steps to successful project management

Managing business projects: Our top tips for success

Project management is not always as straightforward as it sounds, but with a few key steps, you can ensure that your project stays on track.

Effective project management is critical to business success but, all too often, the management of important projects is far from effective, with many being completed past the deadline, coming in over budget, and failing to achieve the original objectives that were set.

To help you avoid falling into this trap, we’ve put together some of our top tips that will help you to achieve project management success.

Get a detailed brief

The key to successful project management is to create a detailed brief from the outset. This should encompass the full scope of the project and include elements such as key deliverables, project milestones, and resourcing and budgeting requirements. Agreeing these elements with the client from the very beginning of the project will enable you to plan effectively. ‘Kick-off’ meetings, where all parties get together, are a great opportunity to set expectations, assign roles and responsibilities, and create a workable roadmap.

Select the right team

A successful project requires a good team behind it, so it’s important to ensure you have the right mix of people working on your project. To do this, choose people whose skills and experience are a good match for the requirements of the project – and try to keep your team to a manageable size. When it comes to project management, the old adage of ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ holds true – a smaller, leaner team tends to be more effective and business experts recommend limiting the size of your team to a maximum of six to ten people.

Set clear roles and responsibilities

Once you have a project team in place it’s important to define each team member’s roles and responsibilities. Every team member has a specific role to play in the overall project delivery, and it is your job to ensure that each person understands their role and how their work contributes to the wider project. However, try to avoid micro-managing – give your team some breathing room so that they feel trusted and empowered to do their best work.

Hold regular catch ups

Holding regular catch ups with the project team and the client is key to ensuring that projects stay on track. They offer an opportunity to check on the status of the project, check progress against agreed milestones and objectives, and spot any potential issues at an early stage, allowing you to identify and implement effective solutions before these issues get out of hand. These meetings can be held in person, or via conference-calling or Skype – whatever works best for your team – just try to avoid getting bogged down in too much detail and instead concentrate on presenting the most relevant information.

Harness technology

These days there is a plethora of technology out there designed specifically to help with project management, so don’t be afraid to harness this technology to improve the efficiency and efficacy of your project. A good digital project management software will provide a streamlined platform that lets the team manage all aspects of the project and access key project information in one place, while resource management tools are a great option for helping ensure that you make best use of the resources available to you.

When it comes to project management, our best tip is to prepare for every eventuality. Things sometimes happen in business, but if you’ve planned thoroughly, you’ll be able to roll with the punches and deliver a successful project that meets its goals.

Best Camera Accessories For Beginners

Building Up Your Camera Gear Collection

A list of must-have camera equipment when you’re starting out in photography.

If you’re new to photography, you’ll already know that getting started can be an expensive business and may even put off some amateurs with a passion for taking shots. The amount of equipment in the market can seem mind-boggling. But there’s no need to spend a fortune stocking up on every bit of kit out there. Here, we introduce some key camera accessories that every budding photographer should have.

Manipulating Light

Taking high-quality images relies on the light being just right, which is something that photographers are constantly striving to manipulate. There are a number of accessories that are ideal for beginners to get to grips with. Begin by purchasing an external flash – although your camera may already have an inbuilt flash, these are really restrictive, as the flash will only ever come from the direction of the camera, whereas for a better quality shot, you need to be able to adjust the angle of the flash.

If you’ve been studying beginner photography, then you’ll already know how important it is to get your white balance right. For this, you’ll need to pick up a grey card which is affordable online, although some people even create their own DIY grey card using neutral grey paper.

Another accessory that you’ll need to help you cope with excess light is a polarising filter. This is particularly useful when it comes to reducing the amount of reflected light that is cutting across your shot.

Steady Hands

Even if you’re able to keep your hands quite still, there’s few better investments than a tripod to stabilise your camera. This is really important if you’re shooting in low-level light or are taking long-exposure shots.

Power Up

There’s nothing worse than your camera running out of battery in the middle of a shoot, especially if you’re away from home. This is why it’s important to stock up on rechargeable batteries and remember to take your battery charger with you wherever you go. Ideally, you’ll go for a charger model with space for 8 batteries. As most cameras require 4 batteries, you’ll always have spares to swap in at a moment’s notice.

Strap Your Camera

One of the most important pieces of equipment you can invest in if you’re going to be shooting on and off all day, is a strap to hang around your neck. This is essential if you’re on the go shooting travel photography for instance. Your arms will be exhausted if you don’t give them a rest every so often and let the camera strap take the weight.

Cleaning Your Camera

As a beginner photographer, you should learn good maintenance habits, and one of the most important is cleaning your kit regularly so as to protect it from dust and debris. For this you should invest in a lens pen, a soft bristle brush and a microfibre cloth.

It might take you a little while to invest in all the above bits of kit. In fact, you may even find that you’re ready to upgrade your first camera before you’ve acquired an accompanying selection of kit. Trading in your original gear could be a great option for you – if you’re wondering where can I sell my Nikon camera? – you should use a reputable camera selling platform which will give you a cash offer. You can then take the money and put towards your new camera purchase and your choice of accessories – it won’t be long before you’ve got quite a collection!

Why Landlords Should Use Letting Agents

Keeping On Top Of Your Rental Responsibilities

Being a landlord is no easy job, particularly if you have a portfolio of properties. Why not hire a letting agent to take on the burden for you?

Being a landlord comes with great responsibility, which not all take seriously. A London landlord was recently fined £214,000 for health and safety failures which put his tenants at incredible risk. The landlord in question owned multiple properties across the capital which were all investigated as part of the case against him. The offences ranged from failure to supply gas and electrical certificates, not providing an adequate fire exit route, and in one property, there was an exposed live electrical cable as part of the cooker hob which could have caused electrocution.

Clearly this landlord was unscrupulous but if he had used a letting agent to help manage his portfolio of properties, then it would have been necessary for him to meet legal rental regulations and he could have saved himself considerable expense.

What Do Letting Agents Do?

The job of a letting agent begins with your vacant property. They will find suitable tenants to live in your property for a pre-agreed period of time. If you have specific criteria about who you want to live there, then they will vet people for you and carry out reference checks so that you feel comfortable – you may not want smokers or people with pets to move into your property for example. You’ll likely have a specific figure in mind for the rental price, so your letting agent would negotiate on your behalf if needs be until you’re happy with the arrangement.

They’ll also draw up a contract for both the landlord and tenants to sign, and can also carry out an inventory check prior to the renters moving in. This procedure is a list of the contents and condition of each item within the property, so that if your tenants rip a huge hole in the sofa, then they won’t be able to turn around and say it was in that state when they arrived.

Management Service

Brentwood estate agents explain that there are typically different levels of management services on offer, and whilst some landlords do like to be involved to some extent and build a longterm relationship with their tenants, others prefer to simply collect the rent and pay the bills. If you live away from your property or are too busy to be a hands-on landlord, then it makes sense to sign up with a lettings management service to deal with the daily running of your property. Your tenants will be able to call the lettings agent instead of you if there is a leaky pipe or a problem with the boiler. Although you’ll be kept fully informed about what’s going on with your property, you won’t have the responsibility of dealing directly with your tenants.

Choosing Reputable Lettings Agents

It’s important to understand though that choosing a substandard lettings service is as good as not having one in place at all. Therefore, it’s essential that you choose a lettings agent who is a member of the professional body ARLA. This will give you peace of mind that you’re meeting regulations and operating inside of the law.

Whether you’re currently a landlord who is struggling to keep on top of your responsibilities, or else you’re new to the buy-to-let market and want some hands-on assistance in managing your tenants, then signing up with a lettings agent is the right move for you!

You’ll Want To Have Your Engagement Photoshoot At These 5 Beautiful Places In Essex

Stunning Scenery Makes For Stylist Shots

From the beach huts of West Mersea, to the picture postcard village of Finchingfield, Essex is the place to be when exploring location ideas for your photoshoot.

If you’re lucky enough to have an engagement photoshoot booked, then you can look forward to some spectacular images to pour over, well in advance of your big day. An engagement shoot is completely relaxed with very little pressure and gives the photographer a great chance to get to know you both as a couple. Naturally you’ll want to make the most of your shoot by choosing a beautiful location to be snapped in – here are some of the most picturesque locations in Essex that will make for some fantastic shots.

Finchingfield Village

Frequently featured on prettiest village in Essex, or best place to live in England lists, Finchingfield is small but perfectly formed. The duck pond and sloped village green surrounded by quaint little cottages would create an incredibly charming background for your shoot, particularly if your photographer can capture the reflection of the water in the picture. Engagement shoots are all about enjoying time with your partner, so why not grab a cream tea or a pub lunch whilst you’re in the village?

Beach Huts of West Mersea

If you want a truly relaxed vibe for your engagement shoot, then kick your shoes off and feel the sand on your toes as you run around together outside the beach huts of West Mersea. Essex residents are lucky enough to have a number of pretty beaches to choose from, but the beach huts of West Mersea are so colourful with a range of vibrant pastel shades to choose from, which make this the perfect backdrop for your shoot.

Hatfield Forest

This ancient royal hunting forest has it all. Aside from being a great day out, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to using it for your couple shots. You might want an atmospheric holding hands shot taken in the forest area, or prefer to embrace for a kiss on the open plains with deer grazing in the background. If you’d like to show your more adventurous side, then why not ask your photographer to take shots of you both rowing across the boating lake?

Thaxted Windmills

Not many couples are lucky enough to have their engagement photos taken in front of a windmill, but if you head to Thaxted, on the road between Dunmow and Saffron Walden, then you’ll spy the stunning windmill along the way. John Webb’s Windmill was built in 1804 as a tower mill, and is the only remaining mill in the Thaxted area. A picnic area with benches surrounds the mill, which affords spectacular views and would be a dream location for your shoot.

Hadleigh Castle

The final place on our list is an English Heritage site and combines the dreamy ruins of a castle, overlooking the Essex Marshes where the Thames meets the North Sea. To say the scenery here is dazzling here would be an enormous understatement.

Once you’ve chosen your preferred engagement shoot location, or at least created a shortlist, then get in touch with your wedding photographer Chelmsford team to talk about shot ideas. Remember that your photographer wants to deliver exactly what you have in mind, so the more information you can provide about your vision, the better your shots will be!

The Day To Day Role Of A Child Entertainer

The Art Of Being A Party Performer

Are you throwing a party for your little one this year? Booking a professional entertainer is guaranteed to put a smile on the little ones faces.

All parents love to watch their child’s face beam on their birthday, and throwing a party allows them to be the centre of attention as they have fun with friends and blow out the candles on their cake. But not all mums and dads have the necessary skills or stamina to be able to entertain a gang of little ones for 2 to 3 hours, which is why hiring a child entertainer is such a popular choice. The entertainer will turn up at your choice of venue, take over the hosting of the party and guarantee that all the kids go home happy and with a lot less energy than they started with. Entertainers are multiskilled and carry out hours of prep work before an event. Let’s take a look at some of their daily tasks.

The Art Of Entertainment

Children like to see a show, so the best entertainers are often armed with tricks up their sleeves such as the ability to perform magic, model balloons into different shapes, or put on a puppet show. Perfecting this type of craft takes time and a lot of practice but the benefit to this type of work is that entertainers can rehearse in the comfort of their home until their skills are up to speed.

Sourcing And Stocking

A local children’s entertainer Kent team explains that party packages can feature exciting kits such as popcorn machines, bubble and snow machines, and of course plenty of disco lighting. All of this equipment needs to be in tip-top repair, so entertainers need to spend time sourcing the best kit for their party gigs and making sure that it is fully maintained and raring to go before the next appointment.

A party wouldn’t be a party without some traditional kids’ games, so entertainers also need to be equipped with an arsenal of party prizes that are age-appropriate. Buying in bulk from a party supplier is a good cost-saving strategy here.

Admin Work

When you think about the role of a children’s entertainer, you might think about their high-spirited and enthusiastic personality which is essential for the role. But as with any job, there are some basic admin tasks to take care of. Party entertainers need to answer email and phone queries, take bookings for their next event and handle invoices. They also need to be great at marketing – although many may land a lot of work simply through word of mouth, others will rely on social media, flyers and website advertising to help spread the word about their party packages.

Keeping Up With The Trends

Party entertainers need to keep up with the times – not only do kids want to hear the most popular, current tunes at their party discos, they’ll also expect the entertainer to know as much as they do about the latest trends, whether that be understanding that fidget spinners are now out of fashion, to knowing the most recent viral dance crazes such as the Triangle.

By far the most important part of being a party entertainer is personality – those that obviously love their job will shine with enthusiasm, which the kids will feed off. Happy kids mean happy parents, which ultimately means free marketing about a successful party experience!