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Month: September 2015

The rise of wellness isn’t a bad thing.

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To quote a great article from Darya Rose, the woman behind the food site Summer Tomato, “nutrition is complicated, but eating is not. Spend your energy discovering what works for you and try not to get too caught up in the science.” What works nutritionally for one person may not work for another person.

As a student naturopathic nutritionist, I understand just how complicated the body is and how many systems are constantly working within us to help our bodies achieve some sort of equilibrium. The balance of food that we eat is one part of this homeostasis that the body is continuously trying to achieve. When people find out what I’m studying and that my ultimate aim is to be a naturopath, I get a lot of nutrition and health questions. In the past year, the common theme of these questions has been, “what do I eat to stay healthy?”. Getting questions like this from educated, intelligent folk strikes me a failure of not only the government’s nutrition education programme but the mainstream press, who give many conflicting messages, many with no scientific basis. These failures mean that there are many nutrition experts and ‘wellness gurus’  that are attempting to provide easy to access food and supplement information to help people make better nutrition choices. Some get it right, some don’t.

So it was to my utter bemusement to open the daily email newsletter from the Pool last week to see an article from Sali Hughes attempting a takedown of ‘wellness gurus’. Her rather snide article, full of mostly anecdotal evidence, tries to put a black mark on these people (does anyone actually call themselves a wellness guru?) without actually naming any of the individuals she thinks are doing a bad job. In taking this approach, I think she rather misses the point. She misses an opportunity to urge people that are interested in improving their diet and lifestyle (and who isn’t?) to do their own research and take advice from a broad range of qualified ‘gurus’ and experts, rather than just from the person that’s released the latest ‘hot’ nutrition and lifestyle cookbook.

Her hyperbolic article instantly loses more credibility when she rubbishes coconut oil, calling it “delicious, versatile, also full of cholesterol score-raising saturated fat, according to my registered dietician friend Leo Pemberton”. As a registered dietician, Mr Pemberton should be privy to the research that talks about good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL), but also coconut oil’s effect on lowering bad cholesterol level. He would also know that coconut oil is made up of medium chain triglycerides, a type of saturated fat that works differently in the body to other saturated fats.

With all of the advice that out there, the onus is ultimately on the individual to make the right decisions about their diet, decisions that work for them and their body. It is problematic that there are ‘wellness gurus’ without any qualifications giving advice, however there are a lot of individuals in many fields that give advice without any qualifications, as she mentions when she references “online amateur experts”. It’s obvious that people need to read everything with a grain (bag?) of salt and do their own follow up research. Unfortunately, there are always going to be people that take things to the extreme (don’t get me started of the misuse of the term ‘orthorexia’), however if the effect of these ‘wellness gurus’ is to get people to even begin to think about the amount of sugar, salt and processed food in their diets, then surely that’s no bad thing?

Stories I loved this week. 

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Photo by Brennan Ehrhardt

And the weekend is here. We’re heading off on another trip this week, this time to Toronto. I love Autumn at home – the crispness, the colours, the smell of the city. I can’t wait. Also, the exchange rate is very favourable, so I’ll be doing a lot of shopping!

Good news for the flibberdigidgets, as my grandmother would say. A good fidget can be hugely beneficial, especially if you spend a lot of time sitting. (Guardian)

Filed in sort of obvious news: prolonged sitting is bad for children too. (New York Times)

A workout for your face? There’s a place that does this in Selfridges and I really want to try it. (Self)

I really want an avocado hugger. I know I can just use the empty  of the avocado peel, but I’m a sucker for a kitchen gadget. (Lakeland)

What your favourite beverage says about you. Probably a bit too puritanical to have sparkling water, my favourite, on the list. (Real Simple)

The dark side of almonds. This article was written a year ago, however, California is still in drought. (The Atlantic)

Stories I loved this week.

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Photo by Hilthart Pedersen

The week after a holiday can be a bit discombobulating, can’t it? Finding your feet after a break, getting back into your routine, making sorely needed changes to your old routine. I decided that I was going to fully enjoy myself while I was away, as I was feeling very run down after my summer of work travel. All the brakes came off and I indulged my heart out. I’ve spent this week getting my nutrition back in order and getting rid of a head cold I picked up at the end of my trip.

It’s not all doom and gloom, because I worked out a lot while I was away (full disclosure: I’m doing Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide workout plan. It skews young, but it’s incredibly effective) and I can feel my strength when I run around with my son and inevitably end up carrying  him (“pick me up, Mama!”) – 13.5kg of squirming child!

Is work making you sick?  Here are some common sense tips to incorporate into your day. (The Guardian)

Great message in this article: “Nutrition is complicated, but eating is not. Spend your energy discovering what works for you and try not to get too caught up in the science.” (Summer Tomato)

Some stress (and adrenaline) is good for us, but not too much stress. (goop)

5 tricks for making a perfect smoothie. (Well + Good)

Saying no to anecdotal parenting. I love this. (Grok Nation)

There’s simply no substitute for physical presence. (New York Times)

You are what your mother ate. Nutrition during pregnancy is so important, but no one’s perfect and sometimes you have to just submit to the cravings! (The Times)

What to do when you’re ‘zit bombed‘. Funnyname, but nice to see the gut – skin – inflammation connection being discussed. (Well + Good)

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Feeding toddlers.

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Photo by André Robillard

My son is now two and a fully paid up member of the big boy eating club.

After much research, we decided to go with baby led weaning when we were moving him on to solid food. We were fairly relaxed about it as I was planning to breast feed for at least a year and I didn’t want to mess around with purees and spoon feeding. The path of least resistance, as it were.

So what happens now? This article about feeding fussy kids made me pause. Little J definitely isn’t a fussy eater, however… he knows what he likes and what he doesn’t like.

This article sets out five principles to make feeding your child easier.

Keep them guessing: Variety is the spice of life and still hugely important when feeding kids. Consistently exposing children to new food and using the ‘just one bite’ principle, helps to widen their palate and get them (and you!) out of food ruts.

Change the texture: As with the principle above, variation in the way individual food is served helps expose kids to different ways of eating and the mouth feel of food prepared in different ways. Grated sweet potato is very different to sweet potato wedges or sweet potato mash.

Use umami: I am a huge lover of umami and try to incorporate it wherever possible. Kids generally like these complex flavours and we need to move away from the strange notion that kids prefer bland foods.

 

Involve them: I really love sitting my son on the kitchen counter and getting him to add spices to dishes I’m cooking or to watch me chopping some veg up in the hand blender. He gets to be involved in the cooking process, seeing how food is made, smelling the spices and I get some company and stream of cute chatter and questions about the different ingredients. Win / win.

Teach by example: This is a big one. My husband can be a bit of a picky eater himself and I’ve asked him not to complain about not liking certain foods in front of little J. It’s not that I’m trying to create the perfect atmosphere, more like I want J to see both of us trying everything without complaining or whining. The other area I really try to lead on is always sitting down to eat. It’s true that sitting and eating in a restful way is good for the digestive system (parasympathetic / rest & digest mode). It’s also a major pet peeve of mine seeing children and adults alike walking around and eating. Perhaps it’s something I picked up when I lived in Tokyo (this is a huge no no in Japan), but I think it’s a terrible habit and always ask J to sit down when he eats and do the same myself.

There are two more principles I would add to this list.

Plan, plan, plan: A weekly meal planner helps avoid last minute panics about dinner and a big cook up at the weekend makes things even easier.

Relax: Look at your child’s food consumption over the whole day and week. If they don’t eat a lot at a certain meal, they might not be hungry and so they’ll likely eat more at the next meal. One week they might eat like a sparrow and the next week, they might hit a growth spurt and eat like they have hollow legs! Kids pick up our tension, so if you want them to eat, you yourself need to have a relaxed attitude!

Mother of a boy.

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Photo by Linh Nguyen

My son recently turned two. It’s a lovely age. He’s constantly on the move and has something to say about everything he does or sees. I get such joy from being his mother.

With this joy comes worry. I worry a lot about the world he’s going to grow up in. These days, it’s difficult to be a man. With the lad / bro culture, the ‘stiff upper lip’ and the negative images that are painted about men and their ability, I worry about his emotional development and about giving him the tools to take on the world’s perception of him as a young man.

I worry that as he grows up, the young women around him will be constantly exposed to messages of empowerment, and he will be seen as just another one of the ‘patriarchy’.

Yesterday, there was a fantastic article in the Sunday Times about this.

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The Sunday Times writer Katie Glass writes in the context of an increase in suicide amongst young men in the US and UK, that “while young women grow in confidence as feminism has evolved from dry academic discussions to being featured in Vogue…nobody [is giving] the same gleefully empowering message to young men… girls are told #thisgirlcan – who says that to boys?”.

Instead, we hear anger about men or even worse, apology. Boys will be boys. I can’t wait until this expression dies out from the English language.

As a woman working in media, making my way in the world, I have undeniably benefited from the push towards gender equality. More and more, as the mother of a boy, it strikes me that this equality should not be at the expense of men and indeed, boys. I worry that when my son goes to school, he won’t get the support he needs, because the education system seems to be so focused on giving support to girls to the detriment of boys – a terrible zero-sum game.

Some of this is natural maternal worry, I know. However, to quote Katie Glass, I want him to feel as excited about his future and his ability to make his place in the world as I do. I want him to feel as empowered as a man as I do as a woman. I want him to feel that all avenues are open to him and that if he works hard enough, that he can achieve whatever he puts his mind to.

Stories I loved this week.

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Photo by Denin Williams

I cannot believe it’s September already. The summer officially started for me at the end of June when I finished by my last exam, and with all the travel and family activities I’ve been doing, these past two months have really flown by. I was in Abu Dhabi this week for work and we’re off on a much needed family holiday to Formentera tomorrow. I really can’t wait. I’ll be trying not to overpost all of our lovely meals and beach trips on Instagram.

Like many, I’ve been trying to find ways to help the refugees coming in from Africa and the Middle East. (Elle)

Have you heard of ‘tone-policing’? I hadn’t until I read this defense of Nicki Minaj. (The Atlantic)

An argument-free marriage? Not something I’ll be signing up for any time soon. I completely believe in the cathartic qualities of a good argument. (The Pool)

How to eat carbs like a sane person. Otherwise known as listening to your body and eating real food in a way that works for YOU. (Summer Tomato)

Reading about the American battle against GMOs makes me really glad that I live in the UK, where they are banned. (goop)

Such a great piece about going through cancer treatment deliberately and with faith. (New York Times)

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