Category Archives: My Story

Life with anxiety.

spring flowers at kew gardens

I’ve written a bit about anxiety on the blog before, but never really told my own story. Since it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, here in the UK, it’s time for me to share.

I recently ‘outed’ myself in a consultation with a friend at nutrition school.

She asked to describe how I felt when I felt anxious.

I described a fist clenching, gut wrenching experience, at its worst. A feeling that makes it necessary to prep myself for everyday situations, such as meeting new people, meeting new friends of friends. A feeling that makes it necessary to give myself pep talks to get through situations I would ordinarily be able to manage. A feeling that makes everyday situations seem insurmountable.

I don’t have anxiety, everyday, all day.  It’s at its worst when I’m not taking care of myself, when I’m drinking too much, not getting enough sleep, indulging in all of my food cravings. It’s during these times, my anxiety gets better of me and I go into crisis mode.

Over the years, I’ve learnt how to manage it. Eating well and getting enough sleep are key. Eating well to me, means eating at least 7 servings a day of vegetables (especially green leafy and cruciferous veg!) and fruit, adding in some nuts and seeds in different forms, getting good quality protein, mainly meat and some fish. It also means not having much sugar and drinking lots of water, some kombucha and lovely, warming  herbal teas.

I’ve discovered recently that alcohol exacerbates my anxiety. Which makes sense, knowing that alcohol depletes vitamin B6, a key vitamin for the production of serotonin, the feel good hormone. I was sad to say goodbye to my evening glass of red wine, but even happier to spend the day on an even keen mentally.

How you manage your anxiety? The more I research, the more I discover. There are so many different tools that folks tend to use, from deep breathing techniques, to CBT, to adding and subtracting food to and from their diet, to taking various supplements.

I supplement with a good women’s multivitamin, an omega-3 fish oil with a good DHA to EPA ratio and magnesium, which helps me relax and ‘unclench’ a little. On the advice of a collegue at school, I’ve recently started supplementing with inositol, a substance produced by plants and animals, that belongs in the B family of vitamins. It helps mood regulation and can reduce anxiety.

Fingers crossed, my cobbled together approach seems to be working well so far. What do you do to manage your anxiety on a day to day basis?

Motherhood right now.

bear and thomas

My little boy turns 3 in two weeks. 3!

I know what motherhood is with a baby. It’s a steep learning curve, moments where you’ve never loved anyone this much and in this way before, indescribable exhaustion, a new sense of self as a woman, wife and mother.

And then all of sudden they’re no longer babies and want nothing to do with babyhood.

I’m now learning that life with a little boy toddler is joyful, heart stopping and exasperating in equal measure. But that’s motherhood.

croquet

It’s those moments where they test the boundaries, along with your patience.

The moments where they strain to assert their independence in the most amazing ways (Mama, I will get it. Mama, I will put my shoes on. Mama, I will put the alarm on(!)).

The moments where their total lack of fear and sense of danger send your heart into your throat.

And those little, sweet moments that make everything worth it. When they give you an unprompted thank you, an unprompted kiss. When they turn to you and say, “Mama, I love you so much, I like you so much.”

sleeping J

End of (school) year reflections.

reflections

I’ve reached the end of my second year of my nutrition studies and I’ve had a few weeks to pause and take stock of the past year.

It’s been a really full on time, between working, studying, being a mother and wife and having a semblance of a social life. I’ve been juggling quite a few balls (and have dropped a few), but I’ve found an (im)balance that’s worked for me.

After two years of nutrition study, I’m even more sure that I’ve found ‘my calling’. That sounds corny, doesn’t it? But it’s so true.

I’ve found the lectures fascinating, learning about everything from phytonutrients to energy metabolism to supplements. And the practical element has been even better, seeing in clinic how proper nutrition and supplementation can have such a powerful effect on clients. It’s hard work, but I love it and am so excited to dive into a field that’s changing so much. To think that just ten years ago, we didn’t know much about the gut microbiome – what will we discover in the next ten years?

So what’s next?

Next year, we go deeper into specific topics such as nutrigenomics, women’s health, detoxification organs and support methods, amongst others. And we get closer to clients in clinic, with the expectation that by the end of the year, we’ll be able to run a clinic ourselves and give clients relevant, tailored and practical recommendations.

And I work out what I want to specialise in. Right now, I’m leaning towards women’s health, with a focus on pre and post natal mothers, as well as working with women who’ve suffered from miscarriages. This is such a rich area, where certainly in London, women don’t get the support they need and deserve.

Here’s to a great summer and a new school year with lots of growth and learning!

Photo by Paul Gilmore

On becoming a naturopath.

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Nutrition is complicated, eating is easy. Food is medicine. Moderation. Keep it real. Just eat real food.

There are so many different messages about health, wellness and nutrition out there. What should you believe? Who is right? And if you have kids, how should you feed them and look after their general well being?

It’s complicated and it doesn’t have to be.

Everyone is different and needs a different approach. The ‘keeping up with the Jones” mentality doesn’t work when it comes to health. Everyone has a different background, has been exposed to different food / toxins / environments and has different tastes. There really is no one sized fits all. And everyone has a different goal, from the mum that’s desperate for their child to just eat something to the gentleman that realises that they need to get in better shape to the perimenopausal woman that wants to take control of her hormones. We all have different objectives when it comes to health, wellness, nutrition and fitness.

Moderation for one person is immoderation for another.

This isn’t a lightning bolt moment. Just a confirmation that I’m on the right path, that I want to help people find the right health and wellness solution for them.

Roll on year 2 of my naturopath studies.

Changing ambition.

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Photo by Tyssul Patel

The lovely Katie over at beNourishd included a very intriguing opinion piece about women’s ambition in her weekly link round up that really got me thinking.

Emma Barnett, the women’s editor at the Telegraph posits that “women are losing custody of their ambition – and they don’t even know it.” To make this point, she talks through four subtle categories of behaviour that ‘lead women all over the world to lose custody of their ambition – often without realising”.

  1. Poisonous Presumptions: the reductive presumptions that are made about women at work, i.e. that women are opting out.
  2. Nice Guy Misogyny: the nice guys that I’m sure quite a few of us have worked for that typically have a wife / partner that stays home, so don’t have a relatable model of a working woman in their lives, hence, some very outdated views.
  3. Dumb Denial: when people can’t or won’t see that there is a problem with gender equality / representative in their respective workplace.
  4. The Imitation Game: when women don’t accept or fight for a fairer partnership at home.

She concludes by saying that “we can learn to sense the intangible bias that can eventually grind women down and lead us to lose custody of our ambition…[and] win it back.”

I found this viewpoint extremely interesting, yet very representative of a certain type of woman that is focused on moving up the corporate ladder with a singular ambition. What I wrote in the comments on Katie’s blog post  was I felt that Emma Barnett didn’t acknowledge that ambition changes. She says that she wanted “to think about ambition in a broader sense”, when really what she refers to is a very corporate ambition, without looking at the bigger picture.

For many women (and men!), it’s not that they are losing custody of their ambition, but that they are choosing a different sort of ambition. This ambition is motivated by the desire for a more well-rounded life that leaves room for good quality time with children, time for hobbies, a rich spiritual life.

This type of ambition is a shift from the relentless move up the corporate ladder at any cost, to choosing the type of life you want and designing your ambition to achieve this life. In my twenties, I was intent on doing everything I could to move up the corporate ladder, getting promotions and changing companies to achieve this ambition. The cost of this was poor health, endless hours at work and on my Blackberry and weaker connections with friends and family.

With the birth of my son, my ambitions for my life and my family life changed. I wanted to be more present and do something that would have a long term benefit for me and my family. My motivations changes and now my ambition is to become a naturopath.

How have your ambitions changed after big life events? Do you want the same things for your life?

Self-perception vs. reality.

flowes

Photo by Elena Berridy

Is there ever a point where you ever feel 100% comfortable with yourself, a point where your self-perception changes to fit reality, in a good way?

A bit of backstory: I was a happy, athletic child who was hit hard by puberty. As a teenager, I suffered from depression, gained quite a lot of weight and used food to self-medicate. I was in a better place during university, as I was forced to walk everywhere, be social and make better food choices.  My physical self changed, but my emotional self did not.

There is something about your self-perception vs. the way others perceive you and the reality of who you are. In my mind, I still see myself as an awkward, dumpy 17 year old girl and occasionally get a surprise when I walk past my reflection and see a strong 35 year old (often carrying a toddler!) woman striding past. Strange. Is it another form of imposter syndrome, where your beliefs about your strengths and weaknesses are misaligned with how good you actually are, what you’ve actually achieved?

Many women talk about being more comfortable with themselves in their thirties than in their twenties, and getting even more comfortable in their forties than in their thirties. And so on. (Here’s a great article from India Knight where she says stop worrying and start enjoying! More of this in her fabulous book, In Your Prime)

From my perspective, there is a lot of truth in this. I feel more comfortable with myself than I ever have and would never want to return to my twenties or teenaged self. I know my own mind, what I can tolerate and what I can’t. What I like and what I don’t. What I’m willing to try and what my red lines are. I know things are not black and white and that some things just take time. Some of this has come with time and maturity and some of this comfort has come from motherhood – the broken sleep, the initial hard graft of breastfeeding and the many moments of just waiting (still waiting for the sleeping through the night!). Knowing that I don’t have the time or even the energy to indulge in the constant cycle of negative self-talk. And yet, in those quiet moments, the negative self-talk is still there.

Life’s too short. It sounds trite, but it’s true. It’s annoying to think of all the time and brain power, I’ve dedicated to thinking about how I hate my stomach (the only body part I’m not 100% comfortable with). What a waste of time, when I think about all the things I want to do and what I want to achieve.

Food rules. 


Photo by Julia Caesar

It seems that most people these days have rules that they use to help them navigate their day to day food choices. No wheat. No eating after 8pm. No wine during the week. The busier our lives get, the more these food rules help make a complex area seem simpler and easier to control.

Control is the key word, especially for women. Food is the one area of our lives that we tend to have absolute control over, especially after you start living on your own or with flatmates / a partner. Most women use their personal food rules to navigate food choices through busy, complicated lives.

A recent book called Simple Rules: How to Thrive In A Complex World says that the best way to succeed is to establish a set of simple rules. These rules are shortcut strategies that save time and effort by focusing our attention and simplifying the way in which we process information.

So it seems that there is something to the idea of having food rules, however the key is to make them as simple and realistic as possible in order not to self-sabotage. A rule like no wheat might not work if you don’t cook for yourself and your partner loves making pasta and bread based meals. It’s all about knowing limits and setting rules within these limits.

One of my major food rules is no snacking. This gives me much more control of what I eat and makes more aware of how hungry I actually am. Another rule is no drinking during the week. I love red wine and if I limit myself to just drinking a few glasses on the weekend, I get much more pleasure out of it, compared to using it as a stress release during the week.

Sometimes my food rules get me into a bit of a frenzy, so I’ve learned to keep it simple.

I wrote this post when I was on holiday in Greece a few months ago and it really typifies how stressful I find too many food rules.

Like many of you, I have food rules that I use to navigate my day to day life. Food rules like no snacking unless absolutely necessary, avoid eating wheat, dairy and sugar to prevent breakouts, joint inflammation (especially my left index finger!), bloating & a bad stomach and chew my food as much as possible (remember – there are no teeth in your stomach!). But then I go on holiday and I see loads of amazing, fresh local food that I need to try! So it becomes a case of making choices that my body won't necessarily thank me for later, but just enjoying the moment while it lasts! Which brings me to this amazing seafood platter with fresh Cretan squid, octopus, swordfish, sardines and perch – so much goodness that in that moment I chose to overlook the batter on the squid and just enjoy the food and the beautiful Greek sunshine and hospitality! #realtalk #holidayvibes #notapaleoperfectionist #paleoish

A post shared by Le'Nise Brothers (@eatlovemove) on

 

What are your food rules? Do you have any?