fbpx

Category: 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.

IMG_0415

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.

L2NfDz5SOm7Gbf755qpw_DSCF0490

 

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.

View this post on Instagram

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?

I Tried It: Oil Pulling

photo-1421284621639-884f4129b61d

Photo by Thomas Lefebvre

I’m a huge fan of natural health and beauty products and really try to stick by the adage, ‘if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin’.

This past February, my Nutrition lecturer mentioned oil pulling and alternative dental hygiene products in one of our classes and this naturally piqued my interest. I had been thinking about this a little bit already when doing research in natural children’s toothpastes for little J, and hearing the feedback from my fellow students that had already been oil pulling for a while was very intriguing, so I decided to try it out.

I opted to use food-grade extra virgin coconut oil for my oil pulling – I figured if it was okay to eat, it would be okay to swish around my mouth.  I usually buy coconut oil from Chi, Biona, Fushi or Lucy Bee and try to pick up a few whenever I see them on sale in Whole Foods or As Nature Intended.

Oil pulling is apparently best to do in the morning, before you eat or brush your teeth, as it helps to get rid of the bad bacteria that accumulates overnight and has been shown to reduce the number of Streptococcus Mutans bacteria (the bacteria that causes decay and cavities) in the mouth, especially when done with coconut oil, which has anti-bacterial properties. I started off with a tablespoon of coconut oil. I let melt in my mouth for a minute and then swished it around gently for as long as I could manage. The first time, I could only last for ten minutes and I eventually built up to the recommended twenty minutes.

Oil pulling takes time to get used to. Over the twenty minutes, the oil liquefies in the mouth, getting bigger as saliva and mucus get added. When it got too much, I would spit a bit out, otherwise all the liquid would make me gag! When you’re done, it’s really important to spit the oil into the trash, not the sink, otherwise your pipes will get clogged!

It took about a week for me to notice results. My breath was definitely fresher throughout the day and my teeth and gums became less sensitive. But something strange happened. Parts of my teeth became whiter, while some, specifically my top four front teeth, developed a bit of staining. At first, I thought that I needed to focus more on swishing the oil around the front of my mouth, so I became more diligent about that. After a week, there was no difference.

I started to think about the things I was doing after I finished oil pulling in the morning. Drinking my usual fresh squeezed lemon juice with water, grated ginger and turmeric? That couldn’t cause any problems. Eating an omelette? Again, shouldn’t cause an issue. Drinking a cup of black coffee? Okay, that’s probably it. What I’ve since learned, is that oil pulling makes the teeth slightly more porous, which means you need to be careful about what you drink for a few hours afterwards.

Happily, my dentist was able to remove the stains after a fairly brutal clean and polish.

IMG_7924

I am still a fan of oil pulling, but am not willing to give up coffee for it. I’ve decided to try incorporating it into my night time routine instead to see if that makes any difference at all.

Have you tried oil pulling? I would love to hear your story!

There’s no such thing as balance.

Photo by Nelly Volkovich

It’s that age-old bloggers lament – “I haven’t posted in ages!” And there are a million excuses that you can give, but the reality is that sometimes, especially if you’re not yet making a living out of it, something has to give.

And for me, right now, trying to fit in working full time, studying (I’m really supposed to be writing a paper on Crohn’s disease right now), being a wife, keeping a home, being a mom to a very active and funny 21 month old boy, keeping everyone fed and happy, figuring out how to grow a business and finding a bit of time for myself is a challenge. Yes, it’s challenging being a mom. I’m not complaining or going into stereotypical mom mode of “how does anyone get anything done around here?”. I’m lucky that these are my dilemmas, my challenges.

But it makes me question the articles I see in women’s press like ‘how to find balance’ or ‘how to do it all’ (that old stereotype) or ‘finding work-life balance’.

It’s impossible.

The reality is that there might be one day, one week even when everything balances out and you feel like you’re winning at life!

But more often than not, there will be times when work becomes more important and you need to spend every evening catching up on email or you might miss a few bedtimes that week. Then there are other times when you need to put everything into your family life, times when your child is sick, they’re going through a developmental leap and really, really need you as a point of stability or you need to have time with your husband so that you still have a marriage.

All of this is okay. It’s okay not to be perfect. It’s okay not to have a balanced life. As long as you see the woods for the trees and know when things getting too tough, too overwhelming, then that’s what I would call success.

Changing my eating habits.

After reading Amelia Freer’s wonderful book, Eat. Nourish. Glow, I resolved to stop snacking and to make sure I was eating enough food at my main meals. And guess what? It’s working!  

Once I made sure to eat enough at each meal, it was relatively easy to maintain awareness of my sense of fullness. I used this as a signal to myself not to snack. What also helps immensely is the fact that we’re not allowed to eat at our desk at work! Oh and that I’ve also stopped buying my usual snacks of dried mango! 

Eating enough at each meal is key. And it’s not just that, it’s eating the right things. Lots of proteins, lots of fats – things that take time for the body to process. 

My typical day of meals looks like this: 

Breakfast: Two-egg omelette with kale and some leftover protein, anything from beef to crab to chicken, cooked in coconut oil, a few tablespoons of sauerkraut and a glass of my morning eye-opener (fresh squeezed lemon juice, with freshly grated turmeric & ginger in water)

My usual big ass omelette with avocado and kimchi.
My usual big ass omelette with avocado and kimchi.

Lunch: I’m a creature of habit and love the build your own salad places that are popping up all over London. I typically have a salad with deli leaves, broccoli, grated carrots, grated broccoli, sundried tomatoes, chopped bacon and cooked shredded chicken, dressed in lemon, oil and hot chilies. I could eat this everyday. I find it so filling and satisfying. 

A big ass salad from Chop'd!
A big ass salad from Chop’d!

Dinner: This varies, depending on what I’ve got in the fridge, what I’ve prepped on the weekend and frankly, how tired I am. This week, we’ve had slow-cooked pork with carrots & butternut squash, lamb bhuna and bunless burgers, some of it homecooked, some of it from great local takeaways, like Holy Cow.  

Slow cooked pork with apple, butternut squash, carrots and onion.
Slow cooked pork with apple, butternut squash, carrots and onion.

Eating enough of the right food at each meal and drinking enough water has meant that I’ve been able to break my long term snacking habits and lose a few pounds as well!

No More Snacking.

I recently picked up a copy of Amelia Freer’s Eat. Nourish. Glow. after seeing some great recommendations on Instagram. And I was not disappointed!

Amelia’s recommendations are sensible and sound and generally follow a real food / primal / paleo slant, although she is careful not to call out any particular food tribe, focusing on getting her readers to think about the whys, the whats, the hows and the wheres of what they’re eating.

Her thinking on snacking has really stuck with me. The more I learn about the body and its processes, the more I realise how much mainstream nutrition and diet advice is doing us a disservice. Amelia tackles common thinking around snacking and says there are actually very few reasons to snack if you’ve eaten three proper meals with lots of protein and good fat.

When I read this, it was like one of those cartoon moments when the lightbulb goes off over the head! Here’s the science: When you’re constantly snacking, you’re never giving your digestive system a break. Your pancreas will need to keep producing insulin to help your body regulate blood sugar, especially if you give in to mainstream advice and snack on things like fruit and yoghurt, which your body breaks down relatively quickly. As Amelia says, “a permanent presence of insulin will put our bodies into fat storage mode.”

She also says, “we know that the human body was not designed to consume a constant supply of food. It was designed to endure regular periods of fasting…we have convinced ourselves we need to keep grazing and the food manufacturers and supermarkets are only too happy to reinforce this idea. The truth is: if you are snacking, you are eating more than you need.”

So I’ve pledged to myself to try and stop snacking. I eat a big breakfast, full of protein, good fats and veg, which usually gets me through to lunch. It’s the afternoons that tend to be trickiest for me. I eat lunch around 1 o’clock and at the moment, it’s a big ass salad from Chop’d that’s doing the trick. But then I don’t get home until 7pm…and by 6pm, my mind is starting to say, “feed me, feed me.” And this is precisely the moment that Amelia says that a small snack is okay. But these can’t be just any snack, they should be “real foods, such as apple slices with hazelnut / almond butter, cherry tomatoes with walnuts or avocado with seeds and lemon.”

So just eat real food and make sure you eat enough at mealtimes to keep you going!

I’m a student again!

Photo by inbal marilli

My nutrition course has started and boy, is it going to be a good one!

I’ve signed up for a three year course of nutrition study at the College of Naturopathic Medicine in central London and I’m on the other side of a very intensive first few months of studying cells, tissue and muscle.

I was a bit skeptical at the beginning of the first day, because I thought to myself, “what does this have to do with nutrition? Let’s just get to the food part already!”. I see things a bit differently now! Forgive me, Ms Non Science background for stating the obvious, but the body is an amazing thing and we really should treat ourselves with better care!

Take something like bone homeostasis – this amazing process of negative feedback in the body means that osteoblasts and osteoclasts are constantly creating and breaking down bone, adding calcium and sending it back into the blood. If we have too little calcium, it’s a problem, if we have too much calcium, it’s a problem. And as we know, not all calcium sources are created equal!

This is just one of thousands of processes that are constantly happening in our body, all trying to keep us balanced in one way or another. I’m so excited to keep learning more!

Starting my #whole30

Photo by Shane Perry

Today’s the big day.

Today, I commit to cleaning up my diet and to spending 30 days eating clean. Not eating wheat or sugar is not a big deal for me, but no dairy and no alcohol? Mon dieu!

But it’s necessary. I’ve realised that alcohol was becoming a bit of a crutch for me. I was using it a major stress relief – is it normal to spend the day really looking forward to ‘wine time’ in the evening? For me, this new normal was becoming a little scary and too much of a pattern.

So here we are on day 1 of my Whole 30.

Here we go.

My slippery slope foods.

Photo by Padurariu Alexandru

The process of cleaning up my diet has forced me to take a hard look at what I eat on a daily basis, but most of all, my slippery slope foods. You know, the foods that send you into a spiral of wanting more and more and more.

Sugary food like chocolate was my go to food after my son was born. It’s no lie that breastfeeding moms crave sugar – in the early days, I ate a slice of cake everyday! After cutting out sugar for Lent, bread became my new crutch. Whenever I was tired or a bit emotional, I would reach for the breadbasket and scarf away. After indulging a few too many times, I knew I had to cut out the wheat and once I did, a new slippery slope food emerged – cheese.

I’ve always loved cheese. When I was in university, I remember standing at my kitchen counter eating slice after slice of cheddar, cutting each slice from a big block. After giving up sugar, I would always order a cheese plate for dessert, enjoying exploring English, French, Spanish and German cheeses. Nothing beats a good goat’s cheese.

But I can’t just eat one piece of cheese and then stop. After giving up sugar and wheat and still not seeing the fast progress I wanted in shifting my baby weight. I knew I had to cut out cheese – my slippery slope food.

And it’s been really successful. I’ve had the odd treat, but knowing that I have to limit my consumption has really helped. I’m not the type of person that can eat food in moderation.

So what’s my new slippery slope food, you ask? I’d like to say that I don’t have one, but then I’d be lying. Oddly enough, I can’t get enough of dried mango at the moment. And I know it’s not great for me, as all the sugar creates an insulin response in me. I really feel the high and then the crash, especially when I scoff a whole bag at the end of the day.

I’d like to say that I would cut out all slippery slope food, but I don’t know if that would be possible. Food shouldn’t be a treat or reward, but after a hard day with the baby, it’s nice to have a little pick me up.

The big lightbulb moment.

Photo by Marta Serrano

I’ll admit it. I’m one of those people that reads cookbooks, nutrition books and exercise books in bed. Salivating over new recipe ideas, learning more about the human body and how food affects it, boning up on new exercise techniques – I love it.

After I got pregnant, I thought that I would use my maternity leave to come up with my BIG idea – you know, the one that would make me my millions and allow me to live the life of my dreams. Fat chance. Baby J arrived and reality hit. For the first six months, I had no spare brain capacity – everything was focused on the baby. And then slowly but surely, I started to feel more like a new version of my old self, which made me start to contemplate my future.

Did I really want to go back to a job where I was working 60-70 hour weeks? Was that what I was really passionate about? What was I passionate about? When was I going to get the big BRAIN WAVE about my next business?

Well, it turns out it was staring me in the face all along. I read about nutrition and fitness all the time, I talk about it all the time and I really try to live my life in a healthy way. One day, M said to me, “what if you could do something in nutrition or food?”. And finally the lightbulb went off.

It’s definitely going to be a slowburner. I’ve signed up to do a diploma in naturopathic nutrition at the College of Naturopathic Medicine. Part-time, so it will take me three years. This is my big move, my big passion. And I’m really excited about it.

Subscribe to weekly notes from our founder, Le’Nise!