Tag: i tried it

I Tried It: Giving Up Sugar For Lent

  It’s spring and it’s time for change and renewal.   For me, this is the time of year when I take stock and look at what’s working and what isn’t.   Sugar wasn’t working for me. My moods were up and down, my skin […]

I Tried It: Alternate Nostril Breathing

Have you heard about alternate nostril breathing?   This is an incredible way of shifting your nervous system from fight or flight stress mode to rest and digest, relaxation mode.   You’re essentially breathing consciously, taking in more air and reducing your blood pressure.   […]

I Tried It: The 4-7-8 Deep Breathing Method For Better Sleep

sunset in richmond

Do you ever have nights where your mind is whirring and it’s tricky to drop off to sleep? I do.

 

I’ve been trying the 4-7-8 deep breathing method to help me get to sleep and it’s been really helpful! Pioneered by Dr Andrew Weil, the technique is designed to calm the mind and relax the muscles. If you’re one of the 30% of Brits who suffers from poor sleep, anything is worth a try, right?

 

Not sleeping well doesn’t just affect your blood sugar balance, make you tired and unable to concentrate – it also puts you at risk of more serious health issues including obesity, heart disease and diabetes and even reduces your life expectancy.

 

The 4-7-8 deep breathing technique comes from yoga breathing, where you have to keep the tip of the tongue behind the upper front teeth. You breathe in through your nose quietly and blow air out forcefully through your mouth making a whoosh sound.

 

Here’s how to perform the 4-7-8 mindful bedtime trick:

1.    Exhale through your mouth making a ‘whoosh’ sound.

2.    Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a count of four.

3.    Hold your breath for seven seconds.

4.    Exhale through your mouth, making a ‘whoosh’ sound to the count of eight.

5.    Inhale again and repeat the cycle 2-4 times or until you feel yourself drifting off.

 

According to Dr Weil, this technique works by filling the lungs with air, allowing more oxygen into the body, which in turn promotes a state of calm. Dr Weil advises doing the breathing during the day as well as it can also be used to improve digestion and stop the ‘fight-or-flight’ response in the body, reducing stress.

 

Even if you decide this stress-relieving technique isn’t for you, it’s worth exploring other ways to reduce your stress levels. Stress plays such a huge part in how we feel about ourselves, and that in turn has a knock-on effect on how motivated we are to eat well and take proper care of both our physical and mental health.

 

It might seem like a luxury to practise mindfulness or indulge in any kind of self care but you know what they say when you’re on a plane: you’ve got to put on your own oxygen mask before you can save anyone else.

 

The same is true for healthy eating. In my clinic, people often come to me feeling unmotivated and exhausted by life and it’s my job to help you feel inspired to make positive changes for yourself. And once you feel motivated again, it will help to inspire the whole family and others around you.

 

If you know you need a diet and lifestyle upgrade, but are not sure exactly what that would look like for you, get in touch. Looking forward to talking to you and helping you take the first step towards a new you.

I Tried It: Hot Yoga

I just completed 30 days of yoga and I’m hooked. I love how yoga calms and relaxes me, how it’s increasing my flexibility and how much stronger I’m becoming.   I’ve started another Yoga with Adriene 30 day challenge, but last week, I decided that […]

I Tried It: 30 Days of Yoga

Do you do yoga? It’s something I always recommend yoga to my stressed out clients. It’s incredible for reducing cortisol, the major stress hormone, and getting people to focus on the quality of their breathing. In addition, a recent study shows that yoga and meditation […]

I Tried It: Whole30

springtime at kew gardens

I haven’t felt like writing much about food and nutrition recently. There’s been a lot going on, personally and professionally. New job, a heavier course load at school and loads of political distraction (every morning, I wake up and think, ‘what now?’. Don’t you?). It’s times like these when it’s tempting to throw everything to the wind and drink and eat whatever I want.

After some reflection, it truly feels like an act of subversion to take care of what you put in your body, to nourish yourself with intention. Small acts of subversion matter, more than ever.

To me, it feels subversive now to give a shit about the things I put in my body, to take care not to treat it like a garbage can. To eat organic, to be mindful about the type of meat and fish I buy, to really think about the amount of sugar my family consumes.

There are so many (things) trying to grab me away from eating well; from working long hours, cartoon branded food grabbing my son’s attention while shopping, my own yearnings and desires.

I have been doing the Whole 30 this month, in an attempt to get myself back on the right food path. Not that I was eating particularly badly. I just found that I was eating without thought or intention and letting my cravings drive my nourishment. And I tend to crave things like sourdough pizzas, greasy, salty fries and sharp, cold ice cream. All washed down with lots of red wine and gin and tonics.

So I embarked on a Whole 30 as a bit of a reset. 30 days, lots of vegetables, high quality meat, nuts, seeds, fish and fruit. This is my fifth time and it’s like riding a bike. I’ve internalised the rules and know what works and what doesn’t work for me.

And this time, I’ve really enjoyed it. My cooking has improved, so I’ve enjoyed being creative within the parameters of the regimen. And I’ve enjoyed having to be a bit more intentional with my food. The health benefits are there too: I can think more clearly, I don’t get as tired, my anxiety has improved.  Being alcohol-free has made my mornings easier too.

Have you tried a Whole 30? What was your experience?

I Tried It: Making Ghee

Have you ever used ghee? Ghee, a clarified butter, is known as ‘liquid gold’ in some South Asian cultures because it comes from the revered cow. The process of making ghee removes the milk solids and water and leaves you with lovely golden liquid that […]

I Tried It: Going To Bed Early

I’ve been burning the candle at both ends for at least seven months now, trying to fit everything in. Being a good mother, being a good wife, cooking, studying for my nutrition degree, doing coursework, working four days a week and trying to fit in […]

I Tried It: The Specific Carbohydrate Diet

stew

As I go further into my Nutrition degree, we’ve been learning more nutrition theory and practical elements, like clinical practice with patients and specific dietary models. The third assignment this year is to trial one of the dietary models we could potentially recommend to a patient. Anything from paleo to raw vegan to GAPS to 5:2. The idea is that we won’t truly understand how our clients feel until we walk a mile in their shoes.

What is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet?

With that in mind, I’ve just completed  a week and a half on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). This aim of this dietary model is to help heal the intestinal wall and rebalance the good and bad bacteria within the gut. More specifically, it is aimed at those with severe intestinal difficulties, such as those with Celiac, Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis. To quote the definitive SCD book / website, Breaking The Vicious Cycle:

The allowed carbohydrates are monosaccharides and have a single molecule structure that allow them to be easily absorbed by the intestine wall. Complex carbohydrates which are disaccharides (double molecules) and polysaccharides (chain molecules) are not allowed. Complex carbohydrates that are not easily digested feed harmful bacteria in our intestines causing them to overgrow, producing by products and inflaming the intestine wall. The diet works by starving out these bacteria and restoring the balance of bacteria in our gut.

On the diet, only monosaccharide carbohydrates are allowed to be eaten as all others require extra digestion steps to break the chemical bonds down to monosaccharide carbohydrates. In a nutshell, ‘no food should be ingested that contains carbohydrates other than those found in fruits, honey, properly-prepared yogurt, and those vegetables and nuts listed here.’

There is quite a lot of evidence supporting the efficacy of this dietary model, however because it is so intense, it can be considered a ‘last resort’.

How It Works

The diet is split into two parts; a 2-5 day introductory period to reduce severe intestinal complaints, such as pain, cramping and diarrhoea and then a reintroductory period to slowly introduce foods back into the diet to see how the body reacts. The 2 – 5 day introductory period focuses on plain foods that are known to help heal the intestinal lining, reduce bloating, gas, diarrhoea and pain and rebalance gut flora. Quite frankly, it is the blandest food known to man – foodies look away now!- which is why this dietary model is described as a last resort. Sample foods include dry cottage cheese, eggs (boiled, poached or scrambled), apple cider, homemade gelatine, homemade chicken soup including broth, chicken and pureed carrots, broiled plain beef patty, broiled fish, homemade cheesecake. All food must be homemade so you know exactly what ingredients are in each meal.

Once the intestinal complaints subside, cooked fruit, banana and additional vegetables may be tried. After this, the rest of the food in the dietary model may be introduced.

My Experience on the Diet 

I did one day on the introductory diet, so I could experience what a client might feel on this  part of the dietary model. I intentionally chose a day where I was at work, so I wouldn’t be tempted by anything on offer in my local cafes and restaurants. I’ve laid out my food and drinks throughout the day below.

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Drinks

Day 1

3 scrambled eggs, water

Two plain beef patties, water

Plain chicken legs and breast, nettle tea

2 cups of nettle tea

I am a coffee addict, so by 3pm, I was frantically Googling ‘herbal teas allowed on scd introductory diet’. Happily, nettle tea is allowed so I had a few cups to tide me through the rest of the afternoon. By the end of the day, I was utterly exhausted and went to bed at 8pm – no joke!

Day 2 – 9 were easier in some respects because I could have a wider variety of foods that weren’t too far off the paleo template that I normally choose.

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Drinks

Day 1

3 scrambled eggs, water

Two plain beef patties, water

Plain chicken legs and breast, nettle tea

2 cups of nettle tea

Day 2

Smoothie (almond milk, almond butter, kale, 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds, 1 handful blueberries, 2 tbsp collagen hydrolysate, 1 banana, 1/2 avocado, 1 handful kale), rasher of bacon

Chicken salad with mixed leaves, flaked almonds, walnuts, olive oil, s&p to dress

Red lentil and beef curry

1 cup of coffee, 2 L water, 1 cup ginger tea

Day 3

Smoothie 

Mixed salad with crab, tuna, string beans, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower, rocket, 2 hard boiled eggs, 1 cashew & date Nakd bar

Courgetti bolognaise, 1 cashew & date Nakd bar

1 cup of coffee, 2.5L water, 1 cup ginger tea, 1 cup nettle tea

Day 4

Smoothie 

Leftover beef and red lentil curry, 1 cashew & date Nakd bar

Steak with sautéed mushrooms and kale, 3 strawberries

1 cup of coffee, 2.5L water, 1 cup nettle tea

Day 5

Smoothie, 1 rasher of bacon

n/a

Beef ragu with spiralised carrots

Lemon water, 1 cup of coffee, 1 L water

Day 6

Smoothie 

n/a

Red pepper, green pepper and double Gloucester frittata

Lemon water, 1 cup ginger tea, 1 cup of Dr. Stuart’s Skin Tonic, 1L water

Day 7

Smoothie 

Small wedge of double Gloucester cheese

Beef patty with mixed leaves

1L water, 1 cup of Dr Stuart’s Skin Tonic

Day 8

Smoothie, 1 rasher of bacon, small piece of leftover frittata, 1 scrambled egg

Chicken burrito bowl with guacamole

Apple, two pieces of blue cheese

2L water, 1 large glass of red wine, 1 nettle tea

Day 9

Smoothie, 1 rasher of bacon

Chicken salad with mixed leaves, flaked almonds, walnuts, olive oil, s&p to dress

Chicken cacciatore with spinach

2L water, 1 cup of Dr Stuart’s Skin Tonic

There were two slightly tricky points.

From days 5-7, I had terrible intestinal discomfort, including stomach pain, diarrhoea, bloating, gurgling, nausea and general fatigue and headaches. On the various SCD websites, there is much discussion of ‘bacterial die-off’ (also called herxheimer reactions), where the fuel for the harmful bacteria (polysaccharides and disaccharides) has been removed from the diet, leading to ‘die-off’ of the harmful bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine in large numbers and the release of too many toxins for the liver to be able to process and dispose of at one time.

To put it simply, I was in a bad place for three days, with no appetite, no energy and a lot of discomfort. Interestingly (from a scientific, not a personal perspective), both my husband and son became ill one after the other, with the same symptoms that I experienced, so what I originally thought was bacterial die-off, may have been stomach flu. I’m still not sure.

The other tricky point was eating enough to have enough energy for exercise. After I recovered from the bacterial ‘die-off’, I found that I had to be quite conscious of making sure I was eating enough food throughout the day and in particular, before any workouts. I struggled with a spin class towards the end of my time on SCD, getting through on sheer grit and endorphins.

Final Thoughts

After I recovered from the die-off, I felt great. Full of energy, with far less intestinal discomfort, bloating and gas. I’ve actually continued a modified version of this dietary model for the last two weeks, excluding potatoes and sweet potatoes from my meals.

I’ve lost 3 kgs, my skin is much clearer and I’m enjoying spending more time in the kitchen and taking time over the meals I prepare. The other benefit is the amount of money I’ve saved from eating out less – so many wins!

Photo by Yvonne Lee Harijanto

I Tried It: The Mooncup

Have you ever tried a menstrual cup? I hadn’t, until recently. This goop article got me thinking about the implications of the cotton, chemicals and bleach in mainstream tampons. How many tampons do you think the average woman uses in a lifetime? Apparently it’s almost […]

I Tried It: Juicing

I’ll start this blog post by admitting that I have never really been a fan of juicing. I hate the hype and near-religious devotion to it. I hate the waste – seriously, what do juice bars do with all the leftover pulp? I hate that […]

I Tried It: Making Bone Broth

Bone broth preparation with ginger

2015 has been the year of bone broth or stock, as your grandmother would call it. From Brodo to #boilyourbones, the Hemsley sisters’ catchphrase, it seemed like everyone was getting into the long simmer.

 

Real talk: I made a half hearted attempt at making bone broth towards the end of last year, but it didn’t turn out very well, so I didn’t bother trying again until recently. Meanwhile, lots of beef bones and chicken carcasses have been thrown out, giving me a regretful, wasteful feeling.

 

No more. I’ve since realised bone broth is the one of the easiest things to make, especially if you have a slow cooker. Even easier if you have a pressure cooker as it only takes 2 hours.

 

My chicken broth recipe is really simple and you can easily substitute chicken for turkey (how seasonal!), beef or lamb bones or whack all the bones in together:

 

  1. Strip any excess meat off the chicken carcass and place the carcass into the slow cooker.
  2. Add 3-4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. This helps release the collagen from the bones.
  3. Add 3-4 garlic cloves, an onion, chopped in half, 3-4 carrots and a leek, chopped in half.
  4. If you want a deeper flavour, add 3-4 circular pieces of ginger, 3 cm in diameter.
  5. Season to taste with himalayan sea salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary.
  6. Cover with water.
  7. Set your slow cooker to low, cover and leave for at least 24 hours, stirring it occasionally and topping up the water as necessary.
  8. When you’re satisfied with the taste, or the bones have crumbled, remove the broth from the heat and pour the mixture through a strainer.
  9. Store it in the refrigerator for up to 7 days and in the freezer for up to 6 months.

 

Bonus tip: if you don’t have enough bones to make broth, stockpile them from individual meals in a big Ziploc bag in the freezer. After a while, you should have enough to make at least 2 litres of broth.

 

What can you do with your freshly made bone broth?

1. Sip it. It’s great for helping to repair a leaky gut and as a nutrient source in illness, as it’s full of collagen and protein.

2. Make soup! Knowing the soup has homemade broth in it is such a rewarding feeling.

3. Risottos are even lovelier with a homemade broth.

4.  I like to add a little zing to little J’s rice by adding a little broth to it for flavour and nutrients.

 

What do you do with your broth?

 

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I Tried It: Improving My Knife Skills

When you cook, a good knife or set of knives is really important. And they must be sharp. I learned this the hard way when I sliced my finger open trying to cut through a particularly tough sweet potato. It was there and then, I […]

I Tried It: Barry’s Bootcamp

Barry’s Bootcamp has been on my fitness to-do list for ages, but it’s taken me a while to ‘gee’ myself up to try it out.  Any workout that combines treadmill sprints (not my favourite, at the best of times) and strength training is always going […]