How do you feel right now? Check your breath. Is it shallow, taking short, little breaths through your nose? Check your hands and teeth – are they clenched? Check your shoulders – are they tensed up towards your ears? If you answered yes to two […]
When people ask me for shortcuts for getting healthier and feeling better, I tell them two things. Firstly, that there are no shortcuts and health should be lifelong pursuit. Then, once I’ve stepped off my high horse 😎, I tell them to eat more vegetables. […]
Self-care has become a hot topic these day, as people search for a way to keep grounded in what feels like crazy times.
Self-care, as in the act of taking small moments for yourself, in order to uplift, centre and increase energy, is not the selfish act it’s sometimes made out to be.
I had a big watershed moment last summer when I realised that I was doing too much and not taking care of myself enough. It was then I understood how important rest and a sense of peace are to my own self-love, self-care and ability to love others.
For parents especially, we’re guilty of neglecting our own self-care in service to our families, children and loved ones. I’m sure many of you can think of specific moments where you sacrificed something for yourself in order to give to your children, whether it be time, food or emotional energy. That’s par for the game as a parent.
But in order to keep doing that, we need to make sure we keep our own ‘cups’ full. That is, we make sure we are rested enough, nourished enough, energised enough and calm enough to keep giving.
That’s where self-care comes in. And to be clear, this has different manifestations for different people. For some people, self-care is being able to have 20 minutes of extra time in bed in the morning, for others, it could making sure that they can get to their spin class at lunchtime. It could be taking a long bath in the evening or it could be noodling away at a piece of woodworking. It could simply be making the time to feed yourself nourishing food at every meal and eating it in a mindful way.
My self-care routine has evolved over the last few years. Now, for me, it means:
- Being able to do some yoga (even if it’s just 10 minutes with my son jumping through my legs during downward dog) every day
- Lighting my favourite Daylesford candle and enjoying the smell and the flame
- Doing my deep breathing exercises when I feel overwhelmed
- Having a little smooch with my husband
- Having a big belly laugh with my son
- Making meals from scratch at home and making sure there’s always something good to eat in the fridge
What do you do for self-care? Has your routine evolved or changed depending on what’s going on in your life?
Do you dread the week before your period? How much do you dread it?
I used to count down the days, waiting for the familiar aches in my back, bloated belly and throughly grumpymood.
I used to think all women suffered this way and that PMS was just a part of life that I had to accept.
I’m now here to assure you that it doesn’t need to be this way. You don’t need to suffer through your periods or the week before your period.
Here what I did:
1. Cycle monitoring: I started to monitor my cycle by using a menstrual cycle tracking app to better understand my cycle and what symptoms I was experiencing at certain points in my cycle.
2. More anti-inflammatory foods: I increased the anti-inflammatory foods in my diet: fresh turmeric, fresh ginger, citrus fruit, wild salmon and at least 1L of water per day.
3. More vegetables, a bit more fruit: I gave myself the goal of eating at least 10 servings of vegetables and fruit a day – 7 portions of vegetables and 3 portions of fruit.
4. Sleep, sleep, sleep: I tried to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night. The more sleep you get, the better your body responds to insulin and the better your energy levels.
5. Less sugar, less alcohol: Excess sugar and alcohol create inflammation in the body (NB: inflammation is when your immune system over responds and remains switched on, usually due to an external stimulus) and inflammation drives many PMS symptoms.
6. Get moving: Light exercise, such as yoga, stretching, pilates and walking will reduce cortisol, the stress hormone and produce endorphins, one of the feel good hormones. Keeping cortisol at bay is really important because it can be a driver of inflammation. I tried to take at 8,000 – 10,000 steps a day in active walking and latent movement (you’d be surprised how much running you do when you’re chasing a three year old around the house!).
7. Support the liver: The liver is your body’s tool for detoxifying – it’s very important for women because your body uses the liver to break down oestrogen to a less potent form so it can be excreted in your daily bowel movement. I added lots of green, leafy vegetables, broccoli and cauliflower to my diet as these have compounds that support the liver’s detoxification process.
8. Poop everyday: Adding in fruit, veg and lots of water made sure I was able to have a bowel movement every morning, which is really important because this is the way the body gets rid of excess estrogen after it gets metabolised by the liver. Too much oestrogen can be a driver of PMS symptoms.
Have you tried any of these tips to manage your PMS? What’s worked for you?
In my usual pre-flight mad dash through the airport, I did a sweep of WH Smith for my standard holiday pile of magazines (I find reading fashion magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar so relaxing on holiday! I don’t really know why, though? 🤔) and decided to pick up a couple of books as well.
I spotted this book, Anxiety for Beginners, mainly due to its Roy Lichtenstein cover image riff and although not light reading, thought it might be interesting to dive into this topic a bit more while I had some more headspace before my exam.
The author, Eleanor Morgan, has suffered from anxiety and depression since her late teens, culminating in several breakdowns and rounds of antidepressants. She decided to write the book as a way of educating herself and others about one of the fastest growing illnesses in the UK.
As a fellow anxiety sufferer, I read this book with a lot of interest, hoping to get more insight into how other people were handling the day to day management of the signs and symptoms of the disease. What really struck me was how common anxiety is, how many different ways it manifests itself and how it really cuts through all walks of life.
The author told a fascinating story about re-connecting with the most popular girls in her school years later during the writing of this book. She discovered that what she had thought was her old friend’s ‘cool girl aloofness’ was really her way of trying to manage her anxiety in the best way possible for her – holding everyone at a distance. It made me realise how quick we are to judge others, without really knowing what’s going on in their lives. Personally, I know that I can appear withdrawn and a bit cold at times, especially when my anxiety is at its peak and social interaction with new people can all be a bit too much. A bit more compassion is needed all around, going back to the old adage: don’t judge a book by its cover.
Overall, I thought this book was a good overview into anxiety, with a lot of the author’s personal experiences interspersed throughout. What I found disappointing was how little she discussed the effects of the various food and drink we put into our bodies and how they can exacerbate and ameliorate anxiety symptoms. The author took a very medicalised viewpoint, emphasising the benefits of anti-depressants. Obviously, given my nutrition background, I would’ve like to see more discussion about tryptophan food and the effect they have on producing serotonin, as well as the role of gut bacteria in supporting serotonin production.
The root causes of anxiety and depression can be complex and vary per person, but it stands to reason that if you treat your body like a garbage dump, filling yourself with foods that aren’t nutritionally dense and cause blood sugar spikes, your anxiety can be worsened.
I’ve written a bit about the foods I eat to help manage my anxiety here.
I’ve been a bit fluey the last couple of days. It’s almost like there’s been a dominoes of illness in my house and I was the last one standing. I dislike being ill (does anyone actually like it?) and do everything I can to get back to full health as quickly as possible.
My list of flu remedies always includes: lots of rest (or as much as I can get with a little 3 year old that loves to give Mama rough and tumble cuddles that will “make her feel better”), steaming hot showers, turmeric tonic with added oil of oregano (or this version for a kick!), Pukka lemon and ginger tea and many soups with homemade bone broth.
I tried out a warming cauliflower soup this afternoon, as I was craving soup and I had a massive head of cauliflower I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with. I love food with a little heat, a little kick, so this was exactly what I needed on this cold and rainy day in London.
What you need:
1 small onion, sliced thinly
3 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 tbsp cooking fat (I used ghee)
1 medium / large cauliflower, leaves removed and roughly chopped
2 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp dried coriander
1 tsp salt
500mL bone broth / stock (or vegetable stock for vegans / vegetarians) – you may need to add less broth, depending on the size of the pot you’re using
1 large cooking pot
Optional: 1 tbsp coconut cream or 1 sprig fresh coriander to garnish (per bowl)
How to make it:
1. Place the pot on medium-low heat and add your chosen cooking fat. Once the oil is heated (this should take 1 minute max), add the onions, garlic and red pepper. If the onions start to brown too quickly, turn the heat down slightly – you’re sweating the vegetables to bring out the flavours. Sweat for 5 minutes or until the onions and garlic are translucent.
2. Add 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp dried coriander, 1 tbsp garam masala and stir until all the vegetables are coated in the spices. Cook for 1 more minute, stirring so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.
3. Add the cauliflower, stirring so it is incorporated with the rest of the mixture. Then add 100mL of the stock. This will help the cauliflower soften, rather than fry. Add the rest of the salt and garam masala. Stir and let it cook for 5 minutes.
4. Add the rest of the stock, stir and bring the soup to a boil. Let it boil for 5 minutes. Taste and if necessary, add additional salt to suit your palate.
5. Stir the soup, reduce the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.
6. Take the soup off the heat and blend with an immersion blender until it is completely smooth.
Seriously though. I know people get touchy about this subject, but let’s all be grown ups and have some real talk about the importance of regular bowel movements. A lecturer recently mentioned that the optimum number is three – once after every meal! Ideally, you […]
Anxiety seems to be a growing problem these days, especially amongst young people. Various pressures – societal, economic, physical, technological, emotional, political – mean that people are being pulled in many directions, increasing their day to day anxiety and decreasing their ability to cope.
When you add in increased alcohol intake too, it’s wonder that anxiety is one of the fastest growing self-help categories.
The good news, is that there are foods you can eat that can help ease anxiety.
First a bit of science: serotonin (the happy hormone) is synthesised from an essential amino acid called tryptophan, which cannot be synthesised in the body. Eating foods abundant in tryptophan throughout the day can naturally help increase / balance serotonin levels and can have a positive effect on your mood and anxiety levels.
So what foods are high in tryptophan? With all of these foods, go organic and free-range wherever possible.
Almonds: A personal favourite, you can get the benefits through whole almonds, ground almonds, almond butter or almond milk. Buy organic and local wherever possible, as almonds are notoriously resource heavy during farming. Also, when you’re using almond milk, read the ingredients to make sure you’re not buying one with loads of fillers like carrageenan, oils and sugars. I like Plenish or Rude Health Ultimate Almond.
Poultry: Poultry is generally high in tryptophan, however the winner in this category is turkey, which has the highest amount. This explains that happy feeling after feasting on turkey during Christmas dinner, right?
Avocado: This wonder fruit (or is a vegetable?) is also high in B vitamins, which help convert tryptophan to serotonin.
Salmon: The ideal choice is wild Alaskan salmon (which is also high in vitamin D!) to avoid the antibiotics and growth hormones in farmed fish. It’s very important not to go overboard with fish (my recommendation is 2 x weekly, maximum) as its goodness must be balanced with the realities of what fish are absorbing from 0ur very polluted water.
Organic, free-range dairy products: They are also a good source of healthy fats and B vitamins.
Pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds: These seeds are also high in B vitamins and zinc.
Green tea and matcha: A new favourite of mine, they are both high in l-theanine, a calming amino acid that helps reduce stress.
To get more bang for your buck, eat these foods with a carbohydrate food (i.e. fruit and veg, gluten free grains like oatmeal, buckwheat or quinoa), as they will improve absorption of tryptophan.
Other ways to manage anxiety
Vitamin D: Make sure to get enough vitamin D, either from the sun or a supplement during the winter. If you’re not sure what your vitamin D levels are, you can get tested for £25 from http://www.vitamindtest.org.uk
Deep breathing: Taking a long deep breath, in for three breaths through your nose and out for three breaths through your mouth is a brilliant way to shift your nervous system out of sympathetic (fight or flight) mode, back to the calming parasympathetic rest and digest mode.