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How to Stay on Track during the Holiday Season

‘Tis the season to be… happy? tired? overwhelmed? overworked? celebrating? Whatever it is you are feeling right now about 2016 coming to an end, holidays upon us, and the prospect of 2017 on the horizon, really take this time to wrap the year up nicely. Don’t let well-formed healthy habits dissipate, and if they haven’t formed yet, don’t wait until Jan 1st 2017 to put them into place! The time is always now to put your best foot forward. I know that there is probably a lot of temptation throughout December, so I have put together a little survival guide. You don’t have to take all of these suggestions, find the ones that speak to you and make it work with your schedule. Every little step toward good health counts. So let’s get started!

Keep healthy habits

  • Wake up to warm water with ½ lemon juice each and every morning, 30 minutes or more before food
  • Maintain your exercise regimen – don’t let it subside during the holidays too much, as this is likely when you need it most! Start your day with something active, as with all the festive activities/family commitments, you are less likely to get it done later, even if this is your usual routine. Definitely a good idea to get a good workout in before any big celebratory feasts! Try to make it fun- try a new class, commit to walks with friends, enjoy the Sydney summer by exercising outdoors, and on days where you just don’t feel like it (read: slightly hungover), opt for a gentle stroll or yoga class. You’ll be happy you did.
  • Drink lots of water, 2L+… hydration is important at a time where there is lots of “cheersing” going on.
  • Sleep should be a priority, when we are overtired, our appetite takes a hit and we tend to overeat.

Further support yourself

  • Keep breakfast light, healthy and nutrient-dense, think green. Breakfast is likely the one meal that won’t be overtaken by festivities, so make it count! Don’t skip it altogether to make up for the fact that you have big lunch/dinner plans. Please! My non-negotiable green smoothie would be a great one to make a habit of throughout the season.
  • Include 1 tsp-tbsp bee pollen in your day to regulate appetite – easy to sprinkle on your morning smoothie (or oats). Bee pollen helps increase energy, alleviate stress, control appetite (due to its phenylalanine content) and assist digestion, woohoo! Note, be careful to make sure you are not allergic to it first, and do not consume if you have asthma.
  • Prioritise fibre – veggies, fruit, gluten-free grains, starches, ground flaxseeds, chia, psyllium husk – we want to ensure you are “eliminating” properly.
  • If you’re noticing reflux or extra bloat, try having 1 tbsp ACV in warm water 15 mins before meals.
  • Sip miso soup (made at home from unpasturised miso paste over low heat so as not to loose the beneficial properties), as it is very soothing for the gut.
  • Try this super soothing digestive aid in the evenings: 2-3 thin slices ginger, small handful mint leaves (or peppermint tea bag), 1 tsp fennel seeds (if you have). Allow to warm on the stove over a low flame, strain as you pour into a mug and drink to ease discomfort.

Come prepared

  • Don’t skip meals to “make-up for” the spread you know you can’t resist later on, it will just make that big meal even bigger.
  • BYO healthy dish that you know will make you feel good and that you can enjoy and share with loved ones. Choose one from here.
  • Have a healthy snack before the party/occasion to ensure you don’t arrive ravenous – my go-to is always vegetables… a bowl of pan-fried broccoli with garlic, Tamari and miso, sprinkled with chili (boost that digestive fire) and a few tbsp of hemp seeds or pumpkin seeds. Or try 1 cup of this super cleansing soup as a snack.

Navigate the table/bar like a nutritionist

  • Greens, greens, greens at every meal
  • Eat more of the sides and salads, where possible leave dressing on the side, you probably don’t/don’t want to know what’s in it! Ask for a lemon instead.
  • Eat slowly, chew lots, and place fork and knife down whilst you chat across the table. Allow your appetite to catch up!
  • Enjoy alcohol in moderation – you know this one! Enjoy the antioxidant properties of a good red wine, or opt for vodka/white rum/gin with soda + loads of lime or lemon or even a splash of fresh orange juice. Skip the tonic- it is full of sugar. Better still, BYO Kombucha instead 🙂

No deprivation

  • Enjoy that holiday treat you have been looking forward to, mindfully and whole-heartedly. Just don’t keep eating the leftovers for breakfast!
  • Make healthy versions of traditional favourites and keep them on hand – gingerbread bliss balls, shortbread, crumble, coconut rough, egg nog etc.
  • Guilt does nothing for you, so leave it behind! If you do “slip-up” and over-eat or eat something you wish you didn’t, accept it, forgive yourself, move on and don’t let it snowball i.e. that mentality where you feel that if you’re already this far in, why not keep going (all night, or even for days). This guilt can also often be the cause of bloating as well! Love yourself enough to pick yourself back up. In these moments it helps to do something nice like sip a tea, take a bath, laugh with a friend, go for a walk, journal, face mask, breathing-exercises etc. do what works for you.

Perspective

  • Remember what this time means to you – maybe it has religious significance, or perhaps it is about family time – whatever it is, it isn’t simply food, food, and only food. Cherish the moments not the meals.
  • Write down your goals right NOW so that you have them fresh and clear in your mind ASAP, and begin to work toward them before the new year. Why wait?

I hope you all have the most wonderful holidays!!

Love and health,

Sami xo

Part 3 My Health Story: Vegan, My Food Philosophy, Eating For Longevity

Several people had recently mentioned to me a movie called Cowspiracy, and I had this feeling in my gut that it would change my life. I wasn’t prepared for this, I was still of the belief that I needed animal protein. I knew if I watched just ten minutes of it, I would go vegan. Nevertheless, when my boyfriend, Mike (who had been vegetarian for a year at this point), said that he wanted to watch the movie, I knew all signs were pointing to the obvious – to stop living in ignorance and make an informed choice. So I did. I was wrong, within the first three minutes I decided I was going to go vegan! Mike and I said we would trial it for one month, which easily became two, and has now become a lifelong commitment.

There are many moral reasons I could list – environmental concerns, animal welfare issues – let’s be honest, we all know them, we just try not to think about them. And for sure, that is what breaks my heart and what grabbed my attention at first. You see, I am of the belief that what is good for the macro is good for the micro – so it makes sense to me that the best diet for us as beings on this planet, should be compatible with the environment and other creatures around us, so that it is sustainable. Therefore the choices we make for our health, can and should support the vitality of the world around us.

However, most interestingly for me as a nutrition student, it came down to the cold hard facts regarding the correlation between standard western diets and disease, and the way in which we have allowed mainstream media and food marketing to distort our beliefs, our instincts and our relationship with eating. We have become entirely disconnected from our food; what it is, where it comes from, what it does for us. I came to realise that there are far bigger holes in the western diet than “protein-deficiency” (which is extraordinarily uncommon, by the way), and that a diet centered around real, whole-foods makes the most sense on a biological and biochemical level.

Why is it that for almost every chronic illness, a vegan diet is prescribed and found beneficial, yet to healthy people, it is perceived as harmful, or wrong?

It just makes no sense!

As a health coach and nutritionist-in-training, I am fully aware of the fact that I will be presented with clients that do not wish to embrace a fully vegan diet. People don’t change overnight, and my own journey is a perfect example of that. My aim is to encourage you to eat in a way that is conscious, vibrant, and sustainable. So to do that, I stand by simple principles that can be applied to everyone:

  1. Eat more whole foods that exude life, not death – this includes plant foods, raw foods, fermented foods, sprouts, herbs and weeds!

  2. Don’t fear entire food groups – Carbs, Fats or Protein;

  3. Don’t fear any whole-food – that goes for fruits, dried fruit, grains and white potatoes (the common ones people, my past self included, seem to view as “bad”) – we live in a world where artificial sweeteners and processed protein bars and shakes are deemed “healthy”, but the banana, a whole-food, given to us by nature, is bad… really?

  4. Cut processed and refined foods, particularly refined sugar; and

  5. Source, prepare and eat your food consciously and mindfully.

 

I believe that we all need to reprogram how we look at food. Yes it is yummy, comforting, and often celebratory, but do we stop and realise that it is actually a source of energy? No. Do we truly understand that food is a source of nutrients? Not those supplements you occasionally pop, but real, beautifully packaged, naturally intended vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and fibre! No. Do we make the connection between the food we put in our mouths and the way we feel? Mood, energy levels, digestive discomfort, sleep patterns, hormonal changes? NO! What’s more, is the connection made between our food choices, and our susceptibility to disease?

NO. I don’t believe the majority of the world does view food this way.

My vegan journey has taught me many things, but one of them is certainly regarding the way in which I view food. I view it as a source of nourishment, as preventative medicine, as my ticket to vibrance, vitality and longevity. I don’t want to wait until I am sick, I want to be consuming the diet that ensures I stay as healthy as I possible can right now, in this moment. And I believe, we all could do with eating many more plant foods.

So, this is what leads me to where I am today. Happy, healthy and vegan! I was reluctant to “announce” it to my readers and friends because I didn’t want to seemingly push my beliefs onto you, but mainly, because I wanted to feel it in my own body first so I could speak from some experience. I can now say with conviction that this is my lifelong way of living and eating. It is not a diet, not a FAD, or a ploy to get thin or look a certain way, it is a lifestyle choice to consistently feel optimal and live a long and healthy life.

If I can encourage you to do anything, it is to make the connection between food and your overall health, not just your size. Start thinking about how many greens and other veggies you eat daily, and begin to incorporate more into every meal, and even every snack. These are the foods that will enhance your health, not inhibit it. Losing weight, feeling energetic, getting thick hair and nails, glowing skin, are just happy side effects. But I believe the intention is important:

let’s eat for longevity, not looks.

Thank you for reading, your support means the world to me.

Love & health, always

Sami xx

 

Stress & Digestion – The importance of eating in a calm state

Have you ever heard of the phrase “trust your gut”, or referred to having “a gut-feeling” about something? These are not random pairings of words! There is a reason we say them, and that is because the mind-body, or in this case, the mind-gut connection is powerful…

Stress begins in the mind, but it quickly wreaks havoc on the entire body inhibiting many of its essential processes. When it comes to digestion, we are often so concerned with what we are eating that we seldom pay attention to the way we are eating i.e. our state of being. We are not what we eat, we are what we absorb! You could be eating all the right things, however if you are constantly eating in a state of panic, absorption is compromised and all the nutrients you are hoping will nourish your body have difficulty reaching their destination.

Stress signals to your body that you are in danger, activating the fight or flight response in your central nervous system. This triggers our adrenal glands to pump out the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol to help us deal with the perceived threat. It just so happens that digestion is also controlled by the nervous system, however, in periods of stress, it is secondary to getting us out of danger, thus it is shut down. Our bodies are clever and know that it is not necessary for survival at that moment, so it prioritizes stress. Hello bloating, gas, indigestion and bowel disruptions!

How does this happen? Adrenaline, our short-term stress hormone, will divert the blood supply away from digestion and will send it to your arms and legs, which the body believes will run or climb and carry you to safety! It also negatively affects the contractions of our digestive muscles, and decreases production of our digestive juices; meaning food cannot be broken down properly. If you eat regardless of these functions shutting down it can cause inflammation making you more susceptible to infection such as food allergies and gut permeability like leaky gut.

Unlike the stressors of famine or predators of our past, modern world stress is brought on by an email, a nasty conversation, an alarm going off, your phone ringing, or a text message – often in combination and all at once! But our bodily functions are ancient, and historically adrenaline was produced to prevent us from being a saber-tooth’s next meal! If our today’s stresses are demanding our body to produce adrenaline when all we are doing is sitting at a desk (often eating), you can understand the confusion!

Our bodies are doing everything they possibly can to keep us alive and well. Even though we would love for them to be focused on digestion while we are shoveling down mouthful after mouthful, if our mind is elsewhere, if we are consumed by panic and anxiety, our bodies will do what it thinks is best, prioritise safety and forget about digestion altogether.

While digestive issues may be common, they are by no means normal! See them as a sign that something needs addressing. No good can come of living in a fight or flight dominant state. It is time to listen to our bodies and respond. Eat in a calm state and feel the difference in your digestion and vitality.

Tips to bring calm to mealtime

Do not eat at your desk!

Take that lunch break you are entitled to. This will assist with weight loss/maintenance (you tend to overeat when you are not focused on your food), allow for better brain function and productivity, give you an opportunity for some fresh air and vitamin D (10-15 minutes of sun exposure daily) and will aid optimal digestion.

Diaphragmatic breathing

Take 5-20 deep diaphragmatic breaths before eating. This might sound crazy or over-indulgent (who has time for this?!) but deep breaths are a sure-fire way to signal to your body that it is safe and that all is well.

Smell the aroma of your food

This stimulates our digestive juices that help break down food. Think about it, in caveman times, it took hours to prepare food (no fast food then!) and thus the body was adequately prepared for digestion.

Chew, chew!

Chew at least 10 times before you swallow. 20 is optimal! Rest your utensils between mouthfuls to help with eating slowly.

Eat mindfully and with pleasure

Enjoy the wonderful flavours and nutrients you are feeding yourself! Pleasure is a fantastic antidote to stress.

Chamomile tea

Chamomile tea is very soothing both for relieving anxiety as well as for relaxing digestive muscles. Sip on a cup 30 minutes prior to mealtime.

 

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