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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

 

The enigma that is Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance” is a term that gets thrown around a lot. Some people have it, some people think they have it, while most people longingly aspire to it. The phrase itself assumes that “work” is not a part of “life”, and must be “balanced” against it. It has become almost enigmatic, we can’t describe it or crack its code, leaving many somewhat intimidated by it. How could we ever balance one (work), so demanding and integral to our financial situation, with the other (life), that encompasses so much?!

Defining the work aspect is pretty straight forward – you know when you’re showing up each day, hitting goals and adding value to the business. But life, how do we judge if we are showing up and adding value to our lives?

It is increasingly recognised that quality of life is strongly intertwined with quality of health. Not simply our physical health i.e. what we eat or how often we move, but also our mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. This involves relationships, leisure, pleasure, self-reflection, self-love, beliefs and much, much more.

With one third of our lives spent in the office, how are we expected to find the time to fit in all this other stuff?

The truth is, many of us don’t. We prioritise careers and allow our health to take second chair. That looming deadline… or time for the gym? Early morning meeting… or a much-needed 15 minute meditation? Coffee to get me through… or herbal tea? Late night working… or time with loved ones? So many of us sacrifice the latter for the former far too often. By the end of the day, we are so exhausted and resentful of the sacrifices we have to make, we often make further poor choices – the thought of preparing a healthy meal ridiculous compared to the easier options like takeaway and comfort food, the idea of a yoga class (if we even left the office in time) ludicrous when there’s chores to be done, relationships to nurture or simply mindless reality TV on offer.

With workplace stress levels continually rising, it is becoming abundantly clear that the work-life scales are tipping unfavourably for the majority of us. Physically, stress is impacting 75% of Australians, while mentally it is taking its toll on 68%. Only half of Australians feel their employers truly care about their wellbeing.

To combat this, a few forward-thinking organisations have recognised the integral role health initiatives have with cultivating corporate culture and business success. Implementing programs such as lunch-time yoga offer desk-bound employees an opportunity to exercise, ease their minds and reconnect, within work hours.

This is not only fantastic for their overall health but also serves as a business tool – the midday boost increases focus and productivity, encourages team-building and makes employees feel that they are getting more from their job than simply a pay cheque.

When I teach corporate yoga classes, the first comment I get after Savasana is “I could take a nap!” But 10 minutes later, they all report feeling much more alert and focused, and this stays with them throughout their afternoon. Students are happier because they are getting their workout in, they feel valued by their employer, their work improves and they enjoy the social aspect. The benefits are endless!

Work-life balance isn’t necessarily asking, are we hour-for-hour spending equal time on both, but rather, are we giving as much energy to our wellbeing and relationships, as we are to our occupation? Are we supporting ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally, so that we can fulfill our jobs and career ambitions to the best of our ability?

Organisations need to help with the balancing act by prioritising employee wellbeing. That one hour within the work day just once a week truly makes all the difference to tipping the scales back in our favour. By implementing a wellness initiative employers assist their team by decreasing stress, increasing productivity and generating an inclusive corporate culture that fosters loyalty to the business.

If you’ve identified that your company needs to introduce a healthy dose of yoga, why not suggest in-house lunchtime classes?

I’d love to hear from you! Enquire today: sami@samibloom.com

My Morning Routine & How Loosing The “All or Nothing” Mentality Improved My Health

I used to think of a day as a good day, or a bad day.

I had an all or nothing approach. Contrary to some people – if I went for a run or ate a healthy breakfast, I didn’t want to “sabotage” that day with a treat or a reward. Instead, I would be super “healthy” that day – which really wasn’t that healthy at all. I would over-exercise, under-eat and feed my ego with twisted compliments about my “dedication” to my health.

The truth is, I would be depriving myself and ignoring my bodies messages, purely to fit within the confines of what I believed would deem that day a “good” day.

On the flip side – if I ate too much at breakfast or slept in and didn’t go for that workout, you could pretty much guarantee that the rest of the day was going to be full of grazing, binging, and lethargy.

All or nothing.

Once I became aware of how damaging this was I educated myself on productive health-oriented ways to begin my day. There are a variety of options out there to start your day right, with everyone recommending different tips that work for them. I, the perfectionist I am, decided to combine ALL of the advice and recommendations I had ever heard of into the “perfect” morning routine, which looked a little something like this…

Wake up. 20 deep belly breaths. Drink a warm lemon water with turmeric. Journal – set intentions for the day, focus on a positive affirmation and write out several things I am grateful for. Complete 20 minutes of yoga followed by 10-15 minutes of meditation. 45 minutes of exercise. Drink around 1L water. Have chlorophyll in another glass of water with some aloe vera juice. Dry body brush and shower. Shot 1 tbsp ACV. Prepare and eat breakfast…

To say that it was difficult to complete this excessive list regularly would be an understatement. It was near impossible! And even if I did 9 out of those 15 things I would focus on the 6 I didn’t do. These were intended to be feel-good, relaxing ways to wake up and care for myself, yet here I was making them arduous tasks and chores. They had become a to-do list of how to cope with my to-do list! I was even more exhausted then I was not doing them, and I was no closer to feeling good about myself.

Now, I take a gentler approach. I make sure to start my day on a good note, but if I don’t, I don’t let it define and dictate my day. I do my very best, and acknowledge that that is enough.

Here is what my more relaxed morning routine looks like:

I get up after 8 hours sleep around 6:20am.

I center myself on my yoga mat or on the couch by taking 10-20 deep belly breaths (I find this particularly useful if I wake up anxious, but even if I don’t it just makes me pause before rushing to start my workout)

I then sip on warm lemon water, preferably outdoors for some fresh air. Here, I simply think of things I am grateful for or reiterate a positive thought for the day. If I want to, I will write this down, but 7/10 times I won’t.

Then, I move my body for 30-60 minutes – a strong walk, vinyasa yoga, HIIT, soft sands, or a big stretch using my foam roller.

At 8am I prepare a wholesome breakfast and eat it slowly and mindfully. If I take a snap of it, I will then put my phone away and enjoy my meal, BEFORE I upload to IG 😉

I’m usually at my desk by 9am sharp and the first thing I do is put pen to paper and write a list of “to-do’s”. From that list, I circle the 3 priorities for my day. I also write down one or two SFM’s – “Something For Me’s” – which might be practice yoga, meditation or a 20 minute relax, some reading, a catch up with a friend, a date night or something yummy.

If I didn’t get one or two of these things done, I just do them at 11am, or 4pm, or 8pm. Because I have learned that you can start fresh at any point in the day. And that the time is NOW to make today count- not tomorrow, not next week, not next month.

I hope this helps anyone struggling with waking up anxious or trying to find their own groove with a morning routine. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and it might look different day-to-day. So long as you are enjoying it and are calm, you are doing something right.

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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