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Clearing up Common Health Misconceptions

The health industry can be a minefield. With so much conflicting information out there, it is difficult to know fact from fiction, theory from reality. Even as a practitioner, it can be confusing! Every day I hear about something new, or that what we previously thought is being questioned. But then I take a step back and remind myself of what I have learned both through studies and through experience in clinic, ​it really doesn’t need to be complicated​. As a society, I feel we gravitate toward ideas that are very reductionist – we cut things out entirely, or overdose on one specific nutrient. We also love to follow formula’s that work for other people, with little regard to tuning into how we feel. The body doesn’t work that way! The truth is, eating should be simple and sensible…

Eat real food, food you recognise so that your body also recognises it, not too much, mostly plants. And listen to what feels right (uniquely) for you…

So let’s take a look at some common health misconceptions that have become popular, and see where they fall short.

Have you heard… Fruit contains sugar, and sugar is bad for you!

Fruit is a whole food, from the earth, perfectly packaged. There is no way that this has the same effect on the body as refined or artificial sweet stuff! It goes back to the simple concept, if you can recognise it, your body probably does too. When we consume fruit we get vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, folate and calcium. We also get the benefit of antioxidants such as organic phenols, which have been shown to decrease oxidation helping to prevent chronic disease and promoting healthy aging. The fibre acts as a buffer to the natural sugar being consumed, ensuring it is slow releasing and preventing those dreaded highs and lows of refined sugars. Not only that, but ripe fruits are the most alkaline of all foods. We want our body to stay alkaline to prevent chronic disease and toxicity and make us feel and look our most vibrant.

Any ill effect of fructose, the sugar found in fruit, is strictly limited to that of industrial fructose such as high-fructose corn-syrup. In fact, this ​study​ proves that a diet that restricts fructose from added sugars but includes fruit, is more beneficial for weight-loss than a diet that limits both fruit and added sugars. Indeed, restricting fruit intake has even been ​shown​ to be ineffective in type 2 diabetes patients. ​This​ research even suggests that fruit may have a different, more powerful effect on weight-loss than veggies!

Have you heard… Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!

This catchy phrase is actually thought to have originated from cereal companies and clever marketing campaigns. Realistically, all meals are equally important when it comes to stabilising your blood sugar and controlling appetite. There is no evidence to support breakfast as the more important. As a nutritionist, it really comes down to a few things including when a person

wakes up, exercises, finishes eating the night before and their stress and hormone levels. It also comes down to personal preference and whether this particular individual thrives intermittently fasting. Some people prefer to start the day light and work their way up to heavier meals. As long as you are leaving a good gap between dinner and breakfast and are choosing real, whole foods, however/whenever you choose to break your fast is personal choice and what works ​for you.

Have you heard… There’s no such thing as too much protein!

Not so fast. Higher protein diets, especially those obtained through excessive meat consumption, are linked to chronic diseases such as kidney disease, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Not to mention the other uncomfortable conditions often associated such as constipation, IBS, bad breath, acne, hormonal imbalance and other lifestyle impedances. The type of fat, excess protein, natural carcinogens, synthetic hormones and antibiotics, the natural hormones in the animal and of course, the absence of fibre in all animal products all play a part in these problems. What’s more, pathogenic bacteria in our bodies thrive on accumulated excess, unused proteins (“junk protein”). However when we give our bodies a break from protein or consume it moderately, our natural recycling process, autophagy, is allowed to operate smoothly, breaking down these accumulated “junk proteins” into usable amino acids.

High protein diets have also been ​found​ to have adverse effects on metabolic function, because protein consumption reduces the body’s sensitivity to insulin after a meal. A quick note on high-protein diets for weight-loss, ​this statement​ really sums it up – they offer quick weight loss (a large part of which is attributed to the diuretic effect due to low-carbohydrate intake), that has been found to be unsustainable and carries negative health consequences. There are very few long-term studies on the safety and effectiveness of such diets. A good rule of thumb: .8g protein for every kg of body weight i.e. 65 kg woman should have around 52g of protein/day.

Have you heard… Snacking is bad for you! No wait, it’s good for you!

This one has myths both ways! To be honest, just like breakfast, snacking is personal preference. Whilst I don’t believe the adage that “eating frequently revs up your metabolism”, it can definitely help with appetite control for some – meaning they don’t overeat at their next main meal. This is great! So long as snacks are made with health in mind i.e. whole-foods. Raw unsalted nuts, carrots with tahini, One of Eimele’s veggie soups or their delicious plant-based snack bars are all great satiating snack ideas.

On the other hand, over-snacking i.e. grazing can be detrimental. The Migrating Motor Complex (MMC), a critical 4-step ‘janitor’ system that basically increases gastric, biliary and pancreatic secretions to sweep up your last meal, is only activated after approximately 3–4 hours after eating.

So long as you leave around 3 hours between food consumption, whether snacking or not, it’s your call! Be particularly mindful of this if small-intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is of concern.

Busting Ketogenic Myths

In a nutshell: Ketosis is where our bodies use a different pathway to create ATP (energy), because we deprive it of carbohydrates (it’s preferred energy source). Instead, we flood it with fat so that the body rapidly breaks fat down to produce ketone bodies. These ketone bodies enter the citric acid cycle (energy production line) so that our cells can use them for energy.

This process is a survival mechanism our bodies have wisely developed to deal with starvation for times of famine. Despite this, we do need to maintain some level of glucose in the blood, simply to stay alive. Again, our bodies are very clever and have methods to deal with this, primarily through gluconeogenesis: fat / amino acid breakdown to create glucose. Another tidbit to note is that glucose is not just the preferred fuel for the body, it is actually the only fuel for certain vital functions (thus gluconeogenesis is crucial).

What is key here, at least to me, is the word survival. Our bodies main goal is to keep us alive. Forget optimal, or energetic, just simply alive and breathing. So when we enter ketosis, we are essentially working against our bodies natural and preferred function.

Do we know better?

Are we trying to trick our bodies?

This just seems fishy, because why would we try to teach the body something it innately knows, has been doing since our birth and does without question? It seems counterintuitive. It goes hand-in-hand with the fact that as humans, we love to interfere because we think we know a better way, or further, can “cheat the system”.

Something to think about… As ketones are not the preferred energy source, would ketosis not be a less efficient way of creating energy? As I mentioned, these survival mechanisms keep us breathing but not necessarily thriving. I don’t know a concrete answer to this, but I have a hunch. In any case, it’s interesting to contemplate.

The above is just my opinion piece with a dash of science to explain the process. Obviously, it is very complex and there are some wonderful more scientific explanations of it out there if you wish to better understand the concepts. For now, let’s dive into some myth-busting!

 

MYTH #1

“I am in Ketosis”

When people come to me and tell me they follow a ketogenic diet, I listen, and then I ask my first question: Do you really follow a ketogenic diet? So many people aren’t truly following keto. Rather, they are merely reinventing the Atkins diet by following a strict low-carb approach. First lesson: Low carb does not = keto.

Other people consider themselves keto if they eat a lot of meat/protein. A true ketogenic diet is actually more about fat than protein. It is a high fat, moderate protein diet. This is crucial, as eating high protein can spike blood sugar in a similar way to excess carbs (super fascinating, and something many people do not realise). Ketogenesis is all about avoiding this blood sugar spike, so that instead of using glucose for fuel – remember, the bodies preferred method of energy production 😉 – the body utilises fat (with a by-product of ketone bodies).

Second lesson: it’s more about fat than protein. Protein actually slows down the process of ketosis. It is a moderate protein diet.

Even if individuals are focusing on fat, moderate protein and eliminating most carbs, many are not aware of the levels they need to consume/avoid to truly be in ketosis. Most are not measuring their beta hydroxybutyrate levels which would indicate whether they are or are not indeed in ketosis. It is approximately about 80% fat and 5-10% carbohydrates on a given day, which is incredibly hard to stick to. The rest is protein. To give you some more understandable numbers it is less than 40g net carbs per day (net = total carbs minus fibre. Because fiber is a carbohydrate that your body cannot digest, it does not spike blood sugar). As carbohydrates are in lots of foods, this could mean you only have 1 carb for the day, say, a banana, and you still have a little room for the small amount that comes with your other food like veg. Not much at all! Very hard to comply with.

Third lesson: Measure your ketones via urine strips to check you are actually in ketosis.

 

MYTH # 2

“The ketogenic diet is a suitable diet for long-term health”

There are no long-term studies showing a ketogenic diet is of benefit to longevity. There are no quality studies showing its usefulness in preventing or fighting cardiovascular disease or cancer events. Any small amounts of data that does exist, generally shows it helps relieve symptoms slightly, but it certainly isn’t preventative. This doesn’t mean it isn’t useful, it simply means the evidence is not there. Quality, human studies on ketosis in general are lacking. One way we can make a somewhat accurate judgment on this type of diet is if we look at the many studies that have been done on very low carbohydrate, high-animal based diets. Countless studies show us that indeed, with macronutrients ratios like this, particularly those based on animal-products (admittedly, probably higher protein than Keto), we do see a clear rise in risks related to cancer, CVD and early mortality. We also know for sure that a diet low in fibre, is associated with many digestive issues including diverticulitis and bowel cancer. Again, these studies aren’t specific to ketosis, but they are involving many of the foods that make up the bulk of keto diets.

 

There may be some instances where ketosis might have some positive outcomes i.e. in drug-resistant epilepsy (the exact mechanism of which is still unclear). However what has been observed in these situations is that it comes at a cost – mineral deficiencies, impaired bone metabolism, kidney stones etc. Note, you actually have to follow around 90% of fat and low protein/carb for this to be truly ketogenic and effective in this unique situation.

Heart disease – studies show that it can raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower triglycerides. This seems alright, but LDL also goes up (known as bad cholesterol), even in spite of weight-loss which usually lowers LDL?! This is strange and not a good sign for long-term health.

Diabetes – ketosis seems to drop blood glucose levels (by not consuming/utilising glucose) but does not fix the underlying cause of the dysfunction nor does it reverse it. It is a band-aid because it is premised on not spiking blood sugar… but why can’t the body regulate blood sugar efficiently? Lipotoxicity (fat build-up inside of muscle, liver and pancreatic cells) is likely the culprit and has indeed shown to be a direct cause of type 2 diabetes. Therefore eating excess fat, as you do in Keto, is not working from a “root-up” “fix-the-problem” kind of place. Safe to say it exacerbates it, which people might not find until they come off it and reintroduce normal amounts of carbohydrates 🙁

Alzheimer’s – the theory behind this is Alzheimer’s is described as “insulin resistance localised in the brain”. Whereby brain cells don’t respond well to insulin, so glucose can’t enter the cells and deliver the fuel needed. Ketones as an alternative fuel source may therefore seem like a good idea… however again, like diabetes, high saturated fat is actually linked to the risk of getting the disease to begin with. Thus it is not a preventative diet. There has been some research showing a sub-group of Alzheimer’s patients with a particularly genetic predisposition that did respond well to ketosis in terms of cognitive function. However this was simply symptom improvement to a medication-induced ketosis, not food, and unfortunately, their disease progression stayed the same.

Cancer – Theoretically, people think it might help people in treatment i.e. those getting radiation or chemotherapy. There may be some potential here, but we do not have the data to be conclusive. Cancer patients are often at risk for malnutrition, nausea and constipation already, so ketogenic diets are not suitable until further research is done. As it’s vague promise has only been shown in treatment and not prevention, it is kind of as the above with diabetes and Alzheimer’s. You wouldn’t get chemotherapy to prevent cancer right? It’s just useful short-term, when you have the disease. Ketogenic diets might (not sure yet), be able to be used when cancer exists for short-term intervention to protect normal cells and make cancer cells more susceptible to treatment. Definitely more data needed, just pointing out that it is only really indicated in treatment not prevention!

 

MYTH #3

“Ketogenic diets are effective for weight-loss”

People say this all the time. Studies have shown some short-term weight-loss. And many people trialling the diet rave about their fast results. But is this real weight-loss? And does it stay off?

People lose weight in ketosis for a few reasons:

1 – you lose water from the body initially when eating low-carb. This is for several reasons but mainly because carbohydrates are generally full of water and when you cut them out, you eat less water-filled foods. Secondly, glycogen (livers storage of carbs) becomes depleted with low-carb intake, therefore there is water loss. Finally, ketones encourage your kidneys to dump excess water and sodium, so you will urinate more frequently, particularly in the beginning.

2 – They have likely cut out a lot of processed and sugary foods in order to reach the very low-carb requirements. This is great! I like this part of the keto diet (really, part of any “diet”). This dramatic change to most people’s dietary choices can definitely have the effect of weight-loss.

3 – People who are sticking to a “diet” are likely to be in some sort of calorie deficit overall, this will always lead to weight-loss (particularly when an entire macronutrient is cut out).

4 – Fat is very satiating, so many keto or keto-ish dieters tend to eat less, again, leading to a calorie-deficit. Are they in ketosis? Not sure! But they are eating less so weight-loss is inevitable.

 

As there really are no long-term studies on ketogenic diets we don’t know how long the initial weight loss stays off. Shorter term studies and clinical experience has shown, that many people find it difficult to stick to. This is due to the unrealistic and strict ratios of a ketogenic diet, and, by my standards at least, unenjoyable way of eating. This suggests that the weight creeps back quickly. Sustainability is key when it comes to weight-loss and of course, overall health.

Something to note, when somebody chooses to have a “ketogenic meal” but isn’t really following a ketogenic diet overall, this can be detrimental to weight because if the rest of the day they are eating normal amounts or high amounts of carbohydrates, they just had a huge fatty meal, and high carb + high fat together is a recipe for disaster.

 

The Risks of Ketogenic Diets

  • Digestive health – increase risk of colon cancer and other GIT dysfunction due to low fibre intake. Constipation and nausea have also been noted from a low-fibre, high-fat diet.
  • Kidney health – Gluconeogenesis creates extra nitrogen then usual, which kidneys have to deal with/excrete.
  • Impaired arterial function – low-carb diets tend to stiffen/clog arteries, impeding peripheral circulation and restricting blood-flow to the heart, leading to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Overall mortality – lower carb diets are linked to greater chances of dying from all causes.
  • Birth defects – if a woman is following a low-carb diet prior to falling pregnant this might present an issue, as it often takes several weeks before a woman knows she has conceived. Something to be very cautious with.

 

The moral of the story is that at this point in time, what we do know points to the fact that short term goals of weight-loss, appetite control and dewy skin can be achieved through a diet that doesn’t sacrifice your long-term health. You have to ask yourself if it is really worth the downsides/side effects mentioned above, when there are many other ways to lose weight and feel energetic that can coexist with long-term health objectives, and have the data to support it.

 

The Physical & Mental Benefits of Tea Drinking

As a nutritionist I love the idea that we can eat and drink our way to good health. Consuming things that are beneficial, in a way that is enjoyable is really a nutritionist’s goal for their clients. Compliance relies so heavily on sustainability when it comes to treatment.

A good place to start is always adding good things in. This paves the way for a term coined “crowding out”… whereby you add so much goodness in – veggies, fruit, herbs, spices, teas etc. – that you leave little room for the “not so good”. You also inadvertently create healthy habits as well as healthy taste buds. When your plate is so full of real natural foods, people’s cravings dramatically change. Further, new health rituals are created. One such ritual I love to introduce to my clients is tea drinking.

It sounds so simple, boil water, infuse it with a tea bag, drink. But so often people forget about tea-drinking because they are so busy relying on coffee, downing soft drinks, or not drinking at all. When I introduce herbal teas to my clients, they “crowd out” these less beneficial things, whilst simultaneously boosting hydration. Did you know that thirst can sometimes be mistaken for hunger? I have found that drinking tea between meals can be extremely helpful for appetite regulation, especially for those perpetual “grazers”.

When it comes to tea, I have been a long-time consumer of Pukka. Not only do they come up with incredible, quality organic herbal blends rooted in Ayurvedic therapeutic wisdom, they are also a socially responsible company with a heavy emphasis on sustainability and fair practices. They go the extra mile to help address the issues of global inequality and poverty through their commitment to organic farming, ethical sourcing of ingredients, use of recyclable materials and over 1% of annual sales being dedicated to global environmental causes.

Pukka teas are certified Fair for Life, one of the highest independent fair trade standards in the world and many of its teas use FairWild herbs. As such, introducing tea into my client’s treatment plans also offers them a way of obtaining a vast array of nutrients from plants such as turmeric, ginger, lavender, fennel, peppermint, tulsi etc., beautiful herbs that they either would never be able to consume otherwise, or simply don’t think to. These unique ingredients each come with their own benefits – for example, turmeric is anti-inflammatory, contains potent antioxidants and is good for brain function; ginger is well renowned for its digestive stimulating properties, reducing nausea as well as supporting the immune system; lavender is a well-known relaxant and can calm the nervous system and improve sleep; fennel encourages a healthy inflammatory response whilst also being anti-bacteria against yeast, bacteria and fungi; peppermint is wonderful for relieving bloating, headaches and freshening the breath; and tulsi is beneficial for the respiratory system and helps with stress relief. I could go on and on!

On top of the crowding out effects of increasing tea consumption, the improved water intake, and the increased nutrition, tea-drinking can actually be mentally therapeutic. Tea ceremonies have a long history in Asia, and whilst can be very strict and involve many steps, at their core, they are about devoting all of one’s attention to the act of preparing, pouring and sipping tea. Similar to meditation, it is a honing in of the senses by focusing on one single thing. This can be simplified and adjusted to suit the individual. I find it great for those with busy minds, or those who are not quite open to or interested in a more traditional meditative practice. The next time you make a cup, really focus on setting up your mug, opening your tea bag, smelling the herbs, boiling the water, and pouring it from the kettle into your tea cup. Again, smell the aroma, allow it to cool, sip slowly and enjoy the warmth in your palms and the different flavour notes.

Combining these physical and mental health benefits of tea-drinking with the exceptional quality standards, focus on therapeutic ingredients, unique, delicious flavour combinations and commitment to ethical practices, a cup of Pukka really is a “feel good” experience! I share this information with to hopefully introduce more “crowding-out”, increase your consumption of quality tea, and inform you of the wonderful work Pukka does so you too can make conscious choices. There has definitely been a shift of high quality, organic, sustainable brands from niche to the mainstream. When more people jump on-board by supporting fair companies with these brand principles, the positive effects on the planet cannot be overlooked.

If you are interested in learning more about Pukka, have a look at their website here. I love their Pukkapedia!

How to stay healthy / plant-based during the holiday season

It can definitely be an intimidating time of year – lots of upcoming food and drink celebrations, people weighing in on each-others life choices, financial stress of buying presents and knowing what to get everyone… I can totally relate and empathise with you. I get so many questions from clients and through social media about not only how to stay on track, but also how to deal with relatives and loved ones who have A LOT to say about their dietary choices. A small part of the equation is diet, but by and large, i would say a larger component is having the mental fortitude to get through the challenges with ease and most importantly, whilst enjoying yourself. Keep my Holiday season tips in your back pocket over the next few weeks:

  • First and foremost, relax – ‘Tis the season to be jolly. You can not and really should not be too strict this time of year. No matter what kind of year you have had, or what kind of holidays you do or don’t celebrate, I really believe December is a time to relinquish control and enjoy yourself, treat yourself, and reflect on the year that was. If this does not come naturally to you, give yourself explicit permission to. Write it down in a journal, or a place you see daily, and keep reassuring yourself that a few weeks of a very long year is not much in the scheme of things. Remind yourself that a huge part of the health equation is love, laughter and pleasure. You are deserving of these things, free of guilt.

 

  • Keep up a few good habits – Whilst I encourage you to indulge, try to stick to a few key principles to ensure you still feel good throughout the silly season:
    1. Warm water with lemon or ginger tea upon rising;
    2. 1 x green drink / day – even better if it is your breakfast green smoothie – best to have one meal of the day that is brimming with easy-to-digest nutrients! If not, a mostly veg green juice as a snack, or a greens powder in water will do just fine;
    3. Try not to eat too many snacks/starters before you sit down for food. Go easy on the cheese plate, and if vegan or dairy-free, BYO nut-based cheese or hummus so you don’t feel like you miss out here. Best eaten with some cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks or seed crackers, if possible;
    4. Fill up on sides – often a celebratory spread has plenty of good options, they just might not be the star of the show. Make them the star of your plate i.e. have more of the salads, roast carrots, baked potatoes, or steamed greens than the meaty main;
    5. Consider bringing a delicious home-cooked meal of your own to share how tasty clean plant-based dishes can be – that way you can load up on this and have little bites of other, less-healthy foods alongside. If you need a little inspiration, see my plant-based Christmas spread here;
    6. Drink a glass of water 20-30 mins before your meal to make sure you don’t overeat out of thirst, rather than hunger;
    7. Always plate your food, try not to eat standing, and place fork and knife down in between mouthfuls. Fun lunch/dinner chat makes you eat slower, so get chit-chatting but do not scoff your food in the process!
    8. I’m not going to give you too many guidelines around alcohol. We all know what it is and what it does to us. Be honest with yourself if you need to take it easy, drink mindfully, and always with food in your stomach, and try to drink a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage;
    9. Carry a water bottle with you and keep up 2L/day, more if you are drinking alcohol;
    10. You might want to consider a magnesium supplement and vitamin C – whilst this is a time for relaxation, if you are running about, cooking like crazy, meeting the demands of 20 different relatives, drinking a lot of alcohol, eating less healthy foods or just find this time of year stressful, use these supplements to nurture your adrenal glands. Chat with your healthcare practitioner or the practitioners at a health food store for specific advice;
    11. Try to walk 10K steps every day. Dancing is a great way to get these up! If you are having a beach day, do a lap or two of the sand. Meet a friend for a walk, or enjoy a scenic hike. Release the pressure to do anything more.
  • Meet people where they’re at – We’re all doing the best we can and are all on our own journey. Be ok with the fact that that person questioning you is at a certain stage in his/her life, and that’s their prerogative. We cannot change people or convince them. All we can do is be respectful of others, be confident in our choices, and lead by example. This is powerful.

 

  • Come armed with a little, light-hearted research – this might seem counter-intuitive after I just said the above, but whilst we cannot change people, we can inform them. Be cautious here, you do not want to come across as preachy. But if you know you are going to get questioned about your dietary choices have a few fun facts in your arsenal for confident and quick responses, with kindness. Note, vegans, this is probably not the time to detail what you saw in Earthlings. It will probably fall on deaf ears and dampen the Holiday spirit. Keep it relatively light. You might teach them something new and make a huge positive impact in their lives.

 

  • Let them know you feel your best when you eat this way – sounds so simple, but it works. No one can argue with how you feel. It’s a great way to cut a conversation that won’t go anywhere without having to say too much or offend anyone 🙂

 

I hope these tips help you embrace the holiday season a little more. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and do something that brings you joy every day 🙂

 

8 Tips to Create Healthy Food for the Time Poor – Koa Recovery Blog Feature

Everyone knows they need to eat cleaner, healthier and more nutritious however for many of us its easier said than done. Who else feels like they just dont have time and are constantly running out of hours in the day! This blog brings to you 8 tips to create heathy food for the time poor by a Sydney-based Clinical Nutritionist, Holistic Coach and Yoga Instructor – Sami Bloom. Having completed a degree in Law and Communications, Sami worked in law firms and advertising agencies in Sydney and New York before taking a leap of faith and following her true passion – nutrition!

Read on for my 8 tips food prep, plan, the fallback 5, cook for more, fast food snacks, pantry staples, smoothies, get familiar with the freezer!

A Vegan-Foodie’s Guide to Noosa

We just love Noosa – we can’t visit often enough! It’s got the most beautiful main beach, some cute pockets of smaller beaches, farmers markets galore, a laid-back, healthy and happy vibe and definitely some cafe’s to hop to and fro. But I will say, not sooo many vegan options unfortunately… yet. My best recommendation is to book that nice restaurant anyway, call ahead, and let them know you’re coming and would just love a plant-based dish. Most will be happy to accommodate given adequate notice! As for this list, here are some great daytime cafes in and around Noosa to check out on your next stay…

Noosa Health Bar Acai bowls – Definitely the best Acai we found!

Blended coffee – We love the coffee here, but prefer the Acai from the health bar above…

Elixiba – Maroochydore – Not in the heart of Noosa, but definitely worth the visit every single time. They have it all! 100% plant-based healthy food, treat foods, cocktails, mocktails and elixrs. Divine.

Sunspace – an Organic cafe that serves breakfast and lunch and dinner, not too far out of Noosa! Gorgeous Vibe.

Cafe Nurcha – Maroochydore – great stop to make from the airport. Well worth the detour! It is 100% vegan with smoothies, burgers, pizza, tacos, salads, desserts… and a great health food supermarket and crystal shop attached.

New Earth Cafe – Coolum – I’ve been here numerous times, and not one dish or dessert has dissapointed. Come hungry and leave content!

 

3 Nights at Gaia

Just over a month ago, I visited a beautiful luxe health retreat in the hinterlands of Byron Bay, Gaia. Gaia means spirit of Mother Earth, and the entire operation – from the hand-picked ingredients used to nourish us to the pristine grounds and fresh air all around us – embodies this philosophy. I chose the mother-daughter package, to enjoy some quality one-on-one time with my gorgeous mumma before the silly season and my wedding festivities, and to thank her for all she has done. It is a really lovely thing to do with your mum or sister, and we both really enjoyed this package. We felt well and truly pampered and rested by the end of it!

The moment I set foot on the property, I could feel it was special. There is no tranquility like that of green rolling hills, quietly rustling tall shady trees, happy birds and the trickle of a water fountain or two. That’s it! Literally, no building for the eye to see or highway for the ear to hear. It is pure, unadulterated quiet and serenity. The retreat is small and intimate, so there aren’t herds of people to-ing and fro-ing. No hall or elevator music as each room is it’s own little bungalow, accessed from the outdoors. The main dining area, yoga room, spa and pool area are all speckled around the property keeping everything just close enough whilst still encouraging a pleasant stroll through the grounds.

The days looked like this:

  • A deep, vibrational gong to wake you up nice and early.
  • They provide tea, a kettle, lemons and fruit to start the day right! Hot water with lemon for me.
  • A morning yoga session.
  • Breakfast of a cold buffet + a hot plate – they were very accomodating to our vegan request, and most meals were predominantly plant-based anyway.
  • I’d then go for a walk around the property with mum, stopping off at the veggie garden and the scenic lookouts. One morning we walked in to Newrybar town, approx 40 mins each way. It’s a beautiful street to walk around with eclectic furniture and a gorgeous cafe, Harvest. You can also use the retreat bikes.
  • There are mid morning activities to choose from, that change daily e.g. cooking class, skincare seminar, a workout, garden tour etc.
  • Lunch was a la carte and always delicious! One giant plate of goodness, with lots of the ingredients fresh from the garden.
  • In the afternoon spa treatments were usually scheduled, and I would head to the pool to enjoy a swim and a few laps before indulging in whatever spa treatment they had in store. Every single one was 10/10 amazing. One of the best spa’s I’ve ever been to!
  • More lying by the pool reading and swimming. There is also a hot tub and sauna to make good use of.
  • There is the option of an afternoon activity, similar to the morning options.
  • Early dinner around 6pm – 3 courses! Never skipped dessert, it was too good!
  • Maybe a tea to finish off the evening whilst I relaxed in the bath or read my book.
  • Bedtime at 9pm… I slept so well here.

The highlights:

  1. The food – never missed a beat! Whether it was the incredible gluten-free porridge mix, the sautéed veg breakfast hot plate, an exotic blend of greens from the garden, light but insanely flavourful dressings and sauces, and incredibly crafted desserts, the meals were a true highlight. Honestly, it might be easy to overindulge what with a buffet for breakfast, a three course meal on offer for dinner and wine available on request, but my best tips are:

  • take advantage of the turmeric shot at breakfast, skip the smoothie and opt for water or the veg juice, stick to one cold plate from the breakfast buffet (start with fruit) and make sure the hot plate is mostly veg, skip the snack table that is available all day (you should be eating enough at meals to get you through), enjoy your entire plate at lunch and the three courses available at dinner – opting to share dessert if you feel you want to stay on the lighter side, say no to wine for the entire stay! I think with the lack of snacking, keeping active and going to bed early, the food provided without the extra’s is just the right amount to nourish your body properly and showcase just how amazing healthy food can be. If going vegan is of interest you, this is definitely the place to try it out!

  1. The Spa + Retreatment – they use their own home-brand… Retreatment, beautifully crafted and thoughtfully put together with certified organic, cruelty-free, vegan, locally-sourced, active ingredients. I have been lucky enough to be using the full range and absolutely adore the white cypress mist, the H20 vita boost serum and the face dew moisturiser.

      

  1. Sound meditation – this was incredibly relaxing and healing for me. Not only stimulating auditory senses, but also kinaesthetic, as you feel the vibrations in your entire body. The sound bowls are made from precious materials from the earth such as quartz infused with jade and even white gold, and they make a unique, incredibly soothing sound. Do not miss this one!
  1. The garden – maybe it’s the mini gardener in me, but I have such huge appreciate for harvesting your own food. The garden tour was really great to learn some new tips and tricks and bring you closer to the food you find on your plate.

  1. Check in – can be any day, unlike other health retreats where you must start and finish at the same time as other guests. Gaia allows flexibility and ease so that you can slot in some R&R at a time that works best for you.

As you can see, I absolutely loved my time at Gaia, and highly recommend it for those looking for a holiday they don’t need a holiday from! There is no shortage of feel-good things to do or delicious food to eat, and you will feel nourished from the inside out after just a short stay. It truly is worth the money. I hope you find yourself there one day soon!

Light, love & good health,

Sami

xx

FIVE SURPRISING VEGAN SOURCES OF PROTEIN

Article recently contributed to Rescu.com.au.

Protein is an important macronutrient found within every cell in the body. When we consume it in food, it is utilised by our bodies to repair and rebuild the tissues of our muscles, skin and organs. Yet despite the popular idea that “we always need more protein”, protein is actually very misunderstood. Unfortunately, society has been conditioned to view plant protein as inferior to meat protein. Further, many believe more is a case of better when it comes to protein intake. These notions couldn’t be further from the truth….

Read More here.

Sleep Hygiene Tips for A Good Night’s Rest

The importance of sleep cannot be underestimated. We all know it is necessary, but few of us really stop and think about how sleep, or a lack thereof, actually impacts how we function. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about it, as I have recently changed mattresses to a new SleepX mattress. I can’t tell you how critical a quality mattress is! Both for the physical effects on the body (i.e. comfort and muscular ease), but also the mental and biochemical benefits of sleep we go into below. SleepX sent me their mattress to trial and I can safely say I absolutely love it. It has reminded me just how important sleep hygiene is and why healthy sleep patterns are such an integral part of a healthy lifestyle.

The body’s sleep cycle plays a crucial role in many important bodily processes including learning, memory and mood, temperature, energy levels, heart rate, appetite, digestion, detoxification and hormone regulation. Interestingly, research shows us that a sleep deficit is inflammatory. Elevated inflammatory markers can contribute to conditions such as metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and autoimmunity. With so much inflammation from pollution, toxins, poor dietary choices and stress, we simply do not need to be adding to the problem through sleep disturbances.

When it comes to weight-loss or maintenance, a lack of sleep has been shown to prompt heightened appetite and less feelings of satisfaction after eating. This is largely because poor sleep increases Ghrelin (the hormone that signals we are hungry) and decreases Leptin (the hormone which decreases our appetite). Although everyone agrees that diet and movement are integral to our health, sleep actually influences everything from how much we eat and what we crave to exercise performance, results and recovery. So it would seem, sleep sets us up to follow through on our good intentions!

Consistency around a healthy diet, regular sleep patterns and good sleep hygiene will improve the quantity and quality of your sleep.

Lifestyle Considerations:

  • Do not use computers or phones 1 hour prior to sleep;
  • Ensure you don’t exercise too close to bed. Sleep experts agree that leaving a minimum of three hours between your workout and bed-time, to allow the body time to cool off before sleep;
  • Take a hot bath/shower 2-3 hours before bed – similar to the above, the temperature drop signals to your body it’s time for sleep;
  • Take large diaphragmatic breaths to unwind, either in bed or just prior;
  • Ensure you choose a quality mattress. This cannot be overlooked! I have been sleeping on my SleepX* for one month now, and can honestly say that it is heavenly. It is a hybrid of the highest quality memory foam and high-resilience foam for longevity and support. I feel it moulds to my body, whilst still remaining firm. There are three comfort choices, soft medium and firm (I chose firm and absolutely love it). 
  • Stick to a consistent bedtime and waking up schedule to form solid sleep patterns.

Dietary Tips:

  • Reassess caffeine and alcohol intake and be honest with yourself about how “moderate” your intake is, and how close you consume these things to bedtime. It might seem like you fall asleep quicker when you drink alcohol but research has shown us that sleep quality is diminished with REM sleep (the most restorative kind) impairment;
  • Avoid processed, sugary and excessively salty food, which can interfere with sleep, digestion and mood;
  • Consume moderate amounts of healthy fats daily such as 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds, ⅓ cup raw nuts or seeds, ¼-½ avocado, to increase Leptin production;
  • Eat dinner at least 2-4 hours prior to sleep;
  • Eat magnesium and tryptophan rich foods for dinner e.g. pumpkin seeds, leafy greens, legumes, tofu, brown rice, quinoa, figs, walnuts;
  • Sip chamomile tea 2 hours prior to induce calm. Avoid liquids 1-2 hours before bed.

*SleepX is an online bedding retailer offering premium Australian made “bed-in -a-box” mattresses and accessories with the largest range of choice available. They even have customised alternate feels on each side of the mattress surface to cater to partners who have different bedding tastes! So if your partner likes soft and you like firm, both needs can be met in the one mattress. All products are non-allergenic, anti-bacterial, recyclable and certified by Good Environmental Choice Australia. Plus, they offer a 120-night free trial and a 10-year guarantee on their mattresses. 

Skincare – My Wedding Prep Routine

As most of you know, my wedding was about a month ago, and I am finally finding the time to sit down and put together all of my prepratory tips and routines I followed in the lead up to the big, incredible day!

First up is skin, because let’s face it, nothing makes you feel more confident than good skin!

I get a lot of questions on skin, tonnes! I am really fortunate to have good skin at this point in my life, but trust me, this has definitely not always been the case for me. In fact, one of the main giveaways that I had PCOS when I was young was my consistent break outs forcing my mum to take me to a dermatologist who suggested I get checked for PCOS. As such, I have always been intrigued by skincare regimens and have tried everything under the sun – much like diets, noticing a trend here?!

Of course, as a nutritionist, I am the first to acknowledge that good skin comes from within, that our outter appearance is a strong indication of what is going on internally. Getting on top of my hormonal health with dietary changes significantly cleared up my skin in my teens, but the biggest shift I saw in my skin was when I went vegan. It appeared smoother and more radiant within 6-9 months. In the lead up to the wedding, I further altered my diet and supplements which I will share on here later… For now, I really want to focus on topical skincare because I think this routine really stepped up my game! I am definitley planning to keep up the at home stuff post wedding too, as I really enjoy the extra 5 mins it took morning and night. It can truly become a mindfulness/self-care practice.

Firstly, I want to disclaimer this by giving a bit of back story: I had tried Eminence many years ago and really liked it, but having no real appreciation for organic, natural skincare, I didn’t realise how incredible it was and carried on using pharmacy brands. As I cleaned up my diet and lifestyle, I did switch to very, very natural products, some worked for a little bit, some didn’t, but slowly, I began to realise that apple cider vinegar as a toner and coconut oil as a moisturiser etc didn’t work for me. I felt my skin was congested and lacklustre. So under the recommendation of a skin therapist I gave Eminence another go, properly this time i.e. a proper am and pm routine. From there, I was hooked. I was so impressed with the ingredients list, the philosophy and most importantly, the results and how it made my skin feel instantaneously, I contacted them. I had the good fortune of being able to sample many of their products to find the one’s that were right for me. Other than receiving products, this review is not paid and is entirely my opinion and true experience with the brand.

Eminence uses only the healthiest, organic, premium ingredients grown in Hungary (fun fact: I am half Hungarian!). They skip all the harmful chemicals and additivies in favour of embracing the natural potential of plants for lasting, clear, balanced, revitalised, glowing results. Note, the entire range is not 100% vegan (though they do not test on animals at all), All the products I chose are vegan, and if you go to the website there is a good guide to what is and isn’t vegan-friendly.

I love Eminence because of their utilisation of incredibly beautiful and beautifying plant ingredients that make your skin feel and look amazing instantly. The products are so luxurious, simply by harnessing the beauty of nature. They have a strong commitment to environmentally-sustainable practices across their entire business, which is important to me, are organic, offer a range of different targetted products so you are bound to find the ones right for you, and are extremely transparent in all that they do. They look fantastic, smell out of this world, and feel divine. What’s more, they work! You really do get the results!

Honestly, within a week of adopting a proper am and pm routine, I noticed positive skin changes myself. I started to get comments after about two months. Keeping up my regular monthly facials at a salon that used Eminence, coupled with red light therapy sky-rocketed those results and had me feeling radiant for the big day 🙂

What I used:

Blueberry soy exfoliating cleanser – massaged well into my skin for 60 seconds am and pm. It is not beaded or harsh, but feels just like a cream cleanser. I then used a warm muslin cloth to gently wash it off.

Neroli Age Protective Hydrating Mist spritzed onto my face am and pm to prepare my skin for serums. I keep this in the fridge and love, love, love it! If I pass the fridge I will just mist myself with it whenever I can! I decanted this into a smaller spray bottle to take with me on the plane and I used it every hour haha, Mike was so embarrassed!

Bamboo firming fluid  – as a serum, underneath my moisturiser during the day. I would massage my face with this for a good minute or two to boost circulation! Always leave in for 1 minute before applying moisturiser.

Hibiscus Ultra Lift Eye Cream – love this because it has a super cool roller which de-puffs and massages the delicate under eye area. I use this  during the day, visible difference!

Red Currant Protective Moisturiser – as my daytime moisturiser with SPF.

Bright skin licorice Root Booster-Serum – underneath my night cream at night, great for pigmentation (I would put some on my arms too!), also massaged in well for lymphatic drainage. Always leave in for 1 minute before applying moisturiser.

Neroli Age Corrective Eye Serum dabbed onto my under eye area each night, always motioning upward.

Arctic Berry Peptide Radiance Cream – used as a night cream.

Arctic Berry Peel and Peptide Illuminating Systemthis is amazing and I would do this once a week for an at home facial! The Arctic Berry Peptide Radiance Cream moisturiser (3rd step) is seriously divine, and I would definitely recommend buying it as it’s own product for a delicious night cream if you don’t want the whole package.

Coconut Firming Body Lotion – I have a bit of Keratosis Pilaris from time to time on my arms, also significantly decreased when I went vegan to be honest, but I felt like this lotion really calmed it down even further, and made the skin tone on my arms (a little sun-damaged) appear more even and smooth. I love this lotion! Smells heavenly.

NOTE: as I was flying overseas for my wedding, I tranferred my products into smalle containers for in-flight, which I highly recommend to all you destination brides or frequent travellers! The mist, a rosehip oil and a thick hydrating mask/moisturiser were invaluable. I really didn’t feel dry or dehyrated post flight. I also drank a tonne of water and skipped the celebratory vino.

As you can see, it’s not a short list, but these products last forever! Especially as a little goes a long way. I also made use of other methods such as facial massage, using my jade roller (on plane as well), warm muslin cloths to infuse the cleanser in and gently wash off, and of course, a healthy diet with plenty of water and hydrating, alkalising foods. I tried a lot of other products and these are my final contendors and what I used consistently in the months leading up to what was easily the best time of my life 🙂 My skin has never felt better.

I recommend finding a therapist that works with Eminence products because they train their suppliers really thoroughly and that way they can recommend what your skin needs, as well as treat you with the best of the best. I also added on light therapy to my treatments. Monthly facials, good at home products and routines and a clean diet will have you looking wedding ready, year round.

 

I hope this was helpful! Feel free to email me if you have any specific questions <3

I’ll be back to chat more about wedding prep and wedding celebrations soon!

Love & health,

Sami

x

 

 

 

Why Hemp Could be Considered a Household Staple & Thompson’s Exciting New Range of Hemp Foods

I am so excited that low THC hemp seed foods have finally been permitted for sale  in Australia, so that we can all enjoy the wonderful benefits of these powerful seeds. Hemp is considered one of the most nutritious plants in the world! Yet despite this, over two million Australians are still confused about hemp foods and, as a result, may miss out on the benefits of this superfood. Below are the key benefits to using hemp powder, seeds and oil in your daily life, what they taste like, how to use them, and why they won’t impair your state of mind!

PROTEIN: The seeds are a good source of protein and they contain the essential amino acids our bodies do not produce naturally, thus helping our bodies building and repair muscle and tissue;

ESSENTIAL FATS: Hemp is a plant-based source of essential fatty acids (omega-3 & omega-6) in an ideal ratio. These fats are crucial to support the structure and function of cells. The human body doesn’t produce essential fatty acids, so it’s important that we get them from our diet;

DIETARY FIBRE: A good source which is Important for healthy digestion, supporting gut health and offering steady energy.

TASTE

Hemp products have a pleasant, mild, nutty flavour that is not overpowering, and lends them to both sweet and savoury dishes.

HOW TO USE

x Sprinkle the seeds on top of salads, stir-fries, soups or smoothies

x Blend hemp protein powder with fruit into a strengthening smoothie

x Stir through the powder or the seeds into porridge or bircher muesli

x Bake with the powder/seeds in muffins, loaves or cookies, or roll them up in bliss balls

x Add the seeds to bean burger patties for added texture

x Mix hemp oil with other ingredients to form a salad dressing or simply drizzle on salads or over steamed veggies (Note, not to be used for heating)

x Soak seeds in water and blend into hemp milk

FINALLY… Whilst yes, hemp is derived from the Cannabis genus of plants, the seeds do not contain enough THC (<.5%) to produce any psychoactive effects! So it’s not going to alter your state of mind in any way.

Thompson’s Hemp Range is now available in Australian pharmacies and health food stores.

Check out @thompsons_nutrition_au on Instagram, @ThompsonsNutritionAustralia and www.thompsonsnutrition.com.au for more information.

 

CRYOTHERAPY, FLOATING & COMPRESSION THERAPY: KOA RECOVERY

Recently,I was fortunate enough to visit Koa Recovery, a beautiful and intriguing wellbeing clinic located in Waterloo, Sydney. It’s not simply your typical, massage, facial, sauna space, but rather a place you can freeze, get squeezed, and float! Among many other therapies. The space is fresh and uplifting and the staff are incredibly friendly and knowledgeable – which is great, because I had 100s of questions! Whilst I was there, I tried three therapies, Cryotherapy, NormaTec Compression Therapy and the Float Tank. Here is a little about each:

Cryotherapy is a treatment whereby skin is exposed to temperatures below zero for up to 3 minutes! Sounds extreme, I know, so why would one do this? Having always wanted to try cryotherapy since hearing about it, and reading of the benefits of cold exposure from the likes of Whim Hoff, I was pretty excited to give it a go. Cryo has a host of benefits including improved oxygen and nutrient circulation, increased collagen production and metabolism boosting (you burn 800 calories from just this 3 mins of exposure!). More than that, it actually is a powerful healing mechanism for injuries as well as general athletic recovery. It promotes pain reduction and your bodies anti-inflammatory responses, whilst helping to flush toxins from the skin, muscle tissue and joints. Worthwhile for such a short time-frame of shivering! I was petrified at first, as I am very cold sensitive, but the fact that Shaun talked me through it, and that you keep your head out of the cold made it manageable. The feeling once you walk out (robed) is unlike anything else. My skin was tingly, my body felt invigorated yet relaxed, and pain was already minimised.

NormaTec Compression Therapy is basically inflatable boots you put on, all the way up your legs, and sit there as they tighten and loosen around you in a very soothing rhythm. No pain is experience, rather increased and decreased pressure. It’s sort of like a limb massage, and is used to reduce muscle soreness, speed recovery time, assist lymphatic drainage (note, you might need to pee right after!) and reduce fluid retention. I didn’t expect much from this but actually really loved it! I get very sore legs and I felt extremely light afterward.

The float tank is the ultimate in relaxation. I highly recommend booking this for the end of your treatments. You will literally float out of there! The floating takes place in luxurious, soundproof pods filled with magnesium rich water filled with 100% naturally mined, pharmaceutical grade, therapeutic epsom salts. There is so much salt in there, the moment you lay back you feel your weight carried by the water. Not only is magnesium beneficial to muscle recovery, the simple act of floating, feeling weightless and the mineral-rich salts, makes this a number one stress relieving activity, in my opinion. Definitely succumb to the urge to snooze!

All in all, I loved my experience at Koa, and although a pricey activity, I think I could definitely reward myself with it from time-to-time. If you are suffering from a chronic injury or condition (there is some evidence around cryotherapy for autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and MS), it is definitely worthwhile exploring regularly.

I hope you found this post helpful, please let me know if you have any questions I haven’t covered. And let me know what you think of any of these treatments if you’ve tried them yourself?!

In health,

Sami

xx

6 Weeks To Sexy Program: What I learned, What I most Enjoyed

So by now you must be thinking, I thought she was doing 6 weeks to sexy, not 18 weeks?! It’s true, I have totally become hooked on this program, and have carried it through to the 3 month mark. Whilst my first two programs really saw me commit to the 5 days a week workouts, this last one I have been nursing an old back injury, and focusing on more pilates, walking, yoga and Physio exercises. However, as I will explain below, each 6 weeks taught me something different about myself and my body, and I guess that is just realistic and reflective of life in general. We can’t be perfect, things come up – emotionally, work-wise and physically – and at the end of the day you have to do what is right for you at that point in time. I have seriously loved every single workout throughout this program, and can’t wait to share with you what I have learned, and what I have most enjoyed!

What I have learned:

  1. Appetite increase – I get much hungrier when I am working out intensely, and need to ensure I fuel my body properly. For this, smoothies have been a dream – and I never have more protein than a 3-4:1 carb:protein ratio. I’ll make myself a turmeric latte for afterward, and that would hold me over to a mid-morning snack which I now always need!
  2. Listen to my body – In terms of hunger, energy and injury it is so important to listen to your body. It will repay you, and it will also catch up to you if you don’t! Even when it didn’t feel right to train, I still took care of myself in some way- whether it was a rest day or I chose to move my body in a different way (walking, yoga, pilates, Physio exercises).
  3. It’s about frame of mind – set the goals you wish to achieve and focus on them every day. I can tell the difference in my attendance and performance the weeks I said to myself (and out loud) that I was going to smash every day of that week. You make less excuses and you make the time to see it through- whether it be setting your alarm, a reminder on your phone, telling a partner or friend of your intention, packing your bag etc. etc. being in the right frame of mind get’s you to training every  day and pushes you to do your best.
  4. Overall energy boost – my gosh I have so much energy lately!  I really have no energy crashes, and I attribute it to working out daily and eating accordingly. Exercise should invigorate you, if it doesn’t, it might be worthwhile to speak to a practitioner about your adrenal health.
  5. Increased water consumption – this might be a silly one but I have also never drank more water and I feel like the combo of this, plus sweating daily, has really helped my skin.
  6. It’s not about what you weigh, but rather how you feel. I made the decision to not weigh myself as I went along, as I didn’t want any old insecurities to creep back in. I also now know how it is your body composition that often changes most, and that might not see a shift on the scales. 6W2S is very intent on letting you know this, with weekly emails and info regarding muscle, body fat and overall weight. As we get measured in a variety of ways at the start of each program (InBody Scan showing body fat percentage and muscle mass etc., body measurements, and strength capabilities), having this 6 week weigh-in is all you need. I also love how it is not simply weight, but rather, there are so many ways to track progress!

What I have most enjoyed:

  1. Having a solid routine, and taking the thought piece out of the exercise equation! This might sound silly, but choosing what to do each day can be stressful, and ensuring you have carved out the time to do it can be challenging! With 6W2S- I just get up and go and have someone tell me what to do 🙂
  2. Blake has a few “tests” he runs throughout the programs whereby he times you going through the session – without a doubt, I constantly bettered myself every time I was re-tested, showing me how much stronger and fitter I was becoming.
  3. Being outdoors for the most part, especially our once-a-week at Bondi. Sunrises always make a workout that much more rewarding and set a beautiful calming, energising tone to the day.
  4. The crew – the girls and trainers are the best of the best, and really motivate, inspire and make it all the more enjoyable turning up each morning. Not to mention the support and community generated through external activities and events and the FB set up each and every program.
  5. Feeling like my body has moved sufficiently each and every day – for someone that is seriously desk-bound either blogging or seeing clients, it can be challenging to get the 10K steps in we should all be aiming for. Whilst I still make a conscious effort to take breaks and walk around, these morning sessions ensure that I have moved my body daily to counteract the hours of computer-time.
  6. The results! Whether it be a more positive mindset, cleaner eating patterns, weight-loss, increased muscle mass, commitment, or hitting new goals, each 6 weeks actually offered me something new. The first one I was most committed to and saw the most physical progress, the second was all about new goals in fitness and strength and this third has been about mindset and listening to my body (due to my injury). Overall within the 3 months I’ve seen a significant drop in body fat %, comparable for what I had to loose, and am really happy with my overall results.

How to Implement & Stick to Change

CHANGE – this word either excites or incites fear in people. I know for myself, I have struggled with change my whole life. When it comes to changes in emotions and relationships, I can be rigid and at times, unaccepting. I have had very little change in my life, except my parents divorcing when I was very young, so I think this has something to do with my resistance. Interestingly, my fiancé, Mike, who has moved all around the world since age 5, is much more flexible when it comes to change in any form, and I think that might have something to do with having had to change so much from such a young age!

I invite you now to think about change in your own lives… how much change have you gone through? How did it affect you? How do you respond to change? This might give you insight into how you address changes in other aspects of your life, such as the way you tackle a new way of eating or living.

Change is inevitable… it is the one thing we can count on! 

When it comes to reassessing our health, and introducing a new routine/habit, implementing and maintaining positive changes is key. This is something I have had lots of experience with – having changed from a corporate career to the health profession, tackled an eating disorder, worked through self-doubt and insecurity, and tried many, many diets, to finding a balanced, wholefood, vegan diet now. Here is what I have learned from my health journey and tools I find useful when it comes to making a health shift and sticking to it!

  1. Write down your WHY – Write down what this change is, and then 3-5 reasons why you are making it. It might be hard to come up with 1, but I promise you, you can think of a few to mentally support yourself and reinforce just how justified and necessary this change is. Try to think outside the square, for example “to lose weight” or “to lose 3-5 kg” is a common one. Whilst weight-loss may be appropriate, try to focus on something more positive, that doesn’t stir up negative emotion e.g. “to support every cell in my body” or “to eat for health and longevity”. This is far more “big picture” and in those moments of “weakness”, you will feel far more supported and good about a positive outcome (living a long healthy life) than simply fast weight-loss. Specific to a vegan diet, one of my reasons was for the good of the planet and for my love of animals. Every time that I ever thought about taking a slice of cheese from the cheese board at social events, or caving at a restaurant because there was nothing suitable, I had that as my motivation. Often, we feel like we can let ourselves down (and then scold ourselves later 🙁 ), but when our reasoning is tied to something or someone greater than us, it is just what we need to see the change through. Something to think about…
  2. SCHEDULE it in – Regarding exercise: How many times will you work out? What activity will you do? When will you do it? Re food: What will you eat? When will you do the food shop? When will you food-prep? Pen this all out into your weekly diary and set reminders if needed. Treat these as arrangements with other people, that you cannot cancel! My best advice is to also schedule self-care… 15 mins a day to step away from work, get outside or have a lie down/meditation.
  3. MOTIVATE yourself – Spend time researching/reading books/watching documentaries and articles that support you. There are some fantastic vegan/healthy ones out there! Be a constant sponge for new and exciting information that can help you on your health journey. Aside from info, books, social media, magazines and blogs are great tools to finding new, delicious recipes that align with your values. Keeping information fresh and a repertoire of new and innovative meals on hand keeps you motivated and makes the experience more pleasurable.
  4. ESTABLISH a morning routine that supports the change – starting the day on a healthy foot sets you up right and has you walking out the door on a high. I like to do deep belly breaths and visualise my goals. Other options are morning meditation, journalling thoughts or reading. Whatever it is, incorporate this into a healthy routine of hygiene, lemon water and exercise (unless you prefer to workout later) and do it every day.
  5. REWARD yourself – maybe that is a sweet treat, a massage, a new pair of leggings, a longer rest… whatever it is to you… reward yourself weekly. Acknowledge your hard work and dedication, and say thank you.

Be sure to check out my 7 sunday rituals (some are included in here!) for what to do to set yourself up for a healthy, productive week. This can definitely help with organisations of any health changes that you are currently making or aspiring to. You can do this!

In health & love,

Sami

x

How to: Easy Food-Prep

Food prep truly is the foundation to our health. Whether you work from home, an office or are at school/university, a certain amount of preparation is critical if we are to make healthy choices.  Without it, we are likely to reach for the convenient option, the takeaway shop near the office, the food delivery app, or scrounge together some snacks from the pantry. Not prepping properly can also lead to over-eating, because you get home famished, making a proper meal seems so far off when you have nothing prepped, so you reach for anything and everything before making a proper meal. Sound all to familiar? It doesn’t have to be.

Let’s get prepped!

Sure, we can go overboard here… you can have 5 lunches pre-portioned, a snack, a healthy treat, dips, dressings, and grains all soaked and cooked up. However this “go-hard” strategy, is likely unsustainable. What we want to set up is a solid routine that you can adhere to week after week. You can rotate the varieties e.g. swap from broccoli to Brussels sprouts, brown rice to quinoa etc. each week, in fact, I encourage you to, in order to obtain a broader spectrum of nutrients, but the principles are simple. I will list the 5 non-negotiable, and add on a few “additionals”, should any of them jump out at you and you have a little extra time.

  1. Buy and wash/dry a big bag or two of spinach – Easy! Put it in a large glass Tupperware and store it in the fridge. It can now be added to smoothies, salads and cooked meals with ease. I buy 1kg for Mike and I. Why? High in vitamins such as A, C, E and some Bs as well as minerals like magnesium, zinc and calcium, chlorophyll-rich spinach also provides additional fibre as well as the added benefit of alkalising our bodies.
  2. Roast a BIG tray of Cruciferous & starchy veggies – I like to choose three options such as 1 x head Broccoli, 1 x head Cauliflower & 3-4 medium Sweet potatoes. Other cruciferous options are Brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy, cabbage. Starches include: potato varieties, beetroot, turnips, parsnips, peas, pumpkin, organic corn. Why? Because a serving of cruciferous vegetables a day is healthy to support our liver and detoxification pathways as well as being anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic. Starch is a satiating, delicious way to amp up our fibre and feed the friendly bacteria in our gut which in turn produces butyrate (beneficial and important to the colon).
  3. Boil 1-2 cups dry gluten-free grains – Quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, teff, millet, buckwheat, 100% buckwheat soba or rice noodles… these are WHOLE grains. Whilst refined grains are stripped of most of their nutrients, these beautiful grains are full of fibre, minerals, phytochemical, vitamins and amino acids. Do not be afraid to consume. For any digestive issues, try soaking them overnight, draining and then cooking in fresh water. Why? Grains assist with brain function, fat metabolism, energy production and tissue repair.
  4. Stock up or cook legumes – Lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, cannelloni beans are always in my pantry. I buy organic, no-salt-added varieties that have no preservatives or nasties. Be sure to wash them thoroughly in a strainer, until all bubbles disappear, to avoid bloating. You can also soak dry legumes and then drain and cook them yourself. Why? As well as possessing the benefits of other starches as stated above, they are loaded with protein, are low GI and help to balance blood sugar and appetite, and are choc-full-of antioxidants and fibre to promote good digestion, heart health, and prevent cancer.
  5. Make a batch of salad dressing – there are so many combos you can try here. This ensures putting together a salad is easy and tasty in a pinch. Why? Because store-bought ones are generally full of preservatives, additives, and unnecessary salt and sugar. These have incredibly beneficial ingredients such as apple cider vinegar, lemons, miso, tahini, spices etc. that only bring you more health, not empty calories!

Additionals:

7 Steps to Spring Cleanse 

A change of seasons is a natural time of transition. Spring in particular, is a time many feel compelled to hit reset on their lifestyle choices. Embracing the fresh crisp air and keeping an open mind, I invite you to try these cleansing tips as you move away from the colder, darker months into the sunshine and vitality of Spring! 

Begin your day with the juice of ½ lemon in 250 ml warm water – lemons are not just a good source of vitamin C, lemons also support the hard-working liver, our main detoxifying organ. They strengthen liver enzymes and promote the secretion of bile, which in turn aids digestion. A detoxification agent, blood purifier and digestive aid, they are in actual fact alkalising once within the body (despite their acidic taste!).

Sip on herbal tea throughout the day – if a hot drink isn’t your cup of tea, try it iced! Dandelion tea in particular is a renown tonic with vast medicinal properties. It is fantastic for getting rid of bloating as it too stimulates bile, necessary for the proper breakdown of food and ensuring we absorb our nutrients efficiently, as well as having a diuretic function = say goodbye to water retention! Another good option is green tea which is loaded with catechins, potent antioxidants that also supports the liver… sensing a theme here?! This cleanse tea combines a few healing, digestive-assisting herbs and is a great spring-time brew.

Include vegetables at every single meal – especially cruciferous vegetables which contain sulphur, folate, calcium, iron vitamins C, E and K to support our overworked livers! Vegetables are also alkalising and full of fibre to ensure we are “eliminating” properly. If breakfast is usually a sweet meal such as porridge, chia puddings or bircher, try consuming 1-2 tsp of a quality greens powder just after your meal- I like this one.

Try 1-2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar in water 15 mins prior to meals – it might seem as though this magical elixir is included in every “health” oriented post, but the truth is, it seriously is that good for us, and has so many roles to play. Ensure you get one that has the “mother” in it, like this one. The bitter taste stimulates digestive enzymes which helps us break down and reap the benefits of our food. As it is fermented it is incredibly beneficial to the growth of our good gut flora. It is also fantastic for preventing/reducing bloating and reflux, and detoxes us by altering our blood pH to becoming more alkaline.

Ensure your bowels are moving daily – if not twice daily! Magnesium, a mineral that can be found in foods or supplemented, helps ease constipation by relaxing the muscles in the intestinal walls. Try this internal magnesium powder, which relaxes the body and can help move “things” along, or for some more external relaxation (which can also help!) try these bath salts. You can consume magnesium in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, but for chronic constipation, this may not be enough and supplementation may be appropriate.

Declutter – fresh space, fresh mind, fresh outlook. Clean out the wardrobe, the pantry, the fridge and the cupboards! Maybe change out the screensaver on your computer, the arrangement of small furniture items in your living space, buy a new indoor plant, and consider diffusing essential oils in your home or using them instead of perfume. Lemon, orange, grapefruit and peppermint are all great detoxifying and purifying oils to try!

Commit to purchasing from your farmers market – to avoid pesticides and waxes on our beautiful fresh produce! It is a great way to get in an active catch up with a friend; a stroll through the markets as opposed to opting for coffees, wines or heavy meals. It is also the best way to shop in season, pesticide-free/organic, affordably. With the Spring weather, there is no better reason to get outside and support local farmers!

 

Detox support – if you really feel like you have a lot to get rid of and need the extra support, take your cleansing up a notch by employing these foot detox patches. According to ancient Eastern medicine, toxins build up in our bodies throughout the day, travelling to the lower extremities such as the feet at night. These detox foot patches have been designed to absorb such toxins as the blood circulates throughout our bodies during our sleep.

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