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Answering FAQs on the Rebalance Protocol

WHAT MAKES THIS PROTOCOL DIFFERENT?

The Rebalance Protocol is entirely plant-based, giving your system the opportunity to fully rest and fuelling your cells with an overflow of easily assimilated nutrition. It also offers blended food/salad as a means of cleansing, usually unavailable or not encouraged on a typical juice cleanse you might purchase. Whilst there is nothing wrong with these types of cleanses, I feel they do not instill sustainable habits you can integrate into your life post cleanse, are less appealing and enjoyable meaning compliance is low, and are often unrealistic for those still working and exercising during this time.

WHY VEGAN?

A whole food, vegan lifestyle is the most effective way we can avoid or reverse many chronic conditions. As a society, we have moved so far away from the way we are naturally intended to eat. A plant-based diet allows us to use food as preventative medicine and work with our bodies natural healing processes, not against them.

Biologically, we are designed to eat this way (if you look at our teeth, our digestive enzymes and our GIT), and it just so happens to support the health of the environment and the welfare of other beings. These foods are anti-inflammatory, nutrient-rich, and come as a package-deal with water and fibre as well.

Initially, some people describe discomfort with a plant-rich diet, but that is not the plant-foods fault, that is from years of improper eating, stress, environmental toxins, medication etc. We can get back to the way we were designed to eat, with ease and enjoyment. Animal-products are more acidic and complex to break down, and bring a host of unwanted additions, e.g. heavy metals and toxins in their fat, hormones from the animal and excess saturated fat. A well-planned vegan diet can meet all nutrients requirements (except vitamin B12, which must be supplemented), with fewer adverse health side effects. Once you optimise your digestion, you will find you actually absorb and utilise nutrients better too. Protein deficiency is actually extraordinarily uncommon, and so long as you consume enough calories, you should meet requirements.

Most fad diets and trends are much more restrictive and extreme. This type of real food diet, food from mother nature, in its most basic form, just becomes an easy way of choosing the right foods for your body, and your taste buds and cravings quickly adjust.

WHO IS THIS PROTOCOL APPROPRIATE FOR?

Anyone looking to challenge themself, trial or transition toward a plant-based diet, free up energy, clear up skin, improve sleep, steady mood and appetite, banish cravings, lose and maintain a healthy weight and improve their overall quality of life. If you identify with more than 2 of the following symptoms, this protocol might be the right fit for you:

  • Constipation or loose stools/diarrhoea;
  • Bloating;
  • Flatulence/Gas;
  • Reflux;
  • Thick coating on tongue;
  • Bad breath;
  • Cravings, sweet or salty;
  • Low energy, particularly first thing in the morning;
  • Poor sleep or insomnia;
  • Poor immunity;
  • Skin rashes;
  • Headaches;
  • Difficulty focusing;
  • Brain fog;
  • Mood swings/irritability;
  • Anxiety;
  • Acne/skin congestion;
  • Asthma;
  • Allergies.

WHEN TO DO IT AND FOR HOW LONG?

Now, tomorrow, next week! This protocol can begin when you feel ready. You can simply do Phase 1 or Phase 2 in isolation, or you may choose to do a few days of each.

You can use it as a three-step program regularly for a few days a month, at the start of a new season, or a few weeks a year. The possibilities are endless and are yours to realise. I just recommend you modify your activity level, really tune into your hunger and energy signals and check-in with how you are feeling throughout. Of course, if you come straight off the back of a fast-food diet or something similar, you might experience more extreme symptoms, in which case please be realistic with yourself and ease into it accordingly. Consulting with a healthcare professional is advised if any serious side effects are noticed.

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM EATING THIS WAY

During the Rest Phase, it is likely you might feel more hungry than usual. Depending on your goals, you might wish to eat more than the allocated portions, i.e. if you don’t wish to lose weight. Don’t be afraid to eat a little more regardless, a piece of allowable fruit, a handful of nuts, or a warm latte won’t be the undoing of your Rest! You will still experience immense benefits. When it comes to hunger signals, I invite you to tune in—sometimes it is boredom, thirst or comfort we seek. Honour this with the appetite control strategies as well as mindful eating tips, and work out what you truly need.

In any phase, however more likely the Renew, you may experience some digestive symptoms—bloating, changed bowel habits, more frequent urination. Please monitor these, however don’t be too alarmed. Nothing too out of the ordinary should occur.

Sometimes we feel worse before we feel better. As your systems heal, things bubble to the surface, and inactive pathways take a little while to reawaken. You may experience:

  • Lethargy;
  • Poor sleep/heating up in the middle of the night;
  • Brain fog;
  • Headaches;
  • Irritability/emotional;
  • Appetite changes;
  • Gassiness;
  • Bowel irregularity.

What this can be due to is the increased quantity of plant-foods and therefore fibre and water. This is a good thing in the long-term, but can create minor discomfort or changes in the short-term. We are designed to process these foods, so this transition is all about letting your body re-adjust to its new way of eating. Further to this, often when we have had a highly processed diet, our body becomes lazy at recognising and digesting real food. It may take a while for our digestive enzymes and stomach acid to rebalance. Finally, detox symptoms can be a bit nasty at times, so keep this in mind. The key here is to remember that these should be short-term. If anything persists, please contact a qualified natural health practitioner. You should be filling out your symptom diary and/or worksheets as you go along, so monitor symptoms and act accordingly. Do your best to work through minor shifts and changes, and speak to your doctor if symptoms continue.

WHAT DO I DO AFTER THIS PROTOCOL IS COMPLETED?

After Phase 1 of this protocol, I always recommend transitioning for at least a few days with Phase 2. Ideally, you will do at least two weeks of Phase 2–3. If you find yourself extra hungry at any phase, you can always ‘bulk up’ meals with more of the same foods. Both Phase 2 and Phase 3 can be maintained longer for a well-rounded, plant-based diet. Please look to the 7 principles (in eBook) to follow as a guide when looking to implement more long-term habits and rituals.

DO WE REALLY NEED SUPPLEMENTS AND CLEANSES/ DETOXES? IF WE EAT WELL, SHOULDN’T THAT BE ENOUGH?

I hear you. And I wish this were the case. And maybe one day it was… but we live in this modern world where stress is rampant, financial and emotional pressure common, pollution in the air we breathe, depleted soil quality, hidden toxins in our food, drinking water and household products that we don’t know the full effects of yet… there is so much outside of our control. This brings about compromised digestion and most importantly absorption of our nutrition, and adds a heavy burden to our body. In order to combat these challenges, even whilst stringently sticking to a clean diet and conscious choices, good quality supplements are beneficial and necessary. And so too are regular clean outs and resets in order to optimise our health. We can minimise these outside influences through things like stress management, buying organic, only using natural products… but the truth is, we are not zen yogi’s without demands to meet, living in a clean and pure world.

Purchase your copy here!

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.

 

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

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

“I’m Vegan and Always Hungry. Help!” Appetite Control and My Top Tips To Reduce Insatiable Hunger

Amongst its many jobs, the hypothalamus (in the brain) is responsible for appetite regulation by stimulating metabolic and behavioural responses to maintain energy balance. Many factors come into play here, including the roles and reactions of biological hormones and peptides as well as psychological cues.

A lot of people fear or find that when they cut out meat and dairy, essentially everything they have been conditioned to associate with protein, they won’t be satiated. Well, protein is indeed satiating, and lucky for us, it is in everything. So if it is protein you are worried about, simply ensuring you get enough calories daily should suffice to meet protein requirements (.8g/kg of body weight), read more here. While the effect of protein on appetite control is well-documented, increasing protein consumption beyond what is necessary does not appear to be helpful, and clearly shows a 75% increase in overall mortality, and a four-fold increase in cancer death risk! Interestingly, some experiments show that high animal-based protein diets might help with quick weight-loss and appetite control short-term, but these effects tend to dissipate after one year. Further, these diets deplete the bodies glycogen stores and the water that goes with them, so it stands to reason that participants lose (water) weight.

In one study, a vegetable-based meal (beans/peas) influenced appetite and energy intake favourably compared to an animal-based meal (pork/veal) with similar energy and protein content. Further, a vegetable-based meal with low protein content was as satiating and palatable as an animal-based meal with high protein content! So we can see, protein isn’t the only thing that is important to consider when it comes to appetite control!

Aside from protein, nutrient density and fibre are extremely important when it comes to satiety. Nutrient density is important because if you are eating nutrient-poor but calorie-rich foods (fast, processed, refined foods), your body may send you hunger signals, hoping that you choose to feed it the nutrients it so needs. There is ample evidence that increasing consumption of high-fibre foods may decrease feelings of hunger. High-fibre foods are shown to take a while to digest, controlling blood sugar, keeping you feeling fuller for longer, and having the added bonus of “cleansing” the system and feeding beneficial gut bacteria.

Without knowing an individuals diet, it is tricky for me to answer why they are feeling constantly hungry. A common mistake people make is forgetting to replace the meat in their meal with something else nutrient-dense e.g. a chicken salad, minus the chicken, will not fill you up. You must add staples like chickpeas, beans, lentils, brown rice, quinoa, nuts or seeds in place, to amp up the energy and nutrient-density, and thus the satiety.

Lastly, we are supposed to get hungry! “If I eat a vegan meal, I find I am hungry a few hours later”… Well, that is often a positive when transitioning to a vegan diet, we become more in tune with our appetite. We must stop looking at hunger as a bad thing. You need food to fuel your body to function, it is simply about choosing the right fuel. Waking up hungry, feeling hungry every 3-5 hours is a very natural, normal and healthy indicator of your body working efficiently. Food is not the enemy!

Hunger-fighting Tips:

– Replace the meat in your meal with something nutrient-dense, fibre-rich and substantial;

– Ensure you reach adequate protein daily through a variety of plant-sources: fruits and vegetables (everything adds up), beans, legumes and grains, tempeh and tofu, nuts and seeds. If you wish to incorporate a protein powder, you may, but that isn’t always necessary. Remember, sufficient calories = sufficient protein, read more on this here. Include beans and legumes in your diet, evidence suggests that such plant-proteins provide a longer feeling of satiety than animal proteins;

– Fill up on non-starchy vegetables – 3+ cups per meal is not too much! Go hard! Snack on these freely;

– Nutritious mini meals, such as the three S’s – salads, soups and smoothies – can also be snacks and are often healthier and satisfying than packaged and processed snack options;

– Think nutrient density – perhaps your body is craving nutrition rather than calories;

– Don’t deprive yourself of carbohydrates – carbohydrates are a mainstay in a plant-based diet. Gluten-free grains, legumes, beans, fruit… these foods are not to be feared. They are the bodies primary source of fuel, crucial for healthy brain, thyroid and digestive function and keeping you full, happy and healthy.

– Not too long, not too short, just right – Don’t wait too long between meals to the point where you are famished, make poor choices and guzzle your food, but don’t eat too soon, as we need time between meals to cleanse the digestive system! Aim to wait at least 2-3 hours;

– Plate your food – if snack items are out of reach, studies suggest you eat less. Ensure you are seated when eating, not on-the-go (or standing over the sink!);

– Do not inhale food – eat slowly and mindfully, away from distractions. Chew each bite 10-20 times. Set an alarm in your phone to go off after 20 minutes, this is a good guide for how long you should eat. Place utensils down between bites, and swallow each mouthful before going for another!

– Sleep – a lack of sleep actually leads to heightened appetite and less feelings of satisfaction after a meal due to its relationship with the hormones Ghrelin and Leptin. Essentially, it reduces the amount of leptin in your body, the “stop-eating” hormone;

– Ensure you are hydrated – Sometimes we mistake thirst for hunger, particularly with fruit cravings. Have a glass or two of water, wait a few minutes, then decide if you are truly hungry. Note: it is best to drink away from meals, so as not to dilute digestive enzymes needed to break down food;

– Apple cider vinegar – fights candida and may help with sugar cravings, bloating and stimulation of stomach acid;

Cinnamon – trials ustilising cinnamon as a means for blood sugar stabilisation, particularly in diabetics, have yielded mixed results. However, given the little downside, why not try it in meals. Be sure to choose Ceylon as opposed to Cassia (more common/cheap), due to potential coumarin toxicity;

– Phenylalanine – Is an amino acid thought to help suppress appetite, due to its relationship with the satiety hormone cholecystokinin. Bee pollen and chlorella (can be taken as tablets) are nutritious superfoods, rich in phenylalanine;

– Peppermint tea – may help suppress appetite, and is a lovely way to end a meal. Note: avoid if you are prone to reflux.

 

How to keep it clean when dining out

Socialising over food is a part of life, and shouldn’t be the bane of your existence. There are times when you want to indulge and the rules go out the window (that is fine), and there are times where you would like to stick to the rules a little more closely. I eat out once or twice a week for a main meal, and whilst I usually find it relatively easy as I seek out health-oriented cafe’s and restaurants, there is the occasion where I have no control over where we go, or end up somewhere I wouldn’t usually choose. That is often the case when traveling or dining with larger groups! But these occasions don’t need to be avoided entirely, nor do they need to be stressed over. Embrace them and enjoy them for the company and experience, and keep these tips in mind, or in your phone, to gently guide you toward more healthful options.

1. Skip the bread basket, order crudités if on the menu, a veggie based starter to share, or simply olives, if you feel tempted to snack whilst you wait for your meal.

2. Avoid words like creamy, crumbed, crispy, or deep-fried on the menu, it is likely loaded with nasty oils and saturated/trans fats.

3. Let them know you are dairy-intolerant – vegan or not, there is no need for milk, milk powders/solids in your sauces and mains. This also means steering clear of creamy based dressings and sauces which often contain other undesirables like preservatives, thickeners and unhealthy fats etc. Find out why I choose to avoid dairy here.

4. Ask if they can cook in less oil, or use extra-virgin olive oil/coconut oil instead of butter (for vegans/dairy-free) or other vegetable oils.

5. Request dressings and even sauces on the side. Ask for a lemon, balsamic vinegar, tahini or avocado to compensate.

6. Order a bunch of side vegetables as a main – a balanced meal can often be created from a side of sweet potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, steamed greens, grains, side salad etc. Alternatively, see what produce ingredients they use in their other dishes and single out one or two you would like e.g. avocado, quinoa or beans, to add to your sides. This is also a great tip if you are vegan and there is no suitable plant-based option.

7. Ask if they have a vegetarian / vegan menu – these often exist, and are often healthier as veggies are the star of the show! They also tend to be grouped together with other diet-specific requirements i.e. gluten-free, refined sugar-free too.

8. Skip the fries and double the veggies or see if they will steam you some rice or sweet potato instead, if craving something more starch-based. NB: sometimes I do have the fries, moderation 😉

9. At Asian restaurants, see if they have gluten-free Tamari sauce available in place of soy sauce for a happier tummy. Be wary of the sugar used in some sushi-rice, ask if they would be open to swapping for steamed rice, however this might not always be possible.

Enjoy your food, but mostly the dining experience and the company you keep! There is no perfect, and your body can tolerate less-than-ideal choices from time to time 🙂

My favourite Fast Foods…

When we hear the words “fast food”, all kinds of nasty thoughts enter our minds, right?! Fast food chains, instant and artificial powdered vegetables, frozen minute-meals, or unhealthy snack foods (often disguised as healthy, I’m looking at you, muesli bars)… the list goes on. Basically things that are cheap and convenient. However, grab-and-go foods don’t have to be so nutritionally deficient. Here are some of my absolute favourite fast fixes when I am on the go…

  1. Seaweed – whether it’s a 5 minute nori roll consisting of raw vegetable sticks, avocado and tahini, or simply munching on a sheet or two, I love seaweed for a salty snack. It is rich in vitamins and minerals that are not always plentiful in land vegetables, such as thyroid-healthy iodine. Even better, throw a few broken pieces in a miso soup (another amazing fast food!) for a delicious seaweed and miso gut-healthy broth. Try for the untoasted vatiety.
  2. Carrot – I snack on 1-2 carrots a day! I love their starchy quality, and find them so, so satisfying even when I want something sweet. I generally just wash them, without even peeling their skin, making them even faster to prepare! A lot of quality nutrition is found in the peels of fruit and vegetables, and carrots are an easy one to leave on. Vitamin A rich, in the form of Beta-Carotene, they are fabulous for healthy skin and eyes, and should be a regular part of our diets. Enjoy on their own, grated with some lemon, or grab a little dip as well – hummus, baba ganoush, tahini, pesto etc.
  3. ¼-1/2 avocado – I could eat avocado all day! On it’s own, with a squeeze of lemon, in a sheet of seaweed (double points!), or on a rice/corn thin. So creamy and satisfying, avocados are full of the good monounsaturated fats, as well as skin-moisturizing antioxidants such as vitamins, A, C, E.
  4. Chickpeas – Yep, I sometimes just grab a tin of organic chickpeas, drain them, rinse and enjoy solo or with some salt and cajun spice. Of course, crispy roasted chickpeas or hummus dip is also a great way to get them in, however when you are in a pinch, a can of chickpeas are a much more nutritious alternative to popcorn or chips, and can be better than nuts for those of us who tend to overeat on them! They contain a good amount of iron, zinc, folate, potassium, fibre, protein, and phytates, and have been found to stabilise blood sugar, well after the meal they are consumed with. Plus overall, beans and legumes are associated with longer life!
  5. Mung bean sprouts – Definitely the healthiest snack! Again, a little better for our waistline then eating an abundance of nuts (which by all means are healthful, just are often eaten in excess which can inhibit weight loss if that is your goal). These beauties are crunchy, satisfying by the handful and powerful for cellular regeneration and health, being up to 50 x more nutritious than their mature counterparts!! Sprouting actually enhances the nutrient value of the seed, packing it with efficiently absorbed vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and enzymes. In fact, the sprouting process works as a form of “per-digestion”, expelling digestive inhibitors ensuring these beneficial nutrients are more available and thus better absorbed.
  6. Banana – I used to be terrified of bananas. Perhaps terrified is a bit dramatic, but I definitely viewed them as a treat. Not any longer! I have at least ½ a day. Frozen bananas straight from the freezer are an amazing sweet treat, they taste just like ice cream, and a perfectly ripened regular banana is the ultimate on-the-run snack that provides delicious dietary fibre, potassium, antioxidants and B vitamins.
  7. Dried figs – Another thing I used to view as a treat, which now, I enjoy a few times a week 🙂 Dried figs have such a great texture! Is it strange I don’t really like the fresh ones? Dried are actually higher in calcium, making them a great vegan source, and also contain more soluble fibre and less sugar than dates. One or two are the perfect sweet snack, and are even better when stuffed with a couple of raw nuts, or sprinkle of cinnamon.
  8. Kale chips – we all know the benefits of the almighty kale – fibrous and nutrient packed (iron, calcium, vitamins A, C, K), it is antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory, cholesterol-lowering and extremely detoxifying. Whilst kale chips aren’t always the quickest to make at home, they are a great options when out and about looking for a quick snack to grab from your local health food store, that is easy to eat on the go. Sometimes they come with a cashew and/or nutritional yeast crust, making them even more nutritious and satisfying! For an at-home version, try my recipe here.

Jet lag, Sleep & Weight loss

Having just come back from a month overseas in various time zones, I am reminded of the much-dreaded symptoms of jet lag. You likely know the irritated, anxious and exhaustive effects of a lack of sleep! Concentration wavers, energy levels plummet, appetite is haywire, digestion is compromised and your mood is less than pleasant. So, why does this happen?

The body’s sleep cycle plays a crucial role in many important bodily processes including hormonal regulation, brain function and mood, temperature, energy levels, heart rate, appetite, digestion and detoxification. These functions are specifically timed on our body’s 24-hour internal clock; they kick in or switch off according to night and day. Abrupt changes in time zones due to travel can upset our natural circadian rhythm, therefore disrupting this carefully timed schedule. Welcome jet lag!

The importance of sleep cannot be underestimated. When considering weight loss or maintenance, people tend to focus on good quality food and regular exercise. Sleep is often overlooked. However, a look at the above listed bodily processes it regulates shows just how important sleep is to our health and the factors that influence our weight. In fact, a lack of sleep actually leads to heightened appetite and less feelings of satisfaction after a meal due to its relationship with the hormones Ghrelin and Leptin.

Ghrelin and Leptin both act on the brain to regulate appetite and produce either feelings of hunger or satiety. Leptin is made by the fat cells and is also produced when we consume fat such as avocadoes, healthy oils and nuts. It switches off appetite, creating feelings of satisfaction (this is why consumption of healthy fats are known to suppress appetite). Ghrelin on the other hand, is a gut hormone made in the stomach, which enhances hunger by turning on appetite when the stomach is empty. A lack of sleep confuses this process and actually decreases levels of Leptin while increasing the “hunger hormone” Ghrelin. This is one of the main reasons why sleep is so important for weight loss/maintenance.

Ghrelin stimulates appetite, causing you to feel hungry even when you don’t necessarily need food! I felt this whilst I was overseas adjusting from one time zone to the next… in the middle of the night I woke up to abrupt hunger pangs for no particular reason – I had had a good dinner, it was dark and quiet, it was not time for breakfast – I simply was having a restless sleep and my rhythm was out of whack!

A holiday should be about rest and recuperation from daily life at home. This however is not always the case! Vacations often involve late nights, exhausting days, increased alcohol consumption and indulgence aplenty! This is also part of life and the travel experience. However, where possible, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to try your best to maintain a healthy sleep regiment before, during and after travel…

Tips to minimise the effects of jet lag

It is what you do prior to and on the flight that can be the most effective to ensuring it isn’t your worst sleepless nightmare! To minimise the negative effects of travel…

  • Ensure adequate sleep in the lead-up to travel, an existing sleep deficit will only worsen the situation
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol just before and during the flight
  • Keep well hydrated on board with water. Bring your own empty stainless steel water bottle and fill it up once past security from a water fountain to consume on flight when the cabin crew aren’t around
  • During flight eat and sleep according to your destinations time zones – setting your watch once you board the plane is a great way to sync up
  • Prepare your own healthy meals/snacks to avoid processed, sugar-laden, excessively salty airline food, which can interfere with sleep, digestion and mood. Take healthy fats like raw unsalted nuts to increase Leptin production
  • Eyeshades and earplugs (or relaxing music) may help you sleep during the flight
  • When you arrive get fresh air and sunshine as soon as you land to optimise melatonin production. This is also a great way to wake up in general – 15 minutes of morning sunlight will send a strong message to your internal clock that it is daytime!

Tips for restful sleep

Regular sleep patterns have such a powerful effect on appetite control and weight. To ensure a good night sleep during and post travel try these tips…

  • Do not use computers or phones 1 hour prior to sleep
  • Avoid liquids 1-2 hours before bed. Sip chamomile tea 2 hours prior to induce calm
  • Take a hot bath/shower 1-2 hours before bed – the temperature drop signals to your body its time for sleep
  • Sniff lavender in bed to bring on sleepiness
  • Take large diaphragmatic breaths to unwind, either in bed or just prior
  • Keep the alarm clock out of sight so you aren’t constantly checking it
  • Keep a pen and paper next to your bed in case you remember something you MUST jot down. This saves you getting up or using your brightly lit phone! And saves you the worry of remembering whatever it is in your sleepy state
  • Stick to a consistent bed time and waking up schedule to form solid sleep patterns
  • Sleep in total darkness
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