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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

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“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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