Respecting others choices

I saw a post on Facebook the other day on one of Milk_glassthose foodie pages about someone who had lost a lot of weight. This person was talking all about whole grains and choosing low fat milk and the ‘light’ version of things. Another person shot back, ‘your progress is great but….’ Don’t you love those ‘buts’, it’s almost like saying, well done… but no. She continued, ‘I would disagree with the wholegrains and the low fat milk. You should be avoiding grains entirely and there is a lot of research that suggests full fat milk is much better for you as it’s a healthy fat’. She went on the cut down the suggestion of ‘light’ anything. ‘You shouldn’t be using ‘light’ products as they tend to be filled with extra chemicals and extra salt and sugars just to cut the fat content down.’

Now, normally, I would tend to agree with this woman. That tends to be the basis I work towards too, but I would never cut someone down for it. Especially someone who has employed their techniques of wholegrains, low fat milk and light products and lost 48 kilograms. I mean, that’s a huge amount and a reason to celebrate. No one has the right to take that away from them by saying their methods of weight loss aren’t good enough.

belly-2473_640See, I absolutely agree that full fat products are usually better than their light counterparts, but when I use coconut milk, I HAVE to use the light versions. The full fat versions make me really ill. If I drink full fat coconut milk I’ll feel sick and nauseous for the rest of the day and will barely be able to eat anything, but that’s okay because that’s what works for me.

I preach this, constantly. But it’s because I’m sick of these labels and people jumping on others for making choices they believe are wrong. You need to do what’s right for you. You need to find what works and stick to it. What works for you may not work for someone else which is precisely why everyone should stop telling others how they should be eating!

There’s a blogger I follow and absolutely adore. Her name is Jordan. She used to be called The Blonde Vegan. Now she’s The Balanced Blonde. She created her entire online persona, her entire blogging life around her Vegan lifestyle. Then she came to the realisation that it wasn’t working for her. She was terrified to eat anything outside of her super strict plant based vegan diet and knew she had this image that she had to adhere to. It led to an eating disorder called Orthorexia which is essentially a fixation on healthy eating that turns dangerous.

JJordan_YoungerFullordan was not well. At all. But because of the brand she’d built and the image she maintained online she was terrified to take the step in the direction of health. Eventually though, and congrats to her, she did. She slowly started introducing chicken, eggs and fish and while that can’t have been easy her body thanked her for it. Hurrah for the road to health! But she was met with a huge resistance from a number of her former followers. The Vegan Army came at her and attacked her new diet, attacked her for making the decision that she needed to make for her health. I understand what it’s like to be passionate about something, to not want to eat animal products and to feel betrayed by someone you looked up to for promoting that lifestyle, but that reaction was totally inappropriate.

Not only was Jordan abused online, she had people coming up to her, her friends and her family telling her that she was a bad person and deserved to die. All because of her eating choices. All because she chose to do what works for her in the name of health. No one has the right to judge the eating habits of someone else. You have the right to express concern if you feel someone’s diet is harming thing (meaning, you know they’re not eating and they need some guidance, or you know they live on sugar and saturated fat and you’re worried about their health), but abusing someone in the street for choosing to get their health back on track, for choosing what they put in their body is inappropriate. No one gets to make that decision for us. It’s ours, and ours alone to make.

Anyway, I don’t want to harp on about respecting what works for us, but I just wanted this to be a reminder, to all of us, that no one has the right to dictate or to judge us for what we put in our bodies. If trim milk over full fat milk works for you, and if that’s what you’re happiest doing, then by all means go for it.

We don’t know what is REALLY going on…

Sometimes we can get so stuck in our perceptions of people, and become fixed on this one view of them that we don’t even consider what make them behave in a certain way, or act like they do.

If you follow the Humans of New York Facebook page, you’ll know there are so many different layers to people. Walking past each person on the street you would never guess their story. You’d never guess what demons they have faced or what horrors they’ve seen.

I’ve always carried that knowledge with me, that you never know what is going on in someone else’s life at any given time, but recently I was reminded just how much this is true, and just how much we need to be a little sensitive towards others and really find our compassion.

startup-593344_1280I worked with a woman who would drive me crazy. She was about the same age as me but an absolute polar opposite. Her entire life was work and she was determined to succeed. So determined, in fact, that she let nothing stand in her way. She was out to get what she wanted and by doing so, she isolated herself from everyone.

She was rude, inconsiderate, demanding and just genuinely couldn’t see how she was making her working life a very solidary experience for herself by not joining in, by not being a team player and by treating every team member as though they were below her.

On the flipside I have never seen someone work harder than her. Her entire life was living and breathing work. It’s all she would care to talk about. I was kind of amazed actually.

We (the team) tried, and we tried harder. But nothing seemed to work. My boss at the time wasn’t the greatest at leading a team (read: he had no clue what he was doing). He believed it was important to stir the pot as much as he could and create conflict within the team. He thought that was a great way of increasing productivity. So he pitted us against her.

He would tell everyone we must follow one protocol and then tell her something entirely different. He would tell her that she could do what she likes. He would give her all the freedom she wanted to pursue different avenues and transform her area to something really quite great, whereas the rest of us he would block at every turn. Every idea was shut down and every plan we presented was met with a rather large ‘no.’

teamwork-382677_1280Naturally this special treatment coupled with her general demeanour and the fact we didn’t realise our boss was the mastermind behind this caused a lot of resentment. The work environment became toxic. There was a clear division between the team (a rather unfair seven against one division I might add) and we had no idea what we were supposed to do about it.

She was too driven in her quest for career success and her admiration of our boss to realise that what he was doing was wrong, and to pull herself away from the conflict and fix the root of the problem. We were too angry about the situation to do the same thing. It was a vicious cycle really.

The conflict led my closest work friend to leave, citing she was sick of feeling undervalued, playing second fiddle and being treated like crap from the other girl. When I handed in my resignation (though I have to say it wasn’t just because of her), I felt a great sense of relief and the attitude and behaviour of this woman didn’t frustrate me quite so much.

On my last day on the job, I happened to get on the same train as this woman. How that happened I have no idea, some twist of fate maybe. We had an hour long commute ahead of us and we started awkwardly chatting. Of course the only thing we could talk about was work because, quite frankly, we had nothing in common.

She told me about a business trip she had just returned from, and other work related topics before she started to open up a little more. I have to tell you I had to scrape my jaw off the floor. The thing is, in the 5 months we had worked together, never had she said how she truly felt. Never had she opened up to us and said that she agreed with our opinion. In fact she had been so silent on it and almost seemed to judge us for being unhappy in our work place that we truly thought she didn’t feel the same.

As our journey continued we started to talk about charities and who this woman really is started to come through. At the age of seven she would push her disabled Dad’s wheelchair. By the time she reached 13, her mum was crashing the car and collapsing on the ground as multiple sclerosis took over her body.

fog-79456_1280Through the rest of her childhood she had to deal with watching her mother lose control of her body and her Dad continue to struggle to get around with his severe arthritis. While her friends partied and did things normal teenagers would do, she did the cooking, cleaning and grocery shopping for her family. She called ambulances when her mother had fallen and did her best to hold her family together. She watched as her siblings struggled to cope with the realities of their family life and now, as she sits at her desk working so diligently during the day, her mother is slowly succumbing to the cancer she has now been diagnosed with.

Life can deal people some pretty crappy hands. I’ve sat in the same room as this woman for the last five months who has the most remarkable story, and to see how she’s moved past the awful hand she’s been dealt, to work in an industry that has the potential of helping other children in a tough spot and to have made peace with the difficulties of her past is quite incredible.

The thing is, if I hadn’t, quite by chance, got on the same train as her that morning I never would’ve known her history. I never would’ve known why she acted the way she did, particularly in her attitude to other members of the team. It just goes to show that we can judge people all we want based on our perceptions of them in the outside world but we never really know what’s going on. What makes them tick or what drives them, and I think that’s really important to remember.

Everyone has a story. Everyone has been through stuff. Everyone is affected by something. It’s worth remembering. It’s worth not jumping to conclusions or making judgements so easily because at the end of the day, it’s quite likely there is a big part of the story we’re missing out on.

The value of self-worth

I was recently having a conversation with an acquaintance who suddenly squeezed her eyes shut and asked how I managed to deal with the pressures of society. When I probed further to ask what she meant, she bit her lip trying to find a way to describe what she meant.

“The pressure that society puts on us to have a particular kind of life. To have the right degree, the right job, to earn the right salary and to look a certain way.”

success-479568_1280It took me by surprise, as this particular friend is quite successful in her own right. I’ve always looked at her as one of those people who seems to have it all figured out so to see her unravelling like this was quite alarming.

I thought about it for a bit and said I just struggle through like everyone else does. I try my hardest not to compare myself to others and to appreciate my own successes rather than letting someone else define me for how I live my life or how I’m supposed to live my life.

It wasn’t until I was home that night and reflecting on our conversation that I realised just where she was coming from. She was talking about the pressure from society to achieve, to succeed and to present a certain image to society.

It’s easy to just say, be yourself. I mean, it’s true. We should stay true to ourselves and not be afraid to hide behind a mask or to pretend to be someone we’re not, but I completely understand that the external pressures society places on each and every one of us can be quite overwhelming at times.

girls-407685_1280Therefore I think it’s important to touch slightly on this topic. One thing we all need to remember is that our self-worth is not defined by things like your job title, your relationship status or your salary.

We cannot live our lives in the fear that if one of these things changed that we would no longer be worthy, because that’s not true.

Who you are is defined by how you love, how you live, how you interact with others, how you treat others, how you embrace and tackle each challenge that comes your way, your values, your integrity and kindness, your emotional intelligence, your forgiveness and your inner balance.

It’s not defined by the size of your debt, your appearance, your parents’ opinions, your level of education, your job or lack thereof, the cost of your house or possessions, your choice to marry and/or have children, your weight, your happiness or confidence, your dating history or anything like this.

I feel it is kind of messed up the warped definition of success and a sense of self-worth that exists in society based on the outward appearance that each of us projects to the world. The problem with this way of thinking, and I don’t believe this thought process is going to change anytime soon for society as a whole, is that these outward appearances can change so incredibly quickly.

Apacks-163497_1280 multi-millionaire may find himself bankrupt overnight, and the homeless person that everyone walked past without a second glance last week may find himself a millionaire. Someone who had a beautiful house in the best part of town may suddenly lose that house, or the person you envied with that top job may be incredibly unhappy in his or her work environment, or may suddenly find themselves out of a job, for whatever reason that may be.

The message here is that in the outward appearances that we project to the world, there are no absolutes. So what happens when we place all our self-worth on these appearances (or illusions may be a better word) that have the ability to change very quickly?

Some work hard to rebuild. Others spiral in a downward manner. But it’s important to realise that the appearances or illusions that have been clung to so desperately are just a product of our mind, of our thoughts. They define nothing. It is our thoughts that create our circumstances and therefore it is our thoughts that can pick us up off the ground and redefine our self-worth.

We, as a society, need to shift our definition of success to one that is not dictated by our outer appearance. We need to shift our model of success so that it no longer adds or subtracts from our self-worth in any way, shape or form. We need to recognise that our self-worth is independent from their outside factors. It’s like that old saying goes, ‘it’s what is on the inside that counts’.

girl-408066_1280This is not to say that we shouldn’t want to pursue a rewarding career, strive to earn a decent salary, focus on our appearance and acquire the material objects we desire but the difference is that in doing this we’re doing it because we want to. We choose to. Not because we feel we have to in order to determine our self-worth or feel better about ourselves.

Try not to compare yourself to others, however I know this is a tough ask as we live in a society where comparing ourselves to and competing with others is very much the norm.  Remember too that there is no competition in real self-worth. People do not compete to see who is the kindest or most loving, they compete for those outer appearances that society uses to define success – a promotion, a raise, employee of the month and so on. Our real self-worth is our spirit. It’s what is in our soul and that cannot be bought or sold for all the money in the world.

This is a great little quote from the one and only Ralph Waldo Emerson which I thought was quite appropriate to this post….

“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

 

Spaghetti Squash! (With Turmeric Chicken… yuummmm!)

IMG_5520When I was giving the paleo diet a try I kept coming across all these recipes calling for spaghetti squash. I searched everywhere for this squash. I drove all over town trying to find what I was beginning to think was a fake vegetable. I google searched and google searched, all to no avail. It turned out New Zealand didn’t seem to have spaghetti squash (If you’re from New Zealand and have seen them around, feel free to correct me!)

When I moved to London I resumed my search. Why was it so impossible to come across! Last October after six months in London I walked into a vege shop that I would go to almost every day. I wandered around looking at all the fresh produce and then stopped dead in my tracks when I saw a sign that said ‘Spaghetti Squash.’ Could it be? I’d finally found this squash that I was determined to believe didn’t actually exist. Turns out spaghetti squash comes out to play in the autumn! Of course I bought one. I had no idea what to do with it but I decided I’d figure that out later.

IMG_5516At the same time I was moving out of my current apartment to move to the other side of London so everything was living on the floor rather than in my cupboards where they should have been. This meant I’d found all sorts of things that I’d forgotten were hidden away in my cupboards, like a huge bag of delicious turmeric! I figured I’d play around with all these ingredients and see what I could come up with. The result was delicious! Hurrah!
The reason I haven’t posted the receipe until now is because I wasn’t sure it was interesting enough… but you know what? It’s yummy. And who doesn’t want to share the yummy around?!

So, here you go my wonderful readers, turmeric chicken with roasted spaghetti squash!
Ingredients
1 Spaghetti Squash
Garlic Salt
3 Tbsp Coconut oil
2 large Free Range/Organic chicken breasts
1 Tbsp Turmeric
1 tsp mixed herbs
Veges of your choice for accompaniment (my personal favourites are carrots, peas and capsicum!)

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200C
2. Cut the squash lengthwise (from top to bottom) in half and scoop out the seeds.
3. Drizzle in coconut oil (about 1 Tbsp per half) and season lightly with garlic salt
4. Put the two halves facing upwards in the oven and roast for about an hour.
5. While the squash is roasting, chop the chicken breasts into chunks. Transfer the chicken to a bowl and add 1 Tbsp coconut oil and turmeric.
6. Massage into chicken then set aside for half an hour.
7. While the chicken is marinating, prepare the veges.
8. 10 minutes before the squash is due to come out of the oven, heat a little coconut oil in a frypan and cook the chicken until cooked through.
9. Remove the squash from the oven and using a fork scrape out the inside of the squash.
10. Run a fork through the squash to define the spaghetti strands and top with chicken and veges.
11. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy!

KIWI-LAND! Foodie Favourite: Wilder and Hunt

A hidden treasure has been discovered in Auckland, New Zealand. Actually I discovered it about a year ago but am only just writing about it now, and as they’ve just expanded to a second store it seems like a great time to write about it!

Wilder and Hunt was possibly the first dedicated paleo café in New Zealand and wowee they do such a great job.

I’m going to come out right away and say that you should never say no to their smoothies. That chocolate elixir smoothie is like nothing else. Oh my gosh yum!

Their philosophy is all about convenience health food. Real food that is full of nutrients and has no grains, sugars or anything artificial. Their menu items consists of unprocessed meat, local vegetables, raw fruit, fresh nuts and free-range eggs. They use good fats like coconut oil, eggs, bacon, avocado, coconut flour and paleo chocolate.

As I mentioned they have amazing smoothies, yummy chia puddings, paleo cakes and cookies, paleo breads, paleo burgers (at the Ponsonby Store Only) and really yummy take home meals.

They’re continuing to expand and are just getting more and more popular so I would highly recommend checking them out and soon!

Wilder and Hunt can be found at

15 Maskell Street, St Heliers and 65 Mackelvie Street, Ponsonby in Auckland, New Zealand. Yum yum yum!

Dealing with Stress

It’s almost February! How did that happen? Once minute and it was July 2014 and was setting up this blog and then I blink and now we’re almost a month into 2015….! Getting deeper into the year often means the stress levels are really building up. Work is so crazy busy you don’t have time to get a thought in, or exams are looming causing you insane amounts of stress wondering whether you know everything you can possibly cram into your mind… Life is stressful. There’s no denying it and generally there’s no getting away from stress, but there are ways you can learn to help manage your stress.

stress-111425_640Managing my stress was one of the first things I learnt to do when I was sick. I got sick at the worst time in my schooling years. It was just before I entered my final three years of high school. In New Zealand that means entering the three years where you have exams where the results will matter for the foreseeable future.

I wasn’t good at managing my stress. I had no idea how to manage my stress. It took me two years before I realised how stress affected me. When I was under huge amounts of stress, my IBS would be aggravated something crazy. I got so sick I could barely leave the house. I was stressed about being sick which caused me to get worse… it was a vicious cycle.

It wasn’t until I went into my final year of high school that I began to recognise the pattern and I knew this wasn’t something that was going to be fixed by medication. This was something that needed to be managed by me. And me alone. No one else could help me with this. Stress is such an individual experience that no one else can tell you how to manage it. Like with your diet, you need to find what works for you.

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The first thing I did was revise how I approached my workload (at the time this was obviously school work, but I’ve kept up my efforts in minimalizing stress this way). I planned, planned and planned. Luckily I’m a very organised person, which helps, but I’d make a lot of lists, a lot of charts and then work to those lists. I figure out when the due date is and work backwards, giving me at least a couple of days if possible between finishing the work/assignment/project and having to turn it in. Sometimes a couple of days isn’t possible but a couple of hours might be. Obviously this doesn’t work all the time in the working world where you get something in and you have to have it completed within the hour. I work on the basis that I know these occasions might arise and so do my best to complete everything that I have on my plate as soon as possible so I have to time to deal with those last minute surprises.

It’s a very small thing but it works for me to keep those stress levels down. But what about some other ideas?

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Find your calm

I know I talk about mindfulness a lot, and that’s because for me it works really well to help keep me calm. I have a tendency to get quite tense muscles… to tense my whole body when I get even a little stressed. Even my breathing becomes faster. Mindfulness has helped give me the tools to deal with that, to help pull myself back to the present and away from the stress. It certainly took me some time to really reap all the benefits and lessons of mindfulness but it is completely worth it. If you want to try some mindfulness meditation for dealing with stress, there are some great links here

What are some other stress busters?

  1. Exercise! Getting out and moving won’t make your stress disappear but it can get you in the right state of mind to deal with the root of the stress. If will reduce some of the intensely powerful emotions you’ll be feeling, will help clear your mind and will make it easier to deal with the stress.
  2. Get More Sleep. Make your bedroom an oasis for sleep, not a place to work and think about all the things you need to do the next day. Take ten minutes before you go to sleep to relax your body and your mind. Write a list of your to do list for the next day and then relax. Aim to get 8 hours sleep each night.
  3. Mindfulness Meditation. Mindfulness meditation helps you relax and be aware of the here and now. It’s about the present moment and what is going on around you. It’s a really great technique to relax your mind and appropriately deal with the stressors that are getting you down. I’ve written quite a lot about mindfulness so if you’ve missed my previous posts, go back and check them out!
  4. Share with others. Sometimes it really helps take the weight off your shoulders by sharing it with others. Whether than means sharing the task at hand that is stressing you out, seeking another opinion or just needing someone to lend an ear for a while. There’s no shame in reaching out to others and I urge you to give it a go. It can provide you with some much needed support, it will quite likely help you relax a little and you may even find a solution to your problem!
  5. Make lists. I know I mentioned this already but I figured I’d pop it in here too. Making lists of what you need to get done, or the factors around the problem you’re facing can be really helpful to clear your mind and figure out where each piece of the puzzle fits.
  6. Start tasks early. If this is possible then I’m a huge advocate of this. The earlier you start, the more time you have to work on it and the earlier you can finish!
  7. Train your mind to stay in control. If you’re saying to yourself ‘there’s nothing I can do to solve this’, then it’s going to be very difficult to find a solution. Try saying ‘there is a solution to this.’ Take back your control and use it to find the answers you’re looking for.
  8. Take some time for yourself. This means do something you love to do. Go to the movies, have dinner with friends, do some exercise, or blob out in front of the TV. Do something that makes you feel GOOD. Do something that will uplift your spirits and give you a chance to forget about all the stressors out there in the world.
  9. Avoid using alcohol, smoking and caffeine as a way to cope. This one doesn’t really need that much explanation… It may seem like the way to solve your problems at the time, but in reality it’s really just creating new ones.
  10. Look for the positives. Adopt a positive attitude. Look for the silver lining, think about the things in your life you’re grateful for. I would even go so far as to write them down each day to help you remember the good things in life are still there.
  11. Perform deep breathing exercises. This will help improve airflow to your lungs and will actually help open up the mind a little, reducing the tension and eventually the stress.
  12. Learn how to say NO! If you have too much to do and too little time in which to do it don’t take anything else on! Learn to say no to requests and it will drastically help reduce your stress levels.
  13. If you’re unwell, take time out. If you’re feeling unwell, don’t feel that you absolutely must carry on. Even just a half hour break will help the body recover faster. Perhaps go and sit in the fresh air, or find a quiet place to lie down for a while.
  14. Avoid people who stress you out. If there is someone in your personal life who constantly stresses you out, try limiting the amount of time you spend with that person, or end the relationship/friendship entirely
  15. Look at the big picture. How long will this problem be around for? A day? A week? A year? It’s not permanent. Nothing in permanent. Is it really worth getting stressed and upset over? If it’s not then focus your attention and energy somewhere else.

How do you deal with stress? Do you have any additions to the list above?

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