Love Yourself

You all know I’ve been on this health journey for a good part of my life. I’ve spent many years finding my way through the prickles, trying to find a way to live without the pain and without the symptoms.

There’s another journey I’ve been on for the last ten years and it’s a post I’ve been reluctant to write. Talking about my medical problems has never really phased me. I’ve had to do that with multiple people since I was fourteen. Talking about what goes on inside my head and what goes on inside my heart is a totally different story.

It’s revealing and exposing and pulls all the strings of my insecurities and vulnerabilities. It’s not really something I talk about. It’s the kind of thing I paste a smile on my face and chatter a lot to eliminate awkward silences and try and appear 100% confident and secure in who I am.

It’s not the truth. But I’m working on it being the truth. I’ve been on this roller-coaster ride of a journey trying to teach myself how to love myself. Trying to be okay with who I am and trying to accept it wholeheartedly. It’s not easy believe me, but I wanted to share this post because I know, and I can see now, I’m totally not alone. Even the people who seem the most together deep down are riddled with self-doubt.

LucyHalePhotos-lucy-hale-25573413-500-366In fact, there’s a song that I really love called Nervous Girl. It’s sung by Lucy Hale and it’s so beautifully written. There’s one part of the song that I find just so accurate. The first time I listened to it I sat up and thought, “woah is this song written for me?” The first verse goes like this…

‘I’m that girl you think that’s got it figured out. But I walk around, with a head full of doubt. The cruellest words about me, come from my own mouth. … Yeah, I’m that girl, who wants what I ain’t got, who looks in the mirror and sees all that I’m not. Wish I could jump off this reckless train of thought”

The chorus ends with the words

I guess we’re all the same after all. Nervous girls.’

After that I started looking harder at the women around me. Those in my work place, those on my Facebook timeline… even those on the street or on the train. I realised there are so few girls who are actual secure within themselves. Girls who are confident and happy in their own skin. Why are we like this? Is it the media and tabloids and photo shop that has left us this way? Have we been conditioned to look down on ourselves?

I try to figure out where self-doubt begins. Is it in primary school where every second child is a bully? Or high school where the boys start to become attentive and make you feel small when they don’t even glance in your direction? Does it come from other girls making snide comments to make themselves feel better?

There was a game that some people used to play when I was a ‘tween’. It went something like this.

Girl A – “Oh my gosh, you’re so pretty.”

Girl B – “Oh thank you!”

Girl A – “So you actually agree with me? You think you’re pretty?”

Girl B – “Uhh…”

Girl A – “Wow, you’re so up yourself.”

The ultimate "mean girls" - not as fictional as you may think...

The ultimate “mean girls” – not as fictional as you may think…

I remember having this ‘game’ pulled on me when I was eleven. I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel. I didn’t want to be ‘up myself’. I very quickly learnt that I shouldn’t think much of myself, as that would be vain, narcissistic and self-obsessed. So I began looking for my flaws to remind me that I wasn’t great. Not at all. I think it pretty much spiralled from there.

A few years later I got sick. It made my view of myself that much worse. My body hated me. My body was rebelling against me and leaving me in immeasurable pain each and every day. Before I got sick I was really active. I played netball, basketball, touch rugby and I was on the dragon-boating team. I also went to (far too many) dance classes each week – jazz, hip hop, pilates, street, contemporary and musical theatre. I spent almost all my free time being physically active, or taking drama or music lessons.

Then suddenly I couldn’t do any of it anymore. I was diagnosed with my stress fracture in my back and a permanently inflamed ankle and all physical activity had to stop. That made my IBS and Endometriosis symptoms worse. My pain took over and I basically withdrew from the life of a teenager. I spent a lot of time with my family and occasionally still managed to go out and spend time with my friends when the pain wasn’t too bad.

3968254850_e9bb1a9651_zI piled on the weight. I was always ‘big boned’ with ‘child bearing hips’ as everyone used to say, but with all the exercise I did my body was toned and athletic (although I was still a goopy, awkward looking teenager!) I gained 16 kilos over a few months. I was hungry all the time. A symptom of my leaky gut I believe. I could honestly pack food away like it was no one’s business. And I wasn’t doing an ounce of exercise except for the occasional doctor approved aqua jogging and rehabilitation pilates, both of which I really didn’t enjoy. On top of that, I’d been put on depo provera in that hope it would help my symptoms. It didn’t. Most of that weight was a crazy amount of water weight which had even gone to my brain giving me awful headaches all the time.

You know the weird thing though? I was happy. Sure I was really good at not loving myself, putting myself down wherever possible, but I was okay with who I was. I was big and I didn’t obsess over it. I didn’t freak when I got on the scales or make charts about how many inches I was around my waist every month. I didn’t monitor what I put in my stomach, and at this time I had no restrictions on food, this was all before I cut out gluten, so I was eating junk to be honest.

I remember a tee-shirt I bought that year. I wore it a lot. And I’ve looked back on it many times and thought it a little ironic. The tee-shirt was black and had large pink writing that said ‘Love Yourself’.

I_love_meAnd the thing was, although I wouldn’t have admitted it, or accepted a comment like ‘you’re really pretty’, because it was drilled into my brain how bad it was to accept something like that, I DID love myself. I was okay with who I was. I was happy.

The following year I befriended a girl who destroyed all those mental barriers in my mind. She drilled into me on a weekly basis that I was far too big, that my nose was slightly off kilter – weird things like that. If I tried to eat crisps out of the giant bag of crisps she was eating, she’d take them away and give me a plate of rice crackers instead. She made sure I knew I was heavy, and therefore I didn’t look good. It wormed its way into my head like a parasite. It laid its eggs and that message infiltrated my brain 100%. I was bigger than I needed to be, and that was a bad thing. The fact I was happy didn’t register.

face-66317_640While I didn’t actually do anything to try and change things – I didn’t know how – I did let that parasite fester, feed me messages of self-doubt, self-hatred and shatter any self-esteem I had left. As it turned out, the following year my doctors changed my medication and I lost almost twenty kilos, making me skinnier than I had ever been. But the seed had been planted. I was no longer big, but it would never be enough. Other parts of my mental state were lacking. I was too much of a dork, I wanted to be smart, I wanted my lips to be smaller, i wanted my nose to be a little different or my teeth to not have any gaps… there was always something. That seed of self-doubt. That parasite that ate away self-love.

It wasn’t until I met my first love four years later that I realised in order to truly love someone else you need to be able to love yourself. That was the first time I realised it was okay to like who you are, to accept yourself, to accept compliments, to not care so much about what other people think or what the scales say (especially what the scales say – for the most part scales are a really bad way of monitoring weight loss).

It’s been a journey since then. Trying desperately to remove these ‘parasites’ from my brain. Trying to learn that loving yourself doesn’t mean you’re narcissistic, self-obsessed or up yourself. It’s not easy to try and find the way to self-acceptance. But Mindfulness has been a huge help in that. Accepting myself, accepting the present moment, and accepting things as they are, not wishing for them to change in anyway.

I’m not saying I’ve killed all those ‘parasites’. It’s a long journey but it’s an important one. It’s important you love who you are, accept who you are because otherwise you can be susceptible to others trying to make you bend at their will, you settle for less and you are worth so much more than settling for less than you deserve. You are worth the world. Each and every one of us are loved, each and every one of us are important.

10534150_755448004512715_78778413315713870_n

I have my ups and my downs, but I try to bring my focus back to the here and now. I have a family that loves me, a great job and wonderful friends. I get to talk to all you lovely people regularly, I fill my spare time with projects I love to work on and we, as a species, live in this incredibly beautiful and wondrous world. That’s what is important. Not the fact that I have gaps in my teeth that braces failed to fix, or a crater in my forehead from chicken pox, or stretch marks on my hips and extra weight on my thighs.

The people that love me don’t care about that. I’m the only one who cares. Well me and strangers that judge me on the street – but why care about the thoughts of someone who doesn’t know me for me, who just sees me in passing and will forget about my existence in the next 5 minutes. I used to worry about what each and every person – friend or stranger – thought of me. Now it doesn’t matter quite so much. Now I see, that’s not what is important. What’s important is that I’m happy in my own skin. That I hold my head up high and that I smile confidently in the mirror knowing that I can tackle anything that comes my way.

My next goal is to be able to look in that mirror and actually say that I love myself – I’m taking small steps.

What about you? Have you been on a journey to self-love? Do you want to start one? I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially as my heart is racing 1000 miles per minute after completely stripping all my walls down for you all!

Be kind to yourselves. Love and light to you all xxxx

Parfait Mess

Parfait’s gotta be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet!”

Donkey said it. And we know everything Donkey says is so true, even if Shrek “prefers his humming” Gosh I love that film.

IMG_2937I’ve been trying something new recently for my work lunches. Technically I originally made this for breakfast but it was so handy to make up and take for lunch and I just love being able to indulge in this delish parfait in the middle of the long work day!

A few weeks ago, I went to a café with my other half and a friend. My other half indulged in an Eton Mess (which looked AMAZING) and my friend grabbed a yoghurt parfait with granola. I was a little jealous. I couldn’t eat either. So I thought I’d take elements of both, combine with my favourite ever present ingredient (hello cacao) and throw them together to create something that can be eaten right throughout the day.

This parfait mess was the result.

IIMG_2942t’s nice and healthy and if you have an airtight (and spill proof) jar, it’s super easy to pop into your bag and take to work. Even better if you have a fridge at work you can chill your parfait in until lunch time. Some times I’ll make a couple of parfaits on the Sunday night and leave them in the fridge for easy lunches for the first half of the week. It works really well. Although I do get a lot of co-workers trying to figure out what on earth I’m eating. My favourite guess was a jar of vegemite (not even close) or a spoonful after spoonful of nutella (a little closer!)

Parfait Mess (Or Donkey’s Parfait if you’re a Shrek lover)

2 bananas
½ C full fat coconut milk
IMG_2943¼ C cacao powder
1 T chia seeds
2 teaspoons maple syrup (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 T cacao nibs
1 C frozen berries
½ C coconut flakes

Method

  1. Place the bananas, milk, cacao, chia, syrup, vanilla and cinnamon into a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Once blended, mix through cacao nibs
  3. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and place in the fridge for an hour to set.
  4. While the banana mixture is setting, place the berries in the blender and pulse a few times until they resemble a chunky puree.
  5. Layer the banana mixture, berry mixture and coconut flakes one after the other in a glass (or plastic) jar and keep in the fridge.
  6. It is best consumed within 24 hours but will keep in the fridge for two days.

Depression – a symptom of inflammation?

I’ve found my body tends to go in cycles. It’s like a yo-yo. A yo-yo my family get really sick of.

Feet_on_scaleEvery 1.5 – 2 years I pile on the weight. My face gets round, my butt sticks out, my boobs get huge and my belly protrudes like I’m pregnant. Given I spend so much time trying to keep my weight down (I have PCOS and family history of diabetes, I have to be super careful!) it really upsets me when this happens, as usually it’s no huge fault of my own.

The two most recent times it has occurred has been during a period of change. When I moved to New York and then when I moved to London. It happened on a lesser degree in between when I moved home to New Zealand.

urlI do have a theory. I get excited about all the new foods in the new country/city, or about the foods I’ve missed while I’ve been away, so I gorge for a month or two (never more) and then I settle into a routine. Eating healthy, exercising and generally being very careful. However the damage has been done. My hormones are out of control, my gut starts leaking, my body starts retaining fluid and I have inflammation throughout my body.

Usually my weight increases about ten kilos, and I know it’s not right because the scales creep past the numbers that when I’m otherwise healthy but eating badly and not exercising I can’t get past. I know where that point is, and when the scales fly past that number I know there is something wrong that goes beyond self-inflicted weight gain.

It usually takes something medical to get things under control again. Usually that involves going off a medication, or during my New York stint it involved taking my mirena out (that thing was no good for me.) The mirena had made me retain so much fluid that the fluid had reached my brain causing awful headaches and impacting on my usually perfect vision. Last year the trick was to go off the pills I had been on reasonably problem free for years. I wasn’t convinced it would work but within a month of stopping those pills the shape of my face began to reappear.

unhappy-389944_640Anyway, before I figure out and eliminate the cause of my weight gain, I start to get really down. I stop feeling like myself. My wardrobe no longer fits me, I feel sluggish and unhappy. It completely consumes me. I become obsessed. My partner tells me my new curves look good, and my friends tell me they don’t notice much difference but I don’t listen. I can’t listen because I’ve crawled into this hole of darkness where I become self-conscious. I don’t want to leave the house, or have my photo taken or for people to see me, especially people who haven’t seen me since before I put on the weight. I feel like they’re all going to go away and exclaim how much weight I’ve put on. It’s all in my head, I know it is but I feel like I must make some sort of comment about my weight gain to them so I’ve beaten them to the judgement. It gets absolutely mental, I know it does. Yet it’s a vicious cycle.

It was during one of these dark times that I discovered a new theory named the ‘Immune-Cytokine Model of Depression’. This is the only theory I’ve come across that finds a strong link between physical and mental disorders. ICMD views depression to be not a condition on its own necessarily but a symptom of inflammation. Or in medical jargon, “a multifaceted sign of chronic immune system activation” (Smith, 2010).

When I heard that, everything started to fall into place. I can trace this cycle of mine back to when I was 14. When I was first ‘depressed’…. It also happened to be at a time when I was being diagnosed with endometriosis, IBS, PCOS, leaky gut, as well as having a permanently inflamed ankle and a stress fracture in my back. I’ve always said, ‘I had so much going on, no wonder I was depressed.’ But what if it was a symptom of what was going on rather than a side effect?

psychosis-388874_640There has been research found that suggests depression is often found in patients who have  in severe, inflammatory illnesses, that patients with high levels of inflammation are more at risk of developing depression and remission of depression is often associated with the reduction of inflammatory. It has also been indicated that patients taking medication known to cause significant inflammation often develop severe depression.

It is thought this occurs due to chemicals called ‘cytokines’ which are produced during an inflammatory reaction. In fact, researchers have actually been aware that inflammatory cytokines produce a number of psychiatric and neurological symptoms since the 1980s, and these symptoms largely mirror the major characteristics of depression.

When I gain that weight, retain fluid and have inflammation in general, I know when I’m starting to get better because I feel it. I feel lighter and happier. Those depression symptoms start to fade and I’m able to crawl out of that dark space.

13899048311_c6544cb40c_zAfter that I just have to avoid the causes of the inflammation, which for me are, as I said, hormone, medication and diet induced. But as you probably know, inflammation is usually the cause of most modern diseases largely caused by our modern diet and modern lifestyles (hello life of sitting behind a computer screen, eating convenience meals and popping pills left right and centre to cure the thumping headache you’re getting from staring at that screen!) From that we spiral into a world of inflammation led disease and a society of largely unhappy people. Oh what a world we live in.

So what’s the best way to avoid it? If you’re on my blog you’ve probably taken steps to avoid that which causes inflammation and disease.

  • Eat real wholefoods food and avoid refined flour, excess sugar, trans fats and an overdose of chemicals and preservatives. Eat plenty of foods that reduce inflammation such as fermented food and foods high in omega-3.
  • Get plenty of sleep. People under estimate the power of sleep. I hear all the time, ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead’ or ‘I only need four hours a night and I function fine.’ Yes this may be true but how is your body feeling deep down inside? You should be aiming for 8 hours sleep per night for optimal health.
  • Obesity is shown to walk hand in hand with depression due to obesity literally being an inflammatory state. Therefore losing weight can help reduce those cytokines and help boost those happiness levels.
  • Gut health is where a lot of my depression cycles come in. Disruptions in the health of the gut, including the old leaky gut, intestinal permeability and general negative changes to the bacterial in the gut have both been proven to cause inflammation and consequently depression.
  • Exercise! There is a lot of talk about the benefits of exercise to boost endorphins and there is mounting evidence to suggest exercise can be as effective at lowering those cytokine levels as anti-depressants. (well actually, exercise produces cytokine similar to that of which causes inflammation first and then quickly produces anti-inflammatories which is probably why exercise can be really really crappy and then really really awesome in quick succession.)
  • Stress is generally a word with a lot of negative connotations attached to it, and while some stress is good, for the most part it really does contribute to depression by increasing the inflammatory cytokines. So de-stress yourself! Work on that mindfulness!
  • Vitamin D deficiency. I bring this one up because I’ve seen it first-hand. A person very close to me suddenly put on a decent amount of weight (given this person is naturally short and tiny, it was quite strange to see the change but hello inflammation!) and became so down. She hid herself in baggy clothes, she didn’t like leaving the house and her appetite was nothing like it usually is…. And she was embarrassed. She’s not a person who gets down or gets depressed. She’s happy and bubbly and always see’s the positive in things so it took her a long time to see a doctor. When she did she discovered she had a vitamin D deficiency which is linked to depression. She started taking vitamin-D tablets to get her dose up and within a few months was returning to her old self.

There are obviously many more causes of inflammation that we can take steps to avoid but these are just a few that springs to mind.

There is a wealth of information on this topic on the World Wide Web and I have listed a few of my sources at the bottom of this blog in case you’re interested in reading further. It’s quite ground breaking research and challenges much of the ‘depression is caused by a chemical imbalance and must be medicated to be doha_mums_depression_supportcontrolled’ or ‘depression is for sissys, get over it’ mentality. It’s not to suggest other factors might be at play to cause depression, and I don’t want to discredit any other ideas, studies or theories, I just found this particular theory really resonated with me and made a lot of sense as to why I’ve been in this vicious cycle of up and down with my emotions and my weight over the last fifteen years.

I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this theory, or experiences you have that support or debunk ICMD.

Sources:
Ronald S. Smith, 2010, Cytokines and Depression: How Your Immune System Causes Depression
Berk et al, 2013, So depression is an inflammatory disease, but where does the inflammation come from?
Dowlati et al, 2009. A meta-analysis of cytokines in major depression

Breakfast on the run!

I’m a big advocate of breakfast. I’ve never been one of those people to skip breakfast, ever. Despite how early it feels to be eating after you’ve just rolled out of bed, it is a vitally important way to kick start your metabolism.

IMG_2897It fuels your body with the energy you need to get you through the day. Not only that, but I love breakfast foods. I’ve been known many times in my life to have breakfast foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But why would you not want to? Breakfast foods just taste that much better!

The last couple of months have been insanely busy for me and despite being someone who has always made time for breakfast, squeezing that time into my mornings has been a little more challenging.

I always find breakfast on the run difficult. There really isn’t much on the market that I can eat without ending up with a stomach ache so I usually need to set aside at least 15 minutes in the morning to make my breakfast, whether it be porridge from scratch, or my banana-chocolate nice-cream.

IMG_2890On my current crazy-busy schedule I had two days where I didn’t manage to make time for breakfast. I paid for it all day. I was SO hungry, and consequently I over compensated later in the day. Oh vicious cycle.

Eventually I decided it couldn’t go on any longer and I needed something that I would be able to eat while running out the door, or pop in my handbag to eat while on the tube or once I got to my office.

I adapted my favourite winter porridge recipe and created these ‘Coconana Cookies’. They’re perfect for breakfast on the run and once I’m done eating I genuinely feel like I’ve had a decent breakfast.

IMG_2884In saying that, they’re also great for morning tea, afternoon tea and dessert so I wouldn’t hold yourself back at other times of the day – breakfast all day every day, hooray!!

Of course these beauty’s are paleo, gluten free, dairy free and low-FODMAP friendly! Woohoo

Coconana Cookies

4 ripe bananas
1 ¼ C desiccated coconut
1 T cacao

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 170C
  2. Mash the bananas in a bowl
  3. Add the coconut and cacao
  4. Mix until thick then shape into cookies on a baking tray.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes then remove from the oven. They may still be a little soft but once they cool they will firm up a little. I occasionally keep these little gems in the freezer to make them rock solid and more ‘biscuit-esque’.

Coconut Crusted Chicken

IMG_5463On my ‘plain diet’ there’s not an awful lot I can to in order to make my meals a little more interesting. This was one recipe I threw together one day and it seemed to work really well. Not only that but it tasted great!

Coconut flour is more versatile than I’d ever realised and while it’s quite an acquired taste I really love coating my chicken in it. This recipe CAN be pan fried but in order to make sure the coating doesn’t separate from the chicken it’s best to oven bake it. That makes the chicken that much more tender too!

I hope you enjoy it! It’s GREAT paired with sweet potato chips or potato wedges.

Coconut Crusted Chicken

IMG_5460Ingredients

Chicken, sliced lengthwise in half so it’s thinner (and easier to cook)
4 eggs
2 C coconut flour

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C
  2. Prepare the chicken by slicing it lengthwise in half so it’s easier to cook then set aside.
  3. Crack two eggs in a bowl and mix with coconut flour. The mixture will become very thick and crumbly.
  4. Now you’re going to have to get your hands a bit dirty. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly then take a small handful of the mixture and press it onto one side of the chicken. The mixture should be thick enough to bind together easily when pressed.
  5. When you’ve covered one side of the chicken with the mixture, flip the chicken breast over and cover the other side.
  6. Place on a baking tray and bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Pair with homemade chips or a side salad and eat your heart out!

 

 

The importance of happiness

“Keep doing your mindfulness” my mum continually reminded me.

One of my favourite mindfulness quotes stared out at me from the poster on my wall and I squeezed my eyes shut.

“It’s not as easy as that.” I said, frustrated. “I can’t be alone with my thoughts in the present, I can’t deal with the noise in my mind and my skills at mindfulness aren’t strong enough to overcome that at the moment.”

Mindfulness is the tool that is supposed to help keep me present, keep me in the moment, keep me calm and level headed…. But I’d lapsed.

I’d been on here preaching about the benefits of mindfulness, but in the meantime my mental state was spiralling out of control.

meditation-567593_640I was too miserable in my everyday life to even think about sitting down to get some peace and quiet. I was keeping my mind busy every waking moment to avoid myself sinking any further into the doom and gloom that I knew was beckoning me.

I read books, I chatted to friends, I watched numerous TV shows, I hit the gym to the point that I injured myself; I became obsessed with saving the animals of Africa and spent all my spare money donating to wildlife charities – this isn’t really a bad thing at all because our wildlife desperately needs saving, but it my problem was that I felt like I couldn’t save myself from the darkness, so I should spent all my time and effort doing my bit to save our planet.

I did everything I could to stop my mind from thinking. But when I turned out the light at night the shadows would come. I would try and put aside my thoughts from the day to sleep but those shadows wouldn’t let me.

139136870_4fadd2f255_zI couldn’t sleep, my hair was falling out at an exceedingly ridiculous rate and as night fell I would let the tears fall, desperately wanting to get all my travel done in Europe as fast as possible and move back home to my security blanket.

There are a number of factors that contributed to this. My health has been pretty crappy this year, and continues to be a daily struggle, my weight – while I’m slowly getting back to normal – still plays on my conscious, but the biggest factor was my job.

I’m a strong believer that you have to be doing something you’re passionate about. You have to want to get up and go to work, you have to love the work you’re doing, and truly believe in it. I had that before I moved to the UK. I had a job I adored and working there every day was a joy. What a difference it makes to your entire being to be happy in how you live each day.

When I moved to the UK I was desperate to find a job that I loved, that I was happy in and that I would stay at for the duration of my time over here. After three months of no job offers that was becoming increasingly difficult. I was running out of money and needed to be employed ASAP but I still didn’t want to take just anything.

Screenshot_1I wanted to do something that was worth getting up in the morning for. And despite leaving my interview thinking ‘that was the strangest interview I’ve ever had, he has no idea what he’s looking for’, when I was offered the job, I took it.

I felt very early on that the job wasn’t right for me. Not just the way the organisation worked, but also the leadership of my team, the lack of support, lack of opportunity and the constant obstacles we faced in terms of trying to get anything done. It left the team exhausted, shattered and completely demoralised.

While I adored the people I worked with, it got to the point that getting out of bed each day and heading into work was a constant struggle. Getting through the day was a mission. My reprieve was during the evenings when I’d get to chill out and do my own thing, but then the lights would go off and I was reminded when I woke up I’d have to suffer through another day. It was no way to live, and it was increasingly obvious.

meditation-567593_640I gave it so many chances. I tried to change things for the better, I tried to hold on and make the most of it, but when I spent two months working on a big proposal only to have every one of my ideas blocked, when I couldn’t sleep, when I couldn’t get through the day without tears and when I was doing everything possible to distract myself from reality, I knew it was time for a change.

I tentatively started applying for jobs here and there, and found one that looked promising back in the world of the arts. Essentially it was a dream job. I was shocked to get an interview, even more shocked to get a second interview and completely blown off this planet when I was offered the job. In fact I was so overwhelmed I hung up the phone, sat down and sobbed.

One of the girls I was working with said when I arrived at the office that day with a smile so wide she knew immediately I must’ve got a new job. She said, “I’d never seen you look so happy.”

Because the reality was, she was right. I hadn’t felt happiness like that in months. I felt free and full of potential. I no longer was looking at houses to buy back in New Zealand or desperately planning all sorts of travel breaks across Europe to get home sooner. In fact I started planning for a longer period of time in the UK. I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders and felt like I could breathe freely again.

10388200_643997212378206_4522497866131990306_nThe thought of all the opportunity and all the potential that the future holds for me in this new job is overwhelming and so incredibly exciting. It hasn’t entirely sunk in yet but I feel like I’ve been handed a lifeline.

The tears have stopped, and the relief and happiness coursing through my veins is immense…  The sleepness nights haven’t quite disappeared and the worry that it will all be snatched away from me somehow is still worrying me. I still feel a huge sense of uncertainty, particularly in what the future will bring (I like knowing exactly where I’m heading for the next few years, and now I don’t have a lot of idea…) but I’m filled with something I haven’t had in a while. Hope.

My mind is finally quietening down, and I’m less inclined to need to stay busy to distract myself from reality. I can get through a daily mindfulness session without the shadows grabbing me and making everything worse.

The only way now is up. And I can’t wait!

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The Rise of Raw

Over the last two years or so I’ve noticed a huge increase in raw food products becoming available. Many paleo recipes you come across might ask for raw honey or raw cacao, and you might stumble across a stall at the local market selling raw food dishes.

But what is this raw food movement all about? While I don’t follow a strict raw food diet, I certainly love eating raw when I can and highly recommend (from a healthy, delicious taste perspective) to give some raw food products a go!

So raw foodism, also known as rawism is basically a diet that only allows you to eat uncooked (meaning never heated above 42 C/118 F), unprocessed and often organic and wild foods. Just as nature intended. It’s quite an awesome way to eat actually.

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Raw milk is A-OK!

Raw food diets include a selection of raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, sprouted whole grains, fish, eggs, meat and raw dairy products (non-pasteurised and non-homogenised) such as raw milk, raw milk cheese and raw milk yogurt. You can also eat unpasteurised fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha or sauerkraut. Raw foods are basically those foods that are ideal for human consumption and irritants and stimulants such as coffee, alcohol and tobacco should be avoided along with heated fats and proteins like fried oils and roasted nuts.

So why eat raw food? Well, the biggest reason is that when you heat food above 45ﹾC you kill the enzymes in the food. Enzymes of course are what help you digest your food. Your body does have the ability to create its own enzymes but those enzymes aren’t as effective and efficient as the ones that were destroyed in the food’s cooking. The process of creating your own enzymes isn’t easy and will leave you feeling tired and heavy after a cooked meal (we’ve all been there, let’s face it). When your body has to create its own enzymes your food is not broken down as well and therefore is much harder to digest. This results in the food starting to rot and ferment in your intestines leaving the parasites with a higher chance of survival.

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There’s nothing like good quality raw fruit and veg!

Secondly, we should be eating alkaline foods. Acidic foods makes your body a feeding ground for disease and when you cook your food it changes the food’s pH levels making it acidic. Yikes! Not only that, but when you cook food it converts the previously easily absorbed minerals into inorganic (hard to absorb) minerals. The cooking process also destroys most vitamins and according to raw foodies, it destroys the life force of the food. When you cook your food you’re basically killing its energy and you end up eating dead food. As they say, a raw seed will grow, a cook seed won’t. When you cook it, you kill it and with it you kill the energy, whereas if you’re eating raw, live food, that live food’s energy will transfer onto you.

Raw foods typically include bacteria and other micro-organisms that aid digestion and your immune system in general by populating the digestive tract with beneficial gut flora

It’s a different perspective on eating, but I think it’s great! I don’t think I could personally sustain it 100% of the time, or even 90% of the time, but I certainly like to eat raw foods occasionally. It’s really quite similar to paleo in a way, just without the cooked element and it’s likely you’ll see many paleo-dieters promoting the raw lifestyle as well. Rawism is also hugely popular among vegans and vegetarians.

It is said if you eat a 75% raw lifestyle you will see significant changes in your wellbeing including more energy, you won’t need as much sleep, weight loss, clearer skin, clarity of mind, better memory, improved fertility, improved immune system and it can help prevent diabetes.

Aside from the benefits to your own body, eating a raw diet can be hugely beneficial for the planet. The main reasons for this is

1)    Nagzira_Tiger_By_Vijay_PhulwadhawaAnimals – The fact that on a raw food diet you typically don’t eat meat, therefore you’re no longer taking part in killing billions of animals each year to feed out meat hungry stomachs.

2)    Deforestation – the fact that in order to sustain our over-consumption of animal products we’ve dug ourselves into this hole that is deforestation. Imagine the land mass of Greece. Now imagine a forest that size that disappears completely over six years (displacing so many poor animals). That’s exactly what happened in Brazil due directly to cattle ranching.

3)    Organic foods! So many of the foods you eat on the raw food diet are organic! That means no awful pesticides, herbicides or fungicides running through your body. It also means you’re choosing to support farmers who refuse to spray these toxins into our environment. Woohoo!

4)    Less Rubbish – you’re not going to be throwing away endless wrappers and plastic containers when you are on the raw food diet so hurrah, your garbage footprint shrinks a little!

Let’s not forget I’ve said the raw food movement is awesome and while I’m not willing to adopt it completely myself, I love me some raw food now and then, but I feel I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t raise a few concerns about the diet.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine raw foods are thought of as being too “cold” and therefore requiring too much body energy to digest. Raw vegetables in particular are thought to be hard on your digestion and your gut as they often have cellulose and other fibrous structures that our stomachs struggle to break down. I’m sure you’ve heard that saying that cows have multiple stomachs? Well it’s true. They have extra stomachs to help break down and digest the hard-to-digest plants and grasses they eat… we however aren’t lucky enough to have extra stomachs (imagine the extra desserts we could pack away if we did!).

Starchy-foods.Due to our modern diets, we are eating so many foods that our bodies simply can’t digest and this means our ability to digest food at all has been significantly weakened which can cause those symptoms I know too well – bloating, indigestion, constipation, diarrhoea, weight gain, malnutrition, lowered immune system and food allergies (sounds a lot like leaky gut doesn’t it?!).

I believe the raw food diet can be good occasionally for digestion, but for the most part I avoid eating a full raw food diet because of these reasons. Because I have found myself wondering why my body won’t digest all the raw vegetables and why my stomach is suddenly twice the size after eating some carrots. So instead of fully adopting a raw food diet, I tend to say my diet is 65% raw. Like everything, it’s up to you to figure out if a raw food diet works for you or not. If you wish to make the foods slightly easier to digest, consider steaming, baking or sautéing your foods a little.

If you’re not able to digest these foods, it’s quite likely you’re not absorbing the nutrients in those foods. Most of a vegetables nutrients are stored in the tough fibres which can only be accessed and used by our bodies if we are able to break down those vegetable fibres. Cook your vegetables on a low to medium heat and that should be enough to help break those fibres down so you can access the minerals and nutrients.

I hope she won’t be too mad at me for bringing this up, as it’s her story to tell, but my little sister suffers from thyroid problems. For the most part she keeps it under control by medicine, her diet and plenty of exercise but occasionally it jumps up and makes her life miserable. Many foods that are promoted on the raw food diet – kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, mustard greens and brussel sprouts contain goitrogens, a naturally occurring compound that has the ability to block thyroid function. For someone like my sister, who already had a weakened and compromised thyroid function, eating these foods raw can be a really bad idea as goitrogens can worsen the ability of her thyroid to produce important hormones. However, if she cooks these foods she’ll be safe to eat them as goitrogens can be deactivated by heat.

3818358646_9e374a109f_zIf you’re interested in trying the raw food diet, by all means go right ahead but take the cons on board and monitor how your body reacts. Of course, it’s great for us all to eat raw foods from time to time – I love me a daily raw salad, and raw banana ice cream for breakfast, and I LOVE a good piece of raw cake now and then but if you’re eating a raw food diet, you may want to ensure it is not contributing to any other health issues you have.

On another track, if you live in London, or at least in the UK, I seriously, seriously recommend Mr Prempy’s. They make the most amazing fully organic raw cakes and they’ve even started making raw toffee fudge – it’s delicious! Track them down, see for yourself! I should issue a warning though if you’re following low-FODMAPs, many of their cakes have cashews as the main ingredient which is of course of of the worst fructans. If you’re okay with cashews, dive in, if you’re not, they have a few other cakes that are made with almonds or oranges, so still check them out!

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