These two themes kept coming up

The summer holidays are over. Uni has started again and the new term has started, and the greatest news is I’m still loving all the lectures! 🙂

The last one, just before I left to catch the plane from London back to Malaysia, was on Female & Male Health. OK, admittedly, that doesn’t sound so interesting. But here’s what’s so exciting about the topic. It’s all about understanding how our hormones work, how we metabolise them in our bodies and how they can go out of balance.

For those of us who are well into or even past our 40s, the symptoms of unbalanced hormones can show up as poor sleep, fatigue, irritability, hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, itching skin, memory loss, low libido, weight gain and more. It’s no surprise then to wonder if our best years are behind us and to question, “Is this it? Is life downhill from here on out?”

That’s exactly how I felt when I was 48.

Now, here’s the thing. Because the degree I’m doing is based in Functional Medicine, we don’t much care about the label given to a condition as such. Instead, we look at where or how the body isn’t functioning optimally and then work to get to the underlying root cause of that imbalance. Yes, lab tests often help to guide us in understanding exactly where these imbalances are, so that they can be addressed. But, regardless of that, two themes kept coming up, again and again, in virtually everything we looked at, which don’t require lab tests.

These two themes were the very ones that helped me, after I read that book that transformed my perspective from always and secretly wanting to lose weight, to understanding that food “tells” our bodies what to do. Putting it another way, food actually communicates to the hormones in our bodies. This was a major light bulb moment for me. And it’s also exactly the lightbulbs that happen for my coaching clients.

Many of us have mistakenly placed all emphasis on calories and calories only, without knowing that it’s the quality of the food that makes the difference, because of the messages it carries. For example, eating certain foods tells your body to pile the weight on, and other foods tell your body to build muscle, while some foods put your body into physiological stress, and other foods can calm you down.

So, the foods that you choose have a direct impact on either helping to keep your hormones in balance or helping to kick them out of balance. Which means, that the foods you choose to eat can have a significant impact on your experience of those symptoms I mentioned above.

Now, remember how I said that in Functional Medicine, we look to get down to the root causes?

Drum roll now please, for the two themes, over which you actually have more control over than you might think and which go hand in hand. They are:

  1. Normalise weight
  2. Normalise blood sugar and insulin levels (insulin itself being a hormone)

It may not sound so sexy when put like that, I know. But if you really want to make a difference to your energy levels and how you feel in yourself and about yourself, then this means choosing foods that help you to do just that.

Here’s how in a nutshell

  • Scrap the C.R.A.P. – Caffeine, Refined sugar, Alcohol, Processed food. These throw your hormones out of balance.
  • Make protein and non-starchy vegetables the foundation of all your meals. There’s plenty to choose from – salmon, eggs, cottage cheese, tuna, chicken…. Protein will fill you up (protein takes longer to break down), and help to balance your blood sugar levels to ensure you have energy throughout the day without experiencing hunger pangs or sugar dips.
  • Add some healthy fat – olive oil, avocado, raw nuts and seeds… These help you to feel satisfied and are also needed by your body for optimal functioning.
  • Keep starches low, focusing on protein, non-starchy vegetables and healthy fats to keep you filled and satisfied.

Now, to get your ideas flowing as to the types of meals you can have from focusing on those 4 things, here’s a list to get you going.

Your starter list of meals to try:

Soups

  • Coconut cream of Carrot, Orange and Ginger Soup with Chicken garnished with almonds
  • Creamy Cauliflower and Salmon Soup with Roasted Crushed Pecans

Salads

  • Thai Style Chicken Salad with Cashews
  • Spicy Chicken Wings with Roast Cauliflower/Roast Peppers
  • Tuna Salad with Avocado
  • Chicken roasted in cumin and coconut oil, with quinoa, celery, apple and cashews/almonds
  • Tuna, asparagus & orange
  • Prawn lettuce wrap – red peppers, cucumber, lettuce, thai dressing, chilli, coriander
  • Chicken with roasted cauliflower, sweet potato and caraway
  • Ground turkey fried in chilli and cumin, served with avocado, greek yogurt salsa, tomatoes and romaine lettuce

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Red Curry Prawns/Fish Laksa with Basil/Coriander, Lime & Chilli
  • Salmon Cakes with Mango and Coriander Salsa
  • Simple Baked Salmon in Coconut Milk
  • Ginger & Sesame Baked Cod or Salmon with Bok Choy
  • Roast Chicken with Caraway, Fried Mushrooms and sugar snap peas
  • Stuffed Peppers with tuna, basil and pine nuts
  • Caraway, Sweet Potato and King Prawn Chowder – here’s the recipe
  • Beef Bourguinon (no added flour)
  • Steak with Herb Butter/Chimchurri
  • Roast butterfly of pork fillet with rosemary
  • Pan-grilled pork fillet in thyme and lemon served with apple and chilli slaw (cabbage & carrot) in yogurt, mustard and white wine vinegar dressing, plus coriander

Snacks

  • Almond Butter & Celery
  • Apples and Turkey with Cheddar
  • Berries & Yogurt
  • Homemade Sunflower/Sesame/Almond Crackers
  • Easy-to-make Paleo Bread – Go on – give it a go!
  • Prosciutto & Pears
  • Chia Seed Pudding

Desserts

Not a bad list, eh? And when you cook those meals and serve them up, many people don’t recognise that it’s actually healthy food, because it looks good and it tastes good.

Alright, maybe one of these days I’ll get my act together and post recipes and photographs. That said, documenting things really aren’t my strong point, so please don’t hold your breath, but feel free to remind me!

Now over to you. How will you change some of your food choices today?

Make your next years your best years.

I don’t think they knew about phytonutrients

Jeff and I were sitting in one of our local eateries – Yeast in Mid-Valley, KL. A young couple were sitting next to us, having brunch. At the end of their meal, we noticed their plates – cleaned out completely, except for…..the vegetables.

There, a pile that covered half their plate, the red radicchio, green curly endive, tomatoes, other leafy greens, carrots,… you get the picture, I wish I’d taken one. Some years ago, I wouldn’t have noticed. But since coming to understand the value of eating nutrient-dense foods, I was…well, gob-smacked.

Did they know and understand the value of the food they’d just left behind? They hadn’t just left a bunch of leaves on their plate, they’d left behind a whole load of valuable phytonutrients.

It’s these natural compounds that give plants their different and distinctive colours – green, red, blue, purple, yellow, orange, white – all the colours of the rainbow. Although not labelled as “essential” nutrients, you’d get sick if you didn’t have them. They encompass antioxidants, like lycopene, anthocyanin, beta-carotene, and other nutrients such as isothiocyanate found in cruciferous vegetables.

In fact, these phytochemicals are produced by the plant to protect it against environmental stressors, and when we eat them, they “tell” our bodies to adapt and prepare for those environmental stressors too, which is one of the reasons why it makes sense to eat local. Amazingly clever, don’t you think? It’s called “xenohormesis”.

Phytochemicals help boost the immune system, help the body get rid of toxins, stimulate the death of cancer cells and even promote healthy oestrogen metabolism, among other things. They’re also associated with reducing the risk of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, as well as decreased risk of dementia or cognitive decline. And get this, the University of Otago also found that consumption of more fruits and vegetables was associated with greater flourishing in daily life.

So, are you getting your five-a-day? Actually, throw that straight out of the window! Why? Because it’s a public health message – meaning that it’s aimed at the lowest possible denominator at which it’s considered that people might be likely to implement it, not what’s optimal. If you really want to make a difference to your health, then aim for 8 or more servings of vegetables and 2 of fruit every day, in as many different colours as possible. Start where you’re at, and go from there, increasing your number of servings gradually until you get there.

It’s so totally worth it.


And here’s a really interesting article you might also like to check out – NY Times – Breeding The Nutrition Out Of Our Food

 

 

What a way to be reminded – self-care

I know. It’s been a while. It was late June, I was in the final throes of revision for my final Year 2 exams and it was all too much, and I stopped writing.

Now I can hardly believe that two whole months and some have passed by.

After an extraordinarily crazy month of May with being continually on the move and having hardly any rest and relaxation whatsoever, and then moving straight into the final run up to the exams at the start of July, I started to feel burnt out, to the extent that when the exams were over, I couldn’t bring myself to write. Truth be told, I couldn’t bring myself to do other things besides too. The many things I’d planned for after the exams, and had been looking forward to, didn’t make the light of day.

Not a great way to be reminded of the importance of self-care, but it was a good reminder.

Self-care is such an essential part of our well-being, and yet, it’s something that many, women in particular, forget about – whether it’s because we take on too much, don’t make the time, or feel guilty putting ourselves first.

We really can’t be there properly for others if we don’t fill ourselves up first. How can we be the best partner, wife, mum, and all those other roles we have, if we’re too tired, or too stressed, or too irritable? Not to mention the potential for adrenal fatigue, where the body becomes too worn out to function properly.

Taking just 20 minutes a day (and more, if you can) to spend some time outdoors, or do some deep breathing, or meditation, or dancing, or getting a massage, or cat nap can make a significant difference to your vitality. We know this, but we think we don’t have the time, so we push away the messages from our body and carry on, like that Duracell bunny.

But if we don’t make the time, our body will make us make the time.

Don’t do that. Take the time for self-care. Here, now, today. As the question goes, “If not now, then when?”

Make your next years your best years.

Love

Veronica
xo