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How Adult Coloring Is Bringing Sexy Back

A number of years ago, when I first came to coaching, I decided that I would follow my own advice to clients and take art classes, not for any other reason than to have fun. I found a small group of friends who were also up for it, and then, for 8 Saturdays in a row, we’d show up at Sheila’s (our art teacher’s) home.

We learned how to draw, we learned about perspective, color and the different mediums, from charcoal to acrylics to pastels to watercolor and more. For the first time in my life, my intention was not so that I could draw well or paint well or create a picture that I approved of (in other words, judged), but purely to enjoy something for the sake of it. It also helped me to become less critical of other people’s pieces of art.

But more than any of that, every Saturday morning, my friends and I would emerge from Sheila’s house as gleeful as children in kindergarten.

Now, you’ve probably seen the craze for adult coloring books. They topped bestseller lists in 2015 and it doesn’t look like it’s going to go away anytime soon. People love it! Why is that?

Well, it seems that coloring helps relieve stress, and we are living in a time of great stress. With constant changes in our roles in the world, how we view ourselves, and the frantic pace at which technology is developing, it probably comes as no surprise that a mindful, meditative task that focuses on repetitive movements helps relieve stress by forcing us to be present in the moment. It’s a form of waking meditation.

Further, the back and forth motion of coloring engages both sides of the brain, while turning off the part of the brain responsible for situational awareness (the frontal lobe). It satisfies the creative side of our minds which often may not get a look in and goes some way to explaining why it can be so relaxing.

It can also give us a sense of accomplishment when we finish the coloring in of a picture, and then it allows us to indulge in the gift of giving because they make fabulous personalized presents for friends and family. And let’s face it, being in a relaxed state is also a wonderful gift you can give both to others as well as yourself.

So How Exactly Is Adult Coloring Bringing Sexy Back?

It all has to do with cortisol.

But hold on, what exactly is cortisol? Well, cortisol is our “stress hormone”, produced in our adrenal glands.

It rises and falls in correlation to our circadian rhythms, rising in the early hours of the morning to help us wake up and get out of bed, and then falling again at night-time, helping us to go to sleep and stay asleep.

When faced with a stressful “fight or flight” challenge, cortisol is the hormone that kicks into action, bringing glucose into our bloodstream for energy needed by organs deemed critical for handling the stress, such as our brain, lungs, heart and skeletal muscle. At the same time, it shuts down functions such as reproduction, digestion and the immune system, which are deemed as non-essential to the situation at hand.

Sounds good, we think, except that our modern lives are filled with one stressor after another – ongoing pressures at work, over-doing it at the gym, not eating enough, the challenging conversation with your partner, lack of sleep, and on and on. What happens when an individual experiences ongoing stress without adequate coping strategies, cortisol levels remain high. It’s this chronic elevation of cortisol that has many potential repercussions. Here are some of them:

  • It causes a redistribution of fat from the buttocks and thighs to the abdomen
  • It can cause insulin resistance
  • It can cause fluid retention and high blood pressure
  • The immune system continues to be “down-regulated”, as well as your reproductive and digestive systems
  • It induces the breakdown of muscle, bone and connective tissues

Let’s put it another way.

  • You develop a pot belly, whether you’re a man or a woman. As a woman, you’ll lose your waist and shapely feminine figure and get fat around the middle.
  • You’ll increase the likelihood of becoming sick with conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and fatty liver disease.
  • You’ll look puffy and bloated, weigh more and put your heart and kidneys under more stress.
  • You’ll catch more colds and infections, your fertility could be affected and you’ll get less nutrition from the food you eat, which could lead to food craving and weight gain.
  • You’ll lose muscle tone, look saggy and flabby, and set yourself up for osteoporosis. Not only that, you’ll find it immensely difficult to build muscle, no matter what your exercise or strength training routine.

Not sexy.

The bottom-line is that we do need cortisol, in just the right amounts and we don’t want it to be continually elevated. To recap, it is chronic stress without adequate coping or management strategies that lead to ongoing elevated levels of cortisol that does the damage.

“Make Art”

The good news is, “making art” can actually help to reduce our cortisol levels. What’s more, and can you believe this, researchers at the University of Turku in Finland actually ran a study that found that women with lower stress levels were perceived to be more attractive that those who were stressed out. This was also found by the University of Abertay Dundee in Scotland to be true about women finding men with lower cortisol levels more attractive. No need to have research to tell us that, I’m sure, we only have to look in the mirror or reflect on a day when we’ve been irritable and snapping at others to know that that’s not especially attractive.

See? That, is how adult coloring is bringing sexy back. 🙂 And I bet you never thought that adult coloring could have an impact on your health and fitness goals.

Have you ever tried adult coloring? Did you find that it helped you with relaxing and feeling good? Share with us. Come on over to the Facebook page and let us know.

Love

Veronica
xo

References

Girija Kaimal, Kendra Ray & Juan Muniz (2016) Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants’ Responses Following Art Making, Art Therapy, 33:2, 74-80, DOI: 10.1080/07421656.2016.1166832

Jones D. (editor). Textbook of functional medicine. Gig Harbor, Wash: Institute of Functional Medicine; 2010.

How Romantic Dinners Could Be Impacting Your Health And How To Handle It

Have you ever been to a restaurant where the lighting is so dim that you can hardly read the menu?

Then there are those restaurants that are so poorly lit that they even have to provide reading lights along with their menus. So annoying!

Now new research reports that we are 16 to 24% more likely to order healthy foods when in a well-lit room, compared to when in a dimly lit room. Oh goodness, could romantic dinners actually be impacting your health?

The research points to evidence that the level of lighting affects our level of mental alertness, and therefore the choices we make. The brighter the room, the more alert we are, and the less likely we are to trade-off between the short-term benefits of taste/pleasure and the longer-term benefits of health/wellbeing.

This is biochemistry at work.

Overall, ambient light influences physiological reactions in terms of melatonin production, core body temperature, heart rate, and cortisol production, all of which are correlated with alertness levels.

What’s more, sales records show that those in dimly lit rooms ordered 39% more calories! (Not that we are into counting calories per se).

On the flip side, however, a more dimly lit ambience lends itself to our relaxing more, eating more slowly, even eating less and enjoying the food more. So what gives?

Here’s the rub. The research also stated that choosing between healthy and unhealthy options essentially force us to choose between options that appeal to the head (healthy options) and those that appeal to the heart (unhealthy options). Those of us who have walked that well-worn path of dieting are only too familiar with this – the battle between head and heart, the battle between willpower and desire.

You’ll most likely have already heard or read some tips on how to handle eating out – tips like, take a look at the menu for the restaurant you’ll be visiting beforehand and decide what you’re going to order, so that you’ll be less likely to end up eating something less healthy instead. Or, eat before you head out, so you’re not going to feel as hungry.

But these tips don’t help you to sort out the root cause and to align head and heart. Instead, they mostly satisfy your head and not your heart, and then the chances are that you’ll come away feeling less than satisfied and end up eating something else that’s even more unhealthy to plug that gap of dissatisfaction.

If you’re a chronic dieter, then you know exactly what I mean.

We need to appease both head and heart, not cause a conflict.

The good news is that there is a way to align both head and heart. You don’t have to have an argument with yourself each time you’re faced with food. You can have peace of mind and you can actually have your piece of cake and eat it – literally.

And it starts way before you ever set foot in a restaurant, romantic lighting or not.

Food means many things to each of us. It can mean a whole range of emotions – guilt, happiness, celebration, judgment, punishment, reward, family, friends, comfort – and it can even speak to your identity – I’m the one with the sweet tooth, I’m the one who always has desserts, I’m the one who loves crisps/chips. It’s also our way of pleasing others – I have to finish what’s on my plate so I don’t hurt my mom’s/grandma’s/aunty’s/friend’s feelings, and so on.

Then, there’s the physiological perspective too – is your body under stress because it’s not been getting the nourishment it needs to get you healthy and keep you there? This is your body’s prime prerogative and anything that pulls your body away from that creates stress.

Stress is that tension that exists between the point of happy equilibrium and where you’re at. And studies confirm what we already know – that stress can lead us firmly down the path of overeating.

So how do you reduce that tension or stress and align heart and head?

Long before your trip to any restaurant and as a matter of course…

  • Nourish yourself with food that’s rich in nutrients, by eating whole food as much as possible. This allows your body to relax, because chronic dieting puts it into starvation mode, and eating nutrient-dense food consistently and regularly helps your body to realize that it’s now getting the nutrients it needs to repair and to build.
  • Next, nourish yourself emotionally by learning to let in positive self-acknowledgment. Here’s one way to do this – start receiving compliments with grace. When someone says something nice about you, simply say, “Thank you,” and let it into every pore of your being. Don’t qualify – “Oh, thank you but….”. Don’t be dismissive. And graciously allow them the honour of having made and observation and voicing it to you. Don’t make them wrong with a, “Thank you, but…”

Then on the day of eating out:

  • Go ahead and look at the menu beforehand. Let yourself run through what your head thinks you should have, and what your heart says it’d like to have. Then pause, and ask your body what it would like to have too.
  • At the restaurant, order what will bring you the greatest balance of peace of mind. In fact, do this for every meal. You’ll automatically make a better food choice when you let go of judgment and come instead from a place of balance. When you first start to practice this, it might feel more as if it is a minimization of the feeling of angst or guilt. That’s OK. As time goes on, it will feel easier.
  • When your food arrives, feast first with your eyes – this is part of what is known as your cephalic digestion and starts the digestive processes in your body – it’s very healthy. (Get them to turn up the lights so you can see!)
  • Then take your time, eat and enjoy, without guilt or judgement. Taste and savour. And allow yourself to feel the greatest sense of satisfaction and nourishment than ever before.

The biochemistry of food and emotion is far greater than willpower, which explains why diets simply don’t work. So regardless of whether the lighting in the restaurant is bright or dim, jarring or romantic, the key to the battle is to nourish yourself first and foremost, each and every day, then when you’re eating, you don’t have to battle with guilt or angst. Instead you’ll get to savor every mouthful to the fullest and experience the deepest sense of satisfaction around food.

References

Biswas, D., Szocs, C., Wansink, B. and Chacko, R. (2016) Shining Light on Atmospherics: How Ambient Light Influences Food Choices. Journal of Marketing Research In-Press. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1509/jmr.14.0115

Polivy, J., Coleman, J. and Herman, C.P. (2005) The Effect of Deprivation on Food Cravings and Eating Behavior in Restrained and Unrestrained Eaters. International Journal of Eating Disorders. 38:301-309

Polivy, J., Heatherton, T.F. and Herman, C.P. (1988) Self-Esteem, Restraint, and Eating Behavior. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 97(3):354-356

Stress and overeating. (2011) Source: from Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Health Publications

The 3 Secrets To Creating Healthy Habits

I know, I know. The idea of habit. Many of us dread the idea of new habits. But the truth is, our lives are ruled by habit and I think that the reason many of us think that changing a habit is hard is because we’re going about it the wrong way.

You brush your teeth each morning as a matter of habit. How you tie your shoelaces are a matter of habit. The order in which you put your clothes on in the morning is a matter of habit. The same goes for the journey you take to work. These are all behaviors that you do automatically, without even thinking. And that’s the key – the fact that habits are automatic behaviours.

Habits allow you to do things with less effort, in less time and less thought – even no thought. What’s not to like about that?

But on the flip side, habits can make or break the deal when it comes to losing weight, eating more healthily, or changing your lifestyle. And if you know the secrets behind habits, you’ll set yourself up for success.

Forming new habits by including these secrets have actually been put to the test in various studies. One study found that individuals who formed 10 simple diet and activity behaviours lost 2 kg after 8 weeks, compared to 0.4 kg in those who didn’t form any new habits. And at the end of 32 weeks, through these simple habits, individuals lost an average of 3.8 kg.

SO WHAT ARE THE 3 SECRETS TO CREATING HEALTHY HABITS?

  1. It’s much easier to choose a new behaviour (for example, eat protein with every meal), rather than give up an existing behaviour (such as, stop eating dairy), because you simply can’t build a habit around not doing something.
  2. Small changes lead to benefits over the long term. Small dietary changes that are sustained can help with weight management and regular light or moderate activity is better than none.
  3. The simpler the actions, the easier and more quickly they become habit.

PUTTING IT INTO ACTION

To put these secrets into action, and to create new and simple healthy habits, follow these 5 simple steps.

Step 1. Decide What You Want To Do

The first step is to decide what you want your new habit to be. Be as specific as possible. Don’t just tell yourself you want to exercise more or drink more water. Instead say something like “I want to go for a 30 minute walk every single day” or “I want to drink 2 liters of water every day”.

Step 2. Chunk It Down

This step is especially important, because this is the one that can significantly decrease the feeling of effort that it takes to form a new habit.

Chunk down your desired new habit into a simple action that you know beyond any shadow of doubt that you can and will be able to do every single day. This becomes your first action step.

For example:

  • For your desired new habit of, “I want to go for a 30 minute walk every single day,” you know that you would definitely do 10 minutes of walking every day; if you were to think about 15 minutes, there’s doubt whether you’d do that every single day. So, 10 minutes of walking every day becomes your first action step.
  • Similarly, for “I want to drink 2 liters of water every day,” you might decide that ½ liter is what you can categorically do every single day without fail. So, drinking ½ liter becomes your first action step.

Step 3. Plan It In

Be consistent. Decide when and where you will do your first action step. Will you walk 10 minutes a day every day during your lunch hour? Will you drink your ½ liter of water every morning as soon as you get to work? Schedule a reminder and then do it at that time and place, every single day.

Step 4. Chunk It Up

Once this first action step has become habit, chunk it up to the next notch. How many minutes of walking now feels like a done deal? 20 minutes? Great! That’s your next action step. 1 liter of water? Perfect!

Step 5. Repeat Until You Reach Your Goal

Congratulations, you’ve made a healthy habit!

What new habits are you going to adopt? Here are some ideas to get you going.

  • Keep a daily food journal
  • Chew more slowly at every meal
  • Eat only dark chocolate of at least 70%
  • Have a smoothie for breakfast
  • Go to bed by 10 p.m. every night

Now, over to you. Come on over to the Facebook page and share your new proposed habit with us!

Love

Veronica
xo

References

Gardner, B., Lally, P. amd Wardle, J. (2012) Making health habitual: the psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice. British Journal of General Practice 62(605): 664-666

Hill, J.O. (2009) Can a small-changes approach help address the obesity epidemic? A report of the Joint Task Force of the American Society for Nutrition, Institute of Food Technologists, and International Food Information Council. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 89(2): 477–484.

Lally, P., Chipperfield, A. and Wardle, J. (2008) Healthy habits: Efficacy of simple advice on weight control based on a habit-formation model. International Journal of Obesity 32(4): 700–707.

Lally, P. and Gardner, B. (2013) Promoting habit formation, Health Psychology Review, 7:sup1, S137-S158.

Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C.H.M., Potts, H.W.W. and Wardle, J. (2010) How are habits formed: modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology 40: 998–1009.

McGowan, L., Cooke, L.J. and Croker, H. (2012) Habit-formation as a novel theoretical framework for dietary change in pre-schoolers. Psychology of Health 27(Suppl1): 89.

Warburton, D.E.R., Nicol, C.W. and Bredin, S.S.D. (2006) Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. Canadian Medical Journal 174(6): 801–809.

3 Quick Tricks To Make Drinking Water A Simple Healthy Habit

OK, I have a confession to make. I should be drinking much more water here in Malaysia because the weather is so hot. The irony is, I drank more water in the UK even though the temperature is so much cooler there, primarily because I was vigilant in using one of the 3 quick tricks!

Most of us know that we should drink at least 8 eight-ounce glasses of water per day as part of our good health strategy. According to the European Food Safety Authority, adequate water intake for sedentary individuals needs to be 2 litres (68 ounces) per day for women and 2.5 laters (84 ounces) per day for men. This amount increases, depending on the weather, level of physical activity and if pregnant or not.

Water makes up about 60-70% of our body, and is present in our cells, tissues and organs. It is absolutely essential for life; while we can get away without eating any food for an extended period of time, we can only go for a few days without water. Maintaining the balance of water in our bodies is so important, that we have numerous amazing mechanisms to monitor and adjust the physiological functioning of various organs in our body to make sure we remain in a state of “euhydration,” defined as “the absence of absolute or relative hydration or dehydration”.

This diagram gives you a simplified indication of what actually goes on in our body to do this. No need to read all the detail unless you want to, but it’s good to glance it over to get a sense of how hard our bodies work to keep us alive through regulating our hydration.

Physiological mechanisms for regulating water
Source: Je’quier and Constant (2010)

REASONS TO DRINK PLENTY OF WATER

We get our water from what we drink, what we eat and what we produce internally. But we aren’t able to produce enough water through our metabolism nor is there enough in the foods we eat to fulfil our body’s needs, and so, we need to make sure that we consume sufficient water.

Water is needed as a building material; more is needed when the body is growing. It is also needed for the metabolism of the food that we eat (being involved in hydrolysis of proteins, carbohydrates, fats and other nutrients), as well as being a transport medium for carrying nutrients to cells and removing waste products or toxins from them. It is also the main constituent of blood and is essential for the proper functioning of our organs and our body systems. It’s no wonder that too much loss of water in our body is life-threatening.

Water also provides lubrication for our joints, mucus, saliva, gastro-intestinal secretions, and helps our cells maintain their shape and function – just think, water is taken out of our cells when we are dehydrated and this causes our cells to shrink. It also helps us regulate our body temperature, through adjusting how much we sweat or pee.

Water also helps keep you mentally alert. Studies have shown that even mild dehydration (1-2% of body water) can affect alertness, the ability to concentrate and short-term memory function, and can also affect mood and feelings of anxiety and irritability.

Further, dehydration can lead to the development of headache, as a result of reduced total blood volume and dehydration in the brain tissues. Some observational studies further note that this can also trigger migraines and prolong them. For those with water deprivation-induced headache, relief from consuming water was experienced within 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Water can also help you maximize your physical performance. Athletes commonly lose about 6-10% of body weight in water during high intensity exercise, but it was found that even with mild dehydration as low as 2%, physical performance was reduced. Intense exercise or high heat can lead to experiencing more fatigue, reduced motivation, an altered ability to regulate body temperature and reduced endurance. It can also affect the perception of difficulty, making exercise feel more challenging, both mentally and physically. Thankfully, replenishing our level of hydration can reverse this and also reduce oxidative stress that results from high intensity exercise.

What’s more, water can also boost your metabolism and assist with weight loss. In two studies, consuming just half a liter (17 ounces) of water increased metabolic rate by 24-30% for up to an hour and a half. Some of this effect was a result of the body heating the temperature of the water to body temperature, and hence, it is more helpful to drink the water cold. Remember though, that drinking water alone will not increase your metabolism enough to show any appreciable weight loss by itself, but when added to your other weight loss efforts it will help, plus it will keep you from being dehydrated – a major nemesis to weight loss.

Sadly though, the majority of us do not drink nearly as much as our body needs to function at optimal efficiency.

3 QUICK TRICKS TO MAKE DRINKING WATER A SIMPLE HEALTHY HABIT

“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.”
W. H. Auden (1907-1973)

Due to the way in which our thirst mechanism works, the feeling of thirst disappears before water balance is reached. So, how can you tell whether or not you’re dehydrated? Here’s a list of signs and symptoms:

Signs of mild to moderate dehydration Signs of severe dehydration
Dry, sticky mouth Extreme thirst
Sleepiness or tiredness Extreme fussiness or sleepiness in infants and children; irritability and confusion in adults
Thirst Very dry mouth, skin and mucous membranes
Decreased urine output Lack of sweating
Few or no tears when crying Little or no urination – any urine that is produced will be dark yellow or amber
Muscle weakness Sunken eyes
Headache Shrivelled and dry skin that lacks elasticity and does not “bounce back” when pinched into a fold
Dizziness or light-headedness Low blood pressure
Rapid heartbeat
Fever
Delirium or unconsciousness

Source: Mayo Clinic (2008) cited by Je’quier and Constant (2010)

Here are 3 quick tricks you can use to help get your daily water quota:

1) Eat water-enriched foods

About 80% of our daily water intake comes from drinking; the other 20% comes from the food we eat. Vegetables, such as lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes are 95% water. Fresh fruits like blueberries, apples and oranges are 85% water and are loaded with good nutrients and minerals; watermelon is 95% water. Supplementing your daily water intake with the recommend daily amount of fresh fruits and vegetables is a good way to ensure you are getting enough water.

2) Add flavor to your water

Adding flavor to your water does a couple of things. Firstly, it’s a simple way to make it taste better, which is not only great for a change, but also makes you more likely to drink it. And secondly, it can help provide some of your daily amount of vitamin C and replace electrolytes lost through sweating. You can add lemon to your water, for example. The juice of one large lemon has over 30% of your daily requirement of vitamin C and provides potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium. You could also try lime, cucumber, strawberries, kiwi fruit, ginger, mint – let your imagination run wild and try different combinations, like strawberry, basil and cucumber.

3) Put a day’s worth of water in a bottle

This is the one that did the trick for me. If you don’t track what you’re drinking, you’ll most likely not drink enough. A really easy way to keep track of how much water you’re drinking is to fill up a 2 liter (68 ounces) bottle with water and keep that in the refrigerator. You could also keep it on your desk, but getting up every now and again to grab your bottle from the fridge gets you moving which is another simple healthy habit (read why here). Keep drinking and refilling your glass throughout the day until the entire bottle is empty. This way, you’ll know you’ll soon get into the habit of drinking at least 2 liters a day, and you can gradually increase it to your own optimal level after that. Once you get used to drinking this amount of water each day, you’ll really notice how much better you feel.

OK! All set? Drink up more water for the week and let me know how you go!

REFERENCES

Boschmann, M., Steiniger, J., Franke, G., Birkenfeld, A.L., Luft, F.C. and Jordan, J. (2006) Water Drinking Induces Thermogenesis through Osmosensitive Mechanisms. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism Vol. 92(8): pp. 3334–3337

Boschmann, M., Steiniger, J., Hille, U., Tank, J., Adams, F., Sharma, A.M., Klaus, S., Luft, F.C. and Jordan, J. (2003) Water-Induced Thermogenesis. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism Vol. 88(12): pp. 6015–6019

EFSA NDA Panel (EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies) (2010) Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for water. EFSA Journal Vol. 8(3): pp. 1459-1507

Ganio. M.S., Armstrong, L.E., Casa, D.J., McDermott, B.P., Lee, E.C., Yamamoto, L.M., Marzano, S., Lopez, R.M., Jimenez, L., Le Bellego, L., Chevillotte, E. and Lieberman, H.R. (2011) Mild dehydration impairs cognitive performance and mood of men. British Journal of Nutrition Vol. 106(10), pp. 1535–1543

Je’quier, E. and Constant, F. (2010) Water as an essential nutrient: the physiological basis of hydration. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition Vol. 64(2), pp. 115–123

Paik, I.Y., Jeong, M.H., Jin, H.E., Kim, Y.I., Suh, A.R., Cho, S.Y., Roh, H.T., Jin, C.H. and Suh, S.H. (2009) Fluid replacement following dehydration reduces oxidative stress during recovery. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. Vol. 383(1): pp. 103-107

Popkin, B.M., D’Anci, K.E. and Rosenberg, I.H. (2010) Water, Hydration and Health. Nutrition Review Vol. 68(8): pp. 439-458

How Bone Broths Can Keep You Out Of Trouble

I have to confess that since living to Malaysia, there are a few things I’ve been missing. We don’t have an oven in my new home, so I’ve been missing roasting a chicken for dinner, and therefore, also my beloved bone broth.

I use my bone broth as a base for many of my meals. Not only is it delicious and gives great depth to the taste of the meal – be it a soup-based dish, a gravy to go with the roast or something like a chilli – it’s also highly nutritious. There’s a reason grandma would put on a pot of homemade chicken soup when someone got sick. And it’s also good for the soul.

But more than anything, bone broth is good for healing the gut. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said, “All health begins in the gut,” and if nothing else, this is surely the reason to indulge in bone broth – apart from that it’s tastes so dang good, that is.

Why is our gut so important?

If you think about it, although our gut is inside our body, it’s exposed to the outside – in that, we bring things from the outside into our bodies through our gut. Hence, it is a barrier between the outside world and the rest of our body. Then, it also digests our food and absorbs nutrients. If we don’t keep our gut healthy, our digestion could be impaired and so could our ability to absorb those precious nutrients – which means that even if you’re eating all the right foods, you might not be getting benefit from them, because of a damaged or less than healthy gut lining.

Step up, bone broth, to keep you out of trouble.

Bone broth is packed full of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, phosphorous and calcium. Then there’s collagen, gelatin, amino acids, and other compounds such as glucosamine. All these nutrients help to keep our skin and hair look amazing and to keep our joints healthy, while also being healing to our gut and throughout our body. Add to that the immunity boosting properties of a good cup of broth and it’s no wonder this has been praised for centuries.

The biggest difference between bone broth and regular stock is that bone broth is cooked for a much longer period of time – for 12-24 hours, and even up to 72 hours. It’s this lengthy cooking time that draws out all the goodness from the bones. You can use the bones from chicken, turkey, pork or beef, even fish, and it’s best to use bones from organically raised or grass-fed animals to ensure the highest quality of nutrients possible.

How to Make Bone Broth

It’s ridiculously easy to make, especially if you use a slow-cooker and you can then pretty much set it and forget it – until it’s done.

I find the easiest way to make bone broth is to start with a cooked chicken – hence my roast chicken dinners. But you could just as easily get chicken carcasses and use those instead. If using a roast or cooked chicken, simply pull the cooked meat off the chicken and serve it for dinner. Store any leftover meat in the fridge to use later on in a salad or use it for a quick chicken soup-based meal with the bone broth you’re about to make.

Put everything that’s left – all the bones and any remaining bits and pieces of meat – into a large pot that has a lid, or into your slow cooker. Make sure that your pot or slow cooker can hold enough water to fully cover the bones by about a couple of inches. Fill with plenty of cold water. The more water you add, the more broth you’ll get in the end and leave an inch of gap at the top or you risk the liquid bubbling over.

Next, add a good splash of apple cider vinegar to the pot. This step is optional. If you don’t have the vinegar in your pantry don’t worry about it. You can add a splash of red wine or white vinegar if you’d like. The vinegar helps get all the minerals out of the bones and into the broth. But again, it’s OK if you don’t have it. Your broth will be just as tasty and almost as good for you without it.

As a variation and to add a different flavor to your broth, you could also throw in some vegetables – a carrot, a stick or two of celery, an onion or a leek. Or flavor it with peppercorns and a bay leaf. But again, you really don’t need to.

Cover the pot with the lid and crank up the heat until everything comes to a full boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. If you’re using a slow cooker, set it on medium. Cook your bone broth for a minimum of 12 hours.

If you’re using a pot, be sure to keep an eye on the water level and that there’s always plenty of liquid in your pot and that the bones are always covered.

Of course you don’t want to simmer the broth while you’re out of the house or sleeping. Start the broth in the morning on a day when you know you’ll be home. Simmer it all day until you’re ready to go to bed. Turn off the burner for the night, but keep the broth sitting on the stove. In the morning, bring the liquid back to a boil and continue simmering. After it has cooked for at least 12 hours, the broth is ready, woo hoo!

You’ll have a clear, rich golden-yellow colored broth (if using chicken bones). You can either use it immediately or leave it to cool, and then strain the liquid into a mason jar or a kilner jar and store it in the fridge. After it’s been in the fridge for a few hours, you’ll notice that the broth takes on a jelly-like texture, which is exactly what you want. A layer of fat will form on the top – this is perfectly nutritious too.

Your broth will keep for several days in the fridge, or you can freeze it too and it’ll keep for a month.

Enjoy and let me know how you get on with it!

5 Simple Sugar Swaps to Help Boost Your Immunity

Sugar has been on my mind a lot lately. I’m spending more time in Malaysia at the moment and the locals here (I’m technically one too 🙂 ) just LOVE sugar. It’s in just about every food, and there are cake shops everywhere. Even Starbucks has far more varieties of cake available than in the UK.

I have to confess that I had been over-indulging too, and I know from past experience that if I keep that up for too long, it lowers my immunity. No surprises, I came down with a cold. The great news is that my diet as a whole is based on clean and nutrient-dense foods, and I knew exactly what to do to get back on track. As a result, my cold only lasted a day and a half and as I write you, I’m happily feeling back on top once again.

But how exactly does too much sugar affect your immunity?

Sugar Affects Your Immunity

One of the major ways in which sugar affects our immunity is through its impact on Vitamin C.

Many of us are already aware that Vitamin C, also known as ascorbate, plays a role in our immunity. We often talk about taking Vitamin C when we get a cold, for example. Vitamin C is used by our body to help our immune cells (white blood cells) to multiply, and it is these cells that ingest and neutralize pathogenic bacteria and viruses, keeping us healthy, through a process known as “phagocytosis”.

In 1972, Dr. John Ely identified that the level of availability of Vitamin C in our cells determines the rate and intensity of our immune cells to respond when needed, and discovered the “Glucose-Ascorbate-Antagonism” (GAA) theory.

You see, in order for both glucose and Vitamin C to enter our cells, they use what are known as receptors. Because they are chemically configured so similarly, they both use the same receptor – the GLUT-1 receptor. This receptor is activated in response to insulin, which is released when our blood sugar levels rise.

However, the glucose molecules engage much more readily with the GLUT-1 receptors than the Vitamin C molecules. It’s as if Vitamin C is queueing up for the bus (the receptors) and just as it’s about to hop on, glucose comes along, jumps the queue and hops on instead. And then the bus conductor says, “Full up, Vitamin C, move on or wait for the next bus”. This means that the higher your blood sugar, the less Vitamin C enters your cells.

In other words, glucose competes directly with Vitamin C and restricts it from entering your cells. Hence, too much glucose in your system will have a direct impact on your level of immunity.

So the bottom-line is that we do need a slight increase in our blood sugar level, which happens when we eat, in order to facilitate the movement of Vitamin C into our cells, but too much is where the challenge to our immune system comes about.

5 Simple Sugar Swaps

The question now becomes, how do you boost your immunity? Quick answer – reduce the amount of sugar you’re consuming to keep your blood sugar levels more stable, and amp up on your intake of Vitamin C.

Having been a sugar addict, I know how difficult it is to even think about giving sugar up. It’s not necessarily that you haven’t tried, but those “sugar demons” somehow always win out. It’s not necessarily “your fault”, because of the bio-chemical effects that sugar has on your body, the impact of which is far greater than all of the will power any of us can ever muster.

But the good news is, there are some easy and simple swaps that you can start with, beginning today, which will help you to reduce the amount of sugar you’re eating.

Here are 5 ideas.

  1. Instead of jam on your toast in the morning, try some sugar-free nut butter. I especially love almond butter. Or mash an avocado and season with some Himalayan salt and some black pepper or some chilli flakes and maybe even a squeeze of lime. Plus, if you love coriander (cilantro) as I do, sprinkle a generous bunch on top!
  2. Swap your bowl of cereals for a bowl of warm porridge oats. Top with a generous dollop of whole yogurt (not the low fat version, because this has a high level of hidden sugar) or milk or coconut milk, and some nuts and a handful of berries. Hold off on the honey or agave syrup though and use the berries to give your oats that sweet taste instead.
  3. Reduce your fruit intake and have a handful of nuts instead, or a handful of a lower sugar fruit such as berries.
  4. If you drink fruit juices, then swap these out for pure coconut water. Fruit juices are essentially only the sugars from the fruit without any of the other nutrients, such as fiber, while coconut water is low in sugar and contains electrolytes, and also tastes delicious.
  5. Cut down on the sugar in your tea or coffee. In fact, try completely going without. You might also swap this for herbal tea instead. There are some herbal teas that have a “sweet” taste to them even though they don’t contain any sugar and I found this immensely helpful when I was going through the process of handling my sugar addiction. Particularly good ones are licorice, mint and chai. My favorite brands are http://www.pukkaherbs.com and http://www.yogitea.com
  6. OK, so this one isn’t specifically a sugar swap. Eat plenty more Vitamin C rich foods, such as bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, dark green leafy vegetables, cabbage, lemons, limes and sweet potatoes. Many people often think of oranges first up, when they think of Vitamin C. This is good too, but remember, don’t overindulge on fruit as a whole.

What other swap ideas can you think of? As always, I’d love to hear from you, so come on over to the Facebook page and share your thoughts.

 

How To Eat For Health And Weight Loss

If you’ve ever been confused about what to eat to be healthy and to optimise your energy and your weight, you’re not alone. The world of healthy eating can be a minefield of confusion!

In the UK, the government issued guidelines on health, diet, lifestyle and wellbeing twenty years ago. But since then, there has been a lot of research and new knowledge gleaned in the field of nutrition and health and wellbeing… so is your thinking about what’s healthy for you been updated too? Or are you still holding on to now out-dated ideas, without realising that to be the case?

Now, the bottom line is that we are all bio-individual, meaning that each of us will respond or react differently to different foods and/or combinations of foods and/or relative amounts of the different food groups.

These guidelines provide the basis on which to build your foundation, and then you can tweak it from there.

Remember to download the 6 Keystone Tips Cheatsheet to Tame Your Expanding Waistline.

And also the BANT (www.bant.org.uk) “The Wellness Solution” Guidelines and “Fight The Fat. Beat The Bloat” Guidelines.

Once you’ve had a chance to read through the Keystone Tips and the Guidelines, just shoot me any questions you might have. Just click the “Ask Me” picture on the right and I’ll be very happy to help answer your question in a future episode.

Cheers

Veronica
xo

How To Remove The Angst And Reach Your Well-Being & Weight Loss Goals

Have you ever been frustrated that it’s taking you longer than you’d like to “get there”? Maybe you’ve hit a weight loss plateau and things just aren’t budging despite your keeping on track. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times in the past I’ve thrown in the towel and given up, even binged, simply because it all seemed like, well, “What’s the point of carrying on if I’m not seeing any results?”

Those were the days, before I understood about the way our bodies work. And today in my Bikram yoga class, I was reminded of it.

When we accept how nature works, and our bodies too, then we can relax, let go of the angst and reach our goals – ironically, more smoothly and quickly than if when we try and force it.

More haste, less speed. Such is the paradox of life.

Will you relax a little and let go of the angst?

Too Tired To Even Think About Exercise?

I haven’t been sleeping too well lately. I’ve been suffering with a frozen shoulder that aches most of the day and then wakes me up at night. Interestingly, in China and Japan, frozen shoulder is known as, wait for it, “fifty year old shoulder” and is attributed to an imbalance in hormones. Hmmm, imbalance in hormones. Sound familiar?

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I’ve also been reading that progesterone drops when we get into our 40s (by the way, this affects men too, but to a much lesser degree). It is a hormone that has a calming and relaxing effect. Further, it seems that tension in the neck and shoulders is often also a result when progesterone levels drop. I’m sure that it must contribute to “fifty year old” shoulder.

As if things aren’t bad enough already for us women over 40, lol, if you’ve been dieting quite a bit in your younger years, your adrenal glands are probably tired. Why? Because when you go hungry or get that dizzy feeling from lack of food, your body goes into stress mode, and your adrenal glands work hard to try and rebalance.

But not having known this at the time, we continued with the dieting, thinking feeling hungry is good for us, and so our adrenals have been overworked for many years. This may explain why many women often find that they don’t seem as able to handle stress to the same extent once they get into their 40s.

The long and short of it is that we end up carrying stress and tension in our body all day long for an extended period of time – years! Prolonged stress in the body drains energy, and also causes the body to store and hold on to fat, due to the continuing elevated levels of cortisol in the body and its cascade effect on insulin.

So on Friday, I took myself to a restorative yoga class. Restorative yoga uses props to support your body, so that you can relax into and allow the body to open with passive and longer held poses. Because the poses are still, some say that it is more about mind than some other types of yoga.

I confess that my mind wasn’t sure that it liked it. But my body loved it. I slept like a log that night. All night long.

How the stress of our modern lifestyle impacts our wellbeing

Now, here’s the thing. Work, commuting, financial concerns, a conflict with a co-worker or a difficult meeting – these are all seen as threats by our body, and this triggers a “fight or flight” or stress response. This causes a series of reactions. Your heart beats faster in order to provide as much oxygen as possible to the organs and cells, your muscles tighten and shorten in preparation for action and adrenaline is released, heightening your senses and causing your body to release energy into your body, so you can fight or flee, as needed.

This automatic stress response protects the body and is part of our survival mechanism. The trouble is, our modern day “sabre tooth tigers” never go away. We’re continually dealing with something that our body perceives as a threat virtually all day long. Remaining in this stress response for a prolonged period of time is known as chronic stress, and it negatively affects our overall health and well-being, including causing us to store fat, especially around the middle.

You might not even realise that some of the symptoms you may be experiencing right now could be a result of the continuous release of stress hormones and elevated metabolism brought about by chronic stress.

For example:

  • Digestive system issues such as stomach aches, nausea and intestinal irritability;
  • Impact on our state of mind, with racing thoughts, lack of focus, unreasonable worrying and pessimism;
  • Sleep quality is adversely affected;
  • Emotional and behavioural markers such as irritability, feelings of overwhelm, anxiety and low self-esteem;
  • Stress associated behaviours, for example, overeating or undereating or other nervous behaviours like nail biting and pacing or restlessness;
  • Muscular aches and pains in various parts of the body, depending on where the person holds muscular tension, as the stress response cause the muscles to shorten and tighten.

All these add up to energy being used up by our body to handle those stressors and don’t you think many of those symptoms are remarkably similar to some menopausal symptoms too?

How Restorative Yoga Can Help The Smart Woman Over 40

Let’s face it. You’re probably switched on, virtually all of the time.

Restorative yoga will act as a therapeutic antidote to that. It provides physical, mental and emotional chronic stress relief, that continues on after the class.

The poses stretch, lengthen, strengthen and relax tense muscles, and over time, reshape and improve the health and functionality of the muscles, the joints and organs. It has also been shown to relieve the immediate symptoms of stress related aches and pains. I certainly found that when a “crick” released in my left hip, the likes of which I’ve only ever experienced before in a cranio-sacral therapy session.

The conscious breathing and meditation calm the mind and nervous system, helping to re-establish mental focus and clarity. Restorative yoga helps to rebalance the body. It elicits the relaxation response, which helps to regulate stress hormones, lowering cortisol levels and triggers the body’s healing responses, both during and following practice.

This has a profound impact on various aspects of health, including the ability to lower blood pressure, help regulate blood sugar levels (and therefore fat storage as well as food cravings) and decrease anxiety.

Restorative yoga provides progressive therapy. This means that the benefit of each session builds on one another, when practiced consistently.

It’s been two days since I went to the class. I slept well last night too and I’ve decided to make this a regular practice. My mind and old thinking want me to do something more active. But physiologically, this is what my body needs right now.

Whether or not you choose restorative yoga or something else similar, you’ll definitely reap the benefits and wonder why you hadn’t started sooner. Give your body a break and get some of your energy back.

What deep stress-relieving practices are you going to choose? Come on over to the Facebook page and share.

Eating Healthy When You’re Crazy Busy

I fell off the wagon. What?!! Yes, my eating and yoga habits have become erratic and it doesn’t feel so good.

Without going into all the detail, our routine was disrupted and what with work and the studying, life got crazy busy. Plus, I discovered that I am sensitive to more than 20 foods and that threw me into the doldrums and I lost interest in cooking. I’m sensitive to my beloved dairy, and also to some of my rely-on staples, like asparagus and broccoli. Who’d have known that you could be sensitive to vegetables. Oh, and onions! And cod!

So although I had been trying to steer clear of those foods, I only managed it for the most part and everytime I ate something that my body is sensitive to, my eyes get a “blodgy” feeling or my fingers swell up and I definitely feel the water retention. I know, weird huh.

Now, 6 months later, I am finally coming to terms with it and I am feeling inspired to cook some delicious meals again and to put my body and my health right at the top of the list.

I didn’t forget about the L.E.R.F. Connection. I ate cleanly 80% of the time. Generally, that would have been perfect, but for those foods to which I’m sensitive, that’s not good enough. 80% doesn’t allow my body to heal. It has to be 100% of the time. Time to get back to “hard core”.

Some people say, “Oh but it’s OK in moderation”. Let me tell you, right up; it’s not. When someone has an allergy, which can be life threatening, people accept that they should steer clear of that food. But food sensitivities are insidious. They’re not immediately life-threatening, but they create ongoing low-level chronic inflammation in your body, which is linked with conditions such as eczema, asthma, dermatitis, or fibromyalgia. It’s no wonder that dis-eases like fibromyalgia are often thought of as having no known cause. To make matters worse, the longer you leave it or continue to eat those foods in moderation, the more likely you are to develop an even wider range of sensitivities and/or an even wider range of dis-ease.

Knowing this, would you still choose to eat those foods in moderation when you know your body is sensitive to it? It’s like saying, “I know arsenic is going to kill me eventually, but it’s OK, I’ll take just a little, in moderation.” That’s crazy, right?

[Tweet “Ditch the moderation! It’s time for hard core!”]

But how do you do that when you’re crazy busy?

Here are my tips on how to eat deliciously, cleanly and healthily all of the time, even when you’re crazy busy.

Plan Ahead

Plan the week ahead. The basis of planning ahead is knowing what meals you are going to have and when. Decide what you’re going to cook, what can be prepped ahead and then do your shopping. This way, you don’t have to rack your brains for what to cook on any particular day and then get lazy and order a take-out (yes, been there, done that!).

Use a meal planning schedule like the one that I use (see Resources). The beauty of it is that once you’ve done this for about six weeks, you can change up each week quite easily, switching some meals around between the weeks or adding in the odd new recipe to give you variety.

Cook once, eat several times

This means cooking extra portions of the same meal, and doubling up that meal for the next day’s lunch, and/or freezing extra portions for another day’s dinner. For example, when I cook a chilli for dinner, I’ll also have chilli for lunch the next day, and I’ll have some more leftover that I’ll freeze for next week. That way, I don’t have to think about tomorrow’s lunch, which is often a packed lunch for work, and next week, I’ll have a night off from cooking on chilli night. Yay!

KISSSAS – Keep It Simple, with Smoothies, Soups And Salads

No, no, not Kiss Ass but Kiss Sas ☺

Keep It Simple – Smoothies, soups and salads are simple, quick and easy. They all have one thing in common – throw a bunch of things together and you’re done! Here’s how.

Smoothies – Just pour some coconut water, almond milk, rice milk or hemp milk into the blender, together with some low-glycaemic fruits, and some veggies (spinach, cucumber, romaine lettuce, just to name a few), add some protein you like (chia seed, a scoop of protein powder) and some healthy fats (avocado, coconut milk) and blend. For extra flavour, add some vanilla extract or dash of cinnamon.

Soups – Learn how to make some simple pureed soups and then bulk make and freeze them so you save time and effort. Put some chicken broth in with some veggies – for example, cauliflower, season with salt, pepper and spices (I like cumin or caraway), boil until the veggies are tender, then put into a blender and blend. When ready to eat, heat up the soup, add some protein (cooked and sliced organic chicken breast is good) and a dash of milk, garnish with a dollop of cream and some chopped parsley and yum, delicious comfort food.

Salads – Chop up a bunch of lettuce, add some spinach, pile on some other veggies – tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, sliced beets, bell peppers, beetroot – then add some protein (cooked organic chicken breast, grilled salmon, hard-boiled eggs, tuna), followed by some pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds for texture, maybe a few raisins or some orange segments or some pomegranate, then top off with a dressing.

The simplest dressing going which I love, is olive oil plus generous splashes of Tabasco (spicy), or olive oil with some cider vinegar and a dash of mustard with a sprinkle of salt and pepper shaken up in a jar. You can even make the dressing ahead of time or several servings of dressing and store in the fridge for a few days.

If you chop the veggies in bulk you can make a couple salads at a time, don’t add the dressing to them yet, and they usually last a couple days.

Know where you can get healthy take-out

Check out what’s available. Look at the menu ahead of time and decide which meals are aligned with your bio-individuality of what is healthy for you. Then, when you come to ordering, you already know what will work for you. For me with my extensive food sensitivities, there are not even a handful of meals that work, but I am still able to order take-out, woo hoo!

With the growing awareness of food and the shift towards eating healthy, there are now also companies that do healthy ready-cooked meals that they will deliver to your home (Artisan Bistro Pro (US) and Eat Evolve (UK)). All you have to do is heat them up.

No, it’s not quite as cheap as buying and preparing it yourself, but on those extra busy days, I find that this can come in useful.

It’s always the small habits that add up. Don’t let yourself fall back into old habits that cause you to not feel so great! Are you going to go hard core too? The first step is taking the decision! I’d love to hear from you. Let me know!

Much love to you.

xx