Nutrition News: Liquid Curcumin by Truth Origins is Worth Checking Out

truth-origin-liquid-curcumin

As a health and wellness writer for the last 15 years, I’ve always been fascinated with vitamins and mineral supplements and always quizzing the experts for their recommendations.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been vegetarian nearly all my life and vegan since my mid-20s that nutrition has been a special interest of mine. I watch what I eat to try and avoid common vegan-diet deficiencies (D3, B12, EPA/DHA are common ones), and equally aware of supporting my sports and fitness lifestyle, which puts an added strain on my body.

That’s why I was excited to be introduced to Truth Origins water soluble liquid vitamins and invited to be part of the brand’s referral programme. This is the first referral and affiliate programme I’ve joined in the ten years I’ve had this blog so it’s definitely a product that I think is worth checking out.

Continue reading “Nutrition News: Liquid Curcumin by Truth Origins is Worth Checking Out”

Step-by-Step Guide: How To Do a DIY Natural Beauty Home Facial

weleda Skin Food facial review

If you’ve been inspired by the continued rise of natural and organic beauty then you’ll love this DIY natural facial massage from Weleda, one of my favourite natural and organic beauty brands. It’s also a lovely, nourishing treat to give skin at this time of year as the season and temperatures change.

The key product in this facial is Weleda Skin Food – an iconic skincare product that contains natural extracts of calendula, chamomile, rosemary and lavender, with natural waxes and plant oils (now also available in light version, lip balm and body butter) – alongside a few other Weleda products.

I was lucky to have this facial – also known as the 30-minute miracle worker by Weleda therapists as it’s so good at boosting the complexion – at Valley Fest in Bristol this summer.

Weleda Skin Food - Product Still

Valley Fest is a lovely family-friendly weekend of music, local food and fancy dress. Weleda had a corner with a fabulous van stocked full of products and therapy tents for the perfect post-party respite.

There were also talks and workshops on natural skincare, with special guest such as Emine Ali Rushton, sharing her wisdom on holistic and Ayurvedic living, following the launch of her book, Sattva.

weleda tent valley fest.JPG

If you’re not familiar with the community of Weleda therapists, they’re a lovely bunch who work remotely around the country and who are available for products, treatments, and knowledge-sharing on skincare and ingredients.

If you don’t live near a Weleda therapist then you can try this facial on yourself at home. Here’s a complete step-by-step guide to the Skin Food Facial – get ready for some personal pamper time…

weleda tent valley fest.JPG
Me enjoying my Skin Food facial at Valley Fest

Step 1.

COMPRESS

Soak a face flannel in hot water with a little Rosemary Bath Milk, wring the flannel so it’s only damp but still warm and apply to the face to open up the pores and wake up/perk up the circulation. If skin would benefit from calming/soothing rather than stimulating, try the Lavender Bath Milk. If skin is hypersensitive, the gentle Calendula Baby Cream Bath could be used instead which is less aromatic.

Step 2.

CLEANSE

Using the Almond Soothing Cleansing Lotion on two damp cotton wool pads, remove grime and make-up. Use both hands simultaneously, mirror image, for a lovely balanced feeling. Around the eyes, gently cleanse with Almond Soothing Facial Oil to remove eye make-up. Warm or luke-warm cotton wool pads are preferable to very cold water on the eyes.

Optional extra.

PUFFINESS

If more time, an organic unbleached chamomile tea bag can be used to make as an infusion for an eye compress (lightly soak cotton wool pads in the tea which has been allowed to cool slightly in a bowl before applying; cotton pads can be folded into half moons) whilst the facial massage is being done or the mask is on (to complete the Skin Food experience). The calming chamomile fragrance relaxes.

Step 3.

MASSAGE

Using the fragrance-free Almond Soothing Facial Oil, gently massage the face to stimulate the circulation and relax the soft tissues, tailoring the massage to the individual.

weleda skin food facial how to

Step 4.

MASK

Apply a generous layer of Skin Food, warming it between your hands to make it easier to work with, and leave on the face as an intensive treatment for five minutes (or longer if time allows). If you have combination skin with an oily T-zone, just use Skin Food on the cheeks and drier areas, to avoid overloading the skin.

Step 5.

COMPRESS

Soak a face flannel in hot water with a little Lavender Bath Milk and apply to the face to melt and release the mask. Gently lift away any excess Skin Food with the flannel and gently wipe/tidy any remaining thick areas of cream using a damp cotton pad (this may not be necessary if it has been absorbed).

Step 6.

MOISTURISE

Depending on the skin, finish with a light application of Skin Food Light to moisturise (for younger/oilier skin, this may not be necessary if Skin Food has worked its magic), and a little Skin Food Lip Balm on the lips.

Would love to hear if you’ve had this facial with a Weleda therapist or if you give it a go at home!

Introducing Fjaka – the Mediterranean way of mindful living

saint-iris-adriatica-skincare

Saint Iris Adriatica, a luxury green beauty brand, takes its inspiration from the Adriatic sea, mountains, thermal spas and wild spaces.

Founder Sanela Lazic says the brand is all about channelling fjaka [pronounced: fyak.ka], which is a relaxed state that embodies the spirit and wellbeing of Croatian life.

Sanela has taken traditional Adriatic folk remedies and combined them with natural ingredients to create products that help to strengthen skin against the stresses of modern life and encourage a more balanced state of body and mind.

I asked Sanela to talk more about fjaka….

Saint Iris Adriatica instagram
@saintirisadriatica

What is fjaka and how can you create the Fjaka feeling?

‘Fjaka is a way of life from Croatia but also practised in Italy, Spain and Latin America (with different spellings across these regions).

‘Fjaka is about being relaxed yet powerfully alive with a sense of mindfulness. It’s a blissful Adriatic state of mind that comes from simply feeling great in your own body and doing what you love.

‘Fjaka is taking time for yourself, which shouldn’t be seen as lazy or selfish; in Croatia and Italy this is seen as an essential part of self-love. Only by investing in yourself can you give back to others.

‘Often, in Croatia, you’ll hear people saying “pomalo” or “polako”, which means “bit by bit” or “slowly” and we’re now returning to some of these slower lifestyle qualities: slow-cooked food, slow fashion, self-care time – this is all fjaka in action.

How can we create fjaka?

Saint Iris Adriatica

‘Start by asking yourself, what brings you joy? What makes you feel good in body and mind? Think long-term and tune into your needs and energy.

‘The world today is skewed towards a masculine, fast-paced energy that can drain us, bring stress and self-doubt, chase the ideal, compete or fight rather than slow down or flow. Fjaka helps to create a balance of energies.’

Saint Iris Adriatica is a natural and cruelty-free brand and contains no parabens, sulphates, propylene glycol or synthetic fragrances.

Alternative Ways of Being #8: Empowering Self-Talk

sarah powell international womens day
‘That inner critic voice you hear that tells you you’re rubbish, that you’re never as good as so and so, or you’ll never be good enough to do blah, is talking bollocks. It’s lying and you should never listen to it.’ 
– Sarah Powell
Fantastic words of wisdom dished out by Sarah Powell @thisissarahpowell at our Hearst offices on International Women’s Day this year. We regularly have guest speakers and Sarah was on point!

sarah powell international womens day
@thisissarahpowell

The concept of the inner critic is very familiar to me thanks to quite a few years of therapy. I started therapy after a difficult breakup but stuck with it because it’s so valuable and you learn so much about yourself, people, relationships and psychology in general. I now see it as an ongoing investment into mental wellness.

My therapist does a psycho-dynamic and classic psychotherapy style that helps to analyse behavioural patterns, and the inner critic and the self critical voice is something we cover a lot. So it was brilliant to hear Sarah reference this, especially as recognising your critical voice is the first step to actually being free of it and living a happier life.

Sarah called it the mean voice, my therapist calls it the ‘old brain’ but what ever you call it, it is often destructive and rarely helpful.
Sarah called it the mean voice, my therapist calls it the ‘old brain’, but what ever you call it, it is often destructive and rarely helpful. It’s usually connected to past experiences – perhaps formative years, childhood or teenage years. Understanding this has helped to soften it so it has less hold and control.


A regular therapy session might involve recognising when the old brain has reared its ugly head – it might be a confrontation at work or with a friend or an argument with a sibling or parent – and digging around to hopefully identify its roots. Then I may know why I reacted so irrationally or over-emotionally and cut myself some slack. So therapy has been a great place to learn to be kinder to myself too.


From what I understand the inner critic isn’t the rational adult brain talking – that’s why Sarah says it’s talking bollocks – but it comes from an old part of you that’s triggered when confidence, ego or self-esteem, for example, has been threatened and then it jumps in to say, ‘Ha! I told you were rubbish and no good and that nobody likes you!’


I’m now pretty good at recognising the awful inner critic – usually comparing me to the other girl in the room – so when it does pipe up, I just give it a nod but then push it firmly away and try to replace it with something more positive and helpful. I really have very little time for it these days and that’s testament to the therapy work.

 

My sessions are fortnightly now and still, after several years, walk away from nearly every appointment (they are 50 mins long) having learnt a little bit more about myself and better ways of dealing with things.

 

Sarah had a whole heap of other stuff to share about self-empowerment, confidence and just managing life in general when it feels overwhelming AF. So check her out on IG where she spills more of her inspiration for positive self-talk.

My 8 favourite cookbooks for healthy vegan and vegetarian cooking

fresh india cookbook best vegetarian

I love a good cookbook. I have over 35-40 of them – bought, inherited or gratefully received. A few have proven their worth and have become absolute favourites. They’re the ones I can always rely on to provide me a new or interesting way of cooking with an ingredient. Or offer an inspiring recipe I can pull together with minimum effort and with simple foods I usually already have.

Friends often ask if I can recommend a good book and there are a few I always call out, which I’ve listed here. Each one is best for a different reason, occasion or cooking style. So if you’re looking to renew your repertoire of recipes or need fresh inspiration for healthy, plant-based cooking (that’s still hearty and filling!) then this is the list for you. Feel free to pass it on.

1. World Food Cafe Vegetarian Bible

By Chris and Carolyn caldicott

And it really is a bible. If you’re excited by the variety and flavours of world cuisine you will love this. Organised by region, the authors have cherrypicked recipes that show off the best from that area. I usually turn to this book when I’m looking for a curry, going straight to the index to see the options for my chosen veg (which is how I use most cookbooks) and then I can almost guarantee the dish I find in here wouldn’t be in any other cookbook.

Best for: interesting DISHES from FAR AND WIDE

2. The Happy Pear

by David and Stephen Flynn

This was a gift from a good friend and very quickly became a regular go-to. I’m quite averse to vegan food that’s light or superficial, inadvertently channeling the notion that vegans are not hearty eaters (which is far from the truth, in my case anyway!). The Flynn brothers have taken everyday, popular ingredients such as squash and lentils and not only given them fuss-free makeovers but the recipes are sure to fill you up too. There’s not a drop of pretentious cooking here, just down to earth, wholesome meals that are both inviting and easy to follow.

BEST FOR: keeping the family full and happy

 

3. Fresh India

by Meera Sodha

I received this as a birthday present from another good friend only a few months ago and it’s been the most exciting edition to my collection. I made three recipes within the first few days of receiving it and instantly bookmarked so many more to try. Possibly because I’m obsessed with vegetarian Indian cuisine – you’ll find me at one of London’s local pure vegetarian restaurants feasting on dosa, idly and vada at any possible opportunity – that I was smitten by this book but also because Meera Sodha makes everything so simple. For example, I’ve picked up lots of new (and uncomplicated) ways of cooking Indian-inspired sauces and I found it super easy to take ingredients from one recipe and combine with the method of another, depending on what I have in the kitchen.

Best for: being creative with Indian cooking with hardly any effort

 

 

4. The Nut Butter Cookbook by Pip & Nut

By Pippa Murray

This book isn’t vegetarian or vegan (in fact, apart from the nut butters there’s hardly any vegan recipes) but I have easily adapted ideas and replaced dairy ingredients with non-dairy alternatives. The highlight for me is the Peanut Sweet Potato Gratin – once I’d swapped the cream and milk for coconut milk, it was divine.  I have also discovered super easy ways to turn nut butter into sauces, dips and dressings which has transformed my lunches and dinners. I now make peanut and sriracha sauce almost daily!

Best for: surprisingLy endless ways with nut butter


5. Silk Road Vegetarian

by Dahlia Abraham-Klein

This one was a bit of a wild card which I bought after a recommendation from my uncle, who also loves vegetarian cooking, and despite its slightly old fashioned imagery it’s definitely proven itself. Covering a region I’m naturally drawn thanks to my Iraqi heritage, I often reach for this when I want comfort food inspiration. It’s great for stews and rice dishes.

Best for: traditional cuisine that’s true to its origins

 

6. Cook, Share, Eat Vegan

by Aine Carlin

Who would have thought that one day there would be as many modern vegan cookbooks as there are out today. Bookshops and bookshelves are bursting with them all vying for our attention but it’s hard to see which ones are really worth having. Having eaten a vegan diet for over a decade now (way back when veganism was still very hippie) I feel like my plant-based cooking skills constantly needs challenging and refreshing which is why Aine Carlin’s collections appeal. If you’re looking for the next step up in plant-based cooking I’d definitely recommend this. The ideas go the extra mile to impress but still accessible and easy to make.     

Best for: Impressing guests (but not leaving them hungry)

 

 

7. Riverford Companion: Autumn Winter and Spring Summer

By GuyWatson

I’m a regular customer of Riverford veg delivery boxes (I’ve tried other veg boxes over the years but always come back to Riverford for the variety and generous portion sizes) so it’s no surprise I also love their cookbooks, thoughtfully presented for seasonal cooking. Guy Watson and the Riverford team never fail to reveal a new or enlivening way to prep or cook a vegetable, banishing boredom and educating with their decades of expertise along the way.

Best for: never being stuck with what to do with a vegetable again

 

8. The Dal Cookbook

By Krishna Dutta

An oldie but a goodie. I have no idea how this one entered my life (another gift maybe?) but for lovers of dal (obviously) it’s a must-have. From simple to elaborate and all styles and flavours in between, this is a chance to experiment with over 50 ways to find your favourites. It’s also a bit of a reference book for all things lentil-based, another reason why it’s stood the test of time on my bookshelf.

Best for: Never cooking the same dal twice

 

Would love to hear what your go-to veggie/vegan cookbooks are! Thanks for reading :)

My three fitness goals for 2019

1000 KM challenge medal

Every year I have a few big fitness goals to focus my time on. For a goal-orientated person this is what gets me out of bed (usually at 5:30AM to train!).

Last year I ran Snowdonia Trail Marathon in July which was an amazing ultra event on really challenging terrain and where we summited Snowdon (around mile 23) and then hobbled downhill to the finish line. I’ve done many marathons but this required specific work on muscle endurance and to get comfortable on hills and elevations so I spent the first six months of the year training for that with running and endurance coach, Luke Tyburski.

snowdonia trail marathon finishers
The finish line Snowdon Trail Marathon @yanarbeauty

After a lovely long summer break with almost no running, the rest of 2018 was spent doing Park Runs (although not sure what’s harder, running fast 5Ks or marathons!) and enjoying being back at my CrossFit gym building strength and working on my olympic lifting skills.

The snatch is my nemesis so I’ve been really trying to crack that with coaches at Royal Docks CrossFit as well as oly-lifting coach and ex-British champion, John McComish, who I’ve been training with at Peacock Gym in east London for the last few months and will continue next year.

I’ve always liked working with coaches for the expertise and accountability they bring so that’s something I highly recommend if you’re serious about a goal.

What’s in store for 2019?

The 2019 goals are in place. I usually start thinking about these in the last few months of each year so I have enough time to mentally prepare and plan ahead.

This quote by Seth Godin which is one of the ways I approach goal setting. It has to be something difficult and scary enough to keep you on your toes but not completely out of reach. I also like it to involve a mix of physical and mental.

If it scares you quote seth godin

Yoga

From January to July I’ll be spending most of my time and energy on my yoga teacher training course, which finishes with two weeks of assessments in July. The coming months will involve lots of practice teaching friends and family, assignments and homework and a big end of year project.

To squeeze this in to my already packed schedule (and because I don’t want to cut back on my training) I plan to basically cull my social life for a few months to carve out the extra time I need. It’s only temporary so I’m sure my friends and family will understand and won’t mind. I did the same last year for the marathon training so they’re pretty used to it now!

CrossFit

To keep making improvements I have booked a CrossFit competition in May – a pairs fitness competition called Inferno Series, which I did last year. It will be great to try and beat our 2018 scores and ranking and give us something to work towards. After that I’d love to do a singles CrossFit competition (Rainhill Trials in Manchester is one of the most popular ones) but as this is is a ballot entry I’ll have to wait and see.

Running

I’m trying something different this year so instead of one big event I’ve signed up to do the 1000KM challenge with Pow Virtual Running, which simply involves running 1000KM within 12 months, from January 1st. I chose this for the aim of being more consistent with my running rather than doing a massive push for six months and then nothing for a few months.

I’m definitely motivated by numbers so by splitting the challenge into weekly and monthly goals (it’s around 20K a week or 80KM a month) I will have something very tangible to keep me on track provide me with a more regular running habit. Plus you get a really fun-looking medal at the end of it :)

1000 KM challenge medal

So there we have it. Three key focusses for 2019 which should definitely keep me busy, motivated and excited. What are yours??

7 reasons how yoga can improve mental health

yoga-for-peace-lebanon-project.jpg

Yoga is one of the cheapest and most effective means of releasing trauma, stress and emotions from the body.

Symptoms of trauma and post-traumatic stress-disorder (PTSD) include anxiety, nightmares, sleep disturbance, withdrawal, loss of concentration, stress-related physical ailments, anger and aggression. These issues can easily impact a person’s ability to function in society.

Here’s why simple techniques from classical yoga are powerfully therapeutic.

  1. Bessel van der Kolk, a leading trauma psychiatrist, advocates yoga as one of the foremost means to quiet the brain and regulate emotional and physiological states. ‘Ten weeks of yoga practice markedly reduced the PTSD symptoms of patients who had failed to respond to medication or to any other treatment.’
  2. Experts have in recent years shown how traumatic stress rearranges the brain’s wiring, and sets it on high alert. A key to the treatment of psychological trauma is soothing the nervous system and inducing the relaxation response.
  3. For traumatised people, strengthening the relaxation response allows them to reengage in the present.
  4. Through regular practice of simple yoga techniques, developing awareness of body and breath, the nervous system’s relaxation response gets stronger and the body’s stress responses calm down.
  5. Bessel van der Kolk has spent three decades trying to understand how people recover from traumatic stress. He views awareness as the first step toward healing in his book, The Body Keeps the Score.
  6. He says: ‘Neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience’ – because yoga is fundamentally about developing awareness, research has proven it can help improve mental health.
  7. Yoga develops awareness, first of the body and the breath, and then of our thought processes, emotions and behaviours. Through developing self-awareness, we can access our feelings, observe them, and eventually release them.

bessel van der kolk the body keeps the score book

 

Read more about how we’re using yoga to help the refugee community recover from PTSD and other mental health issues on tools4innerpeace.org.

3 Yoga Moves to Help with Running

wanderlust festival london yoga
wanderlust festival london yoga

 

Anyone sticking to just one form of exercise may soon experience the impact of over-training the same muscle groups and the potential risk of injury.

 

I only became a stronger runner after taking up CrossFit (almost ten years after I’d first laced up) and I quickly discovered how functional workouts and barbell training improved all-round body strength and cardio fitness. Not only that, the Crossfit workouts also helped build a strong midline and core – essential for running – and propelled my hip power and mobility, particularly useful for the trail and hill-races I’ve been doing recently.

 

In a similar way, integrating yoga into a weekly routine can be just as beneficial. Runners are notoriously stiff and this can cause strain on joints, muscles and tissues. Flexibility and mobility can help prevent injury and help runners perform better.

 

I’ve also valued my weekly yoga class for the last gazillion years for its deeply calming effects. It’s the one time in the week I can stop and let my breath, mind and body settle, which work its own kind of magic too.

 

Here are three tips from yoga teacher, Jaime Tully, on how yoga can help runners with a few tips from my own experience:

jaime tully yoga teacher

1.

‘Just five to ten minutes of yoga before and after your run will improve both your mobility and recovery.’
TRY: sun salutation to warm up your whole body and loosen all the key muscle groups before you run.

 

2.

‘Spinal poses such as twists are a great way to ease the lower back which gets impacted by tight hamstrings and glutes.’
TRY: A simple pose such as Meru Wakrasana (spinal twist) can help relax the spine. With eyes closed and breath awareness in the spinal pathway for five rounds of breath can enhance the practice.

 

3.

‘Swap a run for a Vinyasa class. It’s the best style for those who crave movement and can still have the intensity of a run. You’ll burn calories, get lost in the movement and restore the areas of your body that could be perhaps damaged by repetitive strain.’
TRY: For an alternative to a Vinyasa flow class, you can incorporate a more gentle and relaxing yoga session into your weekly routine as I have done. This can help calm the nervous system and act as an antidote to any high energy workouts you do.

 

Jaime Tully is one of the many leading yoga teachers and fitness experts at Wanderlust Festival in London on Saturday 15th September. A day festival of running, yoga and meditation – three of my favourite things!  Check it out – tickets still available.

Is yoga an exercise?

Is yoga an exercise blog

Is yoga an exercise blog

It’s a common misconception that yoga is an exercise. When people hear or talk about yoga it’s almost always referred to and understood as a form of exercise. But is it? Well, not really. So what is the difference between yoga and exercise?

While exercise and yogic postures (asana) share similarities in that they both involve movement, (most) exercise works on the sympathetic system and yoga (when done correctly) works on the parasympathetic system which is why it can be useful for people suffering from stress and anxiety. Both contribute to physical health but yoga relates to so much more than the physical. 

Evolving slowly by ancient sages all over the world, yoga has it roots in early civilisation as people developed an awareness of spiritual capabilities. Its origins are also found in the Vedas, the oldest collection of Indian spiritual scriptures for personal and spiritual development.

This ancient discipline works on all aspects of the person: the physical, mental, vital, emotional, psychic and spiritual self. This is done through a practice of asana (posture or pose), pranayama (control of breath), mudra (hand gestures), bandha (energy locks), shatkarma (cleansing and purification of the body) and meditation. These are a few of the Eight Limbs of Yoga written in the scriptures that help to remove mental and physical obstacles.

Today, mainly in western cultures, yoga classes tend to embrace asana more than any other aspect of traditional yoga which may result in a one-sided development. Engaging with all ‘limbs’, can help to expand our connection and understanding of inner ourselves and outside world.  

Physical asanas are usually people’s first experience with yoga. Not just movement though, asanas tap into energy points in the body with the potential to release energy blocks from wherever energy flow is suppressed, which is why people can feel good after a yoga class.

Moving on from the physical, yogic practices can help develop an awareness of connection between emotional, mental and physical body and how an imbalance in one of these can affect the others.

We are a combination of body, emotions, intellect and psyche and through the practices and experience of yoga – by actually living it, not just reading about it – we can develop and balance all of these, to become a happier and more integrated person.

 

13 Holiday workouts, no equipment needed

best holiday workout no equipment needed blog

best holiday workout no equipment needed blog
My own holiday workout completed in a sweaty time of 13 minutes 22 seconds. Can you beat it?

I know working out on holiday isn’t top of most people’s agendas but occasionally you might feel like sweating it out to balance out the cocktail calories and clear away the cobwebs. If you don’t have access to a gym – say you’re doing a villa or apartment rental – it’s handy to have an arsenal of drills to dip into. That’s why I’ve collected and compiled this list of workouts that can be done any time, anywhere, quickly (because there’s a holiday to enjoy) and most importantly, with no equipment needed (so there really are no excuses). They are also accessible for any level of fitness which is also great.

The sequences on this list targets the whole body, strength, mobility and cardiovascular power in one swift session and mixing up high intensity and strength makes it super efficient. Most have been taken from CrossFit programming so for time means as fast as possible to get your best time – this definitely lends more intensity, as does the higher volume of reps. You can even then repeat your workout another day to see if you can beat your time.

AMRAP means as many rounds or reps as possible which also creates a sense of urgency. Having a rep scheme to work to – rather than simply working for 30-seconds – contributes to a more effective session as you have a specific volume of work to get through which creates more focus. This combination of time and reps pushes you further. Most of these are short, sharp and sweat-pouringly effective.

I recently did #2 and it took me 13 minutes 22 seconds. Can you beat it? Have a go and let me know!

TIP: When you see 100 reps, break it up which ever way want. So I did 10 rounds of 10 for workout #2. Five rounds of 20 is also doable, although you might find you slow down on the burpees if you have to do too many in a round.

13 best holiday workouts

#1. For time: 100 burpees

#2. For time:

  • 100 push ups
  • 100 squats (hip crease below knee)
  • 100 burpees

#3. 10 rounds for time:

  • 10 pushups
  • 10 sit-ups
  • 10 air squats

#4. As fast as possible for time: – this is a great warm up workout

  • 21 air squats (hip crease below knee)
  • 21 pushups
  • 15 air squats
  • 15 pushups
  • 9 air squats
  • 9 pushups

#5. 8 rounds for time:

  • 10 situps
  • 10 burpees

#6. For time: 

  • 75 air squats
  • 50 pushups
  • 25 burpees

#7. 10 rounds for time:

  • 10 air squats
  • 10 pushups
  • 10 situps
  • 10 dips

#8. 20 minute AMRAP (as many rounds/reps as possible):

  • 20 walking lunges
  • 20 situps
  • 20 pushups
  • 20 squats

#9. Go as fast as possible for time: (another great warm up workout)

  • 21 squats
  • 21 burpees
  • 15 squats
  • 15 burpees
  • 9 squats
  • 9 burpees

#10. 15 minute AMRAP (as many rounds/reps as possible)

  • 5 push-ups
  • 15 sit-ups
  • 30 squats

#11. 3 rounds for time:

  • Run a half mile
  • 30 burpees

#12. 4 rounds for time:

  • 20 burpees
  • 20 push ups
  • 20 sit ups
  • 20 squats

#13. Stabilisation / core work 

  • 30 second or 1 minute plank hold
  • straight into 25 sit ups
  • repeated 3-4 times

 

Are your long runs making you fat?

marathon-training-tips-stressfree-marathon-healthista1

Next weekend I’m running London Marathon, which I’m really looking forward to. It will be my third marathon but my first in London (Brighton and Edinburgh previously). I had never planned to run but was offered a last minute place by Lucozade Sport via Health & Fitness magazine who I write for, and seeing as London is so difficult to get into (oversubscribed ballot entry and expensive charity places) of course I said yes quicker than I can send the email reply. But I had just under three months to train so it’s been tight to say the least – a bit like cramming before a huge exam.

Interestingly, a year and a half of weight training and CrossFit has made me stronger than I was for my previous marathons so I’ve been able to tackle the long distances without too much risk of injury. All those deadlifts have luckily come in handy!

But long steady runs have had a surprising effect on my body. At the start of the training when I was building up from eight, nine miles to 15 and more I got leaner and noticed some excess weight fall off pretty quickly. However, during the weeks where I was running 18, 19, 20 and 21 miles I noticed things change – I was no longer feeling light or lean but quite the contrary, I felt like I’d filled out a bit despite doing big mileage every weekend.

I’d cut back on CrossFit (from four sessions a week to three) but I didn’t think that was the cause. Could I be imagining it? A quick step on the weights at my parent’s house confirmed I was right as I’d gone up a kilo but endurance training requires good fuel so I put it down to the extra calories I’d been consuming.

Turns out there’s more to it than that. When I saw my sports massage therapist – the brilliant Uju Eze, who is actually a movement specialist because she’s definitely more than just a sports masseuse – she confirmed there is science behind the gain.

“When you run at around 65% of your maximum heart rate for a long, sustained period the body goes into a catabolic state (muscle-wasting) which means it adapts and starts to store fat and use muscle as as fuel instead because it thinks something is wrong and it needs to get ready to survive.”

This, and a number of other reasons are why low intensity steady cardio (otherwise known as LISS which is the opposite of HIIT – high intensity interval training) can actually be the wrong choice of exercise if fat loss is your goal. Here are a few reasons why the body is not in a fat burning state:

  • the body adapts to low intensity steady state cardio and eventually doesn’t need as much oxygen or energy to do the workout so it becomes easier and consequently less effective. To keep reaping benefits you’d have to increase the intensity e.g. by either training faster or increasing distance.
  • Increasing volume however, could have a detrimental effect in the long run because of a loss of muscle mass (the catabolic effect) which in turn leads to fewer calories burned by the body at rest (the metabolic rate) because muscle burns more calories than fat, and if there’s no change in diet it will eventually lead to fat gain.
  • too much cardio can also lead to increased hunger and additionally, fuelling for long runs can often involve high glycemic foods before, during and after the workout which actually suppress fat loss and fat burn.
  • long steady state cardio only burns calories during the activity rather and doesn’t change your metabolism. To make changes to your metabolism and experience calories burn up to 24 hours after exercise, studies show HIIT training works because it produces mitochondria (cells where respiration happens) and increases mitochondria activity so your body increases its oxidative capacity.

So it wasn’t all in my head, I was indeed actually holding onto weight. There are more explanations and studies shared about this in this article, Does Cardio Make You Fat and following that, check out this article which compares HIIT vs LISS and explains why high intensity interval training is a better option for fat loss and toning up than low state cardio.

I’m now looking forward to the end of this marathon when I can go back to short, sharp and strength based interval training. However, research shows that some steady state cardio can be good as a means of recovery from high intensity strength training so I won’t be giving up on the steady state cardio just yet – it just won’t be as long as it is now.

And I almost forgot! For those friends and family wishing to donate here’s my marathon Just Giving page which a friend kindly set up for me. Even though I don’t have to raise any money for my entry we thought it was only fair to put a few pounds in the pot as a show of gratitude for my place – I’ll be donating to Parkinson’s UK. Thanks all!

x

 

 

Yoga for balancing hormones

yanar alkayat tenpilates yoga for hormones
Me and yoga teacher Danielle Willemsen at Ten for Yoga for Hormone Balance class

A few months ago I attended the launch of Ten Health & Fitness’ new class, Yoga for Hormone Balance. Designed to support and strengthen natural hormone function as well as to relax and rejuvenate the body and mind, after trying it out it seemed like the perfect antidote to a fast-paced life that puts a strain on the nervous system and hormones.

“When the sympathetic nervous system is constantly over-active, the adrenals are churning out adrenaline and cortisol to keep us going” says Dr Annaradnams of The Marion Gluck Clinic in London.

A little bit of this is ok when we need to kickstart ourselves into action but when the body is constantly in red alert mode there’s a knock on effect. Without sufficient downtime health and hormones will suffer.

The Ten Yoga for Hormone Balance class is two hours long and created by yoga teacher and movement expert Danielle Willemsen. It focusses on poses that open up the hips, elongate the spine and encourage the four key hormonal glands – pituitary, thyroid, adrenal and ovaries – to behave more harmoniously.

So much of modern yoga is fast-paced and dynamic and on top of an already stressful day and hyped up nervous system the results can be over-stimulating on the body so this new hormone-balancing class is a welcome change of pace.

Yoga was not originally designed to be a workout – in my opinion, if you want to sweat do a cardio class and choose to do yoga to slow down your breath, soften the mind and create more balance, physically and mentally.

Hormone doctors even agree that slow movement can benefit hormone function as it taps into the parasympathetic nervous system to settle the body and in turn, the nervous system.

After trying this Ten Pilates class at the press launch it inspired me to check out what classical yoga says about hormone balancing. For the last seven years I’ve been practicing a classic hatha yoga (Satyananda yoga) which is super slow and meditative and calms everything right down – mind, body and breath. My weekly Wednesday class is like a natural tranquilliser – there’s nothing quite like it – and I leave fully grounded and deeply relaxed.

The Bihar School of Yoga which I’ve been reading recently has an extensive library of books and in Yogic Management of Common Diseases I found a whole chapter on thyroid function. Here are a few extracts if you’re looking for more inspiration on yoga for hormones:

Yoga for the thyroid gland

“Long before medical science knew about the existence of thyroid glands, the yogis had devised practices that maintained healthy glands and metabolism. The good health of the neuroendocrine system was understood to be vital to higher awareness.” (pg. 24-45)

Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) is the most well recognised asana for the thyroid gland. An enormous pressure is placed on the gland by this powerful posture. As the thyroid has one of the largest blood supplies of any body organ, this pressure has dramatic effects on its function, improving circulation and squeezing out stagnant secretions.”

“The most effective pranayama (breathing work) for thyroid problems is ujjayi breath. It acts on the throat area and its relaxing and stimulating effects are most probably due to stimulation of reflex pathways within the throat area which are controlled by the brain stem and hypothalamus.”

“One of the most prominent precipitating factors in states of thyroid imbalance is long-term suppression and blockage of emotional expression. Balancing the emotions and giving a suitable outlet for their expression is an important part of yoga therapy for thyroid disease. Kirtan (signing of mantras collectively) is one of the most useful means. Another is ajapa japa meditation in conjunction with ajjayi breath.”

 xx

How not to get a cold #2

avogel-echinaforce-throat-spray-30ml-review

Brrr.. it’s baltic! Surviving winter without getting ill is no mean feat. The Organic Pharmacy Immune Tonic (which I previously blogged about here) is brilliant for supporting health and wellness over a period of time but for on the spot defence do not leave home without A. Vogel Echinaforce Sore Throat Spray. 

avogel-echinaforce-throat-spray-30ml-reviewAt the very first sign of a tickling throat (you know that feeling when you might be coming down with something) or if you already have a sore throat, or people around you are coughing or contagious just whip out this mean machine herbal tincture and spritz three to four times.

With a few sprays to the back of the throat (I’m warning you now it’s got a crazily intense taste that will shock your taste buds but a few seconds later most people love the sage-hit) it instantly attacks gristly germs trying to bring you down.

It’s probably the one product I recommended the most and everyone who’s bought it at the back of my recommendation now swears by it. I love it even more because it’s a combo of natural, herbal and botanical ingredients: freshly harvested echinacea purpurea herb and root and sage leaves. The back of pack also says it contains sorbitol (407mg), ethanol (370mg), soy lecithin (20mg) and sucrose laurate (5mg).

It rarely leaves my side November through to March and even throughout summer I take it with me on travels, especially if I’m on a plane where the air is rife with germs. Even my editor, Anna Magee at Healthista love it- here’s her raving about it on Instagram:

healthista instagram avogel echinaforce throat spray

I’m already on my second bottle this winter because this stuff really works!

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: What to give

Not another bunch of flowers website

Every October it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a worldwide annual campaign to highlight the importance of breast awareness, education and research to support the 55,000 people diagnosed with breast cancer every year – that’s one person every ten minutes.

Brands across beauty, fashion and lifestyle release products to support the cause and it’s easy to spot these every October as they’re usually in some shade of pink (apart from Jane Iredale’s this year, which goes against the grain in green!). Whatever your thoughts on this charitable twist in commercialism, it does generate a lot of money (and awareness) for breast cancer charities, which I’m sure, can’t be a bad thing.

breast cancer awareness beauty For October issue Health & Fitness magazine, I picked my three favourite breast cancer awareness beauty buys:

  1. Jane Iredale Lemongrass Love Hydration Spray – in a fitting shade of green for lemongrass, profits from this uplifting facial mist will support Against Breast Cancer charity.
  2. Paul Mitchell United in Pink Paddle Brush – a great budget-friendly brush that’s also useful.
  3. GHD limited edition Electric Pink – makes a great gift, with £10 from each appliance going to Breast Cancer Now.

As well as these, a few other interesting things popped into my mailbox which I couldn’t squeeze onto the page but definitely worth a shout out:

Not Another Bunch of Flowers
notanotherbunchofflowers.com – launched by Annika Burton, who was suffering from an illness herself and received so many gifts she couldn’t use during treatment she decided to set up a site with more suitable pampering gifts. You’ll find a whole variety of crafty ideas and cards that don’t shy away from the subject of illnesses such as cancer, and may even put a smile on someone’s face. It reminded me of Not On The High Street website but with a specialist spin. There’s also a great blog so check it out.

Not another bunch of flowers websiteBeauty Despite Cancer
beautydespitecancer.co.uk
 – a site dedicated to maintaining health, beauty and vitality despite the difficulties of illness, treatment and hair loss. Founder, Jennifer Young has dedicated her time to create skincare, beauty and even makeup suitable for patients undergoing cancer treatment and has even written a book to support this journey which would make a touching gift this month. Buy Recognise Yourself, Beauty Despite Cancer on amazon. The site also offers a wealth of resources, inspiration and motivation for cancer patients.

beauty-despite-cancer-book-jennifer-youngYou can read more about the products Jennifer Young has produced for cancer patients in an interview I did with her previously for Healthista.com here.

If you’ve spotted any interesting breast cancer  awareness buys or like to mark the awareness month in any particular way, do let me know – in the comments below or on Twitter @Yanarbeauty.

x

 

In the kitchen: 4 best non-dairy and vegan protein powders

I’m on a mission to get stronger and if you read my column on Healthista.com you’ll see I’ve taken up Crossfit. To build more lean muscle only protein will help. As I don’t eat dairy I need an alternative to whey powder so I’ve been trying a variety of non-dairy shakes and powders suitable for vegans. These are my favourite, ie. the tastiest and best I’ve tried so far. 

1. Neat Nutrition Vegan Protein, £34

A combo of hemp and pea powder for 25gm protein per serving. Try the chocolate or vanilla for a delicious milkshake-style drink. I think the touches of xylitol and stevia are the secret to the great taste so even without milk, just water, and without having to add any other powder or ingredients, it’s lip-lickingly tasty. If it’s too rich however, just add more liquid. www.neat-nutrition.com 

Neat Nutrition Best Vegan_Protein

 

2. The Protein Works Natural Sunflower Protein

Made from 100% organic sunflower seeds, high in fibre, minerals and nine amino acids and the taste is surprisingly nice – I thought it would be bland but it’s mild, nutty and a bit creamy. While it doesn’t really need mixing with any other powder I’ve been adding Neal’s Yard Organic Berry Complex to give it a lift – a powdered berry complex high in vitamin C so it’s a great antioxidant and immune boost especially after working out so hard when oxidation is at its peak. Best bit about Protein Works Sunflower Protein is the price – not everyone can afford the super luxurious protein shakes out there so if you’re on a budget, look no further. www.theproteinworks.com

 

best vegan dairy free protein shakes

 

3. The Super Elixir Nourishing Protein Powder, £48

I’m so pleased I’ve discovered this one from Elle Macpherson’s WelleCo brand and was lucky enough to hear all about it from Elle herself at the press launch of her 4-Week Body programme this week. The Protein Powder contains all high quality, organic and vegan ingredients as a superior alternative to whey: pea, brown rice, all nine essential amino acids, B vitamins, cacao powder and a plethora of antioxidant richness from acai, pomegranate, dandelion, grapeseed, rosehip and so much more!  This is a truly intelligent supplement drink. The tasty is mild and chocolatey and works perfectly well alone which I love. The sweetness and chocolate taste are both low so if you want a more intensive experience on your taste buds add one and a half or two scoops. www.welleco.co.uk 

elle macpherson super elixir protein powder event
Meeting Elle Macpherson and Dr. Simone Laubscher at the launch of 4-Week Body ReBoot in London

elle macpherson super elixir protein review

 

4. Nutriseed Hemp Protein Powder, £11.49

This is from a new superfood retailer Nutriseed and I just love the style and packaging – simple, bold and gutsy. Hemp powder is green in colour but doesn’t taste as green as you might imagine (it’s not as terrible as spirulina) but it doesn taste better with another ingredient so I’ve been using this with the same Neal’s Yard Organic Berry Complex featured above. I’ve also been adding this hemp powder to supplement other shakes. While hemp is not a complete protein (as it’s lower in a few of the amino acids) the bonus is the omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and fibre it contains. www.nutriseed.co.uk

hemp protein nutriseed review best non dairy and vegan

 

I have a protein shake after every single Crossfit workout (I do three a week at Royal Docks in East London). The protein fuels muscle growth and aids recovery and the liquid forms means it’s broken down and digested quicker then solid food. I ALWAYS follow with a proper breakfast or lunch though as these are not meal replacements, but food supplements.

Doing more weight-bearing exercises as I speed through my 30s is important to help maintain bone health, keep metabolism high (which starts to drop the older you get), keep limbs nimble and skin toned. Basically to help fight all the signs of ageing!

Not heard of Crossfit? Now’s the time to check it out! It’s an intense workout that uses functional training, weightlifting and gymnastic exercises in interval style drills. It’s fast, furious and fun and a great way to build all-round fitness and strength but to really make a difference it’s also down to nutrition.

If you’ve tried a good protein shake recently sans the whey and dairy then let me know! Or maybe you’re a dairy-free Crossfitter with some good tips? Tell me more!  x

 

Stuffocation – a new challenge for 2016

stuffocation new year resolutions 
The issue of stuff seems to be a popular one right now. Not only is it the time of year to de-clutter our cupboards and minds but two books that came out last year are still being talked about now: Stuffocation by James Wallman, about excessive consumerism, and The Life Changing Method of Tidying by Marie Kondo, Japan’s expert declutterer who everyone seems to be quoting. I haven’t read either but I feel like I’m on a similar mission of mindfulness right now.

Basically, I’ve always owned way too much stuff and it’s been bothering me for some time. I’ve always been a thrift lover, never one to miss a charity, vintage or second hand shop and always spotting a hidden treasure in a junkyard, brick a brack shop, sale or market. Between the ages of 15 and 17 I would quite often come home to tell my parents of yet another ‘amazing’ wardrobe or dressing table I’d just bought from our local charity shop and poor them, would have to make space for it in the garage.

For longer than a decade I’ve collected fabulous things from these kind of places – never junk in my eyes, but usually something unique, unusual and always one off. I’ve never been attracted to designer handbags or glitzy high heels but I do find it hard to walk away from anything circa 1950s, 60s, 70s or 80s.

But recently I decided to clear the clutter. No more 70s platforms I can’t walk in, no more 60s playsuits I can’t wear out.

 So I listened to friends tell me about Kondo’s book and the line where she tells you to ask yourself if an item ‘sparks joy’. This sounded great in theory but realised there was a flaw.

What if everything you own brings you joy? What if you love every bit of clutter you’ve collected? That’s the problem with people like me – all their stuff brings them joy!

So I’ve tweaked Kondo’s rule of ‘sparking joy’ to make it more effective for me:

My new rule: ‘Does it bring me joy AND is it useful?’. 

I’ve finally decided I no longer want to hold on to so much stuff unless it’s useful.  For example, there’s no point keeping a beautiful pair of vintage Ralph Lauren silk trousers (which bring me a lot of joy) if they’re too long and I can’t wear them. If they fail the useful test, they have to go!

Having to tick both boxes definitely helps limit accumulation and aid elimination. With this rule in mind, recent edits and clear outs have been far more ruthless and extensive than they were a few years ago.

My recent recent house move involved several harsh culls across from kitchenware to coats. I slashed everything down and it felt really really good. I’m no longer cluttered and there’s plenty of space in my new flat BUT that’s not a reason to start collecting, buying and owning again. 

I guess that’s where the mindfulness comes in – it’s being aware and connected to what’s in our lives, physically and mentally, and assessing our relationship with it. 

>> My aim this year is to get to the point where I’m not just a non-hoarder but, in an ideal world, I’d like to get to the point where I only own what I use. I want to own a curated collection of things, not everything. I realise it might be a tall order but there’s no harm in trying.

There’s something cathartic about the notion of owning less. I’m looking forward to the feeling of lightness and simplicity. Of quality not quantity. I feel like this whole experiment (and I do see this as an experiment of sorts)  could be a form of psychological and emotional release too.

I appreciate this new attitude towards stuff jars with the super-charged commercial and highly materialistic world we live in but I’ve got to the point where I actually want to be free of it all.

If I could halve what I own in the next six months I’ll consider it a success. In the meantime, I’m operating on a one-in-one-out basis which is an achievable way of keeping on top of things, especially good if you’re not quite ready for a complete cull. Let’s see if I am!

Spa at home

Health and Fitness magazine, Jan 2014 Spa at home, Yanar Alkayat
‘Picture this. You’ve just had a luxurious body treatment and are enveloped in a sea of warm aromatic water, petals and herbs scattered on its surface. There’s a cup of fresh mint tea at your side and a blend of fragrant essential oils fills the air with an uplifting scent. As you lie back and close your eyes, the distant sound of waves gently drifts towards you… No, you’re not relaxing at an exotic spa, this is your private retreat, right in your own home.’
Health and Fitness magazine,  Jan 2014 Spa at home, Yanar Alkayat
My piece in the January issue of Health & Fitness magazine is on creating the perfect spa experience at home, out now, featuring some of my favourite spa brands, Ila, Decleor, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Elemis, Balance Me, Ushvani, Elemental Herbology, Aveda, Sultane de Saba – the brand to turn to for an authentic Hammam-style black soap – and many more.
There is also expert insight and recommendations from Carole Jones of Germaine de Cappuccini,

Katharine Mackenzie Paterson from Spa Illuminata and Melissa Choi from Choi Time Teas, for creating the right ambience and setting as well as tools and spa rituals for a bespoke spa experience at home.
Now is definitely the season, weather and time for retreating indoors for a cosy, rejuvenating and pampering night in. Pick up a copy here. Enjoy!

Holiday health

Christmas holiday health dream team on brighter shade of green

Christmas, health, diet and wellbeing don’t usually go hand in hand, which is why I’ve taken away a dream team to help me through the festive period in a slightly better state – let’s call it damage control. Not only is it Christmas but I’m on holiday too so double trouble.

These health favourites are nothing fancy, and nothing complicated, just products that are natural, simple to use or take, easy to incorporate into a daily diet (however overindulgent it might be) and will hopefully mean the damage-remedy in January will be less of a mammoth task to manage.

Christmas holiday health dream team on brighter shade of green

From left to right:

Viridian Equinox Elixir – with nasty air con blasting, you’re lucky to get off a flight without sneezing or coughing so I take this herbal tincture with a bit of water when I’m in the air to ward off any bacteria or germs. Antioxidants are my number one in-flight essential and because Viridian Equinox is helpful for boosting the immune during a change of seasons, it’s perfect for travel too.

Viridian Digestive Elixir – I’ve made it a daily habit to take 20 drops of another great Viridian tincture, Digestive Elixir, after learning about the benefits of morning bitters from the experts at Grayshott Hall. This one supports the enzymes necessary for digestion and I’ve taken it every day without fail this holiday. I’m eating extraordinary amounts of food this holiday, some of which I’m not used to, so setting myself up on the right path first thing in the morning helps my tummy get through the day!

VeryWise EnergyWise – this is a new kid on the health block so I’ve taken it away to try. There are six oils in this new range of Omega 3 ‘shots’ by VeryWise, as Omega 3 is thought to be the cornerstone of heart, brain and joint health. Each variety is specially formulated for a different health focus and this one, EnergyWise, is the only one that’s vegan (the others contain fish oils). It’s got a lovely mixture of B vitamins, some caffeine (75mg) and the medium chain fatty acids (MCTs, as found in coconut oil) that support balanced blood sugar levels and metabolism. It tastes like a caramel espresso shot (yum!) and gave me a noticeable boost of energy. My only gripe is that the bottle and cap gets messy, reminding me of the way children’s medicine does, so don’t throw away its cardboard container.

Nosh Detox Raw Boosters – as I can’t take away my green veg and blender on holiday, these little sachets of health containing raw, organic, freeze-dried super powders are a portable substitute. A power-mix of alfalfa, kelp, chlorella and other greens for a quick way to balance any acidity from overindulgence; bread, wine, dairy or meat are the biggest culprits for an over-acid stomach and that means one thing: bad digestion, low absorption of nutrients, bad skin and weight gain. One of these green shots (pictured) can help rebalance the alkaline in the tummy, even with festive over-eating. Lemon water first thing in the morning also helps.

Nosh Detox Raw Boosters Brighter Shade of Green

I thought mixing with water rather than juice would taste terrible but it wasn’t bad at all and I’m definitely going to buy some the next time I go away.

Pukka Organic Coconut Oil – I’m a huge fan of coconut oil and use it practically every day so I wouldn’t dream of going away without it. Most tubs are huge but this one from Pukka Herbs is the perfect size for holidays, trips and overnight stays. Delicious on bread or toast, on skin and generally for health, coconut oil is a powerhouse for health and diet: its slow-release energy keeps you fuller for longer, it’s used by the body as instant energy rather than stored as fat and has an amazing power to increase the metabolism – not far off detoxing while you eat!

The Organic Pharmacy Detox – after reading my Raw Food Diet Challenge, founder of The Organic Pharmacy, Margo Marrone, kindly sent me her Detox capsules to try, telling me they’ll keep my tummy flat without having to slave in the kitchen for a raw food diet. I’ve taken them meticulously as instructed (three capsules 30 minutes before food in the morning and three caps in the evening after food) and I have to say my tummy would not be as well behaved and un-bloated for the copious amounts I’ve eaten this holiday, and with all the baklawa I’ve eaten, there’s no way my skin would have remained so clear.

I’ve tried a lot of detox and cleanse supplements over the years and this one is also gentle, as it says it is, i.e. no sudden rushes to the bathroom. The blend in the vegan capsules contains burdock root, alfalfa, chorella, slippery elm, psyllium husks, barley grass and other fabulously detoxifying herbs. Highly recommended as a supplement to any festive food and drink blow out.

Happy eating!x

How to perfect the art of green juices and smoothies

green smoothie recipe tips

It’s not always easy practising what I preach when it comes to health and nutrition – although I try to buy organic, I avoid dairy and I’ve been a vegetarian nearly all my life (since I was nine) – it’s taken a while to get on board the green juice/smoothie movement. Now that I have though I’m really quite into it – but how do you make them taste good?

First, I found this great list of four easy recipes for green juices and smoothies – I think it’s one of the better collections I’ve seen. I passed it round my non-hippy friends and to my surprise they were guzzling down green concoctions before I’d even had a chance to take a proper look myself. I finally dusted off my blender (a brilliant Kenwood Compact Jug Blender) and now perfecting the art of blending green…

I started experimenting with big bunches of green veg – whatever organic variety I could get at the shops: spinach, kale, lettuce leaves, celery, cucumber, parsley and mint as well as lemons and fruit for taste and added vits.

After a few attempts I’ve arrived at a few top tips on how to blend green and enjoy it.

– Use a whole (or half) lemon – yes, including the rind! – Buy organic, unwaxed lemons and add to the mix. Not only will it  balance the earthy taste of the greens but the vitamin C will help your body absorb the iron more effectively.

I’ve also just read in Neal’s Yard Remedies new book ‘Healing Foods‘ a lemon’s skin contains the highest concentration of antioxidants and citrus liminoids (which studies have shown can help control blood sugar levels).

So instead of just squeezing the lemon juice, use the whole (or half) lemon – chop up it up small (so the blender can handle it easily) and pop it in first. It gives the blend a fantastic kick.

– Balance any sour from lemon with low-sugar fruits – pears, kiwi (use the whole kiwi including the skin), blackberries, strawberries or melon will give the recipe a palatable lift and add more antioxidants and vitamin C.

Experiment with different raw green veg – fresh, organic, uncooked spinach is great because we usually eat spinach cooked which means a massive loss of nutrients. Use half a bag (if you’re using baby leaf)  or a whole bunch if using large leaf, fresh. The darker the greens, the greater the goodness so try different varieties of kale and/or parsley.

Add liquids and high-water veg to thin it down – as with most smoothies, too little juice leaves things sludgy so thin it down with ice, apple juice, coconut juice or rice milk and you’ll get a better consistency and taste. High-water veg includes cucumber and celery.

 Add a superfood powders – one of the reasons I’ve turned to greens is to eat a more alkaline-rich diet. I’m hoping this will mean fewer health problems and a cleaner, healthier gut in the long run. When the gut is functioning properly it absorbs more nutrients and this can lead to better health and better skin too. I love Pukka Herbs Organic Clean Greens (includes sprirulina, kale sprouts and wheat grass juice).

 

pukkaherbs clean-greens Aduna Baobab Fruit Pulp Powderorganic_burst_maca powder

 

Other super-food powders currently doing the rounds on the health-fanatics’s shopping list are Aduna Baobab Fruit Pulp Powder  for a super-strength dose of immune-boosting vitamin C or Organic Burst Maca Powder for a natural way to boost energy levels – great if you’re a busy mum or do a lot of sport.

– Don’t forget it’s trial and error – the more you blend and experiment with quantities and combinations the better it gets. The first few times I did it I wasn’t so impressed but now I’m loving it – it’s great with mint and cucumber too so make sure you have plenty of those as make everything taste great.

Give it a go and let me know how you get on!

 

Treatment of the month: Mindful Massage

Treatment of the month - Mindful Massage

I reviewed a very interesting massage treatment for Natural Health  magazine recently which puts a totally new spin on a traditional massage. Instead of switching off, therapist Belinda Freeman encourages you to tune in and turn the mind on. The Mindful Massage (at Third Space, London) may sound like it defeats the object of having a massage but it’s actually quite clever and totally unique.

Belinda talks through the massage in a quiet, soft and soothing voice to keep you focussed on your body and breath. It’s totally guided so there’s little opportunity or space to let the mind wander, working in a similar way to some meditation where  you just focus on your breath. As the mind starts to drift off, she brings you back to the present and to the sensations of her touch.

She’s cleverly combined elements from yoga nidra (yoga sleep where you stay consciously focussed but your body is in deep relaxation) with the concept of mindfulness (being aware of thoughts, actions and emotions) as well as drawing on her 25 years of experience in Tai Chi, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, hypnotherapy, counselling and more.

Recommended? Yes, definitely. Try this massage if you’re having problems relaxing and need to de-stress and settle the mind. Not only do you get an excellent massage, worth the session in itself, but may discover a new way to increase focus, clarity and emotional stability. It’s great if you have experience of yoga nidra too as there are several similarities to relate to.

Available at Third Space gym in London. Check out Belinda’s profile on Third Space or her website Mindful Mind for more info. Let me know if you’ve tried anything like this before?

 

Best retreats for diet, detox, health, wellbeing, fitness and therapy

Psychologies March issue retreats

Read my piece in this month’s issue of Psychologies magazine on the best retreats around the UK and Europe for health, fitness, diet and general wellbeing.

It features the fabulous Surfing is Therapy, FitFarms, Successful Relationships and NuBeginnings. If you’ve been on a particularly good retreat let me know – would love to hear about it!

Image

The next big thing in beauty: Vitamin Infusions

Nosh Detox Vitamin Infusion

Yesterday morning I discovered one of the biggest secrets to sparkling celebrity skin and it certainly wasn’t from a £1000 pot of promises. I was taped to a drip in a plush address off Harley Street in London, with thousands of milligrams of pure vitamins pumped into my blood intravenously. This was a Nosh Detox Vitamin Infusion and it’s far better than it looks or sounds, I promise, so stick with me!

I guarantee Vitamin Infusions are set to be the next big health and beauty treatment to hit the mainstream. Forget creams, forget supplements and don’t even bother with regular smoothies from the supermarket. What the celebs have been booking before red carpet appearances is a course of vitamin infusions.

What’s a Vitamin Infusion? It’s when vital nutrients are administered directly into the body (by a nurse), bypassing  the digestive system. Vitamins supplements taken orally are usually rendered useless due to ineffective absorption in the gut – I’ve heard the body can only absorb around 40% maximum of a supplement pill anyway which doesn’t sound like very much. Through IV nutrition you literally absorb 100% of the minerals and vitamins right before your eyes – that whole bottle of liquid you see in the picture above was gone within 30 mins.

What’s it for? Great skin, great health, energy, vitality. Even if your diet is great and you feel relatively healthy, you may not be at optimum health. You might feel tired or run down, have dry or dull skin or be getting ill regularly. Having a massive infusion of vitamins not only boosts the body back to health (especially after a spell of illness) but can also be great as a form of health maintenance . The PR girls who’d had the treatment a few days earlier looked incredibly well with enviously great skin so I was sold just by looking at them.

How do I feel now? I felt great after I had it and while I didn’t notice any instant glow on my skin, I did feel absolutely full of beans until the early hours. I definitely couldn’t sleep and woke up super easily the next day. I’ve heard the red carpet crew have these infusions regularly – either a short course before a big event, to get back on track after a period of stress or top-ups ever fortnight, month or even week.

But it doesn’t come cheap. Let’s just say you have to be comfortable with money. The infusion I had was Fit-Amin for immune and energy boost and cost a few hundred pounds. It contained: 2000 mg vitamin C, all the Bs, magnesium, calcium, zinc and selenium and several other vital nutrients.

Is this just another fad or is it the future of health and wellbeing? I say future, and most definitely one for health and beauty geeks like me…

Stress-busting aromatherapy and massage

NYR aromatherapy massage course emma robertson

NYR massage aromatherapy course

Did you know the quality of an aromatherapy oil is affected by the quality of the soil and where/how the plant is sourced? Did you also know rose oil was once used as a hangover cure as well as a way to heal a broken heart? And, in addition to relaxation and sleep, essential oil of lavender can also soothe and heal cuts, bites and burns.

I soaked up these fantastic facts and more at the Neal’s Yard Remedies Introduction to Massage course which I was lucky enough to attend last weekend. With it being National Stress Awareness Day last week, alleviating stress was the focus of the day.

I highly recommend this one day course that runs twice a year, especially if you’re excited by the therapeutic benefits of essential oils and wish you could get more massage into your life. Led by Neal’s Yard Remedies Head of Massage, Elaine Tomkins, it’s relaxed and informative with oil blending in the morning and basic hand, neck, back and head massage techniques in the afternoon. Take a partner you like or love and you’ll have a giggle too.

Here I am with beauty freelancer Emma Robertson attempting to give a relaxing head massage but judging by the look on her face I could be causing more pain than pleasure!

NYR aromatherapy massage course emma robertson

How to cure stress with essential oils and aromatherapy:

Rose – it’s one of the most healing (for skin) and anxiety-relieving oils you can choose. Just a few drops with water in an oil burner can calm the mind and prepare it for sleep. My rose oil is burning now as I write…

NYR aromatherapy rose oil burner

It takes 60-100 rose petals to make just one drop of rose essential oil – this fact always makes me wonder how sustainable it is to produce natural rose oil, which is why it’s important to buy from brands that grow organically and show a commitment to the livelihood of growers and farm workers.

Neal’s Yard Remedies has a history of building impressive relationships with its raw materials suppliers and works with a cooperative in southern Turkey for its rose extracts, using organic farming methods and ensuring fair living wages.

Bergamot –  this oil is extracted from the rind of a small (inedible) pear-shaped fruit from a tiny citrus tree (commercially grown in Italy). Bergamot is apparently great with gin (I’ll be trying this) as well as being the distinctive flavour in Earl Grey tea. The scent is uplifting and refreshing with a subtle spikiness.  Blend it with rose in a burner to help soothe nervous anxiety, create a harmonising massage oil or mix it with two drops of lavender for an uplifting bath oil. Along with rose, this was one of my favourites we sniffed.

Frankincense – this ancient oil has been used for religious ceremonies for thousands of years and might remind you of wintery, festive seasons. Its earthy, warm aura feels slightly uplifting and if you blend it with black pepper or citrus oils feels even more powerful. Interestingly, it enhances deep breathing making it great for meditation.

Clary Sage – from these five essential oils we smelled this was my least favourite. The strong muskiness didn’t agree with me at all, however, once blended with bergamot and rose it was far more attractive. This oil is said to help lighten a heavy state of mind, sadness, fatigue or fear. That’s sold it to me.

Holeaf – tipped by our trainer, Elaine as the next oil-to-watch, she predicts more beauty and fragrance brands will be using holeaf to lift their products to life over the next five years. Extracted from a Chinese evergreen tree (the wood of this same tree produces Camphor oil), it can enliven a low mood and low libido. Also good as a post-exercise massage oil to relieve fatigued muscles. Or add to your bath to help with flu, coughs or colds – perfect for this time of year.

If like me you’re fascinated by essential oils and desperate to get some of this vapour energy into your heart, body and mind then here are a few ways Elaine described to drip, pour, mix and burn oils for emotional and physical wellbeing…

1. Burn a few drops with water – inhaling the vapours can have a great effect on mood and emotions.

2. Use as a bath oil – apparently best mixed with full-fat milk to disperse into water more easily or mix with Epsom salts.

3. Apply neat to skin  – please note, not all oils are safe to do this with.

4. Blend with a carrier oil – such as almond or jojoba for a therapeutic massage/body oil.

5. Add to floral water – try orange flower or rose water to make a refreshing facial toner.

6. Combine with unperfumed moisturiser – to nourish and enhance skin.

7. Add a few drops to hot or cold water – to make a healing compress.

…and a few I found searching online which I might try too:

8. Mix 3-5 drops of essential oil to unscented clothes detergent.

9. Mix two teaspoons of tea tree oil with two cups of water in a spray bottle for an oil-purpose household cleaner. (I love this one as I absolutely loathe all the chemical cleaning sprays everyone buys).

10. Soak a cotton ball with patchouli and/or lavender and place in closets to keep moths away from clothes – I’m definitely going to be trying this one as I’m so paranoid about moths eating my clothes.

So there we have it, a very long post about amazing essential oils! I’m off to buy a life-enhancing wardrobe of essential oils, so please pass on any tips you might have too, would love to hear them…

Find out more about Neal’s Yard Remedies courses here. 

On the bookshelf

My two latest Amazon book buys include: The Coconut Oil Miracle and The Juice Lady’s Guide to Juicing for Health. Neither are new releases but as coconut oil is having its moment of fame in the world of health I thought I’d swot up on it. The book was published  in 2004, long before it was fashionable to debate the food’s health benefits but begins by describing the Ayurvedic, Polynesian and Central American cultures who have used coconut oil in cooking, health and beauty for thousands of years. It’s only recently western cultures have given this ancient health food any attention.

It hasn’t come without controversy though – being a saturated fat, coconut oil has gathered quite a strong opposition but the book details decades of published medical journals examining its nutritional benefits and unique chemical make-up that sets it apart from other saturated fats.

The juicing book presents an A-Z of common health conditions with a detailed examination of what juices could prevent and treat, which appeared to be more in-depth than your average juice-diet-recipe book.

I spotted both books in an amazing health food store called Rainbow in California while I was there a few months ago and picked them up from Amazon when I got back. Can’t wait to get stuck in…

A Pukka way forward

Pukka Herbs Revitalise Tea

Pukka Herbs Revitalise Tea

I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to caffeine – anything after 4pm and I’m wide-eyed until the early hours so come evening, I switch to herbs. Pukka Teas Revitalise is one I really rate – it does exactly as it says on the box: ‘it warms and invigorates with organic cinnamon, cardamom and ginger’. 100% of the ingredients are organically grown (with a Soil Association stamp of approval) and ethically sourced from around the world.

So while I’ll always opt for full-caffeine tea or coffee any time of morning, this is my current favourite for a natural evening energy boost – and very comforting when it’s cold.  It gets my big tea-tick…

California: The best place to be vegan?

The mural in store was painted by local artists to honour farm workers and the earth

Is California the best place to be a vegan? Yes, it is! I’m actually half vegan myself (‘half’ because I eat cake!) and when I’m in situations when I can’t be too fussy – like being in Spain, or France. Terrible places to be a vegan. San Francisco on the other hand, is a cow’s dream. VEGAN HEAVEN.

Forget India, sunny-Cali is where vegans should live. I have never seen ordinary supermarkets stock such a wide selection of dairy-free produce:  vegan cookies, vegan ice-cream, vegan toiletries, vegan brownies, muffins and cakes, all manner of cruelty-free and eco-friendly cosmetics and skincare, and several shelves of very delicious vegan cheese and vegan Ravioli. The choice is almost endless.

Krispy Kreme eat your heart out..

Delicious…

MEXICAN Mexican food is huge in California too and while it’s relatively easy to eat dairy-free in this cuisine (just hold the sour cream and cheese) it was much more fun going to vegan Mexican, Gracias Madre where the food is also organic. Grilled potato cakes topped with salsa verde, avocado and cashew cream? Yes please. Sweet potato and caramalised onions in tortilla with cashew nacho cheese and pumpkin seed salsa was another great eat. RAINBOW GROCERY The best place shopping destination was a health food mecca called Rainbow. This was  a mammoth-sized, Ikea-style superstore with dizzying heights of health produce and endless rows of every niche food item you can ever imagine. The health and beauty section required an hour alone. Suffice to say, it was impossible to get out of there without feeling poor. natural soap at Rainbow

I left San Francisco feeling like it’s easy-peasy to live with whatever dietary requirement you wish and still be fed and nourishd but most of all, excited and enticed by food. And I think that’s what’s missing here in the UK.

I find it easy (ish) to be to be vegan because I’ve been a vegetarian since I was nine years old and it was a natural transition about 5 years ago to drop diary. Mainly because I’d read up about the diary industry and realising how much antibiotics, growth hormones and chemicals animals are fed, decided that I didn’t want to consume that or support it in any way. If I ate diary I would always choose organic and always tell people that’s what they should buy.

It’s also find it manageable to eat vegan because I love food, and enjoy being creative with ingredients. I also love eating out so I’ve perfected the art of smiling sweetly at waiters and requesting a completely different meal that’s on the menu. You just have to ask nicely!

Also, because our ready-made food selection for vegans is almost non-existent it’s a relatively healthy way to eat; I make 95% of meals from scratch and eat limited processed foods. I do however eat cake – the full fat non-vegan kind usually when it’s home made by friends or my sister (a brilliant cake-maker and author of Tea and Cake London).

We are still a long way off from having good vegan baked foods – cakes, cookies, etc –  and if we had the kind of choice  San-Fran has then I wouldn’t need to eat non-vegan cake – I could be fully vegan and still get all the sweet delights everyone else gets. I just might weigh a few pounds more!

If you want more vegan tips, just let me know in the comments box – happy to help.

Why coconut oil is good for you

Pukka Herbs coconut_oil

Pukka Herbs coconut_oil

Coconut oil is my hot-product of the moment – as a spread for toast and oil for cooking – but a friend recently said it’s not good for us as it’s saturated fat, i.e. a heart health and weight-loss no-no. Yes, it’s a saturated fat but no, it isn’t bad for us, it’s actually very very good. So off I went to consult the powers of Google and I came back with some very very confusing answers. Luckily, health journalist Anna Magee, in her brand new book The De-stress Diet, explains why this is a wonder oil for our health and wellbeing, inside and out…

“Not all saturated fats behave the same. Plant versions like medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut cannot be stored as fat and so act thermogenically, raising fat-burning and metabolism. These are the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory fats like lauric acid caprylic acid, also found in human breast milk, pumpkin seeds and butter.” 

Even more interesting, she says: “High dietary coconut is associated with low obesity and heart disease in culture that eat it a part of their traditional diet, showing abilities to regulate insulin, prevent metabolic syndrome, reduce heart disease risk factors and as a healthy addition to a weight-loss diet.”

So there you have it, a secret powerhouse. It comes as a solid in a jar or tub but turns liquid in warmer temperatures so it’s very versatile. I’ve also heard it’s great for applying straight to skin – I met a woman once who lives in Thailand (think of all the wrinkle-causing sun rays) but honestly she looked about ten years younger which she said was down to using only coconut oil on her face. I’m sold.

So, thank you Anna for the fab explanation that’s helped sort out the bad from the good. Now go forth and get coconut oil into your life! And please check out the exceedingly good health, diet and wellbeing book for an insightful (and seriously easy) way to live a healthier and happier life without stress and weight-gain: The De-Stress Diet by Anna Magee and Charlotte Watts (£12.99, HayHouse). Buy it. Now. You won’t be disappointed.

Future of supplements – read my article in Natural Health magazine

Natural Health magazine, Future of Supplements Feb'11 Natural Health magazine, Future of Supplements Feb'11

Out now in Natural Health magazine (Feb ’11 issue) is my article on the future of health supplements, which makes essential reading for anyone passionate about their health and the natural health industry.

At the end of March this year new EU laws and regulations will come into place restricting the supply of some supplements and herbal medicines. There are also plans to impost maximum permitted doses on vitamins, which will restrict what dosages you can buy vitamins in. Naturopaths, herbalists and consumers across Europe are deeply concerned about how this will impact people who are trying to take care of their health. This is ultimately an infringement on our freedom of health choice.

It’s a huge and complicated area and unfortunately there’s a lot of misinformation out there but the Alliance of Natural Health is one of the most comprehensive and reliable sources on the internet. I advise everyone to read more about what’s going on  http://anh-europe.org/

Winter health – how not to get a cold

The Organic Pharmacy Immune Tonic

The Organic Pharmacy Immune TonicThe snow caught up with London today and it was freezing! So I thought I’d introduce you to my secret weapon for warding off a winter cold. Something we could all do with at this time of year. And this little saviour is the business when it comes to keeping away aches and pains, and it’s completely natural.

It is The Organic Pharmacy Immune Tonic.

This special tincture is a blend of herbs such as Cat’s Claw (great for kidney health), Elderberry and Thyme (great for fighting infection) to strengthen the immune system and keep you feeling fit against the raging elements outside.

Add a few drops in water (I recommend juice as it doesn’t taste sweet) and down it quick! Keep this up all winter and you might have a few less sneezes than expected.

I love it. Tell me what you use against the winter chill…

£10.76 from The Organic Pharmacy

Can a massage bust your fat?

Elemis-cellutox-body-concentrateLast week I tried two massages designed to pummel away my cellulite. The first one: a heavy duty, all hands-elbows-knuckles, sumo-style massage at Neville Hair & Beauty in Chelsea, London; the second:  a slightly more holistic experience at Elemis Day Spa in Central London.

While I’m no slimmer, a lymphatic drainage massage has a great effect on cranking circulation into gear and is worth any discomfort. I’m no wimp when it comes to body treatments – I have regular sports treatments with the most bruising of sports masseurs – but Tetyana at Neville’s came a close second as she kneaded my thighs until they were red hot and then used cupping to blast circulation even more.

Krisztina in NW London is another masseur with a ‘firm’ yet healing touch – she incorporates more emotional healing with her treatments though and definitely worth a booking in with (www.involutiontherapies.com).

Back to fat. The task at hand was to find ‘instantly slimming tricks’ for Women’s Fitness magazine. Tetyana’s persistent pummelling would reap benefits after a few sessions a week I’m sure – coupled with exercise of course – but the Elemis Body Sculpting and Cellulite Colon Therapy gave me a flatter tummy literally the next day. That was thanks to some firm prods around the belly which basically shifted everything around. So thumbs up there.

At home, I religiously reach for the body oil post shower and massage it in firmly, pretending I’m on the massage bed just without the bruises at the end. Eventually it all adds up and you end up with smooth skin all the time, leaving  you with less need to visit sadistic massage therapists too.