Hormone health

As we age our body’s hormonal function starts to decline.  Hormonal imbalance is not just caused by menopause or a hysterectomy, for example, but can also be due to other factors.  For example, stress, food sensitivities, “leaky gut,” nutrient deficiencies, not sleeping well or lack of sleep, environmental toxins, any tension in relationships, as well as a refined carb-heavy diet.  Various symptoms are linked to hormonal imbalance:  hair loss, unexplained weight gain, mood swings and fatigue. 

Cortisol and Insulin play a huge part in hormonal functioning.  It is natural for the body to “switch off” these hormones as we age; however, it can happen earlier than expected, due to either one / more of the above-mentioned reasons, or because of a total hysterectomy (where the ovaries are also taken out).  The impact of these hormones on our overall health (and sanity), is quite important.  According to Dr. Anna Cabeca, adrenal insufficiency can occur.  During the first phase the body begins to metabolize the muscle-proteins and this causes fatigue, weakness and muscle pain.  It can also cause women to have cravings and experience sudden, unhealthy weight gain around the middle.

During the second phase more menopause symptoms kick in, because the adrenals are now impacting the balance of other minor hormones (for example oestrogen, progesterone and pregnenolone), in favour of creating more cortisol – the slowing down of the production of the thyroid hormone.  “leaky gut” can develop, as well as sleep issues, moodiness and isolating behaviours.  Hair loss, inflammation (causing joint pain), a decrease in immunity, a lack of libido and blood sugar issues, can all creep in!

The third phase is called adrenal hypo function.  Adrenal hypo function is when the adrenals no longer pump out the required cortisol-level, because our brain has decided to shut down the production of cortisol!  Why?  In order to protect itself from these high cortisol outputs.  Therefore, this feedback from the brain causes the adrenals to decrease the cortisol output as a defensive measure; causing our bodies to become more acidic and causing more inflammation.

Is there hope?  Yes, there is!  And I am not referring to the synthetic hormone replacement drugs.  There is a more natural way to take care of your body.  The first thing to do is to manage your cortisol levels…and the rest will follow.  Here are a few tips how to manage it:

  1. Eat a more alkaline-based diet.  There are many researches done that demonstrates that an acid-heavy diet (one consisting of many carbs, sugars and processed foods), elevate cortisol and insulin.  Research also found a strong connection between dietary acid load and the conditions of bone health, obesity, cardiovascular disease and overall well-being.  When you stick to a more alkaline-based diet it helps to restore the cortisol- and insulin-levels to healthier levels, plus it helps to reset your daily circadian rhythm, boosts your mood, decreases joint pain (inflammation), promotes better sleeping patters and helps you to lose weight.  An added bonus is that such a diet also help to reduce bone loss and improves muscle mass. An alkaline diet is a diet rich in vegetables (however, there are some that can be more acidic than others – that is for another blog post).  Meat, processed foods, sugar, dairy, caffeine and alcohol, on the other hand, is more acidic.  I will look into more detail in another blog, but for now, try to eat 80% alkaline and 20% acidic.
  • Drinking Maca.  Maca is an adrenal adaptogen, which helps to balance your adrenals and hormones.  However, please ask your medical practitioner first about it, especially if you are sensitive to certain foodstuffs or have allergies.
  • A healthy lifestyle is key; not just for your physical health, but also for your mental and emotional well-being.  Managing your stress better is the first step in the right direction.  Exercise, as you know, plays an essential role in stress management.  Whether it is a Yoga- or Pilates class, swimming or going for a walk; the key is to learn how to breathe properly and to learn to be mindful.  Meditation is another wonderful way of reducing stress levels and becoming more mindful.  After all, when you stress less, you accomplish more!
  • Try to reduce environmental-toxins as much as possible.  Avoid foods that have unnecessary additives and/or preservatives in, buy organic whenever you can and use beauty products that are free of parabens and phthalates.
  • Get more sleep!  When you are stressed it disrupts your sleeping pattern and there is nothing worse than not getting enough sleep.  So, learn how to meditate if you struggle to “switch off” at night.  Going to bed at the same time will help to restore your circadian rhythm.  Avoid caffeine and “screen-time” (whether it is from your laptop, cell phone or television), at least an hour before bedtime.  It is important to sleep in a dark room; so, turn off the lights and don’t forget to switch off your phone (or at least put it on silence).  Just an interesting note on cell phones.  A study indicated that, if your electronic device(s) are in your bedroom, your brain don’t switch off and go into the deep sleep needed for regeneration.  Why?  Because of the radiation.  Best to leave it in another room instead of the bedroom.  If not possible, put it on your dresser and not next to your bed.
  • Healthy bowel and healing your gut.  Healthy bowel movement is very important and can be maintained by eating more fruit, vegetables and whole grains (grounded flax seed is also good).  However, if you suffer from allergies / sensitivities then do make sure to eat what your body is happy with.  Our gut has bacteria that needs to be in balance in order for us not to suffer from constipation, bloatedness and/or a “leaky gut.”  As mentioned before, a diet rich in alkaline foods is good, as well as eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.  Drinking enough water is key, as is adding fermented foods, like yogurt, to your diet.
  • A low-carbs diet high in healthy fats.  We all know that eating plenty of refined sugars and starches not only plays havoc on our waistlines, but it can also spike our blood sugar and insulin levels.  Swap your white bread for brown, wholewheat or rye bread, for example.  Eating less butter and more olive oil, is another tip.  Coconut oil is good but do use in moderation as it is high in calories!  Avoid margarine at all costs – butter is far healthier. 

Small changes can add up and bring you big results.  So why not make a conscious decision, this year, to eat more healthy, drink more water, get exercise and, most importantly, get rid of and learn how to handle stress.  Put your laptops down, leave your phone at home and get out into nature – even if it is cold!  Reconnecting with nature, with oneself and with each other – the good old fashioned way – is a great way to relax and unwind.

New Year – does it mean new beginnings?

Whenever a new year begins, we tend to say / believe that it is a start of new things; a new beginning of sorts.  In many ways this is true, for example a new year can usher in changes like moving house, getting married or going on an overseas trip.  Yet, for me personally, each day is new – let me explain.  Most of us have a daily routine that we follow:  get up, have breakfast, get everyone ready, go to work, and so on and so on.  But have you ever noticed that no day is, in fact the same?

Yes, the sun comes up and sets in the same spot and, more or less at the same time (depending on the season of course)!  But look around you and notice that nature is constantly changing.  Clouds never look the same as the day before, nor do plants.  Today you might notice a new flower in your garden that wasn’t there before; tomorrow you might notice that the tree has started to shed its leaves.  The ocean is a wonderful example of the changes that happens all the time.  Even though the waves look the same, it is not.  Every grain of sand, every shell, that it pushes onto the shore, is different.  It always amazes me to look at nature and notice the various shades of a colour, for example green.  No plant’s colour is the same, no plant has the same patterns, no flower smells the same; no animal is the same.

When you realize that there is constant change and that change is the one thing in life that is constant, then every day becomes a new day, a new beginning as it were.  Going into this year, do not fret, stress or worry about your goals that you haven’t achieved last year.  Rather think of your goals as a to do-list.  Tick off the things you did and carry on with what is left.  If there is something like a goal, that you didn’t achieve or finish, let it go.  It is in the past.  You are now here, in the present, in the now; start here.  When you set a goal (s) it should never be something that is unattainable or unreachable.  It is better to take baby-steps and get there in the end, than trying to run so fast to get there, that you end up landing on your bum!

We are all on a journey; a journey where we need to grow spiritually and yes, to learn life-lessons.  Some of us will learn quickly; others will take a bit longer.  Whatever your goal (s) are for this year, make it your priority to not beat yourself up, nor be harsh on yourself if you haven’t reached your goal in a certain time-frame.  Time-frames are great tools to help us to stay focused, to stick to a routine and to hang in there.  However, time-frames should never restrict you from being yourself and enjoying life. 

A new year brings with it many opportunities to “write a new story,” to carry on working towards your goal, or setting a new goal.  Whatever you want to achieve this year – go for it, stay positive, stay focused and remember, every day is a new day; every day is a blessing.  Enjoy the ride, enjoy the journey and remember:  be kind to yourself and always smile!

End of another year

As we come to another end of another year, many of us are probably at a place in our lives where we realized that change is inevitable and that there are things in life that we don’t have control over.  Therefore, I want to re-visit and look at a few pointers that I feel can take us forward into the new year. 

We are, according to astrologers and esoteric thinkers alike, entered into the Aquarian Age.  An age where we realize that freedom is our human right, that being and staying healthy is what makes us wealthy, that family and friends are precious, and that we are all connected.  We are all part of a wider, bigger universe or Christ Consciousness; and we need to work together if we want to achieve peace and prosperity.  Aquarius is the water-bearer sign– water being the symbol of wisdom and knowledge.  Many people, at first, think Aquarius is a water sign, but it is in fact an air sign, which means that Aquarians use their thinking-cap instead of their emotions, when making decisions. Working with his / her intuition (gut feelings) are another trait of Aquarians.  Aquarius is also a fixed sign; which means that, once it has made up his / her mind up, it is done and not easily changed. Another trait is that it stands firm in his / her beliefs and has an attitude of “all or nothing” when it comes to relationships, work, setting goals, and so on.

Coming back to this year, and specifically focusing on health and fitness, the things to remember is never to give up, keep going and don’t be hard on yourself if things don’t work out the way you want(ed) it to.  When you want to exercise more, eat healthier or just be more open to forming new relationships, take it step by step and stay in the now.  Having a goal (or a list of to do) is a wonderful tool to use but do remember that it can take time to reach your goal.  Instead of rushing things, rather focus on the steps to take to get there.  It is often the people who start off by making small changes, that will stick to their goal than those who rush in and then give up.

Looking after our emotional- and mental health is also vital to help us stay positive, committed in our goal and in life in general.  When something, in this case, a year has ended, we should not beat ourselves up if we didn’t do / achieve all our goals.  Focus on what has been achieved, be grateful for getting this far and know that each day is a blessing.  When you can look at life and appreciate the simple things, life changes.  Nature is, as I have said in previous blogs, a wonderful healer, teacher and gift.

Nobody is certain about today; if there is one, big lesson to take with you, is to just be in the now, be in the present, breathe and let Divinity / God / Universe take care of the rest!  Like my granddad used to say: “if you worry, you die; if you don’t, you might also die!  So why worry?”  May all my readers have a blessed, healthy and happy 2021.  Chin up, stand up straight and shine your inner light into the world!

Healthy snacks for your dog and / or cat

Pets are part of the family; they are not just man’s best friend, but also loyal companions that gives love unconditionally – many lessons to be learnt from our animal friends.  So, why not treat them to some home-made snacks this festive season.

Here is a healthy recipe that you can make as a treat for your dog.  Just make sure to ask your vet if unsure and remember, it is a snack (treat) so don’t feed your dog everything at once!

2 cups wholewheat flour

½ cut smooth peanut butter (make sure is does not contain Xylitol, as this is toxic to animals)

2 eggs

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

¼ cup water; extra if needed

Mix the flour, peanut butter, eggs and parsley in a bowl until just combined.  Add water, little-by-little until the mixture comes together.  Roll out the dough (5 cm) and cut out shapes.  Place on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes at 180*C (350*F).

This recipe makes about 36 treats and will stay fresh, in an airtight container, for a week.  The dough can easily be frozen to make the treats at a later stage.

Here is an easy-to-follow recipe for making home-made snacks for your cat:

1 tbsp Catnip (Optional)

1 cup All-purpose flour

1 tbsp Olive oil

1 10 oz can Tuna or Salmon

1 Egg

1 cup Old fashioned oats

Preheat your oven to 180*C (350*F).  Drain your canned tuna and reserve about 3 tbsp of the liquid.  Dump your old-fashioned oats into the food processor and pulse until powdery.  Add all of your ingredients in and pulse away until it forms a ball of dough. If it’s too sticky, add more flour. If it’s too dry, add a bit of water.

Once mixed, roll out the dough and cut out shapes.  Bake it for about 20 – 30 minutes until it is slightly golden and crisp on the outside.  If your cat prefers crunchier treats, you can bake it a bit longer.  Let it cool completely and store it in an airtight container.

To all my readers celebrating Christmas; have a blessed festive season!

The art, the gift, of giving

Christmas-time is a time for giving – but should it be the only time that we give presents?  Of course not; birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and many other times, are celebrated.  Life should be celebrated – to wake up every morning is a blessing; to be able to walk, to see, to hear, are all blessings.  Yes, when it is a special day or special time of the year, we tend to go the extra mile with presents and/or decorating the house.

In the old days, when there were far less shopping malls, people used to make their own gifts for each other.  Home-made preserves, biscuits, self-made portraits, knitted scarves, the list goes on…everyone made something by hand.  Today it is, I agree, much easier (and sometimes cheaper) to buy something; especially if it is something the person wants.  But I cannot help but wonder if a handmade gift doesn’t mean more?  Don’t get me wrong – no matter the gift – it is the intention behind the gift that counts.  When we give something with love, it is accepted with love.  Even just giving our time and energy can go a long way!

I love to watch a young lady, Catherine, on YouTube.  Her channel is called Dainty Dairies and she always have such wonderful ideas on how to make your own gifts by using things you already have and just upcycling it.  For example, you can take a tin or a jar, give it a brush of paint, and fill it with something sweet or salty.  Tie a ribbon around it and there you go! Or you can take old toilet rolls, give it a lick of paint and/or decoupage it, press the sides in and voilà, you have a small gift box to put some sweets in or anything small.

In our household we have decided, a few years back, that we are not going to spend a fortune on Christmas-gifts.  Instead, we give each other something that is on the wish list and instead, we spoil each other on our birthdays.  So, if you don’t know what to give, why not ask the person to give you a list of things and then choose from there?  Or, if you, like me, like to bake, why not bake something and put it in a beautiful tin?  The internet is full of ideas of DIY’s and I am sure there will be something to make for everyone; even if you are not a “handyman / handy girl” by nature!

At the end of the day, I do believe that it is not the amount of money spent on a gift that counts.  It is the time taken to make it (search for it), the love that went into it and the reason for giving it, that counts.  Time, energy and love are things that cannot be measured by money.  Giving is the exchange of energy and, when our intentions behind giving is filled with love, admiration and a sense of wanting to give, then it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter how big the gift is. To give something of yourself, whether made or bought, is what counts.  I personally don’t think that giving should only be limited to Christmas and birthdays.

Walking past someone and just smiling, going for a walk with someone you love, helping someone around the house, anything where you give of your time, love and energy, is giving.  The art of giving is to give without expecting something in return.  When you give someone something, then energy is exchanged and, whether you get something in return straight away or not, shouldn’t matter.  Sometimes a hug, a smile, a thank you, is enough!

Don’t forget yourself

As the year starts to wind down and we are getting closer to the festive season, many of us tend to run around like a headless chicken, forgetting that we also need some TLC.  I have written previous blog posts about how to take “time-out” for yourself; so, in today’s blog post I want to remind you that it is not just a good night’s sleep and exercise that holds the key to a strong immune system, but also your diet and mind-set.

Winter is a time when most, if not all of us, lean more towards creamier, richer dishes and comfort foods.  An easy-to-follow guide is to make smart choices, for example instead of using full cream milk, go for low fat milk; swop the thick cream in sauces and use yoghurt instead; instead of eating mainly starches like pastas and breads, opt for more vegetables and soups.  Wintertime is not a time when we want to eat salads, so add more vegetables, apples, pears and other ins-season fruits and berries to your plates.  Adding ginger, garlic, turmeric and lemon to dishes and/or drinks are a fantastic way to not only boost your immune system, but also to keep viruses at bay.  Spices have been used for centuries and have wonderful medicinal properties as well.  For more information on this, why not have a look at some of my previous blog posts where I discuss the wonders of spices.

During the summer months don’t steer too far off the healthy earing-routine either!  Have an ice-cream or milkshake, but make sure to eat / drink in moderation.  Use low fat / fat free salad dressings instead of the creamier ones; or make your own.  Olive oil and/or vinegar is a wonderful salad dressing and you will be getting the much-needed omega oils in!  Whether it is winter or summertime, make sure to stay hydrated!  Water with lemon or mint in and black tea (no milk and sugar) are great.  Vitamins and minerals are also important.  Vitamin C, Zinc, Iron, Vitamin B12 and probiotics all play a part in building and maintaining a strong immune system.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means that it doesn’t stay in the body for a long period.  Taking it every morning, before breakfast, is a good idea and, for those who have a sensitive gut, I would recommend using a buffered vitamin C.  NRF and Biogen are good brands; as well as Solal and Solgar.  For those of you that exercise regularly, vitamin C is a must, as it plays a role in maintaining your energy levels and helps to get rid of rogue molecules in the body.  Sweet potato, tomatoes (plucked when they are ripe), red peppers, citrus foods and potato in the skin, all contain vitamin C.  Best to try to eat organic as much as possible, as it is more nutrient-dense.

Zinc plays an important role in keeping our immune system strong.  Shellfish is a good source but for those who are allergic or vegan, spinach and legumes (like chickpeas, lentils and beans) are great alternatives.  Red meat is another good source for those who do eat meat.

Iron is another mineral that plays an important role in keeping the immune system strong.  It can be found in red meat, beans, lentils, tofu, cashews, green leafy vegetables and in baked potatoes (with the skin).  Do take care if you are taking an iron-supplement.  In a multi-vitamin, the dose is not high, but when taking it on its own, do make sure to check with your health practitioner how much.  Too much iron can cause toxicity in the body.

Vitamin B12 not only supports the immune system but it also helps the body to cope when tired and/or stressed.  Did you know that, when you are ill, run down, tired or stressed, your body uses vitamin B6 & B12 first as a means to protect the immune system?  When you are depleted of these 2 vitamins, your chances of becoming ill are doubled, so to speak!  Therefore, make sure to add more fish, eggs, milk and cheese to your diet.  And for all the chocolate-lovers and vegetarians out there – eating dark chocolate is a must!  A quick tip:  taking vitamin B6 & B12, in combination form, is a great way to give your immune system that extra boost.

Vitamin D, found in eggs, milk, vegetables, fruits, protein and whole grains, play a key role in keeping the immune system strong.  For those living in a country where there is not plenty of sunshine, it is always a good idea to take a vitamin D-supplement.  This vitamin is also important for keeping depression at bay, as well as the absorption of calcium and magnesium in the body.

Probiotics is important for our gut.  When our gut is not in balance (especially when it is too acidic), then our health starts to suffer.  As mentioned earlier, tiredness, stress, feeling run down, and so forth, can create havoc on our immune system; as well as our gut.  Thus, taking a probiotic regularly, or and acid / alkaline powder (to balance the pH in our gut), is a wonderful way to make sure that the pH-levels are in balance and the immune system is working.

Lastly; mind-set.  Thoughts can create harmony or havoc in our lives.  Make time to relax, meditate, unwind and letting go.  When our minds race, when there are hundreds of “what ifs” running around, not only do we deprive ourselves of a good night’s rest, but our whole body starts to become run down – and we end up being ill.  Not to mention how it affects the people around us in a negative way!

Even if it is cold outside, put on a warm jacket and get out into nature – nature is a wonderful “medicinal” tool to help us to focus again on what we can change, what we can do and to stop worrying about the things we cannot change.  Grounding yourself is vital; not matter what life throws at you – after all, that which we fear we attract.  Our thoughts do create our reality, so be aware of your thoughts, but also watch your words!  Once a thought or a word has been uttered, it cannot be taken back.  Our minds are very powerful.  Focus on the positives, be grateful for what you have and stop dwelling in the past.  Your immune system and your gut, will be grateful!!

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Re-connecting with self

More and more people are awakening today; realizing, admitting to and accepting to take responsibility for the choices they make, the road (s) they choose to walk.  All of us have inherited certain genetics and traits from our parents, grandparents and other family members.  We have our own unique personality (part inherited, part conditioned by society, school, peers and the like) and we have a free will.  Free will is nothing but making our own choices, on our own, which can lead us either in a right or wrong direction. 

When we choose to be guided by our inner voice, our gut feeling (s), our intuition, then more often than not we will be guided to make the right choices and take the right decisions.  However, when we allow our ego to make the decision / choice, more often than not it is not what we thought it would be or completely wrong. 

Re-connecting with self means to quiet the mind; to tell the “chatter” to keep quiet; to tell the ego to be still; and to tap into the stillness by just being.  Not allowing thoughts to crowd the mind, our thoughts literally “disappears” and our mind becomes completely still.  Tapping into this stillness, we can re-connect not just with ourselves, but we can also connect, on a deeper level, with Divinity / God / Universe.  When the mind becomes quiet, you can hear what the Creator wants to tell you.  When your mind is full of chatter, you hear nothing.

When you start to awaken, you realize that your mind is more powerful than you know.  Your thoughts, beliefs, actions, identity and even goals, can all be selected.  It is not what you say, that matters, but the way you say it.  I am sure many of my readers have heard the following “your thoughts create your words, your words create your actions, your actions create your deeds, and your deeds create your destiny!”

Being awakened when using free will, you get to a stage in your life where you realize that the choices you make should be in harmony with your inner being, thus using your intuition more-and-more, will bring more peace into your life.  When you work with your intuition then you start to re-align yourself, as it were, with what you are meant to do, meant to be, and so forth.

Interestingly, the word Buddha means an awakened being.  You don’t have to be a Buddhist to be awake.  All you need to do is to make time to re-connect with yourself, whether it is through meditation, relaxing in nature or having a candle-lit bath.  The most important thing is to block out the chatter in your mind, become still and work with your intuition.  For many years people relied on their intuition.  Unfortunately, in the modern age where we are all overworked and rushed most of the time, we forget to “tune-in” and re-connect with us, with the inner self. 

Now, more than ever, it is important to re-connect.  Not only for our own sanity, but meditating regularly does wonders for our bodies – we can get by with an hour less sleep, we look younger than our age, we boost our immune system and we re-learn how to breathe properly.  Most of all, it is a wonderful way to relax, recharge and re-energize the body, mind and soul.

Free will gives each and every one of us the choice to consciously choose to be mindful, to awaken and to re-connect, or to stay asleep (as it were).  It is time that we, as a collective, move beyond the material world and realize that our bodies are not just made of flesh and bones, but that we have a spirit, a soul, that also needs nurturing, caring and attention.

So, next time your find yourself confused because of all the “noise” inside your head, stop, take a slow deep breath in and out, close your eyes (if possible), and tune into yourself; activate your intuition, your 6th sense and you are sure to know what to do, what to say, or where to go next!

Staying sane when everyone else is going mad

In a month’s time, Christmas has come and gone.  Tomorrow is “Black Friday- “sales and already people are cueing up and shops have started their sales already.  It is usually this time of year that, for some reason, people are more edgy, more frustrated and/or short-tempered.   Is it because it is almost the end of the year and people are tired?  Is it because they realize that, lo and behold, the Christmas-season is ahead and there is still shopping to do?  Who knows; the important thing is to stay sane when everyone around you is going a bit mad!

Staying sane is not always easy – trust me, where I live just driving to work on a “normal” day can make you a bit crazy!  Whether it is the idea that the festive season is just around the corner, you are getting ready for the big sale of the year, or your children are busy with exams, try to implement a few of these easy-to-follow tips that can (and will) help you to keep your cool, no matter what! 

  • When you are going to “close your eyes” and do some shopping online or in-store on Black Friday, make sure to have a list of what you want to buy.  Before you buy anything, ask yourself do you need it or just want it because it is on sale.  Remember, even on these big sale-days, shops still make a profit, so don’t be fooled to buy just anything because you think it is a bargain; especially when it is something you don’t need (or already have);
  • If you want to add to your shoe-collection, make sure that you buy a pair of shoes (for example), that you can wear with more than 5 items in your closet.  That way you are sure to get a “price per wear” of your purchase’
  • Breathe!!  When you get overwhelmed by choices and/or emotions, stop, take a few deep breathes in, exhaling slowly, and calm down.  Remember – the deeper and slower you inhale and exhale, the faster you will relax.  If you can, you can also close your eyes for a couple of seconds and just centre yourself and your thoughts again;
  • A list, as mentioned before, is a wonderful tool to use.  Not just for a shopping spree, but also if you have a full day and you don’t know where to start.  There is a great sense of relief when you can tick of the things on your “to do- “list;
  • Lastly, try to support your local shops, local producers and be mindful of the environment when you buy.  There is a trend where more people are moving away from “fast fashion” and buying things that won’t last long or are recyclable; so just another great tip to follow.

For all my readers out there, who are gearing up for tomorrow – good luck!  For all of us who are starting to get tired as the end of the year is getting closer and closer – hang in there!  Breathe, relax, do yoga, go out in nature, meditate, remember to laugh and stay in the now!

And one last thing – instead of stressing yourself out, take a step back, be in the now and just go with the flow!

Diet, exercise, either / or; neither / nor…

Hundreds and hundreds of people, from all walks of life, believe that diet plays a role in losing weight.  Coupled with exercise, you not only reach your goals, but also maintain it…or so they say!  Other people say no to dieting but yes to some form of exercise and they, too, stay fit and healthy.  So, what is the answer then?  The verdict is still out, but I am going to give you some feedback of what I read, studied and experienced, over the years.

I, for one, has never believed in any strict form of dieting.  As a Nutritionist, I can honestly say that I believe that we need to eat balanced meals that consists of all the different food groups.  The secret, I believe, is to reduce and/or cut out refined sugars and starches, processed (junk) food, alcohol-intake and soda-drinks.  Even the so-called “diet” cooldrinks contain artificial substances that is very unhealthy.  It is also a good idea to take food allergies and/or intolerances into account.  One can rather up one’s intake of fruit, vegetables and salads, eat lean meats and less starch / carbohydrates, than overindulging in, for example, carbohydrates or protein. 

Many, many years ago people were far more active than what they are today.  Balanced meals, consisting of all the different food groups, were eaten without any problem.  The secret was that they were active.  So yes, being active and doing some form of exercise plays a crucial role in losing weight and maintaining a healthy body.  However, don’t think that exercise can take the place of eating processed food / junk food, for example, 2 – 4 times a week!  To perform at its optimum level, your body needs balanced meals in order to get in all the important vitamins and minerals.  Not to mention enough water intake as well!!

Another interesting lesson from the past, so to say, that we can learn from, is that people only ate what was in season.  Nowadays, with trade, freezers, and so on, one can eat almost anything anytime of the year.  In the olden days people ate what was in season, thus their bodies kept to their natural rhythm and was more in tune with nature. 

You don’t have to be a gym-bunny in order to exercise; going for a walk or a jog in your area, is just as good as going to a Pilates-class or pushing weights.  The main thing to remember is that we, as humans, were made to move.  From a very early age we, instinctively, know that our bodies want to move around.  Weight-bearing exercises are always important from the age of 30 onwards, but again, it is not necessary to lift heavy weights.  Swimming, for example, is fantastic as you work with and against the gravity and weight of the water. 

All in all, the best advice I can give you, my readers, is to listen to your body.  Although you might not be as active as your grandparents were, you can still do some form of exercise – even when going to the shops!  Parking your car further away from the door or taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work, for example, are an easy-to-do habit.  I personally eat smaller meals throughout the day, instead of 3 big meals:  I have my breakfast, then come home after teaching my Pilates- and other classes and have a snack.  Then I will have lunch, have a mid-afternoon snack again and then dinner.  My snacks will vary; it can be a fruit, some nuts and yes, even a rusk with a cup of tea after classes!  I make sure to drink enough water throughout the day and if I eat processed / junk food, I limit it to 1 – 2 x per month.

Exercising, for me, has never been a schlepp – instead, I always enjoyed doing something – my favourite being ballet, swimming, Yoga and Pilates!  I also enjoy being out in nature and love going for walks. So, wherever you are, I truly believe that you can find something that you like and start moving! Instead of dreading exercising, make it a fun-outing or do it with a friend or partner. Instead of following one diet after the other (and rarely getting the long-term results), why not just change what you eat, the amount you eat and enjoy what you eat. The proof, they say, is in the pudding…so, my dear readers; put on your walking shoes, grab an apple and don’t forget to drink enough water too!

Ideas and recipes with spices

Allspice

Allspice can be used in biscuits, drinks, desserts and other dishes:

Adding a couple of allspice berries when you are making glühwein or chai tea will add warmth to your drink (perfect if you are heading into winter);

Adding allspice to sweet dishes like gingerbread, apple pie or dark chocolate desserts, will add a bit of sweetness and spice to these dishes.

*Please note that, if you have any health problem or is pregnant, speak to your medical practitioner first before using Allspice.

Ginger

Spicy tea:  ginger is not just used to ease nausea or an upset stomach.  It can also be a wonderful tonic and a refreshing drink to have anytime of the day or year.  Here is an easy recipe, if you would like to make yourself a spicy tea:

Peal and chop 3 pieces of fresh root ginger (1 inch / 2.5 cm);

Put it into a pan of 1 3?4 pt / 1L water and 4 – 5 tsp clear honey;

Bring it to the boil, the let it simmer for 15 – 20 minutes before straining it;

Serve either hot or cold.

Exotic coffee:  yes, you read it correctly – ginger can also be added to coffee:

Peel and chop 1 inch / 2.5 cm piece of fresh root ginger;

Put it into a pan of 1 ¼ pt / 750 ml of water;

Bring it to the boil, then let it simmer for 15 minutes before straining it;

Using the flavoured water, make yourself a cup of coffee, with / without sugar.

Mace and Nutmeg 

Nutmeg is often used in Egg Nog but can also be used in other drinks (and dishes) alike.  Similar to cinnamon, it has a calming effect and used for many different ailments.

Egg Nog:  you will need 1 XL egg; 1 tbsp brandy / sherry; ½ pt / 300 ml milk; freshly grated nutmeg to serve.  Whisk the egg and sugar together, then add the brandy / sherry.  Heat the milk but be careful not to let it boil.  Pour this over the egg mixture and make sure to mix it well.  Once mixed, pour the egg nog into a serving glass and sprinkle some freshly grated nutmeg over.

Double Chocolate Dream:  a comforting drink after a long, hard day!

You will need:  ½ pt / 300 ml chocolate flavoured milk; ¼ – ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg; 1 oz / 25 g white chocolate, finely chopped or grated; ½ oz / 15 g mini marshmallows; freshly grated nutmeg to serve.

Place the milk and nutmeg in a pan and heat until almost boiling.  Add the chocolate and marshmallows.  Pour the mixture into a mug and sprinkle the rest of the freshly grated nutmeg over.  Enjoy!