The bare essentials

Whether you love to walk barefoot, in sandals, or live in a dryer climate than the coast, one’s heels (and often our elbows) tend to suffer!

I am sure everyone has, at one stage or another, had cracked heels!  This is because our feet are exposed more to the elements from wearing sandals or walking barefoot.  Don’t be fooled – wearing the wrong shoes, or same pair of shoes every day, can also play a role. 

Why does it happen?  In a nutshell; when the skin is either exposed to the elements or to pressure from walking, the skin around the heels thicken and harden as a protective measure.  The harder and thicker the skin becomes, the bigger chance you have of developing corns or calluses.

The cushions under the toes can also thicken and harden to protect itself; so make sure to take care of that part of the feet too.  This often happens when you are wearing the wrong shoes, very high heels, or the same pair of shoes each day.

Indeed, children have to wear school shoes every day.  But it is always a good idea to tell them to walk barefoot at home or swop the shoes for another pair. The same tip an be given to adults.  During the lovely warm, summer days, it is advisable to walk barefoot as much as possible. 

If not allergic or sensitive to grass, it is a good idea to walk in the garden barefoot as well.  Not only will it massage the feet and stimulate blood flow and circulation, but it will also ground you again and give you a massage.  During winter it is a good idea to keep your feet, just like the rest of your body, well-moisturized. Using a good cream / heal balm, as well as drinking plenty of water and other fluids, will keep your skin hydrated. The dryer your skin, the more hydration you need – both internally as well as externally.

There are various products on the market that treats dry, cracked heels.  One can also use natural, homemade products.  Here are a few products to use:

1. Vegetable Oil

A variety of vegetable oils can be used to treat and prevent cracked heels. Olive oil, sesame oil, coconut oil or any other hydrogenated vegetable oil will work. For best results, use this remedy before going to bed to allow ample time for the oil to fully penetrate your skin.

2. Rice Flour

Exfoliating the skin on your feet and heels will help remove dead skin, thus preventing cracking and dryness. Rice flour can be used a part of a homemade exfoliating scrub.

3. Indian Lilac

Indian lilac, also known as margosa leaves or neem, is an effective remedy for your cracked feet, especially when they become itchy and infected. Neem soothes a dry, irritated skin and fights off infection too, thanks to its fungicidal properties. If you’ve never used it before, try a small area first.

4. Lemons

The acidic property in lemons can be very effective in softening rough skin that leads to cracking. You can either used sliced lemons or just the juice. When using sliced lemons, you can keep them in place by wearing socks overnight. Otherwise, massaging lemon juice into the heels after exfoliating it with a pumice stone, can also do the trick.

5. Rosewater and Glycerine

The combination of glycerine and rose water makes an effective home treatment for cracked heels. Glycerine softens the skin, which is why it is widely used in cosmetics. Rose water adds vitamins A, B3, C, D, and E as well as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties.

6. Paraffin Wax

If the condition of the cracks on your heels is really bad and causing a lot of pain, a paraffin wax treatment can provide quick relief. It works as a natural emollient to soften your skin.

7. Epsom Salt

If you have cracked heels, it’s important to take extra care to keep your heels well moisturized. You can do this simply with an Epsom salt or a sea salt foot soak. It will also help improve circulation, is a great way of getting rid of toxins in the body and also balances the body’s pH-levels. Combining the salt with a few drops of lavender oil also helps to relax the feet and get rid of tension / stiffness.

8. Bananas

Ripe bananas are one of the cheapest home remedies for cracked and dry heels, thanks to their moisturizing properties. You can make a paste by mashing a banana and leaving the paste on for 10 – 15 minutes, or you can use the banana peels.

9. Honey

Honey has moisturizing and antibacterial properties, making it an excellent treatment for dry and cracked heels. Many hand-, foot- and body lotions add honey and/or coconut milk to their products. Both are good products that helps to lock the moisture in.

10. Petroleum Jelly

You can use petroleum jelly on dry, rough skin to prevent cracked heels and leave your feet soft and well moisturized, as well as on other parts of the body that are exposed to the elements (elbows and lips, for example).

Moisturizing every time after a bath or shower is another good idea.  While the skin is still warm, the moisturizer will be absorbed faster. 

Lastly, don’t underestimate good old fashion Vaseline! There are so many different brands to choose from today. The best tip is to look for a product that is rich, but not oily, has added vitamin E, glycerine, and/or argan oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, or any other ingredient in, that will give your skin an extra boost during winter.

It is also a good idea to put cotton socks on after your feet has been exfoliated and moisturized.  The socks will help with the absorption of the moisturizer, while at the same time keeping your heels soft.

As I mentioned earlier – make sure to drink plenty of water! A dry, flaky / cracked skin is often a sign that you need to up your water intake, as well as adding more Omega 3 & 6-oils to your diet.

Our feet are the one part of the body that we sometimes neglect, but the part of the body that does a lot of work!  So; whether you go for a pedicure or treat yourself to a homemade recipe, keeping your heels soft will keep calluses and corns at bay!

Is less really more?

Whether it is decorating your home, buying a new wardrobe for the new season, or spring cleaning, the new buzzword is minimalism!

Minimalism started during the 60s and 70s as an art and visual cultural movement; promoting the idea that “less is more” and that unnecessary possessions need to go.  Today, however, you read and hear about many people “scaling down” (and that doesn’t mean that they only move into smaller spaces).  People are becoming more conscious that a life built on consumerism, materialism and “stuff,” is, in fact, not what real life is all about! 

More people are also becoming more aware of protecting our natural resources and environment, thus minimalism is about decluttering / spring cleaning your life – both physically and mentally.

It is a lifestyle where you get rid of objects, relationships and expenditure that don’t add value or meaning to your life anymore.  For example, instead of buying something because you like it or want it just to have it, you stop and ask yourself: do I really need it?  If you don’t need it, then you don’t buy it.  Simple?  No; easier said than done sometimes!!

Joseph Becker, author of “The More of Less: finding the life you want under everything you own,” says “Our money is only as valuable as what we choose to spend it on.”

The same applies for our emotions, our energy and our time.  Relationships are only valuable if they bring meaning into your life, lift you up and make you want to spend your time and energy with that person.

Another example of living this way can be found on Theminimalists.com-website and the Netflix documentary, Minimalism.  Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus were living the American dream: big houses filled with lots of stuff, high paid jobs, executive roles, big cars, expensive holidays, and so forth. 

However, none of these material stuff brought them real happiness.  They decided to make the change and are now travelling the world to tell people about it and to teach people how to make the changes.  There are 3 steps to follow:

  1. Declutter and make space for what you value:  look at your home.  How much time do you spend “reshuffling” things from one cupboard to the next?  When was the last time that you used something or wore something?

According to Joshua and Ryan physical clutter (the stuff in your home and/or office) can spread to your mental space.  Thus, the first step to sort this out would be to start with one room or one cupboard at a time and decide what is of value and purpose and what to get rid of.  As you sort out and declutter it’ll help you to start thinking more critically about decisions you make daily and, in turn, you’ll start to live more with intention.  If you are an emotional shopper, or buy things because you are lonely, get help.  Talk to a family member or friend that you trust and take the necessary steps to figure out how to change your behaviour and/or your life. 

  • Love people, use things:  In the modern, materialistic world, materialistic things have become, unfortunately, substitutes for deep, meaningful relationships and connections.  There are many people who love things more than they love people and, deep down, themselves.  The big question is:  is those Facebook-relationships real?  Are your relationships with work colleagues’ true friendships or are they actually just acquaintances?  Becoming minimalistic mean that you want relationships that add value to your life; you want to spend time and energy with somebody that has the same values as you, and in return you add value to their lives.  “Being chained by obligation to a relationship is disingenuous, a false loyalty birthed from pious placation,” says Joshua. 
  • Prioritise without the excuses:  Do you wish you had more money to save or invest?  Go through your bills at the end of the month and decide what do you need to buy / pay, what do you want / like to have but don’t need.  Slowly but surely start to cut out the “wants” on your list; then progress and cut out the “likes” as well.  In the end, you will retrain yourself to only buy things like shoes, clothes, kitchenware, that you truly need.  This will leave you with extra cash at the end of each month and soon you can save more or pay off your debt faster.  If extra time is what you need, then do the same.

In essence minimalism is not just about spring cleaning or decluttering your home and office space.  It is a practical way of living and entails cleaning out your life on a financial, material, spiritual and emotional level.  The main purpose is to live your life with intention, purpose and meaning.  It is a way of living in balance with nature and your inner self.  By decluttering everything in your life, you not only feel lighter, but you have more me-time, more time to spend with those you love, more time to do what you want to in life (travel, read, sleep).

Minimalism does not require a person / family to get rid of a love / passion (for example collecting art), if it adds value to your life.  Instead, think of it as “scaling down,” moving into a smaller space and having to take only that which you can fit into it with you. 

There are various channels on YouTube where people move into Tiny Homes; some move into an RV or van because they want to travel the world.  These people are good examples of minimalism.

At the end of the day, whether you call it minimalism, decluttering or spring cleaning, it all boils down to living in harmony and balance with both spirit and nature. It is a way of life and what better example to set for your children, friends, family, colleagues, and so forth, than to show them that living a life where happiness, self-confidence, self-worth and belonging is not linked to or found in material possessions and money, but in what we choose to value and to live an authentic life; one that is lived responsibly (not just to each other, but also to nature and oneself) and with integrity.  As the saying goes: when you are born, you come into this world with nothing; when you die, you leave this world with nothing!  Give it a try!

The art; and importance, of learning to swim

Every year, hundreds of children and adults drown because they cannot swim.  Learning to swim; at any age, is crucial.  Especially in a country where we most of us head to the swimming pool, coast and/or dams, during the upcoming summer months.

I recently spoke to Patricia Groenewald, owner and swimming coach of “Pat’s Swim School” (in South Africa), about the importance of learning to swim.

“Every child needs to know how to swim in order to survive in and around water,” says Patricia.  She believes that swimming lessons should be compulsory and non-negotiable and part of every child’s education.  Patricia added that, although swimming is mainly an extramural activity, it must not be seen as an extravagance, but rather as one of the best investments made by a parent (s).

The latest statistics for drowning in South Africa are increasing; with over more than 600 reported and recorded cases every year!  These figures paint a grim picture and is all the more reason to enrol a child (ren) in swimming lessons.  Not only to teach them a vital life skill, but it will also greatly enhance, promote and improve their auditory and visual skills.  Add to that building overall muscle tone and bone density, optimises respiratory function, teaches coordination and body space awareness, is a low-impact sport / exercise regime, teaches children to work on their own and in a team, teaches children about managing their time properly, and it is something that can be done for years and years!

As a parent / guardian / teacher, there are a few tips for keeping children safe:

  • Be responsible:  teach the child(ren) to ask and adult if they may swim or not; and always ensure that someone is on hand to keep an eye on them while they are in the pool;
  • Drop the distractions while you, as adult, supervise:  no phone call, reading, looking at photos on your phone or having an intense conversation, is more important than vigilant supervision. The American Red Cross said that most children who drown at home were out of sight for “less than 5 minutes and in the care of one or both parents at the time!”;
  • Know the numbers:  it is important to pre-programme emergency numbers into your cell phone and/or memorizing it;
  • Be prepared:  make sure everyone in the family can swim.  If not, sign up for lessons as it is important for everyone not to just swim, but also to hold your own in the water.  It is also not a lost skill to enrol in a water safety course and/or basic fist aid.  The NSRI has plenty of online resources to get you started, as well as Netcare 911.  If uncertain where to go, ask your local gym or a swim school coach.
  • Be vigilant:  pool toys like noodles, boards and floatable ducks, and water wings, can help, but it should never replace adult supervision;
  • Secure the surroundings:  use proper fences, netting or covers, and exercise caution when the deck and areas around the pool is wet.  This year a new law has been passed with regards to the proper closure of pools – make sure everyone knows about it.  Unfortunately, your private pool might be properly secured but your neighbour / friend’s pool not…
  • Wear the required gear:  boaters, kayakers and even anglers should always wear a life jacket.  It might not “look cool” but it can save your life;
  • Act fast:  when a child is missing, check the water first!  It can take a couple of seconds to a couple of minutes for a child to drown.  The longer a person stays under water, the bigger chance he / she has to either die or be left with a permanent disability;
  • Caution when diving:  if you don’t know how deep the water is (especially in a dam or river), do not dive in.  I know of a young man who did it, only to be paralyzed from the neck down, because it wasn’t as deep as he thought!
  • No swimming when drinking:  best to not swim when you had alcohol and/or drugs.  Even painkillers and/or other medications can make you drowsy (especially when you are in the sun as well);
  • Stay within the parameters:  when you are on the beach, listen to the lifeguards and stay within the safety of the beacons.  Teach your children from a young age to always keep an eye on the beacons too;
  • Listen to lifeguards:  whether at a municipal swimming pool, the beach, or at a common property pool (for example in a complex), always adhere to the rules.  Rules are not meant to dampen your fun in the water, but it is there to keep you and your family safe!

According to Netcare 911, parents and guardians must remember that it is not just swimming pools and the sea that can pose a danger to children.  Any water mass can potentially be dangerous (especially if the child is still young).  A shallow bathtub or bucket filled with water can also be harmful, because a small child can easily drown in a few centimetres of water!

Keep in mind that “our world is 71% water; and your child(ren) is(are) 100% curious.”

Therefore; be vigilant, stay safe and take the necessary steps to protect your child(ren) whilst enjoying the water! 

Happy summer to all my followers in the Northern Hemisphere!

Natural remedies and tips for all the “sun lovers” out there

For my readers in the Northern Hemisphere, who are enjoying warmer, sunnier days, here are some tips and tricks. And for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, write it down and/or reread the post before you head up into the not too distant summer days 😉

1. Freeze aloe vera in ice cube trays for sunburn relief.  Aloe vera is a natural anti-inflammatory and antiseptic.  You can get it at any pharmacy or outlets selling Aloe vera-products;

2. Make lip gloss out of melted lipstick!  Before you throw it away, try using it to give you a bit of a tint.  The other alternative is to wear lip gloss with a spf 15 during the day;

3. Have a go-to silk scarf on hand for a quick and stylish up do on hot summer days!  Wrap it around your neck or around your hair to change your look from beachgoer to ready for lunch / dinner;

4. Avoid powdering your face to hide sweat. Instead, carry oil-blotting sheets to keep pores from clogging.  Spraying some water mist over your face, or splashing it with some cool water can also help to keep pores from clogging and your face from sweating;

5. Create a coffee mask to fight the heat and decrease puffiness.  Coffee is high in antioxidants and can help to ease inflammatory skin.  Do be careful if you got sunburn on your face.  Rather stay clear of exfoliating-masks and opt for something like yogurt and/or honey-mask.  This will cool your face, as well as help to get rid of the burn and the redness of the sunburn;

6. Get rid of sweat stains by spraying some lemon juice on your clothes just before washing them. Lemon juice acts like bleach.  Want your hair to be lighter?  Or more blond?  Put some lemon juice on!

7. Use a raw potato to fix puffy tired eyes.  Refrigerate a raw sliced potato, and lay the cool slices on your eyes to get that fresh-faced look back after a long night.  Cucumber-slices can also do the trick;

8. Using some baby powder will help with a chub rub!  It is smooth, light, and leaves your skin ready for the heat;

9. If your hair tends to frizz when you’re at the coast, then spray a toothbrush with some hairspray (anti-frizz spray) and comb.  Or just tie it up, wear a hat or band, and let it be;

10. On hot summer days, most people tend to sweat.  To avoid sweat stains ruining a silk shirt, place pantyliners in the armpits of shirts;

11. Another mix to create natural highlights in your hair, is to apply a mixture of coconut oil, lemon juice, water and a bit of salt, before going to the beach or pool;

12. If you have coloured your hair, use a leave-in conditioner with an SPF on;

13. Instead of using the hairdryer, why not let your hair dry naturally?  Not only is it good for the hair but it will also give your scalp a time to breathe;

14. Suffering from an oily skin?  Try using milk of magnesia as a primer for an oil-free, matte skin.  Put it on after your moisturizer before your daily makeup routine for a shine free skin;

15. Another facial mask to help cool down your skin, is to use a tomato-based mask.  If you are not sunburnt, add some sugar for a scrub.  Tomatoes will naturally help to cool the skin down;

16. Anti-perspirant roll-ons are excellent to use when you’re out in the sun.  Unlike deodorant, a roll-on makes you feel fresh for longer and doesn’t mix with sweat easily; especially if you opt for an anti-perspirant one.  That is not the only use for deodorants…you can also swipe the back of your neck with it to help keep you cool and prevent sweat from ruining your straightened hair;

16. Using crushed aspirin to remove a bikini rash?!  Aspirin contains salicylic acid that helps exfoliate and smooth bikini bumps quickly. Mix the crushed pills with honey and/or water to get rid of ingrown hairs and redness;

17. Instead of using your towel to dry your hair, use a cotton T-shirt instead!  This, apparently, will keep your hair from frizzing;

18. A creme blush works better with sweat than powder.  Another great make-up tool is beads (like the Avon Glow pearls).  It’ll give you colour but will not run due to sweat.  Another good idea is to buy a powder-based primer.  This will even out your skin tone, and at the same time protect it from the sun (most primers have an SPF 15 in).  Do make use of sunscreen if you are not wearing make-up and you’re in the sun.  Less is more and, when on holiday, why not opt for a more natural look?

21. Want to use your razor blades longer?  Then preserve them by soaking it in olive oil!  This will also prevent them from rusting in high humidity-places;

22.  Struggling to get rid of dry, cracked heels?  If you’re lucky enough to be at the beach this holiday, walk barefoot on the sand.  The sand is a natural exfoliator and it also massages the whole foot!  It is important to walk barefoot whenever possible, as it not only relaxes the muscles in the feet, but it also massages them and let them breathe!  So; take off the sandals, the flipflops, and feel the earth under your feet.  Remember to put some Vaseline or other moisturizer on your feet and heels after your bath / shower.  Wearing cotton socks overnight can also help the skin to absorb the cream better;

Summer is a time to enjoy being outdoors.  Whether going for an early morning jog or walk, having a braai, lazing around the pool or on the beach, enjoy the sun. 

Just remember:  drink more water, stay out of the sun when it’s at its peak (between 11 am and 2 pm), wear sunglasses to protect your eyes, a sunhat and put on sunscreen!

Mindfulness

According to the Oxford dictionary mindful refers to “taking thought or care of.”  What exactly does it mean?  In many magazines there are articles written about it; life coaches tell people to be more mindful when they are working, eating, communicating, socializing and even when they are stressing!

So, let’s explore!  Being mindful refers to being present, being in the now, and being aware of your thoughts and actions.  Mindfulness is when you focus on your actions, words and thoughts.  For example, instead of eating and watching television at the same time, sit down around the dining room table and enjoy the meal.  Be aware of what you eat, what it tastes like, smells like and, if you are with others, enjoy being together, sharing a meal.

Being in the now (in the present) is another way to look at mindfulness.  When you are in the now or present in the moment, you are aware of your thoughts, words, actions and that of the other person(s).  There is no hanging on the past or worrying about the future.  You are fully present in today; in the moment. 

Not easy but worth a try!  When you are present and aware, you start to see and appreciate people and things more; you build strong relationships (both with yourself and with family, friends and colleagues), and most of all, you “see and enjoy” nature and life!  In today’s world, where many people are rushed, stressed, tired and/or overworked, it is not easy to savour a moment and just “be,” because our minds race back into the past (where regrets live) or into the future (where worries / stress reside).

When you are in the now, you savour each moment and enjoy everything you see and/or hear (like the birds singing or a beautiful flower).  This causes your body to respond by excreting serotonin (happy hormones) and your mind start to practice being fully present in a moment.  When you worry about things gone by or about things that did not yet happen, you start to over-analyse, stress and worry, and stop enjoying the moment, the surroundings, the people, and so forth.

How do one go about being more mindful?  Well, as the word implies; it all starts in your mind.  When you change your thoughts and thought-patterns everything around you start to change and your perception of a situation / person changes as well.  Think of energy:  like attracts like; negative attracts negative.  In order to change the outside (your perspective on life, your reactions to situations / people and your overall view of everything and everyone), you need to change the inside.  A well-known speaker and author, Suzie Orman said: “Your thoughts create your feelings, your feelings create your words, your words create your actions, and your actions create your destiny!”

Start with baby-steps.  Take a deep breath in and zoom in on the task at hand / the place you are in at the moment and stop your thoughts from running away.  What is done, is done and what hasn’t been done yet, will still be done.  There is time.  Focus on what needs to be done now and it’ll be done faster and without the unnecessary stress.  Many psychologists and teachers believe that minimal stress can be good, but overstressing, overanalysing, worrying, and so forth, are not.  In fact, many believe that negative emotions, feelings and words, are fear-driven and stems from our ego’s.  When we can get the ego out of the way (as it were), then we can say, do and be in the present more mindfully and more cheerfully.  When there is lots to do, make a list and prioritize what must be done first.  Then tick it off the list once it has been done.  This will help you to stay focused and it’ll keep you more relaxed; knowing that things are getting done.

Sometimes things can get too much and we often find ourselves not knowing where to start.  Watch your thoughts!  Instead of saying “I’m overwhelmed, I’m so tired, I’m so stressed,” and so forth, stop and change it immediately.  We are not just flesh and bones, but have emotions, a spirit and a soul as well.  Whatever you constantly say to yourself, will be picked up by the body and the physical outcome(s) – in the beforementioned examples – will be tiredness, stress, quick temperedness, and even depression.  Many illnesses like colds, flu and cancers, stem from being overstressed, overworked and wanting to do too many things at a time.

If you find it difficult, write a positive statement on a piece of paper and stick it somewhere where you will see it.  For example, “Today I choose to be happy and healthy” or “Today I have the energy to finish all my tasks” or “I am full of energy and I choose to see the positive in everything and everyone.”

Another tip to help you get through all your workload is to delegate.  At home, for example, you can work together as a team, each member having a certain task(s) to do in and around the house.  At work, if you cannot delegate, stick with a to do-list and prioritize what has to be done first.  Stay focused, check your thoughts, be aware of what you think and feel, and deep breathes.  Using a dairy or a calendar can make life much easier and help you to stay focused on your to do-lists.

All in all, mindfulness should not be seen as something that only some people can achieve.  Anybody and everybody can change their perspective, thus changing the outcome. All you need to do is make a conscious decision and then do it!  We are never too young or too old to start being in the present and to stop worrying about what is past and what is future.  It is only the now that counts.  Yesterday is gone and tomorrow is not yet here….so why worry?

Be mindful, be aware, be present, be in the now, and savour every minute of every day.  As my granddad used to say: “If you worry you die, if you don’t worry you might also die.  So why worry?”

What happens when you stop exercising?

Ever wondered what happens to your body when you stop to exercise?  I’m not referring to taking a break from your routine, or taking time-out in-between exercises.  What if you start off doing really well; then start to slack down and come to a stop?  Let us have a look – you might just be surprised!

After just 2 weeks without any exercise, a number of physiological changes occur:  your muscle strength goes back to where it was before you started exercising a week, month, or year ago.  How quickly this happens depend on your age, how fit you were before you stopped and for how long did you exercise.

There are varied opinions regarding the loss of muscle mass.  For one, there is a difference in lifting weights and doing an aerobics / Pilates-exercise routine.  If you only take a day / 2-break in-between, there will not be any noticeable changes.  If, for example, you train regularly and stop for a few weeks, you won’t lose your strength and muscle mass.  However, you might find that, once you start again, then you get out of breath easier and/or sweat more than usual.  This is because your cardio-vascular system must get used to the exercising again and, in many cases, your brain and body need to be in agreement too!

Resting anything from 1 – 3 days in-between is healthy and vital, according to the American Council on Exercise.  Even if you take a week off from your routine, it is all good.  The most important thing is to start again after the break – something that is not always easy to do; especially those people who are not used to exercising and/or has just started with an exercise programme.

Let’s look a bit deeper into what happens when you stop exercising.  As mentioned above, you become short of breath (and not just when you start exercising again after a very long break).  As we all know, the heart is the pump that pumps blood and oxygen through the body.  After only 2 weeks of not exercising, your heart starts to lose its ability to transport extra blood and your body’s ability to use oxygen optimally, starts to diminish.  The hard work you put in for the last 2 – 3 months, are lost within 2 – 4 weeks (according to American research). 

According to a research study, published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise-journal, highly trained athletes’ fat percentage picks up after 5 weeks!  Stopping any form of exercise will cause weight gain.  Why?  One reason is that you lose muscle mass and therefore your metabolism slows down (due to the loss of muscle mass less fat is burned).  Another reason is that, if you move around less but still eat as if you are exercising, you will not only be back to square 1, but will also pick up more weight because the more kilojoules you consume, the more body fat your body is going to store.

Oxygen is vital for our body as well as optimum brain functioning.  When you exercise, oxygen gets transported to the brain far better and you often find you feel more awake and energized.  However, when you don’t exercise, you often feel a bit under the weather, tired, edgy and can even have episodes of “brain fog.”  BDNF (a neurological function that stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps the cells to connect) increases when you exercise.  Dopamine-levels decrease as well, making you more irritable and feeling tired.  A low level of BDNF and dopamine are linked to depression.  When you exercise your body also excretes serotonin (commonly known as the “happy” hormones) and a lack or low level thereof, can also add fuel to the fire (so to speak) when it comes to feeling depressed, tired, irritable, and so forth.

Did you know that a lack of exercise can cause you to sleep poorly?  Exercising places metabolic- and mechanical stress on your muscles.  Your body makes hormones (like the growth hormone and testosterone) when you are in a deep REM-sleep, as well as heals muscle tissue that might have been injured during exercising.  A lack of exercise creates high levels of energy when you are in the REM-state, thus you wake up feeling tired and lack energy.

A last point I want to mention is quite interesting.  Research has found that, the fitter you are, the more you see sudden changes when you stop exercising.  This is due to the body being used to exercise on a regular base.  Luckily, once you start again, you will be back where you were far quicker than somebody who never exercised, then started, but stopped again, only to start again after weeks / months / years.

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So…what do you do if this happens?  First of all; don’t beat yourself up about it.  Acknowledge and admit that you fell of the wagon (so to speak) and take responsibility for it.  Then stand up and start again.  Diarise a date and time to start exercising again; just as you would diarise an important meeting or social event and stick to it!  Starting slowly is better than not starting at all.  Instead of going to the gym 5x per week, go 2x per week.  If you don’t like the gym, then dust of your tekkies and go for a morning walk over the weekend.  If you don’t feel comfortable to walk outside on your own, then go to a mall and walk inside and up-and-down the ramps.  There are many ways to start getting back into your exercise routine and/or starting an exercise routine. 

For example, use the stairs wherever possible instead of the lift, park your car further away when you go shopping, get up from your chair / sofa by using your legs instead of your arms, play outside, or go for a swim (if the weather allows).

Baby-steps is better than no steps at all!  Rather start exercising slowly, then build it up.  Even just going for a brisk walk every Saturday, early morning or after work, even for 10 minutes at first, is a good start.  If you have any health problems start walking, swimming or doing low intensity-exercises like Pilates and Water Aerobics.  It is important to take care of your health and listen to your body.  Once you exercise more often and for longer than 30 minutes per session / per day, for example, then you can start with more cardio- and higher intensity-exercises. 

It is always better to start slowly – you might not see results immediately, but I can assure you, give yourself 6 months and you will be amazed!  Remember – your body is made to move, it wants to move, so no more excuses…get up and start moving.  After all, movement is life!     

Skipping meals

Over the years I had many clients, family members and friends, telling me that they either skip breakfast, or skip lunch.  Sometimes even supper!  The question on everybody’s minds were: is it good to skip a meal or not?

It is a yes and no-answer.  Skipping breakfast is a no-answer!  There are at least 6 – 8 hours between going to bed and waking up for most people and, if you start the day on an empty stomach (or just a cup of coffee), you’ll soon notice that your concentration dwindles, you might start to get a headache, get dizzy and/or nauseas, your blood sugar drops making you tired, you get grumpy / moody, and so forth. 

Just like your car needs petrol to get you from point A to B, so too does your body.  Food is a source of energy as well as nutrition.  Some people struggle with a big breakfast, but my advice is to have something small: whether a piece of fruit or 2, a healthy bar (e.g. Jungle Oats), a shake, or a slice of toast with marmite, egg, jam and cheese on, will help the body to “wake-up” and be ready for the day ahead.  Kickstarting your metabolism is not just a way to wake your body up but also a great way to help you stay fit, healthy and/or lose weight (if that is what you want).  A small bowl of muesli with or without yogurt is another light breakfast.

Skipping breakfast can also be one of the main reasons why you pick up weight and/or struggle to lose it.  The reason?  When you don’t eat breakfast when you wake up your body goes into survival-mode.  By late morning, when you then do eat something, instead of converting it into energy, it stores the food in the form of fat.  This survival-mode that the body goes into, tells the body to “hold on” as it were, to the food as it doesn’t know when and/or if there is a next meal on the table. 

Another meal that many people overlook, especially those working in an office-environment, is lunch.  Instead of taking their lunchbreak, they either skimp on it or eat at their desks.  In the Sunday Times was an article written about why it is not good to take a lunchbreak or to skimp on the time you spend away from your desk.  What I’d like to add to what has been written already, is that, if you eat while working, reading, watching television or, in this case, a computer screen, you are not mindful of what you are doing.  When you are not mindful (in the now) when you eat, you often don’t chew properly and you can’t enjoy the meal (your attention is not with what you eat).  The mind-body connection is missing; your concentration is not with your meal but with what you are doing (your work / browsing the internet), therefore your digestive system cannot do its job properly.  That is: to digest and use the food as nutrition and energy.  When your attention is not in the moment; when you are not smelling and savouring the food that you eat, when your mind is “somewhere else,” the messages to your stomach is confusing.  The stomach, after all, is not called the second brain for no reason!  Did you know that many people believe that you have to chew your food 40 times in order for you digestive system to utilize it properly?!

Another downside to not taking a lunchbreak at work, is that you can easily develop a bad posture due to sitting for too long, blood circulation is restricted due to the bent-knee position your sitting in, your energy levels dip, and your interaction with colleagues are lessened (socializing is part of human nature).  It is vital to stand up, stretch your legs and, if at all possible, go outside and get some fresh air.  Sitting in an office with the air-conditioning on all day is not very healthy either (yes, even when it is a hot summer’s day outside).  Research has shown that old air-conditioning systems play a role in people getting ill or struggling to get over an illness like a cold or flu. 

This leaves us with our last meal of the day – supper.  Is it good or bad to skip this?  I would say yes and no, again 😉 If you are not hungry at all, it is ok to skip supper.  However, I would not advise a person with low blood pressure to skip any meal; not even supper!  If you don’t feel like having a big meal (which you shouldn’t have after 19:00), then have something light.

A good breakfast that includes fibre, fruit and protein, will keep your blood sugar levels constant, give you the energy you need for the day and keep your brain clear.  Food is not just used by the body as a source of energy, but is also important for brain functioning. 

The most important thing to remember about meals is:  whether you eat three meals per day, or skip one, never skip breakfast and make time for your lunchbreak at the office and take it!  You cannot run on empty, nor is it good for your overall health if you don’t eat in the mornings!  The same goes for taking / not taking your lunchbreak.  Taking that well-deserved break will not only get your energy levels up again, but will also get the blood and oxygen circulating – just what you need to make it to the end of another day at the office!

No time to sit down for breakfast?  Overslept?  Make sure there are fruit, bars (Jungle Oats have a good selection), or a healthy shake that you can have with milk or water, in your cupboard, in case you have to “eat on the run.” 

Thus, in a nutshell.  The most important meal of the day is breakfast.  Whether you eat a good “English-breakfast,” muesli with or without yoghurt, drink a healthy, home-made smoothie, or have toast with protein (cheese or eggs) and some fruit; do take the time to eat something. 

Building and maintaining a strong, healthy immune system

Your immune system is the “shield of protection” that keeps illnesses, viruses and bacteria, at bay.  The stronger and healthier your immune system is, the less chance you have to develop an illness, catch a cold or get the flu.

Many nutritionists will tell you that a weak immune system stems from a diet lacking in adequate amounts of nutrients.  It is important to eat from all the food groups, making sure you take a daily dose of Vitamin C and Vitamins B’s (especially vitamin B6 and B12), as well as the necessary minerals like zinc, selenium, folate, and so forth.  Eating balanced, healthy meals that include fibre, high amounts of vegetables and fruit, fortified cereals, proteins, minimizing alcohol consumption, not smoking, washing your hands every time you come home from the shops / school / after you went to the restroom and before you prepare meals, as well as exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight, are all role-players in aiding the immune system.  It is important to get adequate sleep, drinking plenty of water and minimizing and/or getting rid of stress.  In today’s world stress is one of the major causes of illnesses as well as 80% of the cancers!  So; start today by signing up for a yoga class, a meditation group, breathe deeper (inhale and exhale slowly for 8 – 10 counts as an easy way to relax the mind and body), and start to listen to classical music.  There are many links of YouTube, for example, where you can listen to classical music, relaxation music and mediational channels. 

Be careful when advertisements advertise products that can “boost” the immune system.  There are a vast number of different cells in the body, and, like everything else in the body, new cells are formed naturally every day.  Did you know that athletes who engage in “blood doping” (pumping blood into their systems as a means of boosting their blood cell-count and enhancing performance), runs the risk of strokes? 

Another thing to keep in mind is that it is vital to keep your immune system strong when the seasons start to change.  As we are moving into summer or winter (depending where you live), we can still have chilly nights and/or rainy, cold days. Thus, it is vital to keep the immune system strong to keep a cold / flu at bay.  When you are outside in the sun, for example, and you go indoors into an airconditioned building, your chance of catching a cold can increase if your immune system is low.  On the flip side is winter-time when we spend more time indoors in heated rooms than outdoors in the cold!  Regardless of the latter, go out, open your windows to get fresh air in and, when the sun is out, go out and catch a dose of vitamin D (another important vitamin)!

Remember the days when your grandparents / parents were young and they had to drink Scot’s Emulsion (Omega oils) when the seasons change?  The simple reason – it keeps the immune system strong!

Looking after yourself as you age, and after the elderly people, is important.  Some people age well while others catch illnesses more often.  Nobody is 100% sure why, but scientists think it is because of the decrease in T cells (the latter fight off infections).  However, nutrition plays a key role; especially when the elderly person(s) live in a retirement centre where certain food groups are either limited in their meals or not included at all.  Another key factor is the fact that elderly people eat less because they are not as active as the younger generation.  Micronutrient malnutrition (where a person is deficient in certain essential vitamins and trace minerals), can start to develop.  It is important that the older people supplement their diets with a good vitamin complex, make sure to take vitamin A, C & D, and add Omega 3-oil to their diets.  Vitamin B6 & B12 are also very important.  Vitamin B6 is only found in red meat, so taking a supplement when you don’t eat meat / not a lot of red meat, is a great way of making sure your iron levels are where it should be and your blood cells are getting all the nourishment it should.  Not only is it the elderly that is more susceptible to getting ill, but also those people living in poverty (regardless of their age).  There is evidence that indicates that micronutrient deficiencies (including zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6 & B12, C and E), play a role in a weak immune system.

Whether you are ill, just getting over a cold, or stressed, the body’s first response is to fight it off.  However, if the body’s immune system is too weak, then you stay ill for much longer (or get worse), you get ill again, and so forth.  Vitamin B6 & B12 should be taken in a combination-form, and plays a vital role, as this is the first vitamins that get depleted when your body is “under attack” from illness or stress.

There is a saying that goes: “the best defence is a strong defence.”  Thus, a strong immune system is the best defence against viruses, germs, stress-related illnesses and more serious illnesses like cancer, cardiovascular disease and others.  And it all starts with the choices we make for ourselves and our children: what to eat, to start exercising, to not smoke (or to stop), and to take care of our bodies: physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally.  After all, “if you want to change the outside, you must first change the inside.”

Remember to watch your thoughts and reactions to people and situations. The nervous system is a very intricate, sensitive part of the body. Thoughts, words, people’s reactions, and even the type of music you listen to, can affect your body, mind and soul. Have a positive outlook, an attitude of gratitude, and remember; nothing is set in stone! Deep breathes, relax, and let go!

I am going to leave you with these three quotes that I once read on Facebook…

  • “In order to change we must be sick and tired of being sick and tired.”  ~Author Unknown;
  • “By cleansing your body on a regular basis and eliminating as many toxins as possible from your environment, your body can begin to heal itself, prevent disease, and become stronger and more resilient than you ever dreamed possible!”  ~Dr. Edward Group III;
  • “Today, more than 95% of all chronic disease is caused by food choice, toxic food ingredients, nutritional deficiencies and lack of physical exercise.”  ~Mike Adams.

Summer tips and tricks

I am sure my readers in the Northern Hemisphere cannot wait for summer to arrive! Long holidays, warm sun and eating ice-cream are sure on top of the “to do-list!” One of the only thing most of us think about is:  sleeping in, going on holiday, enjoying treats like burgers and milkshakes, and ultimately just relaxing!

There are a big variety of healthier options to choose from when you would like to keep your weight in check and your diet going, even during the holidays and festivities.  Salads, yes, is a simple and easy light lunch (for example) to make.  We are blessed with lots of fresh ingredients that are readily available to us.  The plus side of it is that you can also make your own.  For example, if the usual lettuce, cucumber, tomato and feta cheese, is in need of a new look, why not add some grated carrots, grated beetroot, baby corn, baby spinach, and/or any other greens (avocado or peas).

For some fibre and extra protein, opt for chickpeas and/or beans.  High in fibre and low in calories!

Being on holiday doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself now and again.  The big rule of thumb is: it is not what you eat, it is the amount (and size), that matters!  Have an ice-cream or milkshake, or a latté, or whatever you want.  Just don’t have it every single day!  And not more than 1 either!

If you do have a cheat meal, for example, remember not to beat yourself up about it!  Instead of restricting yourself, relax and enjoy!  A great tip from another health expert is:  have a treat; just go back to your healthier eating patterns the next morning.  Most importantly is to relax, enjoy the break and, if you do pick up a kilo or two, go back to your exercise and diet-routines in the New Year!  The latter is not always easy…but New Year’s resolutions is another topic that we can look at later.  Even if you do eat and drink things you usually don’t or more than usual, just work it off!  How?  Go for a walk or a jog early morning or late afternoon after the heat of the day; have a swim in the ocean or swimming pool; instead of driving everywhere, why not walk (if you stay in a walking distance from where you want to be of course); hire bicycles and go for a ride!  Many options to choose from – even playing sport on the beach, for example, works up a sweat and is fun as well.

Other healthier options to choose from is a light salad dressing instead of salad cream; snacking on nuts, raisins, dried fruit and vegetable chips, instead of chips; adding extra fruit and vegetables (raw if possible), to your breakfasts and lunches, and opting for low-fat instead of full cream.  Not only are fruit and vegetables high in fibre and natural fructose, but it will also make you feel fuller for longer. 

Craving a hamburger?  Then go on – have one!  But instead of eating chips with it, ask for a side salad.  Or, like Lisa Raleigh (fitness trainer) would suggest, have the burger and chips, then eat a salad tomorrow!

Want a glass of wine with dinner?  Then have one…maximum 2.

Water, as we all know, is extremely important when we’re out and about in the sun.  Drink enough so that you stay hydrated.  Did you know that, when you are thirsty, your body has already started to dehydrate?  If you don’t like the taste of plain water, instead of spending lots of cash on bottled water, put some fresh mint, slices of lemon, strawberries or other berries, in the water.  Another good idea is to boil the tap water and let it cool down, then drink it as is or flavour it with one of the examples mentioned earlier.  It is not just a quick and easy way to drink water, but also healthier and less plastic polluting our environment!  Stay out of direct sunlight from 11:00 – 14:00.  Take extra care when you’re on the beach, because the sand and water reflect the sunlight (even when you’re sitting under an umbrella!  Put on sunscreen (especially when you have been swimming) and make sure your face and neck is well covered when you want to tan.  Also take care and put extra sunscreen on behind your ears, behind your knees, on your feet (top and bottom), and on your face (including your eyelids) and neck/chest-area.  Wear a hat!  There are many styles to choose from; just make sure that it covers your face and/or the back of your neck.  If you want some colour but don’t like lying in the sun, opt for a fake tan.  There are many products on the market and places to go to for a spray tan.

Do wear sunglasses when your outside for longer periods.  Your eyes are very sensitive to light and it is extremely important to keep direct sunlight out!  The bigger the frame, the better the eyes are protected.  Make sure your children also wear theirs when they are out and about. 

Wherever you are this summer, make sure your drink plenty of water, enjoy the variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, take care of your eyes, hair and skin and enjoy the sunny days! 

Hearty dessert for cold days

Don’t let winter and cold days dampen your spirits to eat healthy and still enjoy warm puddings and other treats!  Just because it is cold outside and you want to watch your weight, does not mean you have to skip the desserts.

Here is a delicious treat by one of my favourite chefs, Jamie Oliver.

Ginger, pear and almond cake

This is a flourless, upside-down cake.  The base is made of ginger-poached pears and almonds instead of flour.  This makes it suitable for gluten-intolerant family members and friends.

Ingredients

200 g butter

200 g caster sugar

4 large free-range eggs

220 g ground almonds

CARAMELISED GINGER PEARS

300 g ginger

1 vanilla pod

550 g caster sugar

4 pears

20 g butter

Method

For the pears, peel and finely grate the ginger. Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds, then place it all into a pan.

Add 400g of the sugar and 700ml of water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for a few minutes for the flavours to develop.

Using a spoon, carefully lower the pears into the hot liquid and simmer for 10 minutes, until tender.

Remove the pears from the liquid and set aside to cool.

Line the base of a 25cm springform cake tin with greaseproof paper.

Combine the remaining 150g sugar and 100ml of water in a pan and place over a high heat, simmering for about 15 minutes until it turns a dark golden brown.

Stir in the butter until you get a caramel, then pour it into the cake tin.

Cut the cooled pears into slices and carefully arrange them in the warm caramel.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas 4.

For the cake, beat the butter and sugar with a whisk until smooth (an electric one will be best for this).

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one. Add the almonds and mix to combine.

Pour the cake mixture over the pears and bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until firm to the touch.

Leave to cool in the tin, then remove and carefully flip upside down to serve.

Interesting facts: 

Ginger is an excellent source of pain relief, relieves colds and flu, nausea and inflammation.  It is good for cardiovascular health and it also helps to relieve muscle pain (experienced after strenuous exercise), as well as menstrual pain.

Almonds reduce the risks of a heart attack, they protect the artery walls, they fight “bad” cholesterol, helps build strong bones and teeth, contains healthy fats – good for brain health, good for the nervous system, help to lower insulin-rise in the body after meals and has an alkalizing effect on the body. 3