ALCOHOL: KNOW YOUR DRINKS!

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People often ask for my take on alcohol, and where (or if) I see it fitting into a healthy, balanced lifestyle. There are many schools of thought on how terrible alcohol consumption is, and others that stress the benefit of having an occasional tipple. I believe, like anything, that one person’s poison can also be another’s medicine – what makes sense for one won’t necessary for another.

There are of course some unavoidable facts about alcohol: it is toxic, can be addictive, impair liver, stomach and colon function, disrupt sleep, negatively affect judgement and perception, and promote bad eating habits. However, sensible alcohol consumption has also been known to dilate blood vessels, regulate blood pressure, improve endothelial function, reduce stress, promote socialising, lower high iron levels (and contribute to some of our best nights out!)

What is comes back to, again, is mindfulness. Why do you want a drink? Why are you continuing to drink? What is the mood behind each sip? No one enjoys being or accompanying an angry or sobbing drunk. Never drink to forget, to hurt, to manipulate, to cope. These are the times it’s better to exercise, dance, sing, breathe. It’s a better idea to take a sip after you’ve tuned in and found something to smile about and celebrate.

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Tips before, during, and after drinking: hangover avoidance!

  • Drink a glass of water between each alcoholic drink – you’ll realise it won’t ruin your night but help you to enjoy it for longer!
  • Eat good quality high-fat foods while drinking like olives, cheese, nuts. NO sugar, bread or crisps – they will only make you feel awful!
  • Drink green tea before or during the night to help the liver out
  • Drink two big glasses of water before bed – add a pinch of salt to balance your electrolytes (blood salt/sugar levels)
  • If ordering a cocktail at a bar, always check to see what exactly is going in it. Bad cocktails tend to include sugar syrup which is only going to make a hangover worse. The high fructose content is very dehydrating which puts further stress on the liver
  • Bone broth before or after drinking is the ultimate nourishment
  • Make sure there is at least an hour between your last drink and bed for some form of movement – dance, walk, stretch… safely of course!
  • The morning after: MOVE! It may not feel like it, but you will feel better if you exercise!
  • Eat well the next day: broth, eggs, protein, berries, bananas, black coffee, freshly pressed vegetable juice, good quality fatsavoid sugar like the plague!
  • Supplements that can help: NAC, magnesium

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…If you crave alcohol

  • You could be deficient in vitamin B, trace minerals (magnesium and zinc) and the amino acid glutamine. In this case removing grains and sugar and having a diet rich in proteins (eggs and meat) and fresh vegetables will really help. Supplementing magnesium and zinc may also help but of course a healthy diet will assist. Bone broth and lactofermented prepared drinks and food are particularly nourishing as they aid digestion and thus help better assimilate much needed nutrients

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BEST DROPS!

Red wine – ideally organic and/or biodynamic

White wine – ideally organic and/or biodynamic

Champagne – ideally organic and/or biodynamic

Tequila

Vodka – Ciroc and Vu Qo are good gluten-free brands

Rum – 10 Cane Rum is a good gluten-free brand

Gin, Scotch, Whiskey – if possible choose brands that are made from gluten-free grains (can be tricky unfortunately!)

Unpasteurized beer (anyone still home brewing?!)

BEST MIXERS!

Ice

Freshly squeezed lemon or lime

Mint, basil, ginger

Freshly squeezed juice (not pasteurized or from a bottle)

Coconut water

Black coffee

To blend: berries, avocado, cucumber, lime, lemon, coconut milk

Just like the food you eat, you want to keep your drink of choice natural and simple. Stick with a plain old glass of wine or have a spirit on ice or with only fresh natural mixers. If I had to name one drink to never consume it would have to be any sort of alcohol mixed with an energy drink – please people, gross!

 

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MINDFUL EATING FOR THE HOLIDAYS

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Not only are the holidays a lovely time to celebrate and have a change of scenery, they also provide the opportunity to have a shift in gear. As I outlined in my previous post, this is a time of year when emotions run high, so it really is worth taking a moment to decide how you’d like things to unfold. Make sure you look after and nourish your body, as well as your mind along the way.

Looking after yourself does not mean you have to behave like a saint – what it means is avoiding any opportunities to beat yourself up, to feel guilty, anxious, unwell or regretful. Because so many people punish themselves by either over-indulging, or over-restricting during this period, I’ve dedicated this post to helping choose the best way to eat and drink for you.

SIX TIPS

1. Get clear about how and what you want to eat and drink, and if you want to consume alcohol or not. If you adhere to a specific diet for health reasons decide if you want to stick to it, or if you’re happy to deviate. Be honest and make these decisions from a place of love and compassion, rather than fear and control.

2. Commit to your intentions. Once you’re clear about what you want to consume, then commit to that decision. Associate good feelings with your decision and remind yourself of these regularly. If you decide to stick to your dietary needs then the next two points are key:

3. Research and take time to find out what’s on the menu, be it at someone’s house or at a restaurant.

4. Communicate your dietary requirements before the event – I spent years needlessly suffering for fear of upsetting people and being polite. If people make you feel uncomfortable about your needs that is definitely their problem. Do not make your decisions based on what will make other people happy, this will never turn out well – lies, pain, resentment and irritability will likely ensue. You owe it to yourself and to your host to communicate clearly what exactly it is you need so as to not upset any plans on the day.

My food choice suggestions:

  • Fill up on the vegetables and proteins. If you’re a meat eater choose meat close to the bone. Skip the gravy unless it’s gluten-free. If you’re wanting a sweet treat for dessert then choose fresh fruit, dark chocolate or cheese. If you opt to skip dessert then you can go straight to the coffee or green tea to help aid digestion and curb the sugar cravings
  • My beverage suggestions: drink a decent amount of still water with a squeeze of lemon before and after your meal. If you’re not drinking alcohol then honour your decision and stick to it! (any peer pressure to drink comes from insecurity and selfishness). Sparkling water, green tea or freshly brewed black coffee can be good options for a booze free buzz.

5. Avoid the post-booze blues by following my tips on this blog. The main points:

  • Never drink to forget, to hurt, to manipulate, to cope. It’s a better idea to take a sip after you’ve tuned in and found something to smile about and celebrate
  • Choose gluten and sugar-free drink options
  • Drink a glass of water between each alcoholic drink
  • Eat nutrient dense food before and after

6. Supplement to support your digestive, immune and detoxification systems. Here are my recommendations

Bonus tip: MOVE!

One of the best things we can do for our bodies is to MOVE. When we move we stimulate and pump the fluids around our body that manage, feed and clean our organs, muscles, skin, nerves, hormones and bones. However you are feeling, go for a walk, do a few stretches, put on your favourite music and dance! Choose whatever you most enjoy – sometimes that’s all you need to do to perk up.

To help you along your way here are 5 exercises to help beat the bloat!

And for a daily and weekly movement guide read more here.

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I hope these tips hold you in good stead over the holiday period. Please take note and put your needs first! Happy holidays! 🙂

 

Photo credit Matthew Valdr

WINE AS IT SHOULD BE

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I wanted to dedicate this post to explaining the difference between good and bad wines – what ingredients/additives are lurking in conventionally produced bottles, and why it’s so much better to choose organic, bio-dynamic varieties. Those of you who have read my blog on alcohol will already have a heads up on this, but I wanted to expound upon wine, particularly as many people have been asking about the many tasty varieties that are being served at the Be At Buckley’s evenings…

Just as there is a huge variance in the quality of meat you can buy (force-fed, chemically-laden, or free to roam on green, organic pastures) there is a huge range in the quality of wine you can buy too. The unnatural, sped-up nature of the industrialized food system is the cause so much of this bad practice – disregarding the important sowing, growing and fermenting processes that are vital to making natural and environmentally respectful wine. Most of us still think wine is made from grapes that are then fermented in a big barrel, with maybe a few preservatives added. However, if wine makers had to list the ingredients in their wine I think a lot of you would think twice…

Ingredients added to fast-made wine:

  • Fast-activating yeast (similar to what is added to bread and which makes our bellies bloat)
  • Manmade chemicals – pesticides, herbicides, fungicides
  • Sulphites/preservative #220-226 – these have been proven to cause most of the allergies experienced by wine drinkers. This chemical also gives off similar histamine reactions to seasonal allergies
  • High levels of tannins from the oak and wooden barrels – tannins are the natural astringent found in plants that are there to repel insects and grazing animals. Although natural, tannins do have strong chemical properties that affect those people who suffer from allergies.
  • The corks used to seal bottles of wine have been found to have absorbed chlorine-based pesticides (DDT, chlordane, and heptachlor). Although corks are traditional, it really is better health-wise that wines are bottled with screw tops – these offer a perfect seal and mean less sulphites added to your wine
  • Cane sugar – do we really need any more of this drug?
  • Also note: grapes are not washed before being made into wine – this means all the chemicals sprayed on the vines and on the soil also end up in your glass!

Why vintage/organic/biodynamic/natural wines are best:

  • No fast-activating yeast allowed! What allows the grapes to ferment is the naturally occurring yeast in the skin of the grape – this process takes much longer but means the quality of the wine is far richer. Your gut won’t be upset nor your immune system compromised.
  • The use of synthetic fungicides, herbicides and fertilisers is prohibited – this means we are less likely to suffer such horrendous hangovers, or even be hungover at all(!). Instead of using these man-made fertilisers the grower prefers to cultivate a healthy vine that is capable of defending itself naturally from anything that might harm it
  • The taste of the wine is authentic year after year as the timing of planting, fertilising and harvesting are governed not only by mother nature, but also by the lunar and cosmic cycles.
  • Biodiversity and producing wine this way means the land is respected. Allowing the population of worms and bacteria to build up in the ground promotes healthy soil and improves mineral absorption to the grapevine. This of course also improves the quality and taste of the wine.
  • The growers and viticulturists keep the art and passion of traditional wine making techniques alive
  • Interested? Learn more here

I hope this has cleared up any confusion you may have over the production of wine, and just why it’s important to spend a little bit more on quality – for your health, the environment and to support the creative passionate grower.

HELPING TO HEAL ANXIETY

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I have previously written about stress but today I am dedicating this blog to a more specific kind of stress – anxiety. Whether you suffer from OCD, phobias, an overactive brain, panic attacks or destructive mental chatter I want you to know there are many things you can do to help manage, clear and realign these unhappy behaviours. Self-healing does exist if you want, believe and trust you can feel better AND if you commit to taking positive action. If you take medication please always consult your Doctor before making any changes.

Feeling uncertain is natural but responding with over-stimulated anxiety is not. Below I have outlined 8 tips which if slowly implemented over a month will absolutely help to ease and reframe the situations that bring on anxiety. You can come back to your natural state where you can calmly stop, consider and make a decision you feel confident about. Life is always uncertain but this is no reason to become fearful. Read and implement the following tips and feel better.

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3 QUICK GO-TO TIPS

1. Stop. Take five slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth

2. Expand your vision – make sure you can see what is below, above and either side of your focal point

3. Get out of your head and into your body, become a silent witness to your thoughts as if watching a passerby. No judgement

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10 LONG-TERM TIPS TO COMMIT TO EVERY DAY

If you truly want to dissolve your fear and recover the happy, calm and confident you, commit to following these tips. Get out your diary and schedule in time each day to learn and practise each tip, so that in a month’s time you have them down! 

MOVEMENT

1) Neck and upper-body stretches.

When you are tense in these areas, the brain takes it as an indication that you’re about to go into some kind of battle and floods the body with stress chemicals such as adrenaline. Increasing the blood flow, and thus relaxation around these tissues, helps reset the nervous system back into cruise-control by flooding the body with relaxation chemicals and endorphins.

MOVEMENT: Sitting or standing nice and tall: turn your head from side to side 10x, tip your head from side to side (ear to shoulder, keeping your shoulders still) 10x. A detailed description and images of other key stretches can be found here.

2) Six gentle hip rolls  – lying down

Gently rotating the lower spine helps to free up any tight lower back muscles which may be attempting to hold everything together in an anxious scared fashion. Freeing up the middle and lower back, and around the hips, helps calm the nervous system by massing into the kidneys (our organ that holds fear) and the adrenals (where our stress hormones are produced). Twisting also helps relax and calm digestive system or our “second brain”. Remember the gut has more neurons than the brain, so is often expressing fear, stress and anxiety.  You can stay in the twist for 5-10 slow calm breaths then slowly drag the legs back to centre using your abdominals.

MOVEMENT: Lying on your back, legs bent, feet and legs together: exhale, take the legs over to one side, stay here for 3 rounds of calm breathing, then on an exhale gently drag your legs back to centre using your abs. Repeat to the other side. You want to do around 3 to each side.

3) The Moving Cat Stretch

Flexion, or forward-bending, is very calming on the nervous system – closing off and resting the areas of the body such as the hips, lower back, neck and throat that signal us to be on high alert. The sphinx/last part of the movement  connects you into your centre line helping you feel strong, aligned and clear.

MOVEMENT: On all fours, hands under solders, knees under hips. Curl your spine into an angry cat shape – so you should be looking at your pubic bone and your pubic bone should be looking at you. Keep this shape as you move your butt back to sit on your heels. Keep your hands planted in the same spot. Place your palms and forearms on  the floor parallel to each other, roll your shoulders back and lift your chest – sphinx position. Travel the sphinx forward until your head is in-line with your hands then gently press up lengthening the arms to the beginning position. Get all the details here.

FOOD CHOICES

4) Avoid:

Food and drinks that stimulate or suppress your mood. These may feel good in the moment but long-term they will hinder true anxiety healing:

Sugar, caffeine, gluten grains and alcohol.

5) Fill up on:

Foods and liquids that help to calm and support your nervous system. These food and drink choices will be rich in good quality fats, proteins and B vitamins:

Organic vegetables, fruit, eggs, grass-fed meats, wild fish, small amounts of gluten-free grains (quinoa, rice, millet, buckwheat), coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, lard, ghee, herbal teas, freshly pressed/made vegetable juices and smoothies, water. Here is a basic list of the most nourishing healing foods.

All of the breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes on my site are perfectly suited to supporting this healing.

AWARENESS

6) Five gentle belly breaths

Notice how you are breathing – is it shallow and stifled? Try the following exercises once an hour while you’re sitting at work, on the train, in traffic…wherever suits! Of course you can also do this lying down. Breathing in through the nose and deep into the belly sends a calm message to the brain and body tissues allowing them to shift the chemistry and nervous system into a calm mode. Breathing out through the mouth helps to detox and expel the metabolic waste and negative or fearful emotions you may be swallowing down. Treat breathing like a calm internal massage for all of your tissues – your bones, muscles and organs. Read more here on swapping stress modes. And read more here on breathing.

INSTRUCTIONS: Breathe in through the nose allowing the belly to fill, breathe out through the mouth allowing the belly to soften back towards the spine. On the inhale visualise filling your whole body with fresh, clean air and on the exhale sigh out old stale air and any emotions that are no longer serving you.

7) Practise mindfulness 

Mindfulness is an activity of attention. Normally you sit in a comfortable, quiet place, close your eyes and purposely focus your attention on your breath and on the present moment – accepting all that arises without judgement. This is incredibly calming and invites space and perspective which helps reorganise and reframe any negative or fearful thoughts or behaviours you may be experiencing.

INSTRUCTIONS: Sitting there you want to bring awareness to the now, notice what’s going on – attend your life. Inevitably when left to itself the mind races through all kinds of thoughts, this is totally normal. When you find your mind wandering just return to your breath and to being the “watcher” of those thoughts – attending is more important than what you are paying attention to. Uncomfortable emotions can arise such as fear, anger, resentment, guilt and shame but you can find the courage to watch them take their course instead of being skipped past or buried. Trust that in doing so they will dissolve and be replaced with new patterns that are better aligned with your true self: with continued practice you will quiet the mind and slip into the space between thoughts, the space where you can reclaim your life. Read more here.

8) DAILY AFFIRMATION: 

Try to come up with an affirmation you can repeat to yourself at any moment you may feel your anxiety creeping in – or even make it part of your morning ritual. Have it be something that resonates with you and exudes a sense of calm and inner strength. Below is one from Gabby Bernstein that I particularly like:

‘Today I witness my ego in action. I patiently look upon my false perceptions with loving lenses. I no longer believe in this fear. I am no longer attached to this fear. Though it may seem real in the moment, all I have to do is witness it without judgement to be reminded it is not true” – Gabrielle Bernstein

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ADDITIONAL HELP

Alternative therapies:

  • Emotional Freedom Technique / EFT / Tapping

I cannot promote this therapy enough – you can use it to work on all manner of ailments but I find it is particularly incredible when dealing with anxiety as it is so quick acting.

“EFT, otherwise known as Emotional Freedom Techniques, is a type of Meridian Tapping that combines ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology. It utilizes the body’s energy meridian points by stimulating them with your fingertips – literally tapping into your body’s own energy and healing power”

EFT very much aligns with my own belief that you cannot separate the mind and the body. When you are anxious your whole body feels the fear – your chest tightens, eyes widen, and so on. If you don’t acknowledge this fear and instead choose to shove it down and ignore it you will create an energy imbalance in the body that will eventually make its presence known, be it through ill physical or mental health. Tapping helps to restore and balance the body’s energy that has been disrupted by past traumas, negative emotions and physical symptoms.

I was first introduced to tapping about 10 years ago when I was studying for my Pilates exams and becoming anxious about balancing the workload and fearing I was going to fail everything. After two sessions my anxiety and fears had dramatically reduced. Because the technique is so easy to learn I was able to practise the tapping whenever I felt anything creeping back and as a result have not experienced such intense fear around this issue since. If you are interested in clearing anxiety patterns without having to pull apart and psychoanalyse your life then I really encourage you to watch this video and learn more about how it works.

  • Neurological Linguistic Programming (NLP)
  • Cranial Osteopathy
  • Acupuncture
  • Reflexology

Supplements:

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“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.”

Deepak Chopra

GET YOUR SLEEP ON

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This post has been a long time coming, as put simply, I really loved staying up late. Like most of us, I knew about the importance of a “good night’s sleep” but it never stopped my habit of coming alive at night, or my desire to squeeze a few more hours out of the day. After a firm chat with a good friend just over a year ago the verdict was in: I was balanced in all major areas except sleep – where I was majorly out of sync! So, it took a lot of motivation, but I decided to start researching and experimenting with my beloved late night sleep pattern.

For the past year or so I’ve played with the time of night I went to bed, how long I slept for, various rituals pre- and post-bedtime, and took note of the possible effects of various foods, drinks and supplements consumed that day in order to find the most affective approach to sleep. As my inner night-owl had feared, the number one most effective factor has been getting to bed early – i.e. before 11pm, every night. Not only did an early bedtime provide top quality sleep, but on waking I felt well-rested and clear-headed, which was followed by my most productive, energy-filled days. Two other factors which beautifully complement this are early morning meditations and avoiding caffeine post 1pm.

So I’m most happy to report I now LOVE getting to bed early as the way I feel when I do so just feels SO good – I promise you it really does all turn out well in the end!

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THE BACKGROUND INFO

Once again we are inextricably connected to nature:

We have evolved with the rhythms and patterns of day and night – we take our cues of when to wake and when to sleep by the rising and falling of the sun. These built-in self sustained patterns, or circadian rhythms are inextricably linked to our local environment.

In the morning when the light enters our eyes it signals to the brain that it’s time to wake up and to start preparing the body for action. Our brain then makes sure certain hormones and neurochemicals (such as cortisol) are produced so we have the energy, correct temperature and brain function to wake up and go about our days effectively and efficiently.

As the sun begins to drop and night closes in, our eyes register the low light which signals that we swap our wakeful chemistry for our restorative, sleep-inducing mix (such as melatonin). Around 9pm our pineal gland switches on and if the light continues to stay low melatonin leaks into our bloodstream inviting us to slow down and a prepare for sleep.

So why is sleep so important?

  • It is the only time when the brain is cleaned – during sleep spinal fluid is pumped around the brain acting like a dishwasher flushing out waste products
  • It helps us sync with nature’s cycles and biological rhythms
  • It keeps our own healing cycle pulses in check
  • It keeps us producing the correct repair hormones and regenerative chemicals that provide overall  physical, mental and emotional health and well-being
  • It regulates DNA repair
  • It builds healthy muscle and connective tissue
  • It stabilises moods and emotions
  • It helps maintain a healthy weight
  • It balances blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood lipid levels

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THE BEST SLEEP IS ALL ABOUT QUALITY NOT QUANTITY 

The most effective sleep occurs when you are deeply relaxed –  five hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep is far more healthful than 8 hours of wakeful, disturbed sleep.

If you can manage good quality sleep then you really only need 6.5 hours per night. However, if your sleep quality isn’t optimal then between 7 and 8 hours is preferred.

Unless you are convalescing or healing from an operation you should have no more than 8 hours – any more and the effects can be as detrimental as going with only 3 hours.

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HOW TO GET QUALITY SLEEP

  • Make sleep a priority and make a routine of it – get to bed before 11pm and sleep for 6.5 – 8 hours every day. Dave Aspery talks here about the importance of not missing the window between 10:45 and 11pm when you get tired: “… if you miss it, you get a cortisol-driven ‘second wind’ that lets you be productive until 2am, or keeps you awake until then”.
  • Get moving outdoors and soak up the daylight – tips here! Make sure each day you walk around outdoors for at least 30 minutes. Avoid sitting down for long durations whenever you can – a standing work station is ideal.
  • No vigorous exercise after dinner or close to bedtime – this will only excite your system when you’re meant to be winding down. Slow gentle stretches are a better option if you’re wanting to so something before bed.
  • Avoid alcohol before bed – or at the least stop drinking two hours before bed – despite all the old wives tales, alcohol may help you fall to sleep but it absolutely disrupts the quality of your sleep throughout the night.
  • Avoid caffeine after 1pm – drink coffee this way if you do like to have a cuppa
  • Avoid prescription sleeping pills – after long-term use these become even more of a problem in resuming a healthy sleep pattern
  • Let dinner be your biggest meal – eat protein, fats and vegetables. Avoid sugars and grains. Protein helps prepare your body to enter the sleep-cycle; fats help your body manufacture sleep hormones; and vegetables assist hormone production and removal of toxins that can impede sleep. Finish eating at least 2 hours before bed. Dinner ideas here.
  • Finish drinking any liquids 1 hour before bed – make your last drink a warm one
  • Have a bath or shower before bed – this not only helps to “wash the day away” but also raises your core temperature which triggers those sleepy and regenerative chemicals.
  • Stop using your computer, phone or watching TV 1 hour before bed and turn your lights down low – avoid LED lights, screens and bright lights to help tune in with the dark night light that is preparing you for sleep
  • Sleep in darkness – pull your curtains tightly closed, cover any night lights or clock radio screens
  • Sleep in a cool room – better to be too cool than hot in bed if you can!
  • Trouble drifting off? Try these sleep-inducing products before bed – organic grass-fed beef gelatin; coconut oil; fermented cod liver oil; Chamomile tea; MelatoninMagnesium spray

Create a luscious bed-time ritual: bed is a sacred place you want to be! 

  • Talk over your day with a partner/friend or write a journal – acknowledge and release any aspects of your day that upset you. Know you can rest peacefully after this as things will resolve as they should
  • Brew your favourite calming herbal tea while reading a good book/magazine, or listening to your favourite chilled out music
  • Take a bath with epsom/magnesium salts, or your favourite pure essential oils – lavender is a popular calming oil (avoid if you’re pregnant however)
  • Book in a massage or simply massage your own tense spots – rub your feet, massage your shoulders and neck. Here are some good upper back and neck stretches
  • Meditate or practise mindfulness or some calm breathing exercises

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Changing your sleeping patterns may seem daunting or even impossible, but I assure you that with a bit of initial discipline it quickly starts to feel natural, easy, and in fact quite exciting! Getting to bed earlier means rising earlier, allowing you quality time to slowly ease into each day physically, mentally and emotionally. I highly recommend an morning meditation which invites an even clearer, calmer, energised you who is less likely to reach for outside stimulants in excess (caffeine, sugar). I’ve also found that after an early start you feel so virtuous that those green smoothies and juices and exercise classes are all the more welcoming – the addictive healthy cycle has begun!

The better you take care of yourself the more you will be able to help yourself and others around you. After a good sleep you are more in tune with your true self and therefore have the capacity to hold more and receive more.

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STILL STRUGGLING?

If you are still struggling with your sleep after following all of the above tips then I highly recommend finding an EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) practitioner to help release any emotional holding patterns that may be hindering your ability to heal and balance. Other successful natural techniques are acupuncture, reflexology and cranial osteopathy. As always I whole heartedly endorse natural treatments that work with your body to heal the root cause rather than act to plaster over.

Also check out these tips from Bulletproof Exec and Dr. Joseph Mercola

THE END. SLEEP WELL!

EASY TRAVEL TIPS!

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I got the idea for this post after a recent overseas journey which spanned around 36 hours of flights, trains and buses. Whether on a journey as long as mine, or something less intense, traveling has a definite impact on our physical well-being – time-zone changes, cramped conditions and limited food options disrupt our natural cycles, so it pays to be prepared. With the holiday season winding down this is perhaps a little belated, but keep these tips bookmarked for next time!

Preparation:

  1. The day before you travel, move around a lot – go for a long walk or gentle jog, go to a pilates or yoga class or simply stretch.
  2. Buy some healthy snacks to eat on the journey – avoid plane/train/ food if you can. I tend to pack leftovers (fritatta and salad is easy to pack) nuts, nut butter, coconut oil, dried fruit, healthy snack bars, crackers, bananas, avocados, kale chips, crisps, dark chocolate, bake some muffins or a loaf. You should be fine taking this food onto a plane but anything left after your flight you may have to declare on entering a new country (transit should be fine).
  3. Eat and hydrate well on the day you are flying so you can fill up on good quality produce and won’t be tempted by any nasties onboard. Try to get in a vegetable juice or smoothie before the flight –  google beforehand to find out if your airport has a juice bar. Green tea will help with tension headaches – I take the tea bags with me and just ask for hot water.
  4. Pack your probiotics to help keep your tummy happily digesting and to help support your immune system (being stuck in a confined airless places with loads of people can be a germ breeding ground!).
  5. Prepare your travelling outfit – choose your most comfortable clothes, soft fabric that is loose fitting or nice and stretchy. Pack an extra pair of socks or some slippers or flip flops/jandals to walk around in as you want to take your shoes off as soon as you begin your journey.
  6. Make sure you have a good sleep the night before – no last minute packing or panicking

While travelling:

  1. Choose an aisle seat so you can get out of your seat easily to walk around (without your shoes), or if travelling in a car take regular breaks to get out and walk around and stretch: turn your head from side to side, squeeze hands together behind your back, twist, sit in a low squat, lean forward to stretch the back of your legs, point and flex your feet, and so on (images below).
  2. Drink plenty of water (double the amount of water offered to you if on a plane) this will make you get up to use the toilet at the very least! Avoid alcohol and caffeine as these can disrupt your sleep patterns.
  3. If you have more than one flight then use the transit time to find a juice bar, or guzzle some good quality water. If you’re hungry choose fresh vegetables/salad or fruit.
  4. If you feel tired then sleep! Or at least close your eyes and rest. Take the opportunity to practise some calming breathing exercise or mindfulness. If you are transiting and need sleep then lie down rather than sit to sleep. If you’re wide awake then walk around or stand as much as you can.
  5. Eat your own packed food. Or if you have to eat the food served to you then definitely avoid the bread and dessert – ask for a piece of fruit or a bag of nuts instead.
  6. Brush your teeth! or at least swill your mouth out with oil or fresh water! This won’t only make you feel more refreshed, but will also help keep your immune system boosted. Remember the major importance oral health plays in well-being!

After travelling:

  1. Stretch, twist and move around! The cat stretch is a great one to do if you have the floor space. Massage your feet on a tennis ball to help rebalance the different reflex points that may have been affected by the travelling.
  2. Hydrate – plenty of fresh water perhaps with a pinch of good quality salt to help balance your electrolytes.
  3. Eat well to help you sleep well – fill up on any food groups you may have missed out on during your travels.
  4. Go to bed at the local time (between 10 and 11pm is ideal) and get 7-8 hours sleep if possible.

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STRETCH!


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COFFEE… WHAT’S THE DEAL?

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These are the best times to drink coffee.

Image Credit: I Love Coffee

That’s because we’re all guided by a 24-hour biological cycle, known as the circadian clock. When you first wake up your brain is already flooded with cortisol, a natural chemical that helps to keep you alert. So although you might feel like a coffee, you don’t actually need one. Best to wait until cortisol levels drop later in the day.

 

Like alcohol, coffee is yet another touchy dietary subject with a plethora of for-and-against campaigns. For me, these arguments really come down to the quality of the bean and how it is grown, processed, produced, poured and sipped! Depending on where the beans are sourced, how they’re treated and processed and what you add to your cuppa, is the difference between feeling anxious, wired, bloated and headachy, or clear-headed, sharp and satisfied. Bad coffee is absolutely terrible for your health, good coffee can bring a host of health benefits.

However, I’m not wanting to advocate coffee as a health food in this post! Obviously coffee is a very pervasively addictive drink, so if you have to drink it, do it this way. If you have energy/hormone/sleep issues I definitely recommend you should cut it out. Furthermore, caffeine-dependency is not good in any way. I would never recommend drinking coffee to “get you through the day” – I drink it to enhance my performance. If my energy is lacking then the first thing I look to is getting more sleep and looking to my diet – more fresh plant produce, increased good quality fats and proteins, reduced sugar.

My rules:

  • Freshly ground and filtered black espresso with a teaspoon of grass-fed butter and/or high quality coconut oil / MCT oil
  • Only ever drink coffee before 1pm and when I know I’m exercising afterwards (be it a weights session in the gym, a yoga / pilates / gyrotonic / dance class, or a long walk in the park)
  • No more than one coffee per day
  • Never have coffee 7 days of the week – I’m a control freak and never want to be dependant on anything!

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Follow these 5 steps to get the most from coffee

1. QUALITY – organic,  spray-free whole un-ground beans, free from mycotoxins (moulds). Look for coffee houses that offer single-origin coffee and do not rely on blended coffee – ideally they roast their own beans!

Avoid – instant coffee, pre-ground beans and ‘blends’ of coffee beans – these cannot survive even a week before becoming rancid and growing toxic moulds.

2. BREWING – freshly grind the beans, filter through an espresso machine or French press – these ensure the coffee oils that turn off brain inflammation are preserved.

Avoid – bleached filters if you’re using a “drip” coffee maker – bright white filters are bleached with chlorine and some of this chlorine will be extracted from the filter during the brewing process.

3. MIXERS – drink coffee black or with a teaspoon of good quality coconut oil / MCT oil and/or good quality grass-fed butter (Anchor, Kerry Gold, Yeo Valley, Rachel’s Organic). Adding these fats slows down the impact the caffeine has on your blood-sugar levels (I also always carry a small jar of coconut oil around with me!)

Avoid – any form of pasteurised cows/nut/grain/soya milk and any form of sugar – these completely change the chemistry of the coffee! They can spike your insulin, cause insulin resistance and contribute to unhealthy fat storage.

4. VESSEL – ideally sip your coffee from a glass or ceramic cup, or BPA free takeaway cups or cups made from plant starch.

Avoid – styrofoam and plastic cups made from BPA as the plastic will migrate into your blood.

5. TIME-FRAME – drink within ten minutes and you will soak up the best of the antioxidants.

Avoid – sipping on long awaited cold coffee, and avoid drinking coffee after 1pm – the latter part of the day is for slowing down and preparing for restful sleep.

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The benefits after following these 5 steps:

  • Antioxidants which contribute to anti-aging – coffee can trigger a mechanism in your brain that releases a growth factor called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) – basically this means more brain cells are produced which allows your brain to stay young.
  • Better memory and brain function – “Research has shown that both whole cocoa beans and coffee have remarkable neuroprotective properties. There is emerging evidence that South American societies who drink freshly ground coffee from whole coffee beans have the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.” Ori Hofmekler
  • Increased metabolism and healthy fat loss – coffee is a potent thermogenic which means it can increase your metabolism by up to 20 percent
  • Improved physical performance – caffeine can increase your power output as it is an ergogenic aid. Stimulating  BDNF also helps reduce age related muscle tissue atrophy. These results are optimised when coffee is drunk on an empty stomach before working out
  • Reduced sugar cravings – sensible coffee drinking can improve insulin sensitivity, so not only can it reduce your craving for sweets but long term can also lower your risk of stroke and diabetes. “If you are addicted to sugar…and you really want to train your body gradually get rid of this addiction…Train yourself to drink black coffee. Drink it sugarless on an empty stomach and you will see how, gradually, the cravings will dissipate.” Ori Hofmekler

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When not to drink coffee:

  • If you’re pregnant – coffee can cause iron deficiency in mothers and babies
  • After working out – mucks with your muscle building potential
  • If you suffer from major hormonal imbalances, sleep difficulties or a depressed immune system – coffee stimulates the hormones adrenaline and cortisol which are often already too high in these cases
  • If you have an issue with decreased adrenal function – perhaps it’s time to allow yourself to rest, nourish and reset
  • If you’re feeling stressed or anxious –  prioritise your values and face your problems rather than racing past them
  • If you need coffee to function – you’re addicted and need to trust you have all you need within you already!
  • If it’s with sugar, milk or if it’s decaffeinated – you don’t love coffee, you’re addicted to sugar!

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So, if you drink coffee, just make sure it’s of top quality and is for the right reasons! Not everyone responds to, and metabolises caffeine in the same way, so tune in before and after you sip. Follow the 5 steps above to optimise your cuppa and after time why not try a day, or week without coffee!

Read more here, from the incredible Dave Asprey

COCONUT OIL

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Coconut oil is the most popularly used product in my house – it really defines the term multi-purpose. I prepare everything with it from banana cake, to stir-fry veges, to roast chicken, to scrambled eggs, to salmon. I also use it daily to remove my eye makeup, as a body moisturiser and even for brushing my teeth! Quality is of utmost importance – go for organic unrefined, virgin coconut oil. There are many companies selling hydrogenated coconut oil where heat and solvent chemicals like aluminum and nickel are used to harden the oil. YUCK! This process also destroys many of its naturally occurring goodies such as vitamin E, carotene and tocotrienols… so it’s totally not worth scrimping on quality.

I was initially dubious about coconut oil after falling victim to all the hysteria out there about how terrible it is because of its high saturated fat content (92%). For decades we have received so much misinformation about high cholesterol fats like coconut oil, butter and animal fat – that they will make us gain weight, clog our arteries, negatively affect our cholesterol and put us in a high-risk heart attack zone. It’s worth noting that a lot of the commercially-funded research that espoused these “facts” has helped to create an enormously profitable low-fat food industry. Product sales for low-fat dairy products and toxic margarine spreads have gone through the roof, yet obesity rates continue to rise…

Fortunately the voice of good science is starting to sing its way to those ears that are seeking more honest and sound health advice. Mother nature has spent millions of years perfecting our beautiful natural fats such as the coconut – she doesn’t have it wrong! Be a little weary of any dietary research that has had backing from commercial industry interests – they have manipulated how and what we eat so dramatically that more changes have happened in the last 50 years than in the previous 10,000 years. Our genetics are screaming for us to go back to basics, to eat good quality natural products as close to their whole form as possible.

With so many cells in our bodies being made up of saturated fat, it’s not surprising that coconut oil is instantly recognised and used up by the body. Nothing is more stable for the body than fat. This good quality saturated fat will not make you fat! Sugars play that role beautifully, if you’re wanting such results.

Brain Food
With the dry weight of our brains being made up of 60-80% fat, half of which is saturated fat, it’s no wonder low-fat diets turn people into depressed, anxious, exhausted & angry animals! The fat in coconut oil will not only help sharpen your mind & cognitive functions but also assist in stabilising your mood.

Strong Heart
The fat from coconut oil helps reduce calcium deposits in the arteries and protects the heart. It is the most preferred source of energy for the heart muscle.

Organ Cleaner
The fat from coconut oil is immediately recognised by the liver and therefore used up straight away, aiding in vital processes such as balancing lipid levels in the blood, and protecting against damage to the liver by alcohol and other toxins. In turn it also supports kidney and gall bladder function.

Fat-Burning Energy Giver!
In the Pacific Islands, farmers failed in their attempt to fatten their pigs by feeding them coconut oil. The coconut oil increased metabolism, allowing the pigs to burn more energy that actually helped them lose weight! So for those who crave sugar for energy, struggle with diabetes-related issues or are struggling with stubborn belly fat, coconut oil is a great source of instant energy that also helps to balance blood sugar and insulin control.

Bacteria Balancer
If you suffer from any imbalanced gut flora issues like candida, thrush, abnormal parasites or fungal rashes, the lauric acid in coconut oil (eaten or applied topically) has antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties to help balance out these baddies. Lauric acid, of course, is the naturally occurring infection fighter in human breast milk.

Bone-Strengthener
I was also amazed to learn that coconut oil works wonders for your teeth and bones, especially as it encourages mineral absorption. Go on – chuck out your chemical-laden toothpaste and brush your teeth with this instead!

High Heater
Like butter, animal fats and lard, coconut oil is not altered when heated. This means it is a great choice for any type of cooking, frying or baking. Unfortunately the compounds in plant oils are so precious they are immediately altered and destroyed when heated. Heating olive oil for example destroys its vitamin E, beta carotene and chlorophyll and changes its unsaturated fatty acids into harmful trans-fatty acids – essentially making it toxic to our bodies and increasing the likelihood of it being stored as fat. In short – save your (cold-pressed, unrefined) plant oils for things like dips and dressings, and use your coconut oil whenever there’s heat involved!

Magical Moisturiser
So good as a chemical-free moisturiser for all. Perfect for any situation from expectant mums wanting to avoid stretch marks, people suffering from psoriasis/eczema issues, and great for nappy rash too. An added bonus is its ability to help increase sun tolerance and avoid burning

WHERE TO BUY? Health food stores that stock good organic produce
WHAT TYPE? Organic, unrefined virgin coconut oil; it’s by far the best option
WHAT BRAND? I love Tiana seriously one of the best I have come across (and I’ve tried loads!)
HOW MUCH? Consume at least a tablespoon a day (I have around 4)
HOW? Straight on a spoon, in your black unsweetened coffee, in smoothies, in coconut milk hot chocolates, in biscuits & loaves, in scrambled eggs, in fried veges, in vege mash, in crispy chicken thighs, massaged into your skin (great for foot-rubs)… the list goes on!

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