What it takes

This morning’s insta post is worth moving to the blog. It stems from hearing those who are not quite ready to commit to their health. Change is a scary thing, even if it’s for the best, so people come up with excuses to justify not undertaking the change to a healthier lifestyle.

But Sarah, I don’t have the time

⏰ It takes 5-10’ for an effective exercise routine.

But Sarah, I don’t have the space, can’t afford a gym, I’m scared of the gym

🕴🏿 It takes a length of your body space if you don’t have a gym. And if you don’t like exercising, any vigorous movement will do the trick really, but as a human, you’ve got to move that body for it to function.

But Sarah, I like sugar, wine, burgers, [insert processed food of choice] too much

🤯 It takes making a priority on proper nutrition.

It takes building habits to feed the right stuff.

That’s the bare minimum. It’s up to you. It’s what you’re happy with and feel you can sacrifice, which is very individual choice.

Next step is choosing your environment (spaces and people), and making the decisions to fight for what you want to keep and let go of what drags you down. That is the big one. But if you can start with the first three, the rest will follow. It’s worth it.

Stop making excuses if you want results. If you want help, let’s talk simple actions and building habits that work.

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Work hard, play hard, fuel right

What do pro athletes and professional parents have in common? Dreams and passion to do well in all they do, and the hard work it takes to show up no matter what. Such dedication can take its toll on our immune system.

What surprises me as a health coach is that while we take it for granted that athletes owe it to themselves to feed right, there seems to be an acceptance that professional working adults don’t take their body as seriously. Yet the demands are so similar… The relentless running around school drop off and/or pick up, clubs, running a house, leading a successful career comes with its share of challenges.

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Athletes testimonials video

The change of seasons are particularly demanding on our immune system, and we see an increase of colds (man flu, because guys do tend to have worse).

Yet there are so many ways to prevent not only the fatigue but also dips in immunity.

Sarah’s 10 tips of the day to keep well

  1. Hydrate, it’s somewhat more difficult when it’s colder or humid outside
  2. Know your limits, and respect them
  3. Move your body, you’re a human, not a sloth
  4. Know your essential macros (natural carbs of the green type, protein of the lean type, fats of the mean type). I fancied a rhyme, just avoid processed crap at least.
  5. Know your essential micros (look for independently verified quality). See here to cover the basic needs whether you’re a sport athlete or a corporate pro parent.
  6. Rest and sleep
  7. Surround yourself with people who lift you up
  8. Follow your dreams, make a difference,
  9. Be “selfish” in your responsibilities, no one is coming to save you, you know what makes you happy, so get on to it.
  10. Be kind to yourself. Remember it’s about progression not perfection. Aim for the above, don’t beat yourself up if you slip up.

My passion is to build a better world and fill it with healthy people. If I can make it easy for you or you want to know more about how holistic health coaching can help, do get in touch.

12 Tips to Survive Thesis, Reports, Case Studies and Other Big Writing Projects

One of my Facebook friends asked for tips on writing her thesis. As three and a half years of research (and with that sweat, existential crisis stress, fears, tears…) come to a close, now a potentially more daunting task begins. Writing a thesis, a final year report, or just any type of big writing exercise summarising a major piece of work is a huge undertaking. The output will be all that’s left of it, it is life defining and a learning opportunity in itself. I’ve got years of experience whether through my studies or work life, and every single time I have to write on a significant project there’s yet a new journey. Here’s the 12 tips I’ve come up with. Please comment with yours, they will help.

  1. Facts. Facts. Facts
  2. You actually know more than you think.
  3. Take breaks. Loo breaks. Screen breaks. Food breaks. Hug breaks (Partner, best buddy, be weary of random strangers). Schedule some regular breaks.
  4. CTRL+S every 5-10 minutes
  5. Work on the cloud, and/or evolve the versions
  6. Some days will be tough, especially just before a breakthrough of thoughts. It’s ok. Part of the process. You need a step back before you leap forward.
  7. Sometimes, especially towards the end, you may feel like giving up. Don’t. See points 2, 3 and 6.
  8. If you haven’t done so already, build your support network. Call someone who will lift you up.
  9. Nutrition is everything. Feed your brain (protein, greens, fats) as a human being. Supplement with omega 3 (check the shop for Biomega, but register first as a preferred customer for discounts!)
  10. Sleep. Unless you’re inspired, then indulge in a few more hours, but then have naps.
  11. Probably should be number 1, hydrate. With water, obviously.
  12. ENJOY! Every. Single. Moment. Of. It. The rough and the smooth.
Biomega
Biomega recommendation by freespirit.usana.com

From A to K: Your Complete Vitamin Guide – Ask The Scientists

Photo by askthescientists.com

An introduction to the basics of vitamins and how they help your health provided by my favourite bunch of PhDs.

Discover more about the vitamins your body needs. The explain everything you need to know — Read on askthescientists.com/qa/vitamins/

The topics covered include:

1 A Crash-Course in Vitamin Basics

2 The Two Main Categories of Vitamins

3 VITAMIN A

4 VITAMIN B1 (THIAMIN)

5 VITAMIN B2 (RIBOFLAVIN)

6 VITAMIN B3 (NIACIN)

7 VITAMIN B5 (PANTOTHENIC ACID)

8 VITAMIN B6

9 VITAMIN B7 (BIOTIN)

10 VITAMIN B9 (FOLATE)

11 VITAMIN B12 (COBALAMIN)

12 VITAMIN C (ASCORBIC ACID)

13 VITAMIN D (CALCIFEROL)

14 VITAMIN E (TOCOPHEROLS and TOCOTRIENOLS)

15 VITAMIN K (PHYLLOQUINONE, MENADIONE)

16 Time to Meet Vitamin’s Nutritional Companion—Minerals

— Read on askthescientists.com/qa/vitamins/

Naughty but o so good for you pancakes

Are you one of these people who is afraid to make the changes to optimise your health because let’s face it, some foods are just so symbolic of indulgence and awake the senses like nothing else? Then read on, because I might just have something for you…

One of most frequent questions I’m being asked since first going gluten free years ago is a variation of “Don’t you miss <insert person’s favourite unhealthy food seen as a treat here>?”

Well no, of course not, I don’t miss feeling bloated, the head fog, and love the abundance of energy! Putting aside that yoga teaches moderation and control, and that’s something I can work on in my practice, let’s be real, I enjoy yummy food as much as the next person. My take on the situation is to seek and create ways to make naughty dishes actually good for you.

In this post, I introduce my all time favourite: pancakes!

These pancakes are nutritionally balanced, full of goodness and yummylicious.

The Recipes

Chocolate pancakes

2 scoops USANA MySmart whey protein

2 scoops wheat grass (I used BulkPowder here, but as long as it’s pure, any brand will do)

1 tsp raw cacao powder

1 egg

1/2 banana

1 cup water (approx, I went for consistency rather than measure, and that will depend on the size of your egg and the ripeness of your banana)

Mix, cook over a medium heat, try to resist the urge of eating them as you go so you can stack them.

It makes 4-6 small pancakes, I normally have them with a sliver of almond butter, and cashew works well too.

Hulk-ish pancakes

2 scoops USANA MySmart plant protein

1 egg

4 blocks of frozen spinach or broccoli, smoothied

1 cup water

Optional:

1 tsp raw cacao powder

2 tsp wheatgrass/spirulina/super greens/macha etc depending on your nutritional objectives

Blitz your spinach or broccoli with water.

Mix your protein and egg, if you take up the options as them in now, finally add in the smoothie.

Cook over a medium heat, note that because of using frozen veg, it’ll take longer to cook.

They splat if taken off too early!

Enjoy with a nut butter of your choice.

Extra tips:

  • These are a great way to hide the kids’ multivitamins and give them a super healthy breakfast without the fuss.
  • Usana proteins powders are my go to because of their guaranteed commitment to purity and quality. Besides if it’s good for Olympians, NFL athletes, and premiership footballers, it’s great for a busy mum like me.
  • Add in vanilla, cinnamon, ginger to experience different taste.
  • For the veggie pancakes, plant protein is best.
  • The egg is essential to bind the mix, so can’t go vegan on this one.
  • One stack per person is plenty (it’s not because it’s healthy and nutritional that it’s a free pass for excess!)

Fast tracking health

You’ve got to love the media and all their false promises when it comes to health and fitness. All the fads, usually sponsored by a manufacturer or other. “Do this one thing”, “eat this one food/juice/smoothie”… seriously, if it’s too good to true, come on! If you haven’t got out of shape overnight, puffer fish style, how do you expect regaining your wellness instantly?

Broscience with its false promises gives a bad name to the fitness industry, the nutrition industry, and even to natural therapies. My personal pet peeve is the attention that some occasional writer, columnist or that dude down the gym get over real pro an other health nerds, just because they spoke louder. Argh… I diverse.

What about “quick fixes”, “superfoods”, and other “magic” potions? Is there not fast track to health?

Well… that depends what you mean by all these. It depends on what you want to believe. The choice is always yours to make. You can either go off yoyo dieting and/or jump from fad to fad, maybe lose a bit of weight for a while, give yourself the impression you’re “doing something” (good for mental health at least). Or you can make a lasting change. The former isn’t a healthy approach and it will eventually leave you miserable or to settle for less than you deserve.

There’s good news.

Picture 1: Google search on “lose we” brings up “lose weight fast”.

You have to reframe, quick doesn’t mean overnight.

There is a relatively quick fix, as in a most effective way to achieve lasting results. You may have to revise your timeline and expectations ratio, and take a dose of reality.

You have to reframe, quick doesn’t mean overnight. It involves being ready, decide and commit to your health, stop faffing with fads, get professional guidance and allow yourself to follow the plan!

The “quickest” fix for results that lasts is a journey of discovery, challenges and learning. It can be tough, particularly as you learn new habits, but the changes on you overall health are oh so worth it.

It takes three weeks to form a habit, and any sound health programme is based around that. It takes a couple of weeks for you to feel results, a month for you to see results and a bit more than that for others to notice. That’s what quick should mean.

Can you imagine a life in which you have the energy to keep up with young children, you are able to cope with whatever is thrown at you, you have such clear skin that you look 10 (or more) years younger, and unwanted weight just drops of you? Can you imagine what reaching that level of health would mean?

Close your eyes for a second and picture it. That’s what a sustainable health programme will bring you.

That’s why I’m all out for optimal health.

As I said in my previous post, I know what it takes to be healthy, I’ve studied various subjects that allows me to bring a holistic approach to my coaching, yet I somehow found myself in a state of less that desirable fitness. What went wrong? A few things. Essentially I stopped respecting myself with the daily tiny actions of self-care that make the difference between the “cuddly” body and the lean one.

The fastest way to return to health that I know, love and never stop sharing is my nutritionist friend Jess Dyer’s programme. Jess has invested an incredible amount of work in automating a framework for the health principles that I apply in my 1:1 coaching, with the added bonus of a virtual community. I’m an ambassador for this programme, and since last week I am starting again as a participant. Personally, my favourite thing (other than Jess’s recipes!) is the community. The support is phenomenal.

This post is for journaling my experience, not for promotion, however if you’d like to do what I’m doing, get in touch and I’ll give you special details.

Picture 2: I can’t wait to see these babies back

Reflection Sunday

Two photos, two years apart.

These would be perfect if they were a before and after. They are, but the one on the left was taken two days ago during holidays. The one on the right was taken two years ago as I was trying on different dresses for a work do.

What’s in it?

An extra 10kg (not muscle!), 5% body-fat or so, 2-3 dress sizes, low grade hangovers, brain fog, lower aerobic performance and general fatigue.

Thank goodness my blood results are still in the ideal range. It could be worse 😱

So… what happened?

I gradually started to put on weight after the photo on the right. My lifestyle did not really change as such, which is interesting. It also goes to show it’s the little things that make the difference. Daily, almost insignificant choices. The compound effect of “little things”.

In my case, the difference can be summed up to:

– eating when I was not hungry

– increasing my portion sizes

– one or two glasses of wine, 3, sometimes 4 times a week

– sleep quality reduced

– taking too much on

My nutrition is clean, balanced and thought through in accordance with my needs. I’m the queen of life hacks when it comes to eat well for your body type and lifestyle, and my exercise routines are ace. Not only that, I have coached others in adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Jokingly I answer that “what happened” question with “hubby came home”. Not only that is not a fair statement, and it’s a poor excuse, but it also shows a lack of ownership and a lack of self respect.

It’s time to act to say the least.

What am I going to do about it?

Own it.

Be responsible and aware of my actions/ non-actions.

Seek help and support where (fortunately I know) I can find it.

Be realistic that the journey back to optimal health will be hard, if not harder for the seasoned wellness pro I am than it would be for a newbie.

Treat myself as I would a coaching client, with the same kindness, care and respect and apply all I know.

It is my intention to blog my journey back to optimal health to inspire others who are “not that bad”, “just a bit cuddly”, “know what to do”, “have just a last few pounds”… but first and foremost to make myself accountable, and feel less alone through the journey to make it sustainable.

Watch this space and wish me luck.

Spotlight on: Probiotic

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Digestive health matters

It’s not so much “you are what you eat”. It’s more of a case of “you are what you digest of what you eat”.

Whether you are recovering from an illness or you simply set out to be healthier, a priority is making sure that your metabolism and digestive system are going to process and absorb what you need. Reinstating the intestinal flora is key.

At FreeSpirit Wellness we swear by pharmaceutical grade supplementation. Our health assessment will indicate what tweaks you can make to your lifestyle, and our community will support your success with healthy living.

More info from the scientists from  www.askthescientists.com

A 93 year old’s funeral in Burgundy, land of fine wine and the art of gastronomy

Writing from deep ends of my native France after pondering as to why french people live significantly longer than other populations. I was born in South Burgundy, the land of grass fed beef, goats, free roaming chicken, and of course fine wine. This is also a place where the art of gastronomy has been rooted in culture since the middle ages. With that comes the magical art of… Moderation!

This way of life gives you people who live well into their 90s. On that sunny and cold 9th May, I buried one of my grandmas. She was 93. She was also the one who taught me about fine food and nutrition, and portions (ok, she did go to a prestigious restaurant school, so that’s a head start on your average french person, but still).

As I was looking around at the attendance in church, I could see several of her neighbours, most of them in their 80s and beyond. These people, like my nan, live on their own, look after themselves, and believe you me when I tell you they know how to enjoy their food and drop(s) of wine!

This is a sight I’m accustomed to as a native. I wouldn’t even think about these healthy elderlies’ eating habits if I wasn’t an expat’. I live in the UK, and have done spells in the USA too, where obesity, diabetes, heart diseases and autoimmune conditions have reached epidemic levels. Not so much the case in France, or western continental Europe for that matter. So what is the difference?

Gastronomy and the respect of your environment make the difference.

Conscious, thought through, sustainable, respectful eating turned to an art form that is passed down from generation to generation. Meal times are non negotiable events, everyone participates in the preparation and anyone who dares not being at the table on time will be scolded (whether you’re 5 or 55). Food that nourishes your body, that pleases your palate, that is sourced locally (to the exception of special days such as a birthday) is made a priority, and the rest of the day is organised around these. Most people know where their meat comes from (as in what actual pasture it grew in), they know how to assort it, present it, and most importantly they know how to eat and digest it.

Catching up with my grandfather, also in his 90s, whom is unfortunately senile (a reknown sweet tooth, and had taken to drinking wine at every meal when he retired from his activities in his late 80s), he has fond memories of hunting game, which my grandmother would turn into terrines, pates, roasts, steaks, stews…

To this day, the simplest, everyday meals follow the same model of a three course meal, with a pause in between courses, such as:

  • Starter:
    • Lunch: a salad of green leaves, or raw vegetables (eg carrots, tomatoes, celeriac, button mushrooms) with a drizzle of dressing
    • Dinner: often a soup, as an alternative to salad.
  • Main: lean meat or fish with their side of vegetables
  • Dessert: cheese or yogurt or fruit

As an aside… Grandmas will always try to force feed you, I believe that’s a universal fact of life! The French ones I know are ever so slightly more respectful and understanding of you admit that you’ve pigged out already.

That really is how we rock. Rich food and wine drinking is very much reserved for one or max two meals over the weekend. Days with a treat meal are followed by two or three days of eating lightly. This acceptable throughout, such that if you are invited, it is common courtesy to make your host aware you’re going to have a large meal the day before, so that they allow a lighter meal when you visit them.

Standard portions are very much based on not stretching your stomach. The old reference is that your stomach is the size of your fist. This translates in:

  • Your starter salad being about the size of you fist
  • Your piece of meat being similar size of the palm of your hand
  • Your side vegs will be a handful’s worth
  • Your cheese will be roughly like your thumb

The adage “you are what you eat” should really be “you are what you digest”. This is something else that gastronomy takes care of. The art of eating in France dictates that little pause between courses. Observing this pause allows for your food to reach your stomach and be digested without the strain of piling up other food straight away. As a result, you give your body a chance to recognise the feeling of fullness, and know when to stop eating.

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