September: A month for a fresh start

Boy, oh boy, did I have a good summer- friends weddings, mini city breaks, a week-long holiday in Italy, lots of wine and bread, dinners, nights out and lots and lots of sugar, salt and delicious toxins!

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As much as I’ve loved the summer and all the indulgence, it’s left me feeling a bit ‘off’. My skin is back looking rubbish, my energy levels are bottoming out again- I long to be back in bed most days, my brain fog is creeping back, my mood is also defiantly darker and my old tumtum is playing up a fair bit.

I’ve always loved September, for me it brings with it a sense of ‘fresh starts’ – more so than January does. I associate January with being broke, cold and depressed while September for me is the time of new books, shiny new shoes, hikes on crunchy Autumn leaves, hearty meals, routine and new habits. In fact it was this time last year that I first decided to stop just ‘investigating’ wellness and holistic health and actually start living it.

(Basically, last September, after a particularly fun night out with friends I decided to walk the whole way home, a 30 minute walk,  at 2:30 AM, down quiet, deserted streets, all alone –  just so I could get cheese and garlic chips from my local chipper. I know, I know, so dangerous, such a flippen eejit.

I woke up the next morning, with a horrible hangover, eye make up everywhere, the remains of the chips on the coffee table and I decided I had had enough. I decided then and there I didn’t want to be ‘that’ girl no more and gingerly set out to become the person I wanted to be).

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So, on this note I’ve decided that this September is again going to be my wellness ‘fresh start’. I’m going to go back to:

  • Drinking lemon and hot water each morning
  • Reducing my coffee intake to 1 skinny latté every other day
  • Doing a big veggie/ fruit shop each week so I’m more prepared for the week ahead
  • Eating at least 5 different fruits/ veg a day
  • Dry body brush before my shower everyday (not just at the weekends!)
  • Drinking 2 liters of filtered water a day (…must buy a filter!)
  • Get my body moving for at least 20 minutes every day– more yoga, get out and start walking in my lunch break, using our new gym.
  • Meditate more often (perhaps I’ll start a meditation class?)
  • Consciously work on silencing my ‘ego’ or ‘negative DJ’- she’s getting awfully loud and agressive lately
  • Reduce my reliance on cheese and bread and actively seek out and make new alternatives
  • Drinking either a juice or smoothie everyday
  • Cut out all beer and cocktails, they seem to be making an unwelcome return
  • Reduce my reliance on Facebook and Daily Mail… those bloody sites will be the death of me!!
  • Replace all my supplements which have long run out
  • Buy a vegan cook book and become more confident with vegan recipes
  • Take more time to Skype all my BFF’s living in far off places- I always feel 100% times more connected and grounded after a good old natter!

Yup, I think that is enough to keep me going! Here’s to feeling back fit and healthy by Christmas!

I Quit Sugar (for a month)

sugarlips

There’s so much I want to say about this that I could type for hours, but I know you don’t want to read for hours so I’m going to keep it short and sweet (for want of a different word).

A normal day for me used to look like this:

Morning: Lemon and hot water, Porridge with full fat milk, 1 banana, honey and either chia seeds or linseed

Lunch: A salad left over from last night with cheese and some bread

Afternoon snack: A Jaffa Cake or two (my office is obsessed with them for some reason)/ A handful of homemade Trail Mix

When I get in from work: Green smoothie

Dinner: Some vegetarian and cheese based meal

TV Snack: Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and maybe a glass of Red wine

The truly shocking thing is that all of this adds up to about 30 teaspoons of sugar a day and the thing is is we aren’t designed to consume as much as we do. The correct daily intake of sugar we should in fact be consuming is only 6 teaspoons of sugar a day.

I had no idea I was consuming this much but then you see it turns out that sugar doesn’t only come from a chocolate bar or a bag of Haribo… Glucose (carbs), fructose (fruit) and lactose (dairy) = Sugar

As Sarah Wilson discusses in her book, ‘I Quit Sugar’, the problem with sugar is 2 fold

Problemo #1: Fructose is a sneaky mo’ fo’…

Sugar makes us eat more.  Every other food we digest has a corresponding appetite hormone that registers the food in our bellies which results in us saying, ‘Jayzuz, I’m stuffed’, (or something a little more lady like!), but not sugar. As we all know we can gorge on sugary foods without feeling full (maybe sick but far from full)

And the thing is that the Coca Colas, Red Bulls, Mars and Nestles of this world know this fact.

They say their products should only be consumed in ‘moderation’ knowing full well that they have been designed to hit our ‘bliss point’- a point at which the product tastes sweet, but not so sweet that we can’t keep eating them- and cause us to over indulge.

It has been scientifically proven that we can’t consume these sugary foods in moderation. These ‘foods’ do something to our saliva glands that make them juice at the sight of them, they do something to our brains and taste buds that crave them when we see them advertised, they do something to our stomachs that make them gurgle when we see them for sale in the newsagents. Once you have a bite you’re hooked and want more.

Problemo #2: Sugar messes with our delicate hormones

Each consumption of sugar messes with our blood sugar levels, it sends them soaring high and then crashing low. When they’re up the hormone insulin has to kick in and regulate it and when it’s down the stress hormone Cortisol has to help out. Here are the effects this can have on our bodies if this happens a couple of times a day:

Insulin side effects: increased body fat, reduction in our bodies ability to burn fat, reduction in lean muscle, increase in inflammation, reduced energy, effects our mood, increased brain fog, increased oestrogen (which is a whole other story…)

Cortisol side effects: Digestive problems, inflammations, inability to repair, lower immune.

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April’s Challenge:

Give Up- Sugar

So that’s why I gave up Sugar (and all it’s little friends, including fructose) for April, I went Cold Turkey.

I  followed Sarah Wilson’s book, this is an 8 week process but as the first two weeks are a warm up and the last week is a warm down I squished it into a 5 week process.

I coupled this with 100 squats a day as this is great at producing the growth hormone which is a natural way to stabilise our Blood Sugar and counteract the negative effects of insulin (more on that here)

Verdict

This month was a total eye opener for me and the effects have only really been felt since the month’s experiment was finished. I think my taste buds have changed (matured?) and I can no longer eat desert or even fruity smoothies as I find them too sweet and they give me a physical pain in my gums.  I also lost weight (the weight put on when I attempted to be a vegetarian and a little bit more). I also noticed my PMS and general lady time wasn’t as rough as once was.

Since then I have reintroduced fruit, honey and some sugary treats into my diet but I am largely trying to follow this lifestyle each day as it makes me feel so good.

So, do you think you can/want to try it? If so here’s a few resources to sink your teeth into:

A short 15 minute video

Some blog posts:

Some books:

  • Sarah Wilson, ‘I Quit Sugar’
  • Mark Moss, ‘Salt, Sugar, Fat’
  • David Gillspie, ‘Sweet Poison’

A piece of info I just have to leave you with: A glass of apple juice contains as much sugar as a glass of Coke… 10/ 12 teaspoons. I’m sorry but it’s true.

Meditation: A Work In Progress

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This is a review of how the 4th month of my ‘The Year of Doing’ went…

Take Up- Meditation

I’ve attempted meditation in the past, I’ve been on a couple of meditation courses where I mainly spent the meditation time thinking of what insightful yet humorous thing I was going to say when the facilitator asked the group for feedback. My brain just does not want to stop and if it does it goes, ‘Oh look at that, I just stopped there for a mil second!’.

So, it’s safe to say I was dreading this month’s challenge and I’m sorry to say I failed, I failed sooo badly.

Look, I know all the benefits that supposedly come from regular meditation:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves sleep
  • Makes your brain stronger and helps you concentrate better
  • Reduces stress and tension
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Increased energy

But it’s so bloody boring!!!

When I sit down to meditate this is what happens:

Eimear: OK now Brain we are going to sit here for 20 minutes, just me and you and think of nothing. You hear me? Nothing.

Brain: Ha, yeah right.

Eimear: Don’t be cheeky. Right let’s get started. OK, right, I’m relaxing my body, from my toes right up to my scalp. Mmmmmmm I’m all relaxed and tingly. Now I’m concentrating on my breathing- in and out, in and out.

Brain: Silence

Eimear: In and out, in and out.

Brain: This is going pretty well.

Eimear: In and out, in and out.

Brain: Maybe I’m actually a meditation genius and I can hold classes and write books about meditation and travel the word teaching people how to meditate. Oh and then I’ll probably be invited on Oprah’s Soul Sundays and talk about how great and easy meditation is. Oh crap… What would I wear?

Eimear: Shhhhhhhhhhhhh. Breath in and out. Concentrating on the breath

Brain: Oh ‘Revenge’ is on tonight, yusssss.

Brain: Hummmm, what’s in the fridge? Eggs, mushrooms, spinach- maybe an omelette for dinner?

Brain: My back’s a bit sore from all this ‘sitting up straight’ malarkey-  I’ve such bad posture.

Brain: I need to book that hair appointment

Brain: Silence

Brain:  I wonder which member of One Direction will turn out to be gay?

Eimear: Excuse me?! We. are. trying. to. meditate!! My GOD. OK, concentrating on the breath.

Brain: Silence

Eimear: Silence

Brain: Probably that Zane fella.

Eimear: For fucks sake, right that’s it. This is over, you are USLESS.

Brain: Yippee, let’s go have that omelette.

See?! I end up exhausted and warn out.

But- I will not be beat! I’ve decided from now on, instead of trying to tear myself away from some activity to go and meditate, I’ll just slot meditation into an activity I’m already doing, like when I drink my morning cup of hot water and lemon I try to concentrate on the moment or each time I finish a Yogaglo class I’ll take 10/15 at the end to try and meditate. As they say practice makes perfect and I feel I need this.

Change takes time

Lemon and Hot Water Fan Club

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We’ve all heard you should start your day with hot water and lemon- everyone from Weight Watchers to Oprah recommends it, but why? Why is everyone banging on about lemon and hot water?! Well, let me tell ya…

As I mentioned before, I’ve been doing some research into Ayurveda practices, which is where this practice actually originates from. It says drinking hot water and lemon each morning will ‘align the body with nature’s rhythms and balance the doshas’… which basically is a load of gobbildygook to me!

So I’ve looked else where and here’s some reasons to get on board:

1. Helps with weight loss: Lemons are high in pectin fiber, which helps fight hunger cravings.

2. Aids digestion: Science Bit: the warm water serves to stimulate the gastrointestinal tract and peristalsis and the waves of muscle contractions within the intestinal walls that keep things moving. The non science bit: This stuff keeps you regular.

3. Boosts your immune system: Lemons are high in Vitamin C- Vitamin C is great for fighting colds.

4. Balances pH: Lemons are an alkaline food. I’ll fill you in on this soon but alkaline (as apposed to acidic foods) promote an alkaline body, which is really the key to good health.

5. Stimulates the liver: aka great for a hangover!

I try to have a cup of warm water (not boiling- as you’ll destroy the live enzymes in the lemon) and the juice from half a lemon every morning and feel nicely ‘cleaned out’ and cleansed by the time breakie/ lunch comes around. I also like the calming effect it has on, what can be frantic, morning routine!

PS I’ve also heard adding a sprinkle of cayenne pepper with lemon increases the detoxing effect and raises the temperature of your body increasing your metabolism but I’m not too fond of the taste that early in the morning, so I’m leaving that step out.

This Food Babe blog post really hit the benefits home to me.

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