Happy Belly Happy Heart

A blog dedicated to nutrition, wellbeing and happiness. I believe the key to a good life begins with what you choose to put into your body. A happy belly = a happy mind = a happy heart.

4 Pledges for a Sustainable Future

i'm-with-stupidMonday 22nd April 2013 was Earth Day, when hundreds of thousands of people from 192 countries help to spread the word about climate change, helping to protect the planet and secure a sustainable future. 

RSPB BadgesA colleague and I organised a day of celebration at work, with a British and seasonal produce themed pot luck lunch and beautiful RSPB badges featuring birds, animals and flowers for sale in aid of wildlife conservation. We also had a Pledge Tree where everyone was invited to make a pledge of what they’re going to do over the next year to reduce their impact on the planet.

We awarded eco-friendly prizes for the funniest, most ambitious and most innovative pledges and I was surprised at the effort that went into this. Whilst there were plenty of the usual ideas like turning off lights, having showers instead of baths, wasting less food and using less packaging, there were also some slightly more thoughtful pledges: partaking in car boot sales, keeping car tyres inflated to preserve fuel and giving away horse manure to use as fertiliser.

every-day-is-earth-dayThis got me thinking that there’s always more you can do, no matter how ‘green’ you think you are: things you’ve overlooked or not considered before. So I began to look with fresh eyes at my own green activities. I already recycle everything I possibly can, I don’t own a car, I use Good Energy for my electricity, I’ve switched all my halogen bulbs for LEDs, I turn off plugs & lights when not in use, I turn off the tap whilst brushing my teeth, I get an organic veg box delivered, I don’t eat meat, I use reusable tupperware for lunches and picnics, I use foldable and cloth bags instead of plastic, I only boil the water I need in the kettle, I buy recycled toilet paper and I mostly use natural, chemical-free toiletries, cosmetics & household cleaning products.

As I rent my flat, there’s little change I can make to the building in the way of insulation, solar power or heating. However, there’s definitely more I can do personally, so these are my pledges for the next 3 months:

Food Composting

Unfortunately, as good as my local council is at being green (and so they should be with the first ever green MP in tow), they don’t yet offer a food waste collection service. Not having a garden therefore means all my biodegradable waste goes into landfill.

But all is not lost! I’ve heard that Magpie, the original kerbside recycling collectors in Brighton, offer this service so I’ve contacted to them to find out and hopefully sign up.

Fruit-and-Veg-SaversFruit & Veg Savers 

As much as I hate to waste food, one of the downsides of buying fresh, organic veg is it doesn’t tend to last as long as its processed, preservative-ridden counterparts! So I do on occasion find myself chucking out rotten veg that I just haven’t got round to eating in time.

But I came across these Fruit & Veg Savers from Nigel’s Eco Store and plan to try them out to avoid any more vegetable casualties!

Eco Laundryeco-balls

I currently use Ecover laundry detergent and fabric conditioner but I plan to go one step further. I pledge to invest either in Eco Balls – reusable washing balls filled with biodegradable pellets designed to be used at lower temperatures using less water – or in Soapnut products, which are probably the greenest laundry solution out there because they grow on trees!

More research is required so watch this space…

reusable-cotton-woolReusable Cotton Wool

I have very sensitive skin on my face and have been told to avoid washing with water. I now only use gentle, organic skincare products, mainly from Green People. However, this does mean I get through a lot of cotton wool. Although I buy organic cotton wool pads, I do get a guilt complex over the amount of waste I’m producing.

But today I spotted these wonderful crocheted reusable cotton wool pads which can be made yourself or, for those less handy among us, bought online. There are other versions too, like these towelling ones in a washable bag. A little more research is needed, but I’ll definitely be investing.

What do you already do to help the environment and what other changes can you make?

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Spreading the Love

This week’s post is about living from the heart. There are 3 ideas I’ve seen or heard about lately that I think are wonderful and if we were all to adopt more of these into our lives, the world would surely be a better place.

love letterGlobal Love Letters

In an article in March 2013’s Natural Health magazine entitled Spread the Love, Rose Rouse reports on this fantastic global movement started by Simon Paul Sutton. I was amazed to find Simon had actually started this phenomenon in Brighton, where I live, and I’m quite keen to help continue his work!

Basically, you write an anonymous love letter addressed ‘For You’ filled with positive intentions and flowing with love, for example sentiments like ‘I may never meet you, or kiss you, but I will always be there for you’. It should be “a gorgeous declaration of love in the most delicious heartfelt way”. End it with ‘I love you’, not your name.

Then you go and find an exciting place to leave your letter: on a bus, at a train station, on a supermarket shelf, tucked into someone’s shoes at the gym, by a cash machine or on a bench. You’ll probably never know who gets to read it, but that’s part of the joy – giving love unconditionally, without any agenda or expectations. Just feel the love!

Find out more at globalloveletters.com

hiSbe logohiSbe ethical supermarket

hiSbe stands for ‘how it Should be’ and is a social enterprise started by Ruth and Amy Anslow who “want to make good, sustainable food affordable and accessible”. They have plans to open the first ethical supermarket in Brighton and there’s a great buzz building around the idea.

You can support their plans by tweeting with the hashtag #hisbe4brighton and spreading the word on Facebook. You can also sponsor the venture by pledging via Buzzbnk, which will then award you money-off vouchers and tickets to their 1st birthday party in return.

I’ve already made my pledge and am looking forward to the grand opening in the summer.

Suspended coffee donations cup of coffee

This was posted on Facebook via Amazing Things in the World and I think it’s brilliant!

This story will warm you better than a coffee on a cold winter’s day:

We enter a little coffeehouse with a friend of mine and give our order. While we’re approaching our table two people come in and they go to the counter: “Five coffees, please. Two of them for us and three suspended.”

They pay for their order, take the two and leave. I ask my friend: “What are those ‘suspended’ coffees?”

“Wait for it and you will see.”

Some more people enter. Two girls ask for one coffee each, pay and go. The next order was for seven coffees and it was made by three lawyers – three for them and four ‘suspended’.

While I still wonder what’s the deal with those ‘suspended’ coffees I enjoy the sunny weather and the beautiful view towards the square in front of the café. Suddenly a man dressed in shabby clothes who looks like a beggar comes in through the door and kindly asks “Do you have a suspended coffee?”

It’s simple – people pay in advance for a coffee meant for someone who cannot afford a warm beverage. The tradition with the suspended coffees started in Naples, but it has spread all over the world and in some places you can order not only a suspended coffee, but also a sandwich or a whole meal.

Let’s try to embrace this tradition at our local coffee shop/cafe. If you can, donate a suspended coffee or meal to someone in need. Maybe someone will be inspired by your actions and pay the good deed forward.

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Ashtanga Workshop with Joey Miles

Joey in various posesLast weekend (6-7 April 2013) I attended an Ashtanga workshop organised by Ashtanga Brighton and led by authorised teacher Joey Miles. This was the 2nd Brighton workshop of his I’d been to (see my post about his Sept 12 workshop), as well as countless classes at Buddhafield Festival where uneven ground, leaking tents and copious amounts of mud all add to the challenge!

Saturday am: Ashtanga Yoga Asana Techniques Class

In the first session we broke down the postures of Surya Namaskara A and B (sun salutations) and the standing sequence, grouping these into similar types of asana, i.e. forward bends, lateral poses (sideways bends), twists and balances. By grouping them together and practising them out of sequence we were able to gain a deeper understanding of how interrelated the postures are. For example, the setup for Parshvakonasana is the same as the setup for Virabhadrasana B (Warrior II).

He also impressed upon us the importance of levelling the spine and squaring the hips in the standing postures and we did some useful partner work to explore this further.

Saturday pm: Jumping Back and Through – HandstandsJoey doing a handstand

After a light shared lunch we went on a journey of exploration into techniques for learning to jump back and through. Joey showed us different variations for both and suggested we find the way that works best for us. But one of the most important things to remember, according to Joey, is to make yourself as small as possible by curling your chest and thighs together, as this will make it easier to fit through the gap formed by your arms.

The second part of this session was the bit I’d been dreading ever since I booked the workshop! Handstands. My nemesis it seems. Memories of frustration and inadequacy flooded back from the last time I tried to do these with Joey, when I was the only person in the room who couldn’t kick up against the wall. I still couldn’t do that this time, but I did manage to get up with someone holding me, although only after a couple of fearful shrieks and a few tears were shed.

I was determined to keep trying though, as my fear seems completely irrational and surely the more times I try the easier it will get…? I got over the fear of dropping back a long time ago and can drop back and come up with ease several times in a row these days. But for some reason the fear of falling forward whilst inverted seems to have a much tighter grip on me than falling back.

joey miles meditatingSunday am: Love – Acceptance and Easefulness

In this contemplative session we were encouraged to bring a sense of enquiry into our practice by considering the question “What is the true purpose of your yoga practice?” through meditation, journalling and discussion. Joey suggested keeping a practise diary as a way to reflect on our thought processes around our practice and to be able to look back over time to see how these change.

He invited us to answer questions such as “What attitude do you bring to your practice?” and “Does practice make you more or less identified with the bodymind?” We practised a short meditation around the concepts “I am not the body” and “I am not the mind” and also a Metta Bhavana (loving-kindness) meditation.

One of the recurring themes was around our reaction to meeting resistance. This could be resistance in the form of a physical pain or injury, or resistance that we co

me up against generally in our lives outside the practice. Our natural tendency is to meet it with more resistance, e.g. expressing frustration and annoyance when something doesn’t go our way. But a much better reaction would be to meet the resistance with space. So we need to create space around the issue or resistance, be friendly towards it and treat it with kindness. Then it is far less likely to escalate and far more likely to dissipate quickly and, hopefully, turn into a positive.

Sunday pm: Primary SeriesJoey in standing posture

In the final session we put everything we’d learnt over the weekend into practice during a very strong led primary class. It was great to try out all the tips and techniques Joey had been showing us, although I did occasionally experience moments of thinking my teacher wouldn’t like this! It had been a while since I’d been to a led primary class and I was reminded how useful they are for avoiding laziness in your practice, following the correct count and building strength.

My thighs and shoulders were certainly feeling a lot stronger, albeit very achey, the next day. But with fluey symptoms having arrived as well, it was difficult to tell what was making me ache the most – the flu or the yoga!

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A Quick Quinoa Salad Fit for a Queen

Quinoa saladMy quinoa salad has become rather famous amongst my circle of friends, as some variation of it usually makes an appearance at any party, gathering or picnic I’m invited to! So I thought it was about time I shared the recipe.

Quinoa (pronounced kin-wah or kwin-o-a) is a type of South American grain, which is considered by many to be a superfood. It’s high in protein, gluten-free, contains all the essential amino acids and is easily digested. Quinoa is also a good source of dietary fibre, magnesium, iron and calcium. So it makes a much lighter, and more nutritious, alternative to pasta or rice.

It’s also easy to cook: just place the required amount of quinoa in a pan – I find one cup is enough for a large salad that lasts 5 days; half a cup is about one portion for an evening meal – and pour in double the amount of water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. If you have an electric hob you can just turn the heat off completely and leave the pan covered on the hob until all the water is absorbed.

There are many different variations of my famous salad, but my current favourite (which I’m eating for lunch every day this week) is the following.

For the salad:quinoa salad plus dressing ingredients

  • 1 cup of organic quinoa (white, red or mixed), cooked & cooled
  • A bunch of organic rocket
  • 3-5 organic beetroots, cubed
  • A pack of feta cheese, cubed
  • A large avocado, chopped
  • 2 handfuls of cherry or baby plum tomatoes, halved
  • Half a cucumber, quartered
  • A large organic carrot, grated
  • A handful of toasted (dry fried) seeds, e.g. pine nuts, sunflower & pumpkin seeds

For the dressing:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Wholegrain mustard

Mix all the salad ingredients together, or layer them into a large tupperware container, then they’ll naturally mix together as you take out each portion. Mix the dressing ingredients together in a jar or glass and adjust to taste. It’s best to avoid dressing each portion until the last possible moment to avoid a soggy salad.

Of course, you can substitute or add any other ingredients as you like. Grilled halloumi works well instead of feta, or why not try adding peppers, spring onions, mushrooms, fennel, radishes, bean sprouts or tofu.

Hey presto – a quick, quintessential quinoa salad fit for a queen!

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