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.

“Those who can’t find time for exercise will have to make time for illness.”

woman running on sandI remember when I first heard this quote I felt it resonate quite strongly, and that hasn’t changed a bit. In fact it’s probably only got stronger. I simply don’t understand people who don’t exercise. To me it’s up there with eating, sleeping and even breathing. It’s part of normal, everyday life and I know that if I didn’t do it there’d be serious consequences.

I don’t think I’ve always felt this way. I mean I’m not a fitness freak or anything, but I guess when I look back I’ve always been a pretty active person. My Dad was in the bike trade for years which means my sister and I always had decent mountain bikes. I enjoyed cycling and would sometimes go out on bike rides, but ultimately it was just a more interesting way to get around town than walking. I guess I’m lucky to have always lived in a city where you could walk or cycle everywhere.

I used to go swimming a lot when I was younger, but not for exercise. It was just a lot of fun: splashing about, having races, learning to dive and swim underwater. At one point I was a keen trampolinist too, getting my first 3 badges when I was 16 or 17. But mastering the simple somersault seemed enough for me and I was put off by the idea of having to do backwards somersaults, piked somersaults, triple twisted somersaults, etc., etc.

kids runningI also used to play outdoors a lot as a kid. In the playground, in the street, in the parks: Hide and Seek, Squashed Sardines, Kiss Chase, British Bulldogs, 44 Save All – you name it, we played it! So maybe having such an active childhood accounts for some of my attitude towards exercise today. I know that if I didn’t exercise I’d feel tired, sluggish, more hungry, more bloated, I probably wouldn’t sleep as well and my brain probably wouldn’t function as effectively either. Plus I’d just feel downright lazy.

As we develop through life we take on more and more responsibilities. Like work. And chores. And work. And family. Oh and work of course. So being active undoubtedly requires a little more effort and planning. (Unless you’re a PE teacher or a gym instructor or a ball boy.) But only a little. And the best thing is, it can be fun! I think that’s part of the issue nowadays: that many people see exercise as another chore, another task they have to try to fit into their ever-demanding day or week because they feel they “should”. But the key here is finding something you enjoy doing.

Over the years I’ve done a lot of cycling and swimming, not because I felt I “should” but because they’re activities I really enjoy. I love feeling the wind in my face and the sense of freedom as I dart through the traffic or down a country lane on my bike. And I love the sense of achievement I get from cutting through the water, stroke after stroke, and beating my previous lap time. And part of the reason why I continue to enjoy these activities is down to how they make me feel. Which is no coincidence. Exercise decreases stress hormones like cortisol, and releases the feel-good chemicals endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine. So when we’re already doing something we enjoy it just gets better and better because we produce more and more feel-good hormones which keeps us coming back for more.

Even going to the gym can produce this effect. And I say that from experience. I know many people don’t enjoy pounding away on machines for hours, but if you set yourself personal goals, or go with a friend, it really can be enjoyable. And when you start to see results, even if it’s just that you notice you’re less tired after the same number of reps, or you can run a bit further than the week before, it can be such a good motivator.

ashtangis doing headstandsI’ve been lucky enough to find a form of exercise that not only keeps me fit, strong and flexible, but also has countless other benefits, and even has a spiritual side too. For me, Ashtanga Yoga is the ultimate. It’s become the single most important activity in my life (apart from connecting with friends and family of course). It satisfies my desire to keep active, it works on keeping my mind calm and focused, it gives me an inspiring reason to get out of bed in the (very early) mornings, it helps me sleep, it helps me concentrate, and it’s even helped to sort out my digestion. Because it’s a daily practice and you repeat the same sequence of postures every day, you get to see the results of your progress very quickly, which I find very motivating and inspiring. In fact I couldn’t live without it now.

However, I know it’s not for everyone. So I think the key here is to find something that keeps you active that you really enjoy. We’re so lucky in this day and age to have a gazillion different activities to choose from – and new ones are being discovered all the time. From base jumping to wake boarding; from zorbing to wingsuit flying; from spinning to zumba; and everything in between. Find something you love, go and enjoy it and watch those endorphins fly!

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Emotions are held in the body. Fact.

open-your-heartI’ve always believed that we hold emotions in our bodies. And there’s no greater proof than having a daily Ashtanga practice. When you’re on the mat doing your thing, there’s literally nowhere to hide. It’s just you and your emotions. And the practice of course.

As any experienced practitioner knows, a morning Mysore room can be a hotbed of emotion. There can be tears, grunts, screams, heavy sighs and even howls of laughter rippling through the shala at any given moment.

And it’s hardly surprising. As we move through our practice and begin to open our bodies, all the emotions that are held within our joints, muscles and cells are going to be released. But better out than in as the saying goes!

It’s long been known that our bodies are closely linked to our thoughts and feelings and this is fundamental to many complementary therapies. From personal experience I know that both craniosacral therapy and sensorimotor therapy are both based on ‘reading’ the body to give an indication of what’s going on at a deeper level.

Our bodies also have cellular memory and I’ve experienced this myself many times, both during my Ashtanga practice and when I used to play the sax. There I am, moving through the asanas or the musical notes and suddenly I realise I have no idea what I’m doing! My brain has disengaged and my body appears literally to be moving by itself. It can remember what posture or fingering movement comes next, but as soon as I engage my brain again I lose it! It’s like my mind is trying to take control but to a large extent this doesn’t work – I just need to let go and trust my body to make the right movements.

These last few weeks have been very difficult as I’ve been dealing with various family issues, career issues, relationship issues and general life issues! This has been reflected in my practice which came to a head a couple of days after my grandmother’s funeral. It had been a stressful and emotional couple of weeks watching her decline and fade away and then helping to organise the funeral. I’ve had days of feeling very tired, drained and heavy – like a sack of potatoes on the mat!

On this particular day I got to the end of my practice and went to do my dropbacks as usual. Now, anyone familiar with dropbacks will know that Backbendingthey’re a heart opening posture. As well as bending your back, you also need to open across your whole chest and shoulders, whilst at the same time keeping a strong foundation through your thighs and rooting through your feet. As I started to bend backward, and hence open my chest, I felt suddenly very fragile, very vulnerable and very weak. I pulled up immediately, instinctively bringing my arms around my chest, as if to protect my heart, and the tears started to flow.

I knew I couldn’t push my body that day and just had to surrender. Luckily my teacher could see that too and (after I’d been to the loo to sort myself out!) he gave me a reassuringly strong forward press. Although it’s tough going through things like this, I’m a firm believer that they only make us stronger and it’s a great reminder to stop and listen to our bodies every now and then, in case we lose sight of what’s really going on.

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The best deodorant in the world…ever!

Lush Aromaco deodorantI’m going to let you into a little secret. It’s one of the best kept secrets I know and I’ve only shared it with a few close friends so far. But I think the time has now come to share it with the world. Because it really is too good to keep to myself!

If you’re anything like I was, you still haven’t found the perfect deodorant, right? You want a product that’s effective, that doesn’t leave white marks, that smells nice and that’s naturally chemical-free, right? Well look no further because your search is over!

I can now reveal that the deodorant you’ve been searching for all your life is made by….

… drum roll please…

… Lush! Yes those lovely people making fresh handmade cosmetics have managed to create a deodorant that ticks all the boxes and more! It’s called Aromaco and is made in a big solid block, which gets cut up into chunks or bars, a bit like soap. You just rub it onto your armpits and hey presto – you’re perfectly deodorised!

It has a lovely patchouli smell, which often gets lots of compliments, but it’s delicate enough to not be over powering or overly girlie, in fact I know several men who use this deodorant too.

I find it’s best to keep Aromaco in a sealed container. I used to keep mine in a little cloth bag but it Lush Aromaco deodorant tended to dry out a bit so I now keep it in a little Tupperware pot and it stays perfectly soft and moist. You could also keep it in one of Lush’s own metal tins.

Because it’s a natural product it’s very versatile. Why stop at underarms? You could also try using it on the soles of your feet, inside your shoes, or anywhere that could do with a little freshening up.

Lush is a UK retailer but they have stores all over the world and also deliver internationally so you should be able to get hold of this wonder product wherever you are.

So there you have it – the best kept deodorant secret in the world. I’ve shared it with many of my friends and they’re all complete converts now. Maybe I should be getting commission! I’m keen to know if you love it as much as me, so leave a comment below and let me know how you get on.

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A Simple Diet to Cleanse and Detoxify Your System

fruits, veg & juicesI’ve always wanted to try fasting. There are many reported health benefits of going without food for short periods of time and the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet (where you eat normally for 5 days and fast on the other 2) seems to have had a lot of press lately. Even the NHS reports that studies show this fasting diet can aid in weight loss and help reduce the risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes and certain obesity-related cancers.

Absolute fasting, however, would not be practical whilst maintaining a normal Western lifestyle. Personally speaking, I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to keep up my daily Ashtanga yoga practice, let alone function properly at work, whilst fasting!

However, the module I’m currently studying in my BSY Group nutrition course outlines a cleansing diet which presents a much safer and more practical alternative to fasting.

The premise of this cleansing diet is that it’s highly alkalising, which makes it particularly useful for arthritis sufferers as it strips away the acid build-up responsible for inflammation in the joints. It can also be very beneficial for cancer sufferers and others with serious illnesses, as well as anyone looking to lose weight, eliminate toxins, revitalise the body and clear the mind.

It’s a very simple diet which involves eating only fruits and vegetables and drinking only distilled or filtered water, herbal teas and fresh fruit or vegetable juices for either 5, 7 or 10 days. You can also add the following amounts of neutral or alkalising foods to the diet:

  • Brown rice: up to 1 cooked cup per dayAlmonds and avocados
  • Almonds: up to 20 per day
  • Avocado: up to 1/2 a small avocado per day

The fruit & veg should be consumed with as few combinations as possible at each meal and should never be eaten together, i.e. you should eat either fruits or vegetables for each meal or juice.

It’s not uncommon to experience a ‘healing crisis’ in the first few days of such a cleanse. As the calorie intake is lowered, excess fat is burnt off quicker, taking with it any toxins stored within the fat. If the liver and kidneys are unable to eliminate these toxins faster than they start entering the bloodstream, this can lead to a temporary feeling of unwellness.  However, these reactions shouldn’t last long and by the end of the detoxification you should be feeling much lighter and stronger with higher energy levels.

It can be useful to supplement this diet with digestive enzymes to reduce flatulence and bloating, and with enemas and colonic irrigation to cleanse the bowel and multiply the effectiveness of the detoxification process.

I should point out that this diet is not suitable for pregnant or breast-feeding women, people who are severely anaemic or nutritionally deficient, or the elderly. If in doubt, you should seek medical advice before attempting any cleansing programme.

I intend to put this diet into practice very soon. I have a buddy to do it with, which should help with the motivation and recipe ideas. So all I need now is to get myself a juicer and decide on the most appropriate event-free week in which to do it!

If you’ve tried this or a similar cleansing diet I’d love to hear about your experience and whether it’s made a difference to your overall health. Please leave a comment below. And wish me luck!

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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.

Sharing is caring.

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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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Make a NEWSTART with the Revive Cafe Cookbook

Revive Cafe CookbookI was recently in New Zealand visiting my sister and one of my Christmas presents from her was the fantastic Revive Cafe Cookbook. She’d actually bought the second book as well but wasn’t quite sure if she was ready to part with both of them so we took one each and decided to swap later on!

At first I assumed it was just another cookbook. Ok it’s a veggie one but all the same, I thought, I’m sure I’ve seen it all before. How wrong I was! I started reading the lengthy introduction and was intrigued to discover the story behind the Revive Cafe in Auckland which was set up by Jeremy Dixon and his wife in late 2004.

Jeremy has a passion for sharing health principles with people and demonstrating how easy it is to make healthy meals. I was inspired by some of these, which centre around using fresh, local produce; minimal use of dairy and gluten; mixing whole grains with beans/legumes to form complete proteins; and using natural flavourings and sweeteners in place of artificial or processed ones.

I was particularly struck by his ‘8 Keys to Healthy Living’ which are very much in line with my 10 Ways to a Happy Belly:

Nutrition: fuel your body with quality food and feel great!

Exercise: feel alive with 30 minutes of exercise per day.

Water: increase your vitality with 8 glasses of water a day.

Sunshine: enjoy the rejuvenating benefits of sunshine.

Temperance: all good things in moderation and set yourself free from harmful things.

Air: breathe deeply to de-stress.

Rest: sleep deeply with 8 hours of rest per night.

Trust: live in peace with a life full of great relationships.

Ok, so getting enough sunshine could be tricky in the bleak English midwinter, but there’s no excuse not to make a NEWSTART with the other elements. I love some of the tips and quotes peppered around this section too, such as “People who cannot find time for exercise will have to make time for illness”, “Sleep with the window open and you will get a better night’s sleep” and “You would not put bad fuel and oil into your car and expect good performance. You only have one body. Feed it well and you will live long and with vitality.”

I love the look and feel of the book and the recipes are pretty awesome too! First up I’ll be trying the Mushroom Goulash and the Spanish Bean Stew. So watch this space to find out how I get on!

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Is Health the New Wealth?

adidas-by-stella-mccartney

Last week I read a fascinating article in The Times claiming the latest craze amongst the rich and trendy is keeping fit. Designer clothes and accessories are being exchanged for eye-wateringly expensive gym memberships at exclusive clubs, and cocktail-fuelled beach holidays are being replaced by 5-star Indian yoga retreats.

minnie-driver

Rather than women obsessing over being a size zero or trying to cut any traces of carbs/gluten/wheat/dairy from their diets, these days, so Farrah Storr suggests, it’s well-toned arms that are the envy of every fashion-conscious female in the country:

“Today, if you want to make a real statement to the world, you get fit. Seriously fit. Health is the new wealth. Women now spend thousands of pounds looking after their bodies (a recent survey by Women’s Health magazine suggested that, given a grand, 78 per cent of its readers would rather drop it on a fitness holiday than a designer bag).”

Cameron Diaz

The great thing about this is it takes effort. It’s easy to go out and buy the latest Jimmy Choos or Louis Vuitton handbag (excuse me if I’m wildly behind the times here): all you need is a credit card. But to have a fit, healthy, toned body takes time, effort and commitment. And doesn’t have to cost the earth.

It can surely only be a good thing that more and more celebrities are getting involved in this craze – apparently Cameron Diaz is releasing a health and wellbeing bible; Minnie Driver attended the opening night of Kensington’s US gym Equinox; and Stella McCartney has produced a range of sportswear for Adidas.

Healthy living is such a good precedent to be setting for our younger generations and if it results in a fitter, healthier, less obese nation with less time being spent in front of TV or computer screens, then I say it rocks!

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10 Ways to a Happy Belly

ImageHello and welcome to my first blog post!

I thought I’d start by sharing why I decided  to set up HappyBellyHappyHeart.

I’ve always struggled to find things I’m passionate about but over the years, and particularly very recently, I’ve realised that one of those things is nutrition. I’m passionate about eating healthily. But there’s more to it than that; I’m passionate about living healthily with minimum impact on the environment.

When I was younger I ate whatever I wanted and didn’t give much concern to its nutritional value. It didn’t seem to matter, though, as I had the kind of teenage body that didn’t seem to put on weight. But as I hurtled through my twenties I realised things were changing and I’d have to pay a bit more attention. I became a vegetarian at the age of 19, as I never really enjoyed or agreed with eating meat and believed being veggie would help me eat more healthily. I was right.

I now realise a fascinating thing: I still eat whatever I want. It’s just the things I want to eat have changed. I never eat anything I don’t want to eat. I never force myself to eat something because it’s ‘good’ for me or deny myself something because it’s ‘bad’ for me. So I pondered further on this and discovered there’s a set of principles I live by, which haven’t been forced upon me; they’ve just evolved organically and are now intrinsic to my daily life.

So I thought I’d share them with you. You never know, you might even be inspired to follow one or two of them yourself…

  1. Love your food! Savour and enjoy every mouthful and feel nourished by its goodness.
  2. Everything in moderation. Binge eating is never helpful. But if you eat a healthy, balanced diet, you won’t need to follow any fads or deprive yourself of any food.
  3. Don’t feel guilty! As long as it’s in moderation you can eat that cake/biscuit/chocolate; the important thing to remember is to enjoy and savour it! Don’t feel guilty or attach negative emotions to it; sweet food can be nourishing too.
  4. Eat little and often. Personally, I’ve found this is the best way to keep my metabolism and blood sugar levels steady, rather than eating 3 larger meals a day.
  5. Never skip breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day and sets your metabolism going at the right speed. A mix of fresh fruit, cereals, nuts/seeds and milk or yoghurt (or dairy-free alternatives) is my staple. Oats are a great source of slow-release energy.
  6. Drink plenty of water. Apart from 40 mins either side of mealtimes, water should be sipped throughout the day (too much liquid whilst eating can flood the digestive system, making the digestive process more difficult and preventing us absorbing all the nutrients from our food.) Avoid fizzy or sugary drinks and too much caffeine or alcohol. One cup of caffeinated tea per day works fine for me.
  7. Avoid processed foods. Wherever possible eat wholegrain, nutrient-rich food in its most natural, unprocessed form.
  8. Avoid diet foods. I believe it’s better to eat natural, full-fat foods in moderation, rather than low-fat, low-sugar or low-calorie foods which nearly always have additional sugar, sugar substitutes, additives or other nasties to compensate for the lack of flavour.
  9. No counting. I don’t believe in counting calories, weight of food, bodyweight or waist size. Instead I try to listen to my body, eat what I need when I need it and stop eating before I’m completely full.
  10. Exercise! Last but by no means least. To me a healthy balanced diet includes exercise. You can’t expect to lose weight or feel happy in your body without it. Regular exercise strengthens muscles, enhances physical fitness, boosts the immune system, helps prevent disease, improves mental health and makes you feel great! And it doesn’t have to mean slogging away at the gym for hours on end or battling the elements whilst jogging. I have a daily Ashtanga yoga practice which keeps me physically fit, improves my strength and flexibility and is also very meditative. But you could try swimming, dancing, hula hooping, hill walking, rock climbing… the list is endless!
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