Archives for posts with tag: health

It is time we sorted our body image issues out – not just for us, but for those young girls (and boys) who are watching our every move and hanging on our every word. They deserve to grow up knowing it is okay to like themselves and accept themselves for who they are, but they can’t do that if we are setting all the wrong examples.

Summer is here, my holiday is booked and I should feel excited by the prospect of getting away, soaking up some rays and spending quality time with my family, but instead I feel anxious. I have to wear a bikini and I’m not ready yet. Once again, I’ve left it too late to get that perfect, lean beach body; my summer clothes don’t suit me anymore; my bikinis are all old and worn. Oh, and I ate loads of cake last week, which has left me feeling angry and upset.

I take myself off to the shops in the desperate hope of finding clothes that will make me feel good about my body. But the lights in the changing rooms are too bright and the sizings in the shop are all wrong, and as I stand there in the spot lights wearing an ill-fitting bikini, and just centimetres from my own reflection, I want to SCREAM!

Does any of this sound familiar to you? That feeling when you hate what you see in the mirror so much that all you want to do is throw yourself on the floor and have a toddler tantrum, and then curl up in a ball and cry? Even as I write this, it sounds like a pretty extreme reaction, and yet if you are anything like me, you’ve experienced this feeling countless times.

There was a time when I would have given into this inner turmoil: I would have cursed my reflection, told myself how revolting I was, and then I probably would have run off to the nearest café to punish myself with cake. But I have come a long way over the past few years, so instead I look down at my five-year-old daughter, who is beaming up at me from the corner of the dressing room, and I take a deep breath and smile back.

‘I don’t really like the fabric,’ I tell her in an upbeat voice. ‘I’ll find something another time.’

I hope I managed to hide the desperation in my eyes that day, and I hope she believed me when I told her the clothes were the problem and not me; because I don’t want my funny, intelligent, dynamic, beautiful daughter to think it is normal to look at her reflection and hate what she sees. I hope that she and her sister can grow up feeling comfortable and happy in their bodies, and enjoy discovering what their bodies can do for them.

I have spent a lifetime ‘fighting’ my body. It started early for me: I was still in primary school when I began to feel self-conscious about my tummy. I didn’t even know why I felt that way, but I remember going out one day in a tight top and a baggy cardigan, and I was so hot, but I wouldn’t take the cardigan off because I didn’t want anyone to see my tummy. My tummy! I was a tiny, skinny little dancer with no boobs and no tummy and not an ounce of fat on me, but I was embarrassed by my body all the same. I can’t pinpoint where this body shame came from, but I know I am not alone. From a young age, we hear women complain about their bodies, talking about diets, worrying about whether their bum looks big or their tummy looks fat or whether their arms jiggle when they move, and then we grow up and we begin to complain too.

How often do you stand back from the mirror, observe yourself as a whole and think, ‘Yes, I am gorgeous’? I hope you do this often, but I am guessing that like so many of us, you are more likely to stare at the part of your body you hate the most and tell yourself it needs to change.

But it is time we sorted our body image issues out – not just for us, but for those young girls (and boys) who are watching our every move and hanging on our every word. They deserve to grow up knowing it is okay to like themselves and accept themselves for who they are, but they can’t do that if we are setting all the wrong examples.

It was my husband who first pulled me up on this when our first daughter was little. Every time I said I was fat or complained about my body in front of her, he just gave me a look: ‘You can’t talk like that in front of her,’ he told me.

Until then, I hadn’t realised just how often I called myself fat or complained about my body or asked someone else for validation – it was constant. But being aware of it was the first step towards positive change and I am proud to say how far I have come. I still have my bad moments (like the dressing room incident) and I still want to look and feel good in my bikini, but what I have come to realise is that if I only ever focus on my flaws, I will never be happy, no matter what size or shape I am. My self-worth should not be inextricably linked to what size clothes I wear. I no longer workout and diet to ‘get thin’, but I exercise regularly and eat a healthy, balanced diet because those things make me feel happy and confident. I like feeling comfortable in my skin and in my clothes. There are still days when I want to be slimmer, and I don’t think these feelings will ever go away completely, but I can change the way I react to them both internally and externally. When I begin to beat myself up about my appearance, I pause, breathe and then rationalise: what does it matter if my shorts are a bit tighter this week? That doesn’t change who I am or what I have achieved; it doesn’t change how much my family love me or how much I love them. I can eat a healthier diet for a week and feel comfortable in my shorts in no time (and I usually do) but I know that will only help me feel better if I do it from a place of self-love rather than self-loathing.

Changing life-long thought patterns is not always easy. Sometimes it is so very tempting to just give in and settle back into the familiar, self-sabotaging habits, but I owe it to my daughters to be present and happy, and to have the head-space to be able to play with them and enjoy them. I hope my efforts will pay off and that they will grow up feeling proud and confident in their own bodies.

It won’t be easy bringing my girls up on this body-shaming culture, so I’m going to ask you for your help. Whether you are male or female, and whether you have your own children or not, I urge you to be aware of the messages you are putting out there. Stop hating yourself and telling yourself you are not good enough. Realise that you are not defined by the shape of your body, and for the sake of the younger generations (as well as for yourself), let’s make body-confidence the norm.

This is still a work in progress for me and I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here are some of the things that work for me:

  1. Whether it is out loud or in your own head, be aware of your negative self-talk and begin to turn it around.
  2. Write a list of things you like about yourself that are not related to your appearance.
  3. Re-write and re-read this list as often as you need to.
  4. Take note of the things you do each day that you are be proud of: this could be something big like getting a new job or passing an exam, or it could be a small achievement like choosing a healthy salad over a chocolate bar for lunch.
  5. Try to look at yourself the way others would look at you – as a whole package rather than as a series of ‘close-up’ flaws.
  6. Think about the things that make you feel happy and good about yourself and work them into your daily routine: singing, dancing, drawing, sewing, reading, running, cooking, eating healthy foods, spending time with your family …
  7. Slow down, look up from your phone or your computer and breathe. Go outside, look at the sky and remember there is more to life than how good or bad you think you look in your bikini.
  8. Meditate. Just taking five minutes a day to sit and tune into yourself really can help you gain some perspective. I am new to this and still learning, but there are apps out there to help, or if you need a little more input, look for a good life-coach or therapist.

Do this for yourself, but do it for our children too. Good luck.

x

Whilst browsing the internet a few weeks ago, I came across the website of a weight loss coach. I am always interested in the work of other health and well-being practitioners so I started to read her introduction, but within a few paragraphs I was angry and upset and felt as though I was being personally attacked for being a personal trainer.

For the record, there was no real reason for me to take this woman’s comments personally; I don’t know her and I very much doubt that she has ever heard of me. She was merely expressing an opinion based on her own experiences and observations, but her words touched a nerve nonetheless.

To paraphrase: this coach stated that most personal trainers want to keep hold of their clients long- term and so they will purposefully confuse and misinform people to ensure they never reach their goals and never gain the confidence to go solo! In comparison, she – the weight loss coach – prefers to work with her clients for just a few weeks and get real results.

I couldn’t stop thinking about what she had written and I began to question my own practice as a trainer. You see, it is true that as a personal trainer, I prefer to work with clients on a long-term basis. Does that make me a bad person? Am I just in it for the money? Have I been sabotaging my clients all this time? No, of course not! Why would anyone go into this profession thinking, ‘I hope my clients fail’?

But here’s the truth: I really don’t care whether my clients are fat or thin. I want them to keep working with me for as long as possible because I love seeing them grow stronger and fitter, and because I love introducing them to new and different exercises, and because I know there is always something else I can teach them. Some of my clients lose weight when they work with me and some of them don’t, but that doesn’t mean the ones who don’t have failed in any way. We need to dispel this damaging message that the only reason you should take up exercise it to lose weight (or more accurately, lose inches). Exercise is about so much more than what size jeans you wear or whether your arms have definition or whether people are going to compliment you on your six-pack when you slip into a bikini.

My aim as a personal trainer is to instill in others the joy of moving. For me, my greatest success stories are when I see my clients learning to use and trust and enjoy their bodies in a whole new way. If people need or want to lose weight along the way, that’s fine and I help them to do that by encouraging them to address their diet and life-style as a whole, but first and foremost, I want my clients to realise that exercise can be fun and enjoyable and rewarding. I want them to witness first-hand how it can boost their mood and make them feel strong and flexible and alive. I want my clients to learn that if they start enjoying their bodies and tuning into how good it feels to get up and move, they will naturally begin to take care of themselves better in other areas of their life.

Exercising can be inspiring and energising and it can free your mind in ways you never thought possible. So, as a personal trainer, I feel it is my duty to encourage you not to have weight-loss as your main goal in life. Mental and physical health, strength and fitness, and a positive body image are much better life-goals and the likelihood is, when you start enjoying your body and appreciating everything it can do for you, you will begin to see positive physical changes anyway.

So let’s spread the word: love your body, nourish it, treat it well … and above all else, enjoy it!

If you read my last blog and have decided to go for it on a health kick this October, then good for you! Whether you have decided to go it alone or join my online club, the main things to keep in mind are EAT CLEAN and KEEP MOVING.

If the concept of clean eating is new to you, it may all seem a bit daunting but there’s really no need to worry. Clean eating is not about being hard on yourself and depriving yourself, it’s about treating yourself to real, natural and tasty food to give your body all the nutrients it needs. There are loads of amazing blogs and cook books out there to help you get started, and there are lots of variations of clean eating out there too – paleo, vegetarian, raw food vegan…to name just a few – but the one thing they all agree on is that you need to stop poisoning your body with over-processed food, unnatural chemicals and refined foods. If you can clear the junk out of your diet and load up on nutrients, you’ll be astounded how much better you’ll start to feel.

So, here are some of my favourite blogs and recipe books. Have a browse and see if you can find some really delicious recipes to look forward to over the next few weeks. Remember, healthy eating doesn’t mean ‘tasteless’, it means using fresh, high quality ingredients, plenty of herbs and spices, lots of healthy fats and the perfect seasoning. Concentrate on all the yummy foods you should be eating rather than worrying about what you ‘shouldn’t’ be eating.

My favourite cook books:

I Quit Sugar – simple, quick and easy to make recipes. I love this book and many of my go-to recipes like Paleo Veggie Bread and Coco-Nutty Granola come from her blog.

Honestly Healthy Cleanse – I especially recommend the broccoli, grain free pizza base from this book. Believe me, it tastes about 100 times better than it sounds and it will change your views on pizza forever.

Deliciously Ella – what I especially like about this book is Ella’s introduction. I really enjoyed reading her story and found it very inspiring. There are some nice, simple recipes and ideas in this book, although Ella is very keen on buckwheat, which doesn’t seem to agree with me. It’s always worth trying these things out for yourself though as everyone reacts differently to different foods.

My favourite blogs:

The Gracious Pantry

I Quit Sugar

mindbodygreen

Gluten Free Zen

Changing Habits

As I said, there are loads out there, so just google clean eating recipes and see what comes up. Oh, and of course, don’t forget to browse my blog too for recipes and information about healthy and unhealthy foods.

Good luck

x

Happy Valentine’s Day. How have you been getting on with loving yourself these past couple of weeks? Is it going ok? Have you been kinder to yourself in any way?

I have to say these past couple of weeks have been great for me. Just thinking about being kinder to myself has led to so many realisations about how my behaviour and thought patterns have been making me more stressed and anxious than I need to be. There are countless things I want to accomplish but the problem is I always try to do them all at once, or I do one thing on my list and then feel guilty about not doing another thing. The result is I get more and more frantic and less and less productive until I’m not achieving anything at all.

So for me, this month has been about slowing things down and focussing on one thing at a time. Every time I feel myself getting into a state because I haven’t done something, I remind myself it’s impossible to do everything at once. By giving myself time and space to breathe and by listening to what I really want to do rather than worrying about what I should be doing, I suddenly feel as though I have more time for me and for my family. I finally have time to concentrate on my health again, which in turn is giving me the energy and lift to be more creative and productive. I’m still not calm, collected and rational 100% of the time, but I’m getting better at being kind to myself and it is truly liberating. It’s the best Valentine’s gift I could have given myself. Thank you to me!

I hope you have all been getting on just as well. Please do get in touch and let me know.

x

This morning I had breakfast. I realise this isn’t the most exciting statement to open with but I don’t usually have breakfast before going out to see my first PT client. This is because a) it feels too early to eat and b) I often like to fit in a quick workout before I go. But this morning I just felt like doing things a bit differently so I decided to use my morning to eat a healthy breakfast and do some writing.

For me, this month is all about changing some of the habits that have become so ingrained I don’t even question them anymore; habits such as always putting exercise at the top of the priority list or getting in a state when my plans get disrupted in some way.

I know I said in my previous post that one of the keys to success is a bit of planning and I definitely think this is true. However, I also think I need to learn to be a bit more flexible and less hard on myself when things don’t go to plan because, let’s face it, they often don’t – that’s life.

So this morning, rather than getting straight into my workout gear as soon as I’d packed my daughter off to nursery, I chose to have breakfast and so some writing. As the guilt began to take hold at the thought of skipping a planned workout and eating breakfast instead, I reminded myself that one of my goals for February is to write more often. As I haven’t suddenly gained more hours in the day, fitting in extra writing time might mean exercise has to take back seat from time to time. Of course, I’m not giving up on exercise all together – that would be stupid and counterproductive – but if I want the odd day off then that’s OK. So long as I continue to eat healthily, nothing terrible is going to happen to my body if I skip a few exercise sessions but I might just find the time to do all the other things I’ve been promising to do for years.

Now that you’ve made your February ‘Love Yourself’ plan, take a look at it and see if there’s anything you can do differently or if there’s a bit of room for flexibility and change in there. After all, I’ve heard that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is madness!

x

I can hardly believe it’s been a year since I launched Sarah Thorp Fitness, and what a year it’s been. It’s been incredibly busy (as you may have gathered from my lack of blog posts) and fantastically rewarding at times. But this doesn’t mean it has all been great fun – far from it: there have been quite a few times over the past year when I have felt over-worked, stressed, exhausted and generally down. It’s upsetting to feel like that when you think you have finally found your dream job but, at the risk of sounding cheesy, it has forced me to rediscover myself; to think about what really makes me tick and what is important to me, and to make changes to my work and life to fit in with this.

I don’t regret setting up Sarah Thorp Fitness and I’m very lucky to be able to go around dancing and exercising for a living, but I don’t want that to be all I do. I’ve discovered I need variety in my life:

I love to teach dance and fitness classes…but not too many.

I love being left alone to do editing work or to write stories…but not for too long.

I love doing hardcore HIIT workouts, going to exercise classes, dancing and I love love love stretching…but I also love lying on a sofa for hours on end and engrossing myself in a good book.

Most of all I love spending time with my family and watching my little girl grow up and being around for her as much as possible.

I guess I knew all of this before, but somehow in my endless quest to find the perfect job and have the perfect body and be the best and healthiest person I could possibly be, I’d managed to forget that being healthy and happy is all about balance and not about any one thing.

There are so many healthy living blogs out there written by amazing people who seem to have discovered the best and only way to live and eat and who (if what they write on Facebook or Twitter or on their blogs is anything to go by) never, ever slip up. Paleos, vegans, raw foodists, vegetarians: they all think their way of eating is the only way to be truly healthy. Then there are those who swear by daily yoga, daily meditation, daily runs, daily juicing, daily green smoothies, daily supplements, daily oil pulling or tongue scraping (yes, these last 2 are real things – google them if you don’t believe me). Many of these blogs are truly inspiring and educational and I still read them from time to time, but I’ve had to ration myself because I got to the point a few months ago where I was becoming obsessed. I was reading healthy eating blogs and articles constantly and was becoming increasingly stressed and confused, and I felt like a complete failure because I didn’t have the time (or the inclination) to do all of the things I should be doing every day. Even worse, I was beginning to stress my family out with all my ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’ when it came to food. And the funny things is, the harder I tried to be healthy, the worse my digestion seemed to get and the more down on myself I became.

Why am I sharing all of this with you? Because I know I’m not the only one who has experienced this and I want to remind you that being healthy is not just about doing the hardest workouts you can do and having the healthiest diet in the world. In order to be healthy we need to be kind to ourselves from time to time: we need to know how to listen to our bodies and know when to give in to laziness or when to have something nice to eat just because it makes us happy in that moment. Of course, I am not saying we should all start eating rubbish, give into every single craving and slob out all the time but we need to find a balance that works for us as individuals. I know that drinking too much cow’s milk or eating too many tomatoes makes me feel sick and that too much sugar and too many grains makes me anxious and agitated, but equally if I cut grains out of my diet completely I feel low, angry and lacking in energy. Other people won’t eat meat or fish because it doesn’t feel right for them but as long as I don’t eat meat too late at night, I don’t have any problems with it.

Everybody is different and needs different things in life, so rather than beating ourselves up and setting rigid rules about what is good and bad for us, shouldn’t we start listening to our bodies a little bit more and find out what works for each of us as unique individuals? Read these blogs, feel inspired and take on board the advice given but don’t get carried away with it all. Experiment with your food and fitness and mental well-being and see what makes you feel the healthiest, happiest and most alive you can feel…and don’t be afraid to change your mind if what you thought was right to start with doesn’t seem to work anymore.

x

You can hardly have failed to notice the organic industry exploding over the past few years. I used to have to go out of my way to find organic produce but now the supermarket shelves are packed with it.  The problem is, it’s all so expensive. I don’t know about you, but it’s easy to become sceptical about the health food industry. Sometimes it seems as though food companies are using the word ‘Organic’ just so they can charge more for their products.

Well, I’ve looked into this and

“unlike most food assurance schemes, organic food production is subject to […] an EU Regulation, which has been incorporated into the laws of the United Kingdom.” (www.organicfarmers.org.uk)

This means that, in general, organic food cannot be grown with artificial fertilisers, herbicides or growth regulators, and livestock feed additives are also prohibited.

Interestingly, there is very little data supporting the health benefits of eating organic food. According to a study reported on the BBC News website last year, organic food is no healthier than conventionally farmed food:

“Overall, there was no discernible difference between the nutritional content, although the organic food was 30% less likely to contain pesticides.” (www.bbc.co.uk/news)

In the future, I would hope to see that figure of 30% rise to nearer 100% (wishful thinking?!) but even consuming 30% fewer pesticides seems a good reason to eat organic.  If the alternative is packing my body full of chemicals, hormones and even sewage, I’m going to try to eat organic whenever I can.

The BBC article goes on to point out that the data is inconclusive and that the study was only run over 2 years. We simply do not know the long-term effects of regularly consuming these chemicals and I’d rather not be a human guinea pig! So, whilst I do have a problem with a lot of foods labelled as ‘healthy’* (see my previous blogs on ‘free-from’ products and soya), I strongly believe that organic food is good for us.

However, as much as I would love to buy organic everything, I just can’t afford to. Luckily, I stumbled across this helpful guide to organic food  and The Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen™ and Clean Fifteen™ lists  that show which foods contain the most pesticide residues and which are relatively safe to eat even when non-organic.

Based on what I’ve read so far, I’ll definitely be going organic for

  • Milk
  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Hot peppers
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Bell peppers
  • Blueberries
  • Leafy Greens
  • Courgettes
  • Summer squash

I don’t have all the information, facts and figures, and I suspect there is a long way to go before organic food is truly free from all the horrible pollutants we pump into the earth, but even if turns out that organic food really isn’t any better for our health in the short- or long-term (which I doubt), we know it is better for the environment and sustainable farming. Isn’t the future health of our planet – the world our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will live in – even more important than our own individual health?

I’d like to know your thoughts on this subject, so please get in touch.

x

* I especially have a problem with margarines, low-fat spreads and other foods labelled as ‘low-fat’. These are generally not good for you and are misleading: low-fat, high-carb diets are detrimental to our health and are now known to cause all sorts of health problems. More on this in a future blog.

me dancing

Having recently returned to work after 10 months on maternity leave, I’ve found myself lacking my normal motivation to exercise and eat healthily. I’m not stuffing junk into my mouth, but neither am I eating the variety of fresh protein and vegetables I would like, and whilst I’ve still been playing netball 3 times a week and going out for the odd run, I haven’t felt up to my usual exercise routine.

I don’t think any of this is unusual for a new(ish) mum returning to work. In fact, any sort of major life change – a change in job, a house move, a new relationship, for example –  can make it difficult to stay focussed on staying healthy, even if it’s usually something that comes naturally to you.

To get myself back on track, I’ve been making a list of things that will help me get motivated and stay motivated in all areas of life, and I’ve decided to share them in case any of you ever need a bit of help getting your diet, fitness or mental well-being back on track.

1.       Do what you love

Doing what you love makes you happy and the happier you are, the more motivated you’ll feel. It may be that you love sewing or drawing or reading. Find out what it is that makes you tick and make time for it on a regular basis.

My passions are dancing and writing but in the past year, I’ve barely danced. Last week I decided enough was enough: I went into my lounge and started doing my favourite modern dance warm-ups, followed by a ballet DVD. I instantly felt happier, more inspired and more positive about life in general so the next day I called up a local dance school and went along to a dance lesson. I was supposed to be going on a run that night, but I went dancing instead and guess what, I felt much better for it.

You might like to read this post on doing a 30-day happiness challenge.

2. Sign up for something…anything

This might be a marathon or a triathlon; it might be The Three Peaks Challenge; it might be a weekend away at a health and well-being retreat; it might even be a painting or writing course if that’s what inspires you. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something you want to do and will look forward to rather than something you feel you should do.

Some of my favourites are:

  • The Aspire Channel Swim: The aim is to swim the distance of the channel in 12 weeks to raise money for Aspire, a spinal injury charity. I like swimming and find it quite satisfying to just keep on going once I start so I decided to set my own personal goal of swimming the distance in 3 weeks rather than 3 months.
  • Fitness Fiesta: A weekend of fantastic exercise classes to suit anyone’s taste. Check out the website and book up a weekend away with friends.
  • The Wolf Run: My training for this hasn’t gone exactly to plan (oops!), but I’m doing it in about 2 weeks and I can’t wait.

3. Listen to your body and be kind to yourself

This doesn’t mean sitting back and watching TV every night of the week, but it does mean being kind to yourself every once in a while.

Sometimes I get into a bit of a state because I think I should go and do a hard gym session when all I really want to do is curl up on the sofa and eat rubbish food. Rather than giving in to the latter, I often find that if I let myself off the hook and do a stretch or a gentle Pilates session I feel a lot better. Even if it isn’t the hard core training session I’ve planned, at least I’ve moved, which brings me to my next point….

4. Just move

Having gone back to my desk job, I’ve suddenly become very static. I can sit for hours in front of a computer screen and the more I sit, the worse I feel. My muscles seize up, my head hurts, I get grumpy and the thought of doing an exercise session only makes me grumpier!

I often find the less I move, the less I want to move and the less motivated I feel in other areas of my life too (especially healthy eating). As hard as it is, the only way to get out of this cycle is to just get up and MOVE. You could force yourself out for a run and come back feeling loads better, or you could put on some music and dance around the house, or maybe you could just do a bit of yoga in your pyjamas and see how much more positive you feel.

5. Find out what’s blocking you and do something about it

Everyone is different and it could be any number of things that are stopping you from achieving your goals. The thing that blocks me most of all is guilt: I feel guilty for not eating the right foods or guilty for not exercising enough or guilty for not writing enough or guilty that the house is a mess or….breathe! Calm down!

Recently, I’ve been feeling guilty about not using my gym membership enough, but the truth is I’d rather do a dance class, play netball, run outside or do a fitness session at home. For a while, my guilt about this was actually stopping me from doing any exercise at all until I realised just how stupid that was. So, I’m going to cancel my gym membership and do what I want to do without feeling guilty.

6. Make a commitment

I know I’ve just talked about cancelling my gym membership so that I can focuss on what I enjoy, but you might need to do the opposite. Making a commitment to something is a good way of keeping motivated. Some ideas are:

  • Book a class
  • Join the gym
  • Join a club
  • Join a team
  • Arrange regular workout sessions with friends

I recently found an amazing site called www.instructorlive.com where you can do live or archived fitness, dance, yoga and Pilates classes from the comfort of your living room. It’s well worth checking out. I love it. In fact, I’m about to do a Pilates class any minute.

I hope you’re all feeling inspired and motivated, or at least a little bit more positive. I know I am.

Have a great weekend.

x

Last Thursday, I started back at work after 10 months on maternity leave. To say it’s been a shock to the system would be an understatement and it’s meant I haven’t had much time for baking or writing this week. I haven’t even done as much exercise as I normally would, which has left me feeling a bit grumpy and lacking in energy.

I have, however, found a couple of brillaint articles/posts that I want to share with you so over the next few days I’m going to let other people do the writing for me.

Don’t worry, I’ve got loads of new recipes and ingredients I want to experiment with and lots more health and fitness tips to share in the next few weeks.

Today’s post is by Hayley Hobson, one of my favourite bloggers. In this post , Hayley writes about 10 foods that prevent Alzheimer’s. This is a subject very close to my heart as my gran has the disease. It might be too late to help her but it’s good to know that by eating the right foods I might be able to protect myself and my family from the same fate.

x

Added 27/02/13: to find out more about how coconut oil may be used to treat Alzheimer’s, see here.

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I have some good news. Chocolate is good for you. Hurrah!

This doesn’t mean you can go to the shop, stock up on all your favourite chocolate bars and munch your way through them. Chocolate itself (cocoa) is good for you, but what’s added to it is generally bad: refined sugar, preservatives, emulsifiers, flavourings, vegetable fat, whey powder…etc. etc. All of these ingredients plus cocoa might make something that tastes nice, but they don’t do you any favours.

How to enjoy chocolate the healthy way:

You can enjoy chocolate and feel good about it if you find the right stuff. The higher the cocoa content the better because cocoa is packed with antioxidants. It is also high in magnesium: headaches, fatigue, low energy, disrupted sleep, PMS and even cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) are all symptoms of magnesium deficiency. These symptoms might be all too familiar, especially if you’re a woman. Hormones have an impact on levels of magnesium in your body so your magnesium levels might drop around the time of your menstruation every month, which is why you start craving chocolate.

So I think we’re all agreed: we want chocolate; we need chocolate; chocolate is good for us. But how can we get our antioxidants and magnesium without loading sugar, additives and unhealthy fats down us? Here are a few ideas:

  • Only eat dark chocolate and look for the stuff that’s 70% cocoa solids or higher;
  • Check the ingredients. There will still sugar added to most chocolate you buy but the less sugar and fewer ingredients, the better;
  • Cook with or flavour your food with pure, unsweetened cocoa powder;
  • Check these cocoa wafers out from one of my favourite websites: www.changinghabits.com.au.

And now for my top tip of the day: buy yourself some cocoa nibs.

If you want to get all the benefits of chocolate without any sugar at all, you need to get cocoa nibs. I’ve recently discovered them and I think I’m addicted.

Cocoa nibs are cocoa beans that have been roasted, separated from their husks and broken into smaller pieces. For an excellent explanation of all the health benefits of eating cocoa nibs (and there are a lot more than I’ve touched on here), see here.

I’ve only just begun to experiment with cocoa nibs, but here are a few ways to enjoy them:

  • Stir them into your porridge for added crunch;
  • Yogurt, blueberries and cocoa nibs with a bit of organic honey makes an amazing pudding;
  • Bake with them. I haven’t done this yet, but I’ve seen some recipes where you can use cocoa nibs instead of/alongside chocolate chips;
  • Mix cocoa nibs with nuts and sultanas for a healthy snack to pick at throughout the day. The cocoa nibs themselves can be quite bitter when eaten on their own, but as soon as you add the sweetness of a sultana they’re delicious.
  • Add them to ice-cream. OK, so this is a bit of a naughty one but I only did it once and it was a real treat. It inspired me to find some clean eating ice-cream recipes like this one.

Happy chocolate eating, gang. x