I love finding my bliss. It may be in nature or an experience. I could be taking a few minutes to check in with myself, to listen to someone inspiring speak, having a massage, or that first moment when I get into clean sheets and feel them touch my body.
What’s your bliss? Bliss – happiness, enjoyment, harmony, pleasure.
Earlier this year it occurred for me when I least expected it. I had arrived in Amritsar in India, fulfilling a longtime dream to visit that extraordinary country. Our first stop on a cool damp Sunday morning was the Golden Temple, a Sikh holy place. The traffic in India is chaotic and noisy. On this morning it built up slowly. We were jolted into our senses when a motorcycle in front of us, carrying the rider’s wife and 5 children, took off in an anticlockwise direction turning right into the roundabout and the oncoming traffic. It parted and he sailed through.
The bliss started for me as we walked along a main thoroughfare, closed to traffic, with men in colourful turbans and women in even more colourful decorative saris. All moving towards the marble forecourt of the Golden Temple.
Shoes were removed and stored; bare feet became derigueur; pants were rolled up to calves; shawls or kerchiefs were added to bare heads. The ritual began. I walked through a trough of fresh water to cleanse, stepped up and through the marble portico and then down into a vista of an enormous pond, surrounded by an intricate marble inlaid ‘boardwalk’ with communal and meditation rooms flanking it. People strolling, sitting, bathing, cleansing, contemplating, meeting, chatting, celebrating, waiting, viewing, connecting; all heading in the direction of the Golden Temple, located in the middle of the pond. Glistening in the grey light. I was mesmerized by the beauty, peacefulness and spirituality. I was taken to a place of bliss which is still with me every time I take myself back to being there.
It was a gift, the gift of India. I had been told it would be life changing and it was. I was filled with joy, love and peace. The beauty of the people and the colour gave me my bliss.
Do you have a place, a memory, a practice that gives you your bliss? Do you visit it? How often do you go there? If you don’t, I invite you to pay a visit and find out what it gives you.
With this new year having started tumultuously for many, finding your bliss may give you peace in challenging times.
If you would like to share, I would love to hear what your bliss is.
I’m interested in all things health-related. Whenever there’s a segment on the radio about food as medicine, recipes, whole food, healthy eating and exercise especially, I’m all ears.
I was listening to Anna Louise Bouvier chatting about bodies and exercise during her usual segment on ABC Radio as I drove through traffic the other day. She is the creator of physiocise, the highly successful education and exercise class system for bad backs. She also comments on all things related to mind and body wellbeing. A woman after my own heart!
What I was most interested in was the discussion about whether you’re a “stiffy” or “loosie”. That’s in relation to flexibility and how your body moves when you exercise. It seems most elite athletes and sportspeople are “loosies”.
Where do you see yourself fitting on this spectrum? Are you a “stiffy” or a “loosie”? Does it have an impact on whether you exercise or not and what you choose to do?
My perception and experience of my body certainly has affected my choices over the years. I started ballet when I was 5 years old and struggled with getting my leg up onto the barre for the next 8 years. It wasn’t my height. It was because I’m a “stiffy” almost in the extreme. I was a good runner and tennis player, but when it came to stretching and touching my toes, that has always been a no go zone.
For years my stiffness stopped me from doing yoga, lifting weights and lots of other exercise where I perceived I had to be flexible.
About 5 years ago I came to terms with my stiffness and started to exercise within the realm of what my body was willing and able to do. I found that I could enjoy Pilates and yoga without trying to push myself to the limit. The result is my body is moving better than it ever has.
I’ve given up my fear that my body isn’t up to it. I’m lovingly taking on new forms of exercise, working within my limits.
Today I had a fitness assessment and am really looking forward to starting a weights programme to strengthen my muscles. Being a menopausal woman, this is even more important than it was before. I’m taking on doing this within my limits as well, having had a chat with the instructor about it.
What I’m most aware of is, it is important to ask your body what exercise it needs and likes and chose exercise that you’ll enjoy as well as get value from.
You don’t have to push yourself with the latest workout. I recommend you choose the workout that works for you and mix it up, say with some weights and walking, cycling, swimming or running, adding some Pilates and/or yoga, stretching for core strength and suppleness.
The most important thing is to move every day, for 30 minutes or more and do some cardio activity a couple of times a week. There is no formula that works for everyone. Have a play and see what works for you.
If you’ve got any feedback, let me know.
Over the past 12 months I have been working with Emma Ellice-Flint on producing a cookbook, The Happy Hormone Cookbook, published by New Holland Publishers. It’s out in Australian bookstores now. Following the success of our Happy Hormone Workshops last year, we were commissioned to write the book. What a wonderful adventure it has been.
We wanted to share Emma’s nutrition knowledge and my lifestyle experience with women all over the world. The book provides food secrets for a balanced life. Or as Emma would say, “puts love and soul back into food”. Not only does it have over 80 mouth-watering recipes, it offers women a way to achieve greater hormone and life balance, whilst rediscovering themselves.
How does it help you to rediscover yourself you may ask? The foods are designed to balance hormones, lose weight, gain more energy, have better sleep, be more cleared headed and have clearer skin. Many of the women who see Emma in her clinic seek the vital woman they once knew and have lost due to PMS, peri-menopause and menopause.
Healthy foods have always been a part of Emma’s and my lives. Her passion for writing the cookbook came from the women she sees in her nutrition clinic. They have some things in common. They want to bring about change in their lives, and want to be in control of their health.
My passion came from wanting to introduce women to the possibility of finding natural ways and lifestyle changes that will keep them on a path of good health. Through caring for ourselves we are able to care for those around us and feel fulfilled at the same time. I have made many of the changes to my life that we talk about in the book.
I have shared this, by beginning my business, The Vital You Australia, and running food workshops and weekends away, with Emma, to give away our knowledge.
Are your goals to - loose some weight, gain more energy, sleep better, be more alert and have clearer skin? Then you are the woman that inspired the book. We wrote the book for women who want to change what you eat, to help bring about healing.
We are very excited to get to this point. The beautiful food photos were styled by Imogene Roache and photographed by Julie Crespel. We thank them for the amazing job they have done.
All the nourishing recipes in the book are made with wholefoods emphasizing fresh vegetables and fruits. Most recipes are naturally gluten free, and all are designed to help positively enhance the action of your hormones – vitality, quality sleep, mental clarity, great looking skin and weight loss.
There are recipes for every meal - breakfast right through to dinner, and snacks in between. Plus lots of lifestyle suggestions and reasons why it all matters to you.
Here are Emma’s and my tips for keeping your hormones working well:
Waking up full of energy and feeling positive about the day is easier when you eat foods that support your hormone health.
If you would like to buy a copy of the book, you can purchase it from your favourite bookshop or order it through our websites. The RRP is $35.00. If you would like it posted to you, add an additional $11.50.
I’m a keen yoga practitioner. My practice moves between Sydney and my new home in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.
Last week I was back at yoga in Sydney after a 3-week break and my teacher said, “where have you been?” “I’m just back from 3 amazing weeks in the Simpson Desert, communing with nature, driving the fabulous sand dunes and basking in the wildflower covered slopes.” Being at one with nature. She said, “you’ve got to write about that”. And so I am.
When I visited Central Australia for the first time over 20 years ago, the land touched me – it’s age, history, ruggedness, beauty and timelessness. I could see the aboriginal songlines in it. I heard there was a big red desert to the south, the Simpson. I promised myself I would go there one day.
It was the beginning of a serious love affair with this land, our magnificent country. I discovered, as a fire sign, I am a very grounded person and I am happiest when I am walking in our land. It speaks to my soul. It started with driving in the Kimberley, followed by walking the Larapinta Trail, visiting Kakadu and Arnhem Land, trekking the Jatbula Trail, then the glorious Flinders Ranges and finally driving through the Simpson Desert. I don’t think it will be my last visit to the outback.
Unbeknown to us, there had been heavy rain 2 weeks before our scheduled departure. It was possible the trip could have been called off. But as luck would have it, the tracks dried up and the rain presented us with firm sand dunes and a green, fertile vista everywhere we went. It carpeted the dunes and their valleys with yellow, white and purple wild flowers, which grew more intense as our journey progressed from west to east. It had been 4 years since the desert had presented itself with such finery.
With good planning we managed to eat fresh whole foods every day, avoiding freeze-dried and processed food. My body thanked me for that.
There was no mobile or internet reception, no showers or toilets for 5 days. So we were completely at one with nature – the sun, brisk breezes, spectacular sunsets, cold nights, star studded skies and finally a glorious full moon. I tried to read and write when in the desert. It wasn’t possible. It demanded I be at one with it. It freed my head of any thought, planning or wanting. It was a truly amazing experience.
To top it off, I drove over half the 1100 sand dunes we climbed and traversed during our trip, trusting myself, my training and our vehicle. (My husband drove the rest.) It truly was a great adventure, requiring courage and confidence. Fulfilling a dream of 20 years.
I’ve just returned from 4 ½ weeks Holiday in the UK, Cuba and the United States and there’s definitely a food movement and good food consciousness developing worldwide. I think there’s an increased awareness that the high level of processed food in our diets is making many of us sick.
Is it a fad you may ask? Are restaurants, supermarkets and food chains cashing in on the awareness that is growing amongst people about our food source? Many are asking, ‘is it good for me?’ Will it keep me well or make me sick? Is it seasonal?
Or, is this a product of an affluent society, and are we actually becoming paranoid about what we are eating? Is this causing more stress?
Do we already know how to shop and cook a nourishing meal, but have lost touch with that? Can we rely on our intuition and our bodies to tell us what we need?
Firstly, I’m clear the main thing is don’t worry about food. Be aware and be informed is my motto. I don’t constantly read about the latest diets, the latest findings about what causes cancer, heart disease, etc. I do know that understanding your own body, eating a balanced diet and what’s in season, combined with regular exercise, will make a real difference to how you feel, your wellbeing and energy daily.
I found in central London there is a food consciousness, but it is the home of the chain everything. Unless you go to a gastro pub or a good restaurant, the offering is generally formula food via a franchise, as I like to call it. Not inspiring and it makes me question the nutritional value.
Cuba is still living in the 50’s and 60’s. Rationing, caused by the socialist nature of the country with the government either owning or driving everything, remains for many people. The food that is available is in season and is grown locally. Whilst we didn’t have any gourmet experiences, we found the food nourishing and satisfying, just like my mother used to cook. There was a real pride in the people and what they could provide in the casas (their homes) in which we stayed. I loved the simplicity of their life. And oh their wonderful music, dance and rhythm.
On the other hand, the United States is a real mixture. In New York we enjoyed a restaurant, Westville, that was all about vegetables. Trying to find food that wasn’t processed in the supermarket was extremely difficult. Just like Australia, finding full cream milk and yoghurt (milk with yoghurt culture only) was almost impossible. Cereals, biscuits and breads were highly refined and full of sugar. Frustrating to say the least. However, snacks at the cash register included packs of dried fruit, nuts and fresh fruit. Definitely a shift from gum, chocolates and other sweets. They were there too, of course.
Starbucks has joined the healthy food, sustainability movement. However finding unadulterated coffee was difficult. It made me hanker for my local coffee shop with long black, flat white and latte. We had to resort to doppio expressos everywhere.
Part of my holiday reading was, GUT by Guilia Enders, a young German microbiologist and medical doctoral student, who quirkily writes about how our gut functions and how it is ‘the brain’s most important adviser’. It’s informative and thought-provoking. A highly recommended read.
This book and my trip has heightened my food awareness. When in the ‘green grocer’ the other day, I noted asparagus and brussel sprouts were available. These are spring and winter vegetables respectively. I didn’t buy them for two reasons – where were they grown and when. Secondly, when vegetables are available all year round, I no longer look forward to them or appreciate them.
What I do appreciate in January is the abundance of stone fruit. I really look forward to the four weeks or so they are in season. Growers and storers don’t seem to be able to easily manipulate stone fruit – cherries, apricots, peaches, plums and, my favourites, nectarines. They don’t last long once you’ve bought them, so my guessing is they haven't been irradiated. They generally demand to be eaten straight away, just as nature intended.
So what I'm saying is, there is a worldwide food movement. We are becoming more interested in our health. Many of us are willing to be conscious about what we are eating. But are we taking on understanding our bodies more? Not everyone is gluten or lactose intolerant. Our bodies may be overloaded. Guilia Enders has some good advice here.
How can we tap into the food movement, if that's what we're about:
Can we contribute to this change? YES. Consider starting with a small plot of herbs and/or vegetables on your balcony or in your garden. It's so cheap and flavoursome to cook from your own garden.
We’re about to upsize in country New South Wales to live a more sustainable life, growing more of our own vegetables, developing our herd of grass fed cows and enjoying more of what nature has to offer. We’ve become part of the worldwide movement of seasonal eating, buying local and promoting ‘Good Food’.
HAPPY NEW YEAR and HAPPY COOKING and HEALTHY EATING!
Do you buy local? Can you? Are there any benefits?
I've been buying local for some time now and in a variety of ways. I want to know, as much as possible, where my food is coming from, particularly the fresh produce I buy. I also want to know where it has been, how old it is and whether it has the nutritional elements my body needs.
How do you do that these days? Much of our food is being managed, stored and distributed by large supermarket chains. We don't know for how long they've been storing it and how it is being ripened. There are very few local fruit and vegetable shops left where you can chat to the owner about what's in season, what he/she recommends and from where it's source. Whilst you can't find out from your supermarket how fresh your food is, you can when you make the effort to find a local fruiter, visit a farmers' or fresh food market or, in Sydney tap into Harris Farm Markets (HFM).
HFM is a family-owned business which prides itself in purchasing as much produce as possible from local suppliers. Local suppliers are now considered to be up to 150kms from our CBD. How things have changed from when the market gardens were virtually on our doorstep. Unfortunately they've been sold to developers to spread our cities even further.
HFM have introduced a new LOVE LOCAL fresh section in their stores. It's their way of supporting the growing Australian local food movement. Some of their reasons for buying local are:
When I'm in the Southern Highlands, I'm always keen to buy local. I do this at the Sutton Forest Fresh Market and the Bundanoon Market, every second Sunday. Both stock as much local produce as possible. I find it's always so much more flavoursome. I feel good too supporting local growers and businesses.
Recently my husband and I did a road trip to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. It was wonderful to drive through so many regional food bowls and to buy oranges, apples, avocados and a range of vegetables from roadside stalls, straight from the grower. All were flavoursome and delicious. We were keen to support them directly. The final stop on our journey was in Crookwell, NSW, where they had a buy local programme going. The local shops had teamed together and were providing incentives to customers to buy local produce and support local businesses, the lifeblood of their community.
We need to support our famers too to help ensure they are not squeezed by big supermarkets and 'middle-men' and can continue to provide fresh food for our needs, our families and their families.
In addition, you can create your own supply. Have you considered converting a patch of your garden for vegetables and herbs? It's easy and so much fun when you harvest your own and devise your evening meal around the vegetables from the garden.
Many suburbs are now establishing community gardens. This is another way to enjoy growing and sourcing fresh vegetables.
ENJOY EATING FRESH and BUYING LOCAL!
In our workshops, Nutritionist Chef Emma often talks about the benefits of preparing your food and how it contributes to your digestion.
If you prepare your own food, digestion commences as you prepare it. You're salivating already. Starting digestion before you put anything in your mouth.
More importantly, did you know chewing is a major part of digestion? Generally chewing is an unconscious reflex that we do when we put something in our mouth.
The way you chew, including for how long you chew, can significantly impact your health. It is generally recommended that you:
Why? Sound crazy or a waste of time? There are real health benefits to be gained from being present to what you eat and taking your time, in ways you probably never knew…
Dr Mercola provides 7 Reasons to Chew Your Food Properly
1. You Absorb More Nutrients and Energy From Your Food
Chewing breaks your food down into smaller particles that can be easily digested. It's easier for your intestines to absorb nutrients from your food and prevents improperly digested food from entering your blood and causing health problems.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
The longer you chew, the more time it takes you to finish a meal. Research shows that eating slowly can help you to eat less and, ultimately, to avoid weight gain or even lose weight. It takes time (generally about 20 minutes) for your brain to signal to your stomach that you’re full. So eating slowly can lead to you eating less.
3. Your Food Gets More Exposure to Your Saliva
Saliva contains digestive enzymes, so the longer you chew, the more time these enzymes have to start breaking down your food, making digestion easier on your stomach and small intestine.
4. Easier Digestion
The chewing process partially liquefies your food, making it easier to digest. Digestion is a demanding task for your body, requiring a great deal of energy, especially if forced to digest improperly chewed food. Ever tried to do some strenuous exercise after a meal. Often it’s difficult because your body is preoccupied with digestion. Chewing properly allows your stomach to work more efficiently and break down your food faster.
5. It’s Good for Your Teeth
The bones holding your teeth get a ‘workout’ when you chew, helping to keep them strong. The saliva produced while chewing is also beneficial, helping to clear food particles from your mouth and wash away bacteria.
6. Less Excess Bacteria Lingering in Your Intestines
When large particles of food are undigested, bacteria in your intestines will begin to break it down. It may start to putrefy, potentially leading to gas and bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, cramping and other digestive problems.
7. Enjoy and Taste Your Food
If you rush through your meal with hardly any chewing, you’re not really tasting or enjoying the food.
Here are a few tips for change:
Whether you're interested or not, hormones affect us all. We all have them, men and women. They affect our moods, energy and feeling of well being, as well as the people around us when we're feeling under par.
For men, the hormone that can be affected is testosterone (levels). Recent studies have demonstrated that low testosterone in men is strongly associated with metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (Miner and Seftel 2007). Male hormones help men beat stress, stay fit and have better sex. Their hormone levels need to be looked after as they age in the same way that women's hormones, especially oestrogen, need balancing to keep us healthy, energised and motivated. Our hormones drive our libido too.
That's what we talked about last weekend to the group of women who attended the Happy Hormones workshop. Of particular interest and importance was the inclusion of phytoestrogens on a daily basis. What are they? Never heard of them?
They're found in pulses - legumes (adzuki beans, black beans, soybeans, anasazi beans, fava beans, chickpeas, kidney beans and lima beans) and lentils - as well as nuts . They're high in protein, low in fat and provide natural fibre in your diet to help clear and prevent Oestrogen reabsorption in your body.
My favourite Hummus
I used to think pulses were for vegans and that I didn't need to consider them. Thank goodness for multiculturalism and the introduction of wonderful Indian, mediterranean and middle eastern foods into Australia. I've discovered two favourite pulse foods, hummus and dahl. They're delicious and so good for you. Here's a Christine Mansfield Hummus recipe that I love making. It takes about 10 minutes once the chickpeas are cooked.
What's in it
100g organic Tahini
4 cloves of garlic
60ml lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
100ml olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chilli oil
How to make it
Soak the chickpeas overnight in cold water & cover. Ensure the bowl is large enough as the peas swell. You can use canned chickpeas which are already cooked. I find chickpeas easy to soak and you don't have to worry about the possible affects of the plastic lined can. Just pop the dried peas into a bowl before you go to bed.
Drain the peas. There's no need to de-hull, and in a saucepan cover with cold water and cook for 30 mins or until soft. Drain and keep a bit of cooking water. Cool a bit.
Blend the chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, sea salt and cumin. I add more salt and cumin, if necessary, after tasting. The paste can be quite thick, so add cooking water or just water, to soften, then drizzle in olive oil and chilli oil. Make sure you don't overdo the chilli oil. Just keep adding water to get the consistency you prefer. (I find it doesn't need a lot of water.)
Sprinkle with shredded parsley or coriander and serve. It can be stored for up to a week.
It's great to eat with salads; as a dip with carrot, celery or zucchini; on sandwiches, if you're eating bread, instead of butter. As an accompaniment to almost anything. It's so satisfying, filling and nourishing. I eat it every day in some way.
Happy eating and snacking!
Oranges are in season. That means they’ll be sweet, juicy and full of vitamin C without having been in cold storage for months.
There are many claims about the benefits of vitamin C. It’s suggested it can cure the common cold. There are plenty around this winter. You’ve got to watch whose sneezing around you. Perhaps that’s why oranges are a winter fruit. So you can get plenty of fresh vitamin C to assist your immune system. It’s best to eat the whole orange so that you get the fibre too.
It’s said the benefits of vitamin C may also include protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling. It is sometimes given intravenously to cancer patients during and post chemotherapy to help aid recovery.
Whatever the benefits, it’s best taken naturally from a source of fruit or vegetables. Oranges and mandarins are my favourite sources. They’re thirst quenching! Remember those days of playing sport in winter and having an orange wedge or 2 between quarters or at half time? So much better for you than the current fashion of ‘sports drinks’ which can have up to 17 teaspoons of sugar.
I love cooking healthy desserts, particularly one’s without sugar, when I’m having guests. I’m sugar sensitive and need to keep my sugar consumption to a minimum. My body starts to get a bit hyper with soft drinks, processed juices and manufactured sweets. So they’re a ‘no no’ in my fridge and cupboard.
I’ve been trawling the internet looking for a flourless orange and almond cake that is sugarless. I found Nutrition by Gina Rose has a delicious recipe. I’m taking the liberty of sharing it with you.
Healthy Orange & Almond Cake
▪ 2 large oranges
▪ 5 eggs
▪ 125 ml honey or rice malt syrup
▪ 1 tsp vanilla paste
▪ 2 cups almond meal
▪ 1 tsp baking powder
How to make it:
Cooking the oranges is the only time consuming part of this cake.
Place the oranges in a saucepan of water, just covered. Bring to the boil, then simmer for up to 2 hours or until they are soft. You may need to turn them occasionally and add water, if it starts to get low.
Once cooked, drain them and allow to cool completely. Once cooled, chop them into chunks, leaving skin on and remove any pips.
Pre-heat the oven to 190C. (No need to use fan-forced) . Grease well and line a 20cm springform cake tin.
Place chopped orange segments, eggs, honey and vanilla into a food processor and blend until well combined. Add the almond meal and baking powder and blend until you have a smooth batter.
Pour the cake batter into the springform tin and cook for approximately 30 minutes in the middle of the oven. (Gina Rose’s recipe says 50-60 minutes. However, I have found, in my oven, it needs no longer than 30 minutes.) So check after 30 minutes. When you think it is ready, insert a skewer to see if the centre is cooked, before removing from the oven.
Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before releasing it and allow to cool on a cake rack.
The texture of this cake is moist and dense, but not heavy. You’ll enjoy the fresh aroma of citrus from the moment you puree the fruit, through baking when it scents the whole kitchen, and then when you serve it. Delicious, especially when served with plain yoghurt sweetened with honey. You can sprinkle it with some chopped almonds to give it crunch, if you wish.
Enjoy your oranges!
I'm fermenting at present. I've started making water kefir and am going to gradually add it to my diet each day.
I'm also keen to start making my own yoghurt. I've got some starter, which I am going to add to organic milk. I'm also going to use yoghurt which has no additives to make another batch. Then I'll see which one is more to my liking.
If you would like to try making your own yoghurt, here is a recipe.
1 litre of milk
Approximately 2 tbsp live natural yoghurt OR
1 tsp Naturen yoghurt starter culture powder
How to make it
If you'd like to learn more, we'll have another fermenting workshop in 2016. Meantime, I hope you have fun playing. Here are a few photos of the girls making sauerkraut at the last workshop.
Jill Keyte is passionate about health, vitality and making a difference to people who want a natural, quality life where they are well, fit, energised and feel vital. My knowledge comes from my wellness training and and life experience.