This just in: do NOT feel stressed about what goes in your mouth.
This is a recipe (har har) for disaster.
Stress = bad. Stress = stressful.
Food is our friend, our fuel. It literally makes you the person you are and having a good relationship with food is as important as having a good relationship with work, your family and your friends.
Food is about health and wellness, yes, but it's also about community, social interactions, being out and happy or even being alone and indulgent. It has so many purposes and making it a sad or stressful thing will be a slippery slope, hard to escape.
Why do we stress about food?
I'm surprising myself writing this post. Simply because - it means admitting I can be in danger of this. It means owning up to those weird, embarrassing thoughts that we should have grown out of by the age of 25.
I have moments where I really have to catch myself and go: "whoa, what was THAT?"
My "danger zones" used to be focused on the usuals: weight, how clothes look, how food affects my skin...etc. These are (unfortunately) fairly normal obsessions for girls I guess, especially if they've lost weight. You can become a little obsessed with trying to live in your new skin, keeping weight off and getting into the mindset of "I'm not on a diet anymore". I know I struggled at first with my new identity and every cupcake represented waking up in the morning looking exactly as I did in 2006.
I should note here, for people who don't know me at all, that I first started getting healthy because I did want to loose weight. I want to be an actor, so it helps to be healthy and slim, and it all really just progressed from there.
From joining a gym, to reading books, to getting a bit fitter and then eventually going vegan - it's been a lovely slow transition and I think knowing it will be (and should be!) a slow process is the key to success.
Today - I'm effortlessly a size I couldn't be happier with and, through my vegan lifestyle, never restrict food. I eat every meal until I'm full and satisfied and it's not something I think about much at all. After years of trying to loose weight and dieting, this is an enormous relief, but it doesn't mean that I'm cured of the occasional silly food-stress.
The usual culprit is: quite simply: eating food that I know won't serve my body in the slightest. I have spent too much time researching and experimenting with getting healthy to enjoy most of the foods people "indulge" in and appear on the majority of menus. To be honest, I don't have vegan burgers or chips or deep fried things often and Vegan options are usually some kind of falafel burger with fries and I can't help but be aware of my body screaming "what is this crap?"
But then someone yells: "let's order wine!" and I say "yes! Let's!" because tonight is a lovely social night and my body's voice is consciously silenced by the bottle opening.
It's lovely. It's magical. If I didn't love it - I wouldn't go out with my lovely friends and have vegan pizza and wine occasionally.
Food should never be stressful. I have conquered this stress by embracing food and living a healthy lifestyle that allows me to have these lovely dinners with friends because know it won't make a difference to my health or my body in the long-term. Diets don't work because being healthy and the right size should be lifestyle, not a three-month experiment. If I ever am feeling a bit over aware that the food isn't healthy - I just take a sip of wine, re-engage with the conversation and ENJOY MY DAMN LIFE. I'm there at this table to talk to my friends and hear about their lives.
If food is your top priority (exception if you are currently on some amazing health adventure by the way) then you need to re-exaime things. I eat best when I'm not focused on food at all. When I'm busy with rehearsals and work and blogging and doing six thousand things, I don't have time to obsess about what goes in my mouth, therefore I usually just rely on my fundamentals and end up eating pretty damn well.
Food has been both friend and foe, but today - it's 100% my friend. It's my friend because I love the taste, the nutrients and the health, but also - it brings me closer to people. Food can mean the difference between a night out and a night home alone. It's going to support the cool new veggie restaurant in town. It's drowning sorrows over booze with single girlfriends.
It is a pleasure, a fun, a necessity and shouldn't be a stress.
It helps to love good food, too. If the majority of what you are eating is somewhat healthy, you naturally won't feel stressed about it. You know that your body is fuelled, you are "carbed up", you can think clear and be more motivated and positive. Food has the power to do all those things. When you eat right - you feel more centred, focused and happy. That's not revolutionary. You will know if you've ever been hungry - that you're automatically irritable, frustrated, tired or just damn useless.
Don't talk to me before breakfast. Seriously.
EAT! Food glorious food! Eat it, love it, enjoy it! Make it a part of your life in whatever way makes you happy! Become a food critic, become a raw-foodist, become a home-chef! Do whatever you like. These days - I love cooking for myself, I love eating a lot of raw fruits and vegetables and I also love going out for a bottle of wine with my friends and eating a lovely meal out.
These things all make me happy. If I ever feel stressed about food it can now just serve as a nice reminder of the past. The past when food was not my friend and I didn't really understand how to have a good, safe relationship with it.
You can become too obsessed with trying to be "healthy". You can become too obsessed with trying to be "good". You can become too obsessed with "not caring", too. Don't interpret this post as me saying: go out and eat McDonalds and be happy about it. Obviously that's not my philosophy. I would say more: don't feel stressed if your stress is coming from a place of fearing about your weight or worrying that one meal is going to undo years of good work.
Life is far too short and energy is far too precious. Spend it focused on what makes you happy and if any of that involves eating the odd vegetable - then woo hoo!
Soaking oats has become one of my favourite things to do before bed. Yes. I'm that sad.
But seriously - it's amazing. You are guarenteeing yourself a happy morning.
Soaked oats are incredibly versatile and involve using jars (the cheapest kitchen staple). This recpie is ridiculously simple and perhaps my new favourite way to start the day.
I've found that it does actually make a difference what kind of oats you use. It's worth forking out the extra dollar for a pack of good steel-cut oats. The cheap Quaker ones just become like slop. (delicious slop...)
1/2 cup Oats
1 cup Organic Almond Milk
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup fresh blueberries (organic if you can)
To soak your oats, simply put the oats, almond milk, flaxseed and cinnimon into a jar, put the lid on and shake it up well! Refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, tip the divine contents in a pretty bowl and smother the berries on top.
Enjoy sitting by the window at home, or taking as a breakfast on the go. Yes - you will be glared by jealous people because you're eating a super cool breakfast out of a jar....in public.
Were you at all inspired by my incredible friend Charlotte when she did her month of FULL VEGAN?
Well good news - for all you "maybe vegans" out there, here’s the perfect opportunity to take the plunge and give a plant-based diet a go.
This November, Animal Aid is running the Great Vegan Challenge and the idea behind it is simple: you pledge to go vegan for the month and they aim to make it as easy, fun and engaging as possible. Plus it’s free to sign up and open to anyone, anywhere in the world!
When you register to take part, you’ll get:
- Advice on nutrition and vegan products
- Recipes and motivational tips sent regularly
- Access to an internet forum for swapping tips and stories
- A telephone hotline for any burning questions
- Information on exclusive events, offers and product give-aways
Almost 800 people took part last year from 17 different countries and the response from them was overwhelmingly positive. You can read all about people’s experiences last year on the Great Vegan Challenge blog www.govegan.org.uk/category/blog/ and be inspired by how easy these small changes can be!
This year, Animal Aid has also linked up with organisations in Australia (veganeasy.org), Canada (www.MercyForAnimals.ca), Luxembourg, Estonia and elsewhere to help spread the word and support Vegan Challengers in those countries, making it a truly global event.
If you’re already vegan, why not convince one of your friends or family to give it a try? After a month of feeling fantastic - they may just get addicted!
Whether you’re motivated by saving animals, improving your health or protecting the planet: check out the Great Vegan Challenge to sign-up and take part! Visit www.govegan.org.uk and if you have any questions, you can contact Ben Martin via firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm so happy to promote the Great Vegan Challenge. I'm a huge believer in challenging ourselves and setting crazy new targets and goals. If the idea of eating 100% vegan for a month seems just IMPOSSIBLE - that may be the perfect reason to give it a go! You can do anything!
I'll be uploading some inspirations as well to keep you on track :) Seeing how fantastic Charlotte looked and felt during her month of Vegan eating - I'm so confident you would have the same experience. Email me to let me know if you've taken the pledge!
It’s a cliché, but I’ve found it to be true: that life really is all about the little things.
Writing this blog I realised how much of my general positivity comes from having a few little routines in place that ensure every day is a little bit amazing and gets started on a good note. It sounds lame, but I really do want to be my best self for everyone around me. Life is better, work is easier and impossible tasks become mere challenges.
If a day is going south, I like knowing that I can turn it around. It can be as simple as eating something or as complicated as re-organsing my entire week, but either way - it's nice to feel in control.
Over the years I’ve found some things that work for me! My bright mood is usually always attributed to having had a good nights sleep. My energy is usually always because of the mammoth breakfast I downed earlier. Adding a slice of lemon to most of my cups of water has become a habit after so long I do not even think about it any more, but know this little addition has made such a positive impact on my health.
How to begin this daily magic? I think there are small, simple, very effective ways to feel in control and overly positive. Finding what works so that you know how to turn a bad day into a good one is simply brilliant.
Warning - inner hippie comes out. Chic Hippie, of course.
1. Do you have a morning routine?
The benefits of a good morning routine are endless. I'm not saying you have to become all Jack Nicholson OCD on me, I'm just saying: find things that work and then do them when you can. That's only logical.
Firstly think about what your morning must include and then what you would like it to. Map out how long this should take-ish, add in some time to lie in bed after your alarm to stare at the ceiling thinking about how amazing your life is and then start implementing it. I would recommend including:
- A morning cup of hot lemon (See point number 3)
- Cleaning your teeth (duh)
- Stretching (see point number 2)
- Making your breakfast
- Peace and quiet
Now, the last point is obviously a personal preference. Perhaps your dream morning includes blasting Disney soundtracks while you clean your teeth and some mornings I definitely change it up and want this. But - most mornings I wake up, lie in bed for a little bit (often trying to remember all the things roaming my mind as I was falling asleep "oh yes, pay council tax" "oh yes, that's a possible blog idea" "oh yes! Send that email"), then I get up, go turn the kettle on, clean my teeth, then stand in a nice spot facing the window and do some stretching. After the kettle is boiled I'll have my lemon hot water while getting ready, which really just involves putting my hair up and picking suitable clothing. Then I'll make breakfast, sit at my table and check emails and Facebook while I eat. Done, dishes, pack my bag and then - shazam! Ready to face the day.
2. Morning Stretching
MORNING STRETCHING IS THE BOMB. THE BOMB I SAY! If you haven't tried morning stretching before - do so tomorrow and then email me to propose marriage as I know you will. Stretching out your joints and "reawakening" after a long rest just feels so damn good. It helps you to wake up, feel present and is almost like my own version of meditation. It also forces you to just spend some time connecting to your body, checking it over and seeing how it's feeling. Chances are - you may finish your stretching and be enjoying moving your body so much that you'll THEN want to go do a walk around the block. I know because it has happened to me a few times. Scary.
3. Morning cup of hot lemon.
I didn't invent this by any stretch of the imagination. It's a big part of the old "health" world that makes the rounds for a very good reason: it works, it's amazing and so bloody good for you. Simply add hot water to a few slices of lemon in the morning and make it a part of your daily life. If you want to be crazy - you can even make it an evening beverage as well!
While you were sleeping - your amazing body was performing lots of duties and "cleaning up", if you will. When you wake up (if you didn't eat McDonalds for dinner) you should wake up feeling fresh, rejuvenated and like every day is a fresh slate. If you start your day drinking a lot of water or making lemon hot water, you are giving your body such a good "Good Morning" and another hour or so of detoxing and cleansing before you get on to the "heavy" stuff.
4. Having a lovely, FILLING breakfast
I have always logically felt that breakfast should be a lovely, satisfying and, well....BIG. I wavered after reading "Crazy Sexy Diet" as Kris Carr promotes juices for breakfast with a handful of berries. I understand her logic of giving your body an easy morning, but...to be honest....when I eat a small breakfast it just makes me eat a hell of a lot more throughout the day. You have to do what works for you and I know after years of experimenting - that I'm a big breakfast girl. It fills me with energy and positivity first up and then I don't have to think or worry about food again until I'm just actually HUNGRY. So, if you have time each day to make a lovely, big, nutritious breakfast, I think you are setting yourself up for a lovely day. There's nothing worse than grabbing crap on the go or just snacking your way through weird things to try and feel satisfied.
These days - a giant bowl of porridge topped with fruit is my favourite or a big banana smoothie. I'm talking BIG. I also am making lots of Overnight Oats :)
4. Opportunities to Walk?
Can you walk to your destination instead of driving? This won’t always be practical (heels, long distances, blistering cold) but when possible: can you increase your steps? A lovely walk in the morning, when your mind is still open and free, can work wonders for our mental sanity. I don’t have time for classes or any sort of gym-time before work, so when I can, I try to get in some kind of walk and always feel the better for it. Even if I walk to the bus stop that’s a bit further away, it still makes me feel better!
5. Remember to Smile
How many smiles can you manage a day? This old, dirty cliché from primary school needs to be re-implemented into our adult lives immediately! Goodness fuels goodness, happiness fuels happiness and, yep, smiles create more smiles. I can remember the few times in my life that a random stranger smiled at me. A stranger? Smiling at me? Just for no reason? It’s an incredible buzz. Smile at strangers, your co-workers and cute boys. See if it improves your day!
6. Is Your Food Making it Better or Worse?
What fuel are you getting today? Whether it’s alkalizing veggies, incredible smoothies, heavy bread or cupcakes, make sure you enjoy it, are eating for energy and try to get in as much good stuff as possible. I’m still wowed by how much of a difference food makes to my mood. It’s just a fact that I feel better when I’m eating well. There is nothing better than effortless energy and feeling happy for no real reason. If you are feeling crappy and your day is "awful" - eat something! Haha. Try eating a banana and chances are - you may feel a little bit better immediately :)
7. Do you Get any Alone Time?
This may seem impossible, with our hectic lives and schedules, but see if you have even just fifteen minutes to put aside and do whatever pleases you. Read the paper? Sit on the back porch with your book? Go for a walk around the block? Sneak off to a cafe for fifteen minutes? Whatever it may be – some time alone with our thoughts is priceless.
8. Is It All Building Up?
Look at your forgotten “To Do List” and see if there’s something you can tackle? Often the cause of my stress or frustration is that I have a list of tasks building up I’m trying to ignore. Sometimes the simple act of just checking in and tackling one thing on the list is enough to make me feel light as a feather. Also - as my Mum would say: "can you take something off your plate?" If you are overloading yourself it can be as simple as just saying: okay, I need to remove that social event, that "task", that "job".
9. Are you Excited about Life?
Plan something for the future that excites you. When none of the above works, try making a plan that puts a fire in your belly to look forward to. It may be inviting people over for dinner in a few nights’ time, volunteering for an event over the weekend or finally messaging that one person who you never reply to! Because I’m lame – one of my favourite things to do is plan a day or an evening totally to myself to do whatever I want to do; a “date night” if you will? I’ll take myself to a movie….go shopping….whatever I fancy. Again: free therapy. (Although the movie isn’t free I guess… still cheaper than therapy!)
10. No Expectations.
Also – never stress! Not every day will be perfect. Some days are absolutely resigned to sitting on the couch watching an entire box set of Dexter, devouring peanut butter and that is an amazing way to spend the day! But if you’re finidng that more days are difficult than not, hopefully some of the above tips can help. If you hit the hay, feeling like you’ve achieved something, been well fed and have a good night’s sleep – you’re doing a brilliant job.
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