Heartfelt food matters

On the last day of an energetic and happy holiday, I suffered a heart attack. Although I had ignored slight twinges in my heart for a few months, it was a shock. Fortunately, I knew what was happening, having lost a partner like this 10 years ago, and, aware of the symptoms, I received timely and good care.

Caucasian female standing on boat with ocean in the back ground
Jeunesse, the picture of health on her epic trip last year

What attacked my heart I asked? Genetic high cholesterol, I am told, exacerbated by an often-careless lifestyle and diet. Though mostly vegetarian, fit and active, and has alleviated the stress of a hard-working life in recent years, I have not paid due attention to diet. The medics casually told me to follow a Mediterranean diet, though the first meal the hospital offered was a lump of minced meat on white bread topped by a hard-boiled egg!

In an attempt to recover as quickly and sustainably as possible, and though I have known about good food all my life, and even worked at the first raw, vegetarian, health food restaurant in Los Angeles in the early 1970s, I have again been researching current trends in healthy nutrition.

The clear message about our diet and our health

There is a lot of conflicting information to wade through, but the trend towards veganism and cutting out sugars is resounding. Since so many of our illnesses, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and various cancers, are linked to inflammation, caused by ingesting animal fat and sugar, this makes a lot of sense.

Increasing numbers are also becoming aware of the severe impacts of animal products on the planet and climate change because as meat and dairy are ingrained into our diets, they are also rooted in our environment. To produce one kilo of meat requires 25 kilos of grain and 15 000 litres of water. If all that grain was fed to humans, we could feed an extra 3.5 billion people. Livestock farming uses 30% of the earth’s surface, in a world where water, land and food are becoming scarcer, massively inefficient and inequitable!

Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions and when livestock byproducts are added this accounts for 51% of emissions! This industry is further a major cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction, including rainforests.

70 billion farmed animals are reared annually worldwide and 6 million are killed for food every hour. Most of these animals, sentient beings, are reared in terrible conditions causing them to suffer.

This morning I sip my tea with almond milk, grateful to be alive as I contemplate the good news that food marketers have realised the potential and now offer a wide range of delicious plant-based foods and alternatives to every kind of animal protein that helps me to feel better about my body and the planet.

Resources for healthy eating from Jeunesse (online, deliveries and some Cape Town restaurants and caterers):

Spar offers over 100 options for plant-based meals, and there are more on Woolworths shelves daily. Unilever has just bought the Dutch based Vegetarian Butcher.

Here are some plant-based food deliveries and restaurants:

http://www.puregood.co.za/ a corporate catering business that dishes up super affordable, deliciously wholesome and ethically produced meals to working professionals in Cape Town

https://www.wellnesswarehouse.com/shop/foodmarket/ order healthy ingredients online, including dairy alternatives and snacks

http://www.vegansa.com/foodstuffs-ready-made-meals.php a directory of food for vegans in South Africa: what’s available and where to buy it

https://www.faithful-to-nature.co.za/food/food-types/vegan a great variety of organic vegan foods to help you enjoy a balanced and wholesome plant-based diet

http://justvegan.co.za/ deliveries of vegan meals in the Johannesburg area

http://www.plantcafe.co.za/ Cape Town restaurant where vegans and people with food allergies can find amazing food without sacrificing taste

https://orders.fitchef.co.za/ online food without preservatives, no man-made chemicals and no added or artificial sugars – delivered to you

https://www.facebook.com/TheYummyVegan/ Vegan comfort food filled with all the necessary nutritional value, from frozen meals to cater for small functions to large Conferences, Weddings and Parties

https://www.facebook.com/rawandroxy/ Cape Town raw vegan gourmet restaurant. Winner of the Condé Nast Gourmet award, best Wellness and Vitality restaurant in South Africa.

Questions make better choices

The simple habit of asking yourself “ I wonder why…?” could help you make better decisions in life.

Research says that up to 60% of our daily decisions are automated and not thought through.

However, if you ask yourself “Why?” you become more aware of your internal thought processes. When you ask “Why?” you are re-evaluating your habits, and in turn, learning about yourself.

So what, now what?

Challenge yourself daily.

During the day, pause, reflect and ask yourself “I wonder why…?” . For example : “I wonder why I am making these poor food choices?”

Why are you avoiding doing something that is a priority?

(This is a New FAB Habit 4 U from Retire Successfully Retirementor, Joni Peddie: resilientenergycenter.com)

The cure lies in the cause

Wellness is not a point in time, but a continuous cycle. It is a continuum of cause and effect. 

Stress, anxiety and trauma are the most common reasons why people are unwell today.

It’s not the actual trauma or stress that causes your un-wellness, but how you respond or react to these events, the emotions that flow from your experiences, that impact on your well-being.

These are the health lessons presented by Dr Riaz Motara at a recent Lifestyle event for our Retiremeant™ clients.  To say I was inspired by Dr. Motara’s views on wellness is an understatement. I was so enthused that I immediately set up a follow-up appointment: I wanted to learn more!

Dr. Motara’s view on the correlation between health and our thoughts substantiates our Retire Successful philosophy that a healthy mind supports a healthy life. It’s about keeping your body fit, your mind challenged and your heart engaged.

Don’t discount the impact of your emotions
Dr Motara joins many other experts in the field of holistic health when he says that “fear” is the most significant emotion that underpins everything that happens to us as humans. It affects how we approach life, the decisions and choices we make, how we act or react – in fact, fear subconsciously steers almost everything we do.

The difficult part is that our emotions are not really a conscious choice to make. We feel, because we react to something in a certain way.

While fear is the core emotion, how we negatively react or feel, based on trauma, are derivatives of fear: hate, anger, disappointment, discontentment, abandonment, loss, insignificance – and the list goes on.

It all sounds so complex, doesn’t it? To explain, I shared with Dr. Motara that the therapist I was seeing after my third high-jacking told me that I brought all this onto myself. That made me angry! No – fuming! Then Dr. Motara explanation made sense: my negative emotions became my self-talk and all my efforts to heal after the trauma were based on overcoming my fear. I was so fixated with fear that I ended up attracting fear into my life. The stress and anxiety actually caused me to become unwell in body and mind.

It’s a matter of the heart
The same applies to your health. Being a cardiologist, Dr. Motara dedicates much thought and research to issues of the heart. He has actually found a strong correlation between depression and heart disease. He says that by treating patients holistically, and by delving into past experiences, he is able to determine when the heart disease started. For example, a client with heart disease also tested for low levels of serotonin. Motara discovered that the feeling of “un-wellness” and heart disease started hand-in hand, shortly after a traumatic life experience.

Motara believes that 50% of the cure of any illness is having insight into what caused it. Ask yourself:

  • When did it start? When can I last remember feeling great?
  • What did I get exposed to?
  • Does this correlate with how I am feeling now?

The answers are inside of us. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to access traumatic memories, but if you delve deep enough, and try to make sense of your behavioural patterns, you could probably pinpoint your health to a specific cause and reaction.

The cornerstone of complete wellness remains a holistic approach. It is essential to consult a medical practitioner to treat your symptoms, but it is also important to work on managing your emotions and dealing with all the challenges that life holds, which most commonly includes stress and anxiety.

So, this winter, while it’s cold and gloomy and early morning walks are not as appealing as in summer, why not spend some time exercising your mind towards wellness. I’ll join you in that!

Keep warm and well.

A new FAB habit for you – stretch

Feeling tense and depleted at the end of a day doesn’t have to be the norm. Try stretching (in a subtle or deliberate way) every hour, on the hour – it’s a great way to release stress and ground yourself. Stretching relaxes your muscles and increases blood flow throughout your body.

So what, now what?
Stretch while you are lying in bed, in the shower and even in the car – simple neck turns and arm stretches will do the trick. If you’re out and about and you need to reach for something on a top shelf, take a breath and move slowly and hold the stretch for about 20 seconds. Try some of these seated stretches from the Mayo Clinic.

Access some ideas for seated stretches by clicking here

Energise and destress your second half of the year

We are half way through the 2017 year. Your mental focus, emotional agility and energy have been relentlessly put to the test for days, weeks and months on end … and you may be holding your breath for or clenching your jaw needing another weekend away.

Why? Because stress is a given. Increasing demands on our ability to stay resilient, agile, creative, and energised are a given too.

There is an upside to stress, however. Stress releases hormones such as adrenalin and dopamine that can give us seriously cool mojo and drive to get things done. Embrace stress and the chemical reactions it causes but don’t abuse it because long-term stress, without the right resilience techniques, can, and certainly will have a really negative impact.

If stress is here to stay … make sure you embrace it and stay the ‘windscreen and not the bug’?

Two top tips to keep stress the good, not the bad, guy: 

  1. Create your own reality  

Stress can have an up or a down side. It all depends from what angle you look at it. Joni’s short video shares the outcome of a research project which looked at two different attitudes to stress with two very divergent outcomes! Click here to watch it.

  1. Change your words to change your world 

The FAB Quotient looks at three dimensions that can help you to manage stress. A quick immediate win. And everyone loves to WIN right? Change your words to change your world.

Over the next week, be aware of what words you choose to describe your perception of stress … especially with your loved ones at the end of long stressful days.

  • Are you completely exhausted? Or just more tired than usual? Or needing to recharge?
  • Are you terribly infuriated? Or annoyed but not angry? Or just a little uptight?
  • Are things so hectic you could die? Or are things really fast paced at the moment?

Words carry energy and can change not only your own physiology and brain chemistry, but also those around you. 

We’re not suggesting that you deny negative emotions or use affirmations that you don’t believe in. What we are suggesting is to use more accurate, circumstance specific words that focus on the upside, rather than the downside of inevitable stress.

Why not try this: the next time you are greeted with, “How are you?” before responding, think about the words you choose, and perhaps frame your response to highlight the upside of stress. Not easy, but not impossible!

And if words don’t work then drop out of cerebral headspace and move into your body … no, not by eating another chocolate or drinking more wine … but by tapping into creativity and physical stress release … put on your favourite tune as loudly as possible and dance around like crazy; go for a run with your fur children in a park; do a spinning or yoga class; or simply lie outside under the clouds and listen to music that makes you happy.

What else can you do? 

The FAB Quotient team regularly hosts workshops addressing common issues such as: cognitive fatigue; lack of initiative; anxiety; fatigue and lack of engagement or resilience.

Multi-tasking: taxing the brain

Your brain likes to be in control.

You receive a boost of dopamine (the reward brain hormone) when you’re feeling confident, organised and comfortable dealing with a situation.

So, when you are multi-tasking, your brain doesn’t feel in control.  In fact, an interruption of just a few seconds can triple the number of errors you make with the task you are trying to focus on.

So what, now what?

Important tasks require that you put your smart phones and other distractions aside.

Research shows that one hour of well-focused time is equivalent to four hours of time filled with distractions.

When you multi-task, you are training your brain to be good at paying attention to distractions.

3 FAB tips for living younger longer

Can you rewrite your future? Yes.

Here is what is on the menu of those people who enjoy long and healthy lives and what you can do, TODAY to potentially join the “100 Club” of centenarians TOMORROW. Why not choose one and create a new tiny habit?

  1. FUEL: Eat mindfully

In Okinawa, also known as “land of the immortals”, the folk follow a principle called “Hara hatchu bu” which means to eat until you are 8 out of 10 full. Sadly, many of us eat until we are ‘stuffed’ and experience discomfort, fatigue and even heartburn. Studies of centenarians suggest that social connections and finding meaning in life are both crucial to longevity.

How? Bring in the pleasure principle and eat more mindfully and with gratitude. Slow down. Breathe between mouthfuls. Savour each mouthful. Don’t eat while doing something else such as watching television. Take pleasure in preparing more home-cooked meals from whole ingredients instead of buying processed foods and meals. Approach time in the kitchen as an opportunity to de-stress and be creative.

  1. ACTIVATE: Stay brain fit

An example of a tiny habit to reduce brain fog:  Train your brain to deal with chaos. Neuroscience research shows that the regular practice of mindfulness can promote resilience and productivity at work (and in life). There’s no need to head off to a silent retreat for a week. Simply start with 5 minutes as you wake up and have your morning tea to sit in stillness and start harnessing the benefits of mindfulness.

  1. BEHAVE: Create an attitude of gratitude

This is a game changer. To hard-wire this as a habit takes a little time and effort, but once your gratitude neurons fire together, they then wire together… forever. If you consciously express gratitude (verbally or non verbally) a few times per day, your body will produce less of the ageing stress hormone, cortisol!

To kick-start this habit … link your gratitude thoughts to existing habits; for example, as your turn your shower tap, think of one or two moments of your day that you’re grateful for. Or as you put toothpaste on your toothbrush, do the same. At least you’ll be doing it twice a day …everyday!

What one thing will you do differently from today to increase your FAB Quotient™ to stand a chance to shift from being stressed and tired, living in a state of brain fog to being energised and brain fit, driving a sense of feeling youthful and playful, a magnificent feeling of juvenescence?

Alzheimer’s: what not to forget

In her fifties, my gran developed Alzheimer’s. I remember visiting her as a child. One of my first experiences of her illness was when she began to lose her ability to filter what she said to those around her. On one occasion, I took a friend along with me to see her. It turns out my gran didn’t like my friend. So what did she do? She told my friend to leave! This is not something she would normally have done – not the gran that I knew.

Health changes people – for better or worse
And we had no idea at the time how my gran’s health, or lack of it, was changing her. We even thought that she had been drinking secretly, so unpredictable was her behaviour. But of course, this wasn’t the case at all and it was just a few months later that she was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s. I had always understood that this disease is genetic and somewhere at the back of my mind, I’ve worried that I might fall prey to it too. Watching her deteriorating was devastating.

But a recent Carte Blanche episode shed some light on the subject. It’s estimated that 9.9 million new cases of Alzheimer’s are reported annually – and while nothing can cure this disease, some simple lifestyle choices can help prevent it.

The three pillars of health
What we eat, how we move and how we sleep – research and the experts tell us that, done well, they can help push back this disease. That’s because the cell loss process begins 20 years before the disease presents. Plus, the role of genetics is less than researchers first thought. It’s actually environmental factors that determine if it develops. That’s encouraging for me – because it means there is less left to fate and more that I can manage.

Take action as early as you can
Physical fitness is all-important. Did you know that all it takes is brisk walking to reverse brain-size decreasing, something that happens in old age? And eating well is essential; when it comes to keeping Alzheimer’s at bay, a Mediterranean diet is encouraged. Did you know that olive-growing regions rich in fish, vegetables (especially leafy, green ones), fruit and seeds benefit us cognitively and reduce our risks? Sleep, that third – and one of my favourite things – pillar (or is it pillow?) is important for brain function. The slow wave sleep phase is when your brain development increases.

Will these three pillars eliminate your risk of Alzheimer’s? No. But apparently, they can more than halve it! That’s a statistic I’m happy to work with.

So, to the three pillars then! And to a cruise on the Med – purely for health purposes, of course!

Warm regards

Make this your year by creating new habits

To sustain your motivation to change, use the three simple tips in this article.

In today’s ever-changing, busy and complex world, the need for new ways to stay resilient, to stay energised and to stay healthy are of vital importance … especially if you want to #MakeThisTheYear!

Prioritising self-care is essential for older adult wanting to maximise longevity and juvenescence (the ability to stay younger for longer!).

“Efforts to improve health are forestalled … through our failure to convert what we reliably know into what we routinely do.” Dr David Katz, founding director, Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, and current President of the American College  Lifestyle Medicine.

Your life won’t get better by chance – it will get better by change. Life applauds action, not intention. Unfortunately, many of us set ourselves up for repeated failure by making too many changes to our lifestyle at once.

Behavioural science tells us that the tinier a new habit is, the easier it is to practise it and this leads to positive reinforcement which then drives further behaviour change.

To make this the year of wellness for yourself, create new lifestyle habits that will be easy to sustain and set yourself up for success both in happiness and in health!

Professor BJ Fogg from Stanford University has some very interesting research and processes to support this concept under the banner of Tiny Habits™.  A new behaviour, such as drinking more water, is more likely to be successful if you:

  • firstly, are motivated to make the change;
  • secondly, keep it as easy and simple as possible; and
  • thirdly, attach the new behaviour to a current one, for example, have a glass of water with every cup of coffee or tea.

#MakeThisTheYear for sustainable change

STOP Sleep Debt … Power Nap!

Medical evidence suggests that for optimum health and function, the average adult should get seven to nine hours of sleep daily. Although each hour of lost slumber goes into the health debit column, we don’t get any monthly reminders that we’ve fallen in arrears. In fact, the greater the sleep debt, the less capable we are of recognizing it: Once sleep deprivation — with its fuzzy-headedness, irritability, and fatigue — has us in its sway, we can hardly recall what it’s like to be fully rested. And as the sleep debt mounts, the health consequences increase, putting us at growing risk for weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and memory loss.

Scource: The Family Health Guide – Harvard Health Publications

Joni and Celynn give us some great advice on how to using power napping a technique to get out of sleep debt!