Crafted with Love

I spent a week in June at the annual conference for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) which took place in Seattle, Washington (USA) this year. It was an incredible opportunity to deepen my knowledge of ACT while meeting many super inspiring people.

My husband joined me after the conference and we travelled around the region, visiting Portland (Oregon), Olympic National Park, Vancouver Island and Vancouver in Canada, and stopping in a few places in between.

The landscapes were breathtaking – the vast wilderness of nature looked like something off an indie music album cover.

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And I loved the dynamic, creative energy of the Pacific West Coast as this region is called, especially the pride taken in making food and drinks that are ‘hand-crafted’ with love and a lot of attention to detail. Portland is even called ‘Beervana’ because of all the microbreweries there are! My husband took it as his mission to taste as many different beers as possible!

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We even did a coffee tour of Seattle independent coffee shops with a very coffee-passionate guide, learning about the various techniques for making coffee such as this drip coffee.

Ghost alley coffee

Inspired and moved by this, I started thinking: My work through Healthwise is also ‘hand-crafted’. This work truly matters to me and I put in a lot of love, care and attention to detail. Perhaps I could even say it is crafted with love?crafted with love

So I started thinking exactly what this looks like – and what matters to me most when ‘crafting’ individual sessions.

Here’s what I came up with:

♥ Providing a safe space in which my clients can step back and see things differently.

♥ Creating a judgement-free zone where my clients feel heard and supported, regardless of what they are going through.

♥ Helping my clients learn new ways of relating to their internal village of thoughts, feeling and sensations so they can drop the struggle with themselves. Much of the pain in life doesn’t have a ‘solution’ yet we can learn to relate to the pain differently.

♥ Creating a compassionate space where my clients also learn to bring themselves kindness, to better listen to their needs, to have their own back – whether or not they think they ‘deserve’ this.

♥ Helping my clients get unstuck and moving towards what matters to them. Because living with a genetic kidney disease myself, I realize that life is not unlimited, that we all have precious little time on this earth to do what matters to us, to be in the kind of relationships we truly desire, to live the life we really want to be living.

 I want to treat each session as if it were the last, to provide value in each session so that my clients leave with a small step to work towards or a new skill to practice.

Crafting with love is definitely something I want to keep being inspired by – isn’t it a beautiful way of approaching life and what we put out into the world?

Here are a few more photos:

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Hiba cafe

PS – If this inspires and you are interested in getting unstuck and moving towards what matters to you, please get in touch.

Dreams of Asia Noodle Soup

Asian noodle soupI just spent two wonderful weeks travelling in Myanmar with my husband. We hadn’t been to South East Asia in six years and so much has happened during these past years that in many ways, we felt we were discovering this region for the first time.

Newly opened to tourism, Myanmar is still largely unspoiled and this is particularly evident in the people we talked to who were all very curious and genuinely warm – I have included some photos at the end of this post.

Food-wise, we very much enjoyed eating lots and lots of vegetables, mostly in curries, stir-fries and noodle soups. Because Myanmar has historically had a lot of contact with India (being neighbours and all!), chickpeas are part of the diet and are particularly used roasted to add crunch, texture and protein. I recently discovered chickpea croutons (recipe below) and thought this could be a great way of adding non-animal protein to the soup without using tofu which I try to limit as it can have a hormonal effect on the body.

So here is my first attempt at re-creating a taste of my holiday: A noodle soup that is vegan, soy-free and gluten-free, made with black rice noodles. The taste comes from the combination of ginger, garlic, lemongrass and onion/scallion. The garnish at the end of lime, coriander and chili flakes also add a taste I find reminds me of this beautiful region.

The recipe is very versatile, so feel free to leave out the lemongrass or one of the garnishes and to use different vegetables. You can also just use water instead of coconut milk for a lighter soup.

Ingredients + Method – makes about 6 servings

2 stalks of lemongrass, peeled and finely chopped. This video explains how.

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 onion or scallion, finely chopped

about 15 grams fresh ginger, finely chopped

Prepare the above ingredients and stir fry in a large wok or sauce pan on medium to high eat in about 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil for a few minutes.

asian soup

To your wok, add the below vegetables, then add a little water – just enough to cover the bottom of the wok – and cover. This is an easy way to cook the vegetables by steaming them, which allows you to preserve the nutrients.  Feel free to use other vegetables if you prefer!

1 head broccoli (save the stem for a juice or smoothie) – in small bits

2 large carrots – chopped

1-2 large handfuls of kale or spinach (if using kale, remember to massage it!)

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While your vegetables are cooking, cook your noodles. I used a pack of black rice noodles, but you can use any noodles you want. Once they are ready, drain and set aside. In the same pot, heat a can of coconut milk on medium-low heat. Add water if you would like your noodle soup to be more watery.

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Once the vegetables are cooked and the coconut milk is warm, add the vegetables to the coconut milk and add salt, chili flakes and juice of 1-2 limes to taste.

Garnish bowls with scallions (green onions), coriander leaves and roasted chickpeas without any spice added (recipe below) for some added protein.

Chickpea croutons

Here a few photos of this beautiful country and its amazing people:

Myanmar Collage

This old woman was such an inspiration! We crossed paths while on a trek with the guide in the photo below – she was alone with her water buffalos, carrying her bottle of green tea. She proudly told us she was 65 and that she had so much energy because she ate rice three times a day…Not sure this is something I would recommend, but it clearly seems to work for her!

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6 Food Lessons from 6 Weeks in Dubai

I just spent six weeks in Dubai – a city I never desired to visit nor had any hope of loving. 

Yet when my husband was put on a work project here for 6 weeks, we thought it would be a unique experience to share together and I took time away from my sessions to join him.

Healthy living is a collection of small choices you make every day. Out of my normal home context, these decisions became much harder to make. And yet – sometimes letting go of good habits reminds us of why they are important to us in the first place.

So h
ere are some learnings from six weeks of eating away from home.

1. Sometimes, all you can do is your best

My eating was definitely not at the 80% is perfection I usually aim for – perhaps more 60% healthier options and 40% less healthy options. I ate a lot more dairy, white bread and sugar than I would at home and cooked a lot less than I usually do.

Rather than obsess over my less than stellar way of eating, I tried making more effort where I had more control: Home food preparation and by choosing the healthier option at restaurants – because as I have written before, there is always a healthier option. I also tried upgrading on food quality whenever possible, eating mindfully and listening to my body. These are choices that are almost always within our grasp, regardless of where or what we are eating.

Most importantly, I realized I was doing my best in the circumstances and that it was also important for me to be nourished by other aspects of life than just food – especially when being surrounded by so much newness.

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2. Sugar is a slippery slope

I have written my story of being addicted to sugar and I realized in Dubai how easy it is to go back down this path. Because our stay in Dubai had a holiday feel to it and sugar is very much linked to celebration and pleasure for me, I found myself ordering a cupcake or ice-cream as a ‘treat’ a few times. After all, it felt like a special occasion every day! And while this was in no way as extreme as when I was really addicted to sugar, it made me realize how quickly bad habits can creep up on healthy ones. It also reminded me of how addictive sugar can be and that the less I eat of it, the less I crave it.

After the second cupcake two days in a row, I realized I needed to find alternative ways of doing something nice for myself so I started becoming a little more creative and found other ways of bringing pleasure to my days – since pleasure is very much linked to sugar (sugar = pleasure for the body). These included discovering a new coffee shop, taking my laptop to the beach and working from there, getting a manicure or pedicure, going to a yoga or pilates class, going swimming, simply noticing the beauty around me, watching the sunset or journaling.

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3. Vegetables are the greatest losers

I find that the hardest food group to get enough of when eating out a lot is vegetables. My solution to this was to try and eat as many vegetables as possible at home and to have a fresh vegetable juice whenever I could find one or even a fresh coconut juice. I also ate more fruits than I normally would as it was an easy way to get more nutrients and it felt very natural in such a hot climate.

Still, I very much missed my almost-daily smoothie as an easy way of adding more vegetables, especially green ones, to my diet!

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4. Intuitive eating is more important than just eating healthy

I tried viewing my not always so healthy eating experience as an experiment and an opportunity to be in tune with my body through intuitive eating rather than as a failure in healthy eating.

When I paid attention, I noticed that there really is a difference between living food and ‘dead’ food. My body felt more alive and vibrant after eating zucchini noodles at a raw food restaurant than it did after eating regular pasta – even though the regular pasta tasted delicious. Being attentive to how my body felt after eating something as opposed to whether it simply tasted good in the moment helped me make healthier choices, even in the face of temptation.

raw food

5. Food FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is very real

When you are on holiday or somewhere for a limited time and there is a lot of food you want to taste, there is definite FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out.

I found FOMO to be especially strong in a buffet setting where you have unlimited choice. Buffets are quite popular in Dubai and we ended up going to three of them. I ate too much at the first one and ended up feeling bad the rest of the day, so the following times, I made it a point to really listen to my body. Here are some guidelines I found helpful:

♥ Eat only what you REALLY REALLY want – not food that might be interesting but that doesn’t light you up.

♥ Have very small portions – realize you can always have more if you want.

♥ Slow down and eat mindfully – take your time and really taste the food.

♥ Listen to your body and honour your hunger signals over finishing your plate or trying everything out.

♥ Don’t fill up on things like bread or rice (unless they really light you up).

♥ Don’t eat food you can have anytime or somewhere else – eat only what feels unique and special to this buffet.

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6. Eating alone can be enjoyable

I had never ordered a meal and eaten out alone and often find it more difficult to eat mindfully when I am alone. I decided to take this on as an experiment, asking myself: I wonder what it will be like to take myself out for lunch and really enjoy my food without distractions?

Even though it was uncomfortable in the beginning and difficult to keep my phone away, eating alone has now become a source of pleasure for me. I started to appreciate it as a way of connecting to myself and my food without distractions – and it also made me appreciate eating with others even more at other occasions.

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PS – While I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Dubai, it was also a productive time for Healthwise. I finished the first draft of an Online Mindful Eating program to launch in January and updated the Healthier Christmas Cookies eBook which will be out next week – make sure you are signed-up for my newsletter to receive it. I also started blogging for the Huffington Post – read my articles here.

 

Healthy Eating Away from Home

Eating out and still eating healthy

It is summer and between travelling and going out, there seem to be more occasions to eat out, wouldn’t you say? Healthy eating away from home doesn’t have to be complicated, unhealthy or boring though. Below are my three main guidelines for eating in restaurants or while traveling and still eating healthy, plus a few additional tips.

Guideline 1: If it is a special occasion, enjoy it and enjoy the company

If you are eating well at least 80% of the time, you have room for indulgence – especially since being with people you love and having a great time is just as important for your health as what you eat. Remember that 80% is perfection.

So if it is your birthday or a special occasion, focus on enjoyment more than on eating healthy. There is no point in having a salad and feeling frustrated. Remember that this is a way of life, not a diet.

Guideline 2: If it is not a special occasion, always make the healthiest choice possible in the context you are in

Cultivate the habit of always choosing the most healthy (or least unhealthy) choice available. Don’t let yourself off the hook just because there isn’t anything you would classify as really ‘healthy’. There is always a ‘healthier’ option and this can actually end up making a big difference in the long run, especially if you eat out a lot.

I find this is especially important in places like airports where healthy choices are quite limited. Choosing nuts or a banana over chips or a chocolate bar is often an option though!

Guideline 3: Always choose the highest quality version of a food you can find and afford

When traveling, instead of obsessing about WHAT you eat, focus instead on eating the best quality possible, regardless of whether you are eating cake or bacon or bread.

This means reading labels, choosing organic and local whenever possible and above all, food that was grown or raised in the best conditions possible. A good question to ask yourself is: If this food could tell a story, what story would it tell?

This is actually a guideline I try to stick to whenever I choose food. As Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating states, “Eating quality food is perhaps the most powerful and foolproof nutritional strategy we can choose.”

If you stick to these three basic guidelines, you should be covered for most eating out occasions. Below are a few additional tips to help out:

Stop eating when you are full

We tend to associate an empty plate with being full, but if you listen to your body’s signals, you might actually feel full before that.

Be clear with your waiter if you need to avoid certain ingredients

Tell your waiter this is a serious food allergy so that you are taken seriously. You can provide a list of ingredients you need to avoid and this can even be translated into the local language.

When I was travelling in countries like China and Japan, I asked at the first hotel we stayed in for the staff to write for me “I don’t eat meat, fish or chicken” on a paper which I kept with me and showed at restaurants where the staff didn’t speak English. This always brought a few sniggers from the staff but at least I had a meal I could eat!

Research restaurants in advance

Most restaurants have their menus posted on their website. For vegetarian or healthier options which often also cater to food allergies, try www.happycow.com.

Pick the right type of cuisine

If you are avoiding gluten and dairy for example, Asian restaurants have more choice than Italian restaurants.

Construct your custom meal

Most restaurants are more flexible than we expect. Pick a few ingredients from the menu and construct your own dish. Don’t be afraid to ask for changes to an order – such as vegetables with steak instead of fries. You can always take inspiration from Meg Ryan ordering food in the movie When Harry Met Sally!

When traveling, bring some of your own food that you can snack on or eat when there aren’t a lot of options

Good choices include raw, unsalted nuts and seeds, fruit and healthier crackers.

If you need to, don’t hesitate to bring your own ingredients

For example, if you are intolerant to gluten, bring your own gluten-free crackers and have them with the hotel breakfast instead of bread.

Avoid sauces, dressings, and dips

They are usually laden with hidden sugars, unhealthy oils or preservatives. Ask for olive oil and lemon instead of dressing or ask for them on the side and add just a little instead of having a salad drowning in unhealthy sauce.

If you are eating at a friend’s or at a potluck, offer to bring something healthy that you can eat

Examples include humus with vegetable sticks, a lentil salad or my secret ingredient chocolate pie for dessert.

I would love to hear from you – how do you eat out and still eat healthy?

Travel is an Attitude

Travel is an attitudeFive years ago, my husband and I took a six month travel sabbatical from the corporate world, backpacking and camping through several countries in Africa, Asia and Oceania. To say this experience was life-changing does not do it justice – we now talk about life ‘Before and After Sabbatical’!

Yet the biggest shift this trip brought on was in our attitude to travel. Before this sabbatical, travel was just something we did 2 weeks of the year while we were away from home – 2 weeks during which we would fully live, while the rest of the year was mostly just work.

After 6 months of almost non-stop travel, we came to a strange conclusion: We realized that traveling is about more than just being in a different place – true travel is an attitude. So we came up with a ‘Keep Traveling’ mantra – a way of applying our favorite aspects of travel to our everyday lives.

If you are longing to travel, here are five ways to do it without leaving home!

1. ‘Keep traveling’ means embracing fear as a necessary part of growth

Travel forces us to take a small step – or many steps – away from our comfort zone, and stepping away from our comfort zone is where the magic happens. It’s where we discover sides to ourselves we didn’t even know existed.

Everyday life provides plenty of opportunities to push past our fears – from letting go of something or someone that no longer serves you, to saying no to someone and standing up for yourself. And despite how uncomfortable, and well, scary, fear can be, it is also a sign that we are growing and moving forward in life.

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2. ‘Keep traveling’ means being open to new experiences wherever we are

Travel enables us to experience new things – both man made and natural. Seeing kangaroos on a beach at sunrise, taking a helicopter ride or experiencing Angkor Wat at sunset is awe-inspiring.

Daily life provides plenty of opportunities for new experiences IF we create them. These can be as small as trying a new restaurant rather than always going to the same ones, taking that dance class you’ve been meaning to take, learning a new language, reading a book or shaking up your eating habits.

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3. ‘Keep traveling’ sees differences as enriching, rather than threatening

Travel opens our minds to different ways of doing things. It gently (or sometimes not so gently) takes us by the hand and reveals that other ways, beliefs and attitudes exist – and that they, too, are valid. In doing so, it provides the opportunity to re-examine our own beliefs and habits.

In everyday life, we are faced with different beliefs and attitudes all around us, but we don’t choose to see these as intriguing – annoying can be a more apt description. Yet we can always choose to be open to differences in opinions and values that come from our family or co-workers. Accepting them with the same openness and curiosity we show ‘foreign’ cultures can be a novel experience.

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4. ‘Keep traveling’ means being open to connection

Away from the cocoon of our known lives, we are more vulnerable and open, both with people we know and people we don’t. And while we rarely stay in touch with those we meet, for a brief moment, we have walked along the same path, and this interaction leaves us all the richer. It acts as a humble reminder, as Maya Angelou says, that “we are more alike than we are unalike” despite the apparent differences.

We don’t actually need to physically travel to connect with people or be more open and vulnerable with those around us. We can choose to live with open hearts every day even if this makes us more vulnerable. Why not bring the same relaxed and laid-back attitude we have on holiday when dealing with the people around us?

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5. ‘Keep traveling’ means taking the necessary distance from life

Being able to briefly press the pause button on everyday routines provides a bird’s eye view of life.Travel enables us to assess what matters most, to re-evaluate our priorities and what we want or need to change in our daily lives.

And here I concede that a change in environment is helpful – but so is journaling, meditating or simply leaving more space to just BE so you can gain some distance from life.

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How will you ‘Keep traveling’ in your everyday life?

Food Glorious Food in London

I just spent a few days in London with my husband, enjoying impressive exhibitions, dizzying shopping and of course, glorious food.

Travel is always an opportunity to try new food so I took some photos for a little culinary inspiration!

A big trend at the moment in healthy food is the Vegan Raw Food Movement where food is not cooked above 42 degrees centigrade to preserve nutrients and enzymes. I find the focus on plant-based, unprocessed foods very appealing and was curious to try a restaurant serving only raw foods. If you are interested, I share some of my tried and tested recipes for raw desserts here.

Lets start with some raw food photos:

Raw crackers made from seeds and avocado

Raw crackers create an avocado ‘sandwich’ @ 42 Raw

The Danish restaurant 42 Raw

Raw food restaurant 42 Raw

Raw noodles made of shredded carrots and zucchini instead of pasta

Noodles made from shredded carrots and zucchini instead of pasta were surprisingly good @ 42 Raw

Raw chocolate cake

Raw chocolate cake @ Down to Earth Café

 

And here are photos of some more delicious food: 

Vegetarian Pad Thai at Wagamama

Vegetarian Pad Thai @ Wagamama

Grilled vegetarian dumplings at Wagamama

Grilled vegetarian dumplings @ Wagamama

Quinoa with a Halloumi cheese and pepper pie

Quinoa with a Halloumi cheese and pepper pie at Down to Earth Café

A healthier English breakfast

A healthier English breakfast at Down to Earth Café

Sweet potatoes Indian style at Chakra

Sweet potatoes Indian style @ Chakra

In addition to eating well, we also explored Whole Foods Market, the American health-mecca, and Borough Market, one of the best food markets I have ever been to. Here are some photos of Borough Market:

Borough Market

Borough Market

Wheatgrass about to be juiced

Wheatgrass about to be juiced

Pumpkin & squash

Pumpkin & squash

Different types of onions

Different types of onions

Fresh fruit and veg

Fresh fruit and veg

Love this old sign

Love this old sign