I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell - Matchbox 20, Unwell
As Mental Health Week draws to a close, I thought I'd take this time to share a few things I've learned through living with, studying and helping others with mental health difficulties.
Unlike Charlie Brown above, I don't know that I've ever been cheered up by someone else's depression, but even after all these years, I can still find comfort in knowing that I'm not alone. However, that thought also brings me to my first point.
As I write I'm starting to realize that I could go on forever with this. It's been just over 10 years since my first diagnosis, but looking back, I think I lived with a lot of my mental health problems most of my life, I just didn't realize it. And in that time, I believe I've learned and experienced a lot. I may have to do a follow-up piece to prevent this from going on and on. I do hope that you found this to be helpful and informative. And please, if you are struggling with a mental health problem and don't know where to turn or don't know what to do next, do reach out to me or to someone else. I don't have all the answers, but if I can't help you directly, I'm sure I can point you in the right direction.
I have to admit, the shakes and smoothies I make on an daily basis will never win any awards. They're not rich and creamy like the ones you see on everyone else's blog. You see, I treat my smoothies as a chance to cram a whole pile of nutrients into one meal and tend to over-do it on the vegetables. But, I don't mind at all, even if I occasionally have to chew my drink. However, I realize most people would prefer something a little more indulgent or at least palatable, so I thought I'd draw on my experience as a shake and smoothie expert (aka that one summer during uni that I worked in an ice cream store) to teach you how to make the best smoothie ever.
Start with good ingredients. Use fresh or frozen produce and quality powders and oils. I'll be honest, it takes a lot of work to mask the taste of a nasty protein powder and you can never really hide the grit. I usually use an unflavoured or vanilla whey powder, as I find they give me the most versatility.
I find it best to freeze some ingredients first, usually I choose the fruit. If you want, you can use ice cubes to make it cold, but remember that they add to the overall volume of the drink, so adjust yourself accordingly.
If you want your drink to be smooth and creamy, make sure you're using some soluble fibre. The banana is the gold standard here and is also popular for its sweetness, but you can choose berries, passion fruit, and oranges to help improve texture. Another option is to use about one tablespoon of ground chia seeds per serving. You want to make sure they're ground first, so they don't just stick to the sides of the blender and your glass. They also pack in a ton of nutrition and healthy oils, so why not.
If you're looking for a silky texture, you may want to add in some healthy fat. Here, half an avocado works wonders, and it's also a source of soluble fibre, so it does double duty. You can also use a bit of your favorite nut butter or some coconut oil. Also, consider your main liquid. I generally use water, but if you prefer, you can try almond milk or coconut milk for an even smoother experience.
So, what about sweetness? A lot of recipes call for a bit of honey or stevia and that works, but I prefer to get my sweetness from the fruit I use. In the off chance I'm not using fruit , making a chocolate shake, for example, I'd probably choose a banana or a few dates to sweeten the drink naturally. If you're looking to mask a taste you really don't enjoy, pineapple is your new best friend. It carries a lot of sweetness and helps to cover up the ick quite well.
Now, the process. I like to start with my liquid and then add my frozen fruit, so it has a chance to thaw and cool the liquid as I add everything else. However, if I'm using a lot of greens or other vegetables, I'll use the blender to chop those up first, using just enough liquid to get the job done. Then I'll add in the fruit, seeds, oils and so on. I generally chop again, then switch to a blend or puree setting, after everything starts to look pretty uniform. If you find you have too much liquid in the end, again, the fibre can help to absorb this, so toss in a few more berries, or seeds and blend some more. If your drink is too thick, that's an easy fix, just add a bit more milk or water and blend again. Only use a small amount and keep blending to check for consistency, it's very easy to over do it.
And that's about it. If you're lucky, you'll come up with something that's both nutritious and delicious maybe resembling the drink below. Can you think of anything I missed? Feel free to tell me your smoothie best practices in the comments below.
Final thought, I know everyone is raving about high speed blenders these days, and I'm sure they're great, but you can still get an awesome drink from your everyday blender. The one I have in my kitchen is just like the one you see below and I find it's one of the best I've owned. It's the Oster 8-speed blender and sells pretty cheap.
Best tricks and tips for natural allergy relief
Although the ground outside is covered in snow, the calendar says spring is here. And with that, I have to believe that spring allergy season is right around the corner. Flowers will bloom and trees will blossom, eventually, I'm sure. So with that, to help you prepare, some tips for combating allergies naturally.
If you have any other tried and true tricks for fighting allergies naturally, please feel free to leave a comment below or let me know and I'll try to add your tip to the list.
Further Reading and Resources:
Nutritional Support For Children With Asthma
Diet, wheeze and atopy in school children in Menorca, Spain.
Protective effect of fruits, vegetables, and the Mediterranean diet on asthma and allergies among children in Crete.
The following information was prepared for my first ever public speaking event as an RHN. I spoke to a members of a running clinic on nutrition for active living and the nuts and bolts of adrenal fatigue. I found this in my archives this morning and didn't totally cringe when I read it, so I figured it was worth a share here.
During my first year of practice as a nutritional consultant I was surprised at how many of my clients really didn't need me. Many people I saw had good grasp of their nutritional needs and seemed to be looking for confirmation in that. Also, they were looking for small tweaks to help them drop a few more pounds or boost their energy even more, and that's great!
It seems however, that a lot of people still don't realize how much even small changes in diet can affect your overall health and well being. Most of us only look to change what we eat when we find our pants fitting a little tighter or our doctor has given us reason to change. And I realize that part of this is because most of us like what we eat and don't want to change, and that is fair enough. But I work with so many people who find themselves amazed with the little things they can do that get great results.
I have a friend who was never an official client, but commented to me a few years back that he was having lots of problems with nasal congestion and was awaiting surgery for a deviated septum. My first response was, do you eat a lot of dairy? And his was, no, not really, just milk on cereal, cheese on pizza, this and that. But as we talked, it worked out to him having some milk product every day. I suggested he try switching to almond milk for a while, and guess what? It worked. He found himself not only enjoying the almond milk more than dairy, but he found that he could breathe more clearly, sleep better and was no longer in a big hurry for the surgery. Besides that, he also found that he was able to enjoy the occasional piece of pizza or dairy snack here and there without too much of a flare up.
This may seem like a minor thing, but it made a big difference in his life and it happens a lot. A lot of my clients don't need radical overhauls, they just need minor adjustments. So, how do you know if you need a nutritional change?
There are lots of reasons to want to tweak your diet and here are some of the more common things that can be significantly influenced by even minor changes.
I know this is a long list, but these are things I see on a regular basis that can really be improved by diet. Often you many not even have to give up your favorite foods entirely or on a long term basis.
If you feel like maybe it is time for a change, feel free to get in touch. I'm always willing to do a complimentary email or phone Q&A to see if my services are right for you.
You know the one I mean? The one grabbing all the headlines this week, suggesting that all you have to do to lose weight is increase your fibre intake? It was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and you can read the abstract here. Well I thought I'd look into it and offer you up my thoughts.
The study looked at 240 adults with metabolic syndrome, meaning they were medically obese and presenting with related conditions including: poor insulin sensitivity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The intent of the study was to evaluate if altering a single component of the diet, in this case, increasing dietary fibre could be as effective as a multi-faceted approach. In this case, the more complicated approach was American Heart Association's (AHA) dietary guidelines which involve calorie counting, monitoring fat intakes and so on. And the good news is, the simpler approach was effective, and according to some, almost as effective, as the multifaceted approach. But here's where the headlines go awry.
After participating in the study for one year the AHA diet group lost an average of almost 6 pounds while those increasing their fibre lost just over 5.5 pounds. WTF? After one year, this was the only measurable weight loss? I find this to be very concerning, especially considering the press this study is getting in terms of weight loss.
Now, this is not at all to blame the researchers. Their mandate was to compare the two approaches and offer insight into better patient compliance. My issue is that this small study has already been extrapolated into plugging fibre as a weight loss tool. Now, this is not to suggest that most people can't benefit from increasing their fibre intake, they can. And dietary fibre intake is important for both health and weight loss, but as seen from the results above, it is not a quick fix.
Further, without specifying the best food sources for dietary fibre, people may seek out processed whole grain products or sugar laden fibre bars and supplements (Fibre One and Meta, I'm looking at you) which may be more damaging to health and may in fact increase weight gain.
I think that this also speaks health and nutrition practitioners such as myself. If I had a client who was obese and needed to lose weight for health preservation, I would consider myself and my protocol a failure if after a full year only a 5 or 6 pound weight loss was produced. I would certainly like to see a client improve his or her health status and weight loss by much more over the course of 12 months.
And as a final point, I think if we, as practitioners are giving clients diet plans that are too complicated to follow, that do not result in compliance or net results, then shame on us. It is definitely time to improve our approach, as those who entrust us with their health care depend on it.
Please feel free to share your comments below.
You may also like: Healthy tips for getting more fiber in your diet.
What are the best oils for skin and hair care?
Last week my hair was really starting to show the effects of the cold, dry, winter air, so I decided an oil treatment was in order. I've been doing these off and on since I was a kid using, first with the old VO5 hot oil tubes, then on to baby oil (yuck, I know) when I was in university and couldn't get my hands on the VO5, and now a variety of more natural oils. In this post, I've decided to share with your some of my favorites for both skin and hair care.
Sweet almond oil. I bought a big bottle of this a couple of years ago and fell in love. It's virtually odourless, which is a big plus for somewhat scent sensitive me, and it is very nourishing and hydrating for both hair and skin. I use it on its own mostly, but sometimes blend in a little essential oil. I also find it great for making salt or sugar scrubs. The one downside is it does not absorb into the skin as readily as I'd like. This would make it a great massage oil, I'm sure, but using it sometimes left me concerned about staining clothing and furniture while I waited to dry.
Grape seed oil. I have to say that this is my new favourite for skin and hair care alike. When I used it on my hair it was much easier to wash out than the sweet almond oil and left less of a residue. Even with that, I found it to be just as hydrating and effective. For skin care I've only used it a handful of times. Again, it's virtually scent free and I find it absorbs more easily into my skin. It is very light and I even find myself using it on my face. If you're not ready to go into full on oil mode, it would be a great oil to add to your favorite moisturizer for some extra hydration.
Coconut Oil. This oil's been all the rage for a while now and I am a fan. Honestly though, I prefer to eat it than use it on my skin. I do have some set aside with some cocoa butter that I intend to use for making body butter someday, but I think for skin and hair, I prefer grape seed and sweet almond oils. Also, quality coconut oil is significantly more expensive than the others, so I'm more apt to use it for cooking and baking. I'd like to point out too that some people find coconut oil to be comedogenic (pore clogging) and that's something to consider if you're acne prone. But it is an effective moisturizer for both skin and hair and is also very popular for soothing skin after shaving.
So those are my top three oils. Caveat here, I am not a skincare expert and this post is entirely based on my experience. Feel free to drop your thoughts in the comments and let me know if you've tired these oils or if you have other skin or haircare favorites.
If you find you're suffering from low energy more often than you'd like, I'd be happy to work with you to see if your diet or lifestyle can be tweaked to get you feeling like your most fabulous self. You can contact me here.
Feel free to drop your tips and tricks for boosting energy in the comments below, I'd love to hear what works for you.
Group fitness classes are a fun and effective way to get in shape and stay in shape. But in a class environment, it can be hard to tell if you’re getting your best workout. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your group ex experience.
1. Exercise at an off-peak time, especially if you’re new. Finding a class that’s not too full is important. A crowded room can make it hard for you to follow the instructor. Also, while you may like to blend into the crowd, if the room is very full, you’re probably not going to have the room to really get into your moves.
2. Don’t be afraid to up the intensity. As instructors, we’re trained to teach at a moderate level for the class and show both easier and harder modifications. That being said, most people in the class will follow the instructor, exactly, but you don’t have to. As an instructor, I love to see participants really get into class and push their limits. Remember, it may be my class, but it’s your workout.
3. Focus on the class. Hopefully you’re really able to get into what you’re doing and leave distractions at the door. It’s great to clear your head, but don’t let your mind wander too far from your workout.
4. Focus on the movements. Don’t just go through the motions or rely on momentum. Feel. Every. Move. Squat deeper, push harder, imagine the air as resistance and focus on the muscles you’re working to up the intensity.
5. Ask questions. If you’re really struggling, especially with equipment, don’t be shy. If the class is choreography-based and you can’t pick up a step, do what you can and make the most of it. Master the feet then add the arms, or step touch to the beat and get your upper body going. In time, it will all come together.
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Hi, I'm Shara Vickers, a Nutritional Health and Fitness Specialist located in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Please have a look around to find out more about my approach to health and the coaching and consulting services I offer to both local and long-distance clients.