Protein myths & facts

Protein myths & facts

Everywhere you look today you see products with added protein advertised to us as some kind of new super food. There are a lot of myths surrounding protein and how much we actually need each day, so I thought I’d address some of the myths and add some facts so there’s no more confusion.

What are the symptoms of protein deficiency?
Protein deficiency in countries like Australia and New Zealand are quite rare, but they do occur in individuals who have trouble with digesting food such as the elderly as well as those having restrictive diets or certain medical conditions. Protein deficiency can effect brain development in children, can compromise the immune system as well as affect the gut mucosal function (digestion and absorption of nutrients and defending against bacteria).

Symptoms of protein deficiency include:
– Stunted growth in children (a common sign in malnutrition)
– Loss of muscle mass, especially in the elderly
– Fatty liver
– Increased risk of fractures
– Skin, nail and hair problems, especially brittle nails, flaky skin and hair loss. These symptoms can also be caused by other medical issues so it’s important to see a Dr to find the reason behind it. These symptoms only occur in extreme protein deficiency.
– Oedema which is a classic symptom seen in kwashiorkor (puffy, swollen skin)
– Increased risk of infection and increased severity of infections (decreased immunity)

Do I need a protein supplement?
Chances are the answer to that question is no. We consume protein throughout the day, we just don’t always realise the food we eat contains protein. The oats, banana and milk of our breakfast, the peanut butter on our sandwich at lunch, the almonds of our afternoon snack and the broccoli, sweet potatoes, spinach and chickpeas we had at dinner all contain protein, just different amounts. This all adds up during the day, so if you eat a varied, healthy diet the risk of you being protein deficient, even if you eat a plant based diet is incredibly small.

So what does this mean for all our added protein foods on the supermarket shelves? You don’t need them. Even protein shakes, the average person doesn’t need to drink them. Most of us are already getting more than the recommended daily intake for protein, and in fact a diet high in protein can come with some risks.

Risks of a high protein diet:
While it’s important we all have protein in our diet, there are also risks of having a high protein diet. These risks include:
– Constipation (protein is low in fibre and in diets that also restrict carbohydrates constipation can become a serious problem)
– Diarrhoea (due to the lack of fibre and if a lot of your meals are heavily processed)
– Weight gain
– Kidney damage (for people with pre-existing kidney problems, a high protein diet can lead to kidney damage)
– Increased risk of heart disease
– Calcium loss

How much protein do I need to eat?
Most people tend to think we need to eat a lot more protein than in generally recommended. It’s important to note however that our protein needs change over time and increases slightly as we get older. For the average adult female the daily recommended intake is 46g, while for men its 64g. Once we get to about 70 years and older, that intake increases slightly to 57g for women and 81g for men.

For children the intake is much less and which is why we don’t recommend added proteins in their diet like protein smoothies. Children aged 1 to 3 years only need 14g of protein a day and those aged 4 to 8 only need 20g a day. As they get older, they protein intakes increase slightly, with girls aged 9 to 13 years requiring 35g and boys of the same age requiring 40g. The recommended protein intake again increases slightly in the 14 to 18 years age group with girls recommended 45g a day and boys 65g a day. After that the intake for men decreases slightly to the recommended 64g a day. Protein requirements also change depending on whether you’re breastfeeding. For more information on the different recommended daily protein intakes for different age groups, pregnancy and breastfeeding, head over to the Nutrient Reference Values website for Australia and New Zealand.

Good sources of protein?
There are plenty of good unprocessed sources for protein we can include in our diet including plant based options. Good protein sources include:
– Grass-fed lean meats like beef or poultry
– Dairy products like cottage cheese and Greek yogurt
– Legumes like chickpeas, lentils and other beans
– Soy products like tofu
– Nuts and seeds like sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, cashews, macadamias, hazelnuts, pine nuts, and sesame seeds
– Eggs
– Wild caught fish (it is becoming more difficult to find sustainable, wild caught fish, so make sure your fish is from a sustainable source if you choose to consume fish)

Remember, you are eating different food throughout the day, so you shouldn’t be eating your daily recommended protein intake in one meal. Spacing out your intakes also helps better with digestion and absorption.

If you’re worried about your protein intake you can always contact a University qualified nutritionist (like myself) to have a look at your daily food intake to calculate if you’re getting the right amount of protein in your diet.

Tips for creating a home yoga practice

Tips for creating a home yoga practice

Find a space
It doesn’t have to be a large space complete with calming water feature and widows that look out over the ocean. A corner in your bedroom, the kitchen or lounge will work just as well. Make sure you have enough space to move around it safely and that you don’t have any distractions within arm’s length.

Props
I absolutely love using props, but it doesn’t mean you need fancy or expensive ones. If you don’t have yoga blocks at home, you can always use thick, sturdy books or even a chair for standing poses. For a bolster, use a rolled up blanket or some pillows to give you support. You also don’t need a yoga mat. In India, many people practice on cotton mats, so if it’s comfortable for you, you can practice on the carpet, a wooden floor, on a towel. Just make sure you’re not slipping and sliding around and that you have a firm base of support. You also don’t need an fancy yoga strap. An old tie, a scarf or towel works just as well.

Be realistic
We’d all love to set aside an hour or longer to practice yoga, but the reality of practicing at home means lots of distractions. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes initially and move through poses you’re familiar with. I always recommend Sun Salutes as it’s a set sequence and you can practice any of the variations safely at home.

Noise
Having family members in another room or loud neighbours can sometimes be distracting. Don’t let that dissuade you. Sometimes it’s good practice to try and practice with life happening all around us. If you find it’s too much of a distraction, you can always opt for some calm background music to try and drown out the noise. If you don’t feel like searching for a playlist, you can easily find mine on Spotify.

Be consistent
The only way to have a regular home practice is to commit to practicing regularly. Schedule in some time each week when you know you’ll have a spare moment for your practice. It can be once a week or if you’re lucky, even more. On the days you might not feel like doing a physical practice, try one of the other limbs of yoga such as Meditation or Pranayama.

Yoga at your fingertips
If you’re struggling to practice at home, you can always try online yoga. There are plenty of yoga teachers and studios offering classes online. We are now able to practice with teachers we only dreamt of before. It’s also a great option if you find it easier to follow someone leading a practice compared to following your own sequence.

Pets
If your pets are anything like my cats, as soon as you settle on the mat they’ll want to join in. Usually I don’t mind as they tend to stay close to the mat while I’m practicing a more flowing practice, and then want to cuddle up during a more restorative practice or Savasana. If you find it distracting or dangerous (beware the pets that love to weave in between your feet), it might be best to close the door for the duration of the practice and keep them out of the space.

Have fun
One of the highlights of my home practice for me is that I can sometimes just have fun and experiment a little. There’s no one to see you lose your balance. Have a giggle, try a variation of a pose and take your time. There’s no rush here, so you can really settle into a pose and listen to the feedback your body is giving you.

So as you can see, you don’t need much to set up a home yoga practice. All that’s needed is for you to show up.

Food to help support your mental health

Food to help support your mental health

DISCLAIMER: I just thought I’d post this little disclaimer in case it wasn’t obvious. This isn’t an alternative option to seeking help, stopping your medication or treatment plan. Instead, adding these foods to your diet should be seen as a complimentary practice. Always check with your medical practitioner before you’re going to change your diet as certain foods can influence the metabolism of some medication.

There’s been quite a bit of research over the last few years on whether or not diet can assist in improving mental health, especially depression. Research has shown that the Mediterranean Diet can have potentially have a positive impact on mental health. You’re incorporating healthier food options into your diet while eating less or eliminating the more unhealthy ones. So what food should you include in your diet to help assist your mental health?

Colourful fruits and veg
As they say, ‘eat the rainbow’. Increasing your vegetable and fruit intake and making sure they come in a variety of colours will not only make sure you’re getting in plenty of gut loving fibre, but also anti-oxidants and a wide range of nutrients and minerals. Fruit and vegetables also consist of complex carbohydrates, which one of the most important energy sources for your brain. It also stabilises your body’s blood sugar reducing the risk of the 3pm sugar craving.

Wholegrains and fibre rich food
Dietary fibre plays an important role in the human body. Not only does it feed our healthy gut bugs and promote a healthy digestive system, soluble fibre has also been proven to help reduce cholesterol. Wholegrains also release a type of amino acid which triggers your body to produce serotonin which can help with sleep and mood improvement. So what foods should you include? Think leafy green veg like kale, legumes, brown rice and quinoa.

Maintaining healthy gut bacteria
Recent studies have shown a link between gut health and mental health. This is why it’s so important to make sure the food we eat will help our guts maintain healthy gut bacteria. Too many sugary processed foods starve the healthy gut bacteria and instead feed the unhealthy ones which can lead to an imbalance. Symptoms can include bloating, stomach cramps and feeling sluggish, but it can also affect our mental health. Eating colourful fruit and veg, wholegrains and fibre rich foods are a great way to encourage healthy gut bacteria. Probiotics is a great way to promote a healthy gut. You can include fermented foods rich in probiotics such as kimchi, sauerkraut and yogurt. If you opt for yogurt, make sure it is the correct type, as lots of yogurts these days

Things to eat less of:
Alcohol can have a negative effect on our sleep. You might think it’s making you sleepy and it’ll help you fall asleep, but not only does it affect our mental health (it’s a central nervous system depressant), it also interferes with our biological clocks (circadian rhythm) which can lead to sleep disorders such as insomnia.

Eating too many sugary treats aren’t only bad for our healthy gut bacteria, it can also trigger a chemical imbalance in the brain which can cause depression. Keep the added sugar to the odd treat.

Saturated fats, while delicious, can be bad for brain function. Studies have also shown people who have diets high in saturated fats (think processed foods and take aways) are more likely to suffer from depression. While the odd take away won’t be the end of the world, limiting saturated fats in our diets can be beneficial for our physical as well as our mental health.

Diet can be an important tool to assist us in improving our mental health.

5 Tips for staying healthy over the Festive Season

5 Tips for staying healthy over the Festive Season

Aaah, the holidays. A time of indulgence, where justifying having just one more plate comes easy. There are however some very easy ways to try and celebrate in a more healthy way without sacrificing fun.

Stay hydrated:
It sounds obvious, but how many times do we start off with good intentions only to wake up the next day feeling worse for wear? Make sure you have some water on you during the day and take regular sips, even on the days you don’t have anything planned. This will make sure your body stays hydrated. If you’re having any alcoholic drinks, make sure you have a glass of water for every alcoholic drink you have. Not only will your body thank you for it, if you’re out having drinks, your wallet will thank you too.

Choose healthy options:
If you’re making a big feast, make sure you include some healthy options. Not everything on the table has to indulgent. Include plenty of veggies and make sure you have plenty of greens as well to have along with your roast. Same goes for any festive parties if you’re somewhere where this can be done safely. If you know you’ve got a work function or catch up with friends but you’re unsure if there will be any healthy food options, make sure you eat before you arrive. That way you can have a few bites, but you won’t be so hungry that you end up eating too many unhealthy treats.

Don’t give up:
Just because you had one (ok, maybe more than one) days of unhealthy eating and little movement doesn’t mean you now have to give up trying to be a little healthier. Just accept that sometimes we might want to enjoy a special occasion with friends and family and can’t always make sure there are healthy options available. The next day get back to your usual healthy food choices and make sure to get some exercise in. Life’s all about balance.

Move your body:
Many of us tend to exercise less over the festive period due to an increase of parties. This year however we might be spending less time socialising and more time at home due to current Covid-19 restrictions. It’s tempting to limit our movements from the chair where we’re working from home to the couch where we’re watching Love Actually for the 4th time this week, but getting some movement each day will help you feel energised and during your day and a lot less guilty when you have your advent calendar chocolate each night. You don’t need a gym membership or even need to head outside to be active. Put on your favourite playlist and have a solo dance party at home, or hop onto YouTube and choose one of the many free workout or yoga classes available there. There’s also plenty local yoga teachers and fitness instructors who are offering online options for their classes.

You can’t eat it if you haven’t bought it:
How many of us buy treats with the idea that we’ll spread it out over the next few weeks and then find ourselves 20 minutes later with it all in our bellies? We’ve all been there and the current uncertainty around lockdowns and restrictions isn’t helping. The best advice someone once gave me was that if you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it. I make sure to make some healthier sweet treat options (recipe for my raw chocolate brownies here), but they’re usually quite filling and rich in fiber which means you can’t eat too many. There are no lollies or chips or cookies in my cupboards, mainly because I know if it’s there, I’d be snacking on unhealthy treats all day. Instead, if that 3pm sweet treat craving hits, I’ll first have a glass of water as often I’m actually thirsty, not hungry. If that doesn’t do the trick, I’ll have some fruit or one of my healthier sweet treats to tie me over.

While these tips are relatively easy to incorporate, the most important thing to remember is that if you do happen to overindulge, accept it and move on. There’s no point in obsessing over it or remaining negative about it. We’re all human. Instead focus on moving forward and getting back to incorporating a healthy diet and movement into your day.

Ideas to help you celebrate a very different festive season

Ideas to help you celebrate a very different festive season

Many of us are facing cancelled holiday plans this year. Some of us might have the city or country they live in on lockdown, others might live far away from family and won’t be able to travel due to restrictions. This doesn’t mean you have to cancel the holiday season and can’t have fun with friends and family, even if you’re celebrating away from each other. Not sure how to do it? My husband and I have been celebrating the holidays on our own ever since moving overseas and we’ve come up with a few of our own traditions over the years to make the season feel more magical. Most of these tips are based on celebrating Yule / Christmas, but you can easily adjust them to fit Hanukkah or any other festive celebration. Here are some ideas on celebrating away from friends and family:

Decorate your space:
You might not have anyone come over this year or only have people in your bubble pop by, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still decorate. Getting cosy each night (even here in Australia when we usually have to have the aircon on) with the tree lights and candles really help shift my mood. Get all your favourite decorations out. The added bonus is you can decorate however you want without judgement from others. If you’re sharing a space with family, house or flat mates, make a fun evening out of it. If you’re living on your own, see who else is keen to decorate their spaces and do it together online, or take each other on a little decor tour afterwards.

Share your favourite Christmas cookie or hot recipes and make them:
Whether it’s with family or friends, or both, share your favourite holiday cookie or hot chocolate recipes and choose a date when you all will make the same one. Hop online either during the baking / making process or afterwards to rate each recipe. Once you’ve made them all, crown an overall winner at the end.

Watch your favourite holiday movie and share it:
It’s not Christmas unless I’ve watched Die Hard and Love Actually. Put on the Christmas lights, grab some festive snacks and pop on your favourite festive movie. Even better, get your family and friends to contribute to a list of their favourite Christmas movies so you can all watch each other’s suggestions. You might even find a new Christmas favourite.

Create a festive playlist:
If you can, share a playlist with your friends or family and get everyone to add their favourite holiday songs. It’s a great way to set the mood while also connecting with family and friends who may be far away. You can listen to it while wrapping gifts or cooking dinner in the weeks leading up to Christmas to help create a festive atmosphere, especially if you’re limited to going out.

Share holiday traditions:
There might be some traditions you’ll have to miss out on this year, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t do some of the others. One of my holiday traditions my husband was happy for us to incorporate was celebrating on Christmas eve. It’s just so much more magical at night with the candle and Christmas lights, not to mention it’s usually a little bit cooler at night in the Southern Hemisphere which makes it much easier to eat anything warm. Get your friends and family to share their favourite holiday traditions and see if there are any new ones you might want to incorporate. This year you might decide to go for an early morning walk come Christmas day when it’s relatively quiet outside or make a new dish for dinner (maybe one you’ve secretly been hoping to have for years on Christmas). If you’re living with others, it might be fun to dress up, either in silly Santa hats or what you were hoping to wear to the Christmas party this year.

Use this time for some introspection:
Take this time to sit down and reflect on the unusual year that was, and make a list of all the things you’re also grateful for. We often focus much more on the things that go wrong than the good things in our life. If you like you can ask friends and family to share what they’re grateful for this year as well and create a little list to keep and look back on next year.

Support small, local businesses for holiday gifts:
In areas that have had (and that are currently having) strict lockdowns, many small, local businesses have suffered. So instead of hopping onto Amazon or one of the big retailer’s websites, why not get friends and family something local? Maybe a voucher form their favourite restaurant for a pick up dinner, festive candles from a local maker or a hamper filled with delicious local treats. If they’re living close to you and you’re allowed to see each other, you can always drop off the gifts in person and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate together outside (or maybe a cold chocolate milk if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere).

Do a fun holiday activity with the kids each weekend in December leading up to Christmas:
If you have children, use this time together to start some fun holiday traditions leading up to Christmas. Pick one night or day each weekend to do something together as a family, whether it’s decorating Christmas cookies together, watching a favourite Christmas movie, making Christmas decorations for the tree or hand making cards for grandparents or their friends. It can be challenging when you’re spending all this time together indoors day after day, but creating a special day each weekend gives them something to during this time of year.

Make your Zoom calls festive:
I know, Zoom fatigue is real but put a festive spin on your next quiz night. You can theme the quiz along holiday traditions around the world or Christmas facts not everyone might know. End the evening with a festive drink and chat. The same goes for on the day itself. You can do a Christmas meal together via Zoom, where everyone sits down and eat together or organise a virtual festive happy hour with friends. Dress up for the occasion, whether it’s all glitz and glam or wearing your best ugly Christmas sweater. Make them fun.

Head outside if you can and watch the Christmas lights:
Heading outside is so good for our mental health. Check with the local safety guidelines first before venturing out as there might be rules with regards to how far you can travel and for how long. If it’s quiet outside and the weather isn’t too bad, grab a hot chocolate and go for a walk through your neighbourhood to see if any of your neighbours put up Christmas lights. Alternatively, if you have a car you can go for a ride to look at the lights. Even if it’s chilly outside, going out and getting some fresh air always helps to improve my mood. If you can’t head outside, open a window for a short while or find a spot near the window to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate (or your favourite festive beverage) and just enjoy some time looking outside.

Make time for some festive self care:
Even though there might be less travel stress and family gathering anxiety this holidays, there might be some completely different stressors for you. Make sure you set time aside to practice self care as well. Treat yourself to spending some time being cosy reading, or a relaxing bubble bath or by making your favourite meal. Perhaps you’d like to dance to a playlist that reminds you of happier times, or you want to light some candles and watch a movie that always leaves you feeling happy. Do something for you that lift your spirits.

While this year has no doubt been incredibly challenging for most of us, and it will probably make the holidays a little bit more challenging, know that this is hopefully only temporary. If we all do our part, we can hopefully celebrate together again next year.

Vitamin D Breakdown

Vitamin D Breakdown

Vitamin D deficiency is becoming more and more common. We probably know of at least one friend who has been diagnosed as deficient by their doctor but why does it occur so frequently and is it something we need to worry about?

What is Vitamin D?
Our bodies naturally produce Vitamin D when we’re in the sun as our skin responds to sunlight. It’s a vital vitamin that helps our bodies regulate calcium and phosphorus uptake as well as facilitating normal immune function. This helps us maintain strong bones, muscle and overall health.

How much Vitamin D do I need?
Adults require 5 micrograms of Vitamin D until about aged 50, after which we need about 10 micrograms which then increases to 15 micrograms at 70 years and older. Children need 5 micrograms until aged 18.

What happens if I don’t have enough Vitamin D?
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to Rickets (soft bones) in children and Osteoporosis in adults as Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb Calcium. Studies have also linked other illnesses to Vitamin D deficiency including an increased risk of Cardio Vascular Disease, increased risk of cognitive impairment while children can experience severe asthma.

Vitamin D has also shown to have a potentially protective role. Some studies show that Vitamin D could play a role in preventing and or treating type 1 and 2 Diabetes, multiple sclerosis and hypertension.

Where do I find Vitamin D?
While some foods have Vitamin D, they usually don’t have nearly enough for our daily recommended amount. Foods such as fish, eggs and margarine (with added Vitamin D) are good sources, but still don’t contain enough for us to get our daily required amount. The best way to make sure your body has enough Vitamin D is to head outside.

Of course this needs to be done being sun smart, as the same UV rays that provide our bodies with Vitamin D can also cause skin cancer. Here in Australia you only need about 5 to 10 minutes of sun exposure in summer. Avoid times when the UV is at it’s highest, so early morning is best. While banned in Australia, I know some countries still allow sun beds or tanning beds. Never use these period as they increase your risk to develop skin cancer. Rather spend a few minutes outside first thing in the morning watering the plants or enjoying a cup of tea. Don’t spend extended periods in the sun as this will increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Chat to your Dr to see what they recommend first.

Supplements?
If going in the sun for a few minutes isn’t an option for you, your Dr can recommend some supplements for you to take. First consult your Dr before you start taking Vitamin D supplements as taking too much can lead to some unpleasant side effects. Most people don’t require supplementation though, so chat to your Dr to see if they think you require supplementation first.

Who’s at risk for Vitamin D deficiency?
There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing Vitamin D deficiency.
These include:
– Being indoors most days
– Having more melanin in your skin
– People who wear clothing that cover their whole or most of their body
– People who take medication that can affect Vitamin D metabolism
– Being obese
– People with a disease or disability that affect Vitamin D metabolism such as renal disease, end stage liver disease and fat malabsorption syndromes such as coeliac disease, cystic fibrosis and inflammatory bowel disease.

Summary:
– Vitamin D can be found in some foods such as fish, eggs and margarine and milk products to which Vitamin D has been added, but isn’t enough to meet our daily requirements.
– Sunshine is a great source of Vitamin D, but be sun smart.
– Supplementation can be a great option for people who can’t go out in the sun and expose their skin to UV. Talk to your Dr about supplementation if you fall into that category.
– Several factors can put you at risk for developing Vitamin D deficiency.
– Vitamin D is essential for strong, healthy bones, muscles and an immune system.
– If you think you’re at risk of a Vitamin D deficiency, book an appointment with your Dr so he can schedule the correct tests for you.

A Safe, Healthy Halloween

A Safe, Healthy Halloween

This year’s Halloween celebrations might be looking a little different than usual. With Covid-19 it’s important to keep everyone safe, which means going trick or treating might not be an option where you live. Parents are also worried each year about the amount of lollies (or candy if you’re not from Australia) kids consume during the night.

This year I thought I’d share some fun Halloween activities and sugary alternatives for you to try. Who knows, maybe you’ll start a new family tradition?

Activities:
Kids (and those young at heart) love to go trick or treating, but unfortunately this year going door to door might not be the best option. That doesn’t mean the kids need to miss out on the fun. Let the kids still dress up in their costumes and decorate a designated area (either inside or outside) where they can enjoy some fun activities. If you have some close friends or family in your bubble invite them around to join in the fun if rules allow, alternatively set up an online Halloween party.

One of the tradition activities for Halloween is bobbing for apples. Get a big enough plastic container for each child and fill it with water and some apples. You can even add some for the adults too.

Create a little scavenger hunt through your home or your garden and hide some treats. A good mix of healthier home made options with some of their favourite sweets is a good idea. They get to go on a little adventure, have fun in the process and get their delicious treats.

Set up a Halloween movie night. After finishing finding their treats, why not watch some of their favourite Halloween inspired movies. Popcorn is also a much healthier alternative to the bags full of lollies they’d normally bring home.

Organise socially distancing trick or treating with your neighbours or friends. Set up a little treat station with small paper bags filled with delish treats for the kids. When they pop round, you can still see and chat to each other from a safe distance and each child can take one little bag with their treats inside which is a much more hygienic option. Arrange a time so slot for each neighbour or friend so all the kids get the opportunity to go trick or treating.

Treats:
Why not make a Halloween themed dinner? There are so many creative and amazing recipes out there, but you don’t need to make it complicated. Some home made pizza with healthy toppings to make a spooky picture work just as well. I’ve made some stuffed carved capsicums before (wish I could say it was for kids, but it was for me. Grownups can love Halloween too) and I’ve also seen some a great idea for healthy, batty nachos. You can use the linked recipes as inspiration and make your own healthy creations.

Another great option is to make bliss balls and then use thin liquorice or pretzels as the legs. The Internet is filled with some amazing, creative and easy recipes on how to create both sweet and savoury Halloween meals and treats that will appeal to everyone. Prevention has a list of awesome recipes here.

Naturally the kids will be disappointed if they don’t get any sweet treats. There’s really no need to worry about a little indulgence one night of the year. Provided they eat a healthy, balanced diet most of the time, having the odd night where they get to enjoy some of their favourite treats won’t be the end of the world.

The Switch Witch:
This is a recent addition to Halloween and one I think is absolutely brilliant. Parents get their kids to swap a portion of their treats for a surprise gift. The gift is usually a book they’ve been wanting or a small stuffed animal or maybe a game. Nothing too expensive. If they don’t want to swap, then no present. Get them to leave the treats they’ve decided to swap somewhere that you can access easily and just swap it for their present before they wake up the next morning.

I hope this gives you a few ideas to start with for Halloween this year and inspires you to create a fun, safe and memorable day.

Book Review – How to be ultra spiritual

Book Review – How to be ultra spiritual

I have been laughing at JP’s videos for a while now. His satrical take on the yoga and spiritual community is often hilarious and is a good reminder not to take anything too seriously.

I decided I needed something easy to read during my long haul flights last year and thought this might be the perfect book.

JP leaves nothing out and pokes fun and pretty much everyone. Naturally I loved the chapter on yoga. Sometimes people in the yoga world can take themselves just a little too seriously, so it was quite funny reading through the stereotypes and how your yoga practice could make you ultra spiritual.

It does tend to get a little bit repetitive towards the end and I found myself wishing he wrote a shorter book as it would have kept things fresh. I did have a good few laugh out loud moments and giggles to myself.

If you’re someone who gets easily offended, this is probably not the book for you. JP leaves no religion, practice or wellness belief out which means everyone is getting made fun of, but it’s good humoured and a reminder that sometimes we just need to laugh at ourselves.

If you’re after an easy, fun read, I’d highly recommend it.

My Holiday Traditions

I have a confession to make. I absolutely LOVE this time of year. I grew up in a town that each year decorated our main street with Christmas lights and then closed the road for a few nights for a big Christmas market.

It’s also a time when schools break for summer holidays (at least for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere) so December was a time for a lot of excitement. Decorating our tree started as soon as my mom finally relented and I can still recall the smell of Christmas when I opened up the box with all the decorations.

I was also very lucky in that I had two Christmases. One of Christmas Eve and another on Christmas day (the benefits of German and Scandinavian ancestry). Naturally as I got older, fell in love, moved out of home and got married things changed a little. But it wasn’t until the Hubby and I moved across the ocean to another country when I realised what Christmas on our own would be like. We no longer had our usual traditions with our family, and it was time to adjust to Christmases with just the two of us. We have come to love this time of year where we get to spend time together as a couple, incorporating some traditions from our childhood while also creating new ones.

Going to the beach
While I grew up close to the beach, we never went there on Christmas day. We’d be busy catching up with other family members while the beach was usually packed with holiday makers from the north. However, since moving to Perth the Hubby and I now get up early and head for the beach first thing. It’s usually quite hot, so we enjoy a nice refreshing swim first thing and then head home to escape the heat (and usually the crowds that begin to arrive later in the morning).

Christmas Eve
I’m so happy the Hubby was keen for us to celebrate on Christmas Eve like I used to as a child. Instead of doing a big lunch and pressies on the 25th, I instead make us a delicious meal on Christmas eve. We have the Christmas lights going, some music in the background and after dinner, we get to open our pressies from the tomte (Christmas elves). Not only is it quite a nice, romantic evening, but it just feels more Christmassy doing it at night.

Christmas stockings
I never had Christmas stockings growing up. I do remember leaving my pillowcase out though. But Hubby’s family has Christmas stockings which sounded fun. His aunt made him his own personalised stocking when he was still quite young, and then she surprised me recently with a beautiful one of my own. We now make sure to hang them up even if we don’t fill them with gifts. They’re a nice reminder for Hubby of his childhood and I think they look gorgeous, although I usually make sure to at least fill them with delicious treats.

German Christmas carols
My grandfather gave me a tape (yep, that’s how old I am) of German Christmas carols for my first birthday. Believe it or not, I still have my tape, although it doesn’t always want to work 100%. Luckily I could track down the singer and the songs on Spotify! Christmas is saved! It’s not Christmas unless I’ve spend a few days singing along to my carols. It’s a tradition that’s been going for as long as I’ve been on this planet and while I admit the carols don’t appeal to everyone, they remind me of when I was little and how excited I was in the days leading up to Christmas.

Advent calendar
This is another more recent tradition for me. My grandparents had an advent candle. You had 4 candles in a wreath and would start to burn the first one of the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Each week closer you’d burn the next one. I now make my own advent calendars, usually with an educational but fun Christmas related fact inside it and a small chocolate or two. But those I have to keep in the fridge else they would melt!

Christmas movies
This is also a more recent tradition. Each weekend in December before Christmas we watch a Christmas movie. My favourites include Die Hard, Love Actually and Elf.

So while we’re usually away from family this time of year, it doesn’t feel like a lonely time for us. We usually Skype or call family members on Christmas day, but the rest of the time Christmas is a special time for us as a couple to connect, laugh and be together.

What are some of your Christmas traditions?

Try a little self-care this Festive Season

Aaah the Holidays. For some of us it means decorating the tree, getting all excited baking delicious treats and counting down the days until we get to celebrate, for others it can be a stressful and even lonely time of year.

Whether it’s seeing and spending time with family members you don’t see eye to eye, or whether it’s being far away from family or missing loved ones during this time, the Holidays can be anything but cheerful.

Luckily I have a few tips on how to turn this time of year into a special time for you to recharge and unwind.

Make time for yourself
This might sound quite obvious, but how many of us run around this time of year trying to do things for others only to find ourselves exhausted by the end of December? Book out some time in your calendar if needed, but make sure you have some time set aside to do something that you enjoy, that makes you feel happy or relaxed and that nourishes you.

Saying no isn’t a bad thing
We feel terrible saying no. We feel like we’re letting that person down. But sometimes politely saying no can be a good thing. If you’re feeling rushed and anxious with all the catch-ups, office parties and family get togethers this time of the year, why not decline a few invites? As long as it’s done in a polite way, there’s no reason people should feel angry or disappointed.

Keep moving
Exercise is a great way to get some happy endorphins to make you feel better, but your body will thank you too. For those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s quite easy to head outside for a walk as it’s summer, but the Northern Hemisphere can be a little tricky. If the weather is terrible, put on one of your favourite songs and dance around the house to it. Try a yoga class (whether in person or online) or head out for a walk. Sometimes changing our environment is a great way to reset and improve our mood.

Do one special thing just for you
I’m not talking about things you do every day, I’m talking about doing something you love and enjoy but don’t often get the time for. Maybe it’s a luxurious bubble bath with a glass of wine and a good book, maybe it’s a coffee and morning swim in the ocean or your favourite movie with some homemade popcorn. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive, it just needs to be something special.

Log off
Yep, you heard me. Sign out of your social media, put the phone on silent and spend an afternoon (or day if possible) without checking everyone’s latest posts. Social media can often make us feel like we’re missing out, but the reality is people share a curated life. They rarely share the downs, and when they share the ups, often that’s even edited to show an altered version with some filters, strategic camera angles and clever wording. Real life is rarely social media worthy, so unfollow accounts that make you feel bad, and log out every now and then to just enjoy the present moment without any distractions.

Stop putting added pressure on yourself
Trying to force yourself to feel festive isn’t going to do the trick. Most likely, it’s just going to make you feel worse. Instead, accept that not everyone is into this time of year. Perhaps you love Halloween more, or Fridays, or your birthday, or any day but Christmas and that’s perfectly fine. You can still enjoy this time of year by shifting your focus. Find something else that you enjoy instead, like early morning beach walks (for us SH people.) or watching the snow fall while all being all warm and cozy inside (for you NH people). Maybe you just like having a day off to get round to doing some chores around the house, or having a nice sleep in for a change.

Know that it’s ok to feel what you feel
For those who have lost loved ones, or who are living far away from friends and family, this can be a lonely time of year. Instead of feeling like you have to force yourself to be happy, just sit with what you’re feeling and acknowledge what you’re experiencing. If you find that you’re really struggling, reach out to someone or one of the many amazing organisations. There’s no shame in admitting that this time of year is challenging and that you might need a little help getting through it.

So take time this Holiday to take care of you. It’s the best gift you can give anyone.