RECIPE: DARK CHOCOLATE BRAZIL NUT BROWNIES FROM THE HAPPY KITCHEN

The Happy Kitchen is fantastic cookbook and resource for anyone who may be suffering from anxiety or depression and want to help alleviate some of the symptoms through their diet. The food we eat and the effect it has on both our mental and physical health is huge, as Rachel Kelly, the author of the Happy Kitchen can attest to. This wonderful book is about eating to stay calm and well. Together, over 5 years, Rachel and her nutritional therapist Alice Mackintosh have developed recipes that put around 150 nutritional studies into practice. They’ve helped Rachel to become more energised, less anxious, clearer thinking, more balanced and a better sleeper.

  Above:  The Happy Kitchen book  And right:  Rachel and Alice

Above: The Happy Kitchen book And right: Rachel and Alice

Rachel Kelly and Alice Mackintosh BOOK PHOTO.jpg

Rachel explains that “by harnessing the power of food to boost my mood, not just on melancholy days, I have been able to stabilise my feelings. Nutrition has become an important element in my holistic approach to staying well, and I wanted to share what I’ve learnt in the happy kitchen.”

Rachel and Alice have kindly shared the recipe for their delicious, decadent dark chocolate brownies. They spent ages perfecting these, ensuring that they were soft, rich and gooey in the centre. Though they are still a treat, you have more control over the ingredients as you are making them yourself. Spelt flour is wholegrain, meaning that it won’t lead to a sugar spike as white flour does, and Brazil nuts contain selenium which, as we have seen, plays an important role in the immune system. Cacao is a rich source of magnesium and antioxidants.

Dark Chocolate and Brazil Nut Brownies THE HAPPY KITCHEN.jpg

Makes about 15 squares –

You'll need:

  • 10 Brazil nuts
  • 125g dark chocolate (ideally 100% cocoa, or use 85%)
  • 100ml almond milk
  • 150g coconut oil, plus extra for greasing the tin
  • 250ml maple syrup
  • Seeds from vanilla pod or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 50g raw cacao powder, sieved
  • 3 eggs
  • 130g spelt flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

1. Preheat the oven to 190C. Grease a 30cm x 20cm brownie tin and line it with baking parchment.  Leave the paper sticking up at the sides to make it easier to lift the brownies out when they are cooked.

2. Roast the Brazil nuts in the oven for 15 minutes, turning them once halfway through. They   should be slightly browned. Leave them to cool, and then chop them up coarsely.

3. Put the chocolate, almond milk, coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla seeds or extract in a saucepan over a very gentle heat, stirring regularly, until everything has melted and you have a rich, glossy-looking batter.

4. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cacao powder.

5. Allow the mixture to cool for 10-15 minutes, and then beat in the eggs. Add the flour, baking powder and chopped Brazil nuts.

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake it in the oven for about 12 minutes. Insert a cocktail stick and it should come out with a little chocolate residue. If you like your brownies less gooey, put the tin back in the oven for a further 3-5 minutes but take it out before the top starts to crack, otherwise the consistency will be more like cake.

7. Remove the tin from the oven and use the baking paper to help you slide the whole brownie on to a cooling rack. Cut it into squares once it has cooled completely.

Enjoy!

Photo credit: Laura Edwards

SPOTLIGHT: LAURA FULLERTON, FOUNDER OF FITTY LDN

Did you start 2018 with high expectations of upping your exercise, improving your nutrition and toning up? Sound familiar? So often we put unrealistic demands on ourselves to make dramatic changes to our lifestyles when in fact January is a pretty challenging month without the added pressure. 

Enter FITTY LDN, a health and fitness subscription box which will ensure you have all your snacks, drinks and training products covered so you can focus on your fitness goals - genius! We catch up with Laura Fullerton, founder of FITTY LDN to find out more...

 Laura Fullerton: The brains and beauty behind FITTY LDN

Laura Fullerton: The brains and beauty behind FITTY LDN

Tell us a bit more about Fitty London, what it's all about and how did you come up with the idea?
So, Fitty is the monthly health and fitness subscription box. It’s a super exciting and easy way to discover the hottest nutritional foods, drinks and training products to fuel your sweat game – from protein powders and superfoods to resistance bands and muscle rubs. It’s like your birthday every month!

I started it because I realised there’s so many products and so much information out there to sift through - it’s pretty overwhelming! Fitty cuts through the crap, curates the best products you need to know about, and brings them directly to you. Essentially we do the hard work so you can do yours in the gym. Ultimately it’s something I really wanted but it didn’t exist, so I decided to create it!

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Sounds fantastic, and so necessary! What are some of your favourite brands that you've worked with for Fitty?
Can I say all of them?! Nothing makes me happier than discovering amazing products and brands and sharing them with everyone. Working with boutique gym UN1T to create a series of bespoke boxes for their members was amazing. 

We love a good morning routine and believe this can set you up for the day ahead. How do you usually start your day? 
Totally agree – I’m a huge believer in morning routines! As soon as I wake up, I spend about five minutes thinking about what I’m really excited for that day. It puts me in a good mood, and stops me instantly looking at my phone. Then I enjoy a bulletproof coffee and breakfast and get cracking with my day.

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Your go-to breakfast during the week is...
An omelette with loads of veg in, or protein porridge.

Where's your favourite place to workout in London? 
That’s tricky! Weightlifting is my go to, but I’m really getting into gymnastics and calisthenics at the moment and am lucky to train with some experts at various gyms across London. I also love going to the boutiques like UN1T, 1Rebel and One 10.

And favourite place to relax and unwind?
It sounds wanky but Shoreditch House is amazing in the sunshine with friends. I love films so going to the cinema is always a winner too.

Has anyone given you a great piece of advice since starting your business? If so, what was it?
‘Don’t think like a small business’ has always stuck with me. Generally, I think you can learn so much from other people and so I’m always chatting to fellow founders, listening to TED talks and reading books – I’m currently reading Business For Punks.

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What's your favourite life hack for increased mental focus and productivity?
I have three top hacks.

Number 1: Each day I write down the three key things I need to achieve in priority order, and in another column I write all the other jobs I’ve got on. I schedule chunks of time to get the top three done, and dip in and out of the rest.

Number 2: I’m currently using MeisterTask (a task management tool) where I put every project, job and task so it’s not all floating around in my head, and I’m finding that realty useful. 

Number 3: Diet is absolutely crucial to feeling switched on and performing well (hence why I started Fitty!). For me, a high fat diet is great.

And finally, what's next for Fitty Ldn?
We’re currently working on a really exciting partnership with a boutique gym, and we’re about to create boxes for a few companies and their employees which is fantastic, and I think a lot of our growth is going to come from the corporate sector.

Quick fire round...

Early riser or night owl?
Early riser.

Coffee or tea?
Bulletproof coffee.

Restorative yoga class or sweaty hiit session?
HIIT.

Facial or massage?
Massage.

Almond butter or tahini?
Almond butter.

Sweet or savoury?
No matter how much I try and convince myself otherwise, sweet.

Get your hands on a FITTY LDN box here!

MAKING HEALTHY HABITS STICK!

We all know that January is a time when people feel immense pressure to set goals and resolutions. From our experience, resolutions that are made in February are more likely to stick than those promises made in January that are loaded down with the pressure of the New Year. This week we catch up with Dr. Heather McKee, Behaviour Change Psychologist who helps shed some much needed light on creating healthy habits that stick...

1. What would you recommend is the best place to get started in terms of supporting employees with their healthy habits?

Find out what they want.

Research shows that when you consider a person’s needs and values they are much more likely to be motivated to engage in a programme. So for example; running a quick survey, presenting staff with a list of options or even just having a brief chat with them to find out what the key issues that they are battling right now, what are their needs, and what are they interested in. Engaging them in the development process is key to a programme, and their own, long-term success. 

 Photo credit: Pexels

Photo credit: Pexels

2. What are the common traps people fall into when creating healthy habits and how to overcome them? What bad habits in general do you find people fall into? And how can they ensure they achieve their goals?

Whilst our intentions this time of year are in the right place, all too often we try and do too much. We promise to go to the gym every day, cut down sugar, eat the perfect diet… the list goes on. 

These goals tend to put us under unnecessary pressure where we feel we have to make all of the positive changes at once and do them perfectly without any slip ups, otherwise it’s all been in vain.

This isn’t effective and frankly it’s not an enjoyable way to live your life.

The problem with this is, the more goals you try to achieve at once the less likely you are to succeed. This is known as goal dilution.

Ultimately our willpower is a limited resource, think of it like a muscle; if you overuse it, it becomes fatigued and you end up not being able to exercise it at all.

Hence why after a few weeks we tend to give in to temptation, stray from our goals and end up feeling like we are back at square one again.

However if you train your willpower in adequate amounts, taking a rest when needed and not trying to do too much, building up over time, it, like a muscle grows stronger.

What does this look like in practice? The best way to avoid diluting your goals, is to focus on one goal at a time and look to build consistent habits related to this goal. Overtime these habits will become easier and more automatic, then you can move on to tackling your next big goal.

 Photo credit: Pexels

Photo credit: Pexels

3. How long does it take to make a new habit?

Unfortunately, much longer than is commonly thought. 21 days is a myth!

Research has found that this is highly dependent on the individual and can be anything between 66-122 days.

The key with habit formation is consistency; the more often you repeat something in a given situation, the more likely it is that you will start to form a habit, healthy or non-healthy.

The key here is to look at habit formation as a marathon not a sprint.

The good news is, as time goes on, it gets easier rather than harder. The more consistent you are, the more likely it is that sustainable habits start to form and these will, through repetition eventually become automatic.

So once a habit has been formed it's very hard to break it.  

4. Why do you think people fail to achieve their weight loss goals?

Weight loss is a complex issue hence why it tends to be so difficult for many. Often we are looking for the solution, the perfect diet, exercise programme, that silver bullet rather than examining the problem itself. Each individual has their own unique set of drivers that effect their behaviour. The key is peeling back the layers and looking at these drivers directly so we can break any negative cycles of behaviours and build some new healthier ones.

For example, stress is a behavioural driver that can completely undermine a weight loss attempt. You can be doing all of the right things and then suddenly a highly stressful situation comes along and your healthy habits are out the window. Thus, learning how to cope with stress effectively so it doesn’t derail all the positives changes you have made is key.

Low self-esteem can be another driver. Often people try and lose weight as they are unhappy with how they look, however if they veer off track they tend to be very hard on themselves and this can lead to negative self-talk which in turn lowers self-esteem and makes them more conscious of their weight, it’s a vicious cycle.

Dieting is another reason that people fail at their weight loss goals. The feelings of restriction and deprivation that come along with an episode of dieting can negatively affect success. Researchers have even found that merely telling people they are going on a diet the following week caused them to overcompensate and eat significantly more than others who were not told that they were going on a diet.

Simply using the word diet conjures up all sorts of feelings of deprivation – images of surviving on lettuce leaves in addition to gruelling daily workouts. The problem with this is not only is it miserable long-term, it will not get you the results you need.

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5. What can people do to ensure they stay on the road to success? In terms of forming healthy habits and making sure they stick, do you have any tips or advice you can share on this?

In 2005, a group of researchers studied 5000 individuals who have successfully lost and maintained a significant amount of weight over at least 5 years. This research demonstrated that there was no single method that worked best for long term success. There were no individual genetic characteristics or personality types that contributed towards these peoples success. There was no particular diet that these people used that was any better than another.

In actual fact no two people in this group of 5,000 lost weight in the same way!

What the researchers found was that through trial and error these successful individuals had each honed their own system for success. They found a particular set of habits that worked best for them, and if they executed these habits consistently it lead to their ongoing success.

In other words, the study showed that the key to long term success is ultimately about finding out what works for you. Finding your own unique system of habits.

So what is the best way to do this?

In support of this, researchers at Duke University found that habits account for about 40% of our behaviours on any given day. The key is to develop a system of habits that works within the constraints of your lifestyle that will support you in achieving your weight loss goals.

The 5,000 successful weight loss maintainers got to where they are today not through punishment and restriction but through trial and error.

You can start to experiment by making small but consistently healthy changes to your lifestyle.

Focusing on small changes is effective as it helps reinforce the importance of focusing on the process of building healthy habits.

Ultimately health is a habit if you aim to build up to eating healthily or exercising 70-80% of the time, what you do the rest of the time doesn’t have as big an impact on your success. So instead of wasting your willpower on restrictive and ineffective diets, focus on building a system of habits that work for you.

 

6.  If everyone was to take one nugget of knowledge or top tip away with them today to help them get started on their wellness journey, what advice would you give them? 

Start small.

You can do this by asking yourself, what is the smallest step I can take today for my health?

For example; my clients set themselves one small change that they intend to make each week with regards to their weight loss. This is intentionally tiny so it doesn’t feel too punishing or restrictive. For example things you could do to get started with could be;

·       putting half a spoon full of sugar less in your daily tea or coffee

·       making sure all coffees you get are a size smaller

·       walking 50 more steps on your fitness tracker a day.

These may seem like insignificantly small changes but cumulatively they can have a BIG impact on your long term success. For example; if your goal is to have a smaller size latte per day, this can result in… 50,000 less calories consumed per year.

You can then work through ways to add to these small changes in a way that suits your lifestyle, slowly growing the combined effect that these changes can have, ultimately insuring your long term weight loss success.

Having a system is what matters. Committing to the process makes a huge difference.

So why not set yourself a small goal for this week? Think about what you could do that could have a positive impact on your health, yet doesn’t feel too restrictive or draining?

Dr Heather McKee is the founder of www.weightlossiq.co.uk. Dr McKee’s coaching programmes have introduced a more intelligent and evidence based way for you to achieve long term success. Dr McKee is offering 5 free 30 minute New Year’s goal setting sessions. To be in with a chance of winning simply email info@weightlossiq.co.uk with the word Wellaware

TOP TIPS FOR STAYING WELL OVER THE FESTIVE PERIOD

The festive period can leave us feeling stressed, exhausted and in some cases burnt out. At Well Aware, we want to give you credible, accessible and realistic advice that you can easily implement into your everyday life to ensure you stay well and can thrive in all areas of life. That’s why we’ve collated a number of top tips from our team of experts to promote optimum health and wellbeing (both mental and physical) over Christmas without having to compromise on fun!

 Photo credit: Tom Rickhuss, Unsplash

Photo credit: Tom Rickhuss, Unsplash

TIP 1. BREAK THE FAST WITH A SMOOTHIE

Alice Mackintosh, Bsc (hons) NT, Bsc (hons) Biomed, BANT, CNHC is a top Nutritional Therapist and co-founder of Equi London, a supplements company designed for busy people. Alice explains that people “are always super busy, and Christmas means more junk food, more alcohol, less veggies and less sleep, so it’s all about finding ways to keep some goodness in your diet to prevent you from totally crashing and feeling awful come mid-December. This doesn’t mean restriction or a complete lack of fun, just easy tips that you can fit into your schedule!”

“The most universally easy tip is to make a smoothie for breakfast. I know it’s nothing ground-breaking and you’ve heard it before, but believe me breakfast might be the only meal time you can really pack in the goodness and this smoothie takes 4 minutes to make. If you don’t have time to make this then head to Leon, Joe and the Juice, Pod, Pure, Squirrel, Shot and get them to whizz something up for you.”  

 Make ours a double - bottom's up!

Make ours a double - bottom's up!

Alice’s favourite recipe - 1/2 banana, 2 handfuls berries, 1 large handful of kale, 1 dessert spoon of flaxseed, 4 walnuts and top up with kefir (everywhere now seems to stock this but try Ocado if you are struggling) or sugar-free almond milk. She also loves adding a scoop of something like Equi London Fundamental, baobab, raw cacao or spirulina for extra goodness, or even just a scoop of vegan protein powder and oats to stay satiated until lunch. Also great if you’re feeling worse for wear after a Christmas party!

 

 

TIP 2. BE MINDFUL OF OTHERS

With it being the season of good will, Maggie Richards, Meditation and Mindfulness specialist suggests that “the next parties you go to, try focusing on making someone’s else night happier and more joyful. You’ll have a great time and so will they!” Short, sweet and effective!

 Photo credit: Lesly Juarez, Unsplash

Photo credit: Lesly Juarez, Unsplash

TIP 3. SELF-CARE IS HEALTHCARE

Suzy Reading, CPsychol, Health Division BPS, B Psych (Hons), M Psych, an accredited psychologist and the Queen of Self-Care coined the fantastic phrase Self-care is healthcare, meaning it’s not indulgent or luxurious to look after yourself, it’s essential, especially if you want to do well at work, be a good partner parent, sibling, friend etc. We have so many roles to play in life that taking time to invest in our wellbeing is vital if we can fulfil our potential.

 Photo credit: Raw Pixel, Unsplash

Photo credit: Raw Pixel, Unsplash

Suzy explains how “the pace of Christmas can feel frantic and relentless even when filled with joyful activity. As an antidote to all that busyness, carve some time for soothing your nervous system. Aim for some moments dotted through your day where there is an absence of stimulation - quiet, stillness, or time spent in Nature. It can be as simple as closing your eyes for 30 seconds, feeling the sensation of your breathing and releasing any physical tension you find. If you just can't find time to stop, then use a primer statement like 'I soften into this moment' - this can be equally helpful in making peace with stressful moments as well as savouring the blissful times.

TIP 4. HANGOVER 101 – EAT SMART

Laura Tilt, registered Dietitian, health writer and columnist for Women's Health magazine sheds some much needed light on how to avoid hangovers. December tends to be a time of late nights, high alcohol consumption and canapés! Laura explains, “office parties and afterwork drinks have a habit of starting on an empty stomach, which is the fastest route to hangover central. Food slows down the absorption of alcohol giving your body time to process it. This is the time eating something fatty is a good idea, as it will line your stomach. If a meal isn’t an option, try a slice of toast with peanut butter, or some nuts and a piece of cheese. The next best advice is to alternate each alcoholic drink with a glass of water to help you stay one step ahead of the headache.  

TIP 5. CARVE OUT SMALL MOMENTS OF ME-TIME

Whilst Christmas is all about family time, do you struggle to find time to relax over the Christmas period? Try and carve out small moments of me-time to help you stay energised and able to keep up with all the festivities. Mental Health expert Leyla Okhai says “it may sound small, but burning rose, geranium or lavender essential oils can be relaxing and calming for all. Adding a few drops to a bath can alleviate stresses of the day.”

TIP 6. SWEEB (Sleep, Water, Eat well, Exercise & Breathe)

Short for Sleep, Water, Eat well, Exercise and Breathe. Coined by Executive and Careers Coach Anna Percy-Davis, SWEEBing incorporates all the key wellness tips into one handy phrase.

Anna suggests “getting enough SLEEP when you can, drinking lots of WATER, EATing well and regularly, to EXERCISE even if its just a walk around the block at lunchtime and BREATHE - great big gulp-fuls, especially when you are feeling tired, stressed or overwhelmed! - easy to abandon these basic principles of looking after yourself at this time of year.  

 Photo credit: Bruno Nascimento, Unsplash

Photo credit: Bruno Nascimento, Unsplash

Anna’s other key message would be to notice your self-messaging - if you tell yourself you are tired, too busy, overwhelmed, stressed, that is what you will be. Try to notice the fun stuff in the festive season - make it fun and enjoy it – it’s not a marathon to be endured, this is the Festive season! Know that this is just for a short period and it is GOOD (especially if you try to ensure some SWEEBing happens too!).

If you can get your perspective right on all things relating to the festive season you have a better chance of enjoying this period and looking after yourself at the same time too.  Life is for LIVING so be in the moment and be merry (whilst also ensuring you are looking after yourself enough to appreciate all the merriness around you!).

TIP 7. FOOLPROOF YOUR FINANCES

Christmas can be an extremely expensive time of year, making the transition into the New Year even harder if your bank balance has taken a battering. Financial Wellbeing specialist Jo Thresher suggests having a financial clear-out and to plan your new year in the lull between Christmas and New Year. Face your Christmas spending, get a plan to get on budget, reduce your bills and set some goals for the new year. Set diary reminders in your mobile to get on track. For a complete overhaul try getting rid or your excuses book http://bit.ly/2WYEBWM - you don’t even have to move from the sofa! So pop a Christmas film on and get saving…Make 2018 the year you get money straight…

TIP 8. CONSIDER YOUR TIPPLE SIZE AND SHAPE

Size really does matter, especially when it comes to the alcohol you’re drinking. Dr. Heather McKee, Behaviour Change Psychologist says to “consider your glass shape and size. You will serve yourself 12% less wine in tall glasses than in wider glasses. Research has shown that even top-level bartenders pour 20-30% more in short glasses than tall ones.”

We hope these tips are useful and will serve you all year round. Please share your progress with us and tag us on twitter and instagram @well_aware. In the meantime, we wish you a happy, restful Christmas and New Year.

SPOTLIGHT: PAUL SINTON-HEWITT, FOUNDER OF PARKRUN

Are you struggling to find the motivation to workout during the winter months? This week on Well Informed, the Spotlight is on Paul Sinton-Hewitt, the brain behind parkrun, the fantastic company that organises free weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. Paul has built a worldwide community, helping people to get fit for free. Sign up yourself and a friend, lace up your trainers and your future self will thank you for it. As the saying goes... you never regret that workout you did...

Parkrun takes place every Saturday morning in eighteen countries across five continents. Each parkrun territory has its own sponsors. Events are run by volunteers, and participation is free of charge. Parkrun is open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in.

 Paul Sinton-Hewitt, the brains behind and founder of parkrun

Paul Sinton-Hewitt, the brains behind and founder of parkrun

I was lucky enough to meet Paul earlier this year and he is one of the nicest people I have had the pleasure of meeting. Paul was presented the Runner's World 'Heroes of Running' award for philanthropy for his work with parkrun in 2009 and became a CBE in the Queen's birthday honours 2014 for 'services to grass roots sports participation.' A fantastic initiative that helps people get active for free whilst also enabling them to be part of a community, where do we sign up?

Paul, you share the same philosophy as us about helping people to become healthier, and specifically in the case of parkrun helping people get active for free... how did parkrun come about?

I started parkrun in 2004 because I selfishly wanted to make sure that I saw my friends every week. I was suffering depression at the time and felt the best way out of my negative situation was to regularly keep in touch with my running friends. The event itself in Bushy Park, Teddington was intended to be low-key and simple. These are still some of the founding principles that bind parkrunners across the world.

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And how many parkruns have now been set up around the world?

Thirteen years and a name change later, there are over 1,100 parkruns a week, in fourteen countries, with over three million registered parkrunners. A new parkrunner registers every 29 seconds. Our 2k junior parkrun is also expanding rapidly.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start exercising and being more active?

When starting exercise for the first time it can often be difficult. Exercise if best when its regular and often. So the best advice is to try to make whatever you are doung fun an joyful. Starting out try to manage the effort so that you balance the joy with the effort. As you progress and as the excersize becomes a habit then you will find another gear and this will encourage you to try harder propelling you further towards your personal goals.

Do you have any training tips who are about to embark on their first event?

The great thing about parkrun is that no one needs to train for their first event. As you can walk, jog or run our events then everyone can achieve this without being trained. Some of our courses offer multiple laps which means that anyone struggling can opt out after one or even two laps. This also means that these folks can build up to completing the full 5k.

And in terms of injury, do you have any tips you can give us?

The best advice I can give is not to get injured in the first place. This is often easier said than done. If you are a beginner then the most common form of injury is probably an over-use injury. When folks are new to an activity or  sport, they can get very excited about their progress and this can drive them to progress too quickly. My best advice is to take your time about progressing to the next level. Be happy with small increments in either speed or time and try to only change one important factor at any time (don't increase your speed and distance at the same time).

 The amazing community Paul has built. Kudos to all the parkrunners to date - a 5km run done before 10am on a Saturday! The best start to the weekend!

The amazing community Paul has built. Kudos to all the parkrunners to date - a 5km run done before 10am on a Saturday! The best start to the weekend!

We understand you took on the Two Oceans Ultramarathon, is that the hardest race you’ve done to date?

Yes, probably. Whenever you step up to a new distance or when you try to run faster than you have done before then its likely to be difficult. The Two Oceans Marathon is 56k long and this was 10k longer that I had ever run before. Fortunately, its also one of the Worlds most beautiful marathon in the world and so the suffering was well worth it.

Do you record your runs? If so, what app/piece of kit do you use?

All my runs are recorded on Garmin and Strava. Strava is my favourite site for recording activity because not only does it provide the best information but its also a great social platform.

Do you ever lack the motivation to lace up your trainers and get outside. If so, what do you do to counteract this?

Yes, everyone faces situations like this. When I am de-motivated, I will probably reduce the distance of my run and definitely the speed. I try to get outside because no matter what the weather you will find the countryside or parks motivating in their own right. If you do some activity/exercise on a regular basis in nice suroundings then you are likely to rejuvenate your motivation in the shortest possible time.

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And what do you eat to fuel up before and after a race?

It depends on the race. For a short race I might not fuel at all. If the exercise extends beyond an hour then I will try to have muesli or porridge before the run.

Who do you look up to in the health and fitness industry, whether it’s a runner, athlete or sporting professional?

That's so difficult these days. What with all the unsportsmanlike doping going on it is very difficult to know who is a cheat and who isn’t. I think the Brownlee brothers might just be the athletes who we can all look up to with confidence.

 

Quick fire round...

Treadmill or pavement?

Pavement

Hill sprints or marathon?

marathon

Weights or cardio?

cardio

Early-riser or night owl?

Early-riser

Olympic Park or Hyde Park?

Hyde Park

Mo Farah or Usain Bolt?

Usain Bolt

TRANSITIONING BACK TO WORK AFTER MATERNITY LEAVE

Are you pregnant? Currently on maternity leave? Or perhaps one day want to start a family? Emily Pocock, a health visitor, former Paediatric Nurse within the NHS, Baby Counsellor and Founder of Baby Confidence sheds some light on how you can transition back to work after maternity leave. Over to you Emily...

Frequently parents have to deal with the practical, and emotional element of returning to work after Maternity Leave.  Being at work all day long can feel like a distant memory after settling into life with a new baby. Some parents are often excited, others worried, or experiencing a mixture of both.  One thing is certain, the transition requires planning. Here are some areas to consider:

Rights on Returning to Work

If you are returning to work after 26 weeks or less you are entitled to return to exactly the same job you were doing before the start of your leave. If you are returning after more than 26 weeks’ maternity leave you still have the right to return to the same job but if your employer has a good business reason why you cannot return to the same job, your employer can offer you a suitable alternative job on the same terms and conditions. 

Flexible Working

Flexible working is a great option for parents to help meet their family’s needs, and often reduces childcare costs. It allows for things such as job sharing, working from home, staggered hours, compressed hours and part-time hours.

Any employee is entitled to request flexible working (Children’s and Families Act 2014). You are eligible if you have been with your employer for 26 weeks, and you are allowed one application in 12 months.

The application must be in writing, and your employer has three months to give you a decision.  

There are multiple benefits of flexible working to the employer; increased productivity, reduced burnout of staff, higher staff retention and increased staff morale are just a few.

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Childcare

Firstly, take some time to think about what is the best option for you. Families tend to use either; nurseries, child minders, a nanny or family members. They all vary in cost and have different benefits.

A good service to use is the Family Information Service (FIS) - each local authority will have one.  Each FIS can be found online, with a list of all the registered nurseries and child minders, with links to their OFSTED reports.

A lot of nurseries can have long waiting lists, so it’s important to start thinking about this as soon as possible. Some employers also provide on-site nurseries.

Most childcare will offer a period of settling in time, which is beneficial to you both.

 

Phased Return

A phased return allows you to gradually adapt to work, and is generally a lot kinder to yourself as a whole. It also allows your child to gradually get used to the change. Most employers will give you an entry interview which allows you to discuss any anxieties. It is also a good time to set new goals, objectives and identify any learning gaps.

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Child Sickness

It is very common for children to get unwell when they first start childcare due to being exposed to other children. This is a normal part of developing their immune system. It’s important to familiarise yourself with your contract so you know your rights regarding taking carer’s leave. Some employers offer a certain amount paid, others do not.

Emotions  

Parents often feel guilty about returning to work and leaving their child in someone’s care. 

A common worry is that returning to work can harm the child. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2010) completed a study which found that returning to work after a year can benefit the entire family.

It is normal to have some level of anxiety regarding the transition; this comes with being a parent. Talk to your support network about how you are feeling, often people close have been through the same thing.  If you feel the anxiety is preventing you from sleeping or starting to get out of control, seek health advice. Often Health Visitors are a great resource for this.

Be prepared for some tears, they might happen in the planning stage or perhaps once you get to work. A lot of parents have a sudden feeling of panic on their first day; it’s completely normal. Just be reassured it will pass, be kind to yourself and have someone ready to talk to for support.

Remember this is also an exciting time, your child is likely to be surrounded by new friends. They will be learning lots of social skills and developing in new ways. It is also a time for you to get a bit of your identity back, away from being “mum”. It’s a good time to start thinking about your own personal goals.

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Routine

Take time to think about what the new routine will look like. It’s a good idea to start doing practice runs so you know how long it will take to get to childcare in peak times. Think about what time you need to wake up?  Will your child minder be giving breakfast? Give yourself time to think these things through.

It’s a good time to look at your child’s routine overall, because dependent on their age, this will vary.  A lot of parents use their remaining maternity leave to work on routines for the child night and day. A good resource to use for help and advice is a Health Visitor.

Returning to work can feel daunting, but planning definitely helps this process run smoothly. Parents are often amazed how quickly their child adapts to the change.

 

Useful Resources

ACAS offers advice on employment rights and early conciliation. You can call their helpline on 0300 123 1100 for more information.

 

About Emily

Emily is a writer, Health Visitor, Paediatric Nurse, Baby Counsellor and Founder of Baby Confidence. She has over 10 years’ experience working with children and families.

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Emily is on a mission to help parents be their baby’s expert, in a non-judgemental, strength based space. She provides services and packages to parents and companies. Understanding the needs of the employee with family and how best to support them.

 

 

HEALTH FIX: NUTRITION TO DE-STRESS

Stress is an overriding theme in our busy modern lives. Whether it’s pressures from social, emotional or work sources, we are living in an age of anxiety that affects us all. There often seems to be a weary acceptance that high stress is simply a part of life. Although that is true to some extent, the notion that we have no control over our stress levels, or its effects and management thereof, is not correct. Taking the time to look after one’s self, investing in our health and what we consume has a very direct and tangible effect on stress relief.  This week, Antonia Magor, Nutritional Therapist, mBant rCNHC, who sees clients in London and Wiltshire sheds some much needed light (especially given the time of year), on her top nutrition tips to help with stress. Over to you Antonia...

 Our modern lifestyles are contributing to higher levels of stress and anxiety

Our modern lifestyles are contributing to higher levels of stress and anxiety

What does stress do to our bodies?

Stress is a physiological response we experience when we face a threat we do not feel we have the resources to deal with. In our most basic form we are wired to the “fight or flight” response of our caveman ancestors. Short, sudden shocks & stressors activate the adrenal glands & nervous system to pump more blood around the body to make us move faster, be more alert & release glucose from our liver to give us a shot of energy.

The problem is that although this was how we survived when we were cavemen, our bodies haven’t evolved as quickly as our lifestyles and diet. We often live in states of chronic stress triggered by everything from a traffic jam to our phone. This constant state of stress ends up in a “wired but tired” style of life as our adrenals and nervous system are overly exhausted. This can lead to fatigue, disrupted hormones, weight gain and digestive issues.

Nutrition helps tame stress in several ways, whether it’s by stimulating a comforting hormone or reducing the dominance of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Good nutrition also acts as a counter balance to the toll stress takes on us and builds our natural defenses.

 

Complex Carbs

All carbs stimulate the brain to produce the feel good hormone serotonin. Complex carbohydrates like wholegrains, beans and legumes take longer for our bodies to digest, which not only stabilizes blood sugar levels, but maintains a steady supply of serotonin. So don’t be afraid to include good portions of carbohydrates in each of your meals and snacks.

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Vitamin C

Vitamin C is often thought of as the go-to nutrient during cold and flu season, when we want to strengthen our immune system. However it actually works in several other ways within the body. Vitamin C’s antioxidant properties help repair the damage and aging stress causes to our cells. It has also been indicated that Vitamin C aids in returning levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) to their normal state after a stressful task. Supplementing Vitamin C during the winter season can help support your health, otherwise including healthy portions of brightly coloured fruit and veg daily, supplies us with plenty of vitamin C.  

 So often people think oranges are the best source of vitamin C. In fact, bell peppers contain much high levels of vitamin C!

So often people think oranges are the best source of vitamin C. In fact, bell peppers contain much high levels of vitamin C!

Magnesium

Magnesium is nature’s calming nutrient. It counterbalances our stress response and helps relax muscles and restore cells. However we are becoming more and more magnesium deficient, with the excess of adrenalin and cortisol depleting our reserves and our diets becoming less magnesium-rich. Magnesium deficiency can be a cause of stress as it can magnify the stress response.

To get more magnesium in your diet add dark green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, swiss chard or cabbage; try and include 3 portions daily. Almonds and small oily fish such as anchovies are also good sources.

 

Essential Fatty Acids

We hear a lot about essential fatty acids for heart health but they may also help in cases of depression and severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The omega 3 fatty acids, found in oily fish and at lower levels in nuts, seeds and oils act to prevent surges in stress hormones balancing our fight or flight instincts. Oily fish, or cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies and fresh tuna are particularly high in omega 3s and 6s; aim to include a variety twice to three times weekly. 

 Ensure you're getting two portions of omega-3 rich food per week. Good sources include: sardines, salmon, mackerel and other oily fish. Vegetarian and vegan options include flaxseed and chia seeds but are much smaller quantities.

Ensure you're getting two portions of omega-3 rich food per week. Good sources include: sardines, salmon, mackerel and other oily fish. Vegetarian and vegan options include flaxseed and chia seeds but are much smaller quantities.

Quit the Sugar Habit

We are all beginning to understand just how bad excess free sugars are to our health, but when the 3pm slump hits and the biscuit tin beckons, we can sometimes forget this. Biscuits, cakes, sweets, sugary drinks all give us that quick peak of energy and blood sugar, however it is followed by a slump. This constant rollercoaster places a strain on our body and disorders our hormonal response, making us tired and grumpy. So focus on limiting sweet treats and if you do want to include something sweeter make sure you combine it with protein and fat to prolong the energy release.  

Stressing about nutrition?

With everything we have to balance in our lives the pressure to eat well can become just another stress. However good nutrition and eating well should be a part of enjoying life and looking after yourself, not an extra strain. If you feel that this is becoming a disordered and unenjoyable relationship do consult with a professional, there is always someone who can help you restore the balance.

Check out Antonia's website at www.antoniamagor.com or contact her directly on: am@antoniamagor.com or you can find her on twitter and instgram @antoniamagor. Antonia is available for consultations in London or over Skype.

SPOTLIGHT: SUZY READING, SELF-CARE EXPERT

Today marks the first day of Self-Care week, an annual national awareness week that focuses on embedding support for self-care across communities, families and generations. This year’s theme is all about engaging and empowering people, something we wholeheartedly believe in at Well Aware. The strap-line for Self-Care week this year is Embracing Self Care for Life and what better way to mark this week and find out how to create some space for ourselves than with the Self-Care Queen herself, Suzy Reading. This week we are shining the spotlight on Suzy to find out her top tips for carving out 'micro moments of nourishment' in our ever increasing schedules.

Briefly Suzy, can you tell our readers what you do? Where did it all begin and how did you get to where you are today?

 Suzy Reading, the Queen of Self-Care

Suzy Reading, the Queen of Self-Care

I’m a psychologist, yoga teacher, writer and corporate speaker – the one thread uniting all these roles is empowering people with the tools of self-care. My passion for this, while underpinned by all of my disparate studies, was really set into motion by my life experiences: motherhood coincided with the terminal illness of my father and for a time there, I really struggled. Self-care helped me claw my way back to vitality and now this is the toolkit I share with my clients; helping them to cope with and heal from stress, loss and change, boosting resilience in the face of future challenges and enabling them to become the people they aspire to be.

As the Queen of Self-Care and what with it being Self-Care week, we thought it fitting to find out your top self-care tips…

I have so many little gems I want to share with you! Here are just a selection from my book ‘The Self-Care Revolution’:

~      Self-care needn’t be grand, elaborate, expensive or time consuming. Be on the lookout for ‘micro moments’ of nourishment that allow you to de-stress, soothe, energise or focus in an instant. Think along the lines of music, scent, movement, physical softening of tension, a mantra or just being with your breath.

~      Be clear on what self-care really means. Self-care is nourishment for your head, heart and body. It delivers what you need right now in this moment, AND it also nourishes the person you are becoming, your future self. This is a useful distinction to make. One glass of wine savoured in the evening might be self-care but more than that, leading to a late night, and you’re future self won’t be thanking you. Don’t confuse self-care with pampering either. Sometimes self-care is gentle, soothing and relaxing, sometimes it is going for that run that you really don’t fancy. Sometimes it is taking an honest look at emotional baggage you’re lugging around. Self-care is not always comfortable but it always takes you closer to the person you aspire to be.

~      Be proactive and write out your self-care toolkit so it’s there at your fingertip reach when you most need it. When we are stressed, self-care often drops away because we are fatigued, frazzled, time poor and our usual means of replenishment become unavailable to us. We are also at our least creative and resourceful in coming up with new, accessible options. Writing out a broad toolkit of soothing, healing and energising practices that resonate for you is like forming a psychological contract with yourself, helping you take swift action and get back on track sooner. I give lots of inspiration for self-care activities in my book and my instragram account @suzyreading.

~      If self-care feels indulgent, ask yourself, what have you got if you don’t have your health? Two mantras for you: ‘self-care is health care’ and ‘it’s not me first, its ME AS WELL’. Please nourish you! When we tend to ourselves with love and care, we are all calmer, kinder, more compassionate people – it is the ultimate win win!

At Well Aware, we are all about helping our clients make long-term positive changes to their health by encouraging small changes to your daily habits over a prolonged period of time. Are there any things you incorporate into your daily routine to boost your mental and physical health?

Absolutely, for me the cornerstone of my self-care practice is reflected in the framework I created, called The Vitality Wheel. There are 8 spokes to the wheel, each representing a different way of nourishing myself. I use at least one of these spokes every day to boost my physical, emotional and mental health. They are:

1.     Movement and nutrition

2.     Sleep, rest, relaxation and breathing

3.     Mood boosters

4.     Social connection

5.     Physical environment

6.     Goals and accomplishment

7.     Values and purpose

8.     Coping tools

What’s the first you do every morning? What are your morning rituals or routines?

Before I get out of bed, I think of one thing I am looking forward to it my day. This always cultivates a feeling of zest. I spritz my Neom Organics ‘Feel Refreshed’ room spray and take 6 yoga mountain breaths, repeating a mantra that cultivates how I want to feel. It can be as simple as ‘I am ready’. I choose an outfit, colour, piece of jewellery or swoosh of lippy that I love and I hit the ground running, feeling nourished and present.

And bedtime rituals? How do you switch off and ensure you get restful sleep?

My mantra is ‘sleep for sanity’… I revere sleep so I have a strong ritual to unwind in the evening. It’s a digital detox for at least 30 mins prior to bed, some soothing yoga poses on the floor, like childs pose and pigeon to disentangle my body from the busyness of my day. I might journal with a braindump if my mind is still whirring or do a gratitude exercise if my mood is subdued. Reading Psychologies Magazine is another way of focusing my mind on something constructive. I use a magnesium oil spray that definitely promotes better sleep and lastly my favourite Neom Organics pillow spray has me floating off to sleep.

As specialists in workplace wellbeing, one of the common issues we get asked about is sleep… do you have any tips on this?

Yes! Design your own pre-bedtime ritual and cultivate a positive relationship with sleep. It can be as simple as wearing PJ’s you love or using the 4/7/8 breathing technique when your head hits the pillow. Most adults need 7 – 9 hours sleep to function well so get to know your sleep needs, give sleep the priority it deserves and get some decent shut eye! Just about every aspect of health is improved when we are well slept, so think of it as time well spent.

We are big on personal development at the Well Aware HQ, helping our clients unlocking their full potential and boost performance. Do you have tips you can share with us that you’ve picked up along the way?

I think my favourite tip is to get clear on who you want your future self to be. What would they say, how would they move, what choices would they make. How does it feel to be in their skin? I love cultivating a relationship with my future best self. I ask, what would she do? Every time I make that choice I know I am taking a step closer to being this incarnation of myself. Tune in with yours and you’ll find great wisdom, resolve and a healthy dollop of self-compassion there!

Quick fire round…

1.              Coffee or tea? – a savoured cup of coffee in the morning, green tea in the afternoon and a soothing herbal blend to unwind in the evening.

2.              Early bird or night owl? Early bird by virtue of my figure skating days

3.              Introvert or extrovert? Introvert mostly, with some extroverted moments

4.              Rural or urban? Rural, preferably seaside please

5.              Adventurous or cautious? Mindfully chosen adventure

6.              Hiit or yoga? yogahhhh

Join Suzy’s Wellbeing Community at:

Instagram: www.instagram.com/suzyreading/ 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/SuzyReadingPsychologyAndYoga/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SuzyReading  

 Suzy's first book ‘The Self-Care Revolution’ published by Aster, is due out 28th December 2017 and available for pre-order now.

Suzy's first book ‘The Self-Care Revolution’ published by Aster, is due out 28th December 2017 and available for pre-order now.

SPOTLIGHT: BONNIE STOWELL, FOUNDER OF SPRING GREEN LONDON

This week to mark World Vegan Day and Sugar Awareness Week, we put the spotlight on Bonnie Stowell, the founder of London's top plant-based food delivery service, Spring Green London

Hi Bonnie, great to speak to you today. We thought as it was Sugar Awareness week it would be great to find out more about you and your wonderful service. Briefly, can you tell our readers what you do? Where did it all begin and how did you get to where you are today? 

I trained under a Michelin-star chef and always loved cooking and food. It wasn’t until my father developed type-2 diabetes that I started cooking for him, to help alleviate some of his stress. Over several months his blood sugar levels normalised and it was from this first-hand experience of seeing the amazing transformational benefits of food that Spring Green London was born.

 Bonnie Stowell, founder of Spring Green London

Bonnie Stowell, founder of Spring Green London

Wow, love this! What a fantastic and inspiring story! At Well Aware, we are big believers in the small habits that you do everyday that inform your long-term health and this is real proof!  Can you tell us about the philosophy behind Spring Green London?

We want everyone to look and feel their best. We trust in the power of fresh, nutrient-rich, multitasking foods and use innovative ingredients from around the world, all with a plant-based focus. We pack as many superfoods as we can into our daily boxes and avoid added sugar at all costs as there are enough sugars found naturally in fresh fruit and vegetables. Sugar has a terrible effect on the collagen in your skin and more worryingly type 2 diabetes.

We also want people to learn new habits and recipe ideas, forming a fresh new approach to a balanced healthy lifestyle.

Amazing! We too share this mission about habits and are all about helping our clients make long-term positive changes to their health by encouraging small changes to daily habits over a prolonged period of time. What are your top three tips for maintaining healthy eating habits?

1. Meal prep. The night before make yourself a nutritious breakfast by mixing chia, almond milk + vanilla in a bowl and cover. The next morning you can pack it to have at work.

2. Be Snack Savvy. Keep a tupperware on your desk and fill it with your own trail mix so you’ve always got a healthy and protein-rich snack available. You can add any type of nuts or berries, coconut chips (toasted are delicious), cacao nibs. 

3. It comes down to meal prepping. Organisation really is key I find when it comes to maintaining healthy eating habits. I dedicate half an hour a week to chop some veg so that I can have with a dip or just so they are ready to stirfry and cook up some quinoa and keep in the fridge. Quinoa goes with so many things!

What’s your go-to dinner recipe when you’re short on time?

If i haven’t planned what i’m going to have for dinner, I can always find lots of unfinished veg in the fridge that I can throw in a pan with some sesame oil, soya, garlic and chilli with some frozen peas and fresh herbs.  It is so easy to make it taste delicious, I will often cook up some black rice to have with it.

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What’s the first you do every morning? What are your morning rituals or routines?

I always drinks lots of water when I wake up. I do like a coffee, which I have with coconut milk, I have one a day and really enjoy it.

And bedtime rituals? How do you switch off and ensure you get restful sleep?

My favourite thing to do before bed is to read. I am reading Nancy Mitford The Pursuit of Love at the moment which is brilliant.

We are big on personal development at the Well Aware HQ, helping our clients unlocking their full potential and boost performance. Do you have tips you can share with us that you’ve picked up along the way?

Trying to find a balance, which is hard, but make time for yourself. Try to switch off from your busy day and do something for a couple of hours that you really enjoy.

Quick fire round…

  1. Coffee or tea? Coffee
  2. Early bird or night owl? Early bird
  3. Introvert or extrovert? both
  4. Rural or urban? Rural
  5. Adventurous or cautious? Adventurous
  6. Hiit or yoga? Hiit

For £20 off your first order, use the exclusive code 'WELL AWARE20'

Our Philosophy: Small Changes, BIG Impact

At Well Aware, we believe it's the small things you do everyday that have a BIG impact on your long-term health. Otherwise known as the marginal gains theory, this approach is embedded throughout our services and we believe is part of the reason for our client's success stories. We do not advocated fads or quick fixes, rather we believe that by tweaking your daily habits and trying to improve them by just a small margin (i.e. one percent), big changes really do happen.

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To put this in context, imagine if you went to bed an hour earlier and adopted this habit for the long-term. Imagine how much better you would feel, how easier it would be to focus at work, make decisions and resist the temptation of unhealthy quick-fix foods. The knock-on effect of this could be that you actually lose weight as you're getting adequate rest and your body doesn't feel like sugar to give it a quick energy boost.

What small change can you adopt today that could have a huge and positive effect on you in the long run? We would love to hear from you so tag us online @well_aware.