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Green+Aquamarine: January 2016

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Immunity-Boosting Ginger Shots

Ginger is one of the most popular health foods out there at the moment and it isn't hard to see why. A famous anti-inflammatory ingredient, ginger is a great digestive aid, and can settle nausea. My usual routine is to chop up a few slices of ginger to add to my hot lemon water in a morning. However, when I'm getting my juicer out or fancy something a little more potent I will make myself a shot of ginger juice.

How ginger shots can boost your immunity and start your day right. Via @eleanormayc

To make, simply peel an 5 cm chunk of ginger and feed it into your juice. You may find it helpful to use a small amount of cucumber or similar to flush the ginger out if you don't seem to be getting much juice out.

How ginger shots can boost your immunity and start your day right. Via @eleanormayc

But how to drink this powerful tonic? You can drink it neat, or with the juice of half a lemon. These two options are very concentrated but also quite strong on the palate. As an alternative, make like some of the juice cleanses out there and create a spicy lemonade. Mix the juice of half a lemon with the ginger juice and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Top this up with water of coconut water and maple syrup to taste.

How ginger shots can boost your immunity and start your day right. Via @eleanormayc

Adding ginger to your diet is so good for you at this time of year when the wet and windy weather keeps us inside, increasing the risk of catching bugs. Plus, the spicy flavour, especially when paired with citrus is energising, alkalising and fresh, perfect for if you're feeling sluggish.

Budget Tip: No juicer? No problem! As I mentioned earlier, an infusion of ginger and lemon still is my go-to. It's warming and you still get all the lovely benefits. You can also stir dried ginger into the juice of half a lemon. Ginger in itself is pretty inexpensive and you can also add chopped or grated ginger to a variety of sweet and savoury meals.

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Monday, 25 January 2016

Paleo Snacking with Wild Thing

The 4pm slump can be one of the greatest challenges to anyone embarking upon a healthier lifestyle. When the blood sugar levels drop, it can be really difficult to ignore the lure of unhealthy snacks that provide a quick fix. In an ideal world, we would only crave nuts and carrot sticks, or alternatively have a selection of homemade energy balls and treats to turn to. Unfortunately, crudités don't always cut it, and life can get in the way of the making of homemade creations. Luckily, a whole market based around innocent snacking has arisen, saving us from the vending machine temptation.

Trying the paleo organic and vegan Wild Thing bars. Via @eleanormayc

A new brand that has landed on the shelves on Planet Organic is Wild Thing paleo bars. What caught my eye is that these bars are also organic and vegan. Tick tick. Wild Thing bars, which don't look dissimilar to the popular Nakd bars, aren't specifically a post-workout protein bar, but instead contain a moderate protein content (around 5g), which makes them the perfect light snack. The bars are made with as few ingredients as possible, and the processing time is just 30 minutes before the bar is packaged up.

Trying the paleo organic and vegan Wild Thing bars. Via @eleanormayc

With a walk in the snow last week, I chucked a couple of bars in my rucksack and cracked them out midway along. Of all the bars, the chocolate and almond bar tastes most like a standard date and nut based bar: simple and tasty. Hands down, my favourite bar was coconut and chia. There was just the perfect amount of coconut flavour, balanced out by blended cashew nuts. Also included in the mix are a berry flavour and the subtle-tasting mixed seeds. Calorifically, each bar clocks in between 100-140 cal, with the seed based bars topping the scale. With up to 12g of sugar per 30g bar, you don't want to be having too many, but for the size this is just enough to perk you up. On top of this, most of the sugar comes from dates, which have a GI of 42, compared to 65 for caster sugar.

Trying the paleo organic and vegan Wild Thing bars. Via @eleanormayc

Wild Thing bars are a great snack that come with no hidden nasties, making them a really good light snack. Whether or not Wild Thing's push towards a paleo clientele will be enough to make the bars stand out from competitors, is a question, but I personally was really pleased with these slim snacks. Currently available from selected retailers including Planet Organic and Amazon, you will need to plan ahead to buy these bars. However, I look forward to seeing Wild Thing make it's way into more shops, as I would definitely pick up another coconut and chia packet or two!

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Thursday, 21 January 2016

The Microbiome Solution

Today I have the pleasure of sharing a really informative book with you all; The Microbiome Solution by gastroenterologist Robynne Chutkan M.D. For those of you interested in nutrition, the effects of antibiotics or the role of bacteria to overall health, this is an essential read. Published in the UK as of last week, The Microbiome Solution explores common symptoms and causes of unhealthy gut biomes. It's interesting just how many everyday medications and foods can have an impact upon your internal systems. After explaining the causes and results of a poor microbiome, Chutkan introduces an "eat clean, live dirty" lifestyle plan that promotes growth of "good" bacteria and overall health.

Review of the micro biome solution by Robyn Chutkan. Via @eleanormayc

Chutkan goes into quite a lot of depth, so you may wish to dip in and out or head only to the sections relevant to you. Luckily, by being split into four sections, this is easily done. The first section provides a brief introduction to what exactly the gut bacteria is. If, like me, you come from a science-based background, some of this is fairly basic, but provides a good all-round information to bring everyone up to speed. Part two is the largest section by a significant amount. Here, we look at the causes of bodily complaints related to the digestive system. As this section moves from problem to problem, with a variety of issue that have similar causes, parts did start to sound a little repetitive -a patient came in with poor digestion or repeated cases of infection, Chutkan advised them to come off their antibiotics or stomach acid medication and eat a low sugar, gluten free diet. The patient would then start to see a recovery. Part of the reason for this repetitiveness is, no doubt, because many cases follow similar patterns. Still, it may be worth skimming over the sections less relevant to you if you are reading the book to solve a specific problem. The section is highly comprehensive, and I liked how symptoms, causes or names of bacteria (good and bad) frequently appeared in text boxes, enabling the reader to make an easy summary of any especially relevant information.

Review of the micro biome solution by Robyn Chutkan. Via @eleanormayc

In the next section Chutkan breaks down how to adopt a lifestyle that should help to prevent and go part of the way to cure any of these ailments. She breaks this down in to simple steps giving a range of options to take, useful as not all the tips are to everyone's taste -showers every other days or less will challenge a few social expectations! There are lots of suggestions that are easy to follow though, such as using homemade cleaning products and natural soap, eating pre- and probiotic foods, limiting medication except where necessary and more. This chapter focusing on the theme of "rewinding" ourselves, which I think is a really great concept.

Lastly, Chutkan teamed up with Elise Museles of Kale and Chocolate to create a section dedicated to recipes. The Eat Clean, Live Dirty lifestyle revolves around a blend of vegan and paleo diets. The option of eating meat is offered, with some great recipes for meat dishes included, but there is a strong emphasis towards eating more plant based dishes, with dairy and gluten being largely excluded. Although this section doesn't contain images, I still found that lots of recipes caught my eye, including coconut milk kefir, which is a plant based version of the latest probiotic superfood doing the rounds at the moment.

Review of the micro biome solution by Robyn Chutkan. Via @eleanormayc

If you have had digestive problems, or have an interest in holistic (and western!) nutrition, I would really recommend giving this book a read. It is a purely factual book, but the anecdotes throughout helped to break up the text. Thanks to clear headings and sections, it is easy to skim through the book if needed. I can't comment on the recipes as of yet, but they look promising as it stands!

The Microbiome Solution is now available in the UK, published by Scribe and selling for RRP £14.99, or for £5.62-£11.84 on Amazon.

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Monday, 18 January 2016

Five tips to Starting Yoga

A few times now, I have been asked to offer advice on how to start yoga and healthy living. Today I will be focusing on the former, to help any of you budding yogis out there to get started. If you have already started a practice, you may find some of these tips useful to expanding your practice. Yoga really is a fantastic way to look after your body and mind. With a little practice, you may surprise yourself in watching your skills and confidence grow, on and off the mat. Remember to always speak to your teacher or a professional if you have any injuries or sensitivities to avoid hurting yourself by learning proper adjustment.

Want to practice yoga but don't know where to start? Read my post for top tips and tricks to become a yogi.

1. Find a class and attend regularly
The first and best thing that I will say to anyone wanting to try yoga is to join a live class. There really is no replacement for a qualified teacher being in the room with you to make sure that you practice safely and effectively. You will have access to classes that change each week and should have an atmosphere that you enjoy. Shop around, looking for dedicated studios, gym classes and independent sessions run in community spaces. Prices vary greatly depending on where your class is being hosted and whether you are in a city or town. There are many styles of yoga, and every class will be unique, so don't be afraid to try a few. Most classes should provide you with a mat if needed, but check beforehand. Do try each class three times before moving on though, as first lessons are always a challenge whilst you get to grips with the teacher's routine. Commit to getting to a class once or twice a week to start building good habits.

2. Get online
The internet has granted us access to a wealth of opportunity, and there are thousands upon thousands of classes out there. You Tube is the most obvious to look for, but can be a bit of a minefield, Start with simple key words and you should get a selection of popular hits from the likes of Tara Stiles and Kino Macgregor. Do check in the description to see if the person in the video is fully qualified, and maybe avoid the video of the ten year old posting a tutorial on how to do the splits in a day!

Otherwise, there are some great subscription websites out there. I personally use The Yoga Collective, and can also recommend Grokker. These subscriptions usually work out much cheaper than going to a class, especially if you get into the habit of practicing a few times each week. For a more bespoke experience, Yoogia offers an online class where the teacher can see you as you practice. If you haven't got many classes on offer in your area, but still want support, this is a great option.

Want to practice yoga but don't know where to start? Read my post for top tips and tricks to become a yogi.

3. Do it yourself
Although building up to a home practice can be a daunting prospect, it really is easy to start. Learn some key sequences such as sun salutations and the warrior poses, and start to build them up together like building blocks. You don't need to improvise an hour of flowing on the mat; start with just a few minutes at a time and don't be afraid to jot down your poses on a piece of paper beforehand! Many yoga teachers bring a lesson plan to their class to reference, or have learnt one beforehand. If a class runs through a sequence or pose that you like make a note of it and practice it at home.

4. Don't push yourself
Yoga has (unfairly, I feel) has a reputation for being easy. Far from it! Poses can be really challenging, but don't over exert yourself just to satisfy your ego. Over-stretching before your muscles are ready can take you off the mat for weeks. Listen to your body and never be ashamed to take a break in Child's Pose.

5. Just here for the Shavasana
Many teachers will tell you that Shavasana, Corpse Pose, is the most important asana. However, it is also the one that most people are tempted to skip or improperly utilise. Ideally, you want to be lying prone for a good 5-10 minutes at the end of your practice so that your body can relax and take in all that you have worked on during the practice. And don't let your mind wander to making dinner, or shopping! Try to keep your mind still, or focusing on an image or word. If you have never meditated before don't expect your mind to be silent -our brains are made to be busy! Cultivating stillness of the mind is something that needs to be trained for in itself.

I hope these tips help you to get on the mat and enjoying yoga!

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Thursday, 14 January 2016

Om Yoga Magazine: Free Teen Yoga

Over the last year or so, you may have read about, or seen advertised, yoga classes for teenagers. In actual fact it is an accreditation that has been around for over ten years in the form of the TeenYoga foundation, set up by Charlotta Martinus. This year, supported by Sport England, Marks and Spencer and This Girl Can, TeenYoga has been able to set up a number of yoga spaces in pink tents and university teaching spaces, all for free. Although aimed at young women in further education colleges and universities, the classes are open to the boys as well. The classes, which can be found on the campus of Bath University also have the added incentive of USB yoga classes and free yoga mats for those who attend regularly. It is all part of the The Girl Can campaign to get the 75% of women that are not active to start moving and sweating.

There has been lots of positive responses, with girls attending daily who previously exercised very little and an estimated 500 young women accessing the classes in the south west region, with that figure likely to have doubled by the end of the 6 month campaign.

I was so pleased to read the report about this in this month's Om Yoga magazine. I have seen the growth in confidence in my housemates as the gym-newbies have joined in our group workouts, and also that of my friends as they have discovered yoga. I really do think that the initial step into a class or studio is the most daunting part of the process, and that campaigns such as these can help women to have the courage to make the first move into a healthier lifestyle. The amount of my university colleagues that have admitted to overeating, under-eating, not exercising and generally living in an unhealthy way during their teens really does shock me. Charlotte Martinus really does have her finger on the pulse in working with girls from school age up to university to bring them the self confidence, health and mindfulness that yoga teachers. University can be stressful and overwhelming at times, from first year friendships to third year dissertations. For yoga to be offered specifically to students as a management system for this stress, and an introduction to healthy living is something that I hope will reach more universities to come.

Disclaimer: I am an Affiliated Blogger with Om Yoga Magazine. Each issue I will write a post on an article from the magazine and share it with you. Have a look here to find about the other lovely affiliated bloggers. All photos in this post taken from the Om Yoga magazine. 

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Monday, 11 January 2016

Inspiration: Fab Giovanetti

This month I have the pleasure of talking to the one and only Fab Giovanetti, founder of the Health Blogger's Community, and therefore has played a huge role in connecting health bloggers with brands, one another and the wider public. So all in all,  there are a lot of us out there who are pretty grateful to Fab! On top of this, Fab is a one-woman machine running several projects and businesses at once. Feeling inspired? Read on:

Between running your own blog and the Health Bloggers’ Community, you must be one busy lady! How do you keep yourself sane and down to earth? 
…and a magazine, and another 2/3 projects still under wraps - AH! Yup, I like to do a lot of different things, and to challenge myself on a daily basis. However, I also value a lot time off and I am not afraid of doing that. I work very flexible hours (I am very productive in the mornings, and I cannot concentrate after the sun goes down) so I make sure that I start pretty early, and I always have a workout to give me a few hours break in the afternoon. I also rediscovered the joys of reading fiction. When I was young and ambitious, I wanted to become a writer (no wonder I am a blogger and I run a magazine!). I lost touch with reading as recreation, and started loading myself with self-help books (AHEM work!). I think it’s a fine balance, but we should always remember that it’s safe for us to be do nothing productive every day. 

What inspired you to go beyond your already successful blog and start the health bloggers community? 
A need that had to be met. Like most successful businesses (the ones that actually go somewhere) I answered a call for a need that was waiting to be met. Health Bloggers were not a thing 2 years ago when I started, now I can safely say they are the next fashion bloggers - health is the 3rd fastest growing industry after all. Plus, I am a mentor and a coach. I am here to support, inspire and guide people. The HBC allows me to do it for 100s, when first I only did it for a few private clients at a time.

Those of us not in the Big City are in awe of all the options that the capital has to offer. What is your favourite thing about London’s healthy living and fitness scene? And do you have a favourite workout?
Variety I guess, and interest in new things. It’s very open minded, and surely a friendly industry, but London is the place daring to try new things. It also caters for everyone: paleo, vegan, raw vegan, yoga lovers and spinning junkies. I love variety (which probably you got, AH!) so I am very grateful for PTs and coaches who provide new routines and challenges. I am currently training for the Toughest in April, so I am enjoying the free weight area much more than what I used to!

You recently qualified as a health coach. How has this affected you personally and professionally? Any pointers for anyone looking at health coaching courses?
Yup, I did indeed! Personally I became much more attuned with my body. I wasn’t doing what I  was supposed to be doing, but what my body asked for. It’s a subtle change, but it makes such a difference. I reintroduced meat after 3 years, and it was such a battle (more psychologically than physically) and accepting it was a big step for me. Professionally it gave me that extra social proof as the founder of a community of bloggers. It makes a point that doing your research, studying and getting to know different theories, stories and opinions make you a better health blogger, and teaches you the value of bio-individuality as well as more respect for yourself and others. 

What would you say to someone wanting to someone wishing to turn their hobby or passion into a career?
I could tell you ‘just start” or “take the leap and the net will appear”. Instead I want to ask you a question: are you sure you want to spend your life looking forward to 48h of freedom every week? Or even worse, 24 days of holiday out of 365? Time is the most important currency, you want to make sure you make the most of it.

Have you always been interested in healthy living?
It’s always been part of me, in one way or another I have been having my highs and lows, but I have been brought up following Macrobiotics and Ayurvedic medicine: a lot of what you’d consider healthy to me it’s general common sense.

Where is your must-see travel destination?
I have been recently travelling to Dublin a few times, and some of the beaches in the little villages are just breath-taking. I am a very simple lady (despite the looks and the hyperactive tendencies), but I am a big fan of the cosy, quiet and still pretty local atmosphere in the suburbs - Ireland is a beautiful place, and it’s mostly overlooked when people come to Europe. 

Who, or what, inspires you the most?
My friends - a lot of us are in the entrepreneurial world, and a lot of us have our own projects, businesses or little empires (it depends on how you look at it I suppose). Having a tribe of people who grows with you is such an important aspect of life (both personal and professional). I’d also like to add I have 800+ bloggers who share with us every day their wins, concerns and achievements, and this could not make me more proud, inspired or accomplished!

Name a favourite healthy meal.
Poached eggs, avocado, rye bread and smoked salmon. A shame that peanut butter would not go in there - even if, knowing me, I could work around it.

Finally, what makes you happiest?
Being in the moment. It helps me realising how lucky I am to be here, and make a difference with my message every day. How my body is strong, fast, and beautiful. How I am fully supported and guided every day. To be surrounded by amazing friends, and a very supportive family. Happiness is in the now: to quote Jim Elliot “wherever you are, be all there”

You can follow Fab on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram

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Thursday, 7 January 2016

Fitness Trackers for Yoga

When it comes to monitoring health and fitness, a certain amount of guesswork tends to be involved. As we are all unique, suggested class calorie burn values can be arbitrary at best, and when it comes to assessing the benefits of workouts done by yourself, results can become even more unclear still. On top of that, the rest of our day obviously hugely impacts on our overall wellbeing. Does your lunchtime workout really make up for your desk-based work, when compared to someone without a gym membership, but works outdoors? Fitness watches can be a great way to track this. Ranging from the humble pedometer to ultra high-tech watches with in built GPS, there is a tracker for pretty well every person.

I gave the Fitbit Charge HR a try, and set about seeing if it was sensitive enough to track my yoga practice. I was immediately struck by the range of functions that the Charge HR offered. With an in built heart rate monitor and the ability to work out my running total calorie burn, I could see how hard I was working when on the mat. This heart rate monitor was an added advantage, as I don’t think yoga would have been picked up on a more traditional fitness watch. It isn’t perfect of course, with the stretching poses not being noted, or the benefits of strength-building asanas. However, compared to what I have heard from other watches, the Fitbit was still picking up much more detail from my practice.

A big part of fitness –one that is often missed –is sleep. How easy is it on an evening to realise that you have long since missed the eight-hour window, and that the morning alarm is ticking ever closer? A clever feature of the Charge HR is that it can actually monitor your sleep. I’m not sure how accurate it is, but it is fascinating to look at how well I have slept, and even how long it takes to fall asleep. It does make you more aware of your sleep, and I have found myself dashing back home in the evening to hit my sleep target! So long as the Bluetooth on your phone is on, the Fitbit also has a silent alarm system that uses vibration rather than sound. It is much gentler way to be woken up, or can be used as a subtle reminder in the middle of your day.

Most of your stats –steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned and heart rate –can be read live on the watch itself, but the phone app is where all the data is stored, with milestones and weekly updates being emailed to you. It is a really good way to take a wider look at your progress. I was surprised at just how much distance I walked each day! My favourite thing to do was to look at my heart rate change –how did a series of sun salutations affect it compared to climbing the steps to get up the hill to my house?

Whilst I wouldn’t necessarily say that a fitness watch is as much as an essential for a yogi as it is for, say, a runner, but it was still highly informative, and the additional features of the Fitbit Charge HR made the watch a great all-rounder, useful from the yoga mat and gym to daily life.
Disclaimer: This post is in collaboration with Argos, who sent me a Fitbit Charge HR to test. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Monday, 4 January 2016

Predicted Fitness Trends for 2016

2015 was really a year for the rise in the popularity of the health and fitness lifestyle. Alongside this, it has been great to see more alternative forms of fitness becoming more commonplace, such as women taking up strength training and HIIT.

1. Climbing
Looking for a new sport that challenges you mentally as well as physically? Look no further the climbing and bouldering. It is a brilliant workout for your arms and back, as well as requiring fitness, problem-solving skills and a certain amount of bravery as you swing for the next grip! Although bouldering and climbing can be done alone, they are much more enjoyable when done in a group setting. Challenge yourself with a few friends to an hour or two on the wall.

2. Pilates
Pilates has waxed and waned in popularity over the years, but stemming from the popularity of yoga and the introduction of reformer-based classes, I think 2016 will be another year for the exercise. Pioneered by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900's and first made popular in 1960's when the method was brought to the New York dance scene. Focusing on the core and sculpting of muscles, pilates is fantastic addition to your fitness routine. Check out Lottie Murphy for home-workout videos, or for information on her classes.

3. Boxing
With boxing rings being replaced by boutique classes and Victoria's Secret models picking up their gloves, boxing is becoming much more accessible. It is easy to why; this intense workout is a killer for working your core and builds arm strength. Classes are usually accompanied alongside drills or circuit training, with kickboxing sometimes being incorporated as well.

4. Fusion fitness
Yoga crossed with tribal dance, "piloxing" (pilates and boxing), running and strength training are all classes that blend two or more different exercises to maximise benefits and calories burn/muscle growth.  Keep your eyes peeled as I think similar classes will start popping up. For now, look at Sweaty Betty's online classes from last year. BarreASANA and Body by Simone's Dance Cardio are both great examples that you can do at home.

5. Smart tech
Since the Apple watch, wearable technology has seriously stepped up it's game. Fitness trackers are all the range now -see Argos for my and three other blogger's opinion on a selection of trackers, and keep an eye out here for a more detailed look at the Fitbit Charge HR. Fitness trackers are now seamlessly recording all our day-to-day activities and working alongside other apps to give really detailed data on your day.

6. Fitness fashion: mesh detailing
Moving away from the activities themselves, when it comes to what we wear at the gym or yoga studio is getting seriously beautiful. I have noticed clever cut outs and mesh panels being featured in leggings, tops and bars more and more often. Varley do some of the most beautifully cut pieces, and Sweaty Betty have really outdone themselves with asymmetric mesh details.

What are your predictions for fitness trends this coming year? Let me know about any classes or exercises that you plan to take up.

Images from Hip and Healthy and Zoe Bingley-Pullin.