building healthy foundations

It seems that I have to keep re-learning the importance of building healthy foundations for myself! There are a few things which are key to me feeling well, and sometimes I let them slide and then I remember why they matter, so here’s quick run-down so that I can remember quicker next time…and maybe it will help you too?

Feeding myself:

Since October last year I have made huge efforts around feeding myself well and it has made such a difference in how I feel and function on a day-to-day basis. For me ‘feeding myself’ well means:

  • home-cooked meals
  • lots & lots of veggies & legumes (I’m vegetarian)
  • starting the day with a really supportive breakfast (I go for happy tummy loaf with cheese or nut butter)
  • snacks which don’t trigger a change in other kinds of eating (nut butter – I like this one – nuts, brie…)
  • avoiding snacks which become ‘triggers’ for other kinds of eating (I find sweet or salty snacks have me reaching for more of the same, replacing meals with more snacks)

When I get the first four on my list right, the fifth one isn’t even an issue. If I eat well, I feel nourished & I don’t think about snacking. Sometimes though, life has a habit of throwing a curve ball at you, and the foundations start to slip away…

Over Easter, a family issue rocked my headspace A LOT and I didn’t feel like eating. And then when I did eat, I chose ice cream instead of food, and it didn’t take long before I started to feel really caught up in a spiral of poor self-worth, which then made me not want to eat… And then yesterday my head felt more settled, and I cooked all the vegetables in my fridge, and made mushroom burgers , and ate my first real meal for a week, and just like that, I feel ok again!

Putting myself to bed:

This has always been an issue for me! I was the youngest child and remember being sent to bed before my sister, and it always felt like I was missing out on something. And maybe that’s nothing to do with how I behave now (& maybe it does?) but I really struggle to go to bed when I’m tired.

I generally sleep fine once I get there, but the getting there is a hurdle. I like to finish the day sorted, so I tend to empty the dish-washer or hang up laundry on the way to bed, and then when I get there I’m wide awake!!

Yesterday I heard someone talking on the radio about how we would benefit if we treated ourselves like toddlers, and I really connected with that idea. Children tend to have a sleep routine – a bath, quiet time, a book, a cuddle, soft lighting…so why not do the same for ourselves?

I had a small win last night because I was falling asleep on the sofa and instead of staying there, I actually got up and went to bed. Maybe the toddler idea will be a big help going forward…

Movement:

This one is my fairly easy win!

I have a dog so he gets walked every day, no matter what else is going on., but he’s possibly nearing the end of his life so I wonder if I’ll walk every day once he’s gone. I hope I will, but can imagine that there will be days when it doesn’t happen. I love to hike so I am signed up to #walk1000miles and I also try to walk 100 miles and complete a round-Bewl walk every month, so those things are great motivators. I find it’s good to have movement goals, especially if you find yourself struggling to move more.

I’m lucky in that I move for my work so most days incorporate movement of some kind. I also try to include two spin-bike sessions each week but it’s very easy to let them slide when I’m not feeling great. Last week, feeling sad and poorly nourished, I didn’t find the energy to cycle, and I decided to be kind and let myself off, which is totally ok but not a long-term plan. I’ll be back on the back tomorrow for sure!

When we get distracted by life or injured or just don’t feel like it on the day, it is easy to let go of our movement habits, but often we’d feel better if we just did it any way. Sometimes going through the motions is what will get us moving again – we might need to adapt what we’re doing but doing something is always going to be better than doing nothing.

Being creative:

The act of making something – regardless of what it is – is such a good foundation for a healthy life. And it’s not about making something brilliant, it’s just about the doing of the thing and the distraction it provides.

I do a daily photo project on Instagram. It’s often a tiny moment in my day, maybe only using my iPhone (because the best camera is always the one you have with you!) and sometimes the prompts that I follow are really annoying!! But I haven’t missed a day since January 2016! And not having missed a day is what keeps me going because I do not want to break my streak now!

One day last week I cried about my photo because I didn’t have anything I wanted to post, but then I had a word with myself, posted what I had, and moved on. That simple act reminded me that we can always move on, there’s always another day/photo prompt just around the corner and what does it matter if the photo isn’t great anyway??!

Life is hard enough! Make sure you take some time to do something creative, for no purpose, just because you can – paint, draw, write, make pretty patterns with leaves, grow things, sew things, knit things…

Putting it all together:

The goal is never to feel like I HAVE to do everything, simply to recognise that when I do certain things, I feel more ‘me’.

These are my healthy foundations. There are others I didn’t mention – eg. not drinking alcohol, social connections, feeling valued at work – but these are the things that I keep coming back to when I feel off-balance.

Yours may not be the same – although I suspect that food/sleep/move is key for all of us – but I think it is important to find out what your things are, and then do those on a regular basis.

I’d love to know what your healthy foundations are – let me know…

Move with me…

A couple of quick movement ideas to help you feel more comfortable in your body.

Upper & lower back:

A client was feeling very restricted in her upper and lower back movements today so we incorporated a few of these into her session. Happy to report she felt much more comfortable afterwards!

You might not need all of these but hopefully there are a couple of useful moves here that you can add into your day.

Sometimes we might think that we have to do a lot of movement to make a difference, but often the small moves & stretches we do throughout the day make a biggest difference to how we feel.

Child’s pose stretch with side bend:

I love this stretch! It feels SO good to stretch the side of the rib cage, from your armpit to your hip and this is a great way to do that.

Tight/weak hips?

This one is for your hips – moving them and strengthening them. Super-important as we get older…

I hope these short videos give you a few moves to add into your daily routine. Pick the ones that feel useful, ignore the ones that don’t. Adapt anything that feels not quite right for your body. Get help from an appropriate professional if you need specific guidance about moving your body.

exercise motivation

Do you struggle to get started or stay motivated with movement and exercise?

Small black dog sitting next to a pair of dumb-bells, looking over his shoulder

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently because for the past month I have actually been using my spin bike twice a week without exception! And it got me thinking about what had changed…

I bought the bike last October, having wanted to own one ever since I gave up teaching spinning classes in 2009. At the time, it seemed like a really useful post-op recovery tool, meaning that I could work on my legs strength and fitness without having to do much with my right arm. I started off using it a few times a month, and then had months where I didn’t get on it at all.

Not using it caused me to feel disappointed in myself. As I reached past it to turn off the lights each night I noticed that I was feeling bad about myself for not having used it, again! And I started to think about how much it had cost me. And the fact that it was taking up space in my lounge.

And then a few weeks ago, all of those thoughts spurred me into action…

I promised myself I would use it twice a week – one mid-week morning when I wasn’t seeing clients, and one weekend morning before I set about my day – and so far I haven’t missed a session yet! There have been a few ‘I don’t feel like it’ days but they are becoming less frequent. And the more I use it, the better it feels so that in itself becomes a motivator #whoknew?

What is my motivation?

I realised that there are a few different kinds of motivation and I’ve come to think of them in time-frames:

Short-term motivation:

  • I don’t like to exercise after I’ve eaten so my primary short-term motivation is to get it done before the need for breakfast over-takes me (this is the one that gets me on the bike on the ‘don’t feel like it’ days)
  • I like how it feels once it’s done
  • I don’t want to break my twice-a-week streak

Medium-term motivation:

  • it’s getting easier now that I’m cycling twice a week & I don’t want to go back to it feeling like a struggle again!
  • I’m going on a 2-week pilgrimage in a few weeks time and I know that the cycling is helping my leg strength and fitness – I am imagining myself walking up mountains, feeling glad that I got on my bike in preparation
  • I like that I’m finally (at 58) learning to look after myself and now I’ve started I don’t want to let myself down again

Long-term motivation:

  • I don’t want breast cancer to come back, and I feel like being strong and fit is a pretty good insurance policy, just in case
  • I don’t want to be an ‘old’ older person – I can’t think of much worse than being unable to do things that you’d like to do, so I’m going to do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen
  • I really want to go back and finish the Pennine Way
  • I’d like to walk LEJOG

Do you struggle with exercise motivation?

There’s no one way to find what motivates us because it will be different for everyone.

For some people it might be joining a class, for others it will be buying a dog. You might be inspired by an event, a big challenge or taking care of your health. You might be motivated by helping someone else to exercise (maybe your son wants to do a 10k run and asks you to join him or you want to share a love of walking with a family member).

Once you know what motivates you it’s much easier to stick with something.

If you’re struggling with motivation to exercise here are a couple of articles which might help:

Ways to get started:

These are some of my favourite habits to keep me on track:

  • I put my workout clothes on the floor by my bed the night before (the old ideas are sometimes the best!!)
  • I don’t eat before my workout – it makes me feel sick and feeling hungry always gets me on the bike
  • I set a goal of doing it twice per week, which gives me some flexibility about when, but not if
  • it’s kind of in my diary – not actually written in but mentally it’s there
  • I add it to the list when I’m planning for the next day as I go to bed
  • I found a cycle class that I really enjoy (Les Mills The Trip in case you want to take a look)

Your ways to get started might look different, but it’s definitely worth giving them some thought and planning ahead because you’re much more likely to stick with it that way.

Ways that I can help you:

If you really struggle to get started, why not join me for one of my regular online fitness classes? You can pay as you go or sign up to a subscription – sometimes making a financial commitment & getting a good return on your investment really helps!

And if you’re old-school and prefer actual in-person classes, I teach one of those each week too. [Isn’t it weird that pre-Covid no-one ever used the term ‘in-person’??]

One-to-one sessions are another great way to get started and stay motivated. Your session is tailored around your needs and we’ll work together to get you where you want to go on your movement journey. Personal Training sessions can include pilates, fitness and walking, or a combination of all three!

One more thing…

I just remembered one more thing which really helped me with my motivation to look after myself better. I had some post-cancer/pre-surgery psychotherapy late last year and for literally the first time in my life I understood that I mattered. It was truly an enormous shift in my thinking.

When I first started exercising, in my late twenties, it was a mental escape from a life that wasn’t making my soul sing. And then I trained to teach fitness, and mostly it has always been about working with clients since then. I’ve been lucky to stay relatively fit off the back of that, but it’s not the same as working on my own fitness.

But now, for the first time, I’m doing it for me, because I’m worth it!

And so are you.

And when you believe that, I think that the motivation is much easier to find and easier to stick with…

What is oncology massage?

Over the Christmas break I completed my Oncology Massage course with Susan Findlay. The course was so much more than I imagined it would be – more wholesome, more holistic, more client-centred and it reminded me (again) of the importance of touch.

One in two of us will have cancer at some point in our lives, and it felt important for me to learn more about how best to help those affected by it.

A few people have asked me what oncology massage is so I thought I’d write down my thoughts as I begin my journey into this field of work.

What is oncology massage?

“Oncology massage is simply the adaptation of massage techniques with the consideration of the effects of cancer treatment.” ( ‘Oncology Massage – and integrative approach to cancer care’ by Janet Penny & Rebecca L Sturgeon)

Obviously the specifics are all about exactly which considerations need to be made and how best to work as part of a client’s primary care and oncology team.

Oncology massage won’t look the same for everyone.

How does it differ from sports massage?

With sports massage, most clients will come with a specific issue in their body. It might be restricting their movement, preventing them from playing a sport they love, causing pain in everyday life or might be related to an injury. Although I always take a whole-body approach, because everything is connected (obvs!!), the primary goal is to identify and ‘fix’ the area(s) of concern. [In truth, the massage therapist doesn’t ‘fix’ their client, but the work we do helps the client to move more comfortably and with greater awareness, and these improvements resolve the problem over time].

Clients may need 4-6 treatments initially to get them back to a level playing field, and from there they might have maintenance treatments as required. Over time, we might keep coming back to the same areas or change our approach as things within the body evolve. Either way, the goal for most sports massage clients is reduced pain & improved movement.

With oncology massage the focus is much more holistic because there is often nothing to ‘fix’. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be hugely beneficial!

Oncology massage is about the whole person (rather than their illness) and it is a non-medical interaction which can be hugely important given everything else they may be going through/have been through.

It offers a sense of connection, can improve relaxation & create a feeling of being seen/heard. It can be offered pre-, during and post-cancer treatments. It might be as simple as a hand massage for someone while they are having a chemotherapy treatment, or focus on specific areas of the body following surgery.

What are the potential benefits of oncology massage?

Each oncology massage will be truly unique to the client, taking into account the specifics of their diagnosis, the treatment being undertaken, the stage of their disease, their prognosis, etc. so it is hard to generalise about the benefits.

However, here is a list of potential benefits, that have been observed in research, into the effects of different massage modalities on cancer patients:

  • relieves muscle soreness related to inactivity or cancer treatments
  • stimulates lymphatic flow, reduces swelling and lymphedema
  • increases range of movement and functional movement patterns
  • promotes relaxation
  • stimulates the digestive system (improves bowel and kidney function)
  • improves sleep quality
  • promotes alertness and mental clarity
  • reduces pain
  • reduces symptoms from chemotherapy and radiotherapy
  • improves rate of recovery from anaesthesia
  • stimulates wound healing
  • improves scar tissue elasticity
  • reduces time in hospital
  • promotes a greater patient awareness about their body, which may also promote positive body image for the patient and an improved sense of connection with themself
  • provides reassuring touch
  • reduces anxiety and depression
  • offers hope
  • reduces feelings of isolation
  • provides a distraction/time-out
  • improves sense of control about making decisions for their body

Obviously, not everyone having an oncology massage will experience all of these benefits but can you imagine how good even one or two of these would feel when you’re going through possibly the darkest of days?

It’s worth saying that sports massage clients may also experience many of these benefits!

How can I help?

This course reminded me how important a role touch therapy can play for all of us so I will continue to offer sports and clinical massage as I already do. But as a result of my certification, I’m looking forward to being able to broaden my work to include oncology clients.

I think it is so important for us to feel whole, regardless of what we have been through. Inevitably it is the job of our medical team to remove or manage the disease and that is obviously the primary focus, but we are so much more than a damaged part. With oncology massage, perhaps I can be a small part of someone’s healing journey or offer support when healing is not an option.  

Where appropriate, I will treat oncology clients from my home treatment room, but I also hope to get involved offering massage in a clinical oncology setting, where I can use my skills to help people when they are facing something that none of us ever want to face.

Please get in contact if you would like to discuss sports or oncology massage with me.

Self-care strategies for easeful movement

Here’s a round-up of short videos I have created during 2022 to give you some easy self-care ‘homework’ to use between massage treatments.

I hope you find something useful for your body!

As always, please ask if you are unsure whether a particular move is right for you; go gently and pay close attention to any feedback from your body (ie. nothing needs to feel painful to be doing you some good!)

Neck & shoulders:

Hips & Legs:

hamstring stretch with a band

Feet & ankles:

Whole body:

Wishing you an easeful start to 2023:

Remember, ‘little + often’ is most likely going to be a more effective formula than ‘lots x once + never again’!

Would your body benefit from seeing a Women’s Health Physio?

Spoiler alert: the answer is probably ‘yes’!

I wrote about this in my newsletter last week and decided to share it here too, just to help spread the message as far as I can.

I hadn’t originally planned to share this because it feels a bit personal, but I am so astounded at the changes that I couldn’t not share my recent experience seeing a fabulous Women’s Health Physiotherapist. In two sessions I feel like a different person – or more like me – and so much better connected in my body.

I knew I was holding on to tension/trauma in my body (nothing overly dramatic but childbirth x 3, surgery x 2, bereavement, giving CPR to someone in the street, general life-stuff) but I didn’t realise the impact it was having. I honestly thought I could get away with it, so long as I just kept on holding all that shit together! Turns out that I’m human after all and now that I can physically feel how much better it is to let it out, I’m on a mission to do more of that and to spread the word!!

breathe

A bit of background:

In the summer of 2020 I had two surgeries for breast cancer. The first one was a lumpectomy and removal of two lymph nodes in my armpit. I was cautiously back at work a week later, waiting to get the ‘all-clear’ and start the next stage of my treatment. I then found out that the first procedure had not been a complete success so I underwent a mastectomy with implant reconstruction four weeks later. This surgery was successful but of course it had a massive impact on my body, not least in terms of how I felt about myself.

Since 2020 I have also experienced a couple of bouts of severe back pain and associated muscle spasm, the most recent one about six or seven weeks ago.

In an attempt to cover all bases with regards my on-going low back & coccyx pain, I decided to see a Women’s Health Physiotherapist in case there was tightness/restriction in my pelvic floor which was contributing to the problem. And also to check that I am using my 56-yr-old pelvic floor muscles effectively (happily I am – gold star for me!)

What is a Women’s Health Physiotherapist?

I saw Jenny Gillespie (based near Tunbridge Wells) for a women’s health assessment. She is a chartered physiotherapist, specialising originally in musculoskeletal work and now in women’s health physiotherapy, offering holistic assessment and management to women of all ages with symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction and musculoskeletal pain.

I was pretty nervous before my first appointment, not really knowing what to expect. I actually almost didn’t go, but I’m so glad I did. 

Jenny started by taking some details of why I was there – my back pain issues, breast cancer treatment and childbirth history, most of which was quite emotional for me to share, but she put me at ease very quickly and suggested a treatment plan.

hydrate

What does a treatment involve?

I can only tell you about my experience and what my sessions have involved. We are all different and treatments will be bespoke, but hopefully this will help to give you an insight & dispel any concerns you might have.

Jenny started off by working over my breast cancer scars and surrounding areas which felt very restricted and were causing me considerable discomfort. She is literally the first person to see my scars so that was pretty emotional, but having some release work done was fantastic. Even after one session, the difference was astonishing; and after the second session today I have much more symmetry and much more comfortable movement in the shoulder and across my ribs.

She then worked over my abdomen for some visceral release. She found & released loads of areas where I didn’t even know I was holding tension. After the first session my abdomen was a totally different shape (much flatter – nice!) and much more responsive to exercise, whereas it had been ‘gripping’ ever since my surgeries. In the second session Jenny did even more work over this area of the body and it feels so much more comfortable.

The final part of the treatment was the part I had been not looking forward to – the internal assessment and scar/trigger point release work. Trust me when I say it was WAY less invasive than having a cervical smear test. My upper body was clothed and my lower body was covered with couch roll (paper tissue). There was no speculum, no bright lights & no peering inside my body!!

Every woman’s experience will be different but for me there was some internal scar release work required, which was weirdly incredible! As Jenny worked over internal trigger points I could feel areas of my hips, legs and back letting go of familiar uncomfortable holding patterns. It’s very hard to describe the sensation but nothing in either session has felt painful, intrusive, embarrassing or even unpleasant.

While Jenny was working on my body I felt very safe, respected and nurtured. I felt ‘seen’ as a whole person, like she had understood fully why I was there and what my body needed.

How does it feel afterwards?

Obviously this is going to vary from one woman to the next.

Jenny warned me that I would probably feel exhausted after the first session, and she was not wrong!! I cried a lot on the way home and afterwards (and the next day) but I know that I hold lots of emotion about my childbirth experiences (never mind all the other stuff I’ve been lugging around for years!!) so it actually felt good that some of that had been disturbed. The next morning my body felt different – almost disconnected while things settle into new movement patterns – but also much more ‘easeful’, a bit calmer, less tense.

In the week since, I have noticed

  • less hip/buttock pain when sitting & walking,
  • less gripping in my abdomen when exercising,
  • an easier/deeper/fuller/more effortless breathing pattern
  • a much better connection to and awareness of my pelvic floor – like it was asleep and it’s not any more
  • a change in how my reconstructed boob sits over my ribs, now much better aligned to the natural side

Also I’ve been making much better food choices over the past week because I feel so much better about myself.

nutrition

And I feel really proud of myself for doing something that I had previously not felt brave enough to do.

Is it for you?

I’m going to stick my neck out and say that every woman needs this!

If you have a vagina, regardless of whether or not you have had children (or how you birthed your children), and you have any low back/hip pain, any pelvic floor issues or any prolapse concerns, do yourself a favour and book an appointment. If you’re not sure if you need to book an appointment, I would say, do it anyway! You won’t regret it.

Also if you’re a man reading this and you know someone that fits into the criteria above, get them to book an appointment –  they will be very grateful. I should also mention that men’s health physiotherapy is also available if you need it for yourself.

I have known for a long time through my professional networks that seeing a WHP is a good idea for all women, but I didn’t know it through my own experience until now. My oldest child is 33 this year which means that I have been carrying some of my internal scars for that long.

Oh how I wish I had done this sooner, which is why I’m telling you in the hope that you will do it soon too…

Where to get help

If you would like further information or would like to find a women’s health physio in your area you can find out more here:

I booked my WHP privately but there is support via the NHS for certain conditions.

Help your feet to feel more fabulous

I’m going to start by saying that I’m not a Podiatrist, so this is written from the perspective of my own personal experience and the things I see in my clients.

Our feet are truly fabulous things. The ankle and foot complex contains 26 bones, 33 joints and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. Considering both feet, that makes a total of 52 bones, making up about a quarter of all bones found in the mature adult body.

Maybe it’s time we took better care of these precious feet of ours??

Things I believe to be true:

  • how our feet move affects how everything else moves further up the chain – ankles, calves, knees, thighs, hips, pelvic floor, core, low back, mid-back, upper back, shoulders and neck – ie. literally every part of your body!
  • how our feet move also affect our sense of balance and proprioception (connection to where we are in space)
  • what we wear on our feet can inhibit and alter the movement patterns in our feet – it’s not rocket science, but here are a few examples:
    • if shoes/socks are too tight our feet can’t spread out to offer a good base of support when we’re standing or moving;
    • if shoes have no backs (eg. flip flops) the toes will work extra hard to grip the shoe as we walk;
    • if we wear heels the foot tends to slide forward adding pressure around the toes (this also happens in trainers with a thicker sole under the heel than the ball of the foot)
  • wearing shoes which are too small (even if they feel comfortable) is never going to make your feet happy
  • showing our feet some love will always be a good investment of time
feet in trainers

Are your shoes too small?

For some reason people seem to take offence when I suggest to them that their shoes are too small. I have no idea why it would be an offensive thing to hear?? It is just a fact that our feet get wider and longer as we get older, so if you’re still wearing the same shoe size you wore five/ten/twenty years ago they are probably too small.

Also, you probably don’t wear the same size clothes you wore five/ten/twenty years ago so why would your feet be any different to your body?

If you don’t believe me you could always go and have them measured!

Or, if you are experiencing issues with your feet/ankles/knees/hips and your toes tend to looked scrunched-up (eg. crooked toes, pointing-at-the-ceiling toes or unable-to-spread-them-out toes) why not buy one pair of shoes the next size up, wear only those shoes for a few weeks and see what happens. At the very least your toes will gradually start to stretch out and spread out and breathe a little. But more likely, loads of other things will change too…

I’ve bought bigger shoes, what else can I do for my feet?

Once you’ve stopped squishing your feet into the wrong sized shoes, you can help your feet even more by giving them some release-work, stretches, exercises and a bit of self-massage. It doesn’t need to take long each day – just pick one or two things that feel useful and start there. Do those things 2-3 times a day (or more!) and notice the changes. You can add in other things later on once your feet start to change.

Here are couple of short videos from me:

Also, walk around in bare feet whenever you can – it’s a great way to strengthen your feet and that helps them to function better.

What other help is there?

If you have any concerns, I would recommend you find a Podiatrist or Physiotherapist and let them assess what is going on with your feet. They will be qualified to offer specific advice in terms of exercise and support for your feet to get you moving more comfortably.

Be mindful of the fact that a Podiatrist will almost always recommend orthotics (support for your foot inside your shoe) which might not be your preferred/best option, although perhaps useful in the short-term.

Also, check-out some of my favourite foot-people online:

  • Gait Happens – she shares some fabulous stuff on social media so find here there too
  • EBFA Global – click to access Dr Emily Splichal’s free guide to Toe Spacers & also find her on Instagram for some great information
  • Katy Bowman is Nutritious Movement on IG – another source of fabulous resources for your feet
bare feet

Barefooting:

Having taken a keen interest in feet for many years, I now only wear ‘barefoot’ shoes which have no support or cushioning in the soles and they work really well for my feet. Barefoot shoes have a wide toe-box and a less rounded inside edge around the big toe to allow optimal foot function. I’m not suggesting that you go down this route without doing your own research, but am very happy that I made the switch.

I hope this has given you some food for thought and a few ideas to try if you think that your feet might be the cause of issues in your body. As always, let me know if you have any questions – I’ll do my best to answer them or direct you to someone who knows more than me

Top tips for eating more fruit and vegetables

A few weeks ago I wrote about trying to up-spec my eating game to include at least 30 different varieties of fruit and vegetables a week, and I’m still doing it!

layered salad bowl

Obviously there are plenty of items that repeat weekly, but I’m trying to add in a few newbies each week too. Across the last four weeks I have eaten 50 different fruit and vegetables in total, which is probably four or five times more varied than in the four weeks before that! As an example, the salad above included mixed lettuce leaves, pea shoots & spinach as a base, topped off with olives, garlic, lentil sprouts, avocado, pickled red cabbage, tomatoes, hummus and sesame seeds – 9 veggies added to the list in one meal!

I’ve bought myself two sprouting jars and I’m really enjoying growing my own vegetables in miniature. Favourites so far are sprouted sunflower seeds and lentil sprouts (below), both of which work well in cold or hot dishes. Sprouted pulses and seeds taste amazing, add texture and colour and a whole heap of nutritional value and they are super-simple to grow.

lentil sprouts

Two jars allows me to stagger them and keep a continuous supply, or sprout two different things at once. I currently have lentils and broccoli sprouts ready to eat and I have sunflower seeds soaking in a separate pot ready to add to one of the jars when the sprouts have been moved to the fridge/eaten. Of course you don’t need to buy a special jar to sprout seeds and pulses but it makes the process very easy. And also I felt that having invested in the jars I might be more likely to keep using them long term…?!

Since the first week of doing this, I have found a few things which help me to stay on track:

  1. keep a pencil and paper in the kitchen to write everything down on a meal-by-meal basis
  2. start the week well – by bedtime on Monday this week I had already eaten 17 different fruit and vegetables, so I felt like I was winning right from the start
  3. make up batches of meals which contain a lot of different vegetables so I have them in the fridge or freezer when I need them
  4. use different fruits to make up fruit compote to go with porridge/chia pudding/granola/etc (frozen fruit is great for this)
  5. make use of what you have around – I cut down the last of my tomatoes at the weekend and made a jar of quick pickled green tomatoes
  6. collect windfall apples, pick damsons or forage for sweet chestnuts if you see them while you’re out and about (I’m not sure whether sloes for sloe gin counts but I guess you can decide for yourself!)
  7. don’t forget to include frozen, tinned or bottled fruit and vegetable options to your list – sauerkraut is one of my favourite fall-backs when I don’t want to cook but I need to up the veggie-quota
keeping track

Now that I’ve started, I’m going to keep the momentum going on my #30fruitandvegetables mission. It makes sense on so many levels – upping nutrition for heart, hormonal, bowel & cognitive health; promoting a feeling of self-care; managing energy levels; and creating a better connection with & enjoyment of eating.

You may already be far more evolved than me on this issue, but if not, and even if you don’t want to go for the full 30 in one go, why not start by adding one extra portion of vegetables to each meal or try buying one new vegetable ingredient each week. Small changes really do add up over time…

Do you eat 30 different varieties of fruit and vegetables each week?

Did you know that eating a broad range and number of fruits and vegetables each week can support your hormonal health?

Last week as part of a course I’m studying, and with my own health in mind, I felt inspired to see if I could follow the advice to eat 30 different varieties of fruit and veg in one week.

home grown!!

The aim is to use dietary measures to naturally support the body in processing & managing oestrogen levels, which in turns supports us through times of hormonal change, such as peri-menopause. In addition to eating a range of plant-based foods (including legumes, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables) and brightly-coloured foods, the goal is to broaden the range of fruits and vegetables we consume.

I am vegetarian so in theory it maybe shouldn’t be that hard. But I’m also lazy about cooking for one and a bit of a fussy-eater after a childhood of strict ‘eat what you’re given’ parenting, so I was really intrigued to see how I would get on.

I started last Tuesday and tracked back over the previous day to start my count. I had also recently done a good food shop so I already had a few different options available to get me started.

I arrived at 17 different items quite easily and really enjoyed challenging myself to fit extra vegetables into my meals:

  • cavolo nero
  • mushrooms
  • green beans
  • sweetcorn
  • tomatoes
  • spinach
  • sugarsnap peas
  • apples
  • blueberries
  • red grapes
  • leeks
  • red lentils (not sure if legumes count but I counted them anyway just in case I fell short!!)
  • kiwi
  • nectarines
  • carrots
  • avocado
  • broccoli

At this point I realised that back-up supplies would be needed so I trawled the supermarket for as many different things as I could find, including some things I had forgotten about & some that I don’t really like.

I added a few ‘deli’ items:

  • olives
  • artichoke hearts (I’d forgotten how much I love these)
  • sauerkraut (love this and eat it often but had run out)

Some vegetables I normally avoid:

  • brussels sprouts (which were better shredded and pan-fried than any other way I have ever eaten them)
  • parsnips (I don’t mind them but wouldn’t usually choose them)
  • mustard cress (tasted way better than I remembered)
  • celery (I hide it in ragout-type recipes)
  • cauliflower (I had some in the freezer so I used it to make cauliflower, parsnip and garlic mash)

Some basic extras:

  • potatoes
  • butternut squash
  • garlic
  • onions
  • white cabbage (I made coleslaw with added apple and sunflower seeds)

And, last but not least, some lovely additions:

  • pea shoots (such a great flavourful addition to a salad)
  • mango (post 10-mile hike purchase)
  • blackberries (picked en-route)

So I finished my week on 32 different kinds of fruit and veg (33 if I include the red lentils, but in that case I can also include butter beans and cannellini beans so 35!) I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t really more on fruit (as I am a bit of a fruit-bat) and actually I really enjoyed finding new ways to include more vegetables into my meals.

brussels sprouts made better

One of the things I learned from this (which came as no surprise but all the same it was a good reminder) is that I basically eat the same ingredients nearly every week. Probably many of us do. Food shopping can become a bit of a chore and I think I have been following the same path through the shop each time, so that I buy food without ever needing to veer off-course. I really enjoyed thinking about what I could eat to increase my veggie uptake and it was good to look along shelves that I normally by-pass.

The best thing I gained from doing this, was a stirring in my soul – a little bit of excitement about my meals, a joy in new found flavour (& texture) combinations, and a better connection with what I was eating. My meals are usually ‘bistro bowl & single utensil’ options so that I can eat without thinking, mostly sat on the sofa, distracted by a bit of catch-up TV. Last week I think I used two utensils together more than once, I sat at a table to eat more often and I actually took notice of what I was eating.

I felt like I was bathing my body in nutrients, colour, flavour and a big dose of self-care.

breakfast favourite – chia pudding, fruit compote, ground flaxseed, soaked sunflower seeds, organic yoghurt

I ate (& craved) less chocolate & consumed significantly less cheese-as-a-meal-substitute last week. Interestingly I don’t think I spent any more than usual on food because I didn’t buy snacks or lots of cheese like I might usually do. I guess time will tell how much it costs but I plan to do lots of batch-cooking of dishes which include as many vegetables as possible. Yesterday I made a green lentil ragout with eight different veggies in it – knowing that I have portions of this in the freezer will be a real bonus when I’m short on time and need a veggie-boost.

There was a downside…I used the dishwasher more than usual, but I guess that’s just part of being a grown-up & cooking actual meals?!

fresh supplies

One week on and I’m still going with the goal of 30 but I’m trying to make some changes from last week so that I don’t stick with the same 30 each week. So far I’ve added in beetroot, spring greens, pomegranate & raspberries; I’ve grown broccoli sprouts and I’m sprouting some sunflower seeds; and I have pak choi and sweet potatoes lurking in the fridge. I think the key is to layer in a couple of extra veggies at every meal – so instead of a meal consisting 3-4 ingredients, I will bump it up to 7-8 different ones, so that every meal makes a contribution to my total count (and more importantly my health!)

broccoli and friends!

So how about you? Do you (or could you) eat 30 different varieties of fruit and veg in one week? If not, might you give it a try?

If you are a way off to start with, you might not want to make such a sweeping change all in one week so perhaps start by gradually adding in a few new items each week until you get there.

Please let me know if you give it a try – would love to know how you get on and what differences you notice, particularly if you are also trying to balance your hormone levels.

(cont’d)

updates to online classes

And just like that we are 7 weeks in with online classes! I think we have all adapted so well to this significant shift in how we exercise, together-apart.

Thank you so much for staying with me as we have navigated through the technology along the way. For those of you that prefer to follow the videos rather than joining live, I miss seeing your face but I’m so happy to hear that you’re still moving.

For me, this is about so much more than keeping my business afloat. In the early days I felt like I wanted to offer something to the world without knowing how to offer it. I soon realised that the best help I could offer was to keep doing what I do, supporting you with fitness and movement to help keep you well. On one level it is a relatively insignificant thing, but actually I believe it is important for us all to keep active and keep some sort of routine in place. The enormity of the current situation is too huge to process and I hope that ‘coming’ to class helps you to step-away from it all for a while and re-connect with yourself on a regular basis.

Revised online class timetable:

Our online class timetable has evolved gradually over the past few weeks (and will probably continue to evolve) and I have made a few more changes this week. Classes on Mondays-Wednesdays are unchanged but I have changed things on Thursdays & Fridays (see details below).

online timetable

The 7am classes are designed to give you the chance to fit in some movement before you get busy with your day – if you are working from home or home-schooling, I hope it is early enough to fit around your working/schooling schedule, and if you’re not currently working, I hope it gives you a hint of a work-day routine and something to get up for.

Do please let me know if there are any other class formats or any one-off sessions that you would like me to add.

How to book:

All classes are booked online.

Payment can be made as a one-off booking or via a monthly class pass subscription which gives unlimited access to all sessions.

  • class descriptions can be found here
  • subscription details can be found here
  • classes can be booked here

When you book a one-off class, you will also receive a link to access the live recording afterwards so that you can ‘attend’ at a later time if your prefer. Live recordings will be available for 7 days after the class.

If you have a monthly class pass subscription, you will have access to recordings of all classes via your membership area, as well as all the ‘live’ sessions.

Let me know if you have any questions at all – I look forward to seeing you in the taylor-made fitness virtual studio very soon Jx

If you need to set yourself up for home exercise, read my guide about what you might need here