My Sister, My Hero!

sisters

When I first started blogging I wanted to be extremely private, I wanted my articles to motivate, inspire, educate, and to be an encouragement to whoever fancied taking the time to read what I had to say in the first place.

I am a friendly person, but I’m also very shy, sentimental, and private.

Because of that, I was certain I didn’t want to be one of those blogs who gives you regular updates on their personal lives, or delve into private affairs!

To this day, I still have the same fundamental goal in mind.

However, I believe that motivation, inspiration, education, and encouragement doesn’t only come from text-books, or from research. It comes from real life events, personal stories from the heart, experiences from the very core of our existence. There is a reassurance somehow in knowing that you’re not alone, that you’re not the only one in your current struggle, or that you’re only human!

And this leads me to today’s post.

My sister, my hero!

My sister has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, and is, as I am beginning to write this post, going through surgery.

She is a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a strong and very brave woman. I don’t think anything can prepare you for information like that, but she was solid, positive, and courageous upon hearing this news.

I felt many emotions the day she went for her last biopsy – the day it was confirmed to her that she did in fact, have breast cancer. To be honest, I felt silly for being so overwhelmed by my own present worries and insignificant concerns, things that I wasn’t happy with, or wished could be better. For her, this news was the beginning of worry, concern, and decision-making.

P.S I’m pleased to say the surgery went well and she’s in recovery, and is definitely showing this cancer who is boss!

To All The Strong Women

I have very close friends and tribal-soul-sisters that are cancer survivors, or are surviving a chronic illness. Who prove to me that there is nothing you can’t survive if you have the will power and positive outlook to overcome what seems to be the impossible. Who put faith before fear, strength before weakness, humility before pride.

To all you ladies out there, sisters, tribal sisters…you are all my hero’s and influence me on a daily basis to think bigger than my current state! Who know what struggle truly is, and what miracles can be.

It takes strong women like you, to be an encouragement to many, even through your most difficult moments. And I am humbled.

To My Sister

I love you sis. I know no matter what, you’re going to beat this. You’re an amazing person, a kind soul. You’re my hero and inspiration, and are stronger than ever! You will come out victorious – a survivor to all those other women out there who are hearing this very same news for a first time.

“You only know how strong you are, when being strong is your only choice.” – Bob Marley

xx Lara

Feed Your Skin – Love Water

#infusedwaterSummer has begun, and I can already feel the potential damage it could impose on my skin.

I do love basking in the warmth of summer, and catching a few healthy rays of sun for a maximum of 15 minutes per day. But what I don’t want to see is leather skin that is dry and withered. After all, leathery skin will not help my anti-ageing quest!

There are a few steps I can take to avoid looking like a shriveled up prune. Top priority for this gal here!

Protect Your Skin

Protecting your skin comes in more ways than one.

Sunscreen – Some swear by lathering on the 50 SPF sunscreen from head to toe, any time you step out of your house. I personally have a slightly controversial approach to sunscreen, and the other damaging effects this chemical filled product does to the skin. Each to their own though! However, I do apply about a 15 SPF to my face and chest if I’m out for a few hours by the pool, and yes, I wear a hat here in hot Texas! For boat trips, and long day’s on the beach, I would also apply it to my whole body.

Healthy eating habits – Eating a well-balanced diet of juicy and nourishing nutrients, and plenty skin protecting foods will help the skin protect itself from harsh elements. Chocolate offers natural skin protection – just don’t be fooled by the sugary type…that will only send you on a trip to the dentist. Opt for a dark chocolate instead.

What to avoid –  Avoid or minimize drinks that could dehydrate you such as coffee, alcohol, and tea, etc.

One thing is certain on my personal quest for luscious skin – which I will have to put into place effective immediately, and that is to make water my best friend.

If You’re Thirsty Then You Are Already Dehydrated

This is true – thirst equals current dehydration. The idea is to avoid getting to the part where you’re thirsty, and in desperate need of water. It can be tricky at times when busy with jobs at hand, it’s easy forget to drink water. The moment we feel thirst, this is when our body tells us it’s dehydrated.

Learn To Love Water

The best way to keep hydrated is to drink water. And what’s better than water for ultimate absorption? Yes, infused water!

I do love water and drink copious amount of it at times. But there are times when I too forget, or get a bit bored of drinking it. I’m not really a juice or soda girl, unless it’s freshly squeezed juice, or bubbly water.

My kids and I are on a mission to love water and enjoy it. We’ve bought a few fun cups that have a way to infuse fruit into it. It’s nothing fancy, but it does make water a lot less boring. It’s all about doing what works, and getting into it, being obsessed with making new flavor combinations. We put in whatever fruit we have, a slither of lemon, some blueberries, strawberries, a tea bag, chia seeds (that’s a protein shake right there), a cinnamon stick, a piece of ginger, some watermelon.

We typically just put it in our cup first thing in the morning and top it up with water throughout the day. You can also buy jugs especially for infusions, or big water bottes to carry to work. They’re for purchase everywhere these day.

Your Skin Is On You

Summer is a great time to enjoy cocktails, beer, a few glasses of bubbly, and plenty of iced-coffee. Nothing feels better than a cold beer on a hot day, or after working in the garden. My favorite! That’s all good and well, but keeping it in balance with plenty of water is on you.

At the end of the day, drinking water will not only protect your body, but will feed your skin, allowing you to look like a sun-kissed goddess all summer.

You are in charge of how your skin looks.

Drinking plenty of healthy infused concoctions will definitely put the fun back into drinking water, and will keep your skin hydrated and glowing!

What are some fun way’s you have found that works to help you drink more water? Please post comments below…I would love to know!

xx Lara

Friends For Life

Friendship

I love travelling the world, experiencing a new life, new surroundings, new work, food, people, shops, nature. Travelling offers a plethora of new beginnings, and is good for the soul and helpful to the body. I wouldn’t change my wanderlust life for the world. I feel lucky and blessed to live the life I live.

Lonely Moments

As with anything amazing there is always a downside. The loss of friendships –not so much a loss of friendship, but rather the sad distance of being physically separated from the touch, scent, or warmth of that special person. Tears inevitably flow at times from the separation anxiety, or the absence of the all-important reassurance of knowing you can meet anytime for a quick coffee and casual chat. When life is tough you know there is a shoulder to cry on, or a gentle listening ear, or simply that they will be there to offer you a few words of comfort…to make you feel important. The absence of a close friend is a hard thing to face when moving to a new country.

New Beginning’s

It’s not all doom and gloom though, as a new dawn arises so do the possibilities of finding new friends. The world is full of like-minded souls ready for paths to meet and start new friendships with. It’s not about having many friends it’s about finding the right friends. And friends are important in life. They keep you feeling safe, settled, and comforted when you are a long way from “home”.

I remember a few years back when my husband and I were looking for a house. The sales agent that was showing us this particular house –for some strange reason –said that this wouldn’t be the house for me as it didn’t have loads of neighbors around to whom I could go out and chat with. He got me thinking to myself, “Hang on, you don’t know me. I’m not the kind of person that needs to be surrounded by busy bodies who want to gossip and chat about what that person up the street is doing. Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just not what’s important to me. All I need is a real friend. Someone that I feel a connection with. It’s not about how many friends I can have. Just the right ones. And if they happen to be on my street all the better!”

What Does A Friend Mean To You?

I’ve learned a lot about friendships in my recent years –call it maturity or a sudden appreciation for true friendship. I’ve learned that with some it takes years to find common ground with or to even truly get to know. With some you think you know them until suddenly you realise all too soon that you totally misjudged them, their character, and maybe being friends with them will be a bad idea –toxic!  With others I’ve found an immediate bonding with that no distance, nor time, could ever change the connection between us. It could be years between seeing them with only a few words of communication in between, but once reunited the kindred spirits come together as if there were never time or distance. This is true friendship.

Travelling and Friendship

What I have found fascinating in my years of  travelling is the fact that I have friends all over the place who I can reconnect with or who can connect me with good friends of theirs. I find it comforting knowing I’m not entirely alone in a new country, and I embrace the possibilities of making new memories with new like-minded people –always keeping those I hold dear who are far away in my thoughts and close to my heart.

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive. And it is only by this meeting, that a new world is born. – Anais Nin

xx Lara

Embracing Your Changing Beauty

DSC_0995Beauty Standards In Society

To all you ladies out there who feel like today’s beauty standards in society are haunting your dreams or making you feel like its survival of the prettiest. I hear you and I feel you! Self-image is very important and we seem to have standards for ourselves that allow or don’t allow us to accept the skin we’re in.

I’ll be the first to admit that I set myself a very high standard for the level of fitness and health I WANT my body to be in. Accepting its never-ending-changes feels sometimes like a big lump in my throat, and very uncomfortable to swallow.

When did I give permission for all this white hair to make its home on my head?Hello! You should be charged rent. And those sneaky little wrinkles on my face? I’m certain they should be charged with permanent residency, effective immediately? That extra bit of post pregnancy belly chub I can’t shake? Or that mother who just stepped out without a stitch of make up, looking like a goddess in rags. Why is it I get to look like a zombie with the single absence of mascara? Hmm, I don’t know.

And then we have the small little health issues that start creeping in with age.

What is age though? And what makes one start feeling old and lacking in beauty confidence?

Acceptance of Self-Image

Finding peace and acceptance with our body is probably the reason why we start aging in the first place. It seems the more I start worrying and obsessing with my body the older I start to look and the less fun life seems to be.

Okay, just for the record, I’m not thinking about my body and my looks all the time. I am actually quite happy to age as naturally as possible –but I’m only human, so on a bad day the ageing effects do start to bum me out just like any other woman!

Yes, it’s important to have standards and to care for our body staying healthy and strong –this way it keeps us in good form as we get older and helps us age gracefully. But, obsessing never helps. The more negative we see in ourselves the more negative we’ll look in our minds. But instead if we choose to embrace our ever changing body on a daily basis, our opinions about ourselves will start to change making us look confidently gorgeous!

How To Redefine Your Definition of Beauty

Society keeps setting the bar so high for us women these days, we’re afraid of aging, afraid of getting too heavy or too thin. Truth is we can’t please the constant trends or deny the fact that our body is getting older/changing. We have to embrace ourselves, love our curves, our edges, all our perfect imperfections. (Even John Legend knows how to love our perfect imperfections, ladies!)

We have to be comfortable in our own skin, proud of our unique gorgeous self, celebrate our femininity on a daily basis, treat ourselves once in a while to something decadent and fabulous, realize that we are special and priceless and can’t be duplicated from a magazine.

This is how we redefine our definition of beauty and learn to accept and embrace the changes of our body that is out of our control!

You are you, and you are beautiful!

Lara xx

“People often say that, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that YOU are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look, including inside ourselves.” — Salma Hayek

Raw For A Week

#rawfoodcleanseLast week my husband and I decided on a week-long raw food cleanse. It left us feeling squeaky clean, energized, lighter, and boosted our bond together. Here is why and how we did it.

Why Cleanse?

Why were we looking for a cleanse? Well, many individuals would argue the futility of cleanses, fasting, detoxes, and so on. I’ve watched and researched numerous studies in relation to the final outcome of detoxing and the scientific benefits or lack of benefits on the body. At the end of the day, any change in diet is going to show results and benefit in one way or another.

These days our bodies are taking a hit from food choices we make. Some day’s we drink a few too many caffeinated drinks from being exhausted or over-worked, it gives us the temporary buzz we need to make it through that tough day. At some point we all forget to drink those all important 2 litres of water, leaving our body slightly dehydrated. Then there is the evenings where we just want to relax and forget the troubles of the day so we sit down for 1 glass of wine which turns into several. Sweets and fast food starts creeping in a bit faster too as we stop caring about what we eat due to busy daily demands.

All of this is okay to an extent…but is it? Are we getting sick more often, or is there a bigger sickness lurking out there in our distant future?

Dedicating a week to a cleanse will help our mind and body detox, allowing us to get back on the straight and narrow with healthy food choices, and will help replenish our systems depleted nutrient stock.

Why Raw?

Eating raw has big benefits as we’re not killing any of the powerful vitamins and enzymes in our food by overheating or overcooking. With that said, science has shown the benefits of heating some vegetables as they release added nutrients  from gentle heating such as steaming. They also make some foods easier for the body to digest. But that is for a different post altogether!

No cleanse is easy as change is hard, but if we make the rules it gives us the dedication to do it. We decided to do a raw food cleanse this time as our main goal was to alkalize our body. Most of us have very high acidic bodies from eating meat, drinking coffee and tea, etc. The body can’t get sick from an alkaline body which is why we chose this to be the emphasis of our cleanse.

Foods Off The List Were:

  • coffee
  • alcohol
  • dairy
  • meat
  • gluten (except for soaked oats. We make the rules, remember!:-))

Foods On The List:

  • water
  • lemon juice
  • raw vegetables (most can be eaten raw)
  • fruit
  • juices
  • smoothies
  • raw nuts
  • sprouts

We added a few other extra’s to help with a good “clear-out” and boost our metabolism and antioxidant intake:

  • cayenne pepper capsules (we sprinkled it on food but also put it in capsules for ease of use)
  • 1 laxative tea a day or every other day
  • oregano (very high in antioxidant so we sprinkled it on everything)
  • fresh turmeric (they look like very orange ginger. We added this to our juices)
  • fresh horse radish (powerful tasting. We added this also to our juices)
  • wheat grass (need I explain!This does require a special juicer for ultimate extraction, but we still went ahead and chucked it into our juice machine)
  • cinnamon
  • fresh ginger

How We Laid It Out

When embarking on any cleanse, fast, diet, or anything for that matter, preparation is imperative. Getting things lined up helps make your life easier and helps to stick to the plan.

Breakfast:

  • For breakfast we had either a smoothie with an added organic and plant-based protein powder. Or we had soaked oats done the previous night, and added fresh blueberries, cinnamon, and maple syrup.

Mid morning booster/”coffee”– juice:

  • Our booster was a fresh and very powerful juice. To keep it simple I would prepare 2 day’s worth at a time, minimizing the dreaded task of washing that juicer out everyday.

Lunch:

  • I usually enjoy a nice salad for lunch so this wasn’t too much of a change. But I made them extra antioxidant with cayenne pepper and oregano, and added a bit more onion, garlic and plenty of avocado! Yum!

Mid afternoon snack:

  • Fruit and nuts kept us going and helped fill us up.

Dinner:

  • For dinner I tried making denser salads adding plenty of nuts, seeds, and starchy vegetables.

Before sleep:

  • Time for a herbal tea or laxative tea!

What We Gained From This Week

Not only did we feel squeaky clean on the inside, but our skin also got an extra glow from all those vitamins, water and lack of dehydrating ingredients.

We felt our relationship got tighter as we went through this journey together, laughing through the ups and downs of the cleanse.

I regained my creativity and love for making fresh salads, and keeping the focus of meals around them.

We made the habit of adding at least 2 fresh juices a week to our diet.

I got some extra practice and insight with meat-free meal idea’s.

Our first “normal” meal was a nice piece of grilled tuna, with plenty of grilled asparagus, accompanied with a mango and coriander relish, and fresh guacamole. Man did it taste good!

xx Lara

All About The Avocado

avocadoOne of the things I like best about being back in a sunny climate is that I get to have an abundance of creamy tasty avocados in my diet. I’m in heaven! I used to always buy them in Ireland but they just didn’t taste the same– by the time they were “ripe” they were almost rotten yet hard? I still ate them as they’re so good for you, and I was grateful to even be able to find them there in the first place, seeing it’s hardly the climate for them.

Persea Americana

If you’ve ever seen an avocado tree you may be as fascinated as I am with their beauty. Those big tall tree’s with their long branches dangling these drops of gorgeous green velvety fruit called  “Persea Americana,” or what we call avocado.

I remember once when living in South Africa we went on holiday to Durban. The place we stayed at had this huge avocado tree just loaded with huge fruit that was falling off ripe and ready to be eaten. I’ll admit I couldn’t stand to see all the fruit going to waste on the ground– there was just so much of it– that I packed a good 10 avocados in my carry on to eat back at home in Capetown. My poor husband, he thought I’d lost it:-)

Avocados & Potassium

According to the USDA Nutrient Database  around 100 grams (3.5 oz) of avocado has about 485 mg of potassium — scoring higher than the very staple banana which has 422 mg. We need potassium in our diet to help protect heart from high blood pressure, to avoid muscle cramps and fatigue, dizzy spells etc. The recommended daily allowance is for potassium is  4,700 mg. With just 1 average avocado containing 975 mg you’re well on your way.

Why You Should Be Eating Avocado Oil

Avocados are high in fat, but they’re loaded with good heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. The majority of this fat is oleic acid, found also in one of my favorite oils, olive oil.

Olive oil is a staple in my diet I pour it on my food for flavor and added texture, or on my salads. I’ve only really started using avocado oil as a staple but I find it doesn’t really have much flavor so I usually combine it together with olive oil in my salads (totally optional to mix of course).

One of the main reasons to add oil to your salads is not just for flavor but to help your body absorb the nutrients in your plant foods. “Oil soluble” vitamins such as A,D,E, and K all need oil to help our body absorb them. The same goes for antioxidants and carotenoids.

Avocado is also an excellent choice for cooking as it has a high smoke point and is resistant to high-heat oxidation.

Avocado For The Skin

Avocado oil is high in vitamin E and Vitamin D making this a perfect oil to add to your skin care. It’s humectant properties add extra value to dry skin, mature and ageing skin, and even works as a good after sun oil adding moisture back to the skin. It leaves the skin feeling silky, luscious, and adds shine to dull skin. Avocados can also be used in a facial mask as well as in a hair oil.

You Either Love It Or Hate It

I haven’t really met anyone yet that doesn’t like avocados, except kids! My eldest daughter grew up in South Africa where they were in abundance. I found them to be perfect baby food. She didn’t like them initially though as I tried scooping it straight out of the skin. She would gag from the dense texture of them and refused to eat them plain. I decided to mash them up with banana and pear and that seemed to go down much better. She loves them now every which way. Strangely my younger two prefer eating them in slices rather than mashed in a guacamole. They too gagged a bit when first trying them out.

Texture is so important for children when trying out foods. I try to serve it to them in a variety of ways this way eliminating creating an unintended picky eater.

All this talk about avocado and I’m ready for my avocado salad!

xx Lara

 

This Yogi Life

this yogi lifeMy personal obsession for yoga stretches further than inversions, down dogs, and lion’s breath! Instead it’s my daily cornerstone for finding peace of mind, balance, and strength as I set my intentions for the day preparing mind and body. My journey with it began long ago, but it only truly began a little while ago!

Going Through The Steps

I’ve always loved exercising, the sweat, the elevated heartbeat, the red flushed cheeks, the satisfaction of feeling good after, and the sore muscles the next day. I love it! Some people however really don’t like it, they dislike sweating, and find daily exercise a bore and a chore. Exercise isn’t always fun and does sometimes feel like we’re just going through the steps waiting for it to be over with. When I did my first yoga class way back then I was hooked, but I think I was more hooked on the motions and hadn’t quite begun seeing yoga for its true purpose.

My Yoga Journey

Yoga brings something different to everyone, the spirituality, grounding, balance, meditation, muscle tone, and flexibility. While the physical benefits are endless there are other aspects to take into consideration. Nowadays’ I think most people are looking for more than just a good workout, we want to feel mentally good, we want to feel happy and stress free as much a possible.

Over a year and a half ago I was in a very difficult and emotional state. I went through a few situations that made be feel like society was suffocating me. My views and morals of what makes me who I am were different to people around me, and I felt alone, misunderstood and desperate for a way out, or more for a way of relief. I started to doubt myself and what I stand for. There was a week of craziness which included a terrible argument with a good friend at the time followed by a neighbor down the street who tragically passed away. I will never forget that week!

I would say I’m a pretty happy person, I’ve had an amazing life full of adventure and good times, but going through this tough time made me see just how unhappy people can feel, and more than anything it helped me see just how important it is not to judge individuals, especially when you have no idea what they’re going through.

How I Found Peace And Strength Through Yoga

I only truly began to see yoga for what it really meant to me that one year and a half ago. I decided I needed to find my inner strength and peace and somehow I found it through starting a daily yoga practice at home. I think a home practice is totally overlooked and underrated, but that’s for another post! Practicing at home forces me to make it a part of my life,  it makes my house seem like a happy place as I’m surrounded by it while I breath in and out through my poses feeling great energy surrounding me! It keeps my mind grounded and gives me the desire for a more minimalistic life.

I’m sad to admit that I lost my daily practice a bit when we did this big move across the world and it definitely affected me. Some day’s have been pretty hard as I didn’t make the time to do yoga and find my inner peace. Sometimes a break is unavoidable, either because it’s not feasible at the time, or maybe it’s not working for us anymore and we need that break to find out. I all too quickly formed the habit again as I’ve seen how important it is to me. Yoga has me wrapped around its fingers! 🙂

How To Begin A Home Practice

One of the reasons why most people don’t start a home practice is they don’t have the yoga knowledge to begin with and need a teacher to lead them through it. Well this is the magic of the web. There are so many online classes to attend to and plenty of quality free stuff on YouTube to get you started.

Making a habit of a home practice also allows you the freedom of doing it in your own time, no excuses. You can do it as soon as you get out of bed, or right before you go to bed, when you come back from work, or something to do together with your children. I let my kids stand beside me while I’m doing it and they love joining in!

If you’re looking for somewhere to start I would highly recommend checking out “30 Day’s of Yoga with Adriene”.  She’s a teacher that I follow and recommend to everyone I meet who are either beginners or just looking to start a home practice yoga journey.

“Yoga is like music: the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create the perfect symphony of life”. –BKS Iyengar

I hope you’ll give yoga a try if you haven’t already.

Lara xxx

Let It Go

Letting goIt’s in my nature to want to mend or repair something that’s been broken, it could be a physical item or something intangible.

The truth is some things just can’t be fixed or solved.

I sometimes lie awake at night thinking and stressing out about a certain situation trying to find a solution of how I can remedy the problem or “make it go away”. It’s not wrong to care or to look for solutions to a problem, but when things are out of our control we somehow have to find the ability to let go and trust that all will be okay.

This is a constant challenge for me.

As I get older life seems to throw bigger and trickier problems my way in a sort of test to see how I’ll cope. I’m not too proud to admit that I break, crumble, and cry as I’m only human, but each time it seems to make me stronger, more humble, and less judgemental.

It’s impossible to fully understand a situation unless you’ve gone through it personally.

When living in Africa I would always tell people, nothing can prepare you for Africa but Africa itself! The beauty, the pain, the poverty, the hardship, the thrill!

You can only truly understand what Africa is all about by experiencing it firsthand – and this is why in life we have to go through an experience in order to grow.

How To Let Go Of People Or Situations In Your Life That Doesn’t Serve You Anymore

Keeping your life under control is important to an extent, but we only experience emotional well-being and enjoy the beauty of the moment by letting go of what we can’t control.

A few way’s to start us on our path of letting is by practicing mindfulness, meditation or taking up yoga.  

If I were to name a 3 stage process that I fall back on when trying to get through a situation it would be summed up in this quote below:

“Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be.”

1. Accept what is:

We can’t change what just happened so we may as well accept that it did. By accepting the circumstance and knowing that none of it defines who we are, we allow ourselves to let go.

2. Let go of what was:

It takes a lot of will power to let go of something, a job, a friend, bad habits, expectations, false beliefs, rigid ways of doing things, etc…it’s so easy to hold on to them instead.

My daughter came home one day with a mindfulness exercise she learned at school. It’s a simple yet very effective letting go exercise for both young and old. I sometimes use this method when I’m up at night worrying and thinking about a situation.

Balloon Meditation Exercise:

Imagine you’re holding a balloon in your hand, in the balloon is all your worries, fears, a situations a bad habit, or anything that you’re trying to let go of. You can fill up a few balloons if need be. When you’re ready – let it go. Watch it float up into the air travelling further and further away. Watch it till it gets so small you can’t see it anymore. Relax your shoulders, your neck, and feel all the worry and fears and whatever is on your mind float up and away in that balloon. You feel light, at peace, and ready to move on.

3. Have faith in what will be:

Sometimes we just have to believe in ourselves and in our purpose, knowing that whatever happened or will happen is for a reason and for a bigger purpose or life lesson. Holding on to whatever it is only holds us back from our bigger purpose and from the divine roll we’re meant to play in this life.

“Each morning we are born again, what we do today matters most.” Buddha

xx Lara

A Hug, A Kiss, or a Touch

IMG_7013All too often I find myself with the very earth shattering dilemma upon greeting a friend or someone I don’t know for the first time – do I shake, hug, or risk the highly precarious kiss on the cheek that may end up being a deafening ring as I land on the ear missing the cheek altogether? Being half Italian we generally give a hug with 2 kisses, one on each cheek. The trick is getting the first kiss on the correct cheek or else the dreaded “just-missed-full-smack-on-the-lips-kiss”occurs! So just for the record for those of you that don’t know me, you would probably not guess that I’m Italian as I don’t have an accent. But I guarantee it is not because I am a stalker or a happy hippy that I immediately go for the hug and kiss – but rather my nature and custom!

Greeting Customs Around the World

If you’ve traveled the globe like me you’ll find the custom greetings fascinating!

In some Arabic countries 3 kisses is the norm and this is where I would get all confused when going back to Italy as they start the kiss on the opposite side!

In Japan, hugging is considered to be rude, a bow with a limp hand shake involving no eye contact is the common tradition.

If you’re Indian you may hug friends and relatives, but when it comes to your grandparents no hug is involved, rather drop to your knees and touch their feet!

And if you’re Eskimo forget hugging, kissing, bowing, and toe-touching, and instead go straight for a good old nose rub! How lovely!

Benefits of Hugging

Hugging can help and heal both body and mind. Some of the health benefits include:

  • Hugging can relieve stress as the stress hormone called cortisol lowers upon a warm embrace.
  • Fears subside with the power of a touch as we feel safe with existential significance.
  • Feeling lonely? Receive a hug and feel instantly closer to that person making you feel like you’re not alone.
  • Hugging helps fight depression and anxiety as the bonding hormone oxytocin is released.
  • A long hug can raise the level of serotonin in the body resulting in happiness.
  • Hugging relaxes the muscles, relieving tension and pain.
  • “A hug is like a boomerang – you get it back right away.” -Bil Keane

IMG_6990Importance of Hugging Your Child

One of my favorite moments in life is cradling my newborn baby till my arms drop! I pay no attention to numerous baby books that insist you get your baby independent as quick as possible. This means making them sleep in a separate bed from a very small age, or encouraging them to fall asleep on their own without cuddling or rocking. My natural instinct has always been to hold them close so they can continue to feel my heart beat and the hum of my breath as they did for almost 10 months in utero. This is why breastfeeding is equally as important to me as you have no choice but to be close…a bottle just doesn’t offer that same connection as parents all to quickly end up leaving baby with a bottle to drink on its own in the buggy or crib. 😦

If you’re still in doubt about the power of a hug, watch this video where a premature newborn is given the gift of life as his mommy instinctively puts him on her chest after he was pronounced dead.

I felt all gushy and cozy after watching this video, it confirmed my need to keep my babies close. This also confirms why babies and children get clingy when sick, it’s natures way of healing as their immune system gets a boost off mommy or daddy’s body.

Whether it’s in your culture to hug, kiss, shake, bow – or nose rub,  I encourage you to give hugging a go whenever you greet your friends and family or even a stranger!

“Hugs were invented to let people know you love them without having to say anything.”

xx Lara

#paleo#glutenfree#dairyfree#vegan#…etc!

These day’s it seems that if you’re not on the #paleo#glutenfree#dairyfree#vegan#, etc…bandwagon, then my friend – your food choices are just substandard. Yes, they’re all good in my books and I include each and every one of those above mentioned hashtags in my diet, and I congratulate all who maintain these diets successfully, but that’s not my issue here. The issue I have is with the general lack of knowledge on what it truly means to follow that particular diet.

Being vegan is just like so cool. “No thank you, I don’t eat meat…but I’ll happily polish off those greasy french fries”! Or “yeah man, we’re doing Paleo style here, all bacon and beef”! I doubt that in the hunting and gathering day’s there was a bounty of bacon for breakfast and steak for dinner on a daily basis. Now as far as locusts, bugs, and worms…they were in abundance! What about the big dreaded milk issue (that includes pure organic as well)? No,”milk is bad, we can’t drink it…but it’s no problem to keep eating cheese and yogurt because there is no dairy in that”. Or, “I don’t eat dairy at all but I’m not really making the effort for calcium substitutions either”. Remember when eggs were on the big bad list? Too much cholesterol – we must not eat! It wasn’t long till it was back in the good books.

Hello?! Is the point being missed here altogether?

Mankind seems to have a way with trends. The pendulum swings drastically from one end to another, from the huge worldwide epidemic of fast food/processed foods to the extremities of clean eating trends. It all gets so confusing!

Finding a Diet That Suits You

If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts you’ll know that I’m a big fan of healthy eating. I’ve done and continue to do plenty of research into the pro’s and con’s of all food diets analyzing everything and anything in hopes of finding the good points and the bad points. Inside me also lives a foodie who wants to taste all the flavors and textures this world has to offer. Or maybe it comes from a survival instinct when I was a humanitarian worker on a project deep in the bush of Africa where if you didn’t eat what was provided for you, you’d starve! (memories are coming back to me of okra soup and gari! For the record, no offence but ew, not a favorite!)

So herein lies the dilemma. What kind of health freak should I be?

Do I become a vegetarian?

Vegan?

Do I join the “gluten-free”, “dairy-free”, “fat-free” bandwagon?

I have no food allergies or intolerances…so why would I need to give up dairy or gluten?

Trends aside, I firmly believe we have to find a diet that suits us individually taking into account different climates and the change of seasons, with the end goal being on making good healthy food choices – not following a trend. We have to ask ourselves is my chosen diet sustainable?Do I have enough knowledge on the subject of what it truly means to be vegan, for example? Can I prepare a proper meal making sure I’m getting all the nutrients my body requires?

My Perfect Diet

The perfect diet for me is the Mediterranean diet/part-time vegetarian. This means eating a predominately plant-based diet, plenty of whole grains and energy foods, and having 2-3 meat free day’s. Yes, I eat a moderate amount of dairy and have milk or almond milk in my cereal in the morning. I eat pretty much all food groups in moderation. I aim to eat my fruit and vegetables as raw as possible and dabble with creating vegan, gluten-free and raw food for a bit of foodie fun!

Here is what the mediterranean food pyramid looks like. I think what I love the most about it is the fact that daily physical exercise made it on to the pyramid. I guess food and exercise really do go hand-in-hand. 

mediterranean_diet_food_wine_pyramid

The Worlds Best Diet

I watched a brilliant documentary on channel 4 a couple of weeks back about the Worlds Best Diet. Statistics were compiled from the following organizations:

I’ll leave the details for a future post maybe, but just to give you a very quick overview, the top 10 countries were:

  1. Iceland
  2. Italy
  3. Greece
  4. Seventh Day Adventists (type of Christianity)
  5. Japan
  6. Sweden, Norway, Denmark
  7. The Kuna Indians
  8. France
  9. Spain
  10. The Netherlands

Most of these countries had similar things in common;

  • barely any processed foods
  • high quality meats
  • plenty of fish
  • and most importantly portion control!

Balance

The body loves balance. What ever diet we choose had better be what it really needs, and most importantly it has to be something maintainable. When choosing our diet we should ask ourselves:

Does it suit my individual needs and food intolerance?

Is it conducive to the climate I live in?

Am I getting a well-balanced diet?

Do I really need to give up gluten because of a serious and chronic condition such as coeliac disease, or am I just being told it makes me fat?

“There is no diet that will do what healthy eating does. Skip the diet. Just eat healthy”!

xx Lara