I have always been a voracious reader. When I was about ten or eleven, I won a class competition in reading the most pages in a set amount of time, beating my best friend whom I was always in some kind of competition with.
A library bus used to stop in our tiny rural village every two weeks and I would borrow stacks and sit in the cosy nest I had made underneath the stairs and just read and read and read.
I have other memories of laying in bed on a Sunday morning, ignoring my body’s need for food, whilst I kept turning page after page.
My child self was a horse girl through and through and almost all of the books I read from age eight until I was in my late teens were in this genre but over the years my tastes and interests have evolved. However, I have kept reading.
I also got into the habit of buying the books I wanted to read. Which is fine. I don’t mind spending money on books, especially if it will support the author. There is just one small challenge with this though… and that is that the books accumulate over time. And even though I have kept buying more bookshelves over the years I still seem to end up with stacks of books on the floor.
When I moved about three years ago, I notices yet again that I owned mostly books. Followed by a large amount of house plants…! Moving in with another book-lover has meant that we’ve had to compromise or allowing our small living room to turn into a mini library. Not a shabby idea perhaps.
The space constraint has also meant that I have gotten into the habit of using the library again, which is such an amazing service. Libraries makes books widely available and affordable and I count myself very lucky that we have a great one in the small rural town that I currently live in.
Because I love to read, and I love to learn, reading books about weight inclusive approaches, intuitive eating, moving away from dieting, how to heal your relationship with food, body image and any and all other related things, have been a big part of both my personal and professional journey.
So today I want to share with you five of my (many favourites) in this space. I could see this turning into a series because there are several topics within this genre.
Let’s talk about five of my favourite non-diet books that focuses on healing your relationship with food.
(And apologies in advance to anyone who finds these kinds of lists inspiring to*more* book purchases#sorrynotsorry.)
I also want to say that this list is by no means exhaustive and that there are so many new amazing non-diet books coming out all of the time. I will most likely do another round up of these in the future. Another caveat worth mentioning, because this is internet after all is that Mindful Eating have some bits that are not 100% weight inclusive or that tangents on some healthism. So why have I included this one in my list anyway?
Well because I believe in reader discernment and that it is important to not fall into the same black-and-white thinking that keeps us stuck with food. It is also interesting to read work that are written years ago to see how much, or not much at all, thinking and knowledge can evolve over time.
I mention this book here too, because I still believe that there are more good and helpful content it than what is problematic. You may not agree with me on this, and I am ok with that too.
I have listed them in no particular order. If one suggestion calls more to you than another, trust that. Happy reading x
– Intuitive Eating – A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach by Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch. 4th Ed. Published in 2020
This seminal work is, I would think one of the most popular books of entry point when someone is contemplating moving from diets but unsure of where to go next.
The first principle of Intuitive Eating is reject Diet Culture, so there is no qualms about what needs to happen first before anything else can happen.
I first read Intuitive Eating in 2014, then the 3rd Ed, and what I can remember was a feeling of relief as well as a recognition that here was something that I had been feeling for a long time but had not been able to name, until then.
Evelyn and Elyse wrote their initial version back in 1995, when many of the current day advocates were barely born(!). They have done some heavy editing since that early version to remove any and all content that was not entirely weight inclusive and I think this clearly demonstrates how things evolve and the work necessary to keep editing and updating work, as one’s own personal learning and feedback grows.
When I read this book back in 2014 it opened up to a new direction for me professionally and it confirmed a large part of the personal recovery path that I was already on, however I didn’t know any other nutrition professionals that were familiar with this kind of approach. It felt lonely. Thankfully things have changes and the number of weight inclusive, non-diet professionals are growing, even here in Ireland.
What I like about the Intuitive Eating book and this approach is that it is organised in 10 principles. That gives a good framework, as well as some helpful structure to the process of working through it.
That said, you can read through this book from cover to cover but doing the actual work takes time. Weeks, months and even years. And it is not necessarily a linear process either. But, starting by reading the book is indeed a good place to start. There are over 400 published studies to date that shows up on PubMed if you put intuitive eating into the search bar so it is safe to say that it is becoming increasingly more validates by the research field in the almost 30 years since the original book’s inception.
– Body of Truth by Harriet Brown. Published 2015
As far as I can remember this book was recommended to me from the professional non-diet community. The tagline to this book is “How Science, History and Culture drive our Obsession with Weight and What We Can Do About It.”
Harriet shares her own journey of yo-yo dieting and healing from weight obsession to a place of body acceptance. Her background is in journalism and her writing is really accessible. The book weaves personal stories, both her own and others’, with exploration of the science around weight and health.
If you are someone who really enjoys this type of writing and story telling, rather than having it all lined the facts lined up with bullet points and advice, then this book is for you.
It is not so much about sharing ideas of what you can do instead of dieting but rather taking you on a journey of exploration of why you feel compelled or pulled to do it, and reflections about how things might be different if you don’t.
Harriet Brown invites us to “ Think beyond the messages we are getting a thousand times a day. To question the conventional wisdom. You may wind up making the same exact choices in your life as you do now, but at the very least you’ll be making those choices more consciously. Or you may wind up with an entirely different point of view, one that could help set you free from the painful and punishing rules we’ve been living by for so long.”
– A Shadow of A Diet by Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel. Published 2014, 2nd Ed.
This book is written for professionals who work with clients who are struggling with binge eating and emotional eating. If you are someone who fits this description, I cannot recommend this book enough! It is detailed, written from a weight inclusive, non-diet lens and contains both different concepts such as attuned eating as well as a host of case studies to illustrate the dynamics which are present when it comes to binge eating and emotional eating.
Again, this was a book that was recommended to me through my professional network and it has been an incredibly valuable learning resource since I read it initially in 2017.
Judith Matz is a wealth of knowledge and has been working in the field of eating disorders since the mid 1980s. What makes this book so incredible, in my eyes, is that it does a beautiful job of explaining all the challenges, as well as all the nuances when working with healing binge eating and emotional eating from a truly weight inclusive, non-diet approach. Something that still feels rare when a lot of people who are struggling with this both actively seek out diets and therapists / nutrition professionals / health care professionals either suggests that they should lose weight or believe that losing weight will result in better body image and greater self-esteem, not recognising that dieting doesn’t work for the majority of people long-term or that dieting and restriction is a big part of what is driving the binge eating behaviour…!
If you are not someone who works with clients on their relationship with food, but rather looking at a resource so support your own relationship with food, then Judith’s other book The Diet Survivor’s Handbook might be a better fit.
– Reclaiming Body Trust – A Path To Healing and Liberation by Hilary Kinavey & Dana Sturtevant. Published 2022.
This is one of the more recent books that I have added to my collection. Having been a big fan of Hilary and Dana’s work for years, buying this book was a must when it came out last year was a must.
Their work was some of the first place where I came across the intersection of the intersection of eating issues with wider systems of oppression such as racism, poverty, gender non conformity and weigh discrimination. The have been talking about these topics and intersections for a long time and I for one, am immensely grateful that they have put their knowledge and learning in a book.
This book is about both our personal experience and healing of disordered eating, as well as exploring and educating on the wider systems and influences at play. Hilary and Dana shows us all the external influences and injustices that impacts our relationship with food, eating and our bodies. Many factors that are outside our individual control. However they are also giving us tools, practices and questions to reflect on moving forward so that we can reclaim our sovereignty but more than that, hope and insights to how we can collectively work towards dismantling the oppressive social structures and work towards body liberation for ALL bodies.
It is a powerful read, though it can be challenging too, if you are new to non-diet approaches. There are as much to learn as there is to unlearn here.
– Mindful Eating – A Guide to Rediscover A Healthy and Joyful Relationship With Food by Jan Chozen Bays, Published 2017. Revised edition.
There is so much I love about this book. Jan Chozen Bays is an MD who is also a Buddhist practitioner and this book is rooted in mindfulness meditation and the spirit of mindfulness. The part I particularly love is her deep dive into what she calls the Nine Hungers. In this part of the book she explores the many facets of hunger, both physical and the more emotional types of hunger like heart hunger. Recognising hungers that can be satisfied with foods, as well as hungers that we may try and rectify with food but that are also about yearnings for deeper emotional and spiritual needs, is powerful work.
For me this is the more profound part of Mindful Eating, which is more that just eating slowly and chewing diligently. She does talk about these elements too, towards the end of the book and it is here, where some of the practices feels a little more “diet-y” to me, and where you might have proceed with caution depending where you currently find yourself on your journey with a more peaceful relationship with food, eating and your body.
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I hope that this list will prove helpful on your journey of learning, unlearning, repairing and healing. This is only a small selection of some of my favourite non-diet books. There are new ones being published all the time, which is truly amazing. Though I am guessing for every non-diet, weight inclusive book on creating a better relationship with food there are probably ten others who will promise the world and his mother through the “weight loss diet that *will* work”. Only none of them really do, long-term.
Bingeing on food is a really distressing thing and can severely impact on someone’s life. If you have never struggled with binge eating it might be hard to imagine that you can even struggle with this. You should be able to just stop right?!
The Definition of binge eating (from DSM IV, which is the manual for psychological diagnostics) says
Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:
Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances
2. The sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating)
It also must occur at a minimum of twice / week for 6 months or once / week for 3 months.
And the behaviour should not be associated with compensatory behaviours such as excessive exercising, purging or fasting.
It is worth noting that Binge Eating Disorder only became a formal diagnosis in 2013, so just shy of 10 years ago. That’s pretty recent.
The other thing I want to draw your attention to is that not all eating distress fits neatly into diagnosable boxes and that you might find yourself bingeing more often at certain periods or actually using come compensatory behaviours to make yourself cope after a binge episode, like over exercising, laxatives, purging or restricting.
It could mean that your behaviours don’t neatly fit into a box for a diagnosis. This doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve support and help.
Your struggle and pain are valid and you deserve support to find peace and freedom around food even if you don’t have a formal diagnosis.
Binge eating, whether having a formal diagnosis or not is painful, shameful and often all consuming if / when you are struggling with it. It can take its tolls on work, relationships and just life in general.
If this is you, I see you. Your struggles ARE valid and you so deserve to feel at peace with food.
I also want you to know that struggles with binge eating is not an issue with lack of willpower. The whole myth that anyone struggling with binge eating has a willpower issue is driving me bonkers. It perpetuates stereotypes and self blame, when we what we need instead is self compassion and curiosity so that the right support can be got so that things can get better.
It is also important to know that binge eating is not something that is exclusive to people in larger bodies. That’s another myth and stereotype, that needs to be banished from society.
Any person can suffer with binge eating and binge eating disorder.
Is binge eating and emotional eating the same thing?
The answer to that question is yes… and no. You might binge eat in response to difficult emotions as a way to cope. The coping could include eating to numb out or eating to try and feel something. For some people restricting food can work the same way. Not eating can be a way to cope, to feel or to not feel.
I do think that the two words are often used synonymous but when we widen the definition for emotional eating we realise that eating *is an emotional act*.
We eat for pleasure, to celebrate, to connect with others. We eat when we are sad or angry or frustrated or lonely.
This is not inherently problematic. It is only problematic in my view when we eat in response to emotions in a way that is punishing.
If we demonising emotional eating it keeps us from the joy and pleasure that is also part of our eating experiences. We are not robots and I don’t believe that trying to reduce eating to a purely mechanical act is nourishing or helpful when we are trying to create more peaceful relationship with food.
What causes binge eating?
What drives binge eating behaviours are often complex. I think of eating disorders (and to some extent disordered eating too) as Bio-Psycho-Social Disorders. And I am not alone in this idea. To me calling them “just” mental illnesses is making things to simplified and also leaves the body and the physiological impact of a starving body and a starving brain out of the equation.
It can also leave out or minimise the harm caused by a culture that worships thinness in all its forms, the harms of oppression from weight stigma and anti-fat bias as well as all the internalised fat phobia most of us has soaked up from living in the soup.
Dieting and trying to lose weight has a great impact in our relationship with food. Often a destructive one at that. But even if you know or have experienced the destructive side of dieting there are often reasons why we will want to pursue it. I wrote about some of those here.
Food Restriction, including food insecurity play a big role in binge eating too, as when our bodies are in a state of famine, whether on purpose from dieting or from food scarcity, as soon as food becomes available again you will most likely eat as much of it as possible and. This can make you feel out of control, exacerbate shame and might want you to go back to restricting again. Or food might not be available again for some time due to circumstances outside your control.
This kind of eating, is typically physiological. This is your body’s best attempt to keep you alive! Understanding this, bringing compassion and kindness to ourselves and working towards eating more regularly, so that our bodies can learn and trust that food will be available again, so there is less need to rush.
Don’t underestimate how deep any lived experience of food insecurity can go. If you have experience of food insecurity in the past, but are now in a food secure environment, continuing to practice eating regularly and having food available at all times so that you can eat when you are hungry will eventually help your body come to a point when it can relax.
Trauma. Big T or little T leaves you with a dysregulated nervous system and food and eating can become and excellent way sooth and ground ourselves when we are feeling overwhelmed.
Eating can be a way to numb out what we are feeling too, so that we don’t have to feel too much at all. And even though, food and eating might have served you well as a coping strategy in the past, it might be time to add some new tools to your tool box.
Three things that can get you started on the path to recovery
In this three part video series, I will take you through some of the steps that I use with my clients at the beginning of this healing journey.
Step 1. Creating awareness of what is going on in the moment. Are you Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired?
Making a nourishing choice becomes so much easier when we have awareness of what is going on.
Even when healing from binge eating, and when all you want to do is to stop bingeing on food, I believe that eating should always be one of the options you have.
If you are genuinely hungry, food will be the best option to meet that need. But what if you are angry, tired, lonely, sad or experience any other human emotion? Well eating *might* not be then option that will meet that need most favourably but as we are simultaneously also healing from any deprivation driven eating, it is important that you can choose this if you want to.
But what other ways do you have to be with your emotions?
Step 2. Making sure that you eat enough food. Which is more than you think!
I will take you through this in the course. Some ideas to how we can ensure that you are eating enough, because under eating, which is based on your body’s unique needs, will likely keep you stuck in a restrict-binge cycle.
Learning this practice of treating yourself as a friend is life changing. Self compassion is not something to just think about though it is a practice to engage in. In the course I will take you through a practice to help you move towards implementing self compassion into your daily life.
And yes, I know that this is a hard one. And that it might feel really counter intuitive that being kind towards yourself will work, when it feels like what you need is another stick to beat yourself with.
However, let me ask you this… If being hard on yourself worked, would it not have worked by now?
Perhaps is it is time for a new approach?
In my free video course I will go deeper into these three fundamental steps to help you get started on your recovery journey.
One of the things that we work with in intuitive eating / mindful eating approaches are knowing when we are hungry, and moving through any barriers to meeting this basic need.
If you have been going from diet, to diet with periods of “being good”, aka restricting and then feeling out of control and bingeing, I am guessing that your eating feels chaotic a lot of the time, but interspersed with times of also feeling in control.
Or maybe it just feel mostly chaotic, all of the time? And just thinking about restricting / dieting sends you straight to the pantry searching for something to eat…
If this is where you are currently finding yourself, please know that you are not alone. This is more common than you might think, but because this situation often is filled with so much shame we don’t tend to talk about it much with others. I certainly never did when I was in the midst of my own struggles.
I used to think in the midst of my own struggles that this was something that only I experienced. Now that I sit on the other side of the table, helping people find their way to a peaceful relationship with food, eating and their bodies I know that this struggle is really common.
Anyhow, so let’s talk about how you CAN reconnect to your own hunger cues and honour them. Because here’s the thing, life gets so much easier when we live in a body and with a brain that is consistently and adequately nourished!
Sometimes when starting out in this journey of reclaiming body trust and trust in ourselves, it feels scary and overwhelming. You might say “I can’t possibly trust my body to tell me what too eat and how much! If I do that, I will never stop eating!!”.
I know that it might feel like that. And one of the main reasons that you can’t stop is because you are restricting (physically, mentally, emotionally or a combination).
Maybe at this point what you are noticing when tuning into your physical hunger signals it that you can only feel them when you are at an extreme, like “hangry”, shaky, pain in stomach, low energy.
Or perhaps you’re not noticing much at all?
That is fine. This is a practice. It means that we must keep asking the question “How hungry am I”? And to keep listening for the answer.
First there might be nothing. And then there might be a whisper, long before you get to the roar (that might be the one that you are familiar with).
Paying attention to hunger and eating in this attuned way, does of course not mean that we ONLY eat when we are hungry. Sometimes that’s not possible and if our hunger cues are a bit all over the place that can leave us stuck in this chaotic place.
The first step is to put some structured eating in place. (Not the same as rigid eating!)
Structured eating is more like a scaffolding whilst you build you attuned eating muscles and your body trust.
Structured eating looks like:
Eating 3 meals a day + 1-2 snacks
Eating every 3-5h and gaps no longer than 6h
Eating a combination of fats / protein / carbohydrates with all of your main meals
Structured eating may need some forward planning too, making sure that you have food at home to cook and prepare meals and snacks. This may include making a menu plan of lunches and dinners (this helps take pressure of decision making when already hungry), having suitable snacks in your handbag / office / car / pantry.
After awhile of structured eating your subtle hunger cues might get a little louder and you are free to experiment with what it feels to meet that need in the moment, and less structure may be needed. However if having certain times and reminder helps you eat enough and regularly, there is nothing wrong with using this for as long or as much as is needed.
Was this helpful? Please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.
I have been thinking about this question for a while. In one way it seems like a really straightforward question. If you have gotten a diagnosis of an eating disorder, seems the most obvious time.
But it is not always easy to get a diagnosis. If you don’t meet the criteria, you may think that things are “fine”, or that you’re not “sick enough” and deserve support.
When we are feeling like our whole lives are consumed by thinking about food and obsessing about our appearance, and when this is holding us back from living our lives in ways we otherwise would, is the time to get some support with our relationship with food eating and your body.
Given that so much of our culture has normalised what is actually pretty disordered (due to fatphobia and weight stigma), this seemingly easy question is a bit more complex than expected.
One thing which is common is the idea that people who struggle with food and body image looks a certain way (young, thin, white and emaciated). This is not true at all.
People of all shapes and sizes and ages can struggle with many of (often normalised) disordered eating behaviours.
When I was in the midst of my own struggles, I kept searching for the “right diet” that would help me gain control over my eating. I tried all sorts. From hypnotherapy CD for weight loss, to Slim-fast shakes, Unislim (like WeightWatchers) and some other dubious things.
I eventually felt so out of control that I did reach out to a local dietitian but never got started with sessions. I also considered therapy around this time but again it never happened.
Life seemed to just evolve around food, dieting and binge eating. Feeling bloated, uncomfortable and down right miserable.
Around this time I also read lots of books, and eventually I must somehow made my way from the diet books to some type of non-diet approach, but I can’t remember any one specific title. However I did have an awakening and realised HOW MUCH of my self-worth I had tied up with the scales. It is incredible just how much power we can hand over to this metal subject…!
Eventually I got off the scales, which was the starting point for me (it might be something else for you) and began the journey of making peace with food, eating and my body.
A journey that will always be ongoing, however I am happy to say that I am now in a place where it sometimes feels alien to think back to how bad and painful things actually were.
I was never officially diagnosed with an eating disorder, but I may have met the criteria for binge eating disorder (BED) at some point when things were at its worst. But this was before 2013 and BED was not an official diagnose in the DSM-V at that time anyway.
Because what actually is dis-ordered eating behaviours but that our society has “normalised” when in comes to food and eating, I think it might be worth pointing them out.
It is also worth nothing that disordered eating exists on a spectrum and you may experience some of these and not all of them. And things might not be so severe that it ticks all the boxes for an official diagnosis, it doesn’t matter, you still deserve to be living your life free of food and body obsession.
Things that we DO NOT have to live with are:
Constantly thinking about food 24/7
Being on and off diets
Weighing yourself daily and the scale dictating your mood and how the day goes
Weighing foods to portion control
Bingeing when you come off your diet / food restriction
Feeling out of control around food and not trusting yourself and your body
Not keeping certain foods in the house but still bingeing on them
Feeling overly anxious if your food is not “clean” or whole foods only
Exercising for the sole reason to burn calories and to compensate for food intake
Not going out with friend and family because of food anxiety
Avoiding events because of how you feel about your body
Not doing things because you worry about what others think about your body
It really doesn’t have to be this way! Things CAN and WILL get better, and often we need a little support from someone else to get us there.
If this is where you are currently at it might be difficult to imagine that things CAN be different and get better. What waits on the other side of food and body concerns? Food Freedom, Body Trust 😊
This can look and feel like:
Saying yes to lunches and meals out with friends
Not being worried about travelling because you are comfortable eating whatever is on offer
Wearing clothes that makes you feel good in the body you have now
Being fully present with the people you love
Having more brain space to engage in hobbies and relationships that has meaning and value to you
Having more energy and feeling less anxious
Food freedom means having greater flexibility with food and eating and body trust means that we can trust ourselves and our bodies and to care for ourselves in a nourishing and supportive ways.
This is what I wish for you too.
Ready to explore what doing the work to take you there can look like? Between where you are now and where you can potentially get to there are steps and sometimes having some guidance and support alongside you on this journey can be helpful.
For this blog post I wanted to write a more practical type of post about a topic, being stuck in food ruts, that I often see people struggle with in my clinical practice and it is definitely not something I am immune to struggle with myself.
Maybe it is a completely human thing, to get stuck in ruts. With what we are eating, and how we are thinking and even behaving? Often we say thing like “You can’t teach an old dog new trix” and “He/she is so set in their ways, they’ll never change”. However this is actually not true. It’s a myth that we keep perpetuating by strengthening those neuropathways, telling ourselves that it is true…
Have you ever heard of the term Neuroplasticity?
The definition of neuroplasticity is: the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury.
We also create change through intention. What I mean by that is that we need, using awareness, to work on intentionally creating new thought patterns, new behaviours which we want to engage in and of course new ways with food, if we want to get out of those ruts and make some new neuronal pathways.
So there, it definitely is possible to get un-stuck, but it may require a little intentionallity.
I think that because eating is a necessity, and when our attention and energy is focused elsewhere, the most natural thing is to default to our ingrained habits. Eating something, anything, is better than going hungry and of the irritability, mind fog and lack of energy that goes with that. Never anything wrong with honouring our hunger.
Don’t forget that we live in a culture and society where it completely possible to take care of your physical hunger needs without ever putting a foot in your own kitchen (or anybody else’s for that matter). So if this is how you are feeding yourself at times, no need to feel shameful about that. But maybe you’d like to change some of it as it could give you more choice and a sense of empowerment.
Here are my five tips on how to get out of food ruts. Whether it is wanting to cook more food in general, eating a wider variety of foods or just starting to think about learning some new recipes, I hope you find something useful from this list that will widen your lens a little and spark some new ideas.
Focus on colour
If you’ve been following my work for some time, you may have noticed that I am drawn to creating meals that are colourful. Eat a Rainbow, has to be one of the easiest nutritional advice to adhere to. By trying to incorporate something from each colour of the rainbow every day, you are naturally getting a more varied intake of fruits and vegetables. If you can vary the types of foods from each colour category, even better! Maybe you find some orange peppers and a yellow courgette to pair with some green spinach. Have fun trying out some different colours of your usual favourites. Variety and diversity seems to have many health benefits.
Have a think about Meal Planning
Sometimes I see people within Intuitive Eating groups shun the idea of meal planning and meal prepping. I do understand where they are coming from, since such a strong premise of eating intuitively is to “eat when you are hungry as well as what you are truly hungry for”. But life is rarely that black and white (plus that definitive way of thinking belongs to diet mentality anyway. Flexibility is the name of the game here!)
Just note that you making a plan for what you’d like to eat is not the same as slavishly following meal plan set by someone else. It can be incredibly useful to have some kind of structure, to take the stress out of making meals, especially if you are already ravenous when you start cooking…
One thing I encourage my clients to look at is to look at how their schedule for the week ahead looks like. Which days to you have time to cook something from scratch? Which days may you be eating out? Which days would you prefer to just heat some leftovers or put together a few bits and pieces for a simple meal? If you start here you may take some of the stress out of feeding yourself. It is totally cool to re heat some soup for dinner or a quick lunch, as well as having a smoothie, sandwich or salad (I actually have porridge in the evening too at times… Shhs, don’t tell anyone…) especially if you’ve eaten a larger meal during the day.
Ok, so I am not talking about those typical food prep pictures you see on social media where there are seven same type of meals in containers… And I’ve always wondered what that chicken, broccoli and sweet potato looks like on day seven… Never mind what it would smell like!
Trying something new is an easy way of getting out of ruts. And luckily the variety of fresh fruits and veg that are available these days in our everyday supermarkets are so much better than what it used to be. So next time you are shopping and see a food you haven’t tried before, be brave and have a go!
Learn a new recipe once a week / month
This is something I did a few years ago. Where I intentionally picked up one of my cookbooks, and I have added many more to my collection since, to pick a recipe that I wanted to try out. Maybe it was a new combination of foods to try, or a recipe that offered a new skill. Or maybe a recipe to suit a new ingredient.
Even if you only own one cook book or if you rather use Google, this is a really good way to add new meal favourites to your weekly repertoire. Cooking is a skill that takes practice to master. Not all of us are gifted with it intuitively or got given the skills passed on from our parents when growing up. I also get that it is challenging if you actually have no interest in cooking meals from scratch.
Sometimes though what it takes is a change in attitude to the whole thing. That cooking for ourselves and spending time in the kitchen is a form of self care. You deserve to eat foods that are tasty and nourishing. I have seen these kinds of mindset shifts take place in clients and it has been revolutionary! Your kitchen can be your sanctuary. (Perhaps that’s a topic for another blog post?)
Before the winter bugs hit and before it’s too late to pick ripe elderberry off the trees, have a go at this simple recipe and make your own immune boosting remedy. This was the first time I’ve tried making elderberry syrup myself so I used another recipe as a base and then went on to improvise a little. The result is a fairly sweet, dark purple liquid which tastes almost like mulled wine. Perhaps one could pare it with some brandy for a double whammy? Let me know for sure if you go down that route!
Funny thing is, while it is a few Sundays since I was preparing this concoction, as I currently write this I am struck down with a cold. So I suppose this is my opportunity to put the syrup to the test… (Thank you Universe.) When you are used to having tons of energy all the time, any level of decline is rather frustrating as it kind of stops you in your tracks. Well at least it forces you to take the foot of the the throttle for a little while. There I was, just returning to the running group in town and back to a 2-day-week Pilates schedule (one of my favourite ways to exercise). Typical. I’m thinking the lads in the running club, who has not seen me for months, must think I am a bit soft if I don’t turn up again this week… Well I suppose I just have to remind myself that “what other people think of me is not my business”. Easier said that done though. But in the end of the day it is important to listen to our bodies as they always knows best. I’m not sick enough to feel the need to cut out my training altogether but I will bring it back a little, so I can recover faster.
September has been amazing here and extended summer by another month. Which in turn means, woolly hats, cosy fires and warming soups have been put on hold for little while. No complaints here. It has also meant that there has been a savage supply of blackberries this year. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many of them. We have been picking berries over the past few weeks and my freezer is full of the little black gems. They are sure to be featured here on a later stage. But for now I let some of the other beautiful black berries take center stage.
Have you ever thought about how amazingly wonderful it is that just as we move in to colder months, when colds and flues seem to more easily take hold, nature has provided us with a solution right here in front of us? Like elderberries.
They are jam packed with antiviral-busting nutrients! These tiny little gems are full of Vitamin A, B and C as well as the antioxidant proanthocyanidins, which gives the berries their dark purple colour. Vitamin C together with zinc has been shown in some studies to help shorten times it takes to recover from common colds so it is well worth eating foods that are high in Vitamin C on a regular basis. Vitamin C is also one of the water soluble vitamins, which means the body doesn’t tend to store it in any larger capacity so you will need to keep your stores replenished on an ongoing basis if you want to keep your deference high. Some limited studies have shown elderberries to be particularly efficient against the usual winter viruses. Some sources seems to point that the natural compounds in elderberries activates the immune system to respond better and stronger, helping the body to clear and recover from viruses / influenza much quicker. That it actually tastes nice is an added bonus.
If you go looking you will probably find a lot more than elderberry growing along the hedgerows. When I opened my eyes and became a lot more mindful about what was naturally growing around me, I found blackberries (of course), but also rosehips and a tree full of damsons (wild plums).
This recipe yields about 2 cups of syrup so if you want to keep a full supply for the entire winter you will probably need to double it. Picking the amount of berries needed shouldn’t prove too difficult, as long as the birds didn’t get there first!
* A word of warning – Raw elderberries are actually poisonous so please resist the temptation to taste test while you are picking them, or you might end up in A&E. Probably not what you had in mind for a Sunday afternoon…
Homemade Elderberry Syrup
Makes roughly 2 cups finished syrup.
2 cups freshly picked elderberries, stems removed
2 cup filtered water
1/2″ of fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 cinnamon stick
5 cardamom pods
1/2 cup of raw honey, preferably local
When you pick the elderberries go for the darkest coloured ones, which still looks fresh and plump. To remove the stems gently separate the berries with a fork. I say gently here as if you are too keen, your berries will scatter everywhere! Discard any berries which are swiveled or not ripe. Give the rest a quick rinse.
Add berries and water to a large pot. Take all your spices and gather them up in a little cloth of muslin. Tie your parcel with a string and add it to your pot. Bring the whole thing to the boil and then reduce heat to a gentle simmer for about 20 min. Allow the mixture to cool a little before straining through a sieve lined with muslin. Use the back of a wooden spoon to press gently on the berries to release as much liquid as you can. Once you have gathered all the liquid, discard berries, muslin and spices. If you have a compost bin, by all means put it in there. By now your kitchen will probably smell like Christmas. How bad.
Add in your honey and stir until it has combined with your lovely purple liquid. Then carefully store in some sterilised jars in the fridge. Take a table spoon of liquid a few times over the course of a few days if you feel a cold or flu coming on and hopefully it will not amount to anything.