This is something I feel like a lot of people who are new to non-diet and intuitive eating approaches ponder. Let’s take some time to unpack it together. The message that weight loss and thinness = health is everywhere. If you take some time to look around at what bodies are portrayed in media / social media as healthy you will most likely find that they tend to be thin and perhaps sometimes muscular as “healthy” bodies and anything else that deviate from this is seen as “unhealthy”.
Of course it seems natural then, to feel like health has a specific look.
But what if we dived a little deeper… We simply cannot tell anyone’s health by looking at them. What we see, and perhaps judge is just a measure of our own confirmation bias.
Size diversity is real. And so is internalised weight stigma / fat phobia.
Someone might have a thin / smaller body due to genetics. Weight loss may occur due to going through illness, having and eating disorder / chronic dieting, experiencing high levels of stress or trauma.
Someone else might have a larger body because of their genetics. Weight gain might occur because of medication, illness, hormonal changes, eating disorder recovery and other reasons.
There is a great chart here that shows all of the myriad of factors that contribute to body composition.
Can we expand our thinking about what health is to go way beyond body size?
And before we do this, I want to say that I don’t believe that thinness = health and that I also don’t believe that health = worthiness. I believe that ALL bodies are worthy of care and respect irrespective of how healthy they are, and I would love for us all to create a world where ALL bodies are treated as such.
The concept of health can be broadened to include not just physical health but also mental and emotional health. If we have to sacrifice mental / emotional health to achieve physical health, is that really healthy?
When the intention is to pursue weight loss at all costs the interventions tend to stop being health promoting. Same when things like what we eat or how we move is taken to extremes. More is usually not better…
Let’s come back to the original question: If you stop pursuing weight loss, does that mean that you have stopped caring about yourself? Well does it?
You might have been over-exercising, skipping meals (only to binge later) or finding yourself struggling with lack of concentration and anxiety because your body is under-fed all in the name of “health” (aka thinness).
What if instead you were working towards letting go of restrictive food rules, eating regularly so that you have better executive functioning and allowing your body to rest when it needs to without guilt?
The thing is that when we let go of pursuing weight loss and trying to shrink our bodies at all costs we are free to reap any benefits that comes with taking care of our bodies with eating enough food, enjoying a wide variety of food, rest when we need it and movement when and in ways that feels good and enjoyable regardless of how this affects our weight.
Your body may change or it may stay the same, but it doesn’t matter because you will feel more energised, have more capacity to deal with life and sleep more soundly.
So if you stopped pursuing weight loss as a goal, and focused on taking care of the body you have right now? How would that feel and what would you do differently?
I invite you to take some time to think about it, feel in to it and perhaps even journal on it.
And if you like, feel free to share your thoughts too, by leaving a comment!
I haven’t actually written or posted a recipe or blog post here since early March. It definitely wasn’t my intention to take a writing break, but like so many other times, life happens and it’s not always possible to fit everything in, even if there’s a desire to do it.
If I’m really honest though, I am not sure that the urge to sit down and write was there over these past few months. My life took some turbulent directions for awhile and I am still trying to adjust to a new rhythm. Transitions are not always easy, but they are necessary and most definitely a part of life. (Sure I even have a tattoo that says “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional…”)
During these past couple of months cooking took a complete backseat, well at least the consciously creative part of it. Instead, because of limited time, energy and funds it became about practicality, speed and ease. And a necessity to just eat food in enough quantities so that I could get on with the other parts of my life that needed tending to.
My overall creativity took a nosedive too, or rather, was put on hold. It is difficult to create from a place of survival…
My meals of choice over these couple of months have been bowls of bits and pieces put together. Minimal cooking and effort required. To make life even simpler I also visited the freezer section in my local Aldi and found some really neat frozen bean mixes that added some crunch and protein to my stir fries.
I keep reminding myself, as well as many of my clients, that neither cooking nor eating have to be complicated. The ever increasing information and an evolving science on nutrition can make this basic act of survival feel so complicated that it ends up feeling overwhelming. When it does, it is good to come back to basics.
This salad recipe is one of those simple throw together meals. It looks pretty perhaps, but truly it contains some readily available ingredients you can get in any supermarket. Sans the nasturtium flowers perhaps(!). Way back when I first started my blog, what I wished for was to make eating vegetables to be fun, exiting and accessible. Far, far from the boring, bland and punishing dieting type recipes and mentality. This Summer Salad recipe hits on those intentions pretty well, I think.
Before I share the recipe with you I also want to share with you two wonderful new cookbooks I bought this Spring which I am still slowly making my way through. Because I seldom cook from recipes, or at least following one to the letter, I’ve been looking for some new cookbooks that can teach me some new technique as well as inspire my kitchen creativity. In Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat andLateral Cooking by Nikki Segnit, I’ve found exactly what I was looking for.
Both books are pretty extensive, but written in a very accessible style. Cooking is a tactile experience that actually lends itself pretty well to creative curiosity, providing we are not in a state of “hangry” or survival mode. If you are looking to ignite your kitchen creativity, I can highly recommend these two.
Now let’s get on with the salad recipe!
Summer Salad With a Mustard Vinaigrette
½ small head of broccoli, cut into small florets
2 – 3 large handfuls of mixed salad leaves, washed
1/3 cucumber, diced
½ avocado, stone removed & diced
A large handful fresh raspberries, washed
50g feta cheese
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup
5 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt & black pepper, to taste
Bring some lightly salted water to the boil, then add the broccoli florets and cook for 1-2 min until bright green. Remove from the stovetop, drain the hot water and give the cooked florets a quick rinse in cold water to let them cool down and remain somewhat crunchy.
To make the dressing; place all the ingredients except salt in a small glass jar and then give it a good shake until everything is evenly dispersed. Taste and add a little bit of salt and black pepper if you wish.
Place the mixed salad leaves on a large plate, add the cucumber, avocado, broccoli florets and raspberries. Crumble the feta over the salad and then scatter some pumpkin seeds. Decorate with some edible flowers, if you have some!
Pour over some dressing and serve immediately.
This salad is best eaten once plated up. The dressing will keep a few days, stored in the glass jar in the fridge.
I have been running this blog for just over five years at this point, yet I feel like I still have really no particular structure for how and when to put out content in a more organised and orderly fashion… Maybe it is because this space doesn’t earn me any money directly. Indirectly sure, because it serves as part of my marketing strategy and is a continuation of putting my message and my voice out there.
Maybe my blogging often feels so hap-hazard because I don’t tend to have a longterm schedule of what to write when but much rather prefer to let my inspiration and creativity guide me… Then there’s of course finding the time to cook, test, style and edit photographs and recipes. And life gets in the way sometimes. Paid gig takes preference. Rest becomes important. Normal stuff. Life in general.
It’s been ages since I planned, cooked and styled some new recipes. I feel like I’ve been floundering about a bit over these past few weeks since the start of the year. Perhaps this is not entirely true but my blogging has definitely been an afterthought.
The recipe I am sharing with you here, is one that I adapted from one of my all-time favourite food writers and cooks, Emma Galloway. I simply cannot tell you how much I love her work and both of her cookbooks, My Darling Lemon Thymeand A Year In My Wholefood Kitchen is my all-time favourite books and the ones I use the most, if I want to follow a recipe.
During my late teenage years I used to use baking as a stress reliever. I used to take a night of from studying and then try a new recipe for a cake or some cookies from the classic Swedish book “ Sju Sorters Kakor” (“Seven Types Of Cakes”).
I don’t what it is about baking that feels like such a stress reliever. Sure you will hopefully get something nice and tasty at the end of it, but that’s not necessarily the main point when you bake with the intention of stress relief. It can be this opportunity to be present with the moment.
The reading of the recipe, weighing out the ingredients, mixing, observing the consistency forming, tasting (of course licking the spatula is compulsory!). Then keeping an eye on your cake or cookies or whatever it is you are baking, watching it patiently until you can see the rise and a heavenly aroma is wafting through your kitchen. And finally, when your baked cake has cooled (at least sufficiently for your mouth not to get scalded), tucking in, filling your senses with the magic that comes from mixing sugar, butter and eggs in suggested ratio and baked to perfection.
Some people say that baking is an exact science, but I am not fully convinced… Baking like anything else does allow us to learn from observation, a willingness to fail and a willingness to try. A bit like other things in life that are worth doing.
Blueberry Banana Muffins
(Slightly adapted from Emma Galloway’s original recipe)
Makes 8 small muffins
2 large bananas over-ripe, mashed
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp maple syrup ( I have tried them without and then are more bread-like than cake-like then)
20g porridge oats
110g ground almonds
½ tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
A handful of frozen blueberries
Preheat your oven to 170˚C. If you have a muffin tray line it with ten paper cases. If you don’t have a muffin tray you can place the paper cases directly on a normal flat baking tray.
Place ground almonds, porridge oats and baking powder in a large bowl and stir together.
In another bowl whisk together the mashed bananas with the two eggs, maple syrup, olive oil and a pinch of salt. Which until you have a smooth mixture.
Add the mixed dry ingredients to your wet mixture, mixing well. Add the frozen blue berries and give another stir to make sure they are evenly distributed.
Spoon the muffin mixture into the paper cases and fill about 2/3 up.
Place the tray in the preheated oven and bake for approx. 35 min or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. They should have risen and golden looking.
Remove from the oven and let cool a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. I know it is really challenging to wait, but unless you want to consume the paper as part of your muffin, I strongly recommend holding off until they have cooled completely. Then the paper case comes off a lot easier!
These muffins, since they are flour free are very moist. They store well for a few days in the fridge and they freeze well too. Great portable snacks or as a quick breakfast option.
I often think about this relentless striving to be more, do more and to continue to better ourselves. The beginning of each year is a time when this message becomes excessively loud. The “how to” of creating a “new you” is E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E.
Of course I believe in self development and growth, because that forms part of the work I do in my clinical practice, yet this message of striving to become a new version of ourselves feels like it carries an undertone of unworthiness to me. Why else would we want to be a NEW version of ourselves? Are we trying to eradicate the very truth that we are actually worthy human beings just by being here?
One of my ambitions last year was to attend a 9 day Vipassana retreat, which I was very blessed to actually achieve. I have done a couple of shorter silent meditation retreats in the past, so this time I had a fair idea of what to expect. What I didn’t expect though was the intense tiredness I felt for the first few days. Every spare moment, in between the formal sittings, I took naps. I meditated, ate and rested. It took a few days before I actually had enough energy and desire to go for some longer walks. My body was tired because my mind was so full and had been so overstimulated. The thing is, it is only in this intentional stillness that I can really notice how much my mind is racing.
Though I don’t consider myself someone who is extreme, doing something as radical as spending time in silence and meditating for hours over the course of a week has been one of the best forms of resting and recovering for me. I know this is not for everyone and you have to find what works for you, of course. Going on retreat where the outside stimuli is virtual nil has been the only way for me to completely let go. It’s not easy, but it has been possible, and so rewarding.
With this experience freshly in my mind one of my intentions for 2019 is definitely to let go more, to be more present and to allow my life to unfold more than me constantly pushing and striving. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have ambitions for things I’d like to happen, places I’d like to see and conversations I want to have, it just means that I am more open than attached to outcome. Basically I am taking more of a curious approach this year. Let’s see what will happen!
Before I move on to sharing my first recipe of this year, a green smoothie with some seasonal ingredients, I want to circle back to the self development topic. If we stop striving for being some different version of ourselves then what? Should we just give up on the self development project altogether?
I like to think about self development work more like a homecoming. A way to really get to know ourselves and to develop the skills, resilience and courage to live our lives on our own terms. To be able to be more of whom we are, rather than what society think we should be. So any tools and practices that helps us returning home to ourselves, to peel of all the layers of expectations and external driven motivations get my vote.
If you want to spend this year getting curious about your strengths and weaknesses, about what makes you tick and about what brings you joy, just know that I will be here cheering you on all the way. Just know that regardless of what you do, or don’t do, you are still enough and worthy just by being you.
So now to this recipe. Yeah, posting a green smoothie recipe in January does feel a little like playing into the hands of Diet Culture, but I also know that my body craves fresh foods and greens after all the holiday foods. However, when we’ve given ourselves full permission to enjoy all foods and eat (at least mostly) from a place of attunement, having a green smoothie doesn’t HAVE to mean that we are jumping on the diet bandwagon.
I have to admit that cold smoothies in cold weather is not my usual go to either, but this seasonal combination is so delicious and having a smoothie is a quick and easy way to consume something green, when you are craving it!
Apple & Kale Green Smoothie (For The Winter Season)
1 small apple, core removed & roughly chopped into chunks
1 small banana or 2 Medjool dates
A few leaves of green kale, stems removed & roughly chopped – I used cavolo nero here.
1 tbsp protein powder of choice – I tend to use an unflavoured pea protein – optional
100 ml full fat coconut milk
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
150 ml soy milk or other plant milk of choice
Place all ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth. If you are using dates, don’t forget to remove the stones!
I personally like my smoothies at room temperature, but if you like them colder you can either use frozen banana slices in place of the fresh banana or ad some ice. Just make sure your blender can handle it. Enjoy!
Woho! The first new recipe for my new site, an Apple & Blackberry Crumble is here. I really hope you are excited about this as I am. Especially since it was 1st of July since I last put up something here, and back then the website looked vastly different.
When I decided to re design it, I knew that it was a big project and that it would take me some time to do it. The summer months seemed to be the perfect time to get going as clinic wise this tends to be a slower time of the year for me. Having said that, it wasn’t my preference to spend all that screen time when the weather was so lovely. On the upside, there were days when it was almost too hot to be outside (imagine saying that about an Irish summer!), so eventually it all came together.
The feedback has been lovely so far and if you have been hanging around here before, then I hope that you can still find your way around just fine. I am happy enough with how this re design turned out, and glad that all the tech skills that I have amassed over the past five years or so came to good use. Another positive thing was that my blogging hasn’t been weekly over these past five years as I had to do some minor editing to all my blog posts and 125 of them was more than enough to be honest!
Creating and developing recipes that are seasonal requires some timing. If you are using seasonal ingredients then making winter recipes in July is a challenge and it may also mean that sometimes when you create a recipe in season, by the time it is ready to be published the season has passed… That’s exactly what happened with this Apple & Blackberry Crumble. When I moved house last year, this was one of the first things I made. Because I liked it so much I made it several times when I had people over for dinner. It is a spicy twist on a seasonal classic.
The crumble is crunchy and buttery and the apples are tart. Using Chinese Five Spice, which is a spice blend made up of cinnamon, fennel, star anise, cloves and black pepper was born out of curiousity. All of these spices individually pairs well with apple so I thought, why not in a crumble? The result is something a little different but more interesting than your typical apple and blackberry crumble. Using ground hazelnuts add to the seasonality and oats makes for a crispier crumble topping. If you don’t have blackberries, just omit. Or be bold and add something else like blueberries or blackcurrants.
Apple & Blackberry Crumble with Chinese Five Spice
2 large cooking apples
½ cup blackberries, fresh or frozen
60 g hazelnuts, ground in to a rough flour
75g cold butter, cubed
60 g rolled oats, gluten free if necessary
4 tbsp muscovado sugar
½ tsp Chinese Five Spice
¼ tsp ground cardamom
2 tbsp rice flour or spelt flour if it doesn’t have to be gluten free
Heat your oven to 180˚C. Peel and core your cooking apples then cut them into neat slices.
Toss the apple slices in the Chines Five Spice and the ground cardamom and then place them in an oven proof baking dish. Scatter over the black berries.
In a separate bowl add the ground hazelnuts, sugar, rice or spelt flour and rolled oats. Mix it all together with a spoon. Then add the cold butter into the flour mix and with your hands rub the butter and flour together until you have what resembles bread crumbs.
Scatter the crumble topping evenly over the apple slices and black berries. Then bake in the oven for 35 min until golden and the apples are soft.
I like serving this with sour cream or crème fraiche, as the tartness works well with the spices. However a really nice vanilla ice cream would be good too.
It is hard to remember that it was just a mere four months ago that we had a foot of snow here, when we are currently enjoying days upon days of sunny weather and temperatures in the mid 20°Cs. To me, who quiet like the heat, this current spell feels like true soul nourishment. A way to fill up my cup after a long wet, cold Winter and Spring.
The weather and the seasons are such a great metaphor as well as reminder of the cyclical nature of life. That even in the darkest hour, we can trust that the light will eventually return.
Over the years the rhythm of my food choices has become fairly cyclical too. Warmer foods in colder weather and colder foods in warmer weather. Can you relate?
I think it’s something that has evolved over time for me, the more I’ve allowed myself to let my intuition guide my food choices, the more seasonal my food choices have become.
We can spend years of our lives fighting cravings and hunger signals, simply trying to ignore our bodies. We forget to listen. We don’t dare to trust. It can be a long arduous journey home.
This summer I am taking 12 weeks, diving deeper into understanding the many mechanisms that underlie our relationship with food, eating and our bodies. It seems to be a subject that is vast and complex, yet it could (should) be one of the simplest things in our lives. Feeding ourselves.
As much as I love creating new recipes, reading recipe books and photographing food, I equally enjoy working with clients and counselling people back to peace and freedom around food and eating. This kind of work is not linear, and more of a process than setting a goal to go after. It is intentional however. The intention being healing, freedom and peace.
I will continue to unpack my learnings, observations and insights in other blog post. Now let’s get back to the recipe!
This Green Goddess Salad, is one of those recipes that may look intimidating to some, with lots of ingredients. Though truly, it isn’t at all. I don’t tend to do anything too complicated anyway…
I prefer my salads this time of year to be mostly raw, crunchy, to contain something salty (ought to replace those lost electrolytes!) and ideally assembled in minutes.
We know from the science that eating a variety of foods, as well as plenty of colourful foods are beneficial to our health. So with that in mind I sometimes play a game of trying to see how many different types of food of the same colour I can fit in one dish. This Green Goddess Salad is one of those experiments.
Green Goddess Salad
1 medium size courgette
5 spears of fresh asparagus
1/2 cup of frozen peas, thawed or freshly podded ones if you can get some!
A handful of fresh mint leaves, torn
A handful of unsalted pistachios, shells removed and roughly chopped
50 g of feta cheese, crumbled (crumbly goats cheese will work too)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
Some black pepper, to season (I add some to all my meals)
Rinse and dry the courgette and the asparagus, then take out your vegetable peeler. To make thin ribbons simply shave the courgette and then do the same with the asparagus spears. When you get to the more watery core of the courgette, you can leave this out.
Defrost the peas by placing them in a bowl and then covering them with some boiling water from the kettle for a minute or so. Drain and rinse under cold water.
Place the courgette and asparagus ribbons together on a plate, or in a bowl. Add the peas, the torn fresh mint leaves and the chopped pistachios. Crumble some feta over and then finish up with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, some balsamic vinegar and a little bit of ground black pepper (if you wish!)
Serve as is for a lighter summer meal, or as a side dish to a BBQ. Best eaten on the day it is made.