Sunday, 3 August 2014

This blog has moved!

Hey friends! Thanks for stopping by. Just a (very) quick one to let you know that I have now moved all of my blogging over to my website - - where you can also find details about working with me. I look forward to seeing you there! xx

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Quinoa confusion - Paleo or not? Healthy or not?

What an exciting week it has been! In case you missed it, I had the amazing honour of sharing my journey with hypothalamic amenorrhea and body image on The Huffington Post! Seriously a dream come true! 

OK back to quinoa. It’s the high-protein darling of the vegan and vegetarian world. It’s the hip new pseudo-grain (it’s actually a fruit). And it seems to be somewhat of a grey area for Paleo folks – some love it (using said “fruit” defense, because God-forbid they eat a grain), and some are downright against it (if it walks and talks like a duck, (or grain), then…).

So who is right? Is quinoa the super-food it’s made out to be, or is it just another dodgy grain-like cereal?

Apparently Quinoa is a girl on pinterest who is well
 into her fashion…and hates pleather.
Just a little weird.

About 4 years ago, I was diagnosed with coeliac disease. My symptoms were not pretty – fat and protein malabsorption (which translates to chronic diarrhea, that kind of also feels like constipation – fun, right?), nutrient deficiencies, low energy and a rash that was spreading all over my body. The treatment for coeliac disease is simple – follow a gluten free diet.

So I switched my beloved oat-based porridge to quinoa porridge. It was a simple switch, and tasted pretty good, too. Unfortunately, just going gluten free didn’t cut it. I still had my symptoms some 6-9 months later. That’s when I decided to try this crazy “Paleo” thing that my hubby was doing (despite my dietitian brain being completely against it). Lo and behold my symptoms disappeared…..quite rapidly, in fact, with the high fat, low carb diet I had adopted.

Fast-forward to last year when I was diagnosed with hypothalamic amenorrhea and hypothyroidism, which my low carb diet probably played a large role in. I was tasked with adding in more carbs, and there is only so much sweet potato a girl can eat, especially with the exorbitant prices in NZ! Cue quinoa. I thought – why not throw it back in the mixer and see what happens?

This time, however, I made sure that I soaked my quinoa seeds overnight, rinsed and rubbed them in the morning, THEN cooked them (more on why I did this later). Success! No adverse reaction, no tummy upset. I felt great. Hurrah! Quinoa porridge is now a regular breakfast for me, and I love it!

I tell this story to highlight the fact that there is no one diet for everyone, and what might be right for you now, might not have been OK a while ago, or in the future. It’s all about experiementation!

So why does quinoa get such a bad wrap? Well, the quinoa seed contains a few “anti-nutrients”:
Check out those soapy saponins after soaking quinoa overnight
  • Saponins – as the name suggests, these are soap-like substances, which can cause problems with digestion and potentially increase intestinal permeability (AKA “leaky gut”)
  • Phytates – or “phytic acid” can bind up minerals, such as iron, zinc and magnesium, preventing their absorption and utilization by the body
  • Protease inhibitors – “proteases” are enzymes that break down proteins into their smaller constituents, amino acids, which can then be absorbed through the intestinal wall and used by the body to build new proteins. The body is clever, right? Protease inhibitors, as you might have guess, can inhibit the action of these enzymes, thus disrupting the ability to digest proteins 

Well crap. That all sounds pretty unhealthy. Why would I even consider eating such a food?

Here’s the thing – soaking, rubbing, rinsing and cooking reduces the content of these anti-nutrients by 50-100%, making them less problematic, and the vitamns and minerals contained within (think calcium, magnesium, folate, iron, phosphorus, vitamin Bs and vitamin E), more bioavailable. Brilliant!

All that said, if someone is suffering from a health condition, especially if it is digestion-related, I would suggest cutting out quinoa and going quite strict Paleo for a period of 30 days. Then you can start to reintroduce foods and see how you go. That sounds fair, right?

Now just because I love you, I have decided to share my yummy brekkie recipe. Enjoy!

Warming Quinoa Porridge

  • ¼ cup quinoa
  • ½ cup water (plus extra for after cooking)
  • ¼ cup coconut milk (plus extra for after cooking)
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp maca powder (optional, but is great for hormonal balancing)
  • 1 small handful of nuts (chopped) and/or seeds
  • 1 small handful of coconut flakes (optional)
  • Sometimes I also add a sprinkle of Great Lakes Beef Gelatin (flavourless) for extra gut-healing goodness

  1. Soak the quinoa overnight and rinse thoroughly in the morning, massaging the seeds as you rinse. This removes “saponins” and improves the digestibility of the quinoa
  2. Add quinoa, water and coconut milk to a small saucepan over med-high heat until just boiling
  3. Turn the heat down to low and put a lid on the saucepan for around 10 minutes or until most liquid is absorbed
  4. Meanwhile, mash the banana and chop the nuts
  5. Add everything together (quinoa, banana, nuts, maca, coconut flakes, cinnamon) and add extra water and/or coconut milk until it reaches your desired consistency
  6. Enjoy slowly!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Primal Protein Bliss Balls

Well hey there, friend! Just a quick one today because 

a) chances are you came to this post on the promise of a recipe and really don’t give a crap about anything else I have to say and 
b) I’m a little short on time. See – short posts keep everyone happy!

But first – an update! Yes, I lured you here with a tempting recipe with the caveat that you must be updated on my happenings.

I am re-building my website over at In a few weeks time, this is where all of my blogging will be happening. Just trying to keep things a little tidier. I hear it’s what all the professionals do. But you don’t have to wait a few weeks – you can go and sign up for my newsletter right now! You know you want to. I promise not to inundate your inbox with annoying updates that you won’t even have time to read. My goal is to send ONE really useful newsletter about ONCE a month, which will include a recipe and maybe another secret squirrel tip that you won’t get unless you are in the circle of trust (AKA signed up for the newsletter). So go on – then you can go and make your Primal Protein Bliss Balls knowing that you have helped a sista out.

Primal Protein Bliss Balls (makes 10-12 balls)

Truth be told, I have never been much of a balls girl. Bliss balls, I mean, you sicko! I find them fiddly (you’re still thinking dirty thoughts, aren’t you? Stop it!). And hard to get just right. Somehow, I nailed it with these ones. Yes, giving myself a high-5.

These can also be made with just seeds (a great option for the kids to take to school every now and then) and, if you wanted, you could swap the protein powder for another dry ingredient – maybe ½ cacao powder and ½ maca powder?

I probably would not recommend having these every day, as dates are quite high in sugar. However, if it’s these or an LCM bar… know what to do.

Here’s the goods - 

  • 5 medjool dates, pitted
  • ½ cup hazelnuts
  • ½ cup seeds (e.g. sunflower, pumpkin)
  • ¼ cup dessicated coconut
  • 4T coconut oil, melted
  • Sprinkle of vanilla powder
  • ¼ cup chocolate protein powder (vanilla would probably work too)

  1. Add all ingredients to blender and blend well on high until ingredients stick together when pressed (around 30secs-1min)
  2. Scoop out small amounts (about 1T), squeeze together in hands and roll/press into balls
  3. Taste-test at least one, then store in an air-tight container in the fridge or freezer 

How easy is that?! Let me know how you go and please share any variations that you know work well.

Be kind to yourself! x

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

21 ways to relieve constipation

First, an update - I am creating a new website for my business. Woo hoo! As part of this, I will be merging my blog onto my website I am hoping to have this up by next week, which means there may be a couple of days when my website is down. If you would like to contact me for a consultation, please send me an email - 

Now back to the topic at hand….

Poop. Its something that no-one really likes to talk about. I talk about it daily – it’s my bread and butter. Why? Because it is such as great indicator of what is going on inside your body. Seriously – you could go and spend loads of money on blood tests, saliva tests or scans (which all have their use and can be valuable), or you could simply check out what comes out your derriere every once in a while. It is certainly easier, isn’t it?

I would say ~90% of my clients are constipated. And I mean really constipated – no pooping for up to 5 days, sometimes longer! Not only is this bad for your health and a sign that your health is not ideal, mentally and emotionally this can be quite distressing. As the bowels fill up, there is likely to be more bloating, gas, cramping and general discomfort. Not nice at all.

Admit it. You've been there. 

Let’s talk bowels….

And by bowels, I mean your large intestine (AKA colon). Most nutrients (vitamins, minerals, sugars, amino acids and fatty acids) and absorbed in the small intestine. As food moves through the large intestine, water is absorbed from the digested food matter to form waste products/your stool (fancy term for poop). Peristalsis (nerd speak for muscle contractions) pushes the poop toward the rectum at which stage it is solid, because most of the water has been absorbed.

Constipation can be a result of your large intestine absorbing too much water, or if the muscle contractions are slow/sluggish, which can cause the stool to move through too slowly, resulting in dry, hard-to-pass stools.

Not only is constipation uncomfortable and distressing, but it can cause health problems as products which should be eliminated on a regular basis (such as hormones and by-products of medications) may be reabsorbed by the colon, leading to hormonal imbalance and general toxicity.

So what can be done? Well, quite a few things are worth a whirl. Give these a try and let me know how you go –

Image by Happy Zombie via Pinterest
  1. Drink more water! I know this sounds very obvious and not sexy at all, but if you are dehydrated, chances are your poop will be, too. The general guidelines are ~33mL/kg of body weight. So, for example, if you weigh 60kg, your water intake should be ~2L/day, maybe more if you’re sweating your little butt off
  2. Exercise – go for a walk early in the morning. Physical activity helps to encourage peristalsis of the bowels and get things moving
  3. Deep belly breathing – start your day (still lying in bed) by taking 10 breaths deep into your belly. With your hands on your tummy, feel your abdomen rise and fall with your breath. This will help to activate your parasympathetic nervous system (AKA your “rest and digest” system)
  4. Consume fermented foods – foods such as sauerkraut, beet kvass, kefir, full fat yoghurt and kombucha are fantastic sources of probiotics and can improve gut function, especially constipation, by repopulating your gut with beneficial bacteria – start with small amounts and build up. If you’re not keen on fermented foods, consider a high quality probiotic supplement
  5. Make sure you eat enough carbohydrates. This one is two-fold. 1) Your thyroid gland requires carbohydrates/insulin to convert the inactive to the active form of thyroid hormone. Without sufficient thyroid hormone, metabolism slows. Constipation is a common symptom of a sluggish thyroid. Get it checked out, if you are concerned; 2) Carbohydrates are food for your gut bacteria (prebiotic) – insufficient carbs and you are essentially starving these little babies in your belly that make up quite a large proportion of your stool weight
  6. Get your fibre right. Again – pretty obvious, but there are a few different things you should consider here. 1) Soluble fibre (found in starchy veggies, such as sweet potato, potato, parsnip etc, as well as beans/legumes and some fruit) is helpful for providing bulk to the stool and serves as a pre-biotic; 2) Insoluble fibre (found in non-starchy veggies, such as broccoli, leafy greens, cauliflower etc) can help push things through, however too much insoluble fibre can have the reverse effect. So, if you are constipated and having lots of green smoothies, maybe time to back off a little; 3) Resistant starch – this is all the rage right now. Resistance starch is found in potatoes and white rice that have been cooked and cooled for ~24hrs (or potato starch) and green, unripe bananas. This stuff is great fuel for nourishing the beneficial bacteria in your gut (another prebiotic)
  7. Drink chamomile tea – this floral delight can help to relax the smooth muscles of your large intestines, making passing a bowel motion easier
  8. Don’t hold on! When you need to go, go! If you hold on, your body gets the message to not go (stating the obvious, I know), but this can have consequences when you the convenient time for you rolls around
  9. Try not to rely on colonics. If you’re really blocked up, 1-2 rounds of colon hydrotherapy may be beneficial to unblock everything and get the ball rolling. However, too many and you may become reliant on them to poop. Plus they completely wipe out your beneficial bacteria. Personally, I’m not a fan, but each to their own
  10. Squat. And I don’t mean with weights (although you should do that anyway). The ideal position to be in when we are evacuating our bowels (that sounded professional, didn’t it?) is the squat position. If you’re all blocked up, you could consider getting a squatty potty. We aren’t really designed to sit on toilets to poop – it’s just another one of those conveniences that have turned out to be not-so-convenient
  11. Avoid sugar and processed junk which feeds the pathogenic (bad) bacteria in your gut, leading to “gut dysbiosis” – a common symptom of which is constipation
  12. Consume adequate fats – so many of my clients see resolution in their constipation symptoms once they ditch their low fat diet and start including nourishing fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, avocado and butter. Speaking of butter, it can help with the production of butyric acid, which is beneficial for gut health
  13. Don’t overdo the nuts – these can clog you up if you have too many (including baked goods containing nut flours)
  14. Have 1tsp of apple cider vinegar 30mins before meals to help stimulate digestion. Bitters, such as dandelion, mustard greens and endive can do the same. I like to have a dandelion tea an hour or so before meals to help get the juices (digestive) flowing
  15. Chew. Your. Food. Seriously. Don’t eat on the run. Sit down and really chew your food – digestion starts in the mouth – don’t skip this vital step
  16. Avoid drinking liquids with meals (about 30mins either side of meals, too) – this can dilute stomach acid, which inhibits optimal digestion and can contribute to constipation
  17. Yoga twists can help massage your internal organs and encourage peristalsis
  18. Minimise stress – yoga, meditation, deep belly breathing, not too hard-core on the training side of things
  19. Vitamin C and magnesium can be helpful for poop problems. I find magnesium especially helpful as it helps to relax the smooth muscle (and helps with sleep!)
  20. Senna tea. I remember the first time I had senna tea (“Ballerina Tea”). Holy shit! (no pun intended). This stuff works, but it’s not exactly the nicest experience. It is a natural laxative – use only if really necessary and only for short-term. And be sure you have access to a bathroom for ~24hrs following consumption
  21. Remove foods that you think you may be intolerant too – this might be dairy, gluten, grains, legumes, eggs, nuts, FODMAPS….something to think about but don’t do it all at once, or alone for that matter – get help from a health professional to make sure you are still consuming adequate nutrition
Image by Sonja McDaniel via Pinterest

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and How To Exercise

I get asked this question A LOT. Especially since Sarah Wilson kindly posted my story on her blog. I think, inherently, we are all a little voyeuristic. A little pervy. Wanting to know the intricate details of other peoples’ lives. Or perhaps we just want a little guidance or confirmation that we are doing the right thing. Either way, I have decided to share how I approached exercise as I was healing from hypothalamic amenorrhea.

Peeping Toms in Tokyo, 1951. Image via pinterest by sahua d
First, know this: hypothalamic amenorrhea (also referred to as the Female Athlete Triad) is often a result of over-exercising and/or under-eating, which leads to an overall negative energy balance for an extended period of time. The body senses that you are, essentially, starving and says “Righteo, no energy for reproduction, then” and bids farewell to your monthly lady holiday.

So, taking this into account, you can see that exercise is perhaps contraindicated in the treatment of hypothalamic amenorrhea. Right? Right! 

Chronic exercise = no good. BUT movement = good!

Prior to actually deciding to do something about my infertile situation, this is what my exercise looked like: 
  • Monday: Body Attack (1hr) followed by Body Pump (1hr). I might have walked ~1/2 -1hr too
  • Tuesday: Maybe a walk, maybe a weights session (maybe both), maybe a cardio session
  • Wednesday: Body Attack (1hr)
  • Thursday: Body Step (1hr), ½-1hr walk
  • Friday: Body Attack (1hr), weights (1hr)
  • Saturday: Body Step (1hr) – every second Saturday
  • Sunday: Body Step (1hr)

Holy crap. I am exhausted just looking at all of that! So much time wasted in the gym! Granted, it was my job, which made it more “legitimate”, I suppose, albeit no less damaging to my health and fertility.

I realised that this was unsustainable and would leave me in my infertile state if I were to continue. 

Yes, thank you for your wisdom, Albert. For a while, I was insane. I thought I could just throw herbs and vitamins at the situation and it would sort itself out. But, after spending thousands of dollars (literally), I realised this approach was no bueno. So here is what I did…

I progressed quite gradually, and it helped that it coincided with my dietetics placement, so I had an excuse to no longer teach a lot of my classes.

Stage 1
  • Monday: Body Pump
  • Tuesday: Walk
  • Wednesday: Weights (functional training 1hr)
  • Thursday: Yoga
  • Friday: Weights (functional training 1hr)
  • Saturday: Body Step (every 2nd weekend)
  • Sunday: Body Step

 A considerable change, but probably not enough. Cue stage 2.

Stage 2
  • Monday: Body Pump
  • Tuesday: Walk/yoga
  • Wednesday: Weights (8 minutes – YES, you read right EIGHT minutes – 8 sets of 3 clean and presses; sets 1 min apart)
  • Thursday: Walk/yoga
  • Friday: Walk/yoga, maybe a Tabata session (4mins of cardio)
  • Saturday: REST
  • Sunday: REST

Although it was tough (mentally), I stuck to this routine for quite some time (until my period returned), gradually adding in more yoga (vinyasa/yin/hatha NOT bikram/ashtanga) and taking out the Body Pump. As I have previously mentioned, I found the yoga incredibly beneficial to the healing process as it allowed me to focus more on my body’s ability, rather than its aesthetics.

So, now that my cycle is getting back on track, how do I exercise? Well, it depends. I try and get outside as much as possible for a gentle walk/hike, as I now live in the nature-lover’s playground:

Image by Lake Wanaka Tourism
But if it is raining outside, and I feel really good, and my stress levels are low, my week might look like this:
  • Monday: Weights (1hr - 10 min mobility warm up, 30 min weights, 20 min stretch/yoga)
  • Tuesday: 1hr yoga
  • Wednesday: Body Pump
  • Thursday: Tabata
  • Friday: 1hr yoga
  • Saturday: Hopefully the rain has stopped by now and I can go for a hike!
  • Sunday: Rest

Note: I do at least 30 minutes of yoga every day in the morning. It grounds me and sets me up for an awesome day.

Now please note, this was MY journey. This gives you a general idea of what worked for me. It may or may not work for you. Listen to your body. If you have exercise/stress/lack of food-induced amenorrhea, then you probably need to pull right back on the exercise to start with, then take baby steps along the way, depending on how everything is tracking along.

If this is all too overwhelming for you, I get it. My hubby (who is a PT and peak performance coach) helped keep me on track. Everyone needs someone. Feel free to shoot me through an email via my website if you would like to book a consultation for some more structured, personalised guidance that will help you get your sexy back.

Final note – as always, be kind to yourself. x