Inspiring lifestyles

Learning to eat in a more sustainable way

By Juliette Bryant, nutritional consultant

The world is changing in positive ways. For example, many people were moved by natural historian David Attenborough’s hard-hitting message in the BBC television series, Blue Planet 2, in which he revealed the extent of plastic waste in our oceans.

Sir David was very clear as to what he wanted to say: We must stop polluting our oceans with plastic because it is seriously harming ocean wildlife. Fish are consuming toxic amounts of micro-particles and the people eating the fish are being affected too.

As a result, it would seem important for each of us to take a long, hard look at our own plastic consumption and what we can do about it – something that can feel difficult when fair trade organic bananas (and many other items) come shrink-wrapped in non-recyclable plastic.

But the good news is there are other packaging options available that are better for the environment. Normal petro-chemical plastic does not degrade at all, and even so-called ‘degradable’ plastic is not great as it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces of the same toxic stuff.  

Biodegradable plastic, which is often made from plant-based materials, is better, although it may still take years to disintegrate too. So your best bet is compostable plastic, which actually biodegrades in your compost heap. 

Now that Sir David has sounded the alarm though, a lot of big companies are starting to look at how they can catch up with demand from supermarkets and fast food chains to start using natural, non-harmful packaging. So there is a powerful opportunity for positive change on the horizon.

Because if our children are going to live on a healthy planet, it is vital that we embrace more sustainable approaches. To do so, we need to ask ourselves a few basic questions:

  • Where does my food come from?
  • What practices are employed to create this food? For example, what chemicals have been used to grow it, what energy and resources were required in using the necessary farm machinery, what food miles did it rack up?
  • What un-recyclable or un-reusable materials were used in the packaging and transportation of this food?
  • Are there more sustainable ways to provide for our food needs?
basket of vegetables

Sustainable, locally-sourced food

The answer to the last question is a resounding ‘yes’. For example, transporting food around the world is a large contributor to global pollution levels, but home-produced or locally-sourced food has low, or even zero, food miles.

As for the issue of sustainable food production and packaging, there are solutions, as I made sure today’s recipe demonstrates. Most of the ingredients came in an organic veg box from Moyns Park Organics in the upper Stour Valley on the Essex/Suffolk border. The packaging consisted of paper only and the food travelled a mere six miles to get to me. 

I also used herbs and a bay leaf from the garden. Maldon Sea Salt, which added some flavour, came from just down the road and the veggies and spices were fried in East Anglian rape seed rather than coconut oil, saving a few thousand food miles in the process. 

But it was when I was looking for protein that I nearly came unstuck. As a vegan, I do not partake of produce from large-scale animal farming, which uses vast amounts of land, water and energy resources. But nuts and seeds are a good substitute as they add essential nutrients and a creamy flavour. 

In looking at their places of origin on the packaging though, I found the following: The hemp seeds came from Romania, the pecan nuts from South Africa and the hazelnuts from Turkey. Which meant that none of them would do for this particular recipe. 

But I remembered that, during a late summer outing, I had bought some walnuts from near the gate of a local garden.  They were still in good shape six months on and so went straight into the soup to complete a locally-sourced, sustainable meal.  

A small confession though – I did add an admittedly optional tablespoon of curry powder and a chilli brought back in a suitcase after my trip to India, but hopefully that does not amount to too much cheating.

Vegetable soup

Local winter soup

2 parsnips  

1 large potato

1 leek

1 onion

1 garlic clove

1 cup of cabbage

1 chilli

1 tsp sea salt

1 tbs rapeseed oil

1 bay leaf

1 litre of hot water

½ cup of hulled walnuts

herbs to garnish

Finely chop all of the ingredients. Heat the oil and fry the leeks, onion, chilli and cabbage with the salt for a few minutes. Add the water and other ingredients, and simmer for at least 30 minutes or until ready.

Juliette Bryant

Juliette Bryant is an author, nutritional consultant, superfood chef and presenter who runs courses, talks, workshops and retreats around the world. Her passion is helping people to thrive by showing them how to make delicious and healthy food. Juliette runs a busy practice providing nutritional consultations to individuals and businesses worldwide.

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Inspiring lifestyles

Moving beyond the ‘New Year, New You’ culture

woman measuring her waist
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

By Gemma Kennedy, transformational coach

You may be starting to feel the strain of the ‘New Year, New You’ nonsense that is flying around at the moment. It seems that every time we turn on the TV, log onto Facebook or walk down the street, we are hit with ways in which we need to change ourselves to become better, worthier or more attractive.

Influencers of all stripes tell us that in order to make 2019 the best year ever, we need to make drastic changes and embrace diets, gym membership and the like. It is as though when the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, we suddenly became broken somehow.

But I cannot recall anyone I know who has ever managed to turn their body-related New Year’s resolutions into lasting change. At some point, people always seem to ‘fall off the wagon’ and start the self-flagellation routine.

This is the second year that I have no intention whatsoever of changing my body in order to achieve the things I want to though. Instead of trying to use New Year’s resolutions to fix whatever is supposedly wrong with me, I have developed goals that I am keen to achieve.

These goals are things that, in the past, I would never have considered possible until I inhabited a thinner, more conventionally attractive body. But coaching has taught me that I am already good enough to work towards whatever it is I want to do.

A wonderful friend introduced me to ‘The Language of Letting Go’ by Melodie Beattie. In it, she shares a year’s worth of beautiful daily meditations that are aimed particularly at people who are experiencing co-dependent relationships.

beautiful beauty blur close up
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

New Year meditation

But regardless of whether you feel this situation applies to you or not, it should be possible to learn something from her work. This is part of her meditation for 1 January, and you might find it beneficial to take some time to reflect on the questions she raises:

“What would you like to have happen in your life this year? What would you like to do, to accomplish? What good would you like to attract into your life? What particular areas of growth would you like to have happen to you? What blocks, or character defects, would you like to have removed?

“What would you like to attain? Little things and big things? Where would you like to go? What would you like to have happen in friendship and love? What would you like to have happen in your family life?

“Remember, we aren’t controlling others with our goals – we are trying to give direction to our life.

“What problems would you like to see solved? What decisions would you like to make? What would you like to happen in your career? What would you like to see happen inside and around you?”

Once you have had a chance to reflect on some of these issues, ask yourself what it is you notice coming up for you? Is it the kinds of things you expected? Are they any different to previous years?

woman in peach color and red floral sweatshirt holding gray jacket
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Being free to be me

When I personally undertook this exercise, I was struck by the absence of judgment that I placed on my body. Instead, I was able to genuinely think about what I wanted for myself, and my life, over the coming year.

I believe it is only when we can let go of the infectious expectation that we dislike our bodies that we are able to truly see what it is we would like to achieve. As women, we are taught from birth that our worth is inextricably linked to our physical form. Realising that this is not the case has been the most empowering thing I have ever done – and I would invite you to embark upon a quest to do the same.

To get started, here are some things you might like to try to survive the ‘New Year, New You’ propaganda:

  • Have a social media clear-out: If you follow people who make you feel bad about yourself in any way, whether intentionally or unintentionally, get rid of them. Fill your newsfeeds with people and bodies of all kinds. It sounds simple but the more you expose yourself to the diversity of the human race, the more chance you have of resisting the ideals sold to us. For tips on some positive individuals you might like to follow, please visit my website;
  • Set healthy boundaries: If your workplace or social circle is full of diet talk, it is easy to get sucked in. Try telling people that you will not be dieting this year and you would appreciate them saving their weight-loss related conversations for someone else. If they are not able to respect this, you may wish to reconsider the time you spend with them, if at all possible;
  • Surround yourself with like-minded communities: People often find a sense of community at slimming clubs that they may not find elsewhere and, in some areas, there are few anti-diet alternatives. But it does not need to be the case if you create your own community. Whether it consists of a regular meet-up with other anti-diet friends, an anti-diet book club or an online group, they can all be invaluable in avoiding diet culture.

But whatever goals you decide to set for yourself this year, the most important thing to remember is that you deserve to achieve them – and that I believe in you.

Gemma Kennedy

Gem Kennedy is a Body Positive activist and transformational coach. Having started her first diet aged 10 and spent many years promising herself that this would be the year to lose weight and start living, a switch flicked in 2017 when she discovered the Body Positive and Fat Activist communities. After training as a transformational coach, she now specialises in coaching and mentoring clients both individually and in groups to help them shed the burden of today’s diet culture and feel confident enough to be in the world exactly as they are, right now.

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Inspiring lifestyles

Chilli: Finding hot ways to spice up your life

Autumn Fog

By Juliette Bryant, nutritional consultant

As the trees shed their leaves and the temperature drops, it is the perfect time to bring the firewood in and enjoy the dark nights from the comfort of your hearth. It is also a good time to wrap up warm and go outside for a bracing walk. As my German friends tell me: “There is no bad weather – only bad clothing!”

Nonetheless, keeping warm is a real concern for many people. With the seemingly ever-rising cost of energy, it is not cheap to heat your house once winter sets in. Austerity, budget cuts and other difficulties in people’s lives have seen homelessness rates rocket, which only makes me appreciate the roof over my family’s head all the more.

On top of heating and wearing good clothing, however, there is another way to keep warm, and that is through food. Yes, it is true: we can all have an impact on our body’s internal heating system based on the types of foods we eat.

Think about it for a moment: Do you eat lots of cucumber when it is cold? No, because presumably you do not want to be as ‘cool as a cucumber’. Like melons, cucumbers have a high water content, inducing a calming, almost sedative effect on the body.

But what about a hot chilli? How does that make you feel? Just thinking about it warms you up and that is before you put one anywhere near your mouth. In fact, waiters in Indian restaurants generally ask ‘how hot you would like your curry?’ when what they really mean is ‘how much chilli do you want in the dish?’

Chilli is an amazing plant. There are literally hundreds of varieties from large, mild ones to small but potent scotch bonnets and blow-your-head-off ghost chillies.

Their heat comes from the compound capsaicin, which has a very positive medicinal effect. It stimulates digestion, releases endorphins and acts as a natural painkiller. It also has antibacterial and anti-carcinogenic properties, can kill parasites and helps lower LDL cholesterol. Chillies are likewise high in vitamin C and collagen, both of which help to strengthen blood and bones.

Red Chilli Peppers

A chilli history

What is interesting though is that, although chillies are one of the spices most associated with Indian cuisine, the plant itself does not originate from there. Chillies are, in fact, originally from Mexico and were brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus.

The Portuguese then took the plant to India during their trade with, and occupation of, Goa, and the rest, as they say, is history. India embraced it as an accompaniment to the country’s already established warming spices such as black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and turmeric.

The British occupation, meanwhile, introduced the Raj to the delights of curry – it is said the British used this complex mixture of local spices to disguise the stench of rotting meat that they were unable to keep from going off in the Indian heat (yuck).

But following the collapse of its Empire, Britain started welcoming immigrants from a range of Commonwealth countries, including India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. As a result, traditional dishes, such as vindaloo and jalfrezi, as well fusion cuisine, such as baltis and tikka masala, now rank among the nation’s favourite food.

As for growing chillies, in India, I have seen them developing happily in forest gardens. The tree canopy keeps excessive sunlight off the plants and the humidity at ground level provides moisture.

In not-so-sunny Suffolk, we also grow them successfully at the back of our greenhouse in a spot that is warm, sunny and moist. Some people likewise nurture them in conservatories and on windowsills.

Chilli plants like a fair amount of nutrients though, so we created our own liquid fertiliser blend using a mix of comfrey, nettle, seaweed, manure, urine and mineral rock dust. While it may smell pretty bad, it certainly works as this year we have had the best crop ever.

So here is a recipe for my home-grown chilli chutney, which you can use to accompany stir fries, curries or even sandwiches. The combination of red-hot chillies, sweet apples and dried mulberries truly is a taste sensation:

Homemade chutney

Super chilli chutney

1/2 cup of dried mulberries

2 chillies

2 apples

3 dates

10 cherry tomatoes

3 tbs apple cider vinegar

4 tbs water

1 tsp sea salt

2 tbs coconut sugar

Finely chop all the ingredients and place them in a pan. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When cooked, pot the chutney into a clean jar.

Juliette Bryant

Juliette Bryant is an author, nutritional consultant, superfood chef and presenter who runs courses, talks, workshops and retreats around the world. Her passion is helping people to thrive by showing them how to make delicious and healthy food. Juliette runs a busy practice providing nutritional consultations to individuals and businesses worldwide.

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Inspiring lifestyles

How ‘intuitive eating’ can help us reconnect to our bodies

Diet culture

By Gemma Kennedy, transformational coach.

So you have made the decision that there is more to life than dieting. But the mixed messages emanating from today’s diet culture are likely to have left you in a quandary over which foods you should actually eat.

For years, you have been told to avoid entire food groups, not to eat after 6pm, or to fast for two days a week. It is impossible to remember a time when your supermarket trolley was not piled high with zero-calorie noodles, meal-replacement bars or cottage cheese.

But what do you really want to eat? What makes your body feel good? By this, I do not mean what makes your body slim. Or what satisfies your hunger with the minimum possible amount of calories.

No, what I am asking about is what food would you like to eat right here and right now if there were no limits. If no foods were designated as either good or bad, what would you choose?

Writing this, I find myself fancying a wild mushroom and parmesan risotto with crunchy garlic bread, a crisp side salad and, seeing as the weather is now feeling suitably autumnal, a delicious plum crumble with custard to follow. Be patient though as there is a point to all of this – it is about exploring the antithesis of dieting.

You may remember a time as a child that involved eating when you were hungry and stopping when you were full. While you may not have been in charge of the food that was available at that point, you may have had a strong understanding of what your body enjoyed – and at times, certain foods may have seemed more appealing than others.

If you are anything like the millions of dieters around the world, it is likely you will have become disconnected from this profoundly important way of nourishing your body. It may have been a result of encouragement from others to finish everything on your plate when you were a child or to have a drink to fill you up when you felt hungry. But whatever the source, such suggestions inevitably lead us to question our body’s instinctive knowledge.

As a result, many in the anti-diet movement are now support a return to eating mindfully or what Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch call ‘intuitive eating’.

The key principles of intuitive eating are to honour your body’s hunger and fullness, being sure to eat foods that bring you enjoyment while at the same time leaving the negative messages behind. Intuitive eaters might consider whether their bodies are in need of something salty or sweet, crunchy or soft, warm or cold, spicy or mild.

Of course, it is not always possible to eat exactly what we want as there are often time, financial or other constraints. But by returning to this way of eating, you do feel an immense sense of freedom from dieting.

Happy eating

Permission to eat

One of the concerns that people often raise about this approach is the safety of giving ourselves permission to eat whatever we fancy. “Wouldn’t we just live on pizza or ice cream?” they ask.

Founders of the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement, Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramore discuss just this subject in their book ‘Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight’. They say: “The idea that you can stop watching your calories and eat what you want, when you want, is so contrary to current ideas that it evokes tremendous fear.”

But one of their studies confirmed that: “Once participants realized they could eat whatever they wanted and were supported in choosing foods they fancied, and in letting food serve many roles, food stopped holding as much power over them.”

Think about it: If you truly knew that you would be able to eat more of a particular food whenever you felt like it, without guilt or judgment, would you still spend so much time thinking about whether to eat it or not?

But it is worth noting that many people experience what anti-diet registered dietician and certified intuitive eating counsellor Christy Harrison calls the “honeymoon phase”. At this stage, they often feel “out of control” or as though they “can’t get enough” of food.

Moreover, exploring their new-found, unconditional permission to eat can last for months or years, particularly for those who have been dieting for a long time. It may feel like a pendulum swinging between eating a great deal and restricting your input again, but this situation will settle down in time, as I have experienced myself.

With regard to the issue of physical health, I do not tend to discuss it much in my work as I believe every body is worthy of respect, regardless of their state of health. But a recent HAES study showed clearly that after two years, those who lived by HAES principles, which include intuitive eating and movement, were markedly healthier, both mentally and physically, than those who continued to diet.

The report stated: “The HAES group sustained improvements in blood pressure, total cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein), and depression, among many other health parameters. The typical-diet group, on the other hand, showed initial improvements in all of those parameters (and weight loss), but returned to their starting point within a year. The HAES group improved their self-esteem and reported feeling much better about themselves at the program’s end, whilst the dieters’ self-esteem plummeted.”

Due to its considerable benefits, intuitive eating is unsurprisingly becoming better known as the body- and fat-positive communities spread the word. I really hope it is only a matter of time before more people begin to question the compounded misery that dieting brings, which includes everything from food restriction to binging and the inevitable process of weight cycling (gaining and losing the same weight many times).

The fact that someone felt the need to coin the phrase ‘intuitive eating’ makes it clear just how disconnected many of us have become from our own bodies. But only when we stop relying on diet companies and the media to tell us what to eat and start listening to our own bodies instead will we truly experience life beyond dieting.

Gemma Kennedy

Gem Kennedy is a Body Positive activist and transformational coach. Having started her first diet aged 10 and spent many years promising herself that this would be the year to lose weight and start living, a switch flicked in 2017 when she discovered the Body Positive and Fat Activist communities. After training as a transformational coach, she now specialises in coaching and mentoring clients both individually and in groups to help them shed the burden of today’s diet culture and feel confident enough to be in the world exactly as they are, right now.

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Why go organic?

agriculture basket beets bokeh
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

By Juliette Bryant, nutritional consultant.

A couple of years ago, colonic hydrotherapist Esther McCulloch contacted me about her vision of creating a pioneering centre that combined food and wellbeing. With my help, she launched the Primrose Juice Bar & Naturopathic Centre in Chelmsford.

One of the important considerations that attracted me to this project was that Esther wanted all of the produce sold in her shop to be organic. When pregnant with my first child 13 years ago, I had started to look more closely at the food I was eating. I was growing a little being inside me that would be affected by what I consumed. From that point on, whenever possible, I have eaten organic food.

But what are the benefits? Is it healthier? Why do most farmers use artificial pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers? Hasn’t the spectre of DDT pesticides faded into the past now? Surely agricultural chemicals have to be tested and safe? What about genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) – are they toxic in terms of long-term health?

I have been investigating these questions for some time. My research has included studying Environmental Science at Writtle College, living and working on a conventional farm, growing fruit and veg myself, and talking to experts. So let’s explore some of the issues.

Leading authority on natural health Dr Joseph Mercola writes: “People have been led to believe that industrial farming is the only way to feed the skyrocketing population. Farmers turned to genetically modified organisms to ‘improve’ the quantity and quality of their crops. Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), where thousands of animals are housed in constricted quarters, have also become the norm.

But although GMOs and CAFOs “make livestock and crops cheaper, while giving farmers higher profits”, Mercola questions “at what cost?” “Widespread pollution, drug-resistant diseases, nutrient deficiencies and animal cruelty are just some of the costs associated with cheap and low quality meat and crops,” he says.

Contrast this statement with that of local producer Phil Mizen from Moyns Park Organics in the upper Stour Valley on the Essex and Suffolk border, who points out: “Growing organically is not a methodology. It’s a philosophy, a way of life. For me, it’s about respecting the soil and the wider environment, while producing nutritious and tasty vegetables in a sustainable way.”

Ecology
Ecology

Ethical growing

Mizen also cites US philosopher and ecologist Aldo Leopold, who once said: “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

Another local business that follows the organic food philosophy is the Cradle vegan bakery and café in Sudbury. Its take on the subject is that: “Our mission is to produce delicious food grown by ethical growers whose methods encourage healthy soils and biodiversity.” And given how packed their café is, their customers certainly appear to like it.

Esther takes a similar line at Primrose Juice Bar. “We have a sign that says: ‘Don’t panic, we’re organic’, she says. “We firmly believe that everything we take into our body should have a beneficial effect on our whole being.”

She also points out that in her professional work, she has seen the negative effects that eating a conventional diet can have on people’s health. “Consuming organic produce and goods gives us the best chance of a healthy, more fulfilling life. And it is better for the planet too,” Esther says.

Here are also a few statistics that you may find interesting:

Put another way, the message is: ‘When possible, go organic.’

Vegan curry
Vegan curry

Recipe

My 10-veg organic curry:

1 onion

1 clove of garlic

1 chilli

1 tbs of coconut oil

1 tsp curry powder

1 tsp garam masala

½ teaspoon of salt

cup of tomatoes

2 cups of cooked vegetables eg red split lentils, sweet potato, carrots

1 cup of fresh vegetables eg courgettes, broccoli, peppers, kale

1 cup of ground almonds

1 cup of hot water

Sautee your onion, crushed garlic clove and chilli in a pan with the coconut oil. Next add the curry powder, garam masala and salt and mix well. Stir in your tomatoes
 and simmer for five minutes. Blend the ingredients together to make a masala sauce.

Add in your cooked and fresh vegetables, before adding the ground almonds and hot water. Mix all of the ingredients together and cook for a further 5-10 minutes. Serve with rice and salad.

Juliette Bryant

 

 

 

 

Juliette Bryant is an author, nutritional consultant, superfood chef and presenter who runs courses, talks, workshops and retreats around the world. Her passion is helping people to thrive by showing them how to make delicious and healthy food. Juliette runs a busy practice providing nutritional consultations to individuals and businesses worldwide.

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