Gluten Free Spinach Feta Muffins

I don’t tend to share many recipes on this blog. The reason being that when it comes to helping women improve their health, I believe that we need to start with how we think and feel, before we can confidently change how we act.

Also, as much as I love food — and I really love food — my weekly meals are very simple and not particularly blog-worthy. There are only so many times that I can share a photo of grilled salmon,  chicken curry, veggie stir-fry, overnight oats or broiled lamb chops until we all get a little sick of it!

Even if I kept a more food-focused blog (as I did hilariously, and with terrible photography, at Blushing Strawberries in 2010/2011), that alone won’t make YOU a healthier eater.

Because here’s the thing: it’s not your access to healthy recipes that’s the problem, it’s your unwillingness to cook them. 

In previous posts I’ve touched on:

>>> The 3 Biggest Myths That Are Keeping You Out Of The Kitchen

>>> And why you need to reduce your consumption of sugary processed foods.

Today I want to tell you how proper nutrition was essential in my recovery from binge-eating.

 

Full disclosure: I am not a psychologist or dietitian, nor do I have any training in the field of eating disorders. What I do have, however, is my own experience, and my understanding that it was a combination of self love practices and proper nutrition that helped me create a healthy relationship with food.

 

If you’ve ever binged, or regularly tend to over-eat, you’ll know how physically and emotionally exhausting that process is. My personal experience was that I would restrict calories throughout the day and then binge at night. By the time I went to bed my stomach was so tight that you could have popped it with a pin. After every episode I would cry myself to sleep, and the next morning I would wake with equal parts indigestion and massive guilt. The cycle continued.

To overcome binge eating I tried to place (further) restrictions on myself:

  • Certain foods wouldn’t be allowed in the house
  • I’d eat with smaller bowls
  • Breakfast became my biggest meal and I would attempt to eat a peasant’s dinner (this was awful…dinner is my favorite!)
  • I would avoid eating snacks at parties, only to go home ravenous and polish off three bowls of cereal
  • I asked my husband to “not let me go back for seconds”
  • Every morning I would blame and berate myself…unsurprisingly, not a terribly effective strategy.

I’ve since learnt is that wasn’t the fault of the food, the crockery, the willpower, etc. The simple truth was that I was starving, and you might be too.

 

If you’re not eating your fill of nutritious foods throughout the day (yes, fats and carbohydrates are included), then your body will always be crying out for more. The problem is that when you’re running on empty, when its dark outside, and you’re wearing your sweatpants… that more tends to be easy-to-access, processed crap, and a lot of it.

Fortunately, that doesn’t have to be your future reality. If you want to find food freedom in your own life, then you have to stop being afraid of eating.

When you eat well — when you eat enough of the good stuff, and mindfully enjoy some of the treat stuff — it becomes easy to enjoy your food and your good health, without willpower, deprivation, or the obsessive need to check your weight at the end of any big meal.

So your goal for this week is to take a keen look at your plate and ask if depriving yourself of proper food is actually your biggest health and nutrition downfall.

And to help make things a little easier, I thought I would post a recipe today! These are my spinach and feta muffins, and they’re wonderful to grab as breakfast-on-the-go, a healthy snack, or as a side to a luscious lunch salad.

Enjoy!

 

Gluten Free Spinach Feta Muffins

Dry Ingredients

  • 2 cups spelt flour or all purpose gluten free flour 
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 large handful baby spinach leaves, torn

Wet Ingredients

  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup (125 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup full-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree*
  • 1/2 cup (4oz, 100grams) crumbled feta

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F / 180°C. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with muffin liners.

2. Combine the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, stirring with a fork to break up any clumps. In a separate bowl, mix together all the wet ingredients EXCEPT for the feta.

3. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour the wet mixture into the dry. Use a large spoon to fold together until combined.

4. Spoon batter evenly into the muffin liners and crumble feta over the tops of each muffin.

5. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the muffins comes out clean.

5. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin and then remove and continue cooling on a wire rack.

*Purchase pumpkin puree cans in the supermarket. Check the ingredient label, they should read pumpkin only. This is different from pumpkin pie filling which has sugar and spices added. To make your own puree: peel and chop a medium butternut squash or 2 pounds of sweet potatoes. Place in a pot of boiling water and cook for 8-10 minutes or until soft. Drain and then puree in a blender. Measure out about 14oz or 400g for the recipe. Freeze the rest to use next time.

 

With love,

wellness-obsession jennifer dene

Perhaps you’re overcomplicating this health thing?

The Los Angeles wellness obsession has gone bonkers.

This isn’t new information— I live in a city where people pay thousands of dollars to have their fat frozen and spend a week’s take-home wage on juice cleansing — but it’s gotten out of control.

The straw that has broken this camel’s back came last night when I popped into the supermarket. As I quickly dashed about filling my basket with veg, milk and eggs, my inquisitive-journalist ears picked up the sounds of a conversation that would only take place in a city like L.A.

Following the treble tones, I turned into the aisle to find two women having an anxious and in-depth conversation about which brand of water they should buy.

I kid you not.

It went like this:

“This one is reverse osmosis”, says the brunette wearing a red neckerchief and holding a $6.99 bottle of H20.

“But this one has added electrolytes,” counters the blonde, pointing her manicured fingers at a label that has flown halfway across the world to sit on this mid-Wilshire shelf.

“Perhaps we should buy the glass bottles?” suggests the first. “To avoid BPAs.”

“Sure, that works…just make sure you read the nutrition label,” replies the second, a little more quietly as she catches me watching, transfixed.

I tear my eyes away, stash a few (home-brand) club sodas into my basket and head to the self service checkout, trying not to giggle at the scene I just observed.

Read the nutrition label on your water? Now that’s a new one!

Look, I’m not scoffing at these women’s determination to hydrate — drinking clean water is very, very important. And if you have the luxury of being able to afford the brand that is alkalized, charcoal-filtered or lovingly bottled at a cold mountain spring, and drinking that type of water floats your boat, then power to you.

But the reality is that it’s totally unnecessary to take a simple health habit — drink more water — and make it something complicated, and frankly a little bourgeoisie. Honestly, do YOU have the time or mental bandwidth to deliberate the pros and cons of various water brands? I sure as heck don’t!

As your wellness coach I suggest that you spend more time drinking water and less time worrying about the ideal way to do it. (Insider tip: the tap turns to the left.)

This goes for any new healthy habit…the easiest way to make progress is by simply starting.

Want to get fit? Lace up your sneakers and walk around your neighborhood.

Want to eat healthier? Load up your basket with fruit, veg and whole grains, and stop buying brightly colored boxes plastered with words like “healthy!” and “fiber!”. (These words are often there to disguise the whopping amount of sugar, sodium or trans-fats that the product contains.)

I know that I’ve talked about this before, but I will continue to beat the drum until we all get the message that being healthy is actually very simple.

The healthiest people that I know are not the ones who agonize over every last detail to make the perfect choice. They don’t obsess over what they eat, how they move, or what they weigh. They don’t trap themselves into rigid lifestyle habits or overload their days with unrealistic goals and expectations. And they certainly don’t spend Sunday evening in the supermarket, analyzing the merits of drinking water.

So your goal for this week is to commit to becoming one of the healthy ones.

You can do that in three steps:

  1. Pinpoint an area of your life that is being held back by perfectionism, analysis-paralysis or straight up laziness.
  2. Set an intention to change one single habit related to that area.
  3. Take swift action, today, tomorrow, the next day, and so on; improve as you go, and know that each day you choose to do something different is the day that your life will change.

As always, let me know how it goes…

 

With love,

People Criticize Your Healthy Lifestyle

What To Do When People Criticize Your Healthy Lifestyle

I recently had afternoon tea with a couple of close friends in Sydney. It had been about 8 months since we’d last seen each other, during which time I knew they had made some dietary tweaks. Being the curious health coach that I am, I wanted to ask them how it all went.

They told me that by making a few simple lifestyle updates — and bringing just a little more awareness to what was going on their plate — they’ve landed on a way of eating that makes them look and feel great.

I was thrilled! I love hearing that simple strategies bring great results, as that’s my philosophy through and through.

Yet as we chatted more about food, our conversation revealed a challenge that my friends had been facing. It was something that I’m also intimately familiar with and it rings true for many friends and clients who have chosen to shake things up in the healthy living department.

It’s been my experience that when you change how you eat – specifically, when you choose to become a more healthy eater – it’s not uncommon to feel isolated, teased or even ostracized by people that you know.

That’s why in today’s post I wanted to talk about how to handle this situation, as you may experience it too.

Let’s start with WHY “changing your diet” is such a touchy subject.

At its most fundamental level food is nothing more than a source of energy, vitamins and minerals. But we all know that it’s more than that.

Food is culture, family tradition, memories, and at the heart of many (if not most) social events.

This can make it a tricky subject to talk about.

You see, when you decide to change your diet it can send a message to the people around you that you no longer agree with something that you used to do. This wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that what you’re changing is most likely something that they’re still doing. You’re upsetting the status quo, and they might see you as judging the lifestyle choices they’ve made.

In short, your personal development choices might make people uneasy.

Let me give you an example:

In 2009 one of my best friends was diagnosed with Chron’s disease and placed on a strict anti-inflammatory diet. Despite already being a healthy eater, this was a major lifestyle change (especially for someone who was only 21).

Back then, anti-inflammatory diets weren’t really a big thing. Paleo and veganism lived on the fringes of society, and many people thought autoimmune diseases sounded a little woo-woo…a little “all in their heads”.

So one day my friend told our group that she would no longer be able to participate in our Friday night habit of drinking gin and tonics, and eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

That didn’t go down so well.

Without minimizing my own culpability — I can remember using the expression “you can’t even have one?” —  I can tell you that another member of our group (let’s call her ‘Z’) was absolutely shattered.

“What good is it to live in a world where you can’t eat ice cream?” she cried dramatically.

The next Friday night my friend arrived at our house with an apple, a carrot, a bag of nuts and a bottle of water. Z was appalled and couldn’t stop talking about how “dangerous” and “extreme” this diet was.

(Apples, it seems, can have that effect on some people.)

You see, by changing her own diet my friend was challenging the shared Friday night experience that we had come to know and love. Her choices made us all question if we should do things differently too.

To be honest, we weren’t even thinking about WHY she was making those updates (and in hindsight, offering to support her through the process would have been the preferred reaction), but we were only thinking about ourselves.  We didn’t like feeling guilty about our own choice to be less than healthy on Friday nights and it seemed to us like she no longer wanted to be part of the pack.

But the silly thing is, that wasn’t her intent at all.  She was just making the best decision for herself, and for whatever reason that made us feel uncomfortable.  I learned then and there that everyone is responsible for their own choices, and we all need to take ownership of our individual lifestyle decisions.

Since then I’ve been blazing my own healthy trail, which means that I’ve been on the receiving end of this kind of healthy living criticism, and while I don’t believe that people do it maliciously, after a while it does get pretty old.

So in the video below I’m sharing three strategies that you can use to minimize these sorts of experiences, which will allow you to eat what you want, when you want, without feeling judged OR making other people too uncomfortable.

Once you’ve had a chance to watch I’d love to hear from you. So stick around and join in the discussion at the bottom of the page.

What To Do When People Criticize Your Healthy Lifestyle

 

Now I’d love to hear from you!

Have you ever felt shunned for making healthy lifestyle changes? How did you handle it? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

 

With love,

BEST DIET FOR YOU JENNIFER DENE WELLNESS

5 Tips For Creating Your Own Perfect Diet

So you’ve decided to make healthy eating a priority this year. You want to have more energy, maintain your ideal weight, and feel comfortable and confident in your beautiful body. Trouble is, you have no idea where to start, which begs the question: what’s the best diet for you?

Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. For many years I struggled with food and my body. I believed that I couldn’t find the perfect diet, or if I had I must have been doing it wrong. (In the words of my inner critic I lacked motivation,  I wasn’t good enough,  I would start again tomorrow)

Truth is, I hadn’t actually found an ideal diet for my body, so it made sense that I was having a pretty rough trot with the whole eating thing. But once I figured it out, everything fell into place and questions of motivation were wiped off the table. Because you don’t need to be motivated to eat foods that make you feel great.

Today I’m sharing five actionable steps that will help you also discover your best personal diet. Read on my foodie friend.

Diet Versus Dieting

Before we dive in to the meat and potatoes — i.e. figuring out what you need to eat in order to feel healthy, happy and filled with delicious delight — I need to clarify the distinction between YOUR diet and dietING.

The friendly nerds who contribute to Wikipedia (my darling husband included) tell us that: diet is the sum of food consumed by a person or other organism (1). They go on to talk about dietary choices, the ingestion and absorption of vitamins, minerals and macronutrients for energy, health and longevity. Basically your diet is just another way of saying the foods that you eat.

What makes this word tricky, and almost taboo, is when it ends with “ing”, or sits in a sentence with words such as follow, start, stick to, new, strict, struggle, celebrity and fad.

Going on a diet, or the act of dieting, is synonymous with restriction and deprivation. These are also words that make me think of a short-term commitment, something that you’ll (miserably) try for a while before going back to your regular diet, aka what you normally eat.

It’s a tricky distinction to make, but it’s really important that you do so. You should be able to talk about YOUR diet without people thinking that you’re going on A diet.

I’ve even had comments from women visiting jenniferdenewellness.com who have blasted me for being another so-and-so who is condoning unhealthy body image for women. Hmmmm…guess they didn’t see this post about flaunting your dimples or this one where I helped you get back in touch with being beautiful you.

Honestly I don’t want to always say “the foods that you eat” or “your nutrition choices” just to be politically correct. A healthy diet means that you eat foods that have a high nutritional value and do wonders for your longterm health. It’s a word that has outlived any single dieting trend, and it’s what we’re talking about today.

 BEST DIET FOR YOU JENNIFER DENE WELLNESS 2017

Should You Stick To One Type Of Diet?

We’ve established the difference between diet and dieting, which is my cue to step off the soapbox!

Now you may be asking but what about things like the Paleo diet or being a vegan? Are they diets or dieting?

Unfortunately it’s in our culture to label everything we do, which leads to many people using these diets to self-identify — I am Paleo or I am vegan. But restricting yourself to the boundaries of a certain label makes it difficult to honor your body’s needs. 

For example, a woman who is trying to get pregnant requires a certain amount of carbohydrates to ensure healthy hormone levels for fertility (2). This becomes a problem if she’s following a strict Paleo or Keto diet that focus on very low carbohydrate intake.

Or what happens when a man who thrived on a vegan diet for years starts experiencing depression, joint pains or fatigue? Will he be open to eating animal foods that will quickly boost his B12 and iron levels, or will he feel unable to make that choice because he has told the world he doesn’t eat meat? (3), (4)

The point is that we shouldn’t have to limit ourselves to stay within the boundaries of a certain label, and we should never, ever be held hostage to the food that we eat. That’s why I see these diets as guidelines…more like a cuisine than a strict set of rules. 

I see enormous benefit in the principles of enjoying a vegan, paleo or mediterranean diet. But what works best for me is not following any of them to the letter, and rather taking a mix-and-match approach that suits my body’s unique needs.

With that in mind, here’s the mindset I want you to have as you start to incorporate the following tips into your lifestyle:

  1. Food is just food, it’s not your enemy and it’s not your gate-keeper
  2. Short of having allergies or chronic diseases that require you to eat a certain way, you do not need to eliminate entire categories of food to be healthy
  3. I give you all the freedom in the world to combine the best bits of each diet to suit your unique needs — like mashing together potatoes, peas and gravy at Sunday lunch!

BEST DIET FOR YOU JENNIFER DENE WELLNESS 2017

 

How to create the best diet for you

Below you’ll find my five top tips for discovering your best diet yet.

Keep it simple and enjoyable

Overcomplicating anything leads to confusion. A statement that is especially true when it comes to improving personal habits.

Planing 7 days of meals in advance may seem smart, but it’s actually very overwhelming…meal prep is absolutely a skill.

And while I used to do the big Sunday cook-up, I no longer do. These days I prefer to spend a little more time in the kitchen each day, to prepare the right meal for my body on that day. This shift has helped me reconnect with my physical needs and conquer old habits of overeating and emotional eating.

So instead of playing Martha Stewart during the working week, you can simply plan to have a few staples on hand — such as cooked quinoa or rice, roasted sweet potatoes, hardboiled eggs and plenty of washed green veggies. These form the base of an easy meal that you can top with other yummy things. 

Get educated (but take other people’s advice with a grain of salt)

Here’s the deal — you can’t succeed at something that you don’t understand. Learning why it’s a really good idea to kick your sugar habit, or that drinking diet-soda is linked to dementia and stroke (5) will make it a heck of a lot easier for you to stick with your new way of eating.

Saying that, it’s also not a good idea to blindly trust every piece of diet advice that you hear. Glossy mags tend to publish the Cliff’s Notes version of any given dietary theory. While this may spark your interest, you really need to understand the why behind the what. I recommend working with a professional who can explain what is the best diet for you, why that’s the case, and how you can follow it.

Keep A Food-Mood Journal

In terms of intelligence, sometimes your body is smarter than your brain. A food diary traditionally tracks calories and quantities. A food-mood journal explores how different types of food make your body feel. I prefer the latter.

Here’s how to get started:

  • Start a new word doc (or grab a notebook), and create four columns
  • Column A: record each meal that you eat, listing as many ingredients as possible
  • Column B: make a note about how you felt physically immediately after eating
  • Column C: note how you feel 2 hours after eating; this is useful to highlight digestive reactions, note fatigue or energy, return of hunger, etc
  • Column D: this is a spot for any notes, thoughts or comments that you might have

Your food-mood journal can help you pinpoint the meals and ingredients that make your body thrive.

Be Consistent & Avoid Squirrel Syndrome

Once you’ve found a way of eating that works for you, you’ll need to stick with it. And yes, that includes ignoring the latest trend in Women’s Health or on Dr. Oz.

Again, feel free to gather information, but don’t jump ship on something that’s working well for you. Put your healthy blinkers on and commit to eating your ideal diet for 3 months before making any big changes.

Your Needs Will Change, So Be Adaptable

Avoid squirrel syndrome but also keep in mind that your dietary needs will change over time. Variable factors include: your age, lifestyle and immediate health needs; the climate in which you live; your menstrual cycle (are you pregnant, peri-menopausal, going through menopause or postmenopausal); holiday season and festive eating; and even life events that cause stress, physically, mentally or emotionally.

Creating YOUR own perfect diet is what serves your beautiful body at every stage of life.

You Don’t Need To Do It Alone

Would you like help in discovering your perfect diet? Are you committed to dropping the weight of deprivation, and slipping back into your ideal body and life? Why not find out more about working with me in my Fit, Feminine & Fabulous coaching program. Click here to learn more.

With love,

HEALTHY WEEKNIGHT COOKING

Make Healthy Weeknight Cooking A Breeze

For as long as I can remember I’ve loved planning menus, organizing dinner parties and generally just daydreaming about food stuff.

At school I doodled appetizer ideas in the margins of my math book — calculus equations would morph into lists of fried zucchini flowers, smoked salmon blinis, and morsels of sweet splendor.

After class I would come home and pull down every cookbook from the shelf above the fridge, sit down with a cup of tea and a notepad, and get to work on organizing what the family would eat for dinner that week.

My suggestions regularly included things like:

Tuesday: 8 hour lamb ragu over polenta

Wednesday: braised quail with wild mushrooms

Thursday: spinach and ricotta stuffed conchiglioni with scratch-made marina sauce

By the time my mum got home from work I had the shopping lists made, the recipe pages marked, and I was ready to hit the grocery store and start work in the kitchen.

Oddly, Mum wasn’t as keen on whipping up a three-course meal as I might have thought, which always confused me as she loved food and cooking as much as I did. All she had to do was work an 8+ hour day, look after two kids, a dog, and a massive garden, pay bills, exercise, stay up to date on current affairs…I mean, what gives?

Fast forward ten years and the ball has dropped. I totally get it. The last thing that I want to do after a busy work day is spend hours in the kitchen on a meal that, to be honest, I may end up eating in front of an episode of Grace & Frankie.

(In hindsight my mum was actually a domestic goddess, serving up exotic stir-fry, handmade chicken pot pie, and incredible salads on a nightly basis.)

That isn’t to say that I don’t still spend an inordinate amount of time daydreaming about dinner parties and planning lovely menus, but my weekly rotation is a heck of a lot more simple than it used to be.

These days I’m happy with simple food, like baked salmon and veggies, chicken and rice soup, or tossing something on the grill.

Because as my mum knew, choosing food that is tasty, nourishing and quick to prepare makes it easy to consistently eat healthy meals.

With that in mind, try using these three tips this week, to simplify your healthy weeknight cooking routine. 

Make Healthy Weeknight Cooking A Breeze

Tip #1: Use one cooking method

You can boil, steam, roast, grill or serve raw…but don’t try to do them all at once.

Roast: In the same oven you can roast vegetables (zucchini, asparagus, tomato, fennel, sweet potato…) and cook a bit of protein (chicken, fish, tofu, lamb chops, meatballs…).

Steam: Use a large saucepan with a steaming insert to simultaneously cook rice, and steam greens and chicken or fish on top; squeeze with lemon and drizzle with sesame oil to serve.

Grill: Cut vegetables into thin strips, brush them with coconut oil and season to taste, then cook alongside whatever meat or fish you’re grilling; it’s also delicious to skip the meat and serve with grilled haloumi cheese instead.

Raw: Go vegan and make a chopped salad with any raw vegetables that you like, a can of drained chickpeas, and lashings of olive oil and lemon juice.

Tip #2: Cook once, eat thrice

Cooking from scratch every day is not time-efficient. 

In fact, it takes the same amount of time to roast one or two chickens, to bake multiple sweet potatoes, or to cook four cups of quinoa. You can even batch make salads and leave undressed until serving. (Cheeky salad!)

Leftovers become the saving grace of healthy eating during the week, so I recommend that you regularly plan to cook more than you need and reserve the rest for another meal; store in the fridge for quick assembly over the next couple of day, or freeze them for future use.

(We’ve just discovered that chopped and roasted sweet potatoes actually defrost really well…this was a very happy realization in my house, where the sweet potato currently reigns supreme!)

Tip #3: Keep it simple

The benefit of simple cooking is three-fold:

  1. It eliminates the challenge of meal planning and makes preparing food feel manageable, even for the novice cook
  2. You’ll save money on groceries as you’ll buy fewer ingredients and use them all
  3. And it helps keep you honest about what is on your plate and how much you’re eating

Your Challenge

This week I challenge you to keep it simple in the kitchen: choose one meal, one cooking method and use six ingredients or less. Make a double batch and repurpose it for lunch or dinner the next day.

Here’s What I’m Doing Tonight — Grilled Lamb Chops

  • Lamb loin chops
  • Zucchini
  • Sweet potato
  • Asparagus
  • Coconut Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Cut the vegetables into 1/4” strips, brush with coconut oil and season with salt and pepper. Preheat the grill to medium-high. Cook the lamb chops and vegetables until done to deliciousness. Serve.

Leftovers: slice leftover lamb and vegetables and toss it over lettuce for a lunch salad.

Let me know how it goes by leaving a comment below.

With love,

HEALTHY LIVING

29 Nuggets Of Healthy Living Gold

Today is my 29th birthday.

In just a little while I’ll be celebrating with the handsome Nathaniel, a glass of Moet and some very good cheese. But before I kick off my shoes and pop open that bottle of bubbly, I’m taking some time to reflect on the last (almost three) decades.

I sometimes look around at my life and think: huh, who would have ever thought that’d happen. Every year brings with it new surprises and adventures, and we never really know what will transpire next.

Growing up as girl in a beautiful yet small Australian country town, I never would have expected that I would find myself living in Los Angeles, married to a Southern boy, and teaching women how to feel fit, feminine and fabulous through healthy living and self care.

In fact, this life that I’m living never really crossed my mind…it just sort of happened!

At various times throughout my childhood I wanted to be: a gas station attendant (I loved washing windshields with a squeegee); a bank teller (I got a real kick out of counting coins and shuffling notes); and for a few years my aspiration to become a lawyer (which would justify the owning of a briefcase) butted heads with my desire to be a marine biologist (and swim with the dolphins every day).

What actually happened was that I got a degree in journalism and started teaching fitness.

Since then, a series of unforeseen events, saying yes to new opportunities and rolling with the flow of life has brought me to where I am today…sitting in the Miracle Mile, thinking that pre-breakfast mimosas sounds like a very civilized idea.

The road that takes us to where we need to go is rarely clear and often tricky to navigate. But what we discover with every step will shape us in ways that we could never have realized, had we not dared to step off the beaten path. 

With that in mind, and in honor of turning 29,  I wanted to share 29 things that I’ve learnt about healthy living and loving the skin you’re in.

And then I’d love to hear from you.

What one nugget of knowledge would you tell your younger self?  Like a rising tide lifts all boats, sharing our words of wisdom with one another makes us all stronger. So please, leave a comment below!

29 Things That I’ve Learnt About Healthy Living (And Loving The Skin You’re In)

Choose progress over perfection

There’s always room for improvement, so get comfy on the journey and take one new step each day.

Invest in your sleep

Clock enough hours in the land of nod, buy a great mattress and make your bedroom a serene sleep space (the preferred option is dark and quiet, with clean air).

Eat well to feel well

Making healthy food choices isn’t about dieting, it’s about showering your body with love and nutritious bites of goodness.

Define healthy for you

I know what a healthy life means to me and I don’t let other people impinge on that vision; this helps me make the right decisions for my body and life in any given situation.

Self care is what empowers us to give back to the world

By nourishing your own body and spirit with good food, water, movement, and me time, you’ll have more of everything to give to others.

Some is better than none

A five minute walk, a one minute meditation or two bites of broccoli…some will always be better than none.

Give up your need for control

Allow people, situations and events to simply be as they are, and notice how much more present and relaxed you become.

Breathing deeply is the miracle pill for anxiety

Inhaling and exhaling through your nose activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps the body rest, digest and recover.

Stop counting calories

That old myth is officially busted; the new kid on the block is to count nutrition, not calories.

There will always be more food

Farewell Clean Plate Society! Choose to stop eating when you’re satiated and keep your leftovers for another meal.

Exercise is a form of stress; approach it mindfully

A gentle 20 minute walk or a few mobility stretches is enough to feel the benefit of exercise without adding to your stress.

Fear is temporary, regret is permanent

It can feel really overwhelming, and even scary, to change your lifestyle habits. But it’s worth it.

Start before you are ready

Whether that’s cooking at home, exercising or learning a new skill; you don’t need to be a pro to be a participant.

What concerns me is my health and not the opinion of others

I choose to take care of my body rather than trying to change it in unhealthy ways to meet other people’s expectations.

Negative self talk is polluting your mind

You would never say that filthy stuff to your friend, so why do it to yourself? Being trapped in your own mind is holding you back from loving your body and life.

Listen to your body

The human body is wildly intelligent, with an innate capacity to heal and regenerate itself. Once you get out of your head you can listen to what your body needs.

There’s no one-size-fits all

The same set of rote recommendations won’t work for a 40 year old woman in Florida and a 65 year old woman in Minnesota; you need to put on your detective hat and figure out what works for you.

Fat is wonderful

Sugar on the other hand…

 If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got

Change happens outside your comfort zone…consider spending some more time out there.

It’s about building a lifestyle, not painting a finish line

There is no such a thing as a right or wrong decision when it comes to your wellness, there is only the decision that you make.

Sitting is the new smoking

Seriously! Get out of your chair regularly, park further away from the stores, shrug your shoulders up and down…just move your body.

Give up the need to label yourself

You’re a unique human being, regardless of the lifestyle choices that you make. Don’t trap yourself in to being “vegan” or “Paleo” or “a Yogi”. Just be you and do a bit of anything that enhances that

Trust your gut

Listen to your intuition and eat fermented foods!

KISS

People insist on making things difficult, such as healthy living. Don’t be one of them. Keep It Super Simple.

Find movements that fill you with joy

Exercise should be energizing and rewarding for your body and mind, so get out there and find some kind of activity that make you feel great.

Women need to put their health before their physique

Get healthy and you’ll love how your body looks; force your body into looking a certain way and chances are you won’t be healthy (or happy).

 Connect with nature

It reminds us that our place in the universe is bigger than our immediate problems.

You have more time that you think

Figure out your key life priorities and then make time for them.

Pantene was right

It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen >>>

 

With love,

P.S. For the record, I still get a kick out of washing windows, counting coins and carrying a briefcase! Oh, and I did swim with dolphins one time!

home cooking Jennifer Dene Wellness

Empowered women wear aprons: the necessary return of home cooking

Today we’re talking about home cooking and why you need to get on board, for your body, your wallet and the environment . If you commit to only one thing for your health this week, let it be this.

I am so very grateful to my mum for not only setting an incredible example of what it means to be a home cook, but for teaching me how easy and enjoyable it is to put food on the table. I’m also grateful to my Nan, who taught us that we should never serve more than we can eat, and always reuse your leftovers and wash your ziplock bags!

In fact, most of my favorite childhood memories are linked to the family kitchen. Dad’s famous spaghetti bolognese, Nan’s boiled potatoes with dollops of butter, Mum’s spinach and ricotta stuffed pastry, Mandy’s pavlova, Chella’s gratin…So many happy moments have been shared digging into a home cooked meal with people I love.

If it wasn’t for my upbringing I would probably find this whole healthy eating thing to be quite challenging; from an outsiders perspective it can seem rather daunting to know what to eat and how to prepare it. (This is especially true living in Los Angeles where fad-diets reign supreme and the number of ‘superfoods’ in your pantry acts as a status symbol.)

There has never been an easier time to find recipes, watch cooking shows, or learn how to prepare ingredients on YouTube, yet we’re living in an age where people are cooking less than ever before. Part of this may be due to time (we’ll get to that) or not knowing how to cook (we’ll get to that too). However, I can also see that simple home cooking has been elevated to something gourmet, putting pressure on busy women to not only get food on the table, but to make it look like a Martha Stewart centerpiece.

Home cooking shouldn’t be seen as something elitist, expensive or complicated; it should be simple, enjoyable and affordable.

Healthy home cooking also doesn’t mean eating an undressed salad, or a meagre piece of fish with steamed asparagus. Making food from scratch let’s you be in control of the quality and quantity of ingredients that you’re using. This let’s you cut back on sodium, choose the best quality fats and meats, and bulk out the meal with lots of vegetables. It’s more economical, much better for you, and puts things like pizza back on the menu!

A 2015 study from Johns Hopkins University found that people who cook at home (without consciously trying to eat healthier or choose low calorie foods), eat at least 140 fewer calories per day. While that may seem small fry on a single day basis, at the end of the week that’s 980 calories, at the end of the month it’s 3920 calories, and at the end of the year you’d be saving over 47,000 calories — that’s all without ever looking at a calorie-counting app.

(And yes, I did have to use my calculator during the writing of that paragraph. If we want to talk about other traditional habits that are going down the gurgler, my math would be one of them.)

Apart from your waistline, home cooking also saves time, money and food waste. This last point is absolutely huge! Did you know that the biggest source of CO2 emissions on the planet is food waste? And that’s not by the big industry players, but by the everyday person throwing away groceries that they don’t use, or leftover food that they don’t eat. This is really troubling and should make us all feel more responsible for how we treat our food.

So let’s talk about why you’re not cooking more often at home, and I challenge you to give it a go every day for this week.

“Why I Don’t Cook” Myth 1: I Don’t Have Time

I don’t know about that. While I don’t have a scientific study to link to, I know how long it takes Nate and I to order food versus cook a meal at home. The latter wins for speed, hands down.

Going through the rigmarole of deciding where to go and what to eat, then ordering, picking it up or waiting for a delivery, unpacking things at home (discarding the packaging waste), reheating if needed…it’s a long process only to realize that it wasn’t even what we felt like.

On the other hand, the following meal takes about 15 minutes and will leave leftovers for lunch if I cook double:

Fill a big saucepan with cold water and some scrubbed, chopped potatoes. Boil the spuds until they’re soft enough to stick a knife into. Just before they finish cooking throw in a good handful of chopped broccoli and cook for 1-2 minutes. Drain the lot, put it back in the saucepan (no heat) and add a good bit of butter, salt and pepper. Meanwhile, grill a piece of salmon or some lamb chops under the broiler, for 8 minutes or until done to your liking. Pop it all on a plate and enjoy.

But perhaps you really do believe that you don’t have time. In that case, I recommend downloading your free copy of my video series Take Back Your Time: Practical Lessons In Creating Time Freedom For A Healthy, Happy Life.

“Why I Don’t Cook” Myth 2: It’s Too Expensive

This is one I hear all the time, but it’s just not true. Yes, making those ridiculous smoothie bowls that you see on Instagram would be expensive, but you also wouldn’t make them. It costs Nate and I about $20 to cook a big chicken curry with rice and greens (and yummy leftovers), but when we get Indian takeout we never walk away with change from a $50 note.

This is true even on the low end of the scale. To feed a family of four at McDonald’s (burgers, nuggets, fries and drinks) would cost you almost $28. For that same amount you could serve a whole roasted chicken, sweet potatoes and green vegetables. You’d probably have leftover chicken for lunch sandwiches, and you can even use the carcass to make homemade soup.

Plus there’s the very valid argument of investing in your health. So while these sweet potato brownies may cost more than opening a box from the supermarket, in the long run eating home cooked meals will save you a fortune in medical costs.

“Why I Don’t Cook” Myth 3: I Don’t Know How To Cook

That’s ok, it can feel overwhelming to learn new habits. However, cooking can be very simple and enjoyable. Start where you are and don’t try to be a gourmet chef — in my opinion some of the yummiest meals are the most simple). Buy a basic cookbook and learn one new dish each week; before long you’ll feel really comfortable in the kitchen. Challenge yourself to sticking to recipes that use 6 ingredients or less and you’ll be golden.

So what do you say, are you willing to cook at least one meal at home each day this week? I’ve thrown the gauntlet and would love to hear that you’ve picked it up, so please do leave a comment below.

Remember: healthy living is simple, eating well is not restrictive, and YOU CAN choose to create a body and a life that you love.

 

 

With love,

 

 

 

sweet potato brownies | Jennifer Dene

Sweet Potato Brownies: A Tasty Sugar Free Treat

Today’s recipe for sweet potato brownies will be a hit with even the most finicky of eaters. If you think that brownies can’t be healthy, or healthy food can’t be delicious, think again!

Last week I told you about the new 21 day eating plan that I started, you can catch up on that here. I’m eight days in and all is going well so far. I’m inspired to be more creative in the kitchen — something that you’ll benefit from in a moment — and I’m spending more time on non-food related lifestyle stuff.

There is one thing though…in a cruel twist of irony, Nate and I attended a sourdough bread making class the day before this all began. So in my freezer are two delicious loaves of organic, heirloom grain, homemade bread. How’s that for bad timing?!

I’ve also noticed that it’s much easier to stick to my menu when my husband isn’t at home. He travelled for the first part of last week, and I didn’t give my food a second thought. The night he returned home, however, I was suddenly missing that glass of wine and bowl of pasta.

This reminded me that food is a social beast, and breaking bread with those you love is a legitimate way of feeding the soul. You CAN be healthy and eat really well, without giving up everything you love.

That’s not to say that I’m obsessing over food or feeling resentful of this experiment. As I mentioned last week, this is a very finite and specific arrangement. And while I’m definitely noticing some positive health boosts, I also realized that I wouldn’t be ok to deprive myself of foods that I love (and that love me back) for a lesser cause…like losing those last five pounds.

Fortunately, I have some fantastic recipes to fall back on, which are gluten free, sugar free, caffeine free, dairy free and grain free. (It’s ok, they’re not “fun” free!) I thought I’d share some of them with you over the next few weeks.

Today’s recipe is for sugar-free sweet potato brownies. These tasty, fudgy-wudgy little morsels will fool even the fussiest of eaters. They’re also easy to make, only require a couple of ingredients, and they freeze really well.

The Benefits Of Sweet Potato Brownies

  • Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamins A, C & B6, as well as manganese and copper. They’re also rich in potassium, dietary fiber, niacin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and phosphorus. All that’s to say that sweet potatoes are a healthy carb to add to your diet, that help to heal inflammation in the body.
  • Many other “healthy” dessert recipes rely on ingredients like dates, maple syrup, agave and raw nuts. While these foods are ok in moderation, and they’re still better than noshing on a snickers bar, we can’t deny that sugar is sugar, and for many people nuts are really hard to digest. These brownies are gentle on your belly in fact, they’re good for your belly — and they are sweetened with stevia, which doesn’t impact your blood sugar.
  • Finally, if you eat these brownies cold they are a good source of resistant starch (RS3), which feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut.

Resistant starch? Huh?

Resistant starch is a type of dietary fiber found in starchy foods such as potatoes, grains and beans, once they’ve been cooked and cooled. As an undigestible form of fiber, resistant starch moves through the digestive tract without the carbohydrate ever entering your bloodstream. Once it hits the large intestine resistant starch gets fermented, turning it into a prebiotic that feeds the healthy gut flora (i.e. microbiome). The resistant starch in a sweet potato is only activated once that potato has been cooked and cooled; this occurs through a process called retrogradation, which changes the cell structure of the carbohydrate.

A public service warning…

These bad boys are good for you, but they are still treats and should be eaten in moderation!

Sweet Potato Brownies

Melissa Ambrosini created the original recipe; I’ve pared it back and made the method even more simple.

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 4 tablespoons each: coconut oil & butter
  • 4 organic eggs
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup cacao powder (or carob for caffeine free)
  • 40 drops vanilla stevia
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of sea salt

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 325ºF / 140°C.
  2. Halve the sweet potato lengthways, then press it back together and wrap it in foil like a burrito. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until soft.
  3. Once cooked, scoop out the sweet potato flesh using a spoon. Blend the sweet potato, coconut oil and butter, until smooth.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients to the blender and mix until smooth.
  5. Line baking tray or pan of your choice with parchment paper.
  6. Pour in brownie batter.
  7. Bake for 20-30 minutes (a longer time gives a firmer texture, while shorter is more soft and gooey).
  8. Allow to cool and then cut into small squares (about 15 pieces). Store then in the fridge or freezer.

I hope that you’ll give this recipe a try this week, and do let me know how you go.

With love,

diet mentality

The Diet Mentality (and it’s side effects)

I’m about to start a new 21 day eating program and, to be honest, it’s bringing up a bit of resistance. Today’s post digs into that topic of the diet mentality, along with a gentle reminder of why diets don’t work.

Let’s dive in.

By this stage you know that I’m no fan of dieting. So it’s with mixed emotions that, for the next 21 days, I’ll be following a rather strict eating plan.

Here’s why:

For the past few years I’ve been struggling with some aspects of my health. Despite my “good” eating, exercise and sleep habits, I still often feel like I’ve been hit by a semi-trailer.

Much of this has to do with my gut health, or lack thereof. Technically speaking, there’s an imbalance in my microbiome and I quite possibly have intestinal permeability.

While that may sound a little concerning, it’s totally fixable. In layman’s terms, this condition is known as “leaky gut” — a rather evocative description that you may have heard of it around the internet.

In addition to my weak digestive system, there seems to be something going on with my thyroid or adrenal glands. TBD.

Long story short, I’m following a medically advised eating program that eliminates foods that might trigger a negative response in my body. It’s not at all bad: lots of veggies, meat and yummy fats, which you know are right up my ally. But there are a few key ingredients that will be sorely missed, including:

  1. Wine & champagne.
  2. Cheese & yogurt.
  3. Bread & grains.
  4. Chocolate & coffee.

Objectively I feel ok about eating this way, but emotionally something has been coming up and I feel a little bit of resistance, a little bit of…meh.

I’ve been wondering why I have this hesitation, considering that:

  1. This eating plan is for a finite amount of time and for a very specific purpose. No one is saying I can’t ever have a grilled cheese sandwich ever again.
  1. I know that I’ll feel better when I have a break from these foods, because I know how my body reacts to this sort of thing.

So the answer has to be my history of dieting.

You may know that for many years I struggled with eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia & orthorexia (that last one is being obsessed with only eating the healthiest food). Sprinkled amongst these more serious conditions were regular rides on the fad-diet rollercoaster.

While I’ve finally been able to get off that ride, there is a residual fear of food restriction.

This is why I need to reframe the next 21 days, and view this eating plan as the next step in becoming my healthiest self (something that traditional diets do NOT do).

I’m going to focus on everything that I can have, which is really an abundance of delicious food, and I’m going to remind myself that this is simply a three week process of healing. With that mindset I know that willpower won’t be necessary, deprivation won’t be felt, and at the end of this process I’ll feel so much better than when I started.

I wanted to bring up this topic with you, incase you have a similar case of diet mentality, and if the idea of starting a new “healthy eating plan” feels a little overwhelming. If so, I totally understand and I hope that you can also find a great way to “reframe” the situation.

And, if you do still dabble with diets and excessively restrict your calories, please remember this:

Diets make you gain weight…

Diets help you lose weight quickly because they restrict calories. At first this works, but after a few days or weeks your brain notices that you’re not getting enough food and it starts to panic. This triggers your hunger hormones (leptin & ghrelin) to team up and protect you from starvation. Their solution is to lower your metabolic thermostat so that you burn less energy, which causes you to store the few meagre calories that you ARE eating as protective body fat. This consequence can be short term or long term.

Diets ruin your stomach…

Restricting certain healthy foods, or eating science-lab food, alters how your stomach and digestive system function. There’s a natural, chemical process to this eating and digesting thing. Mess with this process too much and you’ll end up spending date night telling your significant other about your leaky gut.

Diets mess with your mind…

Many women that I speak with have some kind of struggle with food; whether that’s worrying about weight gain, or feeling concerned that they’ll be judged (or judge themselves) for eating certain foods. Diets exacerbate this mentality, causing you to swallow a hefty dose of guilt and shame with every bite you eat.

Diets kill your willpower…

You only have a certain amount of willpower each day; it’s highest in the morning and decreases as the afternoon wears on. Every decision you make throughout the day taps into your willpower reserve; from food to fitness, or deciding keep your cool during a particularly frustrating conversation, choices zap willpower. Diets zap that willpower doubly fast, which makes you irritable, exhausted and with a hand in the cookie jar after dinner.

Now I’d Love To Hear From You

I hope this gentle reminder helps you ditch the diets and get back in the driver’s seat of your own health.

Please let me know what you think of today’s conversation, by leaving a comment below.

With love,