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!

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,

Probiotics and prebiotics jennifer dene

What On Earth Are Probiotics And Prebiotics?

I can’t remember the last time that I was sick.

Sometimes, when I’m tired and busy, I kind of wish that I could be (gently) struck down with a cold. Just for a day or two, so that I can eat chicken noodle soup and watch hours of Downton Abbey re-runs.

(The downside of living in sunny SoCal is that it’s hard to justify spending a day on the couch with a bowl of popcorn…I’m praying for a Saturday thunderstorm.)

But my immune system hasn’t always been strong. As a child I spent countless hours in the doctor’s office or emergency room with chest infections, and you could pretty much count on a bout of tonsillitis each year.

This meant dozens of courses of antibiotics, which did quite the number on the health of my gut.

So while I rarely get sick, I still occasionally find myself with a bloated belly or a sluggish digestive system. Fortunately this has improved out of sight over the past 18 months, thanks to a few new habits:

  1. I cook (or ferment) 80% of my vegetables — the raw stuff is a little hard for me to digest.
  2. I try to chew my food really well, and stay hydrated. Learn more about “How To Stop Constipation.”
  3. And I take probiotics and prebiotics each day, through a supplement or food.

Point #3 is is what I want to talk with you about today. In this video you’ll learn:

  • What are probiotics and prebiotics, and why you need them
  • And how do you make sure that you’re getting enough of each every day

Having a healthy gut and well functioning digestive system makes a HUGE difference to how you look and feel. So I’ve created a quick-to-read cheat sheet with 8 tips for boosting your metabolism and improving your digestion.

In this mini-guide I also explain what to look for when purchasing a probiotic supplement. This is really important as you could be wasting your money on a supplement that doesn’t work.

You can grab that free download by clicking here.

And now on to the video where we chat all things bacteria. Sound good?!

To Recap, Here’s What We Covered:

  • Probiotics are healthy bacteria that keep your digestive system in tip-top shape, you can get them from supplements and fermented foods.
  • Prebiotics are what the probiotics need to eat to survive and multiply.
  • I used the analogy of the probiotic being like the video game Pacman* and the prebiotic being the little white dots that he eats.

*In case you’re not familiar, Pacman is a maze-based video game from the 80s, where a face (Pacman) eats some dots and escapes from a ghost. My brother hosts a wildly popular video game show in Australia called Good Game Pocket… I don’t know if he’s proud of me for using that analogy or mortified about the way I summarized the game. #SorryNichboy

Now I’d Love To Hear From You

Are you currently taking a probiotic? How about a prebiotic? Do you have any questions about adding these supplements, or fermented foods in general, into your diet? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

Don’t Forget Your Free Download

A slowing metabolism not only causes weight gain, it can also be the culprit behind irritability, low blood sugar, depression, allergies, joint pain, skin conditions, insomnia, IBS, and inflammation… Basically the kind of symptoms you’d rather avoid.

If you’re done with feeling grumpy and lethargic, (and want a no-willpower way to kick those sugar cravings), this is the guide for you.

By simply adding these 8 tips into your current routine you will boost your metabolism, increase your energy and, hopefully, start to notice a flatter tummy.

Click here to download the guide

With love,

JDW Signature

low sugar bircher mueslie

Recipe: Low Sugar Bircher Muesli

Today’s bircher muesli recipe is part of my Sunday Prep series; simple recipes that can be prepared on the weekend and eaten during the week.

Starting the day with a healthy breakfast, preferably after some kind of physical activity, sets the tone for a feel-good kind of day. By fueling up with protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates and high quality fats you’re giving your body and mind the energy it needs to stay active and focused.

But preparing a wholesome meal first thing in the morning can sometimes be a little challenging, especially if you’re crunched for time. This breakfast recipe makes mornings a breeze.

I hope that you’ll spend the time you save doing something relaxing while you eat, such as reading a book, making notes in your journal, or (even better) sitting in the sunshine!

Pssst: Want a little more? Download my complete Sunday Prep guide, with five tasty recipes, plus a grocery list, and two 30 minute workout videos for free. Get your FREE sample week here.

What’s Bircher Muesli?

You may know bircher muesli as “overnight oats” — they are pretty much the same thing. Rolled oats are soaked in liquid with a few added bits of deliciousness thrown in.

This recipe is as simple as mixing the ingredients together, leaving it in the fridge overnight, and enjoying a yummy, healthy breakfast the next day.

Traditionally, in Australia at least, bircher muesli is made by soaking the oats in apple juice, with lots of grated apple and sultanas, and a good drizzle of honey. It’s delicious. But it’s also really high in sugar. My low sugar recipe uses coconut milk and plain yogurt, with added sweetness from whole fruit. You can drizzle a little honey to serve, or use a few drops of liquid stevia.

Apart from taking the stress of out of breakfast, soaking oats overnight is better for your body than eating them raw. Soaked oats are easier to digest, reducing post-breakfast bloat AND helping you to absorb more minerals from the oats themselves.

Soaking oats (or cooking them as oatmeal) also makes them expand, which means that you can eat a larger portion without the extra calories. Not that we’re in the business of counting calories, but we’re also not in the business of overeating!

Speaking of overeating…in the video I am making a bowl of bircher muesli for Nate, my husband, who, as I mention, is a rather hungry fellow. You may prefer to divide the ingredients into two (or even three) bowls.

Remember to always listen to your body when it comes to eating.

In the video I’m showing you how to make this recipe, and adding in a few tips along the way. Don’t have time to watch right now? Scoot to the end of the page and grab the recipe instead.

 

Low Sugar Bircher Muesli

Serves 2 – 3 | Print It Here
Customize this recipe by adding your favorite toppings, or use different grains (such as brown rice, buckwheat or quinoa flakes) in place of, or as a combination with, the oats.

1 cup thick rolled oats (not instant)

1/2 cup coconut milk

1/2 cup plain yogurt (unsweetened)

1/2 a green apple, grated

juice from 1/2 a lemon (optional)

1/2 cup frozen blueberries

1/4 cup walnuts

Additional scrumptious things: shredded coconut, cinnamon, seeds…

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl; mix well (add a little water if mixture is too thick). Divide into serving bowls and leave in the fridge for two hours or overnight. Enjoy.

You Might Also Like:

The morning fiber bowl that keeps you regular.
How to wash & store your fresh produce.

Now I’d Love To Hear From You

What’s your breakfast of choice this week? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

With Love,
JDW Signature

 

P.S. Want recipes and workouts that will make healthy living a breeze? Download your free week of the Healthy Living Made Easy Program
Relieve Constipation | Jennifer Dene Wellness

Feeling Constipated? These 5 Tips Will Help.

I’ll be frank, today’s conversation may feel totally awkward, especially since we’ve only just met.

But talking about your bathroom habits should be right up there with discussing your healthy diet and daily exercise routine. Regular bowel movements are a sign of good health, and are nothing to be embarrassed about.

Yet for many of us, toilet talk is one of the most embarrassing discussions to have.

On my new-client intake form I ask about digestive health, and there is one particular question that 80% of my female clients jump past as quickly as possible.

The question: “Do you experience regular constipation, diarrhea or gas?”

The most common answer from female clients: “No, nope, not me.”

Whereas my male clients… well, you can imagine the detail!

I totally get it. For the longest time I was SO embarrassed to talk to my husband about anything that went down in the bathroom that we had to create a code word for that daily constitutional.

We call it “The Mouse”. Best not to overthink it.

Of course that kind of daintiness can only go on for so long before it gets old. I’m not embarrassed anymore, and I hope that you’re not either.

So let’s throw this topic on the table and have a good ol’ chat-a-roo about our toilet habits, and in particular how to relieve constipation.

In today’s video I’m sharing five simple tips that will help to keep you regularly regular.

Once you’ve had a chance to watch, scoot to the end of the page and grab the recipe for the fiber bowl — a concoction that will seriously change your life.

To Recap, Here’s What We Discussed:

Tip #1 = Stay Hydrated

Tip #2 = Chew Your Food

Tip #3 = Move Your Body

Tip #4 = Eat Fiber (soluble AND insoluble)

Tip #5 = Squat On The Pot

And Here’s Your Fiber Bowl Recipe:

This one is a game changer! Have it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, and immediately follow with a very large glass of water. Once your system gets used to the fiber-hit you can increase the quantities a little bit.

~ 1 tablespoon psyllium husks (available Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Amazon etc)

~ 1/2 tablespoon chia seeds

~ 1/2 tablespoon slippery elm bark powder (I usually order mine online)

~ Ground cinnamon to taste

~ 1/2 cup coconut water

~ 1/2 cup filtered water OR 1 cup filtered water only

Mix everything together and drink immediately.

Now I’d Love To Hear From You

What helps you to keep your digestive system happy and humming along? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

With Love,

JDW Signature

P.S. Want recipes and workouts that will keep things moving? Download your free week of the Healthy Living Made Easy Program