Sunday, 26 October 2014

Delicious raw chocolate fudge - recipe by Madeleine Shaw

One of my favourite weekend pastimes is to make (and then eat) delicious nutritious food. Being so busy during the week it's the perfect way to relax and to thank your body for putting up with the stresses of modern-day working life. Someone who inspires me in my weekend kitchen escapades is Madeleine Shaw; I've followed Madeleine on Instagram for a while now, and her recipes always look so tasty. She's a qualified Nutritional Health Coach who wants to encourage people to become the hottest, healthiest, happiest version of themselves, and her recipes are designed to enable people to enjoy their food whilst being healthy. I've tried a couple of her recipes over the last few weeks and they've all been amazing, but her raw chocolate fudge recipe is something else. It's also super simple to make. In all honesty, this is one that you really must try to believe just how delicious it is.

Here's some I made earlier...:


Ingredients

100g of coconut oil
100g of almond butter (I use Meridian) 
50g raw cacao powder
100g of honey
1 tsp of vanilla extract
A pinch of sea salt

The directions are also really straight forward - click here to see how Madeleine does it. 

The only downside is that some of these ingredients can be rather expensive - especially the coconut oil and raw cacao powder - but if you shop around a little you can often find some good deals. I may also try my next batch using drinking chocolate powder, just to see how a cheaper version tastes, however then you miss out on the antioxidants in the raw cacao. Another ingredient I may try adding in is grated orange peel as this could be a tasty seasonal addition for the upcoming festive period - a bit like a healthy Terry's chocolate orange! 

I really would recommend giving this recipe a go, it's my new favourite weekend treat, and it's packed full of goodness so can be enjoyed as a guilt-free indulgence.

Let me know if you make it, I'd love to hear what you think! Also be sure to follow Madeleine on Instagram and to sign up for her newsletter for some other amazing healthy recipes. 

Love Lucy x

Sunday, 19 October 2014

What to do when you're feeling blue

Psychologists largely agree that there are six basic human emotions: anger, fear, disgust, surprise, happiness and sadness. It is our ability to feel these emotions, to recognise these emotions, and to handle these emotions that makes us truly human. Truly beautifully human. Our emotions set us aside from other creatures; they inform our words, our actions, and our decisions on a daily basis. In my experience, we cannot really control our emotions, they come and go based on our surroundings, our experiences, our hormones: we are in a constant state of emotional change - it's all part of our human nature. Now I'm not about to launch into an essay about emotions, and I'm not claiming to be a qualified psychologist, but I've been feeling a little blue recently, so I thought it might be helpful to get it all in writing - after all, bloggers are mainly preaching to themselves!

On a daily basis our social media feeds are filled with photos of our friends, celebrities and influencers having fun with their friends, visiting nice places, enjoying great food, and generally painting a rather happy existence. John's had a great night, yoga girl is on the beach (again), and Sarah's tucking into a delicious meal - everyone's happy and more than willing to share it with the world. Happiness is well documented in social media land. 

Anger, fear, disgust and surprise all seem to have their place too - Fred tweets his anger to South West trains that he can never get a seat in the morning, people all over social media are pretty fearful about ebola, everyone's expressing their disgust about the latest child abuse case, and Laura's surprised by the ending of Gone Girl. (Disclaimer: not all of the examples here are fact). It seems that these five emotions are each well documented and accepted within society and people are not afraid to discuss them. But in my experience this isn't so much the case with sadness. 

Due to the recent tragic loss of Robin Williams, depression and other such mental illnesses are discussed more frequently in the media and myths surrounding these illnesses are gradually becoming demystified. However sadness is not to be confused with depression. Depression is a mental illness, sadness is simply a human emotion. Yet sadness makes us feel so uncomfortable, even embarrassed. So, let's discuss sadness. Let's dispel the discomfort and accept that it's part of our human nature. Quite often we ignore our sadness and simply let it pass. But what if we used it as an opportunity to grow and to embrace feeling fully human?

Let me put it out there: sadness is normal. It is a normal part of being a human being. It is simply a human emotion, and one that we must feel to be completely human. And really that is a beautiful thing. It's not something to be embarrassed about or to shy away from. It's okay to be sad from time to time. It simply means you're alive. 


When you're feeling down try to focus on things you're grateful for and things that make you happy

That being said, no one wants to be a sad Sally too often, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to share some of my tried and tested tips for overcoming those times when you are sad. Firstly make yourself a good cuppa and then:

  1. Acknowledge it. You're feeling sad - acknowledge how it feels, recognise it as sadness. How does it feel? Why do you feel this way? Perhaps you've had a bad day at the office, perhaps you're grieving, perhaps it's your hormones. Acknowledging that you are sad and addressing why is a great first step to using it as an experience to learn from and to grow. 
  2. Talk about it. Find a friend, a relative, anyone who is willing to listen and just talk it through. Why are you feeling sad? Is there anything they can do? Do you simply need someone to listen? But once you've talked it through with a couple of different people try not to dwell on it. Listen to their advice and try to move forward. It's great to acknowledge it and to have the courage to talk it through, but there's only so much people will listen to, and you won't grow if dwell on it for too long.
  3. Quiet time. Once you've acknowledged it and spoken to other people about your sadness, have some time alone to process it. Quiet time is your time to process emotions, to process experiences, and to heal and grow. I was feeling sad for much of last week so on Friday night I came home, rolled out my yoga mat under the stars, did a yoga practice, and then sat quietly for about half an hour just being quiet and having a good cry. And that's okay. I was sad, so I cried. I'm human. That's what being human is. And embracing that human emotion actually does us a world of good.
  4. Focus on things you're grateful for. Being sad does not mean that you're being ungrateful, so even when you are feeling down remember to practice gratitude. Even use that happy social media feed that you've been presenting to the world as a tool for this - remember what an amazing holiday you had in the summer, look at that photo of you with your friends - just try to be grateful. And try not to think about the things you don't have at present; U2 were perfectly right when they sung "what you don't have you don't need it now" so just be grateful for all the things you do have right here, right now. 
  5. Make a plan. My short term plan-making advice would be to do something that makes you happy almost instantly - don't sit in your quiet time forever just dwelling on your sadness; you've acknowledged and processed it, now it's time to get over it. Meet up with a friend that makes you smile, go to a gig, go for that run, dance around your living room - just do something that will be fun. And if you're sadness is rooted in something more long term, i.e. you're always getting sad about your job, or you're always sad about not having money etc., then make a more long term plan of action. This way you're being proactive in finding a solution and you're less likely to get so sad about it in the future.
So don't be afraid of sadness, embrace it as part of your humanity. Of course if you think your sadness could lead to depression, or if you think you are depressed, then do seek professional help. Also if your sadness is rooted in something such as grief then this process will take a lot longer and the wounds will be harder to heal, but hopefully at least some of these tips will be useful to you. 

The Beautifully Healthy Project is all about celebrating the Beautifully Healthy version of you, and to be Beautifully Healthy is also to be Beautifully Human, so take everything that goes with that. The happy, the sad, everything. Just be you. Just be human. 

Love Lucy x

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Weekend treat: spelt flour & coconut milk pancakes

The weekends are precious. After a long working week it is our well-deserved time to relax and enjoy life. And call me boring, but there is nothing more I love doing on a weekend morning than having a lie-in, going for a run, doing some yoga, and then indulging in a delicious brunch. This is my perfect weekend morning formula and it's exactly what I need to rejuvenate me after a long week sat at an office desk. And it is even more perfect if the brunch is my favourite healthy spelt flour and coconut milk pancakes! 

I have been know to post photos of my healthy pancakes on Instagram, and I've often had people ask for the recipe. If I'm being totally honest about my kitchen habits, I don't often weigh or measure my ingredients, so I was a little sceptical to share my recipe (it's really just a case of chucking in lots of tasty ingredients and hoping they turn out okay - hence my really specific measurements below!), however I thought I'd share the rough recipe regardless of this as it's really not fair on humanity to keep such a delicious food secret for any longer. 



Once you try these pancakes your weekend mornings will never be the same again. So, without further ado, here's what you'll need:

Pancake ingredients (makes roughly 6 pancakes)
  • Three quarters of a mug of spelt flour
  • Half a mug of rolled porridge oats
  • 300-400ml coconut water
  • 2 eggs (the fresher the better - we're lucky enough to get them straight from our chickens!)
  • A handful of chia seeds
  • Coconut oil
Topping ingredients
  • Nut butter (my favourite is almond butter, but cashew and peanut will also work well)
  • Mashed banana
  • Agave nectar
  • Ground cinnamon 
  • Berries, chopped figs, and/or dates also taste delicious on top
Method
  1. Whisk the eggs and add the coconut milk
  2. Once these have combined sieve in the spelt flour and mix
  3. Stir in the oats and chia seeds
  4. Heat a tsp of coconut oil in a frying pan for approx. 2 mins 
  5. Scoop a helping of pancake mixture into the pan and cook for approx. 2 mins each side until golden brown (get your flipping skills ready!)
  6. Ready to serve! Add your nut butter, mashed banana, cinnamon, agave nectar, and any other tasty healthy additions you like! 
  7. Repeat until the mixture is gone... (don't forget to put a little bit of coconut oil in your pan before each one). 
So I hope you find the time to have a go at making this amazing weekend treat over the next few weeks as they really are the perfect way to indulge without feeling too naughty at the weekend - a true Beautifully Healthy outlook on life. Send me your Instagram snaps if you do!

Love Lucy x

P.S. These are also dairy free :)

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Why I practice yoga (and why you should try it too!)

If I didn’t love yoga so much I would begin this post with an apology to all my family, friends, colleagues and pretty much anyone who has met me over the last 2 years – I talk about it a lot! However I am not going to begin with an apology because I’m not at all sorry for being so enthusiastic about something that has hugely influenced my life in such a positive way. And here’s a little post to get it down in writing as to why I practice yoga (and why I tell everyone else to as well!).

The main reason I practice yoga is because it makes me feel freaking awesome. From my first YouTube video 2 years ago, to a year of classes in a Hot Yoga studio, to a yoga retreat in the Canary Islands, to practicing in a field with my best friend, to self-practice at home under the stars – every single yoga practice I have ever done has left me feeling better than when I began it. I can say with full confidence that I have never (and will never) come away from a practice thinking that I wish I’d done something else with my time. I have always come away feeling refreshed, rewarded, and more positive.

Breaking this down a bit, practicing yoga makes me feel good both physically and mentally. The physical side is perhaps a little more obvious – the stretching, strengthening and conditioning that you do during a yoga practice really do help to make you feel stronger and fitter. And there’s also the internal physical benefits – the breathing techniques, the twisting, the inversions (that’s going upside down for you yet-to-be-yogis) are all fantastic for enabling your organs, heart and blood flow to work more efficiently. I’m not saying that it’s given me the perfect body by any means – I still have plenty of squishy parts and insecurities that I’d like to change – but I generally feel better in myself and my appearance which is partly down to the physical practice, but is perhaps more down to the mental side of yoga.


Practicing inversions on the beach! 

 A yoga practice encourages you to stop and to be present with your own mind for the length of the practice. This may sound a bit scary or even pointless, but actually it’s an invaluable part of my life routine and has done wonders for my mental attitude towards myself, those around me, and life more generally. And that would be a positive thing for many others in this crazy world, right? It’s made me much less anxious about life and has made me accept that life won’t always go the way I’ve planned it to, but it will go the way it’s meant to go so just jump in and enjoy the journey.

Since starting to practice yoga I have gone from a self-conscious, anxious, scared young person, to a more confident, more relaxed, and braver slightly-less-young person. I’m not saying that it’s a miracle cure for all mental hang-ups, but in my experience it has definitely gone a long way to helping me to embrace life more fully: let go of the negative, focus on the positive.

And I could go on forever as to how yoga has improved my life and why I practice, but self-indulgence isn’t the reason for the existence of The Beautifully Healthy Project. My aim is to share my passions and experiences in the hope that some of you may read it and feel like you want to make a few decisions that will lead you to a healthier and happier life. And the purpose of this post is to inspire you to try yoga!

So, where do you begin? How do you know which yoga to try? (Goodness knows there are enough styles to choose from!). Where do you go to practice yoga?

Well, my first piece of advice would be to try a bit at home. That way you can have a go without feeling too self-conscious about all the new breathing techniques and stretches that you haven’t done since you were forced to do gymnastics at school. The first time I ever practiced was in my university accommodation living room. I’d been keen to try it for a while, but was too broke and nervous to go to a class without trying it first, so I put my exercise gear on and literally just typed “Yoga for beginners” into YouTube. Up popped numerous videos, but the ones I found most helpful were by a lady called Esther Ekhart. She talks through simple breathing and safe practice, and the videos are well paced for beginners. After going through these videos a couple of times over a couple of weeks I begun to really enjoy it – it was such a great way to take a break from studying and to refresh my outlook – and so I also downloaded a free app called Simply Yoga to vary my practice. And these yoga sessions in the privacy of my living room kept me going for a good 6 months, until I moved to London and knew that I wanted to get deeper into my practice and it was about time I joined a class.

Now, before I actually went to a yoga class I was rather worried that it would be full of super skinny yogis who could stand on their heads for the whole hour if they so wished (I suppose this is the reason it took me 6 months before plucking up the courage to actually attend one!), but I was pleasantly surprised to see the class was actually a really mixed bunch of sizes and abilities. The yoga classes I started with were Vinyasa and Astanga yoga in a hot room (not to be confused with Bikram!). I really enjoy doing both of these types of yoga as they are strong sequences which encourage you to flow through the asanas (or poses), whilst paying close attention to your breathing. In all honesty I haven’t got to the stage where I know enough about all the different types to suggest which type of yoga is best for which sort of person, and I really believe that the best way to find “your yoga” is to go to a class and persist with a few different ones until you find the style that you most enjoy. Really I would say that it’s best to try as many different styles as possible as many of them compliment each other and that way you keep learning new things.

The number one most important thing when trying to find a class is actually finding a good teacher, so here are my tips as to what a good yoga teacher should be doing:
  • The teacher should ask at the beginning of the session whether there are any beginners, any injuries or illnesses, or any pregnancies.
  • The teacher should demonstrate the asanas (or poses) so that the class can see the correct technique.
  • The teacher should talk the class through the correct breathing techniques and should remind the class of their breathing throughout the class.
  • The teacher should make adjustments to their pupils’ asanas (or poses) if the pupils are comfortable with this.
  • The teacher should not try to impose any spiritual or religious ideology onto their class.
My final point is possibly controversial, and I’m sure many teachers will disagree with this, but in my opinion the yoga studio is not the place to bring up the spiritual path that yoga might lead to as it may be intimidating to beginners, but also many people who practice yoga do not believe in the spiritual side to it. There are also many who have other beliefs and faiths, and yoga should not discriminate against this. The best teachers I’ve had say to make your practice what you want to make it – use it to focus on something earthly, use it to focus on yourself, use it to pray, use it to say a mantra – but just use it how you want to use it, and not how a teacher instructs you to use it. Personally I am a Christian and so use my practice as a time to focus on prayer. But you use your practice how you want to use it. It’s your time. Your practice. Your mind.

And if you’ve got to the stage of committing to a class I don’t really need to say much more because you get it. And the more you attend your classes the more you’ll want to do self-practice, and at the moment that’s what I’m really getting into. Finding a space (usually outdoors) and just totally switching off from the world for an hour or so to reboot, recharge and to show myself some love.  After all, if you love yourself that’s when you can really show love to others, and that’s when you can be more aware of how to be the best version of yourself, which is what we should all be trying to do.

Yoga is such a personal journey, and mine will be different to yours which will be different to everyone else’s, but I really do encourage you to give the journey a go. Life will never be perfect, but if we equip ourselves with tools that help us to deal with the daily stresses and strains then we’ll be able to absorb all the bumps along the way and yoga is a really, really useful tool for helping to do just that. It encourages you to see the positive in every situation and to just focus on the present – not the past, not the future – just the present, and where you are in that exact moment.


Open your heart to new experiences

Lastly I would just like to share that yoga has really given me the energy and the insight to actually live life. For many years I was just going through the motions, like many of us do, but over the last few months I’ve really seen what living can be and I genuinely believe that yoga has helped to bring me to this realisation and enabled me to do something about it.

If you want to ask me anything about yoga or The Beautifully Healthy Project please comment on this post or follow my Facebook page. Also to be inspired by an incredible yogi and human being follow yoga_girl on Instagram!

So breathe, relax, live, love, be present. (And of course, try yoga!).

Love Lucy x

Monday, 8 September 2014

Try something new: stand-up paddle boarding

It's always good to try new things; to challenge yourself and to keep learning. I was brought up to be active and to enjoy the outdoors (so grateful to my parents for this) and so I'm always up for trying new outdoor activities. I love water sports like surfing (very badly!), water skiing, swimming, and have wanted to try stand-up paddle boarding (or SUP boarding) for ages - it just looks so serene and relaxing, and if Jennifer Aniston uses it to help her stay in shape then it must be worth a go, right? Last week I was fortunate enough to go on a family holiday to Bermuda, and I was super excited that the hotel we stayed at had a bunch of SUP boards we could take out almost every day.


Courtesy of Charley Jackson & her GoPro

I was surprised at how easy it was to balance the board - I suppose the yoga must help, but the rest of my family don't do much yoga and they all found it pretty easy too. The paddling part was also fairly straightforward, you just had to find your rhythm and go with it. It was a really peaceful and fun activity, made even more incredible by the sea turtles that would playfully pop their heads up for air and then swim away underneath our boards. There's nothing quite like watching wild animals in their natural habitat. 

The physical side to it wasn't as much of a work out as I'd expected, but after an hour you could feel that your arms and back had done some resistance work. I guess we were just too distracted by our beautiful surroundings to notice!

The Jackson 5 on our SUP boards

At the moment I also can't seem to stay the right way up for too long - I just love to be upside-down! So of course I had to give a headstand a go. After two hilarious falls which resulted in successfully nosediving my board I managed to pull off the below headstand for a good 10 seconds. And the day after I did actually do a pretty strong yoga headstand (again after nosediving the board a few times - poor turtles!) - but we didn't take the GoPro out that day so that's a moment that will have to stay between me, my sister and the turtles. It's good to change your perspective of the world from time-to-time because your way of looking at things may not always be the best, and being upside-down reminds me of this. 


Courtesy of Charley Jackson & her GoPro

So I really wanted to share two things in this post: 1) try SUP boarding - it's lots of fun and most people should be able to do it without too much trouble 2) keep trying new things more generally. That really annoying phrase when you were younger - "There's no such thing as can't" - actually becomes pretty cool when you're that bit older and understand what it means. Why can't you give that thing a go that you've been wanting to try but are too scared or too busy to? Life is short, keep learning, keep challenging yourself, keep trying new things - just don't stand still. It'll help you to feel Beautifully Healthy

Love Lucy x

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Healthy mind healthy body

You've probably heard the phrase "healthy mind healthy body" a million and one times. But how often have you stopped to think about what it actually means and what it represents in your daily life? Probably not very often.

The world we live in encourages us to always be busy, to keep up with trends, to go to events, to buy the latest piece of technology, to work hard play hard; and of course these all represent what's remarkable about the 21st century - it's an exciting time to be alive and life is most certainly meant to be full of such experiences. But in amongst all the craziness our minds can often be neglected, resulting in an unhealthy mind, and by extension an unhealthy body.

I'm not about to go all religious on you, but there are three quotes that I like to think about from time to time when I neglect to look after my mind. The first is from Proverbs 14:30 in the Bible and it says: "A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body." The other two are both from the Dalai Lama: "Spend some time alone everyday" and "World peace must develop from inner peace". If we break down these quotes it can give us an insight into what "healthy mind healthy body" actually means.


Taking time out for yoga in the park with my best friend

To me having a healthy mind is a number of different things, but so this post doesn't turn into an essay I'll list the most important five things: knowing that you are in control of your own happiness; having the strength to allow yourself to be happy; knowing that your external circumstances will change but that your mind is strong enough to handle it; being grateful for what you have; and having inner peace. Put like that it seems pretty manageable, but life is never constant - every day is different - and so to have a healthy mind we have to allow ourselves time to process and time to breakaway from the fast-pace of life.

But how does this relate to having a healthy body? Surely there are "healthy" people out there who don't look after their minds but can run a marathon, who eat super healthy food, or can swim across the channel. And this may well be so, but I honestly don't believe that you can have a truly healthy body without having a healthy mind. I'm not claiming to be a psychologist, but surely there is truth in the connection between mind and body. From personal experience, when I am most content in my mind is when I feel most physically strong and truly healthy.

So The Beautifully Healthy Project is here to encourage you to look after your mind as well as your body, and here are my top tips for helping you to do this:

1. Exercise. And after you've exercised take at least 5 minutes to appreciate the energy you've given to your body. Just sit or lie or have a cup of tea and thank yourself for taking the time to do something that's good for you.

2. Be silent and still for 10 minutes (or more) each day. Call it prayer, call it mediation, call it savasana, call it nothing, but just be still, breathe, and think about whatever you need to think about at that specific time. Or think about nothing at all. Just be silent and still.

3. Be grateful. Be grateful for your family, your friends, for the cup of tea someone made you today, for the small things, the big things - but just remember to appreciate what you have in life and not to dwell on what you don't have. Something I've really got into recently is the GratitudeDiary app - each day I try to make a small note of something I'm grateful for that day. You can download it here.

4. Be present. Don't live in the past. Don't live in the future. Live in the moment and appreciate what you have in the moment. Of course it's good to learn from past mistakes and to make future plans, but don't make a habit of letting these thoughts consume you. You are in this moment, right now, so be present.

5. Love. Those people who love the most, and who express love the most, generally come across as the happiest and healthiest people I know. They always have time for others and being around them is genuinely life-giving - to love and to express love is something that is in all of us, just don't be afraid to let that show. Even just a smile to a fellow commuter can make you feel better, and you never know that they might have needed that smile right there and then.

As I said, I am no psychologist, these things are all part of what I'm learning about life on my own journey, but if they can help you in any way at all I will be content. Having a healthy mind is a hugely important part of life, and only when you have a healthy mind can you truly have a fulfilling life and healthy body. Just give yourself some time out from the craziness every now and again and I am certain that you won't regret it.

Love Lucy x

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Top 5 Healthy Food Instagramers to follow

Instagram is the perfect platform for healthy eating inspiration: it's visual, it's creative, and most of all it provides a constant flow of new and exciting foody-ideas. I love scrolling through my Insta-feed in the morning and seeing all the healthy juices, breakfasts, lunches, dinners and (best-of-all) treats that the health Instagramers of the world are sharing. I've always been interested in eating healthily, but it's easy to become stuck in a rut of simple salads and Special K, and healthy eating can be so much more exciting than that! Instagram is a great place to be inspired, and if you follow the right accounts you'll never be short of recipe ideas for all occasions.

So, here are The Beautifully Healthy Project's Top 5 Healthy Food Instagramers:

ONE: @madeleine_shaw_ 


TWO: @deliciouslyella


THREE: @Thewholefooddiary


FOUR: @hemsleyhemsley


FIVE: @mynewroots


All good healthy food Instagramers like these Top 5 don't just share photos, they also share the recipes (or at least the ingredients), so you really can see Instagram as a really accessible and visual cookery book. Many of them also have websites to offer further inspiration and ideas. 

So, get on Instagram, get following, and get making deliciously healthy (and beautifully looking) foods!

Live healthy, be happy. 

Love Lucy x