Soup, poop and other stuff

Soup to Go Cauliflower Kale  Black Garlic

It’s Healthista day….and today on my page I’m talking about exciting things like….

The new Soupologie soups with seeds – one of the best new ideas I spotted at the Natural and Organics Product show recently (I’ll be telling you about some of the other fab things soon)

How you can get your gut bugs analysed by proper scientists (and help them with their research).

The new app from M&S that makes cooking easy

And the study that finally tells us how much difference there is in time and pain in running a marathon and run walking one (I was VERY interested in that.

So, if you want to see all about the above, then nip over to healthista.com right now….

Oh and while I’m sending you off to other websites. If you like travel, also go to passportstamps.uk. This new travel website has just launched and it’s run by my friend Helen Wright (one of the funnest – and funniest – people I know). I think I’m going to be doing a couple of posts for her too (just need to find a few hours to type them and hope she likes them) so go, check it out.

Laughter Yoga: Very Good, Very Good – yay!

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If you don’t know what laughter yoga is it’s basically a mix of relaxation exercises, yogic breathing and giggly bits, designed to make you happy. It’s huge in India and I had really wanted to try it when I was there but simply didn’t have enough time – so I was very excited when I got an email from the people at Go Ahead biscuits to say they were putting on some sessions. I might not have been surrounded by giggling women in amazing saris in a park in Mumbai for the experience, but I thought I’d give it a try.

As the day of the event appeared I moved from excited to nervous. What exactly was I letting myself in for? I was very worried it was going to be like one of those drama classes at school where you have to pretend you were going to be a lion – albeit a happier one and I wasn’t far wrong….but I’m jumping ahead. First let me tell you why you might want to do laughter yoga.

Laughter has a therapeutic effect on the body – one akin to exercise. Laughing lowers blood pressure, burns calories, tones the abdominals, lowers cortisol and helps immunity. The idea of laughter yoga is kind of a fake it until you make it effect – if you’re not lucky enough to be surrounded with people or things that naturally set you off with the giggles, simply start laughing away to yourself using some exercises and you can begin to create the same positive effects anyway.

Spot which one is me!

Spot which one is me!

On the night of the event, I rapidly progressed from nervous to ‘what the heck am I doing here’ – mostly because I was the only person in the room not in yoga kit. I’d figured that if Indian ladies in saris can do it, then I didn’t need kit – and turned up to a room full of people in trainers and leggings in my work frock and plimsols. Thankfully, my sari theory was proved correct, but during the thirty minutes we were in the room, I progressed through feelings of ‘be brave’….’oh dear god’……’could I faint, they’d let me leave if I faint,,,,how do you faint?’ ……’no, that’s not working, let’s just never speak of this again’ finally ending with ‘that was bonkers but actually quite fun’.

As I feared,there was an element of high school drama lesson – we started off having to exhale (can do that) but it rapidly progressed to now make the sound of any feelings you need to let out with this breath. The only feeling I at this point needed to let out was extreme mortification, which seems to sound like a slightly hissy breath with an added swinging effect as I rotated my head from side to side trying to locate the door.  Our teacher Melanie Bloch was brilliant though and realising that she had a group of slightly terrified writers on her hands, just went for it leaving us to catch up once our stiff upper lips left the building.

The strange thing is, I’m naturally quite a laughy person. I’d spent the whole 20 minutes before trying out a very serious, extremely expensive piece of exercise equipment and giggling my way through the whole thing, but now….it was kind of like when the doctor asks you to pee in a cup, nothing was coming out. Nope, not happening….until, ta-dah….we learned the laughter yoga praise chant; which basically sees you bending forward, clapping your hands twice as you say ‘very good, very good’ then flinging your arms  in the air to the word YAY. Yay is one of my favourite words. I love saying yay….this I could do.

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Sadly we rapidly went  back to the terrifying….moves like making eye contact when you are trying to fake laugh, creating a drink of happiness which then turned into stumbling round pretending to be pissed and bumping into your fellow laughites, we then had to speak gibberish, helping us let go of any negative feelings and energies we wanted to get out. While I was kind of hating every single second (except the ‘very good, yay’ bit), I do admit you had to laugh. It was just madness, and eventually there was nothing to do but giggle. However, then Melanie said the magic words to the man at the back controlling the music ‘shake it off,’ she said. Noooooo, went my little mind. Was there going to be Tay-Tay; actually it was a Tay-Tay cover, probably for Spotify reasons, but we got to sing and dance to that and Daydream Believer and…..JOY……which says everything you need to know about me. I’d been slowly wishing I could die up until now but put me in a place where I can sing and dance round the room and I’m the loudest person there (despite not being the most in tune).

Reading this you might think I hated the experience – I kind of did and I kind of didn’t. I think if you went a few times with the same group it might actually be quite good fun, or it would be 20 odd minutes of mortification a week I’m not sure. But I have found myself wandering around a lot saying ‘very good, very good….yay’ a lot all week.

I’d still really like to try it in India though, look, how awesome is this video below….although I admit I’d be like the woman in the yellow sari about 18 seconds in who’s just wondering what on earth she’s let herself in for.

If you want to give it a try yourself, you’ll find Laughter Yoga classes around the UK, simply visit the Laughter Yoga webpage to find your nearest.

What does your Marmite Face look like?

There’s a piece on the UK’s Daily Mail website today about the faces Japanese people pull when they first taste Marmite….which reminded me of a post I did a while back, with exactly the same theme…. so I thought I’d just reblog it here for you. So, what does your Marmite face look like?

(from the archives)

What’s your discomfort food?

There’s a fantastic idea in this month’s US Health magazine – they suggest that to boost the variety in your diet you try a discomfort food every week. That means either tasting a food you’ve never had before, or re-trying a food you don’t think you like.

I decided to give it a go – first up was kale, I’d never tried it despite it coming out time and time again as THE most healthy vegetable you can eat. It’s lovely, particularly in Asian noodle dishes instead of bok choy. I also drank red grape juice (more on that in a day or two), and ate pumpkin falafels (yum) however, The Boyfriend, then pointed out that my ultimate discomfort food is Marmite.

Marmite: The Nastiest Food Known to Mankind

I loathe it. I can’t tell you if I’ve ever eaten it as the smell alone makes me gag but, apparently, it’s good for you (B vitamins and all that) so I figured, okay we’ll see. After all, until a year ago I didn’t think I liked olives – then a 1hr wait for a table in a Madrid restaurant with a bowl of them in front of me disproved that belief. I eat at least five a day now, maybe I’m wrong about Marmite.

The Boyfriend offered to make it for me, giggling maniacally as he slapped it on a bit of toast. He even had the camera ready..

This is what happens when a hater eats Marmite

My first thought was it doesn’t smell on toast – result. I then took a bite. It didn’t taste too bad. Then I swallowed and the aftertaste hit. OMG, it really is the nastiest substance known to mankind. I had to drink half a pint of milk to get rid of it. Never ever again. So, what’s your discomfort food? And are you brave enough to try it?

Run or Dye London: race review

Last weekend I ran….this in itself would be big news at the moment, but what I ran in was the London event of the Run or Dye series at Trent Park near Cockfosters: they’d kindly offered me a place, it was on a Saturday so my trains were running and so it seemed rude not to go. It also seemed rude not to raid their table of tutus and get my face painted too the upshot of which was that I started the race looking like a slightly concerning children’s party entertainer but very excited. I’ve always wanted to run in a tutu – admittedly in my head I looked more like a ballerina in trainers than the actual end result, but  tutu, yay….I was very sad that I hadn’t packed my running tiara.

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When I got to the start line it was clear that despite my finery I’d forgotten something else – the packet of extra coloured powder that it seemed was back in my goodie bag a 10 minute walk away. Everyone else had found theirs and were chucking it around blindly, some people were absolutely covered in the stuff. My friend Jackie and I stood around trying to look like someone you wanted to turn purple/pink/blue but other than a friendly red handprint on my back from the guy behind us, I started the race fairly clean.

Due to farting about with tutus and facepaint, we’d ended up right at the back of the pack which meant it wasn’t the fastest field I’ve ever run in, which wasn’t a bad thing, I hadn’t run for a week or so so ending up surrounded by the Kenyan Olympic Powder Run team (come on, you know it’s only a matter of time) wouldn’t have been a good fit. Still my body remembered that it quite likes this running lark and so actually wanted to take off yet the combination of lots of walkers, a narrow path and quite a muddy course meant I could only get my stride in a few places, still this made it more fun as in the end I just decided to run/walk it with Jackie and see what happened.

That's Jackie....!

That’s Jackie….!

Unlike the other runs I’ve done, the colour zones weren’t strictly 1km apart – we had three in fairly quick succession then I’d guess about a two km run through some woods before the final two zones which was actually really nice, if rather precarious. You definitely don’t want your good trainers in this race – if getting covered in powder wasn’t going to destroy them, getting covered in the thick mud that was over much of the course might. It’s also a pretty hilly – although there was a brilliant downhill which just needed to be run down arms outstretching shouting ‘wheeeeeeeeee’ – which, considering my outfit I decided I might as well indulge in.

So, did I end up covered in powder this time?…..No! I’m really doing this wrong. I should have learned from last time that the closer to the back you start the cleaner you finish. By the time we got to the powder zones, they were kind of running out again and I think the throwers arms were tired. Jackie soon worked out that if you wanted to get messy, instead of running through the zone and hoping for the best, you had to pick a thrower and stand directly in front of them. I however kept forgetting this and running through waiting for exciting splatter of dye…..I really need to get the hang of this soon. Admittedly, the green zone did hit target, specifically my hands which proves how many times I must touch my face as I run, I did end up looking part Elphaba by the finish line. Note to self – next time I run down a hill in a tutu with a green face, don’t ‘wheeeee’ use it as an excuse to break into a chorus of ‘Defying Gravity.’

I look very stern...I don't know why I look stern.

I look very stern…I don’t know why I look stern.

The other barrier to my finishing photo of filthiness was the wind – it was a pretty blowy day and as such, even the powder we did get about our person made its way out into the atmosphere. Unlike the Color 5k and the Colour Run, there didn’t seem to be any plans for a final group powder throw to make up for things either. Admittedly, as we were going to the pub after the race this probably was a good thing – a few baby wipes back at where we’d left the bags and we were done. We did keep the face paint on though – which made for some odd looks on the tube.

So, did I enjoy the event despite finishing clean again? Yes, I did. It wasn’t a super big field but there were enough people to keep you motivated – and it wasn’t quite as trendy as the Color Run which meant whatever your age you could enjoy it rather than feeling a bit like the old git trying to get down with the youth and, despite the hills and the mud, I actually liked the course. It was nice to run in trees  – as I normally run alone, I’d never normally run in a wood as I wouldn’t feel safe so that made a really nice change. In a way, the powder bit was just an added bonus.

Plus I got to finally run in a tutu which has always been an ambition of mine, it was surprisingly comfy and matches my flipbelt beautifully…..next ambition, getting to run in the tutu (yes I got to keep it) and my tiara. Hmm, I wonder where might be a good place to try that. Anyway, if you want to give a Run or Dye a go, there’s still 15 events taking place this year from Bournemouth to Edinburgh – check their website to see if there’s one near you.

Disneyland Paris Half – excitement and stress time

There hasn’t been a fitness post here for a while has there? That’s because basically ‘my fitness’ who I like to think of as a small purple gremlin-like creature in trainers that lives somewhere about my person seems to have gone to sleep merely waking up for a 10 minute trot round the block now and again.

Best he/she wake up though as the promotion is beginning for the Disneyland Paris Half marathon which happens Sept 23-25 2016. See, here’s a video….

I’m so unbearably excited, but what if I don’t get a place?……I think there might even be real tears. Rumours have it that registration opens October 1st. Watch this space.

Oh and fitness posts are coming soon. I did a fun 5km Saturday which I need to tell you about, I’ve tested a new machine for injured runners, done Laughter Yoga and worked out in an outfit that Mad Max would be proud of this week. Best I get typing then eh?

The Apple Watch Meditation

Okay, the Poll has spoken – you want me to start doing more health and beauty again alongside all the fitness and diet stuff. So let’s start with some stress reduction – namely the apple watch meditation.

Wait…..before you click off to the next blog muttering something about pricey gadgets, this does not require you purchasing anything you wear on your wrist – instead, it sees you literally spending two minutes, erm watching an apple on YouTube!. The AWM video has been made by meditation coach Tom Evans to prove how simple meditation can be and it is weirdly relaxing (plus the idea made me laugh so I wanted to plug it!).

However, the AWM is not the only fruit based meditation out there. One of the best known mindfulness exercises is called the Raisin exercise and it literally sees you attempting to make eating a raisin last as long as you can – the idea is that you start by looking at the raisin paying attention to its grooves and creases, exploring how the light falls on the raisin – then focus on touching and smelling the raisin. After lots of other steps which are all beautifully explained here, eventually you eat the raisin. But even then you don’t just nom it as fast as possible, instead you focus on the texture, how it feels in your mouth, the different layers of sweetness etc etc…..expand for as long as possible and experience inner calm. The idea is that if you’re focusing solely on the sensations you can feel now, your mind can’t wander off into 100 directions that stress you out.

If only I’d known this when I was about seven I could have made millions. At that time I would spend Saturday night’s at my Nan’s house and the big treat of the weekend was the Cornetto I got given during the Peters and Lee show. My aim every week was to see how long I could make the Cornetto last for by eating it as slowly as possible – I got it up to an hour which is quite an impressive feat for a melting object. Seems I was a health guru even then…..

The Detox Kitchen Bible……pretty and healing

So I’m typing this with the sound of the sea in the background. I’m on the island of Alderney learning about an amazing new launch from the vitamin company Healthspan which I’ll tell you about as soon as I’m allowed. Anyway, the highlight of yesterday afternoon was a quick cooking demo from nutritionist Rob Hobson, that’s him below posing with a sweet potato falafel (yes, for once I remembered to be a proper blogger and took a photo – note, I’ve not changed totally, I did only remember after we’d eaten half the food!).

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He was showing us recipes from his new book with chef Lily Simpson The Detox Kitchen Bible. If you don’t live in London you may not know much about The Detox Kitchen but it started as a healthy food delivery service, but now also has a deli off Carnaby Street that’s basically the mothership of healthy eating. This means you don’t have to come to ‘that London’ to try it’s wheat, gluten and refined sugar way of eating – there’s 200 recipes to whip up at home.

It’s soooooo pretty. All the pics make you want to eat everything, but the thing I love best is the ingredient lists are super short and 99% of the ingredients are really easy to get – no waiting five days for your nutritional yeast to arrive before you can start (by which time you’ve eaten all the other ingredients). Plus, if Rob’s demo yesterday was anything to go by, they are also super quick. He whipped up the Avocado and Broad Bean Smash in about 5 minutes and it was fantastic. As someone who could live on dip, I can see this one being made and eaten with a spoon weekly from now on.

The really nice thing about the book though is that it doesn’t just aim to make you generally more healthy, it has specific recipes and meal plans designed to help certain ailments. As regular readers know my digestive system is currently living life as the gut of unhappiness, and so I turned straight to the section on digestive health. Eating said GofU happy would see me munching my way through goodies like Quinoa and oat porridge with blueberry compote, Prawn, cashew and black rice salad and Sri Lankan butternut squash curry. Yep, I can live on that.
Other useful tips…..
Rooibos tea first thing in the morning revs up digestion
Hot drinks generally stimulate the bowel to move
Slouching when you eat can contribute to reflux (oops!)

Anyway, upshot is, it’s more than a recipe book, it’s definitely a way to eat yourself healthy. But I have to stop enthusing now……apparently there’s a lighthouse a brisk, breezy walk away commanding my attention. If you want to see more, it’s available on amazon here.
And look, have a pretty pic of it with my view.

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I’m Back…..

It’s been a seriously busy three weeks….so busy that I thought of putting a Health-e-Helen is on holiday sign up to say that there was going to be no posts for a bit, but then I never got the time! So, this is just a note to say I am still here, my project is finished and I have so many things to tell you about…..

Not quite yet though as I am actually posting this from a hotel room in Gatwick airport and this time I am actually taking a couple of days break (even The Boyfriend has been left behind), so depending on how good the wifi is and how much spare time I get is whether I get the chance to come back properly. But I do have other news

Vouchercodespro.co.uk named me in their list of Top 50 Fitness Bloggers…*does happy dance of joy*…. So I thought I’d best post and say ‘hi people who might be new here, normally the blog does not lie dormant for three weeks, stick around. There’s hot new trends a go-go to discuss on my to do list.’

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Right I’m off to catch a plane……rumour has it I might have to do a burpee this weekend. Ha, little do they know that Helen and burpees is like Mariah Carey and stairs….to be continued.

Snowga – Snow way……

Well here’s a new trend we can add to the list of things Helen won’t be doing any time soon (along with Tough Mudder and eating yogurt made from lady parts) – Snowga – aka yoga in snow.

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Okay, I don’t like snow, but I kind of get the whole skiing thing. I even did it once, slowly round a field (I don’t get the hurtling down hills with potential for breaking bones thing either) – it’s fast so you don’t get cold, it’s adrenaliny and there’s nice ski instructors to look at – but the idea of doing slow yoga like movements in the frosty freezingness. Erm no….not for me. I’ll be back at the lodge with a Gluhwein.

Still, seems I’m alone the whole of Instagram is off downward dogging in sub zero temperatures (well according to the New York Times anyway) – and it seems it might help strengthen your legs for skiing so I suppose it makes sense, but still no. I do like the word though – it rolls of the tongue nicely. Like yoga-lates. Yoga-lates is my favourite exercise word.

Oh, and one tiny word of warning – yes, someone has really tried to made yogurt from lady parts, well, actually bacteria affiliated with lady parts. Do not click that link if you’re eating. Definitely don’t click it if you’re eating Fro-yo.

Image: freedigitalphotos.net