Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Five Reasons To Practice Bikram More In Summer

Summer's here, the heat is up, and we're all feeling ready to sweat. In fact I'm feeling sweaty already, and I'm not even in the yoga room yet (give me 47 minutes and I'll be there!)

Now you might be thinking that summertime means less Bikram-ing (yes, that's a word. I checked). That because it's starting to warm up outdoors you're best off avoiding the hot yoga room. After all, why would you want to go into a deliberately heated environment when you're already sweltering?

Five Reasons Why Summer Bikram-ing Is Amazing
  1. Your muscles are already warm. Not only this, your joints are more flexible and your ligaments are nice and juicy. I've had some of my best classes on over 40 degree Celsius days.
  2. Worried that the outdoor-heat has zapped you of your yogi energy? We've all had days when the heat makes us feel super-sleep and we can't be bothered exercising. Guess what? This is one of the BEST reasons for practicing yoga during Summer. That relaxed 'can't-be-bothered' attitude can transform into a relaxed and therefore enhanced practice. I'll bet you can remember a class when you came in expecting very little and walked out feeling amazing, can't you? Same sort of thing applies here.
  3. On super-hot Aussie Summer days, it can actually be slightly cooler in the Bikram room! I remember walking in to practice on NY day last year (oh, actually it was this year - just!) and thinking what a relief it was to get into the room and out of the heat!
  4. You will release toxins faster. Your body is warmer, you start sweating sooner, and you lose more of the stuff. 'Nuff said. (Just don't forget to be super-hydrated before and after class, and add some replacement minerals to your during-class water).
  5. It's holidays for most of us, and that means a little more time to relax, to play, and to look after our health. It can also means a little more drinking and merry-making. I know you want to head into the New Year feeling amazing and proud of how you look after your health. Now if that's not a great reason to practice all Summer long, then I don't know what is!
I'll have to leave it there, I'm afraid. It's NYE and I've 29 minutes to get to Fitzroy Bikram before the re-tox begins tonight (hey, we're all allowed to let our hair down on NYE!)

See you next year -

Not just Food for Yoga. Food for Life.


*I hope you're okay with me deviating from the 'Food for Yoga' theme. Next post I'll be sharing my 5 favourite Summer post-Bikram breakies. Try saying that 5 times fast!

Please leave a comment, send me an email (katrina@bodyincredible.com), or visit me on my regular blog, BodyIncredible.com. It's all about how to feel and look amazing both inside and out.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Five Ways To Curb Your Sweet Tooth

There’s nothing like determination, willpower and focus to keep you on target. Couple that with a smart nutrition and exercise plan and you’ll be unstoppable! When it comes to determination, one of the greatest benefits of regular Bikram is the crossover to the rest of your life. If you're anything like me then I'll bet you've learned to:

* Manage stress more effectively
* Stay calm(er!) when you'd usually be frantic
* Delay gratification when times are tough

If you think about it, reaching continually for the water bottle in class is no different to reaching for that Freddo Frog, glass of wine, creamy pasta (insert your own indulgence) during or after a stressful day.

Despite all this, for me there's one temptation I still struggle with. And I'm guessing I'm not the only one. It's hard to tell if it's years of habit, the ready availability of this drug of my choice (chocolate!), or a genuine demand from my brain, but come mid-afternoon I automatically think of one thing. I want it, I need it, I must have it. And I do. Or at least, I used to. You might not be a chocoholic, but I'll bet you've experienced cravings before, and - whether it's a regular urge or not - when those feelings of desire overwhelm you it's hard to resist giving in.

But here's the good news - just as you can learn how to still your mind and wait just one, two, three, even ten seconds longer before breaking out of that pose, you can also learn how to overcome those sweet craving and wait those extra minutes or hours until the urgent need has passed.

Five Ways To Curb Your Sweet Tooth

1. Stop the cravings before they show up

I’ve found that many of my clients – even the ‘healthy’ eaters – rely heavily on carbohydrates over proteins and fats. Protein and fat are a crucial part of your diet. They form the building blocks of your hormonal system, and without them your body cannot perform all it’s metabolic duties.

When you don’t include (natural, whole sources of) protein and fat in your main meals, or only do so from time to time, your body starts sending distress signals telling your brain to get nutrition immediately! Sugar is what you’ll crave because it provides that quick fix .. followed by a quick dump leading to further cravings. If you lay the foundations by including protein and fat at breakfast and lunch, the sugar cravings will gradually stop.

2. Remove temptation or remove yourself

It’s just too easy to dip into the biscuit jar or sweets bag when everyone else is doing it. If you can’t clear your office space of sweet devils (try suggesting a healthy snack plan for the entire workplace!) then remove yourself.

At mid-afternoon munchie time, just make your excuses and get out of there – fast! Even if it means you sit in the toilet cubicle for 15 minutes. If you work from home, keep a rule of no sweets in the house. That way you’ll have to make the effort to go out, and this is easier to talk yourself out of. Sounds simple, but it works.

3. Brush your teeth

We’re conditioned to understand that freshly brushed teeth mean food is behind us. Try this simple distraction technique as soon as the sweet urge hits you, and then …

4. Get busy

Ever noticed you always seem to eat more junk when you’re having a slow day? Make mid-afternoon (or whenever your cravings hit) your ‘super-productive’ time. Schedule meetings for this time, run errands, do housework – just do something that requires you keep moving and let the temptation time go by that little bit faster.

5. Get (true) satisfaction

Once the cravings set in, they’re only going to get worse until your body gets what it needs. Guess what? True satisfaction means real food, in all its glorious richness.

Try indulging with a small piece of quality cheese, some avocado with sea salt on thinly sliced sourdough, or some natural nut butter with celery sticks. The key here is to go for fat or protein based snacks, not sugar based – even fruit. Once sweet cravings have set in, carbs will only make it worse.

Eating and living well doesn’t need to be a constant battle – if you follow these points you’ll find it easier and easier to push away the demand for instant gratification, and you may even find your newfound will-power crossing back over into the Bikram room.

Next time the urge hits you - whether it's in or out of the sweat box - you'll be well equipped to hold out, and you know that the true gratification which follows such willpower is well worth waiting for. Isn't it?

Food for Yoga. Food for Life.


*Yes I do still go for the chocolate from time to time - but I ensure it is a conscious choice not a daily habit!

If you enjoyed this article then please forward it to a friend. I'd love to hear your feedback as well as any more specific queries you may have, so get involved in the comments section of this blog (it's at the end of each article), or contact me here.
To read more of my writing on this and other topics, visit my main blog:

Monday, November 3, 2008

Food For Your 30-Day Challenge

The Bikram Fitzroy November 30-day challenge (now that's a mouthful!) is now four days in and I think that after yesterday's efforts we all have to say - wow! For those who don't know, four lovely ladies yesterday completed their own challenge which was to complete five classes in one day. That's 7.5 hours of sweaty yoga! And I thought I was doing well to do the occasional two classes in one day! Before you shake your head at their craziness, they had a very good reason.

This month the entire studio is banding together to raise money for a little girl with cerebral palsy. She is the daughter of one of our teachers and the money raised can enable the family to take a trip to Germany for some advanced stem cell treatment. To show their support and at the same time meet a personal challenge, many Bikram Fitzroy students have committed to 30 straight days of Yoga, and are raising sponsorship money by meeting their commitment each day. Some people have chosen their own personal challenge, and the 'day-of-five-classes' was just one such challenge. So whether you're spending dusk till dawn in the yoga studio, or whether you're committing to one extra class each week, or if you are indeed going the whole hog and doing the 30-day challenge, congratulations! Your efforts are certainly appreciated and I'm pretty sure your body will thank you as well.

Part of completing a 30-day challenge is knowing that you have put steps in place to get the most out of your yoga journey. Although 30 days of yoga is definitely a positive journey, it is also a stressful one in many ways. Remember that stress can be good or bad. In this case we hope it's a good stress, but if you neglect to adequately fuel and hydrate your body then you could find that you end up with feelings of lethargy, moodiness, and frustration at your body's inability to function at its best. 90 minutes a day in a 38 degree heated room is certainly great for your body and soul, but only if you give that body the nutritional tools it needs to manage the process.

What To Eat During Your 30-Day Challenge
  • Directly after you finish each class of your 30-day challenge is not really the best time to eat. For an hour or so after class you should be focusing on enjoying that sensation of calm as well as the personal satisfaction of checking another 'x' on the white board. But sooner or later, hunger will kick in. There are four things to keep in mind when choosing post-class foods:
    1. You have worked hard, your muscles and liver have been depleted of ready energy, and they need to be refueled. Muscles (and indeed every cell in your body) demand protein in order to aid recovery and optimise your metabolic function. Now is a really great time to eat some protein that can be easily digested and shuttled speedily into your poor tired muscle cells. Anything 'soft' is easy to digest. Scrambled or poached eggs are one of my favourite post-class options, as is a good quality meal replacement shake. Myself along with Michael, Jo Harvey (studio teacher) and many of my clients are all fans of the Isagenix IsaLean shakes. They're organically based, contain essential fats, vegetable based carbs, and easy-to-digest whey protein. They are ideal for after class, and will fill you up without making you feel nauseous or heavy. The IsaLean shakes are actually part of a fantastic 30-day detox program. You can read my personal journal of the detox here. Or contact me here to find out more.
    2. If you are hoping to shed some stored body fat during your 30-day challenge then keeping starchy carbohydrate to a minimum is recommended. This includes pasta, bread, cereals and grains (even wholegrain), as well as rice and indeed any sugar-based food like sweets or fruit-juices. The reason for this is that these foods spike blood sugar levels, promoting excessive insulin release and a fat-storing reaction. You can read all about what insulin does here in a recent article I wrote. Having said that, your first meal after class is the best time to enjoy these sort of foods if you particularly enjoy them. This is because of those depleted muscle and liver cells. In your post-class state, eating starchy or sugary foods will still cause a blood glucose climb, but the resulting insulin release will shuttle blood sugar and other nutrients straight to where they're needed for energy rather than storing them in your fat cells.
    3. This does not mean you MUST eat these sort of foods, but your body does need a balance of proteins, fats and carbohydrates in order to adequately refuel and ensure lasting energy after class. We've already talked about protein, and indeed the IsaLean shakes (which, within the 30-day program contain 242 different nutrients) I mentioned do contain everything you need, but other (non-starchy) carbohydrate options include fresh vegetables, salads or legumes. Try to vary the vegetables and salads you eat in order to optimise nutritional variety. Eating the same meal day in day out could mean that you are limiting your vitamin and mineral intake and therefore slowing your energy and performance. Fruit is also okay straight after class but be wary of eating it on its own as it could cause an energy crash later in the day.
    4. Fats: This deserves an entire section of it's own, and indeed I've written an earlier post within this blog that you can refer to for more knowledge on good vs bad fats. A balanced post-yoga meal needs to include some good fats - anywhere form 15 to 30% of that meal should be fat based. My favourite options are avocado, extra virgin olive oil, organic coconut oil, milk or cream. Flaxseed oil is also a nice oil that can be used as a salad or vegie dressing. Fish oil capsules are okay as long as they are mercury free, but a couple of capsules each day will definitely not meet your fat needs.
  • How about the rest of the day? The advice I've just given you in points 1-4 is an excellent basis for creating a balanced meal for anytime of day that is not directly before or after class. As mentioned, a meal to optimise your overall wellbeing and energy throughout the 30-day challenge should ideally include proteins, fats and carbs. The main difference if it's not post class is that you don't have a need for readily digestible energy. Therefore these meals are a good time to enjoy a nice steak once or twice each week, some chicken thigh or breast (thigh is better for more complete nutrition and energy), some fresh fish, or even some game meat if you're feeling, well, game. The same rules as above apply for fats and carbohydrates, although I'd recommend minimising starchy and sugary carbs if weight management is a concern. Vegetarians can enjoy legumes, fermented soy products such as tempeh or miso (organic please!), and even the whey protein shakes mentioned above (these have been proven fine for those with gluten, soy and lactose intolerance also).
  • Another major concern for those on the 30-day challenge is electrolytes, and wouldn't you know it, I already have an article there for you as well! It's in the August files of this blog and you can read it here.
I hope I've answered your questions (even for those who maybe did not have them!) on what to eat during your 30-day challenge, and I'd love to hear your feedback as well as any more specific queries you may have. Please get involved in the comments section of this blog (it's at the end of each article), or contact me here.

To read more of my writing on this and other topics, visit my main blog:

Here is the link for the Isagenix 30-day detox
(Or talk to me about it directly)

One more important thing! Those who are sticking to their 30-day challenge today must be given an extra pat on the back! It is, after all, Melbourne Cup Day, and I don't think there are many melbournites who aren't out there drinking it up, so an extra well done to those who continue to pursue their personal journey on this day.

Not just Food for Yoga. Food for Life.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How To Make Your Health Dollar Go Further

I have a friend who regularly reminds me that if you jump off the top of an 80-story building, for 79 storys you can actually think you’re flying. It’s the sudden stop at the end that gets you. When I think of the financial boom, bubble and bust the US has just gone through, I often think about that image. We thought we were flying. Well, we just met the sudden stop at the end. The law of gravity, it turns out, still applies.

This was actually an introduction to an article in last week’s Age, written by journalist Thomas Friedman, but I just had to use it - quite the vivid picture, I thought!. If you live in the civilised world, the chances are high that the financial crisis has affected you. Maybe you’re lucky and it hasn’t hit you in the wallet, but it has to have made some impact, if just that you’ve been forced to listen to every armchair expert pontificate on reasons and outcomes for the situation at hand.

Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones and your career, finances and plans are not dependent on current financial climate, and the only impact for you is a drop to your mortgage payments. But for many people, things are suddenly looking tight. Scary, even. And – regardless of promises that Australia will not enter a recession – it’s no surprise that many of us are suddenly paying closer attention to our outgoings.

So I thought now would be a good time to look at ways to flip things. To find the positive side of being forced to tighten the purse-strings. And to just share with you some great tips for making your health dollar go further regardless of what’s going on in the world. I think we can all agree that it’s always nice to save money, whether or not you actually need to. And if you want the 79-story-drop rush then you could even go ahead and re-invest the dollars you saved back into the share market! (No, that’s not part of my advice!)

Four Ways To Make Your Health Dollar Go Further

1. Buy Better Quality, And Cheaper

Did you know that the average fresh grocery spend at a market is between 30 and 40% lower than what you’d shell out at your suburban supermarket and is often half the price of shopping at express stores within the CBD? Plus, market food is fresher and there’s lots of interesting things you’d never find on the tired old shelves of the supermarket. Kind of a no-brainer, isn’t it? Going to the market can be more time consuming than running into the city IGA (mind you, how many times each week do you have to run out for last-minute groceries?), so why not turn it into a planned weekly excursion and have some fun with it. I’d suggest doing your weekly shop in one big hit, but if you’re up for a challenge then grab a friend, a sibling, or a handy neighbourhood kid (good for bag-carrying!) and set yourself a $15 budget each. The goal is to buy enough food for a delicious and tasty meal for two – see who can come up with the most interesting mix. Remember to arrive early for the freshest produce and greater selection, or at least check on the internet for closing time – most markets start winding down around 2pm.

2. Hit The Factory Outlets For The Latest Gym Gear
When it comes to non-Yoga exercise, even if it's just a simple walk down the street, costs can add up. The average retail cost of a pair of sneakers is around $180, but you’re paying top dollar to walk into that conveniently located city store. Find the factory outlets in your area (google it) and you can save up to 70% on your sports shoes. Same goes for gym gear. And I’m not talking about dodgy 80’s lycra jobs, factory outlets carry quality brand-name gear that is usually only one season out of fashion. Fact is, it doesn’t really matter what you clothe your bod in whilst exercising – Target leggings and your Dad’s old t-shirt are fine, but a good pair of sneakers is hard to beat. So why not shop smart – head down to Foot Locker or Rebel for a fitting, note down your preferred brand and style and then make the effort to hit the outlets on the weekend. Definitely worth the effort!

3. Invest In Wellness Not Sickness
Did you know that in 1998 Americans spent one trillion dollars on doctor and hospital care? And a further one point three trillion dollars on prescription medicine?! It’s fair to say that countries like Australia and the UK are proportionally similar to this. So how much of this horrifying expenditure is coming out of your pocket? And – more scary still – how much could you have prevented by taking preventative measures to preserve your wellness and quality of life? I’ve always thought that if you don’t spend the money on your health now, you will be forced to spend it on your sickness later. I know which I’d rather do. Especially when the reality is that sickness can cost a heck of a lot more than wellness. Don’t gamble with your health – in this case the obvious bet really is the best bet.

4. Challenge Yourself To Achieve Exceptional Stress-Handling Fitness
We all know that increased fitness helps us to handle stress. But how often do you truly think about and apply that information? Avoid the temptation to throw it all in and hide in the jungle with your hands over your eyes by actually making use of the dollars you are already spending on your health. Hit the Bikram studio three times a week (or more) – regardless of whether your work/financial world is falling down around you. Commit to maintaining your healthy eating plan despite the fact that colleagues are drowning their sorrows in creamy bowls of pasta. Get up early, focus on the positive, dance around in your living-room while singing into the vacuum head (okay, that’s just me) but basically do whatever it takes to remind yourself that this is your life, and that despite what’s going on in the world, in fact in spite of it, that the choice to be healthy, fit and vibrant is yours. And that now is definitely not the time to waste that Yoga membership or single-handedly fund your local pastry store’s Christmas party.

Remember –

Not just Food for Yoga. Food for Life.


*Do you have any tips for making your health dollar go further? Please share in the comments section!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

What's Clogging Your Pipes

According to foodmatters.tv (now that’s a fascinating documentary - definitely worth purchasing the DVD):

‘A physician from Berlin, whose life work was performing autopsies, stated that 60 per cent of all the corpses he worked on contained worms and putrefied faeces in the alimentary canal. He further stated that in nearly all cases the intestines and colon were also lined with a crust of hardened faeces, making it evident that these organs had degenerated to a state of utter inefficiency.’

The article goes on to detail a fairly vivid and stomach-turning picture of your innards. Yes, I am talking about you. And - according to autopsy physician’s - that’s even if you drop the kids off at the pool daily.

This fascinating piece (please don’t read it while eating) concludes with a quick sales pitch for a colonic cleanse program. Personally, I haven’t tried this brand. But I do have a few tips of my own for cleaning up your dirtiest parts:

  • Drinking plenty of water is a start, but our tap water is purified, and this kills off important minerals. Add a pinch or two of organic sea salt to your water. A quality brand, such as Himalayan Sea Salts (any organic brand is fine), will add over 85 vital nutrients back into your body. This will aid all bodily functions, digestion in particular.
  • Practise Bikram Yoga regularly. As I'm sure you've already heard, the postures we practice in Bikram not only help us feel amazing both mentally and physically, but also enable our bodies to perform digestive and other functions more effectively.
  • Follow the 80/20 rule: Eat quality, non-processed, preferably organic foods 80% of the time, and keep the nasties to a minimum of 20% or less. The big offenders are caffeine, sugar, refined wheat products, and alcohol.
  • Consider implementing some sort of detox or cleanse at least once a year. This could be as simple as eating 100% organic food and avoiding all nasties. Personally, I’m a new but raving fan of the Isagenix 30-day cleanse. The products are organically based, contain quality proteins, fats and carbs (a balanced meal), I love the taste, they work out at less than $7 per meal, and they’re hugely convenient in my busy life.
Food for Yoga. It's Food for Life


Monday, September 22, 2008

The Truth About Bad Fats - Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

For those who have perused some of the older articles I've written for this site, you might have come across my piece 'Eat Fat to Lose Fat'. If not, then definitely check it out. Today I want to lead on from that topic .. kind of. Well, actually what I have to say today is more about eating fat to gain fat. No, I'm not contradicting myself! You see, as much as I'm pro-fat when it's the good kind I do still have to admit that some fats are most definitely to be avoided.

So here they are:

*Yes, I've geared most of my explanations here toward weight gain/loss because it's a useful analogy when talking about fat. But, as I'm sure common sense will tell you, these nasty fats will affect not only your weight, but your overall health and wellness, as well as most definitely your energy for Bikram and other activities.

1. Trans Fats.
Why they’re nasty: Otherwise known as hydrogenated fats, these fats start out as vegetable oils such as corn oil, sunflower oil or canola oil. Through a process that includes adding tiny metal particles, mixing with soap-like emulsifiers, and sometimes cleaning with bleach, the oils are changed from a liquid to a solid fat. Trans fats lower HDL (good cholesterol), raise LDL (bad cholesterol), raise blood sugar levels, and cause weight gain through digestive and hormonal upset. So why are they on our shelves?! Trans fats are much firmer than natural baking fats. This means the baker can pack more in without a greasy feel, so you feel full when you eat them. They’re also cheap.

2. Low grade olive oils.
Why they’re nothing like their extra-virgin cousins: Cheap olive oil is basically the leftover of the leftovers. Think of extra-virgin as the cream of the crop, the first batch of oil produced from the olives. Virgin olive oil is what comes next. The olives still have some nutrients remaining. The end of the oil-making process consists of squeezing out every last remaining drop to produce plain olive oil. Yes, it might be cheaper and still have some attractive tuscan-style packaging, but it’s definitely no good. How does this affect your body? You won’t get the nutrients that good fats should give you to aid hormone production, balance blood sugar levels, and get your metabolism and digestive system moving. It’s also not as satisfying as quality fat, so you may eat more throughout the rest of the day.

3. Skin, fat or rind from conventionally farmed animals.
Why you’ll gain weight: It’s simple really. Fat stores toxins. Conventionally farmed animals are kept in close quarters, generally indoors, and fed cheap grain when they should be eating grass. This causes them to get sick. Sickness equals antibiotics and other drugs. The excess of this chemical concoction is stored in the animals fat. Anything stored in fat cells causes them to expand. So what happens when you eat that fat? Well .. fat stores toxins. And not just in animals. Don’t want to expand your existing fat cells? Don’t fill them up with toxins.

4. Low-fat dairy products.
Low fat for weight loss is a huge myth. Why it doesn’t work: Dairy in its full-fat state is a whole food and your body recognises it as such. Low-fat dairy is confusing to your digestive system, slowing digestion and other metabolic functions. This can lead to bloating and fluid retention in the short-term. In the long-term, anything that messes with your digestion contributes to weight gain. Add to this the fact that many low-fat dairy products have substantial amounts of sugar added and you have a recipe for a fat belly. Go with full fat and you’ll notice your belly shrink and your appetite diminish as you give your body what it needs. Ps – when it comes to dairy, I always advocate organic as it is free of nasty antibiotics and the cows have been grass-fed.

5. Excess polyunsaturated or Omega 6 fats.
What do I mean?
Commercial vegetable oils such as sunflower, corn oil, soy oil, safflower oil, canola oil, or products that contain these oils (margerine and basically any baked or processed product!). Why they’re bad for you: This isn’t even the complete list, but here goes. Excess consumption of polyunsaturated oils has been shown to contribute to a large number of disease conditions including increased cancer and heart disease; immune system dysfunction; damage to the liver, reproductive organs and lungs; digestive disorders; depressed learning ability; impaired growth; and weight gain. It’s scarily easy to consume an excess of these fats, so up your chances by steering clear of processed or packaged products.

Questions or comments? Get involved in the comments section - let's build this community!

Not just Food for Yoga. Food for Life.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

What To Eat Before Bikram Class - Part One

This morning I made a big mistake. Huge. In fact, looking back, it was really pretty silly of me. After all, I've been practicing Bikram for 18 months now, and have run a business in the Fitness Industry for nearly a decade. And yet I still thought it was a good idea to eat scrambled cheese and basil eggs for breaky just one hour before class. Okay, I also had toast. And spinach. And bacon. The shame, the shame! The truth is, I knew it wasn’t the best idea, but I just pushed that passing thought away and went for it anyway.

As any of you who have ever gone to class with a full belly will testify, my enjoyment was short lived.

And, needless to say, it was a pretty tough class. Posture by posture I struggled through, gritting my teeth and praying that some kind of super digestion would soon kick in and rid me of my bloated, heavy belly.

Well, that didn’t happen, and my energy remained on a downward droop for the better part of the day. It’s 5pm now, and I’m really only just starting to feel awake again.

I guess I deserved to feel in a slump all day. After all – I know better. And most of the time I do the right thing. But that doesn’t mean I don’t veer off course from time to time. And when I do, it tends to be in a major way. The kind that makes you feel like vomiting while lying face-down in class.

Having said that, there’s a small part of me that realises today’s experience was actually pretty positive. After all - it was certainly a good reminder of why I don’t normally indulge that way prior to entering the sweat centre!

But enough about me. How about you? Do you know what works best in your body before class? What you should eat in order to boost your energy while still feeling nice and light in the belly?

In speaking to students at the Fitzroy Food for Yoga seminar and around the studio, I’ve come to realise that many people really don’t know what – if anything – they should eat before practice. If you fall into this category, ask yourself the following:

Should I Eat At All?

Not everyone needs to eat before class. In fact – for many of us – we’ll get more out of our practice on an empty belly. The question of whether to eat may depend on the time of day. If you’ve been awake for only an hour or so, it’s best to hold off on the food. Food in your belly during class will drain you of energy. This is because you’re body must focus first and foremost on digestion. That pretty much puts a stop to reaching any new limits with your postures, and you may even make yourself feel quite ill. For the same reason, regardless of the time of day, I’d generally cease eating at least 90 minutes before class. There are some exceptions, and I’ll get to that.

If you’ve eaten a large meal on the day in question, I’d leave a good 3 hours before practising and avoid ‘eyes-bigger-than-stomach’ snacking until after class (if at all!) This may be difficult to adapt to initially, but I promise that you will ultimately feel much better for holding out, and your body will thank you for leaving your system free to focus on going the extra mile in class.

But What If I Just Can’t Get By With an Empty Belly?

Those of you who ‘love food and live to eat’ as opposed to ‘eat to live’ may need to eat something small, even if it’s quite close to class. This is mainly for morning classes. Not sure if you fall into this category? If you wake up ravenous most days, seem to digest most foods within an hour or two, and generally have a good idea of what your next few meals will entail, then I’m talking about you.

But even if this is not you, three hours is still a little too long if you haven’t laid a good foundation. For example – if you ate dinner quite early, went to bed hungry, and then didn’t eat more than a light breakfast and a salad for lunch, you may find it pretty tough to hold out through 6pm class until late dinnertime. If you’re not sure whether you need to eat, think back to your last 3 meals. Were they a ‘solid’ meal or just a light snack? If you’ve eaten 3 solid meals within the past 16-24 hours, you should be okay to hold out. If you’ve been skipping meals or grazing, I’d suggest eating something light around 90 minutes before class.

So Which Foods Are Best If I AM Eating Before Class?

We all have different ‘types’ when it comes to which foods work best. To put it very simply, some people function, feel and look their best on a (good quality) high protein/high fat diet while others do better on carbohydrates. I’m definitely a protein person. When I eat predominantly protein and fat, with most of my carbs from vegetables, I’m like a well-oiled machine, and I stay in good shape. If I eat a high-carb diet (even if it’s ‘healthy’) I start feeling and looking awful. But my Mum is exactly the opposite. Long story short – what you should eat before class, and indeed in general, is a very individual matter. The best approach is to eat a light meal with both protein/fat and carbohydrate represented. For example:
  • A soft-boiled egg with a little spinach and fetta
  • Some natural plain yogurt with half a banana
If you choose carbs alone (fruit, cereal, salad) you may find you feel great initially and then you slump. Choose protein without carbs and you it’s likely you’ll experience a heavy feeling in your gut which will slow you down during class. Combine both and you have a recipe for success.

I hope I’ve given you the knowledge to start to figure out what the best approach is for you. Don’t worry – I’m not going to leave it there. In my next post I’ll give you an insight into foods you should definitely avoid before class (and why), as well as some more specific ideas on pre-yoga food combinations for different types of people. In the meantime, why not record what you do or do not eat before your next three classes, and track your response. Pay attention to the way your stomach feels, your physical energy, and your mental focus. A 'tick' in all three areas is usually a sign that you're doing things right. I'd love to hear from you in the comments section - what works best for you before class? Do you have any questions for me? Or maybe just something to share about your practice.

Until next time, remember -

It's not just Food for Yoga. It's Food for Life.


*Oh – just so you know, I didn’t write this all in one go. I actually finished it a couple of days after the big breaky day. In fact, as I write, I’m sitting at a cafĂ© enjoying my post-yoga poached eggs, spinach and avocado. A much better approach than the one this article began with!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Water, Sugar or Electrolytes? What You Should Drink During Practice.

I had a wonderful class today with Johannes. One of the things I enjoy most about practising at Bikram Fitzroy is the diversity of teachers. With such varied styles there is certainly no chance to switch off from an engaging practice - no matter how long your day has already been, you’re somehow forced to gladly participate to your utmost. I once heard a fellow student comment that 'it doesn't matter how you feel before the class, you're always glad you went once it's over', and I think this really sums up one of the things I most love about Bikram.

As far as variety goes, difference in teaching styles is just the beginning. Now I know I shouldn’t be looking around the room (eyes on self!), but I just can’t help but notice that it’s not just plain old H2O being carried into the room with many students. Apart from a naughtily wandering mind, the bottle we bring with us to class is really our only crutch. Our only (if ever so brief) escape once the sweat starts dripping. So I guess it’s no wonder we all have our own particular ways of individualising and perhaps getting more out of that liquid lifeline.

But personal preference aside, what should we be drinking in class? Well, water is definitely a good place to start. Certainly preferable to sports drinks, which generally contain plenty of sugar and artificial colourings, not to mention a litany of synthetic chemicals. In case you’re wondering, this is a sure way to dehydrate your body, as your liver will be working overtime to flush out those toxins by taking water out of your muscles. The only reason you should ever consume these or any other sweetened drinks in class would be if you are becoming extremely faint and the teacher gives you one.

So is water alone sufficient to help you get the most out of your practice? If it’s plain old tap water, then no, I’d have to say it’s not. This may come as a surprise to many readers, but the truth is that (although it may be highly purified), our tap water does not contain adequate minerals to replace that lost through sweat.

When you sweat, you lose vast amounts of water and sodium (salt), but also a host of other minerals and trace elements including chlorine or chloride, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, nickel, chromium, and manganese. Many of these are absolutely vital to our health. For example, chromium assists in reducing sugar cravings and stabilising blood sugar levels. It is absolutely essential to replace these lost elements. Particularly when you imagine how many of those vital nutrients are contained in the 3 or more litres you may lose during a particularly busy class!

It’s crucial to ensure that you replace not just the lost fluid, but the health and energy-giving nutrients that are found in that fluid.

There are several ways to do this:

1. Use organic sea salt in your water. You can purchase this at any health food store. Ensure it is organic, or it may have been subject to bleaching. Pure organic sea salt contains over 80 minerals and nutrients. Did you know that we are supposed to get nearly 85% of our minerals from our drinking water? Unfortunately, the purification of water not only kills of bacteria, but also destroys these vital nutrients. By adding sea salt to your water (around 1-2 pinches per 500ml), you are re-mineralising (otherwise known as re-energising) that water and basically turning it back into the life-giving substance it should be. I actually like to add this much sea salt to all my drinking water, with a little extra thrown in for Bikram.

2. Take Electrolytes during or after class. Electrolytes are available in most Bikram studios for purchase. The generally have a pleasant citrus-y taste, and perform a similar job to that of sea salt. If you’re practising 4 or more times per week, I’d recommend both approaches.

3. I’ve heard some talk of people adding lemon, a little vinegar, and some maple syrup to their water. Lemon and vinegar can certainly both aid in digestion, so if this is an area of concern for you, it’s not a bad way to help finish off the natural process that some postures begin for you. Maple syrup is a little more questionable. Even if it is natural and organic, it is still a form of processed sugar, and as much as it might taste nice and give you a small energy boost with each sip, the fact is that each time you ingest sugar your body begins to flush existing water from the body. Can’t escape your physiology on this one I’m afraid! If you struggle with energy throughout class, it is worth looking at what you’ve consumed in the lead up. In my next post I’ll be discussing what best to eat before class. You can also ensure optimal energy by making sure you are well hydrated before class. If you wait till you get into the room to drink up, you’ve left it too late.

Do you have your own tips or habits for getting more out of your water during class? I’d love to hear your comments, ideas and feedback. Please get involved in the comments section below!

Food for Yoga. Food for Life.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Girls Listen Up: How to Feel Normal and Maintain your Practise at That Time of Month

Now this one’s for the girls, but don’t you men wander away just yet – what I’m about to tell you could save you having to listen to your partner moan about how huge, uncomfortable, and out-of-action she is at that time of month. Just be careful how you go about passing on my suggestions!

Now, I know I’m not the only woman out there who puffs up when I get my period. Let alone a week beforehand! I know it because every new client who comes to see me tells me all about it!

I mean, really, we do have it a bit tough. Mood swings I can handle (even if everyone around me can’t handle me), but it’s just so frustrating to feel like all the hard work, sweaty clothes, early-morning or late-night practise, not to mention a general attempt at healthy living was paying off; and then BAM! It’s like flipping a switch for some women! Overnight you seem to gain not just one but several spare tyres, your emotions spiral out of control, and your energy slumps as you contemplate working your way through the entire confectionary aisle. Many women consider this an optimal time to take a break from life. To cross Bikram out of their diary, pause their gym memberships, and say good-bye to healthy home cooked meals.

Over the years, as I’ve come to understand more about how hormones affect us at that time, and after trying and testing just about anything, I've found some semblance of an answer.

So here’s what works. Seriously. Remember - you could continue to moan and whinge and consume chocolate like a one-woman army, or you could just try the following tricks, and feel (at least) semi-human during this tormenting time.

Flatten your Bloated Tum By Avoiding Processed Carbohydrate

Regular readers will know that I don’t encourage you to eat processed carbs as part of your regular diet. By processed carbs, I mean white breads, pasta, rice and even white potatos. Cakes, biscuits, chocolates, crisps and soft drinks also fall into this category. Around that time of month (a week before, and during), it’s particularly important to replace these foods with fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains. This is because processed carbs contribute to out-of-whack hormones, and may cause an additional output of estrogen – one of whose jobs is to make your body think it’s pregnant! Which equals: bigger. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Curb Cravings and Up Your Exercise Desire with Quality Protein and Fat

During times of stress or hormonal change, you’ll often notice sweet cravings. In many cases, this is because your body is not getting the building blocks it needs to run your system, balance your hormones, and keep your digestive system going. In the lead-up to your next period, try increasing your intake of quality fats and proteins. Include avocado, extra virgin olive oil, organic meats such as lamb, beef and chicken thighs, and even supplement with some Omega 3 capsules. The idea is not to eat extra food (in quantity), it’s more about changing the percentages of your carbs to protein/fat slightly in favour of more protein/fats. I guarantee this works – I haven’t had a single client for whom it hasn’t!

Flush out the fluid with sea salt

I plan to write soon on the benefits of adding sea salt to your water during practise. In my opinion, it's almost a must. In the meantime, think about this: many people believe salt consumption will make them retain fluid. Whilst this is true, lack of salt can also cause you to puff up! If you’re cautious about salt consumption, this could be you! I’m not talking about bleached white table salt – go for the grey chunky sea salt crystals. You’ll find them in any health food or organic store. Add a few pinches to your water and meals and watch your body deflate. On Bikram days, go for a little extra to replace what’s lost when you sweat.

De-bloat your Belly with Gentle Exercise

Please, please, please – don’t be one of those girls who shies off Yoga - or indeed any exercise - for a week when you’ve got your period! Honestly – you’re not that fragile. While it’s true that high-impact exercise, record setting lifts in the gym, or Bikram in the front row without a handy bottle of water may not be a great idea at this time, gentle exercise is a great idea. Bikram is one of the best things you can do for your body at this time. It will lift your energy, get your digestive system moving, and can also mean at least 90 minutes in the day when you won’t be sitting around feeling sorry for yourself and giving in to sweet temptation.

What are your tricks for keeping your body on track and sticking with your practise during your period? Get involved in the Bikram Fitzroy community by leaving a comment below.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Great Debate: Sugar vs Fat

The truth about fat is that it’s generally not the evil criminal you may well imagine it to be. In fact, it’s not even the main offender when it comes to weight gain. I realise how ironic that sounds! But the truth is that eating fat can not only keep you in good physical shape, it can affect your hormones, your energy, your digestion, and even your sleep. Not to mention give you the vitality to bend, reach, twist, and pull to your maximum!

Five things you need to know about eating fat for optimal nutrition and an enhanced practise.

1. Your body will make fat whether you eat it or not. In fact, most fat in your fat cells is made in your body from carbohydrates! This means the more sugar you eat, the more those fat cells expand. This will have a detrimental effect not only on your waistline, but also your health and the longevity of your vital organs. (Pst: that means your life-span).

2. Fat (no, I don’t mean candy bars, I’m talking about good fat) is an important and necessary nutrient for your health. It’s needed for calcium absorption, it protects the liver from toxins, and it enhances the strength of your immune system

3. Without enough fat in your diet, your body will deliberately slow your metabolism and hold onto existing fat. This is a survival instinct that you can’t fight. Rather than using fat, your body will eat up all your muscle for energy, which will only slow your metabolism further, and make you feel terrible!

4. Choosing a high-carb diet that is also low in fat can cause your body to release insulin more day in, and day out. Insulin’s main job is to enhance your fat storing capabilities. This will literally make you a fat storing machine, and will slow your digestive system, robbing you of energy and leaving you tempted to sit out all those tough master poses! Eating the right amount of fat will help balance your hormones and flatten your stomach by burning existing fat stores, and will give you the get-up-and-go to push through even the longest triangle pose.

5. We all have individual fat requirements. The best sources are from natural, organic sources, such as coconut oil, organic meats, raw nuts, and quality oils. To learn more about how much fat you need, stay tuned for our next Food for Yoga seminar, and keep reading this blog.

Of course, you don’t have to wait for my next musing to learn more – I welcome your questions at any time, regardless of how related they are to this topic! If it has anything to do with Food for Yoga, I’m your girl. The comments section of this blog is there for a reason – don’t be shy; get involved. Today!

And remember – it’s not just Food for Yoga. It’s Food for Life.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Could Food Intolerance Be Slowing Down Your Practise?

I bet you didn’t know you could flatten your tummy, dramatically boost your energy, and inject new life into your Bikram practise in just three days?

‘Yeah, right’, I hear you scoff.

‘I’ve heard that one before!’

Well this is for real. Seriously.

Now, don’t get too excited, I don’t mean that your excess body fat will magically disappear in its entirety in just three days or that you'll be doing the standing splits in floor bow!

So what am I talking about then?

Here’s a hint – have you ever had a delicious pasta or risotto, or maybe a big cheesy pizza, only to wake up the next morning with a stomach so gassy it could just about fuel a hot air balloon?

Ever been sinus-y all day after drinking one too many lattes over breaky?

If this rings even the hint of a bell then you could have a food intolerance. Ninety percent of the people I've consulted over the years have some form of food intolerance, and recent research shows that up to sixty-five percent of our population could have undiagnosed food intolerances. That's plural. Given those stats, it's probably worth looking into - wouldn't you say?

The most common intolerances are wheat, gluten (a protein that is found in wheat and some other grains), and dairy, but it is conceivable that any food – including fruits, vegetables and any form of protein, animal or vegetable – could be causing you some major gut disruption, zapping your energy both in and out of the Bikram room, and causing a host of other complaints from headaches, to mood swings, to increased body fat.

So What Is a Food Intolerance?
• A food intolerance is not the same as an allergy. An allergy can severely incapacitate you, even to the point of death in some cases, whereas an intolerance shows up with low-level symptoms such as bloating, sinus problems, digestive disorders and general discomfort. This is why many intolerances often go unnoticed for years.

• Despite the low level symptoms caused by food intolerance, they can – over time – result in some pretty serious outcomes, including (but by no means limited to!) a poorly functioning colon, chronic low back pain, chronic sinus problems, and increased fat storage as a result of poor metabolism and digestion of food. On top of this, that bloated look just ain’t pretty, and it sure don't feel good!

The good news is that eliminating a food that you are intolerant to from your diet will immediately improve your digestion, ridding you of uncomfortable symptoms and resulting in a visibly flatter and more comfortable stomach in as little as two or three days.

How To Determine If YOU Have a Food Intolerance
Well, the chances are that if you think a food isn’t agreeing with you, you’re probably on the right track. But here’s what you can do to be sure:

• Keep track of the symptoms you think are related. This may include bloating or gas, headaches, blurry vision, mental fogginess, and clogged sinuses. If you notice that you experience one or more of these every time you eat a certain food, you are most likely intolerant to that food.

• Take the pulse test. Measure your heart rate before you eat the offending food item. The simplest way to do this is sit down, find your pulse and count the beats for 60 seconds. Next, eat the food, and then after one minute, re-measure your heart rate. If it has raised or lowered by more than 4 beats p/minute, you may be intolerant to that food.

• The most conclusive way to know if you are intolerant to a certain food, is to be tested. Testing can be done through an allergist, a kinesiologist, a naturopath, or a nutritionist. Each will have their own methods of testing. Before booking in with someone, I’d recommend chatting with them over the phone.

Solving the Problem
From here it’s a simple process of cutting out the food in question. To really see a difference, I’d recommend doing this for at least two weeks. Having said that, if a food has been really wreaking havoc with your system, cutting it out will create noticeable change in as little as two or three days. Not only will you enjoy the aesthetic benefits of a flatter belly, you’ll be improving your health, energy and mental focus - not to mention taking your body to places you never thought you'd go in the Yoga room!

Not just Food for Yoga - Food for Life

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Eat Fat, Lose Fat

Eat fat to lose fat.

Sounds kinda crazy at first, doesn’t it?

Some years back a friend tried to get me off the low-fat bandwagon. I told him there was no way! I had a hard enough time as losing that last layer and thought he must be mad to suggest the solution was to eat more fat!

As I’m sure you guessed from the title of this post, I came around. And as much as I know that most avid Bikram devotees practice for health reasons, for injury rehabilitation, or just because we love it so much, I also know that many people hope to lose body fat through Bikram. Achieving an ideal level of body fat is just one aspect of good health (yes, it's not just about looking a certain way), but it's one that cause ongoing stress and turmoil for many people.

So let me save you some heartache. Coming back to that friend of mine ... to cut a long story short, let me tell you that these days, after years of my own research and testing, I advise many of my clients to increase their intake of good fats – even saturated fat and cholesterol.

I’m not insane, I’m not trying to kill you, and I’m certainly not the first person to sing the praises of fat. In fact, a recent article will explain for you in eye-opening detail just how and when fat suddenly started getting such a bad rap. Some of this information might be quite shocking – for example, there was actually never any conclusive evidence showing that saturated fat causes heart disease.

So how can eating fat help you lose fat?

Let’s start with the health facts
The article I referred to does a great job of allaying concerns about heart disease and diabetes. I’ll throw my two cents worth in with a few more fat facts.

1. Your body will use carbohydrates to make saturated fat – even if you don’t eat any fat.
2. This is because you need fat for cell stiffness, to protect your liver and vital organs, and to enhance immune function.
3. You hormonal system cannot work efficiently without sufficient fat and cholesterol. This could lower your metabolism, decrease your sex drive and contribute to bad moods and poor energy.

How About the Weight Loss Part?
One of the roles of fat is to act as a sustainable energy source, helping you to perform at your best both mentally and physically. For this reason, quality fat (see below) will be stored as a ‘use-soon’ energy source. It won’t get shipped to your fat cells. Replacing sugary and starchy foods like white bread, pasta, rice and potatoes and even excess fruit with quality fats will balance your hormonal system and allow your body to release existing toxins and stored fats. It will also kick-start your metabolism, increase your satiety, and reduce cravings. Pretty cool, huh?!

So Which Fats are we Talking About? And How Much?
It’s not a long or complicated list. I start by recommending each client take a quality, mercury-free Salmon or Fish Oil supplement each day. Any health food or supplement store will be able to point you to a good one. Next, I recommend increasing fats like extra virgin olive oil, avocado, olives, and organic meat and poultry – including the rind or skin. I say organic because the fat of conventional animals stores toxins. Nuts and seeds (raw) can be a great source of fat but I do find people tend to indulge with these!

Lastly, I recommend switching from olive or vegetable oil to coconut oil for all cooking. Coconut oil is 92% saturated fat and goes straight to your liver for energy. It will improve digestion, up your metabolism, has anti-inflammatory properties and has even been said to help with cellulite!

How much? As a very general rule I would say that most people need a minimum of 20% good fats in their diet. This is a general guideline and you should speak to a qualified nutritionist or Metabolic Typing adviser for more specific information. As an example, use a few teaspoons of coconut oil to cook, try to incorporate some animal fat daily, and add a little avocado or oil to your main meals..

Until next time – eat fat to lose fat, and enjoy the bonus energy boost!

Not just Food for Yoga. Food for Life.