5 No-Brainer Beauty Boosters!

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For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge that you will never walk alone. Audrey Hepburn

So I’m no expert here, merely sharing a few of my favourite products and practices that I’ve adopted over the past 5 years or so but since doing these consistently my skin is clearer,  I’ve massively reduced the amount of makeup I ‘need’ to wear (no foundation, just a bit of concealer under my eyes) and my nails are super strong (just a few of the benefits).

I haven’t mentioned water in this post; but we all know hydration is vital for our health, wellbeing and ‘beauty’ – I’ll let you research that one further!

So here goes; my 5 no-brainer beauty boosters!

  1. Coconut Oil

Oh my, I love coconut oil; the stuff is incredible inside and out; not only does it heal, restore and fuel your body it’s antibacterial, antifungal, can protect your hair and moisturise your skin! I have a large jar in the kitchen and a large jar in the bathroom. I will do another post on my top 10 ways to use coconut oil but for now check out the Wellness Mama, she has a great list!

I cook with it, stir it into my coffee, melt it into a baked sweet potato, moisturise with it, oil pull, use it as shaving lotion, body cream, hair serum…just to name a few. When I told my (almost) 13-year-old daughter the title of this blog post her response was ‘Mum, you might as well put coconut oil for all 5 points’! SO true – that’s my girl!

Always buy the raw, organic coconut oil, not the cheaper processed version. I often buy the large tub from Costco but these two are also my favourite brands; Neal’s Yard and Lucy Bee.

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2. Apple Cider Vinegar

My daily ritual, without fail is to come downstairs to the kitchen, stick the kettle on, fill a small mug or glass half with cold water, add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar then top it up with boiling water from the kettle. I then stick a straw in it and down it knowing excitedly that I can have coffee once I’m ‘done’!

Its wide-ranging benefits include everything from curing hiccups to alleviating cold symptoms, and some people have turned to apple cider vinegar to help fight diabetes, cancer, heart problems, high cholesterol, and weight issues.

I drink it to alkalise my body, boost my energy before I start my day and to aid digestion and blood sugar levels. I also often use it on my hair as the last rinse, and it makes a great toner on the skin.

Again, make sure you buy organic apple cider vinegar with ‘the mother’ in it, my favourite brand is Biona, I buy a huge one and it lasts me 6 months.

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3. Wild Rose Beauty Balm

I can’t even to begin to tell you how amazing this product it – you HAVE to try it friend! So, apart from coconut oil I don’t use anything on my skin – and then came the beauty balm. This is love in a pot and can be used on hair, body and face; use it as a mask, a moisturiser or even a lip balm, it.is.brilliant!

Nurtures and revitalises all skin types.  Our award-winning Wild Rose Beauty Balm can be used as a rich cleanser, gentle exfoliant or deeply nourishing balm – to quench areas of dry or dehydrated skin. The exceptionally high levels of wild rosehip oil – a potent antioxidant proven to help repair, firm and smooth the skin – are combined with geranium, starflower, hemp and rosemary oil, to help decongest and enrich the skin, restoring its natural radiance.

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The essential oils in the balm smell so good some days I just rub in on my pulse points ( I don’t use perfume) and away I go! I love it on the ends of my hair after I’ve dried it and sometimes dab a bit on my cheekbones to use as a highlighter, the possibilities are endless!

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I’m offering 15% off the beauty balm for my blog readers (UK only, sorry!) – drop me a line via my contact form with ‘Beauty Balm’ in the title and I’ll be in touch!

4. Sleep

If you’re interested in having your skin look younger and more healthy, then getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night is one of the best things you can do –  Michael Breus, PhD

Now I’m a bit of a slow starter with this one but hitting 40 this year has truly brought it home! I’m naturally a morning gal but I can happily burn the candle at both ends if there’s work to be done (and there always it right?); and mama’s with newborns young children, before you proverbially smack me in the face and unfollow me I KNOW! Sleep…what’s that? I’ve been there honey and know it well, I breastfed my youngest for 30 months and she finally slept through when the milk bar closed! Sienna is almost 5, yes my younger children still climb into our bed in the early hours, have growing pains at 2am and (like today) wake up really early, but I’m no longer sleep deprived; have hope, it does get better!

I’m learning to discipline myself to get to bed earlier, create a new habit, set myself a ‘go to bed’ alarm and when possible I take a nap at the weekend to top up!

A good sleep pattern and routine helps your stress levels, improves your skin/dark circles and boosts your emotional/mental health; what did you Mum always say when you were feeling ill or run down, ‘bath and early to bed’, fixes everything!

Sleep is REALLY important – be kind to yourself and get some!

5. Juicing

Juicing is new habit that we’ve incorporated into our daily routines and family life this year. I’m not particularly into juice fasting or using juice to supplement meals (unless I’m needing a meal on the run) but I love getting all those nutrients into my body first thing in the morning. I routinely have anything up to a pint of juice every morning made up from apples, celery, carrots, spinach/kale, ginger, lemon/lime, cucumber or whatever else we have in the fridge.

These foods nourish every cell in the body, help prevent disease, flush the system of waste and contain more vitamins and minerals than you can rattle a plum at – Jason Vale

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We love Jason Vale’s juicer and it seemed like the best one on the market within our budget (do your research before you buy); we use it 1 – 2 times a day, yes it’s MORE washing up but so worth it.

So, do you have any of these things in your daily routine? How have you found it has impacted your health and wellness?

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My Whole30 Journey…So Far

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“The food you eat either makes you more healthy or less healthy. Those are your options.”
― Melissa Hartwig, It Starts with Food

So here I am on day 27 of the Whole30 – if you’ve followed any of my food journey you’ll understand why this felt like the ‘next thing’ to fully sift out what my body needs to be well, strong and thriving, not momentarily, but for life!

I don’t particularly have ‘health issues’ (non apparent on the outside anyway) but I’m still overweight, I often lack energy, feel sluggish and believe it or not (just turned 40 – wink) I sometimes get a bit of joint pain. I have to admit that a large part of my food journey is to find my personal maintainable natural body weight, but if that was just it I’d go back to calorie counting (been there, done that) or join a slimming club! No, I want optimum physical and mental health, vibrant energy and a long life.

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Breakfast: freshly made green juice, eggs with kale and mushrooms fried in coconut oil, yummy!

Just over 18 months ago I quit sugar (fructose) which was a jump-start in this adventure and made some clear differences to my health, but I knew there was more. Although sugar occasionally has made its way back into my eating rhythm now and again (special occasions) I’ve managed to keep that craving at bay.

The Whole30 jumps in so much further and this is what I needed to discover; you eliminate refined sugars (not fruit), all grains, all dairy and legumes (chick peas, beans, peas etc.) and of course processed foods for 30 days and then slowly introduce them back in (the real food anyway) to see how your body responds.

I’m 27 days in and I feel like it has just started to kick in; yes my clothes are looser (you’re not ‘allowed’ to weigh or measure yourself during the programme), my collar-bone ‘popped out’ as per usual during my weight loss endeavors (!), my skin and hair are looking great but I was still struggling with that sluggish feeling in the morning and my joints were still aching – boo. My gut isn’t quite right yet, you just know right?  I honestly feel I’ve just got off the starting block with this, but I’ve definitely signed up for the right race!

 I honestly feel I’ve just got off the starting block with this, but I’ve definitely signed up for the right race!

So day 27 feels a bit like the beginning; after listening to the audio version of ‘It starts with food‘ I understood that this can be the case and people go on to do Whole60/90 which will probably be my case, or this may become my new eating rhythm, who knows, but I know it is doing me good.

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I’ll be back with an update next week on what I’m eating, how it has impacted social situations (eek!) and what my family think!!

I’d love to hear from you! Maybe you’ve done the Whole30 programme or are in middle of it too, how has it impacted your health?

Blackberry & Coconut Crumble Cake

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So, as promised if you follow me on Instagram here’s a rough guide to the blackberry and coconut type cake that I threw together yesterday. I am generally known as a mostly ‘sugar-free‘ gal but I’m also all about long-term, sustainable whole and healthy living, so if I’m going to add some sweetness to our afternoon tea then organic coconut sugar is the way for us (well, when it fits the budget or a kind friend has bought me a large Trader Joe’s bag from her trip to the States last month, yay).

I’m just someone who likes cooking and for whom sharing food is a form of expression. Maya Angelou

I love late summer/autumnal baking; all those foraged hedgerow berries and bundles of apples make for sensational smells in the kitchen. Play around with some spice in this cake too – I will next time.

So, this is pretty low gluten, refined sugar-free and dairy free. Have a go and let me know…

Ingredients

  • 125g Organic spelt flour
  • 125g Coconut flour
  • 25g Oats
  • 1 tsp Baking powder
  • 225g Organic coconut sugar
  • 200g Coconut oil
  • 75g Desiccated coconut
  • 2 tsp Maca powder (optional)
  • 1 tsp Bee Pollen (optional)
  • 2 Medium eggs, beaten
  • 350g Frozen or fresh blackberries

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Method

  1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.
  2. Tip the flour, oats and sugar into a large bowl. Rub the coconut oil into the flour mixture using your fingertips until it resembles (soft) breadcrumbs. Stir through the coconut.
  3. Stir the eggs into the bowl of mixture, then take around two-thirds of the mixture and spread over the bottom of a large spring bottom cake tin. Flatten the surface with the back of a spoon (or your fingers), then scatter over the blackberries. Sprinkle over the remaining one-third of the mixture, lightly press down (blackberries will poke out) and bake for 1 hr-1 hr 15 mins until golden and cooked through (if you poke a skewer in, it should come out with moist crumbs but no wet mixture). Leave to cool, then remove from the tin.
  4. Gather your family, slice and serve with a pot of tea!

Coconut Cocoa Truffles (Sugar-Free)

20141120_092735These sweet morsels have been a perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea in our home this week; I’ve shared them with friends as well as keeping a secret stash in the fridge for moi!

There are lots of these ball/bar type of recipes going around but I find they are full of dates and dried fruit which makes them SO high in fructose – so here’s a great alternative!

Here’s what you need:

1/4 cup coconut flour

1/4 cup oats (gluten free oats would make it, well, gluten free!)

1/3 cup of dessicated coconut

2 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa (raw, organic if you can)

2 tablespoons natural nut butter

1/3 cup of rice malt syrup (maple syrup or local/raw honey will work fine too but then they won’t be fructose free)

1/4 cup of whatever you’d like to add to them; raisins, chocolate chips, chopped nuts etc. I’ve been adding raw cocoa nibs and chia seeds to mine, again to keep them fructose free

…and here’s what you do:

Put all the ingredients in a bowl, stir as much as you can then get your clean hands in there and ‘squidge’ the mixture until it’s all combined

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Stir and then get your hands in there!

The final thing to do is take a heaped teaspoon full and form a ball, and repeat – you should get about 12 out of this mixture, if you’re lucky you’ll have a bit extra that you can taste before the others go in the fridge! They don’t need to ‘set’ but they are much firmer when they’ve been in the fridge for 20/30 minutes.

They are really filling and highly nutritious – enjoy!

Refined Sugar-Free Strawberry & Rhubarb Crumble

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So I guess I’m still gently easing myself back into blogging…or blogging is gently easing itself back into my life. It’s been a while since my ‘sugar-free’ detox celebrations blog but I’m still living free from the white stuff and feeling great!

Here’s a recipe I’ve been developing for our family meal table; we don’t eat dessert often but there’s nothing quite like a fruit crumble on a Sunday afternoon – so here’s my take on it!

Topping:

2oz Spelt flour

2oz Buckwheat flour

4oz oats

4oz Butter or coconut oil (or 2oz of each)

2tbsp chia or flax seeds (optional)

2tbsp rice malt syrup (add after fat mixed into flour)

Method: Rub the butter/coconut oil into the flour oat mix till it kind of resembles breadcrumbs then stir in 2tbsp of rice malt syrup

Fruit:

1 1/2 cups of strawberries chopped in half

1 1/2 cups of chopped rhubarb

Method: chop fruit and place in a deep pie dish (that’s it, easy huh?!)

Place crumble topping on top of the fruit and press down gently. Put dish in oven, gas mark 5 for 20 – 30 mins until crumble topping is golden brown and fruit juices are bubbling through.

Serve warm with cream and get ready for yummy noise all around the table!

Let me know if you make it – enjoy!

Leah

The sugar-free me!

8 week detox - the sugar free me!
8 week detox – the sugar free me!

So here I am stepping bravely back into the blogosphere after a long break; my ‘Home Grown Babies‘ days are now over and I’m inviting you to come hang out at ‘Leah’s Place’; it’s all a bit new and I haven’t had time to decorate but bear with me and I’ll put the kettle on!

I’m launching straight into a ‘foodie’ post about my most recent project that anyone who follows me on Instagram will have been inundated with for the past 8 weeks. As of today I am proud to announce that I QUIT SUGAR!

…if you’re still with me I’ll explain; I’ve been stalking following Sarah Wilson on social media for a good 18 months; she’s a gorgeous Australian media personality with a background in journalism and health who decided to quit sugar for 8 weeks and then write about it, which became a book, which became a ‘movement’ I guess. After talking about ‘quitting’ for a while my lovely hubby bought me a copy of the book after it was launched here in the UK.

Now I have a weight food health story, and indeed a journey which I’ll save for another day but I knew I was addicted to sugar and it wasn’t enhancing or advancing my life at all – so here we go, let’s do something about it!

Introducing, I Quit Sugar: The Review

 

I Quit Sugar - Sarah Wilson
I Quit Sugar – Sarah Wilson

 

The Book

I found the book easy to read; Sarah’s relaxed style convinces you that you’re fully capable of ‘crowding out’ the bad with the good and that we’re able to make these lifestyle changes and choices that will affect our health and wellness forever. There are very short chapters outlining each week, I think I wanted a bit more in those chapters – you know like when you’re pregnant and read a ‘bit’ about what’s happening to you and your baby every week; I wanted a bit more ‘science’ to attach to my withdrawal symptoms, but there again she’s not a scientist!

She has great tips and hints for managing life without sugar, helpful info on store cupboard essentials and how to best utilise what you have (she’s all about sustainability which I love!). The recipes are great (I’ll list which ones I tried at the end of the post); some of the ingredients I found hard to get hold of and expensive but they last and, well – our health is a great investment!

An 8 week journey

I don’t want to spoil the book for you but here’s a brief overview of each week and how I felt.

Week 1

Week 1 is all about cutting back rather than going ‘cold turkey’; I was aware of my food choices, still had some fruit, maple syrup but totally cut out all refined sugar. Felt great in week 1 – felt like an easy transition which I was ready for body and soul!

Week 2

Week 2 is all about crowding out sugar with good, healthy fats (coconut oil, butter, nuts etc.); I really enjoyed this week, I didn’t feel deprived as I was filling up on great food that actually felt like a treat; cream in your coffee anyone?!

Week 3

Week 3 is the ‘cold turkey’ week; here we are totally done with all foods containing fructose; fruit, honey, maple syrup as well of course all processed, refined sugars. In week 3 I started to get into a rhythm of my sugar-free life; trying out new recipes and really enjoying my food…but week 3 also saw the onslaught of side effects and withdrawal.  My main symptoms at this stage were utter exhaustion and irritability (my poor family) – it wasn’t short-lived either unfortunately. I actually wasn’t having any major cravings at this point which meant I was obviously filling up on the right food and satisfying my appetite.

One thing I learnt in week 3 is that despite making my own lovely wholemeal spelt bread I wanted to eat the whole loaf, I craved it (smothered in butter) and could have easily eaten the whole loaf! At this point I decided to cut out wheat too, particularly bread as that was another craving

Week 4 

Keep going – Sarah emphasises here the importance of seeing it through even if the voices around you think you’re getting ‘obsessed’ and crazy:

They say: “but sugar is natural”

You say: “Indeed it is, but so it petroleum. And arsenic.” (Pg 34 I quit sugar)

The side effects kept going; pretty much similar to last week. Were my family patient and understanding? Most of time they actually cheered me on but to quote my husband in week 4: “I hate this quitting sugar thing, where’s my wife?”

But I kept on going…

Week 5

You’re over the half way mark now so feeling slightly triumphant; here we’re pressing on towards the end; just like a muscle that needs moving and stretching so does a habit – the more you do it the stronger you feel. I had some pretty major cravings in week 5 but never faltered just filled up on the good stuff. I also had a bit of kidney pain in this week which is a sign that my body is getting rid of toxins – nothing major but noticeable.

Week 6

Week 6 we can introduce a bit of low fructose fruit (e.g blueberries, raspberries); at this point I was still getting pretty strong cravings so I decided to hold off till I felt the addiction was getting more manageable and I could handle the fruit. At this point the withdrawal symptoms had stopped and I had significantly more energy; I was starting to feel the positive effects – yey!

Week 7

Things start to feel easier now; you’re a bit of a sugar-free pro; at this point I was really loving the sugar free feeling of energy and freedom – I still got a few cravings but got over them so quickly.

Week 8

Sarah’s words: “and my body – again for the first time in living memory – was able to tell me what it needed, meal to meal”

I can totally relate to this; I now feel full and satisfied after a ‘normal’ sized portion of food and I know what I ‘feel’ like eating at every meal rather than what I’m ‘craving’; it’s such a freeing thing to enjoy food rather than NEED food!

 

The changes in me

  • I’ve lost 12lb and am now comfortable in my jeans rather than squeezing into them!
  • I wake up feeling awake, not sluggish – I still get ‘normal’ tired for a busy mother of 4 but not like I used to
  • I have more energy, more zest for life
  • My hormones feel more balanced; I was really struggling with this and had some pretty low periods – this has stopped
  • My skin is clear and bright (could also be that I use coconut oil for moisturiser!)
  • I rarely have cravings for something ‘sweet’
  • I feel full after a meal and that lasts for a good few hours
  • I understand my body more and what it needs; it would seem that sugar and gluten have been key components in my life that have caused weight gain, feeling bloated and low mood

 Where now?

So I’ve come out of this 8 week period more passionate about ‘whole food’ than ever before; my plan is to keep well clear of refined processed sugar (and foods in general), stick to low fructose fruits (1-2 portions a day), avoid wheat/gluten as much as I can and to eat as whole, fresh and colourful as possible.

My family has not come along on my 8 week journey but just by default they are eating healthier (I cook the same thing for everyone) and they love my sugar-free alternatives that I’ve whipped up from the I Quit Sugar book.

My next steps are to up my activity again (getting up for a workout at 6am was pretty impossible when I was feeling exhausted and irritable!!), up my water consumption (still not brilliant at this) and carry on in the kitchen as I have become accustomed!

 

Recipes I’ve tried so far from the book:

Coco-nutty Granola – page 76

Cashewy Chia Pudding  – page 80

Green eggs with ham – page 87

Sweet green meal-in-a-tumbler – page 110

Basil pesto – page 126

Activated spicy nuts – page 146

Kale chips – page 151

Zest and poppy cookies – page 164 (for the record this recipe tasted awful but I think I made a mistake somewhere!)

Sugar free Nut-Ella – page 168

Raspberry Ripple – Page 186 (my favourite!!)

 

So there you have it  – the story so far! So what’s your sugar-free story?

 

Live whole & free!

Leah