Author Archives: zelmiabotha

Foodie Friday: Christmas Time

For me Christmas time is about spending time with family.  Everyone coming together in one, glorious, noisy mess.  Laughing, shrieking, shouting, joking, playing card games and board games till all hours of the morning.  All of this happening around the dinner table, which should be filled with food… but that’s what I fear the most, cooking something that everyone will love.  Well, I asked Heidi to help!  A big thank you to Heidi, my Christmas Elf in the kitchen!

Ah, Christmas time…Christmas is all about love, family and togetherness, and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.  We do this by exchanging gifts, spending quality time together and of course, by feasting on glorious food!

A sunny South African Christmas menu can include many different dishes and you can probably remember massive tables laden with ham, tongue, a million different salads and sides, chicken and perhaps even a turkey… That’s what my childhood Christmases were like in any case.  You might even have enjoyed a Christmas braai or 2…  Let’s face it, a traditional South African Christmas is a jolly, sunny affair, most probably spent outside by the pool or at the beach.

Now, when we look at all these traditional things… is a low carb Christmas style possible? Will it be boring? Should you even bother?

In short – yes and no!

Christmas is a celebration, it’s about being together with friends and family and sharing happy memories, good food and creating loving memories and there’s no reason to miss out on a delectable feast!

Having said that, as you know, I’m not a fan of trying to recreate ‘old’ favourites into new low carb treats – there are some that can easily be done and others that are best left alone.

I also prefer to keep things simple and focus on a few really outstanding dishes, rather than making hundreds…

Let’s start with the basics, shall we?

Christmas Snacks

Whether you’re hosting a Christmas get-together or attending one, you’ll need some snacks.

Choose something really delicious and impressive and make it special.  I would go for something like these pumpkin pie blinis – mini little bite-sized nibbles that’ll really make it feel like Christmas and a favourite at Changing Dream!

And do try a boozy eggnog too – it’s like a creamy custard drink, with brandy and it’s the best thing ever!

Or perhaps something a little more South African, bacon wrapped meatballs!

Christmas Mains

On to the main event – I’ve chosen roast chicken. Simply increase the amount of chickens for
every 6 people.  You could go the classic route of a roast turkey, but I feel that a roast chicken is perfect for a sunny SA Christmas – you can make it outside on the Weber or braai and rather add 1 more meat option.

How about a delicious pork belly roast?

Or keep things fresh and simple with a Festive Ham Salad as another main option!

Add a festive salad like this Fried Camembert Salad and you’re good to go!

Christmas Dessert

To end off a lovely meal, and because I’ve a bit of a sweet tooth – here are 3 winner dessert options.  Let’s start with a cheesecake, then coconut ice cream kisses and finish off with a triple chocolate tart!

Have a happy and blessed Christmas and remember what it’s all about – don’t spend unnecessary time stressing over food and slaving away in the kitchen – unless that’s your thing…

Keep it simple and remember that you don’t even need to tell everybody that your menu is low carb – simply let them enjoy the feast, because let’s face it, this is SO NOT a restrictive ‘diet’..!

P.S. As far as other drinks go – dry wine or bubbly is always the best option instead of sugary cocktails or other drinks mixed with sugary cool drinks.  Make sure you have plenty of sparkling water and add a slice of lemon and a sprig of mint for a refreshing drink.

Heidi Visser

 

 

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Why Join the Club?

I used to be an extrovert, but recently I realized that I actually draw my energy from being alone, just for 30 minutes. So I want to do a form of exercise where I’m mostly alone, with my own thoughts, focussed, with an opportunity to forget about the real world. Having said this, I realised I couldn’t start exercising, more specifically running, on my own. Firstly, I had never done it before and secondly I had absolutely no motivation to do it (yet). I decided to join a club and to this day I don’t know why I chose Run/Walk for Life, I really don’t know, but I went for my first session and never looked back!
Just keep in mind, I don’t want to win a comrades, I want to focus my mind. Actually, most articles I’ve read explains that too much exercise is more harmful in the struggle with fertility. It is recommended to do 20min to 30min of exercise per day and to focus more on resistance training. So, I had to find a club where I could learn how to run without feeling ashamed about my very low level of fitness. I also had to find a club where running only 5km or 10km is acceptable. Run/Walk for Life became my home. Check out our coach’s intro to RWFL below
Here are a few reasons why you should join a club today! (Just think of it this way, running clubs are always looking for new members, so don’t be scared, get in touch with your local RWFL club today)

Coaching

  1. Many running clubs are run by trainers or coaches and this is the best way to learn how to run safely and effectively. Running requires some training. A running club that has a trainer can show you the right way to run. A trainer can also give you tips on training methods and how to improve your running or train for a specific running event. You can tell the club leader what you’re capable of and they can make adjustments to the training
  2. Your overall fitness level will improve – meaning you could become better at other sports.
  3. Don’t forget your fellow members! The recommendations you receive from other members can easily be incorporated into your solo sessions, so you can improve even when you’re not running as part of a group.

Social

  1. Beware: running can become a lonely sport if you’re out there labouring along on your own.
  2. Socializing doesn’t have to be for running, it can also be for warming up or stretching afterwards or going for a juice after your run
  3. You meet people with their own incredible stories and reasons for running, it just gives you a little bit of perspective
  4. I never knew I would, but it’s wonderful when your fellow club members cheer for you on race day! Amazing feeling.
  5. You’ll meet a ton of new people, who perhaps you wouldn’t have met otherwise.

Accountability

  1. Running requires discipline. If you are part of a club you are far more likely to turn up and run. You’ll be able to structure your week around your running sessions and you’ll make it part of your weekly routine and probably be more likely to get out there and train.
  2. My coach took notice of me and my absence. She would ask me where I was, why I wasn’t booking my mileage, why I’m looking down-in-the-dumps and she reminded me that I’ll feel better after a run. I had someone invested in my progress.

Motivation

  1. The thought of turning up to a session and being trained or told a course to run on, with your goal to complete a run, can be very motivational.
  2. Motivation comes from being around other motivated people and running clubs are full of those type of people.

Meeting like-minded people

  1. Running attracts people with similar goals and lifestyles, so it’s great to able to compare notes on races and events and to just talk running to other runners.
  2. You might meet someone that’s also running away from her struggles with fertility. She might even become your inspiration…

Fun

  1. Okay, maybe not in the beginning, but yes, running can be fun! The feeling of utter triumph at the end of a long run can bring a smile to any face! Seeing sunrises, watching people get soaked in rain (including yourself), even hearing the farts of other runners next to you, can make a person just laugh out loud!
  2. Running in a club could also teach you that other sports are also fun! (I’m still sceptical, but it’s nice to hear the stories of success from more versatile runners)
  3. A good running club can really help you de-stress after a long day of work!

Competition

Healthy competition! For me this could go under motivation too, but it’s exhilarating to try and “catch” someone who is faster than you. Always remember, runners usually have one main competitor and that is themselves, but to beat yourself (meaning your last run time) you need to work harder and one way to do that is to push yourself against the members of your running group.

About Run / Walk For Life

The New Year is upon us and I know you’ve watched the Comrades marathon this year and promised yourself next year!
You might have tried isometrics and dabbled in calisthenics. You might have hopped on an exercise bike or a rowing machine, or simply rolled a little wheel-thing up and down the floor. You might have even done the unthinkable – joined a gym. Strange places, gyms. Snobby, and bristling with posers (your underwear even needs to match!!!) – it can be a frightening experience. For the most part, so-called instructors, strutting their stuff in cling-wrapped lycra are more interested in the mirrors than you. And there you are, pathetically trying to get fit . . . . . and hopefully lose some weight – feeling highly intimidated, bored, lonely as hell and more alienated than ever. Makes you want to run a mile?
We, at Run/Walk For Life, specialise in getting you started even if your level of fitness is very low / non-existent.
The scientific and computerised measurements recorded by each member after every session have shown that within as little as three to six weeks, you will be showing a definite increase in fitness levels and weight reduction, depending on your goals. Your fitness levels will be assessed and you will be placed in a group according to your ability. The Run / Walk For Life programme is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels and for pregnant women.
A major emphasis of the programme is on fitness and weight loss through personal goal setting. Through the programme, you set your own personal goals, in consultation with our highly trained staff. Highly trained staff members create personal and customised training schedules to suit YOUR goals, which could be anything from weight -loss to intensive training, or doing basic and gentle exercise with a group of other similar and friendly people. Your progress towards these goals is then scientifically monitored under close supervision.
Run/Walk for Life members exercise in supervised groups of similar ability, meaning that you will not find yourself being pushed too hard and battling to keep up with members who are fitter than you – similarly, you will not spend your exercise sessions having to wait for members who are slower than you – you will exercise with a group of members who are of similar ability and fitness to yourself.
Run/Walk For Life has an athletics club of over 1900 members, ensuring that whatever your fitness level, your needs will be catered for.
Our friendly consultants are waiting for your call…

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The Alternatives

I read an article, not too long ago, in which a well-known couple introduced their adopted children to the world.  When the interviewer asked why adoption, the new mother said she wanted to be a mother, not have her blood line continue.

I paused at that paragraph and thought her answer was rather defensive, maybe even aggressive.  Or was I making it personal?  I don’t know for sure, but that answer stuck with me through all my failed IVF’s. Obviously I was reading that article because I was considering other options:

  1. Adoption
  2. Donor sperm
  3. Donor egg
  4. Surrogacy (traditional and / or gestational carrier)

While researching these options two rather mind boggling things happened.

The Con’s list

There are more articles about the pros than the cons of going with alternatives.  Due to all the things that I’ve been through, I still struggle with negative thoughts, so I was very surprised about all the positive articles out there, compared to the amount of info on what can possibly go wrong.

Then I realized I was looking for the “what can go wrong” articles because I didn’t want to go with the alternatives.  I didn’t want to adopt, I didn’t want donor sperms, I didn’t want donor eggs and I didn’t want a surrogate.  Does that make me a bad person?  Does that mean I don’t want to be a mother?  Well I can tell you in all honesty, without a shadow of a doubt, I wanted to be a mother then and I want to be a new mother of a new baby again.  Actually, I don’t want to go with the alternatives for a whole bunch of reasons.

  • I want our baby to have our genes, our nature, my hair, my husband’s eyes, my ambition, my husband’s patience. I want to look in our baby’s eyes and see us.  I want this just as much as I want a baby.  This is my dream.
  • I don’t want to look at another woman carrying our baby and be reminded that I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t give a safe environment for my child to grow.  Yes, this is only for 9 months, but please understand how much I treasure those 9 months, especially now that I know what it feels like to carry a child underneath your heart, to feel the little kicks, to see the baby move, to experience the heartburn, the tiredness, the snoring, everything!  It’s such a powerful feeling, that it breaks my heart every time another woman receives this blessing and my womb remains barren.
  • My little girl has an obsession about tummies and babies coming from tummies. She loves her baby book and to look at my big tummy and to show me that she came from my tummy.  And that got me thinking, what am I going to tell my new baby one day?  Where did he/she come from?  I wasn’t able to carry him/her so I outsourced my baby?  My baby is all of us, but comes from another lady’s tummy?  Do I show him/her pictures of the lady with her big tummy?  Or do I just not have a baby book at all?  Do I tell him/her about the lady, her personality, the process?  I don’t want to do that.  I want to be able to show my child that I carried him/her.  This was my dream, not just to have a baby, but to be able to “produce” a baby.
  • What would be my relationship with our carrier? I never want to see our carrier again.  Never again.  I don’t want to introduce our carrier to our child as… As what?  I don’t want to see our carrier at birthday parties or graduations.  I don’t want to be reminded of how much we owe her.  I don’t want to be reminded that I owe her my child. But if I choose a stranger, who stays very far away and doesn’t move in my circles at all, how do I control the pregnancy?  But that’s just it, I won’t have any control at all!  I cannot control her thoughts, what she says, the songs she sings, the way she holds her tummy, the way other people touches her tummy, I won’t be there to feel the little feet kick or to feel the hiccups.  If she is married, will she have sex with her husband while carrying my child?!  I am a control freak, but it’s more than that, I want to infuse our child with love from my heart and my mind and my soul.  I want to pray over my child while my husband and I both hold my tummy.  I want to talk to my child and sing to my child, I want my child to know my voice.  This was my dream.
  • What do I tell people? I have to take maternity leave, but not explain why I’m not showing?  I want to have a baby shower, but I’m not pregnant?  Do I explain that I have a baby coming, but another lady is carrying our baby?  Should I explain why?  Should I explain who the lady is, where she stays?  Or do I just say “it’s none of your business” and cower in a corner, not the proud mother, but the woman who depends on others to carry her children? This is a very real fear that keeps me up at night.

When reading these reasons, it sounds selfish, even to my own ears.  So I can understand any judgement that comes my way.

Still, I want people to understand that these are my fears, however illogical, these are the demons I struggle with in my head.

When I discussed all these fears with my husband, I was actually shocked to hear about his fears:

  • My husband actually saw our pregnancy as preparation to become new parents. Even though I was the one carrying our baby, he was intimately involved, every step of the way and he sees that as valuable preparation time.
  • My husband is a very private person (yes, I have a blog about our struggles and yes, he supports this, but he is still a very private person). He doesn’t want a 3rd party involved.  He feels uncomfortable in touching another woman’s belly, caring for another woman because she is carrying his child, going to the OB as a threesome and not a couple and he feels uncomfortable with a forced relationship.
  • He feels utterly removed. I don’t know how to describe this, but somehow I understand what he’s saying.  I struggled with bleeding during my first 3 months of pregnancy and he was there for me every time, rushing me to the emergency rooms and demanding to see the OB immediately.  I suffered from severe heartburn and he was there for me, driving to all night pharmacies, in the middle of the night, desperately looking for anti-acids.  He was always there, always ready to help.  What would he be doing now?

This is our journey and this is our “Contra” list.  This is why we decided against alternatives.

The offers

Life is strange sometimes, stranger than fiction, but I don’t believe in coincidence.

If God numbered all the hairs on my head, if He knows every time a sparrow falls to the ground, He will definitely know what I’m busy with and He can act accordingly.

So, during the time I was researching all the alternatives, I received not one, but two offers of surrogacy.  How amazing is that?  Receiving these offers made me think even more (not always a good thing).  Both of these offers came from absolutely amazing women, women I’ve had friendships with for longer than most celebrity couples are married.  These women have beautiful hearts, they are compassionate, they are achievers, they are givers and they genuinely care.  But all I felt was the sure and unwavering realization that I don’t want this.  If I had any doubts after reading articles, the actual confrontation with an offer wiped all those doubts from my mind.  Devoid of all fact and reason, you only have this awareness of what you are FEELING.  You become aware of this feeling in your gut and my gut was wrenching, violently twisting and sinking to the ground.

The takeaway? 

My advice would be to forget the pro’s and con’s list.  Forget the articles and research.  Go and speak to an expert, a lawyer, a registered advisory group and confront yourself with the possibility of choosing an alternative.  Test the waters.  Become aware of your feelings during the process.  You will very quickly know if you are open to alternatives or not.

To the brave women out there who have chosen alternatives, I salute your courage.  You followed your dream and that in itself is amazing.  You overcame fear and you realized a dream.

To all the women out there who did not choose any of the alternatives (like me), I now know how it feels to reach the end of the road, to start praying for miracles and to start changing the dream.  Coming to terms with loss is never easy and my prayers are with women who had to face this loss, brought about by infertility.

With love

Zelmia

 

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The Silent Struggle

At a baby shower a few weeks ago, my cousin asked me why I never told her about my struggles with IVF.

So why didn’t I?  Why aren’t you telling everybody?

When someone asks me when the next one is coming, I could be indifferent and say it’s none of your business or tell them it’s not a big deal or say I don’t really know if I want more children, but all of those are lies.

So why did I never tell everyone?  Because it’s humiliating!!!!

But I got so tired of making up excuses about why we don’t have children and then, after 4 years, I got tired of making up excuses about why we don’t have 2 children.  (Keep in mind, people around me have 3 children under the age of 5, sometimes even under the age of 3.)

Even though I dreaded the questions and even though the excuses made me tired, I still automatically go for the excuses whenever I get the questions.  I’m the type of person that has to give an answer.  I cannot just let a question hang.  It’s simply not done.  You would think that people would stop asking after 4 years, but they don’t.  The questions keep on coming.

When my cousin asked me why I never told her, I honestly sat back and seriously thought about the possible reasons for the silent struggle.

No Pity Please!

I’m afraid of sympathy.  Sympathy being feelings of pity and sorrow for someone’s misfortune.  I don’t want pity.  I don’t want to see sadness.  I don’t have misfortune.  I have a wonderful husband (superhuman wonderful), I have a beautiful house, a promising career, loving family and wonderful friends.  To top it all off, the greatest of all, God blessed us with a beautiful little girl, the love of my life.  Yes, I cannot have more children, but please focus on all my other blessings.  Instead of asking me about more children, tell me how wonderful my husband is or how beautiful my daughter is or how great I look in that dress.  Focus on something else!  Maybe you just found out and the news is shocking, but please move on quickly, I’m trying to move on too.

Have I Lost?

I’m afraid of losing.  Yes, you might not think it’s a competition, but have you ever been surrounded by people that have 3 children under the age of 5, people with twins (naturally, I might add), people planning to get pregnant and then finding out they already are, people who fall pregnant and didn’t even want to (what the heck is up with that) and you are trying, but you can’t?  If you have been in a similar situation, you will understand that the “I am a loser” feeling just gets stuck in your head.

Let’s just take a break here and look at a specific personality trait.  I’ve always wanted to be in the top 3 or at least the top 5, but never last. I never participated in anything if I knew I would be last.  There is a huge problem with this because it takes time to learn a new skill and it takes practice to perfect it.  You have to get into a swimming pool before you can learn how to swim.  You have to participate to learn the skill and to perfect it.  You might take longer to learn, you might have to practice longer to end up as the winner, but the important thing is… You are missing out on a cool swimming pool on a very hot day! You are missing out on the experience!

I didn’t want to participate in a conversation where I am the loser, so I always gave the quick answer of “we don’t really want more children” .  That doesn’t change the fact that I lost.  I don’t have 3 children.  I have 1 child, after 8 years, 3 miscarriages and 12 IVF’s.  I am 35 years old, my husband is almost 40 years old, my window of opportunity is slamming shut in my face.  In this scenario there is sweetness and bitterness, gratitude and sadness.  Please focus on the sweet stuff!  Don’t focus our conversations on my fertility treatments or other people’s success stories or who the best fertility doctor is.  Focus on what I have and let’s practice gratitude!  Please don’t make me feel like a loser!

Coping with Loss

What makes it extremely difficult is that I lost something I never had.  I don’t know how to cope with that loss, but here is what I’m trying:

  • I had to start shifting my focus.  It was extremely difficult (still is difficult), but I had to face the fact that I’m losing against my own standards. It’s not going to help anybody if I look to other people to set the standard.  My failure is not your success.  Shift the goalpost, change your dream!  Shift your focus!
  • Yes, you need to express your grief, but (big but) at some point you have to stop talking about it.  Your mouth affects your mind and where your mind goes, you will follow.  Stop talking about it for a while (to your husband, to your doctor, to yourself) and see what happens…
  • Take care of yourself!  Eat healthy and exercise.  Simple.  Just do it.  Please, just get up and start moving.  20 minutes every day.
  • I know this is difficult, but distance yourself from people that trigger your grief.  I decide which baby showers to attend, I say “no, I don’t want to hold your baby right now”, I don’t visit new mommies in hospital anymore.  You are allowed to protect yourself.  You are allowed to say no.
  • Practice gratitude.  Learn to say thank you for the small things.  If you love your scatter cushions, enjoy it and say thank you for being able to buy scatter cushions.  If you love your view from your kitchen window, drink your tea while enjoying the view and say thank you for your eyesight.  Truly, it’s all about the small things.
  • Surround yourself with like-minded people.  Here’s the problem with that piece of advice, women don’t tend to tell you about their struggle with fertility.  Yes, there are virtual fertility groups, but it’s not the same as someone making you a hot cup of tea, while you go through a ton of tissues.  So, although it’s difficult, if you tell people about your struggle with fertility, you might find the support group you’ve always wanted.  I know it’s difficult, but be vulnerable and ask people to honor that as courage.

I say enough with the excuses, enough of hiding away, enough of being scared of all the questions.  I’m telling everyone about my struggle.  In the process of telling everyone, I have found like-minded people and they always offer me a hot cup of tea, hope for the future and a shoulder to cry on.  That is really all I need, comfort and love.

 

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Foodie Fridays: The monstrous 21km!

Honestly, I’m still stuck at 10km runs!  Mostly, I’m doing 5km runs in the week and 1 longer run over the weekends (check out my post about exercise and infertility here).  I’ve been thinking about going longer, but obviously my first question is what to eat before and what to eat after.  Heidi just did a half marathon and she’s sharing her tips for the day and even giving us some healthy snack ideas, pre- and post-run!  Enjoy!

Half a marathon – that’s 21.1 km or 13.1 miles.  That’s quite far…  When you haven’t done one, you cannot quite comprehend the distance.  When you’ve done one, you can’t actually believe that you’ve just run that distance… When you’ve done maybe 2 or 3, you think you’re a seasoned half-marathoner…

So, there I was, recently, all ready for my half marathon, feeling just a tad nervous, but thinking ‘Hey, I’ve done this before, no biggie, plus I’ve been training really hard, etc, etc’…

Welllllllll, it turns out that if you’re not putting in the mileage (and I don’t mean running 3x a week for 8-10 km a pop) you’re in for a bit of a surprise.  I was doing really well up until 8 km {the distance of my normal training runs} and then I got tired.  And the hills became more difficult.  And it was hot.  And I was running by myself.

Ding-ding-ding, game over!

I won’t bore you with all my thoughts during the next 13 km, but let me just tell you, it wasn’t all very positive.  It’s amazing how your mind and attitude influences your game {whether it’s running, cycling, gym, whatever…} and I’m afraid it’s very difficult to bring yourself back after that first defeating thought.

Heidi’s 8 Top Tips for bringing your A-Game

  1. Be Prepared
    It doesn’t matter how psyched-up you are, if you haven’t done the training, you’re most probably going to fail. {Fail to plan; plan to fail}
  2. Start the Day on a Positive
    Don’t rush – allow yourself enough time for a coffee, breakfast and the drive there. Don’t have PMS-induced arguments…
  3. Eat (My speciality)
    You cannot do an endurance sport on an empty stomach. Don’t overeat though and be cautious of eating the wrong thing…

    • Choose something that is nutrient-dense and won’t leave you feeling too full and heavy.
    • Choose something that will keep you going for a while, seeing as you’ll probably be out there for a good 2 hours, burning off heaps of calories.
    • A good time to eat is an hour or so before your event
    • Grab a ‘top-up’ energy snack 15-30 minutes before. I absolutely cannot state the importance of this enough! Even though your body is now running on ‘diesel’ {fat instead of carbs}, you still need to nourish before an event. And especially for us women, you don’t want to find yourself out there, hungry and then turning to all the wrong sugary snacks along the way.
  4. Think Happy Thoughts
    Be positive and uplift yourself, but be careful of going into a daydream-state {stay away from La-La-Land…} Do NOT let that first negative thought even rear its ugly head!!!
  5. Have a Buddy
    It’s a good idea to run with someone with the same {or slightly faster} pace as you. You encourage and motivate each other.  It creates accountability, neither one wants to give up and fail the other one.  Also, training with a buddy is very helpful and important, even if you’re just part of a running club, motivating and pushing each other – that is worth so much.  Pace each other and yourself – run consistently.
  6. Take in the Scenery.  Just enjoy your surroundings.  Witness and enjoy the peace that running in nature brings.
  7. Be Aware
    Be aware of your stride – focus on running correctly (strengthen core, like previously discussed on this blog) and run optimally. Take note of other runners, perhaps something about them will motivate and/or inspire you.  And obviously watch your step too – you wouldn’t want to trip and fall
  8. Push Yourself
    This is the most important – even with all the training in the world, you still need to push yourself mentally and physically. If you’ve done all the other steps properly, believe me, it’s much easier to push yourself, and vice versa…  It is also important to know when to push harder and when to keep back a bit – it’s all in the pace

Snack Ideas

  • A banana {yes, it’s a fruit high in sugar and best avoided on a regular basis, but before a long run, it provides a great energy jolt and keeps you full}
  • Homemade granola bar or bowl of granola – loaded with calorie-dense seeds and nuts, this will provide a good, solid base and also keep you full. Add in coconut oil to make it even more filling, remember, organic coconut oil is a great source of Medium-Chain Triglycerides {MCT} which is basically fat that is very easily digestible and doesn’t need to be broken down to be used for energy. It’s instant energy.  Try my energy-boosting granola, it can even be made into bars, just add more coconut oil and press into a plastic container. Set in the fridge, then cut into bars.
  • Nutrition after your run is just as important, as running long distances can really take it out of you. Make sure to include lots of protein and green leafy veg, as well as slow-release low carb vegetable options such as sweet potato.  Try this incredible recipe!

So, what are you waiting for… Get moving!

Heidi Visser

 

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Lighter Side

Exercise has helped me to focus my mind, to cope with depression and to appreciate the body I’ve been given.  Exercise has helped me so much that I’ve decided to launch a new series called “the lighter side…”!  Our very first writer is Marika van der Merwe.  She trained with Trifocus Pilates and also started working for them; this is where I met pilates and fell in love.  I hope you enjoy this article with me and if you have any questions, drop us a comment below…

Pilates

Change happens through movement and movement heals.

Joseph Pilates

With celebrities dictating almost all the media we consume on a daily basis, something like Pilates gets thrown onto centre stage, adored for a while and then quite quickly forgotten. But is it more than just a fashion trend? And what is Pilates? Is it just a form of yoga? And is it just for girls?

Intro to Pilates

In the 1920’s Joseph Pilates developed a system of physical fitness exercises called contrology. He was sickly as a child, but his health improved to the extent that he posed as an anatomical model by the age of 14. His life course was also rooted in his parents’ views, with a father that was a prize winning gymnast and a mother that firmly believed in the body’s ability to heal itself; he dedicated his life to health and fitness. He firmly believed that mental and physical health was inter-related. He started with gymnastics and bodybuilding, later adding boxing and circus-performing to his skills, as well as becoming a self defence trainer. During World War 1 he was interned and started to teach wrestling and self-defence. It was here that he started refining “contrology”. His method of training was further developed after he got married and moved to New York. This method is today called Pilates.

Principles of Pilates

The mind, when housed within a healthful body, possesses a glorious sense of power.

 Joseph Pilates

Joseph and his wife trained a couple of students in this method, these students developed their own versions and from their (the students) work the 6 principles of Pilates were determined.

  1. Breathing
  2. Centre
  3. Control
  4. Precision
  5. Flow
  6. Concentration

Breathing

Joseph emphasised using full breaths while training. Proper breathing forms the basis of all exercises and also form integral part of every exercise.  Keep in mind that all principles work together.

Centre

This principle refers to the physical centre of the body (between the lower ribs and the inner thighs, commonly referred to as the “core”). When proper breathing is maintained throughout an exercise, the muscles in the core will be engaged and the exercise will be successful. Interesting to note is that the core is so much more than just abdominal muscles!

Control

Every movement in Pilates is controlled. No movement is done in a haphazard free manner. Something like momentum has no place in these exercises. How an exercise it done is even more important than the exercise itself.

Precision

This goes hand in hand with control, but defines the manner in which Pilates is to be thought through while doing the exercises. This implies that there is a correct way of doing pilates and that it is a skill to be honed and practised. Awareness of every move is sustained throughout, focussing on placement, alignment and trajectory to name a few. As you grow stronger your precision will improve, leaving the area for growth unlimited. There will always be another challenge in pilates, no matter how strong you become.

Flow

With precision and control comes a flow of movement. This reminds me of trapeze artists in a circus. The control and precision of every exercise will ensure a gracious flow of movement that will strengthen the body accordingly.

Concentration

As can be seen from the above list, Pilates is as much about training your mind as it is about training your body. To properly execute a Pilates exercise will take the utmost concentration. To apply the five principles outlined above during every repetition of every exercise is a challenge in itself requiring a lot of concentration!

Start Moving!

Contrology is designed to give you suppleness, natural grace, and skill that will be unmistakably reflected in the way you walk, in the way you play, and in the way you work. Joseph Pilates

This is a really short description of Pilates, which we will explore further in weeks to come. Pilates is a strength training exercise that will help you to understand the way your body works as well as teach you proper body awareness. Unlike any other exercise regime it will support any and all forms of exercise.

Everyone is the architect of their own happiness.

Joseph Pilates

Marika van der Merwe

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Tabletop Tuesday: Introduction to Oestrogen

We have learnt before that all hormones are chemical messengers. Hormone balance is essential to nearly all functions in the human body. When everything is in balance you feel great, look good, have sustainable energy, a healthy appetite and a healthy sex drive. On the other hand, when they are not in balance you feed the opposite and might struggle with development of other bodily changes like uterine fibroid tumours, fibrocystic breasts or hormone positive cancers.  Let’s take a look at oestrogen…

Oestrogen dominance

Oestrogen dominance is a common hormone imbalance among both women and men. It occurs when the ratio of oestrogen to progesterone sways too much to one way. Often one could recognize excess oestrogen in relation to low levels of progesterone.

The mighty oestrogen

There are three forms of oestrogen: estradiol, estrone and estriol. Estradiol is the most potent form and estriol the least. The primary role of oestrogen is to maintain the growth and function of the uterus so that the sex organs can become adult sized, and to prepare the uterine lining to receive a fertilized egg. In both men and women, it affects skeletal growth, skin, fat and protein deposition.

Maintaining a healthy balance of oestrogens can be difficult as there is more and more factors today that can throw off oestrogen balance, including exposure to xeno-oestrogens, phytoestrogens and poor oestrogen metabolism.

The humble progesterone

Progesterone is the building block for many other major hormones including corticosteroids, which are essential for stress response, electrolyte balance, blood pressure and survival. Cortisol, DHEA, testosterone and oestrogen are all made from progesterone. Progesterone is a primary hormone needed for fertility and pregnancy. It is essential to the survival of the fertilized egg, the embryo and the foetus.  A decline in progesterone levels can result in a miscarriage.  In its natural form, progesterone is considered a very safe hormone. However, the synthetic form, progestin, can have greater health risks.

Symptoms of hormone imbalances

Symptoms of an imbalance of oestrogen in relation to progesterone include premenstrual breast tenderness, mood swings, fluid retention, weight gain, headaches, menstrual cramps, thyroid dysfunction, adrenal gland fatigue, heavy periods with clotting, joint and muscle pain, decreased libido, insomnia and restless sleep, irregular cycles, anxiety, endometriosis, fibrocystic breast, polycystic ovary syndrome and breast tumours.

What in your lifestyle can cause this hormonal imbalance?

A low-fibre diet can lead to higher oestrogen levels in the bloodstream. How so? Excess oestrogen is excreted in the bowel. Being constipated means that there is not adequate clearance of excess oestrogen and possible reabsorption. Therefore, a good quality diet with adequate fibre intake is protective of oestrogen related cancers.

If the body is overloaded with synthetic ingredients, chemicals, elements in food, environmental toxins and other factors, it can slow down our detoxification capabilities. A high burden on the cofactors and enzymes, responsible for these detoxification processes, coupled with a nutrient poor diet, will lead to elevated oestrogen. Improvements in the diet with green leafy vegetables and the ‘cabbage family’ (cruciferous vegetables) can improve the detoxification processes as well as sulfarophane supplements, which is obtained from cruciferous vegetables.

We live in an estrogenic or feminizing environment. Xeno-estrogens, such as PCBs, phthalates, pesticides and DDT, cause estrogenic effects. Although banned in 1972, DDT, like its breakdown product DDE, is a xenoestrogen, which is still present in the environment. Chlorine and hormone residues in meats and dairy products also can have estrogenic effects. In men, the estrogenic environment may result in declining quality of sperm or fertility rates. In women, it may lead to an epidemic of female diseases, all traceable to excess estrogen/deficient progesterone. It is critical to incorporate a pure, clean diet consisting of organic foods whenever possible in an effort to decrease exposure to harmful xenoestrogens

How to reset the balance

  • Increase your dietary fibre
  • Dietary supplements with lecithin or choline and sulfur-containing L-taurine and L-methionine amino acids can improve bile flow
  • Consider an inositol supplement
  • Take part in physical activity to get the lymph drainage and blood flow going, so GET MOVING!

 

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Foodie Friday: Coconut to the Rescue

I posted our concerns about dairy and today Heidi is giving us an alternative…  Take a look and let us know what you think?  Are you willing to try?

Let’s briefly continue our chat about dairy and then I’d like to introduce an alternative…  Have you given dairy up yet? Or tried to consume less dairy?  Do you feel any differences?

To recap from last week, diary is a great low carb fat source and makes cooking and prepping a whole lot easier and leaves you with a variety to choose from.  However, dairy doesn’t play nicely with everyone and particularly if you battle with PCOS or other fertility issues.  Dairy could also have an effect on weight loss (although published articles in peer reviewed journals are contradictory).

But how easy is it to actually give up dairy?  I’d like to introduce a major player in the LCHF lifestyle – and that is coconut.

Introducing Coconut

Coconut can be used in many forms and it’s an excellent source of healthy fat. In fact, coconut fat is 92% saturated fat and contains very little inflammatory Omega 6, which is what you want!

  • Milk:  Coconut milk and cream can be used as a substitute for dairy in a lot of recipes and even in your coffee!! It’s great in desserts too!
  • Oil:  Coconut oil is an excellent oil to use in cooking, as it is very stable at a high heat and will retain its structure and health benefits.  Most other oils break down into harmful components when exposed to very high heat.
  • Meat:  Coconut meat – dried or fresh – makes for a great snack and is mostly just fat and fibre.
  • Flour:  Coconut flour is a great baking substitute and can be used in many different ways.  {See previous Foodie Fridays post on baking substitutes}

Coconut Benefits

Coconut oil is high in Medium-Chain Triglycerides {MCT} which is basically fat that is very easily digestible and doesn’t need to be broken down to be used for energy. It’s instant energy.  It also aids in weight-loss by increasing your metabolic rate – yes please!  People with gallbladder problems can easily digest coconut oil too, because of these MCT’s.  Coconut oil is also shown to enhance thyroid function. This in turn stimulates the conversion of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol into the anti-aging hormones pregneonolone, progesterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). These valuable hormones not only aid in weight management, but also in preventing heart disease, senility, and other degenerative diseases. It is believed that coconut oil helps convert thyroid hormone T3 to T4, a big bonus for the thousands of people who have sluggish thyroid function that causes weight gain and inhibits weight loss.  Coconut fat is very high in antioxidants and even though it doesn’t contain any micronutrients, it does aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & K.

Read your labels!

Beware though, that as with anything, not all coconut products are what they claim to be!  Read your labels.  Watch out for additives and stabilizers in tins of coconut milk and coconut cream – you want the purest form and please stay away from the ‘low fat’ varieties – because heaven knows, why would you go that route?!  When buying dried coconut, make sure it’s not sweetened. It should just be pure dried coconut.

Coconut oil…  There are many different varieties and brands out there and it’s really important to know the differences:

  • Organic Virgin Coconut Oil is your best bet and is very rich in antioxidants, but has a strong coconut taste.
  • Refined coconut oil has been processed to remove the coconut taste and doesn’t contain any antioxidants. It’s still a great cooking oil and stable at a high heat, it just doesn’t give you the added antioxidants…

I use both, because some food just doesn’t go well with a coconut taste.  Scrambled eggs for example…

Downside

So – yes, coconut is great but there are also a few downsides:

  • Additives in coconut milk: if you’re reacting to coconut milk with guar gum or carageenan in it, it might not be the coconut at all.
  • Coconut allergy. It’s always possible to be allergic to the stuff. Coconut isn’t a “nut” so many people with nut allergies can actually eat it just fine. But some people also have a particular allergy to coconut specifically.
  • Fat causing digestive problems. Yes, the same fats that have so many health benefits can have drawbacks too. Coconut oil in particular can cause diarrhoea if you suddenly start putting back a lot of it when you hadn’t been eating much before. If this is you, it often helps to start slowly and gradually work up to a higher consumption level.
  • Salicylates. Coconut is rich in salicylates, and some people react to them. Compared to cosmetics and medications, food provides a relatively small dose of salicylate exposure, but for people who are very sensitive, it might be enough to trigger symptoms.

I’ll end off with my recipe for a great morning cuppa – Bulletproof Coffee!  It will keep you full and provide a good dose of healthy fats to start off your day – get the recipe here… And remember, you can leave out the cream to make it dairy-free, and blitz it up with a stick blender – pure magic!

Bulletproof Coffee

Heidi Visser

 

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Tabletop Tuesday: Thyroid Nutrition

As we have learned by now, infertility has a multitude of causative factors. However, any menstrual irregularities or ovulation difficulties, warrants a thyroid test. You might just find that your infertility is linked to an underactive or overactive thyroid.

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid is a small gland found at the base of the neck just below the voice box and above the collarbone. It produces two main hormones: T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). These hormones control your metabolism, your heart rate, blood calcium levels, energy production, fat metabolism, oxygen utilization and your serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain. Thyroid Releasing Hormone (TRH) is released from the hypothalamus, which in return stimulates the pituary gland to release Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in response to a lowered T3 or T4 level. Consequently, more of these hormones (T4 and T3) are made. If there is an abnormality in the thyroid it could lead to menstrual irregularities, loss of ovulation or it could lead to a shortened luteal phase which can increase your chances of miscarriages.

What is an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)?

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland is not producing enough of the T3 or T4 hormones. Therefore, the TSH levels would be high. You might experience symptoms here like stubborn weight problems, easy weight gain, sluggish feeling, depression, constipation, aching joints and muscles and an inability to control your body temperature, typically feeling cold. However, some individuals do not experience any symptoms.  Treatment would include thyroid replacement therapy in the form of oral synthetic T4.

What is an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)?

In this condition, the thyroid gland is producing too much hormone, which typically speeds up your metabolism. Consequently, your TSH levels will drop. You might experience unintentional weight loss, trouble maintaining weight, trouble sleeping, mood swings, nervousness, irritability, rapid and irregular heartbeat and feeling hot. Treatment would include anti-thyroid medication or radioactive iodine, which destroys part of your thyroid gland.

Getting your thyroid checked

Even without any symptoms of either over-or underactive thyroid function, it is a simple, inexpensive test to do. Normal levels are vital for successful pregnancies since problems with your thyroid can lead to low birth weight babies or cause pre-term labour. In the worst possible outcome, it could lead to a miscarriage.

Healthy Thyroid Function

Healthy thyroid function depends on the following:

  • Exposure to environmental toxins such as electromagnetic radiation, chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals e.g. mercury
  • Genetic susceptibility
  • High levels of stress
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Infections
  • Other hormone imbalances, such as high prolactin levels or estrogen dominance

How does hypothyroidism affect fertility?

  • Anovulatory cycles – not releasing an egg (or ovulating)
  • Luteal Phase Problems –  With a short second half of the menstrual cycle a fertilized egg can’t implant securely and ends up leaving the body at the same time that menstruation would occur (very early miscarriage) & is often mistaken as a regular period.
  • High Prolactin Levels – due to elevated levels of Thyroid Releasing Hormone (TRH) and low levels of Thyroxine (T4) resulting in irregular ovulation or no ovulation.
  • Other Hormonal Imbalances – reduced sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), oestrogen dominance, progesterone deficiency, all of which interfere with proper reproductive hormone balance.

What food should I eat to improve my thyroid health?

Goitrogenic foods include raw cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, spinach and kale. Someone without a thyroid condition however can eat them as they please.  A whole food diet approach is the best to ensure you get enough nutrients from foods such as zinc, carotenoids or vitamin A, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin E and then decent sun exposure without burning.

Most animal products (meat, fish, poultry, eggs) contain good sources of zinc and selenium as do seeds and nuts. Vitamin C is found in most vegetables such as bell peppers, green leafy vegetables and fruits such as guava or citrus. Vitamin E is found in nuts and seeds, olive oil, and avocado. The next infographic will help you understand the thyroid gland a little better!

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Foodie Friday: Dare to leave Dairy?

Like I’ve mentioned before… I have been reading about dairy and fertility quite a lot in the past few months and I found so many contradicting articles that I decided to start focusing on this for the next few weeks.  In our Foodie goes Primal series, Heidi has also mentioned dairy before, especially in the different forms of diets we follow.  So without any further ado, let’s start our focus on diary with a note from Heidi!

Dairy is a great source of good fat when following a low carb ‘diet’, HOWEVER, dairy consumption has different effects on different people and it also depends on your form and intensity of low carb living.   Allow me to explain:

  1. If you’re mostly worried about your carb intake and following a very strict keto or LCHF diet, full fat dairy is a good source of fat and it really makes food choices and cooking a whole lot easier!
  2. If you’re leaning towards a more Paleo or clean eating approach, then dairy really isn’t a great option.

Remember, one of the main differences between Paleo and LCHF/Banting is the use of dairy.  If you do have dairy, I would recommend the following:

  • DO: If you have dairy, only have it on occasion
  • DO:  Definitely stick to high fat, mature cheeses
  • DO: Remember to read your labels too – all dairy is not created equal!
  • DON’T:  Milk, even full cream, has a lot more sugar (lactose) than cream (which, like butter, is more of a fat than a dairy).
  • DO:  Rather opt for cream in coffee instead of milk.
  • DON’T:  Or at least try to avoid yoghurt, as that can also have quite a high lactose content.
  • DO: Go for double cream Greek-style yoghurt.

In our home, I really enjoy my cheese, and tend to stick to full fat, mature cheese. I rarely use milk, only in tea sometimes, and hardly have any yoghurt. This works for me, but each person is different.

Let’s do an experiment:  go without dairy for a week or two and see how you feel.

Is there a difference?  I don’t believe we were really meant to consume dairy after all…  If you dare to try the experiment, remember to give me your thoughts!  As always, leave me a comment below!

Heidi

 

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