Thursday, 5 December 2013

Yoga Body

So, I'm feeling in a pretty yogic mood lately. I love the sense of peace, physically, mentally and spiritually, that comes from pushing yourself on a really good yoga practice/workout. In fact, I've been toying with the idea of becoming a yoga teacher - one of the few thought sustaining me through my dire customer service x-mas job (when I was at uni, I always wanted to be like the yoga teacher in the classes I went to - not the academic I was training to be; I wanted to breeze into the room, confident, healthy and strong, not shut up in my room writing essays!). I've been practicing my beloved Bodywisom: Flow Yoga - Strength and Flexibility, a fabulous intermediate level practice testing your ability and targeting key areas of your body.

Monica Gonzalo, the instructor, is definitely a role model of mine. She has a fabulous 'yoga figure': that is, a body strong and defined by a vigorous yoga practice and a healthy diet, rather than say, a Tracey Anderson method figure, that aims to be as teeny tiny as possible, or a bodyforlife six meals of pure protein a day figure. Contemporary yoga makes you strong, healthy and beautiful, while taking away Hollywood influenced pressures to conform to one body type, one form of perfection.

Again, Kathryn Budig (who does a nice yoga workout routine) demonstrates 'yoga body':

The girl is all muscle and body 'shape'. On the other hand, contemporary yoga guru Tara Stiles is straight up and down, long and lean... because that's naturally the way her figure is! It's simply emphasised through exercise.

Note: no fake breasts, hair, eyelashes, or anything else; no fretting over 'thigh gaps', these women are the best versions of themselves: healthy as can be. It's about thoughtful eating and thoughtful movement. Yoga, as a form of exercise, is about acceptance. Accepting your body shape, while pushing yourself on a journey to expand your strength, flexibility and connection between mind, body and environment. As Mandy Ingber says, your body is already perfect. Yoga as exercise recognises and builds upon that.

Sounds pretty good to me.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

A Vision of Beauty

I recently came across this quote by the lovely Dita von Teese:

"I love artificial, man - made beauty. I like the idea of being whoever you want to be, not just saying -this is what I've got -this is what I've been living with"

And I couldn't agree more. I'm all for self acceptance, for loving what you've got. Of course, you must, you absolutely have to do this. But that's something different altogether to creating beauty. I don't mean forcing your body to (though the chances are it won't) fit the 'perfect' type of beauty we're told we have to conform to. That's just bullshit. And who wants that anyway?

Let me ask you: what sings to your soul? What insults it? What do you want to be? What expresses who you are? How do you want to look? How do you look, and how can you make the best of yourself?

Have a vision of what you want to be (a realistic one, that you can achieve and be proud of. The chances are you'll never look like Angelina Jolie, and why would you want to? That's not you), and create it. You're body is your most precious piece of art. Create your version of beauty. YOU. No one else. 

Just don't forget to love and accept your own natural beauty, before creating your own man made version. 

Look at the transformation of Dita von Teese: 

She looks gorgeous in both pictures, but she wasn't expressing who she is in the first one. 

Maybe you're more of a Mandy Ingber. Yogic, peaceful, make-up free, beautiful... 

You can create this too, by being healthy, exercising, and (while, of course, I don't know her personally), she gives off this vibe of happiness and peace. It may not be as 'man-made' as Dita professes, particularly if your idea of beauty is not getting your breasts enhanced, your hair dyed, elaborate make-up, training your waist into a tiny corset... but, if you are the opposite and you're not happy with who you are and what you've got, then guess what: you don't have to live with it. You can learn to love yourself, and, in the process, take steps to create something new.

Your body is your canvas. And it is absolutely perfect the way it is. But what you put in to it, what you put on it, how you move expresses who you are.

So, what do you want? 

We only get one body and one life. Have fun with it. Live in a way that honors your being. 

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Beach Babe

Can I just say that I love exercise.

I love, love, LOVE exercise. (Though, yes, I say this post-workout. I still have to make myself do it, but I'm grateful when I do).

I walk everywhere, I go running (there is nothing more beautiful - or warming- than running along an expanse of sandy beach in the middle of winter), and I practice yoga. But I also know the importance of including more toning exercises into my regime. To get my fix of these, I usually do exercise DVDs. When I was living in London, I went to some fantastic classes, but here, in this remote and sandy little town, exercise classes are usually expensive and hard to get to. So, if you're in my position, then exercise DVDs can be your new best friend...

(N.B: these are also a fantastic investment: the price of one class, and exercise from the heart of the fitness movement in California. All this, in your own home, whenever you feel like moving).

Mandy Ingber, Jennifer Aniston's trainer, is a goddess. Her beautiful, sculpting, mellow yoga workout DVD, Yogalosophy, is a necessity of mine. I've been using it for over a year, and I'm still not tired of it (but have forced myself to shake my routine up). She gets you in top shape against the stunning back drop of the ocean in sunny L.A., all the while reassuring you that you are already perfect. How can you not love this DVD? It's about getting you into the best shape your amazing self can be, not conforming to a rigid standard that we all to often believe we must make our bodies fit, in order to be beautiful. No, no, no; this is a DVD of self-love. It's a peaceful workout, but oh boy, will it make you ache the next day.

I've recently fallen in love with Karena and Katrina's Beach Babe DVD. If you're looking for an exercise DVD that gives you a fantastic toning workout (with many different workout options) with a chilled yet upbeat soundtrack, then this is the DVD for you. It incorporates light weights, yoga moves, and other toning body weight exercises. The arms workout is a killer.

The wonderful Tone It Up! Website:

Oh, and I want Katrina's hair!

Next post: when highlights go wrong....

(Oh, wait, this already happened. I took this picture to a hairdresser last summer, and asked for 'natural, sun-kissed hair'. I came out with bleach blonde streaks in my dark brown hair. It was not a good look. Rest assured I dyed over them in a dark brown. They then turned green...if only I had taken pictures!)

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Healthy on a budget!

This post by Kimberly Snyder is fantastic for anyone trying to be healthy but who can't afford to shop exclusively (oh god, I wish!) at Whole Foods or Planet Organic:

How to eat healthy on a budget.

Check out the clean list vs. the dirty dozen to selectively decide on what to buy organic and cut your pesticide consumption by up to 80 %.

Thanks, Kimberly!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Food, Magical Realism and Mexico: Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquevial

I've just finished reading Like Water for Chocolate, the first novel by Laura Esquevial. Set in early 20th century Mexico, this novel explores the mystical link between cooking and passion.

Denied her true love, Tita, the protagonist, experiences torrid emotions while cooking for her (dysfunctional) family, sparking either fits of depression or wild orgies in those who consume her exquisite meals. Daily life and the extraordinary, culture, family, love and food all intertwine in this surreal novel.

Each chapter opens with a recipe. While as a health lover I'm not inspired to suddenly produce meals using so much meat or heavy cream, the traditional Mexican and pre-Hispanic recipes have me enthralled.

Alchemy that is not to be missed: the perfect way to make hot chocolate, simply using fresh cocoa beans and freshly boiling water...

Beautiful, intriguing, delicious...

Friday, 26 April 2013

Cold Climate Food: The Nordic Diet

As much as I adore tropical treats, in the middle of winter they just don't always feel right. It's so easy to forget the wealth of local specialties that come from you're own cold climate. These are usually hearty, healthy and perfect to get you through a biting winter's (or summer's, if you live in England...) day.

When I first discovered the Slow Food movement, I was thrilled: it make so much sense, particularly as an anthropology student with a passion for food, and most importantly, it all sounded just so... delicious. But, there was one problem: I had been reading about the Italian Slow Food movement, and reading all about the mouth watering regional Italian food specialties. For a while after writing that essay, I certainly ate a lot of Italian food...

Lately, however, I've become very interested in cold climate foods that are beautiful, delicious and healthy. To my surprise (aren't healthy foods usually expensive and tantalisingly exotic, most likely from the heart of a tropical rain forest? What's so special about waxy new potatoes, blue-green kale, fresh grilled fish...) I loved the foods I read about, and eating them in winter felt so right. Even better: according to research, these foods are just as healthy, but minus the marketing.

Cold climate food doesn't have to mean gorging yourself on pies and cheese and chips. Trina Hahnemann (Denmark's Nigella, but healthy!) has brought out The Nordic Diet book; a guide on how to eat wholesome, delicious foods in our less than forgiving northern climate.

Hahnemann claims that the Scandinavian diet should be the diet model for Northern Climates as opposed to the standard model we're told to follow: the Mediterranean diet (which, by the way, studies were based on war-time Med, when people were frugal; the contemporary Med diet, with its abundance of olive oil, meat etc. is very different, and without the same claim to health). Hahnemann concisely sums this up:  "I think that people have lost their food culture and forgotten about how foods suited to northern climates can be healthy"


The diet principles are pretty basic, pretty sound, and make perfect sense for hearty yet light food. Mountains of our northern, hardy vegetables, wholegrain cereals such as spelt and rye, some cold water fish and not too much meat. Oh - and especially - keep moving! (Trust me on this, because it will keep you warm, too).

The health benefits of the Scandinavian diet are extensive. Not only do Scandinavian countries have some of the longest living populations. Here are a few links with some great information on the health benefits of eating a wholesome, cold climate diet: 

NordForsk on composing a 'Nordic diet' (Note that they recommend meat should be eaten in moderation. During the war, many Northern countries went through periods where they did not have access to meat, and so had to eat a largely vegetarian diet; as a result, rates of disease dropped dramatically in this period)
Danish online pamphlet with manifesto and guidelines. More of the same, but nicely laid out. 

So let's start living Scandi style. 

Free yoga

I adore yoga and I adore nature, so I was thrilled to discover the two coming together in the weekly free yoga classes, filmed against the stunning mountainous backdrop of the Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming.

These classes were a god send when I was living in a tiny flat on a busy main road in the city; they were the perfect thing to de-stress, move, and soak up the natural beauty when I was cramped, stressed, and surrounding by pollution and high-rise buildings. A yoga oasis.


Thursday, 28 March 2013

Inspiration: Thomasina Miers

So, here's a post dedicated to one of my favorite chefs and food writers... Thomasina Miers.

Stylish, healthy, world traveler and creator of beautiful recipes Thomasina Miers is certainly an inspirational figure, and the more I read up on her and her food philosophy, the more I admire her for it.

From a young age, Thomasina Miers discovered and cultivated a love of cooking, enhanced later by her travels in Mexico, where she learned to cook with the incredible ingredients bio-diverse Mexico is famous for. You tube has her Mexican Food Made Simple series available online, providing a delicious and fascinating insight into Mexican cuisine, with her own mouth-watering take on popular Mexican recipes - I can't wait to try them! Watch here: Mexican Food Made Simple: Episode One.

Thomasina proves you can be stylish, healthy and slim while passionate about cooking, flavours and eating 'real food'; the chef declares herself that she shuns items such as low-fat dairy products. Her own grandmother, a successful model, always had a dollop of cream in her morning coffee and would never dream of eating her new potatoes with out mint and butter.

With her stylish Texan model grandmother on one side, a South African grandmother who believed in magic and ghosts on the other, and a brief stint living in Venezuela as a child, it's no wonder Thomasina Miers is the chef-explorer she is today. While globally inspired, her food philosophy includes truly understanding where food comes from, and using locally sourced ingredients where possible. She also stresses the importance of cookery education in school; considering how little most people seem to know about cooking and nutrition today, this is clearly a pressing issue. Food is one of the most essential components of our lives, nourishing us, forming every cell of our bodies, providing us with a certain pleasure each day... and yet, sadly, so many people today lack knowledge or passion for real (i.e. not plastic, factory spurned) food.

So, let's get out into the world and explore, discover and most importantly, eat.


Monday, 18 March 2013

Inspiration: Turkey

Maybe it's the fact that those first few rays of sunshine of the year are reminding me of warmer, more vibrant mediterranean climes, or perhaps it's the fact that I used to live in the Turkish district of London, but lately, I'm feeling inspired by (traditional) Turkish-style decor.

I've been searching for some beautiful bowls and plates for food photography, and came across images of these, which I absolutely adore and would love to get my hands on:

When I next go on my travels, I will certainly look for some beautiful ceramics so I can bring you some pictures of gorgeous, healthy world food.

Food for Life

Today, I thought I'd post about my philosophy for health. I can honestly say, without a doubt, that this book is my health bible:

I 100 % agree with the principles that Sally Beare puts forth in her book. Her research is based on analyzing the diets of the world's oldest and healthiest populations - and, wow, doesn't that just make so much sense? Forget fad diets, forget worrying about being 100 % raw or being Paleo. No one is going to live forever, and no diet is a cure all for disease or will keep you looking young until your 80; we are human; we're not indestructible.

Beare explains the diet and lifestyle choices of five of the longest living and most disease free populations: the Okinawans of Japan, the Symiots of Greece, the population of Campodiemele in Italy, the Hunza of North East Pakistan and finally, the Bama population of South West China. Her results all seem to point to the same reoccurring diet choices and lifestyle habits that to me, make so much sense, without the stress and feeling of failure health fads give you. I've tried following a raw food diet for health, but found it so hard to stick to, and so expensive. It also made me so anxious that I wasn't 'good enough' health wise - which is complete nonsense, I realise now.

Beautiful Symi in Greece. I adore the mediterranean: I went to visit my aunt in Turkey a few years back, and I can still remember the smell of wild herbs on the hillsides, drifting through the windows of my bedroom on a spring breeze...

So, what are these principles that seem to allow you to live to a ripe old age with a sharp mind, able body and free of disease? Basically, eat a ton of fruit and vegetables, include more raw food in your diet (not 100%, but make an effort to eat more raw fruit and vegetables), eat less animal protein and more vegetable protein, consume good fats and eat whole grains. Don't consume refined grains, have little or no dairy and try to eat organic food free from pollutants (if only this one was easy and inexpensive), and keep your heart and your muscles active. You don't need to work out like crazy, but find something you enjoy, walk a lot, go hiking regularly, do some yoga... just move!

When it comes to living and cooking, these are my principles, and I believe that by sticking to these, I stay healthy and slim while enjoying (plenty of!) delicious food. It's often not hard to turn a recipe into a healthy one by simply switching from  refined to organic wholegrains. In terms of vanity, I personally believe that refined grains make you gain weight, while you can eat plenty of wholegrains and stay slim (depending on your definition of plenty, I suppose! Scientific research has demonstrated, however, that those who consume unprocessed plant food have a lower body weight than those who eat a highly refined/animal based, even when consuming the same amount of calories). Interestingly, Beare cites a study where in one group, mice are fed a whole and unprocessed diet similar to the Hunza's diet and remain healthy, but when fed a diet including processed, refined grains such as white rice or white bread, they become sick and violent.

So basically, my food philosophy for health and beauty: enjoy beautiful, healthy, tasty, whole and unprocessed food, and move a lot doing something you enjoy.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Unprocessed, delicious fruits and vegetables .... beautiful aren't they? Eat up!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

The beginning.

Welcome to my blog.  My name is Grace and I am in love with food, beauty, health, life, travel and learning about other cultures... 

I'm an anthropology graduate living in a small town and a complete and utter dreamer and homebody...

In this blog, I'd like to share my thoughts and inspiration with you...