Rethinking and building mental health

Why is it that we intuitively appreciate that to be in good physical shape requires some form of physical exercise, yet expect good mental shape to be pre-programmed? We don’t usually wait until we have Type II diabetes before we start moving, but it often takes a catastrophic event such as a breakdown or depression before we consider mental health. Mental health. There is a stigma attached to those two words that immediately make most people switch off. Many agree that mental health is an important topic, but not one that is relevant to them. There is probably an element of protecting one’s self-esteem here, with the perception that if you are working on your mental health, there must be something wrong to begin with. There is something wrong, but it isn’t you. There is a pretty strong argument to be made that the society we live in today is broken. Of course, there are many great things about being alive today, but we certainly are not living in accordance with how humans have evolved. Today we are exposed to chronic psychological stressors which our bodies have not biologically adapted to cope with. The purpose of the hormonal stress response is to prepare the resources of the body in preparation for crisis. But what happens when the body is constantly in the ‘flight-or-fight’ mode associated with imminent threat? Constant exposure to stressors and over-activation of this stress response (allostatic load) is associated with inflammatory disease and negative mental health outcomes. We are not supposed to be working 9 to 5 jobs for numbers on a screen that can turn...

Vegan Experience

Modern veganism  as a diet and lifestyle choice is growing in popularity all over the world and some (even if few) of my dearest friends are now vegans. As I love to explore healthier and more sustainable ways of living for myself, I decided to test the vegan lifestyle for a short period of time. While traveling and living with one of my best friends who is a vegan for more than three years, I explored cooking, buying and eating out vegan. First only planned for 4 weeks, it was so much fun that I decided to extend the experience back home in London and Berlin until the end of lent which added up my vegan journey to 10 weeks. Overall, I really enjoyed exploring vegan-friendly ingredients and materials and discovered some new to me. Trying new recipes and tasting new dishes is something I love anyway and it was great fun to do it with my friend. For inspiration on vegan food jump to the ‘What Vegans Eat‘ article, or check out my friend’s project Cómo Comer. So here’s what I learned in the 10 weeks. What is Vegan? To say it with the words of the Vegan Society, Veganism is “a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” So, this excludes the consumption and use of...

What Vegans Eat

Since I started my vegan experience a little bit more than two months ago, the question most often asked was: What do vegans eat? Well, the answer is pretty simple: everything plant-based! And that’s actually a lot and can be very tasty. I don’t want bore anyone with a list of vegetable, fruits, nuts and other plant-based ingredients. So instead, here are some highlights of my favourite vegan breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks in the past 2 months. It’s a mix of home-made and eat out meals and of course there are many more great meals I have been eating but didn’t take photos of. Have a look at the cards, open the PDFs for links and feel free to ask for more insights on anything that catches your appetite. If you want even more beautiful vegan food inspiration, follow my friend’s vegan food project Cómo Comer on Instagram and Facebook! Be warned, you might get hungry though… Breakfast Download PDF with links to recipes here: Breakfast. Lunch Download PDF with links to recipes here: Lunch Dinner Download PDF with links to recipes here: Dinner Snacks  Download PDF with links to recipes here: Snacks Hungry? Please feel free to comment, share your recipes and ask if you have any questions, want to have any recipes or more inspiration. Want to know why vegan recipes? Read the main article ‘Vegan...

ACLAÍ opening night – not your ordinary gym

Last weekend saw the official opening of the new training facility of ACLAÍ in Cork, and I was lucky enough to attend what turned out to be a very special occasion and a gym opening with a difference. We were treated to some theatre, live music by the great Band Anna, an art exhibition by local artists, magic tricks and balloon making, delicious food from the Alchemy coffeeshop and ACLAÍ’s own Shakira. Most of all, I enjoyed spending time meeting friends of ACLAÍ and seeing at first hand the impact the gym has on this community. The big crowd in attendance was testament to this. As I was hanging out in the gym in the morning it was refreshing to see real coaching again. Coaches that actually care about helping everybody who steps through the door, that help build healthy bodies rather than break them. Living in London over the past two years has been challenging in many ways, but nothing more so than taking out a membership in the local Globogym and watching the absolutely horrendous service provided by the personal trainers to their clients. I try not to look, but I can’t not. I once writhed in anguish as a guy who couldn’t deadlift was forced to do so with a heavy barbell and repeatedly shouted at that he was doing it wrong and to straighten his back. I’ve watched as clients have been put on a treadmill and left to their own devices as the trainer would head off to chat up every female that crossed his path. I’ve witnessed people who can barely move being subjected to...

30-Day Yoga Experience

This is a brief overview of my recent 30 day Yoga experience. We would love to hear what experiences you have made! Why a 30 day Yoga experience? I used to work in a typical 9 to 5 office job in London. My typical day would start in a rush to catch my bus and then squeeze myself on the overcrowded and hot underground to commute to the office located in always busy central London. My colleagues and I would then sit on our desks for hours with a maximum of an hour break which we might use for a little walk around the office blocks – or not. I would often feel imbalanced after such a day – mentally tired and stressed while physically stiff and restless. Going to the gym and movement practice in the morning helped against the stiffness but didn’t really benefit me mentally. The busy local gym actually stressed me out even more. In Summer long walks, movement and meditation in the park were a great balance to the busy office day. However, in Winter this was no real option as parks were closed before I would leave the office. I needed to tackle this feeling of imbalance and remembered the positive effect of some Yoga lessons I had attended when I was a teenager. These were great thanks to a wonderful teacher who taught me about Yoga meditation, breathing, as well as basic poses and ways to stabilise my body (sometimes activating the right point can make a huge difference). Yoga is ideal to find your personal balance as the practice aims to go...

Recipe: Cashew Protein Balls

    Snacks and treats are often where people deviate from an otherwise healthy diet and succumb to sugar-laden temptations. But not anymore with this recipe from our resident foodie, Connie, passed down by another great lover of good food, Jerry Flannery. The only risk with creating these balls of delight is that you may eat them all in one go, so I would advise coming up with a strategy in advance to avoid this. A lot of recipes for delicious treats are complicated with long and obscure ingredient lists. This, on the other hand, is simple and quick. Enjoy! Ingredients: 1 cup (200g) pitted dates 1 cup (120g) vanilla protein powder 1 cup (200g) raw cashew nuts 10ml almond milk 1 1/2 cups (300g) dark chocolate Preparation: Blend the pitted dates. 2. Add the vanilla protein powder to the blended dates. Blend again.   3. Add the raw cashew nuts and blend it all up again until a firm dough is created.   4. In order to roll the balls add the almond milk. If the dough appears too moist, add a few linseeds and blend the dough again. Roll little balls and place them on a tray with parchment paper.   5. Melt the chocolate in a bowl. (A good way to do this is to rest the bowl of chocolate in a pot of boiling water and stir as it melts).   6. Bath the balls in the melted chocolate and place them on the tray with parchment           7. Place the balls in the fridge for at least two hours. Keep...