lifestyle, Motivation

20 Ways to Beat Stress

Last week I was lucky to attend a stress management workshop by Heidi Jones, a Dubai-based integrative health & nutrition coach. Read below to find out what I have learned.

Heidi Jones

Most of us are living a busy, fast-paced life where 24 hours never seem enough. All sorts of pressures & deadlines loom over our heads, making us feel stressed out. It is important to be self-aware and to know how stress affects the body and our emotional wellbeing.

We have all heard about the fight or flight response when we are in a stressful situation – but did you know that it can cause a host of physical as well as mental symptoms? Stomach ache, indigestion, heart palpitations, jitters – these are just a few of the physical signs showing that we are stressed.

Normally, a bit of stress is good for us. Why? It helps us be more focused and do what needs to be done. Once the stressful task is complete we go back to our ‘rest & digest’ zone, where the body and mind are relaxed.

However, in today’s day & age we are more likely to be almost constantly in the ‘fight or flight’ zone as we claw through a long list of deadlines or urgent and important matters. This is certainly not good for our long-term health.

So what can you do to help yourself spend more time in the ‘rest & digest’ zone? The questionnaire below, developed by Heidi Jones, will help you assess your work-life balance by looking into which stress management strategies you use often and which ones you need to start using:

Stress Management Questionnaire


Now that you have a list of 20 very practical and easy to apply stress management strategies, you may want to think about what is stopping you from using them in your day-to-day life.

One thing we all have in common is that we all have 24 hours in the day. People are achieving amazing things in those hours – and so can you!

“You have to be very, very clear on what it is that you want. If you know what you want, then you know you need to work towards that and it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice anymore. It feels like it is part of the journey, it’s part of the process, it’s part of you growing as a person to get to where you want to be.” – Heidi Jones

We believe that we can’t do it, we don’t have time… but these are just beliefs – they are not facts.


So here you are: start by implementing practical strategies to relieve yourself of stress, but don’t forget to take the time out and ask yourself what you really want to achieve in life. Sometimes not knowing what we want to achieve is the biggest stress!


If you need more help or would like to know more about how to transform your life, go to Heidi’s blog – – where you can get in touch with her.


Peanut Butter Protein Balls

Protein Balls

When looking for quick fix which can help me keep up with my protein intake I make this ever so easy snack balls. You can add honey, maple, agave syrup or sweetener of your choice but for me less is more 😉

All you need is:

  • 2 TBS of organic peanut butter (I use organic, plain)
  • 1 scoop of protein powder (I used vanilla) any will do
  • 1 handful of goji berries (optional) any berries or raisins



Mix all the ingredients together and form into small balls

Refrigerate for 30 min and enjoy!


Adrianna on: Hormones and weight loss

By Adrianna McDonald

Hormones are enormously responsible for weight gain. They behave differently depending on which tissue they are acting in and never work in isolation.

Estrogen acts different in the brain, in the uterus, and in your fat cells. Other hormones may accentuate or block estrogen’s actions, i.e a large amount of testosterone may decrease estrogen’s impact on female fat storage.

Estrogen is a tricky hormone when it comes to fat loss and it’s equilibrium is a necessity – very high or very low levels can be equally as bad. Normal levels of estrogen can complement body composition and overall health.

The main job of  fat tissue is to produce estrogen since it is a very active part of the hormonal system. Fat tissue contains an enzyme (aromatase) which converts testosterone to estrogen. Estrogen comes from other places as well (e.g. the ovaries).

This means that the fatter you are, the more estrogen you’ll have, and vice versa. For example, estrogen overload can exacerbate hypothyroid issues, slowing metabolism and causing weight gain (read research here).

If that “estrogen overload” comes from obesity in the first place, this can very quickly become a vicious cycle (you’re overweight because you have thyroid problems, and you have thyroid problems because you’re overweight).

Studies also show that it’s also possible that high levels of estrogen promote fat gain by preventing the oxidation of fats (this means using fats for energy).

Women gain fat early in pregnancy (when estrogen levels are high), even if they aren’t “eating for two” yet. This suggests that “more estrogen = more calories being stored as fat”. Women whose ovaries are removed lose weight but when they are put on estrogen therapy, they gain weight.

Higher estrogen levels during puberty drive fat gain as an energy reserve in case you get pregnant. During early pregnancy, they go into overdrive to “stock up” for the approaching challenge.

Your body still hasn’t caught up to the 21st century; it still thinks its job is to keep you (a) alive, and (b) fertile in an environment of extreme food scarcity and a constant threat of famine.

The problem begins when you take a body adapted to scarcity and plunk it into a world of fast food. That’s when the normal and healthy preservation of essential body fat goes out of control.

Like most things in life, you’ve got to find an equilibrium and food can help you find the right balance. Here’s how your macros can help normalize estrogen levels:


Fiber seems to be anti-estrogenic. Research shows that by raising fiber levels by 15 grams per day (that’s a little less than one avocado) estrogen levels were successfully reduced in premenopausal women.

Food Sources of Nutrients


The available evidence shows that moderate carb restriction is effective in treating any female hormonal problems that might be driving weight gain. On the other hand, extreme carb restriction can cause problems of its own, including hormonal dysfunction, amenorrhea (loss of normal periods), and infertility.


Getting enough protein is important for hormonal healing.


Fat is important for hormonal health because saturated fat is the backbone of testosterone and estrogen. Saturated and monounsaturated fat is generally good for you, whilst polyunsaturated is not so good. You should also try to get more Omega-3 rather than Omega-6.

Final words on estrogen & weight loss

When it comes to weight problems, insulin (sugar) and cortisol (stress) hormones are the biggest culprits. This means that in order to manage our weight effectively we need to control our carb intake and actively try to reduce stress.

Overeating (even on healthy food) is also a big no-no. A high calorie diet will remove any of the beneficial fat burning effects of any hormone.

Remember to watch your consumption of animal based and plant based estrogen and be mindful of your exposure to environmental sources of estrogens such as plastic, pesticides, cosmetics, and caffeine.

If you have symptoms of estrogen dominance, look into seeing an holistic physician who can give professional help.


BMI – Body Mass Index or Be More Intelligent

By Adrianna McDonald

This subject came to me recently as I got an email from school (my kids are 5 & 8) saying that due to the health concerns for some students, the school will measure the BMI of pupils to make parents aware of those kids at risk of obesity. I decided this would be good subject to write about, as I believe GP doctors still use these measurements to determine one’s health.

But is it reliable? Is it necessary?

Considering the relative oddness of what BMI measures are (weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters), I wonder how this managed to become such an important indicator of good health. It is a basic calculation to determine if you’re at the right weight for your height. It’s generally a dependable measure of your risk of developing chronic diseases related to obesity. Even though BMI may be useful for helping to identify long-term trends for the average person, it is quite a poor metric for assessing the health of individuals. Norms don’t apply to everyone, and some may fall well outside the standard deviation.

What Makes An Olympic Body?

It is easy to see that body weight itself can often be very misleading – take a bodybuilder as an example: the BMI could put him/her in the overweight category. The issue with the body mass index for bodybuilders is that it doesn’t take body composition into account. Because they have more muscle mass than the average person, their BMI will probably fall into the overweight or even obese range and the truth is that you just have a high amount of muscle mass, which makes you weigh more. This BMI error doesn’t occur only in professional bodybuilders. Well-muscled people are often given higher BMIs and the subsequent “medical” diagnosis of being overweight or obese.

There are individuals who are overweight but otherwise healthy, and others, who have a “normal” BMI, but who are at high risk for cardio-metabolic disease (thin outside, fat inside). And in no way does BMI calculate a person’s body fat directly.

In conclusion:

Instead of worrying about weight or body mass index, we should be trying to maximize and maintain muscle mass.

Building muscle mass is important in decreasing metabolic health risks.  Fact is: building muscle and increasing your BMI (by increasing your overall body weight) could actually help to improve your health and decrease your risk of premature death (explained in detail here).

Going back to the email I received, are parents really that blind that they can’t notice if their child is overweight or obese? Furthermore, can’t an adult himself not notice they have the same problem? …


Mistakes Women Make Trying to Lose Weight

By Adrianna McDonald

When it comes to dieting, most people feel frustrated with their fat loss results. This is because typically we tend to jump from one dieting approach to another which can result in either metabolic damage due to yo-yo dieting or a host of hormonal imbalances such as thyroid problems, adrenal fatigue, and diabetes..

With the urge to look great we put ourselves through tremendous strains and go to extremes (dieting, over exercising) forgetting about our health.


Going on a diet can create an obsession with food, increase cravings, develop binging habits and other disorders. As a bikini competitor I’m constantly on a “diet “ which I wouldn’t mind as it doesn’t make me hungry but I need to limit or cut out many foods or even food groups. That then makes me want those foods more.

If I restrict myself for too long, I  end up binging when the opportunity arises. This is extremely unhealthy and I do realize that, that’s why I’d like you to learn from my mistakes.

Instead of going on another “diet”, try to change everyday habits that sabotage your efforts. Not many of us realize how quickly calories can add up. Eating while cooking, starting each day with a high-calorie coffee drink, finishing off the kids’ plates at dinner, or having glass of wine are just a few of the habits that can sabotage your health and fitness goals.


Mindless Eating

This is the act of unknowingly putting hand to mouth. This happens when you are watching television or even just checking your phone (which in this era is the biggest problem).

If you are a mum you need to learn to resist the temptation to clean your child’s or anyone else’s plate (a common mistake) or  even lick the melting ice cream on the side of your child’s ice cream cone. Our crazy lives or in some cases parenthood (mums usually hurry their kids up) is the reason for the unhealthy habit of rapid eating. Slow down! It’s NOT a race!

We should try to adopt more relaxed and mindful style of eating so that we can savour our food, taste every bite, chew properly and let our brains acknowledge the signal of fullness before overeating.

Skipping meals

Skipping meals, especially breakfast is tremendous mistake. There is a misconception that skipping breakfast saves calories. The truth is that most people who eat fewer than three meals usually end up eating more throughout the day. I would recommend starting your day with a healthy breakfast as you are more likely to make the right choice for the rest of your meals. Ideally your breakfast should contain both protein and fibre.

blog 2

Not paying attention to liquid calories

Alcohol, smoothies, tea and coffee with milk and/or sugar, sweetened juices, teas, and carbonated drinks can contribute to weight gain. Stick to water, learn to drink black coffee and tea or swap to herbal teas. Avoid alcohol as much as possible limiting it to occasional drinking. Portions are a major issue this days especially when eating less than 3 meals a day.

Try this:

  • Leave a few bites on your plate.
  • Use smaller plates and bowls.
  • Check your portions using your hand.(I talked about it in this article)

These are just few things to consider. I hope one day we can all be in tune with our bodies and deliver them what they need. That I wish for You and myself.

Stay Fabulous, Stay Unique!!!



Adrianna on: Cravings vs. Addiction

By Adrianna McDonald

About cravings…

All humans at one point or another in their life experience food cravings. Women are especially susceptible because of the hormonal changes throughout their monthly cycle or other stages in their life (pregnancy, menopause). You get this strong desire for a taste of something very specific either it is sugary, salty, sour or fatty. And when you’re in the middle of a craving, it feels like nothing else can be done to satisfy that urge.

Sugar is the most common food craving and the most addictive. This is the result of a complex hormonal reaction, often triggered by the very same foods you crave.

“Sugar acts directly in the brain to inhibit the effect of leptin and increased appetite so you never feel full. So then you keep eating, and you become leptin-resistant 
 What you need to do is break the addiction by detoxing the liver, which has stopped metabolizing fat properly. Sugar consumption causes fat to build up in liver cells, which decreases the liver’s ability to metabolize fats and sugars and detoxify your body.” -Dr.Oz

Another, and more common, reason for cravings is emotional eating. We tend to turn to food in times of boredom, stress and loneliness. So your emotional health, whether you’re eating as a distraction, a reward or to help fill a missing void in your life, must be dealt with in order to successfully resist cravings for unhealthy foods.

junk food

How are cravings different from addiction?

“Addiction is an overpowering craving to repeatedly engage in an activity that provides temporary relief often with adverse consequences.”

It’s something you feel you must do, despite its harmful consequences. Withdrawal is a big part of addiction as well as the feelings of discomfort, distress, and intense cravings.

There are different types of addiction:

  • some eat too much
  • some don’t eat enough
  • some people even have an addiction to restriction

For a food addict, food provides the fun, entertainment, control, reassurance, or love that’s missing in their life. It may also help to numb difficult emotions like fear and sadness.

Dealing with addiction is your responsibility even though you may not be responsible for having it. There are few necessary steps to treat addiction:

  • If you feel social pressure remove yourself of that situation. Our behaviour depends heavily on social and environmental cues. We can adjust our behaviour by adjusting cues from our routine and environment. Avoid people, places, and things that trigger addiction.
  • In dealing with emotions we use food as a coping mechanism thinking it will help resolve the problem. Learn to deal with boredom, loneliness, anger, lack of stimulation and lack of purpose for example and you will learn how to cope with addiction.
  • Many addictions stem from uncontrolled stress combined with food restriction. If these two factors can be controlled, food addiction might also be controlled.


Cravings die as a side effect of changing our life and identity. You can try meditation, tapping (Emotional Freedom) techniques or any other type of relaxation methods. Even though most people are not addicts by choice, we can choose to abstain in order to recover and stop the addiction. In this case, freedom comes when we give up effort to control the substance and become abstinent.

Abstinence means willingness to face discomfort and withdrawal symptoms in the beginning. The longer you remain abstinent, the more the biological urges for the substance fade.

The biggest part of recovery lies in managing the stress and knowing your triggers. It is also important to add a meaning and purpose for it to work and it has to be part of your internal beliefs, priorities and values.

How to handle it?

  • Try make this structural and foundational changes :
  • Change physical environment
  • Build a social support system
  • Decrease life stress
  • Learn to tolerate discomfort
  • Change routine and schedule to favour positive behaviours, and diminish the chances for negative behaviours ( more sleep, take activities that conflict with the addictive behaviour, etc.)
  • Exercise especially intense workout on a regular basis is one of the best “cures” for food cravings
  • The less processed food you eat on daily basis the less cravings you going to experience
  • Keep yourself busy and try to avoid boredom



Adrianna on: Macronutrients vs Calories

By Adrianna McDonald

You may wonder is a calorie just calorie? Do I eat whatever I want as long I’m in a calorie deficit? Well, lets make it clear

Calories are indeed a measure of energy and weight, change depends on the balance between: energy in vs energy out.

Energy out can be:

  • physical activity
  • energy to keep you alive at rest BMR (basal metabolic rate)
  • energy added to the body like amino acids to muscle, and fat to fat tissues
  • energy lost in waste (bathroom stuff)
  • energy used to digest the food you eat

Energy in can be:

  • How many calories were in the food you ate

blog image

However, energy in is just as complex as energy out, because of the energy cost of digesting food. For example, some food (celery, cucumber) is considered negative calories as it takes more energy to break down and absorb it. It needs the calories to chew, swallow, make the acid in the stomach, make the enzymes for peristalsis (rhythmic muscular contractions) that drives the food through.

Around 10% goes to daily energy expenditure digesting and absorbing food, but this percentage changes depending on the type of food you eat.

Protein takes the most energy to digest followed by carbohydrates and then fats.

Some research advocates that eating whole food takes more energy to digest than processed food!

Processed food takes less energy to digest and absorb compared to whole foods, so 100 calories of processed food ends up being more net calories than 100 calories of whole food.

If you’re trying to lose weight and stay healthy be wise and eat whole foods.

So yes you can eat “junk” and loose weight (at least at the beginning).

Bottom line is – if you just eat for calories and predominantly “junk food” you most probably will be missing out on micronutrients.

blog image 3

When you’re missing key vitamins and minerals, as well as phytochemicals, your body doesn’t work properly. You feel terrible (mod, appearance, energy). Immunity goes down. And you get sick!

Human bodies are dynamic, complex, organic, and sensitive systems.

What we eat isn’t necessarily what we absorb as all food isn’t created equal. There are many factors impacting our digestion, and use of the food we eat.

This means that the fuel, or calorie, value of food outside the body isn’t going to have the same value inside the body.

We are all “unique” and we have an individual gut flora called the “microbiome”, just like our unique fingerprint. Changing our gut flora changes our digestion and absorption, and hence our body composition and health.

Every food choice is an opportunity to direct, shape, and remake our health. Our body composition. Our performance. Our well-being.


7 Life Hacks for a Healthy Lifestyle

Think leading a healthy lifestyle is too hard to follow? Here are 7 energy/time/money saving tips to motivate you to stay on track:

  1. Trying to eat less? Use a smaller plate to trick your mind that there’s more food. Added bonus: the smaller plate also limits the amount of food you can fit in automatically reducing your portion size.
  2. Cooking non-organic meat in ginger and garlic reduces the harmful effects of any artificial pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones, GMOs, or other synthetic contaminants. In addition, meat cooked at high temperatures (well done to burnt) can produce carcinogenic (cancer producing) chemicals and research has recently discovered that when meat is cooked with garlic this effect is limited.
  3. If you’re having trouble sleeping try taking 1-2 tablespoons raw honey which has been proven to help get more deep. Healthy brain energy comes from sugar (glycogen) stored in your liver, so having a little extra (naturally occurring) sugar before bed can increase healthy brain function at night.
  4. Prepare breakfast in the evening for the following day. If you know that you will be short on time in the morning or that you need extra time to digest your food before your morning workout, then it may be helpful to prepare your meal the night before. This way you can just jump out of bed and grab breakfast (speaks volumes about me 😀 )
  5. Carry a healthy snack in your bag / pocket / car (think raw nuts, fruit, etc.). You know that Sneakers ad – “you’re not you when you’re hungry”? Yep, you got it – when hunger strikes, temptation overcomes our willpower and voilĂ  we end up eating something bad for us.
  6. Don’t just use leftovers – plan for them. When cooking a meal, why not make an extra serving and save it for later? Saves time & energy. Besides, what beats having your favourite meal twice? 😀
  7. Shop smart. Always make a shopping list in advance and think how you can use certain products in more than one way. Example: 

Motivation Tuesday: Abs Are Made in The Kitchen


So you have heard the famous saying that abs are made in the kitchen. And that is true – 70 to 80% of your health and fitness goals is achieved through nutrition, leaving a measely 20-30% for fitness. Yet one cannot work without the other. You can lose weight through dieting but you can’t change or tone  your body shape without exercise and vice versa.

Spending 1-2 hours working out in the gym is  easy. What we do (and especially eat!) during the remaining 22 hours is the hard part.

And that is why I mostly post about food and nutrition rather than fitness and exercise. But I do have to get those 20 -30% in, so here’s a quick and simple workout from one of my Pinterest boards: Find more like this at #bodybuilding #fitness #bodybuilder

Keep up the good work!


7 Reasons Why Governments (and you!) Should Take Action Against Sugar

This week the British Medical Association announced plans to propose a 20% tax on sugary drinks with the funds levied to be used to subsidise the sale of fruit and vegetables. Of course, their proposal is based on a detailed research, the report of which found that poor diet costs UK’s National Health Services 6 billion pounds a year and results in 70,000 deaths.

Sweet tooth: This graphic shows how many teaspoons of sugar are in each of the fizzy drinks and sugar-laden juices above. Doctors will today demand that sugary drinks be taxed at 20 per cent to tackle the obesity crisis

We are drowning in a world of sugar. Image Copyright: Daily Mail

Should this tax be imposed it is estimated that the number of obese people in the UK will go down by 180,000. The success of such a tax has been seen in Mexico, which was the first country to introduce a similar levy in 2014. Other countries who have already applied a ‘sugar tax’ include France, Finland and Hungary.

However, the British Government and Food Industry Federation are against the tax, claiming it will hit the poorest people. Clearly, the problem of regulating sugar has no simple solution, yet many studies have shown undeniable links between it and health problems.


Photo credit: Uwe Hermann

So here are 7 reasons why governments (and you!) should put up a fight against sugar:

  1. Sugar is highly addictive as it activates the same parts of the brain as drugs.
  2. It is the root of many health problems, not just insulin resistance and diabetes.
  3. Sugar messes up your hormones and has a fat-promoting effect (=risk of obesity)
  4. In fact, sugar can (indirectly) cause cancer! A high-sugar diet may contribute to excess weight gain, and obesity is associated with an increased risk of developing several types of cancer (oh and by the way, cancer cells feed on sugar, just like bacteria and parasites).
  5. Sugar is much more harmful than saturated fat – studies show that large amounts of fructose can raise bad cholesterol (LDL) in as little as 10 weeks.
  6. It puts a lot of stress on the liver, as it is the only organ that processes this sweet poison. Excess sugar is turned into fat, some of which remains in the liver causing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
  7. Other sugar-induced issues include: fatigue, uncontrollable cravings, brain fog and aging skin.

The Take Home Message:

Don’t confuse sugar with actual fuel / energy sources. If you are tired  have a coffee – you will not experience the post-sugar crash. If you need fuel for a tough workout opt for carbs as muscles don’t feed on sugar (which is processed in the liver). In reality, sugar (especially the one added to commercial foods) has no nutritional value so you are better off with fresh fruit, dark chocolate and spices like cinnamon. If you really can’t survive without adding some sugar, then opt for stevia and try to consume no more than 7 teaspoons of the white stuff a day.