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The Zen Of Eating

9 tips for mindful eating

Ancient Yogis from many traditions considered eating to be a sacred act, where one living part of nature integrates into another living being.  In stark contrast, eating seems to be anything but sacred in our fast-food age. For many, eating today has devolved into a purely physical act to provide sustenance for the body – but definitely not for the soul. 

2020: The Year of Health

We are well into the year but given the ongoing pandemic events that have taken over the world, and put a spotlight on health, nutrition and wellbeing, many – like you –  are contemplating overhauling their daily routines by incorporating healthy diets. You may be facing a health crisis or some sort of spiritual awakening; maybe you are in a new relationship and just want to feel and look better for your partner. 

Whatever your motivation, you’ve decided to eat in a healthier or more ethical way.  Sooner or later, you are bound to discover that “improving” your diet is not as straightforward as you imagined. Buy any book on healthy eating or diet or nutrition and you will find plenty of persuasive advice on what you “should” and “should not” eat. Pick another book and you’ll find equally convincing advice contradicting the first.

Mixed Messages?

Many mainstream books on nutrition advise us to limit our intake of fat, yet an increasingly prominent minority contends that traditional animal fats are good for us. One diet may push honey as a superfood; another says it’s just as harmful as any other sugar. Some experts say supplements are absolutely essential for good health, while others contend they just give you “expensive pee.” You’ll discover that there are diets based on religion, ethics, nutritional philosophy, anthropology, cleansing, the seasons and even blood types! 

You are faced with a bewildering range of contradictory advice all coming from “authoritative” sources. Choose rightly:  you will be saved! Choose wrongly:  you will land in “health hell.” How do you navigate correctly through these choices?  You can choose a nutritional trend or a healthy diet and follow it – with all that such a choice involves. Or, instead of trusting any outside authority, you can go down the path of self-directed dietary exploration and experimentation with your food choices. This way, you learn to trust your body and senses while choosing how to eat wisely. If you are seeking to go it on your own, it is worth taking a peek at one of these books – favourites of The Gaggler editorial team – that can provide guiding principles as you make your way to taking that first step to healthy eating.

Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, PRP AED 48.39, available at amazon.com

Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything, PRP AED 25.65, available at amazon.com

Eat, Drink, and Be Mindful: How to End Your Struggle with Mindless Eating and Start Savoring Food with Intention and Joy, PRP AED 73.73, available at amazon.com

Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, PRP AED 25.04, available at amazon.com

That Will Power Thing

But how can you trust your body when it often seems to lead you astray with unwise food choices because of an apparent “lack of willpower”? As a society, we seem to suffer from the misleading notion of not having enough willpower when it comes to eating. How else can we explain destructive dietary patterns, when we fully know the consequences of poor eating choices? How else can we justify bingeing after a week of regimented eating? We incorrectly blame poor dietary choices on “weak willpower” — which then leads to an internal conflict over what we “should” and “should not” eat.

When it comes to food, we seem to think that what we want must be “bad” or “indulgent.”  Therefore, we feel that we must exercise willpower to enforce “better” behavior. This constant reliance on willpower reveals a profound distrust of our natural ability to make good food choices intuitively. Craving certain foods can be seen as our body’s way of signaling nutritional imbalances. It is also well documented that in times of high stress we use food to fill in voids or to mask deeper issues.  In these cases, our body is communicating to us in a language we might not understand — or even recognize as a language. 

Are You Listening?

We need to stop seeing the body as “the enemy” but rather listen to the messages encoded in the language of cravings, appetites, and food preferences.  Instead of second-guessing what our bodies need, why not tune into the language our body is speaking? Through these messages, our body communicates its physical and emotional needs. One of the ways we can understand the body’s needs is to create a quiet internal space in which we can “tune in” to the cues given in our cravings and appetites.    By using a Zen approach to eating, we can create that quiet space within. You might wonder “What is Zen eating?” 

Zen eating is a practice of eating thoughtfully, mindfully and in a state of gratitude.

As Susan Albers, a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic, explains, “In a nutshell, mindful eating is not a diet. There are no menus or recipes. It’s a brand new way of eating. Mindful eating is defined as eating with a non-judgmental awareness”.

healthy eating habits

9 Tips to Zen

The 9 tips below are designed to help you create this mindful space within yourself each time you sit down to eat.

Tip 1: Breathe

Before you tuck into your meal, take 3 deep breaths to clear your energy and come into the present moment with gratitude.

Tip 2: Contemplate 

Observe a moment of silence.  A good exercise is to reflect on how your food got to your plate. Think about the people involved in the production, processing, transportation and preparation of your meal.

Tip 3: Chew and Taste 

Devote your attention to the physical act of biting, chewing and swallowing your food. Fully experience and enjoy each bite. Notice the aromas, textures, tastes and temperature of each dish. Through this practice, you may discover new flavors or evoke memories connected to the taste and smells of your food. Paying attention gives you the opportunity to fully know what you’re eating and opens up a direct channel of communication with your body.  

Tip 4: Eat meals in a peaceful setting

Be it your table at home or a quiet spot in the office cafeteria, choose a peaceful space.  You may feel you rarely have the “luxury” to devote your attention to fully enjoying your food or finding peaceful spaces to eat.  In reality, this should not be a luxury, but a necessary part of your meal.  As you start a practice of Zen eating, take small steps to integrate this practice into your routine. Have just one meal a day in a peaceful setting, if it is too difficult to do this practice for each and every meal.

Tip 5: Go device free at mealtimes

Ditch the multitasking while you eat! Stay away from the phone, television and the computer at mealtime. Focus on what’s on your plate and engage in conversations with your dining companions. Or just be with yourself and your food.

Tip 6: Be patient

You cannot expect to gain instant understanding of your body’s messages. Be patient while you learn the language your body speaks.  

Tip 7: Distinguish appetites from cravings

Pause and ask yourself: “Am I really hungry?” Is your body calling for sustenance? Or do you simply crave a specific taste?” As you become more fluent in your body’s language, you will become more able to distinguish between appetite and craving.  

Tip 8: Eat food close to its natural state

In our fast-paced society, we depend a lot on processed and ready-to-eat foods, which are loaded with additives. By choosing foods which are as close to their natural state as possible, we can keep our choices simple and more healthful. As food writer Michael Pollan advises “Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” 

Tip 9: Don’t be dogmatic!  

People often feel wonderful on a special diet for a short time, but that great feeling of wellbeing doesn’t always last.  Cleansing diets such as veganism, raw foods or juicing bring great short-term results but cannot sustain the body’s long term and changing nutritional requirements. Be flexible in your food philosophies rather than feeling that you must become a hard-core adherent of any one “diet.”

You may feel this approach is demanding, but with practice, Zen eating becomes natural and pleasurable. While there is a lot of conflicting information out there, listening to your body will guide you towards a way of eating that’s right for you. This practice allows you to come into alignment with what you need, what you crave, and what you actually eat. The Zen of eating enables you to joyfully honor your body’s authentic needs and lovingly nurture your soul through mindful eating. We hope you try the practice of mindful eating and give into Zen.

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huge engraving of an astrology chart on an old wall.

Astrology Can Unleash Your Potential – Here’s How

Start your soul’s journey.

Astrology has been around for two and a half millennia, and traces its roots to the Babylonian Age. This ancient craft was devised by the sages and the seers of those times to consult and strategise on behalf of rulers. Today, the worldwide collective consciousness has shifted from just spirituality to radical technology, social justice, and acceptance of the self through the rise of astrology.

On one memorable trip to New York for a women’s leadership training program, I had the strangest encounter of my life. I met with a psychic who told me something I’d never forget. At that point, I was at my lowest, both emotionally and physically, even though my life seemed perfect from the outside. I was exactly where I’d worked hard to be – at the peak of my journalistic career – and yet I wasn’t happy. When I visited the psychic, she said, “Don’t listen to the voices.” I was startled. “Voices, what voices?” I asked. She replied that I shouldn’t listen to the voices that tell me to kill myself. I had no idea that, at that moment, I’d begun the quest of my life by listening to the guidance of stars instead of those voices. 

Fast forward to six years later, I am now a certified Applied Astrologer through the Debra Silverman School. I discovered myself, my potential, possibilities, and ultimately my soul’s journey. All the clients that I work with come to me with burning questions about their lives. They find themselves confused and torn amidst the internet’s takeover of astrology. They may have their entire astrological chart on an app, but they seek deeper knowledge about the cosmic imprint of their soul.

A person sitting on top of a boulder and looking up at the starry night sky.

Astrology, Then and Now

The earliest known astrological illustrations were found 20,000 years ago. Some of the most striking ones include over 600 carvings found in France, which have the same symbols for the 12 zodiac constellations that astrologers still use today. Many cultures of the time believed that planets were forces of nature or representatives of the divine that shaped the life of every individual on earth. Whatever pattern constellated in the heavens, the study of it was always conjugated and never abstract. It was considered a necessity with life-and-death implications that required understanding the divine and mystical. 

Before the advent of science, everything was connected to nature and its signs, climate, calamities, disasters, new comets, and eclipses. In the age of information, all major publications throughout the globe have a dedicated astrologer penning horoscope columns daily. The first one was published in 1930 by Sunday Express. While it was Ptolemy, an astronomer and mathematician who introduced ‘natal’ astrology, today, its sister science astronomy has split away from it, pushing many cynics to call astrology a pseudoscience. Regardless of the opposition and disbelief in the science of astronomy, questions about the millennial’s place in the universe are often comforted by astrological memes. And somehow, in this process, we feel connected to the community and end up feeling like an unique individual – a one in a billion.

Astrology, a Healing Art

Astrology as a healing art has come a long way from the Sun Sign Astrology found in newspapers and websites to a certified astrologer today, who studies a snapshot of the sky at the moment of your first breath – just like how they used to in the old times. The exact position and placements in the sky will let them have a look into the map of your soul. Just like how all psychotherapists do not work with you the same way, each astrologer looks at your chart differently.

The position of all the planets will reveal the nature of your life, almost like a neutral mirror. The map can guide you towards your true purpose. The natal chart works like an anchor for me as an astrologist, while I solidify a client’s unique qualities, challenges, possibilities to the future, as well as opportunities so that I can assist and guide them to truly live the life they were born to live.

Each planet is like a member of our counsel – almost like a spirit guide – that’s watching over us. Our lives are full of mystery and magic, and astrology as a healing art works best with time and layering of information. So, yes, grasping all there is to your life in a single session might be a far-fetched idea. Astrology is a symbolic language that appeals to both our conscious and subconscious mind.

A person dressed in black and white from the back with their hands raised up to the blue sky.

Astrology Seeds to Sow

This healing art can speak to you when you need it most. It can actualise your destiny, and you can live out the potential of your entire being. It will illuminate the archetypes that you are living and the lessons that you are being taught. It can let you channel all energies to blend and translate into your life. Each sign within us and the planet where it plays out is the seed that we actualise and grow as we take care of it.

A story in The New York Times talked about how psychotherapists have now started learning astrology to understand their clients. Many shared that numerous clients were now using astrology as a reference point in their lives. Another article reported that venture capitalists were now investing in zodiac-focused start-ups as, according to them, astrology is having a cultural moment. I believe these factors indicate that with its rise as a constructive navigating tool for people from all walks of life, the whole debate about astrology being a pseudoscience is slowly dying out. 

Transformation through Astrology

I use Applied Astrology as a healing art almost as much as an energy healing work. I practise it as a strong starting point for each client’s work with me. The natal chart acts as a roadmap into the transformation to make each puzzle of their lives finally make sense. This healing process is not for the faint-hearted and those interested in future predictions. Applied astrology requires us to comprehend where we are in our lives and to put in work for ourselves. 

I create a sacred space for those who are committed, introspective, contemplative, and curious about moving into their lives with ultimate power. The tools of astrology – the planets, the positions and placements, the mystery of the skies – must be held in utmost respect for their power. There should be an understanding and awareness that it takes time to understand what these influencing factors are trying to communicate to us and what they are capable of in our lives.

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Birthing Hacks For Pregnant Woman

7 Birthing Hacks Every Pregnant Woman Should Know

According to a beloved birth influencer.

In a world where influencer fatigue is all too real, one woman by the name of Emma Armstrong – a.k.a. The Naked Doula – is using her platform to revolutionise birth and help pregnant women worldwide. The award-winning birth influencer has dedicated her life to educating women on how to have an empowered birth, turning tragedy into triumph.

“For me, being a birth influencer is helping women to find their power and influence their birth experience,” she explains. “I’ve always been a cheerleader for women, but when my mum passed away during my pregnancy, I was inspired. I took the grief and powered it into something truly special – and with that came my mission to inspire others globally!” Today, Emma not only conducts the Visual HypnoBirth Course that’s rooted in visual information to change the way women perceive childbirth, but she’s also the creator of fun yet informative flash cards designed to guide women from pregnancy to the early days of motherhood.

As for what she believes an empowered birth entails? Well, it starts with you. “Only you can empower yourself,” she asserts. “I don’t empower women – I give them the tools and motivation they need to find the power inside of them and relight a fire to feel confident and in control of their birth experience by making informed decisions.” As the realm of childbirth remains riddled with myths and misconceptions, Emma says she wishes that women would stop believing that they have to do what they’re told. “We often have no clue that we have the right to full body autonomy and can decline anything – we can make all the decisions about our bodies and birth!” Here, she shares seven of her top birthing hacks.

Birthing Hacks For Woman

1

“Drinking from a straw whilst in labour instantly relaxes the masseter muscles, which you find on each side of your face. Once we are able to relax these muscles, its connection to our pelvic floor means this relaxes, too. In turn, you have a relaxed vagina and more elasticated perineum. It also means that, during contractions, our uterus has the space and room to do its job without restriction as our pelvic floor muscles are relaxed!”

2

“Extra-virgin olive oil is extremely beneficial in pregnancy and birth. I recommend women use this on their perineum whilst doing perineal massage as it doesn’t affect your vaginal microbiota – so basically, it won’t affect your pH levels or that wonder bacteria we need! Doing this regularly from 34 weeks decreases the chances of tearing in childbirth.”

3

“Dates, as mentioned in the Quran, were used at the birth of Jesus! Mary ate them to help ease the ‘pain of childbirth’ and there is definitely truth in this. If eaten from 34 weeks daily (x6 medjool), dates are linked to an easier labour. This is because they strengthen the uterus muscles, have a positive effect on the cervix, and have been shown to help women dilate quicker and with less discomfort, so they’re an all-round winner.”

4

“Singing is such a beautiful tool to use whilst in labour. There are a few benefits to this. The first is that as soon as we start singing, we activate the vagus nerve, allowing our brain to switch into a state of calm. Feel-good hormones are released and, generally, we feel amazing. It’s also been theorised that, as we sing and our voice box vibrates, the cervix/vagina has these same vibrations. The term ‘cervix’ comes from the Latin word for the neck. Also, the vagina and the throat are almost identical to each other in structure, so the more we sing, the more we dilate – in theory!”

5

“The phrase ‘Floppy Face Floppy Fanny’ was originally coined by American midwife Ina May Gaskin many years ago, when she shared how the face and bottom are connected. As I studied this, I found that it’s actually everything to do with the vagina – the face is connected to this area in so many ways, starting from when we’re embryos. With the word ‘fanny’ used for vagina in the UK, it made sense to create this mantra that women could chant during birth. Not only does it have an extremely powerful impact, but it’s literally changing the way we birth worldwide. In turn, it’s become a solid favourite in my community and something that I’m recognised for.”

6

“While the position at birth should always be instinctive, laying on your back goes against gravity. It also increases the chance of intervention tearing and overall loss of control. Instead, being upright or even laying on your side can bring your baby into the world a lot easier and with less need for intervention. KICO – a term I coined that means Knees In, Calves Out – is a technique where you’d bring your knees inwards and feet and calves out. If you can’t do this, then just bringing your knees parallel makes the difference. This way, the biomechanics of the pelvis means that the outlet space opens, giving the baby optimal room to turn and be born.”

7

“The environment is one of the most important things when it comes to birth, and we can influence this wherever we are! Start by thinking about the environmental factors of the womb that your baby is in warmth, trust, safe, familiar sounds, darkness with shades of red, hydration. Now think about how you can alter your environment to match this. Turn down the lights, wear an eye mask, listen to music that’s familiar to you, and take items that are of sentimental value or hold wonderful memories.”

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Representation of a girl listening to others opinions

Is Your Mental Health Still on Victim Mode? 

Regain control of your life already.

What is victim mentality? The word ‘victim’ is thrown about a lot these days, but most people aren’t aware of how and when it should be used, and do not understand the impact it creates in our lives. Here, we’re going to delve into who a victim is to reduce all this confusion. 

A victim, in this context, is a person who is at the receiving end of a bad incident or emotion when it comes to mental health. Not everyone is a victim till they allow themselves to be. You would have likely seen people give advice to take responsibility for our actions, no matter what the situation is. But most of us don’t know how to do it and what impact it can have. 

How is this related to victim mentality? Consider this. Have you noticed that your life is circling the same path over and over again? Why is someone else always around you to trigger certain emotions – be it happiness or sadness? Why can’t you have a peaceful mind? Why is happiness always a short-term thing for you? If you have been thinking in this direction, congratulations! You are now one step closer to identifying the victim mentality in you and finding an answer to the problems that have been with you all your life. 

How can victim mentality take over your entire life?

Let’s start with an example of victim mentality and how it turns into a cycle. If a friend hurts you and you are upset about it, you are now feeling sad because of someone else’s actions. This can cause you to feel like you were the victim of that incident. With the rise of this feeling, you are now giving your power to someone else. It’s like allowing them to be a trigger in your life. You give the other person the power to control your life.

Being a trigger, they can control your unconscious mind and make you think, do, or act as they like. By giving the conscious mind and thinking power away, you are entering a very scary path where this process repeat and become a pattern. It means that you’ll come across similar people who will trigger you and make you sad because that’s all that you know and are familiar with.

This is where you need to take responsibility for your actions. You have to tell yourself that you cannot react to another person and you must maintain control of your conscious mind. Now that we have decoded victim mentality, the same thinking can be applied to happiness, too. If you start relying on others for your happiness or the outside environment to make you happy, you are letting yourself be dependent on it – and not learning to be truly happy. 

Whether it’s creating a cycle of sadness or depending externally for happiness, these habits can make life very difficult, very quickly. You cannot find long-term happiness or peace within yourself with such an approach as you’re letting yourself be a mere puppet. So what’s the solution? Believe that just as outside factors can control you, you can control the outside world, too.

If you can let your inner self control you – including your sadness, happiness, and all other emotions – then you will feel that the people around you cannot actually control your mood, especially with such intensity. You might still be sad or happy because of others, but they are no longer in control, and you know how to make yourself feel better.

How can you make yourself feel in control? 

Changing your attitude is not going to happen overnight. You’ll have to undertake a lot of learning, unlearning, decoding, and adopting new habits while dropping older ones. All of this effort will help you in personal development and identifying a path that you can follow. Once these things align in your life, they become what many call coincidences and opportunities – though in reality, they are simply the results of your effort.

You have to realise that you are the power centre in this change. If you give your power away as a result of victim mentality, you’ll lose everything. In comparison, if you learn to control it, you can manipulate how you feel, what happens in your life, and how things align in your life – all of it will be in your control. The condition to gaining this power is to let go of victim mentality.

Therapy is one way to approach this as it helps you analyse your behaviour and thinking patterns and gives you the tools and techniques to change and decode them. You have to fight the situation. Let the conscious mind take control and utilise its creative and logical parts to make you believe that you deserve a really happy life – and before you know it, you’ll create it. 

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Here’s the (Complete) Lowdown on Vitamin C

Curious what all the fuss is about?

Vitamin C seems to be everywhere these days, from multivitamin supplements and cosmetics to skincare routines – but what’s all the fuss about? Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid, is not made by the body, making it is an essential dietary component as well as a helpful skincare staple.

The Benefits of Vitamin C

Oral vitamin C is needed to make collagen, which is necessary for healthy connective tissue, cellular growth, repair, and wound healing to produce nerve-transmitting chemicals, neutralise cell-damaging free radicals, and support our immune system. It’s also needed for the absorption of minerals, such as iron from plant foods.

Severe vitamin C deficiency – now rare in the developed world – leads to a condition called scurvy, which is characterised by severe fatigue, connective tissue weakness, and bleeding. Smokers and those with suboptimal diets are at risk of this deficiency. There is also data to support vitamin C’s role in cancer prevention and treatment, cataract formation, eye degeneration, and heart disease prevention.

How to Get Vitamin C

Great sources of vitamin C include fresh fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruits, capsicum, and broccoli. Note that the cooking and prolonged storage of such foods can reduce their vitamin C content. Eating raw fruits and vegetables, and steaming rather than boiling vegetables, is also better for preserving their vitamin C content.

Dosing of oral vitamin C is personalised by age, gender, medical history, and current symptoms. What we do know is that the best way to get adequate vitamin C is through a healthy diet. The Institute of Functional Medicine advises more than nine portions daily for optimal health and well-being. Prolonged excessive oral vitamin C doses of 1 gram or more can contribute to kidney stone formation.

Vitamin C and Skincare

Skincare products feature vitamin C for a multitude of reasons. It offers some protection against UV light and pollution, supports skin brightening, evens out skin tone, and aids collagen formation (which in turn helps with wrinkles, fine lines, and creating firmer skin). Topical vitamin C is tolerated well by most people. However, minor skin irritation can occur with high potencies or those who have sensitive skin.

When choosing a vitamin C skincare product, always aim for potent subtypes that include L-ascorbic acid, ascorbyl palmitate, and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate. Ideally, the product should be in a slightly acidic water-free formulation – which makes serums a great choice. Starting with concentrations of 10% should be well tolerated by most individuals.

Meanwhile, combining vitamin C with other antioxidants can be a great way to see results. The formulation bottle should be opaque and airtight as vitamin C easily loses its antioxidant properties when exposed to heat, light, or air. Vitamin C undoubtedly possesses a powerhouse of supportive ingredients. For personalised medical advice, though, always speak to your family doctor.

Follow Dr. Preya Patel, a UK-trained Family Medicine Consultant and Functional Medicine Doctor, on Instagram.

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Myths About Drinking Water

5 Myths about Drinking Water, Debunked

Hint: it’s not rocket science.

Water is an essential element for optimal health, comprising 75% of body weight in infants and 55% in the elderly. According to Harvard Health, it assists in a variety of bodily functions. While there are countless health and wellness benefits of drinking water, several myths about water and how to drink it also persist. 

Before we continue, it’s important to understand that the human body is a complex unit. It will also comfort and empower you to know you are well protected by the complexity of your body. It’s not as fragile as it’s made out to be by people who want to sell their services or products using fear-mongering as a marketing strategy, so here, we address five myths about drinking water.

MYTH 1: Water can dilute stomach acids.

An often-asked question is if drinking water can dilute stomach acids. To explain this a little more, let’s look at two scenarios. The first is drinking water on an empty stomach. Water is absorbed in about approximately five minutes, and there is no release of stomach acid when water alone passes through the stomach to the small intestine. So, in this case, there is no dilution of stomach acid happening simply because none was released in the first place.

The second scenario is when water is consumed with a meal. Water helps lubricate the food we swallow, especially when we are eating way too quickly with minimal chewing. The mix of food and water adds volume, which leads to the expanding of stomach walls and releasing of digestive juices simultaneously. The stomach releases stomach acid (also called hydrochloric acid or HCl for short), which creates a highly acidic environment in the stomach with an average pH level of 2. There are hardly any studies that seem to indicate that the presence of water leads to the dilution of such acids.

Drinking Water Myths

One study on 12 healthy subjects showed that drinking water (which has a neutral pH of 7) increased the stomach pH to ≥4 in less than one minute, and this alkalising effect of water disappeared in three minutes. Perhaps, this is how people got the idea that water dilutes stomach acid, but even though water can minimally and temporarily change the pH of our stomach acid, it is insignificant in the grand scheme of things as the contents of our stomach are constantly monitored to adjust to different components of our meals. 

A related misconception is that water will ‘flush’ our meal out of our stomach. Yes, liquids do go through our stomach faster than solid food, but this doesn’t impact the solid parts of our meal. It just stays in our stomach until it’s digested enough to move along to the next part of our digestive tract.

MYTH 2: Drinking lots of water with meals helps with mindfulness.

When it comes to mindful eating, it’s best to avoid taking water with your meals as it can be a cue for us to ‘cheat’ on chewing our food, which helps to physically break down food and gives enough time for the mouth to mix food with saliva, thereby starting the digestion process. Drinking water with your meals may lead to a reduction in chewing as the water can aid in pushing the food down. While sipping on water (as needed) when eating your meal is fine, taking large gulps may not be a good practice for mindfulness. 

MYTH 3: Drinking water with a meal can cause weight gain. 

It’s standard for nutritionists to advise clients trying to gain weight to avoid water with meals to help them take in more calories, but that doesn’t mean having water with food directly causes weight gain. In fact, for those who are trying to lose weight, water with meals could be a positive habit that will help some to slow down the rate at which they eat as well as reduce their food portions, thereby helping them achieve a calorie deficit.

MYTH 4: Drinking water while eating can make you sick.

In most cases, drinking water with meals shouldn’t make people sick, but it may trigger reflux symptoms in those with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). This can happen as the extra water can add volume to your stomach, and more volume leads to more pressure. This pressure can then allow acid to move back up the wrong way in some people.

Those who have gone through bariatric surgery are also asked to avoid having water and food at the same time because of the surgical changes to their digestive system. They often have to work on the timing and quantity of water they consume to avoid difficulties.

MYTH 5: Children’s stomachs are too small to drink water with their meals.

I still remember my mom telling me not to drink water with my meals. Years later, when I asked her why, she said it was to make sure I didn’t fill up my stomach with water, which could lead to food being wasted. Admittedly, children do have small stomachs that tend to get filled quickly, but again, this need not apply to all the children. If your child is able to eat enough whilst having water with their meals, then that’s absolutely fine. 

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 Quiet the Mind to Reap These Benefits

Let meditation calm your life.

Having been on a journey with meditation, I can hands down say that it’s a life-changing experience! I turned to meditation when I had nothing else left. My first experiences of ‘trying’ to meditate were around seven years ago. I had been living in Dubai for a year and fancied going on a yoga retreat in Sri Lanka. I’m a very talkative person, and I met a woman just like myself at the retreat. We both struggled to take meditation seriously and confessed that we simply couldn’t switch off, sit still, and control the thousands of thoughts racing in our minds. When I asked for advice, all I was told was that it was about the breath. Unable to progress any further, I ended up giving up.

Several years later, I found myself in Thailand after a breakdown and turned to meditation again. This time, I trained myself to meditate and the results spoke for themselves! The thing to remember here is that the brain is a muscle, and it needs training like any other muscle. The more it is exercised, the stronger it becomes. I started with five minutes and now meditate, without fail, at least six days a week for a minimum of 20 minutes. I assure my coaching clients that if I can do it, anyone can – after all, I have always been someone who can’t sit still, someone who’s always on the move.

Daily habits and rituals are crucial for a happy, fulfilled life. In my line of work, I interact closely with women who want to learn how to be confident leaders. From my experience, everyone wants to learn the skills to be a great leader, but it’s the inner work that makes us shine – I call this the inner hustle. We live in a culture that rewards hustling, hard work, and long hours to be successful. This is an outdated system that leads to burnout, stress, and ultimately feeling unfulfilled. But there is much more to life than hustling!

I believe the new way is the conscious way – doing less and attracting more. It’s all about being in flow and alignment. We often feel that unless we are pushing and controlling, we aren’t productive or successful. I’ve found that when I am in this state, I make mistakes, have the wrong vibe, and end up doing more damage than good. It is only when you’re in the right space that you can attract the right people at the right time – and it all stems from feeling good.

When I work with women, I often see the same patterns, so I start by delving deep into how they spend their mornings. You can set your day up for success with the right habits and rituals. More often than not, we jump out of bed, rush to get ready, swig a coffee, and leave for the office. “I just don’t have time,” women say to me. We have to carve out time specifically for our morning habits and rituals to be successful. I can assure you the results will be outstanding if you do so. It’s the small, daily steps that lead to big breakthroughs. Meditation results in you feeling happy, calm, and in sync, and contributes to your overall wellness.

Meditation doesn’t have to be spiritual or ‘woo woo’ either – there is lots of scientific research to back up its benefits. When we meditate, we access what is known as Alpha brainwaves, which ignites creativity, inspiration, solutions, and problem-solving. There have been countless times when I have meditated and come up with ideas for my work right after. The fact is that 95% of life is created from the subconscious mind, and we can access it through meditation.

Meditation also reduces stress, gives clarity, increases focus, and promotes happiness. It is normal for thoughts to keep entering our minds as we meditate. The key is to get into the present moment, the space where we aren’t thinking of anything at all. This takes practice and the easiest way is to count your breath. Two thoughts can’t co-exist, so by counting, you are present. Here are my three tips for fruitful meditation.

Tip 1: Daily habits and rituals can be life-changing. 

Set your alarm 30 minutes earlier each day and start with an inspiring podcast. Go to YouTube and look up ‘guided meditation videos’, especially ones that focus on positive energy. Pick one you like the sound of, lie back, and listen. I prefer to lie flat, though some people like to sit up. There is no right or wrong way, so do what works for you.

Tip 2: Count your breathing. 

Count 1-2-3-4 as you inhale and 1-2-3-4 as you exhale. Remember to be patient with it. It’s called meditation practice as it takes practice – so stick with it. After some time, you’ll notice that you can do it for longer and longer.

Tip 3: Implement this daily, along with a gratitude journal. 

We all have things to be grateful for. Every day, start with, ‘I am so grateful for…’ Combine these two things to elevate your vibration or mood. There have been times when I have woken up irritable and groggy, only to feel like I had another 10 hours of sleep after meditation.

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A woman looking at a slice of cake and smiling.

Calling All Mums Who Want to Crush the Cravings!

Say no to sugar binges.

Have you ever found yourself holding open the fridge door, peering in, and blankly looking at its meagre contents in the middle of the night? Your baby might have been up for what feels like a gazillion hours and you can actually count the minutes you’ve slept with both hands. Looking into the fridge, you might be starving or bored if your baby is finally sleeping – or even both! You might feel like you can’t be bothered to whip up anything healthy and nutritious.

Instead, you’re wishing and hoping that a giant tub of ice cream or a mouthwatering bar of chocolate would fall into your hands. And then you remember all those food delivery apps on your phone! At the click of a button, you can now satisfy all your cravings. Hello sugar high, and hello sugar crash! Ah, motherhood – where poor sleep leaves the nights long and the days even longer. Sleep deprivation is part and parcel of this journey, but what we often don’t realise is that with sleep deprivation can come strong food cravings. Thought you were over the cravings from when you were pregnant? Think again. Here are some ways that you can crush them.

Get Some Sleep!

When sleep deprived, our body creates a hormonal imbalance of Leptin and Ghrelin, which can affect the regulation of hunger cues and cause us to overeat or reach for foods that are a lot higher on the calorie count. And in some instances, it can even make us not want to eat much at all!  

When we are tired – okay, exhausted – from being up all night, rocking and shh-ing the baby, reaching for that sugary ‘quick fix’ is generally what most mums find themselves doing when we have a minute to ourselves. Then, 12 months postpartum, we wonder why we look almost the same as we did the day we gave birth! I was on the same boat, too. So what can you do to stop yourself from reaching for the sugar rush? 

The Sleep Foundation in Australia recommends that the average adult get eight hours and 15 minutes of sleep per night. Now, with a newborn, it is highly unlikely you’re going to be getting that, so if your baby is on a schedule, take a nap when they take their longest nap. If you aren’t quite there with a schedule yet and are a bit more relaxed about sleep times, observe your baby’s cues and choose one or two of those nap times to get some rest yourself.

Drink Water

The standard recommendation of the amount of water we should drink is between six to eight glasses per day. Active mums, those of us living in the Middle East or hotter climates, and those who are breastfeeding may need to up their intake of water by one or two glasses. Sometimes, our bodies will think we are hungry when we’re actually thirsty.  

If water is not a regular go-to drink for you, then try some alternatives like super smoothies. Smoothies are a great way to keep hydrated, boost energy, and curb sugar cravings. To make it quick and easy, I usually add frozen fruit and baby spinach. I also freeze some bananas when they are looking a little too old. This is my go-to energy boost smoothie:

Serving Size:
1
Time:
5 Mins
Difficulty:
Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond milk (or any milk of your preference)
  • 1 cup of water 
  • ½ frozen banana
  • 1 cup of berries (I often use blueberries, but you can also get a mixed bag)
  • 1 tablespoon of honey 
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut butter 
  • ¼ cup oats
  • 1 cup frozen baby spinach (optional)

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender.
  2. Blend until it’s smooth.
  3. Enjoy!

A word of warning: the spinach can make the smoothie look more like a blended frog, but the honey helps cut through some of the bitterness and makes it taste better than it looks. 

Exercise

I know the last thing you probably want to think about when you are already using toothpicks to keep your eyes open is exercise, but doing a few minutes of gentle exercise can not only help perk you up, but also distract you from reaching for those sweets! Training was always very important for me, so I did this on a daily basis anyway, but when the sugar monsters called, I’d sometimes put on music and dance to distract myself. And once I was done, I’d be smiling, my cravings have subsided, or I’d have distracted myself enough that I didn’t feel like it anymore. All I’d have was simply drink water to quench my thirst. 

Be Careful of What You Add to Your Cart

Always leave the treats for someone else to buy. Steer clear of the aisles stocked with chocolate, ice lollies, and ice cream, filling your trolley with wholesome fruits and vegetables instead. However, if you do fancy a sweet quick-fix for an energy boost, then I highly recommend the Slim Secrets Bare Bar Double Choc protein bar. They’re keto-friendly, packed with almond protein, and covered in mouthwatering chocolate. 

Don’t Feel Guilty

Okay, so you haven’t done the food shopping yet and the only thing in the fridge is ice cream and chocolate, and your mouth is watering, so you grab the ‘not so healthy’ option. If that happens, that’s okay! Own it! We all need a little pleasure in our lives from time to time. This new mum business is tough stuff.

Just try not to eat the entire pack or tub, and remember that moderation is key. The more sugary food you eat, the higher the calorie content and the harder it is to get those extra kilos off later. Being a mother is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding things you will ever do. Love yourself and love your body. Fill it with good stuff and you will feel so much better.  

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Fish oil tablets

Demystifying Vitamins with the Help of a Dietician

Edel Warke sets the record straight.

With vitamins promising everything from stress relief to smoother skin, improved immunity, and illness prevention, we’re collectively turning to supplements more than ever before. Heck, those brightly coloured Flintstones gummies have been approved for children as young as two years old. But do vitamins work? Do we all need to complement our everyday diets with them? And how is one supposed to choose? Enter: Edel Warke, Lead Dietitian at King’s College Hospital London in Dubai. Here, she separates fact from fiction across vitamins C, D, and B12 before delving into the subject of multivitamins. Take note!

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is effective for preventing and/or fighting off colds.

“Vitamin C is an antioxidant, and has an important role in the immune system. Studies have shown that supplementing with vitamin C does not reduce the incidence of common colds in the general population. It has, however, been shown to reduce the severity and duration of colds.”

The best source of vitamin C is citrus fruits.

“Citrus fruits are an excellent source of vitamin C. It can also be found in kiwi, blackcurrant, mango, papaya, and sweet potato.”

75mg of vitamin C is recommended, but more will further develop immunity.

“The recommended amount differs across countries and is dependent on age and gender. Generally, 40-75mg per day is recommended, although people who smoke need slightly more. Having said that, taking high-dose supplements can lead to diarrhoea and kidney stones.”

Vitamin D

Living in Dubai, most of us have a vitamin D deficiency.

“Many people in Dubai have a vitamin D deficiency despite the ample sunshine! Most likely, this is because we often cover up when we’re in the sun, wear sun protection to avoid burning our skin, or even stay indoors because it is so hot outside.”

Vitamin D cannot be absorbed through food.

“Vitamin D is present in some foods and can be absorbed, but it is very difficult to get enough from food. Some food sources include oily fish like salmon and egg yolks. It’s also added to breakfast cereals sometimes.”

Taking 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily eliminates the need for exposure to sunlight.

“The best way to check if you need a supplement is through a vitamin D blood test. Your doctor will then advise what dose of vitamin D supplement you need. This is important as some people will need more than others to ensure a good level of vitamin D, which is important for strong bones and a healthy immune system.”

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 helps boost energy levels.

“Vitamin B12 helps to release energy from food and is also involved in making red blood cells. If you have vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia, you are likely to have extreme tiredness and lethargy.”

Vegans and vegetarians tend to have a vitamin B12 deficiency.

“Vitamin B12 is only present in animal products like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products, so people who limit animal foods are more likely to be deficient and therefore may require a supplement.”

Because it’s a water-soluble vitamin, getting too much can’t be dangerous.

“We don’t know what type of side effects could happen from taking too much vitamin B12. However, it may be dangerous. If you take a supplement, you should take 2mg or less per day as this is unlikely to cause any harm.”

Multivitamins

A multivitamin can cover all your vitamin needs.

“Nutrients function better when they are consumed from whole foods rather than from supplements. By eating a healthy varied diet, it’s likely that you will get all the nutrients you need – unless you have dietary restrictions – with the exception being vitamin D. A multivitamin can be useful if micronutrient intake is low. However, my advice would be to focus on getting what you need from a balanced diet.”

Multivitamins are enough to prevent illness.

“It is unlikely that multivitamins will prevent illness. To support your immune function, focus on a healthy and balanced diet, drinking sufficient water, exercising regularly, sleeping well, and managing stress.”

Multivitamins are unnecessary if one’s diet is balanced.

“Correct. Any vitamin supplementation should be decided on an individual basis. For example, if you have a specific deficiency, are excluding major components from your diet (e.g. vegetarian/vegan), or fall into certain groups of the population (such as pregnant women and young children).”

Multivitamins are a must for picky eaters and/or those on restricted diets.

“This is when a multivitamin might be useful. However, make sure you stick to the dosage on the label, and check that the nutrients in the multivitamin do not overlap with any other supplements you’re taking. Those taking medications should check with their doctor before starting any new supplement, while a dietitian can check whether you’re getting enough of the essential nutrients in the diet and give individual advice of which supplements to take.”

Countless brands make multivitamins – but they’re all essentially the same.

“Many supplements contain similar amounts of vitamins and minerals. Although requirements vary with age and gender, some brands create more specific multivitamins depending on these factors, making it more specific to the individual.”

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Guide to the HPV Vaccine

This Cancer Can Be Prevented with Just a Vaccine 

Here’s what you need to know about Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer happens when cells change in the cervix, the part of the body that connects the uterus and vagina. This cancer can affect the deeper tissues of the cervix and could spread to other parts of the body (or metastasize), often affecting the lungs, liver, bladder, vagina, and rectum. Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is preventable with a vaccine. 

Cervical cancer grows slowly, so there’s usually time to find and treat it before it causes serious problems. Thanks to improved screening through Pap tests and the cervical cancer vaccine, it kills fewer and fewer women each year. Women aged 35 to 44 are most likely to get it. More than 15% of new cases are in women over the age of 65, and especially those who haven’t been getting regular screenings.

What Is a Cervix?

The cervix is the lowermost part of the uterus. It forms a canal between the uterus and vagina, and is almost cylindrical in shape and measures about 2.5cm in length and diameter. It is divided into supravaginal part – the part lying above the vagina – and the vaginal part that lies within the vagina, with each measuring 1.25cm. 

The cervix is made of two parts and is covered with two different types of cells. The endocervix is the opening of the cervix that leads into the uterus and is covered with glandular cells. The exocervix (or ectocervix) is the outer part of the cervix that can be seen by the doctor during a speculum exam. It is covered in squamous cells.

The place where these two cell types meet in the cervix is called the transformation zone. The exact location of the transformation zone changes as you get older and if you give birth. Most cervical cancers begin in the cells in the transformation zone.

What Are the Risk Factors of Cervical Cancer?

Almost all cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that can be passed from one person to another during sex. There are many types of HPV. Some can cause changes on a woman’s cervix that can lead to cervical cancer over time, while other types can cause genital or skin warts. 

HPV is so common that most people get it at some point in their lives, and it usually causes no symptoms, so you can’t even tell that you have it. For most women, HPV will go away on its own. However, if it does not, there is a chance that it may cause cervical cancer over time. Other things that can increase your risk of cervical cancer include:

  • Having HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) or another condition that makes it hard for your body to fight off health problems
  • Smoking
  • Using birth control pills for a long time (five or more years)
  • Having given birth to three or more children
  • Having several sexual partners

What Are the Symptoms of Cervical Cancer?

The biggest symptom of cervical cancer is that there are no symptoms The symptoms that do show often occur late and include: 

  • Intermenstrual bleeding 
  • Post-coital bleeding (vaginal bleeding that occurs within 24 hours after sexual intercourse) 
  • Bleeding between periods 
  • Bleeding after sexual intercourse 
  • Bleeding in post-menopausal women 
  • Discomfort during sexual intercourse 
  • Vaginal discharge with a strong odour 
  • Vaginal discharge tinged with blood 
  • Pelvic pain

What Should I Know About the PAP Test?

The Pap test and the HPV test can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early. The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for pre-cancers or cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they’re not treated appropriately. The HPV test looks for the virus (human papillomavirus) that can cause these cell changes.

Both tests can be done in a doctor’s office or clinic. During the Pap test, the doctor will use a plastic or metal instrument called a speculum to widen your vagina. This helps the doctor examine the vagina and the cervix, and collect a few cells and mucus from the cervix and the area around it, which are then sent to a laboratory. If you’re getting a Pap test, the cells will be checked to see if they look normal. And if you’re getting an HPV test, the cells will be tested for HPV.

Cervical Cancer Treatment

How Is Cervical Cancer Treated?

Cervical cancer is treated in several ways, and it depends on the kind of cervical cancer and how far it has spread. Treatments include surgery such as a hysterectomy or cryosurgery, and chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Cryosurgery

This treatment kills the cancer cells by freezing them. It may be used to treat pre-cancers or abnormal cells that can turn into cancer if not treated.

Hysterectomy 

A hysterectomy takes out the uterus and cervix. It’s the most common way to treat cervical cancer and there are many ways to do this surgery. Sometimes, the ovaries are taken out at the same time. Nearby lymph nodes may also be taken out to see if they have cancer cells. Each type has its own risks. 

Chemotherapy

This method uses special medicines to shrink or kill the cancer. The drugs can be pills you take, medicines given through your veins, or sometimes both.

Radiation 

Radiation uses high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) to kill the cancer. Radiation can be aimed at the cervix from a machine outside the body. This method is called External Beam Radiation. A radioactive source can also be put into the vagina near the cervix. This is called Brachytherapy.

What Is HPV?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a distinct group of viruses that spread through sexual contact. HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer and can also contribute to the development of vulvar, vaginal, anal, and oropharyngeal cancers. HPV vaccines help control the spread of the virus. This vaccine for cervical cancer, along with regular screening, can help us win over the cancer as well as protect us from many other infections. 

How Is HPV Spread?

You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus. It is most commonly spread during vaginal or anal sex. It also spreads through close skin-to-skin touching during sex. A person with HPV can pass the infection to someone even when they have no signs or symptoms. If you are sexually active, you can get HPV, even if you have had sex with only one person. You also can develop symptoms years after having sex with someone who has the infection. This makes it hard to know when you first got it.

How Do I Know if I Have HPV?

There are HPV tests that can screen for cervical cancer. Healthcare providers only use these tests for screening women aged 30 years and older. HPV tests are not recommended to screen men, adolescents, or women under the age of 30. Women may find out they have HPV when they get an abnormal Pap test result (during cervical cancer screening). Others may only find out once they’ve developed more serious problems from HPV, such as cancers.

HPV Vaccination

Which Vaccine Should You Take?

GARDASIL 9

This vaccine stimulates an immune response that protects against nine strains of HPV.

GARDASIL 4

This vaccine is a non-infectious vaccine that protects against four strains of HPV.

Who Needs the HPV Vaccination, and When ?

Across the world, HPV vaccination is recommended at ages 11 or 12, even though it can be given at the relatively young age of nine. The vaccination is highly recommended for all women up to the age of 26 – especially if they were not properly vaccinated against HPV earlier. Experts feel that it is extremely effective when administered before the first sexual intercourse.

What Is the Recommended Timing of HPV Shots?

The vaccine is given in a two- or three-dose schedule, depending on the age of the patient. For ages 9- 14, two doses at zero month and six months is recommended. For ages 15 to 45, three doses at zero month, one month, and six months are advised.

What Are the Side Effects of the HPV Vaccination?

Common side effects include:

  • bruising or itching at the site of the injection
  • a high temperature or feeling hot and shivery
  • nausea
  • pain in the arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, or toes
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Fitness in Ramadan

How To Stay Fit When You’re Fasting

Exercise smart, exercise safe this Ramadan.

Keeping up with your workouts when you’re fasting during Ramadan isn’t easy. It’s even harder when you’re not drinking water from sunrise to sunset as summer approaches. But there are ways to safely maintain your fitness routine – from making tweaks to the type of exercise you do, the duration of your workout, and when you exercise to managing food and water intake before and after your fast. 

“We’ve introduced specific timings for our classes during Ramadan to help our clients manage their workouts in the safest and most effective way,” says Ivana Bruic, Co-Founder and Master Instructor of Storm Cycling in Mirdif. “We’ve introduced special classes at 5:30pm for those who want to exercise just before breaking their fast, and classes at 9:30pm and 10:30pm for clients who prefer to exercise after.”

Fitness expert

Fitness experts agree that continuing to exercise during Ramadan is essential for both your physical and mental well-being, as sitting all day long or sleeping erratic hours can make you feel even more fatigued. But being more aware of your body’s needs whilst you’re fasting is vital to ensure your workout is safe and effective. So what should you be doing to make sure your health doesn’t suffer when you’re fasting? 

Watch the Video: Staying Fit Whilst Fasting

Hydrate as Much as You Can, When You Can

Reduce your risk of dehydration by drinking as much water as possible between iftar and suhoor, especially if you plan to work out before you break your fast the following day. Aim for four or five large glasses of water before sunrise to ensure you’re hydrated for the day ahead.

Find Your Own Workout Time

“Each person has a different optimum time to get their workout in,” explains Ivana. “The idea is to maximise each person’s optimum time to get their workout in. So whether it suits you better to do a less-intense class just before you break your fast or a harder workout after iftar so your energy stores have been boosted, it’s totally your call.” If you’re a morning person and usually work out early anyway, a super-early morning workout before sunrise can boost your energy levels for the day ahead.

Switch Up Your Workouts

Following an intense cardio-based workout schedule while you’re fasting is significantly challenging, so changing your workout to one with fewer reps and more recovery time will help you manage your energy. If you love HIIT, swap to strength training, a slower and more controlled workout that won’t induce as much sweating and make you need to rehydrate as much.

Break Your Fast with the Right Foods

tips to stay fit in Ramadan

Dates are the traditional food chosen to break a fast for a reason – they’re the perfect source of natural energy,” explains Ivana. “Rehydrating with lots of water is vital, and nut milk is also a great way to boost your energy levels. But if you’re planning to exercise after iftar, make sure you don’t eat heavily and allow two to three hours until you exercise in order to allow the food to digest properly.”

Make Suhoor a Smart Meal

Eating something comprised of complex carbohydrates – like porridge or oats with banana, dates, and nuts – will give slow-release energy throughout the day and keep rumbling tummies at bay. 

Work, Rest, Pray

Waking up early to pray and going to bed late means that getting enough sleep can be difficult, so if you’re working out too, you’re going to need to build adequate recovery time into your schedule. It may not be something you’ll want to do after Ramadan, but naps are super-important for recovery whilst fasting.

Strategic napping – like a short nap after your first morning prayer and a workout three hours later or a nap a few hours before it’s time to break your fast – can really help energy levels. “You may feel really lightheaded during the first few days of fasting, so if you’re able to fit in a power nap or two in the daytime, you’ll feel more clear-headed and energised,” adds Ivana. 

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