Calling All Free Spirits

 
 

As we get close to wrapping up our look at food series on the podcast, we've been contemplating the spirit behind the wellness movement.  We're all so tribal these days, so what is the "wellness tribe" ethos?  Is it (as I like to think) that neo-hippie-meets-OG-70's sun-kissed "we are all one", free spirit vibe?  Is it a worship of the latest research on how to get cut and optimise mental performance?  Or is it, as many say, the club for a rich, privileged, out-of-touch minority?  More alarmingly, is it actually just another branch of advertiser-led consumerism, created by the now-enormous wellness industry to sell us expensive supplements, protein powders, superfood mixes and other "well" necessities priced at a premium?  We've had guests on the show who subscribe to all of these views to varying degrees, and it's an argument that we see played out across the wellness world.  

If you are wondering what the heck I am talking about & need to catch up on Life Butter Radio, you can do so on this website, or in iTunes here.  We've been taking a multi-dimensial look at food and health, so whether you bleed green juice or put cheese on everything, there's bound to be something that catches your interest.

Be Well, Be Free

There's many angles on a critique the Cult of Well, but today's discussion is about that first group I mentioned above - the well-mama free spirits.   These women have seemingly found the secret; they look good, they exude energy and happiness, and though they are of the world, they don't have a lot of time for, well, much of it.  You know the one: the wellness-mamas for whom rejection of Western healthcare (Ayurveda flows better, thanks), traditional cooking (revering instead either the newest research or the purported diets of our pre-civilisation ancestors) and any institutionalised religion (communing instead with the Universe) equates to rejecting all manner of conformity with our flawed, flawed Western world.  These women are creative, they are connected and in the flow, and they have moved past their traumas and suffering which makes them alluringly, captivatingly FREE.  Channeling a '70's vibe, they speak of the universal healing a "well" lifestyle delivers, which coincides with the shift in our times predicted by the Mayan calendar and the arrival of the Aquarian age.  We have entered into an age of upheaval and change, of the rise of the feminine (or so we hope).  Does all this upheaval & change mean that the age of the Free Spirit is upon us too?

Expectations: Why We All Want To Be Free

We love a free spirit, don't we?  Kate Moss, Drew Barrymore, Zoe Kravitz - they spark something in us that we just can't stop obsessing about.  Us femmes are constantly caught in the snares of both societal expectations and the very high expectations we place on ourselves.  Though some of this is self-imposed, we long to cut loose, so we worship women who seem to be able to buck all expectations, thrive (or sometimes not - equally compelling to watch), and actually enjoy themselves.  And increasingly this isn't just about women owning their lives as individuals; because happy mom means happy family, the free-spirit attitude can (though doesn't always) make for a fun and fulfilling family life too. In essence, the free spirit is now not just the effortlessly cool girl, but the ultimate mama and romantic partner too.  

But what is a free spirit, and is wellness really all "IDAF", "you do you", "follow your own flow", or are we swapping one set of expectations for another?

Iterations of the Free Spirit: Wellness Mama as the New "French Girl"

 I woke up like this (& in Breton stripes)

I woke up like this (& in Breton stripes)

We started thinking about what really makes a "free spirit" more seriously after reading a W magazine article on the wellness-mama character of Bonnie from HBO's production of Liane Moriarty's "Big Little Lies".  Bonnie, played by the ever-sassy, sexy and inspirational Zoe Kravitz, is a yogi, fitness instructor and holistic guru...who nevertheless drinks wine and permits the presence of Cocoa Puffs in her kitchen. The article contrasted her hippie-chill with certain big-name wellness mavens who may profess free-spiritedness, but loudly reject anything that doesn't fit their earth-loving, health enhancing green queen persona.  

It really reminded me of several excellent reviews of the book How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style and Bad Habits, which celebrates the other sort of free-spirited beauty we all long to emulate: the French Girl.  The book is a few years old so you may have read it or at least read of it, but to give you a flavour, it recounts tips on beauty, sex, fidelity, style and general French girl cool for, well, the rest of us.  You know these by heart I'm sure - French girls smoke like chimneys while on their way to the countryside for some French air.  They mix things up, cheating on their boyfriends with their lovers and then on their lovers with their boyfriends.  They love mascara and their "flaws" equally, because they generally love themselves (above anyone else).  I don't hate this book, but I probably enjoyed the snarky reviews of it even more.  My favourite, locked sadly behind The Times paywall, eloquently skewered the hypocrisy of the seeming glamour of the Parisian lifestyle and this purported French IDAF-and-I-look-good-on-it attitude:

"The Parisian look, says [the author], can be summed up in six words, “I do not give a f***.” I’ve never come across a city where women give more of one."

Yep, this is a view I've long subscribed to - the French-girl, "effortless" cool, has, actually, a hell of a lot of effort behind it.  A similarly scathing-but-funny review by my babe Hadley Freedman can be read for free here.

It's Not About Whether Gwyneth is Right 

These critiques take a different tack than, say, the persistent criticisms of Goop, which all seem to centre on the validity of the site's health reporting.  But this isn't about whether Gwyneth Is Wrong About Everything; it's about whether all the green juice, meditating and chakra alignment really make you free.  It's something I've contemplated as I've attempted to design a morning routine that incorporates care for my mind, body and spirit...and doesn't taken two and a half hours (starting at 5 AM!). Do structure and routine actually give you freedom?  Or is freedom skipping the meditation and gym session for an extra hour in bed?

It's Not About "Balance" Either

Balance, you may think, is the answer, but free-spiritedness is different from "balance", which we see lots of wellness gurus and models like Gigi Hadid espouse - mostly in the context of a post-workout burger, or the 80/20 rule (80% good- i.e. greens, always greens / 20% naughty - i.e.  doughnuts, or whatever is the new doughnut).  But does "balance" really equate with liberation from the shackles of societal expectations?  I've always preferred the celebrities who own their regimes honestly (a recent-ish example: Zoe Saldaña interviewed by Balance magazine here in London).

Only Rebels Are Free

 Natalie Portman: the unexpected rebel (SNL)

Natalie Portman: the unexpected rebel (SNL)

If what we really want is to say a big EFF OFF to all expectations (YES!), then maybe what we really want is to be a rebel.  That's what long-time student of happiness and habits (inextricably interlinked) Gretchen Rubin calls her expectation-rejectors anyway.  

Rubin, author of the NYT best-selling The Happiness Project, has spent years looking at habits and happiness and has developed a personality-type framework that breaks down how easy it will be for you to form good habits, and the strategies that will be most effective for you in keeping them. Personality quiz junkies can get their fix here.  For the rest of you, bear with me while I summarise for you: our ability to make & keep good habits all comes down to...what we make of expectations.  

According to Rubin, the ease or difficulty with which we stick to good habits has to do with our relationship to expectations; if we are willing to meet expectations, whether imposed by ourselves or others, we can find strategies to help us form and keep good habits without too much trouble.  Even if we question expectations, habit forming is still possible - we just need convincing reasons to value the expectation.  But if we don't really DO expectations at all?  AS in they hold no possible value for us? These people are "rebels"; they are our true free spirits.  And, perhaps unsurprisingly, habit forming is hardest for them. As in, these people are unlikely to find it easy to rise at 5:30 AM to meditate for 30 minutes before a hot yoga session and green juice.

[Rebels]...want to do what they want to do at all times...they are completely motivated by present desire.
— Gretchen Rubin

Honestly, other than grabbing that extra handful of pop chips, how often do must of us just do what we want, when we want?  No wonder rebels are the smallest personality group.

Why a Rebel Isn't (Exactly) a Free Spirit

We love the idea of being a free spirit - someone light-as-air, unencumbered by worry, acting on desire without overthinking it.  And as fashion fades and wellness grows in our cultural awareness, this woman looks less like a croissant-loving, exercise-eschewing, wild-haired French girl (at least to me), and more like a barefoot, tanned buddha bowl-eating yogi. These are both archetypes - something to aspire to, and I think we'll always want to be some version of her.  

Do we want to be rebels?  Sometimes, for sure.  Maybe politically?  Maybe in certain situations, and even daily in small ways...but there's something about the rebel girl which, while sexy, also suggests...selfishness and self-destruction.  She may be into healing the world, in theory, but she doesn't entirely have her own shit together, and she's too caught up in drama.  Sure, she may have her allure, but she's also kind of an asshole?  Really draining to be around?  I'm thinking of the difference between, say, the aforementioned Zoe Kravitz, and Madonna.  I'm not sure as many of us are quick to admire emulate the rebel girl in every way, much as we may admire parts of her. 

 
 no brush, no bra, (probably) no deodorant: no problem

no brush, no bra, (probably) no deodorant: no problem

 

So where does that leave wellness and the gurus who promote it?

In Defence of Expectations

Much as I love a free spirit, especially from a style perspective, I've actually come around to the view that there is a great deal of freedom in structure.  Parenting really highlights that actually - a bit of routine seems to make everyone happy...because you know what to expect.  

EXPECTATIONS: do we want them, or do we want to overthrow them?  When it comes to wellness anyway, I think we want to feel good.  And I still believe that incorporating a few practices that calm the mind, restore the soul and condition the body help us feel our best.  I'm definitely not a rebel; I need expectations to thrive...but I want them to be on my own terms.

This brings me to a bit a wisdom from a slightly older French lifestyle guru, Mireille Giuliano (see, not all French lifestyle advice is bad!), who talks in her books about "se sentir bien dans sa peau" - feeling good in your own skin.  This, for her, means eating and drinking what she likes, but not to excess.  A bit of light weights and yoga as she has gotten older, but no crazy gyms sessions that you can then use to justify an, epic blow-out meal.  It's not about what Gwyneth has to say (though teachers are helpful); it's about knowing yourself, and living comfortably within the parameters of what makes you feel good.  Because ultimately, that's what we all want.

Wellness promises happiness, and I believe it can deliver - not everything, not freedom from pain, but certainly a lot of good.  The right food can give you energy, improve your looks, help your digestion and immunity and actually taste delicious.  Sleep does wonders for the mind, body and soul.  Meditation, breath work and yoga can calm the mind, bring you back to the present moment and help you cope with stress.  New age rituals or religion can allow you to connect with your intuition, and God (whatever that means to you).  These practices can't fix everything, but they are super likely to make you feel better than you would otherwise.

For me (and I think many of us), pursuing wellness means establishing a routine, and having discipline.  It also means knowing when it's more important to stay up til 2 with a friend and a bottle of wine than getting to bed before midnight so you can meditate, but it mostly involves routine, ritual and practice.  So it isn't exactly the path of the free spirit, for all the crystals and kaftans you may own.  But it may help you feel good.  True freedom?  I'm not even sure the rebels have that down.  True freedom probably comes from knowing that, at the end of the day, none of this matters.  

In the meantime, I'll still have some photos of LA and Australia on my mood board, and remind myself, as I get up at 6:30 to make my morning smoothie, that I'm really a free spirit at heart.

 My girl Drew is a Free Spirit Queen

My girl Drew is a Free Spirit Queen

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Food Makes Me Feel Things

Why is our relationship with food so complicated?  Why can't we just go to a restaurant blind (i.e. without having googled the menu and pre-decided our order) and casually scan the menu, not for the most "health enhancing" choice (whether that's a lettuce-wrapped hamburger or the raw bowl with a side of ferments), but for whatever is calling our name from a flavour perspective?  The concept of health food is hardly novel, and "diets" designed to keep you fit and trim have been around for decades.  But over the past few years, the conversation has intensified.  We have been bombarded with messages about the power food has over our mood, longevity, immunity, skin (the "perfect skin diet"?  Seriously?), hair, sleep, hormones & more.  Our expectations of food are now astronomical; more than pleasure, culture, family, love or even figure and physique goals, it's like the type of food we consume is part of our identity, speaking to who we are as people.  And not in the Italian way.

 Sophia said she owed her figure to pasta.  The gluten-y kind.

Sophia said she owed her figure to pasta.  The gluten-y kind.

It's been an intense moment for food.  Feeling depressed?  You aren't eating enough healthy fats.  Skin breaking out?  Try cutting out dairy.  Energy low?  Lay off the caffeine and sugar. Want to save the world?  Stop eating animal products.  Hormonal, menopausal or fertility issues?  That's a whole other mess that we'll be diving into separately, but here's a little teaser: your diet is to blame (at least in part).

Look, we will be the first to say that most of this is actually incredibly positive.  I grew up on a diet of fast food, pop tarts (brown sugar cinnamon baby!), "fruit" roll ups and basically everything in packet form.  Honestly, this was a really fun way to grow up; convenience food is specifically crafted to be amazingly flavourful and downright addictive (seriously, oreos are as addictive as cocaine, and the casein in cheese triggers the same part of our brains as opioids!  No wonder cheese is the last thing many vegans give up.). Looking back at photos, however, and remembering how I felt at the time, I'm convinced it didn't do me any favours. 😕 So I am delighted to see a resurgence of real food.  And once your palate adjusts, the flavour, texture, beauty and pure sensory delight of real food is pretty incomparable.  So when we choose to prepare more of our own meals from scratch (or those hand-made by others), we are benefiting not just from a health perspective, but enjoying high-quality, delicious food.  Unless you are making cinnamon chicken.  Sorry, but that did not work out for us!

That said, some aspects of new wave cooking are troubling.  

 

First of course are the health claims, which do not convince everyone.  I'm not going to go down this rabbit hole, but essentially the medical community is not universally convinced that gluten and dairy are unsuitable for the vast majority of us.  Google it if you want to lose hours of your life in the detail and expose yourself to some angry rants on both sides.  And yet, so many of us clearly look and feel better for eliminating (or at least reducing) our intake of these ingredients.  Is that because, when cutting out gluten and dairy, we are typically replacing processed foods with our own cooking, or is there more to it than that?  

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My own take is that science is of fundamental importance in advancing an understanding of how to treat, improve and enhance both the human body and human experience, but there is still so much that science cannot explain.  Over time, we will learn more about how food affects us both as a species and as individuals, but in the meantime, we should feel empowered to experiment and see what makes us feel good.  Most of the time, that's probably going to involve lots of greens.  But sometimes, that is going to be the pizza, addictive as it is.

Someone asked me recently what I think it is we are all trying to remedy through clean eating.  Because if the promise of so many of these regimes is "healing", does that mean that they are appropriate for the well?  Do we all have autoimmune diseases, early-onset arthritis, adrenal fatigue, imbalanced hormones, anxiety and depression?  And is there a reason why dairy and gluten free menus perhaps aren't on the agenda for health workers in Africa and Asia who are trying to help the clinically malnourished?

But actually, I'm less interested in de-bunking the health claims of this new modern way of eating, and more interested in exploring the other ways that food feeds us, and what are are potentially missing when we cut out a huge swath of edible substances by going paleo or raw vegan.  

 Salad does not make me feel like this

Salad does not make me feel like this

Because I've been downing green smoothies and saying "can I substitute..." in restaurants for years, and adjusting my diet really has helped me with a whole host of issues (as it has helped so many).  But I've grown uninspired.  I'm tired of being told that a bowl of greens with some roasted veggies is "amazing" and will make me feel sexy.  Because it doesn't; it makes me feel "good", like I've been virtuous.  And that is just feeling really boring these days.  Do I want to be the good girl who has salad, alkaline water and maybe a square of dark, refined sugar-free vegan chocolate as a treat?  Or do I want to be a sensual, free-spirited, fun explorer of the world who partakes in its delights? Didn't Kate Moss and Gwyneth Paltrow have this exact conversation once?    

Food is nourishment.  It is also entertainment, culture art (or can be), and love.

I want to eat with all of my senses, enjoying the visual beauty, the texture, smell, context, history, culture and taste of food.  Of course I want to feel amazing, so I'm not going to abandon the principles that have worked for me...but I'm changing my expectations of food.  I want to feed my hair, make my skin glow and have endless energy...but I also just really, really want to have fun.

I recently picked up the Moon Juice cook book (quick summary: lots of raw plants & nuts.  Get a juicer, a blender, and a dehydrator).  I've been in a bit of a cooking rut, and this book inspired me immensely. Unlike the vast majority of "clean eating" superstars, Amanda Chantal Bacon has been to culinary school, & has a fine dining background working in well-known restos.  She's also travelled the world, and her recipes evoke the magic & romance of, say, an afternoon in Beirut, or a warm Tuscan evening.  To say that her approach to eating is unconventional is a massive understatement (the reaction to her "what I eat in a day" for ELLE magazine was INTENSE - and hilarious).  But I find her way of looking at what food can do for us refreshing, because it truly pairs the promise of food's power (she is the creator of Sex Dust & Beauty Dust, after all) with the delivery of its pure sensory pleasure.  I don't have a juicer, but I have tried quite a few recipes from the book, and so far, they are all actually delicious!  They have also been fun to prepare (mostly because they are very different).  Are they gorgeous?  Not in my every iteration, but I see the potential.  I'm going to try a few more of the especially vibrant dishes, and report back.  Watch this space!

The other book that has been inspiring me?  Another Californian who is equally polarising (though more mainstream popular) - Chrissy Teigen.  I'm not sure if she wrote all the recipes, but I do think she wrote all the headnotes, and they are both funny and inspiring.  This is someone who loves her food, loves her body and loves life.  She's a swimsuit model, so it's easy for her to make cooking look sexy, but all I know is that when I flip through this book, I want to jump into some of the pictures and get in on the party.  Will I be eating her meatloaf every week?  Doubtful - I gave most of it to my dinner companions...who said it was amazing.  I rarely get that reaction from the "amazing" dishes I pick from one of our more health-focussed cook books.

 

 

 

 

 

I'm tired of food making me feel virtuous, guilty, confused, expectant or just meh...I want food to make me feel alive.

 

So with this as our backdrop, I'll now be diving into Life Butter's look at food.  You can expect recipes, videos, and tonnes of fun on the Radio show.  Come along for the ride - let's inspire & be inspired. ✌️

Hello, World!

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So You Say You Want A Revolution

The V&A's Retrospective On The Counter-Culture & What it Has to Say About Our Neo-Hippy Now

It's not exactly breaking news to say that many of us are drawing parallels between the Days of Revolution: Recent Past (i.e. the '60s/'70s) and now; everywhere you look in fashion, music and popular culture, we are going all braless and protest-y.  And quite understandably; on both sides of the political spectrum in the West, there is a swell of dissatisfaction, confusion and anger at the "establishment", whatever that means to you.  Wherever you look, there are references to the historic protests around the civil rights movement, equal rights movement and peace demonstrations, and the slogans of that era are being reinterpreted & repurposed to give voice to current frustrations.

Of course this was the era that also brought us that brand of Californian, holistic wellness that we are seeking to understand here at Life Butter, and so I thought it would be interesting to check out the Victoria & Albert's retrospective You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970 to see if it held any insights into the incredible growth of the wellness industry, currently valued at $3.72 TRILLION globally.  I've also been a long-term fan of '70s style...particularly that look that involves not cutting or brushing your hair.  😜 So off I went.

The exhibition was good fun; it was well-curated & had a great variety of materials to see & hear (sponsored by Sennheiser, you walked through with headphones taking you on an audio journey of the era, and a big-screen, 28-minute musical film on Woodstock at the end looked promising, though I didn't get to stay to watch as I had a 2-year old in tow).  Liberal economic politics, social change in the form of equalising rights and loosening strict moral codes, recreational drugs, The Beatles, The Stones & David Bowie (we are in London, after all), Mary Quant & Chelsea Girl style and Californian communes were all explored in vibrant relief.  But more than just another baby-boomer group hug on The Glory That Be Theirs (Which Will Never Be Matched), the exhibition also sought to draw parallels between then & now, though definitely with its own angle (excellent review on the slant here).

While the exhibition didn't explicitly examine any of the tenets of wellness per se, the spirit of revolution that categorised the Counter-Culture & called the young to divorce themselves from the "establishment" (remember: don't trust anyone over 30) is the same essence that is breathing life (and megabucks) into contemporary wellness.  The specifics matter less; whether your wellness jam is grass-fed beef and ghee or sprouted mushroom protein shakes and actual jam, a large part of the movement is against the "man" that is McDonalds.  Industrialised food, fast food, packaged anything is out: remember, don't trust your mother's cooking (if you grew up on the S.A.D. anyway!).  The young today are shockingly like The Beatles (who could be their (grand)parents), "we all want to change the world", we're just going to do it with our dollars.  According to a Neilsen, 73% of millennials are prepared to pay more for products and services from companies dedicated to social and environmental change, while 80% of global customers agree that companies must play a role in addressing societal issues, according to Edelman’s 2016 Trust Barometer (source).

 Jam/jelly...Beyoncé is always relevant

Jam/jelly...Beyoncé is always relevant

So...what does that have to do with exercise, meditation, health eating...crystal healing & sleep?

Well, we all know that the baby boomers and the generation that WILL NOT GO AWAY; their story & legacy, and therefore much of this exhibition, didn't seem novel...until I got to the very end.

 We will forever be your muses

We will forever be your muses

The exhibition concluded in a way that I didn't expect - showing the links between technology as an important tool of the Counter-Culture in creating anti-establishment, independent societies (think these Californian communes) and our use of technology today.  I might be alone, but I had never thought of the hoodie-wearing, Soylent drinking (someone please EXPLAIN THIS?!?!) Silicon Valley of today as a continuation of Californian hippiedom.  But if technology is the agent of revolution, and the agent of community (as it is so often said to be), it is also increasingly becoming the tool of commerce, with retailers not only encouraging e-commerce (duh), but using apps to track consumer movements, tailor specific discounts and nudge shoppers towards a purchase.  Here's the link to an interview Joseph Turow gave on his new book The Aisles Have Eyes; have a read or a listen if you want a forecast of all the new & sneaky ways retailers will use technology to separate you from your cash. 

So what does this all have to do with wellness? It's about the MONEY behind youth & revolution.  Because wellness is about revolution, right?  Or is it about luxury? Because feeling good is the new looking good, and every big brand is on board.

I don't have a problem with this; more money behind holistic health, beauty & wellness (hopefully) means that it becomes easier & cheaper to make healthy choices.  This too follows the trend of the 60s, when mass production decreased the price of all manner of "things", and so the generation of social change also became the generation of hedonism, consumerism and the credit card (according to a slightly pessimistic V&A).

But while I'm not completely anti-consumerism, I think it has an incredible ability to Dilute The Message (see this excellent mini-rant on this phenom in the fitness industry by ELLE UK Fitness Editor Bangs).  And if, as discussed in a previous post, wellness is really about community, then I really think we need to keep the message strong these days.

There was an image in the exhibition that really struck me; it was of Jean Shrimpton walking barefoot, barelegged & seemingly carefree down a wild Kings Road; Mary Quant's archetypal Chelsea Girl.  With the best will in the world towards all Chelsea Girls, that phrase connotes something a bit different today.

So I'll buy organic greens, I'll buy a gym pass...hell, I might even buy some palo santo..but I want to keep the end in mind.  Why am I doing all of this?  It's worth remembering.

Viva La Revolucion!

Last Words: What Are Your Final Phrases Before Sleep?

What do you do right before you go to bed?  Do you diarise like Pepys or Richard Burton, complaining about politics, the prostitute who ripped your trousers (you'd think that was Burton but you would be WRONG) or writing about your wife's amazing figure (apparently ping pong kept Liz Taylor looking good...who knew?)?  Maybe journalising isn't your scene, so you opt for a bedtime story? Or do you say a special nighttime mantra before you meditate, you full-on wellness queen you.

 Or maybe you say it all with your gorgeous eyes

Or maybe you say it all with your gorgeous eyes

We are wrapping up our look at sleep on Life Butter Radio, and wanted to take a little look at the last words of the day, whether these are words you write, say or read.  

So You're a Writer

2016 was a year of the Headspace app at Life Butter London HQ.  Founder Andy Puddicombe is both the creator and voice behind the popular app (kind of like our host Kari!), and his sleep series is especially soothing.  Camille Rowe finds him "dreamy" (at 12:35), so it's not just us. 

In the first Headspace Sleep meditation, Andy asks you to recall what you did that day, starting from when you woke up.  The exercise is only 10 minutes in total, so you aren't dwelling on any particular moment for too long, but just flowing through the rhythm of what you did from the time you awoke to the time you got into bed and started the meditation at a smooth, reasonable pace.  Andy's approach is backed up by science, and the idea is that gently scrolling (again in your mind, not on your phone) through the events of the day clears your mind of anything that happened that you might be hung up on, calms you and prepares your brain to switch off.  So if you are a writer, pre-bedtime might be a great time to set down a few lines aboutsq what went on during your day...provided you don't do it on a computer, or get super rant-y.

So You're a Reader

In chatting with friends, it became clear that the one thing that helps all of us shut down our brains and get ready for Zzzzs is getting involved in a story that has nothing to do with you or your day-to-day life.  This is one of the reasons that so many of us like to switch off to the tunes (or explosions, these days) of a boxset, or the alt-reality of a Real Housewives franchise before bed.  But we know that at least in the hour before we want to sleep, it's time to switch off the box (and our phone) and wind down.  Enter the old-fashioned bedtime story.

Sales of physical books were up in 2016, and we think there's a correlation.  More of us are reading fiction in our daily lives, not just on the beach or on the train.  And as we've been reading our fair share of Good Night Moon as of late, we've been thinking about the bedtime stories that stay with you...the fairy tales that take you to places far away, where anything real that could possibly be stressing you out is a distant memory.  One of ours growing up?  The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle.  Unicorns, talking butterflies and handsome princes?  Magic.

 Back off depressing news, I'm reading about unicorns

Back off depressing news, I'm reading about unicorns

So You're a Talker

 Us too Jeff

Us too Jeff

Honestly, we don't know anyone IRL who actually recites mantras before they go to bed, but they exist (just like unicorns, winky-face).  So somewhere out there, there are people who are saying just a few last words, again & again, to clear their brain out before they go to bed.  It seems like it'd work, and maybe one of these days we'll give it a try.

We do know quite a few people who pray before bed - classic.  Though in theory this seems potentially stress-inducing as you are going over worries and concerns, this apparently also helps us clear these worries out of our burdened brains so that we are ready to sleep.  And if you caught Episode 4 of Life Butter Radio, you'll understand why so many traditional prayers ask for God's protection and commend the soul to heaven...fear of dying in the night was very real (and sadly, in some places, still is).  No matter what else you are doing before you go to sleep, sparing a thought or two for someone else and wishing them well, and maybe commending yourself to something higher seems a good way to end the day.

 Prayer: releasing worries and connecting to community and spirit before sleep. 

Prayer: releasing worries and connecting to community and spirit before sleep. 

Many of us need a little escapism these days, so what are you reading, writing or saying before Zzz?

And if you DO need a little help, check out Episode 6 of Life Butter Radio, a special ep that was written, designed and performed to send you off to dreamland.  We hope you enjoy.   

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KALE ME NOW

The Wild Food Trends of 2017

In the spirit of all things nourishing (which, in case you missed it, is our theme of 2017), we thought we would open the new year with an exploration of food - always a fun topic, and hopefully one of the most nourishing aspects of our lives.   It's bizarrely easy to forget sometimes, but that really is the point!  So we had a little look at what 2017 is projected to bring to our plates, and we were inspired to both laugh and wonder at everything the food industry is dreaming up.

Kale.  Bee pollen.  Acai,  Goji berries.  Moringa powder.  You might think that you have modern day superfoods nailed, but I would invite you to THINK AGAIN.  So get ready, because the hotlist of 2017's hot foods (N.B. very few of them are actually hot) is in, and they are as wild as they are wild.

 It's more than greens in his juice

It's more than greens in his juice

Remember when life was simple and you just had to fit some dark leafy greens to be a supercharged food hero(ine)?  The power is still with plants, but not necessarily your garden-variety.  Not in their raw, virgin & untouched state, anyway.

Enter the ferments, the vinegars, the cultured substances and the just plain substances -- weed & 'shrooms are making a comeback, alongside, well, germs (for real, many of 2017's hot foods are basically carriers for bacteria).

 I'll have what he's having! (I think)

I'll have what he's having! (I think)

Bacteria, Baby

First up, we have vegetable yogurts - a way to get both one of your 5-a-day (which turns out should actually be more like 7 or 8), plus some of those healthy gut bacteria that we should all be cultivating and caring for, now that we know that our immune system is really housed in the gut.  And of course you should always save a little for a face mask - seriously, yogurt works wonders topically for the skin.  Not sure if there are any added benefits in say carrot yogurt, but it does show how versatile and interesting vegetables can really be!

Kimchi and sauerkraut have been hot for a while, and don't expect them to go anywhere.  As the benefits of cultured vegetables (think pickles and ferments) continue to be studied and understood, these foods will increasingly become part of our daily routine.  The purported benefits are a stronger immune system, better digestion and, in the words of Amanda Chantal Bacon, "happy glowy face." She has also said that incorporating cultured vegetables into your diet can help kick your sugar habit.  (check out this presentation for details).  We've been incorporating more kimchi into our diets, and you know what...there may just be something to this!

Glow like Moon Juice founder Amanda Chantal Bacon with the help of fermented veg.

Lavender's Blue

Everyone is always talking about eating the rainbow, and colour is as nice a theme as any for a hot food trend.  So with that in mind, we will apparently be eating more purple food in 2017...think less Koolaid (is this still around?  Anyone?) and more purple cauliflower, purple asparagus, purple potatoes, purple broccoli and even purple corn.  In line with this trend, beetroot will remain a mainstay, and be employed in the ever-advancing ranks of inventive meat substitutes.  This burger is straight out of Silicon Valley and backed by Bill Gates himself. It apparently bleeds beet juice, and it photographs like the real deal.  I'm intrigued!  

Hydrate like Beyoncé

And speaking of celebrity-funded food experiments, the watermelon juices we've been seeing in grocery stores are predicted to rise in popularity; apparently Beyoncé is an investor.

Shrooms

And then of course you have the mushrooms - these guys already infiltrated our supplement cupboards in 2016 in the form of powders to be added to smoothies, teas, coffees or steamed milks.  Think astralagus, reishi, maitake and shitake, lion's mane, chaga and a slew of other adaptogenic herbs with names that sound straight out of Lord of the Rings.  It truly seems that this is the year of the mushroom; we will be invited to experiment with different combinations depending on our mood, our energy and our needs.  Now we are of two minds with this.  On the one hand, the movement towards inviting people to really tune into their bodies, assess how they feel and act accordingly is empowering and fun.  On the other hand, hawking ground up mushroom powders at not exactly bargain-basement prices smacks a bit of snake oil merchandizing.  Particularly when the blends bear names like "Sex Dust".  And yet....

We personally tried some of Moon Juice's combinations (available in the UK here) while back in the US at the end of last year, and while we were initially sceptical (to say the least), we were surprised to notice a real different in our energy levels and skin clarity.  And this was over the holidays, when healthy habits weren't quite the priority they normally are!  Looking into this a bit more, we've come to understand that at least some of these mushrooms and herbs are routinely employed in Chinese medicine, and have been for years.  So needless to say, we will definitely be boarding the mushroom train in 2017, and look forward to sharing more as we learn.  We have something very special in mind for Life Butter Radio in particular!

Whether any hallucinogenic mushroom varieties will ride the current '70s revival back into popular culture remains to be seen!

 Herbs, man

Herbs, man

Not Just for the High

Finally, we have the return of MJ, which has received a lot of attention from the wellness press over the last few months as more and more places in the United States legalize its use.  We've seen articles on how it can help everything from depression and anxiety to PMS/PMT and pregnancy, and an exploration of all the different ways you can partake.  And "weed chic" is apparently a thing in California.  We predict that the fascination with all things hemp will only continue; the ebbing stigma around cannabis in the United States invites inventive foodies and the wellness community alike to harness the power of this plant in new, inventive and potentially lucrative ways. The Business of Fashion suggests that the drug could be the luxury industry's next big opportunity, as we increasingly look to spend on experience over "stuff".  If Keeping Up with the Kardashians is any measure, I think they may be right.

Now if you're not uber wealthy, but you're curious, you love chocolate, and you are based in the US, you can dip your toe into this trend without going anywhere near bong waters: enter Sakara Life's hemp chocolates (formerly CBD chocolates).  These  feel-good, bite-size chocolates contain "hemp extract" (CBD oil - read a bit here), and have been marketed as a substitute for your nightly glass of wine.  We'll admit it, we gave these a try too last time we were Stateside - when, we should point out, the ingredient list read "CBD oil" rather than "hemp extract".  But we have confirmation that the formula is in fact the same and the label change is more of a marketing exercise. How how did they work out?  Well, we aren't sure that they had any special, relaxation-inducing powers, but they are organic, vegan, tasty and portioned in lovely, 11 -calorie-a-pop little nuggets of gorgeous CHOCOLATE, so what's not to like?  We thought that these had disappeared from the market since Christmas 2016, but we discovered that actually Sakara Life is selling them with Amazon!   So now you can add to basket and these can arrive with your latest reading, diaper haul or what have you.  No one needs to know, and given the wide distribution channel, it will be easier than ever to get your hands on these, wherever you are in the US.  

The New Almond Butter

We all love nut butter (well some people don't, but they are just WEIRD).  Sometimes though you want something just as satisfying but a bit less stodgy, a bit thinner...in which case, have you tried seed butters?  They've been around for a while, but are predicted to multiply like bunnies in 2017.  New varieties are cropping up on supermarket shelves all the time, and if you are US-based and addicted to novelty, you could hop on the net to try Sakara Life's watermelon seed butter.  We have to admit to trying and loving this one over Christmas; it's pretty mild and would appeal to those who don't like a strong nutty taste.  

Protein Pasta

Finally, while I personally think bread and gluten are well up for a resurgence, the alternative pasta scene isn't going anywhere.  So you can keep your spiralizer or, if you crave a bit more substance, try pulse-pasta: think lentils and beans turned into your favourite shapes.  A little more satisfying than all the corn and rice varieties, and these variations have the bonus of some protein!

I'll be really interested to see how the restaurant scene continues to evolve in 2017 too.  Increasingly, fine dining seems so passé...I think diners still want and expect a bit of a scene, ambiance and occasionally some glamour, but are really more interested in the food - both the flavour and provenance.  We'll see what this ever-changing landscape serves up next - we can't wait!

So whether you are at home or dining out, get ready to go all Wild & Crazy with some veggies.  At least these superfoods won't stain your clothes quite as badly as your average green smoothie or juice, so you can dress in homage to the original Wild & Crazy guy and go all white!

 You have to try the beetroot yoghurt!  We love you, Steve Martin!  Photo red Norman Seeff

You have to try the beetroot yoghurt!  We love you, Steve Martin!  Photo red Norman Seeff

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ENTER THE NEW

The Verb of 2017 is Nourish

So as I wrote in my previous post, 2016 has been, for many of us, a year.  Many of us have been preoccupied with big picture issues, and in light of this, it seems wrong (not to mention a bit retro, but in the naff way) to talk about traditional "New Year's Resolutions".  And yet, maybe in part because we are so consumed by worry and anxiety, both about ourselves and the state of the world, we seem to be in a season of perpetual self-improvement.  So the idea of resolutions remains, I think, current and relevant.  I've seen a few different approaches to a modern take on resolution season.

At the start of 2015, Vogue suggested an "eat this, not that" approach to resolutions, subbing out some of our usual list items for more modern and perhaps more achievable counterparts.   This seemed a bit gimmicky, and I didn't really vibe with what they picked (I for one always prefer a black cab to Uber anyway).

ELLE UK called for 2017 to be The Year of Not Being Perfect - which I really like in theory, but their model/celeb references don't quite convince for me, because as much as Gigi Hadid stresses her imperfection and highlights her work ethic (both of which I applaud her for), it's hard for me to feel a sense of real camaraderie with a supermodel. I doubt I'm alone on this one. It's not her fault, but dems da facts, I'm afraid.

Gretchen suggests picking a theme word of the year.  This I like - I too am a fan of a framework, and an even bigger fan of simplicity.  One Word to Rule Them All has promise - not too much to think about, easy to check back in, and vague enough to give yourself lots of outs if you find that you're not really hitting your benchmarks throughout the year.  Not that you would be anyway - because there aren't any when you keep things this loose.

But I want to finesse this a little bit - keep the simplicity, but make this more of a call for action, which seems to match our #currentmood much better, being one of action.  And thus the verb of 2017 was conceived - mine is nourish.

 Does vino nourish?  It's going to be part of my routine.

Does vino nourish?  It's going to be part of my routine.

What does the idea of "nourish" mean to you?  

When I think of how I have typically related to myself - whether it's my physical body, or my mental state, or my achievements, it is with anything but a nourishing state of mind.  I am often critical, exacting, ungenerous and occasionally downright mean; I know that I am not alone. This year, I want to spend time feeding myself.  I want to indulge in beautiful images, sounds, experiences, sensations and tastes.  I want to spend less time thinking about what the implications of my choices are, and more time observing and celebrating how they make me feel - both in the moment, and after I have thoroughly enjoyed them.  I want to open myself up to trying things that are new, stepping outside of my comfort zone.  I want to find more physical, spiritual emotional and mental experiences that feed me and those around me.  I want to end the year feeling, if not restored, closer to "full" than I feel now.  That is my aim.

So in kicking off my year of nourishment, I'll be spending some time on Life Butter Radio looking at one of the most important (and obvious) ways in which we nourish ourselves - through the foods that we eat and how we treat our body.  Looking forward to catching up with you on the podcast; I think it's going to be a fun season.

x

 Bread will be making a come back in my house

Bread will be making a come back in my house

OUT WITH THE OLD

But don't kick 2016 while it's down

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It's all over the internet because it's all over our brains: for one reason or another, many of us feel that 2016 let us down.  So while I think generally the idea of New Year's resolutions seems a bit passé in this time of perpetual self-improvement where September has been dubbed the new January, there is definitely a mood of out with the old and in with the DRAMATICALLY BETTER.  But what's the framework?  A list of 10 things you want to achieve that starts with Kayla abs seems silly and actually a bit shallow, given that most of us have our eyes and hearts focussed on much larger issues at the moment.  Beyond that, fitness seems to have finally shifted from that thing you get fanatical about this time of year or right before your beach holiday to something that is aspirational on the daily.  Ditto healthy eating - whatever type of beautiful bowl/smoothie/poached egg & avo concoction best best symbolises that for you & your wellness tribe.  

But this is not a post about snark, not at all.  This year wasn't all bad, and I actually think this next week or so is a great opportunity to sit back, put on your rose (gold)-tinted glasses (seriously, was there another colour in 2016?), and look back with curiosity, generosity and awe.  As anyone dabbling in modern day wellness knows, it's very Zeitgeist-y to mention a full moon or an errant planet as part of a discussion of Who We Are and Where We Are Going.  And there has been a particular focus on looking to the stars for guidance in processing and understanding the last 12-18 months (or maybe this is just what happens when you move from London to Los Angeles).

Now I'm not exactly an astro-babe myself, but there's a celestially-inspired discussion circulating around the close of 2016 that has piqued my curiosity, and ties in with my own view on the end of this crazy year.  That would be the resurgence of Mercury Retrograde, a time characterised by chaos, technical malfunctions, miscommunications and generally thwarted plans - at least according to those in the increasingly-popular astro-world (is it just me, or has the new-New Age suddenly become very mainstream?).  And this upheaval will last until January 8 of 2017 when Mercury changes course.  Seems rather doom and gloom, but here's what I like about this: firstly, there is the romanticism of observing the grandiosity of the cosmos and brooding over what its signs may mean to the individual lives of us earth-bound mortals.  What can I say, I'm not exactly a believer, but I think the merch is cute (if expensive - this one is for my next life as an heiress).

Secondly, I also like the call to acknowledge greater forces at work in this world (even if I would pick a different focus ✝). Some astrologers describe Mercury Retrograde as an invitation to reflect, reminisce, study and learn from the past.  I am the original history nerd, after all (watch out for Episode 4 of Life Butter Radio...seriously, it's going to be a gem).  So I think in some ways, it's fitting that this astrologically-ordained time of reflection, consideration and tidying away corresponds with the end of 2016.  With that in mind, I plan on taking a leaf out of this blogger's book, and using this time before the new year to take stock of 2016 and acknowledge it for the period of power and transformation it was, leaving us stronger, more thoughtful and aware - ready to either take on or celebrate whatever comes next. 

So what does that mean for me?  Well, 2016 has been a pivotal year for me in a lot of ways...between a career change, coming to grips with motherhood and lots of travel (as always) there has been a lot of change.  If I could sum it up in word, I would pick LEARNING.  This has not always been an easy or pain-free process, but it has undoubtedly been transformational.  I've grown so much, and I now have the perspective to appreciate that.  So thanks 2016 for the lessons!

And when the clocks strikes 12 and the last of 2016 slips away, I'll be at home with my nearest and dearest and some fizz, and getting ready to demarcate the start of 2017 in a more traditional, goal-oriented way.  More on that soon!

 

 

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