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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Drugs, Chocolate & Diet Trends: Where Do We Get Our Fix Now

Decaf for me, but I'll be dropping some acid after this

Is it us, or is every psychedelic or otherwise recreational drug on the mkt getting a rebrand as a who-would-have-thunk-it health hero? Ketamine (you know, the date rape drug), MJ (if this is news to you, where you been?) and even acid (the one that terrified me in particular growing up because it CARVES TRACKS IN YOUR BRAIN) -- these are all getting a makeover as unexpected aids for everything from depression, anxiety, to PMS (PMT). Now that cannabis is legal in more places, both cannabinoid oil (a non-psychoactive component of the hemp plant) and the more traditional joint are being examined as potential health superstars.  Researchers (and let's be honest, excited journos) are suggesting that Mary Jane can help with everything from stress to depression, anxiety, hormonal issues...even morning sickness. What? We would have thought that the sun would come up black before someone suggested that a pregnant woman enjoy a formerly illegal substance. Or maybe enjoy anything, actually, other than a balanced meal (but not sushi, poached eggs, anything with mayo or creme brûlée, obviously) with a side of herbal tea.  Pregnant women aren't supposed to be getting high off anything other than their own surging hormones.  And actually, these days, neither are the non-knocked up.

This is my theory as to why we are suddenly feeling the ganja: we are constantly being told how to look and feel better - that a better life is available to us if we eat healthfully, meditate to calm the mind, and digitally detox (while still keeping our instagram game strong).  And underlying this message is a sense that, to be our best selves, we should all be limiting, if not down right abstaining from, um, everything that is stimulating, intoxifying...fun?

Too much screen time, bro

Too much screen time, bro

Want to sleep better?  Put down your phone and turn off the tv (at least an hour so before bed anyway - check out Episode 1 of Life Butter Radio for details on why) Want glowy skin, bright eyes, thick hair, boundless energy, a strong immunity and permanently positive attitude? Then cut out the things that are potentially draining you nutritionally and energetically...you know: coffee, sugar, alcohol, tea, possibly gluten, maybe meat or other heavy foods...hell, even tomatoes because they are a nightshade, whatever that means. I was just listening to a podcast where Kim Snyder says she no longer eats onions & garlic, not because they give her bad kissing breath, but because they are too "mentally stimulating" according to Ayurveda. What?

Your brain on garlic (apparently) 

Your brain on garlic (apparently) 

But the thing is, we WANT to be stimulated. We seek fun, adventure, a lift. And so those of us who haven't gone full yoga monk but who want a seat on the wellness train are looking for kicks in the earth & gut loving, gluten & sugar-free way.  For some of us, this my mean drinking straight raw cacao (or snorting it - yes, really) and ecstatic dancing.

 For others, psychedelic stimulants may seem more "natural", and therefore somehow more aligned with our lifestyle.

The sexi-fying of drugs isn't exactly new; it's been part of the way prescription drugs have been marketed and sold to doctors (who then prescribe them to us) for years.  If you're not familiar with the Pharma rep phenomenon, the following clip from Hpw I Met Your Mother will clue you in. Think ex-cheerleaders on commission.  

What does this all mean? Are the drugs we were terrified of encountering after multiple sessions of D.A.R.E. actually not as uniformly health destroying as we have been taught to believe? Could they, in the right circumstances & under a doctor's supervision, actually help people where "safe(r)" prescription drugs, therapy or, um, ginger tea have failed? That may be true, and this may be end up being another strand of western medicine that looks to alternative therapies to incorporate a broader view of how we treat and heal illness. We love this; it is the future of medicine, and so I'm happy for those it really does help. But for the rest of us, excited by these headlines and secretly hopeful that they mean there could be a penalty-free high hidden in substances we have always been taught grant pleasure at a high cost...is that true?  Didn't we try this already in the '70s?

I'm all for the highs, from ecstatic dancing, a tickle session (no one is higher than a 2 year old on belly tickles), or something more provocative, but the fact is that highs are fleeting and lows are just part of the deal.  Life has every color of the rainbow, and there is no homeostasis of awesome available for us all the time. Which doesn't meant that we shouldn't seek out exaltation, but after every lift, whether chemically-induced or otherwise, comes a bit of a comedown.  Just because something in "natural" doesn't mean that it is good for us, and if we get as attached to hemp oil chocolates as we were to our beer & nachos, for me there's little difference.  For me, wellness is realising this, and learning how to just be, however, you are, in the moment...whether that's hyped up from coffee or in shavasana calm.  If you're after a high and maybe a bit bored of your glass of red (even with all its antioxidants), then sure, try some CBD oil energy balls instead. But you could also try the occasional tequila.  And maybe some pizza.  We hear gluten is about to make a serious come back, so you could be slightly ahead of the curve.

We've got all kinds of thoughts on food, including the resurgence of the very naughty gluten.  If you haven't heard Episode 8 of Life Butter Radio yet, tune in here...it's fab!

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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?  

giphy.gif

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!

Nourish: Happy Heart Day!

It's Almost Valentine's Day!

February 14 is right around the corner, and we've been observing the tone of the 2017 Valentine's Day press with despair...maybe it's just here in the UK, but everything we see about this AMAZING holiday reeks of snark.  We know that's part of the British modus operandi, and yet it just seems unnecessary this year with all the other actually, meaningfully disturbing events flying around.  Love it, hate it, meh about it, can we all at least agree that Valentine's Day is the one bright light in the bleak armpit of the year that is February?  Single, taken, heartbroken, or hopeful, even the completely asexual should get on board with this fabulous holiday, because it is an immense excuse to indulge in sensory pleasure, whether that's scent, taste, an overload of pink kitsch, or all of the above.  This is a holiday that really overdoes it in style, so ladies and gents, let's get camp.

Fact: there is no film as camp as Valley of the Dolls

Fact: there is no film as camp as Valley of the Dolls

Growing up, Valentine's Day was one of our host's favourite holidays because she was guaranteed to receive a flower & some zebra-striped Hershey's from Mom.  Honestly, did the holiday kisses ever taste as good as the normal ones?  Who cares; the pastel foil was everything, and the high you got from your chocolate kiss rivalled even the thrill you'd get from holding hands with your crush at the couples-skate at the local roller rink (anyone else?  We'd moisturise our hands for days in anticipation!).  Hand on heart, Mom's Valentine's Day care packs were always more hotly-anticipated and satisfying than gifts from boyfriends.  They were everything this saccharine holiday should be; sweet, slightly juvenile (in a nostalgic way!), girly and loaded with love from someone you knew really meant it & always would.  Aw!  In the purgatory between New Year's Eve and Easter, this day of all things pink really stood out.  And honestly, what's wrong with pink?  Sometimes it seems like this color has been so co-opted by "chic" that you can't admit to loving the OG Barbie look without being accused of regression.  To all the bubblegum pink haters, I invite you to spend VDay 2017 watching Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion, where their "fun, frisky use of color" comes out on top.  YES.

Not a modern look?  R&M tell you to suck it

Not a modern look?  R&M tell you to suck it

This is the amount of snark we can handle these days. - and the color!

This is the amount of snark we can handle these days. - and the color!

But there are some understandable reasons why people love to hate on Valentine's Day.  It's commercial, it seems kind of unnecessary, and it can come across as a kick in the bits to those without a significant other.  So I am inviting you to interpret this holiday another way - consider it an invitation to indulge in stuff YOU LOVE.  That could be all manner of things...but at Life Butter HQ, it is going to be all manner of chocolates, flowers, hearts and make up, because we are saps, and because a little bit of pink cheer seems very necessary these days!  Who says rosé is just for summer anyway?  

So now that you're fully on board the Glitterbomb Express, here's a little run down of what I'll be binging on in the run-up to heart day.

Sugar Bomb

These days, no matter what your wellness foodie tribe, refined sugar is enemy number 1.  RIP, Be-Mine sweethearts.  That's probably for the best, but what is wellness replacing with these bubblegum giddiness-bombs?  Let me guess...brownies sweetened with mejool dates, maple syrup or other "safe" sugars?  Or maybe just a delivery of fresh fruit, which for the stricty-strict no sugar crowd is still a mega concession?

Pass.  We'll be baking up some homemade treats for sure (and especially for the kiddie brunch we have planned), but we've also stocked up on a few select staples..because even if they are kind of disgusting in a certain way, in another way these treats are actually amazing.  Why weren't these Reese's hearts around in the '90s?  *Not thinking about the food colouring*...#yesplease

 
 

BUT, to be real-real, we'll also be grabbing some dairy-free chocolate...because we won't be eating Reese's on the daily (or will we?)

 
 

Glam

So here's  little secret: we like to watch YouTube make up tutorials while making dinner.  We love this space; YouTubers are immensely talented, and it's both fun & relaxing to see what these creative minds dream up.  Especially the guys!  Not so much for replicating necessary, but how much fun are these VDay inspired tuts?  YouTube make up artists truly BLOW OUR MINDS, and Valentine's Day is the most fun make up event on these channels after Halloween!  The 50 Shades Darker look is really creative, but what about that pink eye look with the lace choker?  Yes!

Sparkle Scent Bomb

Just barely above the sophistication level of Victoria's Secret perfume (Heavenly, anyone?), Ladurée does home & beauty!  They have a range of candles that smell essential of variations of butter and sugar, and a violet powderpuff that looks as if it were taken straight from the set of I Dream of Jeanie.  The candle jars make pretty make up brush holders once they burn down, though the scent is so strong that it may take you a while to get through them!

 
 

So what will you be indulging in this Valentine's Day?  Hopefully more than your loathing of the holiday - go out (or stay in) and engage with something you truly enjoy!  You'll be the happier for it, whether romance is on your mind or not.

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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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O HOLY NIGHT!

Hoping & Praying (literally) for Better Sleep Across the Centuries - What History Can Tell Us About Health Habits

‘The Nightmare’ (London, 1827) © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

‘The Nightmare’ (London, 1827) © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

For Episode 4 of Life Butter Radio (out very soon), I had the pleasure of chatting with Dr. Sasha Handley, Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Manchester.  Dr. Handley is author of, amongst other works, Sleep in Early Modern England, and she joined me on the show to give us some insight on how we used to "do" sleep, and to reflect on how this ties in with our sleep and general wellness habits today.

This was a super fun conversation for me.  History is one of my true passions, and I would contend that an understanding of how we used to live is essential to contextualising and understanding who we are and how we behave today.  The period that Dr. Handley studies is the 16th-18th centuries, i.e. the period of many a popular BBC drama or Philippa Gregory novel.  It's a time that has captured our popular imagination; it's close enough to be relatable, but romantic in that it is before the invention, or at least mass dissemination, of modern technology (no planes, trains or automobiles...or indeed electric lights).  It's a period that I think we can easily romanticise as a "simpler time", when we could be our best selves, free of the distractions that so fascinate and infuriate us today.  

Always Austen - banter, balls and lusty looks made softer by candlelight...plus #theysopretty

Always Austen - banter, balls and lusty looks made softer by candlelight...plus #theysopretty

And yet, when you delve into what it was actually LIKE to live in this time...I'm pretty sure none of us would go there.  As Dr. Handley writes on her own blog, bedtime involved bedbugs, which could be lured away from your bed with cow dung. And as we discuss in Episode 4, people spent a lot of time trying to stay warm and conquer their fear of the night (think evil spirits and sickness-breeding vapours).  Still, I'm sure we'd all happily skip back a few centuries so for the fashion, right?

I'm sure you'll be able to hear the geeky enthusiasm in my voice as I chat through these ideas with Dr. Handley on the show. 😝

What I love about conversations like these is that we are reminded that there is truly nothing new under the sun; health has always been a fundamental concern for men and women across the ages, and we have been forever trying to better understand how our minds and bodies work so that we can get the most out of them.  The anecdotes Dr. Handley relates about the sleep habits of the men and women she studies are not only amusing (listen out for her beer-loving clergymen), but reveal that we were concerned with and complaining about poor sleep long before the advent of FaceBook and Netflix.  Similarly, we were turning inward to prayer, quiet time and calming tasks like sewing to help find sleep and bookend their days...just in the way that many of us now use meditation.  I love learning things like this; it makes us realise that as chaotic, unstable, and unprecedented (or unpresidented,to be of the moment) as this world seems to be today, human beings are the same across time and space, looking to the same sorts of tools to fix the same sorts of problems.  I find this both comforting and encouraging.

Watch for the launch of Episode 4, check out Dr. Handley's blog, and, if you want to really bring this episode to life, stop by How We Used to Sleep, an upcoming exhibition that Dr. Handley is running at Little Moreton Hall in Chesire.  I'll put more details on the blog when they are released, but this will be in May 2017.  The exhibition is an interactive display highlighting her research on sleep, and allowing us to have a go at getting some Zzzs as we used to back in the day.  I intend to go and mix up some historic sleep potions of my own. Whether or not I drink them remains to be seen!

Get down & jam with Episode 4 of Life Butter Radio

Get down & jam with Episode 4 of Life Butter Radio

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