I had such a blast being interviewed by my awesome friend Dr. Yumiko Kadota for her blog, where I share a few tips on health and wellness.
From Yumiko's blog:
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Tips from Bee to you: eat well, live well
Hello! It’s been a bit of a crazy, hectic time for me… so it’s been forever since I’ve written anything for my blog! I’ve been thinking a lot about lifestyle lately, so I thought I’d dedicate a post to that, and interview one of my dear friends Birta Bjargardottir – known as Bee! Bee runs a health coaching business called Ubebu and I thought she’d would be the perfect person to discuss all things ‘lifestyle’ with because she helped me a lot with mine a couple of years ago when I was recovering from burnout. It’s impossible to say who Bee is in a nutshell, but let me try my best to give you an intro…
Bee and I met in Indonesia when we were both doing yoga teacher training. It was my first, but Bee’s umpteenth (she’s been teaching yoga for nearly 20 years!). Bee stood out because she has this totally infectious laugh that is really hard to describe.. kind of like she’s asphyxiating on something (sorry Bee!). Straight away, I could tell that Bee was intelligent and caring because she was very interested in what I’d gone through with my burnout and empathetic towards me. As well as being a yoga teacher, Bee has also collected a number of degrees and diplomas along the way..
Me: Bee, I can’t keep up! You’ve done a huge range of things – remind me again everything you’ve done over the years!
Bee: That’s absolutely true! I have done so many different things, most of which don’t really seem to be connected. I have a degree in Zoology and a master’s in Science Communication, I’ve been a qualified yoga instructor since 2003, I have a diploma in vegan nutrition and another one in plant-based cooking. Furthermore, I have a diploma in documentary filmmaking and I have been a qualified life coach for several years.
It’s such a diverse (or some may say random!) educational background – what helped you narrow down what you wanted to do career-wise?
Even though my studies and work experiences don’t seem to be obviously connected, I have always had a passion for working with people and helping them to feel better. Moreover, I was totally going to “save the world” when I was younger, with the vision being that I’d study Zoology and then with my master’s in Science Communication, I would become the female David Attenborough – one of my main idols – and, hey presto, save ALL the animals while also protecting the environment. What could possibly go wrong?
Haha. So how *did* you start saving the world?
Well, I think it’s safe to say that with age came a little bit more wisdom, and I realised – somewhat to my horror – that it would be a tad more complex to save the world overnight, and that it wasn’t quite as black and white as I originally thought. I realised it would take a joint effort of pretty much everyone in the world to make it a better place for all life.
So who better to start “saving” than yourself? And once you’ve started “saving” yourself, you can start helping others to save themselves ad infinitum. When we are in a better place with ourselves we are much likelier to be in a better place with others and their environment.
Also, it has been shown that one of the best things you can do for the environment on an individual level is to drastically reduce your meat and dairy consumption. So not only does my whole foods plant-based meal plan approach make my clients feel healthier, lighter and brighter, it also helps the environment and planet Earth. See for instance, this article.
I would therefore like to think that my work adds to this chain of events. One carrot hot dog at a time (yes that’s a thing – Google it).
Speaking of food, we’ve seen a lot of trends this year, including baking! Have you noticed any patterns in how people are approaching their lifestyles?
Absolutely! This is such a good observation and it seems that everyone has started baking, be it sourdough bread, cinnamon buns or black bean brownies.
The general trend I have noticed during these somewhat trying times is that people are more grounded and in the moment, maybe seeing as there’s “nothing” else they can do. This has in turn inspired people to go back to hands-on feel good things to keep them going and to give them a sense of accomplishment. And who doesn’t love the smell of freshly baked goods in their home?
It’s a very mindful activity, isn’t it! The wonderful smell, the tactility of kneading dough…
Also, many people seem to appreciate the importance of good general health even more, so they seem to be making more of a conscious effort to make the best choices when it comes to their diet and lifestyle. It’s always important to have as strong an immune system as possible, and these days it’s more important than ever.
My favourite thing to bake at the moment is banana bread, but a chocolate version – an interesting twist on 2020’s seemingly favourite thing EVER to bake. I have a very simple but tasty recipe on my blog if you want to experience the magic for yourself.
Yum! My other favourite of yours is ‘Curry in a hurry’. I mean, in addition to me being a total dork and loving the rhyme here, I think it’s great that you have recipes for people who are time-poor (which was me a long time ago!) Where do you get your inspiration for all of these amazing recipes?
The honest answer: my taste buds and laziness! I used to be THE worst cook in the entire world, and also THE laziest. So something quick but tasty is my ideal recipe combination.
With years and years of plant-based eating experience and travelling and living abroad, ideas, cuisines and flavour combos add up and somehow the ball of making up new recipes and being inspired by numerous recipes starts rolling.
Having lived in tropical countries, such as Indonesia and Costa Rica, the colours of all the fresh fruits and vegetables are an inspiration in themselves. And being from a cold country like Iceland, I also am inspired to try out many different warming recipes that bring comfort and “hygge” to us.
When I realised I wasn’t as bad a cook as I thought I was (or rather, I’d graduated from being the worst, to “actually I’m not too bad, thank you very much”) I was inspired to try new recipes all the time, and to share them with friends and family. This is a trend I’ve seen with a lot of my clients as well. People often have a few go-to recipes and it’s very easy to get stuck with just 2-5 recipes to make again and again. However, once you start enjoying trying new recipes – even if it’s just once a week – you start feeling more enthusiastic and interested to carry on. Or at least that’s been both my experience and my clients’ experience.
There are absolutely millions of vegan or plant-based websites available, as well as amazing books, YouTube channels, apps, Pinterest boards and Instagram accounts to provide inspiration. The possibilities really do seem endless.
Which are your favourite recipes?
I have so many go-to recipes that I absolutely love. For breakfast, chia pudding is without a doubt my favourite. I really go to town with the toppings, usually including almond butter, cinnamon, flax meal, hemp seeds and slices of apple and/or banana. Here’s a simple chia pudding recipe.
Another recipe I’d like to mention is the Buddha bowl. It’s not exactly a recipe as such, rather a one-bowl meal with countless variations. It usually consists of some sort of whole grains, such as brown rice or quinoa, plant proteins, such as beans, legumes or tofu, vegetables, such as roasted root vegetables and/or raw salad vegetables, and is topped with seeds, nuts, sprouts and a dressing, such as a drizzle of tahini and lemon juice, with a pinch of salt and pepper. These are such colourful and yummy bowls of goodness, and can really pack a punch for lunch.
Yet another go-to recipe, which is great for dinner, is pasta with avocado sauce. Yes guys, PASTA. You can eat pasta on a whole foods plant-based diet and still feel amazing – and lose weight if that’s what you’re looking for. My clients seem to love this one as well! Here’s my avocado sauce recipe!
Aussies do love avo! And great to see another recipe that is super quick to make! So many of us are just go, go, go! Do you have any tips for those new to meditation?
When it comes to meditation I always tell my clients not to approach it with an “all or nothing” attitude. If you start off meaning to meditate for an hour each morning and another hour each evening, it’s very likely that you’ll give up on day 2.
Start by giving yourself three minutes here, and two minutes there, to do a little bit of meditation at a time.
And if you feel you really don’t have the time, try spending an extra 30 seconds in the bathroom (no joke!) while closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing.
These shorter periods throughout the day will add up and help you become more mindful and might even help you reach nirvana in the end (no guarantees, but at least you’ll be feeling more grounded and in touch with yourself).
Some people like using apps to help them with meditation, and I can recommend both Calm and Serenity. There are also numerous videos on YouTube if you would like a guided meditation to help you get started.
I also suggest trying the following meditation, which concentrates on your breathing, calms your mind and helps you find focus for the day:
1. Start by finding a nice and comfortable position to sit in. This can be sitting cross-legged or with legs straight out on the floor or on a cushion, sitting on a chair with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor, or whatever suits your needs. The main thing here is to have a straight back.
2. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Inhale and exhale through your nose. Pay attention to your breath. See if it goes deeper with each inhale and slows down with each exhale.
3. Do 8 rounds of breathing like this, i.e. inhale and exhale 8 times.
4. Slowly open your eyes and resume normal breathing.
5. How did this make you feel? Try doing a quick scan of your body and mind. Do your shoulders feel more relaxed? Is your breathing slower? What about your mind? Is it going a million miles an hour thinking about the day ahead or do you feel a bit more balanced than before the exercise?
Those are some wonderful tips Bee! Sorry to jump back, but I want to pick your brains about plant-based diets again. I want to know what are some under-rated or lesser known benefits to eating plant based?
A whole foods plant-based diet has so many health benefits and sometimes I have to stop myself from shouting about it from the rooftops. Not everyone is ready or willing to hear what I’m saying, and that’s fine. My clients come to me for so many different reasons as well, but most of them benefit greatly in terms of their health when they focus more on a whole foods and usually entirely plant-based diet.
One of the many health benefits I’d like to mention here though is the positive effect a plant-based diet has been proven to have on depression and mental health. There is evidence that suggests a diet rich in whole, plant-based foods may improve people’s mental health.
The gut is connected to the brain and there is more and more research that suggests that bacteria in the gut may affect depression. Whole plant foods have been shown to have a positive effect on the gut bacteria, as well as to not cause the same inflammation that many trans fats and processed foods can cause. Inflammation has been linked to depression as well. Here’s some more information on diet and depression.
So the dietary recommendations for preventing depression, based on the evidence, include eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes and whole grains; consuming a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids (found in ground flaxseed, walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, avocados and blueberries); cutting down on processed foods, fast foods and sweets and eating more wholesome nutritious foods.
I am of course not in any way suggesting you go off your medication if you are coping with depression. I am just sharing that a plant-based diet has been shown to help with the prevention and treatment of depression and it might therefore prove beneficial to you along with other treatment. Please talk to your medical professional if you are thinking of trying a plant-based diet to help with your depression.
Yes! I think the emerging research on the gut microbiome and its effect on physical and mental health conditions is fascinating! Okay Bee, one last tip from you please: what’s one thing you do every day to maintain your wellness?
A morning routine to start the day right!
I used to not be a morning person at all. Back in the day, my roommates and I would message each other if we got up earlier than 9am. It was literally news worthy to be up that “early”! However, much to my old self’s disapproval, I have become more of a morning person and waking up early is now my number 1 thing to do to maintain a sense of wellness. Sorry to all the night owls – my old self feels your pain!
Haha, that’s too funny. You’re preaching to the converted – I wake up at 5am every day, which I’m sure most people would find very painful. What helps you get up early?
It’s not just about waking up early; it’s about having a routine each morning and giving yourself time to start the day.
Obviously we’re all different and this might not be your thing, but for me it really makes all the difference to have spacious time in the morning to follow my routine of some light yoga for 5-10 minutes, saying some affirmations, setting some intentions for the day, doing a couple of minutes of meditation and having a delicious breakfast (which is usually chia pudding – see answer to favourite recipe). And let us not forget the main reason to get up every morning/the reason for living: COFFEE.
So yeah, having a proper cup of coffee (or tea, or warm water with lemon juice – whatever floats your boat) can also ground you and set you up for the day. Savouring and enjoying every single sip can be a mindfulness exercise in itself. (Side note: Who else is filled with excitement when going to sleep at night thinking about that morning coffee upon waking? Just me…?)
Whatever your circumstances at home, I recommend you get up a little earlier than normal – and before anyone else in the home if at all possible – and try out a simple routine for a few days running and then see how you feel. Maybe you’ll become a morning person as well?
If you’re keen to try Bee’s program, she has a free 7-day morning program, which includes breakfast recipes to try each day and some sort of simple activity for each morning. You can get it here.
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Thanks Yumiko! Until we meet again in the real world, possibly over a cocktail in Bali...