How To Deal With Emotional Eating One Cupcake at a Time


As I mentioned a couple of days ago, today I'm going to write a little about the super fun topic of emotional eating!

What is emotional eating? It's a sudden urge for a particular food, often sugary and fatty, usually accompanying an uncomfortable emotion. It's when you go to the shops and purchase 10 chocolate bars, a wheel of brie, a packet of Tim Tams, a tub of icecream and a box of chicken nuggets for your personal consumption instead of dealing with a situation. Emotional eating is usually done in secret, not socially. Emotional eating is NOT enjoying good food or having the occasional party pig-out. Totes different things.

Emotional or binge eating is a common problem, so I gather. Why am I writing this post? Well firstly, the other day I was airing my grievances about some Sugar Quitting Plans, and it got me thinking about how certain dietary advice seems to wash over the issue of emotional eating, which, in my opinion, is probably the main reason why people struggle with weight and diets.

This thing is, if you've had any experience with Emo Eating then you will know: it doesn't matter HOW well-intentioned your plan is, it doesn't matter HOW much you want to not look like a strangled caterpillar in your skinny jeans, it doesn't matter HOW high your motivation is at the start of your plan - emotional eating tends to butt-in and mess things up, amiright?

Any person who has experience Emotional Eating will know that often, when your resolve crumbles, nothing will stand between you and your junk food, in spite of your best intentions. 

So my intention with this post is to fill that gap and to hopefully help someone that Google-izes this topic. I'm no expert, but I do have a brain and a cake hole.

This is what I know: you could be the most well-informed person on the planet with regards to nutrition and what you are supposed to be eating, but if you have an emotional dependence on food, your emotional dependence will always try to override that information.

It's not something that can be fixed with this illusive thing called "willpower" or with knowledge about nutrition (although that is obviously useful). Take heart, there are some little tricks that you can have up your sleeve. I'm just going to tell you outright, because no book is going to be this honest - these tricks are not going to help you every single time, but they will help you a lot. They're not quick-fix techniques; they need time and practice, like any routine, but they will help you regain control so that you're the one managing your life, not the King Size Twix.

I have wrestled with emotional eating many times, like a lot of people. It's so frustrating when you have health and fitness goals but your stupid french fry mcflurry brain keeps butting in. I doubt my "case" is severe - I've had minor weight fluctuations over the years but I deal because I never really give up on the health goals, and, I'm vain, I guess. It's okay to press the reset button over and over again when it comes to healthy eating and what not. But okay - you need to get some control over that silly bingeing beast.

How do you recognise it? If you're not yet in the habit of trying to stop emotional eating in its tracks, you might not even realise that you're trying to escape an uncomfortable emotion or situation when you're bingeing. But I bet if you thought it over for a second, you'd be able to identify a trigger. Even if it's something like procrastinating doing the vacuuming. Vacuuming can be very taxing on the emotions.

Food bingeing can be sought as a "remedy" to stress, boredom, unease, embarrassment, procrastination, or even the prospect of a pending diet ("diet starts tomorrow, better eat all of the things because this is my last chance to eat tasty food, ever"). But emotional eating doesn't even discriminate to negative emotions. Yep, I've had happy food parties, too - rewards for feeling on top of the world. Waaahooo!

A couple of years ago I read a really great book that I strongly recommend. The book walks you through some steps that require written responses to get you to identify the reason for your predicament, how to recognise it and what to do about it. Many of the lessons in the book have stuck with me. Case in point: I'm writing this post based on information I retained a few years ago - the book itself is buried in a box somewhere. Anyway, time to fire that King Size Twix, so let's get onto it.

BUT WAIT: Please accept that sometimes these tactics will work, sometimes they won't.

I'll get this bit out of the way. The truth: I still do grapple with emo eating and the urge to clear out the confectionery aisle at Coles sometimes. Sometimes the tactics totally fail me, but a lot of the time, they work. That's why I just want to be honest and tell it like it is: you can't expect to read a book and have everything fall into place (you know what I mean - when even the action of purchasing the diet book makes you feel better?!). As far as I am aware, there's no cure, so you gotta be willing to try and fail and try again. I used to feel like I was powerless under some kind of food spell, and saw Emotional Eating as something I would just have to accept and deal with for life. But after reading the book, doing the homework and drawing on the tactics over a few years, I brought le power back to me, just to sound like total cheese. I do make bad decisions sometimes but a lot of the time I can make a good decision.

Again: Sometimes tactics to sidestep emotional eating urges will work; other times the Chocolate Bitch within will put up a fight and win. You know that situation. The Chocolate Bitch wants her treats and there's no way in hell she's going to go without. On those occasions there's probably very little chance of using any tactics because Chocolate Bitch has already hightailed to the shops and is dumping Snickers into your shopping basket. You can't really work with those situations because sometimes they just happen. They suck, but no one said you can't try to avoid it next time.

Don't despair, once you start thinking about this more consciously, more often that not there should be that little voice in your head that is wanting to fight the urge. THOSE are the little moments you can work with. You just have to hit pause for a minute. Then what?

1) Pause to question your urges and start asking yourself what's going on

The simple answer is that I try to be mindful of emotional eating (usually classified as eating naughty foods on the sneak) and coax myself out of using food as an emotion-suppressor. When people emotionally eat, it's usually because they are experiencing an uncomfortable feeling and they are desperate to shift the focus away from that feeling. They attempt do this by distracting themselves with food. When you suppress an emotion with food, it doesn't solve the underlying problem, it just pushes it away for the problem to resurface later.

An uncomfortable emotion is usually a sign of an underlying issue and the need to work through that issue. For example, if you're stressed or anxious, you need to ask yourself what the cause is and what action you need to take to resolve it.  If something awkward happened and you are feeling embarrassed, although the urge to run away and jump into a vat of Nutella is strong, you really need to process the situation and make peace with it. If you are unhappy, what are you unhappy about? What steps do you need to take to be happier? Food is only a temporary distraction, not a lasting solution. When you allow yourself to sit with the emotion/issue/situation, process it and let it wash around you, even though it may be uncomfortable for a bit, the result is that you will often end up facing the issue and finding a solution, therefore moving forward with your life and maturing as a person.

Sounds quite neatly-packaged when I put it like that, but I can honestly say that making myself face up to my emotions and issues almost always results in some kind of meaningful realisation, idea or progress that carries me forward. I would not have experienced these ideas if I had been busy fossicking for Maltesers. It's not an easy process, but it is 100% more rewarding than just staying stuck in a rut with your Cheesy Poofs!

When I find myself craving junk for emotional reasons (totally different from enjoying a birthday cake or pizza night - social eating) I am now in the habit of stopping to think about the situation. I'll do a quick brain scan and ask myself if I'm trying to suppress/avoid/escape? Again, it's not always something serious. It could just be boredom. If it's a frequent problem though, there's probably a bigger issue that needs a look-in.

2) Have an imaginary conversation with that little voice inside your head

Sometimes if I want to talk myself out of burying my emotions in a Pity Pizza, I will take a few moments to have an internal dialogue with myself. For example, if something demoralising happens to you, your habitual inkling might be to find a treat to comfort yourself with. That's not going to deal with the issue. A better response might be to engage in some internal dialogue with that chastising voice in your head. The voice in your head might be berating you, telling you how useless you are, but you might just say to it, "That situation wasn't my fault, I did the best I could, and actually, I did pretty well in handling it because XYZ". Turn the negative into a positive - whatever is relevant to the situation. Counsel yourself in a kind and encouraging way, like a friend would. In essence, by engaging in this internal dialogue you are dealing with the emotion then and there, not squishing it with food. If you deal with it then and there, you are empowered, and you will probably even learn a valuable lesson, or come up with a great course of action for moving forward. If you squish it with food, the issue is unresolved and you don't grow at all (except for your bottom and pot belly). 

So, if you realise you're in the dangerzone of emotional eating, just hit pause and have a silly chat with yourself. Sometimes, this delay is enough to stop you from reaching for the food crutch. You would be surprised, once you give yourself the chance, how often and easily the craving WILL just wash away.

3) Remember that if you allow yourself to experience the emotion you will become a stronger person

When I suspect I might be succumbing to emotional eating, I sometimes find that it helps to remember the purpose of emotional eating: to block out an uncomfortable feeling. The opposite option is to let myself experience the emotion. When I remind myself that I will be in a better place emotionally if I let myself experience these emotions, it can really take the edge off the craving, and sometimes flip it on its head completely, where suddenly I truly DON'T want the food crutch because I'm more excited about the idea of working through the problem and becoming a stronger person. Self: One. Chocolate Bitch: Zero.

If you feed your uncomfortable emotions with food, you don't resolve your issues, the issues keep building on top of one another and resurfacing, plus you have the added issue of getting fatter/unhealthier, and you don't grow or mature as an individual. If you view uncomfortable emotions as what they truly are - a normal part of every person's life, and the opportunity to learn and grow, then suddenly, a lot of the time, you won't want to squash your emotion by zoning out with junk. You will be more interested in working through the issues so that you come out the other side a better version of yourself. 

Since having a few party tricks in my backback, I know that, even if I occasionally flop, there are countless other times where I have and will be able to make positive choices, without it being much of a struggle. Just remember, success comes from jumping back up every time you fall, and the more you flex your muscles (your tactics) the stronger they will become.

Please leave a comment if you have any experiences or tips you'd like to share.

Here are a couple of other net reads that you might like:




Coconut Bread // With a Fructose-Free + Whole-Wheat Option


This is one of my most favourite recipes.

Let's make no mistake, like many loaf-shaped things masquerading as bread, it's not bread, it's cake. Still, you spread it with butter, so that's bread-like enough for me.

One of my best buddies, Melissa, gave me this recipe back in Year 8 (1998, for those playing at home). #truefriendssharerecipes. It's been a household staple ever since.

The reason I love this recipe so much is because, aside from being tasty, it has to be the quickest and easiest thing out there. Made from just 4 pantry staples, it literally takes 2 minutes to make the batter - with one bowl and spoon. An absolute winner for when unexpected guests pop by sniffing around for tea and cake.

I am sharing two versions of the recipe below - the original, and a slightly healthier option, which is still yum.

This bread is best served with butter. Read this for some info about the difference between butter and margarine. Our fridge staple is Mainland ButterSoft - contains just the basics with no additives but still spreadable.




Coconut Bread: Two Ways

The directions for each version are the same - it's just the ingredients that differ.

Preheat oven to 180 Celcius. Throw all ingredients in a bowl and combine (no need to sift the flour). Pour into a greased and floured small/medium loaf tin. Bake for 35 minutes. Serve warm or cold with butter.

Notes:

  • You can use shredded or desiccated coconut, but I recently used coconut flakes and loved the texture.
  • Dextrose can be bought from the home brewing section of the supermarket. It comes in a red box and has a picture of a beer on the box.
  • Read about sugar alternatives (aka glucose/dextrose) vs. white sugar here.
  • Read about white flour vs. wholemeal flour here.
  • I'm a recent full-cream convert. I've used full cream milk in all three versions. Read about full cream vs. skim milk here

Original Recipe
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup coconut
1 cup full cream milk (can substitute for your milk of choice)
1/2 cup white sugar

Whole Wheat Fructose-free Recipe
1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
1 cup coconut
1 cup full cream milk  (can substitute for your milk of choice)
1/2 dextrose

I Quit Quitting Sugar / Make Up Your Own Mind


Yoghurt is a health food, right?
I have an interesting, push/pull relationship with sugar. As my friends and family well know, I love baking and jump on opportunities to fire up the oven and throw about sprinkles in Alexandra's Bakehouse (a fictional building). At the same time, I've  probably read more than the average person about the toxic effects of sugar in the body. I'm totally aware of this contradiction. It bothers me a little - I feel somewhat hypocritical, but mostly I feel okay about it. I have no interest in eschewing sugar completely.

I have tried 'Quitting Sugar' in the past and found it to be tough. There are occasional cravings to overcome, yes, but for me, the problem lies more in having that boring drip of a ban lingering over my head, as well as grappling the prospect of not being able to enjoy an occasional birthday cake, cocktail, Christmas rum ball or Easter Egg, until the end of time. Lastly, as someone who loves to bake, I find the idea of giving up the creative possibilities of cake and icing, quite sad.

There are many Quitters out there who take an all-or-nothing approach to cutting out sugar. David Gillespie is one such advocate, and his books were my first source of information on the topic a few years ago. I take my hat off to people who manage to completely cut sugar out of their diets; they are unarguably doing their bodies a favour, however...(and here is where Gillespie and Co would jump down my throat):

For every person who has managed to completely eradicate sugar and who is confident with the idea of avoiding sugar til the grave, I am positive there are greater numbers of mere mortals such as myself, who can't grasp a life of sugar abstinence. Are we, the mere mortals, just to accept the sickly fate the Quitters want to cast upon us, or can we strike a different balance?

I follow the 'Sweet Poison' Facebook page because Gillespie posts some interesting links, but he, and many of the commenters on his page express an all-or-nothing approach that I find quite intollerant (well meaning, maybe, but even so) and offensive to anyone even tiptoeing on the outskirts of the Sugar Quitting clan. They're not about reduction, they're about total compliance. I just don't find this rigid approach helpful or relevant today, especially when education about sugar is still relatively new. Change can be gradual, too, can't it?

Over the past five years or so I have made many changes to remove incidental sources of sugar from my diet. These changes have been gradual, the product of my reading, but are not part of any particular plan. The result is that I now have a pretty low sugar intake, most days, without it being an effort. Many people still don't realise the amount of sugar they are consuming on a daily basis, from sources such as flavoured yoghurts, juices, certain types of alcohol, bread, sugar in tea/coffee, condiments, 'health' foods such as muesli bars, cereals, protein/weight loss shakes, etc. I can't count how many times I have told my Dad that his 'healthy' yoghurt is full of added sugar! I also can't believe that growing up, fruit juice and cordial were staples in the fridge! I come from a pretty healthy family, but the awareness of the dangers of sugar just weren't around then.

Because of my awareness, I have a relatively low sugar intake most days, but am definitely not living sugar-free. I'm aware that it's not good for me, but I still enjoy it sometimes (I'm human), I just don't eat a lot of it. I'm not trying to say my approach is the best - I know that no sugar is best, but for us mere mortals, removing some sugar is definitely better than doing nothing at all. It's a good place to start if you're just becoming aware of the negative effects of sugar (including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, susceptibility to weight gain, depression and PREMATURE WRINKLES!)

With complete respect to those who choose to consume no sugar at all, from my personal experience, I find that the act of totally banning something is a sure-fire way for me to crave it. This is where the Quitters would tell you that you need to go through a detox and then you won't crave! You know what, that may be true, but I just don't want to live my life with that restriction on my shoulders. I don't want to feel like I've failed if I have a Freddo Frog; I just want to shrug it off and move on. They say sugar is addictive, and yes, it causes an addictive loop response in the body (have sugar, want more sugar) and it pays to be educated about that (beyond my detailed scientific explanation) but I disagree with assigning power to sugar by using the word "addiction". If it's really so addictive, how come I can override it so easily? It goes a little something like this:

Self: "I want a Twix".
Other Self: "But it will make you fat and give you wrinkles".
Self: "'K, bitch, no Twix."

I would rather eat well most of the time, with room for some treats, and battle a few cravings occasionally, than live with a ban over my head. Poo that. My Nanna lived til 85 and she weren't sugar-free, mate. I have sugar cravings sometimes but they don't rule me. I think part of the reason for that is my gradual removal of stupid sugars from my day to day diet.

I am totally comfortable with the idea of having an occasional treat midst an otherwise nutrition-filled diet.

There are some special issues at play, though, and the Quit Sugar books I've read haven't properly addressed the subject of Emotional Eating. They don't address that many people have an emotional attachment to sugar, not just a physical "addiction", and they don't address the root causes of emotional eating. There is a major difference between enjoying a piece of birthday cake with a group, and sneaking out to buy secret chocolate for secretive consumption. Last year I attempted the I Quit Sugar 8-week program (got to 3 weeks) and during this time I had to deny dessert at my friend's wedding. While everyone else tucked in and enjoyed, I felt sorry for myself. That was a low moment #thirdworldproblems. I have no interest living life in such a painful way. But again, it's one thing to enjoy the occasional social treat and another to eat junk to deal with emotions. I have a proneness to emotional eating, so it's usually the days when I am trying to squash an emotion (stress, fear, anger, embarrassment, etc.) that I will crave the secret chocolate bar. I am going to talk more about Emotional Eating in a couple of days.

Anyway, my point of this post was to throw in my two cents' on the subject of quitting or avoiding sugar, as someone who 1) Has a loving attachment traditional baking 2) Has read a lot on the dangers of sugar yet chooses a reduced not banned approach 3) Has attempted quitting sugar a couple of times 4) Has suffered wedding dessert-related trauma as a result of avoiding sugar.

It's my stance that, no matter how bad sugar might be, no single approach is going to work for everyone. If someone feels they can avoid sugar completely, that's great, but if you feel that a more flexible approach will work better for you overall, that is your prerogative, and I'd say you're pretty smart for knowing yourself well enough to know what works for you. Haters gonna hate. I do believe that people should make the effort to educate themselves on the dangers of sugar and try to cut back. Read your labels. I am always trying to be more mindful about this, and yeah, sometimes I have to pare back on the baking. You are still going to see cakes and biscuits on here, I'm still going to bring them to your house (unless you ask me not to), but they form an occasional and small part of an otherwise healthy diet. Go ahead and accuse me of trying to have my cake and eat it too - I will totally agree with you.

Tomorrow: Coconut Bread

If you're new to the Toxic Sugar 'thing', here are two books I'd recommend for a good foundation understanding of the issues:

Gary Taubes: Why We Get Fat
David Gillespie: Sweet Poison, Sweet Poison Quit Plan, Big Fat Lies

San Pellegrino Bitter Red Aperitif Sodas // Ladies Who Lunch


Here's a bittersweet little idea for a kitchen tea or a casual home lunch with the girls. I found these San Pellegrino Bitter Red Aperitif Sodas at an Italian deli in Chatswood. Sanbitter came to the market in 1970 as a non-alcoholic alternative to the aperitif - a small drink taken before a meal to whet the appetite.

My friend Mel hosted a small girly afternoon tea a while back (I'll post those pics soon) and these formed part of the scenery. I stamped brown paper labels with initials, wound round the jars with some jute, and slipped in some fresh pink daisies. Something a little different to brighten a table and trend up your lunch. x





Swimming With My Own Current: On Pursuing Happy

Some food for thought...


This year has been such a FUNNY journey. (Funny/interesting, not funny/haha). I was hating on it before, but now I am loving it. Why? I can see things from another angle now, with more clarity. Life is not supposed to be perpetually happy. The challenges in life are the things that cause us to reflect, learn and grow. Without challenges – if we were perpetually happy – we would have no reason to change or move forward, to make things happen for the benefit of ourselves and others, and to have experiences! Think about it. If you were 100% content all the time, where would the drive to create new things and to have new experiences come from?

This is not to say that "unhappiness" is good  noooooo, no no  but challenges?  They're good.

I'll tell you why I personally find this to be true.

Many times this year I have banged my head against a brick wall [usually metaphorically, not always] and asked why why why!? Why did I apply and start uni only to realise: OH, SHIZEN, NO. Abort. Why did I apply for Sydney city jobs, only to receive interview invitations and then go: WHOOPSY, I ACTUALLY DON'T WANT TO COMMUTE FOR YOUR JOB THAT A MILLION GIRLS WOULD KILL FOR. Why did I make a new commitment to a marketing career (which makes ZERO sense for me... I'd sooner climb trees than corporate ladders) but then get no responses to my prepared-with-the-help-of-a-professional-career-coach, applications? WHY? Coz, it's a numbers game, and there were obviously heaps of candidates who were heaps better than me. Coz I didn't wanna commute for four hours a day. There's nothing woo-woo going on there. It is what it is.

But here's the thing. There's another layer. I believe that some things happen for a reason, and I believe that this year's challenges were always going to happen, and I believe that the challenge was for me to stop  just stop already, trying to fit into an outdated or "sensible" notion of what I thought I should be doing. I think that the challenge has been for me to dedicate some energy into figuring out how I want to meaningfully spend my days. I couldn't/wouldn't have done that if I'd landed the first (or even fiftieth) job I'd applied for. So from this new vantage point, I'm so thankful for this year.

What is a sensible job, anyway? I had this Oprah moment recently where I realised the following: A corporate, 9-5, highly paid, regularly paychecked job is a fan-bloody-tastic and sensible job for someone who enjoys that job. A teaching job is a fan-bloody-tastic and sensible job for someone who loves teaching children. Are they sensible jobs for me? Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, computer says NO!! A sensible job for me is the one that makes S E N S E  for M E. Boom. I do not know why it took me so long to figure this out; it seems so freaking obvious now.

I also believe that you need to align yourself with your 'happy meridian'. I think I have now learned to identify when I am aligning with my happy meridian. For a while, I had been swimming against my own current. I had been aspiring to things (i.e. work choices) that were old or 'sensible' ideas, like a corporate office job. I stupidly convinced myself that kind of job was the end-goal and the symbol of success. But it never felt like somewhere I wanted to stay for long, even though I met many great friends, had great experiences, and learned many things. Eventually, when you increasingly notice that you are swimming against your own current, it just no longer makes sense. It no longer works to keep swimming against the current. Imagine yourself actually in a river swimming against a current. It's a struggle, it's stressful, it's not fun, and you don't get anywhere. You're stuck.

But when you spin around and flow with the current it's like HECK YEAH, WOOOOOOO! When you're swimming with your own current it feels good.

My time this year has basically forced me to take a good look at myself and ask what I really want. What do I have to offer that is useful to others and also makes me content? What do I enjoy, what am I/can I be good at? What makes sense for me? 

And this is the alignment of the happy meridian. I imagine it like a piece of precision joinery  the piece that fits snuggly into the perfect slot. Personally, I think I needed to experience something that didn't feel right, to know when something did feel right. When an idea just seems to align, when it sits well and I don't have to scrutinise it, that's now a good indicator for me that I'm on the right track.

When you identify and acknowledge and make plans for what feels right for you, you feel this cohesion. It's a 180 where you are suddenly swimming with your own current. It's standing tall and slotting perfectly into your happy meridian. It, feels, amazing!

I'm in a good place now – much better than even a short while ago, and the change happened when I stopped, surrendered, had a good honest talk with myself, dropped the old ideas and actually gave credence to the new ideas. Gave myself permission to consider possibilities that actually made sense for the person I am.

Sometimes I publish things on this blog that are waaaaay out of my comfort zone  let me just say, this is one of those things. It's scary putting things out there, but I know I am not alone in these experiences.

I know I have been a little bit closed-book with my plans, even with friends and family. My goals at present include continuing to build on my wedding favour business. I'm also exploring the possibility of part-time study in an area of alternative healthcare, which is another one of my interests  something I'm naturally inclined towards and fascinated by. However, for the time being I still need a reliable income from another source. To meet these aims, my goal is to find work close to home (where we currently live, in Wollongong). My reason for sharing this is to demonstrate my point about the 'happy meridian'. Before, when I was looking for work in Sydney CBD  just to find work  I hadn't yet given proper attention to figuring out my real interests and goals. So when I was applying for jobs in the CBD, something felt off/misaligned, and that's why I balked each time I got an interview offer. Once I had made the decision to actually devote some more energy to my creative work, I knew that I had to find work locally to be able to continue (I couldn't work on my business if I was wasting hours commuting). At the time of that decision to leave the city jobs behind, I felt a massive shift in my personal energy. I felt like a little happy fish who had started swimming with her own current.

Just this morning, I was considering my goals and kind of realised that to enable the growth of my business and other plans, that finding part-time work would be preferable. When I acknowledged that, it felt like another little piece of the puzzle slotting into place. I realised that even though I have been putting my efforts into finding full-time work locally, I haven't been wholeheartedly committed/aligned with that plan. Who knows - maybe that's why nothing has come of it? I knew/know that if I commited to a full-time job, it would be tricky to make room for my own business and other plans. On the other hand, when I think about getting a part-time job instead, I feel quite positive. We'll see what happens. I already have some full-time applications out there that I worked hard on, and it's not to say that I might not apply for another FT job locally if it fits the bill, but let's just see.

What was my point of this post again? Oh yes. Challenges are good. I'd be the first one to put up my hand and say that it can be practically impossible to see some challenges as positives when you're in the thick of them, but challenges can get you places. And secondly, being aware of your happy meridian is good, as is swimming with your own current.

The end.

The impetus for this post came from this coveted article: 7 Crazy Mistakes We Make in the Pursuit of Happiness

The upper images were screen-snapped on Instagram over the months, so I have no info to give credits - sorry! The last image is a free printable from here

Birthday Cake Mix In A Jar | DIY



Have you come across these Cake-in-a-Jar recipes before? I LOVE this handmade gift idea.

Today I wanted to show you a very simple version of the Cake-in-a-Jar that I made for Lindsay last year when we weren't yet living together. His birthday was mid-week and I was interstate for work, but I wanted to make sure he had cake!

As I said, my "recipe" was extremely simple (like, boy simple) - I poured the contents of a packet cake mix in a jar and wrote instructions to match. I included a separate mini jar of sprinkles in the bag. I had to stamp strict instructions for the present not to be opened until his birthday. Even so, I ended up making the cakes myself a few months later, haha - but the novelty was still there, and the jar will probably be around for a while! Here's the label I made...


And here are some of my favourite cake and cookie jars from Pinterest. Have you, or would you, make this as a DIY/BYO gift, and what would you put in the mix? Personally, that brownie mix is calling my name...


...but I love the layers on the bottom right one -- what a beautiful idea for Christmas!

10 Benefits of Yoga and Pilates / I Quit the Gym


Image Source: Yoga By the Sea
There's a bit of a back story to this post, but if you want to skip to the informative part, scroll down to the numbered list!

So, I calculated this morning that I have signed up as a gym member five times over my 31-year-old life, and two of those memberships were at the same place. I've just quit my fifth and hopefully last, and have asked The Main Squeeze to remind me not to join another.

WHY such reckless? Me and gyms have a hot/cold relationship. It's the same pattern every time. I start off all gung ho, then winter and chocolate happen and gung ho turns to don't go. After months of abstinence I get a renewed surge of energy -- roughly enough to get me to one class and back -- before I graciously contact the gym to inform them that as I am moving cities I am so very sorry but I have no choice but to discontinue my membership, with regrets, deep regrets. 

I have absolutely no gripes with gyms or people who enjoy the gym - good on you, I say. Although, I do find it interesting that our Nannas were not gym bunnies nor did they live in an obesity epidemic [read: it's more about the food we eat and obsessive exercise is probs not needed]. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed my share of bouncy gym classes but the relationship gets tired pretty quick, then I end up wasting my money and stressing about the fact that I'm not at the gym. This is surely counter-productive to one of the main benefits of exercise - stress reduction.

Personally, I suppose I just find the whole gym routine a little chore-like. The pulling on of the fugly pants, the pre-filling of the water bottle, etc. etc. what am I Arnold Schwarzenegger? You have to know what works for you and what doesn't. Obviously, I'm a slow learner: five gym memberships.

A little while ago I stumbled across a daily free-to-air Yoga/Pilates program (9am M-F on channel 4Me, NSW). Currently I have the means to do a 9am class from home, so I've been giving the classes a go this week and am really enjoying it. There is no gym commute, there's no flip-flops in the shower rule, and I don't have to namaste worship the yoga teacher at the end. What is that about? The classes alternate between Pilates and Yoga each day.


Alexandra's School of Yogalates - beats a sweat-drenched hardwood floor!
Those who are new to Yoga or Pilates might be wondering which is better? I really like combining or alternating the two (this is based on a few years of classes, not the two TV classes I've done this week, FYI smarty pantses). This keeps things interesting though if forced to pick I would choose Pilates as it's a little more varied from class to class.

I'm the sort of person who likes to look up the benefits of things. I will stand in the shower and read the back of the shampoo bottle while I'm sudsing so I know exactly what is taking place. Understanding the benefits of Yogalates expands the motivation, as does reading the shampoo bottle motivate me to wash my hair. This is what I've investigated...

By the way, there are many different styles of Yoga and Pilates -- this isn't supposed to be a comprehensive list, just a general list of benefits that seem to cross over both Yoga and Pilates - Yogalates.

Health Benefits of Yoga and Pilates

1. Flexibility: Moving and stretching in new ways will help you become more flexible, bringing greater range of motion to tight areas. Over time, you can expect to gain flexibility in your hamstrings, back, shoulders, and hips. 
2. Strength: Many yoga poses require you to support the weight of your own body in new ways, including balancing on one leg or supporting yourself with your arms. Holding poses over the course of several breaths also builds strength.
3. Improved Posture: The back and abdominal strength you build, along with increased flexibility, can help improve your posture, giving the appearance of a taller, leaner body.
4. Muscle tone: As a by-product of getting stronger, you can expect to see increased muscle tone (particularly of the abdominals through Pilates)
5. Balance: Improved balance is one of the most important benefits of yoga as you get older. Poses where you stand on one leg and, for more advanced students, inversions, are great ways to build core strength.
6. Pain Prevention: Increased flexibility and strength can help prevent the causes of some types of back pain.  Yoga also improves your alignment, both in and out of class, which helps prevent many other types of pain.
7. Better Breathing: Most of us take shallow breaths and don't give much thought to how we breathe. Yoga breathing exercises, called pranayama, focus the attention on the breath and teach us how to take deeper breaths, which benefits the entire body. Certain types of breath can also help clear the nasal passages (helpful for people with allergies) and even calm the central nervous system, which has both physical and mental benefits.
8. Mental Calmness: Yoga asana practice is intensely physical. Concentrating so intently on what your body is doing has the effect of bringing a calmness to the mind. Yoga also introduces you to meditation techniques, such as watching the breath and how to disengage from your thoughts. 
9. Stress Reduction: Physical activity is good for relieving stress, and this is particularly true of yoga. Because of the concentration required, your daily troubles, both large and small, seem to melt away during the time you are on the mat. This provides a much-needed break from your stressors, as well as helping to put your problems into perspective. 
10. Body Awareness: Doing yoga will give you an increased awareness of your own body. You are often called upon to make small, subtle movements to improve your alignment. Over time, this will increase your level of comfort in your own body. This can lead to improved posture and greater self-confidence.

Sources: One Two Three