January’s usually the month for well-intentioned resolution making, but we’re kicking off a new monthly column this week so you can get a jump on making 2018 your best yet. I’m delighted to introduce Sarah Edwards to you, a health coach and the keeper of a wealth of wellness-linked wisdom on the fantastic Copper and Cloves. Each month Sarah will walk us through small changes that we can all make that will add up to significant, long-term shifts as well as recipes and little assignments intended to help you redefine your health.
Hi, I’m Sarah.
I am so excited to be guest blogging for The Tonic. The Tonic has been an amazing resource for me since I moved to India just under two years ago, so it is really a privilege to now be a part of it.
A bit about me- I’m from London, I am a passionate home cook and love creating recipes that celebrate all the amazing Indian produce that I’ve come to learn about. I’m all about making fresh nourishing food as tasty as possible.
I work in the not-for-profit education sector, but I am also training to be a Health Coach. And it’s that last bit that ultimately led to this collaboration.
So what is a Health Coach I hear you ask? A Health Coach is someone who supports you to adopt health behaviours and habits. Beyond working individually with clients, I want to help as many people as possible take small, manageable steps to greater health and wellbeing.
My own journey with health and wellbeing hasn’t been smooth! I was a typical student, giving very little thought to what I ate. I regularly felt tired, bloated and was always getting coughs and colds- but I never connected it to the idea that I might not be eating a nutritious, balanced diet and looking after myself (which maybe sounds silly now). My eating style was interspersed with crash dieting- again which would make me feel lousy! I guess my main focus was my weight rather than how I felt and cared for myself.
Something shifted when I was in my twenties. It all started when I signed up to for a 10k running race that my partner’s family do each year. I was leading a pretty sedentary life up to that point, and I trained purely so I wouldn’t seriously embarrass myself in front of his whole family at this annual event. I found I got a lot out of moving my body regularly and started running a couple of times a week (and I managed to get through the race without stopping!). It sounds obvious now, but I realised how much regular movement made a difference to my life, compared to when I never moved my body. I took up other things, from yoga to mountain biking. From there, in order to fuel myself for this new more active lifestyle, I became interested in nutrition and more conscious about what I was eating. Again, I felt a positive impact on my energy levels and in my body, I felt like I was in a good place, and this drove me to want to find out more.
That wasn’t the happy ending though! I’ll be the first to admit that I think I have at times taken it too far, becoming too focused on my weight, exercise or buying into the concept of eating ‘clean’ – leading to an overly restricted lifestyle. I have since realised that was not true health- because the amount ‘being healthy’ occupied my thoughts was actually unhealthy, and prevented me from living life to the fullest.
Over time I have realised that living well is not about overhauling your lifestyle, training hard and eating healthy food religiously. I think the ‘wellness’ movement in the West has become a bit all consuming, really focused on selling a lifestyle and pressuring people to feel they need to look and act a certain way. Here in India I think we have the chance to create something more inclusive and focused on what is important- helping people to adopt healthier behaviours whatever their lifestyle and size, without making people feel that the health and wellness movement isn’t for them unless fit into an ‘ideal’ look or lifestyle,
Ultimately all of this learning and experimentation had led me to train to be a Health Coach, because I want to support people to become healthier, meeting them where they are with simple, actionable ideas. I studied psychology at University in the UK and I am fascinated by the science of behaviour change. Coaching techniques are a practical and supportive way of enabling people to make small changes to their behaviour.
Which brings me back to this guest blog. As well as sharing recipes I have created that star seasonal produce, I wanted to introduce small, actionable ideas to adopt new healthy behaviours in each monthly blog. I hope you find these helpful! Some you might already do, but I hope I can introduce simple practices that can make a difference to your daily life, despite being small. According to research, it takes between 30 and 66 days to create a habit- so if you can consciously focus on the practices each day in the next month, you can go a long way to ingraining it as second nature. And once something has become ingrained, it becomes second nature, and can reap benefits without it feeling effortful.
So that brings me to… Healthy Habit Number One!
Mindful, conscious eating.
This is the first practice I wanted to talk about because it can be so transformative. This means tuning into the flavours and sensations when you are eating, and doing so slowly and consciously.
The most important reason to eat more mindfully is that your food is more enjoyable when you eat slowly and savour every mouthful. You truly enjoy and celebrate the food you eat. Taking time to enjoy each moment is such an important part of living well.
Secondly, you are more likely to eat the right amount, and make good decisions about the right foods for your body when you eat slowly and mindfully (more on this next month!).
Remember a healthy eating style has room for a wide variety of foods, including foods that are traditionally thought of as ‘unhealthy’. Eat slowly and consciously, no matter what food you are consuming, and take satisfaction from the experience.
Here are 5 actionable practices to start eating more mindfully from today onwards.
1. Start the meal with gratitude.
Take 20 seconds to look at the food on your plate and really think about how grateful you are that you have enough to eat, and that you have choice in what you eat.
Try to think about the journey the food has been on, and who might have been involved in that journey, and send gratitude their way, whether it is a farmer, the chef in the kitchen, or your mum!
Appreciate the colours, smells and textures of the food in front of you and smile!
Try counting to help slow you down until you naturally eat slowly. Chewing your food properly is an important part of digestion! Aim to chew your food at least 20 times- it will seem like a lot at first, but keep counting and focusing on the experience of eating.
3. Put your fork down between every mouthful.
Just let your hand rest on the table while you consciously focus on the flavour of the food while you chew. Most of us are already finding our next bite before we have even swallowed the food in our mouths. That is actually a distraction from the present moment. Putting your fork down, enjoying the food or focusing on the company of people you might be sharing a meal with can enable you to enjoy the experience more.
Chew, swallow and take a conscious breath before you start preparing your next bite!
4. Notice your thoughts and dismiss unhelpful labels
Sometimes when eating, thoughts pop into our head about whether what we are eating is ‘good’ (like oats) or ‘bad’ (maybe chocolate) and this can lead to feelings about ourselves and distort the experience of eating that food. Recognise that these are thoughts around ‘food rules’ and not truths- no food is inherently good or bad, and a healthy, balanced diet has room for a wide variety of different foods.
‘Food rules’ are often ingrained due to the culture of dieting and food shaming that we live in. Acknowledge that and notice these rules for what they are, and instead focus on the experience of eating and the enjoyment it brings.
5. No distractions
Try not to eat front of the TV or whilst on social media when dining on your own. This habit can lead to mindless eating! Try setting the table nicely and eat consciously even when alone. When having a meal, just eat - no computer, reading, or scrolling on your phone. Just your own company or someone else’s company. Eating like this can increase that feeling of satisfaction that you get out of the meal.
This has been a game changer for me, though it takes time and sometimes there are days where I find myself eating mindlessly.
To find out more about eating slowly and consciously I think people should head towards Intuitive Eating, a non-diet approach to eating well and nourishing your body.
I wanted to share a recipe for a ‘Buddha bowl’ with you- which is basically a hearty, filling dish made of various greens, raw or cooked veggies and a whole grain (like quinoa or brown rice). This dish has lots of contrasting flavours and textures and so is perfect for practicing eating mindfully. Try it while implementing some of the practices above!
Half a small pumpkin, cut into small chunks
1 tbsp. coriander seeds, lightly crushed
2 large brinjals, cut into small chunks
2 tsp. garam masala
4 handfuls of kale or spinach
Juice of ½ lemon
Pinch of chilli flakes
1 mug of quinoa, cooked according to packet instructions (Indian-grown quinoa is available from Fab India)
2 tbsp. cold-pressed sunflower oil or other cold-pressed oil.
Salt and pepper
Handful pomegranate seeds
For the creamy cashew sauce:
½ mug of cashews, soaked for 4 hours or overnight
Juice of ½ lemon
3 garlic cloves.
Tsp. chilli powder (or to taste- could add more if you want a richer colour and spicier flavour)
1 tbsp. cold-pressed sunflower oil
Pinch salt and pepper
1. Take the diced pumpkin, mix with a tablespoon of oil and the crushed coriander seeds, and a pinch of salt and pepper and roast in the oven until soft and starting to caramelise with brown edges. Take out of the oven and set aside (if you don’t have an oven you could steam the pumpkin and then lightly fry with some coriander seeds)
2. Mix a tablespoon of oil with the garam masala to make a paste and then mix with the diced brinjal. Lightly fry until there is a nice golden-brown colour on the brinjal. Set aside
3. Stir fry the kale in a little water, lemon juice and pinch of chilli flakes until wilted.
4. To make the cashew sauce, put all the ingredients in a blender with a splash of filtered water and blend. Add more water to get it to a pourable consistency, it should be creamy, smooth and tangy! You can add more garlic, lemon or chilli to get your preferred punch of flavour.
5. Assemble! Fill a bowl to halfway with the cooked quinoa. Add the vegetables in separate piles and sprinkle the pomegranate seeds (because everything looks great with pomegranate seeds on top)! Then serve warm with the creamy cashew dressing on the side. At the table you can then mix all the ingredients together and drizzle the creamy cashew sauce on top.
The best thing about this recipe is that it is so versatile. You can replace the veggies with whatever you have in the fridge (sweet potato, fried cauliflower, roasted zucchini). Stir through a fresh herb like coriander. Sprinkle nuts and seeds on the top.
For more from Sarah, visit (and follow) Copper and Cloves, a destination designed to help you along your wellness journey through a focus on mindful eating and leading you toward lasting, transformative health. “A destination for people who want to be healthier but aren't sure where to start.”
Find Copper and Cloves on Instagram @copperandcloves