Why I Don’t Ask “Does My Bum Look Big?”

Why I Stopped Asking "Does My Bum Look Big?"

I was introduced to the lows of being overweight on my first day at school. During recess, another kid in the playground called me fat. I was really upset. I had no idea that I was overweight until that moment. I was five years old. That memory has stayed with me ever since.

In my later years, I used to jump on the scales and tie my self-esteem to the number that appeared. Of course, the only number that was acceptable was on verge of being underweight. Some months I would feel great and others I would want to hide from the world. The only thing that used to matter to me was the number on the scales. It was all I could focus on.

I’ve tried so many different diets. And you know what, they all worked. I always chose the diet based on weight loss, the faster the better. Every diet recommended that I eat meat every 2 to 3 hours. There were some vegetables and never any fruit. They were high protein, low carb diets. And they got me where I thought I wanted to go.

Weight Loss & Green SmoothiesEach time I lost the desired amount of weight, I would feel fantastic. I would pull out my skinny wardrobe and wear it with pride. When I thought I’d unlocked the secrets of weight loss, the inevitable happened. I lost my way. I would start to ‘treat’ myself to things that were off the menu. I couldn’t sustain it and drifted back into my old habits. Little did I know or understand how harmful eating so much meat would be. Before I knew it I’d put the weight back on, with interest!

I would put my skinny wardrobe into storage and pull out my fat wardrobe. Down my self-esteem would plummet. This entire cycle would take between a twelve to eighteen months to occur. Then you guessed it; it would start all over again. I had been in this cycle for 25 years.

It wasn’t until I had a life changing experience that I changed my focus. After having two strokes at 39 my focus shifted my focus from weight loss to health. I read some pretty sobering statistics about stroke. Three people in every five who experience stroke will pass away in the following year. One will have another stroke and the last person will be okay.

I desperately wanted to be the person who was going to be okay.

Weight Loss & Green SmoothiesJurgen, my husband had been introduced to green smoothies a couple of weeks prior to my strokes. We had just started making them at home the week before our lives changed forever. Jurgen would bring green smoothie into the hospital for me. He would put it into the fridge and reminded me to drink it.  He would pour me glass after glass when he came to visit.

The doctors could not tell me what caused the strokes. This changed my priorities very quickly. I threw out the weight loss diets and looked for ways to be healthy.

That was all that mattered if I wanted to live.

The green smoothies then started a chain reaction. We started introducing more and more healthy foods into our diet. I looked for foods to rebuild my brain connections and give me energy. I discovered raw vegetarian foods and Quinoa. The taste for sugar, fried foods and meat disappeared. I became an accidental vegetarian.  I wanted my brain and my body to heal. Most importantly, I didn’t want to fear stroke ever again.

But then the most amazing thing happened. When I focused on being healthy, my weight took care of it’s self. I found my perfect healthy weight. There’s no skinny or fat wardrobe anymore, just lovely clothes that fit perfectly. I’ve just celebrated three extra years of life after the strokes. I’ve never looked better or been healthier. It’s such a freeing experience to know how to manage my weight… and it’s delicious! On a personal note, I’ll never ask again if my bum looks big in this.  I know its perfect just the way it is. I will never again tie my self esteem to a number.  Not my age, my bank account and definitely not my weight.

Focus on making healthy choices and watch the magic happen…

Did you like what you’ve read? We’d love for you to share your story below.

Wishing you lots of health, love & happiness,

Nikki xx

Is Recovery A Sprint Or A Marathon?

This week, I headed out on my first run in quite a while.  It got me thinking about what the ‘journey of recovery’ really means.  Sometimes it’s hard to know what to expect on the  road ahead, when we’re just starting out.

RainforestAs I arrived at the park, the sun was shining and it was the perfect autumn day.  At the start of the park, there’s a big metal plate fixed into the path. As I crossed the plate, I clapped three times as my signal to start running.  It’s my ready, set, GO!

It was great to be out amongst the people, cyclists and puppy dogs all getting some sunshine and exercise.  I use milestones along the way to keep me on track, like a mental checklist of where I am on the journey. As I passed the first milestone, I checked it off and noticed I was feeling really good.

At the second checkpoint, this long legged gazelle past me like I was standing still.  I usually don’t compete but I thought I’d have a go at keeping up with her graceful gilding steps.  It didn’t last long. After a couple of hundred metres, I looked like Quasimodo hunched over chasing after her. I think it made her run even faster!

I realised that I was trying to compare myself to another person. This lady’s physically condition was completely different to mine.  It was good to challenge myself but it was going to exhaust me trying to keep up with her any further.  I wouldn’t be able to finish my run at all if I did.  Just like recovery, the pace is different for everyone.

At this point I wanted to give up. I tried to keep going but I had nothing left. Ever had those niggling thoughts? “You’ve done enough for today, it was good effort.  It’s okay to stop now…” It wasn’t the first time my mind tried to talk me out of things or sometimes into things!

Knowing this, I had one last test before I decided whether or not to quit.  I scanned my body.  As I was running, I mentally checked in with my feet.  They were not sore and perfectly fine.  I mentally checked my legs.  They were running along with no issues at all. My breathing had returned to normal and I was not puffing anymore.  I checked my posture and noticed I still hunched over.

IMG_1718There was nothing physically wrong with my body at all.  I had found my ideal pace again, but my mind was still trying to sabotage me.  Nice try, I thought!  I asked myself one last question before I decided whether or not to give up. “Have I got a little more here?”

The first thing I noticed is my posture changed and I straighten up.  My body posture instantly mirrored my positive thoughts. My speed picked up a little, just enough to make a noticeable difference.  I actually felt different just by asking myself that one question and my body responded.  Turns out I did have more to give!

I finished my run easily back at the same place I had started.  As I crossed the metal plate I clapped three times, this time for succeeding.  I felt proud that I had hung in there and not thrown in the towel.  In the past, I would have given up and stopped running.  I would have told myself that running just wasn’t for me and stopped trying.

It’s with great love that I leave you with this advice for recovery. On some days recovery will be an easy sprint to the finish line. On others, it will be a marathon. You might not be able to see the finish line or know where to look for the milestones, and that’s okay.  A marathon is worth running just as much for the journey, as it is for the final destination.  It takes time and patience to recover, and you’ll learn so much about yourself along the way.  Be kind to yourself and take the time you need to find your rhythm and keep going for the long run. Before you know it, you’ll look back and see just how far you’ve come.

Did you love what you’ve read and found it valuable?  Share your thoughts on your ‘Journey of Recovery’ below.  If you think this information would help someone you know, share it with them and spread the love!

Why I Swapped Quilting For Skydiving!

Why I Swapped Quilting for SkydivingI have a confession to make.  Back in the 1990’s I used to be a mad quilter.  I would plan out my design, choose the fabric and cut it into little shapes.  After weeks of sewing hundreds of squares and triangles together I would have quilt top.  Now the real work would start. I would hand quilt the top, wadding and backing together.  This would take months, sometimes years to complete.  One quilt took me 10 years to finish.

I realised at the tender age of 26 that I wasn’t living life to the fullest.  Surely there had to be more to my nights than spending it alone, sewing?  I certainly didn’t go on many dates but I did have an impressive selection of homemade quilts!  Life was not as exciting or fulfilling as I thought it was going to be.  I wanted my life to be exciting so I knew I had to make a major change.

I had always wanted to go skydiving so I found a skydiving school and booked in.  Making that one decision changed my life in so many extraordinary ways.  Here’s the fast version of what happen next – I jumped, I lived, I loved it!  I landed safely and I felt exhilarated beyond belief.

It felt like a new chapter of my life had just begun and it was thrilling!  I started dating my tall, dark and handsome Austrian skydiving instructor, who later became my gorgeous husband.  I made new friends, travelled and learnt more about myself than I ever imagined.  It was a long way from quilting on the living room floor.

On a cold winters night I find myself snuggled under my first handmade quilt with the love of my life and our two furry children, our cats Sangria and Moscato. That quilt always reminds me of just how far I’ve come and how lucky I was to take a big leap of faith and change my life. I am grateful that quilting taught me about patience and persistence.  I will always cherish my skydiving days for bringing love into my life.

My journey in more recent years has been no less filled with thrills and spills.  Having a stroke, and learning how to rebuild my health has been a life lesson that I will never forget and at the same time be very thankful for.

Swapping one thing for another should always be holistic for you and in your best interests.  As part of my healing from the stroke I swapped one food choice for healthier choice. It was a small change that gave me big results. This helped me to heal and be healthy. The changes I made had all the beautiful tasty flavours without the hidden nasties. Here’s a list of the foods I swapped that put me on a path to healing and wellness.

Chocolate Cakes vs. Raw Chocolate Cakes
Finding a healthy alternative for chocolate cake turned out to be a labour of love!   Traditional chocolate cakes generally full of flour, cooking chocolate and sugar, none of which is great for your health.  I found lots of great raw chocolate cake recipes using a base of blended walnuts, organic cocoa and dates. Of course, you can add in anything else that you like.  I love drizzling blended strawberries over my cake for added decadence.

Rice vs. Quinoa
Rice is a grain that used to leave me feeling quite full and bloated.  Quinoa is a seed and is much easier on the digestive system.  It is still be just a filling as rice but much better for your body.  Prepare and use it the same way as you would use rice.

Ice Cream Milkshakes vs. Green Smoothies
Milk, fruit syrups and ice creams are not adding nutrition into your body. It is giving you a huge dose of processed sugar. If your body isn’t able to process and burn it, your body will need to create extra cells to store it.  Hello fat cells!  Replace your milkshakes with homemade creamy smoothies.  You’ll get the added benefit of the greens cleaning your blood, keeping you regular and filling you up.  Use berries to make your green smoothies really creamy and delicious.

Sour Cream vs. Natural Yoghurt
Sour cream usually contains additives such as rennet, gelatine and is very high in fat (and not the good kind!) Use bio-dynamic natural yoghurt with a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon and a pinch of Himalayan salt.  It has all the flavour without the high fat content in sour cream.  It also contains good flora for the intestines.  You can also make your own aioli using roasted garlic, lime, chives, Himalayan salt and fresh herbs.

Breadcrumbs vs. Ground Nuts or Ground Linseed
The main ingredients in bread are flour and water. There’s not a whole lot of nutrition in bread. It is essentially dead food. If you are using breadcrumbs as a binding agent for certain recipes such as veggie burgers, use ground nuts or ground linseed instead.  You’ll get an added boost of good fats from the nuts or insoluble fibre from the linseed. Insoluble fibre is great for cleaning the intestines.

Store Brought Juice and Cordials vs. Freshly Squeezed Homemade Juices
Avoid all the nasty additives and processed sugars in store brought juices and cordials. Make your own fresh juices or infuse fruit into water. Juice that has been freshly squeezed has the highest amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants available for the body to use.

Tinned Tomatoes vs. Homemade Tomato Sauce
In short if it comes from a can, it’s not fresh. This one is really easy to do. Roast up some fresh organic tomatoes and remove the skin once they have cooked.  Add fresh herbs and garlic, and roughly blend.  These are the type of ingredients you probably have on hand most days.  You’ll be avoiding the preservatives and the added water in the tins.

Spaghetti vs. Spiralized Zucchini
Spaghetti is very much like bread as it’s main ingredients.  It usually contains flour and water as the base.  There are some new varieties coming out using healthier ingredients.  Keep in mind the more any food has been processed, the less nutrition it will contain.  Spiralized zucchini is great in place of pasta.  You can add any sauces you like in the same way you would with pasta.  It’s so delicious and healthy.  It’s a great raw alternative to cooked pasta. You can find a spiralizer from your local department store or cookware shop for around $50.  This is a great investment; I use my spiralizer several times a week.

Store Bought Salad Dressing vs. Homemade Salad Dressings
Store bought salad dressing usually contain preservatives and sugars.  This takes a minute or two to make fresh and you know exactly what’s going into it.  Try any combination of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, fresh squeezed orange juice, honey, herbs, spices, garlic, lemon, avocado etc.

Protein – Meat vs. Plant Based Foods
Meat is high in protein, however it also makes the body very acidic, which can lead to a range of serious health issues. Reducing or eliminating your meat intake may sound crazy to any self-respecting carnivore! I know I used to be one of them.  I stopped craving meat when I started drinking green smoothies; this certainly made the change much easier.  I then made sure I replaced my protein with clean plant based, organic sources.  These included things like leafy greens in salads and green smoothies, avocado, spinach, sweet potato, lentils, kidney beans, nuts, quinoa, etc

Regular Table Salt vs. Himalayan Salt
The thing to keep in mind here is your body NEEDS salt to survive.  It’s right up there with air, water, shelter and food etc.  It is an essential ingredient your body needs for survival.  Table salt has been bleached and has had chemicals added so it is easy to pour out of the container into your food.  It actually leaches the essential minerals out our body, leaving you depleted.  Himalayan salt is a fantastic healthy alternative and provides the minerals and iron the body needs.  It can actually lower your blood pressure and improve circulation.

In the comments below, share the foods you’ve found and swapped for healthier versions.  Love what you’ve read? Share this blog with your friends and loved ones.

What Stroke Feels Like

 

I was recently asked to present to a corporate sponsor of the National Stroke Foundation. It was a real honour to be asked to speak to over 130 people.  It is by far the largest group for me, to date.  I wanted to share with them not only the signs and how to avoid stroke but also what it feels like to actually have a stroke.  This the journey I took them on to give them an insight into what my stroke felt like, for me.

“Imagine standing on the waters edge. In front of you, water stretches as far as the eye can see.  The water is still and calm.  Standing on the bank, you are surrounded by people.  They are talking and laughing and in that moment, life seems normal.

As the stroke begins, a small boat appears on the water in front of you.  You carefully step into the boat and sit down.  You calmly begin to drift away from the shore.  You notice that everything seems very peaceful around you.  Everything starts to move very slowly.  As you look back towards the shore, you can no longer understand what people on the bank are saying.  A few minutes pass and you realise you have drifted a long way from shore.

Somewhere inside, you know that you are in trouble. You call out to the people on the bank to get someone’s attention. If you can only let them know, everything will be okay.  They don’t really seem to understand you and go back to their own conversations.  You scream out hoping someone will hear you.  The words coming out of your mouth are making no sense.  You are screaming on the inside, yet begin to fall silent on the outside. The people on the bank are no longer able hear you. 

Frantically you try to wave your arms, but your arms lay helplessly beside you.  You can not move and you can not speak.  You can only watch what is happening around you.  You feel a grey fog start to drift all around and you feel an overwhelming sense of confusion.  You realise you can no longer see the shore and you don’t know where you are anymore. You feel disconnected from reality.

For the first time, you know that you are truly alone, unable to communicate or move. Your body is frozen and your mind is drifting. You understand what it is truly like to be a prisoner in your own body and how frightening that can be.  You don’t know when it will end or if you’ll ever make it back to the shore.  It is a very lonely feeling.”

Anthony Mancini, the CEO of the corporate sponsor had this to say:

“I want to convey my heartfelt thanks on behalf of our team for your address at our meeting on 23 May. The way you combined your personal experience with the facts and urgency around stroke prevention messages was extraordinarily powerful.  Your presentation was simply outstanding and did more to motivate our employees to take action to reduce their risk of stroke than we could ever do.  You have also raised awareness levels to a new high, which will have a powerful flow on effect through the families and social networks of our employees. Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and experience with us.”  

With very best wishes,

Anthony

As you can imagine, stroke was a life-changing event for me.  The reason I share this with you, is so you never have to go through something like this in your lifetime.   This is why both Jurgen and I are so passionate about sharing health, through green smoothies and raw foods.  Create the healthiest version of you that you can be! After all, it is up to you.

 

Run to Recovery 2012!

Run to Recovery 2012 was a fantastic success. I chose and achieved a goal I was not sure I could really do.  I’m thrilled to say I ran the full 21.1km around Princess Park.  My mum Lorraine cycled with me the entire way!  What an effort.  It’s kind of nice to know, my experience in life will only be as broad as my imagination.  By the way, I have a BIG imagination.

Thanks to everyone who donated money towards Fight Stroke, you managed to raise an amazing $2,080 for the National Stroke Foundation.  We received donations from Jurgen, Natalia, Lorraine, Susan, Rosie, Page, Peter, Mario, Michael, Junes, Paul & Mel, David, Freedom, Mandy & Di, Maggie, Jodie, Magda, Alice and Brian!  What an incredible effort and thank you, it’s a privilege to call you friends.

Thank you to the ladies from the National Stroke Foundation!  You are doing amazing work for the stroke community. You have supported me from the word go.  Special thanks goes to Megan, Diana, Ebru, Jasmine, Maggie, Sam, Cassie and Anna.

The last thank you goes to my husband, Jurgen.  Without your support and love, this would not have been possible.  I love you, you’re amazing!

So what’s next?  I’m looking at starting classes to help people learn more about green smoothies and healthy living.  I am currently looking for venues in Melbourne to help spread the word and really show how easy it is to change the course of your health. More to news about this in the coming weeks.

The first draft of my book is back from the editor!  Next week will be spent looking over the changes and refining it.  I plan to have the book published this year.  So, stay tuned!

Hope you are all well, healthy and happy. Wishing lots of love and have a fantastic weekend!

Run to Recovery 2012

Training was great last week.  I completed 24km, over three runs. One run of 12km, one of 8km and one of 4km.  Yoga on Wednesday was fantastic for a stretch and some relaxation.  I’m seriously considering buying a new pair of runners.  My current runners are quite old and I wonder if a bit more cushioning support would be good for the long distance.

I’m really looking forward to the big day.  I’ll be increasing my distance to around 16-17km in one run for this week in preparation.  I’m finding the more I run the less recovery time I need so hopefully not too many sore muscles going forward!  A BIG THANK YOU for your support, so far you have helped to raise a massive $1,500.  You can still make a donation to the National Stroke Foundation at http://doit4stroke.com.au/nikki_mennel

Whole Foods

There are many different types of food choices available today.  Catch phrases are often used to describe the food, capitalizing on the essentially healthy aspects of the product.  Organic, pesticide free, locally grown and whole foods are used to describe certain products.  Does that really mean they are good for us?

Whole foods are foods that are in their natural state.  Eating fresh whole foods in this way means they still contain their mineral, anti-oxidant and vitamin elements.  Each time whole foods are processed and refined, it removes these healthy properties.  For instant, lightly steamed sweet potato will not be the same as sweet potato chips.  A whole pear will not be the same as just the juice.  While both might be organic they will no longer have the same healthy qualities as the whole fruit or vegetable.

Eating whole foods has been linked to reducing or eliminating a range of major diseases and illnesses.  These include stroke, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.  Whole foods positively contribute to weight loss and maintaining a healthy body weight.  They will also support your immune system.

Whole foods are loaded with fibre, which help to remove toxins from the body.  Flavonoids, carotenoids and lycopene are also contained within plants and their role is to protect against cell damage.  Adding more whole foods to your diet will certainly make a huge difference to your overall health and wellbeing.  There are thousands of raw food recipes to try that taste fantastic and are perfect for every season.

Run to Recovery 2012

Today begins the countdown to one of the biggest anniversaries of my life.  Like all life changing anniversaries, it should be celebrated with lots of festivities, fun and love.

On the 12th September 2011, I experienced a stroke.  One year on, I want to celebrate how changing my life is allowing me to achieve things I never thought possible.  To give you the statistics:

Out of every five people who experience a stroke, three will die within the first year, one will have a second stroke and the fifth person will be well.  This was one of the first things I remember reading after my stroke.  As you can imagine that paints a bleak future.  I wanted to be the person that is well.

In honor of the gift of life I have been given, I will be running a half marathon around Princess Park on 12th September at 7.20am, on the anniversary of my stroke!

You may ask why do this?  Well, it’s because I never thought I could.  I never believed I was capable of it. I want to help raise awareness around nutrition, exercise and wellbeing and the critical role they play in recovery and reducing the risk of serious illness.  I need your help to make a difference.

It marks a new chapter in the way we create and consciously choose healthy lifestyles, not just for today but also for life.

You can help me to celebrate in several ways:

1. Come and cheer me on!  You could walk, run or cycle with me part of the way.  You could bring your partner, kids and dogs and enjoy Melbourne’s spring morning in the park.  It’s a great way to get some exercise and look after your body and your health.  I estimate it will take me several hours to complete the challenge.  I would love to see you there!

2. You can make a tax deductible donation to the National Stroke Foundation and help raise much needed funds.  The NSF receives little government funding and relies on the community and business to support their programs.  They make a real difference in people’s lives.  Donations can be made by calling 1300 194 196 or directly online at our fundraising page.

3. Call the National Stoke Foundation on 1800 787 653 and arrange for a StrokeSafe Ambassador to visit your workplace, school or community group to share information about stroke.  They will show you how to recognize the signs of stroke and also reduce the risk of stroke and serious illness.  Help make stroke a thing of the past.  National Stroke Week runs from 10-16 September 2012.  You can find out more information at www.strokefoundation.com.au

Thank you for all your support.  I will be updating you with my training over the next three weeks in preparation for the big day!  If you have any questions or would like to get involved, please contact me at nikki@cheekychimpsmoothies.com

Make a conscious choice to be healthy today, so you can create your dreams for tomorrow.

NOTE: Anyone wishing to participate in the walk/run/cycle is doing so at their own risk and they assume all responsibility.  This is not an organized event, it is a personal challenge.

Green Smoothie – Cholesterol Check

After the stroke I was taking Liptor, which is a statin drug that reduces cholesterol. Starting the green smoothies and reducing meat, dairy and processed food, I believed I could keep my cholesterol at a low, healthy level. I had my cholesterol checked to see if the Liptor had worked four months after my stroke.  It  reduced my levels by quite a bit.

The important thing to keep in mind is that my cholesterol was at a healthy level pre-stroke.  Due to the higher risk factors, I needed to reduce it even further going forward.  Keeping the arteries clear and reducing plague build up is an important part of avoiding stroke and coronary problems.  It also reduces the risk of blood clots.

I stopped taking Liptor in March for three months under the advice of my doctor.  I just had my cholesterol checked again in June and as expected it has risen slightly without the use of statin drugs.  It is still within healthy levels post stroke, which is fantastic.  The statin drugs reduce cholesterol however they have some nasty side effects.  They cause memory loss, muscle wasting and liver damage.  These are all good reasons to control cholesterol naturally.  I will keep going with the lifestyle changes and have regular cholesterol checks to ensure I remain healthy, happy and above all well.

Healthy Smoothies – Lasting Changes

A glass of healthy green smoothie will certainly make a big difference to your health.  A misconception is that drinking green smoothies will cancel out any unhealthy foods you may have eaten during the day.  This is not the case.  A treat now and then is fine, just not every day.  Lasting change comes when you make a considered, deliberate change to achieve long lasting health and wellbeing.  The great news is, it’s easy!

So what types of food will support the healthy smoothies?  Lots of salads, fish, nuts, fruits, greens and vegetables will be complimentary.  Warm meals during winter certainly hit the spot so soups, warm salads and healthy pizzas will be perfect.  We made a fantastic pizza this week using wrap bread with tomato paste and loaded with great organic vegetables.  We topped our pizza with home-style guacamole, using mashed avocado, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper.  The wrap bread is great and gives the pizza a really thin crust.

As you become aware of your palate changing, start noticing what you are now craving.  You will probably find that it will be healthier food choices. You may also find that you are no longer craving meat, processed foods, dairy or refine sugars nearly as much as before you began drinking green smoothies.

Reducing or eliminating meat, alcohol, refined oils, sugar and dairy will help to reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  These two conditions are both extremely damaging to the body.  Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol will significantly reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke.