Breathing In and Breathing Out – Bring That Stress Back Into Line

Breathing in and breathing out, breathing in and breathing out.  Right now, this is one thing we can do whilst our world experiences so much angst.  

Without diminishing or belittling the gravity of all affected or who have lost their lives to COVID-19, I am struggling to comprehend the actions and thought processes of some of my fellow humans who are in full panic mode.  When panic surrounds you, it can be difficult to remind yourself not to join the proverbial party. Please keep reminding yourself because this is important.

One of my lovely friends Cath of Conscious Business, has just shared a quote by Seth Godin who has said, “Panic is a choice and so is productive generosity.”  

It sure is.

With the global events that are happening all around us, it is important to remember that there are many things that we CAN actually do to look after ourselves and those around us.

One of the most simple things we do have control over is looking after our wellbeing and the act of simply breathing to keep stress levels at a healthy level.

A few years ago, as a result of self induced stress, I forgot about the importance of breathing and wrote about it on this blog.

I went looking for it today and decided that it was perfect timing to share it again.  

The moment in time that I wrote about eventually passed, as will the current world health events.  

A Story to Tell

Three years ago I experienced something new. It was overwhelming and both a physical and mental storm. I experienced an anxiety attack.

To me, it sounds silly because in the scheme of things, what I was anxious about did not warrant my reaction. If I think about the times or events in my life that should have been more likely to produce such a severe reaction – the weekend in question should not have featured even for a second.

My then 13-year-old daughter, had her first gymnastics competition for the year. She had been in the National Development Program since early primary school, so it was not a new thing. And let me just establish that this girl was a seasoned professional and a total poker face when it comes to competition – she trained for 18+ hours each week and knew her stuff.

Despite this, over recent years – my nervousness and anxiety with competitions had been increasing.

But one particular weekend most certainly took the cake. I made myself physically ill with stomach pains, nausea and a migraine as a result of my anxiety and irrational thinking. I found myself holding my breath at various points of the day – and this was before the competition even started!

There was no sympathy at home either because I was very careful to hide this anxiety – nobody needs that kind of negative energy before they start swinging around bars and pirouetting on beams do they?

My husband is the anti-thesis of anxiety and not many things get his heart rate over 80 bpm. He just reminded me that our girl had done all the preparing and she was fully able to do the doing. Great.

Just before the competition started – one of the other parents who was sitting quite a distance away from me (and clearly had a telescope) called my name – quite fiercely I might add. I turned around and she calmly looked at me and said – ‘breathe.’ Oh yes indeedy, thanks for the reminder.

There are many things that we can do to reduce stress levels in our lives – getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, meditation and so many other ideas from expert people who are far more qualified than I to provide advice on how to manage anxiety.

But you know the one thing that is available to all of us, 24/7? Breathing.

Of course, breathing is something that we do without a seconds thought and yet, when we feel anxious or upset we often start with the whole shallow breathing thing or interval breathing (my fancy way of describing holding ones breath). Every week when I go to my yoga class, its all about the breath. Lets face it, it is almost impossible not to feel calm after yoga (unavailable poses aside) simply because the focus for 75 minutes has been breathing.

Anxiety presents itself in all kinds of circumstances – the work place, at home, sport, in relationships and so many other nooks and crannies. Clearly, deep breathing alone is not the cure-all for anxiety and stress but the beauty of engaging the breath is that you can access it anywhere, anytime without anyone being aware.

Taking three deep breaths in and out through your nose automatically induces calm. Research shows that blood pressure starts returning to appropriate levels, lungs work more efficiently, your brain can do its thing and a churning stomach works a lot better when oxygen is circulating.

Try the simple routine below to dial down the anxiety in three breaths.

The Power of Breathing to Take Down Anxiety

  • Close your eyes. Take a deep breath in through your nose (with your mouth closed) and get every last bit of oxygen in that breath. When you reach the end of that breath, hold it for as long as is comfortable and then let it all out through your nose not your mouth. We are going to do two more of these breaths.
  • Again, take a deep breath in through your nose and get every last bit of oxygen in that breath. When you reach the end of that breath, hold it for as long as is comfortable and then let it all out through your nose.
  • For the last time, take a deep breath in through your nose and get every last bit of oxygen in that breath. When you reach the end of that breath, hold it for as long as is comfortable and then let it all out through your nose.

What about you? Do you have a breathing routine that you find to be effective for reducing anxiety?

The Twelfth Day Of Christmas – With a Healthy Twist

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…..twelve devils fighting, eleven emus kicking, ten wombats sleeping, nine crocs a weeping, eight flies a feasting, seven possums playing, six sharks a swimming, five kan-ga-roos, four cuddling koalas, three little penguins, two pink galahs aaaaand a kookaburra up a gum tree.

You may have worked out that my twelfth day of Christmas does not actually finish on Christmas Day.  I wanted to get the last message in before you all clocked off for a break and stopped thinking about your healthy selves.

So, today is Christmas Eve, Eve and I would like to wish a very happy and safe festive season to you all!  We made it.  

Given that twelve Tasmanian Devils are fighting today, I am not suggesting that you are devils but there may be some pretty crazy eating behaviour on Christmas Day.  I may even be involved myself.  I found this greeting card recently by British company ‘Make Do’ that I thought summed up the day perfectly.

Enjoy this day with your loved ones.

If you are reading this there is every chance you like to take care after yourself and for that I am happy. However, we all need a break in routine and if Christmas Day festivities allow you to do that – let your hair down. Nothing bad will happen, you will just need to have a good lie down on the floor. It’s cool down there so stay as long as you can.

Thanks so much for being part of my 2019 and I am grateful for each and every one of you.

If you are still trudging the shops for Christmas presents on the twelfth day of Christmas (why?????), don’t forget about my Christmas Giftpack – my book ‘truth, lies and chocolate’ combined with a delicious WineBar Espresso Martini chocolate – all beautifully wrapped and ready to go!  Emergency Pickup only.

Click here for all details.

The Eleventh Day Of Christmas – With A Healthy Twist

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me…..Eleven emus kicking, ten wombats sleeping, nine crocs a weeping, eight flies a feasting, seven possums playing, six sharks a swimming, five kan-ga-roos, four cuddling koalas, three little penguins, two pink galahs aaaaand a kookaburra up a gum tree.

Emus worry me, they really do and I hope I don’t see any on this eleventh day of Christmas.

Beady little eyes and a lonnnnnnggg neck that looks like it might reach out at any moment and give you a little peck followed up by a quick kick.  An iconic Australian product that features this native animal is the good old Swan Brewery Emu Export beer.  It is still around but not considered to be in vogue now.  

Emu Export beer was and still is a full-strength beer unlike the low carb beers which are gaining popularity in Australia.  The question is, are they the real deal?

Low carb beers are low in carbohydrates but they still contain alcohol and therefore kilojoules.  Choosing a low carb beer over a full strength beer will save you about 100 kilojoules.  In a 375ml can or stubby of full strength beer there will be approximately 13 grams of carbohydrate compared to 0-3 grams in the low carb version, so this could be useful for diabetics but there is still the alcohol content to consider.  

Low carb beers are not the same as ‘light’ beers, which are lower in alcohol and based on this it is a good idea to watch out for the false promises of beer advertisers.

If you are concerned about your weight (and Christmas Day is definitely not the day to be concerned), consider choosing a beer that you enjoy and drinking less of it.

If you are still trudging the shops for Christmas presents on the eleventh day of Christmas, don’t forget about my Christmas Giftpack – my book ‘truth, lies and chocolate’ combined with a delicious WineBar Espresso Martini chocolate – all beautifully wrapped and ready to go!  Pick up only now with just a couple of sleeps to go.

Click here for all details.

The Twelve Days of Christmas – With A Healthy Twist

Thanks to three kids, I have a lot of Christmas books. One in particular that has been a huge favourite over many years with them is ‘The Australian Twelve Days of Christmas’ by Heath McKenzie.

A number of years ago, I decided to write twelve daily performance tips inspired by this book and shared them through my then newsletter.  It has been quite a while since I last did that and because they were great fun to write, I have decided to share them again this year, starting today.

This means that you will receive an short post from me each day over the Twelve Days of Christmas. Each will contain a tip or idea that can help you manage your health and wellbeing over this crazy festive season.

Are you in?

The Twelve Days of Christmas Are Fabulous But What About The First Day of Christmas When My True Love Gave To Me…. A Kookaburra In A Gum Tree.

Clearly this means that we should get active and climb a tree or fly a kite maybe? Just in case your body says NO, choose a form of physical activity that you enjoy as it’s time to start putting some exercise in the bank.

We all know that the festive season means party, party, party. It’s just like managing a bank account and if you are budgeting for a big ticket item (like a party or event), this means doing some saving.

Given that the light streams through the windows before 5am, it is so much easier to get up at the moment and get moving. Remember the key elements of a successful workout include:

  • Don’t hit the snooze button like koala’s do – it always seems like a good idea at the time but we all know deep down that it does not equal more sleep.  No, no, no – you are kidding yourself.
  • Put your alarm far enough away from you so that you HAVE to get out of bed to shut it up. I have put it down the hallway many times before.
  • Find a buddy – someone who will stick with you thick and thin and won’t let you down even if they have a hangover. You can read about my thoughts on the buddy system here 
  • Put your clothes and shoes out the night before, there’s nothing like prior preparation to prevent PPP.
  • Oh, and just do it!

Try This Snappy Tis’ The Season Workout

Warm up

5 minute walk 

Workout (Repeat four times)

20 pushups

20 squats

20 dips using a park bench

20 abdominal crunches (check out this video for how to do them safely and effectively)

1 minute step ups on stairs at home or work OR 1 minute of skipping with a rope

Cool Down

Spend five minutes stretching out the muscles you have used by walking around the block.

 

If you are still trudging the shops for Christmas presents, don’t forget about my Christmas Giftpack, my book ‘truth, lies and chocolate’ combined with a delicious WineBar Espresso Martini Chocolate – all beautifully wrapped and ready to go!  Click here for all details.

Gym Junkies of a Different Kind

The gym I test my strength in a couple of times each week is a little different to most others. It’s a local council run facility full of gym junkies (of the nicest possible variety)  and I feel extremely confident I’m never going to see anyone prancing around posing and flexing their muscles. Unless that flexing is to get rid of a muscle spasm.

Some days I’m the youngest by a good 20-30 years but the time I spend there each week provides a priceless package of inspiration and entertainment on top of the fitness benefit.

Five years ago, these gym junkies were featured in a segment on Today Tonight as a result of their fitness and health ethic and you can meet some of them by watching here.

Who Are The Main Players At The Gym?

Take Anton for example: in the vicinity of 70+ years young, who collects his friend Judy on the way to the gym and walks in each morning primed for a chat to solve the issues of the world. Judy can lift so much more weight than me and annoyingly can hold a plank whilst smiling for a couple of years.  I can’t.

Then there is Tom Senior; an almost 86-year-old diabetic who comes even when he doesn’t feel like it. He keeps turning up because he knows from experience that the moment exercise feels great is when you are finished. Plus the company is scintillating.

Tom Junior, also a ex professional cricketer and a mere chick in comparison, is currently doing the rounds of the gym on the bike while he deals with knees that are not happy with years of bowling. And lets not forget Ali, Trudy, Jo and myself who just try and keep up with these guys. 

These gym buddies of mine love a good chat and the odd critique of gym performance, and there is often a great deal of collective tsking when someone demonstrates a new exercise or skill. 

In reality, you can get some good ideas from what others are doing around you. It is too easy to just keep doing what you are doing, which can get you in a rut pretty quickly.

It got me thinking about what the current fitness trends are, so naturally I went straight to Google to find out.

What Are The Fitness Trends Of 2019?

  1. Wearable Technology – this includes everything from fitness trackers, heart rate monitors and GPS trackers.  These days we can track pretty much everything. Sigh.
  2. Group Training – this is classified as a class with more than five participants and could include cardio based classes, dancing, spin classes, boot camps and the like.  I do like group training, especially when you can hide behind someone else for those moments when you are quite simply dying.
  3. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) – this is where you engage in a series of high intensity bouts of exercise followed by a short period of rest and recovery.  Let’s just say this is not my favourite and I would prefer to call it RUUUUUUNNNN AWAAAYYYY.
  4. Fitness Programs for Older Adults – my gym buddies are a case in point but lets face it, keeping and staying fit as we get older is probably the Number 1 health tip.
  5. Body Weight Training– Maintaining our muscle mass is crucial, vital, integral and central to the very core of our health. Our physical strength, balance and sending fuel to our brains (muscle mass controls this one) is what keeps us upright and being able to hold conversations when we are 100. Do it, do it, do it.
  6. Employing Certified Fitness Professionals – I am fairly confident that you wouldn’t get your hair cut by a lawn mower. Quite frankly, you could lose ears and perhaps even your scalp.  Choosing a qualified, certified fitness professional is good sense unless you are ok with injuring yourself.
  7. Functional Fitness Training – this involves strength training and other activities to improve balance, coordination, strength and endurance to improve daily living activities.
  8. Personal Training – for some people working with a personal trainer is what keeps them focused and on track. A qualified personal trainer can design workouts specific to you rather than say, your neighbour down the street.
  9. Yoga – oh yoga. Some of you will know that I am a converted lover of yoga and for many reasons it is quite simply a necessary part of my life. So necessary that I will travel a long way to run my Italian Yoga and Wellness Retreat every year. If you haven’t tried it yet – mix up a few different varieties of yoga and or add some extreme heat or attempt the downward dog suspended from the ceiling. I’m not sure whether that last one actually happens but I am sure someone has tried it. Perhaps stick to just the one kind of yoga in one sitting and you don’t have to do it in the blistering heat amid communal sweat to get a benefit.
  10. Exercise is Medicine – imagine doctors including exercise as the prescription rather than drugs. Some already do but healthy professionals do this all the time.  Prevention is always preferable to finding a cure.

The best type of exercise is the one that you actually do. Choose something that you enjoy doing, grab a friend and let the endorphins (and no, this is not a species of dolphins) do their work.

9 Reasons Why You NEED to Take Holidays

What! Holidays? 

Holidays beckon me and it is time for me to say ‘ciao for now’ and head off to Italy to run my annual Yoga and Wellness Retreat.  Although I am going there to work (yes, yes I know that it doesn’t sound like it), I will squeeze in a hike across 120km of the Via Francigena and a week off to eat all that lovely Italian food.

I usually take holidays around this time of the year and although it can seem super tricky to get these locked in and organised, I am well aware that I am not indispensable. It suits our ego’s to think that we are. We are not.

All of us need to take well-deserved breaks from our day-to-day lives.  Sometimes the hardest thing about taking a holiday and unplugging is not in the planning or execution but in the decision that it is ok to leave behind commitments and people that need you. Holidays don’t need to be expensive, lavish affairs and some of the best feature a tent, a swag and the stars. The benefits flow through your business and personal lives, improving relationships and revving up your productivity, something that may have been lying dormant for a while.

1. Stimulate your mind with a new culture

If you are taking your holidays out of your own country, there is no doubt you will get to experience the world in a different way. New customs and cultures are fascinating and all add to good old life experience. It is so easy to have a narrow focus in our day-to-day lives and travelling to a different country is a great way to widen our lens. My cultural experiences do in fact include a Naked Cowgirl standing on a median strip in the middle of New York. I sure learn’t a ton of things about marketing services I was completely unaware of all at the same time.

2. Improve your physical fitness

Sightseeing is a fabulous way of walking miles without really noticing and holidays often provide an opportunity to try new or different ways of exercising. This might be cycling around a medieval walled city in Italy under the canopy of ancient leafy trees, yoga by a azure pool in a tropical climate, hiking in majestic mountains, skiing in fluffy white powder snow or a bracing bush walk whilst admiring stunning wildflower displays and dodging the wildlife. The beauty is, none of these feel like exercise, yet your body reaps the benefits.

3. Physical and emotional well-being

It goes without saying that taking that step away from daily reality can only be good for your physical and emotional well-being. Everyone needs a pattern interrupt in their lives.

4. Get some sun 

Isn’t it lovely it is to feel the warmth of the sun when you are escaping cold weather back home? Of course, protecting your skin is important even when on holidays but relaxing in a warm climate is an ideal opportunity to get some Vitamin D. Even in countries that see plenty of harsh sunlight, Vitamin D deficiency is thought to affect one third of the population, resulting in some major health consequences. For many European countries, there is Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression to consider, which affects more and more people during the winter months due to a lack of sunshiny goodness.

5. Sleep my pretty one 

One of the best things about holidays is the complete lack of need for an alarm clock, no agenda, no schedule and no commitments (unless you count eating, having a good time and catching planes on schedule). This means that you can totally relax, get enough sleep and discover the deep kind of rest that your body truly needs to recharge the batteries. Sleep strengthens your immune system and relieves stress allowing your body to rejuvenate.

6. Unplug the technology

The joy of not having to answer a phone, deal with messages or read email should not be underestimated. Our lives revolve around technology and the expectation that we are ‘on the grid’ 24/7 can be truly exhausting. Unplugging on holiday means that you can truly relax and be fully present and connected with those around you. Don’t forget, although you are special and unique, you are not indispensable.

7. Get some happiness

Removing yourself from everyday worries gives you the space to appreciate the good things in life. You don’t need to go looking for happiness when it often finds you in the moment.

8. Reconnect with family, friends or your self

In our fast paced go get ‘em world it is too easy to go weeks and months without truly connecting with your family, your friends and most especially yourself. Breaks and holidays are perfect opportunities to reconnect and have those meaningful conversations that go beyond the standard ‘how are you?’

9. Inspiration

I get some of my best and exciting ideas when on holidays, simply because I have the time and the space in my head to let them in. When we are locked into our daily routines, creativity and inspiration can be flowing at a mere trickle but when in holiday mode, space and opportunity abounds.

Whilst on these said holidays, I will be taking a break from writing and chatting to you all BUT I will return with fresh ideas and a zing in my step in early August.

Arrivederci and ci vediamo a tutti!

 

Peak Performance – What is your Go To Tip?

The area of peak performance has fascinated me ever since I attempted to cycle the long and hilly 96 km in the Sydney to Wollongong race, with disastrous results back in the 90’s.  My performance on the day was spectacularly dismal due to my poor preparation on the day and complete lack of knowledge but the hard lessons I learned that day have never left me.

Prior Preparation does Prevent Poor Performance (apparently)

Performance is a funny thing though – it means different things to each of us and there is no doubt that it is one thing to perform but quite another to achieve success. It is this link between performance and success that inspired me to discover what some of the worlds top performers are doing in their lives to enable them to be at the top of their field. Innate talent and motivation are common threads but quite often they have physical or mental tactics and strategies that they have developed and honed over the years to gain an advantage, enabling them to get to and stay at the top of their field.

Ready, Set…Go

This path of discovery led to me penning my second book, Ready, Set…Go and I was fortunate enough to interview around 30 people from all walks of life.  They are people that I admire for various reasons and I knew that they were making a difference in the world.

The people I interviewed included international artist Ken Done, award winning chef Rick Stein, Former Prime Minister John Howard, Boost Juice founder Janine Allis and award winning author Andy Griffiths amongst many other amazing people.

The thing is, you don’t need to be in the public eye to have the ability to inspire others by what you do. It is often regular folk going about their day to day life that are doing super amazing things in this world.

Over to you

I am absolutely positive that no matter who you are, you are expected to ‘perform’ from the minute your feet touch the floor each morning. Think of the myriad roles that you play each day at work, at home, as a friend and as a family member.

Each one of you taking the time to sit and read this blog on performance, have particular ways to manage your energy, time, well-being and well, performance.  

And I would love to know what they are.  

We can all learn so much from each other. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see the ways in which this community right here manages their own personal performance?

Your tip could be specific to a particular area of your health like Former Prime Minister John Howard who advises us to “Establish an exercise routine and stick to it.” In his 11 year tenure leading Australia, Mr Howard missed only a handful of his daily 4km brisk walks and that was due to security risk.

Your tip might be one that can be applied to any area of life just like Olympic gymnast Lauren Mitchell’s

“Success is the sum of small parts, added up every day”

or perhaps like V8 Supercar Champion Craig Lowndes, who firmly believes that

“Focus and concentration are your friends”

How Do You Manage Your Personal Performance?

Whatever or however it is, I would love to hear about it.  And then, imagine if I gathered all of your tips and I collated them to share with everyone? A go to list that you can use in your own life perhaps?

All you need to do is share in the comments or send me an email at julie@juliemeek.com.au.  You can make yourself known or go under the radar and be anonymous – it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the sharing of the wisdom that you possess because it is truly valuable to us all.

Ready, Set…Go!

 

 

 

As the Story Goes

I often get asked about my story.  My reason or my passion for what I do.

If you have already heard my story, feel free to speed read to the end and I’ll speak to you next week.

If you haven’t heard my story, you will be thankful to know that it is no ‘Gone with the Wind’ tome.

It’s certainly not easy deciding what you want to do when you are a grown-up. Somehow, through a stroke of luck, a change in the wind or perhaps just chance, I decided what I wanted to do when I turned 14 years of age.

I did what I needed to do to make this happen through school and university but the real education and the passion for what I do, didn’t really start until after I had the piece of paper.

When I graduated from uni, work for Dietitian’s was thin on the ground in Perth and my only true hope of a job was someone falling off the perch. Harsh but true.

Given the cold hard facts, time was of the essence, so it seemed like a fine idea to put all my worldly belongings and my prized green Gemini on a truck and send it across the Nullabor. The lure of my very first grown up job took me to Cootamundra, a tiny little sheep and wheat town in NSW.  I found myself in the Nurses Quarters in my single room overlooking a parched paddock inhabited by three lonely sheep wandering around. As sad as they looked, I did note amidst a bucket of tears that at least they had two friends. 

And therein lay my first problem. I was a no mates with not a single prospect in sight. Enter the Hot Cross Bun. Their comfort was immense and my love affair was immediate and oh SO enduring.  I am thankful that way back then, the little fruity delights didn’t appear on the shelves on Boxing Day because the collateral damage would have been quite literally enormous. Whilst comforting myself with the Easter goodies (and perhaps a few other food delights) I set about formulating a plan to gather some friends.  

Cootamundra, like many other country towns had a happening pub scene and with ten of them in a 500m strip catering to 5000 thirsty townsfolk they were clearly the path to friendship. I managed to gather some lovely friends and we had some hilarious times (I think).  After six months of swilling beer and a concerted effort at eating every Hot Cross Bun that wasn’t nailed down, my boyfriend at the time started making comments about the extra ‘bits’ I had acquired.  I was indignantly upset. How dare he tell such lies!

More time passed and unbeknown to me, more bits tacked themselves onto my body. In hindsight I think the beer may have affected my vision. I can only imagine the shaky confidence that the locals had in their new and only Dietitian who was advising them on losing weight while she was fattening up like a little piggy.  Eventually the evidence became too great even for me and in a pivotal moment when getting out of the bath, I had to face the fact that I had morphed into something like a Shar-Pei dog, the breed with many folds of skin.  

With a successful deposit of 10kg of heavy duty weight, the golden run of beer and Hot Cross Buns was over. 

It’s fair to say that the road back was long and arduous and the vision of the first hot cross bun on the shelves each year on the 4th of January never fails to remind me of what could have been. 

Each year, when I look at those first batch of Hot Cross Buns on the shelves, I remember that nobody is immune from making poor choices whether they be about food, exercise or any other lifestyle behaviour or habit. Including me. That is what drives me to assist you.

I don’t have all the answers (as my kids keep telling me) but I do have a collection of experience and education that could just help you along your journey to health and wellbeing. The way I see it, we are all in the proverbial trench together here. But I might just have the shovel.

What about your story – do you have an experience that continually nudges you along the preferred path?

 

Italy, Yoga and Retreat – 3 Things That Should Be on Your Bucket List

You may remember me writing earlier this year about my rocky relationship with yoga. I am happy to say that although I am still no expert, each week it gets less rocky and to be quite honest; in the past few months it has been my saving grace.

This year marked the second round of my Italian Yoga and Wellness Retreats.

I have been fortunate enough to lead and meet some truly lovely people who have been looking for a mixture of things – yoga yes, relaxation yes, exceptional food yes and the beautiful Italian culture and history, all yes. Quite the international cohort, this retreat has attracted people from Australia, UK, Scotland, Canada, USA and Switzerland all looking for a slice of wellness.

 

 

As a Dietitian and Performance Specialist, I show people how to weave movement, healthy food, sleep and less stress into their lives to enable them to access their best performance on a mental and physical basis. The thing is, sometimes, it is not always possible to do this at your back door and distance and space are required. Sometimes the lessons that we teach others are the ones we learn ourselves.

On the last day of the retreat this year, my Dad passed away very unexpectedly. There are few words to describe how I felt being in another country without my family nearby, while the world crashed around me.

The beautiful people at my retreat went from having a fabulous week of yoga and completely immersing themselves in relaxation and wellness, to watching me having a complete meltdown. I will be forever grateful for their care and compassion on that day.

In the time since, whilst dealing with the loss of my Dad, regular yoga has been key to my mental and physical well-being. I could not have gotten by without it.

Like me, the yoga experience of the people attending the retreats varies hugely, all the way from never having done a single move through to occasional yoginess and then right up to getting bendy every other day. Somehow, our yogi Vicki caters to each level, making it comfortable yet challenging for each and every person. With gentle firmness throughout the session, she reminds us that we could do better or we could do more in particular poses and encourages us to imagine what could happen if we held a pose for just that bit longer. Vicki makes everyone want to go that bit further and not to forget that time and space are essential for anything to grow.

But let’s face it – for most of us, considering making a trip to Italy for a retreat might seem self-indulgent at best. Especially when many people have to consider the logistical challenges of child-care, work and finances to even make this happen. Committing to a retreat in another country is no snap decision and how do you know if it is for you?

It’s in the little and the big things and just like beauty, I think it is in the eye of the beholder. It’s having time and the space to check in with your physical and mental wellbeing, the opportunity to create a plan for how you could implement positive changes in your day to day life, feeling that sense of increased flexibility and strength in your body, the joy that comes from making new friendships and laughing a bucket load, the increased energy that results from putting the freshest, healthiest ingredients into your body and your senses being taken to another level by being soaked in Italian history, culture and countryside.

Registrations are now open for my 2018 Italian Yoga and Wellness Retreat, 18-25 August 2018. If you or anyone you know would like to find some Zen, drop me a line at julie@juliemeek.com.au

For more information and all the details, head over my the Italian Retreats Page.

Namaste.

Chicken, Ricotta and Spinach Lupinsagne aka Lasagne

Lasagne gets me thinking about Italy, cheesy sauce, accordion music and red and white checked tablecloths. You might not have exactly the same vision but lasagne is a true crowd pleaser and one of those dishes that just makes you sigh with happiness doesn’t it?

Traditionally, lasagne can be loaded with béchamel sauce (delicious yes but high on the fat side of things), sheets of pasta and cheese upon cheese.
That might seem like a good thing (and as an occasional food, it really is) but for an everyday kind of dish, a few tweaks is all it takes to bump up the protein and reduce the fat, to tick the nutrition boxes and turn it into the ideal recovery meal post exercise.

Perfect timing because there is a new protein rich kid on the block, which packs a serious nutrition punch. This little goodie is the humble lupin – a unique legume that contains 40% protein, 40% fibre with a small amount of carbohydrate and fat and is completely gluten free. 85% of the world’s crop of lupins is grown in Western Australia which is pretty cool. Yay for the sandgropers.

So after a bit of experimenting, I have concocted Chicken, Ricotta and Spinach Lupinsagne and it tastes fantastic! This recipe is high in protein and fibre and is packed full of vegetables and flavour. It uses lupin flakes produced by The Lupin Co. which are so versatile and have so much to give our bodies, including a protein punch.

Chicken, Ricotta and Spinach Lupinsagne

Ingredients
1-tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 x cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, grated
1 large zucchini, grated
1 x 400g tin canned, diced tomatoes
20 basil fresh leaves
500g lean chicken mince
1-cup chicken stock
1-cup lupin flakes
1kg reduced fat ricotta cheese
150g baby spinach leaves,
2 eggs, beaten
5 x fresh lasagne sheets
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Method
Cook the onion and garlic together in the oil until golden brown and then add the chicken mince and stir until cooked through.

Add the carrot, zucchini, tomatoes, chicken stock and basil, bring to the boil and then simmer for 15-20 minutes until the mixture is reduced a little. While the mixture is simmering, cook the lupins in boiling water and cook for 3 minutes and then drain and rinse in cold water. Just before you take the chicken mixture off the heat – add the cooked lupins and stir well.

Meanwhile, place the spinach leaves in a microwave proof bowl into the microwave and cook for 1 minute until wilted slightly. Once cooled, squeeze out excess water and add to the ricotta along with the beaten eggs. Stir the ricotta mixture until smooth.

Spray a large lasagne dish with cooking oil and place some of the mince mixture on the bottom of the dish followed by lasagne sheets to fit and then half of the mince mixture on top of this followed by half of the ricotta mixture and repeat these steps once more finishing with the ricotta layer.

Cover with foil and cook in a moderate oven for 30 minutes, remove the foil, sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Nutrition Per Serve:

Energy 312 calories, protein 27g, fat 12g, carbohydrate 19g, fibre 8g

This Lupinsagne is perfect for an everyday dinner and also a great recovery meal post exercise.

Watch this space for more lupinlicious recipes.

Buon appetito!