A woman doing work out

8 Fitness Apps to Boost Your Dubai Fitness Challenge

Get your fitness fix for free this Dubai Fitness Challenge with the world’s best workout apps.

Need a final push of motivation this week as Dubai Fitness Challenge races towards the finish line? Then take advantage of DFC’s brilliant free fitness app offer. Collaborating with some of the biggest names in the industry, registered DFC participants can access virtual workouts from Fitbit Premium, Daily Burn, FIIT, Les Mills on Demand, NEOU, Steppi, Sweat, and Sworkit to keep motivation at its peak, with digitized fitness experiences and studio-style workouts anytime, anywhere, until the challenge ends on November 28.

With content created by an array of world-class trainers and instructors to help users turn up the pace in any space – from video workout programmes, step-counting and mapped running routes, to bodyweight workouts, yoga, meditation, HIIT, core and strength sessions at home – if you’ve never downloaded a fitness app, now’s your chance to sample the best out there without costing a dirham.


One of the world’s leading apps for health and fitness, use the Fitbit Premium app even without a Fitbit device to join the community to track your stats and stay motivated. With all the information and inspiration you need to reach your goals in one place, if you decide you love it so much you decide to buy a Fitbit tracker or smartwatch, you’ll get a 90-day trial of Fitbit Premium to get even more personal guidance in the Fitbit app. With deeper, personalised insights and guided programmes to help you build healthy habits, you’ll also have access to hundreds of workouts, meditation tracks and motivation-boosting Premium challenges.


Daily Burn offers thousands of workouts on-demand and provides personal fitness guidance, encouragement, and motivation to help those from all levels and lifestyles achieve everyday victories. Daily Burn 365 features different live workouts every day and aims to help you move better, feel better, and live a healthier lifestyle, as well as offering access to their full library of past workouts to use anytime. Meanwhile, Daily Burn at Home offers over 2,000 curated videos and audio-based classes featuring everything from total-body workouts, barre, kickboxing, prenatal, meditation, strength, and Pilates training. 


The FIIT app divides exercises into three simple ‘studios’: cardio, strength and balance – including core strength, yoga and pilates. There’s something to suit every fitness level – all you need is a 2mx2m space and a smart device to get going. Enjoy over 600 classes, free for 30 days, and follow more than 20 programmes from top trainers – with the option to connect with a fitness tracker for live stats, progress and leaderboards in group workouts.


With more than 1,000 online workouts, including yoga, strength, cardio, HIIT, dance and more, with world-class instructors, all Les Mills workouts are scientifically designed and proven to get results – from beginner to advanced plans to help achieve individual goals. 


Taking the DFC philosophy of “wherever you are” to heart, NEOU has both live-streaming and on-demand content with thousands of fitness classes from more than 100 studios and instructors. With each experienced tailored to an individual’s personal preferences and goals, there’s even a custom-made 30-day challenge that’s been created by NEOU specifically for DFC participants


A home-grown UAE app that mixes fitness with leisure, Steppi gives rewards for being active by simply syncing your daily steps with your smartphone or fitness wearable to earn savings on restaurants, cafes, and a host of other venues across Dubai. See how you rank up against other residents by joining city-wide fitness challenges or create private ones with your family and friends, completing different goals every day according to the number of steps, active minutes, distance or calories burned. 


Work out at home with the world’s largest female fitness community, designed to help women get stronger and fitter each week. From workout videos to weekly meal plans, SWEAT inspires users to leap ahead in their wellness journey, embrace new challenges and level up your workouts, boosted by an all-female support forum led by celebrity trainers Kayla Itsines, Kelsey Wells and more.


Sworkit offers video-guided, precision-timed, sports scientist-approved workouts for both adults and kids, giving all family members the perfect opportunity to start and continue a healthy habit of daily exercise. The app’s customised programmes mean you can fit a solid, targeted workout into whatever time you can find – simply choose the kind of routine you want – strength, cardio/HIIT, yoga, or stretching – and enter how many minutes you have. Brilliant for those that are always racing against the clock!

For more information, visit the website dubaifitnesschallenge.com.


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Common Diet And Nutrition Myths

3 Diet and Nutrition Myths, Debunked

Popular doesn’t mean healthy.

Helping people find their way through the endless stream of nutrition information is something I feel strongly about. There are so many things out there that it would be impossible to fit all of it in this one article. What you will read below is facts about three of the most popular nutritional fads in recent times: the carnivore diet, the keto diet, and placenta pills. Before I start, don’t forget to check out the write-up on alkaline water, which is an interesting one to be aware of.

Popular Diet And Nutrition Myths

Carnivore Diet

Let’s start with the carnivore diet. Just when I thought no one would disagree about vegetables being good for human health, in comes the carnivore diet, where veggies are a no-no! It was made popular by Mikhaila Peterson. This diet caught public interest when she put her father Jordan Peterson, a well-known clinical psychologist on the diet. Her claim is that the diet has cured her from severe arthritis, depression, chronic fatigue, and many other symptoms she was experiencing.

The thing with this diet is that the only evidence we have is anecdotal from people who claim this diet has worked wonders for them. A few of these folks are making quite a noise on social media with fancy names like Liver King, CarnivoreMD, etc. Currently, evidence is lacking to support any health benefit from this diet. I would definitely tread with caution considering there is no variety and plenty of missing food groups – take the case of the missing vitamin C (from fresh fruits and vegetables) that your body needs to receive on a daily basis. Bleeding gums due to a vitamin C deficiency is an example of a symptom one can experience after a while.

Fibre will be another ‘nutrient’ that you will struggle to get on this diet – and we all know how important fibre is for our gut health. Forget constipation; you may not even poo at all! Yikes. Interestingly, I have seen a few proponents of the carnivore diet peddling supplements to the gullible while saying the diet is the best. Why would you need supplements if this diet is the best? Something for us to think about. So why are people, albeit a few, claiming that the diet has done wonders for them? It’s not fully known, but it’s possible that the restrictive diet may have inevitably provided relief via cutting out foods that someone was intolerant or allergic to. We would not know for sure as this is a drastic and non-methodological way to eliminate potentially problematic foods.

Takeaway: This is a very extreme and restrictive diet with very little evidence to support its use.

salad in a bowl

Keto Diet

Next up is the keto diet. This usually requires people to consume less than 20g of the nutrient carbohydrate per day, and the carbs removed are replaced with fat. Unlike the carnivore diet, the keto diet is something we practitioners were aware of from nutrition and medical textbooks. Basically, it is a medical diet often prescribed to children with an epilepsy condition that does not respond to medication. More recently, it got revived in the fitness industry for fat loss. It is also being looked at as a potential treatment for people with Type 2 diabetes. 

I will try to simplify the mechanism. Reducing the carbohydrate intake to very low levels will put our body into ketosis, which is a metabolic state where you burn fat as your main source of fuel. The exact reason why this is helpful for people with epilepsy is poorly understood. However, proponents of this diet narrows it down to the reduction in insulin from low carbohydrate intake.

Evidence is there to show that a ketogenic diet can help reduce seizures in children with epilepsy. A recent, very well-conducted, randomised controlled trial also showed that it may be an effective way for ‘some’ people to manage Type 2 diabetes. I say some because this diet is exceptionally hard to follow and, even in study situations with plenty of support, people found it extremely hard to stick with – this is something to be mindful of. Also remember the same effects can be done with a balanced diet, where you don’t need to cut out any food group. 

The risks are many, especially when doing it on your own without giving much thought to the finer details. Notable ones include low blood sugar as well as vitamin and mineral deficiency. And in children, it may cause stunted growth, heart abnormalities, and gut problems like constipation. We also do not know the long-term health effects of following this diet, so that’s something you want to keep in mind.

Takeaway: Another extremely restrictive and hard to adhere style of eating. For some people with medical conditions, it may be worth the difficulties and risks, but I would strongly advise people not to follow a diet like this without medical supervision. There are many meal-delivery companies offering the keto diet that’s been worked out by qualified nutritionists, but then again, not everyone can afford it. Best to bear these, take an informed decision, and not blindly jump on the keto diet as a quick weight-loss option.

Diet and Nutrition Myths

Placenta Pills

Sorry if this makes you feel squeamish, but placenta pills are trending. In fact, there are quite a few celebrities out there who’d vouch for it. Incidentally, the ‘science-y’ name for consuming one’s placenta is called ‘placentophagia’. What is a placenta, you ask? Well, it is an organ that develops in the womb during pregnancy and its main job is to provide oxygen, hormones, antibodies, and nutrients to the growing baby. Plus, it removes waste products from the baby’s blood. 

Although non-human mammals (rabbit, cow, rats, etc.) have eaten their placenta for years, it has not been common amongst humans until recent decades. It is either eaten raw (as an ingredient in a smoothie), cooked (as a meat substitute), or most commonly dehydrated, powdered, and made into pills. The belief is that ingesting the placenta provides increased energy, decreased incidence of baby blues, rapid recovery from pregnancy and delivery, and improved maternal bonding. Proponents believe that these benefits are due to the micronutrients, like dietary iron, that are present in the placenta.

If you are to look up at the websites of some placenta encapsulation clinics, you will see them citing results from human studies that are based on mothers self-reporting their experiences with placenta pill consumption. Be wary of these as this type of evidence is anecdotal, biased, and not considered high quality under scientific standards. For example, one study that analysed the nutritional composition of 28 dehydrated placenta samples processed to be made into pills found that the recommended daily allowance of the placenta pills would only provide a modest source of some micronutrients – not the nutritional powerhouse it’s often touted to be.

There was also a small, but rigorously designed pilot study that compared the iron levels of mothers consuming their own dehydrated placenta pills versus a placebo pill (dehydrated beef). Findings indicated that the placenta pills did not significantly improve the mothers’ iron levels. This is an important finding in the sense that we would not want mothers who are deficient in iron to wholly depend on placenta pills to correct a deficiency because of the hype around it. We would need more research to see what happens to women who rely on placenta pills as their sole iron supplement, but as of right now, it does not look promising.

One issue with the process of encapsulating the placenta is that it is not standardised or regulated (although measures are being made to do so), which means the treatment of one placenta may be different to another. This is a worrying health and safety concern since we are handling human tissue here.

Takeaway: Celebrity endorsements are to be taken with a pinch of salt. The truth is that there is no robust evidence (not yet) that eating the placenta post-birth provides objectively demonstrable benefits for the mother beyond a placebo effect. I would definitely recommend balanced meals that are heavily leaning towards whole foods rather than placenta pills.

I am a huge advocate of gentle nutrition, and this is acknowledging the fact that there is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ diet or food. Accepting and acknowledging gentle nutrition will help you to honour your health without getting into crazy fads and trends.

Lovely Ranganath is a licensed clinical dietician in Dubai. Visit @good.food.guru for more information.


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What Is Dyspareunia

No, Painful Intercourse Isn’t Actually Normal

Let’s talk dyspareunia.

As a pelvic health physiotherapist, I see numerous women in my clinic devastated by pain during intercourse (dyspareunia) and the emotional repercussions it can cause. For some, they have been to various practitioners prior to finding me and many hold the belief that there is little hope of resolution. Of course, this is not the case. There IS hope. And for many women, a cure!

Sexual pain is a sensitive and emotional subject, and it takes a lot of courage to seek help. To all the women that come forward to seek help I see you and recognise that it has not been an easy journey to lead you to this point. Therefore, it is so important to find a medical practitioner that is empathetic, listens to your concerns, and refers you to the necessary practitioners that will help you on your journey to recovery. More on this to come.

How Common Is Sexual Pain?

Sexual well-being is an integral part of a person’s overall well-being. Sexual difficulties can be taboo and hard for a woman to discuss and seek help for – and therefore, sadly often go untreated. Painful sex is also a common condition with prevalence globally varying from 10% to 18% and affecting up to 28% of the female population during their lifetime. 

what is Sexual Pain

What Is Dyspareunia/Sexual Pain?

The medical terminology is constantly changing, and dyspareunia (painful sex) is sometimes replaced with genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder. The pain can be superficial (pain in the vulva or entrance to the vagina) or deep (deep within the vagina), primary (pain initiated when first began sexual activity) or secondary (pain develops sometime after a period of pain-free intercourse).

Dyspareunia can lead to a multitude of issues, both physical and mental, and can have a serious impact on emotional well-being. It can lead to a lack of sexual arousal and desire, pelvic floor dysfunction, pelvic/low back/hip pain, anxiety, depression, difficulties in relationships, lack of self-worth and self-esteem, hypervigilance of pain, and negative self-image. Whoa! That’s a lot. Of course, not all women will experience each of these symptoms. 

Dyspareunia (Painful Intercourse)

What Is the Cause?

The cause of dyspareunia can be multifactorial and include structural, inflammatory, hormonal, traumatic, neoplastic (abnormal growth of tissue), and psychosocial factors. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to first seek help from a specialised, empathetic gynaecologist to obtain a correct diagnosis and referral to a pelvic health physiotherapist. 

While dyspareunia is a physical condition, it is important to note that it can be further compounded by social conditioning, cultural and religious belief systems, past experiences, and trauma – and these also need exploring when treating this condition.

Where to Start on Your Healing Journey?

Pain with intercourse can be very overwhelming and stressful for many women. Thankfully, there is no need to suffer in silence. As mentioned above, sexual pain is multifaceted and can be due to an underlying medical condition such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, or vaginal prolapse for example.

Therefore, it is important to see a gynaecologist as the first point of call when experiencing pain for medical treatment of the condition. A referral to pelvic floor physiotherapy is a must, and we can help in many ways. Research has shown that physiotherapy is an underused and untapped resource when treating this condition, and experts conclude that it should be an integral part of the multidisciplinary approach to healing sexual pain.

My Approach

I believe in an intuitive and holistic approach to treating clients who experience painful intercourse. I look at the whole person – body, mind, and soul. I also have a great network of professionals that I work with and refer to. This may include psychologists, sex therapists, intimacy coaches, gynaecologists specialised in this area, pain management experts, and alternative therapists.

woman consulting a doctor

Physiotherapy Healing Journey

Physiotherapy treatment will firstly include pain education. Pain is a complex, multilayered perceptual experience that requires an explanation. As a sufferer, an inability to make sense of the often worrying and persisting uncertainties of pain, can cause increased sensitivity to pain and exacerbate the condition.

Knowledge is key, so it is proposed that pain education and training be provided about the nature and effects of pain and strategies on how to address the pain. The goal is to empower people to self-manage. However, pain education should be part of a larger holistic treatment approach, not a standalone treatment. 

pelvic floor

The pelvic floor muscles will also be addressed by your physiotherapist. Pelvic floor muscles refer to incredibly important muscles that sit at the base of your pelvis and run from the pubic bone to the tailbone and the sitz bones. They wrap around and have openings for the vagina, urethra (tube for urination), and anus. They support your pelvic organs, have many functions (including supporting your pelvic organs), and are extremely important for sexual function and sensation. 

An internal vaginal assessment by your pelvic health physiotherapist is advisable, but not required. This allows the physiotherapist to assess fully the vulva, vagina, pelvic floor muscles, connective tissue, nerves, and position of the organs (bladder, rectum, and cervix). This assessment is very discreet, performed in a private room and completely at your own pace and control. I understand that this is extremely daunting for many women and guarantee my clients complete control and autonomy. I ensure the full trust between the patient/therapist before any assessment or treatment and often engage the patient in breathwork, meditation, body scan, and/or energetic settling techniques before any internal vaginal assessment and treatment.  

Research has shown that most dyspareunia clients will have both weak and overactive/tight pelvic floor muscles. This will be addressed by the physiotherapist through gentle muscle-release techniques, biofeedback, graded touch, mirror use, and strengthening as required. Vaginal dilators are also very useful tools for overactive muscles. These are graded plastic or silicone cylinders that are gently inserted into the vagina to help stretch the tissue and prepare for intercourse. I teach the client how to use the dilator in the clinic, again empowering the client toward self-management.


I am also a qualified biodynamic craniosacral therapist and use this modality in my approach. This is a gentle hands-on technique that believes in the intelligence of the body to heal itself. Through craniosacral therapy, we can address the whole person – trauma, nerves, muscles, emotions, and connective tissue included – and help the body to integrate and settle. Sexual intercourse is a serious issue that needs addressing – do not suffer in silence! We are sexual beings and should be able to enjoy sex and the potent energy it illuminates within us.

Sexual pain is multifaceted and therefore requires a multilayered, multidisciplinary approach. Both the physical and mental aspects should hold equal priority. Firstly, make an appointment to see a gynaecologist to address the medical aspects. Pelvic floor physiotherapy is also a must. Addressing the emotional and energetic aspects, conditioning, belief systems, and trauma (if any) are of importance, too. Psychologists, sex therapists, alternative therapists, and intimacy coaches are just some of the wonderful disciplines I call on to support women on their healing journey.

Neasa Barry is a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist at Heal Hub Rehabilitation Centre. Visit @herphysio and @healhub_rehab for more information.


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Easy Exercise for Busy Professionals

Looking to Squeeze a Workout into a Busy Schedule?

It’s easier than you’d think.

Are you a busy professional who’s struggling to find time to exercise? We get it. We’ve been there ourselves. We know how hard it is to fit in a workout when you’re working long hours, travelling frequently, and trying to balance your personal life with the demands of your career. The last thing you want is to spend hours at the gym every week. 

For those who want to stay healthy but don’t have time for an hour-long gym session every day, there are simple exercises that can fit into any schedule. These exercises will help you stay healthy and improve your mood and energy levels throughout the day. Win-win.

Easy Exercise for Busy professionalism

Exercise Can Help You in More Ways Than One

Exercise is essential for everyone, but it’s especially important for busy professionals. You might think you don’t have time to work out or need more energy to make it happen in the morning, but the truth is that if you want to be at your best – physically and mentally – then you need to exercise. A study found that people who exercise regularly are more productive than those who don’t. Another study found that people who exercise regularly are better at focusing on their work.

That’s because exercise helps us sleep better, so we feel more energised throughout the day, which makes us more likely to take on challenges at work. But it goes beyond just feeling great; there are also studies showing that exercise can help reduce stress levels and increase mental clarity, making it easier for you to focus on what matters most without distractions from stress or anxiety.

Quick and highly effective workout routines for busy people

Integrating Exercise into Your Daily Routine

Exercise may be an integral part of a healthy life, but admittedly, it can be hard to fit in if you have a lot on your plate. Here are some tips that will help you incorporate exercise into your daily routine as a busy professional.

Make It a Priority

You first need to make exercise a priority, even if it means carving out time in your schedule to do so. If you don’t prioritise it, it will always be pushed back by other more pressing or urgent activities.

Keep It Short and Sweet

If you need more time, don’t think you have to go for hours on end to reap the benefits of exercise – even as little as 10 minutes can give you some of the same benefits as an hour-long workout. So, instead of thinking about how long you need to work out, focus on ensuring each workout ends before your willpower does! 

Set a Reminder 

Set an alarm on your phone or computer calendar every few hours throughout the day. This will help keep you accountable and ensure you’re working out regularly throughout the week.

Find Something Fun

If exercise feels like drudgery, not fun, chances are that it will only stay in your schedule for a short time. That’s why we recommend finding something you enjoy and making sure it’s something you can do in the morning or after work. And if your schedule changes every day, try to pick a few flexible options.

Make Sure It’s Challenging

Choosing easy exercises like walking or stretching is certainly tempting when you’re first starting out, but there are better choices for your health. There may need to be more than just walking and stretching to keep your heart healthy, build muscle strength and bone density, or burn fat. You’ll need a little more intensity if you want to see results.

Make It a Part of Your Routine

When you incorporate exercise into your daily life, it becomes second nature and doesn’t feel like an extra chore anymore. Try setting aside time in the morning before or after work, so it’s part of your daily routine instead of just something different in addition to everything else you have going on.

Make Sure It’s Sustainable

You don’t want to start an exercise routine that you can’t keep up with in the long run, so make sure you pick one that will last and works for you.

woman doing lunge exercise

Easy Exercise Routines

These exercises are quick, easy, and effective ways to get in shape. They require no equipment and can be done anywhere, even while watching your favourite show!

The Burpee

This whole body exercise works your legs, arms, and core. To do it:

  • Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Lower yourself into a squat position, then kick your feet back so you’re in a plank position.
  • Perform a push-up and jump up to return to the squat position (now facing the opposite direction).
  • Repeat for five minutes.

The Plank Walk

This exercise helps strengthen your core and upper and lower body muscle groups. To do it: 

  • Start in the plank position by putting your hands directly under your shoulders, your body straight from head to heels. 
  • Walk forward 10 steps and back 10 steps. 
  • You can walk side to side instead of forward and back if you prefer!

The Push-Up

Push-ups are great for strengthening your core and upper body muscles. To do it: 

  • Start in the plank position by putting your hands directly under your shoulders. 
  • Lower yourself slowly until your chest touches the ground. 
  • Push back up slowly until your arms are straight again. 
  • Repeat as many times as possible within 30 seconds before taking a break for one minute before repeating.

The Squat

Squats help strengthen your calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, and other muscles to improve your balance. To do it: 

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, toes pointed forward, and arms hanging at your sides. 
  • Lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor (or as close as possible). 
  • Push back up by straightening your legs and squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement. 
  • Repeat 12 times.

The Lunge

Lunges help build overall muscle mass while also improving performance and strength. To do it:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointed forward, and arms hanging at your sides.
  • Take a step forward with one leg into a lunge position, and ensure the knee does not extend past the toes.
  • Lower yourself until both knees are bent at 90 degrees.
  • Push back up by straightening both legs and pushing through the heel of the front foot for one rep; repeat 12 times per side (24 total reps).

 Fitness Tips for Busy Professionals

6 Ways to Sneak Exercise at Work

If you’re climbing the career ladder, you likely have a lot on your plate. You might be working long hours and sacrificing sleep to get ahead at work. You may be taking on extra responsibilities as you try to impress your boss. Or maybe you’ve got a family at home waiting for you when you get back from work.

Remember, however, that exercising is something you can only put off for a while. It’s essential for your health and will improve your mood and help you focus during the day. So how do you fit in exercise when life is so busy? We’ve got some exercise tips that can help – even when work is piling up on top of everything else!

1. Go for a Walk During Lunch

This is an easy way to sneak in some movement without leaving the office or changing into workout clothes. Just make sure not to go too fast or run – you want this to be relaxing, not stressful!

2. Use the Stairs Instead of the Elevator or Escalator

This will help burn calories and improve cardiovascular health while giving your body some movement that isn’t sitting down all day long (which can lead to all sorts of problems).

3. Do Some Stretching

Stretch your arms, legs, and neck throughout the day. This will keep your body limber and avoid muscle cramps or knots.

4. Chair Dips

Sit on a chair with your hands gripping the edge of the seat. Slowly lower yourself down until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle, then push back up. Do this 10 times for three sets each day!

5. Desk Push-ups

Find a space on your desk where you can put your hands and feet when doing push-ups. Lower yourself until your chest touches the surface of your desk, then push back up again. Do this 10 times each day.

6. Do a Few Squats While You Use the Restroom

Squats are one of the best exercises for toning your legs, so go ahead and try it out when you have a minute or two. You might even hit the toilet more often to sneak in another squat session.


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Benefits of Vegan food

Going Green: 5 Women on Their Transition to Veganism

They’re making a difference with their diet.

Ever considered veganism? The shift is far from easy for most people, but it can be a highly rewarding choice. Here, in honour of World Vegan Month, we speak with five women about their journey going vegan – challenges, myths, and favourite dishes included.

Watch the Video: 5 Women on the Benefits of Going Vegan

Suzanne Saleh

Suzanne Saleh

Why did you decide to adopt a vegan diet? How long have you been doing it for?

A few years ago, my sister developed breast cancer, and it was then that I decided to learn more about adopting a healthier lifestyle. In my search for answers at home and during a solo trip to Nepal, I learned about the powerful benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. I have been a vegan for three years now.

What is one myth that you think people associate with a vegan diet? And why are they wrong?

The most popular one is, ‘Where would a vegan get their protein from?’ There are so many non-meat protein sources such as tofu, tempeh, edamame, chickpeas, beans, lentils, and quinoa. And the best part? You can get all the protein you need without the harmful saturated fat and cholesterol that comes from animal protein.

What challenges did you face when you switched to a vegan diet?

My challenges initially came from my husband and some friends, as they felt that this change would restrict me from going to the same restaurants we used to go to. I also received a lot of comments that I would be weak, and that this way of eating wasn’t healthy. However, as time passed, I learned a lot more about food, how our bodies need certain macronutrients, and that I could easily get this from vegan food. Another initial challenge I faced included making sure I ate balanced meals, so I started to spend more time in the kitchen and experiment. 

What dishes would you recommend to someone who wants to try switching to a vegan diet?

For breakfast, I would recommend having some oats with plant milk, topped with berries and chia seeds. For lunch, chickpea and potato curry or stew with rice and salad works. For dinner, I would go for a hummus wrap with falafel and leafy greens, and fruit in between as snacks. 

Learn more about Suzanne at @suzannesalehwellness  and suzannesaleh.com.

Hiruni Egalla 

Hiruni Egalla

Why did you decide to adopt a vegan diet? How long have you been doing it for?

Ever since I was little, I have always had a soft spot for animals and grew up caring for them. As I grew older, I started to realise that I looked down upon some animals and praised some, and it felt very unfair. When I was around 12, I decided to become a vegetarian, but as time went on, I got used to my diet and wanted to take it a step further. At the age of 18, with a lot of thought, I decided to become a vegan and completely avoid consuming any animal products. It has been a bit over three years since I completely went vegan, and it is the best decision I’ve ever made.

What is one myth that you think people associate with a vegan diet? And why are they wrong?

One of the many myths I’ve heard about veganism is that I am not going to get enough calcium without dairy milk. That is completely wrong. A lot of leafy green vegetables are known to have plenty of calcium. For example, kale has been shown to have excellent absorbability compared to dairy milk. Also, other plant milk or alternatives of dairy milk can have just as much calcium as dairy milk. Calcium-set tofu is also a rich source.

What challenges did you face when you switched to a vegan diet?

I faced a couple of challenges, one of them being that I had to try hard to not be misunderstood or judged. Sometimes, I feel that non-vegans can get defensive about their own food choices and feel uncomfortable. At the same time, getting the message out to some people can be hard while trying to avoid being stereotyped as a “vegan jerk”. It also gets difficult to talk about the reasons for supporting veganism without sounding like an evangelist.

What dishes would you recommend to someone who wants to try switching to a vegan diet?

I would highly recommend a smoothie bowl. You can’t go wrong with fruit, and using frozen bananas makes for a thick and creamy texture. I would also recommend eating rice and vegetable curries. It’s easy to make and you can match the flavours to your liking.

Learn more about Hiruni at @hiruni.eg.

Kate Lindley

Kate Lindley

Why did you decide to adopt a vegan diet? How long have you been doing it for? 

Going vegan has been a long journey for me. Growing up, I never really liked eating meat, but my family thought meat was an essential part of a daily meal, and milk was the only option I had for a beverage. The transition started in 2005, when I began to suffer from indigestion. My doctor recommended that I cut out all red meat and reduce consumption of dairy to reduce inflammation, which causes gastritis. 

As the years progressed and I moved from country to country, I witnessed how animals were being treated and I couldn’t agree with it. I began to rethink my values related to food. I decided to shift from pescatarian to vegetarian in 2014. I then shifted from vegetarian to fully plant-based in 2019. In 2020, I shifted from plant-based to fully vegan. I even stopped purchasing items that used animal products, including leather and suede. 

What is one myth that you think people associate with a vegan diet? And why are they wrong?

People usually believe vegan food is all expensive and “pretentious”, like a passing fad or trend. Rice, beans, lentils, and corn are all staple items in a vegan item. Are they expensive? No. This is a lifestyle with the objective of helping the environment and living compassionately with all sentient beings. 

What challenges did you face when you switched to a vegan diet?

Based on where you live, it can be tricky to find vegan options at restaurants. Some people aren’t aware of what a vegan diet/lifestyle is as sometimes, but not always, their food may be based on meat-eating traditions that have been passed on for centuries. Luckily for me, there’s quite a few vegan restaurants in Dubai now – or restaurants that offer a vegan menu at least. 

What dishes would you recommend to someone who wants to try switching to a vegan diet?

I’d recommend trying stir-fries with fresh vegetables and tofu, salad rice wraps, cauliflower wings, vegan alfredo or tomato sauce with penne pasta. I also love kale caesar salad! Asian and Mediterranean cuisines have many delicious and nutritious meals. I eat a lot of hummus, tabbouleh, zaatar, rice, falafel, foul, and dal.

Learn more about Kate at @kindnesswith.kate.

Cynthia Bernstein

Cynthia Bernstein

Why did you decide to adopt a vegan diet? How long have you been doing it for? 

My interest in veganism didn’t come from the right reasons initially. I had gained some weight and I was trying different diets until I found a vegan influencer on Instagram who inspired me. She made me curious about the reasons behind why someone would go vegan. 

And so, I started to read about it, follow more vegan influencers, and watch documentaries about it. I learned about the industry behind meat and milk – and it just all made sense. It was no longer about losing weight. Rather, it was about doing the right thing. I had found a purpose, a lifestyle with good motivations, and my eyes were wide open. I’ve been vegan for almost six years now and will never go back!

What is one myth that you think people associate with a vegan diet? And why are they wrong?

I’ve often heard things like, “If you don’t eat animals, they will overpopulate, and we don’t have space for them.” It’s very sad to see that humans can be selfish to the point that they think their place on earth will be stolen. I do believe that our planet is smart and can self-regulate itself better than us humans, with our overproduction and overconsumption of everything.

What challenges did you face when you switched to a vegan diet?

For me, being invited for dinners or birthdays was difficult. Not everyone who I knew was familiar or accepting of the vegan lifestyle, so it was challenging to refuse a food item at a gathering. They would often feel bad because I would have nothing to eat, and I would feel bad for making them feel bad. But with time, it got better. It all comes down to how you explain it and how you show your family and friends how it can be easy to make small changes for you.

What dishes would you recommend to someone who wants to try switching to a vegan diet?

I would recommend you start with a simple meal that you know you will enjoy, and then explore more dishes. Nowadays, there are a lot of vegan products available in supermarkets as well. Personally, I love to make scrambled tofu with avocado toast, banana ice cream, açai bowls, warm porridge with delicious toppings, and lentil pasta with tomato sauce. 

Learn more about Cynthia at @aboutcynthia and @veganbycynthia.

Victoria James 

Victoria James

Why did you decide to adopt a vegan diet? How long have you been doing it? 

In the last six months, I’ve taken the leap to being fully vegan after following a flexitarian model for the last 15 years. I chose not to consume animal products for my health, and for my wallet. I used to spend a lot of money, particularly here in Dubai, to buy animal products that I thought were of high-quality. I was already a decent-enough cook, so substituting animal products with plant products or making full veggie meals didn’t feel like too much of a challenge. I was able to lose 11kgs over the summer because of my diet.

What is one myth that you think people associate with a vegan diet? And why are they wrong?

I try to avoid using the term vegan too much, given its association to radicalism – I think it’s a myth that all vegans are radical! In my mind, this way of eating and this lifestyle is just common sense, and I don’t try to convert anyone. In most cases, I only disclose that I’m vegan when someone asks me why I’m not eating something or about weight loss.

What challenges did you face when you switched to a vegan diet?

I found the change easier given that I had already made several switches over the past few years, but I still find it difficult when travelling in this part of the world, particularly when it comes to buffet lunches at work events or staycations. My advice? Pack plenty of snacks. On a recent trip to Bahrain, I was able to pull together a lunch of rice and steamed vegetables from a buffet that I combined with some delicious vegan protein bars and snacks at the hotel. If in doubt, bananas are your best friend!

What dishes would you recommend to someone who wants to try switching to a vegan diet?

There really is no reason to put pressure on yourself to make a switch straightaway. I eased into it, and you can too if you wish to see a change. I love to cook with lentils, chickpeas, frozen veggies, and whatever is on offer at the supermarket. I recommend embracing vegan Indian recipes. 

Learn more about Victoria at @myveganplatedxb.


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Guide to Exercising in Menstrual Cycle

A Complete Guide to Exercising Through Your Menstrual Cycle

Here’s how to make the most of your workouts.

If I had a dirham for every time I was asked if I should exercise during my period, I would be very rich. You may have heard mixed messages on whether you should be working out during your period, and you’ve probably had days when your cycle has impacted your workout plans – those days when you just want to sit on the sofa, gorge on chocolate, cry at a romcom, and eat anything in your way that resembles comfort food.

The taboo around periods is finally slipping away. The more we normalise and educate people on this topic, the better it will be for the next generations of women. Top athletes are talking about how their menstrual cycle affects their performance and, with all the new research available now, how working with their cycles has increased their performance.  

Sports coaches of women’s teams, especially football, are now working with individual team members to enhance their performance by adapting their training according to where they are in their cycle. There is evidence to suggest it maximises the strength and ability of the team and enhances overall performance. Thankfully, research has finally caught up and studies now show that there is much more to our cycle than just the bleeding and if we work with our menstrual cycle rather than against it, it can really help us thrive. But don’t worry, you can still have those sofa days.

The ebbs and flows of hormones over the course of the menstrual cycle affect physiology, metabolism, stamina, and strength. These factors can have a massive impact on how we respond to and recover from exercise, and if we are bingeing on the wrong type of food, this can be a double whammy to us feeling crappy.

woman doing a plank

Why Are We Only Hearing About This Now?

Most of what you have learnt about exercise science, diets, calories, exercise, and fad diets was not applicable to women. How about that for a statement? The information that we have grown up with and probably implemented at one time or another into our lives was not relevant to women and their physiology.

You might be shocked to learn that studies for the keto diet – a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet long held as a controversial but highly effective method for rapid weight loss – were based on studies conducted with male participants, some women over 60, and clinical trials. It took some time for researchers to realise that men and women are different. At the time that the initial studies were conducted, women were deemed to be ‘too complicated’.

Fascinating and, more importantly, relevant research is now available to us thanks to the likes of Dr Stacy Sims and many other women in the medical/research fields, who basically have thrown away the rulebook. Thankfully, the likes of myself and other professional coaches can start applying some of these new lessons and really giving women the fighting chance they deserve.

It All Starts with Getting to Know Your Cycle

The first step towards taking advantage of your menstrual cycle’s phases is knowing when they are. Greater understanding of your own body and menstrual cycle allows you to choose and implement the right training and dietary requirements for every stage, boosting energy and overall well-being.

There are many apps out there to help keep track of cycles, but it’s important to remember that there’s more to it than just punching in the date when a period starts. Monitor the information before making changes. Some apps to help with tracking your cycle are:

What Is the Cycle?

The typical menstrual cycle is 28 days long. It can range from 21 to 35 days, and it has two phases with ovulation right in the middle. The follicular phase starts on the first day of your period and lasts for 13 to 14 days. In this phase, your oestrogen and progesterone are low. Did you know that you are at your strongest and your hormones are primed for high performance once your period starts?

Here’s why: once you are in the clear of pregnancy and your body doesn’t have to utilise all your internal systems creating that high hormone overdrive for a safe space for an egg to live, your body starts to relax and can now access those energy systems again for peak performance. So here is where you can hit the gym, go for your personal best, and do some serious strength training. Ovulation occurs and you can still hit some PBs.

Exercise During Period

Then you have the luteal phase, typically through days 15-28, when estrogen and progesterone levels are high. Your body starts preparing for pregnancy, hormones are on the rise, and this is where PMS symptoms can also rear their head. If you play racket sports, your hand to ball coordination might be a bit slower and you may feel a slump in your energy and performance levels. This is a time to relax and step back.

There is no doubt that the hormonal fluctuation impacts more than just the menstruation cycle; physiological, physiological, and emotional states are also affected. Awareness of what’s happening and adjusting your training and diet can really have amazing results on your overall health and well-being. Here is a simple breakdown of what’s happening in each phase and tips on how to structure your training.


There’s no reason you can’t exercise on your period if you feel up to it. We are generally stronger in this phase, so maybe a mindset change to how we used to train might work. We are all different, so maybe if you are bleeding heavily, a walk or something light might be more practical. Most of my clients who train on their first day of period definitely do have an uptick in their performance. Also, training can help with the cramps. 

Eat well as during this phase – your body is more likely to need some iron. Meat eaters can opt for red meat, chicken, and shellfish. Other sources of iron can come from legumes like chickpeas, lentils, beans, soya beans, and whole grains. Heavy bleeding can also deplete your iron levels, so help your iron absorption by upping your vitamin C.

Follicular Phase

After your period has finished, your body is primed to use the energy from stored carbohydrates and is better at metabolising carbohydrates and using them for energy. If there’s ever a good time to treat yourself with some good carbs, it’s the follicular phase.

This is also a good time to push yourself in your workouts. Your increased carbohydrate tolerance in this phase also makes it easier for your body to use glycogen for fuel during exercise and hit higher peaks of intensity. Ramp it up with higher-intensity workouts that build fitness. Focus on resistance training to build muscle.

Additionally, consume iron-rich foods and vitamin B12. For vegetarian sources of iron, opt for more dark leafy greens. You can enhance the absorption of plant-based iron by adding a vitamin C source, such as lemon or other citrus fruits in addition to beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. The goal is light, fresh, and colourful foods.

Boost probiotic-rich foods in this phase to support gut balance – think: fermented and pickled veggies, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Meanwhile, getting enough omega-3 fatty acids will help fight increased inflammation, so dine on salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardine along with nuts, seeds, and plant oils.

As with iron, you can use supplements to get what you need, but getting these nutrients from food is best and popping them without knowing your levels won’t help much. Magnesium is always a safe bet. Above all, stay hydrated – water is your best friend.

How to Exercise in Menstrual Cycle

Ovulation Phase

Like the follicular phase, ovulation tends to be a higher energy time. If that’s the case, make the most of it by getting some high-energy workouts in. Take this time to switch things up – you have the energy to do it! Estrogen’s appetite-suppressing effect causes women to be less hungry and optimally energised during this phase. As a result, a woman’s need to rely on carbohydrates for quick energy dramatically decreases. Go for small quantities of carbohydrates and choose lighter varieties such as quinoa, amaranth, and red lentils.

Focus on proteins and fat to help sustain energy, and lots of fibre to detoxify increased hormones. Fibre-rich veggies like asparagus, Brussels sprouts, chard, dandelion greens, okra, and spinach as well as antioxidant-rich fruit such as raspberries, strawberries, coconut, and guava help to increase glutathione and support further detoxification of rising hormones in the liver. Get plenty of sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, pecans, and pistachios, all of which you can sprinkle on salads, mix into smoothies, or simply enjoy on their own as a snack.

Luteal Phase

It’s time to back off with the high intensity. Your body is in prep mode, so it’s not a great time to go hard on your training. Switch to low-intensity workouts or yoga, and give yourself more recovery time between sessions. Listen to your body; this is a time to concentrate on your food. During these weeks, you will probably feel hungrier than usual. This is completely normal. In fact, your body uses up 5-10% more calories during this premenstrual phase. Don’t fight it and listen when your body is telling you to eat.

That said, this is the danger zone. A strong mindset to eat well is needed, calling for nutritional food, protein, and complex carbs to help combat those cravings. Do allow yourself a little indulgence. Hit the water, too – It can be more difficult to stay hydrated during the luteal phase, so keep water at hand, especially during and after workouts. To help with PMS, take magnesium five to seven days before your period starts. A daily dose, meanwhile, helps with cramps, recovery, and sleep. Increase your omega-3 fatty acids and if you do suffer, take a low dose of aspirin and zinc.

The Bottom Line

It doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned gymgoer or a budding athlete; taking a closer look at how your body changes throughout your cycle can be an incredibly helpful tool to enhance your performance and get the best out of your time in the gym. When we understand what’s going on inside, we can set ourselves up for success in a personal and professional capacity, optimising our health and fitness goals.

Sharon James is a women’s health and well-being coach specialising in menopause wellness. Visit www.sharonjamescoaching.com for more information or connect with her via Instagram and Facebook. You can also get on the waitlist for her Menopause Mastery workshops here.


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Self-Care for Women

Why Self-Care Is Crucial for Working Women

Caregiving begins with taking care of yourself.

Invited to speak at a Pinktober event recently, I chose the topic ‘Caring for Caregivers’. October and November are months dedicated to increasing awareness on breast cancer and prostate cancer, and as such, focus on self-care. My topic caused a bit of confusion with people expecting another speech focused on the disease, the patient, or the treatment – certainly not the caregiver.

What I have realised is that the term ‘caregiver’ comes with an entourage of associated emotions and labels. The focus is always only on the person being taken care of, with associated emotions ranging from guilt to selflessness. By association, the word ‘care’ has come to take on the meaning of only being directed towards others – more so when you’re a woman, the ultimate caregiver.

I’d like to share a brief version of the popular children’s fable, The Magic Porridge Pot. A poor couple with barely enough to eat themselves hears a knock on the door. They open it to find a tired, hungry traveller. Inviting him in, they share their frugal meal with him and give him a bed for the night. The next morning, the grateful stranger reveals that he is, in fact, an angel and would like to reward their generosity. He gifts them with a magic pot that will never, ever run out of food.

I hear you sighing longingly and asking where we can order this magic pot, too. Let me know when you find it! In the meantime, coming back to caregivers, we like to think of ourselves as magic porridge pots with an unending source of care to give. The truth, however, is that we need to stop every now and again to recharge our batteries and refill our resources so we can resume sharing them with others. In other words, we turn the care inwards and direct it at ourselves, i.e. self-care.

Having been raised to be caregivers for others, with the concept of selfless love drilled into their heads, most women find self-care a difficult concept to accept. It battles with all that they have been told a so-called good *insert role* does. You put others first, more so when you are a wife/mother, always putting the needs of your family above your own. While this school of thought is gradually tapering out, it is still strong enough to make self-care something we need to write about in a magazine, so women will know it’s perfectly alright for them to indulge in it themselves.

Self-care is Important For Women


The primary gut response to sometimes even thinking about taking time out to do something just for yourself is guilt. On a personal level, this can sound like:

“This is time I should be spending on carrying out my role as professional/spouse/parent/daughter.”

“It’s not like I really NEED to do this, it’s actually a bit of a luxury/pampering/treat.” 

“Shouldn’t I be spending this money on something more useful?” 

“Doesn’t X need something like this more?”

“Isn’t this a bit selfish of me?”

The same guilt sounds more like this when it refers to a professional context:

“I am so desperately unhappy in this job, but feel so guilty about quitting.”

“Just because I’m being disrespected here doesn’t mean I have to jeopardise my job by speaking up.”

“I know I deserve a better role, but I’ll be letting down so many people if I move on.”

It’s quite funny how the guilt can spring up over something as silly as taking a break for coffee with a friend or buying fancy bath salts, let alone the high-level guilt that comes from taking a longer break to just chill and relax, or resign from a toxic workplace. This guilt stems from the intrinsic belief that time and money need to be spent on (and earned for) someone else selflessly. 

The Talking-Down

After the guilt comes the talking-down. Talking yourself and your needs down in relation to someone else and what they are going through or what they need. Talking down whatever state you are in – mentally, physically, emotionally – with accompanying justification is something all women go through. And it might sound something like this: our mums’ generation never made a fuss about this; this is natural at this age; everyone in my profession has this level of stress; who isn’t stressed these days?

When we finally do get to move past the talk-down and still continue with our plans, a well-placed sarcastic question or comment from a colleague or relative could have you backtracking in a second, cancelling all plans because you realise they are so right.

Why is it important for women to take self-care

Justifying the Spend

This is the one that women find the hardest. A legacy of the hunter-gatherer days for women is that we were the ones who managed whatever was hunted/gathered, ensuring it lasted as long as possible and was distributed as needed. Resource management has, ever since, been our strongest suit, often leading to wives being teasingly referred to as the Finance Minister or Home Minister.

Having always been responsible for managing the resources for the wider group, the concept of staking a claim for ourselves therefore goes against the grain. There is the niggling feeling that this could have been given to someone else because they might need it more. So how do we negate all this hard-coded conditioning and rewrite it with the empowering belief that we are worthy of care, too?

framed quote

Put Yourself First

Referring to the magic porridge pot story earlier: you cannot be who you are meant to be or do what you are meant to do if you are not in the best shape physically, mentally, and emotionally. By ensuring that your batteries are always fully charged and you are working in peak form, you are ensuring that what you give others – in any capacity – is your best, making it a win-win for everyone.

If Not You, Then Who?

It’s a question that usually stumps my clients. Because the truth is that you are the only one who values your well-being (or should value it!) so much. If you think you deserve better, more, or something else, newsflash: you are the only one who can give that to yourself. Too often, we wait for a manager, spouse, partner, or parent to see what we’re going through and take care of it for us. Not going to happen. Wake up and go after what you want.

Talk Yourself Up 

We know what the opposite does, so go ahead and switch it around. Tell yourself how impressed you are with what you are doing or have just done. List out the attributes you are proud of, the specific details of whatever it is you said or did that made you proud and include even the silly little ones.

Imagine you are talking about someone else and objectively list out the reasons they deserve to make that decision. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to do for someone other than yourself. It is often very easy to appreciate and acknowledge what others do and achieve, and simultaneously find it equally hard to do the same for ourselves. This easy workaround is a great way to get over this and learn to value yourself and your own well-being more.

You Are Someone’s Role Model

Keeping that in mind will help you make decisions that you won’t regret. People, kids in particular, model our behaviours – not our words. So, if you are in a role that impacts how others think and behave, you have a responsibility to show them how to take care of themselves and their well-being by taking care of yours. Lead by example. You never know who you could be inspiring with your proactive self-care.

Bina Mathews is an Executive Master Coach and Communications Consultant at Bina Mathews Consulting FZE. Visit www.coachbina.com or follow @coachbina on Instagram for more information.


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Beginner's Guide to Veganism

The A-Z of Veganism

Do you have what it takes?

With the rise in awareness about sustainability,animal abuse, and clean eating, it’s no wonder that veganism is soaring in popularity – even household names such as Natalie Portman and Joaquin Phoenix have embraced a vegan diet. So what’s the fuss about? And do you think you can take the plunge? A vegan diet consists of food items that come directly from plants, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains. It does not contain any animal products – dairy, eggs, and honey included. And it goes without saying that meat of any sort doesn’t make an appearance. 

Key Foods in a Vegan Diet

While every vegan has their own preferences and cultural influences when it comes to what they eat, these are a few of the key ingredients that comprise a vegan diet:

Whole Grains

Key Foods in a Vegan Diet

Barley, brown rice, buckwheat, and millet are some of the popular whole grain options out there. Not only are they filled with nutrients such as protein, fibre, and antioxidants, but they’ve also been shown to bring down the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Don’t know what to have for breakfast? Oatmeal is always there to save the day! In the mood for a quick snack? Grab some popcorn.

Plant Milk

Plant Milk

Plant-based milk can be derived out of several sources such as soy, almond, rice, or cashew, and is an excellent source of nutrition. While not all plant milks are created equally and their nutritional profile can vary depending on the type you choose, generally speaking, they can be a great stepping stone for those seeking to switch to veganism – or if you have lactose intolerance. Just make sure you’re not allergic to any of the ingredients used!



Pulses such as peas, chickpeas, kidney beans, and lentils are packed with fibre, protein, and other minerals and vitamins. Not only are they low in fat content – which can lower cholesterol levels – but they’re also incredibly cost-effective and versatile enough to be used in several dishes (think: salads, brownies, wraps, and stews).

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and Vegetables

Not only can most fruits and vegetables be eaten on their own, but they can also be cooked in several ways – be it fried, boiled, sautéed, or grilled. They can be combined with several other dishes as well. Some of the more interesting takes include using mashed banana instead of eggs for baking, and cauliflower for your pizza crust. Other staples in a vegan diet include nuts, seeds, and minimally processed meat substitutes such as tofu and seitan.

But you might want to think twice before adding that vegan burger to your cart. According to nutritionist Stephanie Karl, “The plant protein trend has prompted innovation in meat substitutes, however higher sodium levels and a wide nutrient range in such products highlights the importance of nutrition guidelines in their development to ensure sameness with animal-based proteins.” Meat substitutes can be heavily processed and vary drastically in their food value.

Thus, while they may be more environmentally friendly, they may not always be good for you. Stephanie suggests that nutritional guidelines should be more user-friendly and make recommendations of additional food items that complement each other to improve the range of nutrients at every meal. This means that instead of sticking to one thing, people should try to mix up whole grains with pulses, nuts and seeds, soy products, and so on alongside appropriate meat substitutes.

Think Diet, Not Lifestyle

Guide to the Basics of Veganism

While stereotypes about vegans are pervasive and not always accurate, one is right in assuming that being a vegan can go beyond one’s diet, extending into personality and outlook in life. Depending on the reason for which someone may choose veganism, some vegans may refuse to partake in any entertainment that involves animal exploitation, deciding not to visit zoos or circuses with animals for that reason.

Others, meanwhile, may prefer to use synthetic fibres instead of the likes of wool, which comes from animals, since they believe that the shearing process can terrorise the animal. Some vegans may shop at thrift stores to reduce their dependency on fast fashion that is harmful for the environment, buy only cruelty-free products (especially when it comes to cosmetics), and get involved with animal welfare and/or environmental groups. While everyone makes different choices, a lot of vegans try to live an ethical life in order to cause as little harm as possible – be it to animals or the environment.


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Common Myths About The Female

10 Myths About the Female Body, Busted

Let’s discuss fact versus fiction.

In the age of the internet, anyone can be an expert on anything – including women’s health. However, this same educational tool can also lead to the widespread distribution of false information. In the past, young women heard myths from parents or grandparents passed down through the generations. Nowadays, you can find ample misconceptions right at your fingertips, courtesy of your phone and computer.

Distinguishing fact from fiction is one of the important roles of a women’s health doctor, and why it’s vital to choose an obstetrician and gynecologist – known as an OB/GYN – near you who can help determine what’s best for you. In the meantime, we’ve listed some of the most common women’s health myths below, along with the truth, to ensure you have the right information.

MYTH 1: You can’t get pregnant when breastfeeding. 

Yes, you can get pregnant while breastfeeding. While breastfeeding does delay the return of menstruation by producing a hormone that prevents egg production, or ovulation, using breastfeeding as birth control involves strict practices. These include nursing exclusively during the day and night (at least every four hours during the day and every six hours at night) with no other food, water, or liquids given to the baby. Also, your baby must be less than six months old, your period should not have returned, and you shouldn’t use a breast pump to express milk. Mothers who don’t want to get pregnant should use a reliable form of birth control rather than turning to breastfeeding alone as a birth control method.

MYTH 2: Avoid head showers during periods. 

There is no reason not to wash your hair, take a bath, or shower while you’re having your period. A warm bath can help ease cramps. You will not get sick, go blind, or lose your hair from taking a bath when you are having your period, but some of these inaccurate health myths have been passed from one generation to the next. When it comes to the mess of your period, leave your vagina alone. It can and will take care of itself.

10 Myths About the Female Body, Busted

MYTH 3: Vaginal discharge means yeast infections.

On the contrary, vaginal discharge that’s white or clear and with a faint odour or odourless is normal. Discharge helps protect you from dryness, moistens your vagina during sex, and guards against vaginal and urinary tract infections. 

But vaginal discharge isn’t always healthy. If you notice more discharge than normal, a change in colour or thickness, a bad smell, itching, burning, pelvic pain, or pain during sex or while urinating, you should check with your gynaecologist. You may have a vaginal infection or another medical issue, such as a sexually transmitted infection.

MYTH 4: Sex after having a baby will hurt. 

Most women are terrified of pain with sex after pregnancy, but if you allow enough time for your body to heal completely, sex won’t be a problem. Keep in mind that new moms become ready for sex at very different rates. When you decide you’re ready, it doesn’t hurt to be extra careful. 

Your estrogen levels dip while you’re nursing, which can cause vaginal dryness, so it is recommended to use plenty of lube when you decide to take the plunge. Communicate with your partner about your fears, take it slow, and go easy on yourself. And don’t forget to use contraception.

MYTH 5: Your periods can sync.

If you experience period syncing with a friend or someone you live with, it’s more likely the result of pure probability. That’s because cycle length varies from person to person. Some people have their period every 21 days, while others see their period begin every 35 days. Some people experience bleeding for a week, while others only bleed for a day or two.

Some people have regular periods, while others have less regular cycles. Your menstrual cycle may last for 15% to 30% every month. With odds like that, it’s highly likely that at some point, you and a friend, roommate, or co-worker will both be experiencing bleeding at the same time.

Common Myths about the Female Body

MYTH 6: The vagina should be cleaned properly. 

The vagina is self-cleaning. Using cleaning products can change the pH balance, resulting in vaginal infections. Just use a simple and, ideally, non-scented soap. The vulva is the outer area that surrounds the vagina. It includes the opening of the vagina, outer and inner lips, and the clitoris.

The truth is, you do not need to use special products for your vulva. You can clean the external vagina parts by simply washing it with lukewarm water. If you wish, you may use mild, unscented soap. Afterwards, you should rinse the vulva properly and gently pat the area dry as moisture can stimulate yeast growth.

MYTH 7: You always bleed when you have sex for the first time.

No, not always. Some women will bleed after having sex for the first time, while others will not. Both are perfectly normal. A woman may bleed when she has penetrative sex for the first time because of her hymen stretching or tearing. The hymen is a thin piece of skin that partially covers the entrance to the vagina. 

For some women, it may stretch or tear when they start having sex. A stretched or torn hymen does not necessarily mean a woman has lost her virginity. A woman may not know her hymen has stretched or torn because it does not always cause pain or noticeable bleeding.

 woman lying down in pain

MYTH 8: Pain during sex is normal.

Sex isn’t supposed to hurt. Just because painful sex is very common doesn’t mean you have to accept it as normal. Occasional minor soreness is likely nothing to worry about, but intense or frequent pain is worth discussing with your doctor. Sex should be a pleasurable experience; if it’s not, don’t hesitate to speak to your partner and your doctor.

MYTH 9: Pubic hair is unhygienic. 

Pubic hair is so not dirty or unhygienic! It traps sweat, oil, and bacteria, which may give it an odour. Still, it serves the purpose of keeping potentially harmful microorganisms from reaching the delicate skin of the genital region. This myth often leads people to shave off their pubic hair, when the truth is that our pubic hair is only protecting our skin.

MYTH 10: Menstrual blood is different from regular blood. 

Menstrual blood, or menstrual fluid, is the regular discharge of blood and mucosal tissue from the inner lining of the uterus through the vagina. It is a complex biological fluid composed of blood, vaginal secretion, and endometrial cells of the uterine lining. 

When compared to regular blood, menstrual blood is darker and not highly oxygenated. It contains dead and non-functional tissue parts. Furthermore, menstrual blood has low iron, haemoglobin, and white and red blood cell concentrations compared to regular blood. Discharge of menstrual blood takes place for two to seven days every month.

Dr. Amna Raees Khan is a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist. Visit @amnaraeesahmed on Instagram for more information.


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Carrot, Tomato, Broccoli, Beans, chilly, capsicums

Why Vegans Everywhere Are Celebrating Today

Are you ready to join them?

Did you know today is World Vegan Day? And did you know the month of November is World Vegan Month? So, if you’re one of the millions considering becoming vegan – whether it’s because you’re concerned about your health, the environment, or animal welfare – here are 10 fascinating facts about why swapping to a meat-free diet could be the best thing you’ve ever done for your body (and the planet in general).

Facts about veganism
  1. A well-balanced vegan diet contains all the protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins, and minerals you need. Low in saturated fat and free from animal protein, cholesterol, and hormones – all of which are linked to disease – a vegan diet can provide all the nutrients required for all stages of life.
  1. Compared to meat-eaters, vegans weigh less, have lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and rates of type 2 diabetes. They have a 30% lower risk of heart disease and lower cancer rates.

Facts About Vegan Living
  1. If the world went vegan, it could save eight million human lives by 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds, lead to healthcare-related savings, and avoid climate damages worth $1.5 trillion. 
  1. The World Health Organization report in November 2015 ranked processed meat as a group 1 carcinogen (the same category as cigarettes, alcohol, and asbestos). Eating just 50g per day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. It also classified red meat as a group 2A carcinogen.

  1. John Hopkins University found that, on average, a vegan diet is the most environmentally friendly of all diets and would cut emissions by 70%, while a Western style diet adds +135% to the emissions.
  1. Those who eat meat spend a whopping AED 6,000 extra a year on food, compared to those on a meat-free diet.

Fascinating Vegan Facts
  1. A 2018 study – one of the most comprehensive analyses to date of the damage farming does to the planet – found that ‘avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth’ as animal farming provides just 18% of calories, but takes up 83% of our farmland.
  1. A study published in Environmental Research Letters found that eating a plant-based diet has three times more positive environmental impact than washing your clothes in cold water, four times more than hang-drying clothes or recycling, and eight times more than upgrading light bulbs.

Interesting Facts About Vegans and Veganism
  1. Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon rainforest destruction. 
  1. Those who eat seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day have a 33% reduced risk of premature death, compared with people who eat less than one portion.

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Skin cancer

Let’s Talk Cancer and the Mind-Body Connection

Here’s what the experts say.

Cancer affects millions each year, and its consequences can be devastating. But do the experts agree on what causes cancer and what you can do to prevent it? Here, we speak with threedifferent experts from three different fields on their perspective. Listen in.

Farah Hillou, Nutritionist

Farah Hillou, Nutritionist

What causes cancer from a nutrition perspective? Are there any warning signs to look out for?

Cancer biology is complex, and our understanding of the carcinogenic process is continuously evolving. What is considered a simple biological process of cellular division and growth can quickly turn into a chaotic and complex illness. At the same time, we can support our body’s natural ability to protect and heal itself through our diet, lifestyle, and the external environment. However, dysregulation in key processes in the body, including an impaired immune system, hormone imbalances, insulin resistance and metabolic dysfunction, and an imbalance in the gut microbiome can all impact our internal terrain and set the stage for cancer development. 

While it is often difficult to identify the single factor that caused cancer, we can identify certain cancer-causing agents and cancer-promoting activities that promote the development and spread of cancer. Modifiable risk factors include obesity, dietary habits, lifestyle habits, and exposure to environmental toxins.

Can a healthier diet prevent cancer? What should and shouldn’t we be eating?

Dietary factors that have been found to increase the risk of cancer include high intake of refined sugar, excessive intake of carbohydrate rich foods, increased consumption of alcohol, and high intake of meat products. These foods may weaken the immune system, promote inflammation, affect blood sugar balance and insulin resistance, and trigger the release of cancer-promoting hormones. 

On the other hand, phytonutrient-rich functional foods contain bioactive compounds that have strong cancer-fighting properties. Powerful bioactives include but are not limited to: capsaicin (peppers), 6-gingerol (ginger), curcumin (turmeric), ellagic acid (pomegranates), catechins (green tea), resveratrol (berries, red grapes), allicin (garlic) and sulforaphane (cruciferous vegetables). 

How can we avoid inadvertently exposing ourselves to cancer-causing agents?

A healthy environment supports optimal cellular function. On the other hand, exposure to smoke, herbicides and pesticides in our food, genetically modified crops, beauty care products with parabens and sulfates, and cleaning products that contain chlorinated hydrocarbons, chloroform, and other toxic compounds can all contribute to DNA damage and oxidative stress. Purchasing organic food, refraining from smoking, and choosing organic products can drastically help reduce the toxic burden on our body. The Environmental Working Group is a great resource to use for guidance when choosing cleaner, non-toxic products.

How can a nutritionist support cancer patients and complement mainstream treatments?

Dietitians and nutritionists are in a position to support individuals along the cancer-care continuum through diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship. They can help support weight balance, address nutritional deficiencies, support appetite and other side effects during therapy, and develop personalised nutritious meal plans to optimise the body’s natural processes. Dietitians/nutritionists practise with empathy, ethics, and honesty, and play a key role in the patient’s multidisciplinary care team to use evidence-based guidelines for the best interest of the patient.

Dr. Shadan Naji, Dermatologist at Dr. Kayle Aesthetic Clinic

Dr. Shadan Naji, Dermatologist

From your perspective, what causes cancer – specifically skin cancer? Are there any warning signs to look out for?

Cancer can occur anywhere on the skin, but the fundamental trigger is sun exposure – frequently being affected by sunburn during childhood and throughout our adult life will put us at greater risk to develop skin cancer. The biggest warning sign to look out for is the appearance of new pigmented spots. If such spots appear, observe them carefully and seek a dermatologist’s opinion. You will definitely need expert advice if these spots change in colour, size, or become itchy or bleed. I recommend that patients with fair skin have an annual check-up with a dermatologist every year, while darker-skinned patients can have a check-up every two years.

How much SPF should we be using?

The advice now is to wear SPF 50 and cover the face and exposed areas of the skin with sun block thoroughly and regularly throughout the day.

Are there specific times of the day when it’s better to stay indoors to prevent skin cancer? 

Yes. If you can, avoid the peak hours of the sun’s radiation, which are between 10am and 4pm.

How much should we cover up to protect against the sun’s harmful rays? Are some fabrics better than others?

I would recommend wearing a thin, white material covering all exposed areas when outside. A light colour such as white will not absorb heat. In terms of materials, avoid nylon and choose natural fabrics such as linen and cotton. The right clothing is an effective protection measure against the sun’s rays.

What’s your take on the debate around aluminum in antiperspirants causing cancer?

There is still research being done around this topic. In some cases, dermatologists may recommend that their patients use medical antiperspirants that have aluminum as a treatment for sweating – these are perfectly safe to use under the supervision of an expert dermatologist. However, as a precaution, you should not use aluminum-based antiperspirants indefinitely.

Are there any other practices or precautions that we can take to prevent cancer?

The most important thing is to use effective sun protection – and apply it regularly – from an early age to avoid getting sunburnt. You should also avoid sunbathing.

Soniyaa Kiran Punjabi, Alternative Medicine Practitioner
and Founder of Illuminations

Soniyaa Kiran Punjabi

What causes cancer from an alternative healing perspective? Are there any warning signs to look out for?

Cancer can be caused due to various factors, but it is 90% lifestyle choices and only 10% genetics. It is a result of unconscious and conscious choices that we make, which are rooted in our thoughts, emotions, energy levels, and physical body. Doctors estimate that 80% to 90% of all health problems are caused or aggravated by stress. It is this stress that also influences us to make harmful lifestyle choices. For example, we might start smoking because it relieves us from stress. We may gravitate towards alcohol and other addictions to fill a void. We may lack a deeper self-connection and mindfulness to the present moment, and therefore be ignorant to the environment we live in and the toxicity we subject ourselves to.

The earliest warning signs would be changes in our overall energy level, sleep cycle, appetite, and any unfamiliar lumps or warts around the body. Again, the more conscious and present we are, the more we are likely to notice these signs. When we are all consumed by past worries, thoughts, and task lists, we forget to notice these signs. The body is always communicating with us. The question is: are we really listening?

The mind-body connection has been linked to some diseases. Is that the case with cancer?

Whilst there is enough evidence to suggest that our emotions affect both hormones and immune function, the link between the mind-body connection in relation to cancer is far less clear and remains invalidated by science. What has been proven is that many alternative healing modalities that focus on an integrative approach can improve our well-being by healing our thoughts, emotions, and energy levels through the likes of hypnosis, cognitive behavioural therapy, acupuncture, meditation, and breath work. 

Do you think that alternative treatments can make our body more resilient and resistant to illness?

Opting for alternative healing approaches to resolve stress or imbalance in the body helps individuals identify the root cause of this stress and release it in order to prevent these imbalances from seeping into our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Most complementary or alternative approaches treat the person as a whole –body, mind, and energy – as opposed to only the physical body. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. 

How can alternative therapy support cancer patients and complement mainstream treatments?

Most qualified and responsible alternative/complementary practitioners would never dismiss or negate the efficacy of allopathic/medical solutions if the issue is rooted deep in the physical body, such as major illnesses like cancer, heart ailments, and other such life-threatening diseases. However, alternative therapy can help when an individual is relying on daily medicine that causes damage through dependency on strong dosages.

For example, we have noticed that practicing deep breathing techniques and tools like emotional tapping have helped several of our clients reduce the side effects of chemotherapy. Every approach has an important contribution towards the overall well-being of an individual, therefore it is important to continue undergoing medical treatment alongside complementary care. Some of the benefits that we have seen of alternative treatment include: 

  • Reducing the side effects of strong medication. 
  • Providing solutions through natural methods to reduce pain with minimal side effects. 
  • Aiding physicians by preparing the individual to enhance the healing process and enabling the individual to return to a state of wellness
  • Creating a sense of peace and harmony within the individual so that the current challenge can be met and handled in a positive manner, thereby making the journey towards health and peace of mind less traumatic.

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