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The Zen Of Eating

9 tips for mindful eating

Ancient Yogis from many traditions considered eating to be a sacred act, where one living part of nature integrates into another living being.  In stark contrast, eating seems to be anything but sacred in our fast-food age. For many, eating today has devolved into a purely physical act to provide sustenance for the body – but definitely not for the soul. 

2020: The Year of Health

We are well into the year but given the ongoing pandemic events that have taken over the world, and put a spotlight on health, nutrition and wellbeing, many – like you –  are contemplating overhauling their daily routines by incorporating healthy diets. You may be facing a health crisis or some sort of spiritual awakening; maybe you are in a new relationship and just want to feel and look better for your partner. 

Whatever your motivation, you’ve decided to eat in a healthier or more ethical way.  Sooner or later, you are bound to discover that “improving” your diet is not as straightforward as you imagined. Buy any book on healthy eating or diet or nutrition and you will find plenty of persuasive advice on what you “should” and “should not” eat. Pick another book and you’ll find equally convincing advice contradicting the first.

Mixed Messages?

Many mainstream books on nutrition advise us to limit our intake of fat, yet an increasingly prominent minority contends that traditional animal fats are good for us. One diet may push honey as a superfood; another says it’s just as harmful as any other sugar. Some experts say supplements are absolutely essential for good health, while others contend they just give you “expensive pee.” You’ll discover that there are diets based on religion, ethics, nutritional philosophy, anthropology, cleansing, the seasons and even blood types! 

You are faced with a bewildering range of contradictory advice all coming from “authoritative” sources. Choose rightly:  you will be saved! Choose wrongly:  you will land in “health hell.” How do you navigate correctly through these choices?  You can choose a nutritional trend or a healthy diet and follow it – with all that such a choice involves. Or, instead of trusting any outside authority, you can go down the path of self-directed dietary exploration and experimentation with your food choices. This way, you learn to trust your body and senses while choosing how to eat wisely. If you are seeking to go it on your own, it is worth taking a peek at one of these books – favourites of The Gaggler editorial team – that can provide guiding principles as you make your way to taking that first step to healthy eating.

Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, PRP AED 48.39, available at amazon.com

Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything, PRP AED 25.65, available at amazon.com

Eat, Drink, and Be Mindful: How to End Your Struggle with Mindless Eating and Start Savoring Food with Intention and Joy, PRP AED 73.73, available at amazon.com

Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, PRP AED 25.04, available at amazon.com

That Will Power Thing

But how can you trust your body when it often seems to lead you astray with unwise food choices because of an apparent “lack of willpower”? As a society, we seem to suffer from the misleading notion of not having enough willpower when it comes to eating. How else can we explain destructive dietary patterns, when we fully know the consequences of poor eating choices? How else can we justify bingeing after a week of regimented eating? We incorrectly blame poor dietary choices on “weak willpower” — which then leads to an internal conflict over what we “should” and “should not” eat.

When it comes to food, we seem to think that what we want must be “bad” or “indulgent.”  Therefore, we feel that we must exercise willpower to enforce “better” behavior. This constant reliance on willpower reveals a profound distrust of our natural ability to make good food choices intuitively. Craving certain foods can be seen as our body’s way of signaling nutritional imbalances. It is also well documented that in times of high stress we use food to fill in voids or to mask deeper issues.  In these cases, our body is communicating to us in a language we might not understand — or even recognize as a language. 

Are You Listening?

We need to stop seeing the body as “the enemy” but rather listen to the messages encoded in the language of cravings, appetites, and food preferences.  Instead of second-guessing what our bodies need, why not tune into the language our body is speaking? Through these messages, our body communicates its physical and emotional needs. One of the ways we can understand the body’s needs is to create a quiet internal space in which we can “tune in” to the cues given in our cravings and appetites.    By using a Zen approach to eating, we can create that quiet space within. You might wonder “What is Zen eating?” 

Zen eating is a practice of eating thoughtfully, mindfully and in a state of gratitude.

As Susan Albers, a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic, explains, “In a nutshell, mindful eating is not a diet. There are no menus or recipes. It’s a brand new way of eating. Mindful eating is defined as eating with a non-judgmental awareness”.

healthy eating habits

9 Tips to Zen

The 9 tips below are designed to help you create this mindful space within yourself each time you sit down to eat.

Tip 1: Breathe

Before you tuck into your meal, take 3 deep breaths to clear your energy and come into the present moment with gratitude.

Tip 2: Contemplate 

Observe a moment of silence.  A good exercise is to reflect on how your food got to your plate. Think about the people involved in the production, processing, transportation and preparation of your meal.

Tip 3: Chew and Taste 

Devote your attention to the physical act of biting, chewing and swallowing your food. Fully experience and enjoy each bite. Notice the aromas, textures, tastes and temperature of each dish. Through this practice, you may discover new flavors or evoke memories connected to the taste and smells of your food. Paying attention gives you the opportunity to fully know what you’re eating and opens up a direct channel of communication with your body.  

Tip 4: Eat meals in a peaceful setting

Be it your table at home or a quiet spot in the office cafeteria, choose a peaceful space.  You may feel you rarely have the “luxury” to devote your attention to fully enjoying your food or finding peaceful spaces to eat.  In reality, this should not be a luxury, but a necessary part of your meal.  As you start a practice of Zen eating, take small steps to integrate this practice into your routine. Have just one meal a day in a peaceful setting, if it is too difficult to do this practice for each and every meal.

Tip 5: Go device free at mealtimes

Ditch the multitasking while you eat! Stay away from the phone, television and the computer at mealtime. Focus on what’s on your plate and engage in conversations with your dining companions. Or just be with yourself and your food.

Tip 6: Be patient

You cannot expect to gain instant understanding of your body’s messages. Be patient while you learn the language your body speaks.  

Tip 7: Distinguish appetites from cravings

Pause and ask yourself: “Am I really hungry?” Is your body calling for sustenance? Or do you simply crave a specific taste?” As you become more fluent in your body’s language, you will become more able to distinguish between appetite and craving.  

Tip 8: Eat food close to its natural state

In our fast-paced society, we depend a lot on processed and ready-to-eat foods, which are loaded with additives. By choosing foods which are as close to their natural state as possible, we can keep our choices simple and more healthful. As food writer Michael Pollan advises “Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” 

Tip 9: Don’t be dogmatic!  

People often feel wonderful on a special diet for a short time, but that great feeling of wellbeing doesn’t always last.  Cleansing diets such as veganism, raw foods or juicing bring great short-term results but cannot sustain the body’s long term and changing nutritional requirements. Be flexible in your food philosophies rather than feeling that you must become a hard-core adherent of any one “diet.”

You may feel this approach is demanding, but with practice, Zen eating becomes natural and pleasurable. While there is a lot of conflicting information out there, listening to your body will guide you towards a way of eating that’s right for you. This practice allows you to come into alignment with what you need, what you crave, and what you actually eat. The Zen of eating enables you to joyfully honor your body’s authentic needs and lovingly nurture your soul through mindful eating. We hope you try the practice of mindful eating and give into Zen.

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Exercise Can Help Reduce Postpartum Depression

Let’s Talk Fitness and Postnatal Depression

Learn how exercise can help beat the blues.

Your baby was up all night, and all that crying and screaming made sure that you were, too. Tired and exhausted, you drag yourself out of bed at the crack of dawn and wonder if you’ll ever find a semblance of who you were before you had children.  

For some postnatal women, getting up and out of bed is actually a good start to their day. For others, it may be one of the most difficult things to do, especially when those baby blues haven’t gone away and you are left feeling overwhelmed, resentful, sad, or depressed.  It is common to have the baby blues up to a few weeks after the birth of your baby – after all, having a baby can take a lot from your body and a lot happens in the healing process post-birth. However, when that feeling continues past about a month or if you begin having darker thoughts, it may be a good time to consult your doctor. 

Baby Blues versus Postnatal Depression

Baby blues are common, and most mothers will have this from a couple of weeks up to a month post-birth – whether it’s their first, third, or fifth child. Your hormone levels drop, you are sleep-deprived, and you are now responsible for a tiny human who cannot communicate in any way other than cry, scream, poop, and puke. There is an abundance of new challenges and, with every baby, the challenges will be different. Know that this is normal and okay.

If, however, you find yourself not feeling any better, and your mood continues to be low or your thoughts darken, it’s possible that you have postnatal depression (PND). PND is likely if you have had depression before having a child or if it runs in your family. If you find yourself swinging wildly from happy to sad, struggling to get simple tasks like showering and getting dressed done, feeling anxious for most of the day, or experiencing a loss of appetite, then I highly recommend you reach out and speak to a healthcare professional.

Exercise and Postnatal Depression

I’ve always been ‘sporty’, so I continued to train through both my pregnancies. However, it wasn’t until after having my boys that I realised how important exercise was for me mentally. Until then, I always saw exercise as ‘keeping fit’ and helping my body look and feel good. Now, having completed Personal Training certifications and specialising in pre- and post-natal fitness, combined with my degree in psychology and background in coaching, I cannot begin to stress how important it is for new mums. 

There have been numerous studies illustrating that making time for exercise can help improve depressive symptoms in new mums. Exercise can help you in the following ways:

  • Increase the feel-good hormones in your brain. By bringing in more oxygen, it helps stimulate endorphins that help increase your sense of well-being.  
  • Aid in your postnatal recovery by helping strengthen your body.
  • Reduce some of the baby weight.
  • Help you focus. When exercising – be it for 30 minutes or an hour – you are concentrating on yourself and not the other hundreds of other things you would normally have going on. 

Increasing endorphins and giving yourself a sense of well-being sets you up for the day, so if you can, exercise in the morning. When you feel good about yourself, it will cascade – like a ripple in a pond – to others around you, including your baby, partner, and friends. The tasks that were once challenging may not seem as challenging, and you will likely feel more upbeat and positive.

Don’t get me wrong, with postnatal depression, it can be really difficult to get up out of bed – let alone exercise. This is not to negate how you feel, rather simply encourage you to try. Try to get up and do something for yourself – even for just 10 to 20 minutes – as you are worth the effort. 

Exercise with Your Baby

If you want to include your baby, that’s completely doable! Here are a few small exercises you can do with your baby to help both of you feel good. 

  • Lay your baby on the floor. Get yourself in a push-up position and, with each push-up, come down and kiss your baby. Babies absolutely love this – you will get the giggles galore!  
  • Squat with your baby facing outwards and, if you have a mirror, do it in front of the mirror. Babies love to see themselves! As you squat, try to make some funny noises or sounds. 
  • Squat to press while holding your baby under their arms and facing you. Squat then as you come up from the squat, press them above your head with a “woosh” sound. They usually love the rush and you will get a few giggles from them. Plus, it will help you get some strength and toning in your arms and shoulders – win-win!

Find a Postnatal Class or Trainer

There are several amazing companies and personal trainers who can assist you with your journey, especially here in Dubai. Check out UrbanEnergy – I trained with them pre- and post-natal. The trainers I had actually inspired me to become the trainer and coach I am today. There is also LeFitmom, which has bespoke programmes for all stages of motherhood.

There are trainers who can come to you so that you can keep within the comforts of your own home. On the other hand, if you feel like you want to get out and really embrace time for yourself, there are many postnatal training groups that you can join. Not only will you get to work out, but you’ll also connect with other mums. What better way than to do it with other mums who are all experiencing similar things? Some of my best friendships today, 12 years on, were formed with my trainer and the other mums who I trained with! 

If you’re a mum in Muscat and looking for fitness advice, feel free to reach out to Sharee Hendry by clicking here.  

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Hypothyroidism symptoms and causes

Hypothyroidism 101: The Causes, the Symptoms, and More

All the basics, covered.

Hypothyroidism is a condition that’s characterised by abnormally low thyroid hormone production. There are several disorders that can result in hypothyroidism, and these disorders may directly or indirectly involve the thyroid gland. As the thyroid hormone affects growth, development, and many cellular processes, inadequate thyroid hormone has widespread consequences for the body.

The easiest way to understand hypothyroidism is to consider its root meaning. ‘Hypo’ means too little, while ‘thyroidism’ is a disease of the thyroid. Hypothyroidism, therefore, is a disease of too little thyroid activity.

What Are Thyroid Hormones?

Thyroid hormones are produced by the thyroid gland. This gland is located in the lower part of the neck, below the Adam’s apple. The gland wraps around the windpipe (trachea) and has a shape that is similar to a butterfly, formed by two wings (lobes) and attached by a middle part (isthmus). 

The thyroid gland uses iodine (mostly available from the diet in foods such as seafood, bread, and salt) to produce thyroid hormones. The two most important thyroid hormones are thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which account for 99% and 1% of thyroid hormones present in the blood respectively. However, the hormone with the most biological activity is T3. Once released from the thyroid gland into the blood, a large amount of T4 is converted into T3, the active hormone that affects the metabolism of cells.

What Causes Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is a very common condition. It is more common in women than in men, and its incidence increases with age. Here are some of the common causes of hypothyroidism in adults.

Inflammation of the Thyroid Gland (Thyroiditis)

Hypothyroidism often results from previous or currently ongoing inflammation of the thyroid gland, which leaves a large percentage of the cells of the thyroid damaged (or dead) and incapable of producing sufficient hormone. The most common cause of thyroid gland failure is called autoimmune thyroiditis (also called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) or, in other words, thyroid inflammation caused by a person’s own immune system.

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder that’s caused by the immune system attacking healthy tissues. In Hashimoto’s disease, immune-system cells lead to the death of the thyroid’s hormone-producing cells.

Medical Treatment

This fairly broad category includes procedures or medications that affect the thyroid’s ability to produce enough hormones to meet the body’s demands. Some of these hypothyroidism-causing treatments are done to address another thyroid disorder, but can have the side effect of inducing hypothyroidism. For example, the treatment of many thyroid conditions – including thyroid cancer – requires surgical removal of a portion or all of the thyroid gland. If the thyroid-producing cells left in the body are not enough to meet the needs of the body, the patient will develop hypothyroidism.

What Are the Risk Factors for Hypothyroidism?

Anyone can develop hypothyroidism, but you are at increased risk if you:

  • are a woman
  • are over the age of 50
  • were pregnant or had a baby within the past six months
  • have a family history of thyroid disease or any autoimmune disorder
  • have an autoimmune disorder, such as type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis
  • have taken antithyroid medications (a treatment for hyperthyroidism) or have been treated with radioactive iodine
  • have had thyroid surgery (partial or total thyroidectomy)
  • have been exposed to radiation to your neck or upper chest area

What Are the Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?

The symptoms of hypothyroidism can vary with the severity of the deficiency in thyroid hormone production and the length of time that the body has been deprived of the proper amount of hormone. Symptoms also vary between individuals – what may be one person’s main complaint might not affect another person. Most people will have a combination of symptoms. Occasionally, some patients with hypothyroidism may have no symptoms at all, or they are so subtle that they go unnoticed. These symptoms are: 

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Weight gain or increased difficulty losing weight
  • Coarse, dry hair
  • Dry, rough pale skin
  • Hair loss
  • Cold intolerance (you can’t tolerate cold temperatures like those around you)
  • Muscle cramps and frequent muscle aches
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Memory loss
  • Abnormal menstrual cycles
  • Decreased libido

If you have one or more of the symptoms listed, contact your doctor. Additionally, you may need to seek the skills of an endocrinologist. If you have already been diagnosed and treated for hypothyroidism and continue to have any or all of these symptoms, it’s important to discuss it with your physician(s).

How Is Hypothyroidism Diagnosed?

A diagnosis of hypothyroidism can take into account the following:

Medical and Family History 

You should take care to tell your doctor if any of the following points are a part of your medical and family history.

  • Changes in your health that suggest that your body is slowing down
  • If you’ve ever had thyroid surgery
  • If you’ve ever had radiation to your neck to treat cancer
  • If you’re taking any of the medicines that can cause hypothyroidism (such as amiodarone, lithium, interferon alpha, interleukin-2, and maybe thalidomide)
  • Whether any of your family members have thyroid disease

Physical Exam

The doctor will check your thyroid gland and look for changes such as dry skin, swelling, slower reflexes, and a slower heart rate.

Blood Tests

Two blood tests are used in the diagnosis of hypothyroidism.

TSH (Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone) Test

This is the most important and sensitive test for hypothyroidism. It measures how much of the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4) the thyroid gland is being asked to make. An abnormally high TSH means hypothyroidism – the thyroid gland is being asked to make more T4 because there isn’t enough T4 in the blood.

T4 Tests

Most of the T4 in the blood is attached to a protein called thyroxine-binding globulin. The “bound” T4 can’t get into body cells. Only about 1% – 2% of T4 in the blood is unattached (“free”) and can get into cells. The free T4 and the free T4 index are both simple blood tests that measure how much unattached T4 is in the blood and available to get into cells.

How Is Hypothyroidism Treated?

Hypothyroidism can’t be cured, but in almost every patient, can be completely controlled. It is treated by replacing the amount of hormone that your own thyroid can no longer make in order to bring your T4 and TSH levels back to normal levels. So, even if your thyroid gland can’t work right, T4 replacement can restore your body’s thyroid hormone levels and your body’s function. Synthetic thyroxine pills contain a hormone exactly like the T4 that the thyroid gland itself makes. All hypothyroid patients except those with severe myxedema (life-threatening hypothyroidism) can be treated as outpatients, not having to be admitted to the hospital. 

Are There Any Side Effects of Treatment? 

The only dangers of thyroxine are caused by taking too little or too much. If you take too little, your hypothyroidism will continue. If you take too much, you’ll develop the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid gland. 

The most common symptoms of too much thyroid hormone are fatigue, an inability to sleep, greater appetite, nervousness, shakiness, feeling hot when other people are cold, and trouble exercising because of weak muscles, shortness of breath, and a racing skipping heart. Patients who have hyperthyroid symptoms at any time during thyroxine replacement therapy should have their TSH tested. If it is low, indicating too much thyroid hormone, their dose needs to be lowered.

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Commonly Asked Questions about Autism

5 Commonly Asked Questions about Autism, Answered

In honour of Autistic Pride Day, tomorrow.


While there are no statistics available on the number of people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the UAE, it has been reported that most autism centres are not only operating at full capacity, but also have long waiting lists. It’s no wonder, then, that 2021 brought with it the launch of the National Autism Policy that aims at both supporting caregivers and improving the health and well-being of people with ASD. It also focuses on upgrading the skills of personnel working at ASD centres and raising the efficiency of services offered.

Globally, the World Health Organization estimates that one in 100 children has autism, with reported prevalence varying substantially across studies. For the uninitiated, ASD is a complex developmental condition involving persistent challenges with social communication, restricted interests, and repetitive behaviour. Autistic people are also frequently misunderstood because of their differences, making Autistic Pride Day – marked annually on June 18 – so vital. First celebrated in 2005, the event is rooted in instilling such individuals with pride over their neurodiversity. The Gaggler set out to support the cause, tapping Dr. Ateeq Qureshi, Senior Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at Priory Wellbeing Centre, to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about autism. Listen in.

1. What causes autism?

There is no single known cause for autism. Both genetic and environmental factors may play a role. Genetic mutations may be inherited and the probability of having autism is higher if one has an immediate family member who is autistic. Parental age (older), premature birth, low birth weight, and complications during birth are all correlated with a higher risk of having autism. There is evidence for correlations of autism with certain environmental factors such as air pollution, heavy metal exposure, and some medicines – all of which are not very well understood and being researched. Sometimes, autism can be associated with genetic disorders such as Rett syndrome or Fragile X syndrome.

2. Where do you stand on the vaccines and autism debate?

The vaccine and autism debate was settled in the mainstream scientific community many years ago, with the consensus opinion that there was no clear evidence linking the two. In fact, the original study that proposed this link had to be retracted with the author judged to have acted dishonourably. There have been several well-designed studies and analyses over the last two decades that have shown no connection between the MMR vaccine and autism. Despite the wealth of evidence, this idea persists, and it is important that it is debunked as the harm it is causing is very real and significant.

Frequently Asked Questions About Autism – Answered

3. Autism is still so misunderstood – why do you think that is?

Autism is generally misunderstood as there is such a wide variety of presentations, with significant differences between those who have major needs – including 24/7 care in some cases – and those with high-functioning autism and many others in between. Media representations are not always correct. There is often a stigma attached to the term, and many people view it through the lens of that stigma. It is sometimes helpful to conceptualise it as a heterogeneous condition, and not as a disorder.

4. What exactly does the expression ‘on the spectrum’ mean?

Autism is known as a ‘spectrum’ disorder because there is wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms that people experience. The formal diagnosis in the DSM-5 is called autism spectrum disorder, and there is no difference between autism and autism spectrum disorder. Some people prefer to be known as being on the spectrum rather than having autism or being autistic.

5. How is autism diagnosed in young children, especially in terms of the diagnostic tools and techniques used?

Autism diagnosis entails a detailed clinical history, especially history of early development and observation of the child. There are structured assessment tools for both history and for observation, i.e. the Autism Diagnostic Interview (ADI) and Autism Observation Diagnostic Schedule (ADOS). In addition, collateral information from teachers and other supplementary assessment tools to rule out associated or related disorders are also used.

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How to calm mind

If You’re an Overthinker, This One’s for You

Here are three ways to calm your mind.

Overthinking, also known as rumination, is when you repeatedly concentrate on the same thought or scenario to the point where it interferes with your everyday life. Overthinking is widespread and affects many of us. According to Forbes, 73% of people aged 25 to 35, as well as 52 percent of people aged 45 to 55, are regular overthinkers. 

There are two types of overthinking: dwelling on the past and fretting about the future. If we overthink everything in our life, it becomes a habit or self-soothing behaviour that we adopt in situations where a solution is required. Overthinking can even make things worse. You may feel ‘stuck’ or unable to take any action if you’re battling with your own thoughts. It can be hard to focus on anything else or remove certain thoughts from your mind. You may feel as if you’re trapped in a maze of thoughts, each one leading to the next – thus creating a chain of unpleasant thoughts.

It’s critical to recognise when you’re overthinking so that you can use the correct tools and techniques to combat negative thoughts and prevent an unhealthy pattern from forming. Interestingly, though, if used the right way, overthinking can help us manifest our biggest dreams. The way it’s normalised today, however, isn’t the best approach. 

While not always the case, overthinking has been connected to sadness. That being said, not all overthinking is unhealthy. In the short term, having many thoughts about an issue can actually motivate you to eliminate negatives and become prepared to overcome hurdles. When you’re apprehensive about a big work presentation, for example, the stress can motivate you to put your best foot forward. You may put in a lot of effort on the project and leave home a little early on the day of the presentation to make sure you arrive on time. 

However, overthinking becomes unhealthy when it keeps you from taking action or interferes with your daily life and well-being. Stress can also make it more difficult for you to focus and remember things, making work, housekeeping, and other daily duties more challenging. These duties will take longer if you are stressed, which might lead to even more stress.

How to calm your mind

Overthinking and Poor Sleep

Why do we stay up thinking all night? Overthinking at night happens primarily as the brain processes what occurred during the day at night. This happens as we don’t have the space to digest our ideas throughout the day because our days are now filled with several things that involve taking in large amounts of information.

In many cases, we spend hours overthinking at night about a situation we faced in the past or worrying about the future. It keeps us awake and disrupts our sleep cycle in the process. Thus, by interfering with our natural sleep cycle, overthinking can have a negative impact on our overall health and well-being, too.

Figuring Out the Cause of Overthinking

Many people believe that overthinking is a struggle, but most of the time, it’s not actually a struggle – rather one of the symptoms of a struggle that we are unwilling to address. It’s the fear of not resolving a problem that causes us to overthink things. 

This usually stems from not being used to resolving issues and lacking the courage to do it. We use overthinking as a coping mechanism to avoid dealing with the situation at hand and, as a result, when it comes to resolving the conflict, we tend to overthink it. 

Is It a Disease or a Symptom?

Overthinking can cause troubled mental health and, as such, must be treated right away to minimise its effects on our lives and physical health. It’s a warning sign that something’s awry, a signal that the underlying issue is lurking underneath the surface.

It can also be a symptom that can indicate depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and other mental struggles. The best approach to combat it is to seek therapy and professional help, and acquire the necessary tools and techniques because if left untreated, it will begin to cause far more problems than anticipated.

A happy woman smiling.

Three Ways to Avoid Overthinking

1. Keep track of patterns and triggers.

A little mindfulness and focus can help you get a handle on your overthinking. Keep a journal and jot down particular instances where you found yourself overthinking or worrying. After some practice, you’ll start to see patterns and anticipate overthinking triggers. This will assist you in developing a coping strategy for when you know you may overthink.

2. Seek professional assistance.

When you overthink all the time to such an extent that it interferes with your everyday activities, you should seek expert help. As this usually indicates a mental struggle, professional assistance is required in order to be treated.

3. Make your thinking more challenging.

You don’t have to believe everything your mind tells you – even if it feels that way. Overthinking can be stifled by challenging fears and ruminations, and viewing them objectively. Evaluate if a thought is rational, reasonable, or useful. There are moments when I, too, begin to overthink and the negative thoughts begin to creep in. As humans, our default response is to be aware of the negative so as to protect ourselves from it. Being mindful of the fact that we have spotted it and can now work on it, rather than allowing it to take over our minds is the key.

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Have You Lost All Motivation to Move?

Meet fitness snacking.

Raise your hand if, lately, you’ve lost all motivation to move. Guess what? You’re not alone. A 2021 study out of McMaster University found that while mental health issues like anxiety and depression prompted some exercise in a quest for stress relief, they proved to be a barrier to physical activity for others. And fitness snacking may just be the solution if you’re ready to repair your relationship with exercise.

Dubbed one of the year’s biggest fitness trends (much to the relief of working mothers and others who are pressed for time), the concept of fitness snacking is hardly new. While bite-sized exercise echoes the patterns of high-intensity interval training, it came into prominence as a result of global lockdowns, increasingly sedentary lifestyles, and the subsequent boom in digital fitness. 

For the uninitiated, fitness snacking is defined as short bursts of movement interspersed throughout the day (20 seconds of bodyweight squats, 60 seconds of jumping jacks, climbing a few flights of stairs, or even dancing to Charlie Puth’s “Light Switch”) as opposed to working out for 45 or 60 minutes at a stretch. If it elevates your heart rate, it counts. Bonus: activewear is optional. Admittedly, this approach feels more timely than ever, especially as working from home has become the norm for so many of us.

“One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is thinking that they need to exercise in a certain way to be fit,” says sport and exercise psychology consultant Hannah Winter, emphasising that there are countless ways in which people can bring movement into their day-to-day lives. “I often hear people say that they ‘should go to the gym’ or ‘should run’ – only to find out they hate the gym or running. One of the most important things is to find the type of exercise you enjoy. If an individual found that short bursts of exercise were something they enjoyed and could stick to, I would be supportive.” 

What’s more, the pandemic has made such short bursts more accessible than ever. “There are numerous fitness professionals providing short, equipment-free workouts through social media and apps that people can do in the comfort of their own home, thereby lowering the barrier to entry for people to get into fitness.” Part of Hannah’s role involves assisting individuals with their mindset in order to achieve their goals, so she’s also on the ‘start small’ bandwagon. 

“I would encourage anyone getting started on their health journey or returning to exercise after a long time to start with realistic goals. The objective should be to build some simple keystone habits that, over time, become routine and form a solid foundation from which to build upon. The mind can become an obstacle at first. Thoughts like ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I am not an exerciser’ can be overwhelming, but breaking fitness down into manageable objectives can make it more achievable. And once you start seeing that you can do it, you realise that your mental narrative isn’t true. The reality is that achieving any goal comes from small daily actions that, over time, yield results.”

Incidentally, Hannah’s clients include not only elite athletes, coaches, and personal trainers, but also recreational exercisers of all abilities. Explaining who would benefit most from this approach, she says, “If someone was to have work, family, or caring responsibilities that prevented them from fitting longer forms of exercise into their day, fitness snacking could be a great fit. It also could be a good option for someone who is lacking motivation or has struggled to maintain consistent exercise habits.” 

People often take on too much, she says, only to discover it’s impossible to sustain. “If someone is looking to start engaging in regular exercise, I would encourage them to start with some small, easy-to-do steps to build in the habit and then gradually increase over time. Lastly, it could be a great option for someone who is just getting started on their health journey or slowly returning to exercise after a long time.” As for those days that call for more snacking than fitness snacking? Forgive yourself – and reach for the Cheetos instead.

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Myths About Veganism

 4 Myths About Veganism That Don’t Hold Up

Don’t believe everything you hear.

Veganism is everywhere these days, and its supporters are quick to highlight its many benefits – as well as the drawbacks of non-vegan diets. But how much of it is fiction versus fact? Here, we address the top four myths about this increasingly popular lifestyle.

MYTH 1: Meat causes cancer.

Cancer is a complex disease that doesn’t have one single cause and can be influenced by many different factors. Vegans are not immune to cancer – and still get cancer. It’s also likely, from a dietary perspective, that your risk of cancer depends on your diet as a whole, rather than the inclusion or exclusion of meat. This was reflected in the EPIC-Oxford study of cancer rates in vegetarians and non-vegetarians (all of whom were quite healthy).

They found a small reduction in the risk of all cancers in vegetarians, but a higher risk of colorectal cancer. The overall risk of cancer in both groups was very low, thus supporting the idea that there is more than one factor at play, and that your modifiable risk of cancer is as much about other lifestyle factors like cigarettes, alcohol, sedentary behaviour, and limited vegetable intake. 

MYTH 2: Eating dairy leaches calcium from your bones.

A common criticism of dairy products is that they contribute to the development of osteoporosis, a type of bone disease. People who promote this myth say that this occurs due to milk being ‘acidic’ and causing calcium to leak out of your bones to neutralise the threat, thus making them weaker. This theory doesn’t hold up for a number of reasons. Firstly, it ignores the bone-friendly profile of dairy foods, such as how rich they are in calcium, protein, and minerals – all of which are essential for good bone health. Controlled trials also show beneficial effects, whereby eating dairy leads to improved bone health. 

Secondly, this theory does not acknowledge the role that your kidneys play in maintaining blood pH. Your kidneys filter out any acidic compounds and you pass them out in your urine – your bones aren’t involved in the process at all. Overall, there are many factors at play in bone health, including physical activity, diet, age, and hormones. The onus is on you to make an informed decision, and if you choose to avoid dairy, please do get in touch with a practitioner who can ensure your diet is balanced to make up for the omission.

Common Misconceptions About Veganism

MYTH 3: Eating eggs is as harmful as smoking.

If you watched the recent Netflix documentary What the Health, then you would have heard the following statement: “Eating a single egg could decrease your lifespan as much as five cigarettes would.” This is most definitely a myth! Eggs always had a bad reputation thanks to the high cholesterol content in its yolks. However, we now know that dietary cholesterol has very little impact on our blood cholesterol levels.

The Netflix statement is a case of people cherry-picking research studies. It seems to be drawn from an observational study stating that eating egg yolks was associated with an increased build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries. A few things to note with regards to this particular study: 

  • The researchers never reported an exact amount with regards to eggs and cigarettes, but said that both followed a similar linear pattern. 
  • The subjects in the study did not have heart disease and, apart from smoking, other aspects of their diet and lifestyle were not measured – meaning the link could’ve been caused by any of the other factors. 
  • We already know from other observational studies and intervention studies that eggs are a healthy choice for many, so don’t be afraid to include eggs in your diet. 

MYTH 4: A vegan diet is the healthiest diet. 

One study that included 11,000 people over a 17-year period showed that the likelihood of dying in a set time frame was halved if you were health-seeking – choosing more whole foods, engaging in daily movement, avoiding vices like smoking, etc. Interestingly, whether you ate meat or not made no difference. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be vegan. You should, however, make an informed choice.

Vegan food isn’t the only way to improve health markers like cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose control. In fact, dietary patterns that emphasise plants, such as the Mediterranean diet, provide similar benefits. Do remember that we humans are able to thrive on a multitude of different foods and styles of eating. It’s not the label that makes your diet healthy, but rather your dietary habits over weeks, months, and years that will make a difference. So, yes, a vegan diet can be healthy, but so can other diets that stress plant-based foods.                           

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Ways to Destress in Dubai

Live in Dubai and Looking to Destress?

Help is here.


Considering May is Mental Health Awareness Month, the topic of stress – and how to tackle it – feels more timely than ever. But what if conventional solutions aren’t cutting it? After all, yoga isn’t for everyone, some people aren’t comfortable with the idea of therapy, and talking a long walk in scorching temperatures is hardly appealing. Enter: seven unique ways to destress in Dubai, one for each day of the week.

WHAT

Art psychotherapy

WHERE

 ATIC Psychological & Counselling Center

WHY

Artistic talent is not a prerequisite to give art psychotherapy a try – it’s the process of making the artwork, not the end result, that matters. And because therapy of this sort is carried out by a qualified art psychotherapist, it’s used for both diagnostic and treatment purposes. Not only does art psychotherapy alleviate stress and foster self-awareness, but it also addresses issues that verbal psychotherapy cannot reach.

WHAT

Drum therapy

WHERE

Dubai Drums

WHY

Like art psychotherapy, drum therapy entails no verbal communication, yet promotes healing and self-expression – especially when done in a drumming circle. This is because rhythmic activities readjust one’s focus and boost self-esteem, thereby calming the anxious mind. In fact, techniques of this sort have been employed for thousands of years to promote healing, especially as it’s safe and suited to all ages.

Dubai Drums

WHAT

Flotation therapy

WHERE

Point Zero Floatation Center

WHY

Don’t underestimate the stress-busting benefits of aquatic R&R, especially when it comes to floating in a highly concentrated solution of epsom salt (magnesium sulphate) in a private cabin or pod, with the water temperature set between 35.5°C and 35.8°C. As for why it works? Magnesium has been proven to reduce stress hormone – formally known as cortisol – levels, making sensory deprivation of this sort practically foolproof.

WHAT

Hypnosis

WHERE

UAE Hypnosis

WHY

Hypnosis is one of the least understood techniques when it comes to stress management, but don’t let that deter you from keeping an open mind towards this ancient practice. And if you’re not quite ready to give self-hypnosis a try, guided hypnosis comes highly recommended as a trained expert will walk you through a powerful visualisation exercise in order to both let go of stress and regain control.

WHAT

Rage rooms

WHERE

The Smash Room

WHY

Do you really need a reason for this one? Well, it’s cheaper than therapy, for starters. It’s also designed to help participants release pent-up rage by smashing everything in sight – vases, plates, old printers, and old-school TVs included – in a judgment-free space. Perhaps that explains why 60% of the customers at The Smash Room are women? And while experts continue to study this area for more conclusive evidence, several psychologists say the act of smashing releases endorphins (a.k.a. happy hormones), even steering their clients in this direction.

The Smash Room

WHAT

Sound healing

WHERE

Illuminations

WHY

Crunchy, new age-y techniques are admittedly not for everyone, but the ancient practice of sound healing certainly deserves a spot on this list. It brings together percussive instruments like gongs, triangles, tuning forks, and Tibetan singing bowls to help enter a theta state of very deep relaxation, thereby silencing the human mind through vibrations – a must-try if the stress is more chronic in nature.

WHAT

Watsu

WHERE

BMS Awakening and Healing Center

WHY

Combining water and shiatsu results in – you guessed it – watsu, a practice that has long been used in South America. Taking place in a pool generally set at a temperature of 31ºC, a therapist will gently cradle, rock, and stretch you in a series of rotational movements, all of which lead to fuller breathing and muscle relaxation. Translation: lower stress levels, less anxiety, and sleeping more soundly than you have in ages.

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Birthing Hacks For Pregnant Woman

7 Birthing Hacks Every Pregnant Woman Should Know

According to a beloved birth influencer.

In a world where influencer fatigue is all too real, one woman by the name of Emma Armstrong – a.k.a. The Naked Doula – is using her platform to revolutionise birth and help pregnant women worldwide. The award-winning birth influencer has dedicated her life to educating women on how to have an empowered birth, turning tragedy into triumph.

“For me, being a birth influencer is helping women to find their power and influence their birth experience,” she explains. “I’ve always been a cheerleader for women, but when my mum passed away during my pregnancy, I was inspired. I took the grief and powered it into something truly special – and with that came my mission to inspire others globally!” Today, Emma not only conducts the Visual HypnoBirth Course that’s rooted in visual information to change the way women perceive childbirth, but she’s also the creator of fun yet informative flash cards designed to guide women from pregnancy to the early days of motherhood.

As for what she believes an empowered birth entails? Well, it starts with you. “Only you can empower yourself,” she asserts. “I don’t empower women – I give them the tools and motivation they need to find the power inside of them and relight a fire to feel confident and in control of their birth experience by making informed decisions.” As the realm of childbirth remains riddled with myths and misconceptions, Emma says she wishes that women would stop believing that they have to do what they’re told. “We often have no clue that we have the right to full body autonomy and can decline anything – we can make all the decisions about our bodies and birth!” Here, she shares seven of her top birthing hacks.

Birthing Hacks For Woman

1

“Drinking from a straw whilst in labour instantly relaxes the masseter muscles, which you find on each side of your face. Once we are able to relax these muscles, its connection to our pelvic floor means this relaxes, too. In turn, you have a relaxed vagina and more elasticated perineum. It also means that, during contractions, our uterus has the space and room to do its job without restriction as our pelvic floor muscles are relaxed!”

2

“Extra-virgin olive oil is extremely beneficial in pregnancy and birth. I recommend women use this on their perineum whilst doing perineal massage as it doesn’t affect your vaginal microbiota – so basically, it won’t affect your pH levels or that wonder bacteria we need! Doing this regularly from 34 weeks decreases the chances of tearing in childbirth.”

3

“Dates, as mentioned in the Quran, were used at the birth of Jesus! Mary ate them to help ease the ‘pain of childbirth’ and there is definitely truth in this. If eaten from 34 weeks daily (x6 medjool), dates are linked to an easier labour. This is because they strengthen the uterus muscles, have a positive effect on the cervix, and have been shown to help women dilate quicker and with less discomfort, so they’re an all-round winner.”

4

“Singing is such a beautiful tool to use whilst in labour. There are a few benefits to this. The first is that as soon as we start singing, we activate the vagus nerve, allowing our brain to switch into a state of calm. Feel-good hormones are released and, generally, we feel amazing. It’s also been theorised that, as we sing and our voice box vibrates, the cervix/vagina has these same vibrations. The term ‘cervix’ comes from the Latin word for the neck. Also, the vagina and the throat are almost identical to each other in structure, so the more we sing, the more we dilate – in theory!”

5

“The phrase ‘Floppy Face Floppy Fanny’ was originally coined by American midwife Ina May Gaskin many years ago, when she shared how the face and bottom are connected. As I studied this, I found that it’s actually everything to do with the vagina – the face is connected to this area in so many ways, starting from when we’re embryos. With the word ‘fanny’ used for vagina in the UK, it made sense to create this mantra that women could chant during birth. Not only does it have an extremely powerful impact, but it’s literally changing the way we birth worldwide. In turn, it’s become a solid favourite in my community and something that I’m recognised for.”

6

“While the position at birth should always be instinctive, laying on your back goes against gravity. It also increases the chance of intervention tearing and overall loss of control. Instead, being upright or even laying on your side can bring your baby into the world a lot easier and with less need for intervention. KICO – a term I coined that means Knees In, Calves Out – is a technique where you’d bring your knees inwards and feet and calves out. If you can’t do this, then just bringing your knees parallel makes the difference. This way, the biomechanics of the pelvis means that the outlet space opens, giving the baby optimal room to turn and be born.”

7

“The environment is one of the most important things when it comes to birth, and we can influence this wherever we are! Start by thinking about the environmental factors of the womb that your baby is in warmth, trust, safe, familiar sounds, darkness with shades of red, hydration. Now think about how you can alter your environment to match this. Turn down the lights, wear an eye mask, listen to music that’s familiar to you, and take items that are of sentimental value or hold wonderful memories.”

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How to Move on from Victim Mentality

Is Your Mental Health Still on Victim Mode? 

Regain control of your life already.

What is victim mentality? The word ‘victim’ is thrown about a lot these days, but most people aren’t aware of how and when it should be used, and do not understand the impact it creates in our lives. Here, we’re going to delve into who a victim is to reduce all this confusion. 

A victim, in this context, is a person who is at the receiving end of a bad incident or emotion when it comes to mental health. Not everyone is a victim till they allow themselves to be. You would have likely seen people give advice to take responsibility for our actions, no matter what the situation is. But most of us don’t know how to do it and what impact it can have. 

How is this related to victim mentality? Consider this. Have you noticed that your life is circling the same path over and over again? Why is someone else always around you to trigger certain emotions – be it happiness or sadness? Why can’t you have a peaceful mind? Why is happiness always a short-term thing for you? If you have been thinking in this direction, congratulations! You are now one step closer to identifying the victim mentality in you and finding an answer to the problems that have been with you all your life. 

How can victim mentality take over your entire life?

Let’s start with an example of victim mentality and how it turns into a cycle. If a friend hurts you and you are upset about it, you are now feeling sad because of someone else’s actions. This can cause you to feel like you were the victim of that incident. With the rise of this feeling, you are now giving your power to someone else. It’s like allowing them to be a trigger in your life. You give the other person the power to control your life.

Being a trigger, they can control your unconscious mind and make you think, do, or act as they like. By giving the conscious mind and thinking power away, you are entering a very scary path where this process repeat and become a pattern. It means that you’ll come across similar people who will trigger you and make you sad because that’s all that you know and are familiar with.

Ways to Stop Feeling Like a Victim

This is where you need to take responsibility for your actions. You have to tell yourself that you cannot react to another person and you must maintain control of your conscious mind. Now that we have decoded victim mentality, the same thinking can be applied to happiness, too. If you start relying on others for your happiness or the outside environment to make you happy, you are letting yourself be dependent on it – and not learning to be truly happy. 

Whether it’s creating a cycle of sadness or depending externally for happiness, these habits can make life very difficult, very quickly. You cannot find long-term happiness or peace within yourself with such an approach as you’re letting yourself be a mere puppet. So what’s the solution? Believe that just as outside factors can control you, you can control the outside world, too.

If you can let your inner self control you – including your sadness, happiness, and all other emotions – then you will feel that the people around you cannot actually control your mood, especially with such intensity. You might still be sad or happy because of others, but they are no longer in control, and you know how to make yourself feel better.

Ways to Stop Feeling Like a Victim Once

How can you make yourself feel in control? 

Changing your attitude is not going to happen overnight. You’ll have to undertake a lot of learning, unlearning, decoding, and adopting new habits while dropping older ones. All of this effort will help you in personal development and identifying a path that you can follow. Once these things align in your life, they become what many call coincidences and opportunities – though in reality, they are simply the results of your effort.

You have to realise that you are the power centre in this change. If you give your power away as a result of victim mentality, you’ll lose everything. In comparison, if you learn to control it, you can manipulate how you feel, what happens in your life, and how things align in your life – all of it will be in your control. The condition to gaining this power is to let go of victim mentality.

Therapy is one way to approach this as it helps you analyse your behaviour and thinking patterns and gives you the tools and techniques to change and decode them. You have to fight the situation. Let the conscious mind take control and utilise its creative and logical parts to make you believe that you deserve a really happy life – and before you know it, you’ll create it. 

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Benefits of Vitamin C

Here’s the (Complete) Lowdown on Vitamin C

Curious what all the fuss is about?

Vitamin C seems to be everywhere these days, from multivitamin supplements and cosmetics to skincare routines – but what’s all the fuss about? Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid, is not made by the body, making it is an essential dietary component as well as a helpful skincare staple.

The Benefits of Vitamin C

Oral vitamin C is needed to make collagen, which is necessary for healthy connective tissue, cellular growth, repair, and wound healing to produce nerve-transmitting chemicals, neutralise cell-damaging free radicals, and support our immune system. It’s also needed for the absorption of minerals, such as iron from plant foods.

Severe vitamin C deficiency – now rare in the developed world – leads to a condition called scurvy, which is characterised by severe fatigue, connective tissue weakness, and bleeding. Smokers and those with suboptimal diets are at risk of this deficiency. There is also data to support vitamin C’s role in cancer prevention and treatment, cataract formation, eye degeneration, and heart disease prevention.

How to Get Vitamin C

Great sources of vitamin C include fresh fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruits, capsicum, and broccoli. Note that the cooking and prolonged storage of such foods can reduce their vitamin C content. Eating raw fruits and vegetables, and steaming rather than boiling vegetables, is also better for preserving their vitamin C content.

Dosing of oral vitamin C is personalised by age, gender, medical history, and current symptoms. What we do know is that the best way to get adequate vitamin C is through a healthy diet. The Institute of Functional Medicine advises more than nine portions daily for optimal health and well-being. Prolonged excessive oral vitamin C doses of 1 gram or more can contribute to kidney stone formation.

Health Benefits of Vitamin C

Vitamin C and Skincare

Skincare products feature vitamin C for a multitude of reasons. It offers some protection against UV light and pollution, supports skin brightening, evens out skin tone, and aids collagen formation (which in turn helps with wrinkles, fine lines, and creating firmer skin). Topical vitamin C is tolerated well by most people. However, minor skin irritation can occur with high potencies or those who have sensitive skin.

When choosing a vitamin C skincare product, always aim for potent subtypes that include L-ascorbic acid, ascorbyl palmitate, and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate. Ideally, the product should be in a slightly acidic water-free formulation – which makes serums a great choice. Starting with concentrations of 10% should be well tolerated by most individuals.

Meanwhile, combining vitamin C with other antioxidants can be a great way to see results. The formulation bottle should be opaque and airtight as vitamin C easily loses its antioxidant properties when exposed to heat, light, or air. Vitamin C undoubtedly possesses a powerhouse of supportive ingredients. For personalised medical advice, though, always speak to your family doctor.

Follow Dr. Preya Patel, a UK-trained Family Medicine Consultant and Functional Medicine Doctor, on Instagram.

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