The New Normal

The smile on my face… plastered.

How is lockdown going for you? Over the past three weeks, I have gone through ALL the emotions, and none of them have involved much productivity. There’s a strange thought that started spreading across mainstream social media channels that this is a time to learn a new skill whether that is playing a new instrument, learning a new language etc. Basically if you’re not doing any of the aforementioned things, then you’re a wasteman. Yesterday I was speaking to my supervisor who is part of the covid-19 response task force and he said something that is aiding in shifting my perspective in regards to what life post covid-19 is going to look like. Until we get to a point where scientists have created a reliable vaccine, we are going to have to find a way to go back to living not as we used to , but as our new world requires us to. Life is not going to look like what we previously knew, and in all honesty, we should be very glad about that. The normal that we were used to was unhealthy with ethnic groups with people that look like me, left on the outside. The old way of living was toxic. I suppose if you benefited from the old way of living,, you’d be resistant to accepting the reality that things are never going to be the same again.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

Y’all please don’t come for me and loop me in the same group as the crazy Christians who say covid-19 was sent by God for a mass cleanse to restore the good in humanity. RUN from those peeps!!! What I am saying, like Isaiah writes in the verse above, God can make our world (individual or collective) better in the midst of what feels like a crappy season in the wilderness. The one thing that we do know for certain, and that I think we can find some comfort and safety in is this: things are never going to be the same again, and that’s okay! It might actually be the best thing to come out of this., We’re still gonna have bad days, and that’s normal. It is a global pandemic after all. It’s okay to feel as though you’re not coping, and if you need a little bit more support, don’t be afraid to reach out. The only thing I’m working on is actually found in the title of a very popular Bee Gees song, ‘staying alive,’ and you know what? That is good enough.

Things to do under lockdown…

I was going to title this post ‘5 things to do under lockdown’ but this is just under five, and ‘4 things to do under lockdown’, doesn’t quite have the same ring. The alternative was ‘4 things to do while social distancing, but that’s quite the mouthful. So here we are with ‘things to do under lockdown.’

1. Get your nails did.

I’m not usually one to go the nail salon, mainly because of past experience with nail technicians who ask WAY too many questions with WAY too little knowledge of me. So I switched to press on nails. They’re cheap, easily replaced and as we practice social distancing, it’s the best way to keep your hands in tip top condition.

Nail colour is ‘Sand Tropez’ by Essie.

I bought the KISS long stiletto nails when I was in the U.K. from Boots, but it’s also available at Dischem and Clicks. I buy most of my toiletries from Dischem because for some odd reason, Clicks hike up the price of all their toiletries by like ZAR30, I’ve done the market research. At Dischem the nails retail for R149.95, while at Clicks they retail for R169… do the Math!

Kiss 100 Nails Long Stiletto

2. Learn a new skill, even if it’s as simple as making Dalgona coffee.

I’m not gonna lie, I’m not the biggest fan of coffee mainly because of how caffeine sensitive I am. I found this recipe on the Los Angeles Times after @milktpapi posted it on his feed. I knew I had to try it and it was a huge success. I’ve never really understood iced coffee but this was deliciousa! I substituted coconut sugar instead of regular sugar and used almond milk to make this completely vegan friendly.

3. Eat ice-cream!

This part is important because one does not simply go into lockdown without the necessary supplies and the new rule is that calories don’t count when you’re social distancing. If calories don’t count you have to go for the best and nothing is better than Häagen Dazs salted caramel. I had a pint for breakfast, nuff’ said folks!

4. Exercise

While it might seem tempting to stay in bed all day. The best thing we can do for ourselves right now is exercise. It boosts your immune system and also releases endorphins, which I’m sure you’ll agree, we all need right now! I did the above workout and not only did I work up a sweat but I had fun too!

So that’s my list of 4 things to do while social distancing. What’s on your list?

Fitness Reads: Jog On by Bella Mackie

I picked up this book on Sunday, the day of my flight back to South Africa after spending a glorious two weeks with my very yummy husband, look at him, he’s gorgeous.

No matter how many sleeping tablets I take (don’t take more than the recommended dosage), I never seem to fall asleep on the plane. My last journey, I read ‘The Beekeeper of Aleppo.’ A book so beautifully written and in many ways descriptive of the journey many immigrants face when they move to Europe/North Americas. One of my goals this year is to read at the very minimum two non-academic books each month. My partner and I were in WH Smith when my attention was captured by the bright blue cover and title of the book. There are a lot of things I love about my husband, one of them being his accent and classic British slang that I try to implement in my South African/Congolese life. One of those phrases is ‘jog on’ If we’re picking favourite slang phrases, this is mine.

jog on

1. Literally, to run along at a slow and deliberate place.
2. By extension, to make progress slowly, deliberately, or patiently.
3. Go away; get lost; beat it. Primarily heard in UK.

I initially picked this book up as I was looking for motivation to spur me on in my running routine. New year, new me, am I right? And aside from CrossFit, there is no other sport I love more than running. Mackie writes with ease in a comforting and, relatable way. If you think this is a book purely about running, you’re wrong. The book makes me think of one of my favourite phrases by Nike head coach, Chris Bennett ‘this is about running, this isn’t about running.’ Mackie doesn’t claim to be an expert in running or mental health. The fact that she writes from her own experience is what makes this all the more beautiful and is what drew me in as a reader. She gives enough detail on the different mental health illnesses for the reader to have a better understanding of what it means to have a mental illness, as well as tools on how to be more supportive and understanding if you do have a partner that suffers with mental health. As a budding researcher, I appreciated that where she presented findings related to running and mental health, she cites those papers. Minor thing that most won’t care about but definitely did not go unnoticed for me.

I still don’t know why running was the tool I opted for in the midst of misery. I’d never done strenuous exercise before. But I had spent a lifetime holding at bay the need to run away – from my mind, from my negative thoughts; from the worries that built up and calcified, layer upon layer, until they were too strong to chip away at. Maybe the sudden urge to run was a physical manifestation of this desire to escape my own brain. I guess I just wanted to do it for real.

Bella Mackie

At 289 pages, it’s a very light and easy read! Overall I found the book inspiring and it’s reminded me of why I initially fell in love with running. It has also reminded me that this year, whatever levels of toxicity that I don’t want present in my life can ‘jog on’.

Bella Mackie is a freelance journalist and author of ‘Jog On’, a book about running and mental health

2020, Let’s Do This!

Hello beautiful people. It’s the start of a new year. I’m still on holiday so I am in a great mood. It’s not that I hate my job, in fact I consider myself extremely lucky to have such a healthy work environment, however more time with the love of my life is always welcome. I’ve had time to think about what I want from 2020 and each time I keep coming to one word: joy.

joy: ‘ a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. ‘

The past two years have been challenging for my family and I, ever since we lost my sister. However we have somehow learnt to live with the grief. We’ve learnt to function and find happiness in the midst of the pain. Last year was a great one for me. I have felt myself slipping further and further away from the cloud of despair that at one point felt permanent. Depression is like that, you forget what it’s like to be happy and while I credit my walk with God towards helping, I cannot deny or diminish the role that my wonderful husband played in the person I became last year. My goals for this year are simple: find joy in God and work tirelessly at being the best wife, and human to everyone in my life. I want to truly find joy in God, in life, fully being present in all aspects of life, taking pleasure in all that it has to offer, without feeling guilty about it.

2020 is the year of being unapologetically joyful!

So You Ran a Marathon, Now What?

The last four weeks of marathon training were hard…one might say non-existent 😂 My knee was behaving like a juvenile delinquent, the kind that needs to be locked up and never let out. I could barely walk without feeling pain in each step. I went to a few physio sessions, 1 week out mind you and had my physio recommend that I skip the race. To be honest I had every intention of not running, but I had a whole week of my handsome man gassing me up to the point where I started to believe that I could at least hobble to the finish line 😂 then I picked up my race pack and there is something about the adrenaline of the race that erased any doubts I had, and before I knew it, on Sunday I was getting up to run.

I told myself that the only way I’d get through the marathon was by loving it and keeping my pace slow and easy. Running is a mental game more than anything, I had to be present in every stride and not allow negativity to settle. The race kicks off on Granger Bay Boulevard alongside the beach which was absolutely stunning and nostalgic as my man proposed to me on the beach. It was mesmerising having the sea air fill your lungs up on a route that thankfully was flat with minimal elevation. I loved every second of the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. At no point did I hit a slump and I plan to carry this feeling of elation in every marathon I do. Mentally I had the following phrase on repeat: ‘head up, eyes up, one foot in front of the other. Just keep moving.’ I had a stretch where I sped up a little bit to get away from a lady who was complaining about why she was running the marathon. My knee injury meant that I had to re-adjust my goals, at the start of my programme my estimation was a sub 5 hour marathon, I finished with a time of 5:59:15. For my debut marathon I could not be prouder, knowing how much I had to fight to get to the starting line made me appreciate the fact that I could run. The funniest part was that my knee didn’t act up, and even now it’s more muscle soreness that I feel and not the type of pain usually associated with an injury. It was an amazing race!!!!

My fuelling strategy that I had only tested twice on my longest run being a 22.5k, did not fail me and I am proud to say I escaped the wall. I ate at pretty regular intervals, spacing my re-fuels out every hour. Water is great BUT nothing tastes as good as ice cold Coca Cola and Powerade. I am pretty sure I guzzled a litre of that good stuff. This race was just what I needed as September through to the end of the year is usually tough for my family. October is the hardest as it’s a reminder of the glimmer of hope we had when my sister moved back home but also a reminder of the pain that still hasn’t gone away from her sudden death. On the 4th of November we laid her to rest, and a month later (3rd of December), her birthday reminds us that she is no longer here. This race was never about how fast I could go, but about running in honour of the most badass, resilient and beautiful person I had the privilege of calling my sister. I miss you so much baby girl.

Special thank you to all the kind humans who have donated. My fundraising page is still up. Thinking about the people who have supported me is what kept me going. It is how I knew I would be running this marathon as I thought of my sister and the wonderful people at Hillcrest AIDS Centre who provide hope to all those infected with HIV. I’ve heard people say that once you’ve done one marathon, the bug bites you and you start planning your next one and I think it’s true. I’m probably going to (properly) do this again…

You Grow Girl!

We’ve all heard the saying ‘build the kind of life that you don’t need a holiday from.’ There is an aspect of truth to it, however just because I love my job, it doesn’t mean I don’t want another holiday…or two! I am 4 days into what seems to be the longest week ever already dreaming about my next escape! I took my laptop with me on holiday but spending time with the love of my life was a lot more fun than keeping tabs on things that I wouldn’t be able to physically change should an emergency have cropped up. The night before my first day back at work, I had to physically stop myself from checking my emails because what exactly would I be able to achieve at midnight when most people were already sleeping? I got to work on Monday not particularly jazzed about checking my emails, with damn good reason. Ninety-seven emails, TOO MUCH! Do you know what’s never too much? Seaside sunsets!

Luckily in just over a week, I have a mini-escape coming up in the form of the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. This is my first marathon and to say I’m excited is an understatement. I started training for this marathon while I was in recovery from a terribly injured knee (do not start training for a CrossFit competition 2 days after a 25 kilometre race. IT IS STUPID!!!) The sudden increase in training volume all while I was meant to be recovering after the 25k, was detrimental and too much for my knee to keep up with. Nevertheless I continued training until the final hour when I got to a point where the simple action of bending to tie my shoe lace left me in pure agony. Training when you’re injured applies a considerable amount of pressure to your body and if you’re not careful, this kind of pressure can be detrimental. Did I learn from that? Not really, because a mere four weeks into recovery, I signed up for a marathon…this will go down in history as one of my finer ‘how could I be so stupid?’ moments.

After having many of them, I have since learnt to laugh at my stupid moments.

In the same way, living life with open wounds from pain that you haven’t dealt with or sought help, applies unnecessary and detrimental pressure. In the 29 years that I have been alive, there are a few moments that stick out when I think about wounds that I left to get unnecessarily infected before God and a few loving friends and one hunk of a man, brought me to an awakening. Being sexually abused at the age of 6, the death of my uncle, the death of my nephews that I never got to physically hold in their short time on Earth, the sudden and unexpected death of my sister. It took me a long time to get to a place where I realised that shutting people out or getting angry at the world…at God, didn’t achieve anything. We should never trivialise any painful experience we’ve gone through, but we need to awaken to a new dawn where we want better for ourselves, don’t attach an end date to our healing and don’t allow ourselves to be swayed to and fro by our valid, but also sometimes silly + erratic emotions.

To be someone who is mentally healthy has nothing to do with having a perfect life or in lieu of the world not being perfect, being a perfect human. Perfection is unattainable, and chasing it can leave us feeling inadequate, obsessive and annoying to be around. Excellence is what we should be chasing. Excellence in character, in action. Excellence in dedication to our personal, and oh so beautiful journeys to growth. The smallest increments of improvement in our everyday lives, is what we should be living for. Always do one thing a little bit better than you did previously, that is how growth happens. Growth is not linear. There are days where you will mess up but instead of dwelling on your mistake, acknowledge that it happened, recognize those feelings for what they are and then get your (metaphoric) spade and dig yourself (or get some really great friends to help you) out of the hole you’re in.

Growth is painful but if you embrace it for what it is, a process to strengthen & better you, it can also be the most beautiful journey that you will ever go on!

SOME PERIODS OF OUR GROWTH ARE SO CONFUSING THAT WE DON’T EVEN RECOGNIZE THAT GROWTH IS HAPPENING. WE MAY FEEL HOSTILE OR ANGRY OR WEEPY AND HYSTERICAL, OR WE MAY FEEL DEPRESSED. IT WOULD NEVER OCCUR TO US, UNLESS WE STUMBLED ON A BOOK OR A PERSON WHO EXPLAINED TO US, THAT WE WERE IN FACT IN THE PROCESS OF CHANGE, OF ACTUALLY BECOMING LARGER, SPIRITUALLY, THAN WE WERE BEFORE. WHENEVER WE GROW, WE TEND TO FEEL IT, AS A YOUNG SEED MUST FEEL THE WEIGHT AND INERTIA OF THE EARTH AS IT SEEKS TO BREAK OUT OF ITS SHELL ON ITS WAY TO BECOMING A PLANT. OFTEN THE FEELING IS ANYTHING BUT PLEASANT. BUT WHAT IS MOST UNPLEASANT IS THE NOT KNOWING WHAT IS HAPPENING. THOSE LONG PERIODS WHEN SOMETHING INSIDE OURSELVES SEEMS TO BE WAITING, HOLDING ITS BREATH, UNSURE ABOUT WHAT THE NEXT STEP SHOULD BE, EVENTUALLY BECOME THE PERIODS WE WAIT FOR, FOR IT IS IN THOSE PERIODS THAT WE REALIZE THAT WE ARE BEING PREPARED FOR THE NEXT PHASE OF OUR LIFE AND THAT, IN ALL PROBABILITY, A NEW LEVEL OF THE PERSONALITY IS ABOUT TO BE REVEALED.

Alice Walker

We live in an age fit for heroes. No time has ever offered such perils or prizes. Man can provide a full life for humanity – or he can destroy himself with the problems he has created. The test of this century will be whether man confuses the growth of wealth and power with the growth of spirit and character.

Vince Lombardi

Bad & Boochie

I’ve gone full steam ahead with my booch (kombucha that is), brewing. I am a woman obsessed, just ask my Mr! You’ll regularly see snaps of my successful (and not so successful) brews on Instagram. About a week ago I was at the grocery store with one of my friends and came up with the zany idea of second fermenting my kombucha with kale. Although this was a mix that I am VERY unlikely to repeat, I discovered through this experiment that a smoothie is a great conduit for probiotics. Instead of using water which is great and necessary for life (we beeeen knowing this periodt!) I decided to use kombucha which is full of good bacteria guaranteed to restore the balance of microbial flora in your gut and intestines, and also give you an energy boost.

If you want to do the same, keep on reading to find out what I used and why! A tip, when using kombucha as your smoothie base, do not use anything that has second fermented for longer than 3 days. Such brews will impart a slight alcohol tinge to whatever you end up whizzing. The process is pretty simple. All you have to do is ferment your kombucha, if you’ve never made the booch before, click on this link. I promise it’ll help you out. The fun part of booch making is hands down, the second ferment or commonly called 2F. You can go as crazy as you want with flavours. I always use fruit so that the microorganisms have something to feed on to give you delightfully crisp booch. I made three different flavours, the least successful being the kale but hey, you live and you learn. Also health isn’t always delicious haha.

What you’ll need: I juiced one pineapple and 4 grapefruit together (YUM) and then poured half of that juice into a separate cup. The other two flavours had the pineapple and grapefruit juice as their base with the addition of 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries for my blueberry flavour, and 4 kale leaves (that wreaked so much damage) 4 Pink Lady apples. and 4 jalapeño peppers, for my badly thought out lean green booch machine! I left these to ferment for 3 days and then used the kale booch in a smoothie that consisted of 4 (maybe more…) bananas to add some much needed sweetness, a half cup of frozen blueberries and 2 scoops of my Cotton Candy flavoured collagen by ‘Body by Wild’. The resulting smoothie was a pretty pink that was sweet yet tinged with the reminder of kale.

We all know the benefits of blueberries, they’re packed with antioxidants, vitamin C and I love the sweet yet tart taste that they imparted to this smoothie. As I approach my 30s, I’m ALL about antioxidants to ensure I protect my skin as much as possible. Antioxidants are what protect your body from free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can damage your cells and contribute to aging (not necessarily a bad thing,) and diseases, such as cancer (definitely a bad thing!)

As for the bananas, aside from the sweetness and thic-ness that they provide. They’re also packed with potassium which helps support normal blood pressure, bone and muscle strength. As the third most abundant mineral in the body, potassium also helps the body in osmoregulation, fancy science word for fluid regulation. It also helps with sending of nerve signals and regulating muscle contractions. Add these benefits to what you’re already getting from drinking kombucha and you’ve got a superfood smoothie that’s filling enough as a snack and provides your body with all the nutrients it needs to stay as gorgeous as it is now for the long run.

Black, Fat & Living with HIV

I apologise for the click baity title however I am hoping that if you clicked on the link, you’ll stay and read this post.

I have set for myself a target to run a marathon…forty two kilometres (yikes!!!) in order to raise funds for POWA, an organisation that helps & empowers women who have been abused, as well as an organisation supporting those living with HIV. I have been in contact with a very special charity and once they have confirmed their participation in this, I promise to give you guys ALL the juicy details and the why behind this. I was on Facebook this afternoon and read a piece posted by the South African HIV Clinicians Society on how obesity and HIV are linked.

As a black woman I am all too aware of how unpopular exercise is in my community. Yes we have Serena Jameka Williams 🎾 but on a smaller scale, black women have very few role models motivating them to shift the weights at the gym/box (if you CrossFit).

The rise of ‘thic’ being in, as well as the very unnecessary butt shots, has led to very unhealthy behaviour gaining momentum and thriving at such a rate that globally obesity is on the rise. Until this article I was completely oblivious to the fact that women living with HIV experience the weight stigma in a different way.

Things you might have known: South Africa has the largest HIV population globally, in addition to that, it also holds the record for the most obese and overweight nation on the African continent. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist 👩🏾‍🔬 to figure out that people living with HIV (PLWHA) need to take control of as many health markers as they can, nutrition and physical exercise being the most important ones.

People living with HIV need to ensure that they remain as physically fit as possible.However, due to weight loss stigmas predominately in the black community where thin = sick, clinicians are now faced with treating patients who are living with HIV and also overweight. With just 6 months of 2019 left, and as much as I hate to be a Debby downer, the reality is that time is running out towards achieving the 90-90-90 targets set by the UN towards eliminating HIV. Recommendations are to diagnose, treat and achieve viral suppression in 90% of people diagnosed with HIV. In my opinion, the solution lies not in the development of new treatment therapies, or even new antiretroviral drugs (although those are great too,) but rather in attacking the various cultural stigmas that prevent people (especially women) from getting tested and treated for HIV. In my eyes & experience as a budding researching in HIV, the problem lies mainly in getting people to accept that they are infected and this can only happen through more awareness and education of what HIV is, and a vast improvement in the access to health facilities particularly for those living in areas that are isolated and far removed from clinics and/or hospitals.

Isolation, stigma and a lack of support are still haunting black women living with HIV/AIDS, and now it seems so is obesity. As a black woman working in the field of HIV research, this has increasingly become something that I cannot ignore. Ensuring that no one gets left behind, has now become my cross to bear. It’s your cross to bear too. We’re all in this together!

How to Make Your Own Kombucha

Last month my boyfriend’s mum sent me SCOBY to start my kombucha brewing journey. Kombucha is fermented black tea loaded with probiotics and antioxidants. It helps improve your overall gut health and contains a high content of B vitamins, particularly vitamin B12, known to increase energy levels and contribute to overall mental well-being. Its high vitamin B12 content is one reason supplements sometimes contain dry kombucha products. The gut-repairing function also plays a role in mental health. Depression is thought to be a symptom of leaky gut, specifically due to the way that bad gut permeability contributes to inflammation. A 2012 study published in Biopolymers and Cell examined kombucha as a functional food product for long-term space exploration. The ability of kombucha to regulate the “communication of the gut-brain axis” suggested it would be useful in preventing or minimizing the effects of anxiety and depression.

God alone knows how the boy got past Heathrow security with what is essentially a living organism, I’m glad he did though! I remember once making a shea butter mix for my mum that was taken away by airport security, it could also be because it was in my hand luggage and was a touch heavy even though it was in a small-ish jar, we will never know.

First things first, what the heck is SCOBY? SCOBY stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (damn look at me remembering that off the top of my head!) This is the essential ingredient that you’ll need for booch brewing. The SCOBY is a biofilm of cellulose that is produced by the bacteria and yeast during the fermentation process. The yeast and bacteria use oxygen to survive (like most living organisms) and will most times form on the surface of the brew and not the bottom, in order to be closer to the source of oxygen. My boy’s mum put the SCOBY in a recyclable plastic water bottle with a little bit of the starter tea which is a fancy term for the previous kombucha brew. As the SCOBY develops it might look bumpy or like an alien but that’s all very normal! The one thing to look out for is fuzzy white, green or black spots on your SCOBY which will tell you that your batch is contaminated, don’t be a hero and try to save anything. Bin the whole lot including the SCOBY.

A few tips on how to ensure that your bath doesn’t get mouldy:

  • Always include a sufficient amount of starter tea to the sweetened tea along with the SCOBY. I like to keep a cup or two in my brewing jar as I have a continuous brew and I just top up with fresh strong black tea.
  • Keep the kombucha brew away from other fermentation projects to avoid microbial cross-contamination. I’m not at the point where I have a lot of different ferments on the go, but this is an important one to remember.
  • Keep the kombucha brew in a warm environment. A temperature range of 25-29°C (75-85°F) will keep the kombucha culture active, the room where I keep my booch gets cozy very quickly and thus I end up with very active microorganism. Too low temperatures can cause the SCOBY to become sluggish and lazy, creating a less acidic environment that will welcome pathogens.
  • This one goes without saying: use clean containers and utensils at ALL times.
  • I was lucky with this one: use live SCOBY and starter tea.  Dehydrated or refrigerated SCOBYs are harder to reanimate, although I will say I was in Cape Town for about a week and a half, and during this time the SCOBY stayed in the fridge yet the minute I was ready to brew, it somehow just came to life.

I will include a link at the bottom of this post to give you a lot more thorough information on everything you need to know about brewing kombucha. In this post I’ll share my recipe. Please note, you can grow your own SCOBY from store bought kombucha provided that it is unflavoured and unpasteurised. All you have to do is follow these instructions on The Kitchn 🙂

What you’ll need:

  • SCOBY + a generous amount (2 cups minimum) of starter tea or already fermented raw and unflavoured kombucha.
  • A clean brewing jar, my boy got me a 3.5l jar from Pick n Pay (for my South African friends)
  • 12 black tea bags
  • 200g white sugar
Finished tea ready to brew!

Place your SCOBY with the starter tea in your jar. In a pot measure 3 litres of water and bring to the boil. Place all 12 tea bags and the sugar in the water and allow to brew. I leave my bags in right up until I’m ready to pour it into my brewing jar. This means I end up with a very strong booch brew. If you wish, you can brew the tea for 5 minutes and remove the tea bags. Once the tea has cooled, pour it into the brewing jar, cover with muslin cloth and your lid and let the SCOBY do its thing. You can allow your tea to ferment anywhere from 7-14 days, this is called the first fermentation. I then begin my second ferment (where all the fizz can multiply) on day 8, at this point you can choose to flavour the booch that you’re going to bottle. Removing it from the jar that contains the mother SCOBY, slows the fermentation down and will keep you from ending up with kombucha vinegar. My first ferment, I whizzed up 500g of frozen strawberries with the juice of 1 orange and half a lemon and poured about 100ml at the bottom of each bottle and then topped up with kombucha. I then placed these bottles in a corner hidden from the sun and started drinking after 3 days.

Baby SCOBY growing from my first batch, time for a SCOBY hotel…

This time I made a green tea and lemon syrup by combining 6 unfermented green tea bags with 3 cups of sugar, the juice of one lemon, and water. Let the whole lot simmer for 30 minutes. Once the syrup had cooled down, I poured a generous quantity at the bottom of each bottle and topped up with my kombucha brew. I prefer the Tetley tea bags as its green tea in its best and purest form (not sponsored ha-ha). It has just the right taste of earthiness but is mild and doesn’t overwhelm the taste buds. I do have doubts as to whether I’ll be able to taste the green tea in this brew as when I tasted the syrup, the flavour was quite mild. Experimenting with flavours is my favourite part of the kombucha making process and I can’t wait to see…taste what I brew next!

Helpful links:

Cultures for Health

Dr. Axe

The Cultured Foodie

In review: intermittent fasting

It seems as  though there’s a new diet almost every single day. If you’re a 90s baby you’ll remember the Atkins diet, the South Beach diet, the Blood-Type diet, the Zone diet, the list is endless. One of the reasons why I’ve never stuck to any of these diets is because I don’t like being told what to eat. In the blood type diet my blood group (A+) is meant to avoid mangos and potatoes which is crazy for me. Intermittent fasting is less about what you eat and more about when you eat. It’s not a diet but an adaptation to your eating pattern. I became curious about intermittent fasting after having picked up a tiny bit of weight that made me feel uncomfortable in my skin. I love having breakfast…when I remember to prep so IF seemed like a good way to eliminate my morning forgetfulness around eating. Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and Heidelberg University Hospital have found out in a study called HELENA – the largest investigation on intermittent fasting to date, that there are many paths leading to a healthier weight and it’s all about finding the path that fits you best.

Right now, IF is the path that fits me best. I was interested in losing weight and keeping it off, with intermittent fasting because you’re not constantly eating, you give your stomach and gut a chance to recover from the usual churning of stomach acids to digest food which in turn can reduce inflammation. The first week of IF, I watched a million and one videos on IF (my favourite being anything by Dr. Jason Fung, I even follow him on Twitter!)  and read countless articles (I would recommend that before you commit to IF, do as much research as you can and consult a doctor or nutritionist if necessary) on the experiences that people have had with IF.

There are three main ways to do an intermittent fast: the 5:2 diet, in which you eat regularly for five days a week and reduce your intake to 600 calories during the next two; alternate-day fasting, where you rotate between standard and 600-calorie days; and time-restricted eating which is what I’m doing where you limit your eating periods to four-to-eight hours. What works best for me (since I wake up at 5 and am in bed by 22h on most days is to fast from the time I wake up until 12 noon and on some days I’ve even pushed that time out to 14h. This gives me a total of 16 hours fasting and on some days when I’m a superhuman…17 hours.

How am I feeling?

The first two weeks were hard. I had to make a conscious effort to drink not just more water (which is something I’m constantly practicing) but also more tea to ‘fill’ me up. One thing I realised is that once I made the decision that I wouldn’t be eating before 12/13h, it’s almost as though my stomach shut up aka stopped grumbling. The less I thought about food, the easier it’s was for my stomach and the less it complained. The mental aspect for me is what plays the biggest role in ensuring that you commit to IF. In terms of my weight, I have managed to lose centimetres that I gained on that glorious holiday to Cape Town and I’m feeling happy in my skin again. I wake up with zero bloating which does a lot to lift the mood. Whenever I get a little bit fluffy I have this moment of not knowing who I am anymore (I know that sounds very dramatic haha!) IF helped with the calorie reduction that I needed in order to shed those extra kilos. I’ve been on this IF journey for almost a month and I’m going to see this through till the end of the year and then re-evaluate. In the first two weeks I battled with extreme fatigue and feelings of hanger (hunger that leads to anger), luckily having to maintain good work relationships was enough of a reminder to keep me from lashing out in hunger!

In terms of my weight, I have managed to lose centimetres that I gained on that glorious holiday to Cape Town and I’m feeling happy in my skin again. Whenever I get a little bit fluffy I have this moment of not knowing who I am anymore (I know that sounds very dramatic haha) IF helped with the calorie reduction that I needed in order to shed those extra kilos. I’ve been on this IF journey for almost a month though.I’m going to see this through till the end of the year and then re-evaluate. I am not a fan of the feeling of hunger that is present during non-eating periods and in light of my 2019 body goals (which I’ll share in a later post) IF just isn’t going to work for the long-term. A girl is trying to get stronger and fitter as she approaches 30…damn did I just address myself in 3rd person!

For an eating plan to be successful, it should be sustainable and improve your performance not just as an athlete (where I’m concerned,) but as a human. This is the biggest lesson I’ve learnt through IF, food should be tasty yes but it’s even more important for the food you eat to fuel you. When I am eating, I am 100% more conscious about what I put into my mouth. Along the way I have had some treats but what I’ve noticed is that I have more self-control and those naughty treats are few and very far in between in comparison to when I was eating whenever I wanted. I will say the one thing I truly miss is having breakfast at breakfast time!

How to make IF work for you?

  • I cannot stress this enough: plan, plan plan! You’ve heard this cliché before and it’s because it’s true: fail to plan/prepare and prepare to fail. Fill your water bottle the night before, make sure that the tea you have is one that you won’t get sick of drinking during your fasting period and prepare your meals in advance.
  • If you’re going to snack during your eating period, make sure your snacks are healthy. I love to stick to raw nuts. Cashews, walnuts and almonds are my favourites but you can go with whatever you like best. Hummus & carrots will also NEVER go out of style. 
  • Get an accountability partner. Friends, I consider myself so lucky to be with the man I call my boyfriend. I tell him about every single lifestyle change that I make and he holds me accountable; whether it’s running more often, eating healthier and now sticking to this new eating pattern, he is SO good at reminding me of the goals I set for myself. I can’t tell y’all how much I love this man!
  • Plan your training at least an hour after you’ve had your meal during your eating period. I found that this worked best for me. Training in the morning while still in a fasted state left me feeling hungrier than usual and we all know that hunger can quickly transform to hanger. I also found that when I took pre-workout on an empty stomach, it’s almost as though I could feel my body disassociating with reality, can’t explain that.

The biggest thing I’ve learnt in this intermittent fasting journey? A healthy lifestyle is not just about the food you eat but the choices you make in your everyday life. It’s not just about losing weight, although it does start that way. When you remove the toxic elements that aren’t serving you well in your nutrition (if you’re consistent enough), it then extends to your physical environment. One day you’re making healthier food choices and the next you’re making healthier life choices! Constantly work towards being in the best physical, mental and emotional shape of your life, it’s what I’m focussing on and it’s what you should be focussing on.

YOUR journey.