For­get the diet and fo­cus on health

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Food - Clodagh Finn

WE’RE just four days into Jan­uary and the an­nual call to shed the Christ­mas pounds is al­ready shrill and in­sis­tent.

But, says best­selling au­thor An­drea Hayes, the most ef­fec­tive way to achieve your new year res­o­lu­tions is not to think in terms of loss, but of gain. In­stead of fo­cus­ing on los­ing weight, she says it makes much more sense to con­cen­trate on gain­ing pos­i­tiv­ity, health, and well­ness.

That’s what she did in 2013 af­ter she was di­ag­nosed with Chiari mal­for­ma­tion type 1, a rare brain con­di­tion which means she suf­fers daily chronic pain. The au­thor of My

Life Goals Jour­nal and Pain-Free Life also dis­cov­ered that she had other con­di­tions — POTS (pos­tural or­tho­static tachy­car­dia syn­drome), EDS (Eh­lers-Dan­los syn­dromes) and spinal steno­sis — which make daily tasks dif­fi­cult and of­ten very painful.

She de­cided to take a sab­bat­i­cal from Vir­gin Me­dia tele­vi­sion and pre­sent­ing An­i­mal

A&E to fo­cus on her health. “I ef­fec­tively be­gan to take charge of my own heal­ing.”

As part of that jour­ney of well­ness, Hayes ex­plored how nutri­tion could help ease in­flam­ma­tion in the body and went ve­gan af­ter do­ing a cook­ery course with the Happy Pear duo Stephen and David Flynn. “I could in­stantly see the ben­e­fits of my new diet choices,” she says.

Rather than feel­ing she was re­stricted, her ve­gan diet opened up a whole new way of eat­ing and cook­ing food.

Hayes says she al­ways takes ad­vice from the pro­fes­sion­als and when she got preg­nant in 2017 — against the odds — she rein­tro­duced meat to coun­ter­act anaemia.

“If you em­brace a new diet, make sure to sup­ple­ment what you have taken out as it’s a huge shock to the sys­tem,” says Hayes.

What­ever di­etary steps you de­cide to take should be about nourishing and fu­elling the body, not about de­priv­ing it, she adds. Hayes’s new book, Mind, Body, Soul Jour­nal, is all about en­sur­ing that you give not only your body but your mind and soul what it needs to flour­ish. That is what she tried to do her­self dur­ing those months of self-ex­plo­ration, post di­ag­no­sis, and she wants to pass on her in­sights to a wider au­di­ence.

Her mes­sage, out­lined in an exquisitely de­signed book, is one of gen­tle en­cour­age­ment in stark con­trast to the harsh ca­coph­ony of so­cial me­dia. While it has its place, she says so­cial me­dia can be a blight as it drives peo­ple to com­pare them­selves with oth­ers. “Don’t be a sec­ond-rate ver­sion of some­one else; be a first-rate ver­sion of your­self,” she says, sug­gest­ing that peo­ple step gen­tly into the new year, mak­ing small, pos­i­tive changes.

Rather than im­pose a strict diet, it is much more help­ful to lis­ten to your body and find out what it needs. “Tune into your body and drop into your in­ner know­ing. It will give you bet­ter knowl­edge than any book or doc­tor,” she says, though she em­pha­sises the im­por­tance of get­ting pro­fes­sional help when ne­c­es­sary.

One of the most ef­fec­tive ways of find­ing out what she needed to feel bet­ter her­self was to keep a jour­nal. In fact, she keeps three: A mind, body, and soul in­sights jour­nal, a daily grat­i­tude jour­nal, and one for dreams.

Her new book is de­signed to en­cour­age read­ers to do the same. It acts as a prac­ti­cal work­book with month-by-month themes and ex­er­cises to help the reader un­cover what is go­ing on at the deep­est level.

Keep­ing a jour­nal, for ex­am­ple, can help un­cover un­healthy eat­ing pat­terns or diet choices, but it is in­tended to do so much more.

For Hayes, it helped her to achieve bal­ance be­tween mind, body, and soul and nav­i­gate a path through daily chronic pain with a range of ap­proaches, in­clud­ing hyp­nother­apy and Reiki.

It also had an un­ex­pected re­sult — a sec­ond preg­nancy af­ter a se­ries of mis­car­riages. She has a seven-year-old daugh­ter Brooke and longed for an­other child but was told she was an un­suit­able can­di­date for IVF. Yet, Sky­lar Grace was born seven months ago and her mother has ded­i­cated the new book to her.

The re­sult is an in­spir­ing, thought-pro­vok­ing, go-to guide­book that will qui­eten the chat­ter of the de­tox brigade.

Mind, Body, Soul Jour­nal is pub­lished by Gill Books, €16.99

BITE SIZE: An­drea Hayes says for best re­sults it’s best to step gen­tly into the new year, mak­ing small sus­tain­able changes.

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