The Shrinking Violet | Wellness and Lifestyle Blogger
My name is Elora and I am The Shrinking Violet. I'm a wellness and lifestyle blogger hailing from New Zealand. I love sharing my knowledge and helping others change their lives through food and good health. I post a lot of recipes, meal inspiration and reviews. I prove that health doesn't have to be boring
Every time I go keto, I always want a sweet fix at some point. Over the years I’ve really tried it all! But this delicious recipe ticks so many of the boxes.
I feel like it’s pretty hard to get it wrong when you’re combining peanut butter and chocolate. Or peanut butter and jam – but that’s my personal opinion.
As far as it goes for ingredients – most of them I get from Nourish & Thrive of course! Nourish & Thrive is an online wholefoods store I launched last year with my amazing business partner, Sara (she’s also a nutritionist!). We stock a huge range of whole foods that are entirely gluten & dairy free, plus we specialise in paleo, keto and vegan goodies. Our almond meal is some of the cheapest on the market, and it’s really high quality blanched ground almonds. We also sell pure Erythritol – without any of the added stevia (stevia can be really nasty on the gut!) which is a zero carb natural sweetener. If you’re not restricted by Keto Macros, you can sub this for 1/3 cup coconut sugar instead in the recipe!
N&T focuses on stocking super high quality whole foods for an affordable price, that also looks after the environment. We don’t package in any plastic! All of our handpacked products are in 100% plant powered bio-degradable and home compostable.
I also recently discovered Barker’s Spreadable Fruit in the grocery store (this is NOT sponsored – I literally just discovered it hahaha) and it’s a refined sugar free jam with less than half of the sugar than regular jam! I usually buy St Dalfours jam because this is also sugar free, but I thought I’d give the Spreadable Fruit a whirl instead. Either would work in this recipe, they have reasonably similar macros.
Preheat your oven to 180c. Line a square brownie tin with baking paper. Set aside.
Add coconut oil, coconut cream, erythritol and peanut butter to a large bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined. I used my new KitchenAid (eeeek still so excited) with the paddle attachment.
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each until completely incorporated. Add vanilla.
Add the almond flour, salt and baking powder and mix again until completely incorporated. Here you will either mix in your chocolate chips, or set the mixture aside and prepare your "jam." Alternatively if you are using the Barkers Spreadable Fruit, you can now pour your mixture into the prepared pan and dollop this on top of your blondie mix, using the back of a spoon to swirl it into the top of your blondie.
If making the jam, place the berries in a bowl and microwave for a minute. Using a fork, squish the berries until they form a paste with their juice. If they have too much liquid, simply pour some off. Spread these across the top of your blondie mixture.
Once you've decided which option to go for (they're ALL amazing!), place your blondie into the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes, until the center is just set. This varies a lot from oven to oven, so when you make them the first time, start checking from 15 minutes onwards. They will continue to cook slightly once removed from the oven.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. Cut into 16 pieces and store in an airtight container. These also freeze really well!
With Christmas just around the corner, I thought now would be the perfect time to write up a gift guide on a few of my favourite products that make beautiful gifts.
I am fortunate enough to have worked with multiple amazing, locally owned companies over the years who have some fantastic products that make the perfect Christmas gift – especially for those with a focus on their health!
From supplements, to whole foods – I think I’ve got some beautiful Christmas gifts covered!
Nourish & Thrive Gift Card
Firstly, it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t start off with something near and dear to my heart – my own business!
Nourish & Thrive is an online whole foods shop with a focus on quality, sustainability and affordability. We package in bio packaging and eliminate plastic! We’re an eco-concious company with a passion for helping people have better access to whole foods!
We offer gift cards, that you can create of your own value. These can have delayed sending, so they arrive into your loved ones inbox at a time of your choosing, and then to be redeemed in our online store. We ship New Zealand wide, for just $5 South Island Urban or $10 to the North Island and Nationwide Rural.
Jeuneora (formerly Ora Pure) is a company I have worked with for over 2 years. Launched by 2 local Christchurch women, Meg and Mons, they offer a range of amazing collagen based products which are expanding.
These gift boxes include one of their beautiful drink bottles, water soluble AquaGlow in one of three delicious flavours, a body scrub and a tasty tea – all in a beautiful gift box perfect to give as is!
There was just 200 of these made, so get in quick whilst their stocks last. PLUS I have 15% off anything on their website using my ambassador discount code ELORA at the checkout!
Another one of my favourites from the ladies at Jeuneora is their Renew+ powder.
This is a powder I have used for 2 years and I have seen some incredible benefits. I attribute this to my long and strong hair, as well as my long nails! It’s additional benefits include helping with gut health, skin and much more. It’s ultra bio-available marine collagen – the best source of collagen you can get and it’s the strongest product in their range meaning you see the most benefits. I will disclaim that it does take at least 30 days to see improvements!
It comes in two beautiful flavours; pineapple, and most recently, berry. Berry is my ALL TIME favourite and I cannot get enough of it!
Again – don’t forget to use ELORA at the checkout for 15% off!
Oh Natural is a beautiful online natural product store with a range of goodies for everyone, owned by the lovely kiwi local Jenna.
Having purchased one of these myself – I can quite confidently say I LOVE this drink bottle! The need to eliminate plastic waste is important and these drink bottles are fantastic.
SoL’s beautiful reusable bottles are made from Hand-Blown Glass, and are 100% plastic and chemical free.
SoL Bottles come with a hemp carry bag and a cleaning brush, keeping your bottle cared for all the time. They also hold up to 850ml, are 100% BPA and Chemical Free as well as being safely used in the dishwasher and microwave. They come in a range of 6 colours to suit every personality – all our Bottles come with a 100% Silicon sleeve. They are perfect for on-the-go hot and cold beverages!
Plus they look beautiful whilst being highly functional.
A gift perfect for anyone – even keto people! Nourish & Thrive has an incredible range of baking mixes.
From Brownie Bites (pictured – and just 3g carbs per bite for those keto folks out there) to cake mixes, cookie mixes and even a delicious Paleo Christmas cake. All of our mixes are gluten, dairy and refined sugar free – plus delicious!
If you’ve ever wanted to try my baking, this is the easiest way to do so with recipes created, tried and tested by myself and my lovely business partner Sara.
Or those who you know would appreciate it, don’t forget that I also run two wonderful nutrition programs. 10 Week Challenge which is our lifestyle nutritional challenge – with our first round for 2019 beginning on January 7th, perfect for the New Year! We have helped many people change their health and achieve their incredible weight loss goals. This is our amazing client, Sarah, below who has lost 30kg over multiple rounds and lots of hard work on her own. Newcomers to the program costs $179NZD, but we’ve got 10% off using 10OFF10 until December 31st. Get in now and sign up here as this program ALWAYS sells out! 10 Week Challenge is the perfect LIFESTYLE challenge and a great way to make your new healthy lifestyle to stick in 2019 onwards.
Additionally, if you have heard about the Keto craze, and want to give it a go – Sara (my business partner for 10WC and N&T as well as a behavioural nutritionist) and I created Keto Reset back at the start of 2017 which has seen amazing results! Keto Reset is just $59NZD and includes a 30 day meal plan, recipe book, shopping lists, comprehensive information pack as well as access to a members only support group! Shop Keto Reset here – it’s an instant access program that you receive as soon as you’ve paid for it, so you can begin at your own pace (helloooo New Years resolution!). We’ve also got 10% off using XMAS10 until December 31st.
Thanks for reading my gift guide – I hope this provides you with some ideas for your loved one!
With December now here, the silly season is upon us! Normally this means a month filled with social occasions involving drinks, nibbles, late nights and for those trying to keep up with their healthy lifestyle; often a difficult time!
But life is for living and none of us have time for food guilt, so I have come up with a few tips to guide you through the holiday season.
Take a Plate
It can often be hard going into a setting where you’re not sure if you’re going to be able to eat what is provided. Christmas Day in New Zealand generally means roast meals or BBQ’s. These are great because it essentially consists of meat and vegetables. In these cases, we recommend making and taking a dessert that you can eat so that when the Christmas Pav or Pud comes out, you don’t feel deprived. Check out our Paleo Christmas Cake Kit here! Otherwise, if foods you can’t eat are on the menu, take a dish that you can have! Kumara and Bacon Salad? Yum! Bacon wrapped Chicken Tenders? Yes please!
Drink Plenty of Water
Ensuring you drink water throughout the night is high priority and essential the next day – especially if alcohol is consumed. Alcohol is toxic to your body so it is essential to flush water through your body, as well as rehydrate the next day. Drinking plenty water can also help minimise the symptoms from eating that Christmas Pav that your body doesn’t agree with!
Make Time to Sleep
Sleep is one of our 10WeekChallenge.co.nz essential priorities, especially if you’re having a stressful time. We all know that the holiday season can not only be tiring but incredibly stressful, so your sleep during this time needs to be top priority to give your body time to rest and recharge. Sleep is your bodies time to heal, so make sure that you plan it into your day and create a bedtime routine to make sleep easy. We recommend no electronic devices 60-90 minutes prior to sleep, blackout curtains and dim lights in the lead up to bed.
Know Your Options
Organisation is another one of our 10WC essential priorities and when it comes to staying on the straight and narrow, organisation is a major key. Knowing your options ahead of the Christmas work-do is a great way to plan out what you’re going to choose. Going to a restaurant with a set menu? Pick the gluten free option. Don’t be afraid to ask to make adjustments, such as switching fries for salad! You are not an inconvenience for putting your health first. Heading away on holiday? Check out the local restaurants in your area along with their menus so you know where to suggest when everyone wants to eat. Remember: your best options at a restaurant are protein and vegetable combos. Heading to a friends Christmas party? Ask what they’re making, and offer to bring a plate if you’re unsure on what you can eat.
Host the Party!
Hosting the Christmas Day Lunch or a Christmas Party is a great way to ensure you’re not nervous about your options. We love socialising and it shouldn’t be a time for you to feel guilty, nervous or uncomfortable. When I first changed my eating habits, I found it hard to go out. Nowadays it’s a lot easier, but I started off by inviting people to me. Hosting the lunch or party gives you an awesome opportunity to showcase your delicious and nutritious food. Going for a traditional Glazed Ham or Roast Lamb Leg is an awesome option, with plenty of side salads and mini entrees. A BBQ is another great option too – you can have a buffet style meal where everyone can choose their own plates. Don’t be too hard on yourself and include platter options for people to pick at; both of us love the ease of gluten free Rice Crackers for the platter (and check out this delicious platter bread here), and I choose gluten free chips for the special occasions too! Remember, this is a lifestyle and Christmas is about sharing good food and good memories with your loved ones. Guilt isn’t an option!
Have a Plan of Action for Post Christmas
And finally – it’s important to have a plan ready for once Christmas is over. If I had a dollar for everytime one of my clients fell off track over Christmas, threw caution into the wind over the New Year and then just never really quite made it back to their good habits? Well I’d be one rich lady! Good habits can be hard to form, and bad habits are easy to slip back into. I’ve had a Paleo Christmas coming up 5 years now and it gets easier every year. Even if you do slip up over Christmas and New Years, my recommendation would be to have a back up plan. Whether that’s doing a meal prep of delicious and healthy meals to pop into your freezer to get you started, or joining our ever popular first round of the year of 10 Week Challenge (our online lifestyle nutritional challenge that has helped hundreds of people transform their health, globally! Use 10FOR10 for 10% off until December 31st – spaces are limited to sign up now to avoid disappointment) to really get started on the right foot – making a plan is a fantastic way to make sure you start the New Year looking out for your health!
Wanting more Christmas Recipes? Check out my Christmas eBook for just $1.00 here and stay tuned to the Nourish & Thrive Blog for our Christmas Recipes there too!
Anyone who knows me, knows how obsessed with strawberries I am. Every year, as soon as they come into season, it wouldn’t surprise most people to see me with a punnet a day.
To me, strawberries are the ultimate super-fruit; a handful of strawberries provides twice the amount of your daily intake of vitamin C. In fact – they have more vitamin C than an orange! Strawberries are also a fantastic source of dietary fibre, folate, niacin (vitamin B) and potassium. Not enough people know about their incredible nutritional benefits and it’s time to shed some light!
I personally think that the humble strawberry should be included in everyone’s weekly shopping as a pantry staple. Healthy, fresh and easy to snack on, strawberries are convenient and Kiwi! Us New Zealanders have been eating fresh strawberries for years and they’re more than just a treat.
Strawberries start coming into season from late October and are available throughout the summer. Take advantage of their short season and low cost; strawberries deserve way more love! Strawberries are summer’s favourite fruit. Why else would summer make them heart-shaped?
I’ve made this 2 ingredient Strawberry N’Ice Cream with Chocolate Shell to showcase my favourite fruit – and to me, it’s the perfect way to cool down on a hot day or even an after school snack for the kids. It can be dressed up or down – but there’s no ifs or buts about it: Strawberries are the star and everyone loves them!
1 punnet of fresh NZ Strawberries
4 extra small bananas
4 tsp coconut oil, melted
2-3 tsp pure maple syrup
2 heaped tsp cacao powder
Begin by cutting the green tops off of the strawberries and discarding. Dice the strawberries up into even pieces and place into a container. Peel the bananas and chop into similar sized pieces and combine with the strawberries. Mix together then seal and place into the freezer overnight, or for at least 4 hours.
Remove strawberry and banana mix from the freezer and set on the counter for a few minutes whilst you prepare the chocolate shell. Mix together your melted coconut oil, maple syrup and cacao powder. Set aside.
Place your strawberries and banana into a food processor and blend together until smooth and no lumps are left. Distribute between bowls immediately and pour across your chocolate mixture. Wait a few moments for it to set up, and serve!
Simple as that. What’s your favourite way to use strawberries?
This blog post was sponsored by NZ Strawberries, however all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Most people are under the impression that weight loss is all about diet and exercise. Sure they are components, what you eat more so than how much you work out, but weight loss is actually more about the bigger picture of your complete health.
To me, weight loss is 70% diet, 25% stress and sleep and 5% exercise. I always tell my clients I would much rather they get a good night’s sleep as opposed to getting up extra early to work out. Without giving your body the best environment possible, losing weight and sustaining that loss is near impossible.
You need to shift your focus to total body health rather than weight loss. It’s not a temporary job – it will be a work in progress your whole life. Good health is not effortless, but by forming good habits, it can feel that way!
So firstly – what does lack of sleep cause? Check out this graphic below:
Confronting isn’t it?
How much is enough sleep?
We are in an age where being busy is glorified. The reality is that there is nothing cool about being so busy you don’t have enough time to achieve the things that give you pleasure in life – or too busy to maintain good health! Gone are the days where working through the night to meet deadlines, then going to work in the morning is considered cool and makes you “the top dog”. This kind of attitude will make you susceptible to a huge range of negative health consequences and will not help your performance.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following sleep times:
Newborns (0-3 months ): Sleep range is 14-17 hours each day
Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range is 12-15 hours
Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range is 11-14 hours
Preschoolers (3-5 years): Sleep range is 10-13 hours
School age children (6-13 years): Sleep range is 9-11 hours
Teenagers (14-17 years): Sleep range is 8-10 hours
Younger adults (18-25 years): Sleep range is 7-9 hours
Adults (26-64 years): Sleep range is 7-9 hours
Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours
As an adult, counting backwards 8 hours from your wake up time is the best place to start – then head to bed 30 mins prior to this to read and relax.
Where did they come up with these times? You can read the research HERE.
So, how can you improve your sleep?
Well there are a numbers away. I always talk to my clients about creating good sleep routines.
Here are my main tips:
1. Turn off all screens and devices 1 hour before you go to bed.
Instead of looking at Facebook and reading this interesting sleep blog, or surfing the internet or watching Netflix or doing work from home – read a good old fashioned book or spend time with your family. The lights emitted from devices stimulate and signal to your brain that it’s time to be awake. Your sleep hormone melatonin is turned off and you are unable to fall asleep as easily, generally resulting in restlessness, frustration and maybe you turning the TV on! If you do manage to fall asleep the quality of your sleep is generally reduced from that light stimulation and you wake up feeling less rested. If you are going to be on your device after the sun goes down (which is in all honesty, most of us!), especially in those colder months where the days are shorter, then install an application on your computer called flux. This is a blue light blocker and helps to mimic a more natural light which better for your sleep hormones!
For iPhones, you already have this function built into your phone. Go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift. Once in night shift, select scheduled and set it from Sunset to Sunrise.
2. Aim to be asleep by no later than 10.30 each night.
Obviously there will be times where that’s not possible – especially if you’re on a night out, but it’s what you do consistently over time that counts. My recommendation is to hop into bed around 9.30-10pm with a lamp or dim lights and read. This will signal to your body that it’s time to start winding down.
3. Improve your sleeping environment.
If you’re a light sleeper, perhaps it’s time to invest in some blackout curtains. Our bodies are highly calibrated genetically via our Circadian Rhythm to respond to the rise and set of the sun to govern our sleep and wake patterns, so sometimes to make sure you’re getting that little bit of extra sleep, extra measures such as black out curtains are needed. White noise machines, earplugs and fans are also a few other tools you could consider! Uncomfortable bed? Trade it in for a new one. Spending money on a good quality bed is one of the best choices you can make, considering most of us keep our beds for several years.
4. Take a magnesium supplement.
Having trouble getting a sound night’s sleep? Try magnesium! Insomnia is a symptom of magnesium deficiency and magnesium also helps suppress the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, allowing for a better night’s sleep. Magnesium is cheap to pick up, but make sure you go for a quality brand such as this one here.
5. Minimise caffeine intake.
Now – I know this sucks for some of you with your beloved coffee. But if you have adrenal issues then you should really only be having one cup a day anyway! Keep your coffee to the morning and ideally avoid caffeinated drinks after 1pm so that your body has time to process it before sleep.
If you are serious about improving your health, then it’s time to get serious about sleep. Making good sleep a priority and not trying to do too much is important. It’s time to stop the glorification of busy. Being busy does not make you a superhero.
6. Get Herbal Supports
I would be so lost without my incredible naturopath. I am constantly amazed by the fact there’s a herb for almost everything. Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer that you need a good GP as part of your health picture, but my naturopath, who is a medical herbalist, helps with everything from the common cold to my PCOS. Head to your nearest medicinal herb store and see how they can support your sleep!
Stress and it’s Toll on the Body
As I also mentioned, stress is another aspect that can make a huge impact on your health and wellbeing, and therefore weight loss.
Check out what the American Institute of Stress has to say about its impact on your health:
“There are numerous emotional and physical disorders that have been linked to stress including depression, anxiety, heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, immune system disturbances that increase susceptibility to infections, a host of viral linked disorders ranging from the common cold and herpes to AIDS and certain cancers, as well as autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. In addition stress can have direct effects on the skin (rashes, hives, atopic dermatitis, the gastrointestinal system (GERD, peptic ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis) and can contribute to insomnia and degenerative neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease. In fact, it’s hard to think of any disease in which stress cannot play an aggravating role or any part of the body that is not affected (see stress effects on the body stress diagram) or. This list will undoubtedly grow as the extensive ramifications of stress are increasingly being appreciated.”
Working to minimise stress is one of the most important things for you for your overall wellbeing. When you’re stressed out, it stresses your body out, often sending you into fight or flight mode. If you spend too much time in fight or flight mode too often, you will end up suffering from burnout. This means you won’t lose weight because your hormones will be all out of whack whilst trying to recover from the overall stress of being stressed! Again, especially us women, are culprits of trying to do everything at once. We want the career whilst we raise the family, as well as having the social life and ensuring we try to look after everyone (check our Rushing Women’s Syndrome by Dr Libby). You need to take the time to look after yourself! Remember – you can’t pour from an empty cup!
My tips to reduce stress?
1. Ensure a good work/life balance takes priority.
A lot of us let work rule our lives. Sure, work is essential to make a living, but there’s nothing worse than going home and continuing to think about work. Leave work at work as much as you can. If you’re someone like me who works for yourself, I know this can be hard. Ensure you create some strict rules for yourself surrounding when you work and how you work. Setting yourself at home hours is a great plan, as well as dedicating an area in your house for it and only working there. If your job is truly stressful, you wouldn’t be the first person I’ve told to leave it. I have had many clients realise their health is more important than their high-stress job. It never ceases to amaze me how many people put up with a volatile work environment. You DO have a choice! Put yourself first.
2. Take time for yourself.
Taking time out for yourself is super important to just be YOU! Whether it’s just to get your nails done, get a massage, have a bath or spend a minute just calmly breathing, it all counts. Having some down time to yourself where you don’t have to answer to anyone (turning your phone off or having it on silent is a great plan!) is super calming.
3. Do things that you enjoy.
It’s not rocket science that when we do things we enjoy, it makes us happy, therefore reduces stress. Life is all about doing what we love, so this one shouldn’t even need to be on the list. Do you have a hobby? What makes you happy? For me, I love cooking, baking and anything to do with food! So getting in the kitchen and creating makes me so happy. My lifestyle is all about regulating hormones so that your body can burn fat for fuel with no issue.
4. Learn to say no!
How many of us are too nice to say no? Sit back and prioritise what things benefit you, and what you’re just saying yes to because you are too nice or feel obligated. It may sound like a no brainer, but something so simple can provide so much relief. Make that list of everything you do, sit down and decide what needs to go. Everything from the gym, to your kids sports, to that parent teacher meeting. Put it all down, prioritise and decide what’s truly important to you, and what can go.
5. Again, get Herbal supports.
Just like sleep, there are some calming and stress reducing herbs to help support your body. It may be something to support your adrenal system, or something more direct. I wish I was a medicinal herbalist, but I’m not, so I’ll leave the recommendations to the professionals. Herbs are so worth the effort!
So there you have it – why working on your sleep and stress levels is SO important for not just weight loss, but your general wellbeing. If you’re someone who has any regard for your health, then these areas need to be addressed.
Creamy white chocolate is something I missed since giving up dairy, and this fudge is a really delicious alternative.
Free from sugar, this is sweetened by both erythritol and the coconut itself lends a sweet hand! Plus sometimes the protein powder you use has a little sweetness too. Because of this I would test the mix before adding erythritol and add a little at a time. If I wasn’t keto, I would probably use a little maple to sweeten instead, so you could totally use that too.
I got almost all of the ingredients for this from my business Nourish & Thrive where all of us kiwi’s can shop at a fantastic price, for top quality ingredients whilst supporting local (aka me and my amazing business partner!) AND the environment. Nourish & Thrive packages its ingredients in all biodegradable and home compostable packaging!
The protein powder in this is essential – it helps emulsify the fats together to make this fudge complete! You could use any protein powder – I have used pea protein, but I prefer the flavour of egg white protein the most.
MACROS PER SERVE: 405 calories | 40.5g Fat | 1.6g Carbs | 1.1g Net Carbs | 4.5g Protein
White Chocolate Coconut Fudge (Paleo | Keto | Dairy Free)
Over a low heat, melt your cocoa butter. Once melted, stir in your coconut cream, coconut butter and coconut oil until smooth and combined. At this stage it may look like it has split - but don't panic!
Next stir in your protein powder, powdered erythritol and vanilla until combined. It will thicken and emulsify.
Pour into a brownie pan and sprinkle with desiccated coconut. Set in the fridge overnight then slice into pieces. I sliced it into 12 large to use as keto fat bombs, however it is very rich and would make 24 small pieces very nicely.
It’s been close to a year now since I was diagnosed with PCOS and I’m proud to say that I have reversed symptoms I was experiencing and my blood tests are now normal.
If you’re here for a quick read – save this, put a reminder in your phone, and read it when you have time. If you have PCOS and “don’t have time” to do anything about it, then this article isn’t for you. If you’re serious about improving your condition and reversing your symptoms – stick around. I’ve got a few tips to get you started! I’m not a doctor, or a naturopath, but I can point you in the right direction to get some advice.
Back in August 2017 I started having severe hormonal breakouts around my chin. I was in a new relationship, embarrassed and had never experienced such poor skin in my life. Nothing makes you feel so self conscious as having glaringly obvious skin issues. I was at a point where I was wearing makeup everywhere and even tried to put concealer on before I went to sleep at my boyfriend’s house just so he wouldn’t catch a glimpse – even though I knew they were so big you still could see them under the concealer – AND Ben didn’t give a shit.
I was in at a herbal shop picking up a tincture for myself for a cold I had when I met my naturopath Amelia. She introduced herself, said she had seen my social media and was a female hormone specialist. I told her I needed to see her because I couldn’t shake the deep and painful cysts I was experiencing. Since I was eating perfectly and had all of my lifestyle practices in order (sleep, stress, movement), I had NO idea why my hormones were choosing to express themselves in this way.
It’s funny – most people had non-stop been recommending skin products to me but not one person stopped for a minute to consider it was internal. As soon as I myself knew that the breakouts were hormonal, I knew that it wasn’t a simple fix of changing my skincare – it was deeper than that. I just didn’t know where to start. So when I met Amelia by chance in October 2017, things really fell into place. I’m aware that I’m describing her like some kind of angel – but Amelia has done so much for my health and I cannot be grateful enough. Amelia is a naturopath, herbalist and holistic nutritionist.
Things you need to know about a naturopath before I continue further:
They specialise in natural health – so you might think this is airy fairy, but for me it made so much sense and more importantly – IT WORKED!
They are an investment. It is not cheap and I spent a lot of money on supplements. Consults themselves are similar to a doctor cost-wise, but the supplements are the real investment and they can become expensive.
You need to commit. By now you all know that when it comes to myself, I’m all or nothing. I stuck to exactly what Amelia said, for as long as she said and this has been a major key to reversing my symptoms.
As mentioned, I saw Amelia in October 2017 and it was the best choice I ever made. I switched from my usual GP (who is awesome but a family GP I had been seeing since I was a baby and it was time to shake things up) to Dr Victoria Flight. Dr Victoria is amazing. Not only is she a GP, but she has a holistic side too and is very much up to date when it comes to holistic health as well as all things traditional medicine. She works out of ProMed on Cranford Street in Christchurch – she can already be hard to get an appointment with but she is so worth the wait.
After my initial consult with Amelia, I saw Dr Victoria and we ran some bloods. Amelia asked me to get a whole panel of bloods done and Dr Victoria agreed. They both wanted to run bloods to check for PCOS.
Having grown up with a sister with PCOS and a best friend – I knew all about it. However having none of the usual symptoms myself, I was convinced I didn’t have it. You see, I never had irregular periods, nor did I have excess hair growth, skin pigmentation, hair loss… None of it. My only symptoms were that I used to be overweight, and I was then experiencing hormonal skin concerns.
My bloods came back with high testosterone, high androgens and low progesterone. So in short, I wasn’t ovulating and my high androgens and testosterone, whilst no where near a males, was indicating towards PCOS. I later had an abdominal ultrasound which confirmed that my ovaries had the ‘pcos look’ to them. According to the ultra sound technician, blood tests are the gold standard and biggest indicator in those looking for a PCOS diagnosis.
So now for my treatment plan. I need to reiterate this is an individualised treatment plan and what works for me may not work for you. My supplements have changed throughout the last year so I’ll try to remember wh
Initially Amelia and I worked on aiding my liver and gallbladder function – I have oestrogen dominance and from memory excess oestrogen needs to be excreted by the liver and if it’s not functioning properly this causes a strain on your liver and gallbladder. Optimising their performance to excrete excess oestrogen was one of the first steps. Alongside this, we worked on supporting and balancing hormones (for obvious reason), improving my skin complexion and clarity as well as providing support to clear and heal my gastrointestinal system. My battles with intestinal candida provided insight that my gastrointestinal system needed some help.
Supplements/herbs I initially took from my first consult:
Chaste Tree Tincture – in the morning (please note, Chaste Tree is NOT for everyone and should not be taken consistently long term. It is also know as Vitex. Read this article here for more info.) I then moved from this to an individualised herbal tincture.
Herbal Tincture – This was a bio-individualised formula – The therapeutic effect of this formula is to help support your digestive system + liver detoxification pathways. These are a range of herbs which are designed to stimulate your bile and liver production, helping to decrease digestive discomfort and assist assimilation of food.
SB Forte – this is a probiotic with a specific strain of Saccharomyces Boulardii which has a proven track record with those of us with skin issues. It also contains Vitamin A, which is great for skin as well as Vitamin D and zinc.
PathoClear – This is an antimicrobial formula, which is high in Berberine + some essential oils to help reduce undesirable bacteria in the digestive system which can influence skin, as well as immune supporting herbs such as garlic.
Zinc – I’m still on Zinc and Zinc is really important for skin and wound healing, plus most of us are zinc deficient. Check out why it’s so important here.
MediHerb PCO Support – this is something I have been on since I found out I have PCOS.
I found improvement in my skin slowly but surely, however after a development of some congestion in my cheeks, on my next visit Amelia had me take:
P2 Detox by MediHerb – The main reason she gave it to me was to help assist my liver to detoxify adequately, as congestion on your cheeks indicated to her there were issues with the liver, the other reason she gave it to me was from a PCOS perspective, where she believed there was oestrogen dominance in your instance. The product has DIM which comes from broccoli sprouts which helps the clearance of some of the unwanted oestrogen and androgens, which can then be excreted through your stool + urine. It also provides Turmeric and essential amino acids, assisting phase two liver detoxification, which again can get congested and make it more difficult to clear oestrogen and xenoestrogens (from environment).
6 months later I was emailing Amelia that my testosterone was now within a normal range, as were my androgens and my skin had improved further. I was also ovulating YAY! There were a few other supplements that came and went but the majority of what I have listed here was the main support during PCOS treatment. Additionally Magnesium. Which is one of THE most important supplements you can take – especially as a woman with any kind of hormonal issues. Check out this awesome article on magnesium here.
Throughout my journey there were 3 main women who really helped me tackle all aspects: of course, Amelia, my amazing naturopath, as well as Dr Victoria Flight and I cannot forget Samira Sultan-Rouse from Loft Beauty who helped treat my skin topically.
I had a pretty hardcore skin routine during this time using the amazing Cosmedix range that Samira stocks. I found Cosmedix (and Samira!) after my sister Lydia made the recommendation. She had seen amazing results with her skin using Cosmedix, and the fact that they have no nasties added for a cosmeceutical grade skincare is the best. They have no added fragrance or colour that isn’t meant to be there for a purpose for your skin. I also can’t stress enough that you need to buy these from an authorised retailer. You can buy Cosmedix online but the majority of it are fake knock offs – such as that found on StrawberryNet. Buy from someone like Samira who is authorised and authentic so you know you’re paying for the actual product and not a fake. During this time I used:
Cosmedix Purity Solution – an ‘oil’ cleanser used first
Cosmedix Purity Clean – an exfoliant using active ingredients
Cosmedix Purity Balance – a ‘toner’ which I mainly used during the time I had congested cheeks
Cosmedix Simply Brilliant – this contains lactic acid and salicylic acid toimprove uneven skin tone, as well as hyperpigmented skin.
Cosmedix Clarity – a spot treatment for those problem spots – Retinol and salicylic acid work together to help exfoliate the skin and clarify clogged pores that can cause breakouts and blemishes
Cosmedix Refine – its retinol complex and key amino acids help refine and visibly reduce the appearance of enlarged pores and blemishes by improving exfoliation. This was just used once daily in the evening.
Cosmedix Shineless – my everyday moisturiser – lightweight and nourishing
Cosmedix Reflect – sunscreen! an essential, especially when using retinol products as you can become very sun sensitive.
Yes – this is a whole lot of products! But my skin very much needed and thanked me for it. If I could recommend essential products from this, it would be Purity Solution, Purity Clean, and Shineless. It would also be Clarity if you have blemishes!
Samira and I also did two Cosmedix Deep Sea Peels which aren’t for the faint of heart. These were to remove leftover scarring and it has worked wonders. You can see a video of my experience here.
Obviously being in the unique position where I lost weight before I was diagnosed with PCOS. Would I have done anything different had I known? No. Paleo is what I would recommend for anyone faced with PCOS. With lowered carbohydrates. Kumara/potatoes no more than 3-4 times a week, preferably in the evening. Carbohydrates are better to have in the evening as they’re great to help you sleep. I wouldn’t recommend ketosis long term at all – but a 30 Day program such as Keto Reset would be fine if you’re in a plateau. Starchy carbs are beneficial for those with PCOS so I wouldn’t cut them completely. However I WOULD recommend cutting out all the sweet carbs – like paleo treats and the majority of fruit (berries and stone fruit are your best choices).
My program 10 Week Challenge was based off of the way I ate during my 55kg weight loss and if you are wanting to lose weight with PCOS then I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. We have helped many women with PCOS reach their goals. The bonus is that you get support and access to a behavioural nutritionist who can make tweaks to help the program work for you.
If you have any particular questions relating to weight loss and PCOS, drop them below and I’ll be sure to answer.
It took me a good 6-8 months of hard work, and even now I’m still working on it. If there’s one extra piece of advice I could offer, please read the Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden. It delves into the different types of PCOS as well as various natural treatment routes.
I love my naturopath Amelia, but she has just gone onto maternity leave until the new year. In the mean time, she has recommended the following:
So it’s been a couple of months since I got my hands, or should I say my body, onto some of The Hotel Sheet’s DNA tested Egyptian Cotton and I truly don’t think I could ever go back.
Having been someone who loves homeware but only buys sheets on a super sale, I felt it was time to invest in a luxury set knowing they would last for years. I was actually lucky enough to end up being gifted these incredible sheets from The Hotel Sheet, but certainly have my sights set on their Classic Cotton range next for a go between sheet whilst I wash my Egyptian Cotton set.
I can honestly say that I feel as though these sheets make such a difference to my quality of sleep. I recently didn’t manage to wash and dry these babies in a day (thank you winter… not!) and put some of my apparent “1000 thread count” sheets on (check out this article on why 1000 thread count is a joke) – which I bought for $80 and started pilling after my first use – and they actually felt so scratchy and uncomfortable. I immediately missed my go-to Egyptian Cotton sheets.
If you’re also wandering why people go on about Egyptian Cotton, and why The Hotel Sheet have gone to the effort of getting DNA tested cotton, then you also need to read this article. The fact is, it’s superior cotton grown in the perfect conditions which makes for a stronger, longer lasting and crisper sheet.
These sheets are crisp, yet so super soft that they make a dreamy (literally) sleep. Especially in winter, they have held the warmth underneath The Hotel Sheet’s Matelasse Duvet and look elegant in white. I had a few people ask me if the price was worth it, and I can say a resounding yes over and over. I find The Hotel Sheet’s prices to be highly competitive for the price, and even their non-Egyptian range, which is still a luxury product, starts at $159NZD. Plus they offer AfterPay – my favourite! Their reviews on their website speak volumes with customers coming back for multiple sets. If I was unsure before reading their reviews, I was certainly sold after.
I continuously rave about these sheets and couldn’t recommend them highly enough! Check out www.thehotelsheet.co.nz or @thehotelsheet on Instagram to see their range. You won’t regret a purchase!
Please note that I was gifted the sheets and duvet by The Hotel Sheet but all opinions expressed are my own and entirely genuine.
We all know by now that after losing 55kg I have been left with a whole lot of excess skin. As I have shared many times, the part of my skin that I’m most self-conscious about is the excess skin I have been left with under my arms. Having lost so much weight I also have a lot of excess skin on my breasts too so whilst I have lost a whole lot of boob, I still tend to fit a fuller busted D cup.
This can make shopping for clothes a nightmare, but even more so bras too. Trying on the wrong bra can leave me with the worst underarm rolls, but the right one can hold the skin in place and whilst never completely hiding it, can minimise its visibility.
I never knew how important a fitting was for helping me choose the right bra until I headed into Farmers this week. Farmers have always been my go-to for quality lingerie at a great price and so I took advantage of their free bra fitting service. I saw Helen at the Hornby branch of Farmers and immediately she put me at ease with any nerves I had about getting a bra fitting.
All I had to do was shed my top – and even that was optional – and she was able to measure. Once we had my size, she took me out into the store and we chose a few options for me to try on. Farmers have so much to choose from, that I had quite a few. I took a few from the classic Bendon range, as well as some from the fuller ranges Berlei and Triumph.
I tried on each bra and showed Helen so she could adjust as necessary. I felt totally at ease, not self-conscious at all and came out with two Bendon bras that fit me well, and most importantly are so comfortable. There’s nothing worse than an uncomfortable bra!
With excess skin and fuller breasts, I find I need a thicker strap to strap the girls into place as well as a thicker, soft and somewhat stretchy band that I can pull up to hold my skin in.
I went with the classic Bendon Body Contour Bra which is super soft, seam free and came in a gorgeous navy colour. It’s perfect for everyday wear and ridiculously comfortable. I also came out with a Bendon Yvette Underwire Bra – not my usual to buy a soft cup bra but I tried it on a whim and loved it. It’s super comfy and the black lace means I can feel a little sexy too! Personally for me, Bendon was the best I tried on as I found the way they cut under the arms perfect for not accentuating my excess skin. They also give my breasts a great shape whilst supporting them in place.
Bra fittings are important to get every few years as our bodies change for so many circumstances; whether you’ve lost a whole lot of weight, had a baby, aged… We all go through it and making sure we have a bra that fits us makes such a difference in comfort and shape. I am so glad I went in and saw Helen at Farmers: it was so easy to do, I felt relaxed and comfortable, and it only took a few moments.
The great news is that alongside their lingerie deals between the 19th-25th of June, Farmers is having their ‘Perfitly You’ Lingerie Week Competition:
Be in to WIN a $1000 Lingerie Shopping Spree. Simply get fitted in store by one of Farmer’s trained consultants, make a lingerie purchase and swipe your Farmers Club Card between 19th June – 17th July and you’ll automatically go in the draw!
So there you have it – my main tip for finding the right bra to fit. It’s obvious, but important: Go into Farmers and get yourself fitted for free! It makes all the difference.
Please note: This post was sponsored by Farmers, but all opinions are my own.