The Skinny On Getting Skinny: Weight Loss Hacks That Work

So, let me start by saying that – whilst I am truly thankful for all I have and wholeheartedly believe in keeping an attitude of gratitude – the Naturally Skinny Gene is not really a part of my DNA. As Britney would put it, perhaps rather bluntly but liberatingly honest, nonetheless: if I “want a hot body”, I have to “work b*tch”.

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Supermodel Gisele Bündchen appears to be a definite custodian of the Naturally Skinny Gene.

To the detriment of my close girlfriends, who either get dragged into my laser-focused mania from time to time or have to put up with me on no carbs, no alcohol, no sugar, no fun, I have embarked on many weight loss missions for those once-in-a-lifetime occasions, where I simply felt I  HAD to look my best. This would include, for example, our wedding, any wedding in which I’ve appeared, big birthday celebrations…the list goes on. It was either slim down and shape up or have photos of the occasion haunt me forever in many different but equally traumatising ways (including the annual rotation of my dear mom’s at-home Christmas tree decorations, incorporating archival family photos and proudly displaying them for all to see, dangling  casually amongst glitter bombs and flickering lights). Yes, the Christmas tree decorations will get you, if you don’t watch out.

So, I can honestly say that, in my opinion, there is certainly no “secret” to getting skinny. There is no “magic” way of eating whatever your carb-hungry heart desires and slimming down simultaneously.  Unless, of course you have some sort of thyroid problem or the coveted but rare Naturally Skinny Gene. For the rest of us, there is only one road to success: “work, b*tch.”

Here are my personal top ten tips for shedding some pounds (with the usual disclaimer that I sure ain’t no doctor, nutritionist or shaman):

  • ClareWieseBlog3.jpgThe devil’s name is Sugar: diet fads come and go but I have yet to meet an expert who encourages the consumption of the White Beast. My number one rule is to stay far away from sugar, in all its sneakily hidden forms, including simple carbohodrates. The stuff is in fruit juices, fizzy drinks, high-sugar fruit, bread, pasta, muffins, ready-made sauces and condiments including tomato sauce, chocolates, canned or dried fruit, ice cream, frozen yogurt, granola, smoothies & of course sweets. It’s everywhere: simply google high-sugar foods and read food labels to keep track of your intake.157986896.jpg
  • Keep your blood sugar levels steady throughout the day to aid weight loss: this can be done by sticking to foods low on the glycaemic index (GI), including small snacks in between meals, avoiding caffeine, eating breakfast and avoiding all forms of sugar, as mentioned above, including artificial sweeteners. If you sometimes fall off the wagon by eating a food with a high glycaemic index or load, combine it with low GI foods (like a handful of raw almonds) to help balance the meal.
  • Limit alcohol: I have always cut out alcohol when dieting. Not everyone has my A-type German blood though and this rule can be very hard to keep, for some. Not only does alcohol interfere with (or slow down) the way your body burns fat, it messes with your blood sugar levels, lowers your dieting discipline and, somehow, always makes a McDonald’s burger seem like a great midnight snack. If you want to indulge, stick to a glass of red wine, clear liquors like whisky or vodka and stay away from sweet, fizzy mixers. Use fresh lime wedges or cucumber slices with soda, as a healthy mixer option.
  • You can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Exercise is great for limited calorie burning, increasing fitness and improving muscle tone (nobody wants to be “fat skinny” after all; we want to be “toned skinny” a la Rachel from FRIENDS). But, if you want to lose weight and become a smaller human, following the correct diet is 85% of the battle. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that 30 minutes on the treadmill “erases” that chocolate brownie or burger & fries. It really, really doesn’t.
  • Have your last meal at 6pm and make it a light one. When your body is winding down from the day and going into rest mode, where do you think all the calories you’ve consumed at dinner, go? Yes, that’s right: to your hips (or your stomach). Wherever it goes, the fact is that it’s not being burned. It’s being “stored”.
  • DNAlysis and similar companies offer diet-related genetic testing these days, that reveals whether your body burns fat better on a diet high in complex carbohydrates (like oats) or protein (tjoppies and wors). One of my best friends, Moi, did this test, changed her eating and swears it changed her life. By the same token, I can also tell you that I tried the LCHF (low carb high fat) program for six weeks straight and did not shed one kilo. Yes, even with my German Discipline Of Steel. Each body is different and what works for you won’t necessarily work for the next person. Hence, genetic testing (if you can afford it) might be a worthwhile consideration if you’re not sure what works for you.
  • Stay hydrated. We often mistake thirst for hunger and overeat this way.
  • Plan a weekly cheat meal. It’s easier to plan a cheat than to have a cheat and feel like a cheater. This often causes us to beat ourselves up or throw in the towel. It’s OK to indulge once or twice a week, even whilst on a diet. It keeps things sustainable and will increase your long-term chances of success. A piece of dark chocolate (anything over 70%) is a delicious and relatively guilt-free treat, by the way.
  • If you’re curious, try intermittent fasting.  intermittent-fasting.jpgThis works like a bomb and is the latest discovery in cutting-edge weight-loss techniques. Intermittent fasting is not a diet. This plan doesn’t require you to change what you eat, you only need to change when you eat. Essentially, intermittent fasting is said to force the body to go into “fat burning mode” during a 14 to 16 hour fasting portion of the day. It’s not as hard as it sounds and carries a whole host of other health & aesthetic benefits. Read more here. All I can say is: I’ve tried it and it works!
  • Consult a professional. Last but not least, if you’re after a serious long-term weight management lifestyle (which is obviously more efficient, healthier & more sustainable than a quick burst of panic-induced weight loss mania), consult an expert:
    • Go see a holistic nutrionist (Hannah Kaye in Cape Town is excellent); OR
    • Consult a medical doctor specialising in the latest scientifically proven weight loss programs. We worked closely with the phenomenal Skin Renewal Clinic (they have several branches across South Africa) on our recent televison makeover series, MOOIMAAK. We managed to help a handful of keen candidates lose as much as 13 kilograms in 3 months on Skin Renewal’s medical weight loss program. I kid you not. We were gobsmacked at the results and none of the ladies ever went hungry, got cranky or fell off the wagon. See below for their before and after magic.
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Patricia lost 13 kilograms in 3 months, through Skin Renewal’s medical weight loss program.
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Daleen lost over 11 kilograms, following Skin Renewal’s medical weight loss program, in just over 2 months. Her clothes were falling off her! What a fabulous problem to have.

Wishing you all a body-happy (and, more importantly, a generally happy) festive season! One final word of advice: don’t start any diets in December or else you’ll give new meaning to the term “silly season”. Enjoy the Christmas cake, the New Year’s bubbly and perhaps one sneaky helping of a midnight McDonald’s. Rather, set your sights on 2018 and let January be the time to”work b*itch”.

With (low-glycaemic) love,

Clare.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why You Probably Have a Leaky Gut & Really Need To Know About It

A little bit about leaky gut (it’s not as gross as it sounds)

If you’re at all interested in holistic health or modern approaches to wellbeing, you will no doubt have heard or read about the term, “leaky gut syndrome”. Essentially, leaky gut syndrome (or “intestinal hyperpermeability”) is a common condition that develops as a consequence of intestinal tight junction malfunction. These “tight junctions” are the gateway between your intestines and what is allowed to pass into your blood stream.  Your tight junctions are there to keep nasty things out like toxins, microbes and undigested food particles.

Having a leaky gut is pretty much like having the gates of your intestines broken, allowing many of these particles that are not supposed to be let through, to enter your blood stream.  When this happens, it causes inflammation throughout your body leading to all kinds of minor and more serious diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune disorders (like thyroid disease), allergies, food intolerances, IBS, acne, eczema, psoriasis, depression, anxiety and other neurological disorders. Up to 70 to 80 percent of your immune system is situated in your digestive tract. As the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, said himself: “all disease begins in the gut.”

As most of us in the modern world are affected by poor diet choices, chronic stress, toxic overload and bacterial imbalances (caused by inter alia the widespread use of antibiotics), the prevalence of leaky gut has reached epidemic proportions.

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Disclaimer 

Before I go any further, please note: I am not a doctor, a medical expert, a nutritionist, reiki master or sangoma, for that matter. What I am, though, is a very curious girl, extremely passionate about health and the undeniable relationship between mind, body and soul; I am someone who continually asks questions, wants to undestand “why” and seeks answers from the world’s leading experts. My write-up here is thus simply to be understood as relaying my own experience with leaky gut syndrome with the honest hope that it might be able to help someone else or, at least, make some of you want to know more or ask more questions.

My experience

thyroid-disease-1.jpgI came to learn about the overarching importance of a healthy gut when I found out, accidentally, a few years ago that my thyroid antibodies were abnormally high. In a nutshell, what this meant was that my body was in a state of autoimmunity (with my thyroid antibodies attacking my thyroid). The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in one’s neck, just above the collarbone. It is one of the endocrine glands, which produce hormones. Thyroid hormones control the rate of many essential bodily activities, including how fast we burn calories and how fast our hearts beat.

I visited one top endocrinlogist after the other, only to be told that “most doctors don’t usually test for thryoid antibodies, they only look at thyroid functions. Yours is still functioning, so just ignore the antibodies for now.” I was informed that there was in any event nothing that could be done to bring down these antibodies and it would be a “wait and see” game. I was told that it is only once your thryoid eventually becomes diseased, by being overactive or underactive (as a result of the antibodies), that you can be “treated”. Treatment involves surgically removing or chemically destroying the thyroid gland and/or prescribing lifetime hormone replacement medication. Neither the “wait and see” approach nor the eventual treatment options sounded particularly appealing to me and, if I had to pinpoint one moment in time when I started questioning conventional or “pill-popping” medical strategies, and becoming more curious about preventative or functional health, this would have been it.

Through weeks of intensive research, refusing to let my state of autoimmunity be a ticking time bomb, desperately wanting to hold on to my functioning thyroid gland (without taking hormone pills for the rest of my life), I ended up at the offices of Dr Susan Blum, a New York-based functional medicine leader. I had come across her best-selling book The Immune System Recovery Plan wherein she explains the link between gut disease (“leaky gut”) and autoimmunity.

p1030909.jpgI immediately started a gut health recovery program, which involved inter alia cutting out gluten, dairy and sugar (three rather frequently consumed foods which can significantly contribute  to intestinal permeability).

Whilst healing a leaky gut is a multifactorial process (involving dietary changes as well as taking digestive supplements, reducting chronic stress and repairing the gut lining), something dramatic happened when I took the first step and simply cut out gluten, sugar and dairy.  And, yes, in case you’re wondering, I have the blood tests to prove it. The gut repair process is not yet complete for me, but things are sure looking positive.

Thryoid peroxidase antibodies (they are supposed to be under 10):

  • July 2015 | 200.3
  • August 2016 | 92.3

I showed the blood tests in question to one of my doctors here in Cape Town and, let’s just say, he was surprised (to put it mildly) that, somehow, my autoimmunity was slowly but surely being “reversed” by a mere change in diet. (Bear in mind that once your thyroid has already been diagnosed as over- or under-active, it’s a different ball game and the damage has been done. I was lucky to have caught the high antibodies in time, albeit by accident, before it irreperably harmed my thyroid.)

Anyway, further to what I said before, this post is not here to serve as a comprehensive textbook on leaky gut syndrome (its causes, signs, symptoms and effects) or a guide on “how to cure whatever illnesses are plaguing you by cutting out gluten, dairy and sugar”. Instead, I am simply sharing a powerful, life-changing series of events that opened my eyes to the very real significance of gut health, beginning with the time when I saw my very own thyroid antibodies drop after a few months of cutting out inflammatory foods.

If you suspect that you might have a leaky gut and are keen to learn more about its effect on your health, I suggest you visit a holistic health expert (either a functional medical practicioner or nutrionist) to help diagnose it and guide you through an extensive gut repair program.

Read more

  • Functional medical expert Dr Mark Hyman has written several, very intersting articles on the subject;
  • Functional medical expert Dr Josh Axe has written an easy to understand article outlining the causes, symptoms and treatment options for leaky gut syndrome;
  • Read more about the fascinating gut-brain connection and how a leaky gut can affect your brain.

See a gut repair expert & get healing

  • I have found a South African version of Susan;) in the form of integrative health expert Hannah Kaye, who lives and practises as a nutritionist (with a very similar approach to Susan’s) in Cape Town;
  • The doctors at Skin Renewal are very holistically-minded and suggested, to my great delight, a full gut repair program for one of our makeover candidates, Bianca, who has been battling acne for years. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

With (non-leaky) love,

Clare.

 

 

 

 

 

How I Learned to Embrace Imperfection Through The Concept Of Wabi Sabi

ClareWieseblog2I was recently introduced by a close family friend to the super cool Japanese concept of “wabi-sabi”. During an impromptu “pop-in” to my parents’ place, where Lynda and my mother were enjoying espressos and rearranging furniture, I rather strongly  suggested that the way-too-visible air-conditioning unit in the lounge, amongst some rather nice pieces of art and a shiny black piano, might warrant a relocation. Lynda looked at me, with a knowing grin on her beautiful face, and simply said “no, darling, it’s wabi-sabi.”

As I’m lying here in bed with a flu that seems like it has literally “moved in” to my life (and has no plans to leave, ever), trying to tackle an avalanche of emails, it’s dawned on me that today is Thursday and, yet again, I have missed my usual 09h00 on a Thursday publishing time. Now, for a girl like me (who loves a bit of routine and order), this realisation has not been well received by the self.

Because, well, I generally like things to be perfect. Perfectly timed, perfectly presented and perfectly in order. But – as I am sure anyone reading this will agree – that just ain’t how life works. That’s why the concept of “wabi sabi” struck such a deep and powerful chord with me the moment I first heard of it. The fact that this powerful philosophy is of Japanese origin (and as we all know, I’m a tad obsessed with anything Japanese) is just a bonus.

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“Wabi-sabi” is a concept in traditional Japanese aesthetics referring to a world view based on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete:” take, for example, the aforesaid hideous air-con unit ill-placed in an otherwise elegant living space, handwritten post-it notes stuck onto the glass frames of original art works (one of my quirky mom Caro’s signature moves), laugh lines, crow’s feet, scars & skew noses (ask any rugby player) and hideously scuffed heels on pricey stilettos (my sister and I have a special knack for ruining shoes).

But, wait there is more (sorry, I could’t help myself;).  This powerful philosophy of “beauty in imperfection, impermanence and incompleteness”, of course, transcends mere aesthetics. In fact, it can and should, in my opinion, be applied to all aspects of life.

Not only does society expect us to look “ageless”, run a household like Bree from Desperate Housewives and find The One (with whom to have The Beautiful Babies) by no later than our mid thirties, but many of us only add to that load with our own additional list of perfectionistic expectations.

BrokenchairClareWieseThe problem, as we all know, is that reality looks a little bit different: many of us don’t have Heidi Klum’s metabolism or perfect, blemish-free skin (myself included), we all do and say stupid things that we subsequently regret, and most homes are not in a constant state of decluttered minimalism (contrary to how they might appear, from time to time, in perfectly styled magazine shoots). And, most relationships are either transient or imperfect. I have personally witnessed many close friends endure ugly, messy divorces or serious marital discord. I, myself, have experienced some significant relationship setbacks: I broke up with a former boyfriend after a six-year relationship just before I turned 30 (not a great age to experience a big break-up), and, a while ago, one of my very closest girlfriends and I were (as Ross from “Friends” put it) “on a break” for almost two years.

So, now that we have established (or, let’s just say we have, for the sake of this post) that “a constantly perfect life” will never exist, even though we might really want it to, what choice do we really have but to accept it? Even better, how liberating can it be to start embracing life’s imperfect, impermanent and incomplete nature?

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Please don’t get me wrong: I am by no means saying we should, or always can, let go of deeply ingrained perfectionistic tendencies (I would say my own personal tendencies are pretty much genetic, so I would need some sort of DNA re-mapping here). Moreover, I firmly believe such tendencies have their place: channeled correctly, they can be of great advantage to us, especially in the context of self-motivation, self-discipline and the achievement of goals.

The trick, I think, is to recognize the difference between the way you want things to be, sometimes, and the way they actually are. And, more than that, to be OK with that discrepancy.  So, these days, when I open my horrendously intimidating email inbox and watch it grow like some self-feeding little green monster, wake up to spot new fine (ish) lines around my eyes, have a fallout with a loved one or abandon big projects and change course mid-way, I try to remind myself of “wabi sabi” and the liberating value in accepting “what is, just as it is”.  As Richard Powell, author of Wabi Sabi Simple put it: “accepting the world as imperfect, unfinished, and transient, and then going deeper and celebrating that reality, is something not unlike freedom.”

OK, now that I’ve gotten that off my metaphorical chest, please excuse me whilst I return to nursing my actual, real-life flu (which I’m hoping will begin to reveal its transience any second now).

PS If you’re intrigued and want to know more, here’s a list of Amazon.com‘s books on “wabi sabi”.  I can’t recommend any particular one, I’m afraid, but whichever one you get, I’m sure it will be imperfectly perfect:)

Love,

Clare

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Why I’m Obsessed with Marie Kondo’s World-Famous Decluttering Method

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The inspirational Marie Kondo

It was a few months ago that I found myself browsing the book section on Amazon (I must confess, I always find book stores – whether online or offline – much like pharmacies or, as the Americans will call them, drug stores. There’s something about spending time in them, wandering around aimlessly, that makes you realise all the things you never knew you really needed). Maybe that’s just me (although I know my sister feels the same about pharmacies: we could spend hours in there.)

So, as I was reading the review of some or other health-related book, Amazon kindly recommended a book to me, titled “The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo. Now, I must confess, subsequent to my having found out that the launch of this book had almost broken the internet and it had reached the number one spot on the the New York Times Bestsellers list, I did have a good chuckle at its title. I mean, really, even for someone as annoyingly OCD as myself (who REALLY prefers if when things are clean and in order), I couldn’t help but think “what are they going to write books about next?”

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The New York Times Bestseller

But, curiosity got the better of me (and I think somewhere beneath that, my neat-freak tendencies were intrigued) so I bought the book. What followed was, quite literally, a life-changing experience. Although I was sceptical about how a whole book could be written about the art of decluttering (as they call it), I found myself absolutely mesmerised by the profound Japanese philosophies underlying the Konmari method (the particular method of decluttering that the book advocates). Yes, there is a particular method.

Although, with all due respect, the author of this book (who is now super rich and famous, so she probably won’t mind my saying so) probably is not the most mentally stable of all people (when you read the book, you’ll see what I mean), her approach to decluttering your life, by decluttering your home, is fascinating and – I can vouch for this – certainly effective.

Marie begins her book by citing examples of how her method has freed her clients to make radical life decisions, whether that be getting a divorce after years of being stuck in unhappy marriages, quitting their jobs, pursuing their life-long dreams or finally taking that holiday. It was almost as if the negative energy attached to all the things in their home that no longer sparked joy, was keeping them in some kind of existential gridlock and blocking them from moving forward or blocking the influx of new energy into their lives. If you think about this concept, it’s very similar to a thought I most certainly often have, namely: “I can’t work properly if my desk is a mess”.

So, sold and motivated, I roped in my trusty best friend, Lara (who, in my opinion, could easily become South Africa’s version of Marie Kondo – without the mental health issues, of course:) and we began the process. We did it exactly as Marie prescribed – no skipping steps and no bending the rules.

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This pic was taken during my and Lara’s BOOK sorting phase, clearly

Eventually, we started discarding (this is the term Marie uses) anything and everything that no longer sparked joy for me (this included unused kitchen utensils, broken or chipped crockery, books I had read and will never re-read, objects I no longer found to have visual or useful value, expired supplements, electronic cords from 1985 that no person alive today would be able to identify, old DVDs I would never watch again, clothing I no longer wore, gunky makeup, shoes with scuffed heels and, of course, photographs in which I didn’t exactly look my best). We donated most of the discarded items and sent the books to old-age homes and hospitals, which added another layer of welcome satisfaction to the whole process.

As the days went by, and we worked our way through the categories, it was as if a weight was slowly being lifted from my shoulders. My wardrobe (although significantly smaller) now only contained items that fit me well and still looked good. I could see everything I owned hanging neatly in my cupboard, as opposed to having to sift through 10 blouses to find the 1 or 2 blouses I wore over and over again. My makeup drawer now contained only those items that I wore almost daily and couldn’t live without.

It was really as if my home had been transformed from a house full of collected stuff – some used and some unused – to a carefully edited home, where I was surrounded by only those things that truly brought me happiness, conjured up good memories and were being used and enjoyed daily. On this note, I want to point out that the measure of what sparks joy is a completely subjective test. For one person, a good kitchen knife, a favourite pair of worn-out socks or a trusty tupperware set might spark just as much joy as a timeless painting or a Louis Vuitton handbag might for the next. This test has nothing to do with an item’s monetary value, but everything to do with how it makes you feel.

The fabulous interiors magazine, House & Garden, in January 2017 published a small and beautiful feature on my home, where I spoke about the magical effects that the Marie Kondo process had had on my living space. They, rather aptly, titled the piece “Bare Necessities”.

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Photo credit: House & Garden, January 2017

Before I finish, and whilst you will have gleaned that I have decided not to go into the finer details of the actual Konmari method (that’s what the book is there for and I’d be ruining all the fun),  I will give you these key tips before “trying this at home”:

  1. Finish reading the whole book, before you start the process;
  2. Get a best friend (or hire someone) to help you, if you feel the task is too overwhelming;
  3. Be as ruthless as you can be: the more ruthless you are, the more liberated you will feel;
  4. Last but not least, refrain from Konmari-ing any of your husband or family’s things – it’s extremely tempting once you get into the groove but, trust me, this does not go down well.

Ultimately, I believe – in the pursuit of living our best lives – we should make our home our sanctuaries: a place where we feel safe, unburdened, free to think of new adventures, quieten our minds and rest our spirits. It certainly is much easier to get this right, in my humble opinion, in a truly uncluttered environment. So my suggestion is: get the book, get cracking and…you can thank me later. May your inner joy be sparked!

You can follow me @clarewiesewentzel on Instagram to keep up to date with my latest posts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How I Finally Achieved A Clear Complexion

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Finally, after years of trial and error, I am enjoying a naturally clearer complexion

Ok, so skin problems (especially adult acne or any acne for that matter) certainly don’t classify as a glamorous topic. But, while this blog certainly reflects my love of all things glamorous, it is – more importantly and over-archingly – about sharing helpful hints and life hacks with those that want to look their best, be their best and, ultimately, live their best lives.

I am not a hoarder (as evidenced by my fascination with Marie Kondo and her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”) and it’s thus very much against my grain to hoard information that might make someone else’s life a little bit easier. Last but not least, I’m far from perfect. And, in a world where we often use social media to portray our lives through literal and figurative filters, it’s liberating for me to point out one of my many imperfections, right here in broad cyber-light.

That being said and whether we like it or not, we live in a world where our appearance matters. Not only does the outside world often judge us by our looks, but it would seem that some of us can be our very own worst critics. Whilst we struggle to live up to the unattainable ideals portrayed by Hollywood & the Instagram It girls, most of us nevertheless strive to do so.

So, hopefully, with all that in mind, my story about how I radically transformed the appearance of my imperfect skin (by taking some very simple and side-effect-free steps) can inspire some life-changing magic.

It all started in my very early teens when my face (almost overnight, I swear) went from pimple-free perfection to resembling pepperoni pizza. Not the ‘hot’ kind either. My parents, the wonderful and well-balanced human beings that they are, never wanted to put too much emphasis on appearance and, in hindsight, my first eventual visit to the dermatologist’s office probably came a few years later than it should have. But, be that as it may, the problem was eventually addressed.

PHARMACEUTICAL TRIALS & ERRORS

medicine_pills.jpgAt first, I was put onto a course of RoAccutane (a very strong, commonly prescribed acne medication that comes with a long and scary list of serious side-effects. It can cause birth defects in pregnant women, it’s very heavy on the liver and it can cause dry lips, skin and joint pain). Although it helped clear up my skin at the time, once I had completed the course, it only took a few months for the problem to rear its ugly head again.

The second option I tried, along this very long and frustrating journey, was a contraceptive pill called Diane. Again, this was and is a commonly used method of treating acne, often prescribed by many skin specialists who believe the problem to be hormonal. Although it was extremely effective at clearing up my skin without the drying effects of RoAccutane, Diane’s own side-effects of weight gain and mood swings barely made it worth it.

The third and final (medicated) attempt I made at solving my skin problem (which continued to affect me well into my twenties), was taking a maintenance or low dose of RoAccutane (at one tablet, twice a week). The dermatologist told me “all the models were doing this”. Of course, I was sold:) In practice, this ended up working well for me insofar as it cleared up my skin, without drying out my lips or causing any of the other side effects.

THE SIMPLE SOLUTION

In my early thirties, as my interest in holistic and, specifically, nutritional health started growing, my desire to go off the RoAccutane completely and seek a more natural solution to clearer skin, steered me in a new direction.

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After much of my own research (and I’ll save you the details of said research, as it’s A Long Story), I started cutting out dairy, gluten and sugar from my diet. I am pretty much an all-or-nothing girl, so I stuck to this new regime pretty rigidly. My diet consisted mainly of a variety of vegetables (especially the green kind), protein and healthy fats like avocado, seeds and coconut oil. This was no mean feat but, after two to three weeks, my skin started taking what can only be described as a dramatic turn for the better. It was almost unbelievable. After struggling with periodic skin problems since the age of 13, it was only now in my early thirties that I finally experienced what it was like to have naturally blemish-free skin, without the assistance of pharmaceuticals. Having witnessed this radical transformation first hand, I was in hindsight disappointed that none of the specialists I had consulted, throughout the years, had made this rather simple recommendation to me. I suppose there’s little money in telling your patients to ‘stay away from milk-based products’.

So, if you are battling breakouts and seeking a solution free of harmful side-effects, do yourself the favour of changing your diet and seeing what happens. (Of course, everyone is different and some skin conditions are related to serious hormonal disorders or other medical conditions that might not respond to dietary changes alone.)

Icecream.jpgFor me, the biggest change has definitely come with eliminating all sources of dairy. Sugar and gluten are known to cause inflammatory reactions in the body as well, so for maximum results I would recommend limiting those two common culprits too. The only bad news is that, at least insofar as my experience goes, if I have even just one cheesy cheat on Monday, I’ll wake up on Wednesday with pepperoni pizza problems, which will take about a week or more to clear. But, as they say, knowledge is power, which means I can live with the odd breakout more easily.

In the end, life is all about trade-offs and, of course, for the die-hard cheese- and chocolate lovers out there, cutting out dairy (let alone gluten and sugar),  might be too much of an ask. For me, it has been absolutely worth it. Because, simply put, no amount of Chanel or Armani foundation can give you the kind of confidence that a clear complexion can.

HELPFUL HINTS

  • there are many dairy-free foods, treats and snacks (including vegan ice cream) available on the market today, so don’t feel despondent
  • use ghee (a dairy-free, clarified form of butter) or coconut oil, instead of regular butter, for cooking purposes
  • a good skin care routine, including an anti-bacterial cleanser (I use Image’s Clear Cell salicylic acid cleanser) is, of course, essential
  • always wash your face immediately after exercising
  • omega 3 fish oil supplements are widely known for their skin-enhancing benefits (I take The Real Thing Mega Omega Supreme)
  • when the craving for chocolate strikes, go for the very dark kind that contains no milk (it’s so good for you anyway and you’ll get used to it quickly). I love Lindt’s 85% Cocoa slabs
  • drink plenty of water (this is so obvious, but I had to include it)
  • get enough sleep (again, another super obvious one)
  • limit alcohol
  • keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day by eating low-GI foods
  • limit stress
  • avoid oily makeup products and keep your makeup brushes clean
  • high-frequency or blue light treatments (offered at some beauty salons) work very well at clearing up breakouts quickly
  • avoid over-stimulating facials
  • Cetaphil makes a great oil-free sunblock with SPF50 that doesn’t cause breakouts (this popular skin care brand is available at most pharmacies worldwide)

CELEBRITIES WHO SUFFER FROM ADULT ACNE

This part of the post is just to make those of you suffering with problem skin feel a bit better and a little less alone. To name but a few, Victoria Beckham, RiRi and Cameron Diaz have been battling breakouts for years. As they alway say in those cheesy (no pun intended:) tabloid magazines: “see? they’re just like us”!

The Life-Changing Effects of Transcendental Meditation

My Introduction to Transcendental Meditation 

Meditation (in its general form) is something I only recently cared to start learning about. I am almost embarrassed to say that the whole thing used to sound like a whole lot of hippie hogwash to me; something only fruitarian, barefoot individuals who don’t believe in shampoo and don’t have day jobs, were into. Boy, was I wrong. Especially considering what I know now: that numerous captains of industry  and the cream of Hollywood’s crop (including Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneres, Cameron Diaz and Kate Husdon) are all devoted fans. And, while one can never say never, I’m pretty sure these individuals all have regular hair-washing regimes in place.

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Cameron Diaz, a big TM fan, has said “I learned TM and it was exactly what I needed, the easiest thing I have ever learned.”

Personally, my attitude changed when, what I believe to have been somewhat serendipitously, the idea of transcendental meditation came to me. It was much like the saying goes: “the teacher will appear when the student is ready”. It was a good friend of mine, who – during one of our lunches – started explaining it to me when I was yet again complaining about the stresses of running a start-up business. She mentioned that, since she had begun practising it a few years ago, it was as if “life still happened”, but she was in something like a protective bubble. I guess she described the practice as a type of “stress-filter” or “stress-response deactivator”. I was sold – at least insofar as giving it a try was concerned.

The purpose of this post is not to write a mini textbook on TM or try to push it onto anybody, in any way. Instead, I am humbly sharing what little experience I have with it, because I believe I have stumbled across something worthy of sharing. I believe in spreading good news and, most of all, I believe in doing whatever we can do to live our best (and most stress-free) lives.

About TM

TM is an ancient, evidence-based technique, the neurological benefits of which have been studied more than that of any other meditation technique. It was introduced to the West by  Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who famously taught the technique to the Beatles. It has since been proven by a myriad of published studies to alleviate stress and anxiety, improve cardiac health, increase brain function, ease addiction and alleviate insomnia (amongst other things).

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TV queen Ellen DeGeneres “can’t say enough” about the benefits of TM

It is not a religion, philosophy or lifestyle. It is simply a very powerful relaxation method. It is also the easiest form of meditation out there, unlike all the others. Believe me, if I can do it, anyone can (I can barely watch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy without checking my three email accounts, Instagram and Whatsapps simultaneously. And that includes those Grey’s episodes where the uncomfortably attractive McDreamy/McSteamy duo of deliciousness were still around.) Unlike “mindfulness” practises, TM requires no active concentration, control or focus.

In essence, it requires the use of a simple sound or “mantra” (chosen for you, based on various personal factors) by a qualified TM instructor, for twenty minutes twice a day. Its neurological effects are cumulative, meaning they get better and more tangible with time.

How I Knew TM Worked For Me

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My first experience of the benefits of TM occurred on an aeroplane whilst traveling from Cape Town to the Kalahari Desert

When I went to see Liz (my instructor, details hereunder), I was skeptical. There is a small ritual at the beginning of the first lesson which made me feel a tad uncomfortable, but Liz assured me this was simply a tradition of “giving thanks” to the founders of TM. She assured me this was the only esoteric or non-scientific bit and that the rest of the course was, quite simply, rather uneventful. So, I decided to let it go and see what all the fuss was about.

After the four-day course, the diligent student in me started practising the technique as instructed (twice a day). Liz told me not to expect immediate results and said that the benefits of TM would slowly start creeping into my life, “through the back door, not the front”. She said even if I didn’t believe it was going to work, it would (as long as I was doing it right, of course).

For the first two weeks, I didn’t feel any major changes and started to wonder whether I was wasting my time. However, what followed – about three weeks into the practice – was rather remarkable and made me sit up and take notice.

My childhood best friend, Lara (who has known me for no fewer than 28 years and had traveled with me on innumerable occasions) was with me when it happened. We were on a small private aeroplane en route to our family’s game farm in the Kalahari desert. Lara and I were making coffee up front when the pilots warned us of upcoming turbulence and asked us to take our seats. As the turbulence started to do its thing, I looked at Lara (almost inquisitively) and asked her whether she was nervous. Knowing what a super anxious passenger I usually am, she turned to me (very surprised) and said: “No, you know me, turbulence does nothing to me. How about you?” I shrugged and said “nah, if you’re fine, I’m fine”. We finished making coffee and casually went to take our seats. Where I would normally be clutching my husband’s hand so tightly the blood supply to his fingers would be jeopardised, I sat there relaxed, just chilling, just drinking my coffee. The outside turbulence was still happening, but – like the friend who introduced me to TM had told me – there was a definite protective bubble around me. It was rather surreal, but extremely welcome.

The outside turbulence was still happening, but…there was a definitive protective bubble around me.

After that, the benefits started becoming more and more apparent. My husband remarked how much calmer I seemed, especially during those rather volatile (;) times of the month. I started feeling more motivation and excitement at the prospect of going to work in the mornings. I remember sitting in the Kalahari one evening, on that same trip, experiencing a sense of joy and contentment that seemed deeper and more unfettered than usual.

Since starting the practice, I haven’t looked back and it is something that has become just as important to me as exercise, good nutrition and getting enough sleep. I see it as a daily dose of detoxing my mind from all the excess stress that living a fully-charged, hyper-dynamic life can bring. I can say, without a doubt, that – on the days where I have skipped one or both of my TM sessions – I always feel it.

For more (and probably more exciting stories) about TM, click here: click on “Menu” then “TM Stories”. Scroll down for “experiences with TM”. Here’s a quick video by the gorgeous and talented Cameron Diaz, on her experience with the practice, which she calls “the easiest thing I’ve ever done”.

Find Out More

  • Visit the international TM website & find a local instructor | www.tm.org
To stay updated on the latest The Global Critic posts, follow me on Instagram @clarewiesewentzel or enter your email address under “Get Posts Via Email” on the left-hand side menu bar

 

Hopefully Life-Changing Advice For Itchy Scratchy Dog Owners

FullSizeRenderSo, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything – in fact, it’s been a whole year. I’ve decided it’s high time to post something again and, in the spirit of Christmas, I wanted to share some advice with those of you that love your pets as much as I do; advice that could hopefully change the quality of your dog’s life and, in so doing, make your life a little easier too.

Meet Kimbey: my ten-year old Maltese Boomer (50% Maltese, 25% West Highland Terrier and 25% Pure Heaven). (I could go on here about her insanely cute and intelligent personality, all the special little things she does and how crazily in love I am with her, but – if you are reading this – you probably feel exactly the same about your dog, so you ‘get it’).

Kimbey, like most dogs with white or light skin, in her later years developed a chronic kind of skin problem. The technical term for it is ‘atopic dermatitis’ which basically refers to an allergic skin disease. Earlier in this year, the problem became worse and worse and, despite top veterinarian care, it got to a point where I wondered whether she was enjoying life at all anymore. It was heartbreaking and frustrating to the highest degrees: she was scratching non-stop, making herself bleed in certain hot spots, the hair around her eyes and around her bum was falling out leaving her with bald little patches, her skin was excessively oily giving off a bad smell and, the worst part was, she had lost all of her trademark lust for life. She was clearly incredibly frustrated and sad.

The vets, sharing my frustration, told me that this was a very difficult problem to treat seeing as Kimbey is such an allergic dog (we had special lab tests done in the USA to determine all of her allergies, which include grass, many meats, house dust mites, feathers, washing powder etc.) The situation felt almost helpless. The only relief that seemed viable at the time was in the form of cortisone, which, although it brings temporary alleviation of symptoms, suppresses the dog’s immune system and – in the end – can cause all sorts of horrific effects including cancer and a shortening of life span.

So, given the dire situation and a resolute feeling that there must be a solution, I went on a mad research tangent, googled myself silly, tried every single piece of advice out there and even got on the phone to a specialist US veterinarian homeopath (which cost me a pretty penny, but – of course – I was desperate).

I am extremely proud to say that, in the end, with the help of two amazing vets, I managed to swing Kimbey’s ‘impossible’ skin condition around by 180 degrees. Her skin has never looked better, her fur is shiny, soft and smells beautiful, the hair around her eyes and her bum have grown back beautifully, the scratching (which used to wake me up as many as 5 times a night) is virtually gone and she has ALL of her bouncy, mischievous and joyful personality back!

BEFORE THE INTERVENTION

So, here is what worked for little Kimbey (please check with your veterinarian before following this advice, as I am certainly not a qualified vet, I am simply sharing what worked for me, in the hopes that you may reap the same benefits):

1. Breaking The Initial Cycle If the scratching is at a point where the dog is making him/herself bleed and the situation is clearly out of control, you first need to break the cycle. The more the dog scratches, the more histamine is released and the more they feel the incessant urge to scratch. To break Kimbey’s cycle, we had no choice but to administer low levels of cortisone, injected at a dose recommended by our vet. Do not administer cortisone other than through your vet. Your vet might also recommend a tranquilliser of some sorts to get the dog to sleep through the night. I strongly recommend Dr Reena Cotton, Vet Point, Sea Point, Cape Town (http://findplace.co.za/Western-Cape/Cape-Town/Vetpoint-Dr-Reena-Cotton) or Dr Barry Hindmarch, CAMC, Kenilworth, Cape Town. A natural alternative for calming your dog down is Rescue Remedy, available at any pharmacy (but be sure to use the alcohol-free tablet form, not the drops),

2. Washing/Bathing This is a tricky one. Too much bathing can strip the skin of its natural oils and cause an increase in oil production which causes a bad smell. Too little bathing is also problematic as, when the skin gets too dirty, this increases the itchiness and of course also causes a bad smell. We found for Kimbey what worked was one to two times a week. Again, ask your vet about how often you should bathe your dog. Very important: use a calming, natural oatmeal shampoo (completely avoid anything with a fragrance in it) or ask your vet for a medicated anti-itch shampoo (Dr Reena Cotton, Vet Point, Sea Point, Cape Town). Make sure you dry your dog off completely after bathing, using either a hair dryer with cool air or a towel. If your dog has an ear infection too, make sure to wipe the ears out softly with a cotton pad so that they are completely dry. Be sure to get the ear infection under control as well: your vet should be able to recommend ear drops.

3. Avoidance of Allergens This is incredibly important, especially in the beginning phase when your dog’s system is still very weak and needs time to build up some strength again. It’s no use trying to control the allergic reaction if you are not avoiding the allergy-causing substances in the first place. If you can afford it and are willing to spend the money, ask your vet about blood allergy testing (Cape Animal Medical Health Centre, Kenilworth, Cape Town, Dr Barry Hindmarch). You will have to be vigilant, especially at first. For instance, if your dog is allergic to grass, you will have to wipe their paws off with luke warm water when they come inside. Don’t spray perfumes or household sprays near your dog.

4. Pet Clothing This might seem silly and spoiled, but I found this incredibly helpful. Kimbey seems to scratch a lot less when she is wearing one of her little pet t-shirts or tops (make sure it’s a good quality one, though, made of cotton and not synthetic material). I reckon it protects the skin from environmental allergens, but it also puts a barrier between the skin and the dog’s nails and teeth, when it tries to scratch or bite itself. Just make sure, in summer, to use light-weight clothing (you don’t want the skin to heat up). Wash their clothes with a non-chemical laundry detergent.

5. Diet Everyone has and it entitled to their own opinion, but I, personally, do not believe in feeding your dog pellets or dry food. Quite simply, it’s not real food and if you take the time to read up on exactly what’s in it, you will probably be shocked and very quickly discover for yourself why so many people stay far away from it. Of course, feeding your dog real food is costly and time-consuming. For an allergic dog, however, this makes a big difference. The skin is one of the organs your dog’s body uses to try to get rid of toxins. If you clog up that system by feeding your dog undesirable food, of course the already-burdened skin is going to suffer even more. If you are able to obtain blood allergy test results to determine which foods to stay away from, obviously use that as a guide.

What made a tremendous amount of difference to Kimbey’s health was changing her diet to one that consists of vegetables and protein. Personally, I strongly believe in the raw food diet for dogs, as advocated by leading holistic veterinarian Dr Richard Pitcairn. His best-selling book, Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats, is truly fantastic and offers holistic health advice for a whole range of symptoms and illnesses (not only skin-related issues).

I feed Kimbey steamed vegetables (mostly broccoli, cauliflower, pumpkin, butternut and gem squash) with either raw protein (minced lamb or other meat) or cooked fish (cooked in a tiny amount of coconut oil), twice a day. Some people are concerned about parasites in raw meat, but I sprinkle a bit of diatomaceous earth (a natural anti-parasite product, available at most pet stores) on her food and Kimbey has never had a parasite problem. Dogs’ stomachs are a lot stronger than that of humans. If you don’t have time to cook and prepare food for your dog, try Vondi’s Pet Store in Sea Point, Cape Town. They sell ready-made healthy meal options.

Note: some ‘human’ foods are highly toxic to dogs (e.g. xylitol, chocolate, macadamia nuts, avocado, onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, dairy produts etc) so read up on this and avoid giving these to your dog under any circumstances.

5. Supplements We add a small amount of coconut oil to Kimbey’s food (it’s excellent for their general health and for any skin-related disorders) and we also add a special fish oil blend to each meal (specifically formulated to reduce the symptoms of skin diseases) available at Vet Point. In all the research that I came across, fish oil and coconut oil are the two supplements that kept being mentioned for dogs with itchy, scratchy skin. Bear in mind that it could take a few weeks for the effects of these supplements to start showing, but be patient, they will.

6. Anti-histamines Last but definitely not least, we have put Kimbey onto a daily dose of anti-histamines. It took 2-3 weeks to build up in her system and start showing proper results, but – when it did – she became a completely different dog. Check with your veterinarian which anti-histamines and what dosage, is recommended. We use a combination of Allergex and Phenergan, which really has worked wonders. Kimbey was on another antihistamine before and it certainly did not work half as well as this combination. Finding the right antihistamine or antihistamine combination can make all the difference. Again, I cannot stress this enough, do not self-medicate your dog. Speak to your vet (I recommend Dr Reena Cotton, Vet Point, Sea Point, Cape Town).

Since Kimbey’s skin has settled so nicely now, I am going to try wean her off the Allergex and get her started on Allex (a natural Patrick Holford product) since this is probably something she will have to take chronically to keep her skin in check. This is available from Dr Barry Hindmarch, CAMC (link above) or Wellness Warehouse.

7. Homeopathy This is an excellent treatment option as well, if none of the above works for you or if you feel you want to start here. Homeopathy seeks to address the underlying causes of any illness and, in so doing, help the body heal itself. I obtained the details of one of the leading veterinarian homeopaths in the world from Dr Richard Pitcairn himself. Her name is Dr Wendy Jensen and her email address is jensenhvp@gmail.com. She practises in the USA but is available for international Skype consultations.

8. Classical Music This seems to be very soothing and comforting to them, especially during the acute phase and if you have a particularly musical dog (Kimbey enjoys singing along to the piano, when I play).

9. Regular Exercise This is a no-brainer and of course helps to maintain the general health of your dog and assist the body in flushing out toxins. It also distracts them for their discomfort a bit.

AFTER
AFTER: HAPPY, HEALTHY KIMBEY

DISCLAIMER I re-iterate that I am not a qualified vet and my advice is given simply from research and practical experience i.e. what has worked for me and Kimbey. I strongly suggest that, in treating your pet, you seek the advice and supervision of your vet. If the first vet you try is not able to help, go for a second opinion or even a third.

Finally, please don’t get despondent and don’t give up hope. Seeing your furry loved ones  suffer from something out of their control, is absolutely heartbreaking. I know. However, when it comes to atopic dermatitis, there are solutions and there most certainly are ways of dealing with it or lessening their and your discomfort.

Feel free to email me at clarewiese82@gmail.com if you have any questions at all.