Celebrities have forgone the days of falling out of nightclubs with rumours circulating of drink fuelled antics. Instead, it’s postcard perfect Instagram accounts about green juice. All well and good, but the glossiness of it can feel like yet another pressure of modern life rather than a Zen route to all round happiness.
So, is raw food and yoga just for those with Instagram perfect lives? Or is it possible for those of us with a 9 ‘til who-knows-when, and families and a weakness for red wine as well?
Elaine Vaughan Wellness Coach, Yoga Teacher and Healthful Eating Educator, reckons raw food and yoga is accessible for everyone. A self-proclaimed Malteser addict, who just happens to have her biscuit craving in check (it helps that she has the secret to making the most insane raw chocolate dessert up her sleeve – more on that next week), Elaine’s path has been a long journey from the inner workings of the hotel industry to wellness guru.
Her website quotes: “our lives are often less than 1000 months long and to make the best of it we need to have fun, form strong friendships and make the best of the gifts we have.” A sobering thoughts from Professor A.C Grayling that definitely makes the hours spent worrying about things we can’t control seem that little bit futile.
From the moment you start speaking to Elaine, you can’t help but like her. She’s got one of those velvety smooth voices akin to Joanna Lumley. While her life has clearly been a tapestry (much like anyone else’s) that has brought her to some profound realisations (including the power of yoga and raw food), she doesn’t wear it on her sleeve and there’s no X Factor music on a teeny tiny violin to accompany her PR spiel. In fact, there is no spiel. She’s a real person with balance on the brain.
That said, when I ask her what first got her interested in yoga and wellness, in amongst the story of training as a yoga instructor for personal gain 18 years ago, she also happens to mention that she’s descended from a witch. “One of my maternal relatives was one of the last women to be hanged for allegedly being a witch! She was almost certainly a herbalist or “white witch”, so natural remedies and healing people has always been part of my family!” Not entirely your average story, but frankly it makes me like her even more.
So, the bottom line is that Elaine’s professional interest has stemmed from personal experience. Her opening gambit: “while I don’t live a raw food lifestyle all the time because I am not militant, it has given me a lot. It’s all about balance. If people come away from an hour with me and are more curious about a healthier lifestyle, then that’s wonderful.
Raw food will make your life easier
“I have a really hectic lifestyle at the moment and I have to constantly pull myself back,” says Elaine: “yoga really helps with that. I found that having gone through a very tough time, getting up early for meditation and yoga was life changing, but the only way I could get up early was not drinking in the evening and changing what I ate.”
So the two elements of Elaine’s ethos go hand in hand, showing health in the form of exercise, meditation and yoga is only halfway complete, and is probably a lot harder, without the right fuel going into the proverbial tank. Crucially, she says: “your body is your laboratory, it’s why fad diets don’t work. It’s about what works for you.”
“Your sympathetic nervous system which operates your fight or flight reaction is something we have had since the dawn of time. Unfortunately, we have a lot of stress in our lives and instead of calming down by breathing and having a glass of water, we self medicate on coffee, alcohol and prescription drugs which perpetuate the problem. That brings us back to our idea of a ‘normal’ state, which is still highly stressed.”
“Yoga helps us learn to not reach for the coffee, but to take five minutes to breathe and centre ourselves. Fifteen minutes in the morning or evening or wherever you can fit it in, and your body starts to understand how to bring itself down. You can calm your body by using your breath and easing your mind. It’s about finding that peace, finding that calm, then you can cope with more.”
Importantly, Elaine points out that: “a bit of stress is good for you, but it’s about how you handle that stress. A lot of people struggle with weight around their abdomen and that’s linked to stress. Stress makes you fat because your body is too busy focusing on fight or flight to focus on digestion.” That said, she’s keen to point out that this is not about weight loss as a primary goal: “I never talk about losing weight – if your body is healthy it will sort out its own weight.”
So is it possible to achieve both elements and make them a part of your life rather than letting them dominate your life, becoming just another pressure to add to the list: “I have a very active social life and a busy boyfriend. I do the good things, but I don’t worry when I go out and have a glass of wine. It’s important to do what’s right for you. As soon as you talk about diets and detox it’s limiting and you should be living in abundance.”
“I hate the word diet, and I hate the word detox,” Elaine shudders: “there are wonderful foods out there and you can see the difference in your skin and the way you feel when you incorporate them. If you body brush your skin every other day for example, you’re taking care of your biggest detox organ – your skin. Drink water – we are a civilised nation and we’re all malnourished and dehydrated. If I could get everybody to breathe properly we would halve the number of people in doctor’s surgeries. After all, if you don’t breathe properly then you don’t digest properly.”
Behaviour change always seems hard, but Elaine says, “you can change your habits within 21 days and that’s always a shock to people – stop putting sugar in your tea, incorporate something positive and healthy, whatever.” Importantly, when it comes to her work, Elaine’s approach is not to try and force change in people.
“You can’t change other people, they have to come to me. Most of my clients come to me for yoga. Then I gradually invite them to try a smoothie, and if that wasn’t dreadful, I suggest they try a workshop, and gradually build their knowledge. I know that little by little that’s changed their lives. Once they have confidence in me I can guide them, but I don’t tell people how to live their lives.“
How difficult is it to incorporate raw food into your diet? I mean, is that really possible if you’re not a wellness coach with a separate bank account for chia seeds? “If you have one raw salad a day it makes a huge difference,” says Elaine.
“The solutions are straightforward but we’re encouraged to take the easy option day in, day out. We eat sugars and easy fillers to satisfy cravings but it’s not what we really need, and the body is still hungry so you perpetuate the cycle. You are what you eat to quote Gillian McKeith, and your body is priceless. It doesn’t need to be expensive and you eat less because it fills you up really quickly.”
Cost is often seen as prohibitive when it comes to raw or vegan diets, not to mention the difficulty of it all on an average trip to Tesco: “Even the girl I trained with in raw food will say it’s almost impossible to be 100% raw. Cashews, for example, are cooked to get them out of the pods. I would be happy if people had a really healthy green juice in the morning that’s high in vegetables and herbs. Don’t buy orange juice, and at lunch have a great salad with lots of things mixed into it. Eat raw food before you eat anything cooked, and eat light in the evenings.”
“Be sensible, eat in moderation, and get curious about what you can do with fruit and veg. Eat avocados – it’s not the food of the devil, you need good fats! Try coconut oil, it’s amazing, and get rid of white processed sugars and white bread most of the time, but don’t put yourself in prison. If you have Maltesers some of the time, that’s ok. Have water 30 minutes before you eat because a lot of the time you’re thirsty when you think you’re hungry, and try different teas and infusions.”
So there you go, breathe deeply, drink herbal infusions, have at least one raw salad a day, drink more water and don’t forget the occasional Malteser. Therein lies the root of health and happiness.
Elaine is hosting a seven night Banish, Balance and Boost Programme at OUT OF THE BLUE Capsis Elite Resort/Crystal Energy Hotel in Crete – offer ends soon.
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