The Collective

Why We All Need To Listen To Our Gut More

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Austria’s Mayr and Vivamayr clinics, which specialise in gut health, have proved divisive. Some are sceptical of the draconian measures which dictate that for the duration of your stay you should chew on (slightly stale) spelt bread (forty times per morsel) and “eat” rather than drink the evening herbal teas. It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted but after visiting the original F.X Clinic on the shores of Lake Worthersee ten years ago, I vowed to return every year.

What I loved was at the heart of it all was a philosophy that was steeped not in gobbledy gook or new fangled health ideas, but the sort of wisdom or common sense that has travelled down generations.

The science bit goes something like this: Dr Franz Xaver Mayr (1875-1965) concluded that a healthy bowel was the key to good health and beauty.

Not only did he believe in daily moderate exercise and fad-free home cooking eaten at regular times during the day (the smallest of which should be eaten in the evening) but most of all he believed that you should chew. Lots.

An early student of the digestive system, decades before an entire publishing industry focusing on the gut was invented, Dr. Mayr believed you should chew every morsel that you ate at least 40 times.

Even liquids, went his thinking, should be swished around your mouth before being swallowed. This is because saliva with its digestive enzymes breaks down the food in the mouth, easing the burden on our stomach. The toxins that accumulate in the bowel as a result of a poor diet and bad habits not only impair the digestive system but eventually your whole body.

It’s a way of eating which echoes the sort of advice your Granny might have given you: don’t eat plates piled high with over-processed, microwaved convenience food but to eat simple, homemade fare that was to be chewed properly and to follow the adage “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper”.

And boy was it an enormous eye opener. It made me realise how much we over-eat because once you start really chewing, not only do you really taste every bit of food (by the way, those Kettle chips taste pretty rank after 40 chews) but you also eat less as there a) isn’t enough time and b) you feel fuller sooner.  What was also surprising was how quickly I began to notice the benefits on my digestive system, and in turn my skin and energy levels. Which gets me in a rather long-winded way to the point of this piece.

Because that is precisely when I started listening to my gut. I haven’t always done it since, but feeling less bloated and blocked, or eliminating that ‘icky’ feeling has certainly encouraged me to do so more.

And the best thing: once you start doing it, the better you become at truly listening to it.  I can’t count the number of times my gut has won out over rational logic.

Most of us have experienced the sense of knowing things before we know them, even if we can’t explain how. You hesitate at a green light and miss getting hit by a speeding truck. You decide on a whim perhaps to break your no-blind-dates rule and end up meeting your life partner.

You have a hunch that you should invest in a little online startup and it becomes Amazon.

Your intuition is often so much more powerful than taking advice from someone else. Often it is even more powerful than rational logic.

Some scientists say that you can “feel” approaching events specifically thanks to your dopamine neurons. “The jitters of dopamine help keep track of reality, alerting us to those subtle patterns that we can’t consciously detect, such as if there is something in our environment which is slightly irregular — the speed of an approaching truck, the slightly unusual behavior of someone at a party — your brain squirts dopamine and you get that “weird” feeling. Whether you pay attention or not can make all the difference. But living more intuitively also demands that we live more in the moment which makes for a far richer life.

So how do you choose which gut feelings to trust? Some pyschologists suggest it’s a matter of combining linear mind and intuition and striking the right balance between gut instinct and rational thinking.

Ronald A. Alexander, PhD, a psychologist and mindfulness expert, also recommends paying close attention to any sudden physical sensations you experience during the course of an interaction. He recounts a story of traveling in India where he decided not to get in a cab because of a “burning sensation” in his gut, and he later saw the driver being arrested in the train station for suspected robbery. He says he typically feels intuitions in his chest or his stomach; the latter is relatively common given that the intestines house the enteric nervous system, sometimes called the “second brain.” That second brain really is the intuitive brain.

Most people have a great “I just knew it was right” story. There’s a reason most of us have memorable stories about the biggest and best decisions we make in life as they’re typically remarkable for their absence of over-thinking.

When your intuition signals that you’ve found something or someone truly right for you, the choice often becomes strangely easy. “It feels healthy; it feels good; it doesn’t feel like you’re forcing it, there’s not a lot of conflict.

So why is gut instinct so valuable? It is priceless primarily because it’s exponentially faster than your logical mind. The speed of instinct is another one of the reasons body language is such an accurate marker—the body responds to stimulus within a 10th of a second and reacts with visible signals of dislike, lying, etc., that are difficult or even impossible to hide.

Your Spring Wardrobe Starts Here

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What can I tell you about fashion this spring? Quite a bit as it turns out. After what feels like an interminably long February I don’t blame you for wanting to peel off layers of 70 denier tights and chunky cashmere. It’s going to be a while before we’re digging out those pool slides but in the meantime, here are the items that are going to add vim and verve to your spring wardrobe, which won’t make you resemble a mutton or worse still, a popstrel, and more importantly which won’t cost the earth.

The trench coat

Without doubt one of Planet Fashion’s Duracell bunnies – the trench coat is enjoying yet another revival this spring and it’s not hard to figure out why: what else works over a pair of jeans or trousers, your workaday outfit and yet manages to add an edge to a cocktail dress. It’s the best trans-seasonal buy when ‘four seasons in one day’ weather is very much the norm. Read More…

Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone

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It’s Febuary and social media is awash with mantras to get out there, carpe diem and step out of your comfort zone. “Blah, blah, blah,” you say to yourself on a morning when all you want to do is wear a duvet to work or better still, roll back under the covers.

It’s the sort of rousing rhetoric that doesn’t always sit so comfortably with a cynical Brit sensibility and yet, and yet….until I tried it for myself I had no idea how empowering or alive, straying outside my comfort zone would make me feel. Read More…

Why Are We Scared Of Our Children?

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Who knows when things got quite so out of hand? Was it when we decided that it was a good idea to become our children’s best friend? Nauseating at best, down right creepy at worst.

I cringe inwardly when I overhear parents asking their toddlers permission to do things: parents who have become so scared of ever upsetting their offspring’s feelings that they rarely assert what needs to get done that day. Since when do three year olds run our lives? Quite frequently it turns out in 2017.

Well little wonder that a backlash of sorts has begun. Should we be worried that today’s society seems increasingly willing to introduce kids’ free zones or is it something to be embraced? Restaurants where buggies (and consequently children) are verboten and the news, okay then, the uproar last October that a budget airline would be introducing kid free flights.

NB Virgin’s Richard Branson has also mooted exploring the feasibility of ‘kids’ class’, Eurostar already has family-friendly coaches on its trains, and China Airlines and Air New Zealand also have ‘family couch’ zones, where seats convert into contained areas for children.

Even as the mother of two little people, I can see the merit of having kid free flights or at least child free zones: no pressure on the parents to keep them quite so buttoned up and the chance for others to enjoy some peace should they choose too.

Of course I’m not advocating that children should sit robotic during a five hour flight but I’m constantly astonished by the extremes of behavior (partly what moved me to write this in the first place), where six and seven year olds, big enough to know better, will yell for the entire journey and children who continue to kick the back of my seat with not a murmur of reproach from the parents sat besides them.

Why are we apologetic or deemed ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘out of touch’ when we expect kids to behave appropriately in public spaces when they go out. Janet Street Porter might be a divisive personality but as she wrote in her column, she is entirely justified in wanting to enjoy a meal in a restaurant or café without being subjected to a torrent of tantrums from the table next to hers. One of the best parenting tips I was ever given as a new mother in the event of a baby melt down was to remember who the parent was. Blindingly obvious I know, but you’d be surprised how many people forget given the children I see who are allowed to talk back, snatch, whizz around a restaurant on a scooter sending drinks and plates flying (yes really!) with barely a murmur from their parents.

Is it because we’ve become too lazy to reprimand them, or are scared of being perceived as the bad cop (you might have to get over yourself here). Perhaps we are worried that we will be deemed as being too strict, something that harks back to our parents’ generation? I know, me neither. Even with the rise of social media where adults are parent-shamed, I find it baffling that adults actually give a fig about what a verbose 14 year old thinks of them on Snap chat.

I have seen parents trip over themselves complimenting their children and yet not one word when their children are rude or out of line. There are children’s activities or sporting events where EVERY child is a winner which is frankly, quite ridiculous and I don’t think I need to spell out to you why.

Recently my seven year-old daughter wasn’t selected to be part of the gym squad. For someone who spends every breathing second (and driving us mad in the process), trying to do a cartwheel or the splits, she was understandably a little crushed.

It was tempting to tell her that clearly her gym teacher hadn’t understood quite how agile she was, or seen her potential, when I thought better of it and stopped myself. Instead, I told her that she might be good but she wasn’t good enough this year, as the standard was high and that perhaps with a bit more practice or considering joining an out of school gym class, she might try again next year and be selected. Did she have a break down? Nope she thought about it and is now more determined than ever.

Vicki Hoefle, professional parent educator and author of “Duct Tape Parenting,” says, “Allowing children to set the guidelines is not conducive for their healthy emotional development.” Clinical psychologist and relationship specialist Dr. Jeanette Raymond agrees, noting that “Maintaining a sense of caring authority at all times makes a child feel safe.”

Capitulating to their demands because it’s easier than dealing with a temper tantrum confirms to children that you’re afraid of them. And once they sniff that fear, believe me the manipulative tykes will run with it! As parents, it’s our responsibility to set boundaries and be consistent.

Of course everyone needs to be tolerant too of children when they are learning to behave in a new environment or a new situation, but I think it’s really obvious when parents are patiently trying to teach them how to behave and when they are let loose to please themselves.

It’s time to stop being afraid of your children’s reaction: Love, affection and nurturing along with disciplining your child are all qualities that are bound together. Taking a stern approach and disciplining your child doesn’t mean you don’t love them. Actually, far from it. On the contrary, it spells out that you love them too much to let bad habits or anti-social behavior prevent them from forging meaningful friendships, relationships and getting on in the wider world and the work place. Really, teaching them to be aware and consider the people around them is going to equip them with the qualities that will allow them grab all the opportunities life has to offer.

Maternity Wear

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I remember it only too well. 2012 and I was pregnant with my second daughter. Truly I wanted to embrace a whole new maternity wardrobe. So too, did my (particularly rampant) Chinese consumer genes, no doubt geed up by all those pregnancy hormones. With a royal baby on the way and Victoria Beckham rumoured to be adapting outfits for the Duchess, the ‘wrap’n’ruched’ dress – that (deeply unfashionable) hero piece of maternity wear’s ancient regime would finally be toppled. 2012 would be the year that pregnant women got a make over in the style annals. Read More…

Your Coat Wardrobe Starts Here

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As a masterclass in dressing for the cold, you’d think the front row of the recent Pret-a-Porter shows would have thrown up a few nuggets on the coat front. Or it would have done if it was actually that cold in September. Yes despite the hysteria and FOMO from the glossies beseeching you to buy your winter coat back in June, for 99% of the population, that is never going to happen.

So is there anything left to buy on the rails? Of course there is. In any case, coat buying should never be done in a rush. Because you need to think very carefully about what sort of coat you need.

Is it to sling on over a pair of jeans or is it something in classic, neutral tones that you can also wear to work that is required? Should it be knee-length or would it be practical if you experimented with a fashion forward, three quarter length dressing gown style? Will it be worn with trousers or skirts and dresses? You are beginning to see that not all coats were created equal. Read More…