Often the ‘reshaping’ of habits and achieving long term fat loss or improved performance success begins to happen when we bring awareness to our emotional triggers, replacing the behaviours that do not serve us well, for more positive actions that will lead to the success and results we seek.  Often it is not a matter of lack of discipline, far from it. Invariably most of us operate from a defective blueprint for achieving the results we seek. We get swayed from performing the necessary behaviours to achieve because of our emotional state does not support us. We quietly sabotage our success because what feels right is in fact ‘compromised data and evidence’. Bringing awareness to patterns is a great way to begin to create the chance for better choices and in turn the actions to produce necessary change.

Here is where a journal and the art of journalling your patterns can help….

For more information on how you can be more effective in your fitness and lifestyle health journey, connect via Valetudo Retreats.

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IMG_9127Since I arrived in the UK  I have been blown away by huge number of tanning salons here. They are like a virus, dotted along high streets and  on nearly every street corner.

Australia banned  Tanning Salon permits and eventually the salons themselves in 2015. For a country with the highest cases of melanoma cancers, this was a critical step in public health care and a prevention strategy for future generations. ‘Pale is In’ across many parts of Australia, tanning is now considered a rather trashy look as fashion moves toward a healthier complexion. The anti-ageing benefits of staying out of the harsh sun have also not been glossed over.

Despite the very different lifestyle lived in the UK (being outside for much of the year is almost impossible unless you are made of special forces material and the rain and cold are embraced). Brits love of tanning is something that needs address from a public health perspective. After all ‘dying for a tan’ is hardly smart.

Speaking of smart, there are some very real and very clear reasons that snubbing the tanning bed is the best way to go:

Dangers of Tanning in a Tanning Bed

  • The emissions from tanning beds chiefly consists of ultraviolet rays. There are two types of ultraviolet radiations known as Ultraviolet A (UVA) and Ultraviolet B (UVB). UVA, a longer wave radiation, has been identified as a cause for a deeper penetrating radiation.
  • The biggest culprit is probably UVB, a short wave radiation, which has long been linked with sunburn effects. Moreover, it is the one which is responsible for malignant melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.
  • UV radiations from the bed can also affect our immune system adversely. It also causes premature aging of the skin, which leads to rather crumpled and gristly appearance. Recent studies have even suggested that people who used tanning beds are 2.5-times more prone to risks of basal cell carcinoma, while 1.5-times more vulnerable to the occurrence of squamous cell carcinoma.
  • People using the tanning-bed are more susceptible than those who had natural sun exposure previously.
  • People who choose to tan in salons using tanning beds are approaching increased risk of developing skin cancer. This is particularly true in case of periodical tanning which occurs at a continuous frequency over relatively long period. As the amount of damage to the epithelial cells of skin accumulates, it increases the risk of melanoma.
  • Skin aging and skin cancer are the delayed effects that usually come to surface after many years. So, the damage done by this ultra violet ray emissions is not immediately apparent, people in their teen ages are often unaware of the dangers of tanning. In US alone, around 1 million cases of new skin cancer cases have been reported last year.
  • Teens are at a greater risk, as they are still witnessing tremendous cellular growth in their body at that particular age. Due to the increased multiplication rate of skin cells at this time, they are more prone to the dangers.
  • It also poses a great risk of sunburn. Medically, our skin has been classified into five types out of which skin type I and II are more susceptible for skin burns due to the prolonged use of tanning beds.
  • Eyes of frequent users are more exposed to the threat of cataracts and corneal burns from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays.

IMG_9240Now it has been a long time since I took to using a tanning product, in fact the last time was a ProFigure Championship in Fort Lauderdale, USA and the experience was a production line of white bodies parading into a booth one by one and emerging glistening and a dirty chocolate colour. The product smelled terrible and was a bit of a nightmare to keep from streaking. Perfect skin condition was one of the aspects athletes were graded on.

Based on a decade of competition tanning memories, and ruined clothes, the idea of  testing out Cocoa Brown tan didn’t fill me with a huge amount of joy. As tanning products go, if being pale is just not for you, then this should be one on your list to try. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The colour wasn’t terrible, no orange or strange brown streaks. It smelled remarkably good, almost edible actually. Best of all it dried instantly, no sticky residue and it didn’t stain my clothes. Made from natural ingredients and very easy to use. Depending on how dark you wish to go, this product gives you full control. Plus for those super glam nights out, you can use the body glitter lotion to really shimmer like the stars.

PHOTO: R Faraci (Australia)

Cocoa Brown Product

Review by Sara Picken-Brown for H& N Magazine (U.K)



Valetudo Retreats Luxury Healing HolidaysWhatever your stance on Veganism, one thing we can all agree on is that Veganism is here to stay.  As more and more people turn to a more sustainable and ethical means of nourishing themselves.

Over the last 20 years as a Health Coach and Nutrition Counsellor, I have seen the popularity of this ‘lifestyle’ choice growing in a tsunami -esque wave of advocates.  In some cases it seems to have become the new religion; a simple question of ‘would you like any mayonnaise’? Turns into a fact-bashing debate on more than one food industry, personal and societal ethics and  a caustic sprinkle of judgement all around.

From a professional stance, my personal opinions and dietary choices aside, I do believe that it is important that foundational nutrition basics be understood and factored for long term health and well-being.

With more education and availability of information on the many ways to follow a vegan lifestyle and still be thriving in good health,  more people have the knowledge and capability to follow this type of diet.  If you have the money, (to do it correctly is not cheap) and time in planning and preparation, then all power to you. Veganism certainly seems to be the trending  lifestyle choice of the financially independant  and globally conscious.

According to the Vegan Society , U.K; “In 2018 [they] surveyed 2,000 people aged 15 or over across England, Scotland and Wales. We found the number of vegans in Britain has doubled twice in the past four years: from 0.25% (150,000) in 2014 to 0.46% (276,000) in 2016 to 1.16% in 2018 (600,000).” Vegans demographics show 64% of vegans  in the UK are female, with 40% being aged 25-34. Business it appears is certainly booming in the ‘meat-free’ food industry, The Mintel Meat-Free Foods UK Report for 2012 shows that meat-free and free-from sales are expected to reach a total of £949m in 2012 with meat-free sales set to reach £607m and free-from market sales expected to reach £342m.

Statistics about the vegan industry, and make no mistake it is a booming industry, aside, I find a lot of confusion and doctrine surrounds this lifestyle choice when speaking to clients about their diet and how we can improve their hormonal balance, moods, energy, sleep and weight management.

According to the Mayo Clinic, these are the defining sectors of Vegetarianism and Veganism:

The Types:

When people think about a vegetarian diet, they typically think about a diet that doesn’t include meat, poultry or fish. But vegetarian diets vary in what foods they include and exclude:

  • Lacto-vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish, poultry and eggs, as well as foods that contain them. Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, yogurt and butter, are included.
  • Ovo-vegetarian diets exclude meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products, but allow eggs.
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish and poultry, but allow dairy products and eggs.
  • Pescatarian diets exclude meat and poultry, dairy, and eggs, but allow fish.
  • Vegan diets exclude meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products — and foods that contain these products.

Some of the more important considerations about balanced nutritional intake is that  vitamins and minerals are at optimal intake and absorbtion levels, which can be difficult if you are not aware of your personal requirements and are not planning your meals well.

Keep in mind that the more restrictive your diet is, the more challenging it can be to get all the nutrients you need. A vegan diet,  eliminates natural food sources of vitamin B-12, calcium can be limited, omega’s and essential fatty acids, Vitamin D and getting a full compliment of protein. Pay special attention to the following nutrients:

Calcium and vitamin D

Calcium helps build and maintain strong teeth and bones. Dark green vegetables, such as turnip and collard greens, kale, and broccoli, are good plant sources when eaten in sufficient quantities. 

Vitamin D also plays an important role in bone health. Vitamin D is added to some products. Be sure to check food labels. Having just 10min a day in the sunshine can help with natural production of Vitamin D, but in the UK  you may need a vitamin D supplement (one derived from plants). 

Here are a few general observations about calcium content and absorption rates of different plant foods.

  • Leafy green veggies are often rich in calcium, but some of them are also high in oxalates, compounds that bind calcium and reduce its absorption. High-oxalate vegetables include spinach, beet greens, and chard. Even though these foods contain calcium, you won’t absorb much of it so they should not be considered good sources of calcium.
  • Kale, mustard greens, turnip greens and broccoli are low in oxalates so we absorb calcium from these foods very well. Absorption rates vary from 50 to 65% for these cruciferous vegetables. Collard greens are a little bit higher in oxalates but are also very rich in calcium and can be considered a good source of this nutrient.
  • Beans, nuts and seeds provide moderate amounts of calcium that is absorbed at relatively low rates. Soaking nuts and seeds can improve absorption. 
  • Calcium-set tofu—usually made with calcium sulfate—varies widely in its calcium content depending on how it is made. Its calcium is well-absorbed, though, at about 30%.
  • Calcium absorption from fortified plant milks is similar to absorption from cow’s milk when the type of calcium added is calcium carbonate. It’s a little lower when tricalcium phosphate is used, but still good at about 25%. Just be careful of the added sugar and preservatives to these type of products.
  • Calcium absorption from fortified fruit juices seems to be at least as good as from cow’s milk, or probably better. Again,  be careful of the added sugar and preservatives to these type of products
  • Cooked Chinese cabbage, turnip greens, mustard greens, collards (if you prefer raw greens, just double the quantity to get the same amount of calcium)
  • Calcium-set tofu
  • Fortified plant milks
  • Fortified juices.

Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is necessary to produce red blood cells and prevent anemia. This vitamin is found almost exclusively in animal products, so it can be difficult to get enough B-12 on a vegan diet. Vitamin B-12 deficiency may go undetected in people who eat a vegan diet. This is because the vegan diet is rich in a vitamin called folate, which may mask deficiency in vitamin B-12 until severe problems occur. For this reason, it’s important for vegans to consider vitamin supplements. Vitamin B12 is needed for production of DNA (and therefore for cell division) and for maintaining nerve cells.

Two symptoms of B12 deficiency are:

  • Megaloblastic anemia, in which red blood cells become abnormally large because they can’t divide.
  • Nerve damage, which can result in a host of problems—everything from depression and mental confusion to tingling and numbness in extremities to a loss of balance and even paralysis.

The anemia is reversible with vitamin B12 therapy. The nerve damage is usually reversible, but not always.


Protein helps maintain healthy skin, bones, muscles and organs. Eggs and dairy products are good sources, and you don’t need to eat large amounts to meet your protein needs. You can also get sufficient protein from plant-based foods and supplements (https://www.nuzest.co.uk/shop/), if you eat a variety of them throughout the day. Plant sources include meat substitutes, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for heart health. Diets that do not include fish and eggs are generally low in active forms of omega-3 fatty acids.  Walnuts, ground flaxseed and chia seeds are good sources of essential fatty acids. However, because conversion of plant-based omega-3 to the types used by humans is inefficient, you may want to consider fortified products or supplements or both.

Iron and zinc

Iron is a crucial component of red blood cells. Dried beans and peas, lentils, enriched cereals, whole-grain products, dark leafy green vegetables, and dried fruit are good sources of iron. Because iron isn’t as easily absorbed from plant sources, the recommended intake of iron for vegetarians is almost double that recommended for nonvegetarians. To help your body absorb iron, eat foods rich in vitamin C, such as strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, cabbage and broccoli, at the same time as you’re eating iron-containing foods.

Like iron, zinc is not as easily absorbed from plant sources as it is from animal products. Cheese is a good option if you eat dairy products. Plant sources of zinc include whole grains, soy products, legumes, nuts and wheat germ. Zinc is an essential component of many enzymes and plays a role in cell division and in formation of proteins.

Some vegetarians & vegans rely too heavily on processed foods, which can be high in calories, sugar, fat and sodium. And they may not eat enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains and calcium-rich foods, thus missing out on the nutrients they provide. Coupled with food sensitivities and gut health issues, restrictive diets like veganism can make things very difficult when it comes to getting your nutrient intake correct. Enough food and variety to cover nutrient bases without blowing your calorie intake away.

Planning is the key and knowing exactly what you are eating and that you are getting your needs met from the food you eat. 

Planning a healthy Veggie-Lifestyle 

To get the most out of a vegetarian diet, choose a variety of healthy plant-based foods, such as whole fruits and vegetables, legumes and nuts, and whole grains. At the same time, cut back on less healthy choices, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices and refined grains.

**It is advisable that you speak to a Nutrition expert to ensure you have a clear understanding of your needs.

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I have to admit I am not really one for tech-related-trinkets. I often find I spend so much time getting the ‘technology to behave that the small window of time  allocated to your workout disappears in a haze of ‘can’t connect’ and ‘error’ related messages. That just creates frustration and annoyance. Yes, my patience is very limited when it comes to the tech. However, I do appreciate and know intimately the value of GOOD tech, that works on demand without all the ‘fiddling about’. Keep it simple, keep it accurate and all goes well in my book. After all like a good supplementation program to ‘support’ fundamental nutrition, the gadgets are tools to ‘support’ solid and sound training principles.

In-line with the fact that my new goal is to run a half marathon in 2019, I have finally decided to invest in a tracking device that will help me to keep awareness around pacing, heart rate and routes during my training sessions and ensure I keep injuries to a minimum. Recently I have found carrying a phone with my heart monitor readings and my GPS tracking activated; trying to jump between apps while on the trot is proving tricky- same old issue of ‘this tech is messing with my workout scenario’!

I discovered, through Tech blog review site, ‘I am Living it’ the Garmin Vivosmart 3. My big issue with a lot of the sports watches is that they are super bulky and scream “Im a sporty girl, see I have the watch to prove it”. I am VERY petite and most of the watches look like I have BIG BEN on my wrist. Im hopeful, when my new Garmin arrives, it will delight, not disappoint in this area. As for the tech stuff, its had mixed reviews, but mostly for what I need, its perfect for the price.

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Features: Maximum Speed, Record Sleep, Average Heart Rate, Average Speed, Bluetooth, Calorie Monitor, Clock, Data Review, Date, Distance, Exercise Log, Heart Rate Monitor, Rechargeable Battery, Set Goals, Sleep Tracker, Smart phone compatibility, Stopwatch

So Stay tuned…

152002Our bodies use calcium for many functions and chemical chain reactions to support overall health and wellbeing. Critical for unlocking the absorption of Vitamin D, calcium is also used to support our nervous system, muscles, heart and bone density and health and repair. We have often been told that milk and cheese are the best sources of calcium. This has been the biggest dairy industry con of all time, the best sources are actually from green veg, along with the other 10 sources listed below.
Be aware too that synthetic calcium, such as in the form of ‘Caltrate’ and supplemented calcium can actually contribute rather that improve calcium absorption. Synthetic claim leaves our own reserves stored in our bodies, so be aware of any GP or practitioner that promotes calcium supplementation, if can be very detrimental to overall health


300g broccoli gives 140mg of calcium

1. White Beans: 191 mg (19% DV) in 1 cup canned
Creamy and light, these legumes are a great source of calcium and iron [4]. Add them to a pasta dish with veggies, or skip the chickpeas and make your own hummus with white beans.
2. Canned Salmon: 232 mg (23% DV) in ½ can with bones (which provides the calcium!) To avoid putting a dent in the wallet, canned salmon is a great way to go. Here’s the catch: It’s the bones in canned salmon that hold all the calcium, so they need to be mashed up right along with the salmon meat for all the benefits! But don’t get turned off just yet — the canning process softens the bones so they easily break apart and are unnoticeable when mixed in with the rest of the can’s contents. For a boost of calcium and omega 3’s, try these salmon cakes.
3. Sardines: 321 mg (32% DV) in about 7 sardines fillets
Along with calcium, they also provide a hefty dose of omega 3’s and vitamin D.
4. Dried Figs: 107 mg (10% DV) in 8 whole dried figs
For a sweet treat, this dried fruit packs an antioxidant, fiber, and calcium punch. Eat them as a mid-day snack,
5. Bok Choy: 74 mg (7% DV) in 1 cup
This versatile Chinese cabbage provides a hefty dose of vitamins A and C, along with calcium and fiber. Stir-fry bok choy with garlic and olive oil for a perfect side dish.
6. Blackstrap Molasses: 172 mg (17% DV) in 1 tablespoon
When the sweet tooth strikes, it’s best to go natural. Blackstrap molasses is darker in color and richer in flavor than regular molasses, and is filled with calcium, iron, and other vitamins. Plus, it’s a great sweet and flavorful addition to many dishes.
7. Kale: 188 mg (19% DV) in 2 cups raw (chopped)
This superfood is filled with calcium and antioxidants, and is perfect to use as the base of any salad when shredded into thin strips. Add lemon and herbs as a salad or steamed side dish.
8. Black-eyed Peas: 185 mg (18% DV) in 1/2 cup canned
These beans are filled with calcium, potassium, folate, and more! Skip the fat-filled mayo and whip up this black-eyed pea spread to pump up any sandwich or appetizer.
9. Almonds: 72 mg (7% DV) in ¼ cup natural & raw (about 20 nuts)
They’re the most nutritionally dense nut, packing a crazy amounts of nutrients per calorie and ounce. Aside from calcium, they also contain potassium, vitamin E, and iron. Sprinkle on a salad or make your own almond butter. Just watch out for portion size!
10. Oranges: 65 mg (6% DV) in 1 medium fruit
Full of vitamin C and calcium, enjoy this fruit as a mid-morning snack, or use its citrus flavour to brighten up any dish.