All posts by Sarah Laatz

Understanding the gut-brain connection

bowel (front)We all know (too well) that what we eat has a profound impact on our thighs and overall health. But did you know that your stomach has a significant link to your brain too? Specifically, the health of your gut can contribute to mental illnesses, like depression, chronic stress, and anxiety.

How exactly does this work? Psychology Today says it has to do with these three physical systems:

1.    Stress and the body

Typically, if you’re in danger, your body responds by flushing your system with hormones that give you the energy and strength to fight, or run away from, whatever is endangering you; aka, the ‘fight or flight’ response. 

But, while previously this would only happen on the odd occasion when a lion tried to eat you, these days, our bodies experience this kind of stress-induced response more frequently. And this can have a striking effect on our bodies, by causing ailments like intestinal troubles, hypertension, headaches, and mental illness.

2.    The immune system

Your body’s response to stress is the same, whether you’re working towards a deadline, or running away from a man-eating tiger. And when our bodies are on high alert, they behave as if they’re fighting an infection: they become inflamed. 

But, while inflammation has its place in healing real infections, chronic levels often lead to chronic (and even deadly) illnesses like depression, cancer, and autoimmune diseases.

3.    The gut microbiome

Managing these biological responses comes down to our microbiomes: microscopic organisms like bacteria, archaea, parasites and fungi that make up 90% of our biology. These germs are good for you, affecting everything from your pain threshold, to your hormones, and your ability to fight off illness and manage stress. 

This means that the germs that live with you are really important; not just for survival, but for your quality of life too. 

You can improve your gut health by taking pre- and probiotics regularly, avoiding antibiotics and processed foods whenever possible, and eating and drinking a variety of cultured and fermented products like yoghurt, cultured butter, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha. 

Scientists are only just scratching the surface of the gut-brain connection, but so far one thing’s for certain: unhealthy food affects way more than just your thighs.

Eating the rainbow

ColoursThere are many things nutritionists disagree on when it comes to health, but the one thing that most of them do agree on is natural variety. That’s because different fruits and veggies have a range of different phytochemicals in them that have different benefits to the body; something that can often be simplified (in some ways) down to colour.

But what exactly are the colours of fruits and vegetables good for? Here’s what says:


Foods:             Eggplant, blueberries, blackberries, prunes, plums and pomegranates

Nutrients:        High in anthocyanins; a type of antioxidant

Benefits:          These protect against heart disease and cancer


Foods:             Broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, and Brussels sprouts

Nutrients:         Potent phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals, like isothiocyanates, indoles, isothiocyanates, vitamin K, folic acid, potassium, carotenoids, omega-3 fatty acids, and sulforaphane

Benefits:          These nutrients fight cancer, lower blood pressure, and prevent neural tube defects in foetuses during pregnancy


Foods:             Avocados, kiwifruit, pistachios, spinach and other leafy greens

Nutrients:         Rich in lutein

Benefits:          Great for eye health

  • RED

Foods:             Tomatoes (especially when cooked), watermelon, grapefruit, guava, and cranberries

Nutrients:         High in vitamin C, folate, and the carotenoid, lycopene

Benefits:          Reduces cancer risk (especially in the prostate and breasts), and helps protect against heart attacks


Foods:             Carrots, mangoes, gem squash, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins

Nutrients:         High in carotenoids like beta-cryptoxanthin, beta-carotene, and alpha-carotene

Benefits:          Excellent for eye, skin, and bone health, as well as immune function, and inflammation. May also help prevent several cancers and reduce the risk of heart disease.

The nutrients present in these foods don’t mean that fruits and veggies with less colour in them are lower in nutrients either. They all have their place in a healthy diet. What it does suggest, is that painting your dinner plate with a variety of colours every night could go far in protecting your and your family’s long-term wellbeing.

Intermittent fasting: why and how you should try it

IFastingf I had a Rand for every time I heard that ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’, I’d be at least R1000 richer. And, according to some studies, it’s true. Especially for children and the elderly. But…

Recent evidence shows that intermittent fasting – an eating strategy where some people skip breakfast – can also be great for your health. In fact, according to, it’s a powerful immune booster, improving cell regeneration, fighting infections and inflammation, and having positive effects on illnesses like type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.

Fasting options

One of the best things I find about intermittent fasting, is that you can often still eat the foods you love, as long as you don’t binge. You just need to pick the method that suits your lifestyle. lists these 5 methods to help you pick one that’s best for you:


1.    Skip a meal: Fast for 14 to 16 hours a day (including your 8 hours of sleep). The rest of the day, eat normally. Some skip breakfast, while others prefer skipping dinner.

2.    Eat, stop, eat: Fast for a full 24 hours once or twice a week and eat normally every other day.

3.    The Warrior Diet: Eat one large meal a day at dinnertime and fast the rest of the day.

4.    Fat loss forever: This is a 7-day combination of the methods above with one cheat day a week.

5.    Alternate-day fasting: Eat a fifth of your normal calorie intake every second day and eat normally every other day.

Other options

Daily Burn also writes about the When Hunger Ensues Naturally (WHEN) method; only eating when you’re hungry. This means not necessarily eating at scheduled meal times (or when you’re bored, angry, sad, etc.), and stopping when your body is satisfied.

How to choose

From Banting to Paleo, gluten-free, and now intermittent fasting (something previous experts said we should never do), no one seems to agree on what’s best for our bodies. So, if nothing else, what the evidence does show us is that our bodies respond well to many different eating styles, including not eating, as long as we don’t overindulge.

So, if you can’t get through the day without breakfast, keep it in. If you only get hungry at lunchtime, don’t eat until then. If your job forces you to skip meals, go with it. In other words: your lifestyle, and more importantly, your body, defines what the most important meal of the day is for you. Listen to it.

Cinnamon: not just for your muffin top

CinnamonIt’s great on a Chelsea bun, on your cappuccino, and even in your mashed butternut. But did you know that cinnamon is far more than just a great flavouring agent? In fact, it’s been used as a medicine for centuries. And science backs it up.

According to Joe Leech, Master of Science graduate and health professional, adding cinnamon to your diet boosts your health by:

  • Protecting the body with its high antioxidant levels
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Reducing bad cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure
  • Dramatically reducing insulin resistance
  • Fighting diabetes
  • Improving the effects of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
  • Protecting against cancer
  • Reducing infection and fighting tooth decay and bad breath thanks to antifungal and antibacterial properties
  • Fighting HIV-1; the main type of HIV virus in humans

There’s no doubt cinnamon is a powerhouse of goodness. And, at the end of winter, what better way to consume it than in this German Glühwein? Red wine has anti-aging properties, didn’t you know?

Why you should eat garlic every day

garlic-2390990_640The universe was on our side when it made garlic. It tastes fantastic, wards off vampires, and it’s good for you? We won with this bulb. 

According to Helen Nichols at, garlic’s been used as a medicine for centuries. And while it doesn’t serve as a major source of nutrients, its oligosaccharides, arginine-rich proteins, and other micronutrients like selenium and flavonoids, play a synergistic role with other fruits and vegetables, supporting optimum health.

Specifically, Helen says scientific research has found that garlic:

  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Slows cell degeneration and aging
  • Helps to prevent multiple cancers
  • Inhibits the development of chemically induced tumours
  • Boosts your immune system
  • Has an adverse effect on the common cold
  • Stops the spread of infection when used topically
  • Lowers high blood pressure
  • Has antibacterial effects
  • Fights plaque build-up on your teeth
  • Protects against some forms of sun damage
  • Protects the brain from memory loss, increasing memory retention
  • Reduces stress
  • Might increase life expectancy
  • May increase athletic ability
  • Helps to detox the body
  • May increase oestrogen levels in menopausal women
  • Promotes calcium absorption and bone health
  • Stabilises blood sugar levels
  • Could support weight loss

Garlic truly is a wonder food. With all these perks and great culinary value, we should all eat it every day. If nothing else, at least eating more of it saves you from everyone else’s garlic breath. 


Exercise is love.

5712669523_300d605eb2_bWhen did exercise go from health and wellbeing to just about weight loss? About being thinner, firmer, ‘sexier’?

Moving your body is beautiful. It’s a celebration of the incredible things it can do – not a punishment for the chocolate cake you ate yesterday. 

Keeping your body healthy is important because it feels good; shaming yourself into it is never the goal. In the society we live in, many of us are guilty of this. And it’s time to stop. Because, as Sarah Ogden Trotta, author at Everyday Feminism says:

‘Having a body is not bad; it’s impossible to have too much body; [you are] allowed to take up space’. 

These are 3 of the things that helped her change her exercise routine from an act of shame to one of self-love:

1.    She accepted her body

Most of the time, you don’t accept your tummy like it is now… you accept it for what it might be one day. And that makes exercise pretty sucky. Because instead of enjoying your work out in the moment, you’re just waiting for ‘results’. 

By accepting her body as it is, Sarah no longer runs so she can buy a smaller pair of jeans. Instead, she says ‘I am proud of the movement I engaged in, that I completed something that was hard, and that I feel pride in my accomplishment.’ 

It’s a challenging process. But, by being aware of her thoughts, sitting with them, and allowing them to unravel, it gets easier.

2.    She bought clothes that fit

Because yoga pants and other exercise gear are supposed to feel like second skin. Not spandex that’s so tight it squeezes out a muffin top and rides down your bum when you bend over. No. You need to feel supported, comfortable, and confident to work out properly. So, find a brand that suits your body.

3.    She found her tribe

If you don’t look like a supermodel, chances are you’ll never feel comfortable exercising in a room full of people who do. You want to train with really fit fat people, winded thin people, and those who can hold a plank forever. A place for everyone (you know, like Body Divine), because, like Sarah says:

‘Fitness must be for everyone who wants it – no exceptions.’

Bottom line? Your body is magnificent and it deserves to be celebrated. Come honour it with us.

Show some respect: The right way to talk to yourself

27716823425_d981d97e97_zThey say that the way you speak to your children becomes their inner voice. But what if your own inner voice is total cow? Many of us are guilty of berating ourselves when we’re down, or have failed in some way. But the fact that it’s common doesn’t make it healthy. Nor is it any good at helping you be a better person. 

But how do you change something so entrenched in who you are? 

Your two minds

Buddhists say you have two minds: one that thinks and one that observes. If you’ve ever meditated, you’re probably familiar with the struggle of quietening the jabber in your head. That jabber is your thinking mind. The one who tries to quieten your thoughts is your observing mind. And it’s through understanding this partnership that you’re best able to improve your inner self-talk.

Talking to yourself

The negative talker in your head is often your thinking mind, while your observing mind can be more open to objectivity. Train your observing mind to see your thinking mind as another person who needs love and guidance just as your child/ren would. Then use this perception to look at the positive in every situation.

For instance: don’t say ‘I don’t want chaos in my life’ – say ‘I want order’. Stop yourself from saying ‘I’m so stupid, I won’t amount to anything’ – say, ‘I’m growing, and stumbling along the way is a part of how I learn. I am becoming a better person every day.’ Cut yourself some slack and be grateful for the good in your life. After all – you attract what you put out.

Positive, not false

If the realist in you is squirming at the thought of ‘positive thinking’, remember that looking at the positive side of the coin isn’t deception or wearing rose-tinted glasses. In fact, expecting yourself not to make mistakes is deceptive.

According to Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D., founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources in the US, ‘Positive self-talk is about recognising the truth in situations and in yourself. To expect perfection in yourself or anyone else is unrealistic. To expect no difficulties in life, whether through your actions or circumstances, is also unrealistic. ‘

Being honest with yourself is important, but only if you’re balanced and kind. You listen to yourself more than anyone else in the world – make sure you’re a good mentor.

Strength training for women – it’s not taboo

exercise-841167_640Strength training isn’t just for men anymore. In fact, it’s probably one of the most effective ways to train if you want that nice, toned look… Without bulking up like a weight lifter.

Surprised? It turns out there are many startling facts about how weight training affects weight loss in women. According to, these are seven of the biggest ones:

  1. You won’t get bulky from picking up heavy things – you will tone beautifully.
  2. Targeted exercise won’t change where fat is lost – rather do whole-body training.
  3. Strength training burns fat more efficiently than cardio.
  4. Everybody reacts to diet and training differently – find something that works for you.
  5. There’s no reason men and women should train differently.
  6. Eating less isn’t the most effective weight-loss strategy – eating the right foods is.
  7. Post-menopause is the perfect time to strength train.

Ultimately, the best way to train is the way that makes you happy. But, if it’s fat-loss you’re after, strength training (like the training we offer in our Pilates classes) often comes out tops.

Forgive yourself, according to science

494333914_1280x720You’re not always the best version of yourself. With stress, bad days, complex relationships, and ignorance, sometimes you kind of… suck. And that’s okay. We all do sometimes. But the guilt and shame that comes with it can eat away at you.

Self-forgiveness isn’t the simple task it’s often made out to be on self-help blogs though. According to psychological studies, forgiving yourself can even serve as a crutch, helping to relieve your anguish without actually making amends.

So how do you forgive yourself the healthy way? According to Greater Good Magazine, it’s achieved by following these four steps:

1.    Don’t get rid of guilt

It’s normal and healthy to feel bad about something you did wrong. Within reason. Listen to it, accept it, and don’t diminish or magnify it.

2.    Own up to your faults

Forgiveness means there must be something to forgive. Accept when you’ve done wrong and own it. You may not always be perfect, but your best self is at least honest about it.

3.    Make amends

The best forgiveness is the kind you’ve earned. Ask the other person what you can do to make amends, or if this isn’t feasible, do something (like charity work) to redeem yourself.

4.    Foster empathy

Self-forgiveness shouldn’t mean losing empathy for the victim. Doing the right thing means showing compassion for both of you. Always.

Relationships can be complicated. So, sometimes it isn’t as easy as saying you’re sorry and being forgiven. However you decide approach it, stay honest and focus on the positive.

Good luck!

Lose fat, not muscle.

pexels-photoLosing weight comes down to caloric deficit: eating fewer calories than you burn. Nothing new there. But did you know that when you lose weight, it isn’t always just fat that you lose? Often, your body burns your gorgeous muscles too… making you lighter, but not necessarily firmer, or even healthier.

How do you prevent this? This is what recommends:

1.    Eat enough protein.

2.    Maintain your strength levels.

3.    Reduce your weight training volume and/or intensity.

4.    Get your pre- and post-workout nutrition right.

5.    Don’t cut too many calories.

6.    Incorporate calorie/carb/nutrient cycling.

7.    Take diet breaks when needed.

8.    Avoid excessive amounts of cardio. Or don’t do it at all.

Fascinating, right? We thought so too. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. It turns out there’s a whole world of biological stuff going on with every action you take. Read more here.