Change Your Life – Talk With Ella Woodward, James Duigan, Andy Puddicombe, Hosted By Calgary Avansino In Collaboration With The Vogue Festival 2015

It is hard to know where to begin with this particular blog given all the amazing snippets of information whirling around my head right now.  All I know is that as I sit here writing it I feel full of energy and that can only mean one thing – it was incredibly inspiring, life-changing even, which I suppose was the intention given the title of the talk.  The panel was made up of three wellbeing phenomenons; the healthy-eating sensation that is Ella Woodward (aka Deliciously Ella), James Duigan, author of Bodyism and the Clean And Lean Diet and Andy Puddicombe, founder of the app-tastic Headspace, an app designed to give the world peace of mind through the practice of mindfulness.  It was hosted by Calgary Avansino, contributing editor to the British edition of Vogue and wellbeing expert who was eloquent, beautiful and, despite having just given birth to her second child, looking exceptionally glowing and slender, herself an advert for living a mindful and healthy life.  The combination of mindfulness, exercise and healthy eating is a powerful, life-changing one and this talk magically brought all three elements together, demonstrating how intrinsically they are linked in the pursuit of happiness and wellbeing.

Diets don’t work

There was so much good advice given it would be impossible to summarise it succinctly but what strongly resonated with me was James Duigan’s observation that any change you want to make in your body happens in your mind first – our relationship with food is emotional and all diets do is give you another way to to fail and feel guilty.  It’s about finding peace within yourself, which is why mindfulness plays a big part of changing your eating habits, and listening to your body, it should be our natural state to feel happy and healthy.  Unfortunately the majority of us are so used to feeling sluggish, tired or anxious that we think that this is our natural state of being; it’s not, it’s just common.  You deserve to be healthy and happy and the best way to do this is integrate small, sustainable changes to your diet and try and move every day, even if it’s just going for a walk.  The panelists were all asked to give one ‘nugget of advice’ and James’s was, ‘Don’t weigh your worth in weight – listen to your body, you can make a change in a heartbeat, your past does not have to equal your future.’

Be grateful, playful and live in the present

Andy Puddicombe, former Buddhist monk, cites mindfulness as one of the most useful tools for modern living and training the mind as important as the training the body.  It’s about living in the present, being grateful for everything and everyone we encounter in our lives and finding a way to filter the negative thought patterns that occur in each and everyone of us on a daily basis.  A recent study by Oxford University has found that mindfulness can be as effective in counteracting depression as anti-depressants and now, with our hectic lives, it is more important than ever to practice it daily, if only for ten minutes at a time. Popular misconception is that mindfulness is the same as meditation, which has sometimes been viewed as introspective and difficult to master, however Andy dispelled this myth and explained how anyone can do it from any age and reap the benefits of a peaceful mind.  His nugget of advice was this, ‘Take time out to look after your mind.  Have a sense of playfulness in life and be grateful for at least three things a day that have happened to you.’

It’s not about weight or how many times you meditate or how much kale you eat . . .

. . . it’s about making small changes to your lifestyle that you can integrate and feel comfortable with – swapping refined white pasta for brown and refined sugars for natural sugars like honey are some of the more obvious but sustainable ones.  It’s also about trying to eat less processed foods and finding fun recipes that you will look forward to eating. This also links back to your relationship to food and not depriving yourself but finding what is achievable for you – you’re not going to feel guilty about having a second helping of quinoa!  Ella’s nugget of advice was to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday preparing some healthy food and storing it in the fridge so that when you’re time poor in the week you won’t reach for an unhealthy snack. But whatever you do, start now, there will always be a busier week ahead of you than the week before, procrastination is not the name of the game when beginning your mindful life.  Helpfully she also said that it doesn’t have be all about health food shops and their daunting prices – you can buy carrots and spinach from your local market and that’s where it can all start (inspiring me to visit Brixton market on the way home as per pic).

To conclude I wanted to highlight one observation that had a particularly profound effect on me and that was that looking after yourself is not a selfish act, in fact it’s quite the opposite. There is no better analogy for this than when you are told to secure your own oxygen mask on a plane before helping others; quite literally unless you are in a happy and healthy place yourself you will not be able to help or inspire those around you. I predict this particular nugget of advice will stay with me even when the memory of this inspirational talk has faded and for this alone I am really grateful that I had the opportunity to attend.  My more mindful life begins NOW.

Jade Massoutier