Pursuing Health vs. Good Looks

It seems that, for many, striving to be healthy and striving for ‘good’ looks have become synonymous. Of course, we are often told that good health will inevitably lead to an improved physical appearance, which, in and of itself, is probably true (to a certain extent). The problem, however, lies with our distorted image of a healthy-looking body.

I hope it goes without saying that the benefits experienced as a result of improved health and a healthy lifestyle, are different for everyone. Some of us experience improved complexion, whilst others might lose some excess weight. Unfortunately, for most of us these improvements will mainly be noticeable at an internal level (i.e. reduced visceral fat, increased vitality, lower cholesterol, lower blood sugar levels, decreased risk of diabetes, better cardiac health etc.)

Live healthily now and reap the benefits later?

Living healthily certainly makes us feel more energised (even if this is just a result of our confirmation bias). Yet, those of us who are lucky enough to already have been in relatively good health before making any lifestyle changes will probably only really start benefitting these changes at a later stage; when our bodies start ageing more quickly.

The frustration this knowledge brings with it might push some of us to resort to rather unhealthy measures to achieve the ‘healthy look’ that is celebrated nowadays-often consisting of a toned body, with very little fat on it. We may choose to cut back our caloric intake significantly or to cut out entire food groups (been there, done that). Doing so might urge us to give up on the things we love eating and drinking, but also to overexercise and/or move in ways our bodies weren’t necessarily designed to.

It is important not to confuse going through ‘extreme’ measures, to obtain a certain physical goal, with moving and eating right to be healthy. Doing the latter also means you:

  • Move in ways your body was designed to (without exhausting it unnecessarily).
  • Take some time for off your ‘healthy’ food and fitness regimen (i.e. holidays, birthdays etc.)
  • Indulge from time to time (not just once a month, more like a few times a week).
  • Work on your mental health- acknowledge the importance of balance, mindfulness, and relaxation when reaching your goals.
  • Avoid eating foods just because they claim to be ‘healthy’- sugar-free chocolate is still chocolate.

Most importantly, don’t confuse the cookie-cutter idea of a ‘good’ or ‘healthy’-looking body for an actually healthy one. In many cases (not all!), those washboard abs are not a testament of good health; but rather of a very strict food and fitness regimen that drives many to exhaustion and even illness (i.e. constant colds, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and even eating disorders).

Key takeaway

It is fine to want to be healthy and look ‘good’ at the same time. But it is important to remember that these two are separate goals, and that one certainly does not guarantee the other.

Related post: Don’t turn your healthy lifestyle into an obsession

 

Welcome to ‘Eating 101’

If eating and knowing when to eat what seem like the easiest of all tasks, you’ll often be considered as one of a’lucky few’. To you, eating- and all related activities- might just be as easy as breathing or walking. Yet, for many of us it is not that simple. Just as breathing becomes difficult when we think about it too much, eating does, too.

We start regulating our eating habits for some reason or another, making it very hard to stay in touch with our bodily signals. It becomes harder to let go of our habits that have turned eating into less of a ‘natural’ activity. And suddenly, it takes a serious conscious effort to return to the way things were.

Most of us seem to overthink things when it comes to eating and food, which is also why we seem to have adopted some common habits, often without being aware of them.

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Habit 1: We care a lot about the amount we eat.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to pay attention to the amount of food we put in our mouths. Yet, if you have turned this into an object of constant focus there is a good chance you have become distracted from your bodily signals and are, in fact, ignoring them.

Becoming too preoccupied with the amount of food we eat is a slippery slope; especially when we start seeking exterior indicators to tell us exactly how much, what, and when to eat.

Habit 2: We care too much about the things we put in our mouths.

This is a tricky one. Even though I strongly believe that ‘what’ we put in our mouths greatly affects our health, there is still a difference between having a healthy interest in the ‘quality’ of our food and developing an obsession with it.

I know the word ‘obsession’ seems quite scary. Yet, I often look around and wonder why we don’t point out our incessant preoccupation with food – it’s everywhere and it seems no one can stop talking about it!

Habit 3: We get distracted by others

Food and eating has always brought people together. Eating is one of our favorite social activities. And yet, as children, our parents used to repeat, again and again, that we were not to look in someone else’s plate. I used to do this to see if the person next to me got more fries than I did. But I still catch myself doing it from time to time, although for other reasons. I sometimes look at what people around me are eating and start questioning the food that is in front of me.

“Am I eating too much? Why am I this hungry? Should I be eating a salad, too?”

And there I go; I start listening to my mind, instead of my body. What happens next? I no longer know when I am full or when to stop eating.

Not only does looking at other’s eating behavior pose a problem, but so does listening to what they have to say about their (and our) eating habits. Most of us love eating, but since we cannot physically do it 24/7, we go for the ‘next best thing’: talking about eating. In fact, many people consider talking about how cutting out simple carbohydrates made them less bloated or how eating past 8pm made them gain 3kg in 2 weeks to be the best kind of small talk.

Even though most of us have probably been guilty of doing this at some point, we could also decide to:

No longer voice unwanted opinions on what others are eating and not to let what others say or do affect our own eating habits.

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To Help You Do This

  • Physically place your hand on your stomach and ‘feel’ whether or not you are hungry. It sounds crazy, but it works! 
  • Do not just eat because ‘it is time to eat’.

It is 11am and you are starving. So what? ‘Have your lunch and eat it, too’. In fact, don’t even call it ‘lunch’, just call it ‘fuel’ that is going to keep you going! 

  • Avoid feeling like you are only ‘allowed’ to eat when others are.

Really tune into your body and feel whether or not you are hungry. Find out exactly what you are craving at that exact moment and figure out if you are only craving food because you are bored or thinking about eating. 

  • Don’t be afraid to say no!

If someone offers you something to eat, do not be afraid to tell them you are not hungry. Do not be scared of the annoyed or strange looks and comments people may or may not give you. Many people need others to eat with them so that they can feel better about themselves.

  • Trust that your body will guide you into making the ‘right’ choices.

Once you have gotten your tastebuds and body used to a healthy diet- without forcing it upon yourself- chances are you are instinctively going to make healthier dietary choices- your body will most-likely start craving these foods.

And if, occasionally-by that I do not mean ‘every month’, more like ‘everyday’- you are craving M&M’s, then go for it. Simply make sure to take your time and listen carefully to know exactly when you have had enough- it might be sooner than you think! 

Are You Relying on Others to Make You Happy?

Love yourself before anyone else can.

Clichés aside, behind this saying lies a concept that is both extremely easy to grasp and strangely difficult to apply to yourself. At first glance, who loves you first does not seem to have that great of an impact on your happiness. And yet, if you are anything like me, there is always that little panicky voice reminding you of the vulnerable position you are putting yourself in by relying only on others to feel loved and happy. What happens when they are gone?!

The statement plays on our desire to be happy and loved. Contrary to what most of us believe, we should aim to have others’ love add on to our own self-love, instead of replacing it. In essence, the saying urges us to realize that others’ love and company cannot make for our only source of love and happiness. It is of no real value if it is not combined with a good amount of previously developed self-love and confidence.

Self-love is cultivated throughout our lives. It will stay with us for as long as we want it to, and continue to develop it. Unlike the people around us, it cannot suddenly disappear entirely.

The problem of relying on others

Now, you might still be thinking: “What’s wrong with others making me happy?” Nothing. The problem is the “relying on” part. It implies that others play too big of a role in what makes you happy. In some cases, they are the only thing making you happy. And given that you are not likely to be surrounded by people who ‘love you’ 24/7, this may get troublesome from time to time. There will inevitably be moments in your life where you will find yourself away from these exact people.

Relying solely (or for a largest part) on others to feel good therefore comes with a high risk of disappointment and unhappiness. The good feeling they procure us is most-likely going to replace and distract us from the happiness we create for ourselves.

What happens then?

Without wanting to sound too dramatic, you might fall in to a sort of ‘black hole’, questioning why you are feeling so unhappy all of a sudden. You might decide to seek out new people to replace the old ones- the cycle continues. Upon meeting these people, your mind will remember that short moment of in-between panic, making it more likely to become (overly) attached to the people you meet- from friends to partners.

Missing the old ones is probably causing you more sorrow than you have ever felt before. ‘Missing them’ essentially means you are glorifying the memories you share and living in the past as if it were some kind of fairytale. Thankfully, this is also the closest you will ever get to realizing that you have been relying on others to make you happy. You might realize that you are unable to feel fully satisfied with yourself as a source of love and happiness.

Practice self-love

If you have ever felt this way, or do so now, know that it is really a matter of cultivating self-acceptance, self-esteem, and self-love. I know, it’s not that easy, but at least you can start right now, without relying on anyone else 😉

Avoid becoming overly attached to the compliments others give you on your work ethic, career, grades, looks, or interests because as soon as one or more of these things change or fall away, you will start longing for things to stay the same, or return to the way they were.

Instead, realize what you are really worth, without linking your worth to the above-mentioned ‘conditions’. Ultimately you will start practicing unconditional love for yourself, as you would for a brother, sister, or child. Regardless of what happens to their interests, careers, hobbies, or looks, you will love them endlessly.

TRY THIS: Meditate with the intention of practicing such unconditional self-love. Do it for a while, visit a meditation teacher if you need to, and feel, in a way, re-born in to the self-confident, authentic, and honest person you’re meant to be. Once you notice how good this will make you feel, you will start loving that person automatically.

Alternatively look in to affirmations!

Source: louisehay.com

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NYC Photo Diary & Tips

East Village

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Smoothie at Liquiteria

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Sunset at Pier 34

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Day 1-

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Breakfast

  • The Butcher’s Daughter (vegan/vegetarian options)- 9 Kenmare Street

Shop

  • McNally Jackson Books (bookstore)- 52 Prince St, Nolita
  • Opening Ceremony (clothing)- 35 Howard St, Soho
  • Maison Mae (home decoration)- 27 Howard St, Soho
  • The Reformation (clothing)- 23 Howard St, Soho

Lunch

  • Candle 79 (vegan)- 154 E 79th St
  • Blossom (vegetarian)- 187 9th Ave

Snack

  • Levain Bakery (🍪🍪🍪)-167 W 74th St

Visit

  • Central Park
  • The Frick Collection (museum)- 1 E 70th St
  • Albertine Books (French & English bookstore)-972 5th Ave
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art – 1000 5th Ave

Dinner

  • Le Botaniste (macrobiotic/vegetarian)- 833 Lexington Ave

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Day 2-

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Breakfast

  • Two Hands Café– 164 Mott St
  • Jack’s Wife Freda– 50 Carmine St

Shop

  • Dean & DeLuca (grocery store) – 560 Broadway
  • Madewell (clothing) – 486 Broadway
  • Lulu Lemon (activewear) – 481 Broadway
  • Outdoor Voices (activewear) – 199 Lafayette St
  • The Vintage Twin Pop-Up (vintage clothing)- next to Outdoor Voices
  • Credo (organic and cruelty-free make-up)- 9 Prince St

Snack

  • Maman– 239 Centre St
  • Cha Cha Matcha (🍵🍵🍵)- 373 Broome St

Dinner

  • Nix (vegetarian)- 72 University Pl

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Day 3- Breakfast & Juices at Juice Press

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Fusilli with Pesto, Kale, and Cannellini Beans

Everytime I get back to London I find myself having to whip up a meal using anything I can find in my pantry and freezer. I usually don’t end up with anything too exciting, but this time I made a super easy, wholesome, and delicious plate of pasta requiring very few ingredients! Give it a try and let me know how it goes 🙂

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You’ll Need

For one large portion

  • 1/3 can of cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 150g fusilli
  • 3 tbsp pesto (as this is the main ingredient I suggest going for quality, organic pesto if you can!)
  • 3 handfuls of chopped up kale (I had some left in the freezer)
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Black pepper and salt

Steps

  1. Boil the pasta for about 10 minutes.
  2. When it is nearly ready, place a pan on medium heat and add in the olive oil and pine nuts. Keep stirring until they become golden brown.
  3. Add in the kale with some black pepper and salt and cook for about 3 minutes until it has wilted down completely.
  4. Add in 2 tbsp of pesto, the cannellini beans, and the fusilli to the pan.
  5. Stir gently to prevent the beans from breaking up. Make sure all of the pasta is covered in pesto (add some more if needed).
  6. When serving, add another tbsp of pesto.

Enjoy!

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Possibly the best gift ever- a big jar of organic pesto from the South of France!

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Bittersweet Mornings

Photos by Ugo Gattoni

As I was listening to one of the Man Repeller’s ‘Monocycle’ podcasts on vulnerability I realized how very applicable her advice is to everyday life. I guess that was her aim so I could also just tell you to go off and listen to the podcast yourself (you should!). But by doing so there would be no point in me writing this blogpost, which is just sad seeing as I really want to.

The Man Repeller on vulnerability

Even though we might not always be in control of what happens to us or to the world, we can control the way things make us feel.

At this point you may be wondering; what does this have to do with bittersweet mornings? Hear me out!

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Today I woke up and did what I do everyday upon rising: I checked my phone. Time and time again, my sleepy brain seems to forget how greatly doing so can impact my mood, confidence levels, and ultimately the course of my entire day.

As a result, the sweet warm feeling of lying in the comfort of my own bed is short-lived. How could it not be? As soon as I check my phone,  I seem to be confronted with the fact that nearly everyone I know (ok, maybe not everyone) has started their day, and that there is really no time to waste.

As a kid- before being so dependent on my phone- I would take the time to enjoy every morning. I would try to remember my dreams and see for how long I could stay in bed until someone pulled the covers off me. After that I would only interact with family members-people I trusted and loved- for at least an hour.

What’s the problem?

Checking your phone in the morning does not necessarily mean you are immediately talking to anyone. And yet, whenever you read or look at a post or news article you take in and reflect upon what someone is communicating to you. In a way therefore you are interacting with people you may not personally know from the minute you wake up. Whether that person is a journalist reporting on recent bombings or a blogger posting a seemingly motivational piece of text under their Instagram photo, everyone is trying to tell or show you something you might not want to think about as soon as you wake up.

It seems that we no longer acknowledge the importance of taking some time to ourselves before being thrown in to the hostile and and intimidating world we live in every morning. Writing this, I wonder whether or not I am exaggerating things slightly but I guess that’s open to interpretation. All I know is that, before looking at my phone, I feel completely at peace with what is; I am not at all frustrated about not being able to change the way things are.

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*pop*

My peaceful bubble often bursts as soon as I read a headline along the lines of: “256 killed after failed Turkey coup” or even “World stocks tumble as Britain votes for EU exit”. Of course, such headlines give me chills at 4pm, too. But at that point I am much less likely to let them bring down my entire day.

At a much less significant scale, I may also open Instagram or Facebook and instantly be confronted with posts or photos reminding me of the person I am not. Now, if I come across such photos or posts later in the day, I feel less vulnerable and more in control of how these things affect me. I don’t tend to let them get to me, as I have the mental ‘capacity’ of putting their importance in to perspective and comparing it to the (enjoyable) things that occupy me everyday.

Wait an hour or two

I guess what this all boils down to is that our sleepy heads have a hard time feeling in control of the ways news articles and social media posts make us feel. Sleeping brings us back to a primal state where we feel more at peace, child-like, and vulnerable than we do during the day. When we’re confronted too quickly with things that are happening outside of this peaceful state, it becomes much harder to put things into perspective.

Be kind to yourself, leave your phone to the side for an hour or two, and start the day on a good note; at least until you’re fully awake.

What else could you do instead of checking your phone?

  • Go for a short walk
  • Stretch
  • Read a few pages in a good book
  • Journal or write down your dream
  • Have breakfast with a friend, roommate, or family member
  • Spiritual practice (positive affirmations or meditation)

Berry Breakfast Smoothie

 

Here’s a golden tip: whenever you make the perfect smoothie (not easy!), write down exactly what is in it. It’s what I did for this one, making it ready for you to try out! The large portion makes for a filling breakfast, alternatively, you could have half of it as a snack.

You’ll need

1 large serving/2 smaller servings

  • 30g oats
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 40g frozen blueberries
  • 200ml almond milk
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 5 strawberries
  • 70g raspberries
  • Optional: 15g Sunwarrior protein

 

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What if Planning Just Isn’t for Me?

This should actually say: “What if projecting into the future just isn’t for me?”. When it comes to eating healthily, working out regularly, and getting stuff done on time, planning ahead is usually seen as something very positive. Planning, or rather, turning nearly every aspect of your life into one big plan to gain some sort of overview (if done correctly), seems to be imperative if you ever want to achieve anything.

Ever heard of this one?

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Granted, doing so might work for some of us (or maybe it has in the past), but for me the days of endless lists, 12-week plans, diary entries, high hopes, and expectations of what is to come are in the past. Or at least, that’s where I am trying to leave them.

Doesn’t this make more sense?

I know some people say “Keep your eyes on the prize,” but I disagree. When your eyes are stuck on the prize, you’re going to keep stumbling and crashing into things. If you really want to get ahead, you’ve got to keep your eyes focused on the path. -Russell Simmons

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I have finally realized that I have had enough of focusing on the person I want to become. This other person will always seem so very far away (even when you have made a lot of ‘progress’). The ‘current me’ and the ‘future me’ (as I imagine her) are separated by a strict, detailed, and often dreadful plan that I so often feel obliged to impose on myself. The perfectionist inside me tells me to stick to it at all times. However, failing to do so inevitably makes me reject the plan, the “path”. Usually, this is also when I start beating myself up about failing. Do you still follow?

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Instead of putting yourself through this, instead of expecting so very much of yourself, focus on who you are right now and do whatever you feel you should do RIGHT NOW. Not necessarily what you want to do, but also listen to your innate sense of duty, responsibility, and righteousness. Don’t underestimate yourself. You probably know full-well what the ‘right’ thing to do is. If not, this might be a chance to learn, research, and observe!

Remember that things are ever-changing (that’s a good thing) and that we really can’t control everything that happens to us or is going to happen to us. Let go of the idea that the plans you impose on yourself will magically provide you with control over every aspect of your life. This will set you free and allow you to actually live your life.

One Last Thing

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Before you say it is impossible to simply accept things as they are, consider the fact that whenever you find yourself in a situation you “would like to run away from”, you are free to do something about it right then and there. There is really no need to whine about it, let it put you down, and make you feel like you need to punish yourself with a super strict plan the following days, weeks, or months. When did a plan used to punish yourself lead to anything worthwhile?

In Short

Essentially, planning and projecting into the future always involves wishing things were different. And that, in and of itself, is bound to make you unhappy, or at the very least dissatisfied with the way things are. Chances are that, as soon as you’re really honest with yourself, you’ll realize they aren’t all too bad.

Just remember that, as long as you continue projecting into the future, there is no way you are ever going to feel completely at peace. 

“How to Talk to Your Daughter About Her Body” by Sarah Koppelkam

It seems that, every time I scroll through my Facebook or Instagram feed and remind myself that there never really seems to be anything substantial on there, I come across just one remarkably inspiring post. In hindsight, this might have something to do with the fact that I constantly seek connections between just about everything in my life. My confirmation bias aside, yesterday this happened again when I came across a great, ‘food for thought-worthy’ post by Sarah Koppelkam titled “How to Talk to Your Daughter About Her Body“.

You may have read it before, as it is nearly three years old, but if you haven’t I urge you to do so now. The post made me realize, yet again, that there are indeed (many) more important things in life that deserve your attention, than just the way we look. Hold on to this for future reference, or show it to your mother, which is one of the first things I did upon reading it.

mother-daughter-photo-ideas.jpgI am convinced that insecurities or conceptions of oneself don’t just magically appear when one enters adolescence or adulthood. Especially at a young age, we are not responsible for the views we have of ourselves and of the world around us. They are most-likely the result of an evaluation we have made, either in comparison to others, or as a result of what someone has told us.

For many of us, the most influential figures in our lives can greatly shape the way we see ourselves. In the life of a 14, 20, or 30-year old women or girl, a mother is probably one of the most important individuals shaping her daughter’s views of things. Mothers should therefore be extremely cautious when depicting what is ‘important’ to themselves or to the outside world (i.e. a slim body, beautiful hair, flawless skin etc.). For many women, a mother’s (slightly) distorted view of a healthy body, body image, or lifestyle can have an enormous influence on the rest of their lives.

The Post by Sarah Koppelkam

“How to talk to your daughter about her body, step one: Don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works.

 

Don’t say anything if she’s lost weight. Don’t say anything if she’s gained weight.

 

If you think your daughter’s body looks amazing, don’t say that. Here are some things you can say instead:

 

“You look so healthy!” is a great one.

 

Or how about, “You’re looking so strong.”

 

“I can see how happy you are — you’re glowing.”

 

Better yet, compliment her on something that has nothing to do with her body.

 

Don’t comment on other women’s bodies either. Nope. Not a single comment, not a nice one or a mean one.

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Teach her about kindness towards others, but also kindness towards yourself.

 

Don’t you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your daughter, or talk about your new diet. In fact, don’t go on a diet in front of your daughter. Buy healthy food. Cook healthy meals. But don’t say, “I’m not eating carbs right now.” Your daughter should never think that carbs are evil, because shame over what you eat only leads to shame about yourself.

wednesday-tumblr-delight-L-t6wQkW.pngEncourage your daughter to run because it makes her feel less stressed. Encourage your daughter to climb mountains because there is nowhere better to explore your spirituality than the peak of the universe. Encourage your daughter to surf, or rock climb, or mountain bike because it scares her and that’s a good thing sometimes.

 

Help your daughter love soccer or rowing or hockey because sports make her a better leader and a more confident woman. Explain that no matter how old you get, you’ll never stop needing good teamwork. Never make her play a sport she isn’t absolutely in love with.

Prove to your daughter that women don’t need men to move their furniture.

 

Teach your daughter how to cook kale.

 

Teach your daughter how to bake chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter.

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Pass on your own mom’s recipe for Christmas morning coffee cake. Pass on your love of being outside.

 

Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It’s easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don’t. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.

 

Remind your daughter that the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize her beautiful soul.”

 

Sweet Potato, Ginger, and Coconut Milk Soup

Impress your friends and family with this extremely easy and delicious soup. It will take you about 20 minutes to prepare (10 of which you’ll be waiting for the veggies to boil!). The soup is not-only extremely delicious, but it also serves as a great immune system-boosting lunch or dinner.

You’ll need

  • 5 small (peeled) sweet potatoes (see photo below)
  • 5 medium-sized carrots
  • 1 1/2 garlic cloves
  • A piece of ginger (about 2cm long by 0.5cm wide)
  • 200ml of light coconut milk (I used the one from Biona)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp vegetable bouillon powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp quality sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (or coconut oil)

Steps

  1. Place a stock pot on medium heat with some the olive oil.
  2. Slice the garlic cloves in half, remove their insides and their skin. Cut them up into tiny pieces and add to the stock pot.
  3. Peel and cut up the garlic into tiny pieces as well and add it to the pot.
  4. Peel and cut up the sweet potatoes. Wash the carrots and cut them up. There’s no need to remove their skin, but make sure you remove the ends.
  5. Add the cut-up vegetables to the pot and place a lid on it for about 5 minutes.
  6. Boil half a liter of water and add it to the pot.
  7. Add the vegetable bouillon, sea salt, and black pepper.
  8. Let the vegetables boil for about 10 minutes until they are soft at high heat.
  9. Then mix everything up until you end up with a smooth soup.
  10. Add the coconut milk and another 1/2 liter of water and mix the soup again.

Enjoy!

x

Louise

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