I Made Audrey Hepburn’s Sea Bass (And It Was Delicious)

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Dear Readers:

We all aim to start out week off right, but there are times when preparing a gourmet meal can prove a difficult task (such as on a Monday or Tuesday evening). Fortunately, fish is quick and easy (and so, so good for you). This recipe (provided by Ms. Hepburn, as promised) is done with sea bass, but can be done with any fish fillet. I added in fresh lemon and a dash of white wine in each bag; my personal touch. This recipe is fast, fresh, and healthy; everything you are looking for on a weeknight.

Enjoy!

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Ingredients:

20 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
A few sprigs each fresh parsley and basil leaves, finely chopped
4 potatoes, boiled, peeled, and sliced into ½-inch rounds
8 sprigs fresh thyme

4 sea bass fillets, approximately
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Mix the cherry tomatoes with the shallot, parsley, and basil. You will need 8 sheets of foil. Set out 4 sheets. On each sheet, prepare a bed with potato slices, 2 thin slices of lemon and a 2 thyme sprigs; lay a sea bass fillet on the potatoes, lemons and thyme; and then top each fillet with salt, pepper, a dash of white wine, and the chopped tomato mixture.  Enclose each “packet” with the second sheet, being careful to seal each well so that no sauce escapes, but leaving room above the fish so it won’t cling to the foil.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes. Carefully open the packets directly at the table when you serve the fish.

Please tell me if you decide to make it and how it turned out!

Much Love,

Jo

Can Pickles Prevent Anxiety? New Research Says Yes

Pickles on Johanna May Irwin's blog for Johanna May Pilates in Sydney

Dear Readers:

If you have ever walked into a party solo only to find yourself in a near-panic at the thought of having to muster up the nerve to make small talk with a bunch of strangers, you know that social anxiety, even in small doses, can be downright debilitating.  Until now, those suffering had four choices; pop a pill (vitamin or prescribed), decline the invitation, go to the party, grab a huge glass of wine and hide in the bathroom all night or stand there (in a sweat), hoping the clock would move faster.

Well, apparently, you can now simply eat a pickle.

Yes, you read that right.

A study in the August issue of Psychiatry Research detailed research involving 710 college students that found that the probiotics in fermented foods (such as pickles, sauerkraut and yogurt) eases neuroticism.  As someone who has long been interested in the mind-gut connection, I am intrigued by these findings. In the past, studies have found that healthy bacteria in the gut  could have positive impacts on the mind, but this particular study found a link between the amount of fermented food consumption and the decrease of shyness and fear.

It may or may not be a miracle cure (I’m thinking not) but I love the the exploration of the body and mind connection on a nutritional level. For me, this study really reinforces my belief in paying attention to the foods we eat in a way that far exceeds caloric consumption; we truly can nourish ourselves and change our lives by making healthier choices.

And, I know you’re going to ask. Yes, beer is fermented. No, it was not on the list.

Much Love,

Jo

Eat Clean, Yes, But Drink Clean? The Questionable Benefits of Juice Cocktails

Drink Clean, Johanna May Pilates, Juicing, Cocktails

Dear Readers:

If there is one thing I know, it’s that Australians know how to enjoy a cocktail. But while a fun way to relax and socialize, the truth is that drinking can do a number on a health and wellness routine. While some drinks are better for us than others (red wine has proven benefits), the truth is, most of us enjoy our sugar-infused mulled wines, vodka cocktails, cold beers and warm-us-up scotches, and you know what? That’s OK.

It was with this in mind that a U.S. company based in The Hampton’s (a more affluent area in New York) came up with the idea of Clean Drinking. The company has put out fresh-pressed fruit and veggie-based juices that can be mixed with your vodka or tequila of choice in an attempt to create a healthier cocktail. There are even post-drinking cleanses to help with those horrid hangovers (but are they as good as Berocca? That is to be determined). While the juices are not yet available outside of New York, the buzz has begun and I began thinking about the concept of juice-based cocktails. How beneficial are they really?

As a fitness professional, I appreciate the push for better health, but I question anything that looks too gimmicky or obsessive and I am on the fence with this one. I don’t know too many people who would want to juice kale or a carrot while toasting their friends, and I worry this misses the point a bit. A healthy life includes fruits and veggies, but is also about balance, and from a health standpoint, isn’t it the same as having your juice in the morning and your dirty martini at night? I personally think it might be better to keep them separate. I am not sure about the alcohol’s impact on the absorption of nutrients, but I do worry that some people will use the juices as a meal replacement which will lead to a higher chance of intoxication.

Today, I would like to hear your thoughts. Do you think these types of drinks are a great way to stay health(ier) or are they too gimmicky for your liking? Have you ever trued a green juice cocktail?

Share your thoughts, I would love to hear them.

Much Love,

Jo

How Fitbit Brought Attention To My Sleep Patterns (And Changed My Evening Routine)

Johanna May Pilates, JMP, Sleeping, Insomnia

Dear Readers:

On Tuesday, I shared a few ways to get a better night’s sleep and wondered, how have your sleep patterns have been this week?

Since getting my Fitbit, I have become somewhat fascinated with my own patterns as the device can track them with specific attention to deep sleep, restlessness and how many times you awake during the night. To have this information (and acknowledge it) has really brought attention to my evening pattern and I have started to make changes where needed.

This week, I wanted to share my new evening pattern with all of you.

I have begun to have an earlier dinner, though it’s not always a realistic or sociable goal. I do try and dine before 8:00PM on most nights. I am, thankfully, getting pretty good at the “no alcohol during the week” rule these days. This helps me to fall asleep with more ease and I definitely feel fresher when waking up. I enjoy a long, hot shower with drops of eucalyptus. I breathe in the steam and eucalyptus, which serves to relax my mind (lavender is a great oil for sleep as well).

Comfy clothing is also important to me. Seriously, I cannot recommend this enough. Soft, breathable fabrics are key for relaxation (at least for me). I try to crawl into bed by 9:30PM and put my phone away. I suffer from Tinnitus and can find it quite hard to get to sleep in absolute silence as it sounds like mosquitos are coming to get me. Alternatively, I fall asleep to the sounds of music or nature. Its very subtle, but its just enough soothing sound to put the ringing at the back of my mind.

I do have one bad habit I continue to follow; I tend to check the time in the middle of the night. Winter is truly here in Australia and it is very dark when my alarm goes off at 5.50AM. The sky looks much the same at 2AM. This can induce a panic when I think I am running late. On average, I get 5-6 hours of deep sleep and around 1-2 hours of light or restless sleep per night.

What is your evening routine? What are the habits you feel you need to change, if any?

Much Love,

Jo

5 Ways To Sleep Better (and Make It To Your Morning Class Awake and On Time)

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Dear Readers:

If you have ever found yourself hitting the snooze button several times in a row only to finally pull yourself out of bed and attempt to gather up enough motivation to get your booty into your barre class, you know the importance of getting a solid night’s sleep. While there are some who can place their heads to their pillows and drift away without much effort, many others struggle with sleep issues. Bottom line: on a scale from 1-insomnia, most of us are tossing and turning in the middle. If you’re a part of our sometimes sleep-deprived pack, here are five ways to sleep better (and have a better morning workout, hint hint).

Put Your Electronics To Bed. Late night Instagramming (is that a word?) and texting might be loads of fun, but they can wreak havoc on your sleeping patterns. Numerous studies have shown the blue light emitted by electronics inhibits the production of melatonin which is needed to become sleepy.

Try This: Say goodnight to your iPhone, TV and computer an hour before bed. Take a hot bath or shower and crawl into bed and write in a diary or read a good book (as in a real book, or a magazine if you rely on an e-reader) before bed.

Monitor Your Caffeine Intake (and Not Just Coffee). Most of us know not to down a cup of caffeinated tea or coffee before bed, but how many times have you had a bit of chocolate or enjoyed a sip of soda only to lay wide awake in bed?  Caffeine, even in small doses, is a stimulant, so it’s best to enjoy it no less than four hours before bedtime.

Try This: Enjoy your mid-afternoon coffee, but try not to enjoy it past 1:00PM.  Caffeine has a half-life of 3-5 hours (the time it takes for ½ of the drug to be out of your system) and can stay in the body up to 18 hours.  See why that 3:00PM cup may not be such a great idea?

Watch Your Wine-Down’s. Titles aside, all alcohol impairs your sleep by reducing your REM which is why those who drink often wake up seriously groggy, even without being hungover.

Try This: Cut yourself off by 7:00PM, if possible.  Enjoy a glass of red or white with your dinner and then move onto seltzer.

Be Grateful For Winter: Well, cooler temps aren’t all bad. As it turns out, people tend to sleep better in cooler weather.

Try this: If possible keep your home in the 16-22 Celsius range as it is noted as the most beneficial for a good night’s sleep.

Schedule a Morning Workout: Ah, and we come full circle.  Studies have shown that physical activity too late in the evening can stimulate the body, making it harder to sleep.

Try This: Well, this seems obvious, but how about we do everything in the post, and if we notice a difference, we make a morning class a priority?

What is your best “sleep better” tip?  

Much Love,

Jo

Learning To Love From The Inside Out

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Dear Readers:

As Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, a lot of people are thinking about the love (or lack of love) in their romantic lives.

While V-Day isn’t as popular here in Oz as it is in places like America, I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk a little bit about the importance of showing love, not only to others, but to ourselves. I know, it sounds a little corny, but think about it; we cannot teach another how to fish if we do not know ourselves. When we take the time to really get to know and love ourselves, our lives begin to blossom in ways we never thought possible. Our relationships change, our workouts change, our bodies change–and not just in terms of what they look like.

We begin to actually feel the love inside of us.

When we love someone, we care for them as we would our dearest family members and friends.  We protect ourselves, forgive ourselves, trust ourselves and truly nurture ourselves.  As a result we find that those tense muscles begin to loosen, the short stressful gasps are replaced with deep, healing breaths and the fatigue-filled mornings make way for a renewed spirit that looks forward to seizing the day. Whether it be a diet, ending an unhealthy friendship or going after a tough fitness goal, positive change is so much easier when we feel we are worth the efforts, sacrifices and rewards that will follow the actions that can sometimes seem too scary to take.

This week, I want all of you to really think about the ways you treat and talk to yourselves. Think about the space you allow (or even force) yourself to live in.  If you were to treat someone else the way you treat yourself, how do you think they would feel about you?

Much love,

JMP

Love The Skin You’re In: Health From The Inside Out

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Skin is your biggest organ and is often  a pretty good indicator of your overall general health. Stress levels, pain, sleep, digestion, hydration, mental health…we all deal with these struggles and they are right there for our skin to bare.

A common (and incredibly flattering) compliment I received recently was that my skin was looking nice. Trust me when I say that this has not always been the case. In fact, I used to break out constantly. If that wasn’t bad enough, I had a plethora of other skin issues to deal with. You name it and I will assure you that, at one time, I had it.

This all changed when I changed my diet.

After years of going back-and-forth with doctors, I began to accept  that it was “normal” to feel sick after eating (something that is completely unacceptable to me now). I finally figured out that I am lactose intolerant in the extreme and I have a weak gall bladder to boot. This means that I can have absolutely no dairy and must be very careful about the fats I consume.

Now, I am not saying that everyone should cut out a food group, that’s not the point. I am saying that we need to learn what works for our body and what does not. It is all too common for people to disassociate how they feel with what they have eaten when there is a vital connection.

In honor of boosting our health from the inside out, here are 10 great foods that will not only make you look good, but feel good.

 

Blueberries: These rich-coloured berries are ultimate immune-boosting food. Rich in antioxidants, blueberries have been shown to fight aging and memory loss.

Carrots: High in beta carotene, known to boost the immune system, inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells and decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Lettuce and Salad Greens: Tangy varieties, such as chicory and endive stimulate the liver, making them great detoxifiers. Most lettuces contain valuable amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Beetroot: Bursting with minerals and boasting anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, immune-boosting and detoxifying properties, this is indeed a “super” food .

Brazil Nuts: You only need to eat two or three a day to benefit from their great combination of immune-boosting nutrients: vitamin E, selenium and B vitamins.

Grapefruit: Grapefruit has immune-boosting, antiseptic, wound-healing and antibacterial properties. Please note: It may increase the effects of some medications, so be sure to check with your health provider before consuming if on meds.

Garlic: This potent food strengthens the heart and blood, and has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. It’s also believed to help lower blood pressure. A key ingredient is allicin, which has cancer-fighting potential.

Avocado: Loaded with heart healthy monounsaturated fatty acids and carrying with it more potassium than a banana, this high (good) fat food is one of tastiest ways to lower cholesterol and give skin a beautiful glow.

Cranberries: Best known for helping to prevent and treat urinary tract infections(especially cystitis), in women, these sweet treats also maintain antifungal and antiviral properties.

Ginger: Not only it a great go-to for nausea, the flavorful food also boosts the immune system and circulation.


What are your favorite natural treats and remedies?

Much Love,

Jo

On Holiday: The One Menu Item That Motivates Me To Workout Harder

 

Celebrity Fitness Instructor Johanna May Irwin of Johanna May Pilates in Sydney Australia.

 

This holiday season, I have found myself in Lennox head, northern NSW.

I’ve been on holiday for four days now,and (so far) it has all been very leisurely.  Days and evenings have consisted of swims, lunches, walks, dinners, and yes, post detox wine; most of my favourite things. The Boxing Day test match has commenced, and that it the only sound that fills the house.

Earlier, as I was working out on the reformer, Peace sat on the couch, drinking a beer. Halfway through my work out his dad sent us a text to let us know that we will be going to a fancy restaurant for dinner, and I was thrilled as that is yet another one of my favourite things.

Being the supportive partner he is, Peace decided that he should read the entire menu out loud for me to give me more motivation to work out.   He only needed to say spanner crab linguini and my workout pace doubled!

The holidays can be an interesting time for most of us and I am so thrilled to have been able to enjoy myself and relax after a challenging, rewarding and fulfilling year.   I hope all of you are enjoying yours as well and getting ready to start a healthy and happy 2015!

Much love,

Jo

 

 

Merry Christmas All!

Christmas

I just wanted to take a moment to  extend a big thank you to all of my friends, family and clients.

As may of you know, this has been a huge year for me. Your patience, support and encouragement has been truly incredible and I couldn’t have done it without all of you.  We have some great things planned for the new year (well, I hope you find them great) and I’m looking forward to an even more exciting 2015!

In the meantime, enjoy your holidays with your family and friends.

Merry Christmas all.

Much love,

Jo

12 Must-Have Songs In Your Summer Playlist

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‘Tis the season of summer road trips and I’m heading off bright and early tomorrow morning. My bags are packed, and I have my playlist ready to go. These are the songs that will be getting me through my 10- hour drive tomorrow. What songs will be driving you?

Beast of Burden.

The Rolling Stones

Marvin Gaye
Syl Johnson
Bobby Womack
The Rolling Stones
Ariel Pink
Roberts flack
Playlist
Elvis Presley
Roy Orbison
Fleetwood Mac
Fontella Bass
Aretha Flankin
Much love,
Jo