Make the habit the goal

I’m constantly jotting down ideas into one of my two notebooks – whichever I can reach first before the idea fades away. But while I capture many of them, they usually remain as ideas – wonderful ideas that hold meaning for me – instead of blossoming into blog posts, articles or even a book, should I dare dream.

I know why this happens: it’s a mixture of perfectionism and impatience. I worry it may not come out perfect from the get go. Or I may start writing a piece, but I’ll constantly tinker, chiselling away each sentence, rather than be in the flow of it. In this way, I take forever to finish it, or I don’t finish at all. I carry the mental weight of “I’m no good” all the time.

I’m aware of this limiting behaviour. It frustrates me. But it’s something I know that I can change, which I am determined to. So I booked myself into a writers’ retreat to hopefully overcome this irritating pattern I have myself webbed into.

I’m on that retreat right now. And in our lesson today, we shared tactics for moving forward with our work rather than getting stumped by perfectionism. I found all ideas offered valuable, but one in particular hit home for me. It was presented as this phrase: The habit is the goal. And it was an epiphany.

By reframing goals into habits, I know I can work towards overcoming my perfectionism and fear of being no good. For example, in my world, the goal would be to create a writing habit – instead of to “win a writers’ award this year” or “get x number followers to my blog” or “get published”. With these latter goals, I am seeking external validation that my writing is good. But these are outcome-based goals, and are never in my control. Only the writing is.

So my new goal could look like writing for 30 minutes first thing in the morning three times a week. That’s it – to simply show up to my practice consistently (habit). With such a habit, I’m likely to write more, and improve and share my work – whether or not I win an award or garner a following. And that is success in itself, and something that is in my power.

Now, how could you redefine a goal so that it’s more in your control and therefore achievable?

For example, if your goal is to lose 10kg over the next six months, you could reframe it to: work my way up to exercising at least four times a week over the next six months, and then maintain it so that it becomes second nature.

Whether you lose 10kg or not (you might lose more!) is not the point. The point is that you create healthy habits so you that have a healthy body – which you will because of the autopilot nature of habits.

Whatever you want to achieve make the behaviours that will help you get there consistent – regardless of the end outcome. The outcome is simply the icing on the cake. You must bake the cake first.


If you’re open to it, please share in the comments below a goal that you will reframe into a habit. I would love to hear about it – and I’m sure others would too!

Lesh xx

Persian love cake

Persian love cake

Adapted from Australian Gourmet Traveller.

This cake is gluten-free. It will be dairy free if you replace the butter and Greek yoghurt with coconut oil and coconut yoghurt.

Serves 8 | Takes 50 minutes


  • 360g (3 cups) almond meal
  • 1 cup packed rapdura/coconut/muscovado sugar
  • 120g unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 250g Greek-style yoghurt, plus extra to serve
  • 1-2 tsp freshly grated/ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 45 gm (¼ cup) pistachios, coarsely chopped


Preheat oven to 180C, and line and grease a 24cm springform cake tin. I suggest lining the sides of the cake tin with baking paper too.

Then combine the almond meal, sugar, butter and salt in a bowl. Rub the mixture with your fingertips to form coarse crumbs.

Spoon half the mixture into the prepared cake tin, and gently press to evenly cover the tin base.

To the remaining mixture, add the eggs, yoghurt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and creamy (you could do this step in a food processor if you prefer). Then pour over the prepared base and sprinkle the pistachios around the edge.

Bake until golden (~35-40 minutes.) Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Serve with extra yoghurt. The cake will keep in an airtight container for up to a week, if it lasts that long!

2015 goals?


What is it about a new year? Is it about starting afresh, having a clean canvas to paint?

1st January is just another day in our lives.

Even so, I love the ‘line in the sand’ a date can create. Crossing over 31st December does give a sense of new beginnings. Especially because it makes me reflect on what I learnt in the previous year – about myself and the type of life I wish to lead – and how I can translate that into the next. It also helps to write about it here, as a record for future contemplation, accountability and change.

Even though I have a handful of projects and experiments in store for 2015, these days, I don’t set concrete goals. It’s more about lifestyle and not ‘achievements’. This calls for conscious awareness of what works and what doesn’t, and, then, to build supportive habits. This is a life-long process.

Over the last few years, I’ve tried different approaches.

Last year, I used my core values – freedom, health, deep connection, integrity and calm – as my guiding light.

In 2013, I used the ‘two words’ idea (my two words were connection and movement), and in 2012, I created a mission statement:

To live a holistic, happy life by making mindful time for people most important to me, eating nutritious food, looking after my health and having a career that doesn’t feel like a job.

All of these ‘goals’ and aspirations for a life well-lived still ring true. In fact, in writing this post, I see a strong theme – the importance I place on my holistic health and the people around me for my happiness.

This year, I’m trialling Alexandra Franzen’s – whom I consider my virtual mentor – five questions for a bright clear and focussed new year:

  1. What am I bored with? The seriousness around food, and the same old routine.
  2. What do I want more of? Self-belief, light-heartedness and fun.
  3. What can I let go of? Taking responsibility for other’s feelings.
  4. What would give me peace of mind? Being punctual and patient, trusting life.
  5. What am I devoted to? Being helpful, kind and thoughtful.

What about you?

The hard lessons of 2014

The wound is the place where the Light enters you.

~ Rumi

This year has been a year of trials and tribulations. This wasn’t something I had anticipated, but I’m not sure whether one can anticipate such things.

I felt these challenges were thrust upon me, coming left of field, yet it was me who brought them upon myself.

Clearly, challenges serve a purpose ­– to learn lessons and crack open another layer, letting more light to enter within. In this way, 2014 was a year of self-discovery.

My first major trial for the year was to finish and launch my ebook, which I did in early February.

The product itself is merely a tip of the iceberg. What lay beneath was not only a lot of hard work, but also self-created anguish around marketing and launching the book. To be honest, that took the joy out of the accomplishment – having to hustle (ugh!) using cookie-cutter online selling techniques. You either enjoy that stuff or you don’t. I learnt that I don’t – it killed my mojo.

Eventually, I grasped that I’m not an entrepreneur – nor do I want to be – and that I don’t need to go down that path even if I do create something to sell. It’s the creating that I enjoy – and the pressure of launching, for me, just roadblocks everything.

I’d rather make sales through people who genuinely want to support me, trust and enjoy my work, and value my integrity – rather than enticing them to buy something. For me, business has to align with my core values.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. There were a few painful months in between.

About a month after my book launched, I turned 40. I didn’t handle that very well either. I lost my sense of self-assurance that I had in my thirties. I began to question everything. I can’t ‘blame’ one specific thing, but the many things that were going on in my head – and how I projected them into life.

Mostly, though, it had to do with The Mindful Foodie – that is, how to earn money from it, and me trapping my identity within it. I’d mistakenly looked outward for the answers. What I saw was extremism in the ‘real food’ scene, and the narcissism of personal branding through social media. My gut kept twisting in a knot – it knew that I didn’t want to be a part of this. I had to shut off the noise.

What eventuated was learning a very hard lesson:

How much I earn or ‘playing it big’ is not tied up with my self-worth.  

But observing others online can easily delude you into this.

After coming to many realisations – about business and life – I finally began to add the colour back to my life and trust my gut. For I had been hiding.

I didn’t get out of my funk by myself. I had some help. Massive thanks to Alexandra Franzen, whose newsletters and posts on love, life and business made me feel ok for what I wanted – to do business my way, with integrity; as well as to my reiki sessions with the beautiful and gentle Katie Wong, who helped me realise that writing is what feeds me – literally and figuratively. Finally, it was my trip to Sri Lanka that put the pieces together.

Sometimes we have to go through painful situations to become more aware of who we are. And I now feel that I’m ending 2014 and beginning 2015 on a much solid foundation of trust – of self and of life.

All in all, a very successful year.

Spring cleaning that creates inner space (and calm)

Melbourne’s weather is hinting spring.


With it, I’m getting the urge to clean and declutter. Not in the typical sense, but, rather, the things we cannot see or touch, and that unconsciously become a part of us. Like negative thought patterns, and the digital stuff that takes up more of our lives than I really care for.

With that urge in full force, I quit facebook a few weeks ago. Quit as in deleted (not the timid deactivated option) my account, including The Mindful Foodie page.

Years of virtual stuff gone just like that, with the push of a virtual button. It took up too much sacred mental and soul space, you see. Looking, scrolling, comparing, consuming ads (without one’s choice), thinking of writing something witty to go with the photo I just took (or am about to take), thinking I should update my page and feeling guilty when I didn’t!

I’ve been observing myself since, my behaviours and thoughts. The mind seems calmer, and there’s more mental space to create.

I’ve been taking the initiative to call and catch up with loved ones, nourishing what feels like long-lost friendships. There have been new ones springing up too. The irony of disconnecting to connect!


What are you really giving up for the sake of convenience?

Recently, on Masterchef Australia, one of the contestants was competing against a professional chef for the elusive immunity pin.

The core ingredient was cheese, so she decided to make a twice-baked soufflé.  Of course, she would need to whip up egg-whites for her dish. And upon doing so, she said something like this:

I know chefs like their gadgets, but where I come from, we do this the old-fashioned way.

And she proceeded to energetically whip the whites till stiff.

All I could think was: yes!

Why? Because if not careful, we humans will eventually make ourselves physically redundant.

Think about it:

Many of us get up in the morning, and then sit on the commute to work, sit all day at work, before sitting back on the commute home. If we cook dinner, we’ll be standing for half an hour or so, otherwise, we’re sitting watching TV, browsing the internet or are on our device, which we continue to do after we eat dinner, and then finally roll into bed.

We also invent things so that we can reduce the remaining movement that’s left in our day.

Like the electric eggbeater so we don’t have to use our biceps.

The escalator so we don’t have to use our legs.

The robot vacuum so we don’t have to walk around pushing and pulling the vacuum ourselves.

The car boot that opens with the press of a button so we don’t have to lift and move our arms above our head.

The voice activated parallel parking of cars, so we don’t have to use our arms.

Siri {if you have an Apple device, you’ll know what I’m talking about}, so we don’t even have to use our fingers.

Heck, soon everything will soon become voice activated so we don’t have to use any body parts.

Of course, these changes can be helpful for certain situations — however it is the mindless misuse of such manmade conveniences that is getting us into fat trouble.

If we’re not mindful, we’ll find ourselves fast heading towards a lifestyle similar to the humans portrayed in WALL-E.

Sure, we’ll save more time. But more time for what exactly?

Working more?

Fitting in more TV?

Online shopping?

Spending an extra hour or two on social media?

The introduction of such conveniences, while gradual and seamless, has a significant impact. It changes our culture, the way we live, and literally the way we move, or in this case, whether we move at all.

To counter this lack of movement and associated obesity, the modern way of thinking is to do to around 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day. This is not enough if you’re sitting for much of the day.

And that’s just our problem: exercise is viewed as something separate to the day’s happenings.

This makes it challenging to create time for yet another thing we have to do in the day.

Instead it would be easier and wiser to make movement an essential part of our daily activities, what is now termed as incidental movement. This is the traditional, natural way of being {and living}.

As Mark Bunn writes in his book Ancient wisdom for modern health: rediscover the simple, timeless secrets if health and happiness:

Apart from the need for survival, exercise was traditionally associated with flow, dance, pleasure and joy. Today, the very thought of being active is often seen as an inconvenience or an undesirable necessity. Many of us need inspiration, discipline, a personal trainer or the distraction of music just to get off the couch. These are signs that we have forgotten that natural wisdoms of exercise and lost our connection to the intrinsic joy of movement.

As far as movement is concerned, blessed is the waiter, labourer, dancer, cook, gardener and dog walker.

Yes, there tends to be more dollars in a desk job — but when money becomes the driving force with which one leads their life with, the excuse of smarter use of time becomes easy to justify. Such as when paying some one to clean the house makes sense, money wise, because you’ll earn much more than the cleaner by working at your desk job.

Having mostly a desk job as a writer, I am grateful for every opportunity to move  — but I create opportunities too.

Previously, where I once saw, vacuuming, cooking, washing the dishes as a chore, they’re now wonderful opportunities to use my body, senses and be on my feet moving.

If I catch myself moving ‘too efficiently’ – I may consciously choose to move inefficiently, creating opportunities to move more. Such as when talking the bins out, I may do them one at a time, instead of trying to take both at once.  Or when moving things from one place to another, I may make a conscious choice to do extra trips than I need to.

And when I’m on the laptop writing, I’ve used a timer as a reminder to take movement breaks, or work without the power cord till the battery runs out {a couple of hours with an 11 inch Mac air}, which forces me to get up and do something else. At times, I place my laptop on a higher bench so I can type while I stand.

This is in addition to walking my dogs and doing yoga most days, and, of course, housework.

In the end, it’s about re-considering the way we live and our attitudes to movement, and making some conscious choices and opportunities to move more.

By the way, while the Masterchef contestant lost, she has stronger biceps than the chef.

To meat or not?

Recently a subscriber asked me:

To meat or not to meat? – when you really try but still can’t quite achieve vegetarianism.

Since it’s meat-free week, I thought it apt to address it here.

This question usually arises when one’s health, taste and ethical beliefs are at loggerheads.

And while I do believe that we generally eat too much meat in the West at the expense of the planet and our health — eating meat does not need to be an all or nothing affair.

A choice could simply be to eat less meat, and eat meat from animals raised in their natural environment eating their natural fodder when you do — rather than giving it up entirely and getting caught up in labelling oneself as ‘vegetarian’.

The important thing is to make decisions with knowledge and awareness {including self-awareness}.

However, for some people eating meatless dishes is not the problem. The main barrier is knowing what to eat when meat is not in the picture.

Choosing to eat more plant-based foods can mean learning how to cook with different ingredients, and composing meals that are still tasty, satisfying and offer enough important nutrients such as protein and iron.

If knowing what to cook is your main struggle, plan ahead by choosing and shopping for a recipe from your favourite blog or cookbook that you could make during the week. If you like it, master that dish before adding another to your repertoire. {You’ll find plenty of delicious and healthy vegetarian recipes on this site.}

I also recommend trying out meat-free week and meatless Mondays as fun ways to experiment with making delicious vegetarian meals. {To promote meat-free week, Sustainable Table are offering this free ebook, featuring one of my recipes plus other recipes from popular bloggers and chefs.}

And if you’d like to learn how to make plant-based meals nutritionally balanced, healthy and delicious, my ebook, Nourished, will show you how to do it easily — with plenty of recipes and helpful information.

Why is it your goal?

“To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.”

~ Kofi Annan

It’s easy enough to make a list of goals to achieve for the year.

I’ve been thinking about what personal goals I’d like to achieve for 2014 — it’s the first time I’m creating yearly goals — and the question for me is not what but: why is this goal on my list?

If you’ve created or are thinking about creating some goals for 2014, you may like to ponder this question too.

You could ask:

  • Is it because someone else is doing it {and you want what they have}?
  • Is it because you think it would be a good thing to do?
  • Is it because you think you should do it ~ because you think it will make you richer, smarter, more likeable/popular, etc?

In other words do your goals arise from external reasons?

Many of us want to achieve a particular goal because we’re chasing a feeling, not the goal itself.

To chase a feeling, you need to know how you want to feel in the first place.

To know how you want to feel in life, you need to be aware of your Self — and realise your core values and how you want to feel overall.

At the end of last year, I began work on defining my core values. I have 5 {people usually have 3–5}.

My core values are:

core-values_3Jan2013It’s the first time I’ve done something like this, so I’m trying these values on for size. I’m just going with what inherently feels important to me.

It’s ok to change/tweak your core values over time as you grow and/or understand more about who you are and how you operate in the world.

Being aware of your values is like having an innate compass, guiding you to make choices {goals} based on living a life that’s meaningful to you.

A mini reflection of 2013

I’ve never been the type to set New Year’s goals or resolutions.

If I make up my mind to try or change something, I usually give it a go regardless of the time of year.

2013 was a little different. I had given myself 2 words to focus on: movement and relationships. {If you’ve been reading my e-letters for at least a year, you may recall that I mentioned these in January.}

I had chosen these words intuitively.

Here’s a mini reflection on each of my two words for 2013.


I had set a guiding goal of 3 yoga classes a week {at home or a studio} and a 45-minute walk on weekdays.

On average, I did yoga in a studio twice a week and 45-minute walks 3 times per week {I went for shorter walks on other days}.

Overall, though, because I had chosen ‘movement’ as one of my central themes for 2013, I became more conscious of how much I was moving in general ~ or, to be specific, how much I was sitting.

This is where I succeeded my yoga and walking goals.

What this meant was that I became very conscious of times when I’d be sitting for 2­–3 hours straight, especially while writing and finalising my first book.

When I’d catch myself, I would get up to stretch, make myself some herbal tea, do some quick housework, prep dinner or go for a mini walk with my dogs.

Cooking, testing and styling the recipes for the ebook helped too, and so did working in the city one day a week {where I would stand at a high bench top and type; it was the perfect height}.

Just choosing the word movement was like having an imaginary pedometer embedded in my brain, inspiring me to move.


I didn’t really have any guiding goals for this word. I just knew I wanted deeper, more connected relationships with the core people in my life, and meet more people who were positive and supportive in general.

I don’t know how to measure this, but I know in my gut and heart that my relationship with my husband is stronger and more loving. What helped, for sure, is that I’ve been more forthcoming in telling him how grateful I am for what he brings into our relationship and our lives.

I’ve also been nagging hubby less by accepting his traits and behaviours that are, shall I say, not my favourite or differ to how I approach things. By doing this, I was accepting ALL of him.

It’s not to say that I didn’t nag at all {or won’t in the future ~ sorry hubby!}, but I became more conscious of the ‘automatic’ nagging that would slip my mouth, and because of that I ended up nagging less. I realised in the big scheme of life, the little things I nagged about were not worth it {in comparison to having a loving relationship with my husband}.

I also made a conscious effort to connect more with my sister and her two gorgeous boys {my nephews}, by calling and seeing her more often. I also offered my babysitting services, which she hasn’t taken full advantage of yet! {Get onto that one, won’t ya, sis?}

The last thing I want to say about relationships is that I became more aware of the relationship I have with myself, by understanding more of how I naturally ‘operate’ in the world.

I had done a little inner work on myself later this year, working with mindfulness coach, Kate James, and reading a few books, including Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking, which helped me to understand {and accept} myself more. It made me realise why I related to people the way I do, why I ‘operate’ the way I do, and why I’m not a ‘ra ra’ or bubbly outgoing person ~ and that it’s ok not to be one either. It also helped me understand with whom I’m more likely to make friends with, too.

I found that having two words in areas that I wanted to improve on really helped me ~ because it wasn’t complicated. But I needed more ways to remind myself of the words and to hold myself accountable {although talking with hubby and friends helped}.

For 2014, I’m trialling something different. Something more outlined {but not rigid}, and I’m putting myself out there to hold myself accountable. To be honest, I’m a bit nervous ~ but also excited. More about that in 2014.

Over to you:

  • Have you ever tried using the two words concept {or core values} before?
  • What will your words be for 2014? And, for bonus points, think about why you’ve chosen these words ~ are they a true {authentic} fit for you?

Feel free to share in the comments below.

Wishing you a happy and soul-nourishing 2014.

My barriers to cooking & 9 ways I manage them

IMG_1214Even if cooking is something that you enjoy, having to do it everyday can seem like a chore.

Can you relate to this?

I can.

For me, cooking will seem like a pain when I’m feeling mentally tired ~ this usually happens on a Thursday or Friday, especially after a super busy work week where I haven’t had time to rest and recharge my batteries. It also happens when I’m bored with tasting my own food, and need some variety!

I discovered that being aware of my barriers to cooking ~ feeling mentally tired and getting bored with my food ~ was the first step towards working how to manage them.

So here’s what I do:

1. Shop once a week

I hate food waste, so if there’s food in the house, especially towards end of the week, it will force me to cook it. I’ve been in the habit of shopping for food at least once a week ~ with my trusty shopping list {I keep a running list in my phone so I never run out of my standard cooking staples}. Besides, there’s no incentive for me to cook when I don’t have decent food in the house.

2. Skip peeling vegetables

Peeling can feel like such a mental burden when you’re tired. I very rarely peel vegetables these days ~ especially since I buy organic and spray-free ones. A good wash and scrub is usually enough {and sometimes not even that if there’s no dirt and I will be cooking the vegetables anyway}. I’ll peel things with thick fibrous skins, though {like the stem of a broccoli}. Oh, and I don’t worry about how evenly I chop vegetables either.

3. Cook what I know

I have a handful of trusty dishes {like dhal}, which I make when I’m feeling mentally tired. I’ve made them so often that it doesn’t require any mental energy. To make sure I don’t get bored with them, I may change up the vegetables, spices/herbs, or substitute with other the other ingredients that I already have {see next two points}.

4. Don’t worry about missing ingredients

I cook with what I have in my kitchen so I don’t have to duck out to the shops to buy something specific ~ that’s a huge barrier to cooking! I just use other ingredients to substitute.

5. Think about nutrients & flavour

To pull a meal together, I think about my complete meal concept: what protein, carbs and vegetables I have on hand ~ and what flavours can I use to make it tasty. {I talk about this quite thoroughly in my ebook.}

6. Pre-prep food

I can’t tell you how much time and mental energy this has saved me. Most weeks I’m conscious of prepping some ingredients to stock my fridge and freezer. Right now I have some roasted sweet potato, quinoa and a homemade mushroom & sunflower seed pate. What can I do with this? I can make a quinoa salad using the sweet potato, some crunchy salad vegetables, olives and top it with a dollop of the pate. See?

7. Get inspiration & experiment

This one has to do with me getting bored with the flavours I use in my cooking. So I try to look for ideas when I do eat out ~ whether it’s at one of my favourite cafés or restaurants, flicking through my cookbooks, or eating at a friend’s house. I also get plenty of ideas through my social media community. Having this blog also forces me {in a nice way!} to experiment with different foods and flavours.

8. Have a tidy kitchen

If my kitchen is messy with a sink full of dirty dishes, it makes me want to run the other way! So between hubby and me, the dishes will get washed. And I place all the items back in the pantry and fridge as I finish using them ~ so there’s no messy kitchen to contend with after eating {and when I cook next time round}.

9. Put some tunes on while I cook

When I play my favourite music, cooking is a lot more fun. It becomes therapeutic rather than a hassle in those moments of tiredness ~ since cooking is, after all, mostly a matter of mindset.