When it comes to entertaining, Louise Thompson, Bite's popular resident life coach, no longer subscribes to the pressure of creating the perfect meal or cleaning the house "as if no one ever lived there" before her visitors arrive. "These days I do a whistle-around with the Hoover. My husband says if the house is good enough for us, it's good enough for anyone we choose to invite into it." The extravagant meals and the housework have taken a back seat, along with Louise's other perfectionist, people-pleasing ways.
"Five years ago I was so ill you cannot imagine," she says. Bedridden for 18 months with severe adrenal fatigue, she was too weak to even open the bottles of vitamin, mineral and herb supplements that she partly credits with her recovery. "So many doctors really tried to help but my blood tests all came back normal. I was grateful that I had been so thoroughly tested and didn't have cancer, MS or heart disease, so I could put those worries aside."
Already a yoga teacher and training to be a life coach, Louise says she stumbled across the concept of adrenal fatigue on the website of United States doctor James Wilson and answered 'yes' to most of the questions on his online checklist. She started using his adrenal gland support supplement range (sold through her practice and through other natural health practitioners) and, with techniques from her life coach training, slowly changed her mindset as well. "With adrenal fatigue there is a physiological condition going on in your body, for sure, but a lot of how to reverse that process comes from your mind. I realised a million tiny lifestyle choices had made me ill," says the once very driven former advertising executive.
As she does in her Bite column each week, in her newly released The Busy Woman's Guide To High Energy Happiness (Penguin, $35) Louise has compiled a hands-on series of exercises and worksheets. "The book is as much about energy as fatigue and it's for anyone grinding through each day to know that making different empowered choices will have a big impact on how happy they feel and how their body feels. Being tired is not a marketing message from Starbucks to have another trim flat white!
"Very few people will get to the point where I was: totally collapsed with headaches all day, my hair falling out. I'm as busy as I have always been, seeing clients in the day, teaching yoga at night and writing but it's what's going on in your head that counts." As well as her book, Louise has created an associated online program of videos, audios and worksheets along with a recipe book from nutritionist Clare Turnbull. For more, visit louisethompson.com.
These days Louise says she is bursting with vitality and finds it incredible that she was once so ill. Still, she says her health and self-care now come at the top of her daily to-do list. "Caring what people think causes an enormous amount of stress and that's energy sucking, as is displaying a fake Pollyanna happiness. This book is about being authentic, allowing that sometimes we are scared and sad as well as happy."
It's even about knowing when you don't have time to stretch yourself for your guests.
"These days in winter I'd rather do a coq au vin in the hotpot than something more extravagant. Putting the hotpot on in the morning for dinner in the evening makes me feel like Superwoman!" And when it's too hot for a hearty casserole, a simple barbecue with friends works well too. "It's a standing joke in our family that I just will not follow a recipe. I'm not good at following the rules," she says.
For weeknight dinners, Louise and husband Forsyth are My Food Bag devotees. The weekly or fortnightly deliveries, Louise says, "have shown me that any stress from meal preparation does not come from cooking but from thinking about or sourcing ingredients! It's so exciting when the bag [of recipes and ingredients] turns up on the doorstep each week." And then, on even busier days, there's Louise's fall-back frittata, right. A wedge or two for dinner and then a slice for lunch the next day. What could be easier? Delicious and most definitely stress-free too.
Ham, spinach and feta frittata
• Olive oil
• 3-4 leftover roast potatoes, chopped
• Half a red capsicum, cut into small pieces
• A big handful of baby spinach
• 6 free-range eggs
• 8 leaves shredded basil
• 3 slices free-range ham, chopped
• ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
1. Heat the grill/oven to 180C and heat a little olive oil
in a 20cm non-stick frying pan. Add the potatoes and capsicum and fry for a couple of minutes. Then add the spinach and let it wilt.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a bowl with some salt
and ground black pepper. Add the basil and ham.
3. Pour egg mixture over the ham and veges in the
frying pan and cook over low heat for 8-10 minutes or until the frittata begins to set.
4. Sprinkle the feta over the nearly cooked frittata and put under a hot grill and cook for 2-3 minutes or until golden.
5. Allow to stand for a minute or two before slicing into thick wedges.