Have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Have a Happy and Healthy New Year
Ilona Madden - RightFood4U - Nutrition Programmes - Bray Wicklow Dublin

Written by Ilona Madden

December 29, 2021

updated 26 Nov 2021

Wishing you a Happy and Healthy New Year!

People might have wished this for you or you for them, but have you ever really given much thought on what “healthy” and “happy” actually mean to you.

I like to explore two really important statements:

Health is not the absence of disease!

Our health system is currently focused on “fixing” rather than on prevention. We go to the GP or the hospital if there’s something wrong with us. Being healthy is seen as the absence of anything seriously wrong.

The definition (since 1948!!) of health by the WHO is: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

To me feeling healthy means feeling full of energy from the moment I wake up in the morning until the evening when things slow down, falling into bed and then sleeping a deep and nourishing sleep for 8 hours, waking refreshed again – every morning, every day! Feeling healthy means being able to do the things I love, being able to focus and concentrate, and being able to make good decisions. It’s about having a deep sense of happiness and contentment and being able to accept sad or other unpleasant feelings as what they are: “feelings”. It’s freedom from anxiety or depression. And social well-being means being part of a community and having a big circle of friends. It means having a sense of purpose.

All of this is what you will find confirmed through research and studies in the faculty of “Positive Psychology” which you can actually study at the RCSI. Centre for Positive Psychology and Health – Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (

Happiness is a state of mind, independent of the circumstances around you!

Looking at the above definition of health, happiness is a huge part of good health. We often look at happiness as if it’s related to the outside world. However, it is proven that happiness comes from the inside and not from events outside of you. There are people who can feel very happy under circumstances that might seem to make it impossible, and others feel unhappy but to the outside, it looks as if they have everything.

People who won the lotto feel happy only for a short time until when they revert back to their “normal” state of happiness”. You can practise “happiness” or rather the positive habit, and I can only recommend you check out Fiona Brennan Fiona Brennan – The Positive Habit

“What has this got to do with me?” you might ask now.

When I talk to potential clients, I would ask them the reason for contacting me, and the answer is often “Because I want to be healthier”. When I ask what “healthier” actually means, I often get a blank at first. And then I get answers such as:

  • “I want to be able to play with my grandchildren” ,
  • “I want to be able to go on a long hike without any joint pain”;
  • “I want to be able to run a marathon (again)”;
  • “I want to be able to get up the 3rd floor without feeling completely out of breath”;
  • “I want to be a size 12 again”;
  • “I would love to have more energy”;
  • “I wish my concentration was better”;
  • “If I didn’t have that constant bloating and cramping, I think I’d feel healthier”….

The list is endless, but as you can see, “Being or feeling healthy” means something different to everyone. We all want to be healthy and happy, but both have completely different meanings to different people.

In my opinion, you cannot successfully embark long term on a healthy lifestyle unless you are actually aware of what healthy means to you, i.e. what your “Health Goal” actually is.

You might join a slimming club or a gym and start going for a while and then fall off and lose interest because the classes might get tough or because you miss your chocolate cake.

Then the excuses start coming in:

  • “A sure, the grandchildren will probably accept that I’m old and can’t crawl on the floor anymore”
  • “A sure, I might just keep taking the painkillers when I go out hiking” (and accept all the potential side effects that they bring with them)
  • “A sure, I just have to accept that I won’t be running a marathon again anymore”
  • “Sure, who can hear me when I’m out of breath anyway”
  • “Sure, I’m not too bad at my size 16, there are so many that are heavier”
  • “Sure, it would be nice to have more energy, but I’ve just got to accept that I’m not getting any younger”
  • “A sure, my concentration is really annoying me but sure what can I do?”
  • “Sure, the bloating and cramping is annoying but I don’t want to give up any foods”

Do these excuses sound familiar?

These only come in when we lose sight of why we wanted to be healthier in the first place. However, if you have a very clear picture of HOW your HEALTHY life really looks like, then you can find the actions you need to take, and you will stay motivated and driven to achieve them.

I would like to encourage you to start journaling today:

  • Write down what health means to you. Paint a very clear picture of what your life looks like and write it in the present tense. Describe exactly how you feel and what you do. It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with a current health concern or not, you might want to see yourself overcoming the issue or living at your best with it. That doesn’t matter.
  • For example, someone who is in a wheelchair might feel healthy and happy whereas someone suffering from a flu might feel very unhappy and unhealthy.
  • Once you’ve painted that picture, set yourself a goal of what you’d like to achieve and break it down into smaller goals that you want to reach in order to get to the big goal. What are the individual steps that are required to get there?
  • Tell others, get accountability buddies and get support – either from friends and family or from someone professional. This can be a Nutritional Therapist like me, or a hypnotherapist, or a physical therapist, or a counsellor or psychotherapist, or a GP or other health professionals.
  • Believe that there’s always something you can do! Your job is just to find it!


I know for a fact that nutrition plays a major role in our physical and mental wellbeing. I think the connection between what we eat and how we feel is completely underrated. Most people think of healthy eating in connection to losing weight and physical appearance.

For me, healthy eating is about feeling well and happy in myself. Anxiety and depression, lack of concentration, mood issues, sleep and stress issues are all rooted in a lack of the right nutrients and are connected to our gut health.

Even if you think you are eating a “healthy” diet, you could be experiencing ill health. This is because what’s healthy in the textbooks, might not be healthy for you. It could be something in your gut that you can only find out if you do a proper test.

If you do not feel 100% healthy at the moment, and even if you think there’s nothing nutrition can do (as you are eating well) give me a buzz and we can have an informal chat.

If you know it’s your nutrition and you know exactly what to do but you are struggling to implement it, I can help you with my coaching programmes and with tried and tested strategies.




Mulled wine

This delicious mulled wine is sweetened naturally with a little cider and the juice of an orange.

If not sweet enough just add some xylitol.


2 bottles of fruity red wine
150ml apple cider
1 cinnamon stick
Juice of one orange
The peel of one unwaxed lemon
5 whole cloves, stuck in an unwaxed orange
A pinch of nutmeg
5 cardamom pods (optional)
I tbsp of xylitol (optional)


Simmer all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium low heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let the wine rest for an additional 10 minutes before straining and serving.

Healthy Mince Pies

Ingredients for the filling:

1 large apple
75g raisins
75g sultanas
75g currants
65g dried, ideally unsweetened cranberries
60g other dried fruit (sour cherries,
blueberries, mango, apricots
– dried but unsweetened)
Zest and juice of an orange
50g coconut palm sugar
4 tbsp butter, cubed
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp brandy (optional)

Ingredients for the pastry:

150g of almond flour or ground almonds
75g of coconut flour
1 tbsp coconut palm sugar
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp sea salt
zest of an orange
115g butter, frozen
(plus a little extra for greasing)
1 egg, lightly whisked


Pre-heat the oven to 175˚C, then put the almond and coconut flours in a bowl with the sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir in the orange zest. Grate the frozen butter into the flour and mix together with your fingers till a crumb forms.

Stir in the egg and mix with your hands to form a dough. Divide the dough in half; wrap each in film and place in the fridge for 1 hour (or overnight). Grease the moulds of a muffin pan with a little butter.
Remove the dough from the fridge and place between 2 sheets of baking/ greaseproof paper.

Roll with a rolling pin to flatten out the dough until it is pie-crust thin.

To make the filling:
Put all of the filling ingredients (other than the brandy) into a large saucepan over medium heat and stir.

When the butter is fully melted, turn the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often. Take the saucepan off the heat and stir through a tablespoon of brandy, and decant into sterilized glass jars.
Leave to cool with the lid slightly ajar, then secure tightly and store until required.
Using a biscuit cutter (or an upturned jam jar – needs to be about 8cm diameter), cut out 25 circles and lightly press into the muffin pan moulds.

The pastry can be tricky to work with, as there is no gluten holding it together. Be patient. If the pastry
splits just push it back together with your fingers and use any pastry scraps to fix it up.
Fill up each pie mould with a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat. Using the remainder of the dough, cut out 25 stars to top each pie. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes.

Leave to cool in the tins, before gently easing them out. Don’t be tempted to remove from the
tin when they come out of the oven – they WILL fall apart if you do this.

(Recipe from Zest4Life Christmas recipes)

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