Charl’s journal

The Dangers of Treadmills

In this audio, Charlotte addresses the use of treadmills which are commonplace in most gyms in the country but many people are unaware of their dangers. Constantly using a treadmill can cause repetitive stress injuries and strain due the Read more

Kefir healed my skin

The power of Kefir I have been living in South Korea for a year now and I have become very sensitive to foods which may possibly have caused what looks like a fungal infection on my skin. When I went Read more

Ntosh's Journey to Health Part 2

I have been on the Better4life nutrition programme and I noticed something... For the past couple of days I've noticed that I'm happier, my mood is so much better – almost nothing can get me down. Also, the energy drinks – Read more

Kefir keeps me healthy!

All the Better4life products are a true God-send.  The kefir has been my medicine for everything. I have been applying the kefir on my skin for the past 3 weeks every night and my skin is producing such a Read more

Country living in the city

I picked up the March issue of “Country Life”, drawn to its fresh outdoor images. Print has suffered a decline and it’s amazing how this magazine continues to flourish, glossy and bright. And then it dawned on me. Many Read more

The Dangers of Treadmills

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In this audio, Charlotte addresses the use of treadmills which are commonplace in most gyms in the country but many people are unaware of their dangers. Constantly using a treadmill can cause repetitive stress injuries and strain due the body not being able to stay naturally aligned. The disadvantages of treadmills far outweigh the benefits for weight loss. Rather walk on a natural surface, try a trampoline or join a Pilates class that includes cardio fitness.

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Country living in the city

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I picked up the March issue of “Country Life”, drawn to its fresh outdoor images. Print has suffered a decline and it’s amazing how this magazine continues to flourish, glossy and bright. And then it dawned on me. Many South Africans want to live in the country – away from the stress, noise and congestion. This is why this particular magazine sells so well. I’m not in the minority, wanting a simpler, cleaner life.

City living is hard on the soul. But, it’s not really the environment at fault, most of our cities and suburbs are green, lush and well taken care of. It’s how we live in the city. The constant drive and pressure, unending speed and impatience, a disconnect in our closest relationships. All this and more brings a fast-paced futility. Life can become empty-hearted with little joy.

I think the country calls to our essence, and reminds us that less can be more, and faster isn’t always better. However, you and I may not move to a small, quaint “dorp” somewhere in South Africa. We may stay in the city, in our workplaces and homes and schools for our children. The city is projected to grow dramatically in the next 10 years. So, if we are here, what do we do?

Well, I think there is only one simple solution. We can choose to change how we live – take some of those good, old fashioned farm town habits and place them into our blended concrete ‘n grass jungles. I don’t want to be unhappy or pointless here. I’m sure you don’t want to either. So, I’m training myself to set the tone of my life gently, with baby steps. Today, I drove slower and allowed harassed motorists to get onto the road. Tomorrow, I’ll take my lunch break in the garden out of the office. It’s how we live in the city or anywhere else, that determines our experiences.

May you be blessed to find the “country” in your city!


The Value of Belief

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In the last year, I’ve come across people with different beliefs about health. For example someone had a copper contraceptive removed because they believe it’s harmful, another person disagrees and believes that peace of mind in avoiding pregnancy is top priority. Another young couple express their belief that practising abstinence during fertile days will enrich their marriage. All of these people will have a different experience.

The power, the value of belief is profound. And mysterious. Belief shapes the course of my life, and it shapes yours. I’ve been thinking about my beliefs. What I really believe about a great number of things. Do I believe it’s more important to be polite or honest? Do I believe that people have a right to exercise free will, even when it harms others?

Beliefs based on the facts

What I believe must be reviewed based on the evidence of its truth. There are factual beliefs that you and I are responsible for checking. An interesting example: for years, a global advertising campaign was run to convince consumers about the health benefits of white potatoes. Now, decades later, we have realised that potatoes are not super foods and actually contain very little nutrition.

Beliefs based on personal values

On a deeper level, there are also values-based beliefs that we form and only we can change. Profoundly, my beliefs determine exactly how my life will look and play out. My beliefs also serve as a keen judge of my actions. I’ve seen this now. The minute I decide to do or not to do something that is in opposition to my beliefs, I feel a certain emotion which could be peace and satisfaction; an inner conviction; or guilt, anger and self-disappointment. And it doesn’t end here. My decisions based on my beliefs move into the proteins of my brain and build positive connections or negative interruptions. This produces a cascade of reactions that then affect the health of my body. I literally become my beliefs, or how my mind responds to my choices. I’ve realised that due to fear, shame, pain, even abuse, so many of us daily are making choices that we don’t really believe in, perhaps because we feel that we don’t have a choice or feel manipulated to choose something we don’t want. There’s a little voice protesting deep within, and although it’s faint, we hear it. The body senses the disconnect, and if repeated we can become ill.

The solution

Live from your heart. Act out your beliefs. Make good choices based on your beliefs.

Here’s an example: if I believe it’s important to be on time and I make sure that I am, for professional and social appointments, I’ll be able to see how important this really is within my own world. But if I allow myself to be delayed, controlled and influenced by a tardy (late) friend or colleague, I’ll feel emotions of resentment, stress, antipathy and self-guilt and feel ill. I’ll feel controlled and condemned.

You can choose!

As South Africans, we can often feel powerless – there’s the government, big business and the whole western world seemingly at odds with us, oppressing our free will and ability to choose. I believe we can choose. I believe that the value of belief is to choose, and it frees you and I to live more honest, health-filled lives. Go choose and become whole!

What are YOU hoping for?

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Hope it is a powerful thing. It is more than an emotion. Hope is having vision. It’s the promise of your vision becoming real. It is what you are looking FORWARD to in the future. This weekend, the question literally flashed across my mind: “what are you hoping for?” I was washing dishes, so I wasn’t really prepared for this profound thought…

I answered the question honestly, a little timidly. And then, surprisingly, joy came cascading into my heart! I felt God telling me, “I want you to hope; I want you to believe that what you truly hope for is good and I will make it happen.” And so I’m hoping again!

There are many dreams that I’ve buried and real desires that I’ve held close to my heart for a very long time. They didn’t seem to be possible. There seemed to be too many obstacles in the way. Trying to live without these dreams in a functional, “paying my taxes” way, I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve realised that there is no life without hope.

There is no joy, there is no beauty, there is no delight without hope. Life receives its bountiful colour and richness in hope.

Let’s hope again. Let’s believe again! What are YOU hoping for?

Is Saying ‘Yes’ Killing You?

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A few weeks ago, I lost my hubcap in Bloemfontein. A friendly young lady screamed out of her mom’s car, “Jammer dame, jy’t jou wiel verloor!” (Sorry lady, you’ve lost your wheel).  At that point, I was feeling rather chuffed with myself, making it all the way to the conference centre with no mishaps or detours. A long drive, a tired brain and rusty Afrikaans combined to make me wonder,” How on earth have I been driving on 3 wheels only?” Stopping my car, I got out ready to discover the worst, and there it was: 3 hubcaps and not 4. That happy hubcap was nowhere to be seen. I kept looking for it. I think it’s in some Bloemfontein “woestyn” (desert) now!

Long story cut short, I’ve felt like a beggar ever since I lost my hubcap. I feel embarrassed about my car, and ashamed about myself. It’s not a strong feeling; it’s just there like a grating reminder at the back of my mind. And during this time, I’ve felt a loss of power myself. People must be judging my car, and they must be judging me. JHB is a real car city. We don’t really drive dinged up or even old cars here. Everything new and shiny. In this strange place of irrational shame, I’ve found myself almost saying yes to things I haven’t thought through or really don’t want to do. I’ve been wondering about this, and the mysterious connection to my sense of reduced power. When I speak about power, I mean my personal autonomy. My ability to choose and say yes and no with freedom. It seems that this place of powerlessness attracts the controlling or co-dependent (excessive emotional or psychological reliance on someone else) like bees to nectar! You don’t want to know the messes I’ve walked into, or just narrowly avoided these last few weeks. Now, I don’t know a lot about this, and I’m just beginning to study more on the concept of personal power, but I’ve really got to say that it’s real and true.

Bullying, manipulation, control and co-dependency are all symptoms of powerlessness. A bully isn’t powerful. Neither is a person with a victim mentality. However, they are attracted to each other in an unpleasant dance. Saying “yes” or “no” to doing things when I don’t mean it is also a symptom of powerlessness. This makes me sick – in a state of disorder – because my mind registers the difference (cognitive dissonance) between what I said and what I really mean, and my emotions respond with resentment and a loss of control. Shame or guilt steps in and my body becomes filled with toxic, negative thoughts – thoughts centering on loss of quality of life versus receiving joy and contentment.

So many of my clients are stressed because of powerlessness. Just this week I saw how my own responses hinge on how powerful I decide to be or not. It IS a decision, but it’s really subconscious. An abusive boss, a destructive relationship; a co-dependent colleague; even a damaging view of good food – all of these are floating torpedoes on the sea of life, waiting for our response. My “yes” could be killing me, slowly or swiftly. And my “no” or “I can’t” could be getting in the way of what I really want to do.

A famous Proverb reads, “A desire fulfilled is like a tree of life.” So when I desire something, I can really state YES and my body is filled with life. A simple remedy is to examine my heart and my choices. Are my “Yes’s” really yes (I want this), and my “No’s” really no (I don’t want this)? I believe we can each build ourselves to be people of legitimate power, who encourage those around us to be equally powerful. Can you imagine a society that looks more like this? More truth, more freedom and more dignity? Beautiful!

What the car guard taught me

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He was standing in the queue, waiting for the teller to count his change painstakingly. A collection of silver and bronze coins. In his hand was a pie and a Coke – lunch for the day. Everyone was waiting with our “superior” notes and plastic money. In that moment, a dozen different thoughts and feelings struck me. I read a story in those few minutes. This man had courage-real and pragmatic. I marvelled at it. How ashamed would I feel paying with little pieces of change? He was actually helping the teller with her cash float, and this showed me he’d worked out a beneficial partnership from a potentially embarrassing context. She appreciated his change, even though it took longer to count.

Then there was his dignity. Shamefaced, I faced my own prejudices. I’ve always struggled with the concept of paying floating, and unofficial car guards to watch my car when I believe each shopping centre should do this for their customers. In that moment, I saw the validity and real value of his work because this man needed to eat, just like me, and who is to say my work is better than his?

And then there was the peculiar realisation of change. All change is a collection of little steps in one direction, just like the pile of change (loose coins) I saw being counted. It all added up to the right amount (the impact) needed to pay for this man’s lunch, and the change needed to satisfy customers like me. I know he had no idea, as he stood with slumped shoulders, but this car attendant taught me a weighty lesson. As I reversed my car, and waited for one of his co-workers to guide me out, I paid, bit my lip and said, “God bless you”, this time really meaning it.

Confessions of a Recovering Gym Bunny

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So, there’s an overwhelming amount of information available – in the beautifully broad and general virtual world and in the formal printed book industry, about all things related to exercise, wellness and fitness. You begin to get the feeling that you may also need a PhD, just to stay fit and in shape.

Somebody is always modifying something – a better ab crunch, a shorter, more intense workout. More sophisticated gym equipment. Optimised protein shakes. Paleo-atkins-macrobiotic diets shaken up and stirred and served again with another twist. The psychology of exercise: what you think when you work out. Right down to the multi-million dollar industry of exercise clothing, personal training and exercise studios.

No wonder many people prefer to sit on the coach than get exercising.

My confession: I was one of those gym bunnies who spent years in many different gyms, with different programmes and different goals.  I remember feeling awkward; unsure of what I was doing – hilariously avoiding the personal instructor hovering nearby – convinced I was doing the right thing, but not really convinced. There was always this frustration in my mind that I was working out so hard, so diligently, but not seeing the results I wanted. Or I thought I needed. So, what happened? Did anything change? Can I share any pearls of wisdom with you today.

Hmm, maybe not pearls, but certainly some clinchers that changed my perspective:

 #1 Your Ideal Body is Probably False.

The body you think you should have, and what you’re working so hard to attain is usually false. It either doesn’t exist outside of a designer’s Photoshop lab, or it’s been attained by eating things what wouldn’t sustain life for even a cockroach beyond 30 days. And gentlemen, this isn’t exclusively reserved for the appearance-mad fraternity of women. It affects men and women alike. And it’s mean and needs a beating.

#2 The Body is a Lever System Designed for Movement.

This may sound too scientific, but it changed the way I see exercise. I don’t even refer to it any more as I speak to clients. Movement is what we need and it’s what we should aim for every day. Some of my clients are teachers at schools and very few of them are overweight or weak – because they keep moving and stay active. Most don’t go to a gym (what a thought!), but they also don’t suffer from central obesity or laxity of ligaments like the rest of our chair-sitting office-bound workers.

# 3 You’ll Know Your Right Body Type Intuitively.

I look at my childhood photos and already I see a predisposition to a certain body type, a certain diet and a certain muscular-skeletal structure. It took me years to come back to how I should look and what I should be eating etc. But when it was clear, I shed the false expectations (along with some muscle mass) and began to feel truly comfortable in my own frame. If you were long, lean and skinny as a child, chances are you should have a long, lean, slimmer frame as an adult. If you really enjoyed meat and veggies growing up, it’s good to keep to them now in your later years. We get lost in the hype and bubble of nutritional science and need to remind ourselves that we were designed to know what we need.

# 4 Good Movement is Simple, Natural.

Lose the pseudo-science, mumbo-jumbo rhetoric designed to scramble your brain and all of the psycho-jargon often crafted to make you buy things you don’t need. Human movement is the simplest thing in the world. We were designed to walk, to jump, to lean, to carry, to stretch, to swim – a long stroll, a fast trot, and to run – for short distances (unless you’re from the Masai tribe or have Ethiopian genes). We don’t do too well exercising on artificial machines – which, and I know I’m standing on controversial ground here – includes bicycles. Example: Long distance cyclists run the risk of overdeveloping one side of their heart’s ventricle. And the best immune response from exercise is moderate – just in the middle of our heart rate low and high, and not longer than 40 minutes, done frequently. Like living and breathing. Moving every day. Making movement and exertion a normal, natural part of our lives and encouraging our bodies to move, even while we work in offices and drive cars to work.

 # 5 You’ll Enjoy What’s Good for You

If you’re not liking it after you’ve got beyond the beginning point of the difficulty of change – it’s not good for you. I teach many different people – of all sorts of shapes and sizes, ages, genders. You name it. Those that ENJOY their movement, their food and their lifestyle choices are HAPPY and WELL. Those that are trying to put on more muscle mass than their whole family tree combined are miserable – because it’s not natural and it takes a gross amount of misplaced resources – including chickens and whey protein – to make them get there.

It takes some experimenting, some testing and some firm “No’s” and “Yes’s” to fit into the right shape and quality for your life.

My favourite exercise now? Pilates hands down! It truly is a full body workout! Hey, why not sign up for one of my classes if you are in Joburg:

Go for it. Find comfort and gentle truth in your movement, and be well.

Why we want to hibernate in Winter

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Take a break… Your body works hardest in winter.

Sometimes we forget that the internal combustion engine has been modelled on the human (and mammalian) body. And we forget, that exactly like a cold car feels on a winter morning, we too are working hardest when the air is coldest and driest.

The instinct to hibernate

Listen to yourself. We’ve done enough separation of body, mind and spirit. Human beings have the gift of functioning in tandem with all our parts, all the time. Winter comes approximately half-way through the year in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s a good half-way point pegged for rest and reflection. The body knows that it’s now time to battle viruses, lower temperatures and less viable air for respiration. This means greater output, and in a way, greater “fuel consumption” – more calorie-rich foods, like our winter squashes and meaty stews. We need more to stay in balance and maintain homeostasis (a balanced body). So, the desire to hibernate is good, instinctual and a healthy guide for activity. Reduce the length of our overall day,  spend more time at home, warm and resting and  generally breath deeper and working more restfully. This will keep our immune system humming and allow us to reflect and process on an emotional and spiritual level. No reflections= no direction.

The desire for a lower gear

Other seasons of the year, especially Spring (renewal) and Summer (harvest) speak to us of super- energy and great physical- holistic stamina. It’s easy to get caught up in this kind of thinking and “energy hype” all year round. I always use the ocean as an example of ebbs and flows. We would have no tides, and ultimately no life in the ocean without ebbs and flows. Human beings and all creation, to a certain degree, are oscillating creatures. We move from first gear to second, to third and beyond. To stay in one gear will completely and very quickly wreck a good engine. Continuing with our car metaphor, one gear can only provide a specific output of power (speed) flat and torque (strength) uphill.  When the landscape and conditions change, you and I need a different gear. My mechanic would physically remove my car if I chose to stay in second or third gear on the highway. This is abuse! And so too is our expectation to stay in one gear all the time. This is self- abuse. Gear down. Listen to your “revs” and celebrate the ebbs and flows in you!

The value of old fashioned sense

I recall growing up with an understanding that “gran will know” or an older neighbour always had a solution for a cold, a burn, rash or some other ailment. There were plenty of people who continued with the old traditions of protecting and celebrating life. Simple things like growing lemons, grapefruit and paw-paws in the garden. Filling the house with dried herbs and taking out carpets and rugs weekly for a good “dusting”. And also eating heavier vegetables ( eg. butternut, pumpkin, winter squash) in winter, and easier to digest foods like soups, bone broths and casseroles. Now, the “collagen diet” is doing the rounds and the medicinal world is singing its praises. But my grandmother knew all about saving the chicken carcass, boiling marrow bones and adding dried peas, lentils and pulses to soups. Old fashioned sense took a backseat to technologically driven medical research. Now this very same research is proving its validity. Do what your grandparents and  great grandparents (if they were healthy) used to do. Have a look at how artisanal (DIY) communities function, and take some simple pages from their books. To stay healthy, is more about maintaining your wonderful engine-mind, body and spirit – all year round – than jumping for the vitamin C or antibiotics. Above all, rest! Your body needs it.

The remedy of joy

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Last night I was playing my piano, and I felt it. Joy unpressed, unrushed and whispering to me gently as a butterfly would. Joy had come to visit me. Bundled up in my heavy, winter pyjamas and nursing a head cold, even heavier, I let the piano hold my hands. I was alone. There were no people, programmes or purposes leading me. The cosy silence surrounded me. And I drank it in. The cool, sweet delicious silence. A cool hand to a feverish brew. Then I felt the playing. My friends, poetry and sound, joined me in a still, graceful dance. My hands learned the steps as we went.  Joy came visiting. I had no motive, no mandate, no agenda. Only the need  to rest. To breathe.  To lay my hands down onto my old confidante. When I played, my heart wept and danced. And in those tears I found joy. Unpressed, unrushed and whispering. “Come apart and rest a while,” Joy said to me. And so I did. And in the quietness, my strength is being restored. It’s the quietness, the grateful solitude and the conscious choice to be still, that calls Joy home. To visit. And to stay. Here. Always.

So, dear friends, today if you dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!

Your life is an infinite gift with an eternal, one-time edition purpose. Fill your heart today with joy. Wrestle it from the circumstances you’re in: stuff your pockets with joy. Joy is hope made real in a wild, beautiful world. Joy is delight in life. In the simple gifts of friendship, belonging and the ability to heal. Joy is grace and the expression of love for yourself and others. Joy is strength. Joy is peace.

Go get your joy and keep it close! Celebrate your life. It is a gift, no matter what.


Why I became an entrepreneur

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For me, becoming an entrepreneur and starting my business was not an intentional decision. I did not wake up one morning and decide, “I am going to start a company. This sounds exciting.” I simply took more and more steps away from the formal economy, without realising it because of what I believe. I was a diligent employee for 7 years and followed the traditional trajectory in studies, work and career planning. Then I left it all and took a personal development break.

After travelling to Korea and teaching English for two years, I realised that I am a person driven by purpose. And purpose resides in the heart. I have always loved nature, people and healing. Seeing people sick worried me. Seeing them recover gave me the deepest joy. After spending 3 years in the NGO sector and working with vulnerable children, communities and vast tracts of arable land, left uncultivated, while poverty was all around, I realised that tending the land and working with sustainable health solutions is one of the most powerful interventions we can use. Simply, there were no companies doing what I wanted to do. Every time I applied for a position in another field, I felt sick to my stomach. I constantly thought about the needs I saw in people’s lives, communities and countries. I seemed to care about these needs more than most people I knew, and yet, I knew that I was not a better person: I just had a different vision, for my life, and the life of our world. There was a point that I came to, the signpost of “It’s now or never.”

So I took the step, filled with all sorts of dread, but knowing that courage is forged in the valleys of fear. I first started my nutritional therapy practice, Better4Life, and then after 3 years of researching, product formulations and testing, I registered Africa Grace as a company to take my heart for Africa, our natural resources and my vision for every person to have the CHOICE to use pure, organic skincare and healthcare. It’s a company that encapsulates many different aspects of my vision for my continent and appeals to the human spirit. I took many small steps, a few big steps. Sometimes, just standing where I was and reflecting. People encouraged me. I did a great deal of inner questioning, reading, experimenting, studying. I needed to make sacrifices: buy a small car, move back with my parents for a while, learn to live with far less and spend whatever I had on studies and starting my two companies.

It has been the most extraordinary journey of faith, perseverance and patience. It still is. Sometimes, I’m not sure where it will lead. But, I know, as long as I choose this ship, I will learn the most about myself, what I believe and what is truly, honestly, uniquely important in life.