April 17, 2017
If you’re in Australia (and particularly Sydney), you would’ve felt the sudden change in temperate that signals Summer is over and Winter is fast approaching (bar maybe this beautiful Easter weekend we had!). There is a briskness in the morning air, the afternoon light fades much too quickly, and the nights require some form of blanket as opposed to a thin sheet.
While Autumn brings with it a beautiful time of year, it is also a reminder of the colds and flus that are on their way. However, there are both preventable and reactionary measures that can be taken in response to this seasonal change.
But firstly, what’s the difference between a cold and the flu? A cold can be either viral or bacterial, and (brace yourself) the difference is understood by the colour of the mucus that is produced. If it’s clear, then it’s a viral cold and will pass on its own. If the mucus is coloured and has lasted for more than 7 days, the cold has turned bacterial and it’s probably best you speak to your doctor about a course of antibiotics.
The actual ‘flu’ is caused by the influenza virus and can cause serious to severe complications. The flu can lead to other conditions, like pneumonia, and takes a lot longer to recover from than a typical cold. Unfortunately, because the flu is caused by a virus (and not bacteria) antibiotics will not do you any good and it comes down to the old fashioned methods of recovery.
So what are the best ways to PREVENT getting sick this winter?
1. Take a daily probiotic. Gut health is extremely important to your overall health, with 80% of your immune system in your digestive system. Throw your gut health out of whack and you open up the body’s virtual door to any virus or bacteria that want to come in.
Probiotics provide good bacteria that is needed for a healthy digestive system. Taking a probiotic every morning BEFORE breakfast will help improve your general wellbeing, your digestive health, and most importantly for this time of year, your immunity.
2. Hit your sleep targets. With the first quarter of the year already done and dusted, work often ramps up at this time of year with KPI’s and targets a constant stress.
Surviving the Winter period will mean putting sleep down as one of your own personal KPI’s as it is the primary source of restoration and recovery for the body. Aim to get between 7-9 hours every night, and of high quality (i.e. no disruptions) in order to get the most benefit.
3. Take your vitamins. Vitamin C is one of the most UNDERATED vitamins on the market. Vitamin C not only promotes the production of healthy white blood cells to fight off infections, but also helps the body to develop healthy lungs and respiratory tissue. Vitamin C is so high in antioxidants that it repels infective organisms in the airways to stop them taking over. Adding to this, Zinc and Echinacea are also wonder vitamins and herbal remedies that work both preventatively and during an infection.
Take Vitamin C preventatively in powder form (Melrose does a great range of the powders) with a quarter to half a teaspoon a day. You can also take Armaforce, which is a tablet combining all of the above.
4. Get the flu shot. For the actual flu, the only way to avoid it is the injection. While it doesn’t cover EVERY strain, it covers the main ones. It won’t stop you from getting colds but it will stop you from being knocked out and bedridden for two weeks.
Your local chemist now does flu injections where they usually have set visiting hours for walk-ins, or you can make an appointment with your local doctor.
5. Listen to your body. This month we’re talking about listening to your intuition and your body. This applies to how you’re feeling physically as well. One of the worst things we see are clients who feel the initial stages of a cold coming on and push themselves to keep going – working, exercising, going out. This will DOUBLE the time that it takes to recover.
If however you stop yourself early on at the first sign of symptoms and rest, recover, and take some time out, the cold will be gone significantly faster than if you had tried to push through. It’s also best to stay at home and not pass it around the office so that everyone experiences what you are!
Ok so that’s the prevention. What about if the virus does get through all these barriers? Because some just manage to slip through the cracks no matter how hard you try. Well, it takes double the effort (sometimes literally) and we’ll cover that in next week’s blog!
Sugar coated: Australian’s are increasingly getting out of shape and putting on weight.
The truth: two out of three Australian’s are overweight or obese.
Sugar coated: We should be doing something to help people eat healthier and make better choices.
The truth: Australia is facing an obesity crisis and the Federal Government need to take leadership on this issue.
There are so many different initiatives that could be undertaken to tackle the rising obesity crisis that we’re dealing with in Australia. But when a landmark study recommends taxing junk food, especially sugary drinks, to make them more expensive, and reducing advertising and marketing of those products to children as one of the most effective ways, then maybe we need to listen?
Unfortunately, the Federal Government is doing the exact opposite, with the Minister for Health Greg Hunt bluntly saying, “We do not support a new tax on sugar to address this issue”. When you need to keep big corporates on side I understand it can be difficult to put the health of the nation at the forefront.
Hunt went on to say, “Our Health Star Rating system helps people to make healthier choices when choosing packaged foods at the supermarket and encourages the food industry to reformulate their products to be healthier”. However there are some significant limitations to the Health Star Rating system.
For example, the system is voluntary, which means that its up to the food manufacturers as to whether or not the product will display the health stars. Plus, many of the items that we’re meant to be eating (think fresh fruit and vegetables) are not packaged, so they don’t display the health stars. When their main slogan is “the more stars the better” it kind of makes this misleading.
The calculation of the stars is also somewhat unclear, with full-cream unsweetened natural yoghurts scoring lower than sugary fruit yoghurts. Similarly, fruit juices score four or five stars despite being very high in sugar because they receive positive points for fruit content.
In a context where consumers are extremely price sensitive due to the rising cost of living, would it not make more sense to incentivise healthy behaviours and penalise the unhealthy? The freedom of choice will forever remain, however the choice to eat healthier is now also economically the easier option.
I believe with any behavioural change strategies, we need to work on increasing both motivation while simultaneously removing barriers. In the case of eating healthy, we’re using the concept of money as a mechanism for changing behaviour.
Putting a sugar tax on foods that are clearly not healthy for us not only sends a strong signal educationally that ‘this food is not healthy’ but also communicates on a consumer level that ‘this is no longer the economically viable choice’. The World Health Organisation has urged all countries to implement a sugar tax, and found that such a tax of 20% results in a drop in sales and consumption of sugary drinks.
The best part is, it’s not like Australia would be pioneering the way or going down a completely unknown path. In fact, we’re quite far behind with countries like Denmark, France, Hungary, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, the UK and some US states bringing in a sugar tax.
The leader of this latest study at the Global Obesity Centre at Deakin University, Dr Gary Sacks, said “It can’t be that we are all inadequate human beings… the problem is we live in an environment where junk food is everywhere, it’s heavily marketed and in a lot of cases, it’s really cheap.”
He’s totally on the mark with this one – it’s not that we are all unable to avoid temptation and consciously seek out the ‘bad stuff’; it’s literally thrown in our faces on a daily basis. Think about the amount of money spent on advertising for chips, chocolate and lollies versus the amount spent on sprucing fresh fruit and vegetables. It’s no wonder that when we’re hungry we reach for a chocolate bar.
So is taxing the right answer? The evidence in support seems to point towards a YES. So what can you do about it to get the ball rolling? Start the conversation. Write on Facebook to your local MP. Share the story on your own social media. Do your own research into what has happened in other countries when they have brought in a sugar tax. Educate yourself and others. You can do something and together we can bring about change.
I’ve blogged before on the Elimination Cycle and the steps for preparing, but we’re starting a new cycle of the Elimination Detox TODAY so I wanted there to be another resource for people to learn about this.
There are several symptoms that you may see within yourself that are signs that your body is craving detoxification. These range from:
· Digestive problems e.g. IBS, diarrhea, constipation
· Weight gain
· Low energy
· Short temper
· Fluid retention
· Skin breakout and congestion
· Sore, red or stingy eyes
· Waking up consistently between 2am-4am
· Not feeling hungry for breakfast
These are only SOME of the symptoms. So if you experience any of these, it is your body’s way of saying “I need some time out!”. My body needs to detox about once every six months, and I can tell when it needs it.
I grew up in a household where we had fresh food bought everyday, because the supermarket was conveniently located about 5 minutes from my house. When I moved out of home and into a university dorm, food shifted from being a healthy source of fuel for my body to a pleasure seeking mechanism that had almost no nutritional content. I should’ve caught on when we learnt the suppliers for the college food also serviced several major prison systems in Sydney!
So I got sick. Like really sick. Like waking up in the middle of the night with stomach pains, headaches, and fevers (usually at 3am!). I had every test under the sun to try and find out what was wrong with me. NOTHING. All the doctors said there was nothing medically wrong with me to be causing this. So I turned to a nutritionist and a naturopath who worked together on figuring out what was the underlying cause: food allergies. I was allergic to almost EVERYTHING I was eating.
So I spent the next couple of months going through an Elimination cleanse and figuring out what foods my body would tolerate and serve me as a source of fuel. Now those allergies are all but gone, but occasionally they can rear their ugly heads when I’ve drifted off slightly and started to eat more processed foods. So that’s why I detox every six months. To give the digestive system, the liver, the kidney’s, all a break and a reset!
So what should you expect if you do an Elimination Cleanse? Well let’s start with the withdrawal. Particularly if you have had a diet high in sugar, I’m not going to lie to you – the first 5 to 7 days of this is going to be tough. Sugar is treated like a drug in our brains, and there has been research showing that we become chemically addicted to the white stuff! So that first week you may experience:
Headaches: like any addiction, when you remove it, the body goes into withdrawals. The body has become dependent on this and when it doesn’t get the ‘hit’, will start to cause headaches as it craves for it.
Fatigue: on top of the headaches, your body is now missing the energy boost that sugar used to give it. Think of the highs and lows that you often experience after a sweet – a donut, a muffin, a cup of milky coffee. It gives you a short boost, you have a crash, you crave more sugar, so you give it another hit. It becomes a vicious cycle. When we break that cycle, it is very likely that you may feel sluggish and fatigued.
Irritability: When you make changes in your nutrition the body often responds in very interesting ways. If it’s missing it’s normal pick-me-ups then its common to become more cranky and irritable than usual – think 2 year old child who has missed their afternoon nap.
So what do you do about the cravings? And believe me there are going to be cravings. Depending on how much processed foods, caffeine, sugar and alcohol you were consuming before will ultimately determine how hard the detox will be. However, the ones with the higher levels initially are often the ones who also experience the best benefits!
Here are some of my top tips for helping you get through an Elimination Cleanse:
1. Drink. Drink till you feel like a fish. But only the good stuff: water and herbal teas. Dehydration is often one of the main reasons why we have cravings, and you can often drown them out with water. Try for at least 2 Litres of water everyday during the cleanse. There’s some more tips here on staying hydrated.
2. Move. You know that high that you feel after sugar or caffeine? Your body is going to miss that, so replace it with some exercise. When we move, our body releases the same feel good endorphins PLUS acts as a stress reliever to help with the irritability. This doesn’t mean you have to join a gym and train 7 days a week, just get sweating. Be creative. Get outdoors. It’s summer here in Australia so the opportunities to exercise are endless!
3. Integrate natural sweets. You ARE able to trick your body. When you’re craving something sweet, give it a healthy alternative. Amazingly, sweet root vegetables will give your body a similar satisfaction to lollies, so up the anti on vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes. Fruits are also a great alternative and there is an abundance of wonderful fruits available at the moment! Pineapple is so sweet, your body will think it’s just had a block of chocolate!
4. Create a network. Firstly, it’s best to warn your family and friends that you may be more irritable than usual during the cleanse. As the toxins leave your body and you go through the withdrawal symptoms, your fuse tends to be a lot shorter than usual. It also helps if those closest to you are aware of what you’re doing to provide extra support in those tough times and to not eat that cupcake in front of you. If you’re lucky, they may even choose to join you!
5. Go easy on yourself. Realise that deciding to take a cleanse is more than what a lot of others do. Beyond that, eliminating ANYTHING unhealthy from your diet is going to be beneficial to your overall health no matter if you do it for a day, a week or a month. Realise that you WILL have slip ups – we are human – so you just go back to the cleanse as soon as its over. Don’t throw away all your hard work just from one slip up.
If you’re not sure where to start, you can join our Elimination Detox Challenge! We start January 16th and all our Eliminators start together and finish together. You will have access to your own manual, support videos and tutorials, plus a step-by-step guide to both the pre – during – post elimination.
You can sign up HERE!
Okay so I think most of you may have heard of the 80/20 rule as this distant principle that you could apply to your life to get some benefit out of. Originally called the Pareto Principle, this philosophy was first applied in business. It was commonly found that 20% of customers lead to most, or 80%, of the sales.
The principle has been taken now into many contexts but the most important one here is for your health. While I’d love to say that 20% of your efforts net an 80% improvement of your results, we need to flip the rule in this context and focus on the 80%. If you make the majority of your choices healthy, you can achieve a healthy lifestyle.
This 80/20 rule is universal; it applies to all aspects of your life. A healthy lifestyle doesn’t come from one ‘good’ or ‘bad’ decision. It is an accumulation of all your health choices each day, each week, each month and each year. You don’t have to be perfect all the time, but you also can’t have cheat meals all the time. You don’t have to go to the gym everyday, but you do need to do some form of movement at least a majority of the week. You don’t have to meditate for hours on end, you can just find 5 minutes every second day to focus on your breathing. If you can eat, exercise, and be mindful 80% of the time, you will see amazing results.
You know why I love this rule so much?
It’s for Life
Every wondered why those “lemon detox diets” or the “soup diet” or the “500 calories every second day” don’t work? They’re not sustainable. The best rule I’ve ever been taught is “if you want to put on weight, then go on a diet”. Diets make our body go into survival mode, and not only hold onto the weight we’re already carrying, but as soon as we return to ‘normal’ eating, we pile on the extra pounds so that we can make it through another famine!
The 80/20 philosophy is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a way to make healthy decisions throughout your day/week/month/year. There’s no guilt if you overeat, under exercise or miss a meditation. You just have to balance it out somewhere else. Each day is an attempt to get the most out of your choices. Then tomorrow is a fresh day and you start again.
We can be Human
My clients are sometimes horrified to hear that I don’t live by some amazing health trend that I abide by 100% of the time. When I tell them that I eat a piece of dark chocolate almost every night, (it is 95% dark chocolate though) they almost fall of their chairs. Or the fact that I don’t train at my gym every day. Or that there are days when I don’t meditate.
I am not a robot – I am also human. And humans need a little wiggle room. While my ratios will often be closer to 90/10, I still need that 10%. Allowing yourself to have some space to breathe is necessary to stay on track with your health goals. It’s OK to have cheat meals, days where you don’t move off the couch, and mindless days. Actually it’s more than OK. You NEED them. Fundamentally as a human being. So that’s a big reason why I love this philosophy.
When something seems achievable, you are more likely to do it. I like to apply this rule to EACH DAY with my clients at first rather than the bigger picture (though you work to this!). Every decision throughout the day becomes the question “Are the majority of my choices today healthy?”. If you’ve reached 11am and the answer is no, you still have the rest of the day to be making healthy decisions.
For example, in a typical day, if you’ve had a healthy breakfast and then a colleague has brought in Christmas cupcakes for morning tea, don’t beat yourself up for having one. Enjoy it, remove the guilt, and then realise the rest of your day needs to consist of healthy decisions. That means when you get to lunchtime you need to have that salad rather than a burger, and for dinner have the grilled rather than the fried fish option. It’s all about balance.
The Secret for December
Now I have a little secret about this rule for my clients in December, because December is one of the hardest months of the year to keep your health goals going. BUT I’m going to reveal this secret in my free upcoming webinar so you’ll need to tune in on the 15th of December to find out more.
Click HERE to register.
Details: Surviving the Holiday Season
Date: 15th December
Aim: Create tangible ways to keep your health goals going in 2016.
Claim your FREE spot HERE
Ever woken up early to go on a 20 minute run and then spent the rest of the workday rewarding yourself for your efforts with food? I used to use food like my bronze, silver and gold medals. If I did a 30 minutes workout, you got a bronze medal – a kids size snickers bar. If I did 45 minutes, I’d win the silver medal – a white bread bagel with cream cheese. If I did 60 minutes I’d won gold – a burger. I realised that this dangling carrot reward based system is unhealthy for the body and the mind, so I wanted to learn more about why we use food as a reward and how to stop it. There is a curious theology behind the post workout binge, which seems to be both a physical and psychological reaction.
Why We Use Food As A Reward
When we exercise, our bodies release the feel good hormones like serotonin and oxytocin, and reduce the stress hormone cortisol. Those hormones make us feel invincible and like we have run a marathon. We perceive ourselves as healthier and slimmer right away, and think the benefits from exercise will be immediate. Exercise can also trigger hunger, so it’s often not your imagination that you feel more hungry after you exercise. Therefore, on a physical level, we think we can eat more to satisfy our hunger and ‘replenish’ the energy we have lost through exercise.
Emotionally, when we exercise it makes us feel satisfied, accomplished and deserving of reward. Hard effort has been mentally connected to the need for reward. If we work hard in the corporate setting, we expect a promotion, a pay rise or at the very least some recognition. The same goes for exercise. We perceive that the effort put into training requires reward, and as a result, we use food as a way to mentally satisfy ourselves.
Why We Shouldn’t Use Food As A Reward
In relation to the physical side, the number of calories that you actually burn while exercising is surprisingly small. The fact is, even the most intense workout is not an excuse to indulge on sugary treats and carbohydrates. Plus, when you consume these type of carbohydrates, it creates a vicious cycle where it actually makes you even more hungry! Sugar interferes with ghrelin and leptin which are the hormones that signal to your body when it is full. Throw out these hormones and you will never feel satisfied.
A majority of people grossly overestimate the amount they are burning in any given workout while simultaneously overindulging on foods that you may not normally eat. The table below has approximate figures on what you are likely to burn and equated to the amount we can ‘reward’ with.
Source: © Institute of Integrative Nutrition
It’s not that much is it! If you want to lose weight, you need those 298 calories from your 30 minute jog to burn the calories you’re consuming throughout the day, not going towards an extra reward. You can see that using food as a reward can be extremely detrimental to your health goals.
What To Reward Yourself With Instead
It just becomes a habit to reward ourselves with food or drink. My little medal system was comfortable and satisfying (even if temporarily). But as I began to understand the harm it was causing, I started to look for alternatives. I also had to come to terms with the fact that I didn’t need to reward myself for every workout. Setting goals and having milestones that needed to be reached before a reward was given made it seem much more worth the effort.
Below are my three top rewards that I now use for myself when I reach my exercise related goals:
#1 Workout Gear
What better way to reward yourself than with new workout gear? When milestones are reached (like a new weight goal, a new PB for lifting, or a race run well), reward yourself with some new training clothes, shoes or accessories. Again, you can stagger the levels depending on how big the achievement has been, and you can buy something small like a new running hat, or splurge on a new pair of running shoes. The benefit here is two fold; not only do you get something tangible that you can keep as a reward, but it also spurs you onto a new goal because you want to use the new workout gear! It’s a win win.
#2 Indulge Yourself
There are lots of ways to indulge that don’t include food. For the ladies, rewarding yourself with a manicure, or a hair styling session, or new makeup is a great way to reap the benefits from your exercise goals. For the gents, go and buy some new sporting equipment (a new golf club, or tennis racket, or wakeboard), take a weekend trip with some friends, or buy a new accessory or clothes for work like some nice cufflinks or a suit. Again here, when you’ve set milestones that take time and effort to achieve, a gratuitous reward can make all the difference for reaching the goal in the first place!
Sometimes, a little bit of recognition of reaching your fitness goal is all you really need. Like in the workplace, a ‘thank-you’ or ‘well done’ from the boss actually can mean a whole lot more than a job title change. Use recognition for your fitness goals as well. This can be something public, like posting on social media after a race or after your weight loss goal, and sharing with your family and friends how well you’re doing. You’re sure to get a lot of recognition through that! But there is also internal recognition. Write down the feelings that you are experiencing from reaching that goal, and focus on what has motivated you to get here, and what will push you for the next goal.
Exercising is wonderful, and the endorphins and energy that you get is now enough for my weekly routine. Instead, with milestones, celebrate the wins (small or big) through non-food rewards, and see your progress skyrocket.
Why do you eat food? For nutrients, for enjoyment, or a combination of both? A good balance between the two is healthy and necessary, but as a society, that balance is starting to fall much more heavily in favour of ‘pleasure’. We are eating more and more (both figuratively and literally) foods that aren’t nutritious and are actually doing more harm than good.
Look at the increase in food intolerances, allergies (skin, hay fever, etc.), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Not to mention the even more common bloating, gas, fatigue and brain fog. These are actually all in some way connected to the foods that we eat. I have previously suffered from food intolerances, and have had the same old “you have IBS, nothing we can do about it” from the doctors. But there is a way to rectify the imbalance in our bodies, and one of the best ways to do this is through an elimination diet.
There are many variations on this cycle, with some ranging from plain extreme to some which just cut out the main culprits. I believe that everyone could benefit from some form of elimination diet, as our gut health as a society seems to be declining at a rapid rate. This elimination cycle is a really great way to press the ‘reset’ button on your gut health, and uncover issues that you didn’t even realise were related to your eating habits.
So how do you do an elimination diet? Below are the steps to successfully completing an elimination cycle, but remember, you want to tailor this to your body, and tune into any signs or signals that your body may be giving you.
Step 1: Evaluation
Figure out WHY you’re going to undertake an elimination cycle. Do you have allergies (skin, food, hay fever, etc.), do you have gut irritation (IBS, bloating, gas, etc.), or are you doing this as a reset for your body. If you fall under the first two categories, doing the full elimination diet will be best for you, but I will admit (from personal experience) it is cumbersome and a lot of hard work (but worth it!). If you want to just start with cutting out the main culprits that is a good kickstart, and you can work up to eliminating other foods that may be causing you issues.
Step 2: Plan
This is potentially the most important yet overlooked step in those deciding to do an elimination cycle. This is like meal prep but on steroids. You need to set aside a plan for at least 23 days where you are able to schedule in all your meals. It takes 21-23 days for the antibodies (the ones attacking all your foods – even the good ones) to turn over. You don’t want the old ‘security guards’ reacting to every item you put in your mouth, so if you don’t quit the foods you’re sensitive to for at least that time, the body will start to react to them again a lot sooner. Cooking at home is your best bet when it comes to knowing exactly what is in your food.
Preparation also relates to mental preparation. Realise it’s going to be a tough couple of weeks but always bring yourself back to the ‘why’. Keeping a food journal on how the body feels post meals can help keep you on track. Remind yourself that it is temporary. Short term pain for a longer term outcome.
Step 3: Go Cold Turkey
You may have seen my blog on the 100% rule, which has a strong correlation with this elimination diet. When you have decided that you are going to do this elimination cycle, commit, eliminate, and allow no exceptions. The fundamentals are no gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, fast food, or alcohol for 23 days. That’s the easy part. If you have specific food intolerances or IBS, there may be fresh foods that are causing reactions for you too (I was in this basket!). If that is the case, speaking to a local dietician will help you to sort out what other foods you may need to eliminate and there is more information from NSW Health here.
Step 4: A Typical Day
So what does a typical day look like then? There’s surely nothing left to eat if all those food groups are eliminated? We’ve been tricked into thinking the only foods that are delicious are the ones from a box. Doing this elimination cycle is basically going back to fundamentals; eating fresh fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Breakfast can be oatmeal with fresh berries and some dairy free milk (like almond or coconut). Lunch can be a salad with all the fresh vegetables plus a lean protein. Dinner is some roasted vegetables with some lean protein again like salmon.
Step 5: Post Cycle
Once you’ve completed the 23 days, look back on how you felt throughout the cycle. Think about how you felt before the cycle and how you now feel after. What are the differences? Then on Day 24, start to reintroduce one eliminated item group e.g. dairy. Allow the body 48 hours with this. If no adverse reactions, try it again. Once you’ve decided whether to allow that food back into your diet, move onto reintroducing group 2. There is no structure here for what order things should be integrated in, however allowing the 48 hours for the body to process each is essential. If you do find that you’re reacting to one of the groups GREAT. You’ve found your culprit. You can mourn the loss of it from you life, and then move on and figure out what you’re going replace it with, i.e. a healthier and more welcomed food for your body.
While an elimination cycle is challenging, it is also immensely rewarding to reset the body to full health. Try it out. It’s just 23 days! See how you feel and please report back.