April 2, 2017
Ever feel like you’re the odd one out of your tribe? Like you are trying to grow and develop yourself everyday, week, and month, and no one is there with you? You may have started (or mastered) meditating, you exercise consistently every week, and you’re eating the best foods to fuel your body.
Your tribe are the people you spend the majority of your time with – your family, your friends, your partner. These people have the biggest impact on your habits, lifestyle, and quality of life. If you are not synchronised with them, then it can make you feel a little out of whack.
For example, research has shown that obesity has become a ‘socially contagious’ disease, spreading among people like a virus. In married couples, when one spouse becomes obese, the risk to the other increases by 37%. Among siblings, the risk is 40%. And it’s worse among friends – for casual friends the risk raises by 57%; for close friends, the risk almost triples (see more on this here).
So what do you do about this? How can you get your tribe synchronised to your ideal lifestyle?
1. Lead by example. Just because your tribe aren’t eating kale, running marathons, and meditation gurus doesn’t mean they can’t be (or a more realistic version!). Share with them the benefits that you are feeling from your own healthy habits. Tell them how much more energy you have, calmer you feel, lighter you are. If obesity is contagious, so are healthy habits, so it can work both ways.
Encourage and invite them to try the healthy habits with you. Instead of going to a burger place for dinner, take them to a healthier option. Replace a morning coffee with a walk. Crowd out mindlessly watching TV or a movie with a guided meditation that you can do together.
There are lots of options out there that you already know about (and are possibly already doing!) and you can act as your tribe’s own coach to spread the good vibes.
2. Change your tribe. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. If #1 fails, it may be time to take a hard look at your tribe. While you can’t choose your family, you can certainly choose your life partner and your friends.
Clara* is a prime example of consciously choosing her tribe. She moved to Sydney and got caught up in a group (and a partner) that prioritised partying and drinking over meditation and smoothies and she felt the impact it was having on her own quality of life. So she proactively started seeking out activities that she wanted to do for herself. It was here that she found her new tribe and her life was turned around.
While finding new friends or a new partner can seem overwhelming, you don’t have to leave the old ones behind immediately. Just start to venture into new activities (you can even try #1 again with some of your friends!) and see where the universe takes you.
3. Run your own race. At the end of the day, this is your life. You decide how you want it to be. If you believe that you can make the healthy choices on your own despite the fact that your partner wants to order a burger and fries, then do it.
There are people who can make their own decisions and not be influenced by those around them. If you’re happy to have a healthy meal while your nearest and dearest are having burger and fries then you run your own race!
So learn to love your tribe or leave them. Either way, make the decision that is right for you, your health, and your happiness!
*Name changed for confidentiality.
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!
The annual survey of worldwide fitness trends is now in its 11th year! I always can’t wait to read up on it because not only do they predict what’s coming for the next year, but they also reflect back on previous years to see how people’s predictions played out. It’s very interesting to note that there are two new trends in the top 10 for 2017!
While I would LOVE to go through each of them individually, I thought I’d post the list and instead discuss some of the ones that you’d find most interesting and would potentially have an impact on you!
Number one on the list is perhaps not surprisingly Wearable Technology. Think Fitbits, smart watches, GPS trackers, and smart eyeglasses! While the jury is out as to whether these devices actually increase the amount of exercise we do, as a former researcher, there is definitely power in the idea of tracking your activity to at least know what has been done. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy expensive technology, as your smartphone also provides many free options for tracking a lot of your activity (and as a trend is in at # 17) but use the options available! The Apple watch alone is predicted to reach over 485 million device sales by the year 2018 so this is a trend that doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon!
Number two on the list is also quite interesting with Body Weight Training. While this type of training has been around for centuries as a form of resistance training, it didn’t appear on the trends survey until 2013! It’s one of the cheapest and easiest ways to exercise and great for outdoor bootcamps or your own workout at home! Now with a newly packaged name by the commercial gyms, it’s a trend that should stick around for a while yet.
Number seven on the list is Exercise is Medicine ®, which is a global health initiative focused on encouraging health care providers to include physical activity when designing treatment plans for their patients. Fundamentally it is an attempt to bridge the gap between traditional medicine and fitness professionals, which is something I can’t believe is only just beginning to happen! We all know the benefits of exercise in treatment of many chronic yet preventable diseases, but it’s an implementation gap for a patient that’s the issue. This is one that I’m really supporting and excited to be a part of in the coming years.
Number twelve is my favourite type of training – functional fitness. Its premise is to use strength training to improve power, endurance, coordination, and balance, to improve the ability to perform normal daily living activities. There’s still a lot of misunderstanding around functional fitness, but I like to think of it as focusing on the movements I may need in my daily routine (think squatting down to pick up something heavy) versus training just for aesthetics (think bicep curls). Functional fitness has been fluctuating on the list since 2007 but I think with people becoming more sedentary, fitness needs to be as functional as possible to keep our bodies moving and mobile!
Number fifteen on the list is my daily work – wellness coaching. Wellness coaching has been in the top 20 since 2010 and has been progressively making its way up the list since then. For those new to my website, wellness coaching is the integration of behavioural-change science with healthy initiatives. Like a personal trainer, a wellness coach works with people to achieve their broader goals, through focusing on their values, needs, visions, and aspirations. Many people are trying to move into this wellness-coaching arena with little to no qualifications or practical training in ‘coaching’, so be mindful of who you work with. It’s definitely one of the most exciting trends though and who doesn’t want someone motivating and challenging you along your life path?!
The final number that I believe relates to you is sixteen with Worksite Health Promotion. The foundation of a corporate wellness program is to improve the health and well-being of employees. Again, this is very much in my domain, but the trend here is for a range of programs and services that evaluate employee health, health care costs, and worker productivity. With rising health care premiums, increased absenteeism in workplaces, and decreasing productivity due to stress, its no wonder that this is an up and coming trend to watch out for!
There’s a very important distinction that is made between a trend and a fad for the purposes of this world wide trends survey. The former is defined as ‘a general development or change in a situation or in the way that people are behaving’ whereas the latter is ‘a fashion that is taken up with great enthusiasm for a brief period’. So this survey is really looking at the change in people’s behaviours as a whole that can last a considerable period of time.
Full list below:
|Body weight training
|High-intensity interval training
|Educated, certified and experienced fitness professionals
|Exercise is Medicine ®
|Exercise and weight loss
|Fitness programs for older adults
|Group personal training
|Worksite health promotion
|Smartphone exercise apps
|Flexibility and mobility rollers
Do you dread your exercise regime at the moment? Sick of the same old classes at your local gym? Or over your weekly runs that are on the same route? When exercise becomes mundane and boring not only does your body plateau but so does the mind. We’ve been told for so long that once you find exercise that you like you should stick to it – rinse and repeat. But I think there’s a reason there are so many new fitness trends that come up in the market place; we’re always looking for new and exciting ways to challenge the body and the mind!
In my thesis about behavioural change with physical activity, one of the significant barriers to people exercising is “I find it difficult to find the best type of exercise for me”. There are so many different options out there, that it can often become overwhelming to know which one is ‘right’ for you.
I seem to have an 18 month threshold on any one type of exercise. I’ve been through lots of different options from F45 to Fitness First, yoga studios, run clubs, gymnastics training, outdoor bootcamps… the list is endless. My latest adventure is a new gym which is a ‘softer’ form of crossfit and I’m very excited to get started! Everyone’s threshold is different. I have some clients who can only last 6 months at one activity before needing to move onto the next, whereas others last 5 or even 10 years at a type of exercise before they get bored.
Realise that our bodies craves change, and the minute it realises that “I’ve done this before” you start to lose progress. Our bodies want to constantly grow and evolve and in order to do that we need to mix up the exercise we throw at it.
I work with my clients on a cyclical four step process outlined below when looking to challenge the body:
1 Experiment with four different options for one month.
Fortunately these days most places will have a one or two week trial that is either for free or for a small fee. Take advantage of this and experiment with four different options that are outside of your comfort zone. You can try a new gym, or a new sporting club (think tennis), or calisthenic training, there are really so many options! Try something new that you’ve never thought you could do. Be open minded and excited by the adventure of finding your new challenge.
2 Choose the one you will commit to.
It’s easy to just pick the one you like, or the one your friend likes, but you really need to find the type of exercise that you will commit to. The one that you’ll want to go to on a Monday morning after a relaxing weekend, or even that you’d like to try on a Saturday morning perhaps. The exercise that is ‘right’ for you means what you enjoy doing. Exercise should be play time for adults. We shouldn’t view it like ‘work’. It should be time to destress, unwind, suck in the good stuff (oxygen!) and sweat out the bad things (toxins!).
3 Rinse and repeat until…
Now you can rinse and repeat. When you’ve found the ‘chosen one’ throw yourself at it. Become a master of that type of exercise. Treat it like you’re studying for those final exams and you need to put in as much of yourself as you can. As long as you’re enjoying it, it won’t feel like work (it might be hard but it shouldn’t feel like work!). Only when you start to get bored or dread rocking up should you move onto step four.
4 Repeat steps 1 to 3.
If you’re waking up and dreading exercise its time to move back to step 1 again. Thank that chapter of your exercise adventure for everything great that it’s given to you and allow yourself to explore where the next exercise wave will be.
There are so many options out there now to try and your body will LOVE you for it. Keeping the body active while challenging the mind with new exercises will keep your training dynamic and growing.
If you want to try out Energy|Body|Mind’s corporate bootcamps which create strong bodies and strong minds, email me at email@example.com for our Holiday Season special!
But recently, two big players have called for unprecedented action in the corporate setting to improve employee wellbeing. Jeff Kennett, former Premier and chairman of BeyondBlue, has come out saying that performance bonuses of top executives should be partially linked to the mental wellbeing of their staff. HALLELUJAH!
This wave comes to light as a new NAB/IPSOS survey showed Australians regard happiness as the topmost measure of success, followed by good family relationships, feeling fit and healthy, and being a ‘good person.’
Kennett has put mental wellbeing on the same page in significance as family violence and bullying. “At a part of Australia’s history where we’re trying to address family violence, where we’re trying to address bullying, where we’re trying to address good mental health practices, it is time for industry leaders big and small to give the mental health of their workforce the same priority they would give any other measurable figure,” Kennett said.
As a result of this passion, Kennett put a proposal in front of the Business Council of Australia (BCA) saying that companies should introduce key performance indicators (KPIs) for chief executives and other staff to ensure the mental health within organisations is maintained. BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott agreed the issue needs to be taken seriously.
In response to critics that mental wellbeing is too subjective and unmeasurable, Kennett has rejected this claim. He counters with the facts, stating that lost productivity costs the economy $10.9 billion a year. Westacott agrees saying that “These things at the bottom line result in unplanned absenteeism, they cost businesses money,” and “They’re not just feel-good things. These are real economic things. That’s why the Business Council is interested and passionate about this.”
Kennett says the way he envisages improving wellbeing includes statements like “What I would like to see in every head of department of a bureaucracy, in every CEO’s performance, and every direct report’s KPIs, is a KPI about the mental health, the wellbeing, of their workforce, of those that report to them,” and “When you talk about pay performance, when you talk about bonuses, particularly, I want to see a KPI in place that addresses this, because that will focus their mind more than anything else.”
This importance on mental health and wellbeing is not just for employees, but for senior management as well. Throughout his career, Kennett recounts countless incidents of C-Level Executives struggling with burnout. Kennett told the Australian, “I have had a number of organisations in the last two years, three years, where a CEO, a CFO, a COO has hit the wall, and the ramifications on the small leadership group is obviously quite profound, not to mention the impact on the business”.
This is a huge step for addressing the mental wellbeing of Australia, and putting at the forefront the happiness of our nation. Happy and satisfied people will result not only in a more productive workplace, but also with better relationships, more financial security, and a healthier society.
So what does this mean for your business or workplace? It means that it’s time to get serious about mental health and have programs and policies in place to be in front of the pack. Enlist the help of a health coach, exercise specialist, mental wellbeing expert (someone like me!) to help customise a program that meets the KPIs that your organisation is going to enlist to promote the wellbeing of it’s employees.
I am really excited about watching this one progress, so stay tuned for updates and we can see where this movement gets us!
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How many of you hit the ‘snooze’ button this morning? “Just one more time” you tell yourself. These photos that I see of people’s alarm clocks – while hilarious – are also the BEST way to feel WORSE waking up. That little bit of extra sleep that you think you need is so fragmented and of poor quality that it makes you feel much worse than what you would’ve waking up on your first alarm. Daylight savings recently hit Sydney, and it took my body a few days to adjust!
We all know that we need to get a decent nights sleep in order to have a productive and engaged day. But what if you’re doing everything that the ‘change makers’ are in my Sleeping Your Way to the Top blog and still not feeling energised in the morning? Below are the top six tips for helping kickstart your morning routine.
Even for those not experiencing sleep apnea at night, we often can have uneven breathing cycles through the night, which can decrease the amount of oxygen to the brain. Ever find yourself yawning incessantly when you wake up? Yawning is one of the body’s mechanisms to try and get more oxygen. So while you’re still lying in bed, try the 4-7-8 breathing technique to get the oxygen pumping around your body and wake every part of you up!
#2 Seek Out Natural Light
At night, we want to make the room as dark as possible because light destroys the melatonin (our sleep hormone) that helps us to go off to sleep. So clearly one of the best ways to wake up is to seek out natural light. Even five minutes standing in the sunshine, or if you’re lucky enough to have light streaming onto your bed, can do wonders for helping the body to realise its time to wake up! This is one of the best techniques for the transition in daylight savings, as the light is a natural indicator to the body that it’s time to get going.
#3 Drink a Glass of Warm Lemon Water
While you’re standing out in the sunshine, make a glass of warm lemon water for yourself. Not only will the lemon start the detoxification from all the built up toxins in your body from the night before, but even mild dehydration can make you feel tired and lethargic. Starting the day with a full glass of water kickstarts the movement of fluids and toxins through the body, and helps you to feel more energised.
#4 Have a Cold Shower
This is often reserved for the die hards with ice baths or morning ocean swims but it doesn’t have to be. Start with a warm shower and build your way up to turning the hot water off (completely if you can!). The shock of the cold water for the body is like a strong hit of caffeine. If you think this is too much, just start with splashing cold water on your face. When you start to see the benefits of that, it might convince you to pop into the shower!
#5 Experiment With Your Hours
Ever find that you feel much more awake around 30 minutes before your alarm went off than after it? While there are standards for the amount of sleep that we need and the quality hours (10pm-2am) there isn’t much more that needs to be adhered to. If you find that sleeping later and waking up later works well for you – stick to that. If you are an early to bed, early to rise, then you are supposedly much more wise. But experiment. I used to sleep from 11pm-7am. And waking up was a really big struggle. After a weekend away of waking up at 5am, I decided to play around with my sleep hours. Now, I’m in bed by 10pm and up at 5.30am feeling refreshed and energised! It all depends on your body so play with it.
#6 The Alarm
How much do you dread the alarm in the morning? Have you tried different ring tones or different songs, but still whenever it goes off you just want to hurl it across the room? I discovered a new app called Sleep Cycle, which is an alarm that wakes you up in the right stage of your sleep cycle (hence the name!). There are five stages of sleep that we go through, and being woken up or disrupted in the middle of the REM stage will have you feeling like you’ve been hit by a bus! The app gives you a 30 minute window (this is optimal) to wake you up as it recognises when you’re naturally starting to wake. Playing with this will also help you to experiment with your hours.
So what makes a ‘successful’ wakeup and morning? Having a ritual. Tie all of the above recommendations together and you have the beginning of a customisable blueprint for your own morning ritual. The most successful people in the world are borderline OCD about their morning rituals – nothing can mess with them. If you want to start the day right – create a ritual.
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.
New studies are emerging almost weekly, telling us about the negative impact that ‘office life’ is having on our bodies. One of the latest pieces of research has broken down the economic costs of the lack of physical activity in our society. Estimates have shown that the health impacts of physical inactivity – a completely preventable cost – were $53.8 billion worldwide in 2013 and $805 million in Australia. You may also be thinking that this is a bill picked up by the Government, but $9.7 billion of this is covered by households – i.e. YOU.
Lead author of this study from the University of Sydney, Dr Melody Ding, said in a statement “Physical inactivity is recognised as a global pandemic that not only leads to diseases and early deaths, but imposes a major burden to the economy”.
Think about your own day for a moment, and what that looks like. Do you spend most of the day sitting in an office chair, largely inactive apart from your sporadic visits to grab food and go to the bathroom? One study’s media grabbing headline told us that ‘sitting is the new smoking’, and the research that is emerging may prove that they weren’t far off.
But is it all doom and gloom, or is there something that we can do about it? It has been hotly debated as to whether the ‘hour of power’ of exercise (i.e. before or after work) can really rectify the ill effects of sitting throughout the day. Whether it does or not is irrelevant here, as we advocate an hour of exercise no matter what you do already for its countless health benefits. The question today: how do we integrate movement throughout the day to offset these negative impacts of sitting?
So below are the top ways to integrate movement throughout your work day and decrease the effects on your body from being so sedentary:
#1 Turn your meetings into a walk: This one comes from the great wellness advocate Arianna Huffington, who has converted as many of her daily meetings into a walk. Instead of going for a 30 minute coffee catchup, turn it into a walk as she can. This goes for phone calls as well. Our mobiles allow us to be just that – mobile. So as soon as you hear the phone ring treat it like a signal to get moving. Huffington says “When the body is still the mind wanders. So if we move the body, the mind will focus.”. That’s what I’m looking for out of my meetings!
#2 Set an alarm: Ever get to 11am and wonder where the morning has gone? Hours can often fly by without us moving a muscle. Every 60 minutes have an alarm set to remind you to get up – get a glass of water, get a coffee, go to the bathroom, walk a lap of the office, some form of movement. Soon you won’t need the alarm, and your body will become conditioned to craving the movement (it’s definitely craving the sitting now!). Train your body to crave movement and the rest will come naturally.
#3 Stop sending emails: This one is multifaceted in it’s benefits. Not only have we become so isolated socially by technology, but it’s also making us pack on the pounds. Anytime you need to speak to someone in your office and are tempted to click ‘new email’, try walking to their desk instead for some movement, but also some social interaction. How is your boss meant to know how great you’re doing if you’re not around or just sending emails? How are colleagues meant to know what you do, to later help you in a promotion, if they haven’t spoken to you all year (besides your one line emails)? Oh and the line “hope you’re well” in an email has now been shown to do more damage than good anyway – so get up and get talking.
#4 Use your lunch break: It’s called a ‘break’ for a reason. It astounds me how few people actually take a lunch break, and even more concerning when I learn how people are actually using it. It doesn’t matter if you have 10 minutes, half an hour or the full 60 minutes, getting moving in that time is going to make a considerable difference to the rest of your day. Not only will utilising this time for a walk/jog/run, gym class, stretching program, or any form of movement decrease the impacts of sitting, but it also acts as a ‘refresh’ button for the mind to start the afternoon like it’s the morning. Ever find yourself hitting 3pm and wishing you had a snooze button for an afternoon nap? Moving in your lunch break is a great way to remedy this, and that 3pm lull is another great excuse to get moving!
#5 Utilise a standing desk: Do I stand? Do I sit? Aren’t they both bad for me anyway? Technically yes. Research is showing that too much of one thing is bad for you (we already knew this though!). So mix it up. Stand for 30 minutes and sit for 30 minutes. Stand for 1 hour and sit for 1 hour. It doesn’t matter the length of time just make sure you mix it up. Companies are pretty switched on these days to ergonomics and the headache that any work comp will cause them, so hit them up for a standing desk. While there are some on the market that are incredible (think a transformer as a desk), there are also much cheaper (and just as good) options like Kogan’s $49 raiser which with a few stacks of paper and books can turn your whole desk into a standing one.
Our sedentary nature is killing us, but there are changes we can make that will offset this. Small changes can have a big impact, and there are now five ways in which you can get your body moving. I’m sure your desk chair loves you, but you need to tell it you’re taking a “break”.
Ever been in a situation where your heart is racing? You can hear the sound of your pulse in your ears, you feel light-headed or dizzy… and it’s not because a lion was chasing you.
Most of us are well versed in regular encounters with stress. Whether it is a deadline at work, a conflict with a colleague, or a presentation to some senior executives, we’ve all been faced with a challenging situation that sends our mind and body into overdrive.
It’s important to understand the underlying triggers and the way our body operates in order to best deal with and manage our stress. Now, this is going to dive into a little bit of surface level biology but stay with me its quick!
How Your Body Responds to Stress
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is responsible for all the involuntary functions of the body, like breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, and the release of hormones. Within this system, there are two subdivisions responsible for keeping our body in homeostasis (or balance). These are the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which is responsible for our ‘fight or flight’ response, and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), regulating the ‘rest and digest’ operations.
This system equipped human beings well for dealing with a threatening situation. If under attack, the SNS system switched on and triggered a release of cortisol (the stress hormone), increased the heart rate, and shortened our breathing, all in preparation to fight or flight from the situation.
Unfortunately these days, we no longer go through the physical ‘fight or flight’ stages, and the absence of these motions prevents our bodies from returning to the PNS system once the threat has passed. To make matters worse, our bodies are not designed to stay in SNS for prolonged periods of time.
Our modern way of life has us constantly stressed and stuck in the SNS system. As a result, we are seeing the major impacts that stress has on the body as one of the main contributors to the chronic disease epidemic.
How One Breathing Technique Can Help You Cope
So what can we do about it? Breathing is one of the best ways to help our bodies return to the PNS system and thus manage stress and anxiety. The 4-7-8 technique from Dr Weils can help you do it in under 80 seconds! Let’s give it a try:
Start by exhaling completely through your mouth, making a “whoosh” sound (this is what you’ll do with all of your exhales!):
1. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
2. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
3. Exhale completely through an open mouth to a count of eight.
That is one cycle of breath. Take a second in between if you need, and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breathes. With that one-second break, you have a total time of 80 seconds to move your body from the SNS to the PNS system. I think we can all spare 80 seconds to achieve this wonderful result.
This type of breathing acts as a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. This isn’t like a pill that you can take and have a one off hit, as the effects are subtle at first but gain power from repetition and practice. If you do this twice a day, and any time you’re feeling stressed or anxious, your body will start to learn how to spend more time repairing and digesting.
You can never do this too often, but don’t do more than four breath cycles at one time for your first month of practice as you may feel a little lightheaded (which is totally normal and will pass). You can build up to an 8-breath cycle after your first month.
There are not a lot of techniques that I can say have such a significant impact on your overall health, but this is one of them. It is an exercise that is so easy and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I do it every morning when I wake up, throughout the day when I’m faced with a challenging situation, and it’s a great tip to go off to sleep with. It has changed how I manage situations, it makes me a much calmer person, and makes falling asleep easy!
When you think about posture, what happened? Did you sit up a bit straighter? Pull your shoulders back into alignment? Chances are if you spend most of your day sitting down, your posture has some room for improvement! We often think our posture only affects the physical being, but it also impacts on our wellness.
Physically, poor posture contributes to a majority of musculoskeletal issues. If we don’t spend time trying to improve our posture, exercising can often inflame the problem. Struggling with a tight shoulder, a sore lower back, a strained neck? These are all issues that can be aggravated if not dealt with properly.
Emotionally, poor posture can affect how you respond to different situations. Research shows that good posture provides increases levels of testosterone (think for building muscle) and decreases levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). People who practice a ‘perfect posture’ have been shown to have higher levels of self-esteem and improved moods.
Some of the ways in which poor posture can manifest itself are tension headaches, shoulder pain, back pain, or muscle fatigue. For anyone who has experienced any of these symptoms, you know that the pain transcends the physical and starts to take a real toll on your body as a whole.
Fortunately, there are some simple and effective exercises for rectifying poor posture. The philosophy is simple; stretch the muscles that are tight and strengthen the muscles that are weak.
Below we go through some of the most common ailments and the exercises to correct them.
#1 Anterior pelvic tilt:
Hip and pelvic misalignment can be a major contributing factor to poor posture. The underlying cause of this is usually tight hip flexors or erector spinae (lower back). As a result, these are the muscles we need to stretch. A kneeling hip flexor stretch is shown below to release this tension. For our lower back, the cat cow exercise is best to stretch and mobilise the area. To strengthen the muscles supporting good posture we need to work on the glutes and the core. The bridge pose will target the glutes, while opposing arm and leg movement will strengthen the core.
#2 Rounded Shoulders:
As humans, we’re sitting now more than ever, and as a result our shoulders are becoming rounded and pulling on all the muscles surrounding our back and neck. While keeping active and walking regularly will help with this, there are some key exercises that you can do to improve your posture. A tight chest will often be what’s causing our shoulders to curl over, so stretching these out regularly through a clasped back hand hold will help considerably. To strengthen the muscles surrounding the scapula holding our back upright, practicing some superman holds for 10 seconds will build these muscles. Make sure you keep your feet on the ground to avoid any undue compression in the lower back.
#3 Forward Head:
The other main postural ailment causing many corporate workers some trouble is a forward head. Sitting at a computer screen all day and holding your head up can be tiring for your upper back and neck muscles. This often results in tight upper trapezius (around your shoulders) and upper back, so stretching these muscles through forward clasped hands is essential. Strengthening the neck muscles will help to re-align your posture, so practicing little neck tucks will relieve the tension caused by straining the neck.
Now that may seem like a lot of exercises, so instead of doing each one every day, just pick one exercise to do daily. A practice schedule could look like this:
Monday: practice your superman’s before a gym session. 10 reps for 10 seconds.
Tuesday: wake up to some cat cow stretches. Mid morning practice neck tucks at your desk 5 reps.
Wednesday: complete the bridge exercise before your workout. 10 reps for 10 second holds.
Thursday: do some hip flexor stretches while watching tv or before bed.
Friday: perform some forward hand clasps in your lunch break.
Saturday: stretch out the chest muscles when you wake up.
Sunday: do some opposing arm and leg movements before a walk.
Practising stretching and strengthening of our muscles like this will provide a significant improvement in your posture over time. The power comes from practice!