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Sunday, December 19, 2010

What has 2010 taught you?

Whether you consider that you have had a good year or not, perhaps the most important aspect of life itself is taking the teachings of another year and using them to grow, develop and continue to move forward. Here are the things that 2010 has taught me; I would love to hear yours as well;
· First impressions generally prove true
· Kindness and generosity are far more important attributes than looks or qualifications
· Bad behaviour generally predicts more bad behaviour
· $60 is way to much to pay for a meal of plain fish or chicken
· I do not understand the mentality of the Y generation
· Thoughtfulness and true generosity are actually quite rare
· Important events really show you who is sitting in your corner
· Relationships are far more important than titles
· People who don’t get Summer Heights High generally do not appreciate my sense of
· There is nothing more fun than Roar and Snore at the Zoo
· No one needs a large coffee
· Everyone needs a good gay husband
· Being able to say “I am sorry” and really mean it can ultimately define a person

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Taking personal responsibility for your food, your weight and your life

Last week on a trip to Perth I sat behind a 200kg woman and her 130kg daughter in the back row of the plane and found myself pinned to my seat for the duration of the 4hr trip - trust me, the irony of this situation is not lost.

As I sat there, unable to move, work or even get up to walk around easily I was considering if it was inappropriate to tweet this experience when we landed. Yes, I knew that there would be some backlash - "have some compassion, imagine what it is like for her", "It is not her fault", "you don't know her story" but then there was something nagging inside me that thought, "sure, it is not lucky to have genes that leave you predisposed to gaining weight" but at what point is it about taking responsibility for self and acknowledging that you have a problem and making an effort to change it?

I have no issue with over weight people, in fact much of my life is spent helping overweight people but I do have an issue when their decision to be overweight impacts others. Trust me, this woman felt no remorse for pushing her seat back as far as it could go, nor did she order the breakfast cereal when it came around. There was no evidence that she was sorry for the issues she was causing on the plane and she became very aggressive with the attendant when he refused to let her move to a spare row because he wanted to leave it for a young family with 2 small children.

As is the case with all life areas, we move forward when we cease to become a victim and take responsibility for ourselves. When we start to inconvenience others, then that is a definite sign things need to change. The upcoming season of The Biggest Loser will again highlight the issues with have with behavioural obesity in families across Australia. Let's hope bringing the burden of Australia's growing weight issues to the attention of many more people will encourage more Australians to take responsibility for their weight and their health. That or we need to start building bigger planes

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Managing the passive aggressive

If there is one type of behaviour that is more infuriating than any other, it is passive aggressive behaviour. Not returning phone calls or messages; not doing something you normally would as a way of “getting one up” on another person, purposely not inviting them to an event to try and upset them, acting toward someone in a charming way but actually being mean, nasty or disrespectful in another, giving someone a nice compliment but then giving them a back hand at the same time such as “You are an attractive girl but much bigger than I would have thought for a dietitian” – J (Yes, someone did say this to me)

The funny thing about passive aggressive behaviour is that it is generally so transparent that there is almost no point in doing it. Passive aggressive behaviour slowly builds tension and unspoken anger that can make rebuilding relationships extremely challenging. Ongoing passive aggressive outbursts gradually destroy trust between people, and the ironic thing is that the behaviours are really only an outside representation of the ego of the person eliciting the behaviour.

As recipients of passive aggressive behaviour, if we want the war to be over, the worst thing we can do is retaliate – repeat and recreate the very behaviours we have been the recipient off – of course, this is easier said than done. It may be useful to remember that the instigator of the passive aggressive behaviour is generally a person who is unable to be honest and open in a relationship, and/or clearly express their feelings and emotions. Their own internal anger battle has no where to go except to be targeted at an outside person. To fully manage these people, the best thing we can do is be really honest with them – “I have noticed that you seem to be really annoyed with me, have I done something to upset you?”

Labeling their behaviour gives it an identity. In more cases than not, they do not like behaving this way and the issue is resolved and the behaviour controlled. It may also be useful to remember that the need to be passive aggressive is also often representative of the persons need for power over another person. Since power does not really exist, it is clear to see why passive aggressive behaviour rarely yields any outcome other than more anger and resentment.

In cases in which a person shows repeated instance of passive aggressive behaviour, and the person who becomes defensive when the nature of this behaviour is brought to their attention with no intention or signs of change, the best way is to avoid these interactions as much as you can and come to accept that there are simply some people in our lives you are better off without.

Perhaps the most powerful thing to remember is that if we were all simply a little more honest, and a little less worried about what everyone else was doing and concentrating on ourselves, the need to be passive aggressive at all would be completely eliminated. And most importantly, to avoid being an active participant in passive aggressive behaviour yourself, the simply act of asking self with each intention, “Is this contributing positive or negative energy into the world?” may be all you need to keep your own behaviour towards others in check.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

How not to get fat this Christmas

If you consider that an extra mince pie a day will leave you with an extra 1kg of body weight over the course of a month, it is not difficult to understand how Christmas cheer can really pile on the kilos. So before you completely disregard your healthy eating and regular exercise habits and become victim to several weeks of holiday overindulging, you may be interested to know that there is good evidence to show that keeping your basic lifestyle habits on track is likely to prevent excessive weight gain. In fact, data collected from the US Weight Control Registry has shown that individuals who maintain their weight do not overly diverge from their usual diet and exercise regimes during holiday periods. While they may enjoy a few extra treats, they generally maintain their exercise and regular healthy eating regimes most of the time.
So on the eve of another holiday season, perhaps it is worth considering if there are any structural changes to your diet that are easily implemented but go a long way in reducing your kilo joule intake and supporting weight control, even during the holiday season. Remember, one off overindulgences do not cause weight gain – instead weight gain is caused by gradual, and sustained increases in kilo joule intake, or dietary habits that develop and support higher kilo joule intakes each day; an extra biscuit here, a large glass of wine there and before you know it, an extra kilogram has snuck on.
So here is a sample of the most common party season habits that are conducive to weight gain so you can avoid the extra couple of kgs that appears mid January
1) Going to parties hungry
A common mistake made when it comes to party season is overindulging on high fat pastries, chips and dip which are consumed mindlessly while waiting for the “real” food. Avoid overeating at cocktail events by ensuring you do not arrive starving. Events held late afternoon and early evening pose the biggest issue so try a highly filling food 60-90 minutes beforehand such as a meal replacement shake, apple, protein shake, cheese and wholegrain crackers or a handful of nuts. Also aim to munch on a low calorie vegetable such as carrot or celery with this snack as your vegetable intake is also much likely to be low if you are eating party type foods. Try it and notice how much more in control of your eating you feel when offered various snacks and nibbles.

2) Ditching the exercise
The warmer weather and longer days presents a perfect opportunity to do more activity, not less. Make it a priority to maintain gym commitments, regular walks and take the kids to the beach, park or organized activities as much as you can to help compensate for the extra food you are likely to be eating.

3) Overindulging too early in the season
While supermarkets have been stocked with Christmas treats for weeks, the truth is that all of the treats and alcohol are really celebrating one day, not two months. Try and differentiate “special” occasions from run of the mill drinks and parties with work colleagues and acquaintances. This way you can indulge when there is a truly special occasion but keep on track with good habits for the several weeks beforehand.

4) Buying too much food
Remember, if food is there, you will eat it. Large Christmas hampers, cupboards stocked with excessive amounts of snack food, chocolates and lollies are a recipe for disaster, particularly if you have young children at home who are likely to find the temptation too difficult to resist. Shop in small amounts, purchasing only what you need, try and avoid extra large boxes of chocolates and lollies and give away leftovers to remove temptation after the big day.

5) Snacking on poor quality canapés
Good quality cheese, seafood, nuts and chocolates are examples of foods that bring much taste and enjoyment to the palate, while cheap crackers, pastries and chips do not. Differentiate run of the mill packaged snack foods from good quality food that you only ever enjoy in small quantities on special occasions and savour the experience of eating them rather than stuffing your face with high fat snacks that leave you feeling bloated and heavy for many hours afterwards.

6) Eating everything on offer
Next time you are at a party, pay attention to the thin partygoers compared to the overweight ones. Generally you will find that slim individuals are a lot pickier when it comes to their food choices, while those who have more difficulty self regulating their weight eat everything on offer. A simple question to ask yourself each time the canapés are on offer, “Do I really feel like eating this?” – This simple questioning is often enough to help you control the types and volumes of food you are eating. Another simple trick is to limit yourself to just 3-5 canapés at any one event in order to keep both your total fat and kilo joule intake under control.

7) Overindulging in alcohol
As is the case with activity, the festive season should not be seen as an excuse to forget your personal limits with alcohol intake. Try and have two alcohol-free days each week to give your liver a break, drink plenty of water and be aware of high kilo joule mixers such as juice, soft drink and flavoured drinks which can really increase the number of kilojoules you are taking in. A great refreshing, low kilo joule alternative is soda or sparkling water with a slice or two of lime or lemon.

8) Letting Christmas run until January
Aim to get back on track with your usual diet and exercise habits by January 2nd or before you know it, February will be here, you will be rushing to get the kids ready for school and the extra Christmas weight will be with you for the rest of the year.

9) Choosing high fat snacks
While pastry based treats, cheese and dips can be exceptionally high in fat and kilojoules, the good news is that there is also a range of many lower kilojoules snacks that still taste fantastic. Look for potato chips cooked in olive oil, low fat dips and crackers and seafood based snacks.

10) Developing an “all or nothing” attitude to dieting
Rather than mentally writing off the next four weeks in terms of your food intake and activity patterns, think like a thin person. Enjoy good quality, tasty treats in controlled amounts but balance them with nutritious Summer foods including salads, seafood and fresh fruits. Look as the time off as an excuse to move your body more and you will be well on your way to a fitter and healthier 2011.

Christmas Calorie Counter
Pesto dip 250cal/1000kJ
Pastry snack 300cal/1200kJ
Mince Pie 150cal/600kJ
Red Rock Deli Chips 250cal/1000kJ
3 mini quiches 200cal/800kJ
2 shortbread biscuits 200cal/800kJ
5 Favourites 250cal/1000kJ
10 choc almonds 300cal/1200kJ
5 slices salami 210cal/840kJ

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Are you in a toxic relationship with a narcissist?

It may be your boss, a work colleague, friend or heaven forbid, your partner – a narcissist. The somewhat charming, charismatic personalities who display their often self proclaimed brilliance before suck us for all we are worth and moving on to their next unsuspecting victim. While the personality trait of narcissism is increasing across the population thanks to the increasing focus on “self”, the core personality trait can be one of the most damaging we ever come across when it comes to relationships.

One of the key personality traits of a narcissist is that they are virtually incapable of seeing things from another person’s perspective and are basically unable to express empathy to others – such self focused behaviour inevitably leads to challenging relationships for a narcissist throughout the course of their life.

The reason that we all get burned by narcissists is that they appear so very charming initially – they are often attentive, have illusions of grandeur and promise you the earth. It is only as you start to get to know them that you learn more about their true motivations and their habits of picking people up who suit them at the time, using them then discarding when the novelty wears off.

Narcissistic bosses will choose subservient staff that do much of the work and then claim the credit; have little time or interest in their employees and will fly into a classic narcissistic rage when questioned or challenged. Narcissistic lovers generally have a long history of failed relationships; feel no guilt or issue with their own behaviour as generally they are only interested on the impact any interaction has on them and will always find a reason to blame others for the scenario, rarely taking any personal accountability and narcissists rarely apologise and mean it – they are the “I’m sorry, BUT” kind of people.

While we may all have some narcissistic tendencies, simply being aware of the effect our behaviours have on others tends to keep us in line and not negatively affecting others with thoughtless behaviour.

If though, you have found yourself in a relationship with another person who can leave you feeling as if you are completely drained from the interaction and NEVER get anything back, it is highly likely you are in a relationship with a raging narcissist.

Narcissists may develop for a couple of reasons, Most commonly they have been over indulged and had their ego inflated by overly invested parents who treat them like they are special from a very young age. The less common, but equally as toxic covert narcissists may have grown up in a family in which emotional connection from one parent in particular has been lacking (often a narcissist themselves) and in this scenario the other parent has over compensated. The child who is most desperate for acknowledgment from the absent parent develops a false sense of self, believing they are not good enough for the absent parent and are completely unable to express themselves emotionally as they really are. A false self develops, usually at a young age which leaves the individual unable to fully experience and express emotion, which leads to much unresolved anger over time. This covert narcissist has such little insight to self and feeling they are literally unable to experience this in their relationships, and spend their lives in an unsatisfied, unfulfilled state, never knowing who they are or what they really want.

The best way to manage a narcissist if you cannot leave the relationship is to not reinforce their narcissistic behaviours – refuse to acknowledge their self focused tendencies, ensure you do not allow them to treat you badly as they pursue their own goals and desires and most importantly do not invest too much emotionally in the as they will inevitably use it and discard it once they have the perception they have moved on to bigger and better things. But beware, a narcissist hates nothing more than being ignored so be very ready to deal with the nasty narcissistic rage that is set to follow once they realise they have lost their grip over you.

And finally, enjoy watching the narcissist you have finally diagnosed – they are fascinating human beings, often lonely, unable to maintain good relationships and can be read like a book, ultimately allowing you to usually predict their reactions and responses to various scenarios well before events play out which can allow for a lot of fun and games with these self focused, toxic personalities. For anyone who feels as if they have fully been railroaded by a narcissist, I have the book for you – “The Wizard of Oz and other narcissists” will help your understand these individuals more fully, and help you develop a management plan for them if you find that you have to keep them in your life -

Monday, October 25, 2010

The age of entitlement

So much of our individual life satisfaction comes from the way we respond to the scenarios which arise in our day to day life. Work presents constant opportunities to expand knowledge and to ultimately let us to contribute to society in a positive way or it is something we have to do until we retire and can claim a pension. It is a blessing to have found a partner to have had a family with or it is a pain to have a wife who constantly nags and children who do nothing but demand money and resources. You have to work X number of hours to live comfortably in a safe, beautiful country or you are lucky to have a job and be able to live safely in a beautiful country?

We live in an age of entitlement, of the “me, me, me” mentality. Resentful when things do not go the way we had hoped, had planned, over the years becoming increasingly bitter, unhappy and less and less likely to understand that there is a big wide world out there and we are only a very, very small part of it.

Moving past this sense of entitlement requires a significant mental shift. A good starting point is the simple act of being grateful for what we do have. Practice each night reflecting on what is good and a blessing in your life. Not only is your well being likely to increase as a result, you are also more likely to let a fellow driver in whilst driving in the traffic, or to say thank you to someone close to you for what they bring to your life, simply because you are thinking a little less “me” and a little more “big picture”.

“The only question that matters is; am I living in a way that is deeply satisfying and truly expresses me?” (Carl Rogers)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fussy with food when flying?

For anyone who travels long haul regularly, even upper class would be aware of how inappropriate airline food tends to be. Not only is it obviously high processed and contains a number of preservatives to keep it fresh, nutritionally it tends to also be high in fat, low in protein and high energy considering you are going to basically be sitting for anywhere between 12-36 hours.

While it may seem slightly pedantic to worry about what equates to just 2-3 meals over a 24 hour period, the truth is that what we do or do not eat and drink on flights is going to really effect how we feel once we reach our destination. Imagine if you could ward off constipation, insomnia and jet lag simply by planning your trip from a food and drink perspective slightly better?

First of all, for any long haul flight, your preparation should begin 2-3 days in advance. From this time avoid heavy rice, pasta, fried and meat dishes as these foods will spend more time in your gut. Swap to light soups and salads so your system is hydrated and cleared out (for want of a better phrase!). The day of the flight, aim for fruit and liquids as these too will stay in the gut for short periods of time, and help to prevent flight related dehydration and constipation. Ideally you should be avoiding alcohol and cola drinks, which will also dehydrate you.

For the flight, try and stick to light choices from your meal plate such as fruit, salad, the vegetables, cheese and crackers and avoid any bread, creamy sauced mixed meals and high fat ice creams and pastries – you are burning so few calories not moving that weight gain is inevitable if you eat everything on offer and it will not move from your gut for at least another 12 hours. Finally, this all means that you need to board a plane prepared. Airline good quality will only decrease over time so get used to packing your own wraps, protein bars, fruit, mini snack chocolates and cheese and crackers so you always have back ups – because remember, that planning is the key to dietary success.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What can the French teach us about eating?

Bonjour from sunny Paris! Admittedly there are worse places in which I could be writing these updates but seriously it is a work trip and I have been VERY busy studying French eating habits and all the latest sports nutrition supplements that are available in the cycling capital of the world.

After much observation I have come to a few of my own conclusions about French eating habits which may partly explain why they live much longer without heart disease than many of us, even though they spoke like chimneys and drink like fish.

1) French people are never seen eating as they are doing something else; they sit at the table, at meal times and eat proper meals.
2) French people are never seen clutching a plastic coffee cup as if their life depends on it throughout the morning – it is a short black or nothing.
3) French people cook with unprocessed, fresh food, which they buy fresh on most days of the week.
4) French people eat the crust of the bread, not the soft middle.
5) French people eat a lot of fish.
6) French people do not talk a whole lot about diets OR exercise.
7) French people eat their man meal during the day.
8) French people regularly include a plain salad with their meal.
9) French people eat reasonable plain food – not much mixing of Indian, Asian and Italian cuisines.
10) French people eat good food that they enjoy, when they want to and do not waste any time or energy thinking about what they should not be eating, which is perhaps why they do not overeat.

Am very happy to continue to research these observations and will keep you all updated 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How can you have your cheese and eat it too?

Whether you enjoy your pizza dripping in Mozzarella; a slab of Brie with crackers or some hearty cheddar on your sandwich, you would be pressed to find many people who do not enjoy some sort of cheese.

Unfortunately, there is no escaping the fact that even though it tastes so good, nor whether it is feta, cheddar, parmesan, ricotta or Brie - it is cheese, it is high in fat and most of us need to eat a little less of it than we do.
Nutritionally, cheese has a number of positive qualities. Cheese is extremely high in protein as well as calcium and other key nutrients involved in bone development including magnesium and phosphorus. A single serve of cheese provides 8g of protein and more than 200mg of calcium, making it an extremely nutrient rich food choice. The main issue is that regular cheese is 30-40% fat, meaning that it contains up to 10g of fat per 30g serve, a significant proportion of which is saturated fat. This is compared to “reduced fat” or “light” varieties of cheese which contain 25% less fat than the regular fat alternatives, leaving them with 5-6g of fat per serve or the “low fat”, somewhat rubbery varieties of cheddar which contain less than 3% fat. White cheeses including ricotta and cottage, but not including feta is also generally lower in fat, with ricotta cheese containing 13% fat or cottage cheese which has 5% fat.

So, how can you have your cheese and eat it too without gaining weight, or adversely affecting blood cholesterol levels? The best option is to try and limit your intake of regular cheese to at most, once each day. Aim for no more than a 30g serve which will give you roughly 10g of fat and 3-5g of saturated fat. Choosing a reduced fat variety of cheese will also help to lower your intake of saturated fat, without losing too much flavour which occurs when you choose a “low fat” cheese. Look for portion controlled serves of reduced fat cheese and team with fruit or wholegrain crackers for a filing mid morning or mid afternoon snack. Use grated reduced fat varieties for sandwiches and pizzas or crumble small amounts of reduced fat white cheese on salads or pastas for plenty of flavour without too much extra fat.

While it does mean that you may need to limit your Bries and full strength cheddars to special occasions, it does also mean that you can enjoy the lower fat ricotta and cottage cheeses more regularly and you do not need to ever revert to the bland low fat varieties of cheese, which really do not taste much like real cheese at all. And as is the case with many things in life, quality over quantity is a good mantra when it comes to enjoying your favourite cheese whether it is feta, Brie or good old cheddar at which ever time of the day or night you enjoy it most.

Cheese Per 30g serve Total Fat Saturated fat
Feta 7g 5g
Cheddar 10g 6g
Reduced fat cheddar 7g 5g
Ricotta 4g 3g
Cottage cheese 1g 0.5g
Brie 9g 6g
Haloumi 5g 3g
Camembert 8g 5g

*Ideally we should be aiming for no more than 40-60g of total fat each day, <15g of which should be saturated.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Do you need a low calorie day each week?

If you are in a diet rut, and feel the need to mix things up a little, you could try an alternate diet day approach. Here the theory is that significantly dropping your caloric intake occasionally helps to kick start metabolic rate. Here is an example of a very low calorie plan you could try implanting once or twice each week to keep things moving metabolically.

BR: 1 x fruit
MT: 1 x fruit
L: Tuna or salad sandwich or 1-2 sushi rolls
AT: 1 carrot + 10 nuts
D: 100 white fish + steamed greens
D: ½ cup berries + 2 tablespoons low fat yoghurt

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What are you reading?

I often get asked which books I draw the material written about in the Updates, and the truth is that I gather material form many sources - I read a huge amount of both lay and scientific material, I pull much from clients and colleagues and even just from observation.

There are though, a number of key books that I work through each few months that are real "keepers"; pieces of writing that appears at just the right time to feed your mind with the material of most interest to you. Here is my most recent list:

"If you have to cry, go outside" - an amazing insight into the mind of Fashion PR guru Kelly Cutrone and some honest views of life, meaning and business.

"How to love" by Dr Gordon Livingston - a bible on the key character traits in others we should embrace and avoid to thrive and avoid emotional heartache where we can.

"Open" by Andre Agassi - one of the best books I have read for a long time - a candid tale of the mind and life of a champion.

"Feel good body" by Anna-Louise Bouvier - a must read for women wanting to get the most out of their body, every day.

"The Biology of Belief" - Dr Bruce Lipton - a little heavy on the science but supports a growing amount of evidence about the effect of emotions on muscle memory, health and well-being.

"Loving what is" - Byron Katie - a classic psych piece on the role of perception in managing challenging situations.

"Excuses Begone" - Dr Waybe Dyer - if you are a "but" or "next time" person, this is a must read for you.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

How many times would you have said sorry today? Sorry for being late, sorry for bumping into someone in the line for your coffee. Sorry for offending someone when you did not mean to. Sorry to your partner for nagging, again.Chances are, you said sorry many times but it is also highly likely that on many of those occasions you did not really mean it. Along with “fu*k”, “how are you” and “ok”, sorry would go close to being one of the most frequently used words in our vocabulary, yet the one which is also most often used mindlessly, ultimately undermining its value.

The ability to say sorry and mean it, at the right time, with authenticity is a crucial skill and one which emotionally intelligent people possess. Such people know the power that a authentic “sorry” delivers, allowing temporarily fractured relationships to be healed quickly as well as give the opportunity to express genuine regret about a behaviour or action which has caused another person grief, hurt or sadness.

The crucial components of a genuine “sorry” include an expression of sincere regret, an ability to imagine what the situation has been like for the other person in order to show empathy and it will demonstrate active attempts to rectify the situation. Most importantly, a sincere sorry must not include the inflicter attempting to justify their behaviour for any reason. All this does is again distract from the apology, undermining its value and sincerity.

Recently I witnessed a sorry that was said with regret, but not sorry for the grief that thoughtless behaviour had caused but sorry for finding themselves involved in a situation in which they then needed to say sorry. Such a sorry is easily recognized as inauthentic, and ultimately considered worthless. In fact, such a sorry tends to do more damage than good as an already damaged relationship is further broken down by more disrespectful behaviour.

And then there are the people who cannot say sorry - those who feel saying that word leaves them vulnerable and liable for something they are not prepared to take responsibility for. For the self righteous among us, those who remain stuck in an ego based existence, the inability to say sorry and really mean it is ultimately the thing that will prevent their relationships growing and flourishing as they are unable to empathise with others, to really consider another human being, to take responsibility for their actions. The sooner we can all move past this ego state, and really mean that we are sorry for the grief we have caused inadvertently or not, the sooner we can move on and ultimately rebuild relationships that are important to us.

Next time that you find the need to say that you are sorry, for a minor indiscretion or for a major hurt, take time to consider the power of these words. Practice saying sorry and really mean it, express your words with honesty and humility and issue these words as soon as you are aware that you have caused another pain. Not only will those around you appreciate it more than you can know, you too will ultimately feel better about yourself as a human being.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The mirroring effect

"We are entitled to receive what we are prepared to give"

We all want to be loved and accepted. To be in a good relationship, to get on with our peers and colleagues, to find that deep and meaningful life-changing love. To feel included, to be "in the group" and at one with those around us. To exist in peace with those who hold a place in our lives via both our intimate and non-intimate interactions.

When things do not go to plan in these relationship domains, rarely do we hold ourselves accountable for things not working out. In more cases than not we become resentful, jealous, spiteful, bitter; cognitively fighting situations which have not played out the way we believed they should have.

Angry at the lover who we feel has betrayed us; furious at friends who have not included us, aggressive towards colleagues who have not given us the respect we feel we deserve.

If you subscribe to the theory that all people who cross our life path do so in order to teach us the various lessons that we need to learn to move towards a higher level of consciousness, it can be argued that every one of these interactions simply develops as a way of teaching us that when it comes to relationships, we get what we give.

Generous people flourish when around other generous people, as do emotionally open individuals when they are teamed with other, equally as open partners. Pessimists build momentum when reinforced by other, equally as pessimistic people, while tight people, feel more comfortable with others who also prefer to keep a close handle on their wallets.

When key personal characteristics are unequal in any relationship, over time resentment will build, and eventually the relationship will crumble. Friends will eventually get sick of always making the effort, while lovers will tire of not being fed emotionally the way they need to. Employees will eventually become resentful enough to find another position while family members will become frustrated enough to stop making the effort they need to in order to keep the family together.

So, in instances of unfulfilled relationships, as psychiatrist Gordon Livingston so aptly stated, it may be useful to consider that......

"We are entitled to receive what we are prepared to give. That is why there is truth to the adage that we all get partners we deserve and why most of our dissatisfaction with others reflect limitations in ourselves"
and in fact, it may be time to look within and no longer speak of what others have done to us, as opposed to reflecting ourselves on what we have or have not given them.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why focusing on food is the worst thing that you can do

So, you want to lose weight and follow an eating plan that helps you to feel more energized. You want to get things right, say on track and do everything you possibly can to get this weight off, as quickly as possible. While our natural instinct is to focus solely on our food intake during such desperate dieting times; diarizing everything, counting calories and fat and measuring and weighing every piece of food that crosses your path, there is evidence to suggest that this may be the worst thing we can do.

While being more aware of your food choices, balancing your carbs and proteins and making sure that you are eating mindfully is important, becoming obsessed with every morsel that goes into your mouth may be doing more harm than good. When we are focusing on one small aspect of life, it actually results in the brain becoming limited in its ability to see the bigger picture (think buying a new car and then seeming to only seeing the car you are thinking of buying constantly). In turn, we over-analyse, think about food more and as a result are much more likely to eat more, go off track and think the dietary changes we have made are not working and then give ourselves permission psychologically to go off track.

If you have been trying to make dietary changes and find that the more you concentrate on your food intake, the worst it gets it may be time to make sure that you are also balancing your dietary changes with other lifestyle shifts that will help support your new healthy eating regime.

Are you dedicating enough time to exercise and to your relationships? Are you keeping yourself busy at times when you are more likely to overeat? Are you putting your dietary changes in the context of your life? Surprisingly enough, in more cases than not, weight loss comes into place once we work towards being happy in all areas of our lives, not just within the health and fitness domain.

So, if you are avoiding social and family eating situations, cutting back more and more and yet still not getting results, it may be time to relax a little. Once we let go of our need to control every situation and live a little, things tend to fall into line pretty quickly once we keep the basic diet and exercise principles on track.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Seeking relationship balance

Whether it is a relationship with a partner, colleague, employee or sibling – the daily trials and tribulations of interacting with others tends to powerfully influence our day to day mood, emotional state and well being in general. We all wish that we could be one of those people who are innately good at not letting others “get to us”, but the reality is that these resilient people tend to be few and far between.

As we grow older, it would also provide some comfort if we knew we were becoming better at interacting with others; better able to manage challenging situations and ultimately getting better at not allowing people to “get to us”. Again this is not necessarily the case. In fact, as we get older, and personality traits become more and more deeply entrenched, so too do patterns of behaviour which include interacting in less than ideal ways when familiar situations and scenarios present, with old friends and foes, as well as with new ones.

A general relationship principle which may prove useful as you seek to develop better functioning relationships is the simple concept of balance. In an ideal situation, a relationship will be balanced – a 50/50 split in terms of emotional, physical and psychological variables. In this case you give as much as you get, you compensate for each others weaknesses but respect each others strengths and ultimately exist in a well balanced team.

If you examine situations in which relationships have turned sour, in more cases than not, relationship balance has not been maintained. One person wants the relationship much more than the other, and as a result over-extends themselves to compensate for the other persons lack of involvement or interest. While such a fix may allow the relationship to continue for some time, over time, whether it takes week’s months or even years, resentment and disease sets in, eventually completely destroying many friendships, intimate relationships and even families.

Knowing this, as we enter new relationships the most important thing we can do to avoid this situation is to be exceptionally mindful when we begin to compensate for the other persons behaviour. Idesally we need to quickly identify it and then determine if we want the relationship to continue. It is at this early stage that you do have the opportunity to reframe, evaluate and re-position a new relationship in your life, without getting rid of it completely.

When it comes to already damaged relationships, a reframe is much more challenging and the harsh reality is that is it you who has to do the work to turn things around, as it is you who has identified that you have overcompensated and allow the relationship to continue – the other person is not at fault - remember, we teach people how to teach us. You do though; have the choice of deciding whether this person is worth keeping in your life or if it is better to cut your losses and leave.

Now, perhaps the harshest truth of all – if this is a pattern in your life that is repeating, you may actually have some serious work to do. Do people in your world continually let you down? Do you continually find yourself in relationships not getting what you need? Do you regularly seek relationships with someone weaker, not at your level to you do not have to give so much and control the relationship instead? In all of these instances the 50/50 split has not been respected and potentially rewarding relationships have grown toxic and diseased because you have let them.

In this very short life, all of our many relationships give us much pleasure, joy and love on a daily basis. Relationships are what make life worth living but we all ultimately need to remember that if those who we seek relationship fulfillment within relationships that continually fail to “match our generosity of spirit and meet our emotional needs” that we are ignoring the most basic principle that defines relationship success – the 50/50 split. Once you commit to this in all of your relationships you will find that things will run a lot more smoothly, naturally and you will be happier, more relaxed and far more stable emotionally as a result.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Creating a life with greater meaning

Anyone who has in tune with the psychology movement during the 1950's and 1960's would be aware of the work by pioneering humanistic psychologist Dr Abraham Maslow. Maslow is best known for his concept of self actualisation - the realising of ones potential which occurs over time as one's basic needs including food, shelter, money and personal intimacy are gradually met throughout the course of a lifetime.

One of Maslow's students, Dr Wayne Dyer was in Sydney last week and reflected on the observed characteristics of individuals who move closer towards their self actualising potential - a state on inner contentment in which one reaches a place of self satisfaction and inner harmony within the chaotic world in which we live.

Dyer reflected that self actualising people have three main characteristics;

1) They become immune to the opinions of others
2) They focus only on what they intend for themselves
3) They are not attached to outcome

3 seemingly simple qualities which are perhaps more easily described than implemented in day to day life.

Imagine being self confident enough to not worry what others thought? To not take it personally when someone told you that your behaviour was inappropriate, that they did not like you or that you had offended them. To not be disappointed when something had not worked out the way you planned it - to be able to walk away and focus solely on the bigger picture goals that you had for yourself? To ignore the masses of stimulus that crosses our path on a daily basis and instead focus solely on tasks, activities and people who bring more meaning to your life?

Maybe easier said than done but something for all of us to be aware of and ultimately aiming for long term as we continue with this Game of Life.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why actions always speak so much more loudly than words

It may be ironic that a piece of writing attempts to convey this message but it is an unbelievably powerful thing to remember across a number of life domains. It is so easy to use words to obscure less than ideal behavioural patterns - to claim something is much different than it really is or was, to make things sound so much nicer, to provide an excuse for bad behaviour, to distract from the real issue at hand. Words can be altered, misinterpreted, reinterpreted, have no meaning, lead no where, which can ultimately leave recipients unfulfilled, disappointed and even violated when ones words do not match their behaviours.

Behaviours on the other hand tell us much more about the people we choose to spend our time with. Behaviours show us if the person really is who their words claim they are, if someone really means what they say and if they can be counted and relied upon. Behaviours are far less likely to be misinterpreted, and are far easier to remember. A person’s behaviour is there for all to see, and remembered for much time afterwards, unlike words which are quickly forgotten.

We build respect, trust and intimacy with those who behave well towards us. Good behaviour is demonstrated when others are there for us in our desperate times of need, when people do what they say they are going to do, when they treat us with the respect that we deserve. On the other hand, bad behaviours can leave a deep stain on our soul and are far more difficult to forget. A single instance of bad behaviour can be all that is required to irreparably damage a previously untarnished relationship and ruin it forever. Such a situation is exacerbated when bad behaviour is refused to be owned by the inflicter and such avoidance often leaves the inflicted unsure as to what has occurred. Luckily, the bad behaviour, unlike words will always remain to confirm that the issue is not our response to it but remains with their bad behaviour.

Such knowledge is a good reminder to all of us to make sure our behaviours match the words we impart on the world – that we do what we say we are going to go, that we treat people the way we would claim to, that our relationships reflect the words we use to speak about them. Perhaps the most useful knowledge of all, especially in the case of someone behaving in a way that has deeply disappointed you is that “the single best predictor of a person’s future behaviours is their past behaviour” – if someone has behaved badly, once, twice, repeatedly, it is highly likely they will do it again. This, you know and do have the power to act on if the signs present.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Just a little respect

If you take time to consider what the most fundamental component of a good relationship is, whether it is intimate or non intimate, personal or professional, long or short term – respect would be close to the top of the list. Respect is generally earned over time, based on our perceptions as well as experience of and with a person and exceptionally challenging to get back once it has been lost. Unlike most instant feelings and emotions such as like or attraction, respect tends to take time to build, although it can be lost in an instant.

One thing to consider when it comes to respect, is that it is all based on perception. In situations in which you feel that you have been disrespected, often our immediate reaction to such as scenario is to be angry or annoyed at the individual over what you perceive to be disrespectful. If such behaviour is a one off, remember it is not always disrespect as opposed to thoughtlessness, ignorance or non awareness – none of which are attractive behaviours but are quite different to disrespect. On the other hand, if such behaviours are repeatedly demonstrated within our relationships, the most important thing to consider is that we actually teach others how to treat us. This means that if we repeatedly feel as if we are not being treated with respect, something we are doing to teaching others to treat us this way.

For important relationships, ones which you want to salvage or keep in your life, to change this dynamic you will have to be prepared to rebuild the relationship, which will take time and much communication which you may, or may not decide is worth investing in. For new relationships though, it is crucial that at the first sign of disrespect that you let the other person know that it is not ok to treat you badly. You may ultimately decide to rid your life of this person, or simply let them know via your own means that their behaviour is non acceptable but you will be guaranteed to a) either rid your life of people who do not treat you the way you need to be treated to be at your best or b) quickly get the people to shape up or ship out which may sound harsh, but may in fact be the best thing for you at the time.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

So, what should you eat the day before City to Surf?

So, you have been training for weeks and are mentally ready for the 13 or so kms you are planning to walk or run with 70 000 other excited people tomorrow and now you are wondering what should you eat today to get the best out of your run?

If you had plans of a big carb load with pizza, soft drink and ice cream tonight, think again. A run of that distance does not require significantly more calories than you would usually eat, although you will benefit from a carb rich meal such as pasta or noodles this evening.

In fact, the extra chocolate bars distributed before the race and sports drinks at aid stations often contain more calories than you are likely to burn in the run itself.

Eat light, quickly digested meals every 3-4 hours today - a large wrap or sandwich, sushi or crackers with topping and aim to drink plenty of water. For the more serious recreational athletes who are hoping for a PB tomorrow, load up tonight with plain pasta, some extra bread and low fat ice cream and an extra 500-1000mls of OJ for a great mini carb load.

Tomorrow morning, make sure you have had a small snack before the run. Even if you can only manage something small such as 1/2 muesli or energy bar, Up & Go or slice of toast with peanut butter, a light snack will give you a little carbohydrate prior to the event which will allow you to access your fuel stores during the event. Of course, the morning of the event drink plenty of water and add some Hydralyte to your water bottle if you are prone to cramping.

Such good preparation will mean that few individuals will NEED sports drink during the event so stick with water and save yourself the extra calories.

Most importantly, once you have finished the event, try not to see it as an excuse to binge on poor quality food. Allow yourself once carb rich meal such as a burger, wrap or thin pizza before getting straight back on track with your new training regime and balanced eating plan.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The art of crucial conversations

Do you wish that you were one of those people who can always remain calm and composed when discussing difficult and sensitive issues? Not losing it, keeping your voice calm and in control and trying to not let the emotion of the situation get the better of you as you attempt to let someone know that they have done wrong by you whether it be personally or professionally.

Individuals who have mastered this art tend to score highly on emotional intelligence measures – they are able to gauge what demeanor will get the other person to listen and really take on board what it is they have to say. They are able to use their interpersonal skills to really tug on the heart strings of the other person whilst remaining calm and in control. They have been able to separate out the emotions that cause them to lose control and are able to speak calmly whilst still getting their point across using clear language and meaningful concepts.

Like all life skills, we can all learn to have these conversations in a way that will not leave us any more vulnerable and hurt. The first step is to take the time to you to prepare for intense talks. Time to allow you to build your argument; time to have identified what you want the outcome to be from the discussion and time to let the intense emotions dissipate. Once you have your emotions under control, and have identified the facts of the discussion you will be in a much stronger position to express your opinions clearly and honestly, and be able to put your enemy (for want of a better word J) in a position in which they have to provide you with honest answers – which is why you need to know what you want from the discussion. Most importantly, your concerns, issues, hurts need to come from the heart – what their behaviours has caused you to feel, the impact it has had whether they were aware of it or not, how they have hurt or disappointed or let you down and what you want them to do about it. The funny thing is that in most interactions we don’t want much more from the enemy than an acknowledgment or apology, we just want to be heard.

Many of us avoid these crucial conversations and carry around for weeks, months if not years the hurt, disrespect and anger which is doing nothing except hurting ourselves. In many of these cases it is time to let those know the effect their behaviours have had on us, which will in many cases free us to move on.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Character Traits - what type of person do you want to be?

Each and every day we are presented with personal situations which serve to challenge and as a result help us grow as individuals. Many of these scenarios involve others; work colleagues, friends, relatives, lovers, husbands, clients – people who directly or indirectly influence our emotional state whether we like it or not.

The insensitive ex-lover who flaunts his new partner, the selfish colleague who thinks only of their own desires, the friend of many years who rarely asks how you really are, or more importantly never waits for your answer. Seemingly small but significant hurts and disappointments that build over time and which can leave you un-trusting, unsure and in many ways a victim of others.

Reflections on these interactions can offer little self-comfort – in fact, dwelling, hating, resenting the people who have deeply hurt and disappointed you in a way no words can adequately describe only leaves the already suffering more distressed. Meanwhile, the ignorant dealer of pain and suffering walks free inflicting their less than ideal human behaviour on others.

In such instances of deep sadness it may be useful to consider that the only real reprieve from such pain is to concentrate on developing the very character traits you wish that these visitors to your world possessed. The strong and respected personal characteristics coveted by many but rarely embraced in life.

Honesty, integrity, loyalty, dignity, courage, humility along with a deep belief that your own strength of self will help you survive any personal pain graciously as long as you embody these qualities each and every day. It is then you can say goodbye to each day knowing you have done your very best, and have remained true to self without knowingly causing pain to others.

Honesty = fairness and straightforwardness of conduct
Integrity = the condition of being whole
Loyalty = faithfulness or devotion to a person
Dignity = sense of self respect
Courage = ability to confront fear or pain
Humility = the quality of being modest

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Food and stress

How many people do you know who are not functioning at their best physically because of the direct or indirect effects of stress? Those with distinct medical issues – back and neck pain, migraines and headaches, insomnia, weight gain, inactivity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and then conditions such as fibromyalgia, PCOS, thyroid and pituitary issues, MS, coeliac, irritable bowel syndrome – all diseases that are on the rapid rise in modern society and which would suggest are at some level lifestyle related.

It is interesting to observe clients who have not eaten well or looked after their body for many years who come to the clinic, and who are keen to finally make some serious lifestyle changes when they have been diagnosed with such issues. Such a reality check reminds them that they actually have a lot of control over how their body feels and functions on a daily basis and have to admit that stress, bad food and a lack of activity can no longer continue if they are to live wholly and fully for many more years to come.

There are a number of dietary interventions known to benefit a number of these conditions including fatty acid therapy, various supplements, carbohydrate typing, avoidance of various additives and stimulants and of course, weight control. Surely these changes are a lot more appealing than many drugs and doctors appointments for years to come?
The time to look after your weight and your body is now.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Are you living consciously?

Living in a country in which things come relatively easily compared to more poverty driven communities’ poses us with an interesting situation. On one hand in general we live a pretty lovely life with enough food, shelter and clothes to live comfortably, if not very well.

The down side of this is that we tend to take things for granted. In our search for more money, bigger houses, better jobs, better suburbs we easily forget about the small but meaningful acts of day to day life. Saying good morning to the neighbours; taking our secretary a coffee or thanking her for her special effort, letting someone in when driving or letting a runner cross the road in front of us - appreciating the small things that indeed make us human and a deeper appreciation of the fact that we are very blessed here in Australia.

So next time you find yourself winging that you need more money, a bigger house, a better relationship – it may be time to take stock, pay more attention to the way you treat the people you interact with on a daily basis and be grateful for what you do have.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Are you a victim of your own life?

In my work I am very lucky to consult with some high level executives and sportsmen and women. Top of their game when it comes to business or sport, observation shows that such high achieving individuals view life and the opportunities it presents us with on a daily basis very differently to the average Joe.

The average Joe generally sees life as pretty tough, and anything extra added or requested of them as an effort. Feeling overwhelmed, although often a result of poor personal choices, leads to a general air of resentment of any requests that require the individual to give or do more than they are already doing. Over time, such a low energy approach to life sees health and mood suffer and eventually living life is replaced with tolerating it, and just making it through.

You know these people – they are the ones who drain you, are hard work and see every opportunity as more work for them, adding to their complaints that things are already hard enough and they are already tired, stressed and overworked.

High functioning individuals could not be more different. They see every opportunity as a chance to do better, be better, and give more back. Nothing is too much trouble and as a result they fully embrace the life they have been given. Such high energy people are inspiring to be around, embrace every opportunity are also generally the ones who are happy to give back anything they can.

Just this week an athlete who has competed at international level came to do some health reprogramming after a long injury bout. This athlete does not need to ever work again, but knows he has been blessed with an amazing talent and if it now means he will have to go alcohol free, lose 10kgs and train for many hours each day to get back to his best, he will do it, no questions ask– because quite frankly, why wouldn’t you?

The victim on the other hand will go on feeling sorry for him-self, probably for years, and continue to see a potentially amazing life, waste away.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Using food as a reward?

Many a diet regime or article that writes of diet strategies to incorporate “treat” foods such as chocolates, cakes, lollies or even cheese has spoke of the use of foods as rewards for sticking to certain regimes. A wine at the end of a day of healthy eating; a chocolate bar once a week or a coffee and banana bread after a heavy gym workout. While any diet regime that emphasizes the importance of balance rather than an “all or nothing “ approach is a good way to approach sustainable behavioural change, there is also evidence to suggest that rewarding with food may actually prime the brain to look for these food rewards more and more.

In fact, brain scans have shown that if the brain has been programmed to think of rewards, whether they be food or drink based, or physical rewards such as doing something pleasurable, the chemical dopamine is released. Dopamine makes us feel really good, and as such, once you get some, you naturally want more. So, if you are rewarding yourself with a chocolate bar for “being good on your diet”, you are going to be looking for this sensation chemically pretty soon again afterwards.

Knowing this, rather than using food as a reward for perceived good behaviour, a better approach may be to pay more attention to the cues your body is giving you about what you really feel like eating at any point in time. Often we eat simply because we have given ourselves permission to do so rather than building a baseline healthy diet and including higher fat foods for special occasions or at times we may really feel like a chocolate bar or some cheese and really enjoying it as a result. Food and eating is one of life’s greatest and simple pleasures, the sooner we allow ourselves to enjoy treats in moderation, the sooner we will achieve long term weight control and get to eat the foods we love, in the right amounts, at the right time.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The art of acceptance

How often in life are things exactly as we want them to be? We want to be thinner, or lose weight without effort or hard work. We love those who don’t love us or covet a profession other than the one we have chosen. We go away only to wish we were back at home again.

Happiness and wellbeing research would suggest that while a feeling of dissatisfaction in life is actually the key force that allows humans to move forward, those individuals who are able to accept the cards they have been dealt rather than ruminate on the “what if’s” are those likely to be much happier.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT); an entire discipline within psychology dedicates its work to helping individuals reaching this state of acceptance, whether people seek acceptance in their relationships, work or even in regards to what they need to do to lose weight.

ACT writings suggest that rather than spending time and mental energy debating the pros and many more cons associated with actively engaging in the act of weight control via dietary control and regular exercise, long term outcome is much more likely if we simply accept that in order to control weight, we need to eat less, feel a bit hungry and uncomfortable and train hard. Once we accept this as what we need to do, we are then able to focus on the end goal, which leads us to outcome. Accepting that things will be hard at times, or that we may have to feel uncomfortable for certain periods of time are simple a natural, part of life. Or, put more simply, “it is, what it is, and as simple or complex as you want to make it”.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Finding your authentic self - the first step towards complete health and well being

Angelina has it, as does Brad but Jennifer Aniston still hasn’t found hers. Anna Wintour oozes it, as does Michelle Obama. Hugh Jackman embodies it as does Jamie Oliver, Seal and Heidi Klum – authenticity.

Authenticity is one of my most favourite words – the ability to truly reflect ones self; to break free from the roles created for us and stay concrete and honest no matter what the situation or relationship we find ourselves in. Few individuals master their own authentic soul - the very nature of modern life and our relationships seeing us mould and manipulate our authentic selves into the person we hope to be, or doing what others want us to rather than embracing what is true and real for us as an individual.

Our emotions as well as the body are both exceptionally good at telling us when we are on track with our authentic selves. Frustration, irritability, uneasiness or an underlying sadness just some of the emotional states we may experience. No matter what field of work you are in, or how much money you earn, these powerful emotional indictors are signs that you are not on the right personal path. While the physical signs of poor sleep, weight issues, regular sickness and injury are further indicators that you are not nurturing your soul.

The first step in rediscovering your authentic self is to consider at which point in your life you lost it. Was it when you married or had children; did you never truly embrace who you were after coming from an intense family or was it simply because you lost your way after entering your adult life with little path or direction, or without the confidence to aggressively pursue what it was you knew would make you happy?

One of the key characteristics of authentic people is that they always put their own needs before those of others. Not in a selfish uncaring way, but they know that without love for self, they cannot love others truly, madly, deeply.

Identifying their own core needs and practicing self care and love on a daily basis is central in the lives of authentic souls. So this week I ask you – what it is it that you know both your mind and body need to truly nurture your soul? Is it simply time to be, good food, exercise, time with your passions or time to identify them? Is it creating a home or bedroom that is a reflection of your heart and soul? Or spending time in nature without modern technology and communication regularly to commit to your own personal rediscovery? Embracing your own authentic self is the first step in building the life that you want and ultimately the one you deserve.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sacred Sundays

There are few things more precious in busy lives than time. Time alone, time for family, time to relax, time to get life administration completed, time to sit, time to just be. As we become more and more efficient and attempt to cram more and more into our days, it becomes more and more apparent that we could easily fill many more hours if they were handed to us on a plate. The reality is that every one of us has 24 hours in a day, and some of us manage to do much more with that time than others. Or, looking at things from a different perspective, some of us are very mindful of the way we spend our time, and far more of us let it fritter away.

A useful strategy employed by a close friend of mine is to declare Sunday sacred time – a day in which nothing really is planned; a day in which she can let her body and mind recover and spend quality time with family and those closest to her. Rushing to social gatherings, to family engagements or anywhere at all really quickly makes the weekend very similar to our frantic weekdays. Once we find ourselves among many people and traffic, making it difficult to unwind and really relax before the Sunday night blues hit. So, why not start making your Sundays sacred too? You may just find that Monday does not seem to be so bad after all.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Are you watching or living?

I rarely watch the news, but just by chance last week I was at the gym when it was on and since my ipod had run out of battery I tuned in to Peter Overton sharing with us the day that was – what a mistake. Every news story ranging from a promiscuous circus performer to a desperate ex duchess was just depressing. There was no doubt I felt much, much worse about life after listening to the news, and since I still manage to function reasonably well without it, I decided to actively avoid tuning in again anytime soon.

Time management guru Timothy Ferris who wrote the actively preaches about the psychological benefits of following a “low information” diet in a world in which we have constant access to information and stimulation, arguing that becoming too entrenched in watching everyone else live, means that we leave far less time for us to live ourselves.

Each and every day we subject ourselves to far more information than we need. We listen to boring colleagues at lunchtime, we routinely watch or listen to the news when we could be listening or watching something that really stimulates our soul and we commit to social experiences we would rather not because we are too passive to really say what we want. If you find yourself regularly feeling overwhelmed and lacking meaning in your day to day world it may be time to consider if you tend to observe rather than live life.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The perfect lunch

How difficult can it be to get lunch right? A couple of slices of bread with a tin of tuna and some tomato and all should be good? What you choose to eat for lunch can have a huge impact on your mood, energy and appetite for the remainer of the day. In fact, choosing the right lunch may even help to protect you from the dreaded 3pm munchies so it is well worth knowing how to get the balance exactly right.

A nutritionally balanced lunch should include some low glycaemic index carbs such as wholegrain bread, beans, crackers or pasta, teamed with a good serve of lean protein such as tuna, chicken breast or egg as well as plenty of salad vegetables. For those of you who routinely ditch the carbs in favour of tuna and salad therein lies the problem. Denying the body of carbohydrates during the day, when both your brain and your muscles require them for energy leaves you prone to sugar cravings and low energy levels later in the afternoon when your brain finally realizes that it does not have enough readily available fuel to function optimally. Including a small serve of nutritious carbohydrates such as 1-2 slices of grain bread, a few wholegrain crackers or a small tin of beans or corn is all the carbohydrate you will need to avoid this scenario.

The most common component of lunch that we get wrong is not including enough bulky salad or vegetables with our standard choices. Plain sandwiches, sushi, noodle dishes and soups may all be healthy lunch choices but they do not contain the bulk to keep you full throughout the afternoon. Ideally lunch will include at least 1 cup of salad or vegetables. Great options include adding a salad or vegetable based soup to your regular sandwich or sushi, or simply taking an extra carrot, cucumber or capsicum to cut up and enjoy with your lunch.

It may also be useful to know that high carbohydrate lunch choices including heavy noodle and rice dishes, Turkish bread sandwiches and smoothies can contain the equivalent of 3-4 slices of regular bread in full, which can leave you prone to sugar high’s and low’s. Instead choosing lighter carbohydrate options such as brown rich sushi, wrap breads or salads made with beans and corn teamed with a palm size serve of lean protein will give you an optimal nutritional balance and a tasty lunch to match.

Top lunch choices Total kJ Total fat (g)
2 Tuna Sushi Rolls 1400 6
Chicken and salad wrap 1200 6
Frittata and salad 1200 7
Tuna, beans and salad 1000 7
Wholegrain crackers with salmon 1200 6
Leftover pasta with meat and vegetable sauce 1400 7

Worst lunch choices
Chicken and avocado on Turkish 3200 54
Pad Thai 3400 46
Burger and fries 3700 40
Quiche 2000 30
Stir fry chicken and rice 2000 30
Pesto chicken salad 2000 35

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Your Life: Are you a ‘me for me’ person, or a “me for you” person?

Surprisingly enough, much of my diet consult time with patients is spent on “life coaching” – putting food choices and weight control in the context of leading a more balanced, healthier and happier life. Some individuals are already very good at achieving this balance. They are easily able to put their own needs ahead of others and tend be happier and better functioning individuals as a result. On the other hand, there are the people, especially the mothers who put everyone else’s needs or requests before their own. As a result they often feel exhausted, drained, resentful and just plain cranky that they are not leading the life they would like, ultimately because of their own poor choices or perceived inability to prioritise self.

The irony is, they while putting self first can be perceived as being “selfish”, failing to place ones basic needs such as health, self care, exercising and time alone before that of the needs of others actually tends to make individuals function at a level which is far below their best. As a result of this, those closest of most important to us, whether it is our family, friends, clients or associates do not get to interact with us when we are at our best, so no one wins really.

A wise colleague of mine told me last week that he refers to people as either “me for me” people – those happy to self care first because they know that they are at their best for others if they put self first as opposed to “me for you” people who are constantly chasing their own tails. Which category do you fall into?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The most patronising email ever?

Thanks for your email. Glad to see you're still reading *****! ;)

I understand your confusion - let me see if I can un-muddy the waters for you.

Every time we commission any contributor, ****** has a policy of buying the copyright to whatever it is we're commissioning outright, so that we can reuse/reproduce the content as we see fit. It's a procedure we've been following for many a moon now - since long before my time, in fact. (You might have come across something similar before in your dealings with other publications - I'm not au fait with all their requirements but I do recall from my time of freelancing, that ACP asked me to sign something similar.) According to my records, you were sent a copy of our conditions to sign and return back in *****, by the editor back then . I've attached the form for you to have another look at.

With regards to not crediting you - that was a disappointing oversight on our part, and a real shame. I wish we had; it would have made us all look better to have had your name attached! Would you be interested in appearing in our next issue, with your top tips for *******? Naturally, we'd be more than happy to shamelessly promote you as an expert in paediatric nutrition!

Luckily I have an appointment with my solicitor next week :)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Give yourself a break!

Go easy on yourself, life is tough enough

As a dietitian working in private practice you get to speak to many, many people each week. People who are sad, happy, unhappy, unhappy because of their weight, tired, exhausted, overwhelmed, unfulfilled, driven, just about every feeling and emotion there is to be had. The married people are miserable, the unmarried ones are miserable, the fat people are unhappy and the thin people are as well. What stands out most of all for me, after listening to literally hundreds of conversations is that for all of us, in some way or another, life is tough and at the end of the day we do our best to get through it.

In general, people do the best they can at the time, with the resources they have, and few things warrant the harshness many of us beat ourselves up with on a daily basis. Carrying excessive weight is a common reason that women in particular feel bad about themselves, believing that there is some magical ideal way to eat that they have somehow failed to achieve. In the big scheme of things though, and the really important things that matter like family, relationships and making a decent contribution to this world, whether or not you stuck to your diet last week suddenly becomes irrelevant.

So next time you go to beat yourself up over what you should or should not be eating, try thinking of where looking after your body fits in the big picture of your life and not only will your decision to eat well be far easier, you will be giving yourself a break, which is likely to be sorely needed.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dealing with emotional pain

Dealing with emotional pain has to be one of the most challenging things that human beings have to deal with during their lifetime. As Ian Thorpe once famously said when talking of the pain associated with swimming at a world championship level; “physical pain is nothing compared to emotional pain” – the pain that makes your heart ache and life no longer seem living. Whether it is a relationship breakup, a family loss, betrayal or extreme disappointment, at some point in our lives we all have to deal with it, and like everything, we can choose to do it well, or become victim to it.

The feeling of discomfort associated with intense emotional pain will often see us try and avoid the pain – drown it out with alcohol, sex, food, medication and people, which may give some temporary relief but ultimately means that we are actively avoiding the pain, and avoidance inevitably comes back to bite us. Although much more difficult, sitting with the pain, seeking some deeper understanding of the scenario and working towards making peace with the situation a crucial component of the healing process. Sure, we can do small things to make ourselves feel better; get a massage, cry with friends, listen to our favourite songs and wallow for a while but actually accepting that a degree of pain is a part of being human is a key component of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

In this model, rather than direct energy towards fighting an emotion such as hurt or pain or even behavioural changes such as eating less, ACT would encourage individuals to sit with the pain and look for the good that can come from working through it. Easier said than done admittedly, but knowing that growth generally does come from pain as well as the development of new personal resources to deal with pain better in the future does help somewhat. In addition to some good wine, good friends and some serious tears for a day or two to get it all out 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Butter or margarine?

Butter versus Margarine?

One of the most frequently asked questions I am asked about nutrition is whether one should use butter or margarine? As with most areas of nutrition, which you choose really comes down your own personal preference and there are definitely better options of each available given that there is 50+ different types of butter and margarine in the spreads section of the supermarket. So, to help you make your decision slightly easier before you get caught up in a world of polys, monos and saturated fats, plant sterols and sodium, here are some of the pros and cons of each.

Taking a step back from the question of butter or margarine to consider the role of added fat in the diet, it is important to remember that the average adult will require just 40-60g of fat in total each day. If we then consider that a serve of nuts, some oil in cooking as well as some oily fish will provide at least 2/3 of this amount we are really just considering where we need to get just 10-15g of total fat, or 2-3 teaspoons each day. For those of you who are now considering how much butter or margarine you smear on your toast, yes, you probably do need to cut back as we really do not need a lot of added fat in general.

So, of these 2-3 teaspoons which is best? Butter, while the spread of choice because of its more “natural” image is largely a saturated fat. A teaspoon of butter will give you almost 3g of saturated fat, the type of fat which we need to keep as low as possible in our diet as it is the type of fat most likely to store and clog our arteries. A teaspoon of margarine on the other hand; a formulated blend of different types of oils depending on the one you choose , will give <1g of saturated fat per serve.

The story then becomes a little more complicated when you then consider that many of the varieties of both butter and margarine are now blends of different oils, as food companies attempt to get rid of as much bad fat from both the butter and margarines they sell, while bumping up the good fats from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated sources. Light and extra light varieties of both butter and margarine mean that the total amounts of fat received from these sources can be as low as 2g of total fat per serve, which means that either used in moderation of just 1-2 serves each day can be incorporated into any nutritionally balanced eating plan.

Cholesterol lowering margarines offer another selling point to consumers, especially given there are also light varieties of such margarines which contain concentrated amounts of plant sterols which, when consumed in high enough volumes can significantly reduce blood cholesterol. What also needs to be considered though is that these spreads are very expensive, need to be used in the right amounts (3-4 serves a day) and the cholesterol lowering benefits are perhaps not as powerful as weight loss itself. Such formulated foods then suit individuals who do not need to lose weight, who eat a low fat diet in general and who still have elevated cholesterol levels.

So, have I answered the question about which is preferable? As a nutritionist, my focus is developing entire diet plans that tick a number of nutritional boxes. Dietary modeling will indicate that of all the types of fat in the average person’s diet, it is the long chain polyunsaturated fats that tend to be lacking in the diet. For this reason, when choosing spreads I generally suggest an extra light variety that offers a decent serve of polyunsaturated fat. As is the case with any added fat though, I would much prefer my clients get the fat in their diets from nuts, seeds, oily fish and good quality oil which means that there is really very little place for spreads in the diet in general.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Don't let Easter get you off track

Traditionally it is the months that follow the Easter holiday period which see many of us go off track when it comes to our diet and lifestyle resolutions. Too much chocolate, too little activity and a couple of kgs of extra weight is often all that is needed to completely ditch ideal exercise regimes and dietary resolves of the year thus far. Unfortunately, the Winter hibernation that many of us readily embrace then sees an extra 5-10kgs on board by the time the flowers are opening come Spring. At this time of year, the best thing you can do it make an official declaration that this will not happen to you in 2010. It is time to immediately rid your home of all extra leftover Easter treats because basically, if they are in the house, you will eat them.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why can't I lose weight?

For many years, scientists, nutritionists and numerous other weight loss professionals have continually preached that weight loss comes down to a very simple equation – kilojoules in versus kilojoules out. While this principle is true to a certain extent, there are a number of increasingly common hormonal shifts that can occur that do alter this relationship. Insulin resistance, the clinical condition that precedes Type 2 diabetes is one such diagnosis. Individuals with insulin resistance will struggle to lose weight via traditional weight loss prescriptions simply because their body is not burning fuel the way it should be.

Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas and used to digest carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are found in plant based foods including bread, rice, breakfast cereal, pasta, fruits and sugars. When carbohydrate rich foods are consumed, insulin is secreted by the pancreas to take glucose from the food to the muscles for energy. For a number of reasons, over time, insulin may fail to work as well as it should. Weight gain, where fat is clogging the cells is one such reason, as is a lack of physical activity. Your genetics can also pre dispose you to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. The highly processed nature of our daily carbohydrate food choices including breads, breakfast cereal and snack foods, which require much higher amounts of insulin than less processed low glycaemic index carbohydrates is too thought to be a significant contributing factor to the increased incidence of insulin resistance.

Resistance to the hormone insulin builds up over time, with the body gradually producing more and more insulin in an attempt to get it to work better at taking glucose to the body’s cells for energy. As insulin is also a fat storing hormone, the more of it that is circulating in the body, the harder it becomes to actually burn body fat. High levels of insulin can also make you feel tired, bloated and craving sugar, as the body is not getting the fuel it needs to the cells as efficiently as it should be. Individuals with insulin resistance also tend to have distinct abdominal fat deposits, and carry much of their weight round their belly.

The good news is that once diagnosed by a physician or endocrinologist, insulin resistance can be managed and tight management can actually prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes. While some cases will warrant medication, the diet and exercise prescription does not change. Individuals with insulin resistance need a reduced carbohydrate, increased protein diet as developed by a dietitian who specialises in the area, as well as a highly specific training program that integrates high intensity cardio sessions in conjunction with a light resistance training program. Individuals with insulin resistance need to learn to become extremely fussy with their choice of carbohydrate foods. High GI, refined sources of carbs including juices, white breads and refined cereals need to be completely eliminated from the diet long term for the best weight loss outcomes long term.

Signs that you may have a degree of insulin resistance that may be worth investigating with your doctor include an inability to lose weight despite demonstrated diet and exercise compliance, distinct abdominal fat, feeling unusually fatigued, bloating and cravings sugar regularly. The benefits of identifying insulin resistance early and committing to a 6-12 months diet and exercise intervention will ultimately help you avoid getting diabetes.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Surviving Easter

The frantic nature of 2010 thus far has meant that Easter has well and truly crept up on us. Many of us do relatively well with our diet and exercise regime each year until about this time, when we collapse in a heap over the Easter long week and indulge in far too much chocolate, far too many show bags and forget the need to increase activity during holiday periods rather than ditch it completely.

So this year, rather than use the holiday weekend as an excuse to let your regular routines fall by the way side, use the time to exercise as much as you can and prepare for the next couple of months. Sure it is fine to indulge in a little chocolate but if you consider that just 1 large Easter bun with butter contains up to ¼ of your daily energy requirement, and just a small packet of chocolate eggs, almost half, moderation and movement is the key to preventing weight gain over the Easter break. A couple of others tips to get you through the holiday weekend without an extra kilo or two;

Enjoy an Easter Bun on Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Sunday only (and not the ones with chocolate chips!)
Eat as much chocolate as you like on Easter Sunday then throw or give the leftovers away
Purchase, at most just 1 Easter food show bag

Monday, March 15, 2010

Food and airline travel - a disgrace

It has been a busy week and you are rushing to catch a flight to Melbourne. You have not had time to grab breakfast, but know that since you have booked Qantas, they will feed you on the plane. So, after loading and unloading your lap top, lining up for 20 minutes to check in and been chosen for the security scan you have just made the flight. A few minutes into the hour long flight the hostess brings you a snack – a cookie that contains 1200kJ and 20g of fat – thanks Qantas. Lucky you notice that they also have apples, and the hostess agrees you can have one, even though she appears slightly shocked someone is asking for one at all.

So much of our ability to eat well comes down to the foods we have available to us on a daily basis. Foods available on flights, in hotels, at sporting matches and other public events have a massive impact on the nutrition of the nation. It is time that large organizations including our airlines accept their corporate responsibility to have healthy food choices available for their customers. No one is making you eat the apple, but you should be offered it and no one needs a cookie that contains ¼ of your daily kilojoules and half of your daily fat intake.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Who do you spend your time with?

Our lives are filled with many people; people we work with, family, friends, associates, those who we pay to help us, our partners, children, friends of friends and people we studied with. Then there are people who live next door, and people who we see periodically at the supermarket or petrol station and the people we used to date. If you work with clients as well that means that there are a whole lot more people who you are in contact with every day – which means, all in all, a whole lot of people.

One way people can be grouped in life is according to their energy levels, or described in another way if they tend to be optimistic or pessimistic in their outlook. As we know that energy systems transfer, such a description can explain the reason why some people make us feel good, and others not so good. High energy people tend to leave you feeling positive and enthusiastic about life, while the lower energy, more pessimistic individuals tend to leave you feeling tired and in a lower mood state than you started with.

While we can not always control the people we have contact with on a daily basis in our professional lives, we can control the ones we have contact with in our private time. To maintain optimal mood, it is absolutely imperative that you learn to become fussy about who you spend your time with. While social circles may be large and growing, in busy lifestyles it really does become matter of quality over quantity when interacting with people to ensure that your energy levels are not in a constant state of drain because you have given too much to others. While this may mean being strict with your social calendar, the only person who will benefit will be you, and those who are most important in your life as they in turn get to spent more much coveted time with you, when you are functioning at your best.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

School Lunches for Dummies

The start of another school year signals a reminder to mums of the need to get back into grind of preparing a tasty, appealing and nutritious school lunch, five days a week for hungry, growing children. Unfortunately, despite the very best intentions, all too often sandwiches and fresh fruit are returned squashed in the bottom of school bags leaving parents in despair and children potentially not getting all of the nutrition they require.

Primary school aged children eat up to a 1/3 of their daily kilo joule requirements while they are at school, so it is worth making sure that you get the balance right. Unfortunately research available suggests that we still have a little way to go when it comes to getting the lunchbox food balance right. Data collected on the lunchbox contents of over fifteen hundred primary school aged children in Victoria found that on average children had three packaged snack foods such as potato chips and muesli bars in their lunchbox each day. Furthermore, researchers recently found that after looking into the lunchboxes of 170 lunchboxes of first grade children that 72 per cent of students had no vegetables or salad in their lunch box, 24 per cent had less than one serve of fruit and only 34 per cent had one or more pieces of fruit packed in their schoolbag. This research also found that up to 77 per cent of students had one or more snack foods such as chocolate, chips or cake. And 48 per cent had their total recommended daily amount of junk food - one to two small serves a day - just in their lunch box.
Packaged snacks such as cheese and dip snack packs, muesli bars, fruit twists and straps, potato chips and biscuit dippers are often full of fat and highly processed carbohydrates but tend to offer little in the way of nutrition. Too many of these snacks can mean that children are receiving many empty kilojoules without the amounts of calcium, fibre, iron and protein that they need for optimal growth and development.

What is good lunchbox nutrition?

A nutritionally balanced lunchbox can be divided into four core sections: low glycaemic index carbohydrates for energy, proteins for nutrition and fullness, fruit for fibre and vitamins and a snack food that has some nutritional benefit. Most importantly, busy children need plenty of water for optimal hydration, particularly in the warmer months when small children are at high risk of dehydration.

Wholegrain carbohydrates for energy:
Forget the idea of plain soggy bread - the vast variety of wrap and flat breads, grain bread rolls, thick crusty bread, crackers and high fibre loaves available means that a traditional sandwich can remain fresh and tasty until lunchtime. Always aim for either wholegrain varieties of bread or if you have a white bread fan, try the wrap or Mountain style breads that kids love. Something to keep in mind if you have children who constantly reject grain varieties of bread is that recent research has shown that if a range of breads with high grain contents are gradually introduce into lunchboxes, the kids do not even notice – so the secret is to not tell them or ask them what they want! Protein rich sandwich fillings include tuna, lean ham, chicken or turkey or hard boiled eggs are ideal as they provide a range of vital nutrients including iron. Protein based fillings also help to slow the rate in which sandwiches are digested, supporting optimal concentration and energy for the entire school day.

TIP: Remember, children often prefer simple sandwich filling to more elaborate concoctions so try not to be offended if they reject your mix of lamb, hummus and roasted vegetables instead asking for plain ham or a simple spread OR

If you don’t like that one

Try mixing bread types for sandwiches with one slice of high fibre white and one slice of grain

In sandwich negotiations with children, try offering their choice once each week and maintaining a mix of salad and protein on the other school days

Fresh fruit is always preferable to dried, fruit sticks or juice as it contains fewer kilojoules, more fibre and teaches children the importance of eating fresh food.

If you are worried about it getting bruised, stick to hard fruits such as apples or nectarines or pack a small container filled with berries, grapes or melon pieces. If you find that no matter what the fruit always comes home, try cutting it up and serving with low fat ice-cream or yogurt after school.

Protein food
Protein is the nutrient that tends to be missed in school lunchboxes and is often replaced with extra fruit, juice or more snacks. Protein rich foods including low fat dairy provides calcium and a number of other key nutrients including magnesium and phosphorous which all growing children need daily. Recent research commission by dairy Australia found that up to 84% of school aged children were not consuming the recommended number of dairy serves each day and hence school lunchboxes offer a perfect opportunity to boost up these nutrients in their kids diets. Great protein rich lunchbox fillers include cheese sticks, yogurt tubes; milk protein based snacks bars and flavoured milk poppers are popular with children and are also low GI, which helps to keep kids fuller for longer after eating them.

TIP: If you are worried about food safety and using meats on sandwiches, try freezing the sandwich the night before or keep a small popper of frozen water in the lunchbox to keep the food cool. Alternatively check out the cooler style lunchboxes, which are popular during the summer months.

Nutritious Snack
Busy, growing bodies do need energy but they need good quality energy and many processed snack and muesli bars available do not contain a lot of nutrition for many kilojoules. While children do not necessarily need packaged snack foods, not providing them may see them start to swap their lunchbox contents for other, more appealing options and hence providing a limited amount of snack food may prevent the swapping issue so, aim to provide just one packaged muesli or snack bar in your child’s lunchbox each day and try and choose options that have < 400kJ. Wholegrain and dairy based snack bars are more nutritious options.

TIP: Snack Food Checklist
<400kJ per serve
Protein – 3-5g per bar
Total carbohydrate - <20g per bar
Contain wholegrains, are low GI or have calcium

Water should always be the drink of choice for children. Fruit juice, soft drinks, sports drinks and cordials are high in sugar and are not appropriate everyday drinks for children. In fact, a recent review has suggested that children drink no more than two sweetened drinks each week, which includes fruit juice, to help prevent childhood obesity.

TIP: Freeze water bottles to help keep the rest of the lunchbox cool during the warmer months. Children will also be more likely to drink water when it is cold.

My son loves going to the canteen, how often should I let him have canteen options for his lunch?
All schoolchildren love the canteen as the food is fresh and it offer an interesting change from their day to day lunchboxes. If you pack a healthy lunchbox most days, once each week or fortnight is a reasonable number of canteen visits and try and encourage your child to make good choices like what? and avoid fatty pies, chips and cheesy pastas and pizza pockets.

What about treats?
If you pack too boring a lunchbox you run the risk of your child swapping their food with other children, and if you pack too many treats, it means there is less chance your child will eat the good stuff. There is nothing wrong with including a small treat such as a small packet of chips or fun size chocolate in the lunchbox occasionally, but limit it to just once each week and keep portions small.