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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