Like many Australians over the New Years period I found myself isolating due to contracting Covid. What started as a bit of a scratchy throat turned into headaches, sore eyes, lethargy and a wracking cough that was all in my chest. My 3 weeks I had taken off work to spend with family in Newcastle and down south was thwarted. At first, I felt angry and ripped off, I could of stayed with these feelings or I could make the best of a testing situation and use it in my favour. I started cleaning and decluttering my house, I read books that I had been setting aside for months and I also started listening to podcasts.
One particular podcast caught my attention by Dr. David Sinclair a Professor of Genetics at Harvard University. His research and findings around “The Biology of Slowing & Reversing Ageing’ (Huberman Lab podcast) left me intrigued and thirsty for the secrets of longevity and anti-ageing. If seeing is believing, David Sinclair who is 52 years old, not only looks like, but says he feels like someone who is many years younger than his biological age. Approximately 20 % of this can be contributed to somewhat good genetics but 80% or more comes down to our epigenetics (outside behaviours and the environment) which can cause changes with how our DNA work. This so called ‘fountain of youth’ investigating led me on a mission to find out exactly what are David Sinclair’s secrets to turning back the clock and how if any of these hallmarks I could apply to my own life.
Firstly, who is David Sinclair?
David Sinclair is a Sydney born Professor of Genetics at Harvard University. Sinclair has been a popular commentator on the Joe Rogan and the Huberman lab podcasts and has just released his own 8 series podcast called “Lifespan”. Lifespan looks at the science of ageing and why you can be healthier at any stage in life. Sinclair exploded into the U.S. celebrity circuit due to his 2019 book ‘Lifespan: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To” and since then is a popular keynote speaker and expert around the topic of ageing.
Sinclair is also more famously known for being a key member on the scientific board advising 43-year old NFL star Tom Brady on how to stay young. Tom Brady, who is still winning super-bowls at the age of 43 attributes a lot of his success to the advice he has received from Sinclair calling him ‘someone who really can provide a lot of deep scientific information on the choices that we can make to really live healthier’.
In a nutshell, Sinclair’s research has scientifically looked at how our genomes (complete set of DNA in a cell) can be damaged (think of an old school CD that get scratches on it) and how as a result due to this damage (scratches) the message to the cells is altered. His research specifically looked at ways in which you can reverse this damage.
This very topic was proven in Sinclair’s lab studies at Harvard where he was able to reverse vision loss in old mice. Cells in the mice’s optic nerve were reprogrammed to become younger and regrow again. This was a massive break-thru for Sinclair as he proved that living cells could be made to revert to a younger state, potentially providing a cure for ageing. He found that, if you reset the epigenome to a younger version of itself, it starts to express the genetic code without the mistakes and incredibly, makes the cells young again.
Sinclair’s what he refers to as ‘hallmarks’ for longevity are as follows:
- Fasting – Going back 6 million years our bodies were designed to respond to adversity and we have largely removed this from our lives, this adversity includes going hungry. Sinclair explains, ‘if you never go hungry, your body never has to worry about survival, it relaxes which makes these genes lie dormant so to speak’. By decreasing our feeding window by either skipping breakfast or dinner these longevity genes have the opportunity to switch on.
There is no perfect best practice for this it really depends what works for you and how this can work into your lifestyle. Rather than throw yourself into a 16 hour fast, try just reducing your portions at either breakfast or lunch, then when your body adjusts to these smaller portions try taking out a meal altogether. Allow yourself to drink plenty of fluids, coffee, tea or a tablespoon of yoghurt or olive oil if you take supplements of a morning and need to line your stomach.
- Exercise – we all understand the significant impact that exercise has on our physical and mental health but it also plays a vital role in keeping us young. The proteins found in our genes are stimulated thru exercise by promoting new blood vessels, improving our heart and lung health and extending telomeres (found at the end of our DNA which protect our chromosomes and affect how our cells age). These telomeres are shortened when we age but can also be shortened thru stress, smoking, obesity, lack of exercise and a poor diet.
Sinclair’s exercise of choice for improving longevity genes is HIIT (high intensity interval training) saying ‘it engages the greatest number of health promoting genes”. From his book ‘Lifespan’ he explains that ‘the right type of intensity is one whereby you should feel challenged and breathless. Your breathing should be 70-85% of your maximum heart rate. Getting to this state is enough to create a hypoxic response and to produce enough stress to activate your body’s defences against ageing without doing any permanent harm’.
- Cold Water Therapy: includes things like having a cold shower, Cryotherapy treatment and ice water plunges. By being cold this turns on Sirtuin’s which are proteins in a cells genetic code to control things like cell division, metabolism and also responsible for repairing DNA damage. These longevity genes get turned on when we are cold and even when we are hot.
The research around being cold according to Sinclair, suggests that when the body is cold it starts producing more brown fat which is packed full of mitochondria (battery packs). This brown fat is metabolically active so it burns energy even at rest, it also secretes proteins which signals to the body to stay young. Remarkably, you can turn normal fat into brown fat by including cold water therapies into your daily routine.
- Supplements (Vitality molecules): Whilst Sinclair is reluctant to tell people what to do, he does discuss what he does on a personal level that works for him. Again, he reiterates everybody is different so the following may not work for everyone and these dosages may need to be adjusted to the individual taking them. According to Sinclair it is possible to activate longevity genes with what he calls ‘vitality molecules’. These are available as supplements which help Sirtuin’s do their job.
Sinclair takes the following supplements:
NR – Nicotinamide riboside which can be found in trace amounts in milk.
NMN – Nicotinamide mononucleotide which can be found in avocados, cucumbers, broccoli and cabbage.
Resrvatrol – found in red wine
Metformin – diabetes drug
David Sinclair’s Anti-Ageing Routine
Fasting until 1pm drinking plenty of fluids like water, coffee, tea.
Cut out mostly bread, pasta, processed sugar
1g of NMN every morning
1g of metformin
Vitamin D and K2
Mixed in with some yoghurt or olive oil of a morning
In order to put these longevity hallmarks to the test I have for the past 2 weeks overhauled my own daily routine. I have swapped a warm shower of a morning for a cold 3-minute shower. I have incorporated the fasting into my day most days of the week. I delay drinking caffeine for at least 90-120 minutes upon waking and I try to view direct sunlight for 10-30 minutes in the am.
From these changes I feel I am better focused, more alert, less sluggish and I have lost weight from not always keeping my blood sugars peaking all day. It is ok to feel hungry sometimes!
I have just ordered a whole bunch of NMN and Resveratrol so will report back whether I notice a difference in how I feel after taking these for some time.
Whether some of these effects I am experiencing are psychosomatic or not, I feel better for having put them in place.
I also feel had I not done some of the above then my recovery from covid would have been way worse. I felt zero symptoms 5 days post from contracting the virus and back to my normal self.
For more information on David Sinclair’s work you can find him on:
Podcast: Lifespan with Dr David Sinclair (Spotify)
Book: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To – David A Sinclair PhD
Joe Rogan Podcast – #1670 David Sinclair
Huberman Podcast – Dr David Sinclair: The Biology of Slowing & Reversing Ageing
This has resulted in many of us being unable to see loved ones for extended periods of time (at the time of writing this I have been unable to see both my elderly parents since April and they both live alone). It has also meant that we have been disconnected socially from going out with our friends for a drink or a meal, which has had profound effects on our emotional and mental health. The temptation for many of us as life begins to go back to a somewhat ‘normal’ state is to go from abstainers to total teetotallers in the space of a very short time.
With the silly season fast approaching us we will soon be facing a barrage of end-of-year work lunches, afternoon drinks and parties you won’t be able to say ‘no’ to. Not to mention the Christmas and New Year’s get togethers all designed to make you gorge on food till your stomach hurts, drink way more than you intended and deprive you of sleep.
If you want to be the last woman or man standing at your long lunch, dinner or drinks then find my tips below to help you become a well-prepared social athlete.
Pre Going Out:
A common mistake people make when it comes to party season is overindulging on high fat foods like pastries, chips and dip which are consumed mindlessly while waiting for the ‘real’ food to be served. The easiest way to avoid overeating at parties and events is to make sure you don’t arrive hungry. Aim to eat a good fat and protein enriched meal at least 60-90 minutes beforehand. These macronutrients are found to be slower to digest in the stomach with in turn helps slow down the rate in which alcohol is absorbed.
Alcohol Fit Tip:
One of the most undervalued and unknown foods that helps break down alcohol enzymes is the Nashi Pear (also known as the Asian or Korean pear). However, it is important to note that, according to Professor Noakes from the CSIRO (2015) “that the effect was demonstrated if you take pear juice before alcohol consumption and not after”
Don’t Demolish the Snack Table:
This study by the CSIRO (2015) found that whilst pears have such benefits of lowering cholesterol, relieve constipation and contain anti-inflammatory properties “it also appears they can ward off hangovers AND lower blood alcohol levels”. The CSIRO’s research found that ‘consuming 220ml of pear juice prior to alcohol consumption could reduce blood alcohol levels by 20% and reduce the symptoms of a hangover”.
Don’t be fooled by canapes that are offered at gatherings, they may appear small and harmless but most of them contain an average of 200 calories or more. It’s easy to fall victim to mindlessly snacking on these between rounds of drinks and conversation. Limit yourself to 2-3 canapes at any one function which will ensure you still have an appetite for any main meals that are served.
Whilst it is often thought that alcohol does the most damage when it comes to weight gain, often it is the foods that we’re enjoying with those few drinks that are equally if not more to blame. Alcohol is metabolised before proteins or fats, therefore the snack food that you consume will more likely be stored if it is not burnt off. For this reason, eating a satiating meal before you go out will mean you will be less likely to overeat at an event. If you do wish to partake in some party food opt for healthier options such as sushi, salads, grills and vegetable snacks over the chips, fried food and sugary desserts.
Whether you are hitting up your favourite pub or club or just out celebrating with friends, there are some tips and tricks you should know that will help lessen the impact of your big night. Whilst some of these might seem completely obvious, common sense seems to go out of the window when we are having a good time!
1 Drink to 1 Water:
We all understand the benefits of this one, alternating one alcoholic drink with one water or soda water helps keep us hydrated and slows down our imbibing. If you don’t wish to look awkward ask for your water in a wine glass or low-ball glass with ice and no one will know the difference.
Keep Congeners to a Minimum:
Most people would not have heard of ‘avoiding congeners’ but they might of heard of ‘stick to clear or light coloured liquors to avoid hangovers’. Congeners are the toxic fermentation by-products largely found in dark liquors such as brandy, bourbon, tequila, whiskey, cognac, dark beer and red wine. Congeners are largely responsible for the upset stomach and sore head you feel the next day after drinking them. Drinks that are low in congeners are vodka, gin and lighter beers so stick to these types of drinks if you want to avoid that hung over feeling the next day.
Take it Easy on the Bubbles:
It’s not in your imagination if after a glass of Champagne you feel like it has gone to your head there is a very good reason for it. The carbon dioxide found in a glass of champers or fizzy drinks makes you absorb the alcohol faster. This is even the case if the champagne is lower in alcohol than a red or white wine.
It’s not exactly scientifically proven what specifically causes a hangover. Some of the most common symptoms of a hangover – headache, tiredness, nausea and being sensitive to light come down to dehydration. One of the main chemicals in alcohol is acetaldehyde, created when ethanol is broken down in the liver, it can be up to 30 times more toxic than the alcohol itself.
Replacing fluids when drinking is essential to avoiding a hangover, the ethanol acts as a diuretic in the body which makes you go to the toilet all night. Coupled with water, electrolytes can help bring your body back into balance faster so add a Gatorade or Hydralyte to help you bounce back to your old self faster.
Eat a Protein Hearty Breakfast:
You may be craving fast food or sugary snacks the next day to help absorb the alcohol but the ideal food to eat the next day is eggs. Eggs are full of amino acids like cysteine which breaks down that toxic chemical acetaldehyde and taurine, which boosts liver health and function.
How Does alcohol Affect Your Fitness & Strength:
You only have to experience attempting to train the next day or even up to a few days after a big night to feel the effects it has had on your strength and fitness. You may feel more lethargic, more tired after your normal workout and your strength may not be as great. A study that was conducted at Massey University in New Zealand (2010 -2011) looked at how much is too much? What was the magic number of when alcohol starts to affect your body. This study confirmed it does largely come down to bodyweight. They found that consuming more than half a gram of alcohol per kilogram of bodyweight after eccentric exercise (lowering a weight) affects muscle function. In an 80kg male this equates to ½ bottle of red wine or 3-4 full strength beers and for a 50kg female this equates to 1-2 glasses of wine.
These studies also found that drinking more than one gram of alcohol per kilogram of bodyweight can set you up more problems. The alcohol starts to affect protein synthesis, which is essential for muscle growth, and interrupt growth hormone and testosterone production.
The Best Exercise & Recovery:
There is no need to avoid exercise altogether after a big night as it does have the benefit of boosting our mood and stimulating our brain. Try to avoid any endurance type events or high intensity exercise and instead opt for gentler exercises such as walking, swimming, Pilates, Yoga or lifting lighter weights. Try to avoid exercise that is going to make you sweat a lot as chances are you are already dehydrated.
In order to feel like your old self drink plenty of water for the next 24 hours and focus on getting some good quality sleep. Wait at least 24 hours before hitting it hard at the gym again to prevent any symptoms from getting worse and putting extra strain on your body.
Don’t let all of your hard work thru the warmer months come undone with the first hint of a cool breeze. Your training regime does not have to be seasonal! Training in the colder months may make you feel like hibernating rather than springing out of bed for that 6am PT session. It’s far easier to make excuses not to when the weather starts to turn but there are many benefits to training in the cold weather.
In order to stay on top of your fitness goals use the following tips to help you achieve year- round fitness.
- Move your training Indoors – If training outdoors is your thing, then an indoor option may be the solution to keep you training year-round. I teach Cycle classes at my local gym, in the Winter months, or when it is raining, the hard -core outdoor cyclists enthusiasts will come indoors to roll the legs over. Many outdoor sessions like Bootcamps can be supplemented indoors for classes like HIIT or more traditional Circuit style workouts.
Indoor workouts can also be done in the comfort of your own home. There is a wide array of online classes available that you can stream live or at a time that is convenient for you.
2. Set a Winter Training Goal – There is no reason why you cannot set seasonal goals in relation to your health. Setting a goal in Winter will set you up for success for the upcoming warmer months. If the goal thru Winter is to increase your strength in all of your major lifts like squats, deadlifts and bench. Then a good practice to put into place is how are you going to measure this? Also consider how many days per week training would this involve?
Your goal may be to lose some weight. This may involve tracking your food and exercise for a period of time and taking some measurements to track your progress.
3. Pre- Pack Your Gym Bag: Having a pre packed and ready-to-go gym bag equipped with all of the essentials such as warm winter layers, healthy snacks, a towel and headphones will give you the best chance of heading out the door. The same rules apply if you are training in the afternoon, planning and preparing for your workout before you train will make the transition into the colder weather a lot more palatable. I know of some clients that set their workout attire out the night before especially if they are training early to make getting up in the cold more seamless.
4. Warm Up – Preparing your body for the workout that lies ahead is essential. Adequate warms ups involve mobilising your body thru a combination of static (held stretch) and dynamic stretching (movement based) such as jogging on the spot and swinging your arms, shoulder shrugs, arm circles etc. Try to recreate some of the exercises you will be doing in your training using your bodyweight, moving thru a greater range of motion as you get warmer. Warming up sufficiently will help you decrease your risk of injury and ensure you get the most out of your workouts.
5. Eat to Stave off Sickness: In the Winter months colds, coughs and sore throats become more prevalent. Instead of reaching for the comfort food the cooler weather is a good opportunity to explore the seasonal fruits and vegetables winter has to offer. Pre prepare soups with stock and seasonal vegetables such as parsnips, sweet potato, carrots, pumpkin, broccoli and cauliflower. A great time saver and a wonderful way to bring out the flavours in foods are slow cooked meats and vegetables. A wide variety of foods can be cooked in a slow cooker including one pot meals, soups, stews and casseroles.
6. Vitamin D – It’s one of the great Australian paradoxes, in a sun loving nation with one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, we still have a vitamin D deficiency problem. The bodies main source of vitamin D is through sun exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, yet research shows roughly 1 in 4 Aussies don’t get enough sunshine to maintain healthy bones and muscles. According to Adjunct Professor Craig Sinclair, Director of the World Health Organisation Collaborative Centre for U.V radiation. ‘You only need a few minutes under the Summer sun to get adequate vitamin D, but if you go over that you are risking DNA damage. In the Winter months, on the other hand, when the UV index is less than 3, you might need a couple of hours of midday exposure during the week to get adequate vitamin D from the sun’, explains Sinclair.
Where you live can also make a difference. According to ABS data, vitamin D deficiency in winter is most common in the southern parts of Australia such as Victoria and Tasmania.
7. Stay Hydrated – It can be easy to forget about drinking water when you are not sweating, but you can quickly become dehydrated on the cooler days too. Keep a 2 litre water bottle on your desk when you are at work at take regular sips from it aiming to drink all of it by the end of the day. Whilst exercising try to drink 250ml every 15 minutes of exercise. Dehydration can cause brain fog, reduced athletic performance and even slows down the weight loss process
8. Try the 7 minute rule – I have been employing the 7 minute rule to my own workouts for over 10 years and I even share this method with my clients. On those days when your motivation for training is really starting to wane, put your workout clothes on and get to the gym. Put your favourite music on and if after 7 minutes of training you still feel like leaving then give yourself a free pass (without guilt) to leave. More times than not you will push thru and finish your workout and feel better that you gave it another shot.
9. Change it Up – The change of seasons is a good time to start to vary up your workout routine. In most cases we start to reach training plateau’s after 4 -6 weeks of doing the same activities. A plateau means that the results we got at the start of our new program start to decrease. This can manifest in both cardiovascular and strength training as well as in weight loss. Doing the same type of exercises day in and day out can make our motivation levels take a nose dive. Try to change up 1 day of exercise and watch your results start to increase and your motivation levels start to soar.
10. Buddy Up – Enlisting a workout buddy is the best way to establish accountability. When you can’t count on yourself to make it past the pre-workout coffee, calling in a buddy is one of the best ways to ensure you don’t hit the cancel button on that morning alarm. Having a friend by your side during those winter months will be likely to keep you moving during those extra tough times.
As we settle into 2021 it is time to reflect on the year that was 2020. For many of us it was the year that wasn’t, but off the back of this experience it has left many of us more resilient and more robust than ever. As a Personal Trainer and Health and Wellness coach I have witnessed a shift that has occurred within the health and wellness space. This shift has come about mainly due to Covid and the effect this virus has had on our the way we live we our lives and what we choose to focus on.
With that in mind, here are my observations on all things fitness, food and and wellness and what 2021 will look like in this space!
Here’s to a healthy and happy rest of 2021!
Online Fitness Subscriptions and On Demand Workouts:
While we were shut off from much of our lives physically, a saving grace was being able to remain connected digitally which allowed many of us to keep our exercise regimes going.
When gyms closed across the country due to Covid outbreaks, avid gym attendees started looking at online options for fitness motivation. Most commercial and boutique exercise facilities started offering zoom classes with an instructor that you could do in the comfort of your own home. These alternatives proved to be quite popular as they kept the social element of exercise alive, whilst also providing participants with a community in times of isolation.
On demand workout apps are so sophisticated now that they you can stream any type of workout anywhere, anytime from dance classes to weights-room workouts to your home. Not only are these type of workouts more readily available, but, according to some fitness experts they are here to stay. Charlie a client of mine who trained with me online was a big fan of online workouts; she says,
“Digital exercise options suited me for many reasons, those being, I didn’t have to leave the house to do it and I can still receive expert guidance from a professional in real time’.
If there is one thing that 2020 taught us, it’s that Mother Nature provides the perfect backdrop to deliver a butt kicking workout. You only have to look around in your neighbourhood to see an abundance of outdoor yoga sessions, run clubs, bootcamps and swim squads being run by fitness experts who have moved their businesses outdoors.
The great outdoors can provide the ideal environment to work on your fitness and change up your workout routine. Nothing compares to a run in natures backyard or a swim in the ocean to revitalise your energy. During the peak of the lockdowns one of the few permitted reasons to leave your home was to exercise outdoors which resulted in people running, walking and training everywhere there were green open spaces. For some of us getting outside and going for a walk several times a day broke up the monotony of being stuck indoors. I know of several clients whose exercise actually increased as they were no longer commuting long distances to go to work and could spend this time working on their health instead.
For a lot of health professionals these outdoor sessions are here to stay as their clients feel safer than exercising in an indoor space. Smaller gyms and exercise facilities might find it harder to adhere to the ever-changing social distancing requirements therefore the outdoors solves a lot of these problems as well as reducing costly overheads from hiring out facilities.
Mental Health & Self Care:
With long periods of time at home and isolated from friends and family this has brought into the spotlight for many of us issues that have been bubbling under the surface in terms of our mental health. I have had numerous conversations with friends and clients with whom have really struggled with anxiety, depression, addiction and loneliness during this time.
The resulting demand for self-care practices has seen these services increase in popularity and range from services such as counselling, psychology, meditation, breathwork, massage, and Yoga.
With pubs and clubs shut across the country intermittently last year and somewhat this year, the result of this has seen an increase in purchase behaviour from bottle shops according to a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (May 2020). Whilst alcohol consumption has seen a reduction from pubs and clubs due to these closures.
In a study collected from (Biddle et. al 2020) the most common reason given for alcohol consumption was that the person is spending more time at home (67% males/ 64% females). The next most common response was ‘boredom nothing else to do’ (49% males) whilst for females it was ‘increased stress’ (42%).
Whatever the reason some of us turned to alcohol more in 2020, 2021 is about the year of sobriety or trying to cut back on our alcohol consumption. During the calendar year we have events such as ‘Feb Fast’ and ‘Dry July’ campaigns which encourages participants to go a month alcohol-free.
Boom in Athletic & Eco Friendly Wear:
Sales of athletic wear have gone thru the roof as a lot of the world’s population are still working remotely. Some of us have swapped out our corporate attire for athletic wear and athleisure apparel. This athletic wear serves a multi-function as it can be worn to work and also for a cheeky workout during your lunchbreak.
From trainers to post-gym face scrubs and reusable water-bottles to bags, every facet of your gym locker will soon be responsibly sourced according to the ‘Third Space’ a popular gym in London. Predictably, larger brands are leading the charge here. This includes adidas, with a campaign fighting plastic pollution by intercepting plastic and turning into sportswear. Other brands are making shoes out of sustainable materials including algae foam or sportswear from recyclable materials.
During lockdown we saw a shift away from eating out as much as cafes and restaurants closed, this led to more of an emphasis on cooking healthy meals at home. The surge in home cooking has tapped into our ‘wannabe chefs’, that, combined with spending more time at home has seen us carry out some culinary experiments in the kitchen. Off the back of this cooking trend, we are looking for ways to streamline this process so kitchen equipment such as air fyers, microwaves and steam ovens have been placed on back order such is the demand for them.
Learning a New Skill or Picking up and Old One:
With the availability of more time on our hands and the closure of some of our favourite places this has led to some of us learning a new skill or picking up an old one. Take for example, one of my clients Tash. Tash was a keen Group Fitness Class participant and would fill her week with classes such as cycle, Circuits and Boxing. When her favourite gym closed, Tash found herself in desperation going back to running and which she used to do 10 years ago and online Yoga which she has never done before. Tash is loving the variety and whilst she has gone back to group fitness she has kept her online Yoga and running once a week!.
What is evident from the health and wellness industry in 2021 is that people value their health more than ever. Watch this space to observe what happens to the popularity of online classes and health apps as we move closer towards the end of the year and more and more people feel safe to go back to their previous routines. The lure of places like gyms and boutique offerings may prove too strong over the longer term as the social, competitive and communal roles that these facilities provide is integral part of exercise for so many of us!
It starts around late October, a sense of uneasiness, the chatter centred around the warmer weather, impending holidays booked and that c word… Christmas. Every year without fail a large portion of my clients start panicking when they feel the hint of a balmy breeze and start enjoying the lighter afternoons. Topics of conversation start centring around fitting into last year’s swim wear and the Covid kilograms that need to ‘just go’ before Christmas. It’s not only the physical appearance that creates dissatisfaction but also the feelings of lethargy and tiredness after being on the go 24/7. For many of us, a large sense of overwhelm is looming with no clear cut solutions on how to navigate the ‘forest from the trees’.
Knowing that we have all the same amount of minutes and hours in the day it really is about spending some time planning and thinking about what is important, setting some intentions at the start of each day and learning to prioritise those things that are important to us.
Instead of feeling like ‘blah’ going into the latter half of the year we can start to feel more like ‘Yah’ if we spend some time on the following:
- Move Your Body in Ways that Make You Feel Good
What is the best exercise for you? The one that you enjoy! Why? Because if you enjoy dancing or swimming for example you are more likely to stick to it long term. Just because you read somewhere that weight training is the best form of exercise (don’t get me wrong it has a multitude of benefits) if you don’t enjoy it won’t be sustainable long term.
When we exercise it helps us to release feel good hormones called ‘endorphins’ a neurochemical associated with feelings of euphoria. These feel good hormones can assist with a clearer mindset, creativity and an improved mental state. The other benefits of moving your body more is it helps burn off excess body fat, it improves our strength and fitness, this lends itself to a happier and healthier version YOU all round.
2. Create Healthy Boundaries:
Do you find it hard to say ‘no’ to people? Do you find yourself in situations where you think why am I doing this or I don’t want to be here? Creating healthy boundaries is about saying ‘no’ to the things you don’t really want to do. It is about putting yourself first and practicing on a daily basis more self- care. Does FOMO or the ‘Fear of Missing Out’ stop you from saying no to things when you know deep down you really should. Remember when we start saying no to the things that are not right, we start creating more room for other opportunities which are right!
When it comes to creating boundaries as well this also translates to people in our lives. Do you have a partner, friend, flat mate or co-worker that makes you feel less than?
One solution is to have an honest and open conversation with them about how their comments make you feel or if the idea of that is too scary write them a message asking that they respect you and what that looks like.
Another solution is to limit the amount of time spent with them, spend time with them on your terms and at a neutral place where you can leave the situation quickly if it starts to go pear shaped.
3. Design a Self -Love Mantra:
It is well known in the psychology world that our thoughts create an emotion and our emotions dictate our behaviour. Our self-talk and the language we use to describe ourselves has a direct impact on how we feel, and thus the way we behave. When creating a self -love mantra we need to silence our inner critic, you know the one that always pops up with judgements, negativity and criticism. This is hard to do, I know, especially when we experience up to 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day and most of them are negative. We are hard wired on a subconscious level to think this way.
Positive mantra’s take practice! It is almost like we are rewiring the brain to think differently. By practising positive mantra’s this in turn will help us open up different neural pathways in the brain and let those old negative ones wither away and grow less powerful. This new way of thinking will take some practice but remember what we water grows!
We can practice a self- love mantra by writing down 5 things everyday we like about ourselves. These 5 things should not relate to other people for example “I am a caring and kind friend’, this relates to how you make others feel. Instead try “I have been thru some tough times in my life which has made me resilient and strong” or “I am happy. I am enough’.
A self love mantra can be written down where you can see it everyday or you can say it out loud or in your head or anytime your inner critic comes out. These practices will help us to be kind, to heal and to experience some self- compassion for ourselves.
4. Purge your Social Media:
Comparison truly is the thief of all joy. Go thru any of your following lists and unfollow any accounts that make you feel less than. The point of social media is to stay in touch with friends, family and acquaintances or to educate or entertain you on some level. Whilst scrolling or tapping and you come across something that floods you with shame or self doubt you know to ‘click unfollow’. Keep this practice up regularly and use it across all of your social media channels.
You never need to explain your decision to unfollow someone. Or just say for example it’s a family member or a friend’s Instagram page that is triggering some unwanted feelings for you. You can try muting or snoozing their stories and posts so you see less of their content.
5. Practice Daily Mindfulness:
We live in an age of high speed this and digitised that which makes slowing down even harder to do. From the moment most of us wake up in the morning we are racing around trying to get kids ready for school, off to the gym or getting ourselves to work on time. Most of us don’t even sit down to eat a proper breakfast rather we grab a coffee on the run and then sit in front of a screen for hours on end. Our cortisol or ‘stress hormones’ are being continually dumped into our system and most of us are running off the flight or fight hormone adrenaline. It’s no great surprise then that our population is suffering under the weight of all of this stress and our physical, emotional and mental health is being compromised. We have seen an increase in the number of people suffering from mental health issues which has been exacerbated due to Covid.
If you want to know the value of mindfulness, you may want to consider this. Can you sit for 1 minute and completely quiet your mind? And can you do this without feeling like you are jumping out of your skin? If you have ever done this exercise it can prove to be quiet a challenge. Taking the time to quiet our mind and just sit with ourselves is a lot harder than what it sounds.
Mindfulness techniques can include practices such as Yoga, Meditation, breathing exercises, Tai Chi, Stretching or simply sitting quietly and emptying our minds from all thoughts. It is about learning to pay attention to the present moment with the intention of letting go of judgement, for the present is the only real moment we have. The problem for the majority of us, is we spend too much time bemoaning the past or catastrophising the future, we spend very little time in the present.
Mindfulness helps improve our concentration and helps reduce ruminative thinking that contributes to the high levels of stress which are so prevalent in today’s society.
When we are mindful, we experience our life as we live it. We are present with our family and friends and we experience the world directly through our 5 senses, we taste what we are eating and we recognise the thoughts we are having. When we allow ourselves to get out of our heads and experience the world directly without the endless commentary of our thoughts we may just open ourselves up to the limitless possibilities that life has to offer.
I remember reading a book by David Gillespie called ‘Sweet Poison’ which totally changed my view on eating processed sugar. This book was written by a 40kg overweight, sleep deprived father of four that had run out of diet options to lose weight. One day he decided to eliminate sugar out of his diet completely and the changes not just physically but mentally to the way he felt was radical. David started to investigate the link between our soaring obesity rates and the worrying diseases that were emerging in the 21st century. He found links between the introduction of processed sugar in the 1940’s and the increase of heart disease and diabetes.
A background of poor health is what also drove Sarah Wilson to quit sugar and start a successful company and movement in the process with her ‘IQuitsugar.com’ online program and books. The I quit sugar movement proved to fill a gap in the market with over 1.5million people in over 113 countries joining her online program to learn the tools to successfully ditch sugar for good. The results from her devotees are astonishing, with some displaying increases in fertility, decreased symptoms of chronic and auto-immune diseases whilst for others it has assisted with the management of diabetes and helped many others lose that stubborn belly fat for good.
So knowing all of this this let’s look at specifically how sugar affects our overall health.
Sugar is stored as excess fat around the mid section:
According to the Heart Foundation (heartfoundation.org.au) more than 64% of Australians are overweight or obese and more than 1 in 4 children. These are worrying statistics as being overweight lends itself to the likelihood of having chronic diseases such as cardio thoracic diseases and diabetes.
There are 2 types of belly fat the first one is called subcutaneous fat that is fat located just under the skin. Subcutaneous fat is often referred to as ‘ love handles’, ‘saddlebags’ or ‘back fat’. Whilst carrying excess weight around the mid section is not ideal with changes to your diet and moving more it is possible to reduce this area.
The second more concerning fat is called visceral fat which is generally indicated by a ‘pot belly’ or an apple shape. This type of fat is of concern as it is much deeper under the skin and surrounds the vital organs. Visceral fat can cause changes to our hormonal profiles and has links to both cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Sugar may promote cancerous cells and recurrence:
In 1924 there was a German Scientist named Otto Warburg who discovered that cancerous cells need a lot more sugar to grow and divide than normal cells this became known as the ‘Warburg Effect’. Cancerous cells metabolise sugar differently to normal cells and there has been a lot of research as of late to discover new treatments for this process.
Let it be known however that eating sugar directly does not cause cancer however, there is an indirect link between cancer risk and sugar. We know this because having a diet high in sugar lends itself to being overweight or obese. According to the Cancer Research UK, being overweight or obese increases the risk of 13 different types of cancer. In fact, after smoking, obesity is the second most preventable form of cancer in the UK.
There have been some further research groups which looked at the recurrence rates of women with breast cancer. A ‘PREDIMED’ study followed 300 breast cancer survivors for 3 years, 199 eating a ‘normal’ healthy diet as advised by dieticians and 108 eating a Mediterranean style diet comprising of 4 serves of vegetables, 3 serves of fruit, 1 serve of whole grains and plenty of olive oil, fish and seafood 3-4 times a week and a little red meat.
11 patients experienced a recurrence whilst on the normal diet whilst no one on the Mediterranean diet underwent a relapse. The Mediterranean diet focuses on eating whole foods including vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fish and olive oil whilst being low in red and processed meat and alcohol is kept to a minimum. Whilst only a small study it is promising.
Sugar can damage your heart:
It has been noted that sugar can cause contribute to cardiovascular diseases, however, a 2013 article in the Journal of American Heart Association displayed strong evidence that sugar can actually affect the pumping mechanism of your heart and could increase the risk of heart failure. The findings specifically pinpointed a molecule from sugar called glucose metabolite glucose 6-phosphate (G6P) that was responsible for changes in the muscle protein of the heart. These changes could eventually lead to heart failure.
High sugar diets can age you:
I used to remember my mum telling my in my youth that drinking lots of alcohol will age you. I used to think this was her one of her many attempts of trying to keep me away from it. Now I understand that the sugar content in alcohol and many processed foods ages our cells and causes many of them to die prematurely. Excess processed sugar can cause dark circles around your eyes, wrinkles, dehydrate your skin and can fast track the ageing process.
Basically, sugar bonds with proteins in your body in a process called glycation. They also harden collagen and elastin, and prevent your body from making more. All these effects mean your skin looses elasticity, lines and wrinkles start to set in, and signs of visible ageing become more apparent.
Beware Sugar is hidden in most things that we eat:
Whilst many of us strive to avoid eating processed sugar like chocolates, lollies, cakes and pastries sugar is also in a lot of everyday foods that we consume. For example dairy products such as milk, yoghurt, cream, butter, ice cream and cheese all contain ‘lactose’ which is a sugar found in dairy products. Whilst this is a more natural occurring sugar than say the sugar found in biscuits it still is made up of the same composition of fructose and glucose.
So basically, whether it’s in a piece of fruit, a fizzy drink or a pastry, sugar is made up of the same two components: fructose and glucose. The molecule structure and composition of sugar molecules is the same no matter where they come from. Let’s not get confused that the sugar found in cake has the same effect on the body as say the sugar found in fruit (which it doesn’t). For one thing, fruit offers good stuff like vitamins, antioxidants and water whilst cakes, lollies and biscuit offer zero nutritional benefits.
When it comes to choosing what to eat the old adage ‘you are what you eat’ and ‘everything in moderation’ couldn’t ring truer. It’s important to ‘eat the rainbow’ when it comes to a healthy mix of fruits and vegetables so we get all of our essential vitamins and minerals plus the all important fibre requirements to aid digestion. Sweet processed treats and alcohol should be limited to special occasions or on the weekends. In the health and wellness world we educate our clients to understand that 70% of how you look is what you are eating and drinking and the other 30% consists of what you are ‘doing’ .
If you are looking to detox off processed sugar start by making some small changes every week. It could be something as simple as cutting back your alcohol consumption from Monday to Friday or not eating dessert every time you go out for dinner. Over time you will notice your sugar cravings have all but disappeared and you wont even think twice about eating it nor miss it. The benefits of the weight you lose, how much more energy you have and the clarity of your thoughts will be motivation enough to cut back or ditch the sugar for good!
There is nothing like a hint of a balmy breeze and days spent by the water after the cold winter months to inspire us to start thinking about getting healthy. The Summer months are definitely a time where we are more conscious of what we are eating and how we are feeling. You would be forgiven for being confused about what are the best foods to eat and the right type of exercise to participate in, for you to feel your best.
There is a proliferation of information out there especially on the internet, advertising the latest diets and exercise plans. This combined with ‘fitspo’ influencers spruiking the latest and greatest supplements and training gadgets can cause an overwhelming information overload for anyone researching these topics.
The old adage ‘if it sounds to good to be true it generally is’ a good philosophy to adopt when you are reading about the latest Celebrity weight loss plan and wondering whether it is for you. Unfortunately, there is no ‘quick fix’ to losing weight or getting fit! It takes time, consistency and is often one step forward and two steps back!
In order to cut thru the white noise of the health industry the best approach for looking and feeling your best is a ‘Balanced Lifestyle Approach’. This process looks into all areas of your lifestyle from nutrition, movement, hydration, stress management , sleep and mental health. The philosophy around the balanced lifestyle approach is, if any of the above lifestyle factors are being neglected, then you have a problem with this health equilibrium.
Lets address some of these lifestyle factors that could be inhibiting you from getting the results that you desire.
The best part about the warmer temperatures is our food persuasions move away from stodgy heavier meals to lighter foods such as salads and fruit. Berries, melons, mangoes and kiwi fruits come into season allowing us to make up some delicious fruit salads as snacks or a healthy dessert option.
When it comes to eating healthy, it’s important break the overnight fast of a morning with an energy fuelled breakfast that helps set us up for the rest of the day. Try to include a protein, carbohydrate and good fat source in your breakfast so that your body feels fuller for longer and you are getting all of your essential nutrients and vitamins.
Proteins could be anything from lean cuts of meat, eggs, dairy or a range of vegan options such as beans, tempeh, edamame, lentils, chickpeas or beans.
Healthy carbohydrates include vegetables, healthy grains such as quinoa, brown rice or pearl barley. Good fats can include olive oils, avocados, butter, nuts and seeds.
Some healthy vegan options for breakfast include coconut yoghurt with granola and berries with a hint of honey. A non-vegan option would be scrambled eggs with roast tomatoes, mushrooms and a slice of spelt toast with butter.
Picking the perfect snack is where a lot of us fall down as we are unprepared and often opt for snacks made of convenience rather than what is necessarily good for us. Coffee and a sweet laden muffin or biscuit tend to be our ‘Go To’s’ which give us an initial surge in blood sugar and energy only to come crashing down some time later. All of this processed sugar and caffeine send us on a viscous cycle of peaks and troughs of energy and concentration throughout the day that can be disastrous when we are trying to lose weight. You can find yourself caught in a mouse wheel of chasing energy throughout the whole day and craving empty carbohydrates.
More optimal snacks to keep your energy on an even keel include a piece of fruit combined with a small handful of activated nuts a tub of coconut with berries or some vegetable sticks with some homemade hummus.
Remember ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ and preparation is the key to success when trying to lose body fat. Pack a lunchbox the night before that includes a healthy lunch and snacks so you have everything you need to support your healthy eating plan.
In terms of lunch and dinner selections, you cant go past a lean source of protein such as chicken, fish or for a vegan option of tofu, lentils or beans. Combine this with a fresh salad of walnuts, feta cheese or pomegranates for a refreshing take on a plain salad.
Supporting your healthy eating should be a solid hydration plan that involves drinking 2-3 litres of good quality water per day. Drinking enough water allows our body to get rid of excess toxins and promotes healthy digestion. Excreting toxins regularly enables us to lose weight and diminishes bad cells that can cause cellulite.
The right type of exercise for you is the one that you are most likely to stick with whether it be Pilates, weights or Zumba. Obviously training variety is the key to obtaining the bodies most effective result’s.
Your body is uncannily smart and will adapt to the same type of training very quickly. Adaptation generally occurs after 6-8 weeks of performing the same type of exercise so it is important to mix up some component of the weights you are lifting or the type of cardio exercise you are participating in.
In today’s world we are restricted with the amount of time we have to dedicate to exercise so there has been an explosion in popularity of 20-30 minute options such as HIIT or class style circuit workouts. Both of these type of workouts combine both cardio and strength training elements whilst getting the heart rate up, a popular choice for many time poor people. These formats tend to offer ‘bang for buck’ for people looking to burn a lot of energy and get a good sweat on.
In order to change the shape of your body you cant go past some form of resistance training. Resistance training can be in the form of weights, body weight or using more functional equipment pieces like cables or resistance bands to name a few. Resistance training increases our lean muscle tissue that in turn assists us in burning energy even when we are inactive. This is very useful when we are tying to lose weight as lean muscle tissue will help us burn off excess body fat whilst also giving our muscles the appearance of looking firm and toned.
It is also hard to go past Mind/Body classes like Pilates or Yoga for their holistic health benefits and stress management techniques. Ten minutes a day should be spent practicing some ‘quite time’ such as meditation, journaling or listening to music to recalibrate your spirit and your mind.
Balancing Your Lifestyle:
Did you know on average that most of us spend 10 hours a day at working including commuting to work?
This is a pretty scary statistic when you combine that with 7- 8 hours sleep that only leaves us with approximately 6 hours a day for leisure and relaxation.
The quality of your time off makes all of the difference to balancing your lifestyle. Invest time into activities that are good for your mental health such as exercise, meditation, reading, or spending time with friends and family.
Balancing our lifestyle helps reduce our stress levels which in turn reduces our levels of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that can cause excess amounts of sugar production and in turn increased blood sugar levels. Carrying excess weight particularly around the mid section is a sign of excessive amounts of cortisol and long term stress.
Long terms stress can cause mental health problems like anxiety and depression and physical problems like high blood pressure, muscle weakness and fatigue.
In summary, the right weight loss program for you is one that is sustainable and fits into your lifestyle. Sustainability is the key here, if it involves too much deprivation or sacrifice the body will feel overwhelmed and it will only end up being a short-term weight loss solution.
If you want to transform your health then all of the 5 key lifestyle factors need to be addressed from mental health, movement, nutrition, water, sleep and stress management.
Small changes over time is the best approach as trying to change too many things at once will be overwhelming and again you may abandon all of your efforts before you have even started.