Magnesium Supplements: The Good and The Bad
This week, almost every client I have seen has asked me about magnesium supplementation. Mainly, they've wanted to know whether the brands of magnesium they had self-prescribed were okay, because even though they’d been taking magnesium for a while, they were still experiencing the symptoms they had been trying to alleviate such as frequent muscle cramps, digestive issues, trouble sleeping and anxiety. So, why weren’t their magnesium supplements effective?
First off, let’s address why magnesium deficiency seems to be so prevalent across the general population. It has to do with how our food is grown, and then absorbed into our bodies. Most of our dietary magnesium comes from plant food. Soil contains a number of important nutrients, one of them being magnesium, which is transferred into plants as they grow. However, these days, our soil is lacking the nutrients it used to have, and as a result, our plants contain less of them too. So, the amount of magnesium you may have received from a big plate of vegetables 50 years ago will be less than what you’d receive from the same amount of vegetables today.
Similarly, there are a number of factors that affect our ability to absorb nutrients, particularly magnesium, which wouldn’t have been such an issue in the past. For example, having a diet high in phosphorous (think: carbonated soft-drinks) can greatly impair your body’s ability to absorb magnesium. The same goes for antibiotic use, alcohol consumption, and even stress; they can all prevent your body from absorbing vital nutrients such as magnesium. Finally, chronic disease and digestive disorders – which unfortunately also seem to be more prevalent these days than ever – alter the way our food is digested and ultimately, also limit nutrient absorption.
As a nutritionist, my first port-of-call with nutritional deficiencies is always maximising nutritional intake by optimising the diet. However, as mentioned above, this is a lot easier said than done when it comes to nutrients like magnesium. So, for clients with obvious symptoms of magnesium deficiency, like muscle cramps, trouble sleeping, digestive issues or fatigue, I always recommend supplementation.
When it comes to magnesium supplements, there are definitely some that are better than others! The magnesium in supplements comes in many different forms – if you look on the back of your magnesium supplement right now, you will see the word magnesium paired with a term such as “citrate” or “oxide” or “chelate” – and depending on which form they are in, their bioavailability (how well your body is able to absorb the nutrient) is determined. You see, magnesium is a water-soluble mineral, meaning that whatever isn’t absorbed by your body gets excreted. While for many of you, this may seem very foreign, it is actually vital that you become familiar with the concept – after all, it will help you to decipher between a good quality magnesium and money down the toilet (literally)!!
So Which Types of Magnesium Should We be Looking Out For?
Magnesium is most bioavailable when becomes a chelated, meaning it is bound to an amino acid. This will be expressed as Magnesium Amino Acid Chelate or more specifically, Magnesium Glycinate, Magnesium Orotate, or Magnesium Arginate (to name a few). These types of magnesium are the best for resolving muscle cramps, anxiety, fatigue and any other symptoms of magnesium deficiency.
Other forms of magnesium such as Magnesium Oxide, Magnesium Citrate, Magnesium Phosphate or Magnesium Lactate are much cheaper, yet far less absorbable or lower in concentration that the other examples listed above. Therefore, they must be taken at much higher doses. Unfortunately though, taking these forms of magnesium in a dose that is high enough to provide the body with the amount of magnesium it needs, will often result in diarrhoea and nausea.
So, if you’re suffering from muscle cramps, anxiety, trouble sleeping or any other symptoms of magnesium deficiency and would like to alleviate it using a magnesium supplement, it is best to invest in a higher quality product that will actually be absorbed effectively by your body!
How to Master the Supermarket
Supermarkets in today’s society hold a massive influence over the products we buy and the way we consume them. For many people, their weekly excursions to the supermarket are the only way food makes it into their homes. Therefore, the decisions made during those trips to the supermarket can guide and limit food choices for the rest of the week. So what is the best way to shop in the supermarket, and how can you ensure you’re setting yourself up for a week of healthy eating? Read on to find out my top 3 tips to tackling the supermarket…
Always enter with an agenda
There are two types of people in this world – those who love lists and those who loathe them. When it comes to shopping in supermarkets, I believe that lists are absolutely essential! Lists are always great in helping you remember to buy everything that you need – there is nothing worse than arriving home from the supermarket, only to realise that you’ve forgotten a crucial ingredient for that night’s dinner!! But what if I told you that lists can also ensure you always make much healthier decisions? Studies have shown that tired or hungry individuals are far more likely to select foods that are higher in trans fats and sugar when shopping. Unfortunately, we can’t always time our shopping trips according to our moods. However, if we create a routine of writing lists when we are feeling refreshed and alert, then, no matter what mood we are in when entering the supermarket, we will always have a healthy game-plan. This means we’ll be less likely to be influenced by our ‘hangry’ selves while shopping and more likely to make decisions that support our health goals. Sticking to a list will also save time and money and make you less susceptible to impulse purchases.
Remain conscious and alert
This may sound obvious, but if you consider how many times you may enter the same supermarket over the course of a week, month or year, it is very easy to slip into ‘autopilot’ while shopping. Unfortunately, food companies take full advantage of this and catch vulnerable shoppers off guard. By strategically placing posters and products around the store, supermarkets can put ideas about food cravings into our heads that we wouldn’t have otherwise considered. This often occurs in the form of ‘limited edition’ flavours of popular foods, products at reduced prices and of course, those chocolates by the cash register just waiting for impulse buyers. It’s really important to enter the supermarket with clear intentions of what you’re shopping for and stop yourself when you realise you’re filling the trolley with soft drink simply because it’s half price.
Take control with knowledge
With thousands of different items lining the shelves, and a myriad of various “health” claims being plastered all over the packaging, it can be very difficult to determine which products are best and which ones should be left behind. Food items are packaged in a certain way to optimise sales. So, when companies notice that certain phrases such as ‘fat free’ or ‘no added sugar’ increase sales, they’ll likely take full advantage of them. These days, even foods like quinoa, which are naturally gluten free or low GI, are still labelled that way to grab consumers’ attention and entice them to buy those products. Therefore, it is vital that we gain our own understanding of what differentiates high quality items from well-marketed items so that we can make our own informed decisions.
Three Lifestyle Habits That Have Helped To Reduce My Anxiety
I hate change. It makes me anxious. I am somebody who loves living by a schedule and I become heavily reliant on routine. So, whenever I have gone through a period in my life when I knew I would experience a change of daily routine such as finishing university, changing jobs or even ending a relationship, I have experienced symptoms of anxiety. These symptoms include hot flushes and excessive sweating, a tight chest and difficulty breathing and a strange feeling where I can hear my own heart beating. Some of these symptoms last only a few minutes while others can last for days. This is why it was really important that I found effective strategies for minimising my anxiety so that it wouldn’t affect my day-to-day life. So here are my 3 lifestyle habits that can help me to keep anxiety at bay…
This one is obvious, because, naturally, yoga fixes everything! I started my yoga practise just over a year ago while going through a break up. I found that the only time that I wasn’t thinking about how sad I was and how difficult those past few weeks had been was when I was doing yoga. You see, while yoga may look pretty simple, it actually requires a lot of focus. So, I had no choice but to block everything out and concentrate on what my body was doing (seriously, I challenge you to hold dancer’s pose at full extension without thinking about anything other than that small speck on the wall in front of you). Yoga very quickly became like a refuge for me where I could enjoy a whole 75 minutes each day without dwelling on any of my worries.
Yoga is also very much about finding your breath and moving to your own rhythm. When I experience a tight chest, I can sometimes go days without being able to catch a full breath; and focusing on the fact that you can’t breathe can make your anxiety even worse! Switching off your mind during yoga allows you to simply move with your breath and as the flow of your movements become longer and more fluid, so does your breathing. It’s magic, really.
Walks in Nature
Nature is known to be very grounding. It carries an energy known as ‘alpha waves’ which are associated with the state of relaxation, intuition and creativity. If you can relate to a weekly routine of driving to the train station each morning, sitting in the office all day, eating lunch at your desk and then commuting straight home to bed, then you’re probably someone who would benefit from a big dose of Mother Nature! Our modern-day lives are very hectic and we can often get caught up in deadlines and emails and other day-to-day stressors. This is the type of headspace anxiety thrives in. So, taking the time (even if it’s just 10 minutes a day) to sit on the grass or go for a walk in a park can literally bring you back down to earth and relieve some of that stress. It may not make all of your problems and worries disappear but it will certainly help to alter your perspective and help you to gain some clarity within your busy mind.
Epsom Salt Baths
Who doesn’t love a good old bath at the end of a busy day? Well, simply adding a few cups of Epsom salts to your next hot tub session can make a world of difference. Epsom salts contain magnesium which is a well-known relaxant. It will help to relax your muscles and slow your mind while you lay back and enjoy. And don’t worry, if you don’t have a bath, you don’t have to miss out on all the fun! Epsom salts have the same effect when delivered via a foot bath. Simply fill a bucket with warm water and Epsom salts and place your feet in it while watching TV or reading a book. Note: For extra relaxation, try bribing your partner to give you a foot rub after your bath, because, well, you deserve it!
While you should always check in with a psychologist if you are experiencing any mental health issues, it is good to know there are some small lifestyle habits you can adopt to make each day just a little bit easier to get through
The Difference Between Satiation and Satisfaction, and Why They are Both So Important
Satiation is the physiological sensation of “fullness” we experience just after we’ve eaten. You know, that feeling you get that tells you to lie on the couch and unbutton your jeans after a big lunch? It has been scientifically proven that the most satiating macronutrient is protein. So, as long as your meal has a healthy dose of protein, you shouldn’t feel the need to eat for a while afterwards, right? Well, technically, yes! But, what about those days when you’re “full” from eating a substantial meal, but you still crave that little something extra – maybe a sweet treat, or some hot chips? This occurs when you’re not feeling satisfied, even though you may very well be satiated. The fact is, humans don’t always just eat for satiation – if that were the case we’d all be the perfect weight! Humans also eat for the emotional experience; we crave certain tastes and textures and that warm fuzzy feeling that our mum’s Spaghetti Bolognese gives us every time we return home.
Within my practice, I encourage my clients to ensure all of their meals are made up of protein, fat and fibre. I believe that this is the perfect recipe to ensure long-lasting satiation. However, eating something simply because it ticks all of the ‘nutritional boxes’ doesn’t necessarily make it the perfect meal – particularly if it causes us to continue to crave other foods and graze on snacks for hours afterwards. It would be so easy to recommend all of my clients to simply eat grilled chicken and broccoli or tuna salads on rotation for the rest of their lives in order to stay slim. But, I know for a fact that this wouldn’t achieve anything, because soon enough they’d start to feel unsatisfied and then the cravings and binges would take over again, leading them right back to square one.
So, how can we ensure that our meals are satiating and satisfying all at the same time, to avoid the desire to binge straight after eating?
Think About What You Feel Like Eating
The most important thing to remember is to always eat what you feel like eating. This can be as simple as channelling your senses; do you feel like something hot or cold, creamy or crunchy, mild or spicy, and then go from there. And remember, this isn’t a case of choosing between a healthy option and an unhealthy option! On the days you feel like something fresh, you may go for a salad or fresh rice paper rolls, while on the days you feel like something a little warmer you may go for a soup or a spicy vegetable stew
Make Small Adjustments
There is no need to completely rethink your lunch – the difference between satisfaction and dissatisfaction may just be a small change or addition to the meal you’ve already made. This could be a handful of crunchy nuts through your yoghurt or a honey-mustard dressing to add some creamy sweetness to your salad. Adding a few extra calories to your meals in this way may save you from a big calorie-filled binge later on in the day
Variety, Variety, Variety!
Mixing up your meals will not only ensure they remain exciting and emotionally pleasing, but it will also introduce you to many different flavours and textures that you may not have realised you love! This is particularly true for herbs and spices – the perfect way to slightly alter the flavour and heat of a dish while also enhancing the nutrient value
Understand Your Cravings
Take a moment to recognise your cravings and consider what may be causing them. This will help to identify exactly what you’re after so that you can satisfy your cravings as quickly as possible, in the healthiest way possible. For example, you may be dreaming of a sugary ice block, but if you delve a bit deeper and understand this is a craving for something sweet and refreshing, you may find that a fresh orange could do the trick just as well! Similarly, sometimes we can mistake hunger or cravings for thirst. Whenever you feel hungry directly after you’ve eaten a meal, have a big glass of warm water and wait 10 minutes before reassessing whether you really need that extra snack
Consider Your Mindset
Since satisfaction stems from our emotional relationship with food, always consider your mindset. If you are craving chocolate non-stop, and no amount of chocolate can satisfy you, then this may be an issue that goes beyond a lack of satisfaction from your meals. If this is the case, further intervention could be required. Simple activities like meditation, walking, yoga or some quality time with a friend may help you to reset your mindset so that you are less likely to turn to food for that emotional comfort
3 Simple Ways to Ensure Healthy Eating all the Time, Without Getting Bored
During the week, I do my best to only eat home-made meals. That way, I always know exactly what I’m eating, I can avoid hidden nasty ingredients, and it saves me a lot of money. But, I am also very conscious of the fact that when life gets very busy, our allotted time for preparing healthy home-made meals flies straight out the window! In fact, one of the main reasons that people turn to ordering in take away during the week is due to a lack of time and energy. So, here are 3 tips to ensure you can always have healthy home-made dishes without having to spend too much time or energy organising it.
Healthy Staples in the Kitchen
Having a well-stocked kitchen full of healthy staple ingredients means that you are always just a couple of components away from a beautiful whole meal. For me, these include onions, garlic, lemons, carrots, tomatoes, brown rice or quinoa, herbs and spices, and a good quality olive oil. Then, rather than having to guide your way through the entire supermarket every evening, all you have to do is pick up a couple of main ingredients such as a piece of fish and a couple bunches of vegetables, and you’re all set! Thinking of what you want to make for dinner on your way to the supermarket is a great way of saving time as it means you can enter the shops with a game-plan. Walk straight up to the few ingredients you need and get home as quickly as possible.
Create New Dishes Out of Leftovers
I love turning leftovers from dinner into a new meal for the next day’s lunch! It hardly involves any extra work, and you can easily manipulate the flavours so that it feels like a brand new meal. All you need to do is simply cook a bit extra of your main component at dinner time, and then save it for tomorrow. For example, if you make homemade burgers for dinner, use the left over burger patties as the protein for tomorrow’s salad. Or if you have some extra salad and vegetables left over from dinner, simply add some quinoa or lentils to it and there’s a beautiful lunch for work! Not only will this help to ensure you continue eating healthily into the next day, but it will also save you time and money – and you won’t feel like you are eating the same thing every day.
Make Large Quantities and Freeze
While I’m not the biggest fan of prepping an entire week’s meals in advance (read my take on food prepping here), I do love having frozen meals in my freezer as back up for when I get really busy. And just to be clear, I’m not referring to the ready-made frozen meals you’d buy in the freezer section of the supermarket. I’m talking about cooking up large quantities of my favourite home-made soups, stews, casseroles and curries that can easily be defrosted to form the basis of a meal. Simply prepare a large quantity of your favourite nourishing meal, and then divide it into containers of varying portion sizes to freeze i.e. a smaller container for a single portion size, and a larger container for a portion size to feed the family. You can also label each container with what’s in it and how many serves it contains so that you always know what you’ve got and how many people it will feed. As long as you’ve got a delicious meal in the freezer at home, there is no need to order take away. In fact, defrosting a home-made frozen meal is always faster, cheaper and far healthier than any type of home-delivery. Simply add a salad or some freshly steamed vegetables and you’re done!
Change your Mindset to Prevent Binge Eating
These days, binge eating is becoming more and more common. There are so many people who report experiencing such an overwhelming desire to over eat, they literally lose control. I believe this is very much a mental phenomenon that can be prevented by making small changes in our mindset. Here are some tips to alter the way we approach a binge so that we can consciously stop a simple indulgence from progressing into a binge eating session...
Remove the “Licence to Eat”
These days, there are so many excuses out there that permit people to engage in over-eating. One term that you may have heard within the health industry recently is ‘cheat days’ – whereby people are encouraged to schedule particular days to over-indulge in their favourite ‘junk foods’ so that they don’t feel deprived the rest of the time. Unfortunately, this behaviour can easily become an excuse to just binge for no particular reason. When I talk to my clients about why they engage in ‘cheat days’, the answer is often “I don’t know”. This indicates that they are simply following a popular trend, rather than listening to what their bodies need. Instead of scheduling a ‘cheat day’, I believe it is best to remove the idea of deprivation from your lifestyle and eat certain foods as your body desires them. It is natural to experience cravings from time to time, but, with adequate nutrition, good sleeping habits and a positive mindset, these cravings often subside and indulgences begin to occur less and less frequently – far less frequently than you may have scheduled them to occur!
Get to the Bottom of Your Need to Binge
As mentioned above, binge-eating can often stem from an emotional state that you may not realise is present. So, if you ever find yourself mindlessly chomping on biscuits in the pantry (like I have many times in the past!), consider that you may just be bored, tired or emotional. Becoming aware of the signs of when and why you feel like indulging will lead you to engage in this behaviour with more awareness and can ultimately help you to overcome this activity. If you recognise that you are actually bored or tired, not hungry, you may choose to disengage in the binge and rather go for a walk to occupy your mind or have a nap instead. While this may seem like a drastic move to begin with, you’ll find that you can teach yourself to make these intuitive decisions more often, rather than always resorting to food.
Forget About the Calories and Focus on the Emotional Aspect
If you are going to indulge every so often (which is perfectly healthy and something that I do myself!) then never consider the calories that are involved. If you keep track of the calories you are consuming during an indulgence, then you will constantly feel pressured to compensate for the excess calorie consumption later on. This often occurs in the form of burning extra calories through exercise or restricting dietary calories the next day. This mindset will always lead to feeling indebted to a calorie count – an equation that will never balance out. The truth is, our bodies do not function like simple mathematical equations; there are many more factors involved in how calories are burned within our bodies. If you consider an occasional indulgence as something that is good for the soul, a culinary experience or something that brightens your mood every so often (ensure it is not something you become reliant on!!) then you will eradicate the cycle of guilt and you can instantly move forward in a positive direction.
Make it a Social Experience
There is a fine line between indulging and binging. How many times have you sat down on the couch by yourself with a couple of TimTams and very good intentions, and then suddenly, you’ve eaten the entire packet. This is what I would classify as a binge. If you’re craving something sweet and are feeling like a little indulgence, I recommend that you call a friend and suggest a trip to your favourite ice cream parlour or cake shop. That way, you are limited to how much you can eat by the portion you are given (so you can’t ‘accidentally’ eat too much) and it becomes a positive social experience. This will help to dissipate any association you may have between feeling sad and food, because the focus is shifted from being entirely about what you ate, and becomes about the experience as a whole. It also paves the way for other healthy behaviours in the future that don’t necessarily involve food, like going to a yoga class or getting your nails done together.
Binge eating often occurs as a mindless activity, governed by the subconscious. By increasing your awareness of why you are binging, you will ultimately develop the ability to question your actions and disengage before it becomes an unhealthy cycle.
In many cases, binge eating is classified as an eating disorder. While the suggestions above may help the general population, if you feel that your binge eating behaviours are far more substantial, I would advise seeking the help of a psychologist.
Why I Never Miss a Monday
Mondays… even hearing that word can bring on a yawn. But what if I gave you some tips on how to use Monday to your advantage, and even make it the best day of your week? Read on to find out why I never miss a Monday.
Use it as a Day of Setting Intentions
Life can be very overwhelming. There are always so many thoughts and concerns about responsibilities, upcoming deadlines and unfinished tasks flooding our minds. I like to think of my goals as school projects, imagining each week to be a small task of the assignment. Rather than trying to comprehend an entire complex ‘project’ as a whole, I set myself small challenges each week that once achieved, will help me towards my ultimate aims. Therefore, Mondays are always my time to set my intentions for the week ahead, to ensure that week will be used effectively towards reaching my goal. Setting aside the time to go through that mental process of evaluating the previous week and setting intentions for the upcoming one can really be the difference between achieving our goals and not.
Give Yourself a Purpose
These days, it is so easy to fall into ‘the daily grind’, where our bodies take us through the motions of life, but our minds are always elsewhere (and sometimes even absent altogether). Starting your week by doing something for yourself, will give you a reason to get out of bed in the morning and a purpose for the rest of the week.
How many times have you told yourself that you’ll do something tomorrow, and then suddenly, 6 months later, you still haven’t done it? Committing yourself to a particular routine each Monday morning automatically eliminates a myriad of excuses that you could have made had you not literally forced yourself to do it. A lot of people have a mindset where if they miss an exercise class, or eat unhealthily early on in the week, they justify continuing those bad habits for the rest of the week. Begin each Monday on the right foot, and you will prevent this downward spiral from ever occurring.
Reset Your Body
I personally refrain from attending exercise classes on Mondays because I like to customise my session depending on my energy levels. If I am still feeling the pain from a big weekend of eating and drinking, I may just go for a shorter, slower walk. If I am feeling emotionally drained and need some down time, I may walk to the nearest park (or simply sit in my garden) and meditate for 20 minutes rather than doing anything too strenuous. And on the days that I jump out of bed, I push myself by going for a power walk, adding in some resistance exercises at the end. Whatever the case, I find that forcing myself out of bed on a Monday morning and spending some time in nature is the best way to recover and reset my body from the weekend and get straight back into routine for an effective week ahead.
How to Ensure your Next ‘Diet’ Becomes a Lifestyle Change
The definition of the word “diet”, as we know it, has evolved over time. It originates from the Greek word ‘diaita’, meaning ‘way of life’ or ‘daily habits’. Over the last century, this word “diet” has also come to represent something very different; it has morphed into a word that denotes restriction and deprivation. In fact, ‘diet’ is now listed in the Cambridge Dictionary as an adjective, used to describe food that has been modified from its original form so that it is reduced in sugar or fat, and often injected with artificial sweetener, like diet soft drink. Somehow, a word that was originally used to represent a lifestyle is now a word used to describe food that is no longer even real food.
So how can we take a step back in time and return to that place where the word “diet” had a positive connotation and didn’t represent the act of limiting food or caloric intake? Here are 5 ways to turn your diet back into a way of life…
Don’t Make it Just About Food; Incorporate Exercise Into it too
I am sure you have seen a number of quotes floating around your Instagram feed telling you that ‘diet is 80% nutrition and only 20% exercise’ or that ‘abs are made in the kitchen’. While there is no doubt that what we eat has an enormous impact on our health, I have noticed that a lot of my clients are using these sayings as an excuse to focus only on what they eat and ignore the need for physical activity. This is often where the ‘diet’ mentality creeps in; they believe that as long as they can control exactly what they are eating, right down to the gram, then it doesn’t matter how little exercise they do. Incorporating lifestyle back into the equation shifts the focus of being healthy away from restrictive eating and calorie control and more towards creating a lifestyle that promotes health through wholefoods, exercise, stress management, mood support and more – factors that have a far greater impact on health than just calories!
Don’t Be Defined or Limited by Your ‘Diet’
Let’s revisit the definition of diet as being a ‘way of life’. Life is always changing and our needs as humans are constantly evolving. While one particular diet may suit your lifestyle at one point, it may not suit your lifestyle later down the track. Don’t let a particular diet define you, and certainly don’t limit yourself in order to stick to it. For example, while a low-carbohydrate diet may really suit your lifestyle as a sedentary office worker, you may find that when chasing your kids around the park, you actually require a lot more energy. Similarly, you may have noticed that eating ‘paleo’ has really improved your health, but you find it difficult to stick to during social events. Listen to your body and by all means, find an eating pattern that suits you best, but don’t be scared to readjust those guidelines every so often as circumstances change. Always ensure you are fuelling your body with the energy it requires and allow yourself some leeway at the occasional dinner party, especially when you find yourself being offered a delicious piece of chocolate cake that you simply can’t refuse
Focus on What you Should be Eating
I wish I could convince all of my clients that there is no need for ‘diets’ and to just eat everything in moderation. However, I know that this mindset doesn’t work for everyone. Some people thrive on a strict regime, guiding them on what to eat. And this is why diets seem to be so popular. So, my advice to people who do decide to undertake a new diet is to focus on what they can eat, not what they can’t. It is important to remember that restricting the types of food that you eat also limits the variety of nutrients you are obtaining from your food on a daily basis. So, it is vital to ensure you are getting a wide variety of nutrients from as many different food sources as possible. Not only will this ensure that you remain sufficiently nourished at all times, but it also encourages creative eating and helps you to forget about all of the food that you aren’t eating – making it a far more sustainable exercise
Understand the Rationale Behind What you are Eating
If you do decide to follow a particular diet that involves restricting certain food groups, try your best to understand why. Sometimes following particular diets are necessary due to personal or religious values or particular health reasons. Unfortunately, these days, there are too many people following random diets without fully understanding why they would actually be beneficial. Before drastically changing the way that you eat, try and understand why you want to follow those eating guidelines in the first place; what it is about this particular diet that appeals to you, how this diet will impact your body, how you might have to alter your lifestyle in order adapt to those changes etc. This will help to shift the focus from being on a ‘restrictive diet’ to being on a lifestyle change that will benefit your overall health
Find What Works for You
Changing the way that you eat based on particular dietary guidelines can be a big commitment. Sometimes we can go for months following a certain diet before realising the effects it is having on our health. Rather than simply selecting a diet and following it dogmatically, remember that diets are created based on a general population – not on you! Be open to the fact that the diet that helped your next door neighbour lose 20kg may actually have a negative effect on your energy levels or cause you to experience severe mood swings. Take small steps to embarking on dietary changes so that you can properly identify which aspects of the diet are working for you and which ones aren’t. This way, you will be able to incorporate the positive aspects of that diet into your lifestyle, taking your eating and overall health into equal consideration
Let's Talk About Willpower
How many times have you been told that you can lose weight, you just need stronger willpower. You know, as long as you resist the temptation to eat cheese, chocolate, cake or carbs then you’ll be able to lose weight and sustain it for the rest of your life. Sounds pretty easy, right? Well maybe in theory it does. But how does it go in practice? Let’s have a look…
Being on a diet that relies solely on willpower, means that one must actively resist the foods that they love, constantly. And one thing that we know about willpower is that each time we put it to use, it becomes a tiny bit weaker. For example, consider you decided that you’d never eat dessert again. You’d sit there after dinner, watching all of your friends enjoying their ice cream and cakes. The first few times this occurred you’d feel really proud of yourself, but gradually you’d develop a craving for dessert again. It may begin with stealing a bite off your friend’s plate one night, until the next time it would be sharing a cake and ultimately, you’d be back ordering your own desserts again – sometimes even coming home to then devour more desserts because you just can’t control yourself. Suddenly, all the weight you’d lost whilst depriving yourself of desserts would creep back on. As you can see, not only is this form of dieting totally unsustainable, but it also soul-destroying when you beat yourself up for not being able to resist temptations.
When guiding my clients through weight-loss regimes I try my best to steer clear of the willpower technique. As you can see above, I just don’t think it works in the long term. Rather, I believe in creating a diet that keeps you physically full and emotionally satisfied so that you aren’t constantly relying on willpower to fight temptations. And, on the occasions when you do find yourself surrounded by indulgent foods, you’re able to put your willpower into practice and enjoy them within reason instead of losing all sense of control. Willpower works far better when it’s used in small amounts to complement a well-balanced diet.
Let’s face it though; even the healthiest people who live have the most balanced diets still experience cravings. So, how can you ensure that when you do find yourself surrounded by temptations that your willpower will be charged and ready to support you.
1. Stable blood-sugar levels – when you’re starving and your blood-sugar levels are at an all-time low your body is programmed to seek out energy dense foods for a quick energy hit. These days, those foods are usually chips and chocolate – the foods that most people trying to lose weight tend to avoid. So, ensuring you eat regularly and have enough fibre, fat and protein to keep your blood-sugar levels stable, your body won’t direct you towards the quick-fix types of foods
2. Being well rested – we all know that tiredness can cause all sorts of cravings, but being exhausted also limits our willpower and ability to resist those cravings
3. Positivity and self-love – when you come face-to-face with a tempting food and you’re really unsure whether or not to give in, reminding yourself of how far you’ve come and how much you deserve to feel your optimum will really help to persist with your new eating plan
4. Family and friends – surrounding yourself with positive support and people who encourage you to be your best is the greatest motivation and best way to build up your willpower. By contrast, if you find particular people in your life are putting you down or constantly tempting you to break away from your new lifestyle, remove them from your life! Those are the types of influences that will drain your willpower completely
5. Pursuing a hobby – when people start a new diet regime, they often dwell on the fact that they can’t eat all the foods they used to. Having a creative outlet will help to take your mind off of your diet and allow you to focus on a new interest or skill you can develop
6. Remaining flexible with your eating – if you only read one sentence of this blog, this is the one to read! Attempting to deny yourself all of your favourite foods will not do you any good. Trust me, I’ve tried! Allowing yourself to indulge in a treat every so often is the best way to renew your willpower as it will leave you feeling satisfied and refreshed and ready to continue on with your healthy eating plan without feeling completely deprived
Why Sleep is So Important For Weight Loss
So many clients who have come to see me for their first time sit across from me eagerly awaiting some revolutionary new-age advice that will help them to instantly get their life on track. And, while most of the advice that I give is in fact revolutionary and new-age, they are often left disappointed when I tell them to simply go home and sleep. From a young age our parents repeatedly told us that we had to sleep in order to grow big and strong. But was this just a ploy to get us out of their hair as early as possible every night or were they really onto something? Let’s find out…
Growth Hormone Release
Many people assume that their muscle mass increases instantaneously while training at the gym. However, this is not the case. In fact, muscle is actually broken down during exercise and repairs itself afterwards, during sleep. This is all thanks to the release of a hormone known as Growth Hormone. This hormone helps with tissue repair throughout our bodies and is responsible for turning our fat stores into muscle following a workout. It also is facilitates a number of other processes that are important for weight loss such as regulating blood-sugar levels and liver regeneration.
This may sound totally obvious but I’m going to say it anyway… Having a proper night’s sleep will give you great energy the next day! While we can all cope with getting through a day having had little or no sleep the night before, trying to do this on a regular basis can be detrimental for your health and your weight. You see, being generally exhausted will not only reduce your likelihood of attending your scheduled exercise classes but it will probably also limit the amount of incidental physical movement you engage in throughout the day. Furthermore, it has been shown that people who are tired are more likely to crave energy-dense foods and binge. No matter how good your diet and exercise regime is, if you are running low on energy, there is no way those efforts will be sustained.
Sometimes, as good as our intentions may be, there are chemicals inside our bodies that may have other ideas. These are known as hormones. When they are in the right balance, they are our best friends but when they are out of balance they can cause serious havoc on our health. One of the best ways of rebalancing our hormones is through sleep! Two hormones that are greatly affected by our quality of sleep are cortisol and serotonin. Cortisol is a stress hormone and, when imbalanced, can cause many issues such as extreme exhaustion, weight gain, lowered immunity, blood-sugar imbalance and high blood pressure. Sleeping reduces cortisol levels after a stressful day, placing it back into balance for when you wake up. By contrast, serotonin, our ‘happiness hormone’ is increased when we sleep. Serotonin enhances our mood and energy levels while also balancing appetite, regulating sleeping patterns and improving overall cognitive function.
Get Through the Festive Season Without Compromising Your Health
The festive season is a time for enjoyment with family and friends. But this can often be laced with dread as we worry about the effects the food and alcohol is going to have on our bodies. During a time when we want to feel energetic and confident, we are faced with parties and barbecue lunches all involving a plethora of food and drinks we wouldn’t usually consume. But never fear – here are my top tips to getting through the festive season without compromising your health
Bring Your Own Dish
This is an oldie but a goodie! Typically, the menu at a barbecue will comprise mostly of meat, bread and beers. There is no knowing whether there will be any vegetable or salad options for you to munch on while you’re trying to limit your consumption of the heavier foods. So, the best way to ensure there’s always something for you to eat is to bring your own dish! And don’t worry, you don’t need to be the ‘buzz kill’ of the party – there are plenty of healthy dishes that everyone will enjoy. Head over to my Top 5 Dishes To Ensure a Healthy Festive Season for some great ideas
Don’t Give Up Exercising
The festive season is usually a time where we eat and drink a lot more than we usually would. But, while your eating patterns may change during this period, there is no reason that your exercise regime should! Try your best to keep up your usual exercise and even add in some long walks or hikes with friends in between partying. This will keep your metabolism firing to cope with the extra burden being placed on your body during this time. It will also help to clear your head and get some much needed alone time amongst all the socialising
Sparkling Water is Your Friend
Drinking is a very social activity and I would never advise my clients to alienate themselves in a social environment. However, drinking alcohol in large quantities over an extended period of time can put a lot of pressure on your liver, your waistline and your mental state. So, while it is perfectly healthy to indulge when you want to, I have an easy trick for the times when you just want to take it slow – sparkling water with lemon and lime. Not only will this help to hydrate and alkalise between drinks, but it also feels and looks as though you are sipping on a party drink like everyone else, so you won’t be raising any unwanted attention to yourself
Sometimes you just have to say no! Summer is a time for going on holidays, catching up with friends and celebrating each other. And, while there is often a lot of pressure to go to every single event, sometimes you just have to say no. As an introvert, I find turning down invitations to certain events rather easy – sometimes a little too easy, actually! But when you are bombarded with breakfasts, lunches, dinners, Christmas parties and weddings back-to-back, it is inevitable that you will start to feel burnt out and become completely exhausted. So, if your sister’s best friend’s cousin’s daughter’s boyfriend is having a party that you really don’t feel like going to, say no! It may seem difficult at first, but once you get used to the idea it will become a lot easier. You’ll be able to sift through the invites that are important to you and acknowledge the one’s that you could happily miss. Trust me, it’s really liberating! Not only does this give you some time to rest and recuperate, but it also allows you to save your energy for the parties that you do want to attend rather than being constantly exhausted at every event
Back in the days when I used to engage in fad dieting and obsess over everything I ate, I found social events very difficult. I was confronted with mountains of food I had deemed to be unhealthy and it took every bone in my body not to eat it, while watching everybody around me enjoying it all. It took me a while, but I finally realised that I was only causing myself anxiety. So, I taught myself to let go and enjoy. It’s so important not to overlook the power of eating and drinking (in moderation) with your closest friends. The positive effects of letting go and enjoying the moment is far more valuable than avoiding the “damage” you may believe certain foods or drinks may have on your body
5 Ways to Detox your Body Without Going on a Juice Cleanse
Lack of appetite, exhaustion, bloating, acne, PMS, high cholesterol, weight gain… these are just a few signs that your liver may not be functioning to its fullest potential. So, it may be time for a little detoxification. But, before you invest hundreds of dollars into the latest juice cleanse, why not make a few small changes in your diet and lifestyle first. I can guarantee it won’t cost nearly as much money, and it is far more sustainable than the short-term effects of a 5-day fast.
1. Avoid Coffee, Alcohol and Processed Foods
This one is a biggie! Although this may be the most difficult habit to curb, it is actually the most effective. It’s quite simple, really – the best way to improve your liver’s function is to remove the factors that are causing it excess strain. By reducing your coffee, alcohol and processed food intake, you’ll be lifting a massive weight off your liver’s shoulders, allowing it more energy to process other toxins or chemicals that it may be struggling to get rid of. And, on the plus side, you may realise that you feel much better without processed foods in your diet, or can function quite well without that second coffee each day or glass of wine each night, saving you a lot of liver power and money in the future!
2. Increasing Foods that Support Liver Function
This is my favourite approach to supporting your liver health for a number of reasons: a) because it involves food, b) because these changes are so easy and affordable you won’t even notice you’re doing them and c) because they are totally sustainable! By simply introducing a few different liver-loving foods into each meal you can ensure that your liver is receiving all of the nutrients it needs to get through the day, every day. The best part about this is that you are probably already eating most of these foods daily without even realising how good they are for you! Some of my favourite liver foods are:
- Foods high in flavonoids such as beetroot, apples, onions
- Foods rich in glutathione (a potent antioxidant utilised by the liver) including avocado, walnuts, spinach and grapefruit
- Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and brussel sprouts
- Antioxidant-rich fruits such as berries, kiwifruit and oranges
- Herbal teas such as green tea and dandelion root tea (this is a great substitute for coffee as it has that deliciously bitter, creamy taste!)
- Herbs and spices such as turmeric, thyme and oregano
3. Tongue Scraper
So this one may seem completely crazy but I can guarantee you, once you try this, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it! The foundation behind this practice is as follows; as we sleep, all of the toxins, dead cells and “bad” bacteria that are being processed by our internal organs are displaced into moist areas in our bodies, mainly our mouths. When scraping your tongue in the morning, you will be removing layers of bacteria-containing mucous that you would never have known were there. Had you not removed those layers of mucous, you’d simply continue to swallow those toxins back into your stomach via your saliva throughout the day. By simply scraping your tongue a couple of times in the morning, you will help to continually reduce the chance of millions of unwanted bacteria and toxins re-entering your body each day.
4. Deep Breathing
I’m sure this one has got you a little bewildered. I can imagine you’re probably thinking about how you’ve been breathing for decades and you’re already an expert. But, if you take a quick moment to think about your breath, you may notice that it’s fairly shallow. As adults in today’s society, leading busy and stressful lives, it is very rare that we would engage in deep breathing. We release 70% of our toxins through breath, in the form of carbon dioxide. However, with constant shallow breathing, we are preventing our bodies from fully performing this task. Simply taking 5-10 long deep breaths everyday can hugely increase the amount of toxins you release. And the good news is, this doesn’t have to impact on your routine at all – this can be done while you’re lathering your hair in the shower, sitting in the car at a traffic light, or while waiting for your porridge to cook. All you have to do is quickly remind yourself, and then do as many slow, deep breaths as you can in that moment.
5. Far Infrared Sauna
We all love a good sweat, especially when it can be achieved by simply sitting or lying down. Unfortunately though, due to a sedentary lifestyle, anti-persperant deodorants and tight, synthetic clothing, there are many people that barely reach a sweat on a regular basis. Our skin is our biggest organ and one of the main channels through which our bodies excrete toxins. So, working up a sweat regularly helps to excrete all of those toxins our livers have been working hard to neutralise. While exercising daily is the best way to reach a sweat, sometimes we require a little boost, and the infrared sauna is a great method for this. Infrared saunas produce a far more toxic sweat, ridding your body of 3 times as many toxins as any other sauna. While a visit to an infrared sauna can be a bit costly, their effects are long-lasting. So, whether you visit once a week or once a month, you will notice a big difference in your health!
While many people advocate giving our livers a big overhaul or ‘reboot’, sometimes they actually just need a little bit of TLC. So give these 5 simple tips a go – trust me, you don’t need to experience headaches or hunger in order to make a difference to your health!