What are you eating?

The last five rules you’ll ever need to know about food are right here. If you care about your inner health, read on…

It astounds me as to how many people are walking around in the world today that do not know they have a body attached to their head! Sometimes I feel like shouting out,”Look down, there’s a body there, it’s yours so look after it”. Your body is a “patient” organism. It tries to accommodate the environment you create for it. Your body will work hard to digest the inorganic, processed, nutrient-void “foods” it is fed, the excessive amount of alcohol that can be poured into it and the chemicals it has to deal with day after day after day.

One day however, it will start to rebel in order to protect itself. You may feel bloated, tired, overweight, lethargic, and then the “lifestyle diseases” will set in. Who’s to blame?

Rule 1: If you can’t do it for life, it won’t work!

Think about it. Regardless of whatever else you do in your life, there are a few certainties and eating is definitely one of them. You will have to do this for some time to come so why not develop a good, healthy relationship with food. What is the number one reason for eating? If you answered for enjoyment, then you’re wrong. You already know the correct answer to this question. It is to feed your body the essential nutrients it needs to sustain life.

But let’s face it, are you happy with just sustaining life? Don’t you want to live your best life, have energy to last throughout the day, play with your kids or grandkids without stopping to rest? Afterall, if you plan to live till at least 100 years old ( I know I certainly am), then you need your body to keep up with you. Therefore supplying it with the proper nutrients is essential to maintain good health.

Diets don’t work because they are not maintainable. If you can’t do it for life, that means forever, then you are almost guaranteed to fail. Don’t implement a strategy that is designed to fail, then medicate yourself with food once that failure is complete. That sounds like a self fulfilling prophecy to me! Eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes and whole grains, along with drinking plenty of water will ensure you are treating the body right. If you focus on the inside, the outside will take care of itself!

Rule 2: Does it grow that way?

This is my personal mantra and can basically summarise many years of study and research in one small, simple sentence!

Does the food on your plate, what you had for lunch, or are going to have for dinner actually GROW that way? What tree does the bowl of fruit loops your child had for breakfast grow on exactly? Where did that lo-cal, cholesterol lowering, salt reduced, I can’t believe it’s not butter, margarine looking lard substance you spread on your toast this morning come from? Do you  really want to know the answer to that question? Really?

What are the ramifications of all these substitutes, processed foods in the long run?

If you keep rule number 2 in mind whenever you go shopping for your groceries, when choosing something from a menu at a restaurant, when you decide what you’ll prepare for dinner or buy for lunch, chances are you’ll be eating the right thing. Choosing fresh fruit and veg is an obvious choice. Healthy lean meats, wholemeal or whole wheat pasta, brown rice, legumes all pretty much grow that way. Are you starting to see the picture?

Make it your mantra too!

Rule 3:  How many processes did your food have to go through to GET to your plate?

Many foods are great to eat raw. They retain their nutrients, are rich in flavours not to mention life saving anti-oxidants but there are some foods better eaten  cooked.

Meats are the obvious one here, chicken, fish and some seafood. Let’s use fish as an example. How many processes does a fish have to go through, from swimming in the sea to becoming a “fish finger” crumbed and battered on your plate cooked to a golden brown? Can’t say I’ve seen too many fish fingers swimming around in the ocean lately!

If the main reason we eat is to sustain life, to aid cell recovery, to help boost energy levels, concentration levels at school or work, how will this be achieved if the food we’re eating has had the nutrients processed out of it? More and more manufacturers are now adding artificial Omega 3 & 6 to foods. Everything from frozen fish fillets to milk! It seems like the popular thing to do, to add synthetic vitamins to food. Why not simply add walnuts or some avocado to your snack time or dinner?

Your body is a natural, organic living organism. It recognises substances which are organic, chemical and hormone free food, not artificially coloured, flavoured, preserved and irradiated food.  Adding foods and chemicals your body doesn’t recognise causes a long list of health problems.

Rule 4: If it’s white it’s not alright.

Sure, the wheat that makes your bread will have to be processed to be made into an edible form but let’s keep some of the nutrients in it by choosing to eat wholemeal.

White bread is JUNK FOOD.

Stop giving it to your kids, stop eating it yourself. Your body does not recognise it and then you wonder why you feel bloated! Good thing those manufacturers remembered to ADD fibre back in after they pummeled it out. And then they dare to advertise they actually did it!

Of course if the pummeling didn’t kill the nutrients, then the bleaching surely will! If you wouldn’t pour bleach on your skin then why would you ever consider putting it inside your body? Eating bleached flour in white bread is synonymous to that. Think about it.. Did it grow that way?

Did the garlic that you crushed for dinner to add to your bleached white pasta grow that way or has it been discoloured to a lilly white for aesthetic purposes? What’s the result of all these bleached foods entering your body daily?

Rule 5: Drink water, just plain water.

I know there has been a lot of talk about how much water we should drink and how to drink it and the information varies with each article. Reader beware!

Many people will drink a variety of different drinks and think they are keeping themselves hydrated. The fact, is water is digested in several ways in the body. It is digested through the small intestine along with all foods, through the kidneys and also through the large intestine. No other nutrient is digested like this. The body is designed like this for a reason, so it can maximize the amount of water it absorbs.

Many article that I have read (some which have been written by unqualified authors) suggest that drinking tea, coffee and many other forms of beverage (including soft/soda drinks) all add to the daily count of water intake. Remember, for every cup of caffeinated beverage you drink, black tea, coffee, Coke etc… you lose an equal amount of water from your body. So, if you’re aiming at drinking 2 litres or water or 8 glasses, as is the average recommended amount, then proceed to have 1 cola drink, 2 coffees and a tea throughout the day, you are actually down to 4 glasses of water for that day. This means you are in H2O deficit.

Remember, drink plain water as often as you can. You don’t have to like it, you just have to drink it!

Add these five simple rules to your daily thought processes and the way you look at food will change for the best. When you next look down, your body will be smiling back up at you!

10 Good Reasons To Go Organic

There’s no better time to choose organic than right now. Your health WON’T wait! Here’s how…

Organic growers aim to produce food as naturally as possible, free from trans-fats, artificial additives, harmful chemical pesticides/herbicides and considers animal welfare and sustainability. Biodynamic farming is a form of organic farming that actively works with the health-giving forces of nature.

When our food is organic, it is produced in an organic farming system without the use of synthetic chemicals or genetically modified organisms. Organic systems recognise that our health is directly connected to the health of the food we eat and the health of the soil. Soil health is critical in producing wholesome products without the use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides.

In the production of animal products, animal welfare is also an important issue with only free-range animals allowed and under the Australian Organic Standards, cages are not permitted. Parasite problems in farm animals are controlled through regularly moving the animals to fresh pasture and other preventative methods, unlike conventional farming where animals are routinely dosed with massive doses of antibiotics and other drugs.

1. Organic food tastes better. Organic farming starts with the nourishment of the soil, which leads to the nourishment of the plant and our palate. Many people prefer organic food because it tastes better.

2. Organic food production helps protect future generations. The average child receives approximately four times more exposure than an adult to at least eight widely used cancer causing pesticides in food. Food choices made in the family and community now determine our children’s health.

3. Organic food has higher levels of nutrients. There is now a massive indication through research findings that show organic food is far superior in vitamin, mineral and nutrient content. They are especially higher in antioxidants, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. Organic foods have higher levels (up to six times) of salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is produced naturally in plants as a protective compound against stress and disease. Salicylic acid acts as an anti-inflammatory and helps combat hardening of the arteries.

4. Organic farming methods prevent soil erosion and build healthy soils. Organic farms protect the environment by employing natural systems to build healthy soil rather than relying on synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. Compared to soils on conventional farms, organically farmed soils have been shown to have less nitrogen leaching, denser nutrient content for plants to utilise and less runoff and erosion.

5. Organic farming helps protect water quality. Pesticides and other chemicals widely used in conventional farming contaminate ground water and rivers and pollute primary sources of drinking water.

6. Organic food is free of artificial additives. Organic food doesn’t contain food additives which can cause health problems such as heart disease, osteoporosis, migraines and hyperactivity. The use of antibiotics, anti-microbials, hormones and other growth promotants are prohibited in organic production. In the case that animals are treated with veterinary drugs or chemicals, they are prohibited from being sold as organic. The use of synthetic chemicals as preservatives, colourings are also prohibited in the processing of organic foods.

7. Chemical residues are missing or at very low levels in organically produced food. Many studies show that most conventionally farmed foods have pesticide and other chemical residues. Over 400 chemical pesticides are routinely used in conventional farming and residues are often present in non-organic food. Research has shown that these chemicals are known to cause cancer. These chemicals can also lead to nervous and endocrine problems.

8. Organic food production uses less energy than conventional food production. Modern conventional farming uses more petroleum than any other industry. More energy is now used to produce synthetic fertilisers than to till, cultivate and harvest crops. Organic farming is still based on labour intensive practices such as hand weeding, green manure, and cover crops instead of chemicals.

9. Certified organic means GE/GM free. Genetically modified organisms are not allowed under the strict organic certification standards.

10. Organic food has lower nitrates levels. The use of soluble chemical fertilisers has resulted in high nitrate concentrations in many conventionally farmed foods, especially in fruits and vegetables.  High nitrate levels in food and drinking water are converted to carcinogenic nitrosamines. Nitrates have been shown to impair the ability of the blood to carry oxygen, and may pose a risk of methemoglobinemia.

Source: Organic Federation of Australia

Top 5 Exercise Excuses

Excuse 1: I’m too tired

Energy creates energy! Go for a fast walk or run and tell me you don’t feel more energetic when you finish than you did before you started. The motion of exercise be it running, walking, playing tennis, taking the stairs or even vigorous housework raises the heart rate and this in turn gets the blood pumping around the body even faster. This is a good thing. It kickstarts stagnant circulation, efficiently delivers oxygen and nutrients, and awakes a sluggish metabolism. These are the real reasons you’re tired! Poor health, lack of sleep, inactivity and dehydration are what make you tired. The body was designed to move. You may not always feel like exercising, but focus on how you will feel afterwards.

Excuse 2: I don’t have the time

I have heard this excuse almost every single day over  the years I have been working in the health and fitness industry! There is ALWAYS time. In a whole week, if you have time to read the paper, time to have a several coffees, time to watch tv or chat on the phone, you can allocate the same time to do your exercise or cook a healthy meal. Many work places these days offer lunchtime classes or go for a walk around the block in your lunch break. Take the stairs, park further away so you can walk a little longer to your destination, do ten push ups a day. It all counts. You HAVE heard all these suggestions before, so why aren’t you doing them? Not enough time? No such thing!

Excuse 3: My body hurts after exercise

You may feel a little sore after the first few days of exercise. An inactive body doesn’t suddenly adjust to vigorous exercise. Start slowly and work within your own fitness level. Slow down if you feel your heart rate has climbed too high or you can’t handle the pace and catch back up in your own good time. Never feel pressure to keep up with the rest of the class if you’re participating in a group exercise class. Alway work out at your own pace to ensure you don’t damage any muscle fibres. You will start to see results much faster if you have a sensible approach to exercise.

Excuse 4: I’m too embarrassed

Worrying about what other people think will not help you in achieving your health and fitness goals. Staying away from exercise won’t help you reduce body fat stores, increase strength and endurance or tone up. Other people’s opinions will also not lower your cholesterol and hypertension therefore potentially adding to your quality of life. I have worked in the fitness industry for many years and have often heard this comment. What you need to realise is that people are way too busy looking at themselves to actually notice you! You don’t have to go near a gym to exercise. Just walking, skipping, doing push ups or exercising at home is enough to get your fitness momentum going. So don’t sweat the small stuff, save it for the workout!

Excuse 5: Any excuse concerning the weather

I live in Melbourne and I know all about weather! Melbourne, Australia is famed for having four seasons in one day. You can guarantee that there’ll be times you have planned to exercise and it’s too hot, too windy, too cold or far too wet. That’s why you need an alternative for bad weather days. Go for a swim if it’s too hot, the gym if it’s wet or try some exercises at home. Lunges and abdominal exercises will work around 70% of your muscles. Push ups are another efficient exercise which works almost your entire body.

If you want to learn how to do push ups correctly and at the same time, build up your strength, tone your body and discover your core stability, http://hundredpushups.com/ is a great resource from beginner to advanced.

Go out and GET the results you want, don’t just wish for it to happen!

Strong to the core

Stiff neck? Aching lower back? What’s holding you upright if you don’t do anything to exercise your core muscles?

What is my “core”?

You rely on your body to get out of bed, to lift your children, to perform your job and to move around with ease every day.  While our limbs provide mobility and strength, it is our body’s core that provides the basis of each movement. Your core is the midsection of your body, from your shoulders to your groin – basically everything in between your arms and legs. The core includes the pelvis, abs, back and chest muscles. It is this core that offers stability, balance and flexibility.

Every movement you make originates in the core – whether you are reaching for a snack or running a marathon. If the core is not properly conditioned, it will limit your ability to move freely and will leave you open to injury. Remember, the most common sites of injury are usually the parts between your arms and legs!.

Working the muscles in your core will improve the effectiveness of movements in your limbs. Most exercise routines focus on building muscle predominantly in your limbs and superficial muscles. By creating a stable strong base, you can optimize the strength and flexibility of each limb.

How do I strengthen my core?

As a physio, I have treated many patients whose main reason for injury was poor strength and lack of flexibility in their torso. The Pilates method of training targets the deep postural muscles of the abdomen and spine to improve overall central core stability and posture. This system of exercise strengthens the entire body from the deepest layers of muscle to the most superficial and also corrects imbalances or weaknesses.

It was devised by Joseph Pilates in the 1920’s. He believed that our modern life-style, bad posture, and inefficient breathing were the roots of poor health and ultimately devised a series of exercises that could be performed on the floor (mat pilates) or equipment based pilates.

Even if there are minimal or no weaknesses present, it gives the body a solid foundation from which to work.

For example, when I first started participating in pilates classes, I thought as a runner, my body and abs were quite strong. I quickly discovered muscles that had been untouched by traditional exercise. Obviously, pilates was able to address any strength or endurance issues in those muscle groups. After a 6 week break from running (for injury rehab) which included pilates classes only twice a week, I went back to running my usual route and couldn’t believe the faster times I was achieving in my long runs.

I soon discovered, as my core became stronger, it supported my upper body weight with ease. This freed up my legs to focus on running and propel me forward instead of supporting upper body weight AND running. In other words, this type of strength translates to any sport one plays as the body is literally able to support it’s own spinal and upper body weight more efficiently than if the core was unconditioned. I sometimes liken it to having strong arms and legs attached to an eggshell foundation or attached to a brick foundation. This is the difference core conditioning exercises can make to your overall strength.

Exercises I can do?

Many Pilates exercises are great muscle-toners that work large muscle groups beyond just the abs and lower back. The Plank position effectively works almost every muscle in the body in one move! Leg kicks work the glute and hamstring muscles very well.  Squats and lunges are the best lower-body exercises around, working the quadriceps, the hamstrings, and the glutes whilst engaging the core musculature for stability. Some great core strengthening exercises can be found at these sites:






It is important to perform all movements with maximum control to ensure it is you that is managing your body and limbs and not use gravity or momentum.

As always, please consult your doctor before embarking on any new fitness program, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition or have not exercised in a long time.

Running keeps you young

Regular running slows the effects of ageing according to a new study…

We have known for a while now that exercise has been shown to improve many health outcomes and the well being of people of all ages. I know that I am fitter this year than I was last year and every year seems to follow this same pattern. I started slowly, walking of course with a few metres of running. This slowly increased from metres to minutes, then the minutes led to solid jogging then running. After a while, someone suggested a fun run and I looked at them bewildered. How could they put those two words in the same sentence? Needless to say, I tried one and never looked back….

But don’t take my word for it, see what the experts have to say on the matter:

According to a study published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine,  running and other vigorous exercise in middle age is associated with longer life. There was also a stronger correlation between continued mobility and running well into the runners nineties compared to the non runners. Runners were younger, leaner and less likely to smoke.

When Professor James Fries and his team began this research in 1984, many scientists thought vigorous exercise would do more harm than good for people in their age group.

Professor Fries team began tracking 538 runners over age 50, comparing them to a similar group of non runners. The subjects, now in their 70s and 80s, have answered yearly questionnaires about their ability to perform everyday activities such as walking, dressing and grooming, getting out of a chair and gripping objects. Nineteen years into the study, 34 percent of the non runners had died, compared to only 15 percent of the runners.

The effect of running on delaying death has also been more dramatic than the scientists expected. Not surprisingly, running has slowed cardiovascular deaths but has also been associated with fewer early deaths from cancer, neurological disease, infections and other causes.

“The study has a very pro-exercise message,” said James Fries, MD, an emeritus professor of medicine at the medical school and the study’s senior author. “If you had to pick one thing to make people healthier as they age, it would be aerobic exercise.”

So, the message is loud and clear: To ward of lack of mobility and live a long and healthy life, put those sneakers on and head outside. The power is in your hands!

Motivating you

Get out of bed! Time to get serious about your workouts…and your health.

Your alarm goes off at 5:30 am, you press snooze and fall back asleep.  Ten minutes later you’re pressing snooze again. Now your alarm is interrupting your sleep for the third time. You now realise it’s decision time – do I get up and go for my workout, go to the gym, swim my laps, do the class? “It’s raining outside or it’s too hot” you tell yourself. “I’m still tired, I’ll do it at the end of the day”…. Do you have THIS conversation with your pillow every morning?

You will never win an argument with your pillow.

So don’t start one! This is the point where you have to take charge of your health and fitness so don’t give in to temptation. Don’t let your pillow rule your fitness! At this early hour of the day, you’re decision making ability is still far behind, approximately somewhere in the pasture with all the sheep you were counting not long ago. After a long day at work, you’re ability to rationalise once fatigue has set in, is somewhere in the same pasture! If you are aiming  to become or are a morning exerciser, there will always be good reasons to stay in bed. And as a personal trainer and instructor of early morning classes for almost 10 years, I have heard them all!  Your bed will always be too cosy and just the right temperature. Your pillow is instantly the object you most desire. If you are an evening exerciser, the couch will be too comfortable. So stop talking to the furniture and get up already!

You must have a plan

Decide the night before or plan the week ahead, what your workout routine is going to be for the next day or for that week. Don’t tell yourself you’ll get there soon, make a date. It is imperative you write it down, diarise  it, and get the satisfaction that you can tick it off, goal attained!

Be organised

Lay out your workout gear the night before if you’re a morning exerciser so you don’t have to think about clothing, water bottles or towel first thing. Lay out your clothing so the transition from work clothes to gym attire is an easy one. We all know that sometimes, getting to the gym is the hardest part!

Don’t think about it, just do it

Depending on your lifestyle, you may not have much flexibility in your daily routine but if you find you have been missing more sessions than your hip pocket can justify, you may need to consider the switch to morning exercise. If you are too busy at work to make it to that class on time so then don’t exercise at all that day or too tired from a full day to even think about a barbell, do it fresh, first thing in the morning, get it out the way and then it’s done. Statistics show that morning exercisers are more consistent with their exercise habits regardless of other work, family, life issues than non morning exercisers. Maybe it’s time to switch.

Think about it. What have you go to lose?

Cramps and stitches

Cramps and stitches, who needs them? Here’s the lowdown…

What is a cramp?

Cramp is a sudden, tight and intense pain that most commonly occurs in the leg muscles especially the gastrocnemius (calf), hamstrings (back of thigh) and quadriceps (front of thigh). It can range from a slight twinge to an excruciating pain, and may last for a few seconds or several minutes.  A cramp can be a one-off occurrence or repeat several times before the muscle relaxes and the pain goes away.

The cause:

  • Cramp is caused when a muscle involuntary and forcibly contracts and does not relax. Cramp is more likely to occur in tired muscles therefore poor fitness or exercising at high workloads can increase the likelihood.  Inadequate stretching may also contribute.
  • Dehydration may contribute to cramp especially when fluid and sodium losses are high.  Sodium is involved in initiating nerve signals that make muscles contract.  A deficit of sodium and fluid may “irritate” muscles causing them to contract uncontrollably.
  • Cramp has been attributed to the depletion of potassium and minerals such as calcium and magnesium. It has been suggested that magnesium is relocated in the body during exercise rather than lost in sweat.  Therefore, a magnesium imbalance in relation to other electrolytes such as sodium and potassium may be involved.
  • The use of creatine has been linked to cramps, based on anecdotal reports from athletes and the hypothesis that a creatine-loaded muscle cell may become so “full” with the storage of creatine and fluid, that the integrity of the membrane is disrupted. This theory is currently being tested in research studies.

Treatment of cramps:

  • Allow adequate recovery and rest after hard training sessions.
  • Increase strength and fitness. Stronger muscles are more resilient to fatigue and cramps.Remember, fatigued muscles take longer to adapt to increased workload so progress slowly.
  • Wear comfortable, unrestrictive clothing and footwear.
  • Stay well hydrated during exercise by drinking appropriate amounts of fluid.
  • Stretching helps to decrease the muscle contraction and allow the muscle to relax.
  • Massaging the area may help to alleviate pain.
  • When cramps are severe, applying ice can stop the spasm and help to relieve pain.

Does cramp indicate a more serious problem?

In most cases, cramps are a temporary event and do not lead to serious problems. You should always see your doctor if cramps are severe, occur regularly, fail to improve with simple treatment or are not related to obvious causes such as strenuous exercise.

What is a stitch?

Stitch is a localised pain usually felt on the side, just below the ribs.  It is sometimes accompanied by a stabbing pain in the shoulder joint.  The pain can range from sharp or stabbing to mild cramping, aching or pulling.  Sometimes people can exercise through the pain however, usually the sufferer is forced to slow down or stop exercising.  The pain usually eases within a few minutes after ceasing exercise although some people do experience soreness for a few days. A stitch seems to be more prevalent in activities that involve vigorous upright, repetitive movement of the torso.  Activities such as running and horse riding may be more prone to stitch but it can occur in any type of activity.

The cause:

Scientists are unsure of the exact cause of stitch.  For some time, stitch was thought to be caused by a reduction in blood supply to the diaphragm in favour of supplying the large muscle groups. This theory has since lost popularity as both the diaphragm and the limb muscles need to work harder during exercise so it is unlikely that an inadequate blood flow is directed to the diaphragm.

A more recent idea is that stitch is caused by irritation of the parietal peritoneum. Two layers of membrane, the peritoneum, line the inside wall of the abdominal cavity. One layer covers the abdominal organs. The other layer, the parietal peritoneum attaches to the abdominal wall. The two layers are separated by lubricating fluid which allows the two surfaces to move against each other without irritation. The parietal peritoneum is attached to a number of nerves. It is thought that the stitch occurs when there is friction between the abdominal contents and the parietal peritoneum. This friction may be caused by a distended (full) stomach or a reduction in the lubricating fluid.

Eating and drinking inappropriately prior to exercise may exacerbate stitch by causing a full stomach or dehydration. Poor fitness, an inadequate warm up and exercising at high intensity may also be factors. A sudden change in biomechanics such as increased stride length or frequency may increase the risk of stitch by affecting the way that the torso moves.

How can I avoid stitch?

•     Eating too closely to exercise or consuming inappropriate foods and fluids seems to exacerbate the stitch.

•     Concentrated fluids such as soft drink and cordial empty slowly from the stomach therefore are likely to lead to a fuller stomach.  Water and sports drink empty more quickly and are a better option.  It is also preferable to adopt a pattern of consuming small amounts of fluid at frequent intervals during exercise rather then trying to drink large volumes all at once.

•     Stitch may also be minimised by following a training schedule that progressively increases in intensity and duration. Sudden increases in intensity are more likely to cause stitch.  It is much better to start at an easy level and slowly build up.

How should stitch be treated?

Sometimes the stitch eases if you slow down and drop your intensity for a period.  However, the most common way to alleviate stitch is to bend forward while pushing on the affected area and breathing deeply.

Another option is to lie down and elevate your hips.

Does stitch indicate a more serious problem?

The stitch is rarely a sign of more serious problems.  However, any pain that is persistent and does not ease when exercise ceases should be investigated by a doctor.

The more you know, the more you grow.

Source:Australian Sports Commission