“F is for … Food.”

‘Food glorious food…’

I’m not one of those people that doesn’t like certain things, like sweet stuff, or chocolate, or seafood, or meat. I eat it all baby. I have a huge appetite and a bottomless pit of a stomach. I love to shop for food, I love to put it in the fridge when I get home and I love to prepare it. If you want to see me really upset then take me out for a bad meal.

Those of you that know me will know that food is one of my favourite things. And you will also know this – I generally have a pretty good relationship with it. We are friends the food and I.

I was alarmed to learn when I saw a preview of a certain documentary I am presenting in March that in the USA an estimated 65% of women have an eating disorder. I was astounded by that figure (pun intended). In Australia the prevalence of eating disorders is much lower, with about 1 million or 4% of Australians (note, including men) having experienced Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Obesity or Binge Eating Disorder.

I wondered how these stats could be so high and it reminded me of some new material I have been learning about lately which essentially bins the whole notion of diet per se but talks much more about our relationship with food and what and how we think about it. UK meditation guru Andy Puddicombe has even written a book called ‘The Headspace Diet’ which explores the meaning and benefits of mindful eating.

Here’s some crackerjack tips I go by in my love affair with food:

1. If I don’t want to be tempted to eat it, I don’t have it in the house. This tends to be problematic after Easter when I raid the kids’ egg stash.

2. Eat when you are hungry.

3. Eat fresh,preferably organic/biodynamic/free range where possible.

4. Eat without distraction (so not while reading, walking, driving) and concentrate on the sounds, smells, textures and flavours of what you’re eating. You will be amazed at both how quickly you’ll feel full and how good food can taste when you give it your undivided attention.

5. Labelling food as ‘healthy’ versus ‘unhealthy’ can leave us feeling guilty when we splurge. Replace these labels with ‘everyday’ and ‘sometimes’. Feeling guilty only makes matters worse as we can feel like failures.

Fresh food

Melbourne’s Dr. Rick Kausman has a great slideshow from his ‘If Not Dieting Then What‘ site that goes into detail about being mindful when eating too. Check it out and let me know, which is your favourite empowerment card and why?

*I’m endorsing Andy and Rick’s work because it makes more sense to me than dieting which is increasingly being shown as an ineffective way to maintain desired weight loss. No personal gain is being made from these endorsements.

“E is for … Exercise”

Get out there! Do it! No more excuses!

It’s not about being the fastest, the strongest, the quickest, the skinniest (don’t get me started on that one…)

Exercise is what we need to do to keep ourselves healthy. The benefits are huge and they include:

– It’s energising. You’ll always feel better after exercising because when you’re active your body releases feel good endorphins

– It can help to control weight by stabilising hunger regulation hormones

– It improves muscle tone and increases muscle mass

– Running and weight lifting increase bone density

– It tires the body (eventually – straight after you’ll probably feel quite high so its best not to exercise too late in the day). Mornings are best.

– It improves cardiovascular abilities and Vo2 max

– It shifts visceral fat from organs

Additionally, exercise is a healthy way (as long as its done in moderation) to manage stress.

For those of you who work in education, now that we’re on school holidays its a great time to start an exercise routine. Join a gym, getting swimming at your local pool or in the ocean or use that cash you got for Christmas to buy yourself a bike. Start a yoga for beginners course (lots are starting now as centres re-open after the break). Or just get into a routine of walking every morning and notice the difference that makes to your day and by the time school starts it will have become a well established habit that you’ll wonder how you ever lived without!

People often complain that they can’t find the time to exercise. Here’s some tips that might help:

– Schedule it in. Write it into your diary. Make it just like any other appointment (as in you only don’t attend if there’s an emergency)

– Split your exercise schedule (2 x 15 minute walks still equals 30 minutes)

– Aim for a low and achievable amount (5 minutes of moving a day is always achievable). If you reach that target you’ll be motivated to continue. If you repeatedly miss unattainable goals the chance of becoming despondent is much more likely

– Get up earlier. Make the most of the warm weather and lighter mornings and schedule your work outs then. You’ll soon discover its the best part of the day.

Well that’s the end of this post for today – must dash – I have a swim I’ve scheduled in to get to!

D is for … Day of Rest

Going, going, going for it hammer and tong, day in, day out just ain’t good for the soul.

Remember the notion of the Sabbath? A time to rest, recover and recharge. It’s what weekends used to be for, remember?

Nowadays though, with the increase in the use of technology, it can be harder and harder to have a break from the daily grind. We can find ourselves literally at the beck and call of the demands of the workplace as the emails and messages can reach you at any time of day or night as long as you check them (*HINT: if your work emails aren’t forwarded to your phone, work is less likely to be on your mind when you’re out and about doing life).Screen Shot 2013-01-03 at 10.49.49 PM

It concerns me that phenomena such as ‘device dependency’ and ‘connection withdrawal’ are being more commonly discussed. I’m going to suggest that being unplugged for a day or two (or can you possibly imagine even longer!) might actually be really good for you. How you might ask? As a good friend explained it to me recently, having a break from technology allows you to be more present in the situation and surroundings you’re in and less distracted by people and places that aren’t where you are. By being more mindful of your experiences, you’re more likely to appreciate and benefit from them more and so return to work more productive and energised than ever.

I’m committing to keeping my weekends as device free as possible (certainly all day Saturday) and am looking forward to experiencing the benefits. Do you have a time in the week that you unplug? What benefits do you experience as a result?

C is for … Courage

So often maintaining the status quo (although comfortable and secure) can be an unrecognised source of stress for us. Although change and doing things differently can be intimidating and anxiety provoking, the reality is that through the process of taking calculated risks actually allows us to experience more in our lives as we achieve things we have either always wanted to or which we thought were never possible.

As we sojourn into a new year, I wonder if you have made any resolutions to yourself to do things differently in 2013, or if you have set yourself some crazy and wild ambitions? If you have, well done, but remember this – it’s one thing to make these plans, but do you have the COURAGE to actually make your goals reality?

Often we become paralysed by the fear of failure and may deliberately (if subconsciously) sabotage our efforts so that we stay in an emotional and social territory that’s familiar (and therefore safer) to us.

My suggestion to you if you really, really, REALLY want to achieve that goal is to get out of your comfort zone, get your COURAGE boots on and go for it.

These COURAGE boosting pointers (which appear in no particular order) might be helpful:

1. Plan for what you are doing – if you don’t make the time for what ever it is you are wanting to do, it simply won’t happen (this is the calculated part of calculated risk)

2. Ask others for help. Most often people are really happy to provide support but you must be prepared to ask for (and of course accept) it

3. Set yourself a reward or many smaller rewards along the way to keep you motivated and keep the end goal in mind

4. Listen to your self talk. Turn up the volume on the positive things you are saying to yourself and turn that negative self talk right down

5. Focus on the positives but work out how to learn from the negatives

6. Embrace mistakes – they are part of the process

7. Keep in the back of your mind the thought ‘What is the worst thing that could happen if this fails?’ Often the answer to this is less catastrophic than you might actually realise

8. If the task seems too ginormous, chop it down into achievable, actionable parts and work away at it over a period of time

and to finish off with lucky number

9. ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’

B is for … Burnout


burnt out candle

It can happen in a huge range of situations burnout, not just work. Think about eating your favourite food or listening to your favourite song over and over again – you lose that emotional connection with it, don’t you?

Well the same thing can happen at work too.

Burnout is three dimensional in nature and is characterised in the following ways:

i) emotional exhaustion

ii) depersonalisation

iii) reduced sense of accomplishment

(Maslach and Jackson, 1981)

Put another way, feeling burnt out can leave us feeling used up, worn out, without and passion or spark, interest or emotional presence in what we do.

Here’s some great tips from about what you can do if you’re feeling burnt out (those in bold italics are my favourites):

*        Recognise the problem

*         Balance your lifestyle

*         Build positive social supports, and control negativity in your environment

*         Gain control where you can

*         Work smarter, not longer

*         Quit doing something

*         Control thoughts that you are indispensable

*         See a counsellor

*         Identify work environments that promote burnout

*         Employ personal strategies to avoid or cope with burnout

*         Employ interpersonal strategies

*         Employ organisational strategies

*         Develop relationships with professional associates outside your office

*         Get involved in professional organisations

*         Consider your career development from time to time

*         Develop a relationship with a mentor

*         Challenge yourself to take new career risks

*         Share your hands-on experience with colleagues

*         Consider ways to make your job more satisfying

*         Actually use the (healthy, productive) stress management techniques you know

*         Vary your day or week to include different activities with different responsibilities

*         Vary responsibilities periodically to get a fresh perspective

*         Include new techniques into your repertoire

*         Improve and expand skills through professional development

*         Develop a formal or informal support group among your colleagues

*         Be an agent of change within your institution

*         Yell at an understanding supervisor

*         When all else fails, change careers.

(Traux, B.M., Kanchier, C., Shahnasarian, M., Stoltz-Loike, M., Bloch, M., & Goodman, J. (1992) Beat Burnout! American Counsellor, 1 (2), 10-12, 27).

Not mentioned on this list but my go-to strategy when I’m feeling things are getting on top of me is a physical break from a situation, like getting away for a night or a weekend.

Have a go at employing these strategies when you recognise you are feeling burnt out and you’ll soon feel energised and enthused again.

ABC of Wellbeing for 2013

A is for…

Alcohol.

As a culture we love it. Just think how often we imbibe. I wonder how much has been consumed in the last 24 hours.

As a result of it being highly taxed, annual revenue from alcohol sales is massive and with it generally considered more socially acceptable than smoking, up until quite recently there’s been very little in the press and media about the negative side effects of alcohol (and they don’t all relate to the imbiber either).

Did you know that an estimated 5% of all cancers are related to excessive alcohol consumption? Other alcohol related diseases include heart and brain disease as well as cirrhosis of the liver. This article by Sarah Klien gives more information as well as a detailed infographic detailing how exactly the body is affected by alcohol.

Also of significance but generally less reported are the social side effects of alcohol consumption through different types of alcohol related injuries – think road traumas, falls, violence and accidental deaths.

We tend not to hear so much about these negative effects. More prominently featured are stories relating to the benefits of alcohol. According to Paul Dillon (Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia) its the wine companies themselves who fund this research which gives the findings an interesting perspective. Dillon asserts that there is actually no risk free level of consumption, that all drinking carries risk of permanent damage. Here’s guidelines from the Australian Department of Health and Ageing (2011) about reducing the risk.

My two main concerns relating to alcohol consumption are:

1) that people use it as a means of relaxing. Granted, given the combination of sugar and alcohol (which remember is essentially a depressant), drinking can and does help people feel more relaxed and social. However, using alcohol as a sole means of stress relief is unhealthy and unproductive as it actually does nothing to address the issue that is causing the individual stress in the first place. In fact, given the depressant and potentially dependency inducing nature of alcohol, it can actually make matters worse.

2) the violence that children witness and experience as a result of the adults around them using it. Anyone reading this who has worked with children who have experience alcohol fuelled family violence will understand the devastating effects of  the trauma that these children experience.

In closing today, my suggestion for improving your wellbeing in 2013 relating to ‘A is for Alcohol’ is be mindful of your consumption. Here’s a great little clip called ‘Legend’ (New Zealand Transport Agency) a 12 year old friend introduced me to earlier this week – enjoy!!