Work hard, play hard, fuel right

What do pro athletes and professional parents have in common? Dreams and passion to do well in all they do, and the hard work it takes to show up no matter what. Such dedication can take its toll on our immune system.

What surprises me as a health coach is that while we take it for granted that athletes owe it to themselves to feed right, there seems to be an acceptance that professional working adults don’t take their body as seriously. Yet the demands are so similar… The relentless running around school drop off and/or pick up, clubs, running a house, leading a successful career comes with its share of challenges.

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Athletes testimonials video

The change of seasons are particularly demanding on our immune system, and we see an increase of colds (man flu, because guys do tend to have worse).

Yet there are so many ways to prevent not only the fatigue but also dips in immunity.

Sarah’s 10 tips of the day to keep well

  1. Hydrate, it’s somewhat more difficult when it’s colder or humid outside
  2. Know your limits, and respect them
  3. Move your body, you’re a human, not a sloth
  4. Know your essential macros (natural carbs of the green type, protein of the lean type, fats of the mean type). I fancied a rhyme, just avoid processed crap at least.
  5. Know your essential micros (look for independently verified quality). See here to cover the basic needs whether you’re a sport athlete or a corporate pro parent.
  6. Rest and sleep
  7. Surround yourself with people who lift you up
  8. Follow your dreams, make a difference,
  9. Be “selfish” in your responsibilities, no one is coming to save you, you know what makes you happy, so get on to it.
  10. Be kind to yourself. Remember it’s about progression not perfection. Aim for the above, don’t beat yourself up if you slip up.

My passion is to build a better world and fill it with healthy people. If I can make it easy for you or you want to know more about how holistic health coaching can help, do get in touch.

12 Tips to Survive Thesis, Reports, Case Studies and Other Big Writing Projects

One of my Facebook friends asked for tips on writing her thesis. As three and a half years of research (and with that sweat, existential crisis stress, fears, tears…) come to a close, now a potentially more daunting task begins. Writing a thesis, a final year report, or just any type of big writing exercise summarising a major piece of work is a huge undertaking. The output will be all that’s left of it, it is life defining and a learning opportunity in itself. I’ve got years of experience whether through my studies or work life, and every single time I have to write on a significant project there’s yet a new journey. Here’s the 12 tips I’ve come up with. Please comment with yours, they will help.

  1. Facts. Facts. Facts
  2. You actually know more than you think.
  3. Take breaks. Loo breaks. Screen breaks. Food breaks. Hug breaks (Partner, best buddy, be weary of random strangers). Schedule some regular breaks.
  4. CTRL+S every 5-10 minutes
  5. Work on the cloud, and/or evolve the versions
  6. Some days will be tough, especially just before a breakthrough of thoughts. It’s ok. Part of the process. You need a step back before you leap forward.
  7. Sometimes, especially towards the end, you may feel like giving up. Don’t. See points 2, 3 and 6.
  8. If you haven’t done so already, build your support network. Call someone who will lift you up.
  9. Nutrition is everything. Feed your brain (protein, greens, fats) as a human being. Supplement with omega 3 (check the shop for Biomega, but register first as a preferred customer for discounts!)
  10. Sleep. Unless you’re inspired, then indulge in a few more hours, but then have naps.
  11. Probably should be number 1, hydrate. With water, obviously.
  12. ENJOY! Every. Single. Moment. Of. It. The rough and the smooth.
Biomega
Biomega recommendation by freespirit.usana.com

From A to K: Your Complete Vitamin Guide – Ask The Scientists

Photo by askthescientists.com

An introduction to the basics of vitamins and how they help your health provided by my favourite bunch of PhDs.

Discover more about the vitamins your body needs. The explain everything you need to know — Read on askthescientists.com/qa/vitamins/

The topics covered include:

1 A Crash-Course in Vitamin Basics

2 The Two Main Categories of Vitamins

3 VITAMIN A

4 VITAMIN B1 (THIAMIN)

5 VITAMIN B2 (RIBOFLAVIN)

6 VITAMIN B3 (NIACIN)

7 VITAMIN B5 (PANTOTHENIC ACID)

8 VITAMIN B6

9 VITAMIN B7 (BIOTIN)

10 VITAMIN B9 (FOLATE)

11 VITAMIN B12 (COBALAMIN)

12 VITAMIN C (ASCORBIC ACID)

13 VITAMIN D (CALCIFEROL)

14 VITAMIN E (TOCOPHEROLS and TOCOTRIENOLS)

15 VITAMIN K (PHYLLOQUINONE, MENADIONE)

16 Time to Meet Vitamin’s Nutritional Companion—Minerals

— Read on askthescientists.com/qa/vitamins/

Naughty but o so good for you pancakes

Are you one of these people who is afraid to make the changes to optimise your health because let’s face it, some foods are just so symbolic of indulgence and awake the senses like nothing else? Then read on, because I might just have something for you…

One of most frequent questions I’m being asked since first going gluten free years ago is a variation of “Don’t you miss <insert person’s favourite unhealthy food seen as a treat here>?”

Well no, of course not, I don’t miss feeling bloated, the head fog, and love the abundance of energy! Putting aside that yoga teaches moderation and control, and that’s something I can work on in my practice, let’s be real, I enjoy yummy food as much as the next person. My take on the situation is to seek and create ways to make naughty dishes actually good for you.

In this post, I introduce my all time favourite: pancakes!

These pancakes are nutritionally balanced, full of goodness and yummylicious.

The Recipes

Chocolate pancakes

2 scoops USANA MySmart whey protein

2 scoops wheat grass (I used BulkPowder here, but as long as it’s pure, any brand will do)

1 tsp raw cacao powder

1 egg

1/2 banana

1 cup water (approx, I went for consistency rather than measure, and that will depend on the size of your egg and the ripeness of your banana)

Mix, cook over a medium heat, try to resist the urge of eating them as you go so you can stack them.

It makes 4-6 small pancakes, I normally have them with a sliver of almond butter, and cashew works well too.

Hulk-ish pancakes

2 scoops USANA MySmart plant protein

1 egg

4 blocks of frozen spinach or broccoli, smoothied

1 cup water

Optional:

1 tsp raw cacao powder

2 tsp wheatgrass/spirulina/super greens/macha etc depending on your nutritional objectives

Blitz your spinach or broccoli with water.

Mix your protein and egg, if you take up the options as them in now, finally add in the smoothie.

Cook over a medium heat, note that because of using frozen veg, it’ll take longer to cook.

They splat if taken off too early!

Enjoy with a nut butter of your choice.

Extra tips:

  • These are a great way to hide the kids’ multivitamins and give them a super healthy breakfast without the fuss.
  • Usana proteins powders are my go to because of their guaranteed commitment to purity and quality. Besides if it’s good for Olympians, NFL athletes, and premiership footballers, it’s great for a busy mum like me.
  • Add in vanilla, cinnamon, ginger to experience different taste.
  • For the veggie pancakes, plant protein is best.
  • The egg is essential to bind the mix, so can’t go vegan on this one.
  • One stack per person is plenty (it’s not because it’s healthy and nutritional that it’s a free pass for excess!)

Why I’m not “losing weight” or even “going on a diet”…

… I am however very much an adept of optimal health.

This third post in my return to optimal health is about the power of words in relation to health. I have this friend who is a fellow gorgeous mama, who has put everyone else first for quite a while, and the extra weight that goes with it. It’s not much and she looks stunning, but like me she doesn’t recognise herself and wants to change that. Something she said triggered this post, language especially self talk plays a big part in our wellbeing.

See the first instalment of this blog series if you want to know why I’m on a return to optimal health journey. In short, I’ve had the wake up call and I’m more cuddly than is comfortable with, and I am taking action to get back to my normal.

There’s so much science research and evidence on the subject, so please take this as a generalised intro (note to self: set up a reference page for website). Let’s cover the meaning of health and a few key words before going onto the power of words in relation to health.

The power of words

A few years back I undertook a course in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I did it to learn to function better as a human, and because I love learning various subjects in an academic way. This topic is amazing for anyone who has anxiety and depression issues and is keen to take action in getting better; personally i have found its application the most useful in my role as a team leader and as a manager of people.

What CBT teaches you is that your thoughts and words influence your behaviour and vice-versa. (This is not a white paper on CBT, please google the term to find the links to the science behind it all). To simplify, how we frame our language frames how we feel and behave.

An example: picture someone cutting right in front of you as you’re going along your way. Your reaction may be:

1. Oh dear, they must be in a hurry, I hope they’re not rushing to a loved one’s last breath.

Or

2. How dare they?! I’m minding my own business and they do this, to me?! (Insert chosen swear words, and have a field day)

How does that make you feel?

In the first case, you’re not even affected and you have sent compassion in the air (it’s all good karma, the world needs this, well done you). The second reaction, if you chose it, turns you in an instant victim, persecuted by complete strangers, and quite possibly snowballs in ruining your whole day. See what I’m getting at?

How does this relate to health then? The words we chose about ourselves impact greatly on how we define ourselves and behave. You know, the self talk in front of the mirror? The justification for “wine o’clock”? These words lead us different behavioural path depending on how empowered we feel or whether we’ve decided we’re a “lost cause” anyway.

How do words impact on all areas of health?

Looking at a few recurring ones on my Facebook wall…

Losing weight” – this implies you’re going to lose it, and as it’s yours, and you’re not giving it away, well… it’s bound to come back. Whether you go and look for it again or for the less aware, it’ll come back out of “nowhere” (I’d suggest the biscuit tin or the wine bottle)

Make it worse by “trying to lose weight” – oh heck, the half hearted attempt at it, usually filled with guilt and deprivation. If successful in dropping a size, watch it fly back and body tackle you with gusto.

Going on a diet” – sounds like the worst holiday ever. What does that mean anyway? Diet used to be defined (and still is when used as the technical term) by “the kind of food that an animal habitually eats”. It commonly implies restrictions and there’s a second definition “a course of food to which a person restricts themselves for a specific reason”.

Without paying attention to our language, we are very much at risk to sabotaging our best endeavour at improving our health. It’s essential to reframe, as much for body health than mental health.

Reframing for optimal health – these set out objectives and mindset.

Functional body” – beauty is in the eyes of the beholder (and their points of reference) – by focusing on optimising the body for its functionality, the focus is more on nourishment (fuelling) than stocking up on food. Even with deeper issues than cosmetics, your body is your vehicle for life, whatever abilities it has, be grateful for it and honour it as such. Recognise what you can and can’t do with it. There are so many things that can be optimised to function better, if you so desire. To do this we aim for balance, we are honest as to what healthy looks like for us and what we want out of life. Some people are ok “plodding along” – they don’t mind the brain fog, be out of breath coming up the stairs-, some can only relax when their energy levels are right up there. It goes way beyond size and shape. More importantly it has to be realistic for the individual.

Health and optimal health” – what does health look like, feel like? That’s such an interesting one, the spectrum of health. There’s being healthy, i.e. Being ok, within the “standard” guidelines, being able to function. Then there’s optimal health, like this lady in my network who climbed Mt Everest at 81, she’s 90 and a business woman, still active. Like being so healthy that your skin reflects it (in three weeks of returning to practicing what I’m preaching, people have been commenting on how beautiful my skin is. Someone asked if I had Botox!!! Hell no, my skin care is largely homemade, but that’s another story for another post)

Putting it simply, what is optimal for one person largely depends on how committed they are to their objectives. What I see as optimal health is the daily actions I take to prevent what is preventable and as a result, the absence of disease. Because I am tuned in with how my body functions when I am taking those actions (and what it looks like), it is easy for me to identify what I need doing and take action accordingly.

What you see as optimal health may very well vary greatly, what you decide to commit to will define how far you take it.

Diet” objectively, this really is the way you eat daily, it does not involve restrictions of this, that or the other. It is not the latest fad. It’s a way of life, based on nutritional science and very much on what doesn’t cause inflammation in your body. This is why I run those health challenges, and since my nutritionist friend has set up her 28 day programme as an automated system, I recommend this and focus on supporting people through it. Learning a new way of life takes a whole community behind you.

Health science” vs “Bro science” one is researched and evidence, the other one is unverified words of so called wisdom you read in the papers, hear at the gym and/or from the overweight colleague who has “tried it all, but nothing works” (she says as she has a biscuit and a latte)

My favourite resource for health science is the http://www.askthescientists.com website, where you can find the links to the papers and research that advance nutrition.

So, Sarah, what do you do if you don’t “go on a diet”?

I’m glad you ask!

First, I’m honest with myself and I ask the questions:

– has my husband boiled my jeans so they shrunk?! (No, he’s way too meticulous with the washing for that)

– have I been managing my stress?

– how often have I had the “1-2 glasses a week” this week?

– did I really not snack?! (Huh oh to the nut bar wrapper in my handbag)

Then I turn to those people whom I know support the healthy lifestyle I enjoy. Those who will provide encouragement, celebrate my successes with me. That community took some time to find and it’s proving an invaluable network of support and knowledge.

Finally I commit to respect my body, my health, my wellbeing, and I implement all I learned over the years.

I’ll write up about those good habits and the achievements of my first month’s results for the next post. In the meantime if you are looking for that supportive network, get in touch.

PS: when you work on optimal health, the weight/size regulates naturally.

Fast tracking health

You’ve got to love the media and all their false promises when it comes to health and fitness. All the fads, usually sponsored by a manufacturer or other. “Do this one thing”, “eat this one food/juice/smoothie”… seriously, if it’s too good to true, come on! If you haven’t got out of shape overnight, puffer fish style, how do you expect regaining your wellness instantly?

Broscience with its false promises gives a bad name to the fitness industry, the nutrition industry, and even to natural therapies. My personal pet peeve is the attention that some occasional writer, columnist or that dude down the gym get over real pro an other health nerds, just because they spoke louder. Argh… I diverse.

What about “quick fixes”, “superfoods”, and other “magic” potions? Is there not fast track to health?

Well… that depends what you mean by all these. It depends on what you want to believe. The choice is always yours to make. You can either go off yoyo dieting and/or jump from fad to fad, maybe lose a bit of weight for a while, give yourself the impression you’re “doing something” (good for mental health at least). Or you can make a lasting change. The former isn’t a healthy approach and it will eventually leave you miserable or to settle for less than you deserve.

There’s good news.

Picture 1: Google search on “lose we” brings up “lose weight fast”.

You have to reframe, quick doesn’t mean overnight.

There is a relatively quick fix, as in a most effective way to achieve lasting results. You may have to revise your timeline and expectations ratio, and take a dose of reality.

You have to reframe, quick doesn’t mean overnight. It involves being ready, decide and commit to your health, stop faffing with fads, get professional guidance and allow yourself to follow the plan!

The “quickest” fix for results that lasts is a journey of discovery, challenges and learning. It can be tough, particularly as you learn new habits, but the changes on you overall health are oh so worth it.

It takes three weeks to form a habit, and any sound health programme is based around that. It takes a couple of weeks for you to feel results, a month for you to see results and a bit more than that for others to notice. That’s what quick should mean.

Can you imagine a life in which you have the energy to keep up with young children, you are able to cope with whatever is thrown at you, you have such clear skin that you look 10 (or more) years younger, and unwanted weight just drops of you? Can you imagine what reaching that level of health would mean?

Close your eyes for a second and picture it. That’s what a sustainable health programme will bring you.

That’s why I’m all out for optimal health.

As I said in my previous post, I know what it takes to be healthy, I’ve studied various subjects that allows me to bring a holistic approach to my coaching, yet I somehow found myself in a state of less that desirable fitness. What went wrong? A few things. Essentially I stopped respecting myself with the daily tiny actions of self-care that make the difference between the “cuddly” body and the lean one.

The fastest way to return to health that I know, love and never stop sharing is my nutritionist friend Jess Dyer’s programme. Jess has invested an incredible amount of work in automating a framework for the health principles that I apply in my 1:1 coaching, with the added bonus of a virtual community. I’m an ambassador for this programme, and since last week I am starting again as a participant. Personally, my favourite thing (other than Jess’s recipes!) is the community. The support is phenomenal.

This post is for journaling my experience, not for promotion, however if you’d like to do what I’m doing, get in touch and I’ll give you special details.

Picture 2: I can’t wait to see these babies back

Reflection Sunday

Two photos, two years apart.

These would be perfect if they were a before and after. They are, but the one on the left was taken two days ago during holidays. The one on the right was taken two years ago as I was trying on different dresses for a work do.

What’s in it?

An extra 10kg (not muscle!), 5% body-fat or so, 2-3 dress sizes, low grade hangovers, brain fog, lower aerobic performance and general fatigue.

Thank goodness my blood results are still in the ideal range. It could be worse 😱

So… what happened?

I gradually started to put on weight after the photo on the right. My lifestyle did not really change as such, which is interesting. It also goes to show it’s the little things that make the difference. Daily, almost insignificant choices. The compound effect of “little things”.

In my case, the difference can be summed up to:

– eating when I was not hungry

– increasing my portion sizes

– one or two glasses of wine, 3, sometimes 4 times a week

– sleep quality reduced

– taking too much on

My nutrition is clean, balanced and thought through in accordance with my needs. I’m the queen of life hacks when it comes to eat well for your body type and lifestyle, and my exercise routines are ace. Not only that, I have coached others in adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Jokingly I answer that “what happened” question with “hubby came home”. Not only that is not a fair statement, and it’s a poor excuse, but it also shows a lack of ownership and a lack of self respect.

It’s time to act to say the least.

What am I going to do about it?

Own it.

Be responsible and aware of my actions/ non-actions.

Seek help and support where (fortunately I know) I can find it.

Be realistic that the journey back to optimal health will be hard, if not harder for the seasoned wellness pro I am than it would be for a newbie.

Treat myself as I would a coaching client, with the same kindness, care and respect and apply all I know.

It is my intention to blog my journey back to optimal health to inspire others who are “not that bad”, “just a bit cuddly”, “know what to do”, “have just a last few pounds”… but first and foremost to make myself accountable, and feel less alone through the journey to make it sustainable.

Watch this space and wish me luck.

Easy chicken bake

Easy chicken bake

1. Chopped onions ~ 1 cup

2. Cracked black pepper and ground curcuma (turmeric powder) and coconut oil

3. Locally sourced chicken meat ~ 600g

4. Chopped tomatoes ~ 1 cup

5. Chopped garlic and herbs ~ 1-2 tablespoonfuls, sprinkled

Bake at 150-180C for 30/45’

Optional a layer of streaky bacon before the tomatoes.

Serve with greens of your choice.

Enjoy!