All posts by halfthew

Me Too

This is probably the most important post I’ve even written. But it comes with a WARNING: only read this if you’re wondering what might be preventing you from losing weight.

It’s a bad day today … the return of my adrenal fatigue was confirmed with my urine test results showing my body is producing 263 nanomole/day of U-F-Cortisol – that’s over twice times the normal maximum of <110. Not high enough to be Cushing’s Disease or a tumour on my adrenal or pituitary glands (that requires of 1,000nmol/d), but high enough to know something’s off whack – likely PTSD from the childhood sexual abuse.

A while back when discussing an recurring day-mare I had as a child with my counsellor, Emily, and it’s recent return at nights she posed the question of whether the traumatic event as a 6 year old, the one that caused me to put on all my weight in the first place, actually had never been ‘cured’. And that even when I shed the 70kgs (150lbs) I was not cured, but rather I channelled the ‘fight or flight’ I suffered daily into other avenues: being a high performing individual whilst running 13kms (>8miles) a day.

In my book “Half The Woman I Was” (see link in bio if you’re curious) I talk about how I crave carbohydrates (that’s the adrenal glands at work producing all the extra cortisol) and even that I was officially a carbohydrate addict. My desire for sugar is sometimes so overwhelming that I can do nothing, and think of nothing else, until I get my fix. I explained how I often used sugar to trigger my sugar coma so I was able to zone out and wind down. But what I haven’t realised until very recently was quite how intrinsically trauma, AF, sugar, adrenals and cortisol are all linked.

I’ve Dr Googled extensively and sought advice and consult from all manner of health professionals, and my journey is still ongoing. Next week I see an endocrinologist to see what the next steps are in this journey to heal, to get well once and for all. I’ll keep you posted there.

Sadly for me the last few months have seen some rapid weight gain, muscle weakness, mood swings, anxiety and depression, impaired cognitive function (fuzzy brain), blood sugar imbalances, poor sleep, lowered immune function and slow wound healing. All symptoms of high cortisol production. And when just one of these happens, it’s a cascading trigger for the others to soon follow suit. Put on weight, get depressed, eat, can’t concentrate (or work), feel lethargic, have a mood swing, eat, put on weight … so the cycle continues.

In an effort to understand what’s driving this and to seek some solace and comfort in community I started reading Roxanne Gay’s “Hunger”, a book recommended to me by my dear friend Aubrey. It’s probably the most challenging and confronting book I’ve ever read … because so much of it is exactly how I feel. I applaud Roxanne for the courage to write, to share. It’s the sort of book that helps to lift the lid on how childhood trauma, specifically sexual abuse, can affect your size and shape for the rest of your life … without any ability to control it.

Today is not a good day. I’m in pain, constantly tired, overwhelmingly lethargic … and craving sugar. I want to hibernate, escape … time travel to another world where I’m thinner and healthier. I’m holding off on the sugar as long as I can, knowing that every grain causes additional pain in my joints. Knowing consciously it’s not the solution. And knowing I need, for my sanity, for my body, for my life, I need to find and resolve ‘the cause’. Subconsciously my desires are not rational, they’re not logical, they’re chemical.

I think that’s what most people, including many in the medical profession, simply don’t understand. I have a chemical imbalance in my body, caused by trauma, which causes me to suffer these symptoms. It is not my choice. It is not my desire. It is not my cause. But it’s my reality …. for now.

#metoo #childabuse #childabuseawareness #sexualabuse #survivor #adrenalfatigue #adrenalfatiguerecovery #fibromyalgia #chronicpain #spoonielife #chronicfatigue #chronicillness #invisibleillness #spoonie #fibro #cfs #adrenals #cortisol #weightgain #ptsd #cushingsdisease #pituitarytumor #adrenalglands #pituitarygland #ptsdrecovery #seekinganswers #seekingwellness #overit #iwanttobewell #nomorepain

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Is Kale really good for you or is it just a fad?

Click here for my published InShape News article.

What is Kale?
Kale is a green leaf annual or biennial vegetable, similar to cabbage, but a variety that doesn’t form a ‘head’. It’s from the family Brassica oleracea, reaching heights of 6 or 7 feet, but is generally known for its high fibre content. It has a number of different varieties with either flat, curly, or bumpy leaves, or the ornamental variety that varies in colour but is not as palatable.

Kale was one of the most common green vegetables in Europe up until the Middle Ages when it fell out of favour. After recent introduction to America and Asia-Pacific, kale was grown for the beauty of its curly leaves, which added much needed decoration for salad bars all over the world. Its resurgence in popularity for ingestion and nutrition is relatively recent.

Why is Kale So Popular?
Eve Turrow of MindBodyGreen did a deep dive into the creation of the cult status of kale. Her fascinating kale article, a product of weeks of research, reveals that kale’s rise to stardom was actually a brilliant PR campaign of Oberon Sinclair, founder of My Young Auntie PR, masquerading as the American Kale Association (which isn’t real). That campaign produced a worldwide phenomenon that puts production pressure on farmers, downward pressure on prices, and plenty of kale on everyone’s plates, all of which is good for the consumer.

Hype Aside, is Kale Good For You?
Kale, like most vegetables is good for you. WHFoods.com lists a range of amazing health benefits, as does Helen Nichols of Well-BeingSecrets.com who lists 23 science-backed benefits including an aid for depression, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, obesity, as well as eye, heart, bone, skin and hair health – common with many other cruciferous vegetables. One reason that kale is promoted over its cruciferous compatriots, apart from the marketing, is that it has been far more heavily researched than say broccoli or cabbage.

What’s The Nutrient Value of Kale?
One hundred grams of raw kale yields 84% water, 9% carbohydrates, 4% protein, and 1% fat. According to Wikipedia it also contains a large amount of vitamin K: several times the Daily Value (DV). It is a rich source (20% or more of the DV) of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, and manganese (see table “Kale, raw”). Kale is a good source (10–19% DV) of thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, vitamin E and several dietary minerals, including iron, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. Kale is also a good source of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as glucosinolate compounds such as glucoraphanin, which contributes to the formation of sulforaphane, a compound under preliminary research for its potential to affect human health. Obviously cooking kale diminishes these benefits.

What Makes Kale Better Than Spinach or Broccoli?
Kale is one of the most nutrient-dense plants on the planet for its calorie count, according to Kris Gunnars, Bsc. It’s also high in antioxidants, which is why it’s often turned into a superfood-style powder. And whilst these powders can have their place as part of a busy modern lifestyle, they do contain less nutrients than the real thing due to nutrient loss during processing.

It is difficult to compare the nutritional content of kale, versus broccoli or spinach (from the chard family) due articles reporting different values for different weights with some reporting raw values and others cooked. Fortunately, NutritionalValue.org gives you the low down.

The site shows raw kale has more than twice the calories of spinach, but half the sodium; and 47% more protein and niacin. Spinach is 37% higher in folate than kale; 48% more lutein and zeaxanthin; and a whopping 68% more phosphorous. Broccoli seems to have less of every nutrient than the others, with the exception of selenium, which is crucial for thyroid function. Interestingly broccoli has almost three times the selenium content of kale and spinach.

After analysis I reached the same conclusion that the HuffingtonPost did – that kale and spinach are nutritionally very similar – and “kale is a better source for some essential vitamins and minerals … [while] spinach is a richer source of folate and an equally good source of iron and fibre.”

So Is Kale A Superfood?
The term ‘superfood’ is actually a marketing term created to promote products. There is no strict definition and the term is open to wide interpretation and misuse. For more information read my previous article “Superfoods: Fact or Fiction”.

It is important to remember that any vegetable in its raw form is packed with macro and micronutrients, vitamins and minerals, which means it’s exceptionally good for you, including kale. Rather than following the latest ‘Superfood’ trend and over indulging in what may turn out to be an ineffectual (or harmful) dose, a better option is to eat a diet wide in variety that’s rich in raw natural ingredients and low in processed foods.

Why is Kale Bitter?
Some people find kale bitter and others don’t. This is because different classes of phytochemicals in varieties of kale (alkanoids, phenols, terpenoids, alkaloids, flavonoids, glucosinolates and isothiocyanates) can trigger a bitter taste.

Further the ‘bitter’ phenomenon of green leafy vegetables (including Brussels sprouts) may have a genetic link. Compound Interest’s Andy Brunning explains that some people are especially sensitive to naturally occurring chemical compounds called glucosinolates, which are broken down into isothiocyanates when cooked, and which taste bitter to around 70% of people.

How Do I Get The Bitter Taste Out of Kale?
If you’re worried you have the ‘bitter gene’ and can’t eat kale, think again. Stephanie Eckelkamp reports that salting, roasting and all can all help to block the bitter taste. Christine Gallery adds acid, braises or adds strong-flavoured ingredients to mask bitterness. But Chef Cary Neff, author of “Conscious Cuisine”, explains the best way to remove the bitter taste is by blanching the kale before use.

How Do I Blanche Kale?

  1. Wash your kale and cut the stems off
  2. Fold your kale in halves or thirds and push the kale firmly into a pot that they barely fit in
  3. Fill the pot 1/3 with water and bring to the boil
  4. Reduce to a simmer and let cook for up to 20 minutes, occasionally stirring
  5. Drain the kale, and wash or plunge in cold water to prevent further cooking

How Much Kale Should I Eat Per Day?
Eat as much kale as you like without going overboard, especially when it’s raw. Raw kale is packed with fibre so you’ll fill up quickly and stay full for a long time. Having said that too much of any good thing is a bad thing. And there is such a thing as eating too much kale. Fast Company’s Jessica Leber reports kale fails can include low-level poisoning of the toxic heavy metal thallium even from organic kale, however this is very unusual and medically unproven.

Other than eating large amounts of leafy green vegetables leading to gas, bloating, and constipation, the main danger is for those on beta-blockers, blood thinners or who are prone to DVT and clotting. Kale contains a high amount of vitamin K, which aids blood clotting. If this is an issue then switch to other vegetables.

Kale also contains oxalates, which are substances sometimes linked to kidney stones and gallstones. It also affects those with lower kidney functioning. Those with kidney conditions should instead eat a low-oxalate diet.

What Are The Best Kale Recipes?
Recommendations are always the best, so look for recipe sites that include user ratings to determine whether a recipe is good or not. Here’s a smattering of recipes I found to tempt even the fussiest tastebuds.

bbcgoodfood.com’s Chicken, kale & mushroom pot pie

BBCgoodFood.com lists 34 kale recipes, of which the most highly rated are Kale Tabbouleh, Spicy Clam and Kale Linguine, Kale Pesto, Kale Salsa, and Chicken, Kale and Mushroom Pot Pie which looks completely delicious (see above).

GoodHousekeeping.com has a lovely slide gallery of 16 recipes linking to blog sites featuring recipes like Kale Pesto Pizza, Sweet Potato Kale and Quinoa Fritters and Kale Slaw, great speedy share plate recipes for impromptu gatherings.

JamieOliver.com claims to have eight killer kale recipes like Sesame-Roasted Kale, Super Noodle Ramen With Kale and Barbeque Mushrooms, and Kale And Ricotta Omelette perfect for any time of day.

Finally Meghan Telpener has put together 8 Kale Chip flavour recipes almost guaranteed to obscure even the most bitter tasting kale, with oven and dehydrator options, as well as a number of tips to ensure your chips get really crunchy.

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What are the best exercises to do in winter when it’s cold or wet?

Click here for my published InShape News article.

It’s winter … cold, often wet, and maybe even snowing. Sure it can be darn right uncomfortable to get your ‘sweat up’, let alone the lack of motivation that comes with those limited hours of sunlight.

We all think that winter is the time for snuggling, getting sedentary with a good book and enjoying some hearty meals … comfort food … winter warmers. Yep, winter, according to Hollywood and popular belief, is time to hibernate, become a recluse, turn on the TV or grab a good book and bunker down until spring.

But with the joy of the first budburst signifying spring, we often also realise that those skinny jeans no longer fit … and we make a defiant resolution to lose that winter weight, go on a mad (and often crazy) diet in an often fruitless attempt to get our bikini body back for summer.

But imagine a different reality for a moment. What if, during winter, we found ways to be more active, to keep the gradual addition of those surplus pounds and kilograms at bay? What if when spring arrives there didn’t need to be a mad ‘spring clean’ of our waistline … ?

Really the secret to keeping active during the cooler months is all about finding ways to keep yourself motivated and challenged. The best way to do this is by:

  1. Finding The Right Winter Workout
  2. Adjusting Your Approach
  3. Keeping Yourself On Track, and
  4. Employing The Buddy System, when all else fails.

Finding The Right Winter Workout

Here are some winter-weather-proof solutions you can try:

Home Fitness
There are literally dozens of ways to work out at home. If you’ve got a home bike, treadmill or some other piece of equipment – use it. If not, hire it or use a 7 Minute Workout app on your smartphone. Failing that check out Fitstyler’s simple home fitness routine that you do without equipment – click here. Yoga, Pilates and workout routines on DVD like Beach Body’s Insanity can get your core strength up and your body looking trim and toned regardless of the weather outside. If all else fails, find some indoor stairs to climb.

Alternative Outside Workouts
For the winter bunnies out there are a number of alternatives that you can switch to during the cooler months. Try these:

  • Go for a swim at your local pool (added bonus is you can sauna or spa afterwards)
  • Get a temporary membership at your local gym (many are now open 24 hours)
  • Embrace the winter with ice skating, skiing, cross country skiing or hiking, snowboarding
  • Get indoors with sports like basketball, volleyball, rock climbing, dance classes, boxing, trampolining, dodge ball, plyometrics, soccer, self-defence classes, martial arts, cricket, squash, bowling, table tennis, badminton … get the gist?

 Find a Workout Group
If you need more motivation or a personal trainer then trawl Google for “exercise groups near me”. It’s sure to return plenty of results at lots of different venues including indoor halls and sports centres – you’ll just need to sift through the results to find one that looks like it suits you. Failing that ask your friends for any recommendations.

Adjusting Your Approach
Many people chose not to exercise in winter because they think it’s bad for you. But Rodale Wellness’s Celia Shatzman debunks that myth as well as several others. Exercising in the cold is no riskier if you follow these simple rules.

Do A Longer Warm Up
WebMD’s, Richard Cotton PhD explains getting your body warmed up actually makes is psychologically easier to get your workout started. As it’s colder outside getting your body warmed up and ready for a workout is going to take a bit longer. But giving it this time to properly warm up will ensure you prevent injury or shock in muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints.

Don’t Stop
In warmer weather you can afford to take a few breaks during your workout – the ambient temperature is higher and you cool down less quickly. But in winter it’s a very different story so keep it moving when out in the cold. And don’t forget once you’re done, move immediately into the warmth in order to stretch, so that your muscles do not become stiff.

Dress Appropriately
Check the outside temperature before you head out for your workout and make sure you layer up appropriately. Wind chill factors can have a huge influence on your core temperature, so make sure you use a Weather App that has a ‘feels like’ temperature guide so you can dress appropriately before you head out. And remember to take off any wet or sweaty clothes afterwards to avoid chills which can lead to illness.

Watch Your Breathing
It’s true that colder wet air can lead to higher levels of infection and a bout of a cold or flu. To know all you need to on this one see my article last month on “How Long Do Colds Last & What Reduces Severity”.

Pick The Right Time
To prevent chills work out during the warmer part of the day. This also greatly increases your chance of grabbing a few rays to stimulate the production of Vitamin D and prevent sadness, depression or SADs, often suffered during months of reduced daylight and sunshine. Vitamin D is not only particularly important for bones and joints, it will also lift your spirits.

Nurture Your Body
Most people forget about drinking adequate fluids during the cooler months, but it’s almost just as easy to suffer from dehydration. So drink plenty of water, and eat a balanced diet rich in vegetables and fruit to support your immune system. Take a multivitamin, 2000mg vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and a super greens supplement to boost your intake if required.

Keeping Yourself On Track
The best way to keep yourself motivated during the winter months is to use an App or chart to measure your progress. There’s plenty of them around, depending on the exercises you want to do. For wearable fitness trackers check out my article “How Do Personal Fitness Trackers Work, and are They Any Good?”

Employing The Buddy System
When all else fails it’s time to employ the buddy system – having someone keep you accountable is a terrific motivator. Need more convincing? Check out FitBodyHQ’s ten reasons to get a workout buddy from safety, form and accountability, to simply making workouts more fun.

In the end, what should be driving you to exercise is not the fear of weight gain (or other) if you don’t. Instead you need to get ‘plugged in’ to the feeling you get inside as a result of getting your workout done. Only then, can you truly remain motivated even throughout winter.

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How Long Does A Cold Last, And What Can I Do To Reduce The Duration And Severity?

Click here for the original InShape News article.

Each winter comes everyone’s dreaded fear … the dreaded lurgy.

You see people everywhere, sick people. Try to avoid them if you can but living in a modern society means exposure … it’s almost inevitable.

So what is a cold, how does it differ from the flu, and what can you do to avoid it?

 What is a cold?
The common cold, as detailed on Wikipedia, is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract that tends to mostly affect the sinuses and sometimes also the throat … think runny or blocked nose, tight head, sore eyes and a cough or sore throat.

WebMD.com explains cold can be caused by an adenovirus or coronavirus, but the most common culprit is the rhinovirus, responsible for up to fifty percent of colds. To make it worse, according to Healthline.com there are up to 200 different forms of cold-causing viruses, so avoiding one can be difficult.

However there is an old wives’ tale we need to debunk right now. Contrary to popular opinion you can’t actually ‘catch a cold’ from anything other than coming into contact with the virus. So being out in the cold, or getting cold, won’t actually cause a cold … it’s just a myth.

How is a cold different to the flu?
The human flu is caused by a different virus, called the influenza virus. It’s a different virus from the cold-causing varieties in type, severity and duration, but it does share many of the same symptoms, which can make it hard to distinguish between the two.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the easiest way to identify a flu is the severity of the following symptoms: “fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue (tiredness)”. If you have a cold the symptoms will be much milder, although still pretty unpleasant.

How do you catch a cold?
The cold and flu viruses are spread through airborne or surface contact. Usually the cold virus spreads through tiny, air droplets that are released when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or blows their nose near you. Dr Margaret Stearn explains when a sick person sneezes, up to 40,000 infected droplets can travel up to 30 feet and survive for up to 3 hours. Think about all of the surfaces those droplets can land on!

Photo Credit: Flu Virus Drift – NIAID – 2010


Why are colds more common in winter?

Whilst colds are not just a winter thing, they do tend to be more common in cold weather. This is not due to the cold, moist air, but rather, according to WebMD.com, due to the body’s immune system being less effective at colder temperatures.

Akiko Iwasaki, professor of immunobiology at Yale University School of Medicine adds “It has been long known that the rhinovirus replicates better at the cooler temperature, around 33 Celsius (91 Fahrenheit), compared to the core body temperature of 37 Celsius (99 Fahrenheit).” Not only can the body lower its temperature during cold weather, but your extremities like your nose and mouth, where viruses can enter, are often less warm.

Dr. Sorana Segal-Maurer, Infectious Disease Specialist, has a slightly different theory. She says “When the weather turns cold we all run indoors, where air is recycled and we’re often in close quarters with other people and viruses. We all sneeze on top of each other.”

Regardless of which theory is correct (and there’s probably some truth in both of them), there are a number of thigs you can do to prevent catching a virus.

How do I prevent catching a cold or the flu?
The FluVax can immunise you against Influenza type A (seasonal in animals and humans) and type B (seasonal in humans only) but there is no immunisation against type C which causes mild respiratory symptoms as WebMD.com explains. However the FluVax is a ‘best guess’ for what is likely to be caught in the following season, so it’s an aid and not a guarantee for flu prevention. That said, the vaccine can actually help to lessen the symptoms for many.

Dr Margaret Stearn and WebMD’s Suz Redfearn suggest the following as the best prevention for catching a cold:

  • Washing your hands a lot – more often than you are now;
  • When you can’t wash your hands use an alcohol based sanitiser;
  • Avoid being around people who are sick;
  • Minimise touching your eyes or nose especially after touching ‘public’ surfaces which may have been sneezed on;
  • Wear gloves when you travel on public transport;
  • Rug up in cold weather, covering your nose with a scarf, to keep your core temperature high;
  • Eat lots of fresh vegetables and some fruit, and avoid sugary foods, take away and fast food;
  • Exercise daily to boost your immune system;
  • Use a nasal spray with antimicrobial and slightly acidic properties;
  • Reduce stress, especially chronic stress, and laugh lots to boost your immunity
  • Superdose on Vitamin C
  • Keep your home clean and surfaces sanitised

How long will a cold (or flu) last?
Before you get the symptoms of a cold there is roughly a two or three day incubation period where the virus has started to spread and your immune system has just begun fighting the inner war.

Kristina Dud, R.N. explains the duration of cold symptoms often last only two or three days, although it can, depending on your health and the strength of your immune system, last up to three weeks. During this time you can spread the virus to others unless you take precautions.

According to Harvard Health Publications the flu, in comparison, has a slightly longer incubation period (one to four days) and the more severe symptoms tend to last seven to fourteen days.

If your symptoms last longer than this, WebMD.com explains you may have developed a bacterial infection in your lungs, sinuses or ears. If this happens or if your mucus turns bright yellow (or green) then best to see your local doctor who may prescribe medication.

 How can I ease the symptoms of a cold?
It’s actually your immune system that causes you to feel unwell says Saga.co.uk. During the internal  battle, inflammatory mediators are released, including histamine, interleukins and prostaglandins, which cause the symptoms.

But it’s not all bad news. The Mayo Clinic identifies the best ways to alleviate many of the symptoms of a cold or flu:

  • Getting plenty of rest;
  • Drinking lots of water and warm liquids;
  • Use a humidifier or vaporiser to help loosen congestion;
  • Suck on medicated lozenges for a sore throat or use a salt gargle;
  • Treating a cough or sinus conditions with over the counter medications;
  • Taking pain relievers (for the flu only) to lower any fever or aches;
  • Avoid alcohol, coffee and smoking;

In summary
Whilst prevention is better than the cure,  knowledge is your ally.
If you put all of the preventers into practice you’ll be unlikely to catch anything. And if the inevitable happens, then you’ll know exactly what to do so you can bounce back quicker!

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Adrenals and Perimenopause Suck … but so does Child Abuse

Lately I’ve been writing the odd post on my personal Facebook profile about what I’ve been going through … but I thought it’s time to come out and share with those of you who visit to read my posts in the hope it may help some of you. So here’s the update for those who are interest … so this is a real (and not a Fakebook) post.

After 7 months of uncertainly, I finally got my cervical biopsy results last night. Worried as my grandmother had uterine cancer, I was dumbfounded to receive news that what was an abnormal and very high read is now NORMAL! Follow up testing required in 12 months but the paleo diet and focusing on gut health must be working.

Whilst that’s a load of unnecessary stress off my mind (finally) I can now concentrate on other matters … Apart from being officially peri menopausal and having to wait 6 months before I can be tested for natural hormone therapy (rather than bio-identical hormones which I am allergic to) it seems I may have over-active adrenal glands.

This is apparently not a new condition, but something that occurred as a result of the child abuse I suffered as a 6 year old which triggered my fight or flight response system … permanently. Instead of living in the normal rage for the parasympathetic symptom, my subconscious sympathetic system is continually triggered (similar for PTSD sufferers) and I’m always on edge for being ‘attacked’ again … even when I consciously know I’m safe. Yep, the mind makes strange and not always wonderful neural connections.

For years I’ve channelled this adrenalin into being a high performer and just getting lots of shit done and into my exercise and 13km runs each day which saw me shed more than 70kgs. But after a dodgy hip (or two) when running had to stop, and then a bout of complete physical exhaustion including pneumonia, flu and a kidney infection all within 12 weeks, it led to adrenal fatigue (aka fibromyalgia) … my body said “enough”.

Since my fibromyalgia almost 2 years ago I requested my rheumatologist put me on something mild to help change my brain chemistry to being more positive … 5mg Endep is almost a non-therapeutic dose and it requires 6 month minimum bursts of treatment. He and I made an agreement to do 6 months (which I finished June 2016) but by the end of November the same year I was having bad thoughts that I couldn’t explain so I decided to repeat another 6 months of treatment. That finished two weeks ago.

Now I knew Endep for me wasn’t a long term solution. I also caught wind that, when I accidentally failed to swallow the tablet and my tongue went numb for a couple of hours, that it probably wasn’t doing great things to my mind or my body. But what I didn’t realise is what a massive fog that pill had put me under.

Since coming off the meds on 8th June I felt a surge of motivation, of energy and the sort of clarity I hadn’t experienced in ages. All those projects that had been lying dormant were almost instantaneously resurrected and new solutions came to me easily. I was on fire … getting shit done again … I was finally back baby.

And then I had an ‘aha’ … the sort of moment of divine and pure clarity that makes you stop and reassess your whole life. In that moment, I realised for the first time, not just on a mental level, but I got it physically … that ‘being back’ and the burst of energy was my over active adrenals kicking in. And I also realised that if I continued this way, that I was going to be back with sever fibromyalgia again … unable to get out of bed for 4 or more days a week. And having been on a 2 year journey to detoxify and rid myself of that pain, that’s just not what I ever want again …

Stop … pause … time to explore the concept of over active adrenals. If this is the case (my thyroid is normal – I get it tested every 6 to 12 months) then it may also explains my addiction to carbs at night. Carbs … my nemesis … it’s almost impossible for me to avoid them, no matter how hard I try. I thought I was just addicted, and needed help … or some really sticky gaffa tape for my mouth. But seriously if over active adrenals are at play, then this could be the underlying cause for my weight gain over recent years. It makes sense … I crave the carbs (and sugar) at night as all my other reserves are depleted from being ‘on edge’ and hyper alert all day (presenting through the day as high stress and anxiety which others see as a lot of energy). The body’s response for depleted reserves is for a quick carb fix, which sadly undermines all the good work I do during the day. The end result … the weight I lost has started to return. I feel like I’m in a never ending revolving door… often to the fridge.

For me all the pieces are finally falling into place … the resumption of childhood night terrors from lack of control of my body, the adrenals kicking in to ‘rescue’ me and make me safe, the over-eating to protect myself from fear of attack … and all stemming from something that happened to me when I was 6 … something I thought I’d gotten through. Apparently there’s more to unravel. The relief at knowing this, at knowing I’m ot crazy or depressed is a HUGE load off my shoulders … and my mind.

Recently, as part of a program to get off the Endep forever, my doctor put me on a Mental Health Care Plan … up to 15 subsidised counselling sessions with the counsellor of my choosing (thanks Medicare). Finding the right one was super difficult and took a lot of time … but in the end she was right under my nose. She’s not only a social worker trained in trauma counselling, she has worked at CASA, and has specialist training as a Counsellor and Psychotherapist in emotion focused therapy, art therapy, mindfulness, and trauma-informed care. Emily is all about ‘chick power’.

The first step in this counselling journey was a tough one to take … but of all the medical natural therapies I have done over recent years, the biggest revelations for me have happened on Emily’s couch. She’s helped to realised that my subconscious has made all sorts of unsupportive neural connections back to the original traumatic events. She’s given me the tools to break those connections, and restore the ‘event’ back to it’s original container where we can start dealing with it. My night terrors have almost all stopped.

And after years of unresolved grief (you try going to 13 funerals in 12 months) and blocking the mourning process I’m finally moving forward on that one too … reconnecting with my ‘sisterhood’ and sharing in personal heartfelt exchanges, one on one, with the important women in my life. And I’m happier. After all it’s the depth of connection that’s important, not the frequency. As women we’re so good at giving to others, we often forget to share and receive. Truth is we’re important too.

So where to from here? Long post short, I’m hoping to get my adrenals tested next week and I’m trying all sorts of different therapies, trying to find out what works best for me. Meanwhile Ashwagandha and Astragalus root drops are on their way to try, and I’ve been ‘ordered’ to stop every 30 minutes and ‘be present’ and calm my state … and my adrenals. I’ve also been advised (at my own suggestion) to recommence my morning yoga sessions and do quick guided meditations several times a day.

It’s a commitment … but then I’m worth it.

If you got this far, thanks for reading, and thanks for your support.
I hope in some small way my sharing has helped, and encouraged you to open up.

Remember, you’re worth it too.

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I’m a Beginner – What Gym Routine Should I do to Lose Weight?

Click here for the original InShape News article.

Deciding to get your ‘gym’ on is one of the best things you can do. The health benefits for all aspect of your body, mind and spirit are well researched. But going to a gym is a little different than just grabbing your runners and going for a quick jog. No going to the gym is a completely different environment … and you want to ensure you see a return for your often big bucks.

Gym First Timers
Attending a gym for the first time can be quite daunting … there are often so many different classes on offer it’s hard to know where to start. And all those machines … you might be wondering what they all do and how you’re ever going to learn how to use them.

Gyms are great places to get some expert tuition or to just get your workout done when it’s cold, raining or just plain dark outside. And the recent proliferation of 24×7 gyms makes that task so much easier. So before you head into a gym, let’s spend a few minutes getting your head into the right space so you’ll be a bit more relaxed.

Gym as a Way of Life
First things first … the main thing you need to know is that whatever you end up doing, to maintain your results you need to be prepared to do it for the rest of your life. Exercise is not a fad. It’s not something you do solely to lose weight and then the weight miraculously stays off. No, as soon as you stop doing whatever you did, the weight comes right back on. Exercise … love it or loathe it … really is a life-long commitment. It’s a way of life.

That said, you can now understand why it’s important it is to select a gym routine that works for you: the location, time, type and duration all have to work. So choose something that you can fit (or squeeze) into your normal schedule. Keeping it interesting and fun will make it easier to commit to it long-term. And grabbing a partner to workout with can not only increase your commitment and motivation, there are also a whole host of additional benefits according to Mirel Ketchiff from Shape.com.

Gym is Not a Dirty Word
As a beginner, don’t be scared of the word ‘gym’. You’re not going to be hurled head first into a weight lifting only routine … in fact quite the opposite. Gym staff will usually recommend you do a mix of activities so have a chat with them and ask them to suggest a routine. Staff at the best gyms will do a thorough assessment on you, and only recommend things that are comfortable (and possible) for you to do.

Before you become a gym junkie it’s worth knowing that the most effective workout seems to be a combination of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Resistance Training (RT) as opposed to the straight cardio fad of the 19080s – so Richard Simmons has officially left the building.

HIIT and You
You can read all about why HIIT works so well at Nerd Fitness. And HIIT’s effectiveness is also investigated in ABC Catalyst’s 2015 report “Fit in 6 Minutes a Week”. HIIT is a sensible exercise approach for making long-term gains with minimal effort. And it’s got a solid pedigree…

HIIT’s not new. It actually originated informally in the 1970s and was used by track and field athlete Sebastian Coe. It has since morphed into a number of regiment including, more recently, the Timmons regimen (2012) used by Dr Michael Mosely in his BBC documentary the “Truth about Exercise”.

HIIT aside, if you’re looking for guided DIY information about specific routines then Shape.com has their “Best Fat-Loss Workout of All Time” and it’s pretty good if you have all of the equipment and plenty of time. If you are time short then check out Women’sHealth Mag’s “5-Minute Fat-Blasting Workout” which focuses on Interval Training (similar to HIIT, but not quite as effective). It will take longer to get the results but it is a good routine, especially if you add some free weights where you can on alternate days.

Mix it Up
Just keep in mind that research has shown that after performing the exact same routine for three weeks your body switches off, and the effects of doing the same program start to diminish. To avoid this simply change your program every 3 weeks by selecting a different cardio exercise (rowing instead of bike), changing the work out time (15 or 25 minutes instead of 20) or the intensity (use interval programs and change out the interval duration). When it comes to resistance training simply change out your sets and reps – instead of 3 sets x 10 reps, do 2 sets by 15 reps.

Don’t Go Over the Top
Oh and there’s no point going overboard. According to Haroon Siddique of The Guardian doing more exercise won’t necessarily lose you more weight. There’s apparently a sweet spot for the ‘exercise to calorie burn’ ratio. And like anything, consistency is the key to getting (and keeping) good results. That and a solid commitment to your routine, and your body. After all this is not a 6-week affair, it’s for life.

Eat Lean and Clean
And sorry … there’s also a bit more bad news. Even if you work out like a mad person, your eating regime could actually undo all your hard work. Yep, a critical part of your workout is actually what you put in your mouth. Who knew?

If that’s the case then when should you eat, and what should you eat? A while back I gave some advice in my article What Are The Best Foods to Eat Before Working Out. But the big take away from the article is that most people load up before a workout, and it’s simply not required. You have enough reserves … trust me.

Instead, to burn the most fat from a diet perspective, don’t snack and follow a Ketogenic diet. According to Wikipedia high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate Ketogenic diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. DietDoctor.com has lots of good information on it and a helpful searchable database of recipes. And Kyran Doyle has a whole host of yummy ketogenic snack recipes here. Lastly, Authority Nation also lists the foods to avoid here.

Beginner or not, in the end it is all about doing what works for you and your lifestyle – there’s no ‘one fits all’ solution when it comes to health. Keep trying different things (both diet and exercise) until you find what works for you. What works for you won’t be the same for everyone. But what is the same is that the most important bit of any workout or gym routine is that you actually do it.

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What is a Paleo Diet, and is it Good for You?

Click here for the original InShape News article.

What is a Paleo Diet?
A paleo-based diet is based on raw ingredients, and is often referred to as the ‘caveman’ diet due to the hunt and gather nature of its ingredients. In today’s modern times our ‘hunting and gathering’ tends to be done at the local supermarket or grocer, so think of it as a diet that focusses on home grown or organic seasonal ingredients and generally no- or low-processed foods in recipes made from scratch.

What do you eat on a Paleo Diet?
The paelo-based diet generally consists of meats, fish, nuts, leafy greens, regional veggies, and seeds with some healthy fats and a small amount of fruit.

Meats and fish: Importantly when it comes to meats, it’s a holistic view of the animal that counts rather than focussing on muscle meats (generally the cuts you find at the butcher). So you should include offal, or the internal organs of animals, in your diet. These include hearts, livers, kidneys, brains, trotters, etc. which are richer sources of nutrients than muscle meal. Bone broth is also an important component of a paleo-based diet, and especially good for gut health and addressing allergies. Use a vinegar (with a mother) to help extract the minerals and simmer for at least 24 hours – get Pete Evean’s recipe here or simply watch Paelo Star’s Fast Bone Broth video here.

Nuts: Nuts should be ‘activated’ where possible – soaking them in filtered water to remove impurities and phytic acid, and then dehydrating them. Find out more in this video from The Internet Chef.

Vegetables: the paleo way of life should focus on a vegetable-rich diet (up to 70%) supplemented with some meat, fish, nuts. All vegetables including root vegetables and especially leafy greens are welcomed and eaten in abundance.

Fats: Fruit-based fats are good and used in most meals. These include coconut oil, avocado and olive oil. Nut oils are less often used as the oxidate quickly and are difficult to extract. Coconut oil has the highest smoke point and is good for cooking.

Fruits: Fruits are generally high in fructose and are ‘sometimes’ foods if you chose to adopt a paelo-lifestyle. If you think about our pre-farming ancestors they did not have ready access to bananas, mangoes or even apples. They were not only seasonal, but spasmodic in access. So keep your fruit intake to under 3 pieces a day.

Fermented foods: Fermenting vegetables is one of the new paelo crazes as it increases the nutrients of the vegetables 100-fold and makes them more bio-available. New to fermenting? Check out the Fermenting Queen of Australia, Kitsa Yanniotis’s fermenting recipe video here.

What can’t you at on a Paleo Diet?
In two words – processed foods.
That means no grains, no sugar, no dairy.
Yep, no rice, no pasta, no legumes, no soy, no refined sugar.

What can you replace these with?
Paleo substitutes may seem difficult at first, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes easier. Substitutes include cauliflower rice, Zucchini or squash ‘pasta’, dried fruit, coconut flour, nut meal, flax meal, nut milks and coconut cream. You can check out more substitutes at Paleo Grubs here.

Is a Paleo Diet good for you?
If food is medicine (and it is), then what we eat is who we are, and a paleo way of life makes a lot of sense. Check out PictureFit’s Video here which explains both sides of the paleo story.

It’s well known that a diet rich in the right vitamins, minerals, micro and macro nutrients can repair most, if not all, ailments in the body. In fact, if you ask Australian Paleo Ambassador and Chef Pete Evans he will tell you it’s the only way of eating that is good for you. Check out his ‘Paleo Way’ introductory video here.

Experience has shown that a paleo-style diet eliminates the high inflammatory foods that cause issues and pain in the body. Paleo advocate Dr Sarah Ballantyne (aka The Paleo Mum) provides a lot of evidence-based assistance for autoimmune sufferers on her website.

Are there issues with a Paleo Diet?
There are two main issues with a paleo diet – accessibility and scientific evidence.

Accessibility: The real pitfalls with a paleo-based diet is that it can be time consuming – everything has to be made from scratch. There are plenty of shortcuts once you are familiar with the preparation and cooking techniques, but generally you need to plan ahead: organic foods do not have the same shelf-life as conventional packaged foods, and it can be really hard to find paleo foods when eating out. Paleo diets, due to the organic and grass-fed nature of ingredients, can seem expensive and out of reach of many of those in need of a healthier diet.

Scientific evidence: The Sceptical Nutritionist tries to debunk the paelo diet here with claims from evolutionary biologist, Professor Marlene Zuk, that the paleo diet lacks any rigorous scientific research to support its health claims. They further cite Dr Christina Warriner, archaeological scientist, who states that there was no ‘one way’ of eating when it came to our ancestors, and that due to thousands of years of evolution, the modern cultivated foods we grow bears little likeness to those our ancestors ate.

But having said that you can read well-respected Paleo Grubs article “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of the Paleo Diet” here and PaeloDietEvolved’s “15 Benefits” including scientific links here.

Is there a wrong way to go paleo?
For sure! For many people paleo is about losing weight or addressing an ailment of the body (arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, adrenal fatigue, diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, etc.). And whilst a true paleo-lifestyle may address and even alleviate many of these conditions, it will only help people to lose weight if the portion sizes and meat to vegetable ratios eaten are truly paleo in nature.

For example, there are now a lot of paleo and raw food ‘treats’ on the market. These contain a lot of concentrated fructose, from dates, dried apricots and prunes or other fruits. We know from last month’s article that there are lots of dangers associated with a high fructose diet. So switching from processed foods to a diet rich in these paleo snacks is not the right way to start, and it’s not truly paleo anyway.

Do you have to count calories on a Paleo Diet?
That is one of the biggest advantages of a paleo-lifestyle – there should be no need to count calories – as long as you do it right.

However, having said that, there is a need to constrain portion sizes and eat more appropriate meal sizes. Restaurants are well known for trying to give you ‘value’ with cheap nutrient-depleted meals rich in bad fats, salt and sugar to make them taste better.

The biggest issue with people on a paleo diet is that they over-eat protein. A small palm sized pieve per meal is all you need. Oh and lots of veggies!

I want to go paleo, but where do I start?
If you’re unsure of where to start, don’t worry, there’s plenty of resources available to help. You can simply search for ‘paleo’ on the web or in your favourite bookstore.

My go-to paleo resource is chef Pete Evans, because he explains things simply, and his recipe books look beautiful. Eat Drink Paleo’s Irena Macri also has some great resources and My Paleoish Life has some fantastic recipes and a new cookbook coming out soon.

If you want something to ‘digest’ immediately then check out Paleo Chef Pete Evan’s “The Paleo Way – Putting It All Into Practice” video here.

Happy hunting.

P.S. if you want more information on the difference between raw, vegan and paleo diets check out this article from PositivehealthWellness here.

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Paleo Challenge #3

I feel like crap. I’m still craving sugar and I’m thirsty.

Lots on today … I get writing and update my blog. Still thinking about breakfast and decide to give paleo pancakes a try. I don’t have any coconut milk. I decide to use almond milk, egg whites and SteviaSlim and add 2 spoons of raw cocoa powder to the mix. They take a long time to cook, especially one at a time. The air is thick with the smell of chocolate and coconut.

The day was pretty busy and so I never got back to this post until much later. I did manage to get in a quick mostly-paleo dinner before heading off to MTC’s Faith Healer starring the amazingly talented Colin Freils and Alyson White.

Sadly after this post I got a bit sidetracked, things got hectic, I had some bad medical news and I fell off the paleo wagon. Whilst I tried to maintain my mostly-paleo ways I can’t say that things since have gone to plan. Mentally it’s been a real struggle. Emotionally it’s been tough. Physically things have gone downhill.

As a result I couldn’t continue this experiement.
I did write my article on all things paleo – it’s coming out soon – watch for the post.
And in May I have recommited to a paleo lifestyle, not just for combatting my adrenal fatigue, but for combatting a number of other women’s issues including suspected candida. It’s time to get back on the wagon, kick my bad habits for good and make the healthy lifestyle change for me.

Paleo Challenge #2

Feeling good today, slept well and had good result on my morning weight in, which always puts you in a good frame of mind and spurs you on for the day.

Did yoga *ouch*, my gratitude journal, and got the dogs out to the ‘G’ for a good off lead run (they always run well after a chiropractic treatment). Back home, hydrotherapy, body brushing and time to hit the computer for a few minutes before heading to lunch with my wonderful husband for our weekly catch up meeting.

Great meeting and lunch with my husband. Avoided the bread and the wine. Still feeling good. Delicious scallops, green salad and amazing pan-fried mulloway. Watched hubby eat dessert and drink a fine fortified tokay.

Home again, hit the office and start knocking off tasks, getting lots done (but never enough). That old adage “right now my to do list is so long I’ll never die” applies.

Snacked: activated nuts, choc paleo balls, raspberry coconut chia pudding (all home-made). Still peckish. Hmmm. Try to avoid the urge.

Massage at home from our good friend (and qualified masseuse) Grace. Eat dinner: aromatic coconut vegetables and bbq’d chicken thighs. Remaining chia pudding hit the lips after adding activated pepitas, walnuts and cocoa nibs. Crunchy.

Still peckish …inca berries …activated almonds …1/3 of a banana …home-made sugar-free (paleo) hazelnut kisses and lots of water. I decide to send the rest of the kisses to hubby’s work mates tomorrow.

Watch TV and give the dogs a cuddle. Still peckish …nectarine …cup of hot tea. The sugar cravings are overwhelming. Is this withdrawal? I feel like a drug addict. My self-control has boarded the bus and is leaving. I trawl the fridge and the cupboards for suitable sugar-laiden snacks like an addict searches the streets for a fix. I can’t find any.

But later that night I give in …a serve of Moser Roth Dominican Republic 75% cocoa with quite a number of prunes. My addiction is sated for the time being. I go to bed.

Results:
Weight: -0.7kg
Water: 3.0 litres
Stopped eating: midnight
Added sugar: 6g (just over 1 teaspoon)
Sleep: 4h 52m

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Paleo Challenge #1

Over the years since I shed all that weight I’ve come to realise three things: 1) maintenance is more difficult that shedding the weight ever was; 2) I have a number of food intolerances that seem to get worse as I get older that need to be managed; and 3) I have some addictions that I need to deal with – specifically an addiction to refined carbohydrates (including sugar).

In preparation for an article on Paleo Living that I’m writing for InShape News next month I thought I’d do a 30 day paleo test and go 100% paleo for at least 30 days, testing my bloods before and after and tracking my weight and body fat. so with the tests done I’ve embarked on just this.

On reflection the diet I mostly used to shed all that weight was paleo: lean proteins, lots of vegetables, a few nuts and a little fruit. For the most part I ditched all grains and most dairy. And I exercised. Boy did I exercise. I went to the gym 3 days a week and most days I jogged 13kms (which is the same distance as the City to Surf). It was hell on my body during the maintenance phase and I eventually developed painful bursitis in both hips.

In recent years I’ve relaxed my exercise routine and my diet and the results have not been all that I hoped … not only has more than just a little weight crept back but in November 2016 I developed adrenal fatigue (also known as chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia).

So 2017 is time for change … time to rethink and recommit to a healthy eating plan that is not arduous, lets me socialise with friends easily, and a plan that I don’t have to weigh, measure and track what I eat to keep a stable weight.

Enter this Paleo Challenge.

To be completely transparent, I’ve been moving towards a paleo diet for many months, eliminating refined sugars and reducing grains, flours and dairy. But one of my weaknesses is bread products like fresh sourdough (often spelt or gluten free) and more recently I discovered an amazing French baker nearby that makes all sorts of delights (think brioche, almond croissants, pain au chocolate) from imported French flour – a strain of wheat that doesn’t bloat me (Australian wheat is very high in gluten and isn’t very well tolerated). It’s been a delight to indulge but the indulgences have been too frequent. And knowing all too well that food IS medicine, I need to clean up my act and walk my talk.

So today, Day 1 of the challenge I started on this journey. I felt really good today and was easily able to stick to my paleo plan. I skipped breakfast to induce glycolysis (the burning of glycogen stores) and began with a late lunch of sweet potato, carrot and avocado egg skillet. Delicious.

Dinner was a crock pot creation of aromatic coconut norwegian salmon and vegetables (no rice) inspired by chef and paleo king Pete Evans, and a raspberry coconut chia pudding adapted from Kari’s recipe at Get Inspired Everyday (I simply switched out the dates for SteviaSlim to lower the fructose count, and I didn’t have any dates on hand). I didn’t feel any need to snack or eat after dinner. Slept well.

Results:
Weight: OMG
Water: 2.5 litres
Stopped eating: 8.30pm
Added sugar: 0g
Sleep: 6h 08m

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