Take a look outside

Fiona Wood

Dr Fiona Wood is a woman of many talents and maximises every possible opportunity to put them to good use. She became instantly known worldwide when the tragic events of the 2002 Bali bombings unfolded, with her team working day and night to care for badly burned victims.  It was during this time that the “spray on skin” cell technology pioneered by Dr Wood was used extensively and, in recognition of this work with the Bali bombing victims, Fiona was named a Member of the Order of Australia in 2003. Understandably, she describes this time in her life as brutal, with the workload, emotional toll and the travel hours extreme. For Fiona, in her line of work, the external environment of care could vary widely from a bombsite to a hospital bed to the scene of an accident at the side of the road.

When contemplating making changes to your own health behaviour, assessing your own external environment is crucial to success. Although your environment may not be as extreme as those that Fiona Wood finds herself in, it can change many times over a day or week and being aware of each scenario means that you can adapt and plan accordingly. Take a look at what is going on around you and think about the things that impact on your ability to lead a healthy lifestyle such as:

Do you work too much or do you need to change the way you work?

Identifying the ‘stuff’ that stresses you out and figuring out a way to reduce or eliminate it.

Do you get rave reviews when you cook or do your skills need a little fine-tuning?

Do you have food in the pantry or is the cupboard bare? Being organised with a shopping routine makes it easier to eat well. If you don’t have time to get to the shops (or even if you do), spend a fraction of the time doing it online and avoid all the temptations that are costly to your wallet and your body.

Have you got somewhere to exercise? Access to facilities, clothing and equipment to enable exercise are going to be pretty important for a successful fitness bid.

Are you racking up enough zzzz’s? The quality and quantity of your sleep routine can dictate the outcome of whether you exercise, what and how much you eat and how productive you are during the day.

Financial health – your income and budget can impact some aspects of leading a healthy life but sometimes its more about prioritising  how we spend our money.

The weather – we all know that rain is plain old water but factoring it into your exercise plans removes another barrier.  Perhaps you don’t want to get onto your bike in the pelting rain but Plan B might be the gym or weights at home for some strength training. Conversely, it is usually too hot to run during the day in summer (in Australia at least) but early mornings are too good to miss.

Skill power – are you aware of the skills required to steer your health in the right direction? How will you find out what skills you need? If you don’t possess these skills, how can you get them?

Looking after the environment in this case means your own patch of well-being.  Does it mean engaging a personal trainer or finding an exercise buddy, seeking out help from health professionals such as your GP, Dietitian or Psychologist? Upskilling of self by learning meditation, taking cooking classes, shopping online, doing a short course or further studies? Information is only a click away and it is yours to access.

Improving the quality of your life and reducing your risk factors for chronic disease or having enough energy to play with the kids after a hard days work are all worthy outcomes.   Of course, let’s not forget feeling good about yourself, being happy with your body and feeling fit and strong. These are great results not only for yourself but also for your loved ones.  Take a look around and see what you find.


Food Care Factor

Fresh off the vine
Fresh off the vine

One look inside a shopping trolley will show you how varied our food tastes are.  One trolley might be full of fruit and vegetables and another might be groaning under the weight of processed items such as snack foods, confectionery and the like. There are a number of factors at play when we choose food, most of which we are completely unaware.

Income – people of lower socioeconomic status are more likely to choose processed foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt and are at greater risk of being overweight. Age – younger age groups choose more processed and junk food, whereas older age groups purchase less processed food and tend to make healthier choices. Education – as your level of education increases so does the likelihood of choosing healthy food. Lower levels of education affect food choice negatively across all food groups. Time – in today’s fast paced world, we are all impacted by time crunch, which can often negatively affect food choice.  With more working parents than ever, convenience foods are playing a significant role in our diets and our fat, sugar and salt intakes increase accordingly. History – what did your parents do? If you were raised on a healthy diet, it is more likely that you will continue to do this as an adult.

I recently interviewed Maggie Beer, Cook, Author and Gourmet Food Producer and she is a passionate advocate of choosing and preparing food that is fresh, healthy, sustainable and home grown where possible. The beauty of this philosophy is that these types of foods are usually whole foods. Whole foods are those that are minimally processed and include wholegrain cereals and breads, vegetables, legumes and soy foods, nuts and seeds, fruit, dairy and lean meat, chicken and fish.

Protecting your health

Highly processed foods usually bring a couple of friends with them in the form of refined sugar, fat and salt which are not naturally present in the ingredients before they are processed. A regular and excess intake of these leads to weight gain and increases the risk of every lifestyle disease.

Grow your own

Whether you have as little space as a balcony in an apartment, a suburban backyard or acreage, the principles and basic needs of growing vegetables remain the same with only minor variations. Planting tomatoes in a pot, growing herbs on a windowsill or integrating silver beet amongst a flowerbed are just a few ideas to get you started. The taste of homegrown food is sensational and is a great way to educate kids on where real food comes from and how it grows.

Make it yourself

Wherever possible, use fresh produce and cook it from scratch. For example, homemade tomato pasta sauce can be made with much less salt and more taste than commercial varieties. It might seem convenient to buy prepared custard but making your own is significantly less expensive, contains less sugar and takes only three minutes to prepare in the microwave. If you have children make sure you involve them in the cooking to develop essential skills for their well-being as an adult.

Save your wallet

Whole foods are generally associated with plainer packaging and minimal intervention whereas the opposite is true of processed foods.  Looking at supermarket shelves, it often seems like a competition to see who can have the biggest, brightest packaging with the most persuasive marketing – all of which you pay a premium for.

Road Miles

While we are fortunate that many foods are now available year round, this is only possible because the food is imported. There is a distinct disadvantage in purchasing out-of-season produce, as it is usually more expensive due to storage and transportation across long distances. Buying produce locally is cheaper, in-season and more likely to be fresher and of higher quality.

Helping the environment

Being less processed, the production of whole foods requires less energy. Packaging is often minimal (think fruit and vegetables) and contributes less to landfill. In-season produce grown locally has travelled less distance, resulting in less greenhouse gas emissions.  Check out your local weekend growers market for a fantastic range of fresh food that hasn’t travelled far to get there at affordable prices.