Want to know what a Dietitian eats? There are no food police in sight I promise.

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post for my lovely clients Kale and Co. which was all about what a Dietitian like me eats every day.  Funnily enough, there were people who liked hearing about it, so I today I am sharing this with you just in case you might like to hear about it too.

 You know how some carpenters can have millions of unfinished building projects at their own homes, plumbers have leaky taps and electricians have lights without globes, despite excellent work for their clients? Both my Dad and brother are carpenters and builders, so I can say this with some authority.

If we follow the same pattern of thinking, does this mean that a Dietitian like me drops the ball with personal eating and nutrition habits?

Lets get a few things out of the way first. My profession as a Dietitian definitely suffers from being viewed by some as the ‘food police’ and in social situations; I would rather stick a pin in my eye than tell people what I do for a living. If this information does leak out, it is inevitable that I will be 1) thrown under the proverbial bus within milliseconds 2) bombarded with every nutrition question known to man or 3) the person that makes every single other person self-conscious about every teeny little mouthful of food they put in their mouth for the entire time I am there. Basically, it is a joy for everyone.

I get that there is something eerily fascinating about delving into what a Dietitian eats, so pull up a seat while I interview myself and spill the beans (pun intended).

What do I eat?

I like to keep things pretty simple and it takes a lot to bore me – I don’t mind eating the same kind of things over and over. Unfortunately when there is a husband and three kids at home who don’t agree with this ethos, my plan does not come to fruition. I do love to cook but I don’t have time for fancy pants cooking – delicious yes but complicated no.

My nutrition scorecard looks a lot like this:

Breakfast:

Porridge with prunes + Hi-Lo milk or Goodness Superfood’s Barley Clusters + blueberries + yoghurt or Bircher Muesli + a dollop of yoghurt + sliced fresh fruit.

I can eat porridge in forty degree mid summer heat – I just love oats!

Lunch:

A salad made of baby spinach leaves + undressed coleslaw + cherry tomatoes + Lebanese cucumber + tuna in oil or two boiled eggs with a fresh lime or lemon juice dressing.

Dinner:

Some typical meals include spaghetti bolognaise or meatballs, bean curry, steak and salad, roast chicken and vegetables, homemade pies, Moroccan slow cooked lamb with sweet potato and pumpkin, chilli chicken and rice, risotto, fresh salmon and rosemary potatoes, zucchini slice and homemade pizza. I also love lentil, freekeh and lupins in salads.

If I get hungry in the afternoon, I will snack on cashews, fruit, yoghurt or crackers and cheese and I drink a couple of cups of coffee and tea each per day too. It is a necessity I assure you.

My favourite food

Cheese, cheese and cheese. Did I mention cheese?

My favourite things

Chocolate or lollies? Chocolate all the way

Red or white wine? White

Sweet or savoury? Love them both

Favourite Alcoholic drink? Aperol Spritz

My favourite Kale and Co. food?  Beetroot Cake. So yum.

So what do you think?

My personal and professional ethos is all about enjoying good food that is mostly healthy, to fuel these busy bodies of ours BUT having the confidence to occasionally include ‘treat’ foods knowing that this is all part of a balanced diet.

What about you?  What are your favourite things?

Steptember – will you putting a spring in your step?

Yippee, just one more sleep until spring and Steptember. Nope, its not a spelling error, Steptember is just an innovative way of repurposing the first month of a new season in an energetic way.

Steptember has been initiated by the Cerebral Palsy Alliance and they are asking us to take 10,000 steps a day for 28 days straight to assist people with cerebral palsy – a condition that affects movement. I love that they are asking Australia to get stepping because the positive side effects of moving more are so many.

Imagine that you are in store looking at a label with the following benefits listed:

This product can assist in the prevention and management of heart problems, diabetes, cancer, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and lung problems including asthma. It can also aid in keeping the joints and muscles mobile, increase strength and balance and is a great way of putting bone in the bank. You will be more productive in the two hours after you take it with a 24-hour improvement and if you take it for 20 minutes every second day, it will halve the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. And last but not least, it makes you look and feel a million dollars.

If this were a description of a drug, everyone would be falling over each other to get it. Here we are describing a multi-faceted performance enhancer called exercise and the benefits are obvious immediately, impressive in their magnitude and wide reaching. Despite this, although backed by irrefutable clinical evidence, little or no cost and a glowing rap sheet, around 70% of Australians are not getting enough of it for optimal health.
In the world of health promotion, exercise is continually on the agenda and yet in many first world countries the rates are well below ideal with dramatic negative impact on almost all major diseases.

Regular exercisers are familiar with the feeling of endorphin release during exercise and many people report this as being a major factor in increasing their motivation for wanting to do more. Endorphins are the body’s natural pain medication and are neurotransmitters found in the pituitary gland and around the nervous system. Endorphins interact with human opiate receptors, which reduce your perception of pain. Serotonin, an endorphin associated with depression, is usually produced in response to pain and stress but there is increasing evidence that this also occurs during exercise. The good news is that the amount of exercise does not need to be excessive and around 20-30 minutes at a moderate intensity can cause endorphin release. Exercising to exhaustion can cause endorphin levels to drop significantly but on the upside new exercisers may experience stronger effects of endorphins than someone who has been exercising regularly.

The Australian Government has some practical advice for those contemplating an exercise routine:

  • Think of movement as an opportunity not an inconvenience -opportunities to improve your health include walking the kids to school, parking your car further away from your destination
  • Be active everyday in as many ways as you can
  • Put together 30 minutes of exercise each day – you can accumulate 30 minutes of exercise across the day when the opportunity arises
  • If you can, enjoy some vigorous exercise for extra health and fitness

But back to Steptember. On the back of a long and cold winter, spring seems the perfect time to kick-start a new exercise routine doesn’t it? Gunning for 10,000 steps each day for 28 days in Steptember, also seems like a perfect way to get yourself started.

There are a few different ways to keep track of your daily steps – you can try a Fitbit or similar device or most smartphones come with an inbuilt tracker you can use too. Measuring your daily stepping action can be a powerful way of being accountable and can provide the motivation you sometimes need to have to keep your health at the forefront of your mind.

But here’s the kicker. Its one thing to think about doing 10,000 steps every day but quite another to actually do them. Research shows when it comes to achieving goals, the chance of success increases by 33% if it is shared with others and by up to 72% if money is put on the line. A super cool concept called Promise or Pay combines these two approaches to help you stick to your goals by donating to charity if you don’t follow through and encouraging others to donate if you succeed. To me, Steptember and Promise or Pay seem to be the perfect marriage.

Are you joining me in stepping it out in Steptember?

Lacing up with the Perth Run Collective

I have become part of something that is pretty darn special. This ‘thing’ is all about having fun, staying healthy and fit and joining a bunch of other people all on the same page. Last year, lululemon athletica started up a Perth Run Collective in the city, designed to encourage people to run for fitness while having fun at the same time. A novel concept some may say but this collective has been a huge success and continues to grow like a beautiful weed. On the back of this, it made perfect sense to get this baby out into the ‘burbs and last weekend the northern suburbs got the lululemon Perth Run Collective cranking, with over 30 peeps from beginners to competent runners taking part in the first week of the Winter Reset program.

In the world of exercise and health being part of a collective is something that I feel super passionate about.

Our first lesson in preventative health happens in kindergarten when we are allocated a ‘buddy’ to do an activity, go to the bathroom, walk between classrooms or cross the road together. Buddies keep an eye on each other, look out for danger and yell for help if it is needed.

Fast forward to life as an adult and many people in first world countries need help with their health. Although the prevalence of obesity and lifestyle diseases is skyrocketing, just 2% of the Australian state and federal budgets is spent on preventative health with the bulk of the health budget spent on the treatment of disease. Treatment of disease is vital and often urgent but far more costly than prevention. It is interesting that this type of imbalance also occurs within our own group of friends and family. When someone that we love or care for becomes seriously unwell or incapacitated everyone mobilizes to get them better or out of hospital and this is key to their recovery and the crowded hospital system. Yet, how much time do we spend encouraging or enabling the same people to prevent sickness in the first place? The buddy system that we had as kids could be a very effective strategy to improve and maintain our health as adults.

I love to exercise and while I invest time on a daily basis, I also know that I am not as good left to my own devices. Regardless of my best intentions, my alarm clock and I are not the best of friends. I know that for my exercise routine to run smoothly and without incident, I need to have a weekly schedule of exercise sessions locked in and matched up with a buddy. Rachel, Belinda, Karin and Dave all have a special place in my week and they enable me to improve my fitness (hopefully I am doing the same for them too). Having an exercise buddy means increased motivation, faster progression (especially if they are faster or fitter than you), increased experimentation and knowledge, new and enhanced friendships and a good dose of fun.

Having an exercise buddy is a powerful motivator for me because I don’t want to let them down. My buddies and I agreed from the outset that rain is just water and unless hail or lightening is streaking across the sky, we are going. The added bonus of kicking off at the crack of dawn is that nobody else needs us. This is harder for those with young kids waking early but it can be an opportunity to combine strength training and cardio by pushing them in the pram.

Choosing an exercise buddy should be considered with great care. If you get the initial check right, it could be a long and healthy relationship but if not, your health and friendships could suffer.

What to look for in an exercise buddy:

  • Exercise goals that match
  • Commitment – when exercising alone, it is too easy to take your foot off the pedal. Without a buddy it is easy to tell yourself “Having one day off won’t hurt” or “I don’t feel like it.” If your exercise buddy is already on their way to meet you or is counting on you, you’re far less likely to do something like that.
  • Fitness level – it is essential that you choose someone at the same or slightly higher fitness level than you. My exercise buddies continually push me to go faster and harder which means improved fitness, strength and flexibility
  • Time available – ensure that you meet at a time with minimal distractions that suits both of you

I have come to realize that the value of an exercise buddy lies not just in health and fitness but can be so valuable in other areas of your life. Exercise buddies can spend a lot of time together over the journey and often talk about things other than exercise. Solving the issues of the world while enjoying the fresh air are medicine for the soul and, let’s not forget one of the greatest benefits, fun.

If you would like to be part of the inspiring lululemon athletica Perth Run Collective and find not one but a heap of buddies, you can join us Tuesday nights at 5.45pm at the Perth city store and/or Sunday mornings at 8.00am at Clarko Reserve, Karrinyup Road in Trigg.

What are you waiting for?

3 ways to make exercise fun again

Making Exercise Fun Before I start complaining about my lack of motivation to exercise based on the wet, cold and dark, I will acknowledge that I do live in Perth and that our cold weather is not exactly the same as other colder, wetter places. However, it’s all relative isn’t it?  At 5.30am my fingertips and ears still lose all circulation the minute I hit the frosty air and I can’t see where I am going through the inky darkness that surrounds me. So I am guessing that you get where I am at right now with propelling my body into action?  And yes, you would be correct in thinking that I have lost that loving feeling on every exercise front. Part of my job is to motivate other people, so I have been casting around in my own head as to what tactics I can employ to spark that flame of exercise excitement. In the process of doing this, I realised that the inspiration was right in front of me.  My three kids. They get their heart rate up all the time through so many different activities, but they don’t think about it as exercise, just fun. As they are the role models for fun, the next logical step was to consult with them to brain storm how I was going to start making exercise ‘yay’ again.  Drum roll please…the team came up with Three Ways to make exercise fun again and they might just appeal to you too:

1. Get Skippy My own Dad has always been an avid skipper and taught my siblings and I the techniques and tricks with the rope as soon as we could jump. I even won the 100m skipping event in my primary school sports carnival so I am ALL over skipping.  That is, I thought I was until I picked up the rope again.  I was immediately reminded that it is a great cardio exercise that engages your arms, core and legs and can improve bone density, coordination and balance.  Try and throw in a couple of two-minute bursts of skipping each day and you will benefit hugely. It is worth investing in a decent skipping rope and don’t forget to keep your knees slightly bent to avoid jarring knees and backs but there is no need to hurdle over the rope either, small jumps and good form are the ticket. 2. Be a tramp Like so many families with young kids, we have a trampoline in the backyard and I literally have to walk no more than 10 steps from the back door to get on it. NASA claim that the health benefits of trampolines significantly outweigh the benefits of running in that we can burn calories 15% more efficiently doing the bounce instead of pounding the pavement. Great news. But that’s not all. The action of using a trampoline helps to strengthen the tendons, ligaments and muscles around the joints and really helps engage our core muscles. And let’s not forget the increased blood flow to brain and body, firing up our mental alertness and assisting us to get warm when the days are a little on the brisk side.  Even in Perth. 3.  Hello Hula Keeping the old hula hoop where it should be on ones hips is really not one of my fortes, which I have been told many times by the ones who do know how. It is certainly a playground favourite but research shows that hula hooping compares with boot camp, aerobics and cardio kick-boxing in the fitness stakes.  Studies have found that flinging that hoop around has the potential to strengthen the muscles in your back, arms, abdomen and legs and improve balance and flexibility.  I figure that the less skilled you are at keeping that hoop in the right place, the more energy you will burn.  That bit is my own research and I am standing by it.

Lets hope these playground exercises get me going – I do think they will. What about you?  Do you have any playground activities that you use to put the fun back into exercise?    

How to Break the Snooze Habit

Snooze Button This morning I woke up to the sound of raindrops not so gently tapping on my bedroom window, just moments before my alarm started blaring in my ear. That alarm is the obvious sign that I need to get up and at ‘em and meet my buddies for a run. But you know what, the rain, cold and pitch black outdoors beat me today and instead I turned the alarm off and snuggled back into my doona. This doesn’t happen very often but when it does, it is inevitable that when I do eventually wake up and get stuck into my day, I beat myself up about not doing my daily exercise. I am not a very nice person to be around if I don’t get my body into some fitness action to start the day. And the thing is, if I miss my morning workout, with three young children and a business to run, the opportunity to get out and exercise doesn’t present itself again that day.

I know lots of people experience the same problem with the good old snooze button. Your arm gets a good workout but not much else. The question is, how can we ditch the dithering, avoid the snooze button and get away from our happy place under the blankets?

  • Put your alarm out of arms reach. Whether it is an alarm clock on your bedside table or on your phone, put it far enough away that you have to physically get out of bed to reach it. It’s way too easy to get your arm into snooze action if your alarm is close and handy. Placing it by the bedroom door is probably the best place so that you can just keep moving on out and get your gear on.
  • If you are a serial alarm avoider, have you heard about the alarm clock that runs away and hides to get you out of bed? You can choose from either the Clocky or Tocky, both runaway alarm clocks that are super durable and can jump from a 3 feet high nightstand. It just keeps up the alarm until you get yourself out of bed to find it – destined to become your best friend or worst enemy.
  • Set your alarm for the ACTUAL time you need to get out of bed not the time that allows you to hit the snooze button 50 times. This is one of my own downfalls because my alarm repeats every seven minutes and I often factor in a couple of these intervals before I get up. The reality is, the quality of this interval sleeping is never good and it much preferable to just get up already!
  • Have your exercise clothes and equipment at the ready the night before. It can be rather difficult to find ones exercise gear when still in the slumber zone (especially if its still dark), so don’t place that hurdle in front of yourself.
  • If you need to have small snack or drink before your workout, prepare it the night before, eliminating any need for using sharp instruments when your body is not yet functioning – because lets face it, that cannot end well.

Calorie Burn: Could Your Exercise Equipment be Telling you Lies?

calorie burn

My gym has recently installed a vast array of shiny new treadmills, stationery cycles and elliptical, all with impressive screen displays and access to a wealth of information about your workout.

So much information is available on the exercise equipment that it often takes me more time to work out how to get the thing started than do the actual workout. I admit to being an eavesdropper in the gym because the conversations floating around the barbells and leg press provide me with a wealth of material.

My eavesdropping tells me that its good to know how fast and hard you are working out but there is no doubt that in my gym and probably in most others everywhere, the calorie counter on the cardio machines is the proverbial gold nugget. It’s not just the satisfaction of knowing how much you have burned off but also an unofficial license defining the boundaries of how much you can eat as soon as you leap off that machine.

Sadly but not really surprisingly, some recent studies have shown that cardio machines and fitness trackers are not entirely accurate and in some cases, not even remotely reflecting reality.

Researchers have found that exercise equipment like cardio machines overestimated calorie burn by 19% on average. The elliptical was the biggest fibber, overestimating calories burned by a substantial 42%, the treadmill by 13% and the stair climber by 12%. The stationary bike told the most truth but still overestimated calorie burn by 7%.

It has been shown that newer machines are more accurate which means happy days in my gym but usually most of us just have to deal with whatever exercise equipment is available at our gyms. None of this should be a huge surprise though, as most machines only account for age and weight without considering heart rate, body temperature, body fat, fatigue and hormones which fluctuate often.

Outside of the gym, you will see fitness trackers such as Fitbit, Jawbone and now the Apple watch gracing the wrists of many people who might not step a foot in a gym. Various studies have shown that these devices also have a margin of error but do give a more accurate assessment of calorie burn plus they can be worn all day to measure overall energy expenditure. The downside is that many of them can’t track stairs or cycling as they don’t contain an altimeter but they can track basic steps, calories and the length of exercise.

I love that fitness trackers help motivate people to maximize their daily step tally and improve fitness levels making them a very useful tool in managing health and well-being. I love the conversations and comparisons in workplaces that drive those extra steps and encourage us to do a couple of laps of the office to reach our target for the day.

Accept that the numbers flashing results while you are striding out on exercise equipment or the tally on your wristband as benchmarks and not scientifically written in stone. Don’t base your calorie intake or consume extra calories based on the number provided but do use them as a push towards being more active and increasing your fitness levels. Calories are a bit like money in the bank, it’s good to know you have some extra up your sleeve for when you really need them.