9 Reasons Why You NEED to Take Holidays

What! Holidays? 

Holidays beckon me and it is time for me to say ‘ciao for now’ and head off to Italy to run my annual Yoga and Wellness Retreat.  Although I am going there to work (yes, yes I know that it doesn’t sound like it), I will squeeze in a hike across 120km of the Via Francigena and a week off to eat all that lovely Italian food.

I usually take holidays around this time of the year and although it can seem super tricky to get these locked in and organised, I am well aware that I am not indispensable. It suits our ego’s to think that we are. We are not.

All of us need to take well-deserved breaks from our day-to-day lives.  Sometimes the hardest thing about taking a holiday and unplugging is not in the planning or execution but in the decision that it is ok to leave behind commitments and people that need you. Holidays don’t need to be expensive, lavish affairs and some of the best feature a tent, a swag and the stars. The benefits flow through your business and personal lives, improving relationships and revving up your productivity, something that may have been lying dormant for a while.

1. Stimulate your mind with a new culture

If you are taking your holidays out of your own country, there is no doubt you will get to experience the world in a different way. New customs and cultures are fascinating and all add to good old life experience. It is so easy to have a narrow focus in our day-to-day lives and travelling to a different country is a great way to widen our lens. My cultural experiences do in fact include a Naked Cowgirl standing on a median strip in the middle of New York. I sure learn’t a ton of things about marketing services I was completely unaware of all at the same time.

2. Improve your physical fitness

Sightseeing is a fabulous way of walking miles without really noticing and holidays often provide an opportunity to try new or different ways of exercising. This might be cycling around a medieval walled city in Italy under the canopy of ancient leafy trees, yoga by a azure pool in a tropical climate, hiking in majestic mountains, skiing in fluffy white powder snow or a bracing bush walk whilst admiring stunning wildflower displays and dodging the wildlife. The beauty is, none of these feel like exercise, yet your body reaps the benefits.

3. Physical and emotional well-being

It goes without saying that taking that step away from daily reality can only be good for your physical and emotional well-being. Everyone needs a pattern interrupt in their lives.

4. Get some sun 

Isn’t it lovely it is to feel the warmth of the sun when you are escaping cold weather back home? Of course, protecting your skin is important even when on holidays but relaxing in a warm climate is an ideal opportunity to get some Vitamin D. Even in countries that see plenty of harsh sunlight, Vitamin D deficiency is thought to affect one third of the population, resulting in some major health consequences. For many European countries, there is Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression to consider, which affects more and more people during the winter months due to a lack of sunshiny goodness.

5. Sleep my pretty one 

One of the best things about holidays is the complete lack of need for an alarm clock, no agenda, no schedule and no commitments (unless you count eating, having a good time and catching planes on schedule). This means that you can totally relax, get enough sleep and discover the deep kind of rest that your body truly needs to recharge the batteries. Sleep strengthens your immune system and relieves stress allowing your body to rejuvenate.

6. Unplug the technology

The joy of not having to answer a phone, deal with messages or read email should not be underestimated. Our lives revolve around technology and the expectation that we are ‘on the grid’ 24/7 can be truly exhausting. Unplugging on holiday means that you can truly relax and be fully present and connected with those around you. Don’t forget, although you are special and unique, you are not indispensable.

7. Get some happiness

Removing yourself from everyday worries gives you the space to appreciate the good things in life. You don’t need to go looking for happiness when it often finds you in the moment.

8. Reconnect with family, friends or your self

In our fast paced go get ‘em world it is too easy to go weeks and months without truly connecting with your family, your friends and most especially yourself. Breaks and holidays are perfect opportunities to reconnect and have those meaningful conversations that go beyond the standard ‘how are you?’

9. Inspiration

I get some of my best and exciting ideas when on holidays, simply because I have the time and the space in my head to let them in. When we are locked into our daily routines, creativity and inspiration can be flowing at a mere trickle but when in holiday mode, space and opportunity abounds.

Whilst on these said holidays, I will be taking a break from writing and chatting to you all BUT I will return with fresh ideas and a zing in my step in early August.

Arrivederci and ci vediamo a tutti!

 

Antioxidants – will we live longer if we eat them?

Antioxidants are compounds in food that research shows can play a role in preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease, eye disease and slowing down ageing. Little powerhouses indeed.

Supplement and skincare companies know that youthfulness and staying young is right at the top of our wish lists don’t they? There is every powder and potion known to man, designed to smooth our skin, get rid of wrinkles and stop the ageing process on retail shelves all over the world.

A 2012 meta-analyis of over 70 clinical trials found antioxidant supplements are ineffective or even detrimental to health. The high doses of antioxidants found in supplements can lead to severe health problems.

Just Imagine Being Able to Get Youthful Benefits From the Food You Eat, Instead of Spending Money and Time on False Promises

Firstly, lets look at the science behind these little beauties.  Antioxidants exert their protective effects by preventing damage to body cells and tissues caused by free radicals and singlet oxygen. They sound very impressive but the easier way of remembering what antioxidants do is to picture the 1980’s Pac-Man game where the aim was to get the Pac-Man to gobble as many ‘ghosts’ as possible.

Pac-Man is the antioxidant and the ‘ghosts’ are the free radicals. Thanks to the ‘Pixels’ movie starring Adam Sandler released a couple of years ago, everyone remembers the Pac-Man.

There you have the essential role of antioxidants.

Now About Those Free Radicals

They are produced in the presence of:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Environmental pollutants
  • Ultra-violet light
  • Radiation
  • Carcinogens
  • High PUFA diet
  • Exercise
  • Inflammation

We need those antioxidants to help mop up those free radicals and thankfully they are conveniently colour coded for easy identification.

Red

Good source of lycopene, which helps reduce the risk of prostate cancer in males.  Found in tomatoes, watermelon, guava, and ruby grapefruit.

Lycopene is among the most powerful antioxidants around. It is a carotenoid that gives tomatoes their red colour and occurs naturally in many red foods, including watermelon and pink grapefruit. Tomatoes do provide a rich source but tomato paste is even better as cooking and processing tomatoes further stimulates and concentrates the lycopene content.  There is no current recommended dosage but suggestions range from 5-35mg per day, which equates to at least one to two servings of tomatoes or tomato products per day.

Orange and Yellow

Good source of beta-carotene, which can protect against a range of cancers.  Found in pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, mango, paw-paw, apricots and rockmelon.

Green

Good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two compounds related to beta-carotene that can protect our eyes as we age.  Found in broccoli, spinach, silver beet, capsicum, chilli, parsley and dark lettuces.

Blue and Purples

Good source of anthocyanin’s for antioxidant and antibacterial properties.  Found in grapes, blueberries, cranberries, beetroot and radicchio lettuce.

Brown

Good source of catechin’s for blood vessel health and of course, our happiness!  Found in some of our favourites such as tea, coffee, chocolate and red wine.

How Many of These Antioxidants Do We Need?

There are no recommended intakes just yet. We do know that it is preferable to consume antioxidants through food rather than supplements, because there are other nutrients in food that enhance their absorption. The average worldwide intake of fruit and vegetables at present is too low and we need to work toward the recommended intake of fruit and vegetables, which are 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables daily.

To keep our bodies zinging on the inside and out during winter, go grab some. Like now.

Performance Podcast 26 June 2019

Julie Meek’s Performance Podcast from 26 June on The Morning Show on 6PR 882 AM Talkback Radio with Gareth Parker. Catch up on information, news and tips on all things performance and nutrition.

If you enjoyed listening to Julie’s Performance Podcast, please subscribe to the series here https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/performance-podcast-with-julie-meek/id863710606?mt=2

Pesto Power – How to Make Pesto the Italian Way

Pesto is one of those delicious combinations that you can almost taste just thinking about it. Think pungent garlic, pine nuts, fresh aromatic basil, parmesan cheese and olive oil. This combination can be combined to create a pesto that can be added to pasta, gnocchi, soups or slow cooked delights.  I’m not sure whether the Italians add pesto to the same things that I do but it just adds so much flavour!

I am about to head over to Italy in a few weeks to run my annual Italian Yoga and Wellness Retreat, so pesto has been on my mind. To be honest, food is often on my mind but that is a career hazard I’m afraid!

My favourite recipe for pesto is straight from the “Food for Thought’ cookbook (which is only available when you come to Italy with me) by Yoga in Italy

This recipe uses basil as most pesto recipes do but at the moment, my garden has been completely overtaken by Italian parsley. I try to throw it into anything and everything but I just can’t use it all.  This got me thinking about whether parsley would work as a substitute for basil.  It does.

Parsley is full of fibre, Vitamin C and has a handy knack of freshening ones breath.  However, once you add the garlic into the mix, scratch that benefit!

Traditionally, pesto is made using a pestle and mortar, which avoids bruising of the herb leaves but if you don’t have time to do that, use a stick blender instead.

Ingredients

50g fresh parsley (or basil)

90g parmesan cheese

30g pine nuts

1 fresh garlic clove

100ml extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Rinse and dry and fresh parsley gently. Remove the larger bottom part of the stalks if you don’t want to be blending the pesto for 10 years.
  2. Put all ingredients except the oil into a large mixing bowl and at low speed start blending, stopping often to avoid overheating the ingredients.  Slowly add a little olive oil at a time until the mixture is smooth and well combined.
  3. Spoon mixture into an airtight jar and cover with a thin layer of oil before sealing with a lid and storing in the refrigerator.
  4. Pesto is best eaten fresh but can it can be refrigerated for 2-3 days or frozen for use later.

 

 

Peak Performance – What is your Go To Tip?

The area of peak performance has fascinated me ever since I attempted to cycle the long and hilly 96 km in the Sydney to Wollongong race, with disastrous results back in the 90’s.  My performance on the day was spectacularly dismal due to my poor preparation on the day and complete lack of knowledge but the hard lessons I learned that day have never left me.

Prior Preparation does Prevent Poor Performance (apparently)

Performance is a funny thing though – it means different things to each of us and there is no doubt that it is one thing to perform but quite another to achieve success. It is this link between performance and success that inspired me to discover what some of the worlds top performers are doing in their lives to enable them to be at the top of their field. Innate talent and motivation are common threads but quite often they have physical or mental tactics and strategies that they have developed and honed over the years to gain an advantage, enabling them to get to and stay at the top of their field.

Ready, Set…Go

This path of discovery led to me penning my second book, Ready, Set…Go and I was fortunate enough to interview around 30 people from all walks of life.  They are people that I admire for various reasons and I knew that they were making a difference in the world.

The people I interviewed included international artist Ken Done, award winning chef Rick Stein, Former Prime Minister John Howard, Boost Juice founder Janine Allis and award winning author Andy Griffiths amongst many other amazing people.

The thing is, you don’t need to be in the public eye to have the ability to inspire others by what you do. It is often regular folk going about their day to day life that are doing super amazing things in this world.

Over to you

I am absolutely positive that no matter who you are, you are expected to ‘perform’ from the minute your feet touch the floor each morning. Think of the myriad roles that you play each day at work, at home, as a friend and as a family member.

Each one of you taking the time to sit and read this blog on performance, have particular ways to manage your energy, time, well-being and well, performance.  

And I would love to know what they are.  

We can all learn so much from each other. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see the ways in which this community right here manages their own personal performance?

Your tip could be specific to a particular area of your health like Former Prime Minister John Howard who advises us to “Establish an exercise routine and stick to it.” In his 11 year tenure leading Australia, Mr Howard missed only a handful of his daily 4km brisk walks and that was due to security risk.

Your tip might be one that can be applied to any area of life just like Olympic gymnast Lauren Mitchell’s

“Success is the sum of small parts, added up every day”

or perhaps like V8 Supercar Champion Craig Lowndes, who firmly believes that

“Focus and concentration are your friends”

How Do You Manage Your Personal Performance?

Whatever or however it is, I would love to hear about it.  And then, imagine if I gathered all of your tips and I collated them to share with everyone? A go to list that you can use in your own life perhaps?

All you need to do is share in the comments or send me an email at julie@juliemeek.com.au.  You can make yourself known or go under the radar and be anonymous – it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the sharing of the wisdom that you possess because it is truly valuable to us all.

Ready, Set…Go!

 

 

 

The Secrets to Making Meetings Matter

At the very mention of meetings, any meeting at all, I can feel myself getting twitchy and anxious.  The thought of sitting and using up precious time that I will never, ever get back fills me with dread.

I know I am not alone as there are many cynics out there who describe meetings as ‘the most frustrating exercises in pointlessness ever invented.’

Amen to them.

What Meetings?

Meetings frequent both our work calendars and our home lives all the time through all kinds of places like the P or C or the P and F, sporting associations, community groups and even your strata get together.  The time wasting nature of these gatherings do not discriminate. The good news is, there are ways in which we can make any type of meeting productive and worthwhile.  

What Makes Meetings Productive?

Master of Meetings, David Price suggests there are critical factors that can make meetings matter:

  1. Do you actually need to attend the meeting? Yes, it’s a warm and fuzzy feeling to be included but not every day all day.  
  2. Could the meeting be achieved in another way, either online or over the phone?
  3. All meetings must have a stated purpose or agenda – if not, the meeting is just an aimless gathering or opportunity for a social chit-chat
  4. Attendees should walk away with concrete next steps or action items
  5. The meeting should have an end time so that attendees don’t go rambling off topic and get diverted into totally useless conversation. Again.

Energy Management

How often have you spent your day rushing from one meeting to the next with barely a moment to dash into the restrooms?  

Managing energy and engagement should go hand in hand with the logistical structure of meetings and some useful strategies include:

Give me a break!

Any meeting that extends longer than 90 minutes should have a scheduled physical break.  Research on the way we manage our physical and mental energy shows that we work best when we cycle between using and renewing energy. Asking attendees to sit for longer than 90 minutes means that it is much more likely they are thinking about other things or switched off and thinking about nothing at all. Taking a 5-minute stretch or refreshment break increases blood circulation to the brain and body and acts as a pattern interrupt allowing you to refocus and re-engage.

Can everyone please stand-up?

With prolonged sitting being a major risk factor for all kinds of lifestyle diseases, why not make your next meeting a stand-up.  It’s a bit like a pop-up shop, you don’t need to have all your meetings like this but it is good to mix it up and spend some time away from the chair, plus it does shift the energy in the group.

Don’t do distraction

How often do you attend a meeting where everyone is busy looking at a device?  Now sure, sometimes the presentation is being streamed through laptops and tablets but would bringing the presentation back to a main screen enhance the engagement of your group? This could eliminate device distraction.  Your minute taker should be recording all action items for each attendee anyway.

Mint mentality

There are few meetings that do not feature the ubiquitous bowl of mints in the centre of the table.  These little sugary distractions disappear in the blink of an eye simply because they are there and quite frankly, often more exciting than the actual meeting.  The thing is, every time you mindlessly eat one, visualise 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of sugar entering your blood stream. They can really add up can’t they? If you are the meeting facilitator ask for the bowl to be removed and don’t forget to have water, tea, coffee and fresh fruit on hand instead.

 

Do you have a secret to share on how you manage meetings?

Celebrate Milk with Sipahh Straws

Sip it Up with Milk

My kids LOVE the unique product Sipahh Straws. They think it is a great treat and indeed it is.

Aussie dad (and now grand dad) Peter Barron loved milk but didn’t like giving his kids the flavoured variety that contained too much sugar and too many flavours and preservatives. With some trial and error this clever man developed a straw filled with little tapioca balls that release their flavour when the milk is sucked through the straw. The best and most exciting bit is that each straw contains less than ½ teaspoon sugar and has no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives. For those that have allergy issues the straws contain no egg, gluten and no dairy.

Although marketed towards the smaller ones, they are also perfect for the big people too. The straws are an ideal way of increasing milk intake and calcium plus a much healthier and cheaper alternative to flavoured milks. These guys can be found in the long life dairy aisle of any supermarket in a wide variety of delicious flavours.

World Milk Day

While we are on the subject of milk,  the 1st June marks World Milk Day. Yes, it is a thing because in 2001, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) elected this date as World Milk Day. This day celebrates the important contribution of the dairy sector to sustainability, economic development, livelihoods and nutrition.

Raise a Glass

This years theme is ‘Raise a Glass’ and a good reminder that milk is a natural source of the super important nutrients that our bodies need. Of course we know that milk is a rich source of calcium for healthy bones and teeth plus protein for healthy muscles.

There are other benefits of milk and dairy products that you may not be aware of. These include a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and colorectal cancer.  Consuming dairy products are also associated with a healthy weight and play an important role in sport and exercise performance.

Is there anything that milk can’t do you might be wondering? Well, it hasn’t got up and washed my clothes yet but one can hope.

The Alternatives

There are many alternatives on the market now and for the minority of people who are lactose or dairy protein intolerant, these are a great option. However, milks such as soy, oat, rice, almond and hemp do not naturally contain calcium at all and do not contain all the essential amino acids.

For the rest of us though, let’s raise a glass!

What about you – do you love a glass?