Don’t get the sits! Celebrating Heart Week 2018

Don’t get the sits! This week, 29th April to 6 May is a celebration of Heart Week and 2018 is all about the importance of physical activity in reducing the prevalence and impact of risk factors for heart disease. 

The campaign this year is focusing on ‘Don’t get the sits’ and is encouraging us all to get moving and keep your heart strong, because like any other muscle your heart needs exercise.

Did you know that:

  • over half of Australians (52%) are not active enough
  • almost two in three Australian adults are overweight or obese
  • one in four children are overweight or obese
  • 5,000 Australians die per year from physical activity

A few years ago, I wrote a book called ‘Ready, Set…Go’ which is a treasure trove of inspiring stories of high performers both in Australia and internationally. One of the people I interviewed and featured was celebrity chef, Rick Stein. He is a lovely man, he really is.

It was a chance encounter that enabled me to interview Rick Stein, celebrity English chef, restauranteur, author of 19 cookbooks and television presenter of 15 cookery shows. I was about to present on radio and unbeknown to me Rick was already on air. When he emerged, in one fell swoop I quickly introduced myself and asked him for a chat on the spot, which he graciously accepted. It is this relaxed and friendly attitude that I associate with the Rick Stein I have watched for many years presenting on TV. He’s a man who clearly has passion for food, and fresh seafood in particular. It is this love for seafood that launched his name in the ‘90s with his earliest books and television series based on his life as chef and owner of The Seafood Restaurant in the fishing port of Padstow, on the north coast of Cornwall, U.K. 

about Rick 

Since then, his cooking journeys in search of great dishes have been widespread throughout the world, including Spain, France, South East Asia and the Mediterranean. A little closer to home is Rick and wife Sarah’s restaurant,“Rick Stein at Bannisters,” on the southern coast of NSW, Australia. The restaurant is in a seaside town called Mollymook, a tiny picturesque fishing village, and the location of one of my first postings as a dietitian. Rick lives in Padstow for five months of the year but it is no secret that he loves Australia and spends four months of the year living in Sydney, with the remainder of his time travelling the world for work. This father of three grown children rubs shoulders with some fairly well known people and has cooked for the Queen and Prince Phillip, former Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, and French President Jacques Chirac. 

RICK’S PERFORMANCE TIP 

Jump in, every day 

Although it may sound glamorous, travelling the world searching for and cooking great food is not always an easy job. As a chef, Rick is constantly surrounded by food and there is an ongoing need for him to test what he produces. For most of us this probably sounds like a dream but the reality for Rick is that it does present a constant challenge to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. 

Rick is quick to point out that maintaining a healthy body is important to him. He has a daily ritual of swimming as soon as he wakes up, and in Sydney this means getting down to the local pool and following the black line for 1 km. In his home-town of Padstow, on the north coast of Cornwall, he swims the sub-arctic temperatures of the Celtic Sea, where Rick’s love of the ocean becomes evident. In spite of the extreme chill factor, he spends 15 minutes in there each morning when in the U.K. Rick maintains that his daily swim, regardless of where he is in the world, keeps him mentally and physically focused. For him this daily ritual is non-negotiable. 

what rick has learnt 

Sleep is also integral to this celebrity chef and Rick aims for seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Despite the daily food challenges that Rick faces, he never misses his breakfast of fresh fruit and yoghurt, and during the day he keeps his energy levels up by snacking on fruit. Rick employs a no- alcohol strategy when travelling, as well as constantly drinking water to maintain hydration. Having said that, at other times Rick does enjoy an occasional beer and white wine, and likes to drink several cups of coffee each day. 

For Rick, “Jump in, every day,” means a dip in the ocean to quickly focus his mental and physical energy for the day ahead. For you, this could mean any physical activity that gets you in the zone for a productive day ahead. 

“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 building bone mass. You will be more productive in the two hours after you exercise, with a 24-hour improvement, and if you exercise 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 like a million dollars.”

If this were a description of a drug, everyone would be falling over each other to get it. The benefits are obvious, impressive in their magnitude and wide-reaching. Although backed by irrefutable clinical evidence, little or no cost and a glowing rap sheet, so many of Australians are not getting enough of it for optimal health. 

This multi-faceted performance enhancer is exercise. 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 know the feeling of endorphin release during exercise and many people report this as being a major factor in 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 evidence that this also occurs during exercise. The good news is that the amount of exercise does not need to be excessive and 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 or parking your car further away from your destination. 
  • 􏰸  Be active every day in as many ways as you can. 
  •   Buddy up

􏰸30 minutes of exercise each day is fabulous and you can accumulate this in short blocks as the opportunity arises. 

Your heart just loves it.

Many top performers across the globe exercise daily to enhance their physical and mental performance. Chef Rick Stein has woven his into the fabric of his life and can’t start his day without it.  

How are you weaving in yours for Heart Week 2018?

So, what’s this yoga thing about?

Three years ago a dream of mine became reality.

 

It was a huge dream and there were SO many moments when I doubted my ability to actually make it happen.

 

Everyday, I show people how to weave movement, healthy food, sleep and less stress into their lives to enable them to access their best self on a mental and physical basis. Of course, I can advise people how to do this in person, over the phone, in an online course or through sharing the written word but these are all delivered over short periods of time in an otherwise hectic schedule.  

It is quite different learning how to transform your life in a setting that enables reflection, thought and the opportunity to work out exactly how to do this.

The way we live day to day just doesn’t allow us to do that. We need to do that.

There is no getting around the fact that of all the things that are important in life – your health is Numero Uno. Number 1. Top of the Charts. If you don’t have your health and well-being sorted then every single other thing in your life just can’t get a look in.

Sometimes, when I get asked about my retreat in Italy, I hear sighs and then more sighs.  I mean lets face it; there are very few people who would not love to go hang out in Tuscany.

However, I get that flying all the way across the world and spending an entire week focusing on self-care and well-being just seems well, frivolous. The truth is, it is anything but.

Most of the people that have attended one of my retreats over the past three years have been women.  Women are notorious for not dedicating enough time to look after themselves and not putting on their proverbial oxygen masks first before helping others. Looking after ourselves should not be luxury but a necessity. Sometimes it means travelling in the opposite direction to achieve that and investing in self both in a financial and time sense.

Silvestri once said

“To be able to see who we are, we must go far away and look from a distance.”

I think he is quite literally spot on.

So what does one do at a retreat?

Each morning starts with freshly brewed coffee or tea followed by an Iyengar yoga session. Let’s be clear from the outset, you do not need to be a yogi or an expert to be doing this yoga.  Every retreat I have run is made up of plenty of people who have never done yoga (but would like to), some who have dabbled occasionally and then some who are quite capable. Our yoga instructor Vicki Vollmer is adept at tailoring each yoga session for every person in that room.  I believe she is actually a magician.

Aside from yoga, each day usually includes moving your body – it might be a scenic walk, a bike and walking cultural tour of Lucca with the talented and entertaining Federico, a hike between the villages and over the mountains of the Cinque Terre with all its spectacular views and scrumptious seafood, or moving your arms mixing things in a delectable cooking lesson making pesto, gnocchi and tiramisu with Maria Angela our 76 year old chef.

 

“Julie’s Retreat in Italy was more than I could have dreamed of. It was an opportunity to pause, reflect, engage the senses, connect with other inspiring women and see the best Italy has to offer. The daily yoga practice and delicious healthy food, coupled with health and wellbeing ‘chats’ and suggestions helped me to recalibrate in a way I don’t think I ever could have at home in the bustle of daily life. If you feel that you need some time for you, time to reflect and re-energise, this retreat is perfect.”

Tash Broomhall

There is plenty of time and space to check in with your physical and mental wellbeing, the opportunity to create a plan for how you can implement positive changes in your day to day life (and the strategies to do it), increase the flexibility and strength in your body, experience the joy that comes from making new friendships and laughing a bucket load, increase your energy by putting the freshest, healthiest ingredients into your body and of course, your senses will be taken to another level by being soaked in Italian history, culture and countryside.

This is not an airy-fairy junket designed simply to enable an escape from real life.  Yes, it is an escape but one with a purpose. You.

If this has your name all over it, head over to www.juliemeek.com.au/retreats for the details.  Or if you feel like a chat, email me at julie@juliemeek.com.au

Italy, Yoga and Retreat – 3 Things That Should Be on Your Bucket List

You may remember me writing earlier this year about my rocky relationship with yoga. I am happy to say that although I am still no expert, each week it gets less rocky and to be quite honest; in the past few months it has been my saving grace.

This year marked the second round of my Italian Yoga and Wellness Retreats.

I have been fortunate enough to lead and meet some truly lovely people who have been looking for a mixture of things – yoga yes, relaxation yes, exceptional food yes and the beautiful Italian culture and history, all yes. Quite the international cohort, this retreat has attracted people from Australia, UK, Scotland, Canada, USA and Switzerland all looking for a slice of wellness.

 

 

As a Dietitian and Performance Specialist, I show people how to weave movement, healthy food, sleep and less stress into their lives to enable them to access their best performance on a mental and physical basis. The thing is, sometimes, it is not always possible to do this at your back door and distance and space are required. Sometimes the lessons that we teach others are the ones we learn ourselves.

On the last day of the retreat this year, my Dad passed away very unexpectedly. There are few words to describe how I felt being in another country without my family nearby, while the world crashed around me.

The beautiful people at my retreat went from having a fabulous week of yoga and completely immersing themselves in relaxation and wellness, to watching me having a complete meltdown. I will be forever grateful for their care and compassion on that day.

In the time since, whilst dealing with the loss of my Dad, regular yoga has been key to my mental and physical well-being. I could not have gotten by without it.

Like me, the yoga experience of the people attending the retreats varies hugely, all the way from never having done a single move through to occasional yoginess and then right up to getting bendy every other day. Somehow, our yogi Vicki caters to each level, making it comfortable yet challenging for each and every person. With gentle firmness throughout the session, she reminds us that we could do better or we could do more in particular poses and encourages us to imagine what could happen if we held a pose for just that bit longer. Vicki makes everyone want to go that bit further and not to forget that time and space are essential for anything to grow.

But let’s face it – for most of us, considering making a trip to Italy for a retreat might seem self-indulgent at best. Especially when many people have to consider the logistical challenges of child-care, work and finances to even make this happen. Committing to a retreat in another country is no snap decision and how do you know if it is for you?

It’s in the little and the big things and just like beauty, I think it is in the eye of the beholder. It’s having time and the space to check in with your physical and mental wellbeing, the opportunity to create a plan for how you could implement positive changes in your day to day life, feeling that sense of increased flexibility and strength in your body, the joy that comes from making new friendships and laughing a bucket load, the increased energy that results from putting the freshest, healthiest ingredients into your body and your senses being taken to another level by being soaked in Italian history, culture and countryside.

Registrations are now open for my 2018 Italian Yoga and Wellness Retreat, 18-25 August 2018. If you or anyone you know would like to find some Zen, drop me a line at julie@juliemeek.com.au

For more information and all the details, head over my the Italian Retreats Page.

Namaste.