Focus – How To Hone It In Four Easy Steps

We are fast approaching that time of the year where energy supplies might be taking a hit.  Focus and concentration are fairly important at any time of the year but when the finish line of December beckons, sometimes it take a bit more effort to push through right?

This brings me to Craig Lowndes, the Australian V8 Supercar champion.  Prior to his retirement, he spent a vast majority of his time at work skillfully driving powerful cars around a track at warp speed. The specialised skills that Craig developed led to him achieving global excellence and enabled him to become a V8 Supercar champion.

V8 Supercar driving requires 100% focus. Legendary British racing driver Stirling Moss describes competitive high speed driving perfectly, “It is necessary to relax your muscles when you can. Relaxing your brain is fatal.” Losing focus and concentration in whatever we do at work or at home can indeed have major consequences.

 

How can YOU increase your focus?

In our time poor world, it is so easy to get caught up in trying to do twenty things at the same time, aka multi-tasking.  Hordes of us believe that this is a prized skill and do the proverbial octopus dance every day.  Clinical research shows that the reality of multi-tasking is quite different.  We are not wired to juggle several tasks at a time because we just can’t concentrate and focus on any of them, resulting in lacklustre performance and complete lack of effectiveness while at work. Focus on one thing at a time and you will be amazed at how quickly and effectively you can complete a task or job.

 

 1. Be as fresh as a daisy

After breathing, sleep is our most fundamental need.  Its also the first thing we are willing to give up in an effort to get more done. The fact is, that even small amount’s of sleep deprivation makes us vastly less effective.

If you are not currently sleeping at least 7 hours each night, look at what you need to do to make that a reality, and then start pushing your bedtime earlier by 15 minutes until it becomes natural. Make getting 7-8 hours sleep your highest priority and your desire to make the most of each day skyrockets.

 

2. Focus on Taking a Break 

Research has shown that working in 90-minute cycles of intense effort followed by a brief recovery period is crucial to maintaining focus and concentration.  This means focusing intently on one task at a time.   The break doesn’t need to be mammoth and can be as simple as a deep-breathing exercise, getting up from your computer for 5 minutes, having a stretch or taking a fuel stop. The fuel stop will replenish both your brain and your body – setting you up for the next 90-minute bout. We all know how easy it is to work for hours on end without a break, so set a timer if you need to. I am personally truly unreliable in this department, so I do set a timer.

Taking regular breaks is crucial to your energy maintenance and recovery. Some healthy snacks for your break could include:

  • ½ cup of grainy cereal like oats or Weet-bix with milk
  • A handful of nuts (not the whole bag!)
  • 1 piece of fresh fruit or punnet of strawberries or blueberries
  • 1 small tub yoghurt + banana
  • Small tin of baked beans or tuna

 

3. Coffee Culture

Our coffee culture around the world is a thriving phenomenon and many people will swear by their first cup of the day to get them prepared for work.  It’s true that caffeine is a stimulant that speeds up parts of the body and brain and may enhance your performance and focus if used properly.

Most authorities agree that the safe daily upper limit for caffeine is around 300mg – equivalent to 3-4 cups of brewed coffee (cafe latte, cappuccino, flat white etc.) and consuming more than this can lead to issues with sleep, excessive alertness (more than you actually need), nausea and anxiety.

The important thing here is to be aware of the amount of caffeine that is right for you and treading that line between enhanced focus and over stimulation, when its hard to get any work done at all.

4. Drink up

It is so easy to get dehydrated in an air-conditioned work environment, hot or cold. You know that feeling of your brain winding down, down, down? You have just said hello and how are you to dehydration, which can very quickly lead to a headache, nausea and inability to focus clearly or work effectively.

Drinking coffee and tea often becomes the go to choice at work and although these beverages do provide some fluid, alternating with water is a simple way of staying hydrated. 

Our bodies are not great at sending a reliable thirst message as sometimes we mistake it for hunger and other times by the time we get the memo, our bodies and brain are already gasping for a drink. Positioning a bottle or glass on your desk or bench is a constant reminder – just aim to drink around a glass each hour.

The image that you can see above is my daughter who has just retired from from her gymnastics career at the ripe old age of 16 years.  She has been in the sport since she was four years old, so its been a while.

There is nothing quite like being suspended in mid air to truly make you focus on what you are doing. However, no matter what you do everyday, remember to……

“Be like a postage stamp – stick to one thing” – Beverley Sills

Egg Goodness – It’s World Egg Day

Happy World Egg Day! It’s time to bring out the balloons and streamers because today is the day to celebrate  and be reminded that the humble egg is an amazing source of energy and vitality.  These little goodies contain just 300 kilojoules each and quality protein plus 11 different vitamins and minerals including iron, selenium, iodine, Vitamins A, D, E, folate and Vitamin B12. 

This nutrition all rounder has suffered from an undeserved bad boy reputation over the years, mostly in the area of cholesterol. Egg yolks do contain a mixture of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fat. However, research conducted over the past 50 years shows that egg consumption has only a negligible effect on raising total blood cholesterol levels in healthy people.

For most people, eating an egg every day is a healthy addition to a diet that includes wholegrain cereals, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Of course, it is a different story if you are frying eggs every day and eating them with lots of bacon! 

An egg can be a great snack or meal full of protein and is the richest source of choline, which is essential for the manufacture of neurotransmitters in your brain. They are recommended daily as part of the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

I grew up with chooks around my feet and I loved finding an egg hidden in my cubby house amongst my dolls and blankets.  Our chooks were very much free to range wherever they felt like it. Cubby, chook pen, prams – you name it. To be honest, these feathered birds (and all others for that matter but that is another story for another day) completely freak me out BUT I do so appreciate their produce!

You can check out some interesting and fun facts about the little egg plus some fabulous recipes at World Egg Day.

Eggs would have to be one of the easiest foods to prepare but for some weekend eggpsiration, you might like to try my Noodle Omelette.  This recipe is in my recipe e-book, ‘eat, energise, repeat’ which can be downloaded for free right here.

Noodle Omelette (Serves 2)

Ingredients

2 cups (already) cooked noodles or spaghetti (any small shaped/sized pasta that is leftover)

4 free range eggs, lightly beaten

80g grated reduced fat cheese

1/4 onion, thinly sliced

1/4 large zucchini, thinly sliced

1 whole tomato, thinly sliced

Method

Spray a large non-stick frying pan with cooking spray and arrange onion, zucchini and tomato in layers in the pan. Top with noodles, distributed evenly over the vegetables and pour over egg. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Cook over low heat until egg starts to set at the side of the pan and then place fry pan under grill to finish the top of the omelette and brown the cheese.  Cut into quarters and serve with your favourite salad.

Serves 2 adults or 4 kids under 12              Cost = $1.90

 

 

 

Porridge Power With Delicious Pear, Pecans and Maple

Who loves oats?

I am an unashamed all year consumer of porridge – I don’t care if its hot or if its cold. The weather not the porridge.

The bowl of deliciousness that you can see above was enjoyed at one of my locals Little Sisto and I loved every bit of it.

Oats are a genuine all round fabulous food and you can check out their nutrition benefits here in a post a wrote a while back.

This bowl of porridge was the special of the day – Pecan Maple Oats with Roasted Pear and I have recreated it several times at home.  

Are you ready to be amazed?

Pecan Maple Porridge

Ingredients

1 small pear , quartered and cored 

1/2 cup rolled or quick oats

1.5 cups water or milk

8 pecans

2 tsp maple syrup

Method

Place the prepared pears on a baking tray and roast in a moderate oven for 15-20 minutes (you could do this the night before).

Combine the oats with the water or milk or a bit of both and cook either on the stovetop or in the microwave.  If on the stovetop, keep stirring for around 5-7 minutes until the oats are creamy and if in the microwave start with 1 minute 40 seconds, stir and then finish with another 30 seconds.

Place oats into a pretty bowl.  Yes, because that makes food taste extra good don’t you know?

Roughly chop the pecans and mix half into the porridge.

Top the porridge with the roasted pear, remainder of the pecans and the maple syrup.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Fake Chicken – The Real Deal or Fake News?

This week, fake chicken has made an appearance in my life and to be completely honest, everything about this product was quite a surprise.

Trying the fake chicken became a thing after a listener called into 6PR 882AM Morning Show a few weeks ago, asking about the nutritional value of some of the vegan/vegetarian ready to eat products.

To Be Or Not To Be Fake Chicken?

I trawled the chilled section of the supermarket on the hunt for some fake chicken and I was rewarded by finding the Chick’n Schnitzel made by the Unreal brand.

If I were to judge a book by its cover (as I keep telling my children that is not what we should be doing), it didn’t grab me. However, I was on a mission. Luckily, there was a 20% discount on the product, which lessened the pain I felt might be coming.

I was finding it hard to imagine enjoying this product, so based on this I decided to make it into a chicken parmigiana. I imagined this ‘chicken’ topped with a couple of tablespoons of pasta sauce and for a lovely finishing touch, some grated vegan cheese which I also purchased.

The ingredients were all set to get this fake chicken on the road. Mind you, wrestling the cheese out of the packet was an extreme sport and once freed from the packaging the aroma nearly overcame me. I soldiered on.

Once assembled, the fake chicken now newly reinvented as Chicken Parmigiana, baked in a moderate oven for 30 minutes.  Unfortunately one can’t use baked until ‘golden brown’ as an alternate guide to time as the cheese didn’t melt and there didn’t seem to be any colour change to my fake chicken at all. Just set your timer ok?

Taste Test 1,2 3

Once done, I rushed that Chicken Parmi straight to radio where Gareth Parker and I taste tested live on air.

Well.  We looked at each in total surprise.  This Chick’n Schnitzel made into Chicken Parmigiana was actually tasty and it had a very similar texture to chicken.

As you can see below, the nutritional breakdown of the product ticked boxes across the fat, sugar and salt categories and it has some fibre too.  This makes sense as it is a plant based product and the real Chicken Parmigiana is mostly protein with a minuscule amount of fibre in the crumb only.

For those still not convinced just yet, you can check out my meaty version of a Chicken Parmigiana  here.

So, I will admit that I was wrong (ouuuccchhh) in assuming the Chick’n Schnitzel was going to be gross.  I was correct in my assumptions about the fake cheese though.  Just no.

Meat Free Week Coming Right Up

The timing of the Chick’n Schnitzel tasting and revealing fits very nicely into Meat Free Week which runs from next the 23-29 September.

Meat Free Week encourages you to challenge yourself, your friends, your family and your colleagues to try a plant based menu and raise funds for a great cause – the prevention of bowel cancer.

I will write more about Meat Free Week next week but let’s be clear that this is not about abolishing meat from our diets – it’s about eating more plant food.

 

 

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.

 

 

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?

 

Beer, wine or spirits: which is the healthiest choice?

One of the most common questions I am asked is, “Beer, wine or spirits: which is the healthiest choice?” Lets face it, it is an important question, most especially on a Friday afternoon, Saturday night or even a Sunday lunchtime.

The Breakdown

Essentially, beer and wine are very similar in terms of kilojoule content when drunk in the most commonly served quantities and they can contribute to weight gain. 

If wine and beer are compared on a 100ml basis (except for the vodka at 60ml) this is what we find:

Wine, red                                        295 kJ

White wine, dry.                            283 kJ

White wine, sweet                         275 kJ

Beer, average                                  149 kJ

Vodka (60 ml)                                282 kJ

Fantastic you may be thinking, these figures are reassuring, beer is looking great.  There is a small problem though.  Most people don’t usually drink just 100ml of beer. In practical real life terms, this would mean you cracking open the beer, enjoying 100ml and then passing it onto someone else for their 100 mls and so on down the line. Never going to happen. 

Standard drinks vary in size depending on the type of alcohol.  A standard drink of beer is 250ml or 2/3 can or stubby and a standard drink of wine is 100ml.  Measure that 100ml and I can almost guarantee that is not the amount you are pouring yourself.

An average restaurant size serving of wine is 180ml or 1.8 standard drinks and the average serving size of a full strength beer is 375ml or 1 middy/can/stubby, which is equal to 1.5 standard drinks.

The Fat and Alcohol Express Train

If you go out for a drink and enjoy 2-3 wines or 2-3 stubbys of beer, you will clock up around 1500 -1600 kJ in both cases. This is equivalent to chomping through 4 slices of multi-grain bread, although not quite as nutritious. Beer, wine and other drinks can weaken resolve and many people reach for high fat snacks after a few drinks.  Combining fatty foods with alcohol is the worst combination of all for weight gain, so it is a good idea to eat before drinking alcohol to lessen the temptation to reach for the chips and peanuts. If you can separate these two things, it is a game changer in terms of weight gain.

Are Low Carbohydrate Beers the Beer Equivalent of Celery?

Yes, low carb beers are low in carbohydrate but carbohydrates are not the only source of kilojoules.  The average stubby of full strength beer contains 560 kilojoules, light beer contains 360 kilojoules and a low carb beer will contain approximately 470 kilojoules. This means that choosing a low carb beer over a full strength will save you about 100 kilojoules.  Not a huge difference when all is considered.

In a 375ml can or stubby of full strength beer there will be approximately 13 grams of carbohydrate compared to 3 grams in the low carb version.   Diabetics may benefit from the lower carbohydrate content but the bigger issue for them is the alcohol content and this is not altered in the low carb versions.

Low carb beers are not new in Australia. The marketing of these drinks is usually accompanied by terms such as ‘health and lifestyle conscious’, ‘low carb diet’ and ‘for those who like to have a beer but are watching their weight’. Basically these beers somehow seem to promise to keep you slimmer while drinking a full strength beer.  Low carb beers are not necessarily the same as ‘light’ beers.  The light alternatives are lower in alcohol.

Drinking low carb alcoholic beverages does not lessen the risks associated with drinking alcohol such as becoming overweight or obese, cancer, high blood pressure and stroke. If you are concerned about your weight, consider choosing a beer that you enjoy and drinking less of it. For some more details on low car beers check this summary out here.

And What About The Goodness Of Red Wine?

It is true that red wine is a rich source of antioxidant flavonols (sub-group of flavonoids). This means that these antioxidants in red wine COULD lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, the ‘baddie’ of the bunch and reducing the likelihood of blood clots in our arteries. However, to achieve this protective effect, a fair bit needs to be consumed and this is not ideal from an alcohol perspective.

The early 1990’s were heady days for red wine drinkers. This was the time when scientists had observed that red wine might have some very positive health benefits because it was a good source of antioxidants.  It was the time that red wine was celebrated as being a friend and a time when the beneficial quantity was unknown.  It meant that there was a perceived license to drink red wine whenever you felt like it. Alas, we know that this is not the case.

 

Make a Choice Not a Sacrifice

To make a choice not a sacrifice is an interesting decision.

Take extreme helicopter pilot, David Adamson as an example. David was born with an innate competitive streak and this streak was put to good use during his childhood in Dumfries, Scotland by kicking around a soccer ball. This Scottish pilot can also juggle 5 balls and ride a unicycle.

So how did that attract him to flying? David suggests he is no different to the majority of males who like loud, noisy machines, with helicopters fitting right into this category. Add a high degree of difficulty to fly properly, their capacity to do spectacular things in the air plus a hefty price tag and he was sold.

Up Close and Personal

David is not your average helicopter pilot. More of the extreme type, although by extreme I don’t mean dangerous. He specialises in low level filming (up close and personal to the water, ground, car, athlete or any moving object) for television productions, documentaries, commercials and sporting events. This requires an exceptional level of skill, endurance, stamina and mental focus. David is engaged by production companies like Disney, BBC, CBS, Foxtel, Discovery Channel, Lonely Planet, National Geographic plus all of the Australian media channels and has worked on a number of films including ‘Drift’ starring Australian actor Sam Worthington.

David’s skills are in demand internationally and it is not uncommon for him to get his passport stamped in a couple of different countries each week.

David’s expertise is highly sought after in the sporting arena including motor sports, adventure races such as Anaconda, the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Surf Ironman Series, Red Bull adventure events and Ironman Triathlon.  TV productions like internationally acclaimed Top Gear, Getaway, Postcards and Surfing the Menu love his work too. As a helicopter pilot, safety is the top priority and David is an Aviation Safety Consultant, Flight and Ground Instructor both in Australia and internationally for pilots, aircrew, general public and the film industry.

When I first saw a photo of David in his helicopter hovering a breath away from a surfer carving up a monster wave at the world-class surfing venue of Margaret River, I knew he would have some unique strategies for his own performance. 

The Committment

While training to be a pilot, David learnt a couple of lessons that he was able to apply to managing his own health when he needed them. Perseverance and commitment was key because the ballpark financial cost of training over a 6-month period was $70,000 AU and required a substantial loan. Getting his first job and runs on the board was very difficult and made all the more stressful with a weighty financial burden in the background. It was during this time that David had to frequently remind himself that although his desire to be a pilot often felt like sacrifice, it was in fact completely his choice.

Frequent and lengthy travel has directly impacted on David’s weight and well being in the past. To rectify these problems, he now consciously makes choices that will benefit his health such as choosing hotels based on the availability of a gym or pool or proximity to healthy food to maintain his fitness and focus.

Mental focus is clearly essential for David’s job as he has to integrate his expert flying skills, weather conditions, logistics of the event or ‘target’ and his own mental and physical well being. His calm persona is obvious in person and in the world of flying this is a highly desirable trait. To avoid stress, David plans ahead and ALWAYS has a contingency plan in place.  This has to be a bonus when in charge of a helicopter!

Which Road Will You Take?

Picture an Olympic year; everybody at home is on the edge of his or her seat glued to the big screen.  At the end of the race the athlete pants, “I’ve given everything to be here.”   It’s true; the overwhelming majority of Olympians have given everything to be one. For each of them, just qualifying for the Olympics has meant years of relentless training, often missing out on socialising with friends and family, continual juggling of work, school and other commitments and for many ongoing financial hardship. It’s not just the athlete but usually their parents and siblings too who have been there all the way supporting them, ferrying them to training and providing the financial back-up to enable to them to pursue their dream.

The big question here is whether these athletes have made a choice or a sacrifice.  A choice is an action you prefer over another action. You get to control it and we all make a myriad of choices each and every day without giving any thought to them.  Will I have cereal or toast for breakfast, what will I wear, shall I get up early and exercise or will I sleep in, should I drive the car or catch the train to work? 

You get to control each and every one of these choices and make a decision. Most of our regular choices fall into patterns and become part of our daily routine. Some of them, however, are important enough to define the quality of our lives.

And What About Those Sacrifices?

A sacrifice is something you “give up” because you’re forced to or because intellectually you know you should; but deep down, you still want it badly. You give it up because continuing would be worse…like smoking, spending time in the sun in the heat of the day without sunscreen or protective clothing, eating a family block of chocolate every day or drinking too much alcohol.

As an added bonus, sacrifices often come as a package deal with resentment and failure. Picture Australian Sally Pearson who won the gold medal in the 100m Hurdle event at the 2012 London Olympics by two-hundredths of a second. We know that there so many choices that this Olympic athlete made along the way to achieve her dream of being the best 100m hurdler in the world. This lightening fast athlete made a choice not a sacrifice to be the best in the world; nobody forced her to do it.

Elite athletes aside, for the everyday person, a health and well-being goal will be something you are contemplating or working toward, something you’d like to achieve that includes a degree of uncertainty and probably difficulty. It’s something you’re trying to accomplish…like losing those stubborn last five-kilo’s, finding calm, balance and happiness in life or starting that exercise class you have been wanting to join for ages. Goals are not a snap and are meant to challenge us and give us direction. 

Imagine This 

Imagine really wanting to do a 12km run that is conducted annually in your state.  You have never run in your life, unless you count the playground way back when. You are willing to train but you can’t fit it in because you are too busy. If you get up earlier, you don’t get enough sleep.  

If you attempt to train after work, you’re too tired. All of these things are choices and decisions that you have made, not sacrifices.  There are some things in your day that are non-negotiable like school and work but be honest with yourself, is there any fluff that you can clear out to make way for your running training?  Block that time out and then add in what you must do to achieve your dream of running 12 km.  If you are too tired to get up in the morning, stop watching TV and go to bed earlier.

Master Chef and MKR are not going to help you get up at 6am are they? If you know that distractions like kids, last minute deadlines, or just general fatigue often occur at the tail end of the day, don’t set yourself up for failure by scheduling training sessions at this time. Aim for the morning sessions and find a buddy to join you. While rest and recovery is essential in any training regime, it can be tempting to hit the alarm and roll over can’t it? Will just this once make a difference? Yes, because lots of ‘just this once’ add up to you not achieving your dream.

What will you do today, will you make a choice not a sacrifice?

 

 

As the Story Goes

I often get asked about my story.  My reason or my passion for what I do.

If you have already heard my story, feel free to speed read to the end and I’ll speak to you next week.

If you haven’t heard my story, you will be thankful to know that it is no ‘Gone with the Wind’ tome.

It’s certainly not easy deciding what you want to do when you are a grown-up. Somehow, through a stroke of luck, a change in the wind or perhaps just chance, I decided what I wanted to do when I turned 14 years of age.

I did what I needed to do to make this happen through school and university but the real education and the passion for what I do, didn’t really start until after I had the piece of paper.

When I graduated from uni, work for Dietitian’s was thin on the ground in Perth and my only true hope of a job was someone falling off the perch. Harsh but true.

Given the cold hard facts, time was of the essence, so it seemed like a fine idea to put all my worldly belongings and my prized green Gemini on a truck and send it across the Nullabor. The lure of my very first grown up job took me to Cootamundra, a tiny little sheep and wheat town in NSW.  I found myself in the Nurses Quarters in my single room overlooking a parched paddock inhabited by three lonely sheep wandering around. As sad as they looked, I did note amidst a bucket of tears that at least they had two friends. 

And therein lay my first problem. I was a no mates with not a single prospect in sight. Enter the Hot Cross Bun. Their comfort was immense and my love affair was immediate and oh SO enduring.  I am thankful that way back then, the little fruity delights didn’t appear on the shelves on Boxing Day because the collateral damage would have been quite literally enormous. Whilst comforting myself with the Easter goodies (and perhaps a few other food delights) I set about formulating a plan to gather some friends.  

Cootamundra, like many other country towns had a happening pub scene and with ten of them in a 500m strip catering to 5000 thirsty townsfolk they were clearly the path to friendship. I managed to gather some lovely friends and we had some hilarious times (I think).  After six months of swilling beer and a concerted effort at eating every Hot Cross Bun that wasn’t nailed down, my boyfriend at the time started making comments about the extra ‘bits’ I had acquired.  I was indignantly upset. How dare he tell such lies!

More time passed and unbeknown to me, more bits tacked themselves onto my body. In hindsight I think the beer may have affected my vision. I can only imagine the shaky confidence that the locals had in their new and only Dietitian who was advising them on losing weight while she was fattening up like a little piggy.  Eventually the evidence became too great even for me and in a pivotal moment when getting out of the bath, I had to face the fact that I had morphed into something like a Shar-Pei dog, the breed with many folds of skin.  

With a successful deposit of 10kg of heavy duty weight, the golden run of beer and Hot Cross Buns was over. 

It’s fair to say that the road back was long and arduous and the vision of the first hot cross bun on the shelves each year on the 4th of January never fails to remind me of what could have been. 

Each year, when I look at those first batch of Hot Cross Buns on the shelves, I remember that nobody is immune from making poor choices whether they be about food, exercise or any other lifestyle behaviour or habit. Including me. That is what drives me to assist you.

I don’t have all the answers (as my kids keep telling me) but I do have a collection of experience and education that could just help you along your journey to health and wellbeing. The way I see it, we are all in the proverbial trench together here. But I might just have the shovel.

What about your story – do you have an experience that continually nudges you along the preferred path?