Wheat & dairy: are they affecting your child's behaviour?

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Wheat & dairy: are they affecting your child's behaviour?

More than 65 thousand school-aged children in Australia have autism spectrum disorders (ASD) that cause emotional, physical and financial struggles for parents and kids alike1. In just three years, the number of children diagnosed with ASD increased by 55 per cent. With such staggering statistics, we looked at the current research to determine whether simple dietary modifications could be the key to helping our kids feel happier and healthier.

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Opinion: Cheesecake without cheese is not cheesecake. And why I don't really support making raw or re-designed desserts a habit just because they're more natural than the real thing.

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Opinion: Cheesecake without cheese is not cheesecake. And why I don't really support making raw or re-designed desserts a habit just because they're more natural than the real thing.

cheesecake cups

I apologise for the longest post title in history, and I have a feeling it's a precursor to a long blog post itself. It's one of those topics that I feel I have a lot to say about, but with no particular logical flow or order haha. This'll be a stream of consciousness, but hopefully you get something out of it. Maybe scroll down halfway to get to the guts of why I think raw desserts and whatnot aren't all they're cracked up to be. DISCLAIMER: Just to be clear, I'm not saying that raw/"clean" desserts and treats are bad, but I think it's important to not see the unhealthier/more indulgent/more processed alternatives as "dirty" or something to feel guilty about. Having a good relationship with food, as you'll read, is incredibly important to maintaining good overall health. I have a bunch of recipes for healthified goodies and I think they're awesome for sharing and educating others on interesting ingredients. I'm just not advocating having them as cravings crutches you rely on to get through the week, especially if you also simply cannot contemplate destroying your life and chances of a hot bikini body by having the real thing every now and then (sarcasm alert). If you prefer the taste and texture of healthified goodies over the originals, then good for you and enjoy them as others should enjoy Mama's Fudgey Brownies...occasionally, mindfully and with a great big smile on your face savouring how damn delicious they are.

So a few days ago I started the Whole30 program. I'll link it here, but in a nutshell, you commit to 30 days of what is pretty much a strict paleo diet. None of these things: grains, dairy, alcohol, sugar, sweeteners (real and artificial), MSG, soy, carrageenan and legumes. Your day generally involves tons of veg, fish, meat, eggs, nuts and seeds and some fruit. That's hard, yes? Yes. It's pretty similar to what I tried to commit to a year of in 2014, which led to a really unhealthy relationship with food and a constant anxiety that made me realise I had to change gears and ease up on the food rules (you can read about my experience with orthorexia here). So Mama Sprout asked me on Day 2 of my Whole30, and quite rightly so, "Don't you think this Whole30 will make you obsess about food like last time?". Besides the program being a less daunting 30 days, therefore you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, one of the principles of the Whole30 is to change your relationship with food.

I guess what's different about Whole30 is that, for the most part, the founders and participants all know how off the chain it is, and how it's not sustainable 24/7 for the rest of your life. The idea is to eliminate a bunch of inflammatory foods (and processed foods generally, though my plate was pretty healthy to begin with) for just 30 days - long enough to break habits, long enough to start seeing marked improvements for many health conditions. After that, you're meant to feel "reset" with reduced cravings and a strong intuition as to what your body really needs and wants, and then you can reintroduce foods accordingly.

For me, I knew I needed a bit of a strong start to losing weight to give me some initial momentum and motivation. My primary motivator, though, is my polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) symptoms that had really flared up over the past month and are aggravated by a lot of the foods the Whole30 eliminates.

I haven't addressed Mama Sprout's question yet....how can I be sure this Whole30 won't send me on a one way ticket to Orthorexia-ville?

Let's rewind a little bit.

I've ALWAYS been chubby. I've pretty much always identified myself as "the chubby one" and noticed I wasn't as skinny and scrawny as most of my friends growing up. I don't remember being devastated by that, but the older I got, the more self-conscious I became about my size. You know, because puberty and shit. I never felt the need to be more slender and I was a healthy, confident kid and teenager with enough going for me that I knew my appearance didn't define me, but I have pretty much always wanted to be more slender. Mama Sprout is an ace cook and we've always eaten really good quality food and while I struggle to lose weight generally, I've still fluctuated for the past eight years or so within a 20kg range (oh hey there, stretch marks, how's it goin'?). In 2012-3, I was the smallest I'd been as an adult (about an AU size 10), but my relationship with food was such that I couldn't maintain it. I'm a classic emotional and boredom eater. When I became bored with my job and had some frustrations going on in life, I ate so mindlessly. Anyway, I ended up an AU 12-14, then found my feet and a new path in life (oh hey there, career change) and started to embrace who I was with confidence again.

When I decided to do "a year without" following a couple of months living off Snickers bars and instant noodles while travellingit pretty much ended in disaster haha. As I've written about previously, I simply replaced the unhealthy binge foods in my life with alternatives made out of healthy ingredients. Sounds fine, right? So what was my undoing?

Okay, back to present time and the Whole30. One of the key elements of the Whole30 is that you are not allowed to make naughty treats out of nice ingredients. That means no combining dates and almonds to make a raw cheesecake base and soaking cashews and concocting a cheesecake-esque topping, no protein pancakes, no raw chocolates, no banana nice cream, no almond meal mug cakes, no nachos made with dehydrated flax chips...nada. This was my entire downfall last year! Why is this important? It makes you realise why you're making these replacements. Let's face it, it's not because they're healthy. We're feeding our cravings and filling the void that treat foods have left. In fact, those cravings and that void probably exist because we cease to consume treat foods as "treats" and thus it's inevitable that we will also consume healthified versions of our comfort foods more regularly than we should.

I'm completely on board with the idea that by banning yourself from making treat-like foods out of otherwise healthy ingredients for a short period of time, you can change your relationship with food altogether. Suddenly, you haven't got a comfort food to turn to, you haven't got your go-to fix for a sugar craving, and if you stick with it, you shouldn't have sugar cravings at all. Suddenly, you start finding other ways to cope with your emotions and boredom. And you don't find yourself putting on two dress sizes ;) (for the record, after a week doing Whole30, I was craving savoury and wasn't particularly turned on by the sweet treats I usually crave, which is pretty unheard of for me, especially given I hadn't really seen any physical improvement in that time, which is what usually spurs on my motivation)

Let's face it, our raw/healthy versions of traditionally "unhealthy" foods are never going to be as good as the real thing. In Whole30 language, this is called Sex With Your Pants On. Not as good as Sex With No Pants On and will probably leave you wanting to "take your pants off" and go on an "animalistic sexual rampage" (...a binge!). Instead, we need to be looking at traditionally "unhealthy" foods as treats, and treat them as such, and not as enemy foods that are forbidden and will cause major health destruction if you indulge every now and then. That relationship will only end in tears and stress and uncontrolled, habitual Sex With Your Pants On as you try to get the same kick that Sex With No Pants On gives you (trust me ;) ). Unhealthy foods in an otherwise healthy diet aren't actually all that unhealthy. Are you still following? We shouldn't be ashamed of indulging in the things that give us some pleasure and fun (we're talking about food now). If you want cheesecake, eat a gosh darn piece of cheesecake. If you want pasta, make a damn good bowl of pasta and enjoy every forkful. Do it occasionally to rev your engine and remind you of the amazing things in life humans have created and shared with the world. But don't tell me you get the same satisfaction from eating a bowl of zucchini.

 

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Opinion: The definition of health and my experience with orthorexia nervosa.

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Opinion: The definition of health and my experience with orthorexia nervosa.

If you looked at me today, you'd hopefully notice I'm easy going, laughing, keen to get out, explore and socialise. You'd hopefully notice my absolute love of fresh produce, cooking and experimenting with flavours. You'd hopefully notice my interest in fitness and self-acknowledgement that yeah, there are a few kilos to shift, that they aren't going to disappear overnight and that I'm keen to push myself. You may even think I'm a pretty healthy dame. But then again, you probably didn't notice when I didn't have my shit together...when I was trying so desperately to be the healthiest dame on earth.

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At the start of this year, I publicly stated I'd be doing "My Year Without" - a year without gluten, sugar, soy, artificial sweetener, alcohol, trans fat and dairy. I pledged to take weekly photos to keep myself accountable in losing weight (which I still do every couple of weeks, for my own reflection down the track). I was so motivated. My reasoning behind doing "My Year Without" was a sort of socio-scientific experiment on myself after becoming tired of the endless reports from the media dictating which foods were on or off the menu. Every week there's a new buzz word. I was perplexed as to how we are simultaneously the fattest we've ever been, yet the most health-obsessed we've ever been. I wanted to see for myself, as an average person wanting to achieve optimal health, what it was actually like to go by what society - via the media - deems "healthy".

The first month was pretty awesome. I had momentum. I also had a bunch of people asking me funny questions, but I felt armed and comfortable with my decisions. I felt armed. Defensive. 

When I wasn't seeing any movement on the scale, I was frustrated. I was trying so hard. I was being so conscious of my every food choice. Every single food choice. I was thinking about it day and night. I was adamant that I would not forgo socialising because of my new lifestyle, but I was so obsessed with succeeding. I wanted to say "I went a year without...". I wanted to put my experience into words in a book. And yes, I was genuinely interested in seeing how such a lifestyle would affect my bloodwork, weight and general health.

Then one day, about two months ago now (this blog post has been sitting in my drafts for so long), I caught myself out after some time in denial. I was exhausted, my skin was breaking out, my gut wasn't having a great time, I was physically responding to stress more than I ever had before and my nails were weak. "Why do I look and feel so shit if I've been gorging on salads and fermented foods and lean protein?!" (granted, the excessive nut butter may have played a role in the tummy issue haha).

So then I ate some um-ahh! Greek yoghurt. The next day I ate a whole banana. A whole banana. You're probably thinking "yeah...and? What's the big dealio about a 'nana?". That's exactly the point. In trying to be so super-freaking-amazingly healthy, I'd scared myself into health food oblivion. The following week I had two glasses of wine and they went down a treat.

Shortly after that day a couple of months ago, I read an article that slapped me in the face and gave me a reality check. I'd like to draw your attention to a term you mightn't heard of before.

Orthorexia Nervosa.

Literally, orthorexia nervosa means a fixation on righteous eating. It's an eating disorder.

Orthorexics have an unhealthy obsession with food. They strive to eat healthy food but become obsessed with what to eat (or not eat), how much to eat, when to eat, how to eat. Their self esteem takes a battering if they break the rules they set for themselves. In an ironic twist, while trying to be high-and-mighty by maintaining a rigid eating style that they perceive is superior to others', their mental health suffers. If they're not thinking about the next meal, they're thinking about what they're craving, their perception of the negative things that would happen if they gave in to that craving, or how they'll be able to work their regime around a social event (...whether that's a coffee with the girls, a date with a new prospective love interest, a full-blown ball or even an entire holiday). Eventually, orthorexics are so self-involved that their obsession and the time it consumes can crowd out other interests, damage relationships and friendships and really make them crumble under stress levels that they would normally cope with just fine. They become frustrated with the standards they've set for themselves, yet can't bring themselves to not attain those standards, or get caught in a cycle of self-punishment (normally negative chatter in the mind).

I was orthorexic.

mantra bands

On that day when I finally realised I wasn't feeling or looking as healthy as I surely should have been given my regime, I had to re-define health. Health is so much more than what your bloodwork shows or the absence of disease. To me, optimal health is both of those things, in conjunction with an internal sense of emotional wellbeing. The absence of anxiety, having a positive outlook, being excitable and keen for adventure and spontaneity. Being able to physiologically cope with the stresses that come with everyday life. Being able to socialise, date and work without food being an obstacle.

I relaxed my rules and, according to those rules, fell completely off the wagon for a good week or so. But even after that one week, my skin improved, my nails grew, I had more energy and I felt happier and freed. I didn't even have any negative self-chatter or post-consumption guilt that week.

These days, I'm still ironing out the creases that orthorexia has left. Although I caught myself out pretty early on in the piece, disordered eating is associated with the development of unhealthy habits and I've always had trouble killing my habits! What I found in adhering to my rules was that I started craving a heap of fat to replace the sugar/sweet foods, so I snacked on waaaaay too many nuts and nut butters. I started making foods (usually snacks) that were calorie dense but seemed okay to me at the time because they "fit the rules". Every now and then, I'd find myself snacking - still on foods that "fit the rules" - when I was alone and not even hungry, and I remember thinking that it was okay because they weren't foods on my hit list, but yet I didn't want others to know that, despite my reluctance to "give in", I was gorging on excess calories (but, of course, the proof is in the pudding and what you put on the inside is ultimately reflected on the outside). I put on weight as a result, and I'm working on strategies to replace the bad habits I developed with healthy habits.

I'm slowly disconnecting myself from thinking certain foods are "bad" and I'm regaining balance and replacing self-absorption with a kinder self-awareness. I'm working out what my body thrives on, and starting to repair my gut as a result. I've acknowledged that there are no quick fixes, and that my body and mind is super responsive to stress (cortisol) and therefore I need to be gentle and easier on myself when it comes to getting myself back on track fully. Baby steps. You can run, walk or crawl, but as long as you're going forward, you're moving in the right direction, right?

I've done a lot of research and am thankful I brought myself back down to earth after months of unhealthy food habits, and not longer, so I haven't yet felt professional help is necessary (but would totally recommend it to others if the prospect of overcoming any kind of disordered eating, short or long-term, seems overwhelming).

For the record, I still don't eat trans fats or soy, besides the very occasional fermented soy (tempeh). I don't eat much dairy at all, usually it's a bit of yoghurt or the odd macchiato. I avoid sugar but have enjoyed "real" desserts occasionally and a night on the couch with my best friend and a bowl of gelato. I've had gluten while out for meals, though avoid it generally because my tummy still isn't a fan. I drink a glass or two of wine maybe once a fortnight, if that. I don't like eating artificial sweetener, though my current protein powder is sweetened with sucralose because I've tightened my budget and sacrificed my preferred, naturally sweetened, protein powder. Being part of the health and wellness industry puts pressure on you to walk the talk, but I think it's important to look at what works and doesn't work for someone at an individual level. It's not just about nutrition and food, it's about overall health.

So, while my experience is not in a book, my words are written. I didn't go a year without, but in my definition of health, it's probably for the better.

If you'd like more information about orthorexia, or are concerned you or someone you care about may be experiencing orthorexia, this is a really useful resource: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/orthorexia-nervosa

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Opinion: I have issues with Ashy Bines

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Opinion: I have issues with Ashy Bines

ashy bines challenge

(If you haven't heard of Ashy Bines, then you've managed to avoid her plague of social media advertising. Essentially, she offers eating and exercise "guidelines" in a PDF for about $76 and uses weight loss transformation photos as her bait. I'd also like to note that I'm sure she's a nice girl who isn't out to just make a buck off vulnerable [predominantly] women. I just haven't got any evidence of that, soooo....)

I keep a blog called The Sprout that's all about health, happiness, nutrition and fitness. Like Ashy, I'm not a qualified nutritionist. Unlike Ashy, I'm completing my studies in nutrition so I can authoritatively advise all sorts of people about what nutrition will benefit them.

So I got Ashy Bines' Bikini Body Challenge guidelines. Sorry Ashy, I didn't pay for them. At more than $70 a pop, I thought I'd take her advice and "just Google", and I found a bunch of websites and people offering her guideline PDF documents for free because they didn't think anyone should have to pay for such a shambled collection of guidelines. ("Just Google" 'Ashy Bines and scam'...).

As a self-confessed grammar nazi and writer, the typos were what initially turned me off. Look, Ashy does offer some sound advice and advocates good, clean food. It's not a meal plan, per se, but decent advice to eat whole foods (...though not so much explanation as to why you should eat them, and much of it allegedly plagiarised). If it didn't mean walking on thin legal ice, I'd share the plan here. But y'all know how to get your paws on things, right? ;)

It's the fact that she isn't qualified that I find alarming. She supposedly offers 24/7 support on a private Facebook page you are given access to upon purchasing the plan, yet I found more than enough evidence to suggest that her support is often referring her customers to Google, deleting complaining customers or not replying at all.

Here are some tabloidy current affairs program segments to back me up (haha, questionable journalism, but you catch my drift):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8B9qxXtC_w

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bjDRpthv70

So this isn't just a post for Ashy Bashing. I just get so frustrated when people who, really, are not qualified at all to be giving advice position themselves as the authority because they've lost weight doing one regime or another. If you want a fitness and diet plan, your very best bet is to visit a nutritionist or dietician face-to-face where you can discuss what you want to achieve and end up with a meal and fitness plan that is tailored to you. At the very, very least, any plans for clean eating you buy online should be written by qualified health coaches/nutritionists/dieticians. Would you jump out of a plane with someone who has done a number of jumps but isn't qualified to take someone with them? See where I'm going with this?

Look, same goes for any products that are part of detox programs and whatnot. Do I agree with every bit of advice a dietician might give me? No, but I'd rather a professional opinion than paying the same money for the opinion of someone who has no scientific knowledge of biochemistry and nutrition.

Save your money, spend some time researching clean, whole living and if you are overwhelmed, go and see a nutrition pro for a bespoke plan to set you up for success. Check these out if you're looking for a local:

http://www.naturaltherapypages.com.au/natural_medicine/Nutrition

http://www.healthshare.com.au/directory/find-a-nutritionist

http://dmsweb.daa.asn.au/dmsweb/frmfindapdsearch.aspx?

http://www.naturaltherapypages.com.au/natural_medicine/Dietitians

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Opinion: A One-Hour Workout is 4% of MY day? Please.

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Opinion: A One-Hour Workout is 4% of MY day? Please.

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Alright, this isn't going to float everyone's boat but I've got an issue with people who believe this:

Just throwing it out there, but I reckon this was originally penned by a bloke.

I saw that quote on a day where I was particularly busy running from place to place and I was trying to figure out how I was going to squeeze in some sweat time. And seeing that quote pissed me off because it a) made me think I had to do a one-hour workout, and b) made me want to go Myth Busting because for me, I wish a one-hour workout was 4% of my day.

You see, if I'm going to do a one-hour workout, it takes me a combined saaaay 15 minutes to get my gym stuff together (ie, pull my hair back, get dressed, sort out my protein shaker, find my keys) and get to the gym. And I'm fortunate my gym is a 3-minute drive away. Let's assume the average person lives at least 5 minutes from their gym. So we're looking at about 20 minutes before I've even started a warm-up. All very well if I'm at home, but it's still going to take me 5 minutes or so to get dressed, clear my space and figure out what workout I'm going to do.

So then I do the 1-hour workout, which would need to include the warm-up and cool-down, right? And if I'm doing it right, I should be a sweaty hot mess by the end of it. Which means after my 5-minute drive home from the gym (after the couple of minutes I took to come back from the brink of death/catch my breath/drink my protein shake), I'll need to shower. This is where the "a bloke wrote this" comes into play. See, dry shampoo is an amazing invention and for blondes, it can cover the greasy evidence of not washing your hair for a couple of days, especially if I can just chuck my hair in a ponytail (and, admittedly, the next paragraph is redundant, besides the make-up). By day 3, not even dry shampoo can save me.

So in the shower, I've got to wash my hair. Then when I get out of the shower, I've got to dry my hair. Forgive me, male readers, but I just don't think you appreciate how long this actually takes. I can get my make-up on in 5 minutes for an everyday look. But hair? Towel dry, heat protect, blow dry, style. For someone with thick or medium- to long-length hair, that can take anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour. And don't you tell me to just put it into a ponytail. If I'm meant to be working out every day, I am not going to be wearing a ponytail every day. Girl's gotta have her style variation, got it? Plus, you have no idea how difficult it is for someone with such a round face to pull off a ponytail hahaha.

So by the time I'm actually clean and presentable, it's been another 45 minutes or so since I finished working out. That's roughly 2 hours from the time I decide I'm going to work out to when I'm actually able to carry on with my day. Which is 8% of my day. And I'm not even including post-workout Instagram selfies in that (I joke...sort of).

A one hour workout is not 4% of my day, because of all the additional stuff that comes with working out that - not surprisingly - takes time.

Now, I'm not suggesting that "not having time to work out" is a valid excuse to ditch it altogether. And I firmly believe that doing something - anything - is always better than doing nothing even if you think you have zero time. I just think that it'd be more relevant to me if it said..."A 20-minute workout is 4% of your day. No excuses". See, to me, I can then think "Yeah, that's right, sweating my tits off for 20 minutes is completely reasonable and I can fit that in".

Because that 20-minute workout will actually take an hour, and an hour total out of my day can always be found.

I'm wondering if you've been given any fitness, nutrition or life advice or motivation that just wasn't applicable to you. Let me know!

P.S. This post makes me sound precious, but I'm just venting how this particular popular piece of motivation just isn't applicable to the life I lead day-to-day. Some days, I take my sweet-ass time in the gym, because I know after my shower I can stick my hair in a bun on the top of my head, put some trackies on and get behind my desk at home without spending time looking presentable.

P.P.S. 20-minute workouts = Fierce HIIT. No lazy single-paced treadmill jogs.

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Opinion: Forgive me, trainer, for I have sinned.

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Opinion: Forgive me, trainer, for I have sinned.

new-years-resolution-lose-weight-binge-eating-encouragement-ecards-someecards

Part of me wanting to do opinion articles on this blog is to keep it real in the health/fitness/nutrition world we live in. There are hundreds of "gurus" out there who, according to their blogs, have their s*** together when it comes to fitness and nutrition ALL THE TIME. But the average person trying to be fit and healthy isn't a "guru" with their s*** together 100% of the time. And as an average person trying to be fit and healthy, I know it can be a roller coaster, especially when that pesky thing called life gets in the way.

new-years-resolution-lose-weight-binge-eating-encouragement-ecards-someecards

So here's the deal. Ugh. Forgive me, trainer/bank account from which a large sum of money is withdrawn to pay for food and personal training/guilt complex....for I have sinned. Big time.

Lately, I've been busy. I know, I know...so have you. It's not my excuse, but it is my context. So I've been working long hours and that has also involved learning a bunch of new stuff from two very different industries (ah, the joys of public relations). I've also had a few uni assignments due and study to catch up on, learning even more stuff. I've been planning my trip to South America and have inadvertently stayed up well past my bedtime researching. There's been more-than-average craptastic events and circumstances within my family lately, plus I've been trying really hard to do my workouts and prepare my meals, while also spending time with my family and friends and generally trying to have a life.

I know, whinge whinge whinge. There's a point to this, though, just bear with me.

In my absolutely wrecked emotional state, I took a teaspoon and dug it into the gourmet ice cream I knew was open in the freezer. Not just once. Or even twice. I went to town. It was as if I transformed into a sugar-craving fiend. The hairs on my arms stood up, I can't remember blinking, and I can't even recall how much I ate. I do know it included at least two biscuits, the ice cream, some chips, a large bowl of muesli, a piece of chocolate, an apple, some coconut flakes and countless nuts.

I wasn't even hungry.

Now, some of those things like the apple, the nuts, even the muesli aren't bad on their own and in the right portion size. But geeeez I was not measuring at that point, and ate so much of it that I may as well have gorged on more ice cream instead.

I felt sick, guilty and like I'd completely undone every bit of freaking hard work I'd put in thus far. I don't even think I felt satisfied. Just ill.

My skin broke out within hours, no joke. A big fat zit on my cheek - something I've come to recognise as my body's response to sugar.

It was all I could think about for the next day. How dare you. You're meant to have willpower. You know how hard you've worked in the gym. You have a meal plan written down ON THE FRIDGE. How did you manage to fall so far off the wagon that you were crawling on the road miles behind it begging it to stop?

It took me a day of this guilt-driven negative thinking to realise that I couldn't rewind and undo my moment of complete lack of self-control. All I could do was dust myself off and try not to let it happen again.

Here's the moral of my unfortunate confessional story:

  • When we put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect in our healthy lifestyles every day and give ourselves unrealistic expectations (like, I have to be on track all the time even when s*** is hitting the fan in my life), we're setting ourselves up for a pretty spectacular downfall.
  • I'm on track a lot of the time, but I needed to be prepared for this. I know from my past that I am an emotional eater (cue a dingey basement, a circle of chairs and "My name is Gemma and I'm an emotional eater.") but that's even more reason to be prepared to deal with my emotions without going crazy loco.
  • We can only move forward.

Sometimes is takes the most horrific fall from healthy grace to re-gain momentum and get back on track. The important part is not to feel guilty and self-loathing about what you may have done or eaten or not done (like your workouts). The important part is to find your way back and not continue the downward spiral. No guilt eating to make you feel better after your emotional eating.

The pressure we feel these days to look amazing, eat clean and dominate at the gym is immense. At the end of the day, we will more than likely slip up at some point...some moreso than others. But what I learned from my foodscapade was that beating myself up about it was only going to make me feel even worse than I did as a result of eating like I was never going to eat again. In turn, it was only going to make my mindset completely negative and toxic.

Part of having a healthy lifestyle is looking after your mental health and self-esteem. If you've experienced what I've gone through, think of it as one speed bump on a very long stretch of road. If you recognise the triggers and prepare for them, take the pressure off yourself to be perfect and pick yourself back up if you fall down, you'll be far better off than relentlessly kicking yourself for doing it in the first place.

After feeling stupidly angry at myself for a day, I looked at my progress pictures to remind myself what I've achieved when I've been on track, looked up some new healthy recipes and re-did my weekly schedule to make it realistically achievable. I've got some coconut oil "chocolate" at the ready if I "need" a fix and I've put teabags in containers everywhere, as a reminder to drink the damn stuff when I'm feeling under the pump, instead of eating my entire pantry.

What do you reckon? Have you had a fall from grace? How did you pick yourself back up and get back on track?

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A "duh" moment: Disease

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A "duh" moment: Disease

disease

In my studies (Nutritional Medicine at Endeavour College of Natural Health), I've been learning about Ayurvedic Medicine. It's a philosophy from India that [long story short] integrates preventative and healing therapies so those who practise it can live a long, healthy life.

The key to Ayurveda is balance, order and harmony, and when our bodies have all three, we are healthy. Think of your digestion, "waste" (sweat, numero uno and numero dos), your muscles and organs, your skin. Think of your attitude, senses and communication lately. Does anything seem "off"?

According to Ayurvedic Medicine, when our bodies are out of balance - in a state of disorder - they are telling us that we are not at ease. We are in a state of dis-ease. It totally clicked for me in a "of course, dis-ease....duh, Gem" kind of way.

In this way of thinking, if we take care of ourselves by nourishing our bodies with healthy lifestyle habits, enough sleep and practise things that improve our mental wellbeing (for some, this might be yoga, meditation, writing in a journal, taking a bath, getting more organised!), we won't disturb the balance of our bodies.

Do you ever get an upset tum after eating a certain food? Or do you get the odd pimple when you're feeling stressed? Our internal and external environments can actually aggravate our body systems and produce toxins, which in turn make us feel a bit bleurgh.

The more we aggravate our systems, the more toxins we have charging around trying to escape, and the worse we feel.

In this context, "disease" isn't necessarily a medical condition requiring a trip to the doctor, but a state of being when we're not exactly giving ourselves the TLC we should be.

To prevent disease, we need to avoid aggravating our physical bodies and emotional states (...ie, prevent our bodies from producing a bunch of toxins that they can't deal with and so they lose their s**t and make us feel and/or look less than ideal).

The good news is that if you're already diseased (and remember, we're not talkin' about cooties, we're talkin' about things just being a little out of whack where you're grumpy or your numero dos smells a bit funky etc), you can give your body a hand in flushing out the toxins so that you feel better. All it takes is eating things that your body can handle, keeping active and getting into the habit of recognising your emotional state, triggers of certain emotions and proactively doing things that make you feel gooooood.

No one is perfect, and it's unrealistic to expect we'll be in complete balance, order and harmony all the time. But it's always good to recognise what are bodies are telling us because hey, we're pretty smart little creatures so it's worth paying attention. Next time you have a break out, or yo' s**t literally stanks, or you're PMSing 30 days a month...forget a trip to the chemist and treat the aggravator, not the symptoms.

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