Exactly seven years ago, my life as a self-assured, fresh-faced, pert thirty-something who spent her weekends blissfully attending Friday night drinks followed by yoga and pilates classes on Saturdays came to a sudden, screaming, abrupt end. Oh, how I thought I had it together at …
It’s that time of year when we start to see the magazines and random “fitness gurus” telling us it’s time for a “New Year, New Body”, or to get a “bikini body”, whatever that is. After the celebrations of Christmas feasting, women (and men) are particularly vulnerable to this thinly-veiled attempt to make everyone feel inadequate and sign up to the latest fad diet or exercise regime.
If you’re struggling with your body image at this time of year, here’s some news for you that I’m not sure you know about. Your doctor doesn’t care about the way your body looks. We don’t care if you don’t have a six-pack, a flat tummy, and cellulite-free legs. We are aware of the dangers of body image problems – because most of us know the heart-sink feeling when someone walks in, hiding skin and bones under a baggy jumper, and we wonder how we are going to gently ask them if there is any possibility they have been restricting their food and/or exercising and have an abnormal appreciation of their body shape, i.e.. “Could you have Anorexia Nervosa?” We also see a lot of bulimics, both recovered and recovering.
So we don’t care about the way your body looks but we do care about how your body functions and what you are doing to help it work for as long as it should. Here are some of the things we do care about.
We do care about your weight, because excess weight can signal that you may develop high blood pressure, heart disease, and some cancers. If you’re overweight, we’ll help you with changing your diet and getting more active, and reducing other risk factors. We’ll measure your waist, because it’s an indication that you might get diabetes, and we don’t want you to develop blindness or kidney failure from this extremely common and devastating chronic illness. So we’ll put you on the scales and get the tape measure out. But not because you don’t measure up to looking like a fashion model. And we don’t need you to achieve perfection either. Losing just 5-10% of weight can have enormous positive changes to your health.
We care about wrinkles because they can tell us you have sun-damaged skin, and we don’t want to be cutting out melanomas from your skin in the future, so we’ll remind you to slip, slop, slap.
We care if you come in looking sad, without that sparkle in your eye because it tells us you might be depressed, and we want to help you recover from this debilitating condition.
This New Year, how about making resolutions that don’t revolve around trying to look like a ridiculous teenage fashion model, especially with the revelations that the majority of photographs in glossy magazines are adulterated and don’t reflect what models really look like? Here are some resolutions that your doctor would be happy with.
I will eat five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit a day.
I will aim to be active every day, for at least 30 minutes, and I will find enjoyable ways to lead a more active and less sedentary life.
I will limit processed foods and refined carbohydrates.
I will drink only in moderation (2 standard drinks for women, 4 for men a day) and have two alcohol free days a week.
I will include legumes, nuts, olive oil, avocadoes, and other healthy fats in my diet.
I will not eat excessive amounts of saturated fat (contained in some red meats, processed meats, full fat dairy products).
I will limit or eliminate consumption of processed meats altogether.
I will cultivate a healthy relationship with food.
I will slip, slop, slap all the time, and will not sunbake (or should I say sunburn).
I will not drink and drive.
I will look after my mental health with enough sleep, practice of gratitude or mindfulness or similar, social connections, and regular exercise.
I will make health a priority, and see my doctor for my preventive health checks
I will honour my body for what it is – an amazing creation, with arms that . can hug, hands that can make a meal and dress myself, and wipe my bottom, all functions that are taken for granted until they are gone. I’ll honour my legs that can take me from my bedroom to the world, on my own, without assistance. I’ll honour my brain, which helps me decide what is safe and what isn’t, remember who the members of my family are, and direct the rest of my body. I’ll honour my eyes, which allow me to gaze at sunsets and the beautiful faces of those I love.
I’ll focus on what my body can do, not how it looks. And I’ll do everything to keep it ticking over just the way it should – without pain, without loss of function, with vitality.
Happy New Year to all and feel free to add your health “resolutions” below. Wishing you much health and happiness in 2017!
This guest post is written by Tara Heath, lifestyle and health journalist. Thanks Tara for providing a wonderful post that I think many people will find helpful! There’s comes a time in every parent’s life when he or she realizes it’s time to start caring …
It’s RU OK day, a day to remind us of the importance of good mental health, a day to think about the people we love who might not be ok, who might be struggling with untold depression or even suicidal.
This post is written not for the people who have severe depression or significant mental health problems. If you are experiencing poor mental health to the point of not being able to cope with your daily routine (work, family, can’t even get out of bed to face the day…), are relying on substances to numb your pain, and/or are having thoughts of suicide, this post is not for you. What you need is to have a diagnosis by a trained health professional followed by the help that you need (for depression, this is intensive psychological therapies, antidepressants, sometimes hospitalisation). You must pick up the phone now and call someone. Get a friend or family member to come over, and stay with you until you can see a doctor or mental health nurse. Or call Lifeline on 131114.
This post is for people like me – we’re struggling to be adults. We get overwhelmed. We’re human. We get anxious from time to time. Some days, showing up is difficult, but we always do it. We’re tired.
Here are some things that can help us thrive instead of simply survive, and be the resilient, compassionate, calm versions of ourselves that we so very much want to be. Like many things on this blog, these have also been tried and tested by yours truly.
There are a number of excellent, evidence-based, electronic resources designed to improve mental health. Here are some of the recommended e-mental health resources that you might find helpful. You can find a comprehensive list on the mindhealthconnect website.
Smiling Mind is a wonderful app that teaches you mindfulness meditation. The app take you through an introduction to mindfulness, with short guided meditations (some only a minute long!) followed by a number of modules. There are also programs for children, adolescents, schools and workplaces. The app builds on the growing body of research pointing to the many benefits of mindfulness including increased resilience and reduced stress. I’m listening to Smiling Mind daily at the moment and love it. A related app created by Smiling Mind is Mind the Bump, aimed at pregnant or new parents, with a range of superb guided meditations. I find that the guided meditations are just as useful for non-parents!
Reach Out Worry Time and Reach Out Breathe are two very practical little apps developed by the Reach Out program/website. Worry Time lets you set a reminder every day to write down all of your worries. This allows you to get on with the rest of your day because you know you have a set “worry time”! the Breathe app teaches you to slow down your breathing.
MoodGym was one of the earliest e-mental health websites developed in Australia and is still regarded as one of the best. MoodGym delivers online cognitive behavioural therapy, the kind that would usually be delivered by a psychologist face-to-face. Ideal if you cannot afford the time or money to visit a therapist on a regular basis.
MyCompass is a website developed by the Black Dog Institute that helps you track your moods, lifestyle habits, and stress levels, and provides you with a toolkit to deal with stress, anxiety and depression. The only downside is that you cannot access the toolkit when using a device – you must be using a computer.
Keeping a gratitude journal
Like mindfulness, gratitude can seem like a buzzword when it comes to mental health, but there is increasing research that demonstrates the benefits of practising gratitude. The thing is, just thinking grateful thoughts or having an “attitude of gratitude” may not be enough to realise the benefits. Keeping a gratitude journal can be a more powerful way of practising gratitude. This does not need to be done every day – as little as two or three times as week seems to suffice. I have come to look forward to my pre-bedtime gratitude journal writing. Another tip I have read was to focus on being grateful for the people and relationships in your life rather than objects.
Banish fight-or-flight: get moving
If you’re struggling with flat moods, low motivation, and low grade anxiety, try increasing the frequency and intensity of your exercise (or, try doing some altogether!!) This is a sure-fire way of getting a good dose of wellbeing and improving stress levels. Our bodies need to move, and our minds need our bodies to move. My worst days are when I spend too much time at the desk or computer, followed by slumping in bed at night. I know now from experience that I just need to move – my solution is to go for a run or if I can’t, a 25 minute kettle bell workout at home. Five days a week works much better than three, as the effects from exercise seem to abate after 24-28 hours.
I hope these suggestions help you! I’d love to hear what self-help techniques you find useful for managing stress and preventing anxiety and depression x
Leaving Melbourne for Sydney may seem like a small move, a mere 963km, but it was a enormous upheaval for me. I felt like a tree that had dug very deep and comfortable roots that were suddenly and painfully ripped out. We are now putting …
My daughter started school this year and so began the routine of scratching my head for a “morning tea” snack every day. If I ever had grandiose ideas about packing lovingly hand-baked goods accompanied with sweet hand-written notes every day in her school bag, they were dashed very early on into the school term. She’s lucky if she gets a packet of brown rice cakes (at least they are brown!!) thrown hastily in there.
One thing I can whip up easily are these date, oat and seed bliss balls which I have modified from Cooking From Busy Mums’ recipe. I didn’t have sultanas so I substituted with half a cup of extra dates, and half a cup of sunflower seeds, and I also added chia seeds. Really, you could throw in any seeds you like which would add extra fibre and protein into the bliss balls. They are nut free and free from refined sugar although the dates are extremely high in “natural” sugars. However, there’s also plenty of fibre in there which will slow down the absorption of sugar. My kids helped me roll the balls so it was very quick work with no baking and minimal mess. Enjoy!
Date, Oat and Seed Bliss Balls
1 1/2 cups dates
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup pumpkin, chia or sunflower seeds – anything you like, really
1/4 cup cocoa (or cacao, if you wish)
3 tbsp water or enough so that it isn’t dry and holds together well
Extra desiccated coconut for rolling in
Just throw everything into a blender or food processor and process until smooth.
Kids love rolling these so enlist their help in rolling small amounts into balls (about 1 heaped teaspoon is good) and roll in desiccated coconut.
They will freeze well for 3 months.
Enjoy in moderation!
Hello there. It’s been a long time. I wanted to say that I’m all right. It’s been a tough few months of transition but I’m doing okay. I’ve been practising mindfulness. I wish I could say I am doing some actual meditation, like sitting on …