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3 Key Reasons Why We Sabotage Our Health Goals (and how to handle them like a Ninja!)

sabotage health goals

Angela: Willpower can be hard thing for a lot of us. Sometimes we do things automatically without much thought. Are you finding it hard to stay on the wagon and when you fall off it’s hard to get back on?

I truly believe if you get your mindset right you can achieve anything. If you are finding it hard to achieve your goals, health or otherwise, this is a must read post by Amy. She is a Strategic Psychotherapist, Clinical Hypnotherapist and Coach. As you can see you are in great hands! Over to Amy…

Amy: So you’ve decided its time to get fit and drop those pesky 5 kilos once and for all. Or perhaps you’ve reached a certain level of health but seem to have plateaued.

Maybe since becoming a parent you’ve been too exhausted or perhaps your job is so demanding that your best intentions go out the window. Or maybe you’re just in a rut or you just don’t seem to be able to stick to a routine.

If any of these sound familiar, then there’s some GOOD NEWS. And it’s this:

You do know how to stick to a routine very well (true!). It’s just that you perhaps haven’t yet defined and committed to the one that best serves you.

 

Cognitive Toolkit

cognitive brain functionSo what if all you needed was a toolkit of new cognitive based knowledge and skills that ensured that your tailored exercise and nutrition routine became as normal and effortless as showering or cleaning your teeth every day?

To understand how this is absolutely doable for you, let’s just talk a bit about the inner workings of that wonderful and sometimes mysterious organ of ours, the brain specifically in regards to willpower.

We rely on willpower more times a day than we could count to help us decide if we will do something, wont do something or want to do something. Our willpower comes from our prefrontal cortex, which is one capacity that separates us from other animals.

The prefrontal cortex is significantly responsible for our ability to control our behaviour. And we really can (YOU really can) jig this in your favour. You see our prefrontal cortex houses our ‘self control muscle’. Whilst it can do a wonderful job it does get compromised by our stress levels, which are, let’s face it, sky rocketing these days.

Changing your cognitive behaviour

So what can you do to ninja this scenario? Like many elite institutions including Yale and Stanford Universities in the US,

a) you could and should support your ‘self control muscle’ by managing your stress levels through mindfulness and/or meditation (whatever techniques work best for you) and

b) refining your unconscious cognitive patterns using evidence based therapeutic techniques like clinical hypnosis and strategic psychotherapy (if you want to know more let’s chat!)

It’s interesting when we realise that each one of us has our unique cognitive style or blueprint.

And did you know that these are arguably essentially set into our unconscious faculties by the time we are 7 years old based on key influences like our family and social environments?

The really scary bit is that these cognitive or mental patterns influence how we habitually perceive, interpret and respond to the world for the rest of our lives UNLESS we actively choose to refine them!

So the question to ask yourself is – are you going to be one of those many who do not look under the hood or does the idea of creating your life by DESIGN rather than by DEFAULT interest you more?

Top 3 Reasons That Could Be Holding You Back

Do you wonder why you’re not (yet but soon will be) hitting the mark? By the way, the great athletes have always known these secrets…..

We operate from an emotional frame i.e. let our feelings dictate our behaviour.

We don’t have the optimal process in place to support our desired outcomes – the right steps. We respond from a place of present orientation (the now state) rather than factoring in the (major) importance of our desired future outcome.

So let’s flesh these out….

1. EMOTIONAL FRAME

bright ideaWhen we let our emotions decide what we do: we stay in bed where it’s warm and cosy rather than get up, get out and get moving; we buy that sweet treat to help push us through the mid afternoon slump rather than go for a walk around the block, do 20 star jumps or close the door and meditate.

So how can you ninja this? It begins with the art and science of observation.

The first step is to commit to monitoring your responses during the day. You can have fun with this and consider yourself a PIY (Private Investigator of Yourself)! We’re all busy so this can be challenging but even if you can commit to doing it for an hour a day it will make a difference. A journal comes in handy here. Notice the thoughts, situations and feelings that most affect you negatively. Why? Because these negative responses move us into the ‘fight or flight’ mode of operating. This response served us very well when we needed to avoid being eaten by predators a while back however these days this mode just zaps our adrenals and negatively affects our physiology across many of our body systems.

The key is once you become more aware and therefore in control of your behaviour you will have the space to consciously make decisions according to your values rather than your feelings or old automatic patterns.

2. THE RIGHT PROCESS

Off target We need to combine a solid process for our goals with desire and motivation if we are to complete the success equation. Desire without skill will not get you where you want to go, nor will skill without desire.

Often people have some sort of a process but it’s too vague or unclear. For instance, ‘I commit to exercising 3 or more times a week’. This is a nice idea but unless your process is more specific and measurable and therefore makes you accountable then your results will be mediocre at best. The right process can be as simple as:

  • 10 minutes of breath work and stretching as soon as you wake each day
  • A 15-minute walk around the block each workday (perhaps at the 2pm slump)
  • 6-7am Monday, Wednesday and Friday – a Crazy Awesome Fitness Session
  • 9am Sunday mornings – a cliff walk with a friend, swim, surf or yoga class

When you schedule your ‘Ninja Action Plan’ into your diary it becomes a given rather than a negotiation less of course the occasional unavoidable situations like when the dog really did eat your runners!

The same of course goes with nutrition. If your process and steps for maximizing your health through nutrition are clear then you’re far more likely to stick with them. Instead of “I want to eat less sugar and drink less wine’ perhaps you could develop a weekly meal plan, shop up and cook up every Sunday and let Saturday be your ‘free’ day where you can eat and drink whatever you want.

There is no substitute for preparation. If you have a healthy snack on hand when the hangers (‘hungry angries’) strike then you wont find yourself regretting a ‘would you like that fries with that?’ oopsie!

Hot tip – schedule all this goodness into your calendar. Have fun experimenting with creating your own daily routines that are both realistic but also stretch you to a higher grade of living.

3. FUTURE ORIENTATION

make the most of lifeThe final key is something that elite performers in sport, business, the arts or any field are well attuned to; They have their eye very firmly on the prize.

An athlete’s goal to win Olympic Gold – future orientation – encodes all of their present behaviours including not allowing any feelings of resistance to rule their actions or inactions. I can guarantee you they don’t feel like getting up at 4am six mornings a week to bust out laps for hours but they do it anyway. Day in. Day out. Their coaches help to ensure that a rock solid process for goal attainment is in place.

Being completely committed to a goal means that your chosen and passionately desired future becomes the source of your present actions. When you focus in this way you are innately driven to do what needs to be done regardless of the challenges that cross your path. This is where coaches and therapists can have a massive influence by helping to define the goal, lock in the process and be both your No. 1 cheer leader and critic so that the desire, commitment, steps and ability are all there. This puts the future outcome front and centre. Exactly where it needs to be.

Conclusion

I hope these insights have sparked your interest in just how powerful your mind really is and what you can achieve as many of my clients have discovered. I encourage you to steal some precious time to ask yourself some simple but profoundly important questions. Who do you want to become? What do you need to get there? Do you have clear goals or do they need re-thinking?

If you need help trouble shooting or optimizing your health goals (fine tuning those Ninja skills) I’d be delighted to support you in making real change. Change facilitation is always far more effective and fun when you don’t try to go it alone.

Using the latest in neuroscience we can refine your cognitive patterns so that you operate from a set of values that support you both consciously and unconsciously.

Exercise and good nutrition can and should be strengthening, energizing and empowering components to your balanced and fun-filled life. With the right approach optimal health is very achievable.

So keep moving, learning and enjoying the process. Amy :)

Dr_Amy_Atkin_Psychotherapist__150Amy is a Strategic Psychotherapist, Clinical Hypnotherapist and Coach. She is passionate about helping people not only feel better but also do better.

She is also a busy mum and a tragic disco music fan.

You can find her here: The Modern Mind Clinic.

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Understanding Adrenal Fatigue & the Top 10 Tips to Beat it

Adrenal_fatigue

Guy: Have you ever considered that stress is actually burning you out, interfering with sleep and holding weight loss strategies hostage? I’ve spoken to so many people that say they simple can’t shift that stubborn body fat, even though they are eating well and exercising every day.

Immediately what springs to my mind is stress, cortisol levels and adrenal fatigue. Naturopath Tania Flack has covered them here in this fantastic post.

When you think of being stressed, it’s easy to imagine someone flogging themselves at work till all hours trying to finish that essential deadline, but there are so many other factors to consider:

  • Overtraining
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Psychological stress (worry, fear,anger etc)
  • to name but a few…

So if you feel like you just can’t shift those extra kilos and are constantly running up hill, then I highly recommend you check out this post! Over to Tania…

What is Adrenal Exhaustion?

The adrenal glands help to give us our get up and go. But if you are continually surfing on adrenaline and running on empty they can eventually start to under function. So what is Adrenal Exhaustion and what can we do about it?

adrenal_glandsThe adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and are responsible for the secretion of adrenaline, cortisol, DHEA and other hormones that are required to help your body function during times of stress, whether it is physical, emotional or mental. Chronic stress causes the adrenal glands to become exhausted and so does the person. The whole body including the immune system becomes weak and vulnerable. Adrenal Exhaustion can be very detrimental to your over all health. It causes diminished cortisol and DHEA levels which can adversely affect thyroid and sex hormones.

Cortisol

Cortisol is one of the most important adrenal hormones. Normal cortisol levels are responsible for maintaining normal blood sugar levels, it mobilises fat and protein stores for mores energy and has an anti-inflammatory action in the body. Cortisol has an effect on most blood cells that participate in immune of inflammatory reactions as well as having an effect on blood pressure. It has an effect electrolyte levels in heart tisse as well, heart beat, and influences the central nervous system controlling mood and behavior.

During the early stage of adrenal stress, elevated cortisol levels contribute to weight gain, elevated cholesterol and blood pressure, altered brain checmistry (which causes depression and anxiety), it also has an effect on insulin resistance and osteoporosis to name a few. During later stages of adrenal exhaustion the once high levels of cortisol eventually fall to low levels where it is insufficient to adequately normal function and good health.

DHEA Insomnia

Another important adrenal hormone that declines during periods of stress is DHEA which is considered the “youth or anti-aging hormone”. DHEA’s main actions are through conversion into other more potent hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. It also appears to have its own action on the immune system and endothelial cells helping to boost the immune system and help protect against atherosclerosis.

If production of DHEA decreases under stress and is not rectified, a hormonal cascade can occur, resulting in a deficiency of sex hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. If these hormones get too low then a whole range of other symptoms and problems can occur such as PMS, menopause, andropause and hypothyroidism.

3 Stages of Adrenal Exhaustion

Stage 1 – Alarm (fight or flight)

Fight or flightIn this stage the body launches into the fight or flight response by releasing elevated levels of noradrenalin, the “anti-stress hormone” cortisol and the”youth/anti-aging hormone” DHEA. In short bursts this is a healthy reaction and the adrenal cope well, but as stress continues the adrenals are put into overdrive to cover the early signs and symptoms of fatigue. The pancreas is also effected, blood sugar becomes imbalanced, resulting in low energy. Many use a quick fix of either sugar, carbohydrate or caffeine at this stage to over come fatigue.

Stage 2 – Resistance (fatigue & sleeping difficulties)

not sleepingWith chronic or severe stress the adrenals become unable to cope. Many people carry out their every day activities but really start to struggle with fatigue. The body needs more rest and is slower to recover. Anxiety starts to set in and people become more irritable and less able to cope with stress. Sleep difficulties are common and the body starts to show other symptoms such as hormonal problems and hypothyroid type symptoms like cold intolerance, sluggish metabolism and weight gain. Often the thyroid gland is effected at this stage.

Stage 3 – Exhaustion (shut-down)

burnt outAs adrenal function weakens further the adrenals are no longer able to keep up and cortisol output starts to decline. The body enters a survival stage where its main aim is to conserve energy in order to survive. This happen very gradually. The body starts taking energy from tissues, this stage results in muscle breakdown and protein wasting. Exercise tolerance is reduced and depression, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia is common. Every major system of the body is effected including the immune, hormonal, neurological and metabolic systems.

Signs and Symptoms of Adrenal Exhaustion are usually a combination of some of the following:

  • Ongoing fatigue and exhaustion
  • Feeling rundown
  • Decreasing ability to cope with stress
  • Poor stamina and exercise intolerance
  • Light headed when standing up
  • Difficulty getting out of bed
  • Non refreshing sleep and sleep disturbance
  • Feeling mentally foggy, difficulty concentrating
  • Low body temperature
  • Low blood pressure
  • Craving salt, sugar and carbohydrates
  • Weight gain around the abdomen
  • Insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, hypoglyceamia
  • More prone to illness and infection, slow to recover
  • Increasing hormone problems
  • Hot flushes
  • Depression and low mood
  • Poor digestion
  • Dark circles under the eyes

Adrenal Exhaustion can lead to….

Ongoing severe stress and adrenal depletion can lead to serious health problems and acute adrenal insufficiency. Generally, the earlier symptoms of adrenal exhaustion (Stages 1 + 2) are debilitating enough to force people to seek help. The earlier it is identified and treated the better the chance of recovery.

What Causes Adrenal Exhaustion?

  • Any major life stress, work, relationship, family etc
  • Physical, emotional or psychological stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Overexertion and over work
  • Poor diet
  • Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and recreational drugs
  • Excess sugar and high carbohydrate diet
  • Acute or chronic allergies, infection or illness
  • Toxins, pollutants and exposure to heavy metals
  • Fear and anxiety
  • death or serious illness of a loved one

The link between Stress and Adrenal Exhaustion

Many people don’t realise that the body responds to different kinds of stressors in the same way, so when we talk about stress many people only consider emotional stress.

Here are some examples of the types of stress that can contribute:

  • Environmental Stress: Heat, cold, noise, light
  • Chemical Stress: Pollution, toxins, chemicals, drugs, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol
  • Physical Stress: Overexertion, trauma, infection, injury, surgery
  • Psychological Stress: Worry, fretting, anxiety, anger, agitation
  • Biochemical Stress: Nutritional deficiencies, excess sugar, high carbohydrate diet, dehydration
  • Emotional Stress: Any major life event, death, birth, changes in relationships, work

Adrenal Exhaustion and Mental Health

Depression and anxiety are commonly associated adrenal exhaustion. Adrenal hormones are involved in cognitive function, mood and mental states in complex ways. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal function is effected during depression. Stress, with associated high cortisol and DHEA has been associated with anxiety and depression, and people with low levels of DHEA and cortisol have been seen to experience depression, brain fog, difficulty concentrating and poor memory recall. Fluctuations in night time cortisol add to sleep disruption experienced associated with depression.

How is Adrenal Exhaustion Detected?

Low levels are detected by either a blood, urine or salivary hormone test. Repeated cortisol levels are usually taken through out the day to get an accurate picture of adrenal status.

What Other Tests are Useful?

As adrenal exhaustion effects many body systems, it is important to have a thorough check up if you have been diagnosed with low adrenal function. It is important to look at hormonal, cardiovascular and mental health as well as assessing your ideal weight.

Can Adrenal Exhaustion be Reversed?

Adrenal health can be restored, providing steps are taken to address stress, and that diet and lifestyle are optimal. Many herbal medicines and nutritional supplements are effective in addressing low adrenal function. It can take some time to achieve results, but the quicker it is identified the faster you can address it. It is always easier to address adrenal fatigue in its earlier stages, so if you feel you you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue seek professional help as soon as possible.

Top 10 Tips for Beating Adrenal Fatigue

  1. Stress: It is imperative that you address all stressors in your life, if emotional stress has played a role, its time to get some counselling.
  2. Lifestyle: Its easy to push yourself if you’re used to surfing on adrenaline, but taking a good look at your lifestyle and making some positive changes really helps
  3. Relaxation Techniques: Whether it be yoga, meditation or cooking, find what works to relax you and make time for it every week.
  4. Exercise: Probably the last thing you’ll feel like doing but regular gentle exercise it a true stress buster.
  5. Diet: Out with the fast food and in with regular, nutritious meals, nutritional deficiencies are just another form of stress, so eat well. Get some professional advice on this if you don’t know where to start.
  6. Avoid Stimulants: Alcohol, sugar, caffeine, nicotine, recreational drugs have all got to go.
  7. Address any other health problems: Chronic allergies, infections and leaky gut are all a source of stress on the body, get these sorted out asap!
  8. Hydrate: Drink at least 8 large glasses of water per day, dehydration adds to your stress load
  9. Just say no: Don’t over commit your self, manage your work/life balance and be a bit selfish so you can give yourself time to recover your adrenal health
  10. Get some Professional Advice: See your Naturopath, herbal and nutritional medicine can make the world of difference. Don’t rely on over the counter products and guesswork. A well balanced treatment plan from a professional Naturopath, including dietary, lifestyle, herbal and nutritional medicine will really help.

If you want to know more, you can contact Naturopath Tania Flack here.

Have you ever suffering from adrenal fatigue or have overcome it? How about over-training? Would love to hear your thoughts below, Guy

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Is Coffee Healthy?

Is Coffee Healthy

By Guy Lawrence

COFFEE. Mmmmmmm. I only have to walk past a coffee shop and the aroma wafting out past my nostrils gets me practically drooling like Homer Simpson over ch-o-c-o-late.

It’s fair to say the latte lifestyle is ingrained in me. Sitting around and catching up with your mates, whilst sipping away on your favorite beverage (mine’s long black with a side of cream, extra hot, made with love) is a great way to spend half hour. And judging by the five coffee shops within a 100m of me (I’m in one writing this), understandably it’s ingrained in many others too.

The cost of coffee

I’ve just had the barista tell me that they (my favourite coffee shop out of the five) sell on average about 800-1200 cups a day! So it’s easy to say I’m not the only coffee lover around here. What amazes me more is that, I contribute on average, about two of those cups. At $3.50 a pop that’s $49 a week, and $2,548 a year! There’s a return flight to the other side of the world right there. Ouch.

We always recognise coffee, or even more so caffeine, as a bit of a pick me up. It clears the foggy cloud hanging above your head first thing in the morning, and then a mid afternoon fix to get you over the finish line for the day. Interestingly too, caffeine is often touted as a weight loss stimulant.

Is coffee healthy?

Firstly, I think we can all agree that if you keep things in perspective, the body copes well. i.e. You eat wholesome and natural most meals, but throw in a pizza once in a while, no problem. But it’s when the scales start to tip the other way the body starts to give out.

I’m the first to defend coffee, as I love the taste and the whole culture that goes with it, so I feel I can justify the odd cup, but I know those scales have started to tip, which has now led me to start digging a little further and finding out what the effects are of a regular caffeine hit are, and this is what I came up with…

The effects

When you have a cup of coffee, it initiates uncontrolled neurons firing in the brain, which triggers the pituitary gland to secrete a hormone that tells your adrenal gland to wake up and release adrenalin. (Caffeine Blues by Stephen Cherniske)

So this response now puts you in  ‘fight or flight’ mode, which I’m sure you’re all aware of, and of course you can see the great benefits of this ‘fight or flight’ safety mechanism that’s embedded in each and every one of us like a loaded gun, ready to go off at the slightest sniff of threat or danger, while we sit in our office chair or the cafe checking our emails first thing in the morning.

With this in mind, your body has just been put on red alert, with the biggest danger you’ll probably have is spilling your cuppa or writing a typo.

So you may get a bit of a lift from this, (as it generally raises blood sugar too, which is counter productive for weight loss), but of course, you come down with a crash later on in the day.  Consistently doing this day in day out will put undue stress on your adrenal glands, forcing your glands to secrete when there’s not much there to give, which exhausts them over time, and can contribute to mood swings, depression, fatigue etc.

And just to lay some icing on the cake, caffeine inhibits Iron and Zinc absorption by up to 50%, especially if consumed near meal times. Just type it into google, there’s plenty of thoughts on it.

Now, after re-reading what I’ve just wrote, I’m trying to put logic and meaning to every coffee I’ve had to date :-

Pros

  • Tastes amazing (to me)
  • Social aspect (good excuse to hang out and chat)
  • Heightened awareness for short period of time, in case of any lightning speed reactions needed while I’m sitting on my butt
  • And it’s cheap at $3.50. Just for a little daily treat.
  • Also handy to have before a Crossfit workout

Cons

  • At $3.50 a mug twice a day, you’ve got a round the world ticket. If you halved that to one cup, I’ve still got a surf trip to Bali (from Sydney) once a year.
  • There’s an art to living stress free with out the daily curve balls thrown at us. Do we need to compound this more by putting our endocrine system under stress, which can contribute to mood swings, depression, fatigue etc.
  • Food here in the city these days lacks enough nutrients as it is, especially through processing. So do we want to effect that any more than we need to?

Conclusion?

My favourite beverage has just taken on a whole new look. If I bury my head in the sand a little longer, surely no one would want to come up behind me and kick me up the arse!

I’ve also replaced my second coffee for the day with an organic anti-oxidant rich Change Chai Matcha tea. I even tried a buttered bullet proof version which was amazing!

Ok, jokes aside, do you drink coffee? How much? Why? Do you have an alternative? All comments are really appreciated… Guy

Ps. The rumours are true… Stu has never drank a cup of coffee in his entire life!!!

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How to enhance brain function

180 Nutrition PodcastPodcast Episode #2

By Guy Lawrence

In this episode of The Health Sessions I get to hang out with Dr. Ranga J. Premaratna who has a Ph.D- Food & Nutritional Science with specialisation in Nutrition, Food Microbiology, Biotechnology.

We chat about the gut & brain relationship and simple steps you can take to enhance daily brain function.

Download or subscribe to us on iTunes here.

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