Category Archives: health

Sunnies, sunscreen and summer health

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Simone Tregeagle, Chief Operating Officer at rt health fund.

The warm days of summer mean holidays, swimmers and sunnies. And the warmer months bring their own special kind of health challenges, too. Here are some ways that you can enjoy the season, while staying healthy as you have fun in the sun!

 

Get protected

Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world so it’s vital to protect your skin during the year and especially during the hottest season of the year. Choose SPF 30+ and apply thickly and often – especially if you’re in and out of the water.

The sun is hottest between 10am and 2pm so find some shade whenever you can and wear protective clothing such as a long sleeved shirt. You can now also buy swimmers made from sun protection factor (SPF) material. Add a broad-rimmed hat and you can cut sun exposure not just to your skin, but also to your eyes by 50 per cent.

Seek some shades

Don’t rely on a hat alone to protect your eyes. Your eyes are vulnerable to the sun’s harsh rays so wraparound glasses with 100 per cent UV protection provide the essential coverage you need. The sun’s UV radiation can cause irritation and swelling – and even sunburn to the eye – in the short term. And long-term damage includes cataracts, cloudiness of the cornea and even cancer. When you’re choosing sunglasses, go for eyewear that meets the Australian Standard AS/NZS1067:2003 (this can reduce UV radiation exposure to the eyes by up to 98 per cent). Sunglasses that have an eye protection factor, or EPF, rating 9 or 10 exceed the Australian Standard and block almost all UV radiation. And, if you’ll be working outside, opt for tinted eye protectors – look for items that meet the Australian Standard AS / NZS1337.1:2010.

Don’t forget to protect your children’s eyes, too. Since UV radiation builds over time, it’s vital to protect children’s eyes early for a healthier future.

RunningMake your moves!

Want to get fitter or just want to stay on track at a healthy weight? Set some small goals this summer. Smaller goals with timeframes are easier to stick with than vague or ambitious aims that aren’t backed by a timeframe. Try aiming for around half an hour of exercise every day – more if you can manage it. Breaking it up into three ten-minute bouts is fine, too. Exercises that use large muscles or muscle groups are the most effective so try squats, lunges, sit-ups and planks to shape up, fast. Add just ten minutes of weight training each day on top to help to define your body by building a little muscle. Since muscle uses more energy than fat, you’ll boost your metabolism, too! Remember, if you haven’t exercised for a while and especially if you have a medical condition, speak with your doctor first.

Fruit and berry salad on wooden table, horizontalEat smart

There’s no secret weapon when making healthier choices – lots of vegetables and fresh summer fruits, fish, seafood and other lean protein and nutritious snacks should make up the majority of your meals. Try filling half your plate with veggies, a quarter with protein and a quarter with whole grain carbs. Try to stay away from cheesy/oily dressings, fried foods and watch your drinks.

Try to prepare as much food as you can at home – takeaways and restaurant items can provide around 200 calories more than the same foods made at home, according to the American Cancer Society[i]. And be extra careful when you’re cooking on barbecues and/or keeping food warm or outside for long periods, which can increase the risk of food poisoning.

Water in plastic bottle with glassDon’t drink your calories

Try to stick to good old H2O most of the time – it’s the natural way to quench your thirst. Soft drinks, juices, milky syrupy coffees and alcohol can be loaded with sugar and fat, or both. For example, a large glass of wine and a full-fat milk coffee can each carry 200 calories – that’s more than in a jam doughnut.

Your body can’t detect the calories in liquid as well as it can with foods so it’s easy to overdose on liquid calories without really feeling it! Try diluting juices with ice-cold soda water or diet tonic water, alternate alcoholic drinks with sparkling water and choose diet drinks in place of full sugar versions.

[i] American Cancer Society. MediaRoom – Press Releases. http://pressroom.cancer.org/NguyenRestaurants

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Caring for your kidneys; a guide for professional drivers and sedentary workers

Jui Tham is Chief Medical Officer at rt health fund
Jui Tham is Chief Medical Officer at rt health fund

Your kidneys are incredible filters that work constantly to remove waste compounds from your blood and eliminate them via urine. Part of your body’s detoxification system, your entire blood supply passes through your kidneys[i] in just five minutes. And, over the course of a day, between one and two litres of waste leaves your body as urine.

Staying well hydrated is vital for your general good health and kidney health. Your kidneys need enough water to efficiently remove wastes through the urinary tract and prevent the build up of toxins. Think fast flowing waterfall rather than small, stagnant pond!

If you drive for a living and/or have limited access to rest breaks or you spend a long time seated, how can you protect your kidney health?

Some symptoms associated with potential kidney problems

Symptoms can vary depending on your individual circumstances and some people don’t get any symptoms at all. Some of the more common symptoms of kidney problems can be quite non-specific. They include:

  • Lack of energy
  • Poor appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • Swelling in the hands and feet due to fluid retention

Other symptoms of potential kidney problems are more easily identifiable as related to the body’s urinary system, such as:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Passing stones in the urine
  • Painful urination
  • Dark and/or cloudy urine
  • Severe lower back pain.

An example of a common kidney-related condition – kidney stones

Not having easy access to fluids throughout the day raises your risk of kidney stones, which occur when naturally occurring salts or minerals in the urine clump together to form hard masses. The more concentrated the urine, the higher the likelihood that these salts or minerals will clump together.

Kidney stones affect four to eight per cent of the general population[ii] and, usually, the crystals are small and the minerals are dissolved in urine so they pass through without you noticing. But if salts clump together and become too large to pass easily, they can get stuck in the ureter (the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder). This blocks urine flow, causing severe pain (also called ‘renal colic’) and can also lead to infection and kidney damage.

More men are affected by kidney stones than women – one in 10 men compared to one in 35 in women. And, a family history of kidney stones, a history of urine infections and some medications also raises your risk.

Normally, there are no symptoms until a severe and sharp pain sends you running to the doctor. Painkillers may be all that’s needed, but if the pain is severe, hospital admission may be necessary. Surgery may then be required to remove the kidney stone or stones.

What can you do to reduce the risk of development of kidney problems?

There are a few things you can do to help reduce your risk for kidney problems:

  1. Drink more water

‘The main risks for people who drive for a living is that of relative dehydration,’ says Dr Tim Mathew, National Medical Director, at Kidney Health Australia. ‘Drivers should ensure that they drink at least two litres of water per day – and even more in the hotter times of the year.’

Life coach and accredited practising dietitian, Shivaun Conn agrees stressing that organisation is key. ‘Try to prepare for your journey by taking along large bottles of frozen water – they’ll provide refreshing hydration along the way.’ And, while it may not be convenient, try to stop for breaks as often as possible.

  1. Drink less alcohol

Limit alcohol to up to two standard drinks per day for men, one per day for women. According to the National Kidney Foundation, alcohol affects how your kidneys function, reducing their ability to filter harmful toxins in the blood.

  1. Have a health check

‘For drivers at risk, it is vital that they see their GP and organise an annual kidney check up,’ says Dr Mathew. This is especially important if close family relatives have had kidney disease or another chronic disease.

Even if you don’t have kidney problems or symptoms, a health examination (such as a blood test, urine analysis and/or x-ray) is important to discovering potential health problems – so don’t dodge your doctor!

  1. Don’t smoke

Smoking can harm your kidneys even if you have no other diseases and smokers are three times more likely to have reduced kidney function[iii]. And, stopping smoking can bring real benefits – this study showed that former smokers had fewer kidney problems than current smokers suggesting that smoking-induced changes are temporary and may be reversed if you stub out the habit.

  1. Eat smarter

‘A healthy Mediterranean type of diet is increasingly being shown to be beneficial in preventing Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and in minimising the risk of progression of the disease,’ says Dr Mathew. ‘It’s also important to get regular exercise and avoid getting too heavy as this can increase your risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure both of which are major risk factors for kidney disease.’

Diabetes and high blood pressure can damage your delicate kidneys. The damage happens gradually over many years without symptoms. That’s why it’s vital to try and keep your blood glucose levels and your blood pressure levels within normal limits.

Opt for low GI (glycaemic index) foods which help to keep your mind and body fuelled for longer and help your body to control blood glucose levels – very high and/or very low levels can damage tiny blood vessels including those that nourish your kidneys. Making sure you don’t get overly hungry can also help you make healthier choices when you’re faced with truck stop favourites.

Eating plenty of veggies and two fruits daily not only hydrate you but also provide potassium, which can help your body moderate sodium (salt) levels. Too much sodium means that your body uses water to try and get rid of the excess, which can mean you lose water. So enjoy more potassium-rich foods (bananas are especially rich in potassium). Try slicing banana and adding to sugar free, low-fat yoghurt and freezing both together for a healthy snack on-the-go.

And watch your dressings. The creamy, cheesy kinds can be rich in salt as well as fat. Stick with balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil if you can.

  1. Get organised

‘Try to plan around your shift and your journey,’ says Shivaun. ‘For example, take some freeze-able snacks with you – frozen grapes and yoghurt are particularly good and provide fluid, too.’

As well as increasing fluids in foods and drinks, Shivaun suggests that you decrease sodium (salt), which can be dehydrating – not good for your kidneys or your blood pressure.

‘Quick snacks like natural popcorn or unsalted nuts are better choices than a handful of chips, so keep a supply with you. And, while a ready-prepared salad may not satisfy your hunger, adding extra protein in the form of tinned salmon or tuna salad can help you feel more satisfied.’

‘Keeping snacks and foods that you can add to fresh bought foods helps to prevent you getting too hungry. This way, you’re mentally prepared to make better health choices,’ says Shivaun. ‘Healthy snacks are also important because it helps to prevent you getting too hungry and grabbing unhealthy fast food choices.’

  1. Watch your coffee breaks

Caffeine is a diuretic that causes the body to lose fluids excessively. Too many coffees and caffeine-containers like energy drinks and colas means that your kidneys are forced to work harder to pump out fluid and toxins because caffeine acts as a diuretic. Losing water from your body leaves you more vulnerable to dehydration, leading to kidney problems.

  1. Move more!

Aim to exercise so that you are a little out of breath – around 30 minutes each day is recommended by health experts. If your work/life schedule means you can’t fit in half an hour all at once, aim for three bouts of ten minutes dotted throughout the day. If you haven’t exercised for a while and/or if you have a medical condition, check with your GP first.

Sitting for long periods can contribute to kidney problems according to a study published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, men can see a benefit in kidney health by reducing their sitting time from eight to three hours, by 15 per cent[iv]. And, exercise boosted health even more when the men trained. Brisk walking, jogging or running on the treadmill may be more important for men, whilst cutting prolonged periods of sitting time may be more important for women according to the researchers. Plus, try to take frequent breaks, get out of your vehicle or stand up at your desk and stretch. This is great for your circulation and may help boost your concentration, too.

  1. Adopt a positive ‘stay well’ attitude.

Although you can’t avoid stress completely, try mechanisms that help you keep anxiety under control. Yoga is a great de-stressor and you don’t need to go to a class to get the benefits. You can download free apps that guide you through basic stretching and relaxing exercises (although you may want to get a professional to help you get the moves just right as you begin).

  1. Careful with those bumpy rides!

It’s thought that long-distance truck drivers may have a higher incidence of kidney bruising or damage compared with people doing other jobs. Driving over road bumps, potholes and rough terrain mean your body absorbs the vibrations via your vehicle and this may result in kidney disorders[v] (taxi drivers, truck drivers and mechanised equipment operators may also be at risk).

When you’re driving, try to make your seat as comfortable as possible. A good quality seat cushion may help to reduce vibrations. And when you’re on the road, park your vehicle, get out and stretch your legs as often as you can – good for your circulation and your concentration.

  1. When nature calls, answer!

When you need to go, go! By postponing it, your body reabsorbs some of the toxins it’s trying to get rid of. 

Find out more about kidney disease http://bit.ly/1ID5CUk or log onto kidney.org.au.

Jui Tham is Chief Medical Officer at rt health fund

References:

[i] Kidney Health Australia. All about our kidneys. http://www.kidney.org.au/kidneydisease/howourkidneyswork/tabid/590/default.aspx

[ii] Renal Resource Centre. Fact Sheet – Kidney Stones. http://www.renalresource.com/factsheets/kidneystones.php

[iii] Pinto-Sietsma SJ, Mulder J, Janssen WM, Hillege HL, de Zeeuw D, de Jong PE. Smoking is related to albuminuria and abnormal renal function in nondiabetic persons. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2000;133:585–591. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2671650/

[iv] Nilesh Bharakhada, Thomas Yates, Melanie J. Davies, Emma G. Wilmot, Charlotte Edwardson, PhD, Joe Henson, David Webb, Kamlesh Khunti

Association of Sitting Time and Physical Activity With CKD: A Cross-sectional Study in Family Practices. American Journal of Kidney Diseases 2012; doi:10.1053/j.ajkd.2012.04.024. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/251012.php

[v] Stephen J.Benstowe long driving hours and the health of truck drivers. New Jersey’s Science and Technology University. http://archives.njit.edu/vol01/etd/2000s/2008/njit-etd2008-006/njit-etd2008-006.pdf

50 of the best health tips – ever!

2015Ready to improve your life in 2015? Time to kick bad habits to make room for good ones? Here are 50 better health changes that you can really use to boost your health in the coming year and every year to come brought to you by the team at rt health fund!

  1. Get moving! Regular physical activity boosts physical and mental health and fitness. So, sign up for an activity that helps you get fit, active and take on new challenges whether you want a better backhand or to sizzle when you salsa!
  2. Choose positive relationships. Studies show that we tend to mimic the behaviour of those around us. So if you’re surrounded by negativity, chances are you’ll be dragged down, too. So cut the dead wood and choose upbeat, entertaining and happy buddies.
  3. Eat more fibre. Most of us don’t get enough fibre and increasing your intake can boost your energy levels because it slows down the rate at which carbohydrates are digested and released into the blood. The result? Longer-lasting energy for body and mind! Wholegrain cereals, pulses and lentils are fibre-rich.
  4. Do some neurobics. Challenge your brain by doing tasks that activate your brain’s biochemical pathways and bring on new pathways to help to strengthen or preserve brain circuits. Try eating or brushing your teeth left-handed (if you’re right-handed) or work out a new route to a destination – these types of activities can enhance mental agility, keeping your brain sharper for longer.
  5. Get enough sleep. Lack of rest affects your mood, stress levels and appetite. Aim for seven or more hours each night and stick to a regular bedtime routine.
  6. Downsize your portion sizes. Use smaller plates and bowls and opt for tall, skinny glasses instead of round, oversized ones. You’ll consume less without feeling deprived!
  7. Get more of the sunshine vitamin! Around 30-50% of Australians are deficient in vitamin D – important for strong bones, reducing your risk for certain cancers and improving your mood. The best way to boost your vitamin D levels is via sensible sun exposure. Good food sources include fortified margarine and oily fish.
  8. Set goals. Start setting yourself some small, attainable goals. You may come across a hurdle or two, but stay consistent, stay on course and you will reach your goals!
  9. Take some time out for you. Think about things you love to do or just take a moment away from everything to relax and get in touch with yourself. A bit of ‘me time’ might be just the thing you need to de-stress, ease anxiety, be present, find respect for yourself and/or create more energy.
  10. Eat for your eyes. Green leafy veg and orange produce contain protective carotenoids, particularly lutein and zeaxanthin that act like sunscreen inside your eyes. But don’t forget good quality sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat.
  11. Don’t smoke. Smoking is linked with lung and mouth cancers and macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness. If you’ve tried to quit before and failed, keep trying and you’ll be more likely to succeed. Every time you try, you’re one step closer to success!
  12. Take a break from your computer screen. Watching a screen for too long can trigger eyestrain and blurred vision, headaches and dry eyes. Every 20 minutes, rest your eyes by looking 20 feet (seven metres or so) away for 20 seconds and every two hours, get up and take a 15-minute break.
  13. Drink more water. Water is vital for every cell in your body. It is vital for digestion, regulation of body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. Urine should be straw coloured – if its darker, you need to drink more water!
  14. Battle dry skin with your diet! Choose foods like avocadoes and salmon, which are rich in healthy unsaturated fats and vitamin E needed for healthy, glowing skin.
  15. Get your health checked out. Don’t dodge the doctor; health checks can actually help prevent ongoing interactions with health professionals. Make an appointment to see your GP soon!
  16. Try something new. Whether it’s learning a new language or a new skill, you’ll challenge yourself whilst boosting self-esteem and you may meet new friends at the same time!
  17. Sharing is caring and has many health benefits. One study by the United Health Group found that 76 per cent of people who volunteered said that it made them feel healthier and 94 per cent said that it improved their mood. Plus, a massive 96 per cent reported that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose.
  18. Don’t be afraid to say no. By saying yes all the time, you’re likely to be doing things that you don’t really want to and over time, this can lead to stress, resentment and the feeling of being overwhelmed. Think about yourself first and if you decide to do what you want to do – at least some of the time.
  19. Drink less alcohol. Drinking less can do great things for your wallet, your waistline, your mood and possibly even your reputation. If you need help, speak with your GP or contact an anonymous support group such as 1300 DRIVER.
  20. Spend more time with family. Your family is important and spending time with them will strengthen bonds and can be heaps of fun. This doesn’t mean you need to connect with family members that stress you out, though. You’re entitled to pick, choose and plan your quality time!
  21. Get in touch again. Reconnecting with friends is great for your health. According to research published in the journal PLoS Medicine in 2010, feeling disconnected can harm your health as much as alcohol abuse and smoking. So, get in touch by phone or social media and follow up with a face-to-face visit!
  22. Be realistic. Life isn’t a Disney movie. Learn to accept its imperfections, bumps and hurdles as part of the journey. But if life is getting you down or if you feel like you can’t cope, speak with your GP.
  23. Aim to cut 100 calories a day. Weight can creep up on you without you knowing it so by axing a hundred calories each day, you could help you lose 5kg by the end of the year. Do this by swapping a cup of sugary cola for a diet version, switching from whole milk to skim milk or eating a medium orange instead of drinking 300ml of orange juice. Little changes can do a lot of good!
  24. Take a moment to take it all in. 21st century living is so fast-paced that it’s easy get stuck thinking about the future or dwelling on the past. Try to make a conscious effort to be aware of your inner and outer world – it’s important for your mental health and your inner peace. Activities like yoga can do wonders for your mind-body health.
  25. Get the help you deserve. Whether this involves speaking with your GP, talking to a support group or asking a friend to babysit so you can have a quiet meal, it’s not selfish to ask for help.
  26. Get the balance right. One of the best things you can do for your health is to eat plenty of veggies and fruits and less processed items. Pile up half of your plate with veggies; add a quarter of a plate of low-fat protein and the rest as wholegrain carbohydrates.
  27. Eat more wholegrain foods. Wholegrain foods are loaded with iron, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Plus, they don’t cause a sharp rise and then a fall in your blood glucose levels, helping you stay fuller – and mentally sharper – for longer compared with processed picks.
  28. Drink fewer fizzy drinks! A normal can of soda contains around 10 teaspoons of sugar, which can contribute to health problems like overweight and related conditions like Type 2 diabetes. The acids and sugars found in soft drinks also break down your enamel causing dental decay and yellow teeth.
  29. Wake up and stretch daily. Babies do it – and so do animals. So if you’ve forgotten the need to stretch after sleeping, relearn it! Stretching boosts circulation and digestion, and eases back pain if you do it right. Try some yoga moves to help harmonise and welcome the new day.
  30. Blast workout boredom. You can really rev up your metabolism by alternating your speed and intensity during aerobic workouts. This not only helps to prevent boredom, it can also help keep you lean and sculpted because by giving your body a jolt, you’ll burn more calories,.
  31. Protect yourself. The sun’s rays can burn, even through thick glass and under water. So, use sunscreen, strap on a hat, wear your sunnies and, if you’ll be swimming for long periods, grab some tinted goggles, too!
  32. Laugh often. Laughter is a great workout and triggers the release of feel-good hormones called endorphins. It also boosts the immune system helping you to feel well and stay well.
  33. Go nuts for nuts. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fats, which are called essential because your body can’t produce them for itself. These fats cut inflammation in the arteries surrounding your enhancing heart function. Other unsalted nuts provide a wide mix of minerals and protein including Brazil nuts – just one provides your daily selenium needs.
  34. Strengthen your heart. Safely lifting weights boosts your body strength helping to lower body fat and increasing muscle at the same time. Aim for two sessions per week as well as aerobic exercise to boost your healthy HDL-cholesterol and lower harmful LDL-cholesterol.
  35. Walk more. Health experts recommend around 10,000 steps for good health. So check out how many steps you take daily and then aim to increase it by 10% each day until you’re walking 10,000 steps daily. There are also lots of free apps that can track your walking over the day.
  36. Ditch the white stuff! It’s a quick and easy way to lose weight – including belly weight – and boost your overall health. White, processed carbs are often called ‘bad carbs’ because they mess with your blood glucose and affect appetite, mood and focus. So, out with the white bread, rice, pasta, sugar and flour and in with the heavy whole grains and home-cooked fare.
  37. Cook your veggies in just a small amount of water. The delicate water-soluble vitamins C and folate are lost in the cooking water. So cook for the shortest time possible and use the cooking water to make gravy. Steaming and stir-frying are good ways to retain the vitamins in your veggies.
  38. Get on top of your financials. The stress of an unhealthy hip pocket can affect your health and relationships. And long-term stress can bring a range of health problems including depression, digestive and sleep issues, heart disease, weight gain and more! So work on your financial health by talking to a financial advisor, cutting down, tracking your spending and making attainable goals for yourself.
  39. Sit less. Sitting is the new smoking because studies have shown that prolonged sitting increases your risk of developing heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer (bowel and endometrial), obesity and premature death. So this year try to minimise the amount of time you spend sitting; incorporate more physical activity into your day and take breaks from your computer chair, couch or driving seat when you can.
  40. Have digital free days. Spending so much time online nowadays means you can lose touch with the ‘real world’. So go on a digital detox. Put your phone away and close that laptop. Go for a walk, read a book, do some gardening or go to the beach instead.
  41. Take a holiday. Sometimes you just need a good rest, a bit of fun and a chance to get away from the daily grind. Holidays are linked to lowered stress, better sleep and improved relationships. So start saving and plan your next destination!
  42. Work on your posture. Bad posture can lead to back and shoulder pain and is also linked to depression, gastrointestinal disorders, reduced lung function and other health problems. So stretch daily, take up a yoga class and/or visit a physio.
  43. Watch less TV. There are lots of studies that have found a link between watching a lot of television and obesity. Plus, according to a study published in the Journal of Economic Psychology excessive television viewers report “lower life satisfaction … higher material aspirations and anxiety”. So get off that couch, get out and enjoy life!
  44. Work on your communication skills. Communication is so important: it connects us, allows us to convey our thoughts and ideas to others. It can even shape others’ perceptions of us. So learn to listen, work on maintaining eye contact in a conversation, read more to increase your vocabulary and learn work with different groups of people.
  45. Get organised. There’s nothing worse than feeling frustrated and jumbled: it can leave you feeling frazzled, tense or anxious. So this year make an effort to organise yourself – write lists, de-clutter, create a designated spot for all your bills, buy a planner and stick to schedules.
  46. Listen to more music. Listening to music can help relax, uplift and motivate you, ease pain, improve the quality of your sleep, decrease stress, lift your mood and more! So whether you’re relaxing, working or working out, get lost in your favourite tunes.
  47. Donate blood. According to the Australian Red Cross: ‘Only one in 30 people give blood, but one in three people will need it in their lifetime’. Giving blood has many benefits for you; it helps regulate your iron levels and means you get a mini health check every time you donate (you’ll get a quick physical before you go in, and your donation will be tested for various infectious diseases in a lab before it’s considered safe for medical use).
  48. Take your lunch break daily. Make sure you take time during your day (even if it’s for 10 minutes or so) to get away from your workstation. It can help improve your health, and afternoon productivity and interactions with your teammates.
  49. Get more calcium. Calcium builds bone strength drives many metabolic functions including muscle contraction, nerve transmission and the secretion of hormones. Aim for an intake to 1000mg-1300mg per day. Good sources include low-fat dairy foods, almonds, sesame seeds, canned fish like salmon and sardines and soya products.
  50. Meet new people. Remember how we told you that feeling disconnected could harm your health as much as alcohol abuse and smoking? Use you existing friendship group to make new friends, join a club or group where you can meet people with similar interests, talk to new people and find upbeat, positive people that can help you all enjoy time together.

Wishing you a very happy and healthy New Year, this year and every year!

Brought to you from Strategic Business Manager, Rebecca Delahaye and Key Account Managers; Alison Weatherill, David Stock and Cassandra Steen from rt health fund with the very best wishes for good health and happiness now and always!

Seven ways to feel fab and beat the bloat this summer season

Simone Tregeagle is the Chief Operating Officer at rt health fund
Simone Tregeagle is the Chief Operating Officer at rt health fund, one of Australia’s oldest and most trusted not-for-profit funds

According to Nutrition Australia, Aussies will pack on between 0.8-1.5kg over the festive season[i]. It doesn’t sound like much. But the problem is that most of us don’t shift the extra kilos during the year. When you add it all up over the years it’s no wonder Australia has a major weight problem! What with all the festive buffets and bring-a-plate get-togethers, there are plenty of chances to eat and enjoy – perhaps a little too much! So, here are seven ways that you can do both without ending up with a weight hangover when the new year arrives.

  1. Don’t skip brekkie.

A healthy breakfast provides long-lasting energy and helps to prevent you becoming so hungry that you  overindulge at your festive feast. Protein and healthy fat keeps you fuller for longer, so try some peanut butter with wholegrain bread, eggs with tomato and sourdough, or yoghurt with sweet seasonal fruit.

  1. Expect some stress

You might find that the season of good cheer isn’t always that cheerful. In fact, it can be a pretty stressful time of year, and studies show that your emotional state guides your food choices. So, when people are in a good mood, they make  healthier choices while more indulgent foods are more likely to be on the menu if you’re feeling down or stressed. There are lots of things that can help you de-stress, but one size doesn’t fit all. Try exercising (strenuous exercise like fast walking or running and mind-body exercise like yoga and tai chi), eating well and deep breathing. Try to plan ahead and be realistic – stick to a Christmas budget, avoid family conflicts, make time for yourself and create to-do lists.

  1. Choose your mates wisely

Your eating buddies are strong influences and lots of research shows that you tend to mimic the eating and drinking habits of the people you’re with. So, if you want to make healthier choices, stick with people who have healthier attitudes to food and drinks.

  1. Expect to fall off the wagon

With so much food and drink around, you’re bound to overindulge. The trick is to make up for it. So, if you know you’re heading for a family blowout, cut back a little at lunch and do some extra exercise to burn it off. Try to opt for 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every day . Even if you can’t manage half an hour in one go, opt for three ten-minute mini workouts. Great for your body – and helps to beat stress, too! Don’t forget to check with your GP if you haven’t exercised for a while or if you have a medical condition.

  1. Watch your drinks

Your body was made to expect zero calorie water to quench thirst – not juices, sugary drinks and boozy beverages. So, it can’t clock up the calories in drinks as well as it can when you eat solid foods. A standard drink = 10g alcohol, which is equivalent to: 100ml wine, 30ml spirits or 250ml of beer. But restaurants can serve wine in glasses that are two or three times the standard serve – and when you lose count of the top-ups, it’s difficult to keep a handle on your drinking. So, finish one glass before accepting a top-up, go for low sugar, low-cal options when you can. And, when you’re choosing coffee, opt for low-fat milk and say no to syrupy add-ons (one medium latte can add up to 300 calories – the same as a jam doughnut!).

  1. Fill up at the buffet – but don’t fill out!

Buffets can be a minefield but they can be your friends, too. Opt for masses of low calorie salad and veggies as a first plate (minus the cheesy/oily dressings) and eat slowly. Soup is also a great starter even though it’s summer. It takes a while for your body to ‘sieve out’ the ingredients in soup so your stomach stays fuller. This helps to take the edge off your appetite so you’re less likely to go overboard when you get your next plate.

  1. Downsize your crockery

According to pioneering food psychologist Dr Brian Wansink, subconscious eating habits lead to unnecessary weight gain. He has shown that people eat more food if the food is served on large plates – even if they don’t like the food they’re eating! Plus, people feel just as satisfied and enjoy food just as much if it is served on a smaller plates. So trick your appetite into satisfaction – go for smaller crockery and slimmer glasses!

Good health is what we’re all about at rt health fund and helping you ‘be well, get well, stay well’ is what we want for you today and in the future. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a very happy 2015!

Simone Tregeagle Chief Operating Officer at rt health fund