Tag Archives: exercise

Six reasons to add exercise into your day

Your body was made to move. But because of the hectic pace of 21st century living, many of us don’t fit enough exercise into our day.

Research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that 56 per cent of us don’t get close to the recommended 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most days of the week[i].

If you make time for exercise you’ll benefit not just your body, but your mind, too. Sports and exercise help boost your mood and blast stress. As you know prolonged stress can lead to serious health problems.

Different exercise, different health benefits

Aerobic or cardiovascular exercise helps to protect your heart and lungs, improve endurance and builds your fitness, strength and stamina.

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Strength training (working with weights) will sculpt your body because it builds muscle and burns fat. By the way, ladies, don’t worry that weight training will make you look like a man – you don’t have enough of the muscle building hormone testosterone so weight training will make you look slender – not manly!

If you have a lot to lose or have stiff joints, swimming is a great low impact-exercise. And walking is a great workout too, especially if it’s brisk.  All types of exercise burn kilojoules, helping you manage your weight.  And if you want to lose a few kilos, exercise also helps you to focus your mind on your healthy plans so it’s easier to get to a healthy, happy weight!

Not convinced? Here are six super reasons you should fit exercise into your day! 

  1. Burn those kilojoules

Dieting 101: Consume more kilojoules than you burn and you’ll gain weight. Burn more kilojoules than you consume and you’ll lose the kilos. But whether you want to lose weight or not, exercise is vital to help you get lean and stay that way. Though beware, if you’re exercising to lose weight – the exercise will need to be intensive and prolonged.

Not seeing the results you want? You may not be burning off as much as you think. For example, if you weigh around 60kg and you eat a 50g chocolate bar (1,130 kilojoules) you’ll need to cycle at a moderate pace for 35 minutes or walk for over an hour to burn it off! So, think about what kind of exercise you do and your exercise intensity so you become an active exerciser and not a distracted dieter!

  1. Boost circulation

When you exercise your working muscles produce chemicals, which leave the muscle cells and dilate (widen) tiny capillaries (blood vessels). This makes it easier for blood to reach your body and brain cells, bringing more nourishing oxygen-rich blood to your cells. Another benefit of better circulation is that you’ll nourish your internal organs. So you feel good on the inside – and on the outside, too!

  1. Support the muscles that support your joints

Exercise helps to build strong bones and maintain strength and flexibility. Strength and flexibility is important at every stage of your life but especially as you get older.

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  1. Shape up!

Ever heard that if you build lots of muscle that it will turn to fat if you don’t exercise as much? Not true. Muscle and fat are two completely different tissues so it’s not possible to replace one with the other. But you can build muscle and reduce body fat with weight training and strengthening exercises. Muscle burns more kilojoules than fat because it needs a lot more fuel to simply exist, compared with fat, which is a storage material. Exercising helps your body use up fat stores and gives a sleeker shape. That’s because muscle and fat take up a different amount of space in your body.

  1. Tone up the right places

Everyone has target areas they’d like to tackle. Aerobic exercise blasts fat from all of you, but you can target your problem areas. Fat from around the exercising muscle is used for energy as the muscle grows, enabling you to trim down and firm up trouble areas.

Lifting weights can really help to tone up! Aim for strengthening exercises with weights at least twice per week for up to 30 minutes, to slowly build up your body’s muscle. If you haven’t exercised for some time, speak with your doctor first and get the help of a qualified personal trainer who can help you get your technique, posture and balance right.

Your posture is about the way various parts of your body align in relation to one another. Good posture can help to prevent fatigue, headaches and chronic muscular tension. Perfecting your posture can also help to boost circulation, aid digestion and may help you sleep more soundly.

For good balance, you have to be able to control a number of muscles in order to prevent falls, which may help prevent injuries as you age.

  1. Feel good about you!

Australia’s Black Dog Institute says, ‘Numerous studies have shown that people who exercise regularly experience fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety than those who do not exercise regularly. Several trials have shown that regular exercise of moderate intensity can be an effective treatment by itself for mild-to-moderate depression[ii].’

One of the reasons is that exercise boosts the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and feel-good chemicals, which helps to boost your mood[iii]. And as regular exercise helps to tone and shape your body, you’ll have another reason to feel good!

So go on, get moving!

This health information is brought to you by the health and wellbeing team at rt health fund.

*The advice provided is for the average adult and should not be interpreted as being applicable to children, the elderly or those with a chronic medical condition necessitating prescribed diets and physical activity regimens.

[i] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Risk factors to health. http://www.aihw.gov.au/risk-factors/ 

[ii] Black Dog Institute. Diet & exercise – Exercise  – Getting help. http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/public/gettinghelp/exercise.cfm

[iii] Black Dog Institute. Diet & exercise – Exercise  – Getting help. http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/public/gettinghelp/exercise.cfm

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Seven better health habits to learn from your kids

As a mum, I know that with age comes education and experience. But on the downside, I think we may also unlearn a thing or two – and it turns out that your kids can be the ones to teach you. For example, it’s natural for children to put their health first without even realising it. So, maybe it’s time for the grown-ups to do the same. Here are seven valuable lessons you may be able to learn from your kids …

  1. Better breathing

Have you ever seen a baby breathe? Noticed the way the diaphragm (the large muscle below the lungs) rises and falls? This is called diaphragmatic breathing, and it’s the natural way to take in a deep breath and oxygenate your body. This kind of breathing expands your lungs and presses down the diaphragm, causing the abdomen to expand as the lungs are filled with air. When stressed or anxious, adults are prone to shallow breathing from the chest, which means that the bottom parts of the lungs don’t fill up, denying the body of vital oxygen.

Whether you’re sitting, standing or lying down, place one hand on your chest and another on your stomach and breathe out, exhaling completely. As you inhale, count slowly to five and the hand on your stomach will rise up. Then exhale, counting down slowly from five until that hand goes down. Though it’s not as easy as it sounds and you may need to practice it, regular abdominal breathing is a great way to keep your stress levels down, as well as slow down your heartbeat and reduce or stabilise your blood pressure[i].

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  1. Ask why?

Take a look at your phone. It’s always undergoing improvements, updates and revisions, and isn’t that a bit like life? It can get pretty hectic and scary for us adults, but for children, new and unfamiliar obstacles are just tasks that need to be learned and mastered. Be curious about the world and ask questions, as not only does this provide a mentally stimulating workout that may help keep conditions such as dementia at bay, but people may also consider you to be a good listener and conversationalist.

Whether you’re eight or 80, you can always learn, so enjoy the journey to discover, develop and grow. When you can, be flexible, open and embrace uncertainty, rather than letting your doubts take over. Take your time to look around, appreciate what you have and talk with others about the weird and wonderful world that’s out there. 

  1. Eat like a kid

No, this doesn’t mean order the chicken nuggets off the kids’ menu! But, do try to keep your portion sizes smaller. That way you can go back for seconds if you’re still hungry. Healthy children usually eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full because they follow their natural body and brain cues and are in tune with their hunger and fullness.

If you grew up being told to eat everything on your plate, even if you were full, don’t let that habit stick – make a conscious effort to stop when you’ve had enough. Making a child eat when they aren’t hungry overrides their natural appetite cues and has links to weight problems later in life. Has this happened to you? Eat smaller, more regular meals packed with veggies to avoid getting over hungry and binging on something you shouldn’t.

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  1. Don’t sit still

Children are always on the move and this is not only a great way to learn, but it also strengthens bones and muscles and burns kilojoules. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible for adults, especially if your job means you have to sit for long periods behind the wheel or in front of a computer terminal. If that’s the case, make sure you get up frequently and stretch.

Getting fit for kids isn’t about slogging it out on a treadmill for an hour, it’s about finding something that they love doing and doing it over and over. After all, exercise shouldn’t be a chore and doesn’t need to be. Love to walk? Visit your nearest national park and enjoy a bush walk. Love to dance? Try out that Zumba class you’ve been meaning to try. You get the picture …

  1. Know when it’s time for some R&R

When was the last time your kids said ‘I want to go home’? Generally speaking, kids know when they are tired and will let you know when they need to rest. So just like them, respect your cues and listen to your body when it tells you it’s tired. Ignoring those natural signals to rest can trigger stress and illness in both your body and mind. Lack of sleep in adults has also been linked with obesity since it triggers the release of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, as well as having links with type 2 diabetes, poor memory and loss of focus.

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  1. Ask for help

When kids need help, they ask for it, whether it’s with their homework or getting something off the top shelf. As we grow up, asking for help becomes a little harder – perhaps because we fear the way we will be perceived by others. Asking for help when you need it may put you out of your comfort zone, but it helps you learn, grow in confidence and get better (whether this is better at a skill or better health wise).

Us adults feel like we need to do everything for ourselves, but there is nothing weak or embarrassing about asking for help. Whether it’s your family, friends, GP or a support hotline, someone is always ready to help you – and you and your family deserve to get that help.

  1. Look on the bright side

Not only are kids naturally inquisitive, but they’re optimistic as well (usually!). Looking on the bright side is linked with less stress and better wellbeing. One study in the American Journal of Cardiology found that people who were more optimistic had higher levels of healthy cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol) and lower levels of triglycerides[ii], which are a type of fat. No wonder they say that laughter is the best medicine!

What are the children in your life teaching you about looking after your health?

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Simone Tregeagle, Chief Operating Officer at rt health fund, with her daughter

 

[i] Harvard Health Publications. Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response. http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/relaxation-techniques-breath-control-helps-quell-errant-stress-response
[ii] The American Journal of Cardiology. Relation Between Optimism and Lipids in Midlife. http://www.ajconline.org/article/S0002-9149(13)00388-3/abstract

Nine ways to naturally reduce your blood pressure

Think high blood pressure only affects older people? Think again because research suggests that it can affect people in their 20s. And it’s a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke – still the major causes of death in Australia.

Even younger people who have blood pressure readings in the upper range of normal (between 120/80 and 140/90) can be affected by a heart issue later on in middle age, according to researchers writing in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology[i].

And, because it is often a silent condition, you may not know you have hypertension unless you have your blood pressure checked.

1. Lose a few

Your blood pressure rises as your weight does because being too heavy makes your heart work harder – the strain can lead to hypertension. Losing just a few kg can make a big difference if you’re overweight. Speak with your GP for more advice.

2. Get moving

Your heart is a muscle and exercise strengthens it – it can help your heart pump more blood with less effort. If you have slight high blood pressure, exercise can help you avoid full-blown hypertension. And if you have already been diagnosed, regular exercise can help you reduce your blood pressure to safer levels. Aim for half an hour or more on most days of the week and try to be consistent otherwise you’ll lose the benefits.

3. Slash salt

Salt draws in fluid, raising the volume and pressure of blood in your arteries. Most salt in the average person’s diet comes from processed foods so cooking more from scratch will have a dramatic salt lowering effect, especially if you eat out a lot or you’re a fast food fan. Add flavour with fresh herbs, citrus, chilli, garlic and balsamic vinegar.

4. Eat more veggies

These pack a protective nutrient punch – they’re high in fibre and low in kilojoules. Veggies and fruits also contain potassium, which can reduce the blood pressure raising effects of sodium (salt). Pulses, fish, shellfish, nuts and seeds are also rich in potassium.

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5. Stub out the habit

The nicotine in tobacco constricts blood vessels and triggers the production of adrenaline, making your heart beat faster and your heart work harder. See your GP for more information on quitting smoking.

6. Limit alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure and reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications. Stick to the recommended daily maximum of two standard alcoholic drinks.

7. Ask if you snore

Constant snoring can be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnoea (where you stop breathing while you’re asleep). It’s associated with hypertension because your body could be suddenly jolted awake due to lack of oxygen. The sudden burst of adrenaline causes a surge in blood pressure. Not smoking, losing weight and decreasing or stopping your alcohol intake may help you stop snoring. Talk to your GP for individual advice.

8. Watch the caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant and consuming too much may increase blood pressure, tightening blood vessels and intensifying the effects of stress. Stick to a daily maximum of 400mg or less (around four cups of coffee).

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9. Find some downtime

Working is a must for most of us but working very long hours may mean you don’t have the time or energy to exercise, relax and eat well. Try to find time – balancing work and life are essential for a healthier future.

Click here to download our infographic on heart health.

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Ravinder Lilly, Dietitian at rt health fund

[i] Reuters. Elevated blood pressure in early adult years tied to heart issues later. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/26/us-blood-pressure-heart-failure-idUSKBN0P62D520150626#K53630RyQ8YxTkHK.97

Depression – it’s all about you!

This month we’re shining the health spotlight on men’s emotional health. Do you know a man who thinks he’s too macho to talk about depression? If you do, he’s not alone …

Although both women and men are affected by anxiety and depression, men are much less likely to seek the help they need[1] (only 28 per cent of men seek professional help). Around one in eight men are likely to be affected at some time in their life[2] so it’s pretty common.

The kind of symptoms you might experience include:

  • Stress – which can be a symptom of depression but can also be part of the cause (stress can trigger changes in both the body and the brain).
  • Anxiety – although it’s more likely to affect women than men, men are more likely to report anxiety rather than say that they are feeling depressed.
  • Fatigue and sleep problems – which can make day-to-day challenges more challenging.
  • Moodiness
  • Changes in eating behaviours
  • Negative thoughts – including negative thoughts about self worth
  • Irritability, anger and/or hostility towards others
  • Difficulty in concentrating – and in making decisions
  • Substance abuse – men are twice as likely to turn to destructive behaviours such as drug and alcohol use, if affected by depression[3].
  • Sexual problems – men may not want to openly talk about this with others
  • Loss of interest in the pleasures of life – where once enjoyed activities are no longer enjoyed.

What can you do?

Everyone is different and every person is affected differently. But there are a range of treatments that can really help; including talk therapy and medication. Speak with your GP about the best treatment options for you. There are also some lifestyle changes you can try.

Exercise

Not just important for your body; exercise is also good for your mood. Regular exercise can help lift you, provide a distraction
from worries, help you feel better about your body and your mental strength, boost energy levels, help you feel like part of a team (if you play team sports) and even help you sleep. Exercise seems to alter the levels of chemicals in the brain – such as mood-lifting chemicals, serotonin and endorphins, while reducing stress hormones.

Relaxation training

Stress involves the release of hormones like adrenaline, which causes tension in your muscles and amplifies stimulation of the nervous system. Anxiety and stress can lead to depression, too, so if you’re feeling either of these, it’s important to try and tackle them early.

Relaxation training (like yoga) connects your breath with each movement helping to relax and stretch the muscles. It may also help reduce anxious thoughts and behaviours and make you feel as if you have more control over feelings of anxiety and/or stress.

Diet

You already know that fast foods can make you pile on the kilos and can contribute to chronic conditions such as heart disease. But new research suggests that too much processed food may also contribute to depression,[4] according to Spanish researchers who studied the eating habits of close to 9,000 people.

Manufactured foods that contain trans fats (artificially hardened fats) and saturated fats (from animal foods) can raise the risk of depression by up to 51 per cent, the researchers found. This could be due to the increased inflammation seen in the body when these unhealthy fats feature in your diet.iStock_000041367902_Double_FINAL

On the other hand, diets rich in green veggies, fruit, oily fish, nuts, seeds and pulses (peas, beans and lentils) – which, combined, provide high levels of antioxidants, B vitamins, folate and Omega-3 fats – have been shown to reduce rates of depression.

Worried about a loved one?

Have you noticed that a friend, colleague or loved one is behaving differently? You may see a difference before the affected person recognises a change themselves. Someone who is undergoing emotional challenges may be reluctant to admit or even recognise if they’re having difficulties.

How can you help?

  • Start a conversation. Talk about what’s going on – but make sure the conversation is private and let them guide what is spoken about. Reserve your judgement about whatever the person you’re speaking with may share with you. Check in a few days later to see how they are feeling and to remind them that help is available.
  • Urge the person you’re speaking with to take action by scheduling an appointment with their GP – but don’t force the issue.
  • See if the person that’s affected might be interested in some resources, such as the ones below.

If you speak with someone and they talk about suicidal thoughts, gently encourage them to seek help immediately from a mental health professional.

When you’re trying to help a depressed friend, be aware that you may also experience a range of emotions such as frustration, sadness and helplessness. So if you choose to reach out, don’t neglect your own mental wellness.

Seek support

Being around people who have had or are going through similar experiences to you can be a great opportunity to connect and discover ways to deal with challenges. Search online for local support groups or contact your GP to find out whether they know of any in your area. The mental health charity, beyondblue, also has a supportive online community that can really help someone who is feeling alone to feel supported.

For more information:

This health information is brought to you by the health and wellbeing team at rt health fund.

[1] Black Dog Institute. Facts and figures about mental health and mood disorders. http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/Factsandfiguresaboutmentalhealthandmooddisorders.pdf

[2] Beyondblue. Depression in men. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/resources/for-me/men/depression-in-men

[3] Better Health Channel. Men’s health. http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Men%27s_health

[4] ScienceDaily. Link between fast food and depression confirmed. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120330081352.htm

Seven ways to feel awesome this autumn

Vintage bicycle waiting near treeYour chances of infections such as colds and flu definitely increase as the colder months creep up. So as the temperature dips, try these awesome autumn tips.

  1. Eat a rainbow

Fruits and veggies are rich in potent plant pigments – that’s what gives them their vibrant colours. And, each colour packs a different potent nutritional punch.

For the biggest nutritional bang for your buck, brighter is better – dark green spinach, cabbage or broccoli, vibrant orange citrus and deep purple blackcurrants.

Red, purple and blue fruits contain anthocyanins (pronounced an-tho-sy-a-nins), which are potent antioxidants that help to strengthen your immune system. Blueberries are great but can be pricey and you can find the same antioxidant goodness in seasonal purple produce like grapes or eggplants. Orange fruits and veggies contain beta-carotene, which the body uses to make vitamin A, another vital nutrient for immune health. Don’t like carrots? Try sweet potato or pumpkin instead.

All fruits and veggies contain immune boosting vitamin C but leafy green veggies, berries, citrus fruits and capsicums are extra rich. To protect the vitamin C in your foods, eat raw or steam gently and don’t keep produce warm for long periods – heat and oxygen destroy vitamin C. Fresh foods also provide a powerful antioxidant called glutathione (gloot-a-thy-own), which helps strengthen your immune system but it is also quickly destroyed by heat.

  1. Go nuts for Brazil

Brazil nuts are a rich source of the antioxidant mineral selenium, vital to helping the immune system fight off the viruses responsible for colds and flu. Just one or two Brazil nuts each day can provide all the selenium you need. Other good sources include seeds, shellfish, whole grains and lean meats. One animal study suggests that low levels of selenium may cause the flu virus to mutate to a stronger form[i]. Brazil nuts are also high in zinc, another immune booster that works hand-in-hand with vitamin C.

  1. Watch the sweet stuff

Assorted Donuts on whiteFoods that contain refined carbohydrates – such as biscuits, sweets and sugary fizzy drinks – are overloaded with sugar. Although sugar gives you an energy boost, it’s short-lived and soon triggers a sugar low as your body tries desperately to keep blood glucose (blood sugar) levels to within normal limits. Recent research suggests that overloading on sugar actually triggers a reduction in the functioning of the immune system by inhibiting phagocytosis, the process by which viruses and bacteria are chewed up by white blood cells[ii]. That doesn’t mean you have to cut sugar out completely – just moderate what you eat and make it a treat, not a daily staple.

  1. Don’t skimp on slumber

Getting enough restful sleep is vital for mind and body. This is because lack of sleep stresses the body, lowering the immune system and increasing your chances of infection.

One study published by the European Journal of Physiology found that just six days of restricted sleep affected the immune system so much that it reduced the protective effects of a flu vaccination. They also reported that a lack of sleep makes you more susceptible to catching colds[iii].

  1. Get a move onFitness Girl running at sunset

Staying active, even in the colder months, is vital for many reasons. Exercise boosts immunity by increasing the number of white blood cells, natural killer cells, that fight the invading microorganisms that cause infection.

But exercising needs to be a habit. Don’t think you have to force yourself on a daily hour-long run though – half an hour is plenty or three ten-minute bursts of activity. Aerobic exercise is important for strengthening the heart, lungs and bones while strength exercises, using weights, are important to help build lean muscle. Try yoga for better balance, flexibility, meditation and relaxation. Stress zaps your energy and your immune system, so moving more is more important than you might think.

Exercising outside also means that you’re exposed to sunlight. This reacts with a cholesterol-like substance in the skin to make vitamin D, which is vital for a healthy immune system. One study of children showed that vitamin D could be an important way to avoid flu[iv]. But remember that even in winter it’s important to protect skin from harsh rays by using sun protection. You can also increase your vitamin D levels by eating mushrooms, tofu, eggs, margarine and fatty fish like salmon and fresh tuna.

  1. Pop a probiotic

Your body is alive with microorganisms, which live in synergy with your own body cells. They’re vital for life and produce vitamins and proteins to boost your immune health. Poor diet, medications and stress can all affect your good bacteria levels. So as well as taking a probiotic supplement (probiotic bacteria are also found naturally in foods like sauerkraut and preserved lemons) you can feed the good guys with prebiotic foods such as garlic, onions, leeks and kale.

  1. Get a flu jab

Every year a different strain of flu travels around the world and so a different flu vaccination is offered. The flu vaccine is a dead or inactive form of the virus so it will not make you sick. By having a flu jab, your body is able to fight the infection by making antibodies – disease fighting soldiers – that are specific to that particular strain. And if your body was to come across that strain again, it would be able to react rapidly to make the right flu fighting antibody soldiers. This is because it would already know the specific type of antibodies needed to fight that specific germ.

The flu is a very serious condition. So if you’re in an at risk group or you’re prone to infections, it’s important to get a flu shot. It takes weeks to recover from the flu and your immune system is lowered for weeks afterwards, which increases your chances of catching another infection.

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Simone Tregeagle, Chief Operating Officer at rt health fund.

[i] David Williamson. Scary study: selenium deficiency causes flu virus to mutate into more dangerous forms (press release). UNC News Services. http://www.unc.edu/news/archives/jun01/beck060801.htm

[ii] Albert Sanchez, J. L. Reeser, H. S. Lau, P. Y. Yahiku, R. E. Willard, P. J. McMillan, S. Y. Cho, A. R. Magie, and U. D. Register. Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1973. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/26/11/1180.abstract 

[iii] Luciana Besedovsky, Tanja Lange, and Jan Born. Pflugers Arch. 2012 Jan; 463(1): 121–137. Sleep and immune function. Published online 2011 Nov 10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3256323/

[iv] Urashima M, Segawa T, Okazaki M, Kurihara M, Wada Y, Ida H. Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A in schoolchildren. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 May; 91(5):1255-60. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.29094. Epub 2010 Mar 10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20219962

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