Breakfast for Busy Women – Why It’s Important Not to Skip

Breakfast for Busy Women – Why It’s Important Not to Skip

The alarm goes off and you are rushing around preparing for a busy day ahead.  Whether you have children to get ready for school or papers to read for a morning meeting, by the time you’ve watched the news, brushed your teeth and sorted your make-up, you are already exhausted – sound familiar?

It’s no wonder so many busy women end up skipping breakfast and just grabbing an expensive coffee which is drunk in the car on the way, but there are many reasons why this habit is bad for our health.

Breakfast Provides Many Benefits to Our Health and Wellbeing

When you wake up in the morning, your body has had no fuel since your evening meal the night before – potentially 12 hours beforehand. Think about the words – “break” & “fast” – literally the meal which breaks the fast you have been on while sleeping. You need the energy to kick-start your system and get your body ready for the day ahead.

According to nutritionists, a healthy breakfast should give you around 30% of your daily calorie requirements. It should provide you with energy, protein, calcium, iron, fibre and B vitamins which are all needed to get you through the day. If your body doesn’t receive these first thing, studies have shown your body is less effective at taking them on during the rest of the day.

 How Eating Breakfast Helps You Lose Weight

If you skip breakfast you are not providing your body with what it needs for energy – you will soon feel hungry and are more likely to then reach for high sugar, high fat snacks to compensate. People who skip breakfast tend to end up reaching for the snacks around 10am which doesn’t help if you are trying to lose weight.

Ideally, breakfast needs to be eaten between 45 minutes and two hours of waking up. This timing gives you the chance to put the needed fuel into your body to make sure your metabolism is balanced throughout the day. It is also the premium time for your body to absorb any of the carbohydrates you consume, which helps balance out your insulin levels. All of these aspects mean breakfast really sets your body up for the day and can help curb those mid-morning sugar cravings.

A recent study published in Obesity showed that people who not only ate breakfast, but made it their largest meal, lost almost 8kg over a three month period. The other people who took part in the study ate the same calories during the day, but most of these for their evening meal, lost only around 3kg.

Other Health Benefits Beyond Weight Loss

Breakfast brings a large number of health benefits, besides weight loss – providing more reasons why it really is important not to skip this particular meal.

  • Brain Function – Studies have shown that children who eat breakfast do better at school as they are better able to concentrate and improve their behaviour. Breakfast helps to establish good levels of glucose which are necessary for brain function. This helps to improve memory, concentration and mood and also lowers stress levels. We all know that feeling of increased irritability that rises up through being hungry. Breakfast can help us avoid becoming hangry!
  • Energy Supply – Breakfast is the first supply of energy your body receives after you wake up. A nutritious breakfast will give you all the energy you need to take you through to lunchtime and should be around 300 calories (as a general rule, though this may differ based on your individual caloric needs). If you think about the energy you burn, you need the most in the morning and you need the least in the evening when you are more likely to be relaxing and winding down before resting for the night. Make breakfast your energy supply priority!
  • Diabetes – A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that not eating breakfast could actually increase the risk of developing diabetes for women. The study showed that women who did eat breakfast between 0-6 times a week were at far higher risk of developing the disease than those who ate it daily.

Fab Ideas for Quick and Nutritious Breakfasts for Busy Women

So it’s all very well telling you why you should eat breakfast and why it’s good for you, but realistically you probably knew most of those things already and yet here we are!  Knowing you need to eat breakfast doesn’t mean you suddenly gain time in the morning to start preparing and enjoying amazing morning meals, does it? That’s why I have come up with some tips for tasty breakfasts that are super quick to make.

  • Instant Porridge – There are many instant porridge options around now – all you need to do is add water and microwave for a few minutes and then you have a healthy breakfast. Avoid the ones with added sugar and flavours to keep the calories down, but a plain version provides an easy breakfast virtually instantly and you can add fruit such as berries or coconut flakes to change the flavour quickly and easily.
  • Greek-Style Yoghurt – Go for natural plain Greek-style yoghurt and add in fresh fruit for a nutritious, quick and healthy breakfast on the run. Again, this only takes a minute or so to prepare and can make a big difference to your health and wellbeing.  Sprinkle over some muesli for crunch and you’re setting yourself up for a good day!
  • Boiled Eggs and Fruit – The combination of a piece of fruit and some boiled eggs creates a very portable balanced breakfast providing protein, carbohydrates, fibre and vitamins. What can be quicker than just peeling a pre-boiled egg and a piece of fruit and eating them straight away?
  • Smoothies – Where a solid morning meal is just not going to happen, a smoothie may be a better option.  It can contain anything you like in an easy to consume and portable format that will provide your body with a good start to the day.  Adding fruit, greens, spices, protein powder or even compounded nutritional powders can make such a difference to your health.  Make sure you avoid the sneaky sugar filled flavoured powders as these will increase your calorie intake while not necessarily being nutritious. Check the nutrition panel before adding to your morning smoothie.

For many women a busy lifestyle means rushing in the morning and skipping breakfast is a common bad habit easily developed.  Breakfast can make a big difference to our health and weight and there are many options which are quick and easy to make, so no more excuses!

10 Ways to Kick Stress!

10 Ways to Kick Stress!

When we are stressed it’s quite easy to develop negative thinking patterns as we become frustrated by our challenges and increasing feelings of being overwhelmed. This negative outlook then makes it even harder for us to manage those challenges and move forward and break through the stress cycle.

Practicing positive thinking helps to focus on our strengths and accomplishments, which increases happiness and motivation. This, in turn, allows us to spend more time making progress, and less time feeling down and stuck. The following tips provide practical suggestions that you can use to help you shift into more positive thinking patterns:

  1. Take Good Care of Yourself

It’s much easier to be positive when you are eating well, exercising, and getting enough rest.  Easier said than done, but still important to say it!

  1. Remind Yourself of the Things You Are Grateful For

Stresses and challenges don’t seem quite as bad when you are constantly reminding yourself of the things that are right in life. Taking just 60 seconds a day to stop and appreciate the good things will make a huge difference.

  1. Look for the Proof Instead of Making Assumptions

A fear of not being liked or accepted sometimes leads us to assume that we know what others are thinking, but our fears are usually not reality. If you have a fear that a friend or family member’s bad mood is due to something you did, or that your co-workers are secretly gossiping about you when you turn your back, speak up and ask them. Don’t waste time worrying that you did something wrong unless you have proof that there is something to worry about.

  1. Refrain from Using Absolutes

Have you ever told a partner “You’re ALWAYS late!” or complained to a friend “You NEVER call me!”? Thinking and speaking in absolutes like ‘always’ and ‘never’ makes the situation seem worse than it is and programs your brain into believing that certain people are incapable of delivering.

  1. Detach From Negative Thoughts

Your thoughts can’t hold any power over you if you don’t judge them. If you notice yourself having a negative thought, detach from it, witness it, and don’t follow it.

  1. Squash the “ANTs”

In his book “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,” Dr. Daniel Amen talks about “ANTs” – Automatic Negative Thoughts. These are the unhelpful thoughts that are usually reactionary, like “Those people are laughing, they must be talking about me,” or “The boss wants to see me? It must be bad!” When you notice these thoughts, realise that they are nothing more than ANTs and squash them!

  1. Practice Lovin’, Touchin’ & Squeezin’ (with consent!)

You don’t have to be an expert to know the benefits of a good hug. Positive physical contact with friends, loved ones, and even pets, is an instant pick me-up. One research study on this subject had a waitress touch some of her customers on the arm as she handed them their checks. She received higher tips from these customers than from the ones she didn’t touch!

  1. Increase Your Social Activity

By increasing social activity, you decrease loneliness. Surround yourself with healthy, happy people, and their positive energy will affect you in a positive way!

  1. Volunteer for an Organization or Help Another Person

Everyone feels good after helping. You can volunteer your time, your money, your knowledge or your resources. The more good you put out into the world, the more you will receive in return.

  1. Use Pattern Interrupts to Combat Rumination

If you find yourself ruminating, a great way to stop it is to interrupt the pattern and force yourself to do something completely different. Rumination is like hyper-focus on something negative. It’s never productive, because it’s not rational or solution-oriented, it’s just excessive worry and stress. Try changing your physical environment – go for a walk or sit outside. You could also call a friend, pick up a book, or turn on some music.

It’s important to understand the signs of stress and react with a positive way of handling it such as these 10 tips. The key to busting stress is making sure that you look after YOU. As your happiness levels increase, your stress levels decrease. Have a look at your work life, your personal life and social life to see if there are any areas you can create more happiness. You might be surprised on what you find.

If you feel that you need a little more of a helping hand and support in implementing these tips, then seeing a qualified integrative naturopath and therapist is a great start to making the small changes that can have huge positive impacts.

Does Good Health Begin with Gut-Health?

Does Good Health Begin with Gut-Health?

What Is Gut-Health?
There has been lots of talk recently about what has become known as “gut-health.” The Johns Hopkins Medical Center, one of the most well-respected hospitals and Medical Schools in the United States, notes there is a good reason for this. Hidden within the walls of your digestive system is what is known as “your second brain” and this “brain in your gut” is changing the way that we look at the links between mood, digestion, health and even the way that we think.

Does Disease Begin with Gut-Health?
There’s no simple answer to this one. Not all diseases start in the gut, such as genetic or inherited diseases, acquired infections and trauma based disorders. But, there is evidence that many of chronic metabolic disorders and mental health conditions do begin in the gut, or are at least heavily influences by gut health. We can help prevent these diseases by following some easy steps.

Step 1: Know What Second Brain Is and Why It Matters
This “little brain” is called the “enteric nervous system” or ENS and it comprises of two thin layers of over 100 million nerve cells that line your GI tract from your esophagus to your rectum. The role of the ENS is to control digestion, including swallowing, releasing enzymes that help break food down, and control of blood flow to immediate tissues which aids with both nutrient absorption and elimination. The ENS communicates with our brain and body surprisingly effectively.

When you have an unhealthy gut the symptoms may manifest in other parts of your body. It’s your body trying to tell you that something is wrong or out of balance and needs attention.

Studies have found that increasing your gut-health can lead to improvements in:
• Immune function – 80% of our immune system is located in our guts
• Brain function
• Symptoms of disproportional anger, sadness, anxiety and depression
• Obesity
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
• Allergies
• Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

How Is This Even Possible?
The ENS may ‘sense’ things that our cerebral brain can’t. Evidence has been found that when the GI tract is irritated it sends signals to the central nervous system (CNS), which can trigger our mood and ultimately affect it. Considering that between 30%-40% of the population have bowel problems of some kind and a high percentage of these individuals develop depression and/or anxiety, it’s reasonable to consider a possible connection.

Our bodies are filled with bacteria – good and bad, depending on whether they’re where they’re supposed to be in the right numbers. There are more bacteria in a human body than there are cells and there are an estimated 100 trillion microorganisms living in our bowels alone.  The key here is to have more good than bad bacteria in your gut.

Probiotics help us do things like:
• Digest food;
• Absorb nutrients;
• Break down medications; and
• Kill some of the bad bacteria that lead to negative symptoms.

Step 2: Get More Probiotics
There are quite a few ways to get good gut bacteria, but one of the easiest is to take a supplement called a probiotic. There are many different kinds and brands and talking to your qualified naturopath will ensure you get the the most appropriate one for your needs.

There are foods that are also high in probiotics, including:
• Kefir
• Yoghurt
• Tempeh
• Miso
• Sauerkraut
• Apple Cider Vinegar
• Kimchi
• Kombucha

Getting more probiotics into your system is one of the best ways that to improve your gut-health!

Step 3: Play in The Dirt!
This is true both literally and figuratively. Gardening is good for getting outside, exercise, and putting your hands in soil introduces your body to the microorganisms that are found on the plants and in the ground.
In a more figurative way, and leading on from last months post, avoid over-cleaning with antimicrobial substances.  There has been a recent push to reduce the amount of antimicrobial agents in cleaning and personal care products because both good and the bad are affected.  Pets are another way to get dirtier – in a good way!  Studies have shown that children who grow up with a dog have both a lower risk of allergies and a generally healthier immune system.  Dog companionship also helps in other ways by increasing exercise and outdoor time and lowering stress.

Bonus Step: More Probiotics, What Else?
Now we get to the ones we hate to be told because they’re painfully obvious.  Stress Less. Laugh More. Stress, especially long-term stress, not only affects our gut bacteria, but also affects the production of hormones and neurochemicals. In long-term stress these chemicals and hormones can change permanently (unless you specifically work to change them back). Long-term stress may also lead to high blood pressure, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD), stomach ulcers, IBD, IBS, and potentially food allergies/intolerances.

Laughter really is the best medicine. It helps to reduce stress and floods your body with happy hormones and neurochemicals. This study even compared healthy people and those with atopic dermatitis (a condition often associated with gut bacteria imbalances) and asked participants watch funny movies daily for one week. In only one week, the patients’ gut microbes had changed and more resembled that of the healthy participants!

Conclusion
It may well be that a large part of maintaining good health is maintaining good gut-health. There are many ways that you can do this, however, some of the easiest changes that you can make include:
• Probiotics – through supplements and food
• Laughter
• Stress management, including exercise and time outdoors
• Avoiding over-cleaning and overuse of antimicrobials

 

Have we become too clean?

Have we become too clean?

There are a few ideas I’ve been toying with to do with how overt cleanliness is more closely linked with anxiety or desire for control and the effect this is having on our physical and mental health.  It’s an extremely complicated area and there are so many variables at play that it is certainly difficult to unravel them from one another – so why unravel?  Let’s look at the whole mess and see where we end up!
 
We live in a society that values cleanliness – I mean, we’ve all heard that “cleanliness is next to godliness”, right? There is also the obsession with ‘clean’ eating (which is not strictly the same kind of clean, but funnily enough also ties into the same areas of anxiety, desire for control and need to eliminate all ‘bad’ things from ones life).  So why is it that we are living longer, yet the quality of our lives (especially in the last few decades) is plummeting?  Increased rates of allergies and intolerances are certainly popping up in my clinic, but is it all down to better diagnostic techniques or is there something more to it?
Where antimicrobial gels and sanitisers were once only used in hospitals and labs, they are now staples in many handbags, nappy bags and backpacks.  In Australian society, showering morning and night (or even more often!) using surprisingly harsh products is widely accepted, despite the massive amount of water used and detergent run-off damaging our water systems – those who shower less often or with minimal detergents are seen as inherently dirty and somehow even unvirtuous.  The use of bleach or ammonia based cleaning products is standard in many homes, yet we still seem to be getting sicker.
Is the obsession with super-clean homes and bodies starting to kill us?  Not only are we avoiding useful triggers in building a healthy immune system, increasing rates of allergies and adverse reactions to innocuous triggers (the hygiene hypothesis of allergy), but the massive rise in the use of chemically based anti-microbials in cleaning supplies and personal care products (as opposed to primarily mechanical cleaning using plain soap and water) is not only wiping out the bacteria in your home, but also on your skin and potentially in your gut.
 
Why is this important?
 
Coupled with the overuse of antibiotics, we are losing our most important companions – our bacteria. The bacteria that we have in our gut and throughout our bodies are essential for so many processes, from aiding digestion to producing Vit K to even modulating mental health.  By destroying the delicate balance of microbes in and around us, we are perhaps doing far more harm than good.  ‘Fixing’ a broken microbiome is not a quick and easy task, taking months or years to repair damage to a multitude of systems.  Perhaps minimising the damage in the first place would be a far better (and more sustainable) option.
Set yourself up for success

Set yourself up for success

This month I had a conversation with a patient about vacuum cleaners and how they only work if you use them, rather than just leave them in the middle of the room.  It got me thinking about a new vacuum I bought for the clinic last year (or so I told myself…)

The new little vacuum didn’t even make it into the clinic!  I brought it home and there it’s stayed…

The old vacuum is certainly effective, but it is big, cumbersome and lives in a cupboard, while the new one is cordless, light and slots onto a little stand for recharging.  You can simply pick it up, vacuum up what you need cleaned up and pop it back with absolutely zero fuss. Since this little vacuum entered my home, I think I vacuum at least ten times as much as before!  Why?  Because it’s fuss free, it requires so much less effort to use and (most importantly) it’s visible!

This is one example of how small changes to your surroundings can change your behaviours (and even your thoughts about particular situations).  In this case, I’m still the same person, but my behaviour changed purely because it was now easier for me to complete the task.  Previously, once I actually dragged out the old vacuum I was often surprised about how quickly and easily I completed the task and wondered why I put it off for so long, but then proceeded to follow exactly the same pattern of thoughts and procrastination each and every time.

I broke that pattern by changing something, Any change, however small, can lead to a breaking an unhelpful pattern of thoughts and it’s these small changes that play a part in setting yourself up for successes, rather than repeated failures.

I’ve always advocated for enabling small successes through small changes that lead to big successes and big changes.  In general, if something takes more effort then you are less likely to do it, and if it takes less effort then you are more likely to do it.  These small changes can be as simple:

– If you have more racing thoughts at night, then keep your journal by your bed rather than in a different room.

– If you are struggling with snacking on sweets at work, keep them off your desk and away in a cupboard – having to walk to your cupboard can be hard compared to reaching into a drawer at your desk!

– If you are finding that time escapes you, take a minute to make a plan and schedule time for yourself.  Even committing to paper (and no one else!) can be enough to make it real.

– If you always have a bag of frozen vegetables in your freezer, you’re more likely to add them to meals rather than avoid spending time prepping fresh ones.

It’s human nature to do what is easiest – it’s not a moral failing or character flaw! Your environment can significantly impact your choices, your behaviours and your thoughts – so set yourself up for success and make that environment one that works in your favour rather than against you.