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Olwen Anderson's Blog

Get more out of your day with a real breakfast

Tuesday, December 15, 2015
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably experienced this phenomenon: The energy drain. The day starts out well, but by mid-afternoon you’ve run out of steam. Suddenly all you want to do is put your head on your desk for a quick nap. If you’re at a meeting, new ideas stop forming and your brain becomes a vacuous wasteland, unable to help you out (too bad if you’re negotiating a big deal, your brain is out of words). 

Eventually you get back to a reasonable energy level: Either you really did have that nap, or you raided the vending machine for sugary pick-me-ups, or you just ploughed on through the day until you fall through your front door, exhausted.

The mid afternoon energy slump has costs: You might lose that deal, miss out on promoting your good idea at the meeting, and your loved ones miss out on quality time with you in the evening.
I’d like to share with you the secret process to strong energy all the day through. A few people know about it, fewer practice it, and even fewer know the essential ingredients to make it actually happen. 

The secret process is eating breakfast; not just any breakfast - I’m talking about a balanced breakfast that includes good quality protein, some healthy fats, and a little carbohydrate too. (Yes, lest you abandon this article at this point, I’d like to reassure you that coffee with breakfast is OK in moderation).

The process works this way: By the time you wake up in the morning you haven’t eaten for probably 10 hours, so your blood glucose levels are low. Your liver and muscles are holding a supply of glucose as glycogen, technically to see your brain and muscles through until you can catch or forage breakfast. (Our metabolism hasn’t really evolved past the stone age). If you don’t eat breakfast then your blood glucose level remains low – and your brain really needs that energy source to think well. If you eat the wrong kind of breakfast (i.e carbohydrate-rich) then your blood sugar could spike then crash. Either way, by mid afternoon without food there’s nothing left.

However if you eat a balanced breakfast, your blood glucose level rises slowly, providing a steady slow release all morning. Lunch is just about topping up with another balanced meal, and by mid afternoon you’re still powering through work. You’ll notice your three-thirty-itis evaporating within a few days of starting this new way of eating.

So what’s in a ‘good’ breakfast? Real food (i.e not out of a packet)

- High quality animal protein, essential. Eggs are ideal, but meat is OK too
- Good fats: avocado, olive oil, nuts. Eggs contain good fats too
- Good quality carbohydrate: Sweet potato or potato, quality bread, steel cut oats, a little fresh fruit.

Here are some ideas:
- Steel cut oats cooked overnight in a thermos, plus a hard boiled egg (The famous “Bob Carr” breakfast.
- Scrambled eggs and avocado on toast with some wilted spinach and cherry tomatoes
- Seed crackers topped with avocado and a hard boiled egg
- Home made baked beans topped with a poached egg
- A selection of vegetables (onion, mushroom, capsicum, spinach and sweet potato) fried in olive oil until cooked then two eggs broken into the pan and cooked on top of it all.

FAQ: (or FSE: “Frequently Stated Excuses)

- “But I don’t feel like breakfast”: You probably had too much for dinner the night before. Because you were hungry. Because you didn’t eat breakfast that day.
- “It takes time”. Yes it does: this is the cost – what are the gains you’ll get from rising earlier to make a proper meal?

Want some more inspiration? Download your free breakfast recipes e-book from this website (on the home page, my thanks for you subscribing to my mailing list). Or purchase the healthy meal plan so you’ll have the plan, the recipes and the shopping list. Now, when you’re in that important meeting mid-afternoon you’re more likely to get the result you want.

If you enjoyed this article you might also enjoy 'Super Express Breakfast' here

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Try curiosity for stubborn health problems

Sunday, December 13, 2015
Along your journey towards better health you’ll likely come across obstacles that can bring your improvements to a halt. The obstacle can seem rather like a big boulder in your path; you can’t see past it and getting around it doesn’t’ seem straightforward either. I’ve seen this happen many times with clients, and I’d like to offer you some techniques to help you manage it and move on.

The obstacle is what you think about what you’re doing. For example, while standing in the queue at the café to place your order, your eyes will probably drift to the cake cabinet. Oh come on; everyone scans the cake cabinet. It looks good. More than good, actually, and you’re hungry. When you get to the cashier what words will come out of your mouth? “Long black coffee please” or “Large milky coffee please with syrup added, and I’ll have one of those pastries too thanks”. What went on with your thoughts that determined what you chose to say?

It’s easy and quick to pass judgement on ourselves, and rationalise. In the cafe example, what the waiter didn’t hear across the counter, but what your inner voice shouted was “I’m hopeless with diets, I have no self-control. I’ll buy the cake!”

Passing judgement on yourself, although it seems easy, effectively cuts off exploration of why you do things, and deters development of new approaches. So if you’re feeling stuck with your health program, or if you seem to start then give up, here’s a two-step process you might find helpful.

The first step is to notice when you’re passing judgement on yourself. At first this realisation might emerge quite some time after the event. The next time you might notice it as the words are coming out of your mouth. Then, later still, as you become more adept, you’ll catch the thought while it’s still taking form in your head. A little persistence is needed, this is an acquired skill, so be gentle with yourself.

The second step is to get curious. Like you’re a really intrigued but emotionally detached onlooker. What happened here?  Here’s where things get really interesting. You might find discover you’re parroting attitudes taught to you in your childhood, or perhaps you’re using these judgements as a way to hold yourself back. 

Now you know what’s happening you can decide whether you want to change it. Or whether you want to allow the obstacle to block your progress towards better health.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy 'Natural Therapies For Mental Health' 

Image credit: gaborfromhungary via MorgueFile

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Oxidative Stress are you aging faster than you need to

Saturday, December 12, 2015
image credit cdcguardRight now, some very messy and damaging molecules are taking form in every cell of your body, and at the same time, some other, cleaning-obsessed molecules are mopping up those destructive molecules, deactivating them. The process is oxidation and anti-oxidation, an inevitable routine of being alive that has to be controlled so you don’t succumb to inflammation-based diseases and faster aging.

Blame oxygen for oxidation. It’s so darn reactive and yet an inevitable participant in biochemical reactions in your energy-producing cells. The more your cells do, the more oxidant activity there is. But their oxidant-forming processes can damage your cell walls and DNA.

Fortunately, your body has the solution for oxidative stress ready: antioxidants. These molecules are created on the spot if the right raw materials are available, or old antioxidants can be revived and recycled. Antioxidants deactivate oxidant molecules, effectively preventing obstructing them from doing more damage.

Although oxidation is part of life you can make it worse if you don’t eat good food, or have extra tummy fat, encounter pollution, smoke cigarettes, and curiously, if you do intense fitness training, because that makes your metabolism run faster. (But this isn’t a reason to avoid exercise! Moderate exercise will promote formation of antioxidants.)

Oxidative stress creates inflammation, and this is where your health is impacted. Without enough antioxidants on hand the oxidant molecules damage what they come into contact with; vital components like cell walls and DNA. Cellular damage signals your immune system to draw sticky repair molecules to the area and start the healing process. 

Too much inflammation is increasingly acknowledged as the driving force behind many chronic western lifestyle-based diseases like heart disease, joint problems, hormone imbalances and obesity. That’s because when inflammation is present your system lifts your blood sugar level for fuel to fight the inflammatory fire. A higher blood glucose level then promotes insulin resistance, which triggers accumulation of tummy fat. That extra fat leads to extra leptin secretion, a hormone which, amongst other roles, promotes oxidative stress. It’s a complex vicious cycle; you can see how it could easily spiral out of control.

Fortunately, your body has the ability to create more antioxidants. This is why antioxidant-rich foods (basically, any unprocessed food) are so important: they contain the raw materials to build more antioxidants.  Other antioxidant promoters are moderate exercise and adequate sleep. Now you know a little more about how to avoid aging faster than necessary, or succumbing to a chronic lifestyle disease that would hold you back.

If you enjoyed this article you might also enjoy 'Quenching The Fires of Inflammation' 

Image credit: CDCGUARD via MorgueFile

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18 ways to reduce stress right now

Wednesday, December 09, 2015
Here are 18 ways you can reduce your stress levels right now. Which are your favourites?

1. Go for a 20 minute walk around the block to boost your brain’s production of endogenous opiods (happy neurotransmitters)

2. Get into nature; all those negative ions and beautiful scenery can’t fail to uplift you.

3. Visit a café, allow them to make you a cuppa: Especially good if you feel like your giving well is dry; because allowing someone else to do something for you replenishes your ability to give. 

4. Book a cleaner to tidy and clean your home: Because an orderly home life will help you feel like your life is under control.

5. Read an uplifting biography.  It’s time out for you and inspiration too.

6. Listen to a beautiful piece of music. You might collate a playlist for your iPOD to call on when you’re feeling stretched.

7. Pick up the phone and call a friend who makes you feel good.

8. Allow yourself to sleep in. Can’t because of your work commitments? Go to bed an hour earlier. Plump up your bed with lots of comforting cushions. Sleep is essential for boosting stress resilience.

9. Hand your ironing for the week over to someone else; imagine opening your wardrobe door to a tidy line of crisp pressed clothes. Aaaahhhh….

10. Head out for a run (if you’re already a runner that is!)

11. Get into the garden and potter around.

12. Cuddle your pet.

13. Make someone else’s life a little brighter with giving. Like paying for the next person’s meal at the café.

14. Attend a yoga class.

15. Close the door, slip on the headphones and enjoy a guided meditation. There’s a veritable smorgasbord to choose from at 

16. Take time out to plan, daydream and research your next holiday. Remember to set a timer so you don’t spend the rest of the day on the internet!

17. Go to the gym and do a workout. Even if you don’t feel like it. Especially if you don’t feel like it!

18. Switch off the TV news and put down the newspaper. Unless it’s your job to be plugged into the 24/7 news cycle then you don’t need constant exposure to other people’s trauma.  

Which is your favourite way to de-stress?

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy this article about how stress can make it harder to lose weight.

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Adipokines the key to shifting that tubby tummy in PCOS

Tuesday, December 08, 2015
If you thought those fat cells creating your tubby tummy were just sitting there, storage for all those extra calories, think again. They’re actively and constantly communicating with the rest of your body through adipokines, the technical term for “messengers from fat cells” Knowing about them and how to manage them is key to breaking the cycles that keep PCOS active. We’re going to meet two of them, adiponectin and leptin, and explore briefly how to loosen their hold on your hormones.

The Messages They Carry

The two messages these adipokines transmit are about 

- whether you have enough fat stores to support a pregnancy and 
- whether you need to eat more, or less. 

Through these messages they affect your ovaries, your digestion, and inflammatory processes right through your body. 

Adiponectin increases the sensitivity of your cells to glucose, encouraging increased use of glucose by muscles. (That’s good.) It also decreases the production of glucose by your liver, and promotes utilisation of fat stores. (That’s good too.) Adiponectin also hoses down inflammation through reducing the availability of arachiodonic acid, a fatty acid from food. (Yep, that gets a tick too.) You want more adiponectin, obviously, but with a tubby tummy the reverse actually happens.

Here’s the paradox. You’d think that more fat cells would mean more adiponectin secretion, to encourage more glucose utilisation and less fat storage. But the opposite is what happens. More fat cells = less adiponectin produced. Why? We don’t know – yet – but no doubt scientists are hunched over their test tubes right now looking for the answer.

Leptin is another adipokine secreted by fat cells. This hormone has two big roles: helping regulate your appetite and allowing fertility. Like adiponectin it’s also helpful in the right quantity. Basically, the more fat deposits you have the more leptin you will secrete. 

Leptin sends two main messages to your brain: One, to let it know you don’t need more food. That reduces your appetite, through reducing secretion of a digestive hormone, ghrelin. The other task for leptin is to let your brain know that you have enough energy stores to support a pregnancy. Both functions are very useful: Without leptin you might eat too much, and you might become pregnant without the resources to support a pregnancy right through to birth and breastfeeding.

But when you have too much leptin circulating (because you have too many full fat cells) your hypothalamus is flooded with leptin messages. This gland in your brain and another, the pituitary, then amplify their fertility messages to the ovaries. As a result your ovaries then receive an overdose of luteinizing hormone, and the tidy process of egg development and release is disrupted. Too many ovary follicles develop at once, contributing to cystic ovaries.

Some aspects of a modern lifestyle affect leptin production: Stress lifts leptin levels, as does sugar, partly through development of insulin resistance.  

In summary, you want just enough leptin, and plenty of adiponectin. If they’re out of balance this can happen:

- Over-stimulation of your ovaries,
Increased insulin resistance
More inflammation

And yet reducing the fat deposits on your abdomen is vitally important if you want to break the hormonal and metabolic cycles that drive PCOS.

How did this tubby tummy cycle develop? Here’s a very basic explanation. First, you may have been born with the genes to secrete too many androgens (male hormones). They promote formation of tummy fat. Then, because you have tummy fat adiponectin secretion is reduced and your blood glucose levels stay high, promoting insulin resistance. This then triggers extra androgen production by your ovaries, which are very sensitive to glucose. The androgen production promotes more tummy fat, and the cycle continues.

How to manage the adipokines (and your tubby tummy)

- Exercise. Daily. Enough. Far and away, exercise is the key success technique for managing insulin resistance. If you’re not getting results you might not be doing it right – get professional advice from an exercise physiologist about how much is ‘enough’ for you.

- Stay away from sugar. I don’t mean just cane sugar, but any sugar or syrup or honey. If it tastes sweet, it’s sugar. Period.

- Manage your stress using time out, meditation, yoga, whatever works for you.

- Don’t smoke, and avoid other pollutants, especially endocrine-disrupting chemicals like BPA and plasticisers.

- Don’t over-indulge in caffeine or alcohol.

- Love your liver by including fresh unprocessed foods and especially lignans like flaxseeds

Want to know more about hormones? Download your free copy of the ebook "When Good Hormones Go Bad"

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Lets talk straight about sugar

Saturday, December 05, 2015
It would be hard to miss the message about sugar: That too much of it isn’t so good for you. But it tastes so nice! Imagine fooling yourself that some versions of sugar are so healthy it’s OK to eat more sweet foods again. At least that seems to be the perspective promoted by manufacturers of processed foods.  

The mindset that some food producers would like you to adopt is that there are healthier forms of sugar, and that consuming a ‘more natural’ form is somehow going to do you good. “Eat more of this – it’s good for you” seems to be the philosophy behind the packaging. Labels like ‘cane sugar free’ seem to absolve you from being cautious with portion sizes. But I’d like to set the record straight, at least before you consume so much of the delicious stuff that your waistband won’t fasten.

Sugar comes in a multitude of forms, even though it’s basically just molecules like fructose, glucose or sucrose in different wrappings. There’s cane sugar: the white, beige or brown crystals we’re all familiar with, along with their syrup forms (golden syrup, treacle or molasses). Then there’s the liquid sugar – honey – produced by bees, and sugar that’s an inevitable component of fruit (fresh or dried). Or there’s sap from a plant like maple syrup. 

Sure, depending on which sweetener you choose the taste will vary and you’ll get a little added benefit of vitamins and minerals – but it’s still sugar, and your body will treat it as such: releasing insulin to carry it to cells, and pushing the glucose into fat cells if active cells don’t want any more. So explaining away all that extra sweet food as ‘good for you’ because that sugar isn’t really sugar isn’t helpful. Without enough movement in your life that sugar will eventually appear as fat, usually on your midriff.

What about artificial sugar or ‘natural’ sweeteners? Well sure, you won’t get the calories. But your brain will still register the presence of sweetness and behave accordingly; driving you to reach for even more sweet foods in preference to relatively plain foods like vegetables and salad.

We’re all hard wired to enjoy sugar, and it’s not bad in moderation; but a ‘healthier’ form of sugar isn’t a reason to overdo the sweet stuff. If it tastes sweet, it’s got sugar in it. Period.  So enjoy the sweet treats of the holiday season; but don’t be fooled into thinking you should have a bigger portion because it’s made from ‘healthy’ sugar.

If you enjoyed this article you might also enjoy 'are you addicted to sugar?' 

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Olwen Anderson @olwenanderson


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