Tag Archives: Health

2015: The year menstruation made the big time

Girl walking | lizniland.com

I know it’s not even June but I’m calling it. And it’s about time.
They’ve been all over the news this year and whether you see them as a necessary evil or a deep connection to the divine feminine, periods are something around 50% of the population will directly experience. Hopefully through their experiences with the various ladies in their lives (from mothers to lovers), the majority of the other 50% could hardly claim ignorance to them either.

The way periods and menstruation are dealt with in politics, advertising and general discourse however, could easily make you think Brick Tamland is the main source of some peoples’ sex-ed.

The blue liquid loved by advertisers, whispers of “that time of the month” and pretty floral packaging make it seem like it all has nothing to do with the “blood coursing from our uteri like a crimson landslide“. The kerfuffle these realistic images caused is proof of that: just as many men & women seemed to shout it down as offensive and unnecessary as those who praised it.

So why are we so euphemistic about a perfectly natural and essential bodily function?
Is it because men have traditionally run the show when it comes to media and advertising? No, I don’t think it’s the fault of blokes alone that we ladies feel like we have to smuggle tampons into the work bathroom and that lube & nicotine patches are considered more essential to public health than sanitary products. I’m not going to dive too deep into the wave of “tamponomics” sweeping Aussie politics right now, but if you haven’t signed the petition to have the GST removed from sanitary products, please go do it here.

It seems to be relatively unheard of to talk about periods with other women (other than in a whisper when you need to deal with a surprise guest) let alone with men or on a larger stage. We ladies are most definitely part of the problem. For a current example that struck me as interesting: of the assortment of premiers, chief ministers and treasurers Triple J’s Hack program spoke to about lifting the tampon tax; MPs Dave, Tim, Andrew and Tom were quite happy to scrap it. Gladys, Liberal Treasurer for NSW, wasn’t keen to give a position yet and wants to discuss it further. Thanks fellas but Gladys, come on sister!

The last taboo
I loved the story that came out earlier in the year of female tennis player Heather Watson blaming her poor Australian Open performance on her period. Journos said she broke “the last taboo in sport” by speaking of it. I really don’t think we can blame the lads for letting it get to that point. Why is it such a rarity for women, especially those in sport, to talk about how their period affects them? Because surely it does. Surely Cathy Freeman was watching the calendar in the lead up to Sydney 2000. Performance aside, most girls wouldn’t be putting their hand up to wear that skintight onesie on day 29 of her cycle.

I think women fear being seen to have any weaknesses that relate to their gender. We aim to look tough, seamlessly put together and in control. I know I, and a handful of my friends, loathe the idea that we’ll fall into any kind of stereotypical emotional-chocolate-feasting mess and endure headaches, cramps and other general crappiness. Even if it becomes reality, it has got to get pretty bad for us to consider calling in sick to work or skipping the gym. It might mean we have to pop a painkiller to get through an afternoon meeting or drop a few reps but we’ll do what we can to soldier on, without letting anyone in on the details (at least until a Friday night wine with a close mate).

The tide seems to be turning steadily.
Pioneering underwear makers Dear Kate recently put together a video series of women talking about their “first time” and Hello Flo’s The Period Fairy is another fun one to check out. These are social media-friendly, won’t make awkward Brick Tamland-types run for the hills and will hopefully contribute to more conversation, better understanding and continued cross-gender education in our community.

Tell a girl she can… & help her make it happen

So #fitspo is massive but we’re all still overweight, undernourished and hating life. Now, we all know the well-documented benefits regular exercise has (here’s a refresher: reduced risk of chronic disease & improved mental health) but how many people do you know who just don’t make sweat time a priority in their schedule? According to government stats, it’s actually more than half of your mates!

“Nearly 60% of Australians do not undertake sufficient levels of physical activity, and many of us (almost 80%) usually spend 3 or more hours sitting during our leisure time”.

The below video is part of Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign and, right now, you should definitely watch it (it’s like 90 seconds long), fall in love with it (not hard) and share it with all of your friends (I know you know how).

I know how incredibly intimidating a boxing class can be if you’re pooped after hiking the stairs to a meeting (believe me, I’ve been there). But, you should never compare the beginning of your fitness journey to where someone else is at. There’s a good chance half the people doing that class probably started exactly where you are now.

I think the whole #fitspo craze has made exercise too intimidating for everyday people. What you don’t see on Instagram are the amazing genetics, the 7 years of daily yoga/weightlifting/running training and the daily meals of steamed fish and broccoli – not to mention the angst over editing the photo sufficiently & picking an appropriate filter! That’s why I love this clip so much – it’s all real girls doing real sports. That’s what we all need more examples of.

If you’re already out there leading the exercise charge by example, why not lend a friend a hand & help them get outta that 60% that need to move more. Invite them to a just-for-fun dance class, encourage them to join you on a regular lunch-break walk or even just send them this clip because you love it.

Exercise for yourself & your health – not to be skinny or to slim down for that upcoming wedding/birthday/reunion. Do it for you. And don’t worry what you look like – the sweatier the better I reckon!

Breakfast: A future without Sultana Bran

When there’s no toast, no cereal, no oats & not even a dollop of yogurt on the menu, breakfast can seem insurmountable. And of course there’s eggs but, without toast, how do you turn them into a meal?

It’s ok, I’ve been there

My friends, it’s time to flip your thinking. What if you could just think of breakfast as Meal #1 or #2 of the day. Mind blown? The only reason we think we need to eat a certain way at a certain time is just because we’ve been raised to believe that’s the way it is. If you’d grown up in China, donkey meat pastry pockets or a steaming bowl of wonton soup might be your morning jam (or your Coco Pops, as it were).

Carlie, one of our Gritters, introduced me to Pinkfarm, a Facebook page run by two busy mums who love their wholefoods & healthy living. The Pinkfarm ladies have coined the term “Royal Breakfasts” & it’s worth checking out what they & their kids sit up to each morning. They actively avoid eating standard breakfast fare & come up with magnificent healthful feasts.

It might feel a bit wild to think of tucking in to a steak & veg for your morning meal, & that’s totally ok, but you need to stretch your thinking: life is still worth living without Sultana Bran.

So where to from here?

Stick to the rules we’ve been given with this 21-day challenge: a palm-size piece of protein, a couple of serves of veg & a good dose of healthy fat. Yep, you’re going to be hating life quick-smart if you’re waking up to a steamed chicken breast & salad each morning so you need to break some barriers & change the breakfast game.

My best breakfasts happen when I:

  • Cook extra vegies &/or meat the night before
  • Am prepared with some pre-cooked bits & pieces (meatballs, egg muffins, boiled eggs & cooked mince)
  • Have a fridge full of options
A 'royal breakfast': Leftover beef, kale & cauliflower rice, topped with an egg

A ‘royal breakfast’: Leftover beef, kale & cauliflower rice, topped with an egg

More often than not, I eat a combination of eggs, a couple of vegies & sometimes some kind of leftover meat. This can vary between scrambled, fried or poached eggs & I alter the veg based on what’s in the fridge but it always involves a green leafy. I often cook up a batch of meatballs or lightly seasoned mince on the weekend to use in breakfasts too.

…but aren’t I going to get sick of that?

Nope, not if you keep mixing it up! Here’s a few different ideas to get you thinking:

…but I don’t have time to cook in the morning, let alone sit down

I’d say have a smoothie but… with no fruit & no milk (coconut, dairy or almond milk) & when you’ve already downed a protein shake post workout, do you really want to? Mate, if you’re on for slurping cold spinach, celery, protein/an egg or two & water, I bow down to you. There’s a motherload of smoothie recipes here though if you’re interested.

Let me introduce another option to you: pre-cooking. Get organised in advance & you can either heat & eat at work, wrangle the kids with one hand while chowing into a muffin with the other or just take it a little slower knowing your breakfast can be in your face in mere seconds.

  • Egg, veg & meat muffins – mix & match some extra veg into these & swap out the meat depending on what you prefer/have on hand
  • Egg muffins
  • Frittata – slice it up & serve it with some sauteed veg if you have the time, otherwise chow it down however you can
  • Boiled eggs – pre-boil some eggs so you can peel & eat whenever & wherever you need to. These are perfect with a salad for lunch too.
  • Meatballs – like the above, make these up & eat hot or cold on the go or sliced up into other delicious dishes
  • Breakfast casserole – use your preferred mince (turkey is tasty!)
Paleo delicious muffins

Smiley egg muffins

…but I don’t like eggs

If you’re hate a runny yolk but are cool with a quiche-y egg style, see above. Otherwise, if you just can’t handle the little suckers or need a break from them, try some of the following:

  • More meatballs… Top ’em with guacamole & dish up with some sautéed veg (mushrooms, tomato etc)
  • Or kill two birds with one stone & put the avocado inside the meatball… Wow.
  • Hit the zucchinis hard with a Zuke-fest breakfast 
  • Paleo guru Mel’s power breakfast:
  • Fiesta breakfast bowl
  • Zucchini pancakes – grate a zucchini, finely slice a shallot & mix them with an egg & whichever herbs & spices strike your fancy. Pan fry dollops of it in a little coconut/olive oil until browned on both sides & set in the middle.

How did I do? Have I convinced you that you can rock your early morning meal?

Be sure to comment if you’ve stumbled across any awesome breakfast ideas, or if you’ve created your own morning masterpiece.

Les Mills 21-day Nutrition Challenge

Les Mills, the genius people behind my beloved Grit, has a 21 day challenge which basically involves going squeaky clean, low-carb paleo (with the addition of a post-workout shake) for 21 days.

I’ve been thinking of doing a Whole 30 or similar lately & when this was raised at Gritshed, I thought it would be an ideal way to reduce the number of sweet potatoes I was ploughing through & have a break from my nightly dark chocolate anti-oxidant habit.

Normal paleo rules are in play but there’s also guidelines around portion sizes and timing of meals, as well as reducing your starchy carb intake.

Here’s the lowdown from Les Mills food dude Corey Baird:

So who’s with me?

I’m kicking this off on Wednesday March 19th & will be rolling through until Wednesday April 9th. For those clever cats playing at home, yep, that’s 22 days. Why is that? Well, it’s our anniversary in early April & we have a deluxe dinner booked at our favourite local restaurant Subo. While they do the most deliciously delicate meals of mostly locally sourced ingredients, I’m not missing out on a decadent feast due to possible traces of starchy carbs.

That’s my declaration of my only off-the-plan meal. I’m making the choice here to indulge in something I’m planning & totally looking forward to. This is vastly different to chowing into a block of chocolate at 9pm, or devouring a parcel of hot chips for a lazy dinner. And this is the secret to staying on the clean-eating bandwagon.

We’ve all had our slip-ups, felt like crap & ate our feelings.

The difference we want to develop with this challenge & with eating going forward is that you can & will be able to make a choice about everything that goes into your mouth. This isn’t about being hyper-aware of calories or ‘bad foods’, it’s about making choices. If you genuinely want that piece of chocolate, or that 7-course degustation in my case, & it is a choice you are consciously making, get in there & don’t feel guilty, enjoy it!

If you do fall victim to a carbalicious convenience food or a stray pile of deep fried business, get over it & get straight back on with cleaning up your act ahead of your next meal.

Don’t wait for the next day. Don’t wait for the next week. Don’t give up

Until launch day, I’m going to be posting a bunch of tips & bits to help you prepare for the challenge. Preparation is a big part of eating this way & even though it might seem like a load of work to start off with, you’ll get used to it pretty quickly & find the best way to make it work for you.

Once things are underway, I’ll still be posting regularly both here & via Instagram to share my experiences & delicious discoveries.

Let’s change the game.

The next chapter: Hello Paleo!

There’s change afoot in our household.

For the last 3 weeks, we’ve been eating to Paleo rules. That is:

  • Lots of vegetables & fruit
  • Plenty of meat & eggs & seafood too
  • A good dose of nuts & other healthy fats

Sounds good right?

Well, there’s only a slight catch. Excluded from paleo eating are:

  • Dairy
  • Legumes
  • Grains
  • Sugar (mostly refined – some occasional honey & real maple syrup are cool)

So, other than for a couple of celebrations where we indulged a little, we’ve binned the tinned chickpeas, left the dairy farmers in the lurch and kept the bag rice buried in the top of the pantry.

“But for what incredible benefit would you now avoid blue cheese??”, I hear you cry. Well, we’ve been really surprised at the benefits of eating this way and, to be honest, how easy it’s been to stick to.

For the last few years, I’ve had a gluten intolerance so that’s kinda helped us get used to the no grains bit a little but, don’t get me wrong, we did have brown rice, polenta and oats queued up, along with tins upon tins of cannelini & kidney beans, lentils & corn kernels.

Like I’m sure many young women do, I’ve always tried to stick to low-calorie options, squirming whenever more than a quarter of an avocado came my way & trying to think happy thoughts when chowing into fat-free tuna in springwater with cucumber on paper-thin 60-calorie wraps.

It feels positively wild putting 150 grams of chicken and half an avocado in a hearty salad at lunch time but you know what, it fills me up so much more than the traditional low calorie, low fat diets we are normally pushed towards for optimal health. I no longer snack between breakfast & lunch. I have a pre-gym snack before I leave work in the afternoon & a recovery mini-meal post-gym. And then it’s dinner time. We haven’t given up the two squares of quality dark chocolate after dinner but beyond that, we’re paleo all the way, baby!

We’ve lost a couple of kilos, actually feel hungry by meal times but never hangry (a major issue for me previously!) and, this is purely our experience, but we’re finding our tastebuds have been totally re-invigorated.

This is merely the beginning – we started out thinking we’d stick to it for a month & see how things went but now, after 3 weeks, I can’t think of eating any other way.

I’ll post more about our paleo adventures here. Don’t worry, it’s not all zucchini and beef: there’s some seriously indulgent things you can do with a bag of almonds, a handful of dates and an avocado.

You might have heard of caveman style eating? This is it. Forget all processed “food”; if it needs more than a quick steam or a sizzle in the pan to become edible, there’s a very good chance it ain’t paleo, sister. If you want to read more about the whole deal, hit up paleo gurus Robb WolfStupid Easy Paleo or Eat Drink Paleo for more information.  

Gluten-Free Chocolate Muffins

Now do I have your attention?

Ha! The Gluten Free Goddess appears to have had a little makeover and I needed a re-visit after a long day spent recovering from a gluten hangover (Well if I have to eat your pizza, I have to eat your pizza!)

While I was looking for dinner inspiration, this recipe for Gluten-Free Chocolate Muffins quite obviously distracted me. Definitely one to print off & try!

30 pounds of mac & cheese

So apparently Oprah did eat the whole wheel of cheese*. More specifically, she ate half an Olsen twin worth of mac & cheese when she started spiraling into depression years back. (Watch the interview snippet for more)

When it comes to comfort food, I’ve found that the best benefit comes from eating tasty goodness that has some nutritional qualities; ie, not plastic cheese-coated pasta.

Did you know brown rice is loaded with magnesium, a mineral which does wonders for ones mental health & anxiety levels? Or what about raising a sweat, upping your metabolism & getting some vitamin-boosting veggies into you with a chilli-laden stirfry?

If cheesy carbs assist you like nothing else to lift your mood or enable momentary wallowing though, try mashing potato (bonus points for using sweet potato!) with a whack of minced garlic, a good sprinkling of salt & pepper and a spoonful of ricotta – slightly cheesy goodtimes with a lot less regret than that which comes with 30 pounds of mac & cheese.

Honestly. Is that some kind of record? That’s a preschooler!

*Anchorman reference. You really should’ve known that already though. If you didn’t, get thee to blockbuster, stat.

Healthy start

I’ve been a fairly keen gym-bunny for a while now… Actually, I’ve been hitting the gym (& walking, running & playing indoor netball) regularly for around the last 3 years… All in the same runners. the time has come:

With my fantastic new Asics joggers, I’m hitting the gym with a new fervor – tomorrow morning I’m taking on a weights class followed immediately by Zumba. I need to up my cardio & drop off the weight-training a touch – I’m still focusing on weight-bearing activity but just knocking the actual dumbbells down a little.

While I’ve got a little time off work, I’m finding that backing-up for double classes is a great way for me to get a big whack of exercise done while still staying interested & motivated (more than 20mins on a treadmill & I start eyeing off the bike or the cross-trainer) When I purchased the shoes (for half price might I add!) I also nabbed a half-price Puma tee & a pair of Adidas tights with 20% off the rrp. It’s amazing how more into exercise you can feel with a fresh new gym kit!