Sore feet and a lesson not learned

Today I had the first (of two) MRIs. Right foot first, because right foot is the most sore. The radiologist asked me before the scan started, ‘Where does it hurt?’. I said, ‘Here. Oh and here. And here, and also here, and sometimes here.’

It’s a funny position I find myself in. The number of times people have made some sort of joke about how I probably walked to the party/cafe/office/wherever it is I’ve met them. Every time I laugh and say ‘Haha no.’ thinking to myself, I wish I could have.

There’s something ironic in walking 20km a day for 50 days, only to get home and not really be able to walk anywhere, even around the block. I mean, I could walk places. I would get sore though, if I did. And somehow, while it felt acceptable that my feet should hurt every freaking day while I was walking the track, it no longer feels ok for me to keep pushing my feet to the point of pain and swelling every day. The pain felt like something I should expect while I was on the track, now it feels like something is wrong. Something probably was wrong, the whole time. But my determination to finish was overriding that message. And now the message of wrongness is overriding the other messages I have, of wanting to walk and be active, of wanting to keep training at aikido. I initially went back to training (I was going to have a grading for a new belt in December) but now I’ve had to pull out of the grading and just stop training altogether. Just. Stop.

I’m trying to not even walk the 750m to the train station at the moment – I’m riding my bike instead. It seems that walking on concrete/bitumen is much harder on my feet than the bush (no surprises there), so they get sore very quickly.

I feel an uncomfortable shame in admitting this. Somehow its another reason to find myself not-quite-good-enough. As though its a personal failure that my joints are complaining after holding me up through a 1000km hike. I’m also frustrated that any fitness I built up is just melting away again as I spend day after day sitting around in the office or on the couch at home. It goes against my self-identity to be sitting around doing sweet FA. And yeah, I know, I could be swimming or out cycling. But I’m stubborn and fussy and want to just do the movement that I want to do, not my second-tier movement options.

And still, I have no regrets. If I went back in time and knew what I know now, I would still keep going til the end of the track. The benefits I’ve gained from the whole experience outweigh the tendon damage. And I have a sneaking suspicion that this is part of it. To experience coming home and having to compromise. To have to make a (tough) call to stop my aikido training, to finally get to the point where I’m forced to honour the calls from my body and stop pushing it to be something it’s not. Its been a recurring theme for me throughout my life, from the time I was about 16. To be experiencing regular (usually daily) body pain, but to be in conflict about it. Ive always wanted so badly to be active that I would, again and again, keep pushing myself through the pain, whilst wondering two concurrent thoughts – one, am I just being over sensitive and complaining? Probably nothing is really wrong; and two, I’m worried that something is really wrong and I should probably find out what it is so I don’t do myself serious damage.

This is the almost constant push/pull that I live with on the regular. For some reason, I still don’t completely trust my body when it tells me something is sore. Perhaps because there’ve been times when I have had some pain or another, which has just settled down and not ended up to be a big deal. Or I’ve just learned to live with it. But there’ve also been other times when I’ve pushed on for months (years!) only to find there was a legitimate reason for my pain – torn ligaments, usually. So obviously I still haven’t learned whatever lesson I need to learn here.

How to trust my body. When enough is enough. When to ask for help. When to admit that I’m struggling. When to stop. When to keep going.

Tomorrow I get the MRI results, and hopefully can then make an informed decision about how best to honour and care for these hard-working and long-suffering feet of mine.

Psychic abilities and new exercise guidelines?

When I first wrote this blog post a couple of weeks ago, I started writing about how my week looks currently in terms of movement (hereon in referred to as my movement practice, even if that does sound a little wanky). But then ended up prefacing it with several hundred words explaining the reason my movement practice might look so big and overwhelming to some of you – because it goes way over and above the recommended levels of physical activity for Australians. I didn’t press publish, as I was thinking about the benefits of the post – would it actually be helpful in the way I wanted it to be, or would it just be a source of comparison and not-doing-enough for other people? About a week later, I came across this article– which basically says exactly what I wrote – that the guidelines for the recommended physical activity are way too low if we really want to be preventing disease. The next part of this blog is what I wrote before I read the article above – (with current-day notes made in italics). I just didn’t feel like rewriting it #sorrynotsorry.

“I just don’t believe the Australian guidelines for healthy physical activity. The current recommendation is (for adults) “Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 – 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 – 2 hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week” and in my opinion, thats not really enough (also in the opinion of some researchers now!). That means that you could do 30 minutes of moderate physical intensity physical activity (this could be something like slow jogging or cycling, for example) on five days per week, and that would be enough. I just don’t believe this.

I have heard the opinion that when ‘they’ made the recommendations, they actually downgraded the amount recommended because they thought that if they put the real (higher) number, it would seem impossible for people to achieve so they wouldn’t even do anything. I see the logic behind this, but I also think we should be realistic about what our bodies need. And hey, the main source of evidence I base my opinions on is ME, so perhaps it’s simply that my body needs more movement than 2.5 hours a week (Not any more! I can now base my opinions on evidence provided by science!).

Here’s why I say I don’t believe the guidelines – I used to consciously limit my movement because I knew that I had reached the recommendation. Not that I would stop myself from moving if I really wanted to, but, for example, I might consider riding my bike to work, and decide not to if I knew I was going to an hour long aikido class after work. I think I had the idea that if I did a couple of hours of exercise in a day, I would be wearing my body out. However, I now believe that we should be moving our bodies for the majority of the day (note – I don’t mean exercising – see below). So now I just do as much movement as I can. And some days, that is still sweet fuck all (I’m a normal person, after all, called to the couch and TV as much as the next person), but I also have days where I do several hours of movement in one go, or over the course of the day. And I no longer think this is over the top.

(A quick definition of how I define movement vs exercise: movement is anything where your muscles cause a part of your body to move, possibly done for the purpose of achieving a purpose unrelated to improving your health; exercise is a repetitive action using a major muscle group/s (repetitively clenching your jaw doesn’t count, sorry) that is done for the purpose of improving an aspect of your health and fitness)”

Ok and now we’re back in the present day. Are you impressed with my almost psychic knowing that physical activity recommendations were going to increase? Just in case you haven’t noticed, I am 😉

I also want to explain the difference in what this study found compared to the current guidelines. The study looked at activity in METs – metabolic equivalents – per minute. A MET is a measure that takes into account the energy expended doing an activity. 1 MET is how much energy you use just hanging out doing nothing, if you are jogging at a level of 5 METs, you’re using 5 times more energy than if you were sitting still. A MET minute is the energy expended doing an activity, measured over time.
Let’s use walking for pleasure as an example. This has a MET value of 3.5. Which means if you walk for 60 minutes, you times 60 by 3.5, and therefore will expend 210 MET minutes.
600 MET/minutes per week is currently the minimum recommendation, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) – which if you use walking, equates to about 170 minutes of walking over the week, or approximately 25 minutes a day. The Aussie guidelines aren’t advertised in METs, but they were used to develop the guidelines, and are equivalent to: 675 – 1350/week. So the lower limit is pretty much the same as the WHO.

This recent study though, says that getting 600 MET minutes/week only leads to a 2% reduction in risk of developing disease, compared to doing nothing. It suggests that the recommendation (for a more significant 19% decrease in risk) should be more like 3000-4000 MET/minutes per week. Again using walking, this would mean more like 1,142 minutes of walking per week, or 2.7 hours a day. Wow. Big jump. (Before you freak out – that’s just an example for walking. If you jogged at 8km/h for 30 minutes on four days a week, you’d cut down your walking required to two hours a day). It goes on to say that higher levels of exercise/movement were correlated with even more decreased risk, but that the decrease in risk was less significant – so the difference between 9000 and 12,000 MET minutes/week was only a 0.6% decrease.

I can imagine the response of some people might be something along the lines of Fuck. Off. Hell no. Or, quite possibly ‘but I dont have enough timmmmeeeee!’ And fair enough. The idea of doing several hours a day of exercise seems unrealistic. So here’s the thing – you can actually do less exercise – if you do more movement. Remember, movement doesnt have to equal exercise. So if you spend 25 minutes riding your bike to work (each way), walk up the stairs to the third story office, walk to the shop and buy just enough groceries for one meal – so you can carry them in your arms around the shop and then home again, you’d be getting close to a couple of hours of movement, with no real structured exercise. As opposed to, walking to your car and then sitting on the way to work, catching the lift and sitting in the office, driving home again, via the supermarket, wheeling a trolley around the supermarket and then to your car, and carrying the stuff from your driveway to your house
They are subtle changes but they can add up to make a difference of active vs sedentary.

Am I sounding judgey? I hope not. It’s something I feel really strongly about, that our entire society has been constructed to support us to move less, and if we want to be healthy and happy in our bodies, we need to take a deliberate stand against it – or we’ll easily fall down the rabbit hole of easier-is-better. I am still thinking about posting what my current movement practice looks like, just because personally I have an almost voyeuristic interest in what other people do…let me know if you’re interested!

PS, because I know you’re wondering/hoping, sexual activity with active, vigorous effort is 2.8 METs. I’ll leave it to you to calculate how much that equates to.

My new biggest fear

Oh dudes. Its been a tough week.

Last time I wrote, about declaring my intention to hike the Bib, I listed my biggest fear as starting the journey and then having to cut it short due to repetitive use injury (pretty common on long hikes). Ive now replaced that fear with a greater fear: to not even start due to injury.

Almost every day this past week Ive woken up with some different sort of body pain. Ironically, I wrote a draft blog post about the movement practices Ive been doing of late, and how great it feels that Im moving so much. And then this week, starting the day after I drafted it, Ive been in struggle town with the whole movement thing. Ive had achilles tendon pain (thats been going on for a while actually), back pain (also going on for a while), random sharp pains in my heel and, for the first time in my life, sciatic pain.

Its pretty hard for me to deal with emotionally, for two reasons:

  1. Obviously, Im planning a fuck-off long hike. This is likely to be hampered if Im not in good physical shape.
  2. Movement is my number one ultimate super tool in my box of how I manage my mood. So when my movement routines are hampered, I really notice how it affects me, mood-wise.

Its a really tricky scenario that a lot of people face,

whether they use movement as their mental health management tool or not – how to keep active when your body hurts. Ive had a bunch of hurts in the past – bone bumps shaved off, torn ligaments, surgery on multiple joints, blah blah. However, I still really struggle with the idea of listening to my body. On the one hand, Im afraid that because I know Im a sensitive person, perhaps Im too sensitive to discomfort, and therefore likely to make a big deal out of nothing. The fact that in the past many of my sensations of discomfort have been due to legitimate causes that were improved via medical intervention doesnt seem to give me any more trust in my own body signals. Because on the other hand, I like moving so much, and its such an important part of my life, I dont want to hear when something isnt working. I just want to ignore it and hope it goes away. I tell myself that its probably nothing and Ill be fine. Then I stress about it. Because of the first point I made. And ironically, the worrying about what could be wrong likely makes it worse. A stressful mind and body does not make for a good healing environment.

If I was a client and I was seeing myself, as an exercise physiologist, I would probably make some suggestion like, perhaps consider a different type of movement that doesnt make your back hurt? Try doing some swimming so whatever is going on with your foot gets a break? But my client self says, fuck that, I dont want to try swimming! I want to do what I enjoy doing! And stubbornly keeps doing it. Largely because Im clinging to it as a mental health flotation device at the moment.

Its kind of odd, isnt it

That my whole message is based on minds and bodies and intuitively listening to your own internal environment to figure out whats right for you, and yet I struggle with that myself? (We could also argue that the very fact that I struggle with the same issues gives me greater insight) Its another situation where I dont really have an adequate answer. Rather, Im just exploring my own discomfort with discomfort and offering it to you, the blog-reading public, for no real reason other than the fact that I think its important that we dont create these online identities where we can come across as perfect beings who dont struggle with exactly the same issues that you do. Im also just a person, trying to do the best I can with what Ive got.

 

How to eat crickets

I’m currently trying to plan what I’m going to eat while I’m doing my upcoming long distance hike. One of the sticking points is how to get enough protein.

I don’t eat milk, so this cuts out many milk based protein powders. There are many vegan options, generally made of pea, soy, or rice protein, but when I think about the amount of processing needed to extract the protein from those legumes/grains, I don’t want to eat them. (Not to mention the colours, flavours, additives etc). And sure, I love nuts and legumes, but the actual eating of them (or too many of them) can quite easily upset my delicate flower of a digestive system. Also, they are quite heavy to carry.

So, how to get enough protein? In my normal life as well, I have this issue. I could just eat meat, but I’m less and less inclined toward this option. Partly because I feel sad thinking about killing an animal, and partly because I feel sad about what farming said animals is doing to our earth. (Also in a hiking context, jerky is often full of preservatives and sugar, as well as being super expensive!) So, the idea of eating bugs has come up on varied occasions, and I’ve been starting to get interested in them for a while. I caught up with a friend recently who is also getting interested in bugs, and after talking excitedly about the concept I started looking into it a little more. I was surprised to see how many new bug-based foods are popping up. Protein bars, chips (crisps), generally made of crickets over other bugs.

There are also specialty foods available to buy, like chocolate covered spiders (the thought of this makes me want to vomit and shiver at the same time) as well as high class bugs used in certain restaurants. Crickets though, they are big news. And, it turns out, big protein. 70% protein, in fact. Also a great source of calcium. And did I mention the sustainable aspects? Much less water, less land needed, less processing equipment, less methane, less blood and guts

So I found only a couple of places that sell cricket powder/flour online in Aus, and they were both fuck-off expensive. About $90 a kg! Which is prohibitively expensive, in my book, for something you are planning to eat more than a gram of at a time. I widened my search and found some much more affordable options based out of Thailand. Now, does buying an overseas cricket powder cancel out all the environmental benefits of eating the crickets versus meat in the first place? I don’t know, I haven’t done the maths. Possibly.

I got all excited and posted on facebook, ‘who wants to buy some cricket powder with me and share the shipping cost?!’ After preparing myself for being inundated with enthusiastic comments of similarly forward thinking sustainable people like myself, I was surprised to only get one comment. From my friend with whom I’d had the cricket conversation before all this started. Hmmpf. Ok, fine. So instead of going and buying up a couple of kgs, I just got a sample of 100g. And I am glad I did.

Attempt number one

I got the sample from the first company after a week or two. Opened the little foil sachet up and was first up surprised at the colour. I saw some pics online of the powder, and was expecting pale sort of beige colour. But this was more dark green/brown. Then I gave it a sniff and, ergh, it was not good. I’d seen it described as a mild, nutty flavour. I would not under any circumstances describe this as such. I would more put it along the lines of meaty, mealy, organic, animal mulch scent.

I thought, maybe it’s just the smell. Maybe it’s like gelatin, which is an animal product, which smells gross in the packet, and when you dissolve it in hot water, but once it cools down it doesn’t smell much like animal.

So I made some pancakes. I made them the way I often make a savoury pancake for myself; eggs, zucchini, a touch of rice milk, salt. And two heaped teaspoons of cricket powder. I fried up the first few little guys in coconut oil. I could smell the mealy meaty smell wafting up from the pan. Gross. I tasted them. Gross. They tasted like they smelled. I thought fuck, I’m not wasting all this pancake mix. How do I hide it? So I added a bunch of cacao powder and some rice malt syrup. Chocolate pancakes. Yum!

Not yum. Chocolate animal flavoured pancakes. I am a generally somewhat frugal and non-wasteful person by nature (Food waste! Sustainability! $$!) so I thought shit, I have to eat all this. I cooked up the rest of the batter, in little pancake blobs. I was eating it as I was cooking it, to try and make it disappear quicker. This was not a stack of pancakes I wanted to sit down and savour. However, I still ended up with a small stack of them. I forced them down, sitting outside on the balcony. By the end, I was literally holding my nose while I stuffed them in my mouth, and * almost * got to the point of retching. It was FUCKING TERRIBLE. But I was like shit, $40 a kg, I have to eat this! (Food waste! People starving! Precious cacao!)

I was pretty disappointed. I texted my boyfriend later in the day saying, ‘I tried out the cricket powder. It was not good’. While writing him this text, the thought of it actually made me feel sick. It was like when you smell a bad smell, and then its almost like that smell gets stuck in your nose? I totally had cricket pancakes stuck in my nose all day.

I wanted to give up there and then, but I had already ordered a second sample from a different company to compare. I was not waiting with bated breath.

Attempt number two

When it arrived, I cautiously opened the package. Pale beige. Good start. Gave it a sniff, and while there was a very very slight animal-y kind of undertone, I’d say the main scent was more like malt. So I was willing to try again. This time I made a pan-cooked quick bread, using some spare gluten free sourdough starter I’ve been fermenting, a bit of almond meal, a splash of rice milk and a teaspoon of cricket powder. I’m pleased to say it was a success. No gross flavour, it blended in well with the other ingredients, and I had a slightly higher protein content to my bread. The amount of protein in one teaspoon though? Pretty negligible. I want to try and increase it to the recommended serving size of TWO TABLESPOONS but I’m afraid of wasting a whole bunch of food if it turned into a repeat of attempt number one.
I’m also planning to try out attempt number three – the ‘protein bar’. I’m thinking coconut oil, nuts/seeds, cacao powder/butter, chia seeds, and cricket. Oh and maybe some rice malt syrup, but not much, as I’m trying to condition my body to run more off fat and less off carbs, so Im not relying on a constant carb intake while Im doing my upcoming long distance hike in a couple of months time.

Does anyone know of a good way to eat crickets?? Also if you have ideas of what I can do with the leftover sample number 1 powder…please let me know…

Medications: are they really helpful?

A cool part of my job is getting a lot of training in mental health related matters. Something I went to recently was a workshop run by Mind Recovery College here in Melbourne. The workshop was discussing psychiatric medications, and how we think about them.

The presenters included a psychiatrist and a mental health consultant with lived experience, and they discussed three different theories about medications and how they work:

  1. That depression and other diagnoses are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, and that medication rights this. Interestingly, there isn’t actually a whole lot of supportive data to back up this theory, but just a whole lot of…theories, about how the inside of the brain is working. SSRI’s, for example, were originally developed to be used for another purpose (related to tuberculosis), but in the testing of them they realized people felt less depressed when they were taking them. That was what led them to come up with the theory that depression was an imbalance in serotonin levels. Not the other way around! Now the thinking is that in fact the SSRI’s have an effect on the serotonin receptors, and that has something to do with why they work. But researchers still don’t know exactly what exactly happens to the receptors, or why. Or if that is indeed even the reason that people feel better.
  2. That antidepressants and other psychiatric meds have a ‘psychoactive’ effect (psychoactive means that it changes brain function and thus has an effect on things like mood, perception and cognition). This one is spoken about in depth by Dr Joanna Moncreif – she basically proposes that psychiatric medications are like other, even recreational, drugs – they have an effect on anyone who takes them. The nature of antidepressants is to lift mood, decrease moodswings, etc – and it would do this to anyone, not just someone who’s depressed. The nature of valium is to create a sense of drowsiness and relaxation, and would do this for anyone who took it – but for someone with anxiety, this might be especially useful. I guess the main point here is that she proposes people who are experiencing mental distress are not lacking in any chemical in their brains – rather there is a distressing symptom occurring and the drug just helps to decrease the symptom. Rather like having a headache, and taking a paracetamol – but the fact that this drug works in this situation, doesn’t make a headache a paracetamol deficiency.
  3. The placebo effect – there is a lot written about the placebo effect, and how it can account for a significant amount of people’s improvement when they receive any number of different health care treatments – from sham surgery, to sham acupuncture, to sugar pills. (In case you’re wondering, sham surgery for arthritis in the knee was as effective as the real surgery, in a particular study). Thinking and believing that you’re getting something that will help you, can help you. Rather than this being an emabarassing reality about our gullibility as humans, I find it exciting – it gives so much hope that our own brains can help ourselves to feel better! Indeed, I’ve often wished for an ethically-questionable doctor who would prescribe me sugar pills without telling me. (Although in this day and age, perhaps a sugar-free pill would be more fitting. Hah! Joke.)

pills2

As stated in the workshop I went to, these three theories are not the only ones. But it was a good reminder to me that the ‘chemical imbalance’ theory is just that: a theory. I believed this about myself without question when I first got a diagnosis of depression. If you’ve ever been to a doctor, or had a well-meaning friend or family member talk to you about whatever you’re experiencing, chances are they’ve mentioned chemical imbalances to you too. It’s a common explanation for depression and other mental distresses that is often assumed to be ‘true’.

I’m not trying to shut down anyone who does believe in an imbalance, or who finds any sort of comfort or meaning from that. What I do believe in, is people finding their own path through this crazy journey, and offering ideas about things that might trigger a new thought is something that seems to be a part of my path, right now. I accepted the chemical imbalance theory for many years, and it’s only recently that I’ve been reconsidering how I feel about it. I’m as yet undecided.

What do you think about all this? Do you believe in the chemical imbalance?

The one thing you need to do to be healthy (it’s not what you think)

The one thing I would suggest you do to be healthy, is stop reading articles like ‘the one thing you need to do is…’ and trying to apply them to your own life.

 

We are living in this somewhat crazy world full of social media and online marketing, and click bait is where it’s at. It’s also all about random people who have gained social-celebrity status by being attractive and flexible telling the masses how they should change their lives in order to be more healthy (skinny, happy etc). This could be by going vegan, working out in accordance to a particular guide which will whip your flabby body into a bikini-ready state (just look at all the before and after photos!) or drinking a particular bum-flavoured tea.

Can you tell this culture doesn’t sit well with me?

I was walking on the beach recently, first thing in the morning after waking up while on a solo camping trip (an aside – this is a great kind of trip for pondering life). As I strolled I was considering my own health and what I need at the moment. I came up with a few things that I’d like to change in my current lifestyle. I’m not going to tell you the nitty-gritty of the particular things I settled on, because you know what? They won’t be the same for you.

(Well, given that we’re all humans and many of us are suffering from similar afflictions of too much stress and not enough sleep etc, some of them might overlap, but you know what I mean – my prescription is not your prescription.)

salad-498203_960_720

salad-791643_960_720

food-healthy-man-person

I really believe that people are their own experts.

I did some training recently in Recovery philosophy, which is a framework used in mental health. The philosophy is that everyone is on their own journey; that people already have what they need in order to be well; and that their recovery/wellbeing is up to them and what they want it to be, not what a mental health clinician or psychiatrist tells them it should be. I think the same philosophy should apply in the whole of health care. What you need to be healthy is best known by you, because you know yourself from the inside out. So much of the time people know what it is they need (more sleep, less stressful work, healthier eating, less drinking, the list could go on) and they don’t need someone to tell them that, they need someone to support them to make those changes. But when the decision comes from you, where you say ‘this is what I need’ the motivation is so much stronger to actually create the change.

This is not discounting the role of doctors or health professionals: what you most need, at time, might be to seek the expert opinion from a specialist or doctor or naturopath or exercise physiologist – but on your terms. Going at a time when you’re ready, when you’ve decided this is the best course of action for your own wellbeing.

What do you need to be healthy? Let me know in the comments or drop me an email instead!

Why exercising because you think you’re fat is ineffective

Fat shaming.

It’s a topic that I feel really strongly about. There is such a culture of ‘we are so fat, everyone needs to do whatever they can to lose weight’ in Australia. If you’re fat, people automatically jump to blaming and shaming (neither of which is helpful when it comes to making change). There is this underlying opinion that if you’re fat, you must be lazy. I once saw a post on Facebook where a ‘friend’ wrote that he was disgusted when he saw obese people on mobile scooters, because, he said, they were obviously so fat because they were lazy and didn’t like to walk (and rode a scooter instead). I don’t usually enter into debate with people on Facebook, but on this occasion I couldn’t help myself, and asked him if he’d stopped to consider that perhaps a person might have a disease, injury or disability that stops them from being able to walk far, and they put on weight after that because their metabolism was greatly affected? Telling overweight people that they are disgusting or lazy is just a way to shame and blame.

images

Shame and blame are ineffective.

As I’ve written about before, shaming people doesn’t actually do much to create change. It’s an ineffective tool. Yes, there are a large number of people who go to the gym day in and day out because they think (or someone has told them) that they’re fat, and need to be thinner (if they want to get a partner/look good in a bikini/get famous on instagram…) However, I would argue that exercising from this frame of mind isn’t actually making you much healthier.

Your thoughts affect your body.

Your body is an intricately complex system, with all of its parts affecting all its other parts. What you think affects your physiology, and how you move affects the resting state of your body. If you’re exercising hard, pushing yourself too much, and feeling stressed every day because of how overweight you think you are, you are possibly putting your body into a state of chronic inflammation. Ongoing inflammation really screws up your body’s systems, and has been linked to everything from developing heart disease to cancer to autoimmune disorders. Michelle Bridges infamously wrote about how getting fit isn’t ‘fun’, and exercise professionals should stop promoting it as such. But in my opinion, if you’re hating what you’re doing when you’re moving your body, and you’re only moving because you hate yourself, you’ve got it wrong.

exercise-because-you-think-youre-fat

Well, fuck it. I’ll stop exercising then.

Nope, that’s not the point I’m trying to make. Moving your body is one of the best ways you can look after your health – but I reckon that it makes a difference WHY you’re doing it. Regardless of your weight or weight loss goals, if you decide to move your body from a place of love and care for yourself, you are changing the internal environment of your body. There’s no doubt that being significantly overweight is a risk factor for many chronic diseases, including heart disease and arthritis, but there’s no reason that you can’t begin to lose weight from a place of love and care, instead of from a place of fear and shame. Moving your body because it feels good and brings you joy is a world away from slogging it out on the treadmill even when you hate it. Check out this amazing video of real women moving their bodies because they love it – it’s super inspiring!

Map that shit out.

If you want to get more active, eat healthier food and even lose weight, getting clear on the why is super important – what your values are behind these choices. It’s also the way to make choices from a place of self-care, instead of self-hatred. I’ve got another blog post coming up about how to lose weight, with love, where I’ll go into this in more detail. For now, just know that knowing why you want to lose weight is key.

Why do you move your body? Is it because it feels good or because you think you’re not good enough? Let me know in the comments.

Why I’m writing my own prescription (and why you can too)

I often prefer to call myself a coach when I’m working one-on-one with people who want to make positive changes to become healthier.

Rather than being a health professional who tells someone what to do, I’m allowing people to tap into their own intuitive wisdom about what they really need to be healthy. Because while I know what works for me personally (or at least, I’m learning!) and I know what the Australian healthy guidelines are for topics such as eating and exercise, every human is an individual with unique needs, and they know themselves best. A football coach doesn’t think he could play the game better than the players themselves right? In the same way, I don’t think I know your health better than you do.

write-your-own-prescription

 They already know what they need

Most of the people I work with have received at least somewhat of an education and have usually done their own reading and research into various topics, so they already know what it is they need, they are just having trouble doing it. Think about it. Is there an area of your life (moving your body, eating, work/vocation, finances, sexual health, spirituality) where you know intuitively that there is something that if you went about it differently, you’d have better health? I’m sure there is. So, it’s not a lack of knowledge that is missing. It’s a lack of motivation, understanding, action or knowing how to change that holds people back.

And that’s where I come in.

Often, people are looking for someone to be accountable to, someone to celebrate wins with and talk though challenges, rather than someone to tell them what to do. Of course, in my role as a health professional, if someone is really stuck, or asks me for advice on a specific topic, I am able to offer suggestions and ideas that they might want to try. But I don’t go in shouting ‘here’s an eight week plan I’ve made for you, off you go!’. It’s about sitting with people, helping them uncover their own desires, intuitive wisdom, and facilitate a deeper understanding of and communication with themselves. It’s quite a humbling experience for me, and one I’m grateful to be able to practice.

 I do this as well.

I’ve also been writing my own plan for living a meaningful life alongside depression. Writing this sort of plan for yourself requires some experience, knowledge and understanding of yourself. It’s necessary to spend time – days, weeks, months (years!) observing yourself and your habits. It also does take some discipline – sometimes the things we know are good for us are hard to do (stop watching TV, anyone?). However, the beauty of writing your own prescription is that you get to say what’s best for you. Because really, you’ve been around for your whole life – who else knows you better? Certainly not a health professional you’ve just met.

why-you-can-too

 Doctors are still good, too!

There is no doubt that modern medicine has offered us many life improvements and saved many thousands of lives. Only last week I ended up with tonsillitis and was pretty happy about the existence of antibiotics. I’m not AT ALL saying that you should stop seeing health practitioners. If you have a complex or acute illness or injury, you need to get yo’self to a health professional, stat. What I am saying, is that you can start to take responsibility for your own health, and making movements towards changing it. You don’t need a doctor to tell you that you should exercise more before you start moving your body. You don’t need to wait until you are in the early stages of diabetes before you start making changes to your dietary habits. You can tune in to yourself now, and let your intuition guide to as to what you really need to be well. And if your intuition tells you that part of your prescription involves working with a health professional, whether a supportive coach or someone that offers specific treatment, then that’s awesome. Because that’s you, feeling empowered to do what feels right for your health and your body.

Do you ever have a hunch that you know just what you need to be well, but have trouble actually taking the action or making the change? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

 

Goodbyes are so hard (or, why I’m saying see ya later to TV)

I’m currently working on something that’s been years in the making.

That thing is: not being on anti-depressant medication. I have to say, it’s been pretty tough the last few months. Part of how I’m going about it is writing my own prescription for what I need to live a meaningful life. This involves a number of things, which I’m planning to write about soon in an up-coming blog post (stay tuned!).

One of the factors of my plan? Less TV.

This comes about because I’ve noticed a recurring pattern of action and response. The action is : watching TV, whether episodes in a series or a movie, usually with dinner (or lunch!), and may be anywhere from one twenty minute episode to three movies in a single day (yep, Oceans 11, 12 and 13 one after the other! Yes, it was epic).

I don’t have a belief that watching TV is ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’, rather, I’ve noticed that for me personally, when I switch it off after finishing, most often I feel a bit crappy. Either tired, or bored, or just kind of empty and frustrated. Which tells me: TV is not filling my cup or meeting my needs.

I’m also noticing that increasingly, while the TV is on, I’m picking up my phone and just casually checking in on instagram or something similar. Which tells me: I’m not fully engaged in the TV watching.

The hard part though?

I have the thought ‘All I want to do is lay on the couch and watch TV’ multiple times a day. It’s a really tricky part of depression, (and also everyday life!) where our thoughts really aren’t true, or helpful. In the case of this thought, I have tried appeasing it, and going ahead and watching the TV, and I’ve also tried opposing it, by going to work or going for a run, or doing anything else. As I mentioned, when I’ve been appeasing the thought, I’m mostly ending up feeling crappy. When I’ve been opposing it? I usually end up feeling better.

So I’ve decided to make a call – this thought is no longer helpful, and therefore I’m going to let it be there without letting it run my life. My more in-tune self knows that I feel better when I do something that isn’t watching TV, so that’s what I’m going to do.

goodbyes-are-so-hardThe problem remains, I’m still going to have the thought that I want to watch it. How do I deal with that?

Three things:

  1. Practice ACT principles of making space for the thought through mindfulness and breathing practices, allowing it to be there, and make a choice to act based on my values, and
  2. Prepare alternatives for those times when I want to watch it.
  3. Not go cold turkey. I’m allowing myself TV nights on Friday and Sunday.

The alternative activities I’ve come up with so far are:

  • have a bath
  • read a book
  • do some colouring in
  • do some writing
  • do some cooking

Have you got any other ideas about what to do in the evening that doesn’t involve a screen? Do you want to watch less TV too?