The Bibbulmun: day twenty – Noggerup -> Grimwade

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. Here’s a few excerpts from my journal.

Again, just getting through the day rather than enjoying or savouring it. Feet seem to be getting worse. Had my slowest day yet, <4km p/h with many rest stops (albeit short ones) and feet still killing by time arrived (23km). Annoying as it seems feet are only thing holding me back from walking more – rest of body isn’t too bad (although shoulders sore every day and left hip…).

Fucking cold weather – had some hail during the walk, and just lying here my fingers are cold. Looking forward to not sharing the hut with these guys after tonight. Have discovered that I don’t like walking just in-front of or just behind people – competitiveness kicks in and I keep sort of rushing. Odd weather today – clear/cloudy/still/windy/rainy/hail/sunny/freezing/warm – like being in Melbourne! (haha). Happy to see first sighting of peppermint trees – tiny teaser of being closer to the coast (long ways to yet hobbits).

More about this couple – it’s seeing the nagging (her at him mostly) that makes me not want to be like that with Linton. ‘I thought you were saving your phone battery’ ‘I am’ ‘well you’re listening to music and scrolling thought it…that’ll use it up’. It’s funny how it looks when you see it in other people…Bit poopy again today, after a ‘solid’ morning. Suspect solidness may have been from gluten, and lack of solidness from ++ sugar?? Eating so much sugar. It’s gross. Currently about to eat a snickers while I listen to some Harry. (These guys also have sore feet – at least it’s not just me).

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.

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…

Is this the end of The Mind Movement? (you tell me)

Hey there!

This note has been a long time coming, right? I haven’t written for some time. Due to a few different reasons, but there’s a couple of biggies. Namely the following:

  1. My life has changed a lot in the last 6 months. In a good way! I’ve quit my job, moved house, I’m doing new things. I’m really happy with how things are going.
  2. With this change has come a change in where my attention and curiosity are focused. I loved Elizabeth Gilberts talk on hummingbird curiosity and following these roads, so I’m rolling with that.
  3. Part of this shift in focus has meant that I’m less focused on the scientific world of exercise and mental health. Which was a big part of starting the blog.
  4. Part of the change in my life has also been a change in some of my theories/opinions on …life stuff. For example, I’m leaning away from our current western medical definition of depression as an ‘illness’ caused by brain chemical imbalance, and exploring other ways of seeing depression, such as that written about by Kelly Brogan.
  5. A big, big part of where my interest is going is into wilderness and nature. I’m very interested wilderness therapy, equine experiential learning, bushwalking/hiking, and I’m currently planning a long distance thru-hike for myself. I see all of this as very much related to mental health and wellbeing, as well as movement. But at the same time, I see it as a very different approach to the more traditional ‘gym workout three days a week for 12 weeks to see if your mood improves’ typical ‘evidence based’ exercise for mental health.
  6. I ended up being ‘depressed’ (I’m currently unsure how I want to frame that particular title) for much of last year, which left me feeling really depleted, and like I didn’t have much of anything left to offer to other people (including you lovely blog readers).
  7. I’m really, really, really over the whole online fame/instagram/marketing game at the moment. The idea of yoga poses in natural landscapes, pictures of lattes with props arranged just so and the like is just so not my game right now. (Totally fine for others to go ahead if thats what they’re into! This is not an attack!). I’m finding it difficult to fit myself in to current popular social media trends and would prefer to be a bit more dirty, gritty, swear-y and real. Not that I’ve been inauthentic in anything I’ve written, but I’ve often censored myself for fear of offending, and often feel the need to provide linked evidence whenever I state an opinion. And I’ve found myself, from time to time, trying to create posts or photos to be more like those peeps who have 1000’s of followers, coz that’s what the world says is a good thing for a blog and for a business. TBH, I’m a bit over that. I just want to write what I want to write, while giving zero fucks.

So there’re a few big changes, right?
What I’m questioning at this point is the following:

  1. Should I keep the blog going in its current form? Was it helping anyone? Was anyone reading it? Were people getting any meaning from it?
  2. Should I divert the focus of the blog incrementally towards the things I’m currently into (aikido, hiking, alternative ways of looking at mental health. Feminism, energy healing, horses. Sustainability. SLOW (seasonal, local, organic, whole) food. Tuning into the seasons and living accordingly.)
  3. Should I start a new blog about the non-movement related stuff I’m doing at the moment? (see above).
  4. Should I give up the blog altogether and just write things for myself? And not publish it?
  5. Should I just do what Ive been doing and avoid all these questions by not writing anything and leaving the blog sitting there?

I’d love your feedback on this, because as much as I have written this blog as place for me to record my own thoughts, I’d hate to shut it down if people were finding meaning in it. I just feel uncomfortable with it sitting here doing not much. It’s kind of like that nagging thought: Is there something I forgot? Did I leave the oven on or something?

Hope you are all making meaning in your lives and finding a way to move that works for you.

Big love,

Louise xx

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.)

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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.)

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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 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.

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 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.

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 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.