Why You Scientifically Need The Outdoors

Fun fact: I’m originally from a country town but have lived in cities for around 15 years.

I’m not sure I’ll ever give up city living – I love places with lots of culture, people and I must admit I also like the sense of anonymity that urban life brings.

But I’m not a city slicker at heart.

One thing I can’t give up is getting outside… and not just in the central business district of a city for a quick sandwich at lunchtime.

Being outside in nature gives me energy and I’m well known for finding a beautiful walking path wherever I go.

After discussing this with a friend who feels similarly to me, she told me it’s a real theory called biophilia - an innate and genetically determined affinity of human beings with the natural world - and here’s why you need it:

It grounds you

My kinesiologist picked up on my need for the outdoors too.

It sounds a little weird but she asked me once if I put my bare feet on the grass every day… I thought ‘my life isn’t Pretty Woman lady’ (who could forget this scene?).

So no I wasn’t putting my bare feet on the grass every day but since consciously starting I realise how amazing it feels. Seriously – try it.

It gives you perspective

There’s nothing like looking out at an incredible view of a beach or forest or any kind of natural scene and realising how insignificant you and your issues are in relation to the rest of the planet.

I don’t mean to be flippant about what’s going on for you, but I find my issues easily fade into the background when I’m looking out on something so much grander and more beautiful than my tiny life.

It’s good for your health

Ok this one is pretty obvious. Getting outside, fresh air and the exercise that often comes with it – whether it be a leisurely walk, cycling, or abseiling – is really great for you.

My advice would be to try and come up with one activity a week that takes you outside.

Make some of them easy – for example, I walk along the creek just behind our house, and some of them more challenging – location wise or physically, and enjoy the weekly benefits.

Do you love getting out in nature? What changes do you notice in your day when you get outside? 

How I Stay Healthy At Work

As I’ve mentioned here and here, I’m well into the principles of intuitive eating.

‘Healthy’ isn’t the restrictive word it used to be to me though.

Today it’s a way of eating and moving my body that makes me feel energised, light and able to make the most of my days.

I don’t want to eat bland, healthy food that leaves me longing for more, and nor do I want to punish my body with grueling exercise.

But I also acknowledge I don’t live in a bubble.

At work there is the temptation of morning tea cakes, free pizza for lunch and a vending machine that calls my name when I’m stressed and/or bored (how kind of it).

So in order to maintain my version of healthy, I have a few tricks I use at work that keep me feeling good.

Be armed with snacks

Not having healthy snacks around me is a one way ticket to eating foods that make me feel unwell.

I stock my drawer with nuts, fruit and popcorn most weeks. This makes sure that when I’m feeling the urge, I’ve got something I can grab and snack on that will not make me feel sluggish.

BYO lunch or rotate some healthy options

After working in the middle of nowhere for almost five years, I am pretty damn good at making my lunches. You can read more about my meal prepping tips here.

However, if I’ve lost cooking motivation or I’m out of lunch ideas, I have a few local healthy options (let’s face it, 99% of them are one of my favourite cuisines - Japanese) that I rotate.

I feel just as good eating those as if I had brought my own lunch in.

Loosen the reins so you don’t splurge on Friday

On Fridays there is a different feeling in the air. I often have lunch with coworkers and a chilled glass of white wine is calling my name by 4pm.

A few years back, this was usually a slide into splurging and sometimes a whole weekend of eating and drinking to excess.

However, these days I realise I need to have this much fun every day, in one way or the other.

If I treat myself in other ways throughout the week, I’m less likely to go crazy and feel blergh every Saturday morning.

Do it if you want to, then move on with your life

This is definitely my most important tip.

If your body wants a piece of pizza, or a cookie with your coffee or a pint of beer at Friday lunch, HAVE IT.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying those guilt-free, then moving on with your life.

Don’t obsess about it, or promise yourself you’ll be better tomorrow.

Simply enjoy the moment, listen to your body and move on with your life. Seriously.

How To Listen To Your Hunger

The path to intuitive eating is paved with many insightful and challenging concepts.

One that I’ve grappled with is becoming aware of my hunger and fullness.

The concept is simple, yet was not often used by me - when you get hungry, eat. When you start to feel full, stop eating. Repeat.

Old Thinking

1. If I don’t eat when I have the chance, I’ll eat something that’s ‘bad’ for me.

The fear here is that if you miss your chance to eat, you’ll make a ravenous, unhealthy decision when you have access to food and overeat.

Think ‘I need to eat before I go to this meeting’ as an example - even if you’re not actually hungry.

2. If I don’t eat as soon as I get hungry, I’ll eat something that’s ‘bad’ for me.

Girlfriends of mine have confirmed they have almost identical thinking. Similar to the thought above, you’re afraid you’ll be caught unawares if you get too hungry and will be unable to stop eating.

As soon as you feel an inkling of hunger, you take care of it.

It’s really a fear of being hungry or, even more deeply, a fear of scarcity.

3. If I don’t finish my meal, I’ll regret it later and be hungry again too soon.

I admit I still hate wasting food, but I apparently didn’t like listening to my body either...

Rather than eating until satisfied, I would usually eat whatever portion size was in front of me. It was mostly out of concern that I’d get hungry again too soon if I didn’t finish my food then and there. Crazy right?

Through Finally Free and Paige from Healthy Hits the Spot, I’ve learned to listen to my hunger via a scale of 1 to 10.

The recommendation I follow is that I eat when I’m a 4 out of 10 with hunger (stomach starting to hurt/rumble) and I eat until I’m a 7 out of 10 (starting to feel full/hunger is satiated).

New Thinking

1. I don't need to eat on auto pilot.

Once I started using the above scale, I realised that I was following an eating routine day in, day out. For example, I usually don’t need my mid-morning snack and can wait until lunchtime before I became a 4.

I was used to constantly preventing the hunger and eating at those routine times.

Now I wait for the signs from my body.

2. I look forward to hunger.

How good is it when you eat when you’re truly hungry? Rather than thinking of hunger as a bad thing, I now look forward to it.

I know I’m going to enjoy my food so much more when it’s meeting that need of stopping the rumble in my stomach.

3. I can stop eating when full and enjoy the rest later.

This one is a challenge for me, but so rewarding when I follow through.

If you’re really enjoying food but have reached a 7 and have some left (even just 2 bites...), put it away for later.

Those last bites (pushing you beyond a 7) will never taste as good as finding the delicious leftovers in the fridge later that day or the next day and enjoying it (as a 4) fresh, all over again.

You will enjoy it so much more when you’re hungry, rather than piling it onto an already full stomach.

Do any of these thoughts ring true for you?

Do you listen to your body when it comes to hunger?

 

My Social Media Purge

 

Around two months ago, I went through a total social media purge. It was spurred on by my goal this year to no longer stress about my weight, and involved wiping my phone clean of any diet / fitness / health-related accounts that were not creating positivity in my life.

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Feedly (my blog reader) were trawled for accounts along these lines, and I also deleted any apps that were bringing me down – namely, MyFitnessPal.

Motivation Turns to Demotivation

In the following weeks, the epiphany struck. Accounts I thought were ‘encouraging’ me, like Lorna Jane, Tone It Up and Tracy Anderson, were really just blasting my subconscious day after day with perfect meals, sculpted abs and twice-daily workout check-ins.

And you know what? The overarching feeling was that I was not good enough. Not even close to being good enough.

I wasn’t cooking clean enough meals or meal prepping enough food. Working out three times a week was not going to cut it, if I was going to reach these aspirational heights.

 Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Moments of Clarity

Since the social media cleanse, my mindset and outlook have improved remarkably. I am no longer absorbing messages of health and fitness perfection every time I look down at my phone.

I actually now feel a jolt when a random photo or article shows up in my feed of someone at the gym in perfect neon workout gear.

Your Turn to Cleanse

I think this cleanse could work for so many of you, and not just in the area of health and fitness.

Are you into fashion? Or interior design? Or travel?

Are the accounts you’re following in your interest area making you feel motivated and positive? Or are they making you feel less than, like you’ll never achieve the perfection beaming at you from your iPad?

Go and look through your social media accounts now and really assess the content you’re consuming. I think you’ll be back to thank me.

 Ahh, much better.

Ahh, much better.

My Favourite Health and Fitness Instagram Accounts

And if you are into health and fitness, here are six inspirational accounts that make me feel great when I’m looking through my Instagram feed.

If you do purge, please leave a comment below and let me know any benefits!

The Top 3 Workouts To Try At Home

 
 Can't face the outside world today? I know the feeling...

Can't face the outside world today? I know the feeling...

Did you wake up today with grand plans to go for a run? Did you promise yourself you’d get to that gym class straight after work today? Or did you decide to stay off the booze Friday night and finally get up for that 8am yoga class on Saturday?

Did your mind then start to play tricks on you?

It’s too cold, it’s too hot, I’m too tired, I worked hard today and deserve a night on the couch, I’ve earned a sleep-in.

You are not alone! I have danced this dance with myself numerous times and guess what? I have never regretted exercising. Ever. Really. I always feel better and almost always end up with more energy than I started with (unless I’m hungover - then I just need a lie down).

But, I have a secret. On the days when I really can’t drag myself out of the house, I depend on my trusty friend YouTube. Pulling on my ugliest, most comfortable gym wear and sluggishly crawling into the study is much easier than facing the world sometimes. And there is so much material to draw on...

Below are my three favourite YouTube options for you to try out. You can grunt, cry or lie down in the middle of the workout and the instructor will not judge you. Go forth and exercise!

Tone It Up

I found Karena and Katrina from Tone It Up about two years ago now. I was a little dubious to start with as they seemed very attractive and a little too chirpy (not always what you need on a lazy day). They also exercise in bikinis quite frequently.

I’ve come around now though. They have a huge amount of free resources online, and provide stacks of videos focusing on different body parts (arms/abs, legs, booty) and also have yoga, HIIT and foam rolling routines. The beach setting and their aspirational bodies also help.

Some of the earlier TIU videos are a bit hit and miss with timing and reps, but most of the recent ones are great. My current favourite is the KettleToning workout, combining kettlebells, yoga and toning. So good and so sweaty. Plus, they have formed a huge online community of women through their website, with many Instagram and Twitter accounts out there to keep you motivated.

Jillian Michaels

jillian-michaels-youtube-workout.JPG

“I want you to feel like you’re going to die”. My dear husband is all too familiar with Jillian yelling at me from the computer screen.

If you want a major workout, always go to Jillian. A heap of her videos are on YouTube on the BeFit channel. She is really tough and her abs will keep you persisting when you feel like face planting into the carpet. Luckily, she does provide different options for fitness levels in most of her workouts.

And, again, if you’re not listening to her podcast, do so immediately. She is informative, clever, hilarious and very different to how the media portrays her.

Yoga with Adriene

Yes, I’m cheating on Tara Stiles with Adriene. I love her! She has a relaxed, soothing approach to yoga poses, but also has a great sense of humour and likes making fun of herself.

I’ve only scratched the surface of her workouts, but she’s currently doing a 30 day challenge - great if you’re keen to spend January detoxing with yoga. And they aren’t basic or beginner workouts either, so good if you are a bit further along with your yogi skills.

Side note: I have also just discovered there are numerous Beyonce dance video workouts on YouTube. I’ll leave it to your discretion to participate, and look forward to your reviews…

Do you workout with exercise DVDs or YouTube at home? If so, what are your favourites?

 

9 Things I'm Doing To Make Every Day Feel Like A Holiday

 
seth godin

I spent a week on holiday in far north Queensland (FNQ) recently. Queensland is Australia’s favourite state for sunny beach holidays. I hadn’t been up there in a number of years and my focus was to wholly relax and check out some local attractions (while avoiding crocodiles and jellyfish – yes, really, see below). 

jellyfish

 

It was such a rejuvenating week and I got to thinking – what about it was so great? And how can I bring those aspects into my everyday life so I don’t have to travel to find that holiday feeling? Here’s what works for me and what I’m making time for in my weekly schedule.

Cycling

My husband is really into cycling and often asks me to go riding with him. Although I enjoy it once I get going, I tend to be lazy as it’s not as natural and as relaxing an activity as it is for him. On this trip though, we made the effort to get beach cruisers and check out the coast and surrounding areas. I really loved it, felt relaxed doing it and know it’s a great way to get around our local area in Melbourne.

cycling

 

Yoga

As I’ve mentioned, I’m not a total yoga convert. I do a little each day but rarely commit to an hour long class. They offer yoga on the beach in Port Douglas and I felt so brilliant after taking classes while we were away that I’ve been going to at least one class a week at home.

Walks

Just like I’ve refused some cycling proposals in the past, my husband (and a few of my friends – looking at you Jules!) don’t love to 'go for walks' as they see little point... I understand that view but I love getting out in the fresh air and a FNQ beach doesn’t go astray on the stroll either. I think it’s a great time to chat and relax, so now we're home, as I compromise on the cycling, the husband compromises on the walks for me.

Going out after dinner…for ice cream

Now life’s all about balance, so I certainly didn’t spend the whole holiday on a bike or in a warrior pose. I have very fond memories of family holidays, grabbing an ice cream after dinner and wandering home along the beach. It’s a great mid-week treat after dinner, and makes a regular weeknight seem more special.

Board games

Yup, I love board games. We spent a couple of nights ensconced in Cluedo – one of my favourites as a child. My major tip is: do not try and solve the case after more than 3 glasses of champagne. My confidence levels did not match my actual abilities or memory. After requesting a board game for my birthday, I’m bringing them back at home and it’s a great alternative to electronic devices every night.

Reading

I read a lot in my job and that often leaves me ignoring the stacks of books I want to get onto at home. And leads me back to those devices I mentioned. I read three books while I was away – a real jump for me in recent months. It felt great to escape into some fiction and productive to read non-fiction longer than a blog post.

Minimal social media

You’re getting the picture yeah?! I’d check it for ten minutes in the morning, then maybe another ten minutes before we went out for dinner. And you know what, I didn’t miss that much. It felt great to leave it behind and I’m still working on that now we’re back home.

fruit salad

 

Fruit salad

FNQ has some amazing tropical fruits. Taking the time to make a big batch to last us a couple of days was so worth it, and something I want to do for breakfasts at home now we’re in spring and summer.

9 hours sleep

No alarms on holiday meant I could see how much sleep my body wants. And that greedy thing wants 9 HOURS! Aaaah. Ok, I’m putting some of it down to taking a break after working hard but yup, it pretty much wants up to 9 hours sleep. Considering that would mean a 9.30pm-ish trip to bed and reduced time apres work, I’m not sure I’ll get this many hours all the time, but on weekends and breaks, I’m going to give it a go.

What do you like best about holidays? And how can you bring those behaviours into everyday life?

Where Did J-Lo Go Wrong?

 
J-Lo makes me pensive.jpg

For as long as I can remember I’ve been a ‘feminist’. *da da da dummmm... *

Unfortunately many of my early memories of sporting this title, namely my teen years, are peppered with embarrassing moments, where my views were discounted or made to seem extreme. I was always the friend defending my female classmates from cat calls and skirt flippings and sexist comments. I really hope that doesn’t still happen in schools. Although I’m not that hopeful about that.

Girls on film

Along with being a feminist, I am also a member of one of Australia’s most well-known gym chains. I tend to work out to my own playlists (Footloose soundtrack, I’m looking at you – seriously try it!) but there are music videos on repeat in the gyms, serving as EDM motivation from time to time, or as a distraction while I avoid the next set of squats.

This is where most of my video clip exposure comes from now. Like many of you I’m sure, I used to tape hours and hours of Rage (Australia’s number 1 clip show in the ‘90s) and watch my favourites on repeat.

My gym alternates between songs that work for me (Kid Cudi, Justin Timberlake, Rita Ora et al) and the ones that don’t work for me: Ministry of Sound soft-core clips, featuring women in nurses’ outfits, bikinis, or with nothing on but a whole lot of side boob. I’ve found myself many times giving out major bitchy resting face, while scoffing loudly. Usually, the clips have no premise and there’s zero reason for the women to be portrayed as they are.

Jenny’s lost her way

Last week at the gym, I saw J-Lo and Iggy Azalea's clip for the first time. J-Lo, who rose to fame when I first started going out to clubs, who although somewhat known for her body, shone bright in my and my friends' eyes and had the attitude we all wanted, even while wearing cargo pants and heels. She was Jenny from the block after all. Sorry to do this to you, but watch this video.

 

I’ve always felt an affinity to Jen and as she gracefully entered her mid-40s, I looked on with admiration. I clearly don’t know the story behind Booty, but either she, or someone that works for her, advised it was best to lube up her entire body and rub it against a 24 year old’s. I am 100% behind women being proud of their bodies, but if this, dear friends, is what they’ve got to do to get that message across, I am deeply disappointed and just really, really sad. And if you need more evidence, go and watch Shakira and Rihanna do pretty much the same thing. If this is what a woman has to do to sell records and prove her talent, then I don’t want anything to do with the popular music industry. Seriously, how is this still happening?

Sorry for the depressing Sunday post, but if you’d really like to round it out – read this article about the game show Family Feud. We're better than this, let's show it. 

The anti-yogi becomes a (semi) yogi

 

For years, I didn't get yoga. My mum took it up when I was an early teen, but at that age I had triumphantly taken up 'modern and contemporary dance' (sad but true). I loved it - bouncy stretches to the Top Gun or Footloose soundtrack, high kicks and pivot turns across the studio - I was obsessed. Enjoy one of my favourite dance tunes below. 

 

I've come back to yoga a few times over the past 10 years but I always found it too slow compared to dance ... the music was too 'Enya-esque' ... and the best I could manage was a a Body Balance class around twice a year. 

Once I started lifting weights with HLC, I found my previous flexibility disappeared fairly quickly. I could barely touch my toes anymore and thanks to being tall as a child (and totally embarrassed by that), my bad posture and tight chest muscles were getting worse and worse. 

I can't remember how I first discovered Tara Stiles, but now I can't imagine my days without her. Tara used to be a model but followed her love of yoga and meditation. She owns a yoga studio in NYC, Strala, that I hope to make it to one day. The Strala form of yoga is now taught all over the world and Tara is so real and at ease in her life.

Every morning (almost) for the last six months, I've risen 10 minutes early to do one of her YouTube videos. And there is no shortage. Search whatever you're feeling: 'Tara Stiles morning yoga', 'Tara Stiles energy', 'Tara Stiles sore arms'. However I feel in the morning, Tara's got something for me. It makes such a difference to my outlook and following her blog and Instagram send me little reminders from her world throughout the day.

I think yoga with Tara has clicked for me as she moves quite quickly through the poses (it's no Flashdance but you get my drift) and she's very big on not forcing movement, just 'moving into open spaces'. I've noticed an increase in flexibility, a love of yoga that's had me turning up to classes (including a beach yoga class during a holiday last week) and a more serene frame of mind.

beach yoga_.jpg

One of my favourite 'Tara phrases' gives me a pleasant prompt a few mornings a week. Bleary eyed, I'll be moving through the poses and she'll instruct us to take a deep breath raising our arms above our head, then bring our hands in front of our chest into prayer pose. As Tara says, 'Plug your fingers up into your heartbeat and see if you can feel your heart pumping for you.' This is truly grounding and a wonderful flash of gratitude in the morning.

The man who told me to forget cardio

 
gym

Did I ever really feel healthy?

In January 2011, my boyfriend of six years proposed to me. We had always 'known' that we would stay together but it was a beautiful and somewhat unexpected surprise to be proposed to.

I know many women say this but a wedding is kind of a good opportunity to get in shape and for me that involved shedding around seven kilos that had crept on since 2008. 

Enter my sister-in-law-to-be's personal trainer. Or 'holistic lifestyle coach' as he prefers to be known. My sister-in-law has a fantastic physique and trained regularly with him prior to her wedding in 2010.

HLC (as he shall be known) has had such a positive effect on my life and really does embody ease. I thought I felt good and was above average on the health front when I started seeing him. I was wrong. I started seeing him in May 2011 and still see him weekly in a group setting, so it's almost hard for me to recall how I felt before starting to learn from him. 

My top 3 lessons

The main points I've implemented in my life, and I'll go into these in future posts, are:

  • Lift weights and forget cardio for the most part. Music to my ears!
  • Stop eating processed crud. I remember the first food diary HLC asked me to fill out. Not many natural foods and lots of low fat processed options. 'Not a food, not a food, not a food' he kept repeating as he reviewed it...
  • Eat organic as much as you can.

Wine conquers all

Luckily HLC operates without pressure. The first few months, I'd arrive at our sessions nervous about the bottle of wine I'd guzzled the night before (some habits remain) or the pizza I'd eaten after being too exhausted from work to cook on the Wednesday night. HLC is not about that. He constantly reminds me that by investing in my health I'm ahead of many of the population and that by even trying to focus on stretching and lifting weights, I'm doing great. Training with ease for sure.