The Weight Issue

Every time I open a magazine, particularly health magazines, or I get an update from some of the sites I subscribe to, their key message or articles are about how to lose weight.

How did we become so preoccupied with weight as a society?

It’s everywhere. Eat less of this, more of that. Don’t eat such and such, eat x every day.

Australian supermarkets have become like American supermarkets were 25 years ago. When food shopping whilst on a skiing holiday in the States back then, it was almost impossible to find basic foods that did not have something added or removed. All, supposedly, with the intention of making us healthier.

Since that time, America has become a nation of obese people, with 2 in 3 adults either overweight or obese (http://win.niddk.nih.gov/statistics – 2010). Australia is going the same way with 3 in 5 adults being overweight or obese (http://www.aihw.gov.au/overweight-and-obesity). We are potentially facing an obesity epidemic.

When searching the shelves in the supermarket, I really have to look for the unadulterated and non-modified standard foods, such as milk, cheese, yoghurt, breads, meats, etc.

We have developed a pre-occupation with fats. So many foods have the fat removed from them. But to make them palatable, they have sugar added. We need healthy fats and we don’t need added sugar. It’s best to eat sugar when it occurs naturally in foods.

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I consulted her again when I was diagnosed with early breast cancer 3 years ago, as I wanted to ensure that what I was eating was supporting my body to return to good health. I found her guidance enormously beneficial in assisting my road to recovery.

Post chemotherapy, I put on weight and was struggling to lose it, so I went to see Emma again. This time we looked at my overall lifestyle. I took on eating at least five vegetables a day and increasing my strength-building exercise. I also attended a workshop she was participating in at the Family Wellness Centre and was inspired by what Clinical Hypnotherapist and Master NLP Practitioner, Linda Funnell-Milner, had to say about attitude to food and how hypnotherapy can assist.

So I had a consultation with her and discovered that I had a deprivation mentality about food and felt guilty if I wasn’t eating for weight reduction. I was waiting until I was ravenous before eating and then eating too much. She did two trance sessions with me and suggested I try a new eating pattern:

1.    Eat when you are hungry
2.    Eat what you want to eat – (not what you think you should eat)
3.    Eat consciously, slowly, enjoy every mouthful
4.    Between each mouthful put your knife and fork down
5.    When you think you are full, stop eating

It is important to eat when you are between fairly hungry and full.

How will you know if you are hungry? If you feel a bit hungry, but aren’t sure, drink some water (or peppermint tea). If you are still hungry 15 minutes later, have something to eat. If you’re not hungry wait until you are.

I’ve been doing this for the last six months whilst following Emma’s tips on healthy eating. The results? My weight has stopped fluctuating. I have no guilt around food. I am enjoying everything I eat. Have a treat every now and then. I feel great and am told I look really good.

I have taken on accepting my body just the way it is – athletic with a little roundedness.

In the meantime I’ve started a new venture, The Vital You, healthy cooking workshops for wellness. Learn more about our philosophy, workshops and weekends.

Love your body

This week I had an epiphany. I was in my yoga class, moving gently from one position to another, listening to the teacher and imbibing the gentle music, my movements flowing. A thought entered my head, ‘I love this. I love what my body is doing. I love my body.’ I hadn’t had that thought for a long time.

MeditatingI’ve been reading books, having conversations, meditating and in the background has been a dissatisfaction with my body. Why you may ask? I didn’t like where my body went during and after chemotherapy nearly 3 years ago. It took a long time to heal. I developed mild lymphodaema in my left arm resulting in sleeves, drainage massage and taking a supplement over the last 2 years. My libido disappeared. I felt I had lost the me I knew.

Ever had that feeling or thought? ‘Where did the vital, energised, passionate me go?’ I’ve had it a few times in recent years.

This week I got that ‘I love my body, just how it is.’ It’s a fabulous body, because it’s mine and it looks after me every day. It enables me to do any exercise I want. It gives me the space to meditate every morning. It loves the healthy food I feed it and, if I indulge in eating something unhealthy, it tolerates it, but tells me to keep such indulgences to a minimum. It loves me when I look after it. So what was I doing not loving it?

What are you doing to love your body? Are you nourishing it with exercise? Are you feeding it with delicious fresh, natural, organic foods? Are you easing your mind when it starts to race, giving it a brief holiday to connect with what’s important to you?

Breathe croppedI get my epiphanies when I take time out of my day, whether it be momentary, taking time to breathe deeply, stop, listen, get present. Or for a little longer with a walk – without my phone or music – listening to nature, or with a 10-minute meditation or easing myself through a yoga class.

I get clarity in my time out – ideas, how to solve problems, what conversations I want to have with people. I love it. My body gives me all of this when I allow it to. As of today I have taken on loving my body moment by moment.

Are you loving your body? Are you interested in learning to love your body more and to get all the answers you need from it and your intuition?

The Vital You Weekends are perfect for connecting or reconnecting with YOU. Find out more about our 2-day retreats in Bundanoon.

Are you time poor? Why not start with a half-day workshop in Sydney on Fermenting, Happy Hormones or Feed Your Skin.

Sharing What’s Inspired Me!

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Intuitive Living

What inspires me to blog is a desire to express myself and share with others what I’ve learnt and am learning. It’s also a desire to assist and support others. The sharing of information, experiences and ideas connects us.

Often I think I need to know exactly what I’m going to say before I write. This has been stopping me from blogging for the past few months. Now I know what I want to write about, but I don’t know what I want to say, so I’m letting my pen and the excellent books I’ve read lately do the talking. They’re:

Embracing the Warrior, An Essential Guide for Women by Dr Karen Coates and Vincent Perry;

Beat Cancer, The 10-step plan to help you overcome and prevent cancer (also subtitled How to Regain Control of Your Health and Your Llife) written by leading cancer experts, Prof. Mustafa Djamgoz…

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Dealing with Fear

DoYouFearCancer7 People talk a lot about fearing cancer. They seem to be intimately connected.

False-evidence-appearing-realWhen I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I didn’t feel much fear. I just knew I needed to take action. From the first diagnosis until now, I have generally found my fear comes from those around me. When it visits, I have to take strong steps to keep myself “on the wagon” and fearless so to speak.

The first time I felt momentary fear was when I was having dye injected into me to locate my sentinel lymph node prior to having a lumpectomy and sentinel node removal. The radiologist was talking to me about breast cancer and likely progressions. She said you may find you need to have your ovaries removed. Momentarily I freaked out. I’d gone from being in for a lumpectomy to possibly having my ovaries out. I noticed what was happening and stopped my brain going in all directions and let go her comment, trusting my doctor had me in for a lumpectomy only.

The next occasion was the middle of the night, after my lumpectomy and the woman in the bed beside me was a few hours ahead of me in coming out of her anaesthesia cloud. She was on for a chat about all the details of her cancer, surgery and prior chemotherapy. I had to ask her to stop talking to me. I was starting to get very anxious taking on her fear. I hoped I wasn’t going to go on her journey.

fear-is-in-your-head1I came out of my first surgery feeling confident, until I went to see my surgeon. He told me I had a grade 2 cancer and would require all my left axillary lymph nodes removed, six weeks of chemotherapy, 6 weeks of radiotherapy and 5 years of hormone therapy. That’s when my fear did kick in. I thought I was losing myself, my power and my say over my life. I had become a number, a statistic. That generated a great deal of fear until I started reading, seeking more information and advice.

As I’ve said in a previous blog, the chemotherapy generated the most fear in me. As I started to lose myself, I got very scared. I thought I was dying. I sought help on a number of fronts – acupuncture, meditation, yoga, counselling, shiatsu – to assist me to deal with my fear. Meditation empowered me most and still does.

Once I had finished chemotherapy, I occasionally had friends ask if a friend, who had recently been diagnosed, could call me. Initially I said yes. These calls took me back through my whole experience, bringing up my fear. I had to decline such requests. Any mention of someone with breast cancer tends to kick start fear. Instead of talking I started this blog and have been referring people to it ever since. I hope it is making a difference.

feel-the-fearFear is never far away. Over the past 6 months I have been dealing with mild phantom breast pain and lymphoedema. It is hard not to think the worst when the pain starts. Instead of worrying, I take action and see my lymphoedema physiotherapist and lymphatic drainage massage therapist. Visiting them is always reassuring and sets my mind at rest again. Their treatments are helping my condition. As is my morning meditation. Just 10 minutes seems to set me in a great and peaceful frame of mind for the day.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a birthday dinner and a beautiful young woman started to talk to me about her recent breast cancer experience, her treatment and life on hormone therapy. I could feel her fear. Whilst I talked a little about integrated therapies I have used, the supplements I am on and how effective they have been, I felt her fear ‘invading’ me. I know that sounds dramatic. It was palpable and difficult not to absorb. I suggested she read my blog and if she found it interesting or of benefit, then perhaps we could speak further.

o-BECOMING-FEARLESS-facebookIt took me two weeks after this conversation to stabilise myself and feel fearless again. I realised, no matter how courageous I am, fear is never far away. It’s important to acknowledge it and not let it take me over. Fear is an accomplice of cancer. I believe keeping fear at bay will assist me to stay cancer free.

Being My Best Friend

ImageToday was about recovery. What from? A big challenge I undertook yesterday in a team of four amongst a couple of thousand walkers. We participated in Sydney’s Coastrek, an annual 50km (or 100km if you’re really game) walk from Palm Beach to Balmoral Beach. As I’m not completely mad, I chose to do the 50km.

How did this come about? One of my gorgeous, fit, adventurous girlfriends, who had done Coastrek before, asked me mid last year if I’d like to join her team for this year. I saw it as a great challenge as well as opportunity. It gave me a goal to increase my fitness and get my body back to full health.

Image 2We started training in October with 15km walks every second weekend, then increased to 20km, 25km and finally 30km. Through our training we walked the whole route – roads, soft sand beaches, beautiful bush tracks, stairs, steep driveways and footpaths – covering every type of terrain available along Sydney’s magnificent northern beaches coastline. Once I’d done the 30km walk, I knew my body was up to the 50.

My training also included pilates once a week, yoga twice a week, soft sand walking and my usual beautiful brisk morning walks three times a week. I ate as healthily as I could each day and then determined what gave me energy on my training walks – Bird Bars, Protein Balls and Coconut water for rehydration. And, of course, plenty of water.

This was an achievement for me in so many ways. When I started training my energy level was low on hills and my breathing laboured. I’d put on a few unwanted kilos last year and had developed a mild lymphoedema in my left arm. With Sydney starting to get hot, I was concerned I would aggravate the lymphoedema. Instead, with a managed remedial programme with my physiotherapist and regular lymph drainage from my lymphatic masseur, the fluid in my arm started to reduce and they cleared me to walk. My lungs got stronger, such that I didn’t find the hills difficult and the bonus is I have shed 4 kilos in the process. A win all round really.

Fred HollowsAnother part of our challenge was to raise money for the work of The Fred Hollows Foundation which restores sight to people who are needlessly blind in developing countries and aboriginal communities. Our team raised $5,000 which will see 200 children and adults have their sight restored through cataract operations. It is reassuring that our efforts will make a difference too.

During a Sydney summer, one would expect sunshine, a gentle breeze, a little humidity and heat. A shower or two and 23C was predicted yesterday. Instead we got 20C and pouring rain; so out went the sunscreen and on went the raincoats. This presented us with difficult and challenging conditions. Rather than see the beautiful azure waters of the Pacific Ocean and bronzed bodies spread along the sand, we saw rugged grey waves on deserted closed beaches; except for walkers, of course. There was a steady stream of them along the coastline.

Image 4Our final achievement was to complete the walk within our time goal of 12 hours. Through driving rain, with wet shoes, strong winds, along soft sand, down slippery paths, whilst dealing with long toilet queues and track bottlenecks, we did it in 11 hours 53 minutes and 25 seconds without a cross word, supporting each other all the way.

At the end, even with aching joints and sore muscles, we picked up speed and ran through the finish line to the click of cameras and my husband waiting with a bottle of champagne to celebrate. How lucky were we to have him on our support team.

Thank goodness for massage. I had a wonderful remedial massage this morning which saw my muscle and joint pain disappear. Being totally self-indulgent or responsible, take it as you will, I followed it with a lymphatic massage. The best news was my lymph fluid was down. After all that exercise. What a miracle!

I have come a long way in the past 12 months and am probably in the best mental, emotional and physical state of my life. I am strong and well and that is a great gift. During today’s massage it came to me that my body is my best friend. Why? Because I love it and am a true friend to it! That’s what I’m grateful for today.

Review and Reflect

One of my great and inspirational friends, Kay, who is an executive and leadership coach, regularly gives me insights into how to make the most of life.

With 2013 closing, she took on reviewing and reflecting on the past year. I’ve borrowed the exercise from her, with her permission, of course. I’ve just finished my reflection and review and have realised that, for the past couple of months, I’ve not been present to the amazing things that happened in my life last year. Here’s what I came up with.

GiraffeMost Fulfilling Experiences

  • Touring behind the scenes at Cape Mentelle Vineyard, finishing in the Barrel Room with a degustation tasting lunch and matching wines. Exquisite!
  • Travelling in Southern Africa for five weeks experiencing the food bowl that is South Africa, the magnificent desert of Namibia and the extraordinary animals that roam the national parks. My favourite, the Giraffe.

Biggest Challenges

  • Saying to my oncologist that I would not be taking hormone therapy.
  • Rebuilding my stamina, overall health and mental ability and agility after chemotherapy.
  • Walking 100km over 6 days on the Great Ocean Walk in Victoria 6 months after ceasing chemotherapy.

Best Surprises

  • Attending my 40 year school reunion and enjoying catching up with girls I had been at Primary School with.
  • Receiving a birthday card from Amanda, my Pilates instructor, acknowledging me for my transformation over the past 12 months. Uplifting!
  • My friend, Rachael’s daughter, Poppy, being born on my birthday. A beautiful gift of life!

Best Value for Money
Touring Namibia – high quality accommodation and food in the middle of the desert.

Most Impactful & Highly Recommended Book
Anita Morjani’s ‘Dying to Be Me‘. It transformed my view of life, living and my understanding of the power of the mind in healing.

Favourite Quote
I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. Invictus by William Ernest Henley. I feel empowered and centred every time I read the ending of this inspiring poem.

Lava FlowBest Fun
Photographing hot lava oozing out of the cliff face on the ‘Big Island’ of Hawaii. I took close to 500 photos  in 30 minutes. The ease of digital!

Best Decisions

  • Having 6 months off to travel, get well and enjoy everything life has to offer.
  • Keeping my hair short.
  • Writing this blog. I have loved the writing, soul searching and communication.
  • Taking a 300mm telephoto lens to Africa.

Most Grateful That/For

  • I have returned to good health and have had two ‘all clear’ reports from my doctors.
  • My gorgeous husband who has had a personally challenging year and stood by me the whole way.
  • My family, friends and the health practitioners who have listened and supported me.

Kay suggested REPENTING as well. There is nothing I feel I need to repent for. I had a powerful year. I am proud of myself and what I have achieved. I’m ready to start the new adventure of finding another career path in 2014 and staying connected with all the fabulous people I have around me.

What’s Intuitive Living?

For me it’s listening to my inner voice. All my life my intuition (inner voice) has been talking to me and for a lot of the time I have ignored it. Why? Because I lost faith and trust in myself when I was young. I was taught other people, particularly people of authority – doctors, clergy, teachers and people older than me – were more important and knew more than I could ever know.

My intuition has been knocking very loudly since my mid teens and, up until last year, I didn’t heed it many times. When I have listened to it during my life, my life has hummed and great opportunities and experiences have come my way. I realise there is a cost not listening.

My wake up call was getting early breast cancer. My approach to my treatment was to listen and rely on my intuition. I decided if I was going to live the life I had always wanted to live – in a state of good health, fit, vibrant and at peace – then I needed to start listening to my inner self and heeding it. This is exactly what I did. I had a quick learning curve to find out what I really wanted in the way of health treatment.

It is almost 12 months since I first found the lump. I know I have returned to good health. I feel in balance. I look well and my energy has returned. Last week I did the Great Ocean Walk in Victoria with a girlfriend. We walked 97km is 6 days with 7kg backpacks. It was beautiful, peaceful, exhilarating and I felt a great sense of achievement as I reached Gibson Steps and the first two apostles.

In a week I will have a mammogram and ultrasound followed by an appointment with my surgeon. This will be the moment of truth. Will all the work I have done on creating peace and wellness come together and present a well woman to him? I believe so!