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The 5 Keys to Employee Wellbeing

The working environment is becoming increasingly complex to manage. The lines between working and non-working are blurring. There is a constant pressure to perform, and this is having a dramatic impact on the health of millions of Australian workers.

 

According to DHS, in 2016, absenteeism increased to 9.5 days per employee, at an average cost of $3608. (1) For an ASX-200 organisation, this could mean tens of millions of dollars paid to absent employees every year.

Furthermore, a national survey from Comcare found that “the healthiest employees are almost three times more effective than the least healthy, with the healthiest employees working approximately 143 effective hours per month compared to 49 effective hours per month by the least healthy.” (2)

 

It’s not merely sick-leave that damages organisations, it’s also health-related inefficiency.

 

A simple understanding of physiology makes this finding obvious: An unhealthy brain (and body) functions less effectively than a healthy brain.

 

The Solution

 

To improve employee wellbeing requires more than just motivational posters and a fruit bowl in the lunchroom. Optimum health and fitness require a specific program designed by trained health professionals – one that educates staff on nutrition, exercise and lifestyle.

 

The evidence for large-scale wellbeing programs is coming to the fore. Comcare also reported “There is a wealth of emerging evidence indicating that successful health and wellbeing programs provide an excellent return on investment. For instance, one meta-evaluation looking at the economic return of worksite health promotion programs found on average programs (2):

> decrease sick leave absenteeism by 25.3%

> decrease workers compensation costs by 40.7%

> decrease disability management costs by 24.2%;

 

They concluded: “Global research has found that when employee health and wellness is managed well the percentage of engaged employees increases from 7% to 55%. This research also found self-reported creativity and innovation increases from 20% to 72%.” (2)

 

Considering the above findings, it’s clear there is a strong link between company success and the wellbeing of its employees. This is why I’ve partnered with my old cronies at 5th Element Wellness, to build the corporate world’s first holistic 12-week health and fitness program, The Ultimate Reboot.

 

 Let’s dig deeper into the most important factors that promote employee wellbeing.

 

  1. Nourishing Food

 

No topic on health is more controversial than the food we eat. The combination of emotional bias mixed with fad diets and marketing gimmicks means that navigating the world of nutritional science is more complex than ever. It’s important to receive advice from professionals who have achieved results with clients thousands of times.

 

The purpose of a nutritional program is not to starve the body with the old adage, calories in versus calories out. A well designed nutritional program attempts to increase nutrient density of the body’s tissues, which creates a much better environment for optimal physiology to occur.

 

Counterintuitively much of the time, the more nutrients we eat, the more body fat we lose. This is because we experience better hormone function, optimal neurotransmitter balance, enhanced blood flow and digestion and much more.

 

The primary focus should be on the right types of food, not just on how much.

 

With the perfect meal plan, we can expect to experience a focused mind, positive mood, better digestion, improved sleep, consistent energy levels and of course a trimmer waistline. The importance of good quality nourishing food is essential for optimal health for Australian workers.

 

Tip: Beginning a working day with a nutrient dense breakfast containing high fat and protein with minimal carbohydrates will ensure stable blood sugar levels throughout the day. Eating this way leads to enhanced focus, productivity and mood.

 

 

  1. A Focused Mind

 

A focused mind means a worry-free mind. We know this intuitively. When someone is worried or troubled at work, it’s near impossible to achieve any major goals for that day. This is due to a critical survival hormone known as cortisol.

 

This corticosteroid hormone actively shuts down the prefrontal cortex and instead diverts blood to the amygdala and muscles of the body. When we are in a state of constant fight, flight or freeze, we experience an inability to make clear decisions or even communicate effectively. This can have a catastrophic effect if compounded in the workplace.

 

According to Medibank Australia, “Stress-related presenteeism (employees showing up to work when they aren’t psychologically fit) and absenteeism equate to 3.2 days lost per worker per year.” (3)

 

This means that on average, an employee will have over three days of zero productivity, simply because they have too much on their mind.

 

Often, this can result in poor sleep and a compromised immune system leading to further sick-leave or ineffective working.

 

There are many useful ways to manage stress including:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga, Qi Gong and Tai Chi
  • Spending time in nature
  • Maintaining a regular sleep pattern
  • Eating healthy food
  • Daily exercise
  • Listening to music
  • Being around loved ones
  • Writing in a daily journal

 

While it sometimes may seem like a chore, it is essential for employees to engage in non-work activities they enjoy so that they can be more engaged and fulfilled in their work environment.

 

 

  1. Human Movement

 

We have evolved over millions of years, interacting with nature, swinging from trees, climbing rocks and swimming. Today, however, we’re far removed from our natural human environment. We now sit in a chair, hunched over a desk, under artificial light, breathing stale air, wearing restrictive clothing and experiencing a cascade of stress hormones. Our food is grown, harvested, processed and packaged for us, often hundreds of kilometres away. Our need to walk hundreds of kilometres each week is outsourced to motor-vehicles and other transport. We no longer move how we use to.

 

Our society believes that spending three hours per week dedicated to movement is healthy.

 

However, this is not enough. Our best client results have come when they have moved more often. The more often someone is moving, the more body fat they lose and the more energy they have. It has become evident that the more movement you integrated into the day, the livelier you become.

 

So how do you approach including more movement into your life?

 

Start by walking more. Walk to work and back home; Walk to the supermarket; Walk while taking a phone call; Walk to pick your kids up from school. By walking more, you will stimulate your metabolism, flush blood through your body, open your lungs, deliver nutrients to every one of your cells and most importantly, take a little time to stop and smell the roses.

 

Insight: When you’re not moving, your blood flow slows down, which creates an oxygen deficit in your brain. Increasing the amount of movement, you perform each day can dramatically improve neurochemical balance, resulting in enhanced cognitive performance and feelings of positivity.

 

 

  1. A Sound Night’s Sleep

 

The key to health is the circadian rhythm or our sleep-wake cycle. We have evolved to fall asleep just after sunset and wake up just before sunrise. In today’s modern world this normal rhythm has been altered, and we either don’t get the right sleep or don’t get the right amount of sleep.

 

How much sleep do you need?

 

Sleep regulates about 15-20% of your entire genome, meaning your genes can turn on or off with sufficient levels of sleep. When you deplete your body of sleep over the long term, you can experience severe ill effects ranging from lethargy and depression to psychosis and death.

 

Research has shown that a minimum of 7-8 hours is required for optimal brain function, sex hormone production, fat loss and prevention of certain diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. (4)

 

To support proper sleep rhythms one can implement the following:

  • Spend 5-10 minutes meditating or listening to quiet music before bed
  • Ensure adequate exposure to nature to promote healthy brain waves
  • Eat adequate amounts of food to stabilise blood sugar levels
  • Avoid social media, television and other forms of blue light exposure at night
  • Exercise and move often

 

 

  1. Purpose and Engagement

 

87% of the world’s workers are disengaged. (5)

 

As humans, we have a sincere desire to feel needed and purposeful. Believe it or not, this adds to our sense of wellbeing and can dramatically affect our health. As we discovered previously, our health and wellbeing affect our engagement in work-related activities.

 

After years in a role, we may feel a sense of stagnation or lack of growth, which can affect our motivation and productivity. Thankfully, working toward any goal boosts our motivation in all other pursuits. This makes optimum health and wellbeing a worthy ambition for employees of large organisations.

 

To generate engagement, it is essential to focus on setting goals and measuring results.

 

This can be done with a daily journal coupled with moments of deep introspection. With a clear goal, or path, we have a direction and feel purposeful. By measuring our results, or progress, we continually remind ourselves of our ambitions and further increase motivation. It’s a positive feedback loop.

 

Case Study: The Ultimate Reboot partnered with Telstra to deliver an employee well-being program across many sectors. The program produced excellent results and lessons for all participants however the sector that performed the best had a greater sense of purpose and engagement. This high-performing group was led by an executive director of staff at Telstra. The team had a much more significant sense of program engagement because their leader was highly engaged and highly committed. It’s clear that leadership positions in the workforce play a substantial role in the decision making that impacts the rest of the staff. To ensure greater employee engagement, focus at the top.

 

Find out more how to improve your employee’s wellbeing and engagement at The Ultimate Reboot

 

References:
  1. https://www.dhs.net.au/insight/2016-absence-management-survey-results/ 
  2. https://www.comcare.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/99303/Benefits_to_business_the_evidence_for_investing_in_worker_health_and_wellbeing_PDF,_89.4_KB.pdf
  3. https://www.medibank.com.au/Client/Documents/Pdfs/The-Cost-of-Workplace-Stress.pdf
  4. Cappuccio, F. P., D’Elia, L., Strazzullo, P., & Miller, M. A. (2010). Sleep duration and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Sleep, 33(5), 585-592. 
  5. Gallup. The worldwide employee engagement crisis. 2016

 

 

 

The Fallacies of Fat Fear Mongering

Our society has been conditioned into a hysteric state of lipophobia. What is this terrible mental illness you ask?

It’s the fear of eating fat.

A tremendous effort has been played out (partly for economic gain, and partly out of ignorance) to scare the public away from fat consumption. We’ve all seen the food pyramids from our youths where that tiny fats section is right at the very top. Heaven help you if you even touched fat, and that’s been the paradigm for around 50 years. Fortunately, in recent years, the veil has been lifted and the truth is coming out.

The fact is that dietary fat plays a critical role in our body’s functions. So critical in fact, that we would certainly perish without it… fast!

Let’s start though, with the most confusing point when it comes to the consumption of fat.

You are (not exactly) what you eat

There’s a big misconception that if you eat a high fat diet, the food you eat will somehow bypass your entire digestive & metabolic system and be packed directly onto your hips.

But the reality is that our body digests whole foods into tiny absorbable particles where a number of complex biochemical reactions take place. One of these absorbable particles is a fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA has potent anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer properties and even helps you burn fat (1,2).

How is that so? It increases your body’s ability to transport glucose into the cell instead of being stored as fat. It also helps mobilise already stored fat to be used as energy for physical exercise and mental tasks alike (1).

The more we fuel our body with fat and restrict carbohydrates, the more our body becomes adapted to using fat as an energy source.

A meal consisting of fat and protein increases the hormone leptin that tells your brain you are full(3). Satiation is an incredibly important factor in fat loss as the delicate hormone balance of leptin and ghrelin can become disorientated to lead us to the over-consumption of unhealthy foods. I remember my final day of hiking the Inca Trail in Peru. At 3 in the morning we were fed the Breakfast of Champions: White bread with strawberry jam! Within 15 minutes of setting off, I was about to eat the arm of the unfortunate backpacker next to me. Luckily, I managed to curb my hypoglycemic dizzy spells and make it to Macchu Picchu.

The 5th Element heart healthy approval

One of the most frustrating things we hear is that avocados are bad because they contain too much fat. True, avocados do contain a high amount of fat, but along with it’s other fatty delicious health food counterparts, it’s incredibly nutrient dense.

The type of fats in avocados, olives, coconut, butter, ghee, and many other ‘super fat’ foods don’t actually deposit triglycerides (fat) into our cells or bloodstream; in fact, they decrease serum triglyceride levels as well as the likelihood of cardiovascular disease (such as oleic acid found abundantly in olive oil and lard)(4).

But fat clogs my arteries!

The Fallacies of Fat Fear Mongering

The myth that all saturated fats raise cholesterol came from early studies that didn’t distinguish between saturated and trans fats (5). When you see a solid block of saturated fat you would assume that it looks the same in your arteries.

Not true! Your body doesn’t simply shuttle a block of butter straight from the fridge to your heart, Homer Simpson style. Better yet, stearic acid, the most abundant fatty acid in butter is the preferred source of fuel for your heart (6).

What has been shown to actually clog your arteries is high levels of inflammation in the body as well as high levels of circulating blood triglycerides. Contrary to what you may think, a high fat diet does not raise blood triglycerides (if done correctly). In fact, high triglycerides are more closely correlated with a high consumption of processed foods and simple sugars (7).

There are certainly some fats that you should avoid like the plague (5). These are:

  • Trans-fatty acids that appear in heavily processed and fried foods
  • Hydrogenated fats such as margarine (to make a normally liquid and perishable fat more shelf-stable, they add hydrogen to the polyunsaturated fatty acid chain)
  • Most shelf-stable cooking oils (e.g. safflower, canola, corn oil, etc.) contain high levels of pro-inflammatory polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega 6’s.

Better fat, better cells

Our cellular membranes are made up of something called a phospholipid, which is a phosphate head supporting a lipid bilayer tail. In English, this means the main component of our membranes is fat. So it’s no surprise then that when we become fat-phobic we severely damage our cell’s important casing.

This has implications for every function of our body, from cognitive performance to youthful looking skin; plainly, a fat-restricted diet is not a good idea.

Fat-soluble nutrients are a very important consideration of a high-fat diet (8). These nutrients dissolve in and are only absorbed through lipid molecules. The shuttle bus of most nutrients including the water-soluble B vitamin group is called coenzyme Q10. CoQ10 is also fat-soluble, thereby making most nutrients requiring fat to be absorbed properly. Vitamins A, D, E & K are all fat-soluble and the importance of these essential vitamins in almost every biological function in your body cannot be overstated. Despite what some experts might say, there is absolutely an epidemic of deficiencies of these aforementioned vitamins in the Western World. This has a downstream effect on our guts, heart and brain.

It’s worth noting that choosing fats and oils from cold-pressed organic sources is best, and if it involves animals, make sure it is grass-fed. Better fat to better health.

No, our brain does not need glucose for fuel

A hypothesis in primatological history suggests that our hominin ancestor’s brain massively increased in size at around the time we began eating meat some 200,000 years ago. This is suggested by a change in tooth structure and fossil evidence of stone tools & cut-marked bones.

An increase in meat consumption often correlates with an increase in fat and total caloric intake. Our brain, which is made up of cholesterol itself, uses 20% of our body’s total energy to function, so those added calories would have definitely assisted us in creating shelters and finding food. The insulation sheath covering our nerves, called myelin, is also made up of fat. With better myelin sheaths, we can make better decisions faster, due to efficient synaptic development.

Additionally, fats and proteins are the main stimulants of our nervous system’s chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters. A breakfast of meat and nuts can raise the levels of excitatory neurotransmitters of dopamine and acetylcholine, giving us the energy to start the day right (9). This is why a high-fat diet with restricted carbohydrate intake has been shown to improve mood, cognitive performance and mental health (9).

Butt… Butt… Butyrate!

Did you know that butter, provided it is from organic, grass-fed sources is now being regarded as a superfood? Apart from CLA’s effect on cancer, fat loss and inflammation we spoke about earlier, butter also contains another fatty acid- Butyric acid. This short-chain fatty acid is most easily found in butter- and your large intestine.

The bacteria in your colon, specifically Clostridium butyricum species, assist in the production of butyrate to further feed & repopulate good gut bacteria, boost immunity, improve digestion & nutrient absorption, regulate bowel movements, heal the lining of the intestinal wall and other vital functions (6).

So get more grass-fed butter on your plate, as we continue to uncover the amazing benefits of this incredible age-old superfood.

A fatty detox

The last point we will cover is one of the most confusing topics for the health and wellness readers: detoxification

You may know that the liver and gallbladder are the main detoxifiers of the body. But you may be less familiar with the idea that fat is a functional component of these two organs.

When we consume fats or oils, the liver and gallbladder work to produce bile (a fat emulsifier) to allow proper digestion.

This stimulates peristalsis (movement) of the gut to aid in the elimination of stool and the associated toxins (10). Make sure to include plenty of vegetables and fibre when transitioning to a high-fat diet as unexpected stops to the bathroom may become a little inconvenient (don’t ask).

We hope this article has helped you become more aware of why you shouldn’t fear fat. A high-fat diet is a delicious and sustainable transition into better health. You can now look forward to feeling unstoppable, to turn yourself into a fat burning machine by consuming more fats. Stick to the types we mentioned in this article and be on your way to better mood, energy & performance and live your days with vitality.

 

References:

Poliquin, C. (2014). Butter Up for Health: http://www.strengthsensei.com/butter-up-for-health/

Mohammadzadeh, M. Faramarzi, E. Mahdavi, R. Nasirimotlagh, B. Jafarabadi, M.A. (2013). Effect of conjugated linoleic acid supplementation on inflammatory factors and matrix metalloproteinase enzymes in rectal cancer patients undergoing chemoradiotherapy. Integrative Cancer Therapies 12(6) 496–502. DOI: 10.1177/1534735413485417

Heshka, J.T. Jones, P.J.H. (2001). A role for dietary fat in leptin receptor, OB-Rb, function. Life Sciences: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0024320501012012

Haeiwa, H. Fujita, T. Oleic acid promotes adaptability against oxidative stress in 3T3-L1 cells through lipohormesis. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry: http://www.n

How to Navigate The Charlatan Supplement Industry

We all know that one person who clings to the newest supplements and every bit of health advice they can get. Whether it’s green powder, whey protein or exotic wild-African black seed oil grown high up in the mountains of Ethiopia, there’s always someone who seems to be clutching at straws when it comes to their health. I know because that person was me!

When I first caught onto the health food movement, I must admit, I became quite a pain to be around. The judgment of my friends and family was returned with ridicule and alienation. I soon became the lone nut dancing on the hill.

That was over six years ago, and although mainstream culture is definitely starting to dance with me, I now bring a different awareness to the predicament of being a wellness wayfarer.

This brings me to the purpose of this article. I’ve spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours researching and buying products from one of the most profitable and charlatan-filled industries around: The Supplement Industry. Using my own journey to health I want to shine a light on some important choices that need to be made when choosing a supplement.

When we buy supplements it’s often by the recommendation of a friend, family member or health practitioner (i.e. naturopath). The hope is that it fixes whatever we perceive to be wrong with us. Whether it’s fat loss, muscle gain, better sleep, fewer allergies, improved fertility or eliminating acne, there should be a tangible, measurable result from taking a supplement.

Hereby lies the first problem: 

Most people don’t know what they’re trying to fix.

 

When I first arrived at 5EW, my face, neck, and chest were covered in hives, an allergic skin condition. While I had other issues going on, this was my main problem. Over the six months prior, I’d received advice from dozens of people giving an array of strategies, ranging from rubbing egg yolks and coconut oil on the affected area to receiving two years worth of experimental immunisations costing $1,800.

What’s a man to do!?!

Luckily, soon after getting the job at 5EW, I sat down with Fitness Director Dave O’Brien with my blood results in hand. He confidently told me I had leaky gut and needed to do a strict three-month protocol to fix it. By week five, my allergies were completely gone and I had the newfound energy I never knew possible.

My point is this, I thought I had a skin or immune condition but I really had a sieve for an intestinal tract. You must know the root cause of the problem if you truly want to fix it. Herbal allergy-relief tablets or anti-histamines would’ve eliminated my symptom, but not my problem. Five years down the track I’d be much worse off had I taken the advice of the immunologist, charging $600 per 30 minutes visit.

Once we accurately diagnose the problem, the next step is to decide what’ll fix it. At 5th Element Wellness, we support the use of nutrient therapies a lot more than herbal. While herbal therapies do have their place, it’s become clear that they operate, similarly to pharmaceuticals, like a band-aid. Nutrients include minerals, vitamins and other essentials like amino acids and fatty acids (in this case, glutamine and cod liver oil). Given adequate levels, these allow the body to heal itself.

 

Type of supplements is one thing, but the dosage makes the poison (and the cure). 

 

While on the protocol, for three weeks I consumed four heaped tablespoons of L-Glutamine per day. L-Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in your body. It really uses it! A naturopath I saw, only a few weeks before my consult with Dave, recommended I take 1 level teaspoon each morning. By weight, that’s more than 15 times less than what was actually required to heal my intestinal lining!

The same issue is common with other nutrients like vitamin D and zinc. While toxicity can certainly be an issue, the reality is that most people are far too deficient in these essential nutrients for toxicity to occur.

When appropriately used, herbs can play an incredibly powerful role in healing the body, but unfortunately, they’re probably the most over-prescribed and over-recommended supplement on the market. We’re all looking for that one thing to cure X. To the uneducated buyer, an exotic herb from far-off lands sounds like the perfect thing. I know. I myself am a recovering herb-junkie. My morning breakfast smoothie probably cost more than gold at one point.

That being said, a solid leaky gut protocol will have specific, potent herbs to reduce histamine response and inflammation – such as curcumin and Boswellia – as well as strong antimicrobials to kill pathogenic bacteria. Caution: use stool tests with antimicrobial specificity to get the best idea of how to tackle your bacterial issue.

For an in-depth analysis of supplements proven to be effective with extensive research, check out www.examine.com

After we’ve decided the supplements and dosage that’ll fix your problem, we then need to determine which brand or the specific product to buy. Selecting natural, organic and/or blessed by a Tibetan monk may not always be possible when it comes to supplements, so it’s imperative to know a few solid brands.

While practitioner-supplied products are most expensive, they’re almost always of a much higher standard. It’s best to steer clear of any chemist brands, and while your naturopath’s products (Metagenics) may be good quality, there are comparable products online for half the price.

What’s the difference between good and bad supplements?

There’s a company called LabDoor that independently test big name products on the market. As the supplement industry is pretty much the Wild Wild West, this initiative is a huge benefit to the consumer (you!). They test supplements to see if their ingredients match up to the label. In just one example, they found a hugely popular protein powder had 3,400% more sodium in it than the product claimed. While bodybuilders think their newfound mass is muscle, it’s likely all water due to their excessive salt consumption.

Equal to the addition of filler ingredients is the problem of minimal active ingredients. Many shady supplement brands that have expensive ingredients may claim they have enough zinc & horny goat weed to make you a real man again. These often do nothing more than perpetuating the experience of man-boobs and impotence due to a lifetime of unhealthy habits.

Equal to the addition of filler ingredients in supplements is the problem of minimal active ingredients.

supplements-info4

 

There are many articles out there claiming to know the best practice for supplementation, but the unfortunate thing is most of these are attempting to sell their own products. My only intention is to educate you on this complex topic.

If you’re taking a questionable supplement regularly, this could have poor health implications down the track. For example, there’s an enormous parade of practitioners touting the benefits of folic acid to prevent birth defects in newborn children. Unfortunately, a growing percentage of mothers and fathers have a genetic mutation whereby they cannot convert folic acid into the active form of folate (5-methyltetrahydrofolate). This mistake may not only have any effect on birth defects, it may actually make it more difficult for you to get folate out of foods! And there are many other cases like this in the supplement world.

I hope I’ve cleared up some of the confusion regarding this insane industry and you can navigate the murky waters with more clarity.

If you do need advice and want to know what supplements are right for your individual body chemistry, get in touch and I’ll be happy to help.

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The Great Ocean Road Retreat | 24-26 Nov 2017

There’s likely to be only a few moments in your life that you realise you are doing what you want to be doing. A potent mix of nervousness and excitement leads you to be entirely in the present moment and you feel joyful that everything is just the way it is.

 

This is how I felt on the much anticipated weekend retreat that I led along with my fellow men, Mark Kluwer and Kane Johnson.

 

Truth be told this project had been in full swing since April – but on a much grander scale. We were sincerely considering buying 200 acres of World Heritage land in Northern New South Wales to build our retreat facility. Mark was a builder, and we had some life savings – what could go wrong?

 

At what seemed to be the very last minute, we had hesitation and decided we should try run a few retreats beforehand. Thankfully, we listened to the anxiety in our guts and agreed to take baby steps together.

 

Almost every week after that, we carefully and excitedly crafted what would be our first retreat, held at the historic Seacroft retreat centre on The Great Ocean Road: A characteristic old monastery, surrounded by the wild ocean of the Bass Strait.

 

25 men, 1 weekend. This is our story.

 

 

Once we all arrived and settled into our rooms, at 6:00 pm we gathered into the tastefully restored chapel for a meet and greet. Kane made the introductions to the group and highlighted the purpose for this weekend. He articulated our intentions perfectly, and I was so grateful to be sitting beside him as a friend and a teammate on this journey.

 

A little about Kane: After retiring from a 15 year AFL career, which included two premiership wins with Adelaide and captaincy at Richmond, he embarked on an exploration to find a balance between the physical, mental and spiritual, leading him to travel to China to spend time with Shaolin Monks. While there he found his new passion: studying and practising the ancient self-healing practice of Qigong. It’s clear that Kane is now inspired to create a space for others to develop themselves on a physical, personal and spiritual level.

 

We passed the footy around and each of us articulated who we are and what we were seeking by attending the retreat – it was an honour to witness so many blokes immediately open up from the heart. There were some nerves, as most of us (including Mark, Kane & I) didn’t know what to expect for the weekend. But we felt an immediate sense of trust and a lot of excitement about what was in store for the next couple days.

 

Some of us were seeking profound personal transformation, some wanted to test themselves, and others just wanted a weekend away from the busy churn of emails and phone calls.

 

As for me – I wanted to fulfil a dream I’d had for over five years: To create a profound weekend for a group of human beings to reconnect with themselves, with others and with nature.

 

Kane, with his deep understanding and complete presence, led the team through some Qi Gong to help us and settle into the area. With some light movement flowing with the breath and the energy in the room began to thicken.

 

Already we felt a connection to one another. Whatever happens this weekend, we are brothers. We stood there, breathing; some stillness and calm before the proverbial storm of tomorrow.

 

The boys were hungry, and it was dinner time, so Henry – our star chef from the Fitzroy famous restaurant, Industry Beans – delivered with incredibly healthy and delicious food, not just for this meal but the entire weekend.

 

A few of the stand-outs were slow cooked beef and Korean kimchi lettuce cups for dinner; pulled lamb with slaw and quinoa for lunch; eggs with field mushrooms and sautéed spinach on paleo toast for breakfast; all meals were gluten-free with vegan options and Man Alive approved. Bellies were full, and smiles were broad.

 

We then celebrated our first meal together by walking down to the beach for a twilight swim. The tide was out and the clouds were putting on a show. There was intense excitement as we all felt like this was already a spectacular weekend to be. Some tribal circle war cries and a few fist bumps ensued before walking back home for the next activity.

 

 

Before sending the men off to a restful sleep, we recollected into the chapel for a session of Yoga Nidra. I sat there in a candlelit hall, with soft music playing as the men walked in and laid down on their mats. I had an enormous grin on my face and was so appreciative of this moment.

 

Some collective breathing and bringing the attention to specific points of the body encouraged the frequency of brain waves to drift from beta to theta. Calmness entered the room and then the Swedish masseuse, Lars, began to snore. Mark giggled. Then the whole room erupted in laughter – full belly howling laughter – for several minutes. We settled back down and then some more snoring and laughing and then sleeping. It was time for bed.

 

The next morning we woke up to some Hatha yoga with breath (pranayama), posture (asana), sound (mantra), and meditation (dhyana). It was my first time teaching only men, many of whom had never done any form of yoga before. Everyone seemed to enjoy the effects of breathing and moving the body as a group, especially first thing in the morning. After 90 minutes of yoga, my body feels open and free while my mind feels more centred, calm and happier. It was a great way to start the day, before breakfast and a morning swim in the ocean.

 

 

Anticipation grew for the late-morning activity when Mark took over. Mark attended a Wim Hof retreat in 2016, which changed the trajectory of his life. Wim’s motto of Strength, Health and Happiness lit a fire in Mark, and now he is on a mission to do the same for others. Since then, Mark has become a certified Master Wim Hof Method Instructor and has been dedicated to helping people from all walks of life experience the innate power they hold within them.

 

It was now time to go deep together with a full hour of The Wim Hof Method, led by one of the most passionate people on the planet.

 

After a brief introduction to the method and the man behind it, the boys laid down and made themselves comfortable to go within. The music started playing.

 

Four rounds of 50 breaths deep and the energy in the room was palpable. Kane and I were there to help the men if needed but found ourselves becoming quite emotional. Even without doing the breathwork – by just being in the room with others who were – we too were ‘getting high on our own supply’. Mark did an incredible job at creating a safe space and ensuring correct breathing technique, so no one was at risk.

 

On the sixth and final round, and 55 minutes later of controlled hyperventilation, the boys took a deep inhale and rolled over to perform as many pushups as possible to generate heat through the body and witness how much oxygen had been packed into every cell of the body.

 

A big exhale, and the room fell still… The music softly played, and for many minutes, we lay there – just feeling.

 

Bringing that moment to mind now makes me emotional as I remember how powerful it felt to be there. It was indeed humbling, and words really cannot describe it.

 

 

After an inspiring and motivational speech from Mark, it was time to test ourselves and jump in the ice. Two hundred, 5-kilogram bags of ice sat outside and needed to be put into an eight-man pool.

 

It was a cold day, and the wind blew from the Antarctic, which didn’t help the confidence, but the men were ready and eager to see what they were made of. The majority of blokes had never experienced a one-degree ice bath before, and so after some instruction, the first group jumped in. It was a huge success with everyone sitting in cold water for at least 2 minutes, most reached the 5-minute mark.

 

The mind is the weakest link while immersed in near-zero waters.

 

Once you start to let the cold creep in, you’re done. To allow yourself shiver in the first few minutes is a choice and a dangerous one at that. If you wish to take on the ice, make sure you have someone trained in guiding people through it. Permanent nerve damage, hypothermia and drowning are real threats so please don’t do it by yourself. Mark is now offering private sessions in Melbourne if you’re keen to experience it for the first time, or are merely wanting to go deeper than you could by yourself.

 

 

After lunch, we gave the boys free time to rest and reflect on the experience of the morning. Some journaled and read, others chatted and drank tea together deepening the relationships that were naturally unfolding.

 

At 5:00 we ventured down to the beach for a movement practice. It had been raining heavily but sporadically for most of the afternoon, but we decided to chance it and embrace whatever came. With lightning sparking out over the ocean we walked along the sand to get moving despite Nick’s concern that “the beach is the worst place to be in a thunderstorm.”

 

First a little bit of lower body mobility training to remove the fear of getting sandy. We partnered up and played a few games before Kane and Mark brought a 20-metre long rope for a championship round of Tug o’ War with Kane’s team taking out the title. Better luck next time, Mark. We then played some Ido Portal inspired contact improvisation to develop a better sense of communication through movement and understanding of one another and our limitations of movement. This was a favourite for many of us as we freely moved in the rain and sand along a vast expanse of beach with no one else around and a free light show over the ocean. To finish with meditation, I invited the men to stand ankle deep in the water to gaze out over the ocean, completely still, just observing nature in its rawness.

 

 

As we wandered back to Seacroft, I received a few comments about how incredible the last few days were. I agreed with them that it had already been an epic experience for me too then reminded them that it had only been 23 hours since we arrived. I believe that time began to slow down as we formed meaningful connections with complete strangers, learned to breathe, meditate and move our bodies and of course, disconnected from our mobile devices to reconnect with nature. All these things together allow us to be much more present, which makes it feel like time is stretched out. I wondered how we could bring this state of being back home when we departed.

 

That night we huddled away from the rain in the chapel to participate in one of our now famous Man Night’s. We split off into three groups to connect on a slightly more in-depth level by going around the circle and simply answering the question “What’s going on for you at the moment?”. It’s a beautiful thing that happens when a group of men trust and listen to each other for a few hours.

 

After doing this for over a year, I’ve found that I receive the most clarity and benefit from listening to other people’s stories, rather than sharing my own. One of the men on the retreat was a good friend, Josh Komen, who has an incredible story of battling cancer and graft vs host disease for the last seven years. Josh is currently writing a book about his journey, and I encourage everyone to check it out when it is released.

 

Ultimately when you hear Josh speak, you remember that your health and your loved ones are all that matter. It strips away the competitor bullshit that so easily creeps into our lives, and you’re left with what makes you happy.

 

It was great hearing everyone’s story – their wins, their struggles, their dreams and their past. We find these conversations to be so enriching and so we allowed some time for everyone to write down some insights and reflections from the group conversation into their journal. We concluded the evening with a meditation, before walking off for a sound night’s sleep.

 

We began the next morning with another exploration into hatha yoga, this time picking up the tempo and going a little bit deeper into the body and the breath. I wanted to encourage the opening of the body and the lungs, preparing them for the next breath work session with Mark.

 

It was the first time we’ve ever moved from 90 minutes of yoga straight into an intense session of The Wim Hof Method – but we’re all about exploring the boundaries and what was the worst that could happen anyway?

 

This time, Mark laid the mats beside each other to encourage a bond between us all. It was his most intense session ever. Afterwards, he invited all of us to hold hands while we were lying down to feel the connection between one other. We continued to breathe while visualising who we could become as our strongest, most authentic self.

 

 We then all stood up and it was time for a group huddle with all the men, arm in arm, entirely focused on Marks heart-felt words. Looking each and every one of us straight in the eyes, his central message was to feel love for self, others and the world around us. With raw emotion, the whole group started jumping and repeatedly roaring the word ‘Love’.

 

With hearts open and smiles from ear, to ear, we ate our last meal together. Spirits were high as we shared our experiences of the weekend and what life was going to be like once we left. We felt empowered to take on any challenge that lay before us back home.

 

We felt excited and supported to venture back out into our own lives and have the impact that all of us desire to have in the world around us.

 

As a group, we sat together one last time in the chapel to reflect as a group. The closing circle was ceremonial and at the same time a celebration. In one weekend all of us felt reborn into a stronger, more fully alive self. We passed the footy around and shared our most memorable moments of the weekend and what we wanted to take back home with us. Some of us wanted to continue the breathing practice, some wanted to start moving more, and others felt a greater appreciation for their family – to return home to be a more loving father and husband.

 

It was amazing to me that so much change could happen in less than 48 hours. It’s a testament to the energy of the people there as well as the profound effectiveness of the techniques and practices that we explored.

 

Mark, Kane and I were truly blown away by the willingness and openness of all the men who joined us for such a life-changing weekend. A brotherhood had formed, which I believe is so essential for the physical, spiritual and mental health of all men in this generation. This type of connection is in desperate need among so many of us, myself included. These connections contribute so much to what gives our life purpose and meaning. They support and encourage us to be our best selves in all of life’s situations.

 

This weekend was indeed a dream come true for me. After many thoughtful conversations with Mark and Kane, it’s clear that it was for them too. We are currently working on our next venture together, and after much discussion about what was great and what could be improved, we are excited to announce we will be delivering an unforgettable retreat experience in June 2018. Who’s in?


To join us for the next adventure June 22-24 on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, visit: https://www.humanitix.com/event/mornington-peninsula-mens-retreat-iluka/

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9 Traits to Look for When Hiring A Coach

The personal training industry has one of the highest staff turnovers in any industry. All reasons aside, this illustrates how important it is for you to choose the right coach to help you embark on your fitness journey.

 

I’ve distilled the exceptional personal trainer into 9 definite traits. Here they are.

 

  1. They Walk the Talk

 

A coach that tells you to eat chicken breast and broccoli without the dressing is poor. A coach that says that & eat McDonald’s on their lunch break is even worse. Every waking moment for a coach is a chance to be a role model for the public. We are responsible for helping people reach their health and fitness goals, which you achieve through proper nutrition, mindset and movement. If us coaches were to be visibly fit & healthy yet not train consistently or eat nutritious food (yes, this is possible), then what kind of example does that set for our clients and potential clients?

 

  1. They Perform a Comprehensive Assessment

 

We are legally required to ask you health-related questions to determine if you are fit enough to exercise. This is the bare minimum! If your coach does not perform a biomechanics assessment to determine your tightness and weaknesses in your body, how can they really design a ‘personalised’ program for you? Does your coach go the extra mile with the help of a doctor and get your blood tests done? There are so many variables to consider when designing an exercise and nutritional program. The best coaches will collect as much data on your body & mind as possible to make sure they are making the right decisions.

 

  1. They Get Results

 

This doesn’t only pertain to body composition. Before and after images are great but it makes sense that a coach would ask you about your goals considering the full spectrum of health and fitness. Ask yourself, if your coach has a six pack, but they suffer chronic anxiety, would you trade places with them? Their results are not only for themselves but also their clients. Be aware that most coaches will have one or two customers with incredible results but can they consistently get their clients from where they are to where they want to be?

 

  1. They Have Great Communication Skills

 

Humans communicate their thoughts and feelings in very complex ways and the gym is an environment where interpretations can be skewed even more. It’s important that your coach makes you feel safe, so you express yourself… and they listen. There is plenty of information online on how to get fit and healthy. So then, why is it so hard? A strong relationship is created between coach and student and this can only form with excellent communication skills.

 

  1. They Are Inspiring

 

I’m not interested in being put up on your wall muscly, oiled up & wrapped in a leopard print rug. I’m talking about a combination of walking the talk and allowing you to align with your vision correctly. You don’t need a guilt-trip into behaving properly; you need to be inspired to do so.

 

  1. They Consistently Educate

 

A Certificate III & IV is just the beginning of becoming a great personal trainer. There is a myriad of upskilling courses available for fitness professionals, so it’s important their certifications line up with your interests. If you only want to learn gymnastics, don’t go to a kettlebell instructor. Your coach needs to attend a professional development course at least once each year and is also reading, listening and researching the best literature in the world in their spare time.

 

  1. They Have A Sound Moral Compass

 

Taking shortcuts is rife in the fitness industry. A collection of before and after photos on a website is the be all and end all for some coaches. The question remains, how did they achieve these results? If they require ingesting dangerous fat-burners, starving themselves or performing countless burpees then maybe that’s not the long-term approach you’re looking for. A coach should also not lose themselves in gym politics or gossip, and they should not try to ‘win’ you from another trainer. Ethics is important if you’re going to be on a journey of vulnerability and trust.

 

  1. They Embody Professionalism

 

Embodying professionalism means being punctual. It means having respect for your personal space, your body and your emotional state. Professionalism is dressing correctly and leaving foul language outside. It means communicating properly through email & phone and not scrolling Facebook during your personal training session! I’m talking about being able to give 100% of their attention to you and your needs in an honourable manner. Professionalism is a character trait that’s hard to teach so choose your coach wisely.

 

  1. They Care

 

All of the above traits culminate into this. Do they really care that you achieve the results you want on a safe, respectful and fun journey? When you come to them after a stressful life situation, you want them to have empathy and compassion. You want them to wear their heart on their sleeve and have a real human connection with you!

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The Essential Supplement For The Busy Life

There are as many health products in the world as there are opinions about which ones to take. How do you, the dedicated wellness wayfarer, navigate the landscapes of the supplement industry to discover what you actually need to live life to the fullest?

 

This one supplement will help with

 

  • Reducing inflammation
  • Hormone optimisation
  • Stress reduction
  • Muscle contractility and recovery
  • Metabolism and fat loss
  • Bone density
  • Immunity
  • Nutrient absorption
  • And so much more!

 

I know, it sounds too good to be true.

 

But it’s not.

 

Carefully selected and properly used supplements can really give you the edge when it comes to complete wellness. However, there’s one supplement that is nearly always overlooked, and it may, in fact, be the most important supplement of all…

 

Magnesium is King

 

From the ancient heroes of Homer’s Greek Odyssey to Ponce de León’s legendary supposed discovery of the “Fountain of Youth”, magnesium baths have long been thought as a key health support system.

 

The ancient practices of salt bathing most likely came from the relaxing benefits of magnesium.  Magnesium has a potent destressing effect by reducing the stress hormone cortisol. It is especially effective immediately after exercise for reducing the cortisol spike typically seen during physical activity and stress.

 

By reducing this cortisol spike efficiently post-workout, we initiate the recovery mechanisms and reduce post-exercise inflammation. This can be an effective method for building lean muscle, boosting fat loss, reducing DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness) and also the risk of chronic injury1.

 

Good Magnesium, Good Night

 

Magnesium also makes a powerful sleep-inducing agent. 400-800mg of magnesium taken 3-4 hours before bed can significantly reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and also improve your quality of sleep2.

 

If you often find yourself in a stressed state or have trouble shutting off at night, you likely fit into the 68% of the population who do not meet the government’s recommended daily magnesium intake (310mg to 420mg)3 – which is still much less than our recommendation!

 

Life Extension Magazine proposes, “If this population who are magnesium deficient took corrective action, the need for many of these prescription drugs would be reduced.”(3)

 

Optimize Sex Hormones

 

Magnesium supplementation reduces cortisol by actually boosting the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA (4).

 

DHEA is the master steroid hormone and is the most abundant steroid hormone in the body. It’s produced by the adrenal glands (attached to your kidneys) and has an enormous set of functions including being a precursor to testosterone and estrogen.

 

With optimal DHEA levels, we buffer cortisol effectively while also regulating optimal testosterone and estrogen levels. An enormous number of men experience the unwelcome symptoms accompanying testosterone deficiency while the majority of women could benefit from better regulation of their monthly cycle.

 

Synthetic estrogens in environmental toxins and a high-stress lifestyle mean we need to supplement our body wherever we can; a magnesium supplement is a very effective, broad-scope everyday attack on these ills.

 

Throw Out Your Ibuprofen

 

Magnesium supplementation reduces inflammation and enhances the body’s ability to handle environmental stress. Specifically, studies have shown that magnesium supplementation can have a powerful effect against inflammation by boosting the immune system in individuals with digestive disorders and metabolic problems5 8.

 

Typical over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs always have adverse effects on your gut and liver.  This is because non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can increase intestinal permeability, which we will talk about later.

 

A magnesium supplement, however, can reduce inflammation throughout the body, boosting the effectiveness of our cardiovascular system and allowing blood flow smoothly through vessels8.

 

Stoke The Metabolic Fire

 

Insulin sensitivity is very important for optimal health. Being the clever cookie you are, you’ve no doubt guessed that magnesium supplementation can improve this vital component of fat loss for individuals with a deficiency6.

 

Remember, we learned before that you are likely one of those individuals.

 

By allowing better uptake of insulin into the cell we can better utilize the sugars in our food. This means we store less fat, have more energy and reduce our risk of diabetes and other metabolic diseases.

 

Build a Resilient Framework

 

By optimising calcium absorption, magnesium increases bone density and reduces the risk of fractures, especially as we age. Supplementing with magnesium helps to keep minerals such as calcium in the bony matrix, and has been shown to prevent osteoporosis7. Pair a magnesium supplement with strength training and you have yourself one durable bone structure!

 

Rejuvenate Your Nervous System

 

This essential mineral is now being understood as a preventative measure for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.   With over 330,000 Australians suffering from dementia, this is a big issue!

 

An essential component of nerve signaling is… spot the trend… magnesium! It serves as a building block for our neurotransmitters, specifically, dopamine. This means every decision we make and every muscle contraction we have, is influenced by magnesium.

 

Magnesium actually promotes learning and memory as a result of its beneficial effect on synaptic plasticity and density11. Basically, it increases the number and efficiency of the connections of every one of your nerves. So with optimal magnesium levels and superhuman nerve transmission who knows what we are capable of!

 

Along with its beneficial effect on DNA protection, magnesium supplementation maintains the health of every cell in your body. Support your cells. Supplement magnesium.

 

If you’d like any more info on magnesium supplementation (or any supplementation for that reason), have a chat with us and we’ll get you on the path to wellness.

 

References:

  1. Golf S.W., Happel O., Graef V., Seim K.E. Plasma aldosterone, cortisol and electrolyte concentrations in physical exercise after magnesium supplementation. Journal of Clinical Chemistry & Clinical Biochemistry 1984: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6527092
  2. Abbasi et al. The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of Research in Medical Science 2012: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3703169/#sec1-3title
  3. Faloon W. How many Americans are magnesium deficient? Life Extension Magazine 2005: http://www.lef.org/magazine/2005/9/awsi/Page-01
  4. Mike Mahler. Testosterone is great but is dihydrotestosterone the king of all male androgens? Aggressive Strength. n.d.: http://www.mikemahler.com/online-library/articles/hormone-optimization/dihydrotestosterone-king-of-male-androgens.html
  5. King D., Mainous, A.G., Geesy M.E., Egan B.M., Rehman S. Magnesium supplement intake and C-reactive protein levels in adults. Nutrition Research Journal 2006: http://www.nrjournal.com/article/S0271-5317%2806%2900092-3/abstract?cc=y
  6. Rodriguez-Moran M. Guerrero-Romero F. Oral magnesium supplementation improves the metabolic profile of metabolically obese, normal-weight individuals: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Archives of Medical Research 2014: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24830937
  7. Castiglioni S., Cazzaniga A., Albisetti W., Maier J.A.M. Magnesium and osteoporosis: current state of knowledge and future research directions. Nutrients 2013: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3775240/
  8. Kharitonova et al. Comparative angioprotective effects of magnesium compounds. Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine & Biology 2015: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25127069
  9. Alessio M. Novel magnesium compound reverses neurodegeneration. Life Extension Magazine 2012: http://www.lef.org/magazine/2012/2/Novel-Magnesium-Compound-Reverses-Neurodegeneration/Page-01
  10. Magnesium benefits. Ancient Minerals website. N.d.: http://www.ancient-minerals.com/magnesium-benefits/
  11. Jahnen-Dechent W., Ketteler M. Magnesium basics. Clinical Kidney Journal 2012: http://ckj.oxfordjournals.org/content/5/Suppl_1/i3.full
  12. Niemn, D.C. et al. (2006). Ibuprofen use, endotoxemia, inflammation, and plasma cytokines during ultramarathon competition. Brain Behaviour Immunology, 20(6):578-84. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159106000328
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What’s Good for You is Good for Them – Health and Your Family

The following is Chapter 13 of the new book, Man Alive: Free your mind. Reclaim your health. Discover your true nature. The book is available on Amazon and other major retailers. Click here for more details.

 

“From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow”. – Aeschylus

 

I strode in to greet my regular Friday 6 p.m. client who was warming up on the rowing machine.“How are you?”, I said. He was quite gleeful this evening; he replied that he was fantastic and super excited to take his sons to a notorious pancake restaurant for dinner. My heart sank. Looking to understand why he felt this was alright, I reminded him that he had been working with me for nearly 18 months; exercising, experiencing the benefits of nutrition, cultivating a new lifestyle, and developing healthy habits. He was setting such a great example for his kids at home, and they were proud.

 

He said to me, almost asking for forgiveness, “But Jordy, they’re just kids”.

 

With a smile, I rebutted,“If they’re just kids, why are they eating the ‘food’ that will cause them to end up in the same position you were, whilst you get to eat only the best nutrition available? If all you want is a good sleep, a stable mood, steady energy and the ability to fight off disease, don’t your kids deserve to have that same level of health? Think about what good nutrition means to you, it means the same to them, especially because they’re kids. We can’t forget that they have a human body that is fuelled in just the same way as ours. They just have more potential”.

 

He looked off into the distance for a few moments, quietly weighing up the consequences of a pancake-less evening, then turned back to me and said, “You’re right”. It definitely struck a pain point for me discussing this with my client. My own parents, like most, did their best with the knowledge they had at the time. Evidence for the connection between a child’s nutrition and physical or psychological dysfunction is becoming more and more apparent. With the vastly different knowledge we have now, one can’t help but consider the potential of lives fueled properly, and also the cost to those who miss out.

 

The knowledge we have now can potentially save a child (who will be an adult hopefully 90% of their life) from chronic illnesses, disabilities, mental disorders and even sports injuries. We are so incredibly fortunate to have this evidence now at our fingertips.

 

We mustn’t ignore the evidence, especially because ‘they’re just kids’.

 

One of the most common problems that children suffer is an inability to manage blood glucose levels. The typical child is tortured with a wild see-saw between hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) all throughout the day. Dr Campbell-McBride reports in her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome, “It has been proven that a lot of hyperactivity, inability to concentrate and learn, aggression and other behavioural abnormalities in school children are a direct result of this glucose roller coaster. The hyperglycemic phase produces a feeling of a “high” with hyperactive, manic tendencies… While the hypoglycemic phase makes them feel unwell, often with a headache, bad mood, tantrums, aggression and general fatigue…”.

 

Taking the same approach for us adults, I believe a lot of marital arguments may be prevented by the simple act of having some food. When our blood sugar drops, we become irritable and frustrated quickly, and this can lead to unreasonable and unnecessary (hangry) quarrels. But it’s not just about having some food to stabilise our blood sugar, it’s also about what food we ate, three to five hours earlier. Was it strawberry jam on toast, or a slow-cooked lamb shoulder with vegetables? And yes, the latter option is breakfast meal guaranteed to set you up for a successful day – don’t let the cereal companies convince you otherwise.

 

Another leading cause of disease and dysfunction in children is the inflammatory conditions that arise from out-of-control intestinal bacteria. Overgrowth of specific bacteria such as Candida species and Clostridia species have been linked to autism, A.D.H.D, schizophrenia, and depression.

 

These bacterial complications stem as early in the child’s life as birth. Dr David Perlmutter shows in his book Brain Maker that there is evidence that newborns from cesarean births are deprived of life-enhancing bacteria that arise from the mother’s vagina, and are much more likely to develop digestive issues and neurological dysfunction later in life. It’s also likely that an unhealthy mother gives birth to a sick baby, even if the birth was natural. It’s with this understanding that we realise our health not only impacts ourselves but our closest loved ones too.

 

To alleviate digestive dysfunction, we must heal the intestinal microbiome and also the gut lining. The best-known method is through diet. Foods high in fat and protein and low in carbohydrates (particularly starch) have been shown to improve digestive disorders and also neurological symptoms in children. It’s important to recognise that children can often tolerate more carbohydrates than adults, so this low carbohydrate approach should only be used with children suffering digestive or neurological dysfunction.

 

A much safer blanket approach is to remove all processed foods including bread, pasta, sugar, dairy, soy, and especially anything containing artificial colours and flavours. As early as 1975, a study showed “a rapid improvement in behaviour and learning abilities in ADHD children following dietary management eliminating artificial food colours, flavours, and naturally occurring salicylates”. These foods cause a myriad of problems concerning the human body from neurological and DNA damage to chronic inflammation.

 

Another family that I work with only consumes foods from organic health food stores and local farmer’s markets. On one exceptional occasion, they needed to visit a supermarket chain. Whilst cruising down an aisle, their eight-year-old boy exclaimed, “Mum! This is it!

 

This is what, honey?” his mum replied.

 

Wide-eyed, he responded, “THIS is where my friends get all that stuff from!

 

The two were in the confectionary aisle, and this schoolboy had never seen the items in their packaging on the shelves, let alone in his own pantry. His parents and I are open and honest about their child-rearing experiences. They’ve never had complaints about poor mood or hyperactivity, he’s never been out of control, or struggling to learn in school. If you’re questioning whether theirs is a healthy approach to parenting, I would invite you to challenge your own approach.

 

My friend and fellow man, Kane Johnson is another leading example of taking on the responsibility of fatherhood.

 

 

Returning to the pancake story, the real issue was that the father honestly just didn’t realise the implications of what his children were eating. Even though his middle son had learning disabilities, and he often complained to me that all three were playing up, he didn’t connect the dots on his own. When you’ve been misinformed all your life, you almost can’t blame him.

 

To better regulate your family’s blood sugar levels, intestinal microbiome, and overall health, you must apply the same rules as we discussed earlier. What’s healthy for you is healthy for them. Yes, there can be some variances in genetics and physiology depending on the phase of one’s life. But for the most part, if you remove processed foods and takeaway meals, and instead cook and prepare your food together, not only are you ensuring your child’s success in sport and school (and therefore life), but you are also teaching them vital food-specific skills and knowledge for them to teach the next generation.

 

Chef Pete Evans is spearheading the healthy food in schools crusade in Australia that Jamie Oliver so successfully kick-started throughout the UK. Pete says it best in his blog: “Variety is the spice of life, so I encourage you to continue to be bold and brave with the foods you introduce your kids too. By encouraging adventurous palettes, you’ll ensure they have a lifelong love affair with what they put in their mouths, and their physical and emotional health can benefit tremendously. Ultimately, as a parent, it’s all about trusting that the invaluable food knowledge you give your kids will pay off when they are on their own and that they will be well equipped to easily make the right choices”.

 

Understanding and delighting in food as medicine is indeed an empowering prospect that will serve us all now and for generations to come.

 

Changing your perspective on your family’s nutrition is a cornerstone on which to build your investment in lifelong health and happiness. With your loved ones, I also invite you to explore the other tricks and tips throughout this book and have fun with it. From meditation and breathing, to cold showers and movement, experience these with your children or your loving partner. Learning and exploring together will strengthen your relationships. Watching one another flourish is the ultimate reward.

 

 

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9 Life-Changing Lessons From The Ultimate Coach’s Camp

We all believed, at one point in time, that we could change the world. Over time this zest for success fizzles away with societal pressures and under-achiever cultural paradigms. A small minority of people, have managed to keep that zest.

In August 2016, I spent four days living, breathing, eating, training and exploring with nine other coaches from around Australia at the RealMovementProject Intensive Camp. The founder and facilitator of the four-day event is Keegan Smith, an ex-NRL strength & conditioning coach, who left a decorated career in coaching professional athletes to do something greater.

He has a big vision and thrives on giving influential talks that make the audience think bigger.

Over the four days there were a tonne of big wins. Among them were nine hugely positive messages I took home from the combination of inspiring conversations and physical challenges.

Find a large enough problem and dedicate your life to solving it.

This message has been forgotten by many people working jobs they don’t find fulfilling. It’s hard to question whether there’s something you could be doing that would influence the world around you in a more meaningful way. It implies that we’re not living up to our full capacity and hiding our shining light.

Few people have solved a great problem by stumbling across it in the daily grind, especially in modern times with the six million distractions we have each day. No, these people set aside time to work on a problem they were passionate about until they found a solution.

Some of you may be working in your dream job or on your chosen problem – but there is a call to action for you who is not living up to your full capacity, and hiding your shining light.

The world needs you!
You are your only limiting factor.

The first exercise we did was to write down all the things we would want to achieve, do or be if we were enough. If we were smart enough, strong enough, wealthy enough. If we were taller, shorter, thinner, more flexible – fill in the blank of your desired characteristic.

Then we wrote down all the reasons why we can’t achieve, do or be these things. With the right mindset, these all seemed like a bit of an excuse, so we tore the paper up and threw it out.

I quickly realised that I am my only limiting factor in doing what I want in my life. It is my self-belief that holds me back, not my current life circumstance. Certain influential people have overcome great adversities in their life to be remembered after their gone. They all felt fear and inadequacies but managed to silence them for a moment and dedicate their lives to something greater.

What is your excuse for not connecting your dreams to reality?

Experiencing new skills is better than watching experts.

Keegan asked the group, “What do you enjoy more – nailing your first handstand or watching a cirque du soleil performance?”

Unanimously we voted on nailing our first handstand!

Our culture loves to passively watch the top performers in their field. Most people at a sporting event are overweight and unfit. Instead of putting in a little sweat equity to achieve their desired body or physical skill they prefer to watch other people do it.

Yes it is magical watching LeBron James slamming a ball into a metal ring soaring many feet through the air but I assure you it is more magical to feel your own brain working hard to get that first 10 seconds of juggling 3 balls.

You can do anything if you put the work in.

The difference between you and Tiger Woods is not genetic potential (while it may be in the case of LeBron James). It is simply that by the time Woods was 2 years old and hitting the ball on national television he had already logged thousands of hours of practice into his movement diary.

We often assign the words prodigy, gifted and genius to these individuals. I view that as an insult as it undercuts the tens of thousands of hours these people have put in to master their craft.

To be in the top 1% in something, you must decide to do so, then back it up with focused practice. But it begins with a decision. I have decided that I am going to do a one-arm handstand by the end of the year. Now I just need to put in the work and it will happen.

There is a simple formula to success in any field – it’s not whimsical like some of us hope it to be. (Click to Tweet)

Surround yourself w people who believe in you and who are better than you.

One of my biggest wins at the camp was doing a standing back sault. Prior to this, I had zero flipping experience and was soon hurling myself through the air with only 90 minutes of practice.

There are two reasons I had the courage to make the attempt.

The first reason is that I had seen Keegan do it in the flesh a few minutes prior. This breaks the mystical spell of any daunting challenge. Once you see someone else do something, it becomes a whole lot more possible for you to achieve the same thing.

The second is that Keegan and the rest of the coaches there believed that I could. This uplifting energy was palpable during the whole four day camp. We all wanted to see each other succeed, and that inevitably forces us to do so.

There is an old adage, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” Who you surround yourself with has a massive impact on your belief systems. These belief systems affect how long you will live, in what state of health and what you will accomplish in that lifetime.

Embrace Stress.

While at the camp we practiced a powerful breathing technique popularised by a Deutsch Man named Wim Hoff. This breathing technique is not something you would find in a soothing yin yoga class. It is very stimulating and very intense.

There were many breakthroughs using this technique but I’ll save that for a later post when David, Joel and I attend the 5 day retreat with Wim on the Great Ocean Road in August.

Mr Hoff’s philosophy of our modern stress is compelling. He believes that because we no longer run from predators, need to chase down prey or endure unfavourable weather conditions to survive, we are perpetually stressed by non-life threatening situations.

If I put a gun to your head, all your BS for the day immediately disappears.

So in an effort to reduce the daily stress in our lives, we actually need to embrace more physiological stress. Things like cold showers, hot saunas, intense exercise, breathing techniques and playing sports can all be effective at ridding you of your woes.

The goal in life is to be happier, healthier and a better person.

This one is painfully obvious but mostly overlooked. If your actions are not in alignment with improving at least two of these three characteristics then I believe some questions need to be asked.

At the age of 21, I stopped drinking alcohol. While I didn’t consciously recognise it, the reason behind this was that drinking alcohol wasn’t fulfilling any of the these requirements.

We need to constantly assess whether our actions are bringing us closer to or further away from our goals, because it is not possible to remain stationary.

Ask yourself the hard questions.

The quality of your life is dependant upon the quality of questions you ask yourself. If you are not inspired about your life, it may be because you are not asking yourself inspiring enough questions.

When asked if we should be barefoot or wear shoes while learning hacky-sack, Keegan bluntly replied “if the question you ask won’t directly improve the quality of your life, don’t ask it.”

After the camp I set aside some time & spent a few hours asking myself some confronting questions. This created space for me to return home inspired and ready to take action toward embracing life fully.

Here are a few difficult questions that may help you make positive changes or feel more enlivened on your current path:

  • What problem am I trying to solve?
  • Why am I here?
  • What makes me happy?
  • What am I grateful for?
  • How did this experience – positive or negative – serve me?

You can create any life you desire.

It was evident that all the coaches at the camp were inspired by Keegan’s lifestyle. Tucked away in the hinterlands of Byron Bay, he eats amazing food, learns exciting new skills, reads empowering books, builds an impressive body and travels the globe teaching passionate people how to be better at what they do.

The point is that he created this life for himself. He made a decision that this is the lifestyle he wanted to live and went to work creating it.

You and I can create any life that we want within the laws of the physical universe. Once again, self-belief is our only limiting factor.

I want you to leave this article with one key action step. Whether that be implementing a daily cold shower, asking yourself some hard questions or redesigning your social life.

My hope is that you make just one positive change in your life. This has a ripple effect to the people around you.

Dream big, work hard and live passionately.