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5 tips for a healthier winter

Getting through winter is no easy task because the shorter, darker days often leave us with gloom and makes us want to hibernate.

We all know that feeling when your wake up on a cold winter morning and something doesnโ€™t feel quite right. It starts off with a sore throat and you just know youโ€™re coming down with something. You start wondering who you caught it from and whether you could have taken any precautions! Here are 5 tips to keep your wellness game strong this winter:

  1. Keep colours on your plate

Fruit and vegetables are a source of antioxidant and nutrients that protect us against cell damage and infection. Try baking some seasonal vegetables such as pumpkin, sweet potato, broccoli, beetroot etc. You could also include them in casseroles or soups, perfect for some winter warmth!

  1. Keep up with your fluid intake

Water is needed in lymph fluid which is part of your immune system and can help fight off illness. However, most of us struggle to drink enough water due to the cold. This is where hot drinks like tea can come in handy. Green tea is packed with antioxidants and can also provide comfort and warmth in the cold. You can also try drinking warm water with a slice of lemon or citrus fruit for added flavour.

  1. Boost up your immune system

Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) have a key role in keeping our immune system going strong. Vitamin A is found in orange and yellow vegetables like sweet potatoes pumpkin while vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberries. Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin can also help support the immune system. Sources of vitamin D include sun exposure, oily fish such as mackerels, salmon and sardines, as well as fortified margarines. Zinc is a mineral that can help with healing and is found in lean meat, poultry and seafood and smaller amounts in pepitas, sesame seeds and baked beans.

  1. Keep exercising

Statistics suggests that 45% of Australians are expected to put on 1-2kg this winter. Winter weight gain commonly occurs from exercising less, eating more snack and takeaway foods. While exercising in the cold can be challenging, it can also boost your mood and reduce your stress levels. Stress can have a negative impact on our body as it sets up chronic inflammation in our body. Producing excess amounts of cortisol (due to stress) can weaken the immune system.

  1. Keep your hygiene game strong

This may sound simple but washing hands frequently is the number one way to stop the spread of germs. Experts recommend washing hands every few hours, especially after using the toilet and before eating. Itโ€™s also a good idea to wash them after touching someone elseโ€™s phone or keyboard at work.

Hope you enjoyed reading! Feel free to share other tips with me ๐Ÿ™‚

How to start the year on the right foot?

Happy February!

Have you made your New Year Resolutions yet for 2018? Perhaps, you are still contemplating on them; or maybe youโ€™ve come up with a few and realised that it isnโ€™t going to work for you.

New Year Resolutions are great; but letโ€™s be honest, we always tend to come up with goals that are overly ambitious or vague (i.e. Iโ€™m going to start eating healthier). Most of the time these goals donโ€™t stick with us because we make them too hard for us and we donโ€™t define it clearly in our mind. For example, eating healthy will mean different things to different people.

Here are some ways you could be more specific about your goals to lead a healthier lifestyle-

1) Losing weight

The most common goal people may have might be to lose weight. If this is you, donโ€™t just say โ€œI am going to lose weight this year.โ€ Ask yourself, โ€œhow much is it that I want to lose?โ€ If you have a very large number in mind, remember that you can realistically only lose 0.5-1 kg per week. If you are losing any more than this, it’s not likely to be sustainable. Australian statistics suggest that the most conscious group are 25-34 years, with the most common weight loss goal being 10kg.

2) Saying yes to brekkie

Most people already know that breakfast is a very important meal as it fuels us with energy for the day. However, many struggle with having a proper breakfast due to reasons such as time constraints. But it is possible to step up your breakfast game by prepping it the night before (i.e. portable-breakfast options) or keeping breakfast at your workplace.

3) Eating vegetables

Ask yourself, โ€œWhen are the times I want to eat more veggies?โ€ Adults need around 5-6 serves of vegetables, and it is not practical to be consuming it all in the one meal. It is best to spread it out during main meals and snacks.

4) Snacking healthier

Many of us donโ€™t plan our snacks and often end up reaching for a bar of chocolate or something from the corner store when they get โ€˜hangryโ€™. If this is you, it may be helpful to invest in snacks so you can keep it in your bag or at work. Examples of healthier snacks can include a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, carrot sticks with hummus.

5) Being more active: a lot of people tend to set exercise goals as it closely aligns with losing weight. Statistics show that a higher number of gym memberships are purchased in January, compared to other months. However, gym membership sales drop by March as autumn hits. Before rushing to join a gym you may never use, ask yourself what kind of exercise youโ€™d like to do and how long youโ€™d like to commit each day.

Remember to start slow and be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that it takes time to build good habits!

Jerky July

July has been a very rough month for me; anyone that has watched me closely would have noticed a difference. Coming back from Canada, I set myself a million goals this month.
Perhaps, I had set myself way too many?
Perhaps, I wasn’t productive enough?
Perhaps, I couldโ€™ve done better?
These are thoughts that haunted my brain almost every single day last month. What I failed to recognise at the time was that I was having a โ€˜mid-PhD crisisโ€™. July was the official half-way mark for me; I honestly cannot believe it has been 18 months! I knew that feeling the mid-PhD blues was a thing because I had read about it here a long time ago; but I just didnโ€™t realise I was having the symptoms, until recently.

I also ran into a major statistics problem which has taken me a long time to figure out. It wasnโ€™t that I didnโ€™t try. I was trying to recover from the situation I was in, but I was feeling quite unmotivated. On top of that, I was under the weather for a couple of days which added to my misery. I felt cold, sleepy and lacked energy more often than usual. I started wondering if it was due to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) AKA the โ€˜winter bluesโ€™. I could see that my drop in productivity levels was starting to take a toll on my health. I knew I needed to push through and just keep swimming, so thatโ€™s what I tried doing. Happy to say, I have somehow recovered from my โ€˜mid-PhD crisisโ€™ and was able to change my mindset! But I donโ€™t want to talk about this just yet as I feel it is still early days. I am certainly not where I want to be, but I am in a much happier space, will reveal more on my next post ๐Ÿ™‚

In other news, Iโ€™m still cooking lots of soup due to the cold. But Iโ€™ve tried a few different things this month to help me uplift my spirits! Here are my July eats:

Apple and cinnamon porridge, topped with walnuts and almonds

Morning toast with homemade ricotta, banana and chia seeds

Green, yellow split lentil cauliflower and carrot soup, with leftover lamb

Homemade ricotta, walnut and pear toast

Avo on toast with pepper, chilli, lemon

Linguini with avocado, pesto, pea and parmesan

Banana, walnut and chia seed porridge

Big batch of mixed lentil, celery and carrot soup

Veggie and prawn stir-fry using pretty much everything I had at home (cauliflower, broccoli, beans, carrots and pea)

Roasted Brussel sprouts with EVOO, pepper and chilli

Strawberry, chia seed and peanut butter porridge

Italian soup mix with green beans, carrots and celery

Hoki green curry with green beans

Lentil soup with carrots and beans, topped with leftover roast chicken

Active April

Gosh, I honestly donโ€™t know where the month has gone! Yes, I know youโ€™re going to say that I say that literally every month. But I suppose time does fly quicker as you are getting older. Speaking of which, I turned 24 this month. My dad insisted on celebrating, but I think I am just getting to the age where I prefer to keep my birthday a quiet business and hide away. I got spoilt with some great presents and cake, of course! I had a lot of cake this month. I have had a few moments of hibernation this month, it does help with my internal struggle sometimes which is still ongoing, but Iโ€™m trying to deal with it in a different way (some of you would probably know about this from my previous monthly blogs).In terms of work, I have been juggling endless things this month. The student projects have been quite time-consuming, particularly because I needed to obtain ethics approval for one of them which needed a lot of work. The good news is that we were recently approved and currently recruiting for our focus groups! Iโ€™m also trying to work on my statistics paper, but it has been difficult to switch back and forth with this. I feel like statistics needs a mind of its own and I am still finding it really difficult to juggle it with other things. Unfortunately, I have not made substantial progress with this, really hope things change over the next couple of days.

In other news, I attended FameLab NSW as a semi-finalist (this was the news I mentioned last month). It was very exciting to be chosen for this. We received training for this on the day which made us feel even more underprepared! However, it was such a wonderful evening because I got to meet so many like-minded researchers from many disciplines and we talked about all things science. The presentation itself was very nerve-racking as it was given to a large unknown audience, but it was such a great learning experience. As a result of this, I also had the opportunity to attend two radio interviews with Dr Karl. Meeting this science legend was a very memorable and special experience; he was very supportive and so down-to-Earth. Iโ€™m honestly so grateful for the opportunities that I am getting from my PhD journey.

Click here to read about a media piece from this month on โ€˜The French secret to beating obesityโ€™.

Finally, here are all my April eats ๐Ÿ™‚

Curried sweet potato and cashew nut soup (recipe here)
Snapper Saddletail curry with tomato and parsley
Pearl barley and vegetable soup (recipe adapted from here)
Roasted aubergines with yoghurt and mint (recipe adapted from here)
Hearty lentil soup with tomato, carrot and capsicum
Pearl barley, apple and almond bake (recipe adapted from here)

Jittery January

Hope everyone is having a good year so far?
I cannot believe the first month is over already!Unfortunately I don’t have any food pictures to share this month because I haven’t cooked much at all. Even when I did, it was something that I had no time to take a photo of.My mind is preoccupied with something else, and it has been really difficult to get things done. To be honest, this month has been a hell of a month for me. It was stressful, exciting, crazy, painfulย  depressing…(the list goes on).
There were times when I was very close to giving up. I don’t think I have felt the range of emotions I experienced this month in any other time in my life. I can’t really explain how overwhelming it was, without bringing in the context (will reveal soon).