Christmas and Health

Hmmm Christmas and health, Christmas and health, Christmas and health … nope, I can’t link the two.

 

There’s something about being human that makes us want to let loose a couple of times a year and gorge on all the naughty things.

I’m one of the worst for turning into a choccie monster, so I couldn’t possibly advise against doing it yourself, but there are a few strategies I employ to make Christmas slightly healthier and not cause quite so much damage.

 

  1. Intermittent Fasting

This is where you don’t eat for 16 hours or more, so essentially go from dinner to lunch with no food. The research is very clear on the benefits of this and it has completely dispelled the myth of “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. It turns out that phrase was created by a cereal company in the 70’s. Funny that.

By fasting for 16 hours a few times a week, you will be letting your gut recover from the onslaught of food coming its way. You are also likely to keep the calories down on those days which can help manage weight gain.

During your 16 hours, just drink plenty of water and black coffee or tea is allowed. If you feel “hangry”, don’t worry, it will pass. Hunger is a transient feeling which doesn’t mean you need to eat straight away. Observe the feeling and let it go. Nice and Zen.

 

  1. Move!

Every year I treat injuries in the clinic around Christmas related to being more sedentary. Many people have time off work which often means extra time in bed in the morning, more time on the sofa to watch the Christmas films and more time around the dinner table.

The social side of Christmas is fantastic, but we must keep our body moving to help the joints and muscles stay loose.

 

  1. Sleep

It is only recently that the benefits of sleep have been pushed to the front of medicine. It has been quoted that sleep is the second most important factor in regard to weight loss. Diet is the most important, exercise is third! Who’d have thought?!

Trying our best to get quality sleep will help us cope with the stress and busyness that Christmas can sometimes bring.

Going to bed at the same time each day, avoiding screen time after 9pm, avoiding lots of alcohol and sugar and having a good morning and night routine are the things that will make the biggest impact to your sleep. Trying your best to do some of these things during the Christmas period will help.

 

  1. Be Social!

Again, the research is becoming clearer on this, the quality of our relationships is the biggest factor in predicting our long-term health, our longevity and our happiness.

When you are with your friends and family over Christmas, be with them. Don’t be on your phone, don’t let your thoughts stray to work, just be in the room, with them.

Believe it or not, this is the most powerful thing you can do for your health.

 

So enjoy Christmas, savour all the naughty foods and drinks that we let in, but I hope I have shared some useful strategies to soften the effects of it all just a little.

Here at Forté Physical Health, our team of osteopaths, sports massage therapists and a nutritionist are on hand to help with all manner of ailments.

If you have any questions about how we can help you and your health, get in touch at [email protected], or follow us on Facebook for regular health tips.

From all of us here at Forté, have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Why Don’t We Do the Things We Know to Be Good for Us?

I’m currently reaping the benefits of a low sugar month which I am doing in conjunction with my ’30 Day Habits’ group which I run in Facebook. I have a clearer head, better sleep, I’ve leaned up a little and my running feels better.

 

I have done this many times in my life, I’ve managed to break the sugar addiction and I always feel better for it. But then I go back.

Why is that?! Everything about life is better when I’m eating less sugar. Not only is my energy better, but I am more productive, calmer, my mood improves and I am a better communicator with those around me.

Why wouldn’t I want to be like this always?

The same goes for other habits of health. Exercise, stretching, meditation and a good night’s sleep are all essential for optimal health and they make life feel good. But as with the diet, the good routine of these things comes and goes.

This is something that has fascinated me both in my life and in that of my patients.

We all know what’s good for us, so why don’t we do it?

After years of wondering, I think I have finally found the answer. It goes deep into how our brain developed.

Over the millennia, our brain’s primary focus has been to protect us from danger. Anything that seemed tough or scary was to be avoided, and this simple philosophy kept us alive.

The problem is, the predators of the plains, the famine, the poisonous mushrooms and the neighbouring warrior tribe are all distant remnants of our history.

Yet that deep part of our brain still kicks in if we perceive something to be difficult or scary.

Our mind will always favour the easy option.

If the thought of setting the alarm to get to the gym before work sends a shiver down your spine, despite knowing you’ll feel great after, the primal brain will say, ‘nah, I’ll hit snooze, I’m much more comfortable in bed, thank you’.

If eating the low sugar diet initially gives you hunger pangs and cravings (which normally last a couple of weeks), then your mind will start whispering for you to reach for the biscuit tin.

If you want to be more flexible but haven’t stretched for months, your first time will hurt! And you guessed it, staying on the sofa instead of getting the yoga mat out can easily win the battle.

So what’s the point of this story? What can we do if our primal brain has such a hold over us?

Well, I personally find that just knowing this has helped me start new healthy habits

When I feel the discomfort of a sugar craving or the alarm going off for an early workout, I notice the thoughts that follow.

I pay attention to the voices that say “go buy some chocolate”, or “hit snooze, missing one workout won’t matter”, and once I’ve noted them, I ignore them. I think, ‘ah, that’s just the primal brain trying to hold me back’.

I embrace the discomfort and do the ‘thing’ anyway. I always feel better for it!

I have gone slightly off piste today as I usually discuss the topic of pain and injury, which is something we are specialists at treating in the clinic. But habits of health are also a passion of mine, so I hope this post has helped you with a strategy to kickstart the habit you know will make a difference in your life.

We love to chat, so if you have any thoughts about the habits of health, or if you have any questions about pain or injury, get in touch at [email protected] or check out our Facebook and YouTube pages.

Have a healthy month!

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Using Habits to Avoid Pain

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Will Durant

 

In my job as an osteopath, in the last ten years I have had the pleasure of treating people from all walks of life. I have treated professional athletes and some of the fittest people in the country, and then those who are far less healthy.

I have come to realise that there is no difference between the very healthy and the very unhealthy. The only thing that separates them is their habits.

When we want to change something about ourselves, it’s very easy to look at people that do what you want to do and think, ‘if only I had the discipline they do’, but that’s a myth.

It has been shown that discipline and willpower are finite resources. It doesn’t matter who you are, they run out eventually, so relying on them to be healthy won’t get you very far.

It is far better to create the habits of health. Habits are not finite, they are a subconscious part of our day (when was the last time you moaned about having to brush your teeth at night, for example?).

 

Another little myth around habits is that they take 21 days to make. I even used this number in the first few years of my career. Science has shown it to be wrong though; on average it takes 66 days to create a habit. So if you aim for a good three months you should make the habit stick.

The reason I am writing about this now is that I have observed a shift in peoples’ behaviour in the last few months, a good shift. With all the good weather we have had I have noticed people have been cycling more, walking more, getting out in the garden more and just generally moving more.

As I sit here writing, looking out into my garden, the Virginia Creeper has turned a deep, luscious red and it is being bombarded with a heavy autumnal rain. A few days ago, I finalised the plans for Christmas with my family. Autumn and winter are coming!

We are at a cross-road where it’s possible to let the good habits of summer slip. When the days get shorter and the weather worsens, it’s so easy to take the car instead of the bike, or sit watching sport on the telly instead of dig up the garden.

 

Obviously, through the seasons our habits change, but be conscious that you swap a movement-based habit for another movement-based one. If you’ve loved cycling this summer, why not get a turbo-trainer at home or join a spinning class? If you’ve felt proud of your efforts in the garden this summer, rather than hibernate during the winter, why not get your teeth into a DIY project?

You see, movement is strongly correlated to how much pain we feel. Those that move more have lower incidence of pain and they recover more quickly when they have it.

The summer has gifted us with a few months of beautiful weather, so you should have your 66 days to build a habit covered. Your body will be wanting to continue to move regularly. It thrives in movement.

Be conscious and figure out a way to continue moving all through the winter months. Get creative and have fun with it! This is an opportunity to carry good health forwards to next year.

In the clinic we see all sorts of injuries, and people often think it is doing  things that caused the problem, but injuries are made more likely by not doing  things like moving regularly and exercising.

Keep up your good health by focusing on making movement a habit and your body will thank you for it!

As always, if pain or injury is preventing you from living the mobile life you want, we are here to help. Get in touch at [email protected]sicalhealth.co.uk or 01245 522360. We also give regular exercise videos on our Facebook and YouTube channel.

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‘Wear and Tear’? Don’t worry about it!

We all love a rhyme. Rhymes and alliteration, in fact.

Evolutionary psychologists put it down to the fact that humans passed knowledge through the generations by telling stories. Our lives literally depended on remembering knowledge passed down by our elders, so the easier it is to remember, the better. Studies have even shown that different parts of our brain fire up when we are taught something using rhyme or alliteration, compared to the same information explained without them.

Most rhymes are a great tool to help us remember things, but strangely, some actually cause us harm.

In the last ten years there have been some amazing breakthroughs in the world of pain science. We are starting to understand that a major influencer of chronic pain is the language we use (both in our heads and out loud).

 

‘Wear and Tear’

If you have ever been told you have ‘wear and tear’, what image does it create in your mind? The word ‘tear’ in particular, that’s the strongest image in my mind. I imagine a tethered shipping rope, or an old pair of jeans. But this is not how the body works.

Yes, we wear as we age, but we also repair. Our bodies are known as ‘bioplastic’, which means that they adapt to the stimulus they are given. While we are wearing, we are repairing.

The image I have in my mind of a tethered rope is also untrue. Muscles and tendons can tear, but in reality, the effect is more like a small hole in a sheet, rather than a torn rope. Imagine holding up a bedsheet with a hole in it; you’d still be able to create tension in the sheet by pulling on the corners, wouldn’t you?

Our muscles do the same. Once the inflammation has died down, a muscle can still function even with strains in them.

On very rare occasions a muscle will completely tear and that can require surgery, but guess what, that repairs too!

 

Degeneration

Some other interesting research is showing that there isn’t much correlation between degenerative changes in our body and pain. Sometimes there is a link, but if you were to scan 100 random people, most of them would have some form of joint degeneration but only a few of them would have pain.

You may be thinking, “this is all well and good, but I do have pain related to arthritis, there’s no hope for me”. Well, the research comes to the rescue here as well.

Just because you have pain now, it doesn’t mean you always will or that it will get worse. Take the right actions and you can change.

 

Here are some rhymes and alliterations that are more helpful:

  • ‘Motion is the Lotion’
  • ‘Movement is Medicine’

 

‘Wear and Repair’

Get ‘wear and tear’ out your head. Tell yourself that you might wear but you can also repair.

The way you repair is by getting the right hands-on treatment to accelerate the reduction in pain (that’s where we can help). Then nourish your tissues (remember, motion is the lotion!), and use the medicine of movement to stay loose, strong and coordinated.

All you care about day to day is how well you can move through the space around you and whether or not it causes pain. The fact that there is some wear in your body (which most of the time doesn’t cause pain) is not an issue.

Check your language and be positive.

If you are in pain, get treatment and keep moving! Simple!

Any enquiries about treatment can be made by emailing [email protected], calling 01245 522360, or you can explore our website. We also give out lots of exercise and health videos on YouTube and Facebook so you can follow us there.

Have a healthy month!

 

This blog has been inspired by the wonderfully funny, educational and inspiring knowledge from the guys at noijam. I encourage you to check them out if you suffer with chronic pain or if you want to delve deeper into the curious world of neurology.

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What Is the Best Way to Stretch?

Fitness can be broadly split into three categories: cardio, strength and flexibility. It’s not quite as simple as that, but that covers the bases.

 

Cardio

As a teen, I had the cardio one covered. I did not stop. Early morning swimming training, badminton every lunchtime, running most evenings, football training a couple of times a week, cycling to see mates … my heart and lungs were sorted!

However, I was no Arnold Schwarzenegger. Having had the rapid growth of a boy destined to be 6’ 2”, my arms and legs were more spaghetti than penne. I was not exactly what you would call ‘strong’.

And if you asked me to touch my toes? I’d be lucky to get past my knees. My muscles felt like lead wires, creaking under the tension. But, I was 16, so I didn’t care.

 

Strength

However, at that age, the testosterone kicks in. Suddenly, the reflection in the mirror with the spaghetti arms was not good enough, so I did what a lot of young men do and I went to the shop, bought a magazine on weightlifting, read it cover to cover and went and lifted weights.

My mates and I became mildly obsessed with this hobby and over time we added a couple of stone to our skinny frames and strength started to take hold.

However, as I’m sure you can imagine, we weren’t exactly into the stretching side of things. By prioritising strength (actually, by prioritising biceps) our bodies had become immobile lumps of meat. Despite looking athletic, we couldn’t really move!

This model of training worked for a time, while the testosterone was raging at least. But then something strange started to happen. I started to get injured. Through my twenties, I would have fairly common joint pain.

It didn’t make sense to me – I thought I was fit! But as I trained to be an osteopath, and did further study into biomechanics after my degree, my obsession with the reflection in the mirror dwindled and it switched to freedom of movement.

 

Flexibility

Whereas previously I cared about the circumference of my biceps, my focus shifted to how well I could move in the space around me.

In my training, I asked my body questions like:

  • How well can I get up and down from the floor?
  • Can I reach my hands down to the floor, up over my head and behind me?
  • How clean do my hips feel?

Initially, the answers weren’t good! But I’ve had these questions as my main focus for about 5 years now and the transformation has been incredible.

 

A Blended Approach

My point of this story is that I have been through stages in my life where I have had good levels of all three forms of fitness, and I can honestly say the flexibility is the one that feels the best.

Obviously, it’s not all or nothing. By having one form of fitness, it doesn’t mean you have to ignore the others, and I still think it’s super important to have enough strength to cope with life and we should do some cardio from time to time. But day to day, the feeling of being able to move in my own body and through the space around me trumps the other two.

 

So, this begs the question, what’s the best way to stretch?

In my ten years of practice as an osteopath, I have researched many different styles of stretching. When I say ‘style’, I am not talking about Pilates vs Yoga. Both of them are excellent forms of exercise that bring many other health benefits than just flexibility. By ‘style’, I mean the sort of stimulus one is putting through the muscle.

Research changes over time and one style will become very ‘in vogue’ for a while, then it will be discredited and another one takes its place. I have become a bit bored with it all because I have discovered in both my own body and in that of my patients that there is only one thing that works:

 

CONSISTENCY.

 

Static vs dynamic, passive vs loaded, isolated vs functional – it doesn’t matter if you don’t do it consistently!

I have started to think about flexibility training in very simple terms. It is merely the practice of getting your body more comfortable in moving through the space around you. The only way to do this is to test yourself most days.

 

If you are currently feeling inflexible and don’t know where to start, you’re in luck! It has never been easier to get information thanks to YouTube. Type in “beginner stretching routine” and fill your boots. Just five minutes a day is a very powerful thing. Make it a habit and it becomes effortless. Eventually, it even becomes enjoyable!

Slowly, over time, you will gain freedom in your movement and you will notice fewer niggles. It’s a wonderful feeling!

If you want any ideas we have videos on our Facebook page and Youtube channel.

Get stretching, reclaim your movement, and have a healthy month!

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Back Pain On Holiday

Imagine the panic. You’re taking a well-deserved rest away on holiday. The sun is beating down and that makes your crisp, cold drink taste all the better.

Then, seemingly out the blue, your back goes. No! You’re in a foreign country, not sure how to get the care you need, but most importantly, the pain takes the enjoyment out the holiday.

At this time of year, I hear this story a lot in the clinic. But fear not, trusty reader, I will give you a few tips to prevent the dreaded woes of holiday back pain. By following these tips, you should keep the pain away and make the most of your time off.

 

Sun loungers

Remember, most sun loungers are designed to stack well, not to look after your back. I have rarely found a well-designed lounger which offers the correct support.

The other major problem with sunbathing is that it is so abnormal for us to lay down for that amount of time during the day! We often think pain is caused by DOING something, but very commonly I see injury caused by NOT DOING.

The extra rest we take on holiday can actually do us harm. Get up, walk and stretch regularly.

 

Flip flops

Wearing flip-flops can tighten the plantar fascia (the connective tissue under our feet) and lead to tight calves, hamstrings and hips (we call this the ‘posterior chain’).

This lack of flexibility through the posterior chain can leave your back vulnerable to injury. People with tight posterior chains often have their back ‘go’ with seemingly innocuous movements, like bending down to brush their teeth or pick a small object up from the floor.

It confuses them because it seems such a simple movement when actually, their back has been overloaded by the lack of flexibility in the legs and hips.

 

Hydration

It’s super important to stay hydrated in hot countries, especially if there are a few extra alcoholic drinks thrown into the mix.

Being dehydrated can reduce tissue health and leave us prone to injury.

 

Sudden increases in activity

If lounging around the pool isn’t your thing and you prefer to trek up mountains and take in the views, make sure you do some training beforehand.

I’ve said many times that it is ‘contrast’ that is the biggest cause of pain. If you have been busy in the office and haven’t had time to train, then you go ploughing up mountains your body probably won’t thank you.

 

What to do if you are in pain?

If the worst happens and you do end up injured on holiday, my advice is always the same.

Try to move little and often. We follow the “Goldilocks Rule”. Move too little, you will tighten up. Move too much, it can make the pain worse.

A simple rule of thumb is that if you are injured you should break your day into twenty-minute chunks. After sitting for twenty minutes, get up, move, walk, give your hips a little wiggle and stretch. After twenty minutes of that, put your feet up by the pool again.

The latest research is saying that it is helpful to use an ice pack for 20 minutes at a time every couple of hours, but only in the first day after the injury. After the first 24 hours, use heat and stay mobile.

 

And of course, when you get back on home turf, get booked in with your local osteopath to get you on the mend and ready to face normality. Or, if you are feeling tight before you go, prevention is always better than cure and a treatment or two can help you make the most of your well-earned rest.

As always, we at Forté Physical Health are here to help and you can get in touch at [email protected] or call 01245 522 360. And if you want ideas for flexibility exercises, click these links to our Facebook page and YouTube channel.

 

Have a healthy month!

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11 Lessons From One-Year No Booze

 

I am currently 11 months into a one-year challenge I set myself to go alcohol-free.

I had considered giving up after the birth of our second child. The broken sleep and the early starts were getting the better of me! I was also getting irritated by my procrastination at work and wanted to nip it in the bud.

I considered giving up booze for ‘a while’ until my life felt in order, but after discovering the blog OneYearNoBeer and reading all the great success stories, I set myself the challenge of the full twelve months.

It has been a fascinating year and here are the lessons I have learnt.

Black and white is SO much easier than grey

 When the answer is either ‘yes’ or ‘no’, it takes up much less mental energy than ‘maybe’ or ‘a little bit’.

I am in a time of my life where I don’t want to get drunk. Kids and business make me really regret having written off a day with a hangover, so the mental gymnastics I would have to go through when considering a night out was TIRING!

Trying to stick to my two-beer rule (we all know how that ends) was so hard. I even turned down nights out with friends because it didn’t cross my mind that I could go out and not drink. I missed out on my friends because I was put off by the grey zone.

Knowing that for a whole year I have been able to say ‘no’ has been easy on my mind and has actually meant that I have said ‘yes’ to more events, knowing that I can still be productive the next day. I have just as much fun, just none of the downside.

Social anxiety is 100% in my own head

This one took me a while to learn. When I would go to a pub or to a party, I would spend many anxious moments frantically trying to come up with a story in my head about why I was alcohol-free.

These thought-storms in my mind were driven by embarrassment, anxiety for what my friends would say and even guilt for not ‘joining in’.

It took me a couple of months to realise NO ONE CARES!!!

It’s liberating! Everyone else has their own stuff going on in their own heads, the stuff going on in your head is entirely fabricated.

Other than a few interested questions about why I’m doing it and how difficult it is, they didn’t care. They got back to enjoying their drink and I enjoyed my AF one. Simple.

Booze makes you fat

I went into this year with a perfect ‘dad-bod’ – skinny arms and a nice little paunch on my tummy. I wasn’t overweight, but I wasn’t lean.

This year I have become super lean. With no effort.

Not having those weekly ales has kicked the dad-bod to touch.

There were many times I wanted to have a drink, but there wasn’t once I wished had a drink

If I think back through the last year, there were many times I can remember wanting to have a drink.

Times like my birthday, toasting the purchase of our first family home, walking into a nice country pub on holiday, or even just getting home on a Friday night after a long week – they all got my juices going and it was hard to resist a beer or glass of wine, but I was committed to the challenge and I never gave in.

Later in the evening, going to bed and certainly the next day, there was never a time where I looked back and wished I had had the drink. There was never a time where I felt like I had missed out.

Curious isn’t it, the way our mind works in the present compared to reflecting on the past?

Procrastination is largely driven by anxiety, and booze makes you anxious

Now, don’t get me wrong, when it comes to productivity I am no Elon Musk (possibly the most productive man on the planet), but I am happy with the amount I get done.

My productivity ebbs and flows, it has highs and lows and I am always striving to improve it, but I would say that my baseline is pretty good.

It wasn’t always like this though and one of the main reasons for me to choose to quit booze for a year was that I noticed I procrastinated more on a Monday and Tuesday.

Procrastination is a funny thing, we never procrastinate over the easy stuff, do we? Just the hard stuff, the stuff that really matters.

Often, the stuff that really matters involves putting yourself out there, putting your reputation on the line, having hard conversations and putting in the work. In order to do this, you need to be confident.

When I observed my tendency to procrastinate at the beginning of the week, I noticed it was because I was more anxious. It didn’t take me long to realise it was the alcohol from the weekend that was the cause of this.

Now being alcohol-free, my Mondays are just as productive as the rest of the week and I sleep well knowing my tasks are getting done.

There is a difference between pleasure and happiness

I have had many joyful moments with a drink in hand, but as I have been researching happiness and noticed the change in myself in the last few years, I have become very aware that there is a difference between pleasure and happiness.

Pleasure, (depending on how we get it) is a good thing and it is part of what makes us human, but it mustn’t be confused with true happiness.

I have found that true happiness comes from overcoming hardship, getting done the things that are important to you, having integrity and congruency through your life. These are the things that fill you with a happiness deep from within and help you sleep easy.

There is absolutely a place in life for pleasure, but I now know that I won’t find happiness in the perfectly balanced malts and hops of my favourite amber ale or a softly spiced Rioja! That’s pleasure.

Happiness comes from living one’s purpose, and quitting the booze has helped me with that this year.

There are many hidden benefits to ‘voluntary hardship’

I read recently that 80% of people who try Dry-January fail. Eighty percent! For one month! I don’t get it.

Human existence has never been easier, so from time to time it’s fun to test yourself with some voluntary hardship.

Deliberately taking comforts out of your life or adding difficulty means you become less stressed by negative things happening that are out of your control.

You’re already practised in the skill of dealing with hardship.

This year has been that for me. It’s nice to have a drink from time to time, but by taking it away I have proven to myself that I could cope with other comforts being taken away if they had to be.

Don’t drink alcohol-free red wine, it’s terrible!

There are many good alcohol-free alternatives. There are some good lagers and craft ales, (my favourite beer is Brewdog’s Nanny State) and the best drink I’ve found overall is the gin alternative, Seedlip.

Seedlip is a genuinely nice drink, intensely flavoursome, dry, spicy and ‘adult’. A lot of alcohol-free drinks are sugary and sickly, but Seedlip’s two AF spirits are beautiful drinks.

Often, a drink is just about ‘breaking state’

In the personal development world, they talk about ‘breaking state’, which is where a trigger like a particular movement or action breaks the mental state that you’re in and prepares you for the next part of your day.

Well, I’ve noticed that that is often what a drink does. Getting in from work and ‘cracking open a cold one’ is a fast-track to breaking the tensions of the day.

The beautiful thing is, it’s just as effective with an AF beer as an alcoholic one. Some of the AF beers are really quite refreshing and they create the same experience as an alcoholic one when it comes to relaxing after a hard day.

I never felt I needed the actual alcohol to get the mindset shift at the end of the day. The ritual of cracking open the bottle and having a refreshing drink was enough.

It’s nice to prove you are not a slave

In the last year or so I have become fascinated by the topic of minimalism. This is the process of asking what you value in your life and then not spending any time, energy or money on anything else.

One of the by-products of this process is the realisation that we are slaves to the things around us. How long could you cope without your smartphone for example?

Even though I didn’t drink that much before this year, I was still a slave to it. I relied on it to add to the good times and ease the bad times.

Having the year out has helped show that I don’t need it. The good times are just as good and I don’t need it for the bad.

Despite the great year, I will go back to booze

Despite everything I’ve said and what a great year it has been, there is definitely a place in my life for a good pint of real ale or a nice glass of wine.

Life is here to be lived and I do find pleasure in these things.

I have learnt a lot this year and I feel like my relationship with alcohol has changed. I imagine most of the time I will continue to drink alcohol-free alternatives (I love the #smug feeling the next day where I can still exercise and be productive), but there is certainly a time and a place for a good couple of ales with a friend or a glass of wine with my wife.

I’m looking forward to it!

3 Tips To Make The Habit Stick

Regular readers may have noticed recently that I have become fascinated by habits.

So much so that when looking back, I have labelled my 2017 “The Year of the Habit” because I started and stuck to so many new habits of health.

Starting them is the easy bit, it’s the sticking to them that’s hard!

Here are three strategies I use when starting a new habit:

Start With WHY

Before you start something new, grab a pen and paper (that’s important) and write down as many reasons why you want to do it as you can.

Don’t just think about yourself, but also how it will affect those around you.

Plan for the Roadblocks

On the same piece of paper, write down all the things you can think of that may get in your way of sticking to the habit and, crucially, what you are going to do about it if that happens.

Things like going on holiday, work getting busy, a birthday or even the weather, may make it more difficult to stick to something, but there is always a way around it, I promise 🙂

Celebrate!

After a set period of time, what are you going to do to celebrate if you stick to the habit?

The celebration should take you deeper into the habit, not go against it. For example, if the habit is to eat clean, your celebration shouldn’t be a massive cake!

How about a nice Japanese chef’s knife instead to help with all the nice food you’re cooking?

 

So, whether you need to stretch more, get back to the gym or clean up the diet, grab a pen and paper and start writing.

You’ll be living the healthy life (and sticking to it) in no time!

Have a great week,

Chris and the Forté Team

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It’s Not Your Lower Back’s Fault!

It’s Not Your Lower Back’s Fault!

 

When I was at school, I had a lovely maths teacher called Mrs Boyce. Unlike many of my classes, Mrs Boyce allowed us to sit where we like. I’m sure the intention was that by giving us some autonomy she was hoping to be repaid with good behaviour.

Unfortunately, my best friend, Kyle, and I just couldn’t help ourselves from chattering. We were told so many times to be quiet that eventually we got split up and sat in opposite corners of the room.

I used to love maths class because it was an opportunity to do puzzles for an hour, and I love puzzles!

One day, the class was sitting quietly in concentration working through the exercises when there was a bang of a rubber hitting the wall above my best friend’s head. “Woah Chris!”, he shouted. He pretended I had thrown it at him, when really, he had thrown it at the wall himself, bored and wanting to cause me some trouble.

Mrs Boyce shot me a glare and told me to stop throwing things at my friend. “But…”, I knew it was a lost cause. “Ok, Mrs Boyce”. I got my head back into my workbook and a few minutes later, the same banging noise came but this time it was a pen hitting the wall followed by my friend shouting, “Chris! What are you doing?!”. Mrs Boyce was getting angry now and I got a proper telling off.

I was stuck. You can’t grass your best friend up, but I didn’t want the consequences that were about to come from Mrs Boyce. My only hope was to get on with the maths problems and hope that my friend had had his fun for the day.

Alas, five minutes later, when Mrs Boyce had her back to the class Kyle picked up his entire metal pencil case and lobbed it at the wall, pens, pencils and protractors scattering all over his corner of the room in an almighty bang.

“Christopher!”, Mrs Boyce screamed, “Get out!”.

Kyle had well and truly won that round. When I was standing outside in the hallway the headmaster happened to be doing the rounds, so not only did I get a telling off from dear Mrs Boyce, but also the headmaster, and that was no box of chocolates I can tell you.

What is the point of this story? Well, sometimes it really isn’t your fault!

This brings me on to your lower back. If you have lower back pain, I can guarantee it’s not your lower back’s fault. You see, the lower back has friends too. Its closest friends are the hips and the thoracic spine (your upper back, between the shoulder blades).

There are many reasons why you may have lower back pain, but I am going to tell you three of them.

1. TIGHT HIPS

If you have restricted hips, when you perform a function like picking something up, or twisting, rather than the movement coming from the hips, your body asks other areas to do the work so you can achieve the task. This can ask too much of your lower back and overload it, thus leading to injury.

Spending some time stretching each week is the solution to preventing tight hips.

2. WEAK HIPS

Our hips are our powerhouse of movement. If you’ve ever had a golf lesson, learnt to throw a punch or hit a perfect backhand, what do they say? “It’s all in the hips”. Strong glutes initiate a chain reaction that creates power in our movement, and if they are weak, the body will recruit more from their closest friends – the lower back muscles. The lower back isn’t designed to be as powerful as the hips, so again, asking too much from it will increase the risk of injury.

Learning to squat, especially the “below parallel” squat where your hips go below the level of your knees is the best exercise to strengthen the glutes. If this seems too hard, simply doing repetitions of getting up and down from a chair would also be a good exercise for you.

3. TIGHT THORAX

Too much sitting and desk work can be the culprit for tightening your upper back. If this area is tight, like when the hips are tight, your body will ask for motion from elsewhere when it’s needed.

The lower back is a target because often the thorax and the hips are tight at the same time, so the lumbar region is getting overloaded from above and below. No rest for the wicked!

If you suffer with lower back pain, it’s super important to figure out which of the lower back’s friends are causing the problem. When in pain, it’s human nature to focus on it, but that’s where an expert eye can help you solve the problem and fix the cause of it.

 

For regular tips on how to stretch and move for your back health, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and YouTube by clicking the little links at the top of the page.

 

Stay healthy!

 

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60 Hour Keto Fast – Live Updates


Sunday 9pm – The Fast Begins!

My last morsel of food was eaten half an hour ago. It’s a strange feeling knowing that I’m not going to eat again for (hopefully) 60 hours. I’m super aware of all the feelings in my body, wondering if I’m going to cope until Wednesday.

I followed the advice from the experts and didn’t eat more than normal to ‘stock up’ and I avoided sugar. I had a small glass of white wine at lunch (sun was shining and I couldn’t resist!), but otherwise it’s been a fairly normal and healthy day.


Monday 7am

It’s been interesting this morning. Obviously I’m not hungry yet, but I’ve noticed how often I steal my daughter’s breakfast! Normally, as I’m getting it ready I take little nibbles here and there, and any leftovers go down the hatch too.

Even things like licking my fingers after picking up the cooked streaky bacon would probably give me the wrong stimulus during the fast.

It’s taken quite a bit of self-awareness not to do that because normally it’s so subconscious!


Monday 11am

I had a bad night sleep last night and that always makes me crave more sugar! Not a good day to be feeling this! I’m going to go for a walk to take my mind off it. I’m in the hunt for some Himalayan salt to put in my water…


Monday 6:30pm

Just finished work and have got through the day easily. At about 3pm I got a surge of very ‘clean’ energy that has lasted the rest of the afternoon. I felt very smily and happy all of a sudden!

My tummy is still rumbling and I do have feelings of hunger, but nothing major. Not having dinner will be difficult from a habit perspective rather than having any excruciating hunger.


Monday 9pm

Pretty hungry, but also pretty tired. I’m going to go to bed and hope I can get to sleep quickly.

I don’t think you can feel hungry when you’re asleep, can you?


Tuesday 5:30am

I’ve woken up at 5:30 with a bit of a headache. Nothing serious, just feel a bit groggy. I’ve necked a pint of water with some salt in and this seemed to help.

I don’t feel hungry as such, just ’empty’. I’m quite impressed with how well I feel actually. Despite the grogginess, it’s not as bad as I was expecting!


Tuesday 8am

Making my daughter’s breakfast was quite tough. I started to get a little angry! I was rushing, and became clumsy and irritated. It was so tempting to eat some, but I resisted.

I had a bit of a talking to to myself. I realised that this is where the test begins. Acknowledge the discomfort, but don’t give in to it. Yesterday was easy but it was just the warm up. Any discomfort I’m feeling now is normal so I don’t need to be irritated.

Feel it. Breathe. Let it go.

I’m now enjoying this slight feeling of tension and realise that it has actually given me energy. As I’m writing this, my fingers are moving faster than normal and I’m not making as many typos.

I took a brisk walk to the shops to pick up some more mineral water and I’m feeling good.

On that note, yesterday I drank about 3 litres and I don’t think it was quite enough. I’m going to aim for 3.5 – 4 litres today. This is just a feeling, so don’t take it as gospel that this is the right amount for you.

I see my first patient soon and I’m curious how much energy I will have to do the more physical side of my job. Mentally, I’m up for it!


Tuesday 10:30am

Salt! I’ve not been having enough salt!

Over the last couple of hours I’ve drunk a large glass of water with a good amount of Himalayan salt in it and it’s changed everything. I feel happy, energised and my headache has completely gone.

They said in the group I’m in that we need to be having salt, but I hadn’t been putting enough in my water yesterday. This has made a big difference.

I feel much better now than at any point in the fast so far. Treating my first few patients has been fine, I haven’t felt dizzy or weak at all. In fact, I’m more focussed mentally and able to be more ‘present’.


Tuesday 1:30pm

It’s funny how I haven’t eaten for over 40 hours but my tummy still rumbles at lunchtime!

I have a few feelings of hunger, but I feel very clear mentally and I’m coping well physically too. I had one small episode of dizziness after getting up quickly and I feel more cold than normal, but nothing bad at all.

The improved mental clarity out-weighs any negative feelings from the hunger and cold.

I think I’m in ‘the zone’ that they talk about 🙂


Tuesday 4pm

I finished work a little early today so went for a walk into town. Big mistake.

Food. Is. Everywhere!

I was feeling fine until then but all the food made me feel so hungry! Being busy with things to take your mind off the hunger is essential.


Tuesday 9pm

Phew! Nearly there!

Dinnertime (for the rest of the family) was really tough. The smell of freshly cooked food was enough to drive me insane!

In all honesty I nearly cracked. But when I really asked myself if I need food, I realised the answer was no. I could push on. I didn’t feel dizzy or unwell, just really, really, hungry.

I wanted to taste flavour again. And chew something. Drinking salty water all day has become a little tiresome!

As I sit here now, a little after 9pm, all the food has been cleared away and I feel much better. There’s no food in sight and I’m busying myself writing this blog and I feel very good.

I’m quite tired, I’ve got the very beginnings of a headache, but I feel very positive about the experience now. Earlier I nearly gave up and had a lot more negative thoughts floating round my head.

I must warn you, I absolutely stink! My breath stinks. My armpits stink. Generally I’m a pretty horrible person to be in close proximity of.

I’m assured this is a good sign and is completely normal for when you are in ‘ketosis’. This shows that my body is now getting its fuel from my fat reserves and starting to detox damaged cells. Very cool. (And also very smelly).

Earlier, all I could think about was what I’m going to have to eat at 9:30am tomorrow (my 60 hour mark), but now I just want to go to bed and fall into a deep sleep. I have vague thoughts of how perfectly I’m going to make my scrambled eggs in the morning, but the tiredness is taking over the hunger.

I will fill you in in the morning…


Wednesday 4:55am

Wanna know something embarrassing…?

I woke up to the smell of my own breath! I have the breath of a two day old corpse. It’s appalling. I’m going to go and have a mug of hot water to see if it helps.

I don’t feel hungry at all which is a sign I’m working off my own fat reserves and in full ketosis. I’m really happy I punched through the tough bit last night at the family’s dinnertime so I could get to this state.

However, I don’t feel happy! I’m pretty groggy and bleary-eyed. I remember writing on day one about a clean energy and feeling smily for no reason. Well, that’s long gone!

Despite the typical feeling of hunger having disappeared, all I can think about is that first meal…


My First Meal

Ok, here’s a little disclaimer, I’m writing this a day after I finished the fast.

Yesterday, I was just too moody to write anything! I was the grumpiest and most irritable I’ve been for years. I can’t remember the last time I’ve felt like that.

I slept terribly from Tuesday to Wednesday. Every time I fell to sleep, I’d get dragged awake by some unseen force 20 minutes later. I also had some funky nightmares and my head was in a spin. All of this lead me to be the biggest grump I think I have ever been!

In the fasting group I’m in, most people have found their sleep actually improves during the fast, yet there’s a smaller number of us where they can’t sleep, and I’m one of them.

When I think about it, I also felt like I had restless legs, which could be a magnesium deficiency as magnesium also affects the ability to get to and stay asleep.

Yesterday, even once I had eaten, my thoughts were, “I’m never doing that again” (and then a lot of swear words). However, thankfully, for those of you who may have been put off, there’s some good news. I managed to have a nap half way through yesterday which really helped the grumpiness, and I ate a little more food. By last night I was feeling “okay”. Not brilliant, but on the normal spectrum of happiness.

Today I feel brilliant. I can really feel a noticeable difference and my mind and body feel clean.

When I think about it, all the resources I had says there will be a time where you feel terrible, and this is actually the detox process at work. You can’t get the full benefits without feeling bad at some point. If you go on to try this though, I must warn you, if you feel like I did, it’s horrible! Remove yourself from all conversation for a day because you won’t be rational.

I can assure you however, you will get through it. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s a good place to be.

But, I digress. My first meal!

Despite the dark clouds hanging over my head, my first meal of scrambled eggs and a mug of bone broth was absolute bliss. To have flavour and texture again was heavenly, and quite literally put a smile on my face.

I couldn’t eat much at first. I’d made 5 scrambled eggs to be shared between me and my little girl, and initially I think I had one and a half. Then I drank my broth and let things settle. I could feel my stomach physically expanding. And then, my daughter lost interest in her breakfast and I kept chipping away at the eggs with little breaks in between and I reckon I ended up having about 4 of the 5 to myself.

For the rest of the day, I ate some avocado on toast and then a light dinner, but the real challenge was getting through the day without having a mental breakdown! I slept really well last night and today I’m happy and glad for the experience.

I will be doing one again!

Will you join me…?