What I Really Want For Christmas in 2020

What I Really Want For Christmas in 2020

Family Unity is More Important Than Gifts

My Christmas wish list is a little different this year. What I really want for Christmas can’t be wrapped and placed under the tree. Christmas is a time for families to gather, often over a celebratory meal and the traditions like gift giving.  In Australia it is one of the main celebrations of the year.  Even if you don’t identify as Christian, most families gather together.

Most mothers take on the role of organising many of the Christmas traditions such as buying the gifts and preparing the food.  It can be a busy time leading up to the day as mothers tend to take on the extra tasks so that Christmas can be a happy time for their family.

Christmas Traditions

Every family has its own traditions for this time, whether it is watching the Carols by Candlelight, eating roast turkey, or going to Midnight Mass.  There is often food that she traditionally cooks every year because it is someone’s favourite.  

Every year there are a few things that I always cook.  My son loves turkey, but it has to be one specific turkey that I cook.  I was a single mother during their teens, and my budget didn’t stretch to buying a whole turkey.  I cooked a rolled turkey thigh that was frozen – it was pretty grim.  Even though I could now cook a whole turkey, my son insists on that awful rolled turkey thigh!  Every year we laugh about it, but that is what I still cook for him!

My Christmas Wish List

As another Christmas looms, I have put some thought into the gifts on my wishlist.  This year’s Christmas is sure to be extra special as most of us will be pleased to see the end of this very trying year.  These are the gifts I would love:

  • My family to be united to celebrate Christmas
  • Security and safety for my family
  • Good health – everyone remains Covid free, with the prospect of a vaccine soon
  • My sons are happy with life and both stay employed in jobs that they enjoy
  • Our country remains free of natural disasters
  • Our leaders keep our country safe and our economy strong
  • We are free to travel and enjoy our freedom again
  • Peace and serenity, gratitude for all that we are blessed with

I am optimistic that I will receive all the gifts on my wishlist this Christmas.  Wouldn’t it be a lovely celebration if we could all receive them?  It wasn’t that long ago that we took most of this for granted, but after this year I don’t take anything for granted anymore.

The Gift I Most Desire

Time with my family is even more precious now, as both sons moved out leaving us empty nesters.  The border was closed for most of the year meaning that I couldn’t see my family in New South Wales.  Our family has had many health issues, not from Covid, but from cancer and other issues.

This year the emphasis won’t be on material gifts, it will be on celebrating together as a family.  One of my brothers will be here, which will be lovely.  

My other brother has sadly distanced himself from the rest of the family after our father passed away.  It’s such a shame as dad’s dying wish was for all of us to be united as a family.  The situation seems insurmountable as he refuses all attempts of reconciliation. 

It may be the last year we spend with my mother-in-law too, as she has reached the palliative stage of lung cancer.  We will treasure every moment we have with her.  

This Christmas Will Be Different

This Christmas has taken on a different meaning for all of us.  We now don’t take for granted that we can cross the state border, or gather together as a family group.  Our health has been our focus and we no longer take that for granted either.  It will be a relief that we made it through one of the most challenging years any of us has ever seen.

I am so grateful for a Christmas celebration with the most precious thing, my family.

What gifts do you most look forward to receiving? Are you wanting intangible gifts like me? If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy:

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10 Ways To Improve Your Wellbeing

10 Ways to Improve Your Wellbeing

Make a commitment to yourself to get back on track with your healthy lifestyle. The upheaval in all our lives with restrictions, lock-downs and changes to our daily routines has impacted our personal health. It is understandable that people have let their diet, exercise and self care routines go by the wayside, but now that travel restrictions and lock-downs are being relaxed in many areas we should be getting back on track in our personal lives as well. It doesn’t matter how old you are, the following ways will improve your well-being:

10 Ways to Improve Your Well-being

  1. Exercise at least 30 minutes per day preferably in the fresh air
  2. Drink at least 1 litre of water per day
  3. Eat the rainbow – include a healthy balanced diet to nourish your body
  4. Measure your waist and track it as it is a more accurate indicator of our health than what the scales say
  5. Get your chill on – use mindfulness, meditation or listen to music
  6. Listen to inspiring people – podcasts, vloggers or YouTube. If you prefer, read inspiring books
  7. Make yourself number 1 – prioritise your self-care
  8. Limit alcohol and fast food
  9. Declutter your life by dropping bad habits, belongings and relationships that hold you back
  10. Reach out to your loved ones. Don’t be isolated even if you can’t see them in person. Use the telephone, or video chat with them

The Global Pandemic has Impacted our Well-being

The global pandemic has impacted our lives in many ways. My dear friend John lost his wife this morning after a long illness – she was only 55. John is like a brother to me, I have known him my whole life. He was like a son to my father which was an amazing connection to have. My father lived in New Zealand while his children lived in Australia, so having John there was great. He grieves dad just as we do. He has been there for our family through the loss of mum, my sister and my dad and now, when he needs our support, we can’t be there for him due to travel restrictions. It breaks my heart. There are many families with stories like this, and it’s no wonder our well-being is being undermined.

On another note, I have been at home recovering from my bilateral mastectomies for over two months. I will soon start back at work on light duties which I’m looking forward to. It’s been a very slow recovery. I will be very tired at first and I will have less time to write, so may not be posting consistently for a while.

10 Ways to Improve Your Wellbeing

The Impact This Year Has Had on my Wellbeing

Editor’s Update: This post was originally published at the end of July 2020. In the following weeks I have moved my website Midlifestylist to another platform, and in the process “lost” six blog posts. My website is going through a total revamp as I learn the new platform.

An update on my personal life – I have not returned to work as my employer will only allow me to work if I am completely 100% back to full health. It is almost three months since my bilateral mastectomies and I still have some swelling. Moderate exercise and chores causes pain and more swelling so I’m not up to returning to my busy job as a nurse. This is tough for me because I’m so used to working and nursing is not only my role, it is part of my identity. Everyone keeps telling me to be patient and allow healing to happen, and I’m being very well supported to do that by my family and friends.

Some days I feel very emotional – my body has been through a lot this year (four surgeries). Queensland has once again closed its borders so I’m still cut off from my family. The pandemic continues to cause major problems for all of us and this feels like the longest winter I’ve ever had. I’m mindful of the fact that we have been very lucky to have escaped the high numbers of Coronavirus statistics that other states and countries have had.

Striving to Improve my Well-being

The ten steps I wrote at the beginning of this article have proven to be lifesavers. Having that daily walk, eating a healthy diet and taking time for self care have boosted my morale. Reaching out to loved ones has improved my well-being immensely. Relaxing with music, completing jigsaws, watching some great movies and series, and experimented with cooking different recipes have all helped to while away the days. Healing is a slow process but I feel like I’m healing my mind and spirit as well as my body.

Stay well everyone.

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Why Your Waist Measurement Matters and How to Reduce It

This article will explain the relationship between waist size and your general health. Why your waist measurement matters, and how reducing it will improve your overall health.

According to research, reducing the size of your waist to a healthy size will increase your longevity. Other benefits are that it will reduce your risk for other diseases, such as dislipidemia, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Even if you are relatively smaller everywhere else on your body, the increased weight around your waist will still lead to other health problems.

My Own Health Concerns

One of my biggest concerns with my weight was my waist circumference. My waist measured 109cm (42 inches) when I started on my weight loss journey. This put me at a much higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. An ideal waist measurement for women is 88cm (35 inches) or less, and men is 102cm (40 inches) or less. Anything above this is classed as abdominal obesity.

All the extra weight I was carrying was fat, which was surrounding all my vital organs like my heart, liver and pancreas. I had been taking blood pressure medication for a couple of years, and for my cholesterol for at least 6 years. This meant my body was already showing signs of issues caused by this excess fat around my abdomen.

How to Measure Your Waist Size

Along with wanting to lose weight, I was desperate to reduce the size of my waist to prevent any other health issues. I started measuring my waist, hips, bust, thighs and upper arms along with weighing myself 2 – 3 times a week. I used a Body Fat Calculator to assess this. My body fat percentage a year ago was 43.3% which is very high. Now it is around 28% and in the healthy range for my age.

I have found that taking those measurements is more incentive to than just weighing on the scales alone is. Some days I’m quite bloated with my waist ranging between 84cm on a good day to 88cm on a bad day! The “bad day” is usually from working night shifts or having a day or two of eating and drinking unhealthy food. I accept that we all need a day or two like that occasionally.

Image credit for feature photo: Pixabay on Pexel

If you are interested in starting to do the same measurements, there’s a great website called Calculator.net. It has a number of health and fitness calculators that are easy to use, including a Body Fat Calculator. If you don’t want to go to that much trouble, try writing down your waist measurement and weight once or twice a week.

Gauging Your Waist Size by How Your Clothes Fit

The way your clothes fit will also be a good way to gauge whether you’re losing weight off your waist. I’ve had to totally replace my whole wardrobe twice in the last year, down to my underwear! It’s so rewarding to be able to see the results, and know that I’ve improved my health by reducing my waist size.

Another benefit of reducing your waist size is that clothes fit better! I always found it really hard to find clothes that fitted my apple shaped body and was always trying to hide my belly with tunics etc. It’s now so much easier to find clothes that fit, and my body has a better figure. (not quite an hourglass shape though!)

Here are my measurements before and after:

October 2018 / October 2019

Weight 83.5kg / 66.1kg

Waist 105cm / 84cm

Hips 109cm / 95cm

Bust 104cm / 90cm

Thighs 69cm / 59cm

Upper arm 30cm / 27cm

My Weight Loss Success

Before 83.5kg October 2018. After 66.1kg October 2019

Steps to Take to Reduce your Waist Size

The following six steps have been shown to effectively reduce your waist size:

  1. Cut out all sugar, especially drinks that have been sweetened. A high intake of sugar leads to the liver getting overloaded, resulting in insulin resistance. Your body can’t cope with so much sugar (fructose) and stores it as fat in your abdomen and liver.
  2. Increase your protein intake, because this reduces cravings and boosts your metabolism. High quality protein is important, such as that found in eggs, fish, legumes, nuts, seafood, meat and high quality protein supplements (whey powder).
  3. Cut carbohydrates, particularly highly refined ones found in cakes, sweets and white bread. Some people cut carbs drastically leading to ketosis (the popular keto diet) which reduces your appetite and leads to rapid weight loss. My brother has done really well on this diet, while I found just dropping all the rubbish like lollies, cakes, muffins etc. was enough for me to be effective. I find that if I have any of those foods now I get a migraine. That just proves to me that this type of food is bad for my health.
  4. Eat food high in fibre, particularly vegetables. This helps to fill you up, and aids digestion. One of the most effective steps I took was to amp up my vegetable intake, replacing a lot of the carbs with vegetables. Vegetables contain plenty of vitamins and minerals which also help our health and well-being. Other food sources of fibre include fruit, cereals and legumes. Adding a fibre supplement like Metamucil would be effective as well.
  5. Exercise, in particular aerobic exercise such as walking, running, swimming and cycling. Spot exercises like sit-ups do not work! Improving your core muscle strength will help you overall but it might not necessarily reduce your waist size unless you are doing aerobic exercise. I can’t do heavy exercise but I have found that regular walking has been effective for me.
  6. Count your calories using a macro counter. I use an App on my phone to record everything I eat. From there I can see my macros (percentage of protein, carbs and fat), and calorie intake. I try to keep to between 1500 – 1800 Kcal per day, and make sure my calories in is lower than my calories out. Even though my weight has been stable for months I still track my intake because I find it helps me stay accountable to my health goals.
Why your waist measurement matters - how your waist measurement affects your health and what you can do to reduce your waist measurement
Why your waist measurement matters – how your waist measurement affects your health and what you can do to remedy it.

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Letter to myself – aged 17

I have been thinking of my parents a lot lately, especially when I was writing my last two blog posts. Reflecting on what skills I learned from my parents, I realised that I didn’t appreciate it at that age. I was a bit of a handful for my parents, rebelling against their strict rules. I was able to rebuild my relationship with them in time, but I really wish I’d listened to their advice more.

This isn’t an original idea – I have seen other people write letters to their younger selves. Oprah wrote a powerful one and asked 17 well-known people to write letters as well – they’re on her website. There’s even a Grammy-award winning song by Brad Paisley:

If I could write a letter to me
And send it back in time to myself at seventeen

After reflecting on the things I wish I knew when I was 17, I decided to write a similar letter to myself:

A photo of the author, Christina Henry, aged 17
Me at aged 17

My Letter to Myself, Aged 17

Dear Christina,

I am writing to tell you that you need to appreciate your parents more. They really love you and only want what’s best for you. Their rules are there to protect you, even if they are strict and old-fashioned.

Learn as much as you can from your mum. She’s a beautiful person who gives her whole life to you – appreciate her, because she won’t be there when you really need her. She’ll be at your wedding, but 4 months later she’ll pass away from cancer. You will miss her for the rest of your life but you’ll be so grateful that you learnt a lot about cooking and homemaking from her. You’ll draw on your memories of your mother when you have your own children, and you’ll appreciate the advice she give you in her last few weeks about bringing up children. Memories like that will be treasures.

You will grow to appreciate your father, but not until you have your own children. Then you’ll realise how hard it is to give them a private education, holidays overseas and a nice house. You’ll come to terms with the type of man he is and that he was very much a product of the times when men were chauvinistic and had little to do with child rearing. You may never want to rely on a man, and you will always be strong willed and independent. You’ll eventually be on much better terms with him, but it’s not until his deathbed that he’ll tell you you’re a good daughter.

Don’t drink too much alcohol. It doesn’t agree with your body, and will play havoc with your mood and mental state. It won’t help at all when you’re grieving. You’ll make some pretty awful decisions under the influence, for which you’ll be regretful. Definitely don’t take drugs because the affect they have on family members will be devastating. Keep an eye on your sister – her spiral downwards in mental health will eventually have a diagnosis but not for 10 years. Step in and get her help when she has her first psychotic episode – she needs medical attention so don’t hold back from seeking it.

Learn to walk away from people and situations before they start affecting your mental and physical health. You will try to help so many people who will hate you for it, and it won’t be until years later that you learn boundaries. Find help with being assertive and only let people into your life who are authentic and care for your well-being. Even if that means having fewer friends – quality is better than quantity.

The author with her best friend Paula, aged 17
Me with my best friend Paula, aged 17

Don’t try to be a people pleaser. People will walk all over you until you learn to listen to your own inner voice and stand up for what is right. Don’t ever be a doormat. Your shyness will hold you back, and it will become so bad you’ll develop social anxiety. Seek help for it because there is treatment that will help. There will be one person who is strong enough to help you and will always have your back – you won’t meet him till you’re in your 40’s but when you do, there’ll be an instant connection and you’ll know you’re with the right person. Life won’t always be easy, but he’s the one you’ll be able to grow old with.

Protect your back. Back pain will be the defining feature of your later years. Nursing is a wonderful career which you will love, but it will take a toll on your health. Don’t stay in a job that causes too much stress. It’s not worth it and there’s better jobs out there.

Appreciate your healthy body. Look after it and don’t take it for granted. You’re in for a lifetime of health related issues so appreciate your youthful body. Get your teeth fixed while you’re young – your confidence and self esteem will improve. Investigate your migraines and palpitations – the underlying cause will shock you but you’ll be on a better pathway towards a healthier you. Watch out for weight gain – you’ll discover that more of a plant based diet is the answer to maintaining your weight and well-being.

Travel as much as you can when you’re young. The world will change so much and your health will limit how much you can travel.

The author aged 17 - she looks so shy and insecure in this photo
Myself at 17 – I look so shy and insecure

I don’t need to tell you that motherhood will be the most rewarding role you’ll have in life. You already know you will be a mother, even if it takes you years to have children. You will guide them in the way you wish your parents had guided you – with strong communication, mutual respect, and appreciation of the unique creative people they are. They will give you so much joy and fulfillment.

Don’t ever stop writing and reading. It will give you untold joy and satisfaction. You’ll always want to learn something new, and you’ll throw yourself into new projects with passion – don’t ever stop doing that!

Above all, keep believing that there’s a higher reason for all of this. We’re spiritual beings in human form and our goal is to learn as much as we can in our lifetime. Your life will throw you many curve-balls, and at times you’ll struggle with the weight of so much burden on your shoulders, but you’ll always get through each challenge. Care for yourself, make sure you take time out for yourself. Enjoy your life,

Love Christina, aged 53

No Regrets

I don’t regret much – my life has been a learning curve and I’ve probably dealt with more situations than some people. Some I’ve dealt with well, many not so well. I’ve learnt to accept myself with all the traits, good and bad, that I have. Some inherited, some learnt as I’ve traveled through life. I enjoyed writing this letter to myself as an exercise in self reflection.

What would you tell yourself at 17? Please comment below.

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My Top Posts of 2019

My healthy lifestyle blog has been my biggest achievement this year (apart from losing 17kg!). I’ve really enjoyed writing about a topic that I’m passionate about. The hardest part is the self promotion which goes against my introverted nature but it’s vital to gain followers if I want people to read my articles. I would like to share my top posts 2019 with my readers.

MY TOP 9 POSTS of 2019


In order, they were:
1 How to make goals that will stick,
2 Why your waist measurement matters,
3 My Weight-loss Journey,
4 Slow and Steady wins the race,
5 13+ ways to get more colour in your diet,
6 Gifts that Inspire a Healthy Lifestyle,
7 How to keep on track with your health goals during the holiday season,
8 Just change one habit at a time and
9 Losing weight is a marathon not a sprint.

Read them now to gain some inspiration! Live your healthiest year in 2020.


Thanks to everyone who has read, followed, liked and shared my posts across WordPress, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter! I really appreciate your support and all the comments, likes and shares. It keeps me motivated to write more. Please let me know what your favourite article was.

A collage of the top posts of 2019 on the Midlifestylist blog.
The top posts on Midlifestylist.com for 2019
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My Weight-loss Journey

My weight loss journey has been a battle over the years. The urge to start writing this blog was because I finally succeeded in losing weight and keeping it off. The difference this time is that my weight didn’t bounce straight back up when I completed the program I was on. I’ve always been interested in promoting a healthy lifestyle through my nursing career. Now I want to help other people towards health through this medium. My weight is now in the healthy range for my age, and I plan to stay at this weight.

I was painfully thin as a child. I didn’t start to gain weight until after having children in my mid 20’s. My weight was still within a normal range until my 40’s. Medications, health issues and grieving all contributed to weight gain. This weight gain escalated after menopause. The battle to remain a healthy weight intensified with chronic back pain and a congenital heart defect.

My Previous Attempts at Weight Loss Were Unsuccessful

Fad diets, especially elimination diets, aren’t successful in the long run because you start craving all the things you can’t have. Whenever I’ve tried a “diet” such as Weight Watchers or Lite n Easy, I’ve been able to lose the weight easily enough. But I’ve always craved things and felt really restricted. So as soon as I stop the diet I put on all the weight plus more! By being able to control my own diet in a healthy way, my efforts to lose weight have succeeded.

Adjusting My Diet Led to Success

The program I was on taught me how to choose food that is lower in calories while being nutritious and filling. This new way allows me to choose my own food so I don’t have to eat food I don’t like. I don’t restrict myself to eating only low fat, low carbohydrate, or low calorie and I don’t give up whole food groups like a lot of diets do. I automatically pick food that fills me up and doesn’t have too many calories, like a big salad. Extra flavour and texture is included like feta cheese, olives, snow peas and roast beetroot, so it’s interesting to my palate. The beauty of it is that you can choose what you like. If you don’t like olives but you love nuts, you can swap them out.

My weight loss journey - Before photo was  taken in Rome in June 2018.  The after photo was taken in November 2019 after I lost 17kg
My weight loss journey – Before photo was taken in Rome in June 2018.
The after photo was taken in November 2019 after I lost 17kg

A few weekends ago I packed up a large box of clothes that I no longer fit. Some of them are brand new because I had bought a lot of clothes thinking I would get to a certain weight and that would be it, but I just kept on losing weight. During this weight loss journey I’ve gone down about 3 sizes. It starts to get expensive when you have to replace your whole wardrobe twice in a year! But I am proud of what I’ve achieved and I do feel much better at this weight.

Why do I feel weird when people compliment me on my weight loss?


I don’t like getting all that attention, but people are constantly telling me I’ve lost more weight. Even though I’ve been pretty steady for the last few months. They ask how I did it and probably expect me to name a fad diet or gastric bypass or something. When I told them I count calories and cut my portions down they seem disappointed! I think people want to know that there is a foolproof way, or an easy way to lose weight.

My weight loss journey.  Before photo was taken in October 2018 when I weighed 83.5kg.  The after photo was taken in October 2019 when I weighed 66.1kg
My weight loss journey. Before photo was taken in October 2018 when I weighed 83.5kg.
The after photo was taken in October 2019 when I weighed 66.1kg

I Want to Inspire Other People to Live a Healthy Lifestyle

Because I have had a history of yo-yo weight since I was in my 20’s, it is now my goal to help other people to achieve the success I have had. My weight loss journey is the drive behind me starting this blog, so that I can help other people to live a healthy lifestyle in their 40’s, 50’s and beyond. It is not a “diet”, but it is a change towards living your best life with a little advice on how to achieve it. I don’t have all the answers, but I may be able to help in some way.

What I won’t be able to help you with is information on beauty products, anti aging treatments such as fillers and injectables, and supplements designed for weight loss. I’m no expert on fitness and exercise regimes either. There are lots of other people who are! As I have said before, I did not go to a gym. My sole exercise is walking the dogs nearly every day.

If you would like information on anything specific, please comment, and share this post as well! If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy:

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How to Keep on track with your health goals during holiday season

One of the hardest times to keep on track with our health goals is during the holiday season – Christmas and New Year, up to Australia Day at the end of January and even up to Easter. In the US and Canada, Thanksgiving Day in November is the start of the holiday season. Summer in the Southern Hemisphere is a time of beach, school holidays, barbecues and celebrations, while winter in the Northern Hemisphere is a time for hearty meals, staying indoors in front of the fire and eggnog!

It has to be the most challenging time of the year for people trying to keep to their health goals. This post will discuss some of the ways you can manage temptations during special events. It will also help you to prepare some strategies before the holiday season.

A collage of tempting, unhealthy food that people may face over the holiday season.  Pancakes and icecream, fried  food, alcohol and large servings of Chinese food
So many temptations during holidays and celebrations. A collage of tempting, unhealthy food that people may face over the holiday season. Pancakes and icecream, fried food, alcohol and large servings of Chinese food

How to Manage Temptations at Events

If you are having a celebratory meal or gathering of any kind, inevitably the menu includes food that is high in calories and alcohol, and wouldn’t be normally in your day to day diet. Some suggestions to deal with these situations are:

  • Take your own platter with healthy food to share. This is my number one way of dealing with these situations! Try using my recipes for a savoury and sweet grazing platter – or combine both for a really interesting platter
  • Eat a small portion of the food on offer
  • Drink water in between each alcoholic drink
  • Take your own beverages
  • If you don’t want to drink alcohol but feel pressured to, order a drink that looks like an alcoholic drink e.g. mocktail, lemon lime and bitters or soda water. I’m a fan of Kombucha which is really refreshing and doesn’t include many calories.
  • Drink less high calorie alcoholic drinks like a wine spritzer or vodka and soda water. There are low carbohydrate beers and diet mixers as well
  • Order a salad with the dressing on the side. Salads are often covered in dressing in restaurants and that is where all the calories are
  • Many restaurants list how many calories or kilojoules are in their food. Some of them even publish it online so you can research the venue before you go.
  • Don’t go to an event with an empty stomach
  • Don’t order a 3 course meal. Just a main meal is usually ample. My husband and I share an appetiser or dessert if we really feel like another course
  • Don’t stand near the buffet! Take a small plateful and walk away
  • Space out your meal. Give your body time to feel full. Only eat until you start to feel the signals that you’ve had enough
  • Having said that, if I know that I’m about to blow my calorie allowance for the day, I plan for it in advance and eat lightly for the rest of the day. A small breakfast and a salad for lunch counterbalances a blow-out for tea.
  • Learn to be assertive and say “no thank you” when offered food. This was always a challenge to me but I’m getting better at asserting myself
  • Accept that some situations are going to be out of your control. If you’re eating to plan during the rest of the week a day of overeating is not going to affect you long term.
  • Enjoy that blow-out meal! You deserve it.
  • Don’t neglect your exercise regime during holiday periods. You will feel so much better if you exercise on days that you’re consuming a large number of calories. Even a walk in the morning before an event will help
  • Try to make celebrations around activities rather than just feasting and getting drunk. Do something active like a picnic at the beach or a bush-walk. Even active party games can take the focus off eating and drinking. Have a game of cricket after Christmas lunch!

How to Keep On Track With Your Health Goals During Holidays and Special Occasions.  Shows a group of people at a party
How to Keep On Track With Your Health Goals During Holidays and Special Occasions.

I hope these suggestions will help you to keep on track with your health goals during the holiday season. The most important thing is to prepare beforehand. Acknowledge that sometimes eating unhealthy food can’t be avoided. In that case, enjoy the meal and get back on track the next day.

Survival guide for the Holiday Season

This is perhaps the busiest time of the year for most people.  Stress starts to build as we head towards the major events of the year.  This year has already been stressful for most people so the holiday season will leave us even more frazzled.  

Even if you love all the celebrations, the added toll you put on your body with parties will lead to fatigue.  Many people end up stressed and broke at the end of the holiday – they feel like they need a holiday to get over the holidays!

Think of all the upcoming events you and your family will have in the next few weeks and months:

  • School – Exams, Graduation, Formal and then Back to School;
  • Work – Completing projects, End of Year Parties.  Some industries are heading into their busiest time, e.g. retail;
  • Events – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year.

An offer for you: free e-book

Survival Guide for the Holiday Season

My Survival Guide for the Holiday Season will help you stay healthy during this busy time.  You will get:

  • A guide to healthy eating, self care and exercise;
  • A planner to guide you to set goals for staying healthy;
  • Weekly trackers – checklists to keep you on track.

Sign up now to receive this survival guide completely free. It will help you to keep on track with your health goals during the holiday season. More details at the link.

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If my readers have some other solutions on how to keep on track with your health goals during the holiday season, please share them in the comments. I would love to know how you deal with social events and the “silly” season.

Shared on Denyse Whelan’s Linkup Life This Week.

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Signs you need to see a doctor

When should you see a doctor? What signs to look for

Signs and symptoms that need to be checked by a doctor

Updated 14 August 2020

People are delaying seeking a doctor’s advice because of the pandemic. A delay in the diagnosis and treatment of disease leads to poorer outcomes in some instances, especially cancer. There are some signs and symptoms that should not be ignored, and need to be checked by a doctor.

I’ve been a Registered Nurse for over 30 years and unfortunately many of the patients I see have a “head in the sand” approach to health. They are aware of signs and symptoms, but they’re too scared to go to the doctor so they leave it too late. Many of the diseases we see can be cured if they’re diagnosed and treated early enough, but because the person is too scared to see a doctor, it is too late to do anything about it. Unfortunately we also see patients who have been fobbed off or treated for the wrong thing as well. If you’re not happy with what you’re told by one doctor, seek another opinion. You are the best advocate for your own health so keep in tune with your body and don’t ignore signs that there’s something wrong.

What predisposes us to disease?

A doctor I worked with once said to me “if everyone gave up smoking I’d be out of a job”. That’s not strictly true, however, because even though the smoking rate has gone down since awareness campaigns and Government restrictions on the sale of cigarettes, there are still other risk factors that can predispose us to disease. These include hereditary factors, lifestyle, age and sex, environmental factors and socioeconomic status. We can’t do much about our hereditary factors, age or sex, but we can control our lifestyle, environment and socioeconomic status to a certain degree.

Don’t ignore these symptoms

Another thing we can control is our awareness of signs and symptoms that could warrant a trip to the doctor, such as:

  • changes in bowel or bladder habits
  • shortness of breath, wheeziness
  • a cough that produces yellow or green sputum, or is blood tinged
  • chest tightness or pain
  • spots that have changed on your skin
  • lumps and bumps
  • bleeding, e.g in your urine or faeces, or a wound
  • hoarse voice or difficulty swallowing
  • dizziness or fainting
  • pain not controlled with over the counter medications
  • weakness in a limb, especially when it’s down one side of your body and you also have a drooping mouth
  • very high fevers, 38 degrees C or above
  • discharge or oozing, especially when it has a strong odour
  • swelling
  • a cut or sore that won’t heal
  • severe thirst but still have a dry mouth
  • unexpected weight loss and loss of appetite over a period of time
  • snoring and breath holding at night, and still feeling exhausted during the day
  • changes in your vision, crustiness in your eyes, or red and painful eyes
  • yellowing of skin and eyes
  • palpitations or fluttering in your chest
  • fractures or sprains
  • severe vomiting
  • confusion or mood changes
  • reactions to medications or treatment
  • Knocks to the head, especially ones where you lose conciousness or see stars, or are confused afterwards
  • epileptic fits

This list is only a sample of things to watch out for. Some of these are medical emergencies – don’t hesitate to call an ambulance if you have chest pain, weakness down one side of the body, severe bleeding and serious accidents. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, make sure you are informed of what signs and symptoms to look for, and when to see your doctor for follow-up appointments.

Misdiagnosis can lead to poor health outcomes

I have worked in Plastics and Reconstructive surgery wards for many years and even then I have a personal example of misdiagnosis with skin cancer. Because I am aware of the risks of skin cancer I have had a yearly skin check for at least the last 20 years. My sons have had the same checks since they were small children. This is partly due to the high incidence of melanoma in my family (my brother and sister) but also because of seeing the effects of melanoma spread in patients.

I was on holiday in New Zealand and my son phoned me to say he’d had his skin check and the doctor had biopsied a spot on the back of his hand and it had come back as melanoma. It’s hard to convey how devastated I was at hearing this and not being at home to support him. He was only 24 at the time and we’d been going to the same skin doctor for years. This doctor had told him at least twice before that the spot was fine, and we had trusted him. This time it was a different doctor – we had recently moved to a new surgery.

Melanoma, stage 1, on my 24 year old son's hand.  Required excision and flap graft.
My son’s melanoma

If my son had left it for another year it would have spread. We were lucky it was Grade 1 and hadn’t spread at all. I phoned one of the Plastic Surgeons I worked with and made an urgent appointment and my son was in surgery the following week. He had to have a full thickness flap done, about 3cm in diameter, to his hand but he’s cancer free which is the best outcome we could have had. He’s proud to show his scar because he’s a survivor and he’s brought awareness to many of his friends and acquaintances about the need for skin checks. We both have to have 6 monthly skin checks now for the rest of our lives.

This is the scar on his hand now. He had a skin flap removed from his upper arm to graft on to his hand

Be Your Own Health Advocate

My message today is that I want you to see a doctor if you’re concerned about anything, but keep pushing for more if you’re not happy with what they tell you. That niggling feeling that something isn’t right should not be ignored so pay attention to your body!

Note: this article is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be substituted for professional advice from a Registered Medical Practitioner. Please see the full disclaimer statement by clicking on the heading Disclaimer on the Home page. I am unable to answer specific questions from readers – if you are concerned, please see your doctor.

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13 plus ways to get more colour in your diet

Eating more vegetables every day is a sure way to improve your health by filling you up (more fibre) and providing essential vitamins to aid your body in maintaining vital functions. We should all be eating 5 – 6 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit a day. Some people struggle to eat vegetables because of past experiences with badly cooked vegetables or lack of knowledge of how to prepare them. That is why I have put together this list of ways to increase the amount of vegetables in your diet.

A serve of vegetables is about 75g or:

  • 1/2 cup cooked green or orange vegetables, e.g. broccoli, spinach, carrots
  • 1/2 cup cooked beans, peas or lentils
  • 1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetables
  • 1/2 cup sweet corn
  • 1/2 medium potato, sweet potato, taro or other starchy vegetable
  • 1 medium tomato

Depending on the vegetable and the cooking method, a standard serve of vegetables is only 100 – 350kJ (24 – 84kCal). Compared to a small ham sandwich (approx. 271kCal), a meat pie (445kCal) or a Big Mac from McDonalds (520kCal), a large salad will only set you back 50 – 200 kCal depending on the ingredients. Eating a diet that includes plenty of vegetables is essential for healthy weight control. One of my strategies to lose weight was to increase the number of serves of vegetables. I credit that one dietary change for most of my successful weight loss.

Here are some ways to increase the amount of vegetables in your diet:

  • A large salad for lunch, like my Super Spinach Salad recipe
  • A smoothie with vegetables e.g. spinach, kale, carrot, zucchini, beetroot. Try my Blueberry Smoothie recipe
  • Load other meals such as stews, bolognese, and pasta bakes with vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, carrots etc. If you have fussy eaters in the family, try grating carrots, zucchini etc. so that they’re barely visible
  • A large stir-fry
  • Soup loaded with vegetables, like my healthy vegetable soup recipe
  • Sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, cucumber etc. and meat or cheese.
  • Mexican food like tacos, burritos, nachos can be loaded with legumes such as kidney beans. We have grated carrots, shredded lettuce, corn, tomatoes and guacamole on ours as well
  • Try having a meatless day at least once a week. There are so many options for vegetarian recipes online these days that it’s not difficult to think up ideas for meatless days
  • Carrot or celery sticks with hummus
  • Add spinach or grilled tomato or mushrooms to your breakfast, e.g. in an omelette
  • Potato or sweet potato wedges with tomato salsa
  • Potato salad or bake
  • Make or buy zucchini noodles to use instead of pasta.

Vegetables don’t necessarily have to be fresh. Frozen, canned and dried (legumes like beans or lentils) are all an excellent option. In our supermarkets we can buy vegetables pre-cut and ready to cook which is a great time-saving idea. I prefer to steam most of my vegetables in the microwave for a couple of minutes, or stir fry them. This retains the crispness and flavour.

These are just some of the ways you can incorporate vegetables into your diet. I’d love to hear from you some other ideas because I’m always interested in healthy options! If you enjoyed this, you may enjoy Why Your Waist Measurement Matters.

My weekly haul from the markets includes a variety of fruit and vegetables
My weekly haul from the Markets includes a variety of fruit and vegetables

Main Image from Amroon Ra, Unsplash

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What’s with the Middle Aged Spread?

Why do People Get a Middle Aged Spread in Midlife?

What is Middle Aged Spread?

We’ve all heard about the middle aged spread. Many of us in our 40’s and 50’s start to put on weight which seems to cling to our abdomen, hips and thighs. But why is that, and what can we do about it?

I’ve always put weight straight on to my tummy. Looking at photos of my family, we all have a “pot gut” which we inherited from our father! Weight gain around our waistline is sometimes caused from hereditary factors, and sometimes from just learning about food from our families. We’re all foodies in my family – we love our food, we talk about food in detail, and love to experiment with cooking. Being good cooks means we enjoy it just a little too much at times and all our social occasions are based on lavish feasts. All well and good when you’re young and fit and can keep your weight down with exercise and eating well the rest of the week.

How Menopause Affects Weight Gain

But after the age of 40, the reduction in sex hormones in both men and women (yes there is a “manopause”!) can lead to excess body fat being stored around the abdomen for men and the buttocks and thighs of women. Women and men store fat differently and it can change due to aging.

I went into a sudden and severe menopause when I was about 46 where my ovaries switched off overnight. I suffered hot flushes every 5 to 10 minutes, severe anxiety and insomnia. For me, going on to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was vital for my health. I started to put on weight at the same age, but put it down to lifestyle factors. It wasn’t until this year, at the age of 53, that I managed to slowly wean myself off HRT over the course of about 6 months. It’s only been since then that I’ve been able to lose weight more easily than before. Scientific studies dispute the link between weight gain and HRT, but for me, I believe HRT made it harder for me to control my weight.

How to Control Middle Aged Spread

Because weight gain in middle age is so common, it is important to look at what we can control, especially our diet. I genuinely did not know that the recommended number of servings of protein and grains is lower after the age of 50. Here was I, eating the same amount of food as my sons who are in their 20’s, and wondering why I was putting on weight! It wasn’t until the dietician told me this that I had a light-bulb moment and realised that I needed to change not only how many servings I was eating, but the amount of food per serving as well.

Once I did this, the weight actually came off easily. I could no longer eat 3 stalks of broccoli and call it a serving, and 200g of red meat and think that that was a reasonable amount for dinner. An adjustment in both my number of servings of food, and the amount of food I ate made a huge difference to my waistline.

Recommended Number of Servings Per Day

Here are the recommended number of servings per age group:

Men

AgeVegetables and
Legumes/beans
FruitGrainsMilk, cheese and alternativesLean meat, poultry,
eggs, nuts, seeds
19-506262 1/23
51-705 1/2262 1/22 1/2
70+524 1/23 1/22 1/2
Recommended Number of Servings Per Day – Men

Women

AgeVegetables and
Legumes/beans
FruitGrainsMilk, cheese and alternativesLean meat, poultry,
eggs, nuts, seeds
19-505262 1/22 1/2
51-7052442
70+52342
Pregnant528 1/22 1/23 1/2
Lactating7 1/2292 1/22 1/2
Recommended Number of Servings Per Day – Women

Adjust Your Eating Habits as You Age

You can see from this table, the number of servings changes after the age of 50, so it’s important to adjust our eating habits accordingly. I had assumed that my diet was full of healthy fruit and vegetables, but when I looked more closely at it, I realised that I really wasn’t eating many vegetables at all. It was easy to fix – I just started eating a large salad or some homemade vegetable soup for lunch, and loaded extra vegetables into my night time meals. My serve of meat is now much smaller, and I’ve started incorporating legumes with my meals. My son went vegetarian at the beginning of this year and we’ve really enjoyed cooking sessions where we experiment with different recipes. He’s becoming a good cook as well. His meals look far nicer than our carnivorous ones!

A healthy diet should contain 2 serves of fruit and 5-6 serves of vegetables per day
A healthy diet should contain 2 serves of fruit and 5-6 serves of vegetables per day

There are some great resources on the internet about serving numbers and sizes. The one I use is an Australian Government website, Eat for Health. If you are struggling to increase your number of servings of vegetables per day, read 13+ Ways to Get More Colour in Your Diet.

It really is as simple as that: keep to the recommended guidelines for your age and sex, and you will begin to lose weight. Add in exercise, and you’ll not only lose weight, you’ll feel so much better too.

What's with the middle aged spread?  Why do we gain weight around our waist in our 40s and 50s and what can we do about it?
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