Archive for May, 2013

Healthy Inspirations Recipe of the Week – Creamy Mushroom Stew

May 30, 2013



Creamy mushroom stew recipe

Serves 4


2 Tbsp butter
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
250g Portobello mushrooms, chopped with tough portion of stems removed
250g button mushrooms, sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste;
¼ cup beef stock
½ cup coconut milk
Handful of fresh thyme leaves
2 spring onions, chopped


Heat a large skillet over a medium heat and add the butter. Stir-in the onions and garlic.

Cook until they begin to brown, about 7 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cook until moisture evaporates entirely.

Add the stock as well and coconut milk and stir well to ensure that the flavours are dispersed evenly.

Once the mushrooms have simmered for a few minutes, add the thyme leaves, spring onions and adjust the salt and pepper seasoning. Allow to sit on a low heat for a few more minutes so that it thickens.

Serve with grilled steak and steamed vegies.

Why Group Exercise Works

May 28, 2013


1. Be Social

Social support allows you to have fun while working out, which can be tedious at times. In addition to bonding with your peers, you may even meet someone in a group class and make a new friend—they even have some of the same interests and lifestyle goals as you, right? Plus, your workout won’t seem too bad when you have happily chatted your way through the time that it took you to do that killer plank.


2. Get Stronger and Go Longer

Group exercise challenges you to work your muscles harder and increase your endurance beyond your perceived limitations. Which everyone is watching, it is more likely that you will show off (it’s human nature after all) by lifting heavier weights, putting more effort into your rows on the machine and running on the treadmill for a longer period of time. In fact, a study using rowers actually showed that those working out in a group had increased grip strength during practice than those rowers who worked out alone.


3. Burn More Calories

When working out with a small group there is no place to hide and I doubt you want to look like the runt of the litter. That is why people push harder when exercising with others, translating that determination into increased calorie burn. One study from the Archives of Internal Medicine journal shows that overweight participants working out with a partner lost more than 5% of their body weight if their partners also lost 5%.  In other words, exercising with a partner makes you work hard not to be the littlest piggy of the bunch.


4. Feel Happier

Ah, the psychological and physiological benefits of exercise feel nice. That’s probably because the two types of benefits are related due to specific neurologic chemicals known to induce happiness: endorphins.  Endorphins (produced during socialization, exercise, sex, eating hot foods, meditation and other triggering events) interact with receptors found in your brain to block pain and create a euphoric feeling. This is why marathon runners express feeling a “runner’s high” at the end of their race. Also, remember Legally Blonde anyone? Well said, Elle Woods.


5. Motivate Each Other

Research shows that within the first six months of starting an exercise program, 50% of those participants will drop out. Woah, that sure is a waste of time and money for something you are not willing to commit to—that is, if you do not have a friend to keep you accountable. The Journal of American Academy of Physician Assistants recommends group or partner exercise specifically because people are more likely to “stay on track.” Additionally, seeing what someone like you can accomplish will inspire you to reach for the same fitness goals. Plus, the constant positive feedback doesn’t hurt either!


THE BOTTOM LINE: Let your best friend or new workout group inspire you to feel happier, healthier and more supported when striving to succeed in your most difficult goals!




Information sourced from:
Posted on Posted on 02/26/2013

The Best-Kept Secret to a Healthy Life – Give a Little

May 26, 2013


Volunteering has always been viewed as good for your soul. Now it turns out that it’s also good for your health and your career.

Recent research conducted by Washington, D.C.-based Corporation for National & Community Service reveals that charitable work literally makes the heart grow stronger. Individuals with coronary artery disease who participate in volunteer activities after suffering a heart attack report a reduction in despair and depression, and that, in turn, rives down mortality and adds years to life. It’s also true that those who volunteer have fewer incidents of heart disease in the first place.

Surprisingly, you don’t need to devote huge chunks of time to doing good activities to reap their health benefits. The research shows tangible positive changes by volunteering just 100 hours per year–a figure that works out to a not-too-onerous two hours per week.

In addition, you can combine altruism with ambition to give your professional career a boost. Nonprofits have long offered a golden opportunity to network and learn new skills in different areas, something that, in turn, will make you more valuable back in the office. The economic slump blew open that secret, though; according to an article in The Wall Street Journal, social enterprise organizations have been swamped with business-savvy professionals looking to burnish their resumes.

Ironically, some of the best opportunities for volunteer work that benefits your karma and your career may come from your company. Research from the Center for Work-Life Policy shows that high-potential employees–mostly women but also a significant percentage of men–are seriously motivated by a desire to give back to the world and increasingly seek out employers that allow them to participate on company time. Gen Y employees especially say that having volunteer opportunities available to them at work makes them more likely to to choose an employer in the first place–and more likely to stay there.

Smart companies, in turn, are partnering with a variety of community service organizations. By helping valued employees fulfill their dreams and accelerate their careers, employers are betting that their A-team’s enthusiasm will pay off in renewed engagement and loyalty.

Since 2003, Cisco Systems  has operated an innovative program that blends career development for high-potential, senior-level employees with the company’s philanthropic and community-relations goals. Cisco’s Leadership Fellows Program enables “top talent leaders”–defined as self-motivated, high-performing and high-potential vice presidents and directors–to work with a nonprofit organization for up to one year and then return to their former position, inspired, rejuvenated and armed with enhanced leadership skills. The Fellows are considered full-time Cisco employees and receive their salaries and benefits during their period of service.

Candidates for the program go through a rigorous selection process, interviewing at Cisco as well as one of the 26 participating nonprofit organizations. Each Fellow is matched with a nonprofit assignment that requires his or her specific business expertise and that will improve their management and technical skills. To date, 31 Fellows have been chosen, and come from all areas of the company, including engineering, marketing, finance and administration.

Molly Tschang recently served as temporary executive director of NetHope, a consortium of leading non-governmental organizations, as it conducted a search for someone to permanently fill the job. Tschang helped NetHope leverage technology to build and strengthen relationships among 17 international agencies that are important players in the developing world. For Cisco, her enhanced skills in collaboration and negotiation not only will enhance her performance when she returns to work, but may also enable her to generate future business.

Ernst & Young’s Corporate Responsibility Fellows Program appeals to top performers looking for a way to give back to the world through work while exploring a new country and culture. The Fellows program sends a highly select group of high-octane talent to low-income countries for three months at full pay. They use their skills to galvanize promising local entrepreneurs at a critical point in their business–typically providing help they couldn’t otherwise afford–and help jump-start growth in these emerging markets. “Fellows come back rejuvenated, transformed,” reports Maria Pena, Americas leader of entrepreneurship-corporate responsibility. “They love it.”

Simply giving employees access to charitable work through their jobs is an effective way to amp up engagement. Every April, Sodexo, the leading provider of food and facilities management services in North America, holds an annual Sodexo Servathon as part of its Stop Hunger commitment. Employees join forces to raise money, donate food and serve meals in their local communities. Projects vary from city to city, and include canned food drives, donations of surplus food, cleaning food banks, fundraisers and free training on food safety for food banks and homeless shelters. During Servathon 2008, more than 33,000 Sodexo employees donated food and served meals to hungry men, women and children, and raised more than $52,000.

Similarly, in 2008, Moody’s Corporation launched Moody’s Afternoon of Community Service, a program in which employees from a single department spend at least a half-day working with a not-for-profit organization on a specific project. Moody’s corporate social responsibility department works with the company’s existing community partners as well as New York Cares, which coordinates corporate volunteer efforts for community organizations. Volunteers have worked in soup kitchens, planted flower bulbs, tutored students, visited the elderly and helped out at animal shelters.

Immediately following an event, team leaders host a gathering for their group to discuss the experience, further boosting morale and reinforcing camaraderie. Finally, the company asks volunteers to complete a confidential survey. Of the employees who responded to the survey, 96% rated their activity rewarding or very rewarding; 97% wanted to do it again; 89% felt they contributed something worthwhile to the community; 67% built relationships with colleagues they did not usually work with; 51% felt better about the company; and 46% said it made them proud to work for Moody’s.

“This is now the hot thing to do at Moody’s,” says Fran Laserson, president of the Moody’s Foundation. When the program was first introduced, there were 700 participants. “We expect 1,500 employees to sign up this year,” says Laserson.

When it comes to giving back, everybody wins.

This article first appeared:
by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, 12.22.09

Photo: Kane Lorimer Photographer

Healthy Inspirations Recipe of the Week – Moroccan Vegetables with Chickpeas

May 23, 2013

Main Course
Serves 4

1 protein | 3 vegetables | 1 fat


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 baby eggplants, chopped
  • 1 large red capsicum, sliced
  • 1 cup mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp ground ch illi
  • 1 tsp mild paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • pepper
  • 2 x 400g cans diced Italian tomatoes
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 cup small cauliflower florets
  • 1/2 cup green beans, sliced
  • 1/2 cup yellow squash, sliced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 2 x cans chick peas, drained
  • 4 eggs, beaten


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the onion and garlic, cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the eggplant, capsicum and mushrooms, and cook until the eggplant is soft. Add the chilli, paprika, cumin, cinnamon stick and pepper, stir and cook until fragrant.
  3. Add the tomatoes and water, bring to the boil, then add the cauliflower,beans and squash. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover with a lid. Cook for 8 minutes.
  4. Add the parsley and chick peas, stir, then gently pour in the eggs without stirring. Replace the lid and cook for 5 minutes longer to set the eggs.
  5. Gently stir to break the eggs into smaller pieces. Serve immediately.
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Stay Motivated this Winter

May 21, 2013


Find it hard to keep up the workouts in the colder months? Why not join Coffs Coast Health Club’s “9 Week Winter Challenge”  to stay motivated, supported & to keep on track.

Did you know?

Boredom quashes motivation. A US study found people who vary their workouts are more than twice as likely to stick with an exercise program.

It’s getting colder and we are losing the light, which doesn’t help the motivation levels for training over winter, right? But if you’re tempted to hit the snooze button in the morning, remember this – staying motivated this winter requires a change to only one thing: your mindset. Sure, the conditions encourage eating more and doing less, but the bedrock of motivation is based on two things. The first is having a goal or target to aim for. The second is clearly understanding the positive effects your actions will have on your life. Connect with these two forces and you will always be inspired.

Train for an event

There is nothing like having a short-term goal to work towards to keep you focused and on track with your training. The end of winter brings with it a few classic events, such as the body+soul Bridge Run in Sydney. Winter is the perfect time for running training, too, because it’s not too hot.

Set a goal

Not really into running? No problem! Set another goal, such as a few kilos’ weight loss or a five per cent reduction in body fat. Stick a photo of that bikini you want to buy on the fridge. When you see that swimwear, knowing each day that passes brings you closer to hitting the beach this summer, you are going to be keen to close that fridge door and grab the skipping rope instead. There’s nothing like a picture to motivate you. It might not be a bikini; it might be a photo of you in terrific shape or a great outfit you want to wear. Whatever image works for you, stick it up where you’ll see it every day.

Focus on the benefits

The gravitational pull of the bed is very strong at 6am, especially when it is cold and dark outside. That’s why you need to remind yourself of the benefits exercise brings you. You want to manage your stress levels, have an abundance of energy and feel good about yourself rather than falling asleep at your desk, feeling overwhelmed and overweight. So get a piece of paper and write down all the ways exercise adds to the quality of your life. Stick it on the fridge, along with your photo, and read it regularly, particularly when you are feeling flat.

Get a trainer

Personal trainers are the masters of motivation and winter can be a great time to invest in one. Can’t afford a personal trainer? Join a group class and get motivated for a fraction of the price.

Embrace the weather

Instead of avoiding the cold, embrace it. The famously disciplined Shaolin monks train in any conditions because it builds character. You don’t have to go to the Himalayan mountains, but getting outside for some fresh air and open space will be good for your mind as well as your body. If it rains? You toughen up!

Reward yourself

When you reach your goal, reward yourself. Not with a big cake, but with something special like a new outfit for your new body. There’s nothing like working towards a goal, achieving it, then splashing out to say: “Well done me”.

Article first appeared in Body & Soul,18065

It’s Okay to Fail

May 19, 2013

Michael Beckwith, the author of Spiritual Liberation says, “A bad day for the ego is a good day for the soul.” Failure doesn’t determine our successes, and is really healthy in our growth. We all know this, but how do you evolve from your mistakes?    

1. Passion is What Matters
What’s important in succeeding in anything, is pursuing (or practicing) what we are passionate about and failing along the way. When we fear failure, the stakes are too high, and what we are doing isn’t our true calling. If we are passionate about growing ourselves, an idea, or a relationship, we dig in and get dirty in order to succeed. Think about hula hooping. Do you look for instructions before moving your hips? Nope. You just start swirling your hips. You stay so engrossed in the activity that failure is just a fun part of the process, because you get to keep playing until you succeed.

2. Playing/Curiosity/Exploration/Creativity
Seth Godin said something to the tune of: “When you fail, you get to keep playing. And the longer you get to play, sooner or later you will succeed! And you don’t care because you are having fun.”

Look at activities like your asana or meditation practice, drawing, journaling, or hula hooping, where mistakes happen frequently, and it’s cool. How can you apply those thought processes to what you get paid to do?  

3. Take Initiative
Stop waiting for others to tell you what to do or create, at home or on the job. At some point in school, we are told to write a five-page paper, double-spaced. We assume that we can do this after school, and continue to thrive. Careers and Callings don’t work like that. There is no A+ for doing things exactly the way we’re told to. Is there a better way to do it? Then ask and do it! 

4. The Nervous System
Dina Bandu from The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, talks about mistakes, saying that we are physiologically made to move towards homeostasis, but must fight that. Homeostasis is boring. We must fight that in order to grow and expand. Bandu says, that when we add energy to a system, turbulence/damage increase, until the system integrates the energy. This brings us back to homeostasis, with the added strength from the adaptation. It’s the same with building muscle – it must be…

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Healthy Inspirations Recipe of the Week – Zucchini & Parmesan Fritters

May 16, 2013

Healthy Inspirations


Serves 2

  • 2 medium-sized zucchini, grated
  • 2 spring onions, finely slices
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil


  1. Combine the zucchini, spring onion, eggs and Parmesan in a bowl and mix well to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Heat some oil in a fry pan over moderate heat. Spoon mounds of the zucchini mixture into the pan and fry until lightly browned. Flip over and press to flatten the fritter to about 1cm thickness. Brown the second side.
  3. Serve on a bed of spinach or rocket alongside slow-roasted tomatoes and mushrooms fried in butter.
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Pace yourself … the LONG run

May 14, 2013

Smacked myself on a long, slow run yesterday. Contradiction? Apparently not.

Since February I’ve been following (a bit loosely, as it turns out) the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training (FIRST) program for the coming Sydney Morning Herald half marathon. The idea behind the program is to train at a pace based on your fitness and to run only three days per week with cross training in between.

The upside is that the risk of injury and burnout from overtraining is lessened, but each session is tough. That’s where I’ve been a little tardy. In the speedwork and tempo sessions I’ve worked hard to meet my target times, but until recently I’d been treating the long runs as just building time on my feet and not really worrying about pace. That’s what I’ve done in the past when training for half or full marathons. But now that I think about it, I’ve always regretted not having had more speed in the final quarter of a race…

I think that’s where the “slow” part of LSD (that’s long, slow distance) has let me down.

So for the past couple of weekends I’ve been doing my long runs with my speedwork group and have discovered there’s a big difference between running 17km at 5:06 minute per kilometre pace and 4:40min/k pace.

I asked coach Kathryn Holloway about this. Kathryn is a former all-England cross country champion and owner of Positive Fitness personal training on Sydney’s lower North Shore. She has tried many programs and is a strong advocate of FIRST, having used it to run a personal best time of 3:03:00 for the 2011 New York Marathon.

“Some weeks in the program it is about running slow and not worrying about the pace, but generally there is a purpose behind the long run,” she says.

“We are all time-poor and we are getting older, so I believe strongly about training with purpose and quality. The purpose of the long run is to improve endurance by raising your aerobic metabolism. If you have a goal of 85 minutes for a half marathon and go for your long run of 19 kilometres at 5min/k pace, how on earth will you ever feel confident about or indeed be able to hold a 4.01min/k pace?

“A steady, cruisey run sightseeing and thinking about what you need to get done in your day is OK now and then, but the success factor of the program is to run at a set pace based on your race goal, which you first calculate from your 5K race or time trial pace.”

The 5km time trial sets a realistic goal for the half marathon and subsequently the speed of the three weekly running sessions. Another 5km time trial halfway through the program is a good way to track your progress and see if your goal time is still achievable. This can be adjusted accordingly as you should see an improvement.

“The pace for the long run can change week by week depending on what stage you are at in the program, as can the distance,” says Kathryn. “That is, it could be a 20km run done at goal pace plus 19 seconds, or a 17km run done at goal pace plus 12 seconds.”

And for people like me who take a while to get going, it’s OK to start off a long run slower, and build up during the middle and then come home hard.

“Overall it’s the average pace that matters,” says Kathryn, “so if you are going uphill, you don’t have to hold the goal pace plus 12 seconds, for example. Play around with strategies to get to your average based on the course you’re running.”

Because the FIRST program for the most part takes the “slow” out of LSD runs, it’s not ideal for beginner runners without much of a distance base or those without speedwork experience, or anyone not interested in improving their times. There are plenty of other programs that will still get you over a fun run line. It’s just a matter of shopping around a bit.

“The FIRST studies discovered that focusing on a specific pace prepares runners physiologically and mentally for racing,” says Kathryn. “The physiological side is that it increases the muscles’ ability to metabolise lactate, which is that horrible feeling when you legs start to burn.

“By training at a higher intensity, your muscles will adapt and use the lactate as an energy source rather than allow it to accumulate in your muscles and blood and give you that horrible ‘I want to stop’ feeling.”

So the bottom line is, if you want to run faster, you need to train faster. But never underestimate the value of the occasional mood-enhancing meditative mooch. Sometimes it’s just what your mind and your body needs.

* FIRST as written about by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr and Ray Moss in their book Run Less Run Faster, (updated edition released 2012).

What role does the long, slow run play in your life?

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A Mother’s Influence

May 12, 2013


In honor of the Mother’s Day holiday this past weekend, I’d like to take a moment to speak about how mothers can influence their children. It is easy to forget how valuable you are in the midst of changing diapers and wiping runny noses, or (if your kids are older) schlepping them to activities, and helping them cope with disappointment and heartbreak. Research suggests that you can positively impact whether your child has a healthy and happy adulthood and old age.

Recent data suggests that adults’ mental and physical health is influenced by several factors, such as early psychosocial conditions dating back to childhood, including parental support. Most people with high levels of parental support during childhood develop higher levels of self esteem, a higher sense of personal control, and better family relationships in adulthood. In addition, people with early parental support develop fewer psychological and physical problems throughout adulthood and even into old age. For example, parental support decreases the likelihood of developing depressive symptoms and chronic health conditions (such as hypertension, arthritis and urinary problems).

Researchers Benjamin A. Shaw, Neal Krause, Linda M. Chatters, Cathleen M. Connell, and Berit Ingersoll-Dayton analyzed responses from 2,905 adults, ages 25–74, participating in the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (Psychology and Aging, 2004, Vol. 19, No. 1). Participants were asked about levels of emotional support from their mothers and fathers during their childhood years with questions such as “how much could you confide in her or him about things that were bothering you?” and “how much love and affection did she or he give you?” Symptoms of depression, the presence of chronic health conditions, and self-esteem levels were also assessed with survey questions.

This information is not intended to stress out mothers who are reading it. Research data do not suggest that children received psychological and physical health benefits only if they lived with a Supermom! The take home message is that mothers are an important part of our growth and development, and long-term physical and psychological well-being. If you did not thank your Mother last Sunday, be sure to do so today. And if you are a mother who didn’t pat herself on the back last Sunday, be sure to do that as well.

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Healthy Inspirations Recipe of the Week – Stuffed Capsicum

May 8, 2013

Stuffed Capsicum
Serves 4


  • 2 bunches silver beet, washed
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (500g) tub ricotta
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 red capsicum


  1. Remove the green leaves from the white stalks of the silver beet. Chop the leaves and set aside. Finely dice the stalks.
  2. Preheat oven to 180° C. Melt the butter in a frypan or saucepan over moderate heat. Add the diced silver beet stalks and onion and cook till soft.
  3. Add the garlic and silver beet leaves, mix together and cover with a lid until the leaves have wilted. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Add the ricotta and parmesan to the sliver beet mixture and mix well. Add the eggs and mix thoroughly.
  5. Slice approximately 2cm off the stalk-end of the capsicum to create ‘lids’ for the stuffing. Reserve. Scoop out the seeds and membranes. Fill the capsicum shells with the ricotta mixture and replace the reserved ‘lids’.
  6. Set stuffed capsicums upright on a baking dish and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the capsicum ‘lids’ are starting to blacken slightly around the cut edges.
  7. Serve with a green salad or baked vegies.

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