July 21, 2016

A new financial year is a great time for a new beginning. Sub-zero temperatures and biting winds are certainly with us, but there’s no reason to allow that little fact to stop you from achieving the health, weight and fitness goals that were so important in the warmer months. You don’t let down a friend just because the weather is unpleasant, so don’t let yourself down. See our article on beating the hibernation impulse.

Whether hibernation or activity is their natural winter default, people still love a warming meal. Soups, casseroles, stews and the like are typical winter foods, and this month’s recipe fits perfectly with these: Chicken Gumbo – tasty, warming, and nutritious food. Why not double the recipe and freeze the left-overs?

If you’re a social media user with any interest in nutrition, you will have come across many often conflicting articles. Newsfeeds are interesting in that Facebook, in particular, decides what it thinks you want to see. The consequence of this is that you end up seeing a lot of the same sort of information, leading you to develop opinions that may or may not actually be in your best interests. This month’s article cuts through the confusion with some old-fashioned wisdom.

Slimmer of the Year Finalist – Irene F, Maitland, NSW

Lost 41.1 kilos & 121 cm

I found it really easy. There were no cravings especially with the snacks – chocolate bars and cookies. I love the shakes, they give me my chocolate fix! The best thing about the snacks is that you’re never hungry and you don’t end up picking at stuff that you shouldn’t.

I didn’t feel like I was on a diet at all. I just learned to eat healthy, no more junk food, just the good stuff.

I love my veggies anyway, but bulking up on veggies at dinner and salads at lunch was just great.

The exercise component of the program was just as easy as the food component. The circuit is really easy to use and it’s a great friendly environment.

One of the best parts is the staff at Healthy Inspirations. They are so friendly and caring, always helpful and get you back on track whenever you have slip here or there. This was done in a way that I felt supported and never bullied or pushed.

I must not forget to mention “The Chair”. I enjoy using it, and it’s great to get not only a massage but some time out to myself.

Having lost over 40 kilos, my Doctor is so happy with me and she tells everybody about me and Healthy Inspirations.

There is nothing I didn’t enjoy at Healthy Inspirations during my journey to my goal weight and I would recommend it to anyone.

~ Irene K~

Beat the hibernation impulse

Freezing mornings, cutting winds, rain, sleet and heavy clouds make the most motivated of us just want to stay indoors and hibernate until the sun is shining again. There’s no doubt that pulling up the blankets and nodding off again is much more comfortable than the sprint required to replace pyjamas with work-out gear, but at what cost?

Speak to anyone who has ever wanted to lose a few kilos and they’ll tell you that winter is the hardest time of year for losing weight. In fact, it’s the second easiest time, after the Christmas/New Year season, to gain weight. And it lasts a lot longer.

Just because this may be true for a lot of people, there are just as many who have no trouble with the routines in the colder weather. The difference? Attitude, belief and confidence that they can take control.

Sleep is perhaps the easiest part of the weight loss puzzle to take care of through winter. The days are shorter so it’s darker for longer, and sleeping in becomes more the norm than a treat. Adequate sleep assists with the hormonal balance that’s so necessary for weight control, it helps the brain to be able to make better choices and to resist temptation, and improves mood. So the winter months do actually have some advantages.

Colder weather makes us crave comfort foods. No, comfort foods don’t have to mean cakes and donuts. Winter comfort foods include one-pot stews and casseroles, soups, curries and the like: in short, winter comfort food is hot and flavoursome. This type of food is perfect for losing weight as long as the recipe used is appropriate or amended to suit your program.

A curry, for example, is perfect and can be served over vegies or with cauliflower “rice” instead of regular rice or naan bread. An Irish stew is delicious with swedes or turnips to replace the potato. A huge pot of vegetable soup is simple using all the low-carb vegies you like, and is especially nutritious and filling if you first make the stock with meat bones and then add the vegies later.

If your preferred exercise is to go out for a walk in the mornings, it’s certainly harder to do this when it’s dark, cold and wet. It helps to have an alternate form of exercise that you can do indoors: get a yoga DVD, do some body weight exercises in front of the heater, or come in to Healthy Inspirations for a circuit or a class. The cold weather might change your exercise routines, but you don’t have to let it stop your activity.

Finally – and this is often the hardest one of all – keep drinking plenty of water. It seems so logical but it’s common for water consumption to drop off in the cold months. We’re not naturally as thirsty as we’re not sweating as much, inactivity further reduces thirst, and we’re more inclined to select a hot drink over a cold one. Our need for water is no less, though, as normal body functioning requires plenty of hydration. Indoor heating is very dehydrating, too: chapped lips, anyone?

A couple of cups of regular tea or coffee contribute to your total water intake for the day, and it’s fine to drink herbal tea (not flavoured black or green tea) all day. Many people like a cup of boiling water, with or without lemon. The vegie soup that you have at lunch also adds to your total fluid intake, so look for warm and comforting ways to get more water in without sabotaging your weight loss efforts.

Even if you’ve suffered through past winters without taking an active role in managing your weight, this year you can do something different. Don’t wait for the warmer weather and resultant panic about how you look and feel: be proactive and make this winter a memorable one for all the right reasons.

The KISS principle – Keep it super simple

You’d be hard pressed to pinpoint an era in time where nutrition was more topical. Social media, and the internet in general, make it easy to deliver messages and information, and to swing people to a particular way of thinking.

With such a plethora of information being presented, it can be confusing if you’re trying to eat well.

For years we’ve been told that butter, eggs and meat are dangerous foods that increase cholesterol due to their saturated fat content. Along with this was the idea that “eating fat will make you fat”. We believed these messages without a doubt, partly because they were issued by a government that wanted the best for its constituency and partly because we knew no better.

Plenty of information is now easily accessible that tells us this message was in fact a mistake. Attention now turns to sugar as a villain.

Think back to the early soft drink ads  (you may have only seen them on social media as a blast from the past). One promoted 7-up as “pure and wholesome”, going so far as to recommend mixing 7-up with milk and putting it into babies’ bottles. Now the message is that sugar is dangerous.

The popularity of films such as That Sugar Film and Cereal Killer: Run on Fat shows that the population is crying out for information to help improve their health, but also that they want to be entertained while being informed.

What about the arguments for a meat-based diet compared to a vegan diet? A Google search will reveal endless options. Of course there are pros and cons for each, so knowing what to do can be very confusing.

Naturally parents want the best for their children, and for themselves. Most of our personal food choices are based on family history, cultural norms, availability, and taste. The cost of the food can be a small factor, but since the cost of eating actually varies little regardless of the choices made (within reason), cost is more often an excuse than a factor.

The best course of action is to think back to the eating patterns of our ancestors. Not necessarily cave-men – unless you like their style – but our more recent ancestors. They ate three meals per day, and these were meat and vegetables. Their ‘treat’ foods were generally limited to special occasions. Soft drinks were definitely limited, with the occasional small bottle shared by the whole family.

All food was prepared in the home. Packaged foods were non-existent, so if you (or someone in your household) didn’t cook, you starved. There were no supermarkets with endless aisles of choices, only general stores that stocked ingredients that you had to turn into meals and/or snacks. Most families grew their own produce.

Look back at old family photos or paintings. Nobody was overweight.

So despite being in the information age and having a wealth of resources at our finger tips, all we really need to know is what our great grandparents knew. Cook, use seasonal produce, eat enough, and get back to work. Simple.

Healthy Recipes – Chicken Gumbo
Serves 4


  • 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ – 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 500g chicken drumsticks
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 large red capsicum, seeded and diced
  • 1 (400g) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • Chopped parsley


  1. Combine the spices in a zip-lock bag and add the drumsticks. Seal the bag and toss to coat the drumsticks with the spice mixture.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the drumsticks and brown on all sides. Remove and set aside.
  3. Add the onion to the saucepan and cook for 5 minutes or until soft. Add a little oil or water if the onion starts to stick.
  4. Add the garlic, celery and capsicum and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add the tomatoes and stock and simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Return the chicken to the pan, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
  7. Serve topped with chopped parsley, with steamed, vegies, mashed cauliflower or cauliflower ‘rice’.


How many minutes?

Popular fast foods, snacks and drinks may be very tempting but give some thought to the number of minutes of exercise you will need to set aside, on top of your normal exercise, to burn off the extra energy they provide. Even a very small ‘treat’ can have a negative impact on your weight loss success.

Question: How many extra hours/minutes of activity does it take to burn off a large Gloria Jean’s hot chocolate with skim milk?

Strenuous Aerobics: 29 minutes
Social Golf: 57 minutes
Energetic Dancing: 38 minutes
Jogging 8 kph: 46 minutes
Swimming: 38 minutes
Walking: 29 minutes