Motivational Interviewing and weightloss

Obesity has been evidence linked as a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, chronic diseases, sleep apnea and depression. Weight loss can significantly reduce the risk of developing up to 18 health conditions linked to obesity. Not only does obesity impact the quality of life of the individual, it puts a strain on health care systems. According a NHS report 10,660 hospital admissions in 2017/18 were directly attributable to obesity and 29% of adults classified as obese. Despite the obvious health benefits of weight loss, many healthcare professionals are still unable to persuade their patients to lose weight.

Resistance to change often stems from ambivalence, which leads to procrastination. The individual might have contradictory ideas about losing weight (not wanting to give up their sugary Cola, yet at the same time not wanting to be diabetic) which leads them to not making any changes to their diet.

Healthcare professionals are traditionally trained to promote change by being the expert, distilling information and giving instructions in order that the patient will make the necessary changes.  This might work for patients who are unaware of the impact their weight has on their health, but many patients are completely aware of the reasons why they should lose weight, yet they are ambivalent about making the required dietary changes. In these cases Motivational Interviewing “MI” can be used to elicit change.

MI is an empathetic and collaborative counselling style that elicits and strengthens motivation for change in a person. The aim is to get the person to overcome their ambivalence, examine their options and eventually talk themselves into changing. 

Sapadin and Maguir identified six procrastinator styles:

Procrastination StyleExamples within a weight-loss setting
The perfectionist delays a task because they might not achieve their own high standards.Delays starting a diet because they may not reach their goal weight at all. Or if the goal weigh is reached, they think they may not be able to sustain it.  
The dreamer has unrealistic or grandiose ideas.Wants to reach goal weight within 1 week, or a middle-aged person who wants to be the same weight they were as a teenager.  
The worrier fears things will go wrong and feels overwhelmed.Delays starting the diet because the lifestyle change seems too big of an adjustment. May also feel as if family members or doctors are pressuring them to lose weight.
The crisis-maker likes leaving things until the situation is so bad that someone else has to step in, or they hope the situation will resolve itself if they leave it long enough.  Delays starting a diet until they are unable to find clothes in their size, or lives in the hope that their doctor will prescribe a miracle cure.
The defier will go against instructions or good advice because they don’t like to be told what to do.  Will not go on a diet unless the idea is their own.
The over-doer stays busy with unnecessary tasks and avoids spending time on important issues.Spends time researching various diets and may even start a diet, but loses interest and starts researching other diets.  

Studies have shown that MI is an effective coaching style to eliciting change in patients that lead to a reduction in body weight. A meta-analysis of 11 published studies published in Obesity Reviews, showed that motivational interviewing was associated with a significant reduction in body weight (- 1.47kg) compared to those in the control group.

Healthcare professional however need to be taught MI techniques. The American Academy of Paediatricts launched a free app called “Change Talk: Childhood Obesity” which health care providers can use to learn MI techniques. The app simulates a virtual practice environment in which the health care provider assume the role of a pediatrician and decide what to say to a mother and her son about his weight. The app was launched after paediatricians and dietitians who used MI to counsel parents about their child’s weight, were successful in reducing the children’s BMI by 3.1 more points than comparison children over a 2-year period. 

The key to MI’s success is that the coach or healthcare provider do not portray themselves as the expert, giving orders to the patient and expecting the patient to immediately comply. Instead the healthcare professional displays empathy and patience and assumes that the person with the problem (the patient) is the one who holds the answer to solving the problem.

Stephen Rollnick sets out the four general principles, or RULEs of MI, for practitioners as follows (7):

  • Resist the urge to change the person’s mind by giving instructions, dumping information on them or portraying yourself as the expert.
  • Understand that it’s their reason for change, not yours, that will elicit a change in behaviour. Also understand that change will happen when they feel ready, not when you think they should be ready.
  • Listen to what they are saying. They need to know they are being understood. The individual is the one who holds the key to solving their weight problem.
  • Empower them to understand that they have the power to change their behaviour.

To quote Stephen Rollnick, strategies for use of MI in healthcare “is a shift in approach that is at the same time both fundamental and simple: instead of badgering patients to change their ways, you briefly connect or come alongside, and help them to do this for themselves.”

When patients are shown that they in fact are capable of change and can reduce their weight on their own terms, they feel empowered.  As an added benefit, an empowered patient lifts the responsibility from health care professionals to solve every problem because the patient is able to self-motivate and make the required changes.

*This blog post is based on the assignment I completed for Module 7 of my Integrated Resilience & Wellness Coaching studies. Citations were included in the submitted assignment.*

The very real impact of kindness on the body

The Mental Health Awareness Week theme of Kindness, is right up Dr. David R. Hamilton’s street. He writes books and educates people in how they can harness their mind and emotions to improve their health, with a special interest in the effects of kindness on the body. He worked in the pharmaceutical industry as an organic chemist developing drugs for cardiovascular disease and cancer. Inspired by the placebo effect, he left the industry after 4 years to spread the word about the mind-body connection.

Here are a few of the health benefits of kindness that Dr. Hamilton has identified.  It’s clear that kindness not only generates a good feeling, it impacts our brain and body in a very real way.

1) Kindness supports the immune system

Research shows that being kind, and even just watching others displaying kindness, boosts levels of an important antibody known as “secretory immunoglobulin A”.  The boost in levels of this antibody is switched on by how kindness feels to us. It doesn’t matter whether you are being kind or observing kindness, the feeling is the same. You can therefore boost your immune system by watching and sharing video clips or stories of acts of kindness and compassion.

2) Compassion decreases inflammation

A study that used the Tibetan Buddhist’s “Loving Kindness Compassion” meditation found that kindness and compassion was able to reduce inflammation in the body most likely due to its effects on the vagus nerve.

3) Being kind gives us a natural high

On a biochemical level, it is believed that the good feeling we get when we are compassionate or kind is due to elevated levels of the brain’s natural versions of morphine and heroin, known as endogenous opioids. They increase the levels of dopamine in the brain and so we get a natural high, often referred to as ‘Helper’s High’.

4) Kindness lowers blood pressure, protects the heart and slows down the ageing process

Acts of kindness are often accompanied by emotional warmth. Emotional warmth produces the hormone oxytocin, in the brain and throughout the body. Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide in blood vessels, which dilates the blood vessels and in turn reduces blood pressure. This is why oxytocin is known as a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone. Acts of kindness can produce oxytocin and therefore kindness can be said to be cardioprotective.

Studies have shown that oxytocin also reduces levels of free radicals and inflammation in the cardiovascular system. Free radicals and inflammation (both of which result from making unhealthy lifestyle choices) are known to speed up the ageing process. Oxytocin, produced by the warm and fuzzy feeling we get from being kind, could therefor slow ageing at the source.

6) Kindness supports good mental health

The impact of a kind gesture on someone with depression, or the good feeling you get when you do something nice for someone else, is not just psychological. Brain imaging studies indicate that kind and compassionate feelings cause physical changes in the prefrontal cortex of the brain – the area associated with positive emotion. The area grows, just as a muscle would when exercised, with repeated acts of kindness or compassion. As a result it becomes easier to access the positive emotions area of the brain which in turn makes it easier to have a positive outlook. It is no wonder kindness was chosen as the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

If you would like to know more about the work of Dr. Hamilton, visit his website or watch his TEDx Talk – Why Kindness is Good for You here.  You can also sign up for his FREE course on the power of kindness here.

(All studies mentioned can be found in Dr. Hamilton’s books, ‘The Five Side Effects of Kindness‘ and ‘The Little Book of Kindness‘)

Cognitive Behavioural Coaching in the GROW model

8 Steps of CBC in the GROW Model

Step 1: Setting the Scene for Cognitive Behavioural Coaching (“CBC”)“The way you think about events in our life profoundly influences the way you feel about them: change the way you think and this will, in turn, change the way you feel.” (Life Coaching A cognitive behavioural approach, Neenan & Dryden)   With CBC we look at the automatic thoughts you have following an event or a situation, and how those thoughts, beliefs, or mental images – not the event or situation – determines how you feel and act.  The aim is to change the pattern of thinking so that you can overcome the obstacle.  
Goal
Step 2: Problem identificationI get angry at the mere thought of having to do exercise, if I do push myself to do the exercise I am irritable, I give up very quickly and look for excuses not to exercise again. Yet I really want to have a toned body, lose weight, and feel good in my clothes. I can’t seem to get into a habit of doing exercise, stick to it and enjoying it.  
Step 3: Goal SelectionI want to find exercise enjoyable so that I will look & feel good, and if I enjoy exercise I will continue to do it.  
Reality (past and present)
Step 4: Choices and consequencesChoice 1:  don’t do any exercise  – Consequence 1: continue to be unfit
Choice 2: Push past the anger – Consequence 2: I get irritable
Choice 3: Get someone to join me in exercise – Consequence 3: Don’t want to involve others. I want to resolve the issue and self-motivate.
Choice 4: Find the right type of exercise for me – If I enjoy the exercise I will continue to do it. Pilates and/or yoga looks nice.
Step 5: Exploring and challenging faulty thinkingWhy do I feel angry when I have to do exercise? Feeling angry is the emotional response to a thought I have about exercise. This is the faulty thinking I need to explore.    
Q: On a scale of 1 to 10 how angry and annoyed do I feel when I have to exercise?
A: 8  

Q: What makes exercising so terrible that it makes me angry?
A: I get sweaty, hot, my face goes red. I feel self-conscious about how I look in the leggings and embarrassed that I’m so out of breath and red in the face.  

Q: Is it realistic to expect that when exercising I should never sweat or get out of breath?
A: No. That’s the whole point of exercising.  

Q:  Think back to the last time I tried exercising in a class. How did the other women look?
A: Everyone was focused on their own body and they got sweaty. They didn’t appear to care how they look or how the others in the class look.   

Q: So looking at these answers – that being hot and sweaty is to be expected in a gym class, and that everyone seems to be focused on themselves, is it fair to say that I have been unrealistic in my thinking about what it’s like doing exercise?
A: Yes. When you are focused and working hard, you will sweat and you won’t be looking around at others.  

Q: Would I consider that I have given the idea of going to the gym a faulty label? A label that might be generating feelings of anger?
A: I do think of going to the gym as something that young people do to show off their bodies and to impress. This is probably based on an experience I had in my 20’s. It annoyed me then that men were “hitting on me” while I was sweating, red in the face and trying to exercise. Maybe that’s where the anger and self-consciousness stems from.  

Q: So is the label that a gym is a “pick up place” correct and still relevant?
A: No, not really. I am married now so I don’t need to care what other people (men) think of me.  And in group classes (not on the gym floor) everyone is focussed on themselves.  

Q: If a feeling of anger comes up again and I push through the anger and exercise anyway, what might happen?
A: It’s just anger. If I’m prepared for it and willing to push past it, I may notice that I like exercise and feel good afterwards. As long as the type of exercise I do is not too difficult and I’m part of a class of mostly women. If I struggle to keep up in the class I may give up.      
Options
Step 6: Decision making and action planningAction: Go to a beginner yoga class. Resource needed: Find a local yoga studio. Not a gym. Date: Once a week, starting next week.

Action: Wear loose-fitting clothes. Resource needed: Go shopping. Date: Before the first class
Will
Improving client motivation (willpower)Take body measurements and weight once a week. As I notice changes in my body it will encourage me to continue to exercise. To motivate me further, I will treat myself to a manicure when I have been to yoga class three times in a row.  
Step 7 and 8: Implementation and EvaluationAfter each class, measure the level of anger on a scale of 1 to 10.  Also consider going to pilates classes and/or increasing the number of classes per week.  

*This blog post is based on the assignment I completed for Module 6 of my Integrated Resilience & Wellness Coaching studies.*

Comment on the skills needed to facilitate a coaching session

How do I show attention and interest

A way to show that you are paying attention to and showing interest in what a person is saying is by having an open body language. Body language encompasses facial expressions, micro-expressions, voice, gestures, and postures.

I often find myself leaning forward when I’m intently listening. This comes naturally to me. Having an open and forward posture shows that a person is actively accepting what is being said. The person who is speaking when I hold this posture would see this posture as a sign that I am truly paying attention and that I am genuinely interested in what they have to say.

I use my hands a lot when speaking, both in an iconic way to illustrate the meaning of my words, and a metaphoric way to explain a concept. In a coaching situation, this way of demonstrating my thoughts with my hands should make it easy for the coachee to see that I have grasped what they are trying to tell me. That being said, emotions can be revealed with hand gestures – I wring my hands when nervous. I am aware of this and that I can come across as insecure, so I have made a conscious effort to stop doing this. The voice can also reveal emotions that are not conveyed by the words spoken. For instance, I speak faster when nervous. This could be a problem in the coaching session where my nervous chatter could make the coachee nervous as well, and not leave enough quiet time for her to process what I have said.  To make myself feel more relaxed when speaking I have been making short videos about my coaching studies, which I post on Instagram. I wanted to force myself to get used to speaking to a camera and expressing my ideas without stammering, rambling, or speaking too fast. It has been a good exercise because I feel much more confident in my abilities to express coaching ideas and sharing knowledge. Looking at myself on camera while talking has made me more aware of my facial expressions, how much I use my hands and in one video I could see how I got out of breath when speaking about something I felt passionate about. That video taught me the value of slowing down and breathing. I upload the videos in one take so that it won’t come across as rehearsed, but also so that I can see where I go wrong, work on it, and am able to monitor my progress.

How do I use exploration skills

Active listening and effective questioning are the main explorations skills that a coach needs to develop. Active listening requires many different skills, one of which is to show understanding which can be achieved with the use of confirming words and/or gestures like nodding. This comes naturally to me but I do need to be aware that if used too often or at the wrong time during a conversation, it can make the speaker feel rushed, interrupt their chain of thought or lose it’s meaning because of overuse.

Allowing for silence and quiet reflective time during a coaching session is important. Though I am very comfortable with silences (I’m not one to feel compelled to speak in an elevator) I often grasp what a person wants to say while they are still talking and I have to force myself to keep quiet so that they can finish their chain of thought. I am conscious of this and have taught myself to stop doing that. It is comforting to know that an established coach like Julie Starr believes “… with strong intention and practice, focused listening is a muscle that you develop over time”.

In addition to focused listening, The Coaching Manual also refers to Deep Listening where coaches experience physical sensations in the body that guide them to change or pursue a subject broached by the speaker. I have experience of this, though I never thought of it as a sign of Deep Listening. The hairs on my arms rise and I get cold chills from the crown of my head all way down to my toes when I am in conversation with someone and I or the speaker say something profound. I think of it as Spirit’s way of showing me in a very real way, that the conversation is on the right track. In a coaching situation, I will look out for these signs.

As an active questioning technique, Julie Starr advises against asking a question that begins with “why” because it can make the coachee feel they have to validate their actions to you. As a coach you want to know the why behind a coachee’s actions or thoughts, yet instead of simply asking why one should choose a different open question to get to the “why”. It is clear that a coaching conversation requires more thought than a “regular” conversation. Learning the skills to ask simple, direct questions that can remove barriers and unlock hidden information, takes practice.

How do I show understanding skills

I find the VARK model of learning styles very interesting. If I can teach myself to listen out for examples of visual, kinaesthetic, or auditory language, I would be able to use similar language when engaging with a coachee. Understanding how someone processes information will also be useful when I want them to grasp a technique or solidify an outcome we reached. If I can pass on information to them in their natural learning style, it will greatly increase their trust in me as well as the coaching process.

How do I use action skills

Planning has always come naturally to me and makes me feel safe and in control. My job as a legal secretary requires that I keep detailed records, think a few steps ahead and make meticulous plans. I know that a good plan and being fully prepared can save you a lot of time and effort – especially in legal disputes.  I will easily be able to utilise the structured coaching techniques like SMART goals and the GROW model, or worksheets as used in The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook in coaching sessions. I can also see how asking a new client to complete a questionnaire before our first session, and asking them to send their “homework” to me before each session will allow me to prepare for the coaching session. If I am fully prepared for each session, I will feel more confident. My coachee will pick up on my confidence and see that I take our sessions seriously.

*This blog post is based on the assignment I completed for Module 5 of my Integrated Resilience & Wellness Coaching studies.*

Review of The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook

As the title of the book suggests, this is a book for people seeking practical solutions to reducing their stress.  To give a thorough review of this book, I felt that reading alone wouldn’t be sufficient to access its effectiveness. I wanted to try the techniques out on someone with high levels of stress. My husband, John, agreed to be my “test subject”. John works as a consultant in the architectural industry. He is currently consulting on a project for which the building plans need to be issued in the next few days. His position requires him to respond to any technical queries from the team as they arise, to train team members on challenging software that has a steep learning curve and to help bring the project in on time. Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, all technical support he provides has to be done remotely. This adds an extra layer of stress to an already demanding role.

I set out the process that John followed and note the comments at each step of the process, below.

How You React to Stress (Chapter 1)

Understanding how we react to stress is useful in understanding why we feel stressed and realising that it is a natural, even useful, response by the body. The chapter contains three exercises. John completed two of these, but we both felt that The Schedule of Recent Experience is an exercise best avoided. Quantifying the amount of stress you experienced over a year and “posting it where you and your family can see it easily” as suggested under the heading “Prevention”, felt counter-productive. The aim of stress management is to assess the now, make changes as necessary and look to the future. Seeing your stress levels from the past year as a numerical value as well as the odds of developing an illness due to your score, is not going to relieve stress. In fact, it will probably make you focus on your stress-related symptoms, however mild because the score could be seen as a prediction of inevitable illness.

John completed the Symptoms Checklist to determine which symptoms he would like to focus on. Anxiety, sleep-related issues and work stress scored the highest. He revisited the Symptoms Checklist after 7 days to reflect on the effectiveness of the stress reduction techniques, and noted that most of them reduced by at least half!

The Tactics for Coping with Stress Inventory was very revealing. John only had two non-constructive ways of dealing with stress, one of which I know is a herbal remedy for sleep. It was encouraging for John (and me) to see that he is correctly managing his stress for the most part.

The Symptom-Relief Effective chart is probably the most useful document in the whole book. As a coach I will rely on this to create a suggested treatment plan for my client with their input, adapting it to their preferences. With so many treatment options available it seems very likely that we will find the right combination of treatment techniques. John identified his main goals as 1) addressing anxiety related to deadlines and 2) managing his work stress. I think the inventory and checklist would be a very good addition to a pre-session pack for new coaching clients.

John  wished to focus on how to change his thinking about stressful events so we moved straight on to two techniques that conditions the mind to different thinking.

Conditioning the mind: Relieving Worry and Anxiety (Chapter 13)

This chapter aims to teach skills that will reduce anxiety and worry. Many of the techniques involve visualisation exercises. Unfortunately, visualisation techniques are not suitable for John because he suffers from a condition called aphantasia where he is unable to see images in his mind’s eye. However, the technique of Labelling Thoughts combined with Distancing from Worry Thoughts  worked incredibly well for him.

He chose to assign a colour, red, to the thoughts that brought on anxiety. After only one day of saying “thought” to unwanted thoughts and “red thought” to those which made him feel anxious, he noticed a change. He felt that unwanted thoughts seem to lose their power. This labelling technique also demonstrated to him that thoughts are a product of the mind and not a fact.

It has to be noted that we both felt that the suggestions of 1) thanking your mind for the worry thought, and 2) repeating the worrying thought over and over as ways of distancing yourself from worrying thoughts, seemed counter-intuitive and, just as the Schedule of Recent Experiences, could potentially lead to the negative thought having more power over you.

Conditioning the mind: Work-Stress Management (Chapter 18)

This chapter was the most specific to addressing John’s causes of stress. He followed the five steps and completed the exercises for the first three steps.

Step 1: By thinking about how he responds to work stressors John saw that a thought and a feeling is not the same thing.

Step 2: The self-contract exercise was an effective way to formulate a plan of action. It provided John with a sense of control over his work stress. He particularly enjoyed thinking about the reward.

Step 3: The coping statement which is to be used when you have no way of changing unwanted conditions, was worded oddly and difficult to complete.

Step 4: John frequently has to manage the conflict between his own workload and the needs of the team members. Learning to negotiate a compromise is a useful skill. The book suggests reading the chapter on “Assertive Training”. Step 8 “How to Avoid Manipulation”  proved to be exactly what John needed. He is frequently on the “receiving end” of an assertive person’s requests, but now he has proven ways to push back. He would be able to use some of the examples verbatim.

Step 5: Step 5 lists tips for how to pace yourself at work. The first suggestion is to pay attention to your natural rhythms. John negotiated a reduced-hour contract for May and stipulated in the contract that he will only work in the afternoon. His natural circadian rhythms are such that he is more effective later in the day.

General comments

The exercises in this workbook definitely helped John and he even commented that “it’s a good book”. I am sure that in a coaching environment it will be an invaluable tool. It provides various options to treat many stress-related conditions. The trick would be to find ones that will be most effective for the individual.  As can be seen from John’s experience he did not need to use all the techniques and when employing a specific technique, did not have to follow all the steps or complete all the exercises but still achieved great results.

I found the book very informative and practical. For instance, there are examples on how to complete the worksheets and many of the worksheets are downloadable from the publisher’s website.

In the first chapter, the authors quote the work of Lazarus and Folkman who state that stress consists of two parts: our assessment of the situation as dangerous or difficult and whether we have the resources to cope with the danger or difficulty we perceive. I think this workbook is a valuable resource to relieve feelings of helplessness both for coaching clients when they use the techniques, and also for me when used as a coaching tool and reference book.

*This blog post is based on the assignment I completed for Module 3 of my Integrated Resilience & Wellness Coaching studies.*

 

A reflection on resilience mindsets

Michael Neenan says in his book Developing Resilience that “resilience is forged through pain and struggle, and the willingness, however reluctantly undertaken, to experience them”. I certainly learned resilience when I had surgery to correct inward rolling ankles and dropped arches in both my feet. My feet had been this way since birth and I was forced to wear orthotic insoles from the age of 12. By my mid-30’s I was suffering from early-onset arthritis in my big toes and had hip problems. The first operation was to my right foot in June 2016, followed by the left in January 2017.  The surgery involved reconstructing the arch of my foot, reinforcing the arch with a titanium screw and straightening my ankle by placing a second screw into my heel. Each time I was in a plaster cast from toe to knee for 8 weeks and had to inject myself with blood thinners every night. Post-surgery rehabilitation was 12 weeks of physiotherapy where I had to re-learn how to walk and retrain my leg and foot muscles. In April 2017 it became apparent that the bones in the arch of my left foot had not fused properly and that the screw had snapped in half. Treatment was the use of an ultrasound bone growth stimulator for 90 days.

The following four mind-sets helped me make it through two years of pain and helplessness, even when I experienced setbacks.

Keeping perspective

I reminded myself that I didn’t need surgery to correct a life-threatening condition or because of trauma. Many people go through much more invasive surgery and after all, the leg casts would be removed after 8 weeks. I knew there was an end date and I counted down to that date. Seen in the big picture of my life, these surgeries were relatively small inconveniences yet it would have a major, lifelong impact on my life and stop the early-onset arthritis from worsening.

Finding new challenges

Basic tasks like taking a shower, moving around, carrying things and even getting dressed were challenging and required planning. Giving myself injections every day was especially tough. The biggest challenge, however, was learning to just accept that this was going to be a challenging time for me. I couldn’t rip off the cast no matter how much I wanted to be free from it. Being confined to the cast was put to the test when I developed an allergic reaction to the skin plaster that was placed over the scar, under the cast, after the second operation. I had an intense burning sensation on my foot 24 hours a day for 8 weeks. It was only after the cast was removed that we realised I had a severe skin reaction which I had been putting up with for 8 weeks. At times I irrationally wanted to pull my foot out of the cast just to get relief from the burning, and other times I had mild panic attacks and bouts of low mood. Yet, I knew that what I was putting myself through was going to be worth it.

When I look back at what I had gone through, and how I dealt with it, I feel proud of myself. Not only did I face the challenge once, but twice. Knowing I can deal with challenges has given me the courage to make other changes in my life, including embarking on this course and the career change that will follow.

Understanding control

I quickly realised that I had to give up on trying to change things that were out of my control. I had to accept that walking on crutches was going to be the only way I could get around. I had to accept that I had to inject myself every evening. I also had to accept that the cast was staying on for 8 weeks and no matter how much I wanted to be rid of it, there was nothing I could do about it. What I could control however was what I ate, the supplements I took, how much sleep I got, what I was thinking, and asking for help. Once I let go of what I couldn’t control and took charge of what I could, I reduced my stress which in turn helped with the healing process.

Nurturing an optimistic view of yourself

Of the four mindsets I identified, I think an optimistic view was the most influential in building my resilience. After the first surgery, I was so relieved to get rid of the cast that I was quite disappointed when I realised the hard work had only just begun. Physiotherapy was long, painful and at times I just wanted to give up. I, however, knew I had to get my right leg strong enough to literally carry me through the second operation. I went through physiotherapy again after the second operation and felt elated when the surgeon gave me the all-clear. It was a huge disappointment when I started to develop severe pain in my left foot and was told that proper bone fusion hadn’t taken place after all.  I felt very disheartened but I was still able to see the positive: the right foot had healed, I had come this far in the journey and wasn’t going to give up at the last hurdle, I had private medical aid that would cover the expense of the ultrasound machine, I had an incredibly loving and supportive husband that I could rely on, and I just had to look at my beautiful right foot to see why it was all going to be worth it. I did cry sometimes and I felt frustrated, but I didn’t dwell on those negative feelings. I visualised myself wearing sandals while walking on a beach and even bought a pair of beautiful open heel sandals that I could look at it every day.

During physiotherapy, I was introduced to pilates and yoga. I had never tried it before and found that I love it. I was very aware of how weak my muscles were and I never wanted to feel so “flabby” and weak again. I now do yoga and/or pilates three times a week to keep me toned and strong. I am also very happy to say that both my feet are fully healed and I wear beautiful shoes every day.

I have had challenges in my personal life and more will follow, but I know that with the right mind-set it is possible to face a challenge and emerge a stronger person – in my case, literally and figuratively.

*This blog post is based on the assignment I completed for Module 3 of my Integrated Resilience & Wellness Coaching studies.*

The impact of wellness coaching on diabetes

The NHS’s Action for Diabetes has made it clear that in order to improve the health outcomes of those living with diabetes, education around self-management of the condition need to be improved and individuals have to become empowered to take charge of their own care.  Studies have shown that wellness coaching is able to bridge the gap between clinical intervention and patient self-management at all three stages of diabetes.

Stages of diabetes

Prediabetes

When blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes, a patient is in the prediabetic stage. At this stage, type 2 diabetes can still be avoided. Weight loss of as little as 5% is enough to significantly reduce the risk of progression to type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes

The risk of contracting type 2 diabetes is increased if a person is overweight or obese. Type 2 diabetics have insulin resistance, meaning the body doesn’t produce enough insulin to function properly, or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin. The effects of type 2 diabetes can potentially be reversed and definitely managed with a healthy diet, exercise and weight loss. Insulin is often prescribed for type 2 diabetic patients. There is no permanent cure, but the condition can be prevented and put into remission by losing weight.

Type 1 diabetes

The risk of contracting type 1 diabetes is not affected by lifestyle or weight. It is an autoimmune condition where the body is unable to produce any insulin. Management is through insulin injections, testing of blood glucose levels, counting carbohydrates, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy balanced diet. There is no permanent cure.

How coaching can help

In all stages of diabetes, patients need knowledge, the skills to make lifestyle changes and the confidence to participate in their own care and management of their condition. Research supports coaching as a feasible way to help patients make the necessary behavioural changes. Because prediabetes is a precursor to diabetes, it is of critical importance that any treatment program should also include modification of lifestyle behaviours in order to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

A study by Ramona S. DeJesus of the Mayo Clinic found that a 12-week wellness coaching program for prediabetic adults delivered by certified coaches, led to significant improvement in levels of exercise and healthy eating choices. Changes occurred as early as 6 weeks, with continued improvement at 12 weeks and sustained results at 24 weeks. 50% of the participants increased aerobic exercise time from 117 minutes to 166 and 199 minutes at 6 and 12 weeks respectively. Similar trends were also observed with self-efficacy and quality of life measures.

Unlike the study by Ramona S. DeJesus and many others that focused on nutrition and exercise alone, Mariam Kashini also integrated management of stress and sleep in her study. Patients received 14 personalised in-person or telephonic coaching sessions. Of the 107 prediabetic participants, 49 % showed normal blood glucose levels after 6 months irrespective of weight loss. Significant improvements were also made in blood pressure, fasting insulin, perceived stress levels, diet and participants reported feeling less tired.

According to Dr. Heather D. Bennett health coaching encompasses five principal roles. We will look at each if these roles in the context of diabetes as a long-term condition.

Five principle roles of the health coach

1. Self-management support

Diabetic individuals can make a dramatic impact on the progression of their disease by participating in their own care.  Disease-specific skills such as monitoring and responding to glucose levels, administering of insulin and limiting carbohydrate intake are essential parts of self-management that patients have to perform in their day to day lives. Coaches are able to train patients in these skills as well as provide information, promote behavioural change and teach problem-solving skills. A coach would also help co-create a wellness plan for the patient, set goals and make the patient accountable, thereby encouraging them to be active participants in their own healthcare.

2. Link between clinician and patient

It is easy for a disconnect to occur between a doctor and patient, e.g. in the prescription of insulin. The doctor prescribes medication, but can’t ensure that the patient will take the medication. A coach can assist by helping the patient overcome barriers or resistance that is preventing them from taking the medicine. For instance, a coach would follow up with the patient after a doctor appointment to make sure that  he/she collected the medication and ensure that the patients understands how to take the medication.

3. Navigation of health care system

NSH doctors and hospitals have long waiting times and appointments are rushed. Diabetics, especially newly diagnosed, can easily feel overwhelmed and be left with unanswered questions and concerns. A wellness coach can help the patient to prepare key questions before doctor appointments, and help the patient to feel empowered and confident enough to raise any concerns with their doctor.

4. Emotional support

Living with diabetes can be emotionally challenging. It is no surprise therefore that the chances of developing depression are twice as high for those living with diabetes. Being depressed can interfere with a person’s ability to participate in self-care activities such as monitoring, being active, eating healthy and taking medication; thereby perpetuating the cycle of depression and mismanagement of the diabetes condition.

A study by the American Association of Diabetes showed that mental health coaching was able to significantly ease depression and reduce blood sugar levels. Researchers used the the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ9) to measure anxiety and depression scores prior to and after intervention. Scores decreased by 49% on average after three months. Blood sugar levels dropped from an average of 8.8% to 7.7%. Those who received mental health coaching reported it was “life-changing, life-saving and helped them feel better and happier than they had in a long time”.

Diabetes UK recommends Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as an effective way for diabetics to learn techniques to cope with stress, triggers and negative thoughts.

5. Continuity figure

Coaches are able to connect with patients not only during in-person visits, but also between visits with telephone calls, text message and emails thereby creating a better sense of familiarity and continuity.

Conclusion

The very nature of wellness coaching is perfectly suited to help patients self-manage diabetes. Coaches facilitate a patient-directed process of evaluation and assessment, tracking and accountability. In the process of co-creating with the client, a coach can empower patients to self-manage their condition and bring about the lifestyle changes needed for a healthier life.

*This blog post is based on the assignment I completed for Module 2 of my Integrated Resilience & Wellness Coaching studies. Citations were included in the submitted assignment.*

The Mind Body Connection

What Eastern medicine has known for 2000 years about the connection between the mind and the body, Western medicine only actively started to research less than 2 centuries ago. The concept of the mind influencing the body was first explored by George Beard, MD in 1881 when he linked the stressful lifestyle of the American elite with conditions such as poor digestion, migraines and depression. Beard called the clinical condition Neurasthenia, now commonly known as nervous exhaustion. Since then many scientific studies have been performed to demonstrate the mechanics of the mind-body link.

Molecules of Emotion

The breakthrough in mind-body research came in the 1970’s with Dr. Candace Pert and Dr. Solomon H. Snyder’s discovery of neuropeptides. Their work was hugely influential in the creation of a brand new branch of science called Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI). Neuropeptides provided PNI with the scientific language – that of neuropeptides and their receptors – that allowed Western medicine to explain in scientific terms how the mind is able to communicate with the body, and the body with mind. Pert called the receptor and neuropeptide molecules, the molecules of emotion.

The information exchange system that Pert and Snyder identified consists of receptors located on the surface of all cells that bind with their matching neuropeptide counterpart (small protein-like molecules produced by the nerve cells in the brain). Neuropeptides deliver its emotion-linked chemical message to the receptor, which then transmits the message to the cell, triggering a chain of biochemical reactions which can create changes within the cell of either a positive or negative nature.

The key discovery by Pert and her team was that receptors for neuropeptides are not only located in the brain, but also in all other cells of the body. This discovery would explain how it is possible for endorphins and opioids such as heroin or morphine, to powerfully alter the body and emotions.
The relationship between cell, receptor and neuropeptide is explained by Pert as follows:

“If the cell is the engine that drives all life, then the receptors are the buttons on the control panel of that engine, and a specific peptide is the finger that pushes that button and gets things started.”

The nervous, endocrine and immune systems are therefore interlocked in a body-wide system where each part can communicate and influence, the other part. According to Pert, our emotions are the key.

“Emotions are the nexus between mind and matter, going back and forth between the two and influencing both.” C. Pert

Many studies have been performed to prove the theory that the mind-body connection is multi directional. Examples are provided below.

Mind influencing the body

A UK study found that men who had depression were three times more likely to develop heart disease than those without depression.

A study of 150 couples showed that marital discord increases the changes of calcification of the arteries. In the study, couples were asked to discuss any topic for 30 minutes whilst being recorded on video. After 20 minutes, researchers were able to distinguish two types couples. One group emerged as having marital discord, displaying signs of anger, frustration and negative feelings towards their partner. The other group was compassionate, kind and physically tactile towards their partner. Levels of CAC (coronary calcification) in the arteries were measured and found to be higher in the marital discord group. In a sense hardening of the heart towards your spouse, can lead to hardening of the arteries.

The effect of the mind on the body is not only limited to our emotion, but images – both imagined and real – can also affect changes in the body.

Research was performed on a group of patients receiving a 4 – 6 week course of rehabilitation physiotherapy. The first group only received physiotherapy. The second group was asked to do one hour of mental imaging (visualisation) of themselves performing strength building tasks per day in addition to physiotherapy. The third group observed able bodied people perform tasks in addition to receiving physiotherapy. The groups who used visualisation and the group who observed able bodied people, both gained movement much faster than the group who only received physiotherapy treatment. It should be noted that the exercises were performed repeatedly over the course of the study. Repetition is key in order to build neural pathways in the brain that connect with the muscles. It is clear however that the brain does not distinguish between doing, imagining or observing.

Body influencing the mind

A recent study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital found that increased levels of physical activity were able to reduce the risk of depression considerably, even among those who are genetically predisposed to depression. Both high-intensity exercise, such as aerobic exercise and dance and lower-intensity forms such as yoga and stretching, lowered the risk of depression. Overall, individuals could see a 17 % reduction in the likelihood of a new episode of depression for every four hours of activity per week.

Science has proven that the mind and the body impact each other. The question then is how can the individual control what information is being shared between the mind and the body?

Change the environment

The work of Dr. Bruce Lipton shows that the environment in which a cell is placed, determines “the fate” of the cell. Lipton divided genetically identical stem cells into three groups, each group into its own tissue culture dish with its own culture medium (the environment for the stem cell). In one dish the cells formed bone, in the second dish the cells formed muscle and in the third dish the cells formed fat cells. What the cells eventually grew into was controlled by their environment.

Humans are genetically the same, but the mind (consciously or subconsciously) is interpreting the environment as stressful or not, and the cells of the body will respond accordingly. (See the work of Perk on neuropeptides.)

Conclusion

The key to optimum wellness is therefor to control and change if necessary, the beliefs and way of viewing the world in such a way that the environment is perceived as non-threatening, safe and positive. When the individual is able to change their environment and their perception of the environment, they are able to control the genetic responses of their cells. Dr. David Hamilton sums it up best when he says “Belief shifts biology”.

*This blog post is based on the assignment I completed for Module 1 of my Integrated Resilience & Wellness Coaching studies. Citations were included in the submitted assignment.*

Yoga can reverse the molecular reactions in our DNA which cause ill-health and depression

Yoga can reverse the molecular reactions in our DNA which cause ill-health and depression.

A study of 846 participants over 11 years reveal that mind-body interventions (MBIs) such as meditation, yoga and Tai Chi don’t simply relax us; they can ‘reverse’ the molecular reactions in our DNA which cause ill-health and depression.

Lead investigator Ivana Buric from the Brain, Belief and Behaviour Lab in Coventry University’s Centre for Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement said that “these activities [MBIs] are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells, which reverses the effect that stress or anxiety would have on the body by changing how our genes are expressed.

Put simply, MBIs cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our wellbeing.”

Source: ScienceDaily, 15 June 2017

So this happened…

February 2020 has been one heck of a month for me. It started on 02.02.2020 when I met up with my friend Zoe. We worked together a few years ago, until she left the company to become a Narcissist Abuse Recovery coach. She has a successful practice giving men and women the tools & support to help them recover from toxic relationships, having been in one herself.

We met up for lunch on the one year anniversary of my very first Pilates class – the one I did a few days after my Rapid Transformation Therapy session in 2019. I wrote about how far I had come since that first Pilates class, in this post. What I didn’t mention in that post was that I had seen Zoe on the same day. At our lunch we talked a lot about her coaching practice, how her life experiences had lead her to become a coach and how she has used those experiences to help others. I was very inspired by her story and remember telling her that I know my life is also going to “take a turn” but I wasn’t sure in what direction. All I knew was that it would be something to do with helping others based on my own life experiences of Law of Attraction, resilience and that I want to do something where I can apply and strengthen my intuitive guidance.

After that meeting, nothing much happened until the weekend of 15 and 16 February. I had been having problems with a colleague at work for about a year and the emotional toll of that difficult relationship came to a head over the weekend. I hadn’t really realised how much working with her had changed me – but my husband certainly noticed. Long story short, after a lot of crying and reflection, I decided I couldn’t pretend there wasn’t a problem at work any more and that I would speak to my manager about her.

On Monday the 17th I walked into the office a different person with a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Funny thing is, I had not yet spoken to anyone but just knowing that I was going to deal with the problem, made me feel like my old self again.

Thursday the 20th I was talking to very, very, good friend at work. She told me about her friend who retrained to be a physiotherapist after receiving physio herself and realising that that’s actually the job she should be doing. She had been a secretary for more than 20 years when she retrained, and now she’s at the top of her game as a physiotherapist and much, much happier.

The next day, Friday 21.02.2020, was when things really started to fall into place. That morning I told my husband the story about the lady who retrained as a physio. Within 10 minutes, between him combing his hair and me putting on my make-up, he suggested I should retrain as a coach. He pointed out all the signs I had been getting and the fact that I have so much life experience – why not get a qualification, become a wellness coach and make good use of my hard earned life experience?! It totally made sense!

The beauty of it all is that I don’t need to know exactly when, how or where I will be a coach – for now all I have to do is to act on the nudges that the Universe is sending me and get the qualification.  It was decided. I will retrain as a coach! I was buzzing with excitement all the way to work, knowing that I found that “thing” that Zoe and I had talked about on 02.02.2020. I spent the morning researching accredited health and wellbeing courses. Just before lunchtime I found the course I wanted to do and sent my husband an email with the details.

Just as I hit send, I realised I had to go to a yoga class at MoreYoga Cannon Street but I hadn’t changed into my gym gear yet! It was 12:10, class starts at 12:30 and I still had to walk the 15 minutes to get there! Yet, something told me that I should still try to make it to class, even if I may be late. So I did. I was 5 minutes late to the class which I felt really bad about – I’m never ever late for anything, but as I lay there trying to regulate my breath I was happy I persevered. Class was amazing – I love the instructor’s style – but the clincher happened at the end.

During Savasana Chris read a poem from “Soul to Soul” by John Mundahl which had me in tears. The poor guy had never seen me before and I was late to his class, but I just had to go up to him and tell him (between sobs and smeared mascara) that his poem had given me the confirmation I needed that I’m doing the right thing by studying to be a coach. This is the poem:

A Precious Human Life by the Dalai Lama

Every day, think as you wake up,

Today I am fortunate to have woken up,

I am alive.

I have a precious human life.

I am not going to waste it.

I am going to use all my energies to develop myself,

To expand my heart out to others,

To achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all human beings,

I am going to have kind thoughts towards others,

I am not going to get angry,

Or think badly about others,

I am going to benefit other as much as I can.

That evening I talked things through with my husband one last time just to make sure that it’s the right course with the right accreditation. I had total peace of mind that I found the perfect course for me and I paid the £269 initial sum.  I went to bed on Friday evening feeling like a different person! All that was left to do was to fill out the enrolment form, but that could wait until Saturday.

On Saturday I woke excited and feeling light as air.  I had my coffee, showered, downloaded the enrolment form, filled it out and drafted an email to Laurel. It was 11:11 on 22.02.2020 when I sent the email.  I believe that when I see repeating numbers, my life is flowing in the right direction. It’s like I’m riding a wave of goodness & right decisions. The more I notice the repeating numbers when I’m making decisions for my life, the more I know I’m making the right decisions and the flow just gets stronger and faster.  11:11 Is an especially powerful repeating number. Not only was sending my course registration email on 22.02.2020 at 11:11 an huge positive sign from the Universe, but I had officially started the next chapter of my life exactly 20 days after telling Zoe that I knew something else was out there for me.

amazed at what you attract once you start believing in what you deserve

“You’ll be amazed at what you attract once you start believing in what you deserve.”

I shared this image on my Facebook page on 31 January 2020 – before I even had my meeting with Zoe. John had said the same thing to me on Friday morning when he encouraged me to train as a coach. I just had to believe I can do it. Once I did, the wave started building.

I am incredibly excited about 2020 and what it will bring. I’m literally buzzing all the time just thinking about all I will learn in my coaching course, and the new career that will follow.

Watch this space!

Dark chocolate may positively affect mood and relieve depressive symptoms

Dark chocolate may positively affect mood and relieve depressive symptoms.

A UCL-led study looked at whether different types of chocolate are associated with mood disorders.

It was found that individuals who ate dark chocolate in two 24-hour periods had 70 % lower odds of reporting depressive symptoms than those who ate no chocolate at all. Dark chocolate has a higher concentration of flavonoids (antioxidant chemicals which have been shown to improve inflammatory profiles), which have been shown to play a role in the onset of depression.

Source: ScienceDaily, 2 August 2019

Terrific Tuesday #10

On a Monday morning I’m rearing to go and to take on the week, Wednesday is the middle of the work week, on a Thursday I feel good for making it this far and on a Friday I can taste the weekend.

But what about a Tuesday? For me Tuesdays are the hardest day of the week to exercise.  I’m usually tired from the manic Monday and midweek might as well be a year away.

If you feel the same about Tuesdays, my Terrific Tuesday posts will provide motivation, a reminder of why we exercise and words of wisdom to make us feel inspired and turn Tuesday from terrible to terrific.

Exercise because zombies will eat the slow ones first

 

Exercise! Because zombies will eat the slow ones first.

 

 

 

 

A year of reinventing myself

Today is the 1 year anniversary of my first ever pilates class and I’m still going strong – literally: I have muscles now! I’m so proud of myself, and a bit blown away by how much I love doing regular exercise. It’s been a whole year and I’m still doing this exercising thing! And not just doing it, but really seeking it out and loving every minute.

Over 365 days I have gone from absolutely hating exercise and looking for excuses not to do it, to dealing with the issue by means of hypnotherapy,  joining a yoga studio and in-between doing yoga in 14 funky locations just because it’s fun! What a journey! You can read about my “issues” with exercise here. In the blog post I expand on how one session of Rapid Transformation Therapy (“RTT”) and 21 days of listening to the reinforcement affirmation recordings, totally changed me.

But the proof is in the pudding. Check out my “New Me CV”: Since my RTT session on 27 January 2019:

  • I practiced pilates at a studio from Feb to July 2019. I started with one class a week – the first of which was 3 days after my RTT session. It was incredibly tough because my muscles were very weak, but I absolutely loved it. I increased the classes to two a week and wanted to do even more, but it would have been too expensive to do more than two classes a week.
  • I found the solution in Sworkit, an at-home exercise app. With Sworkit I started doing light weight training and really proved to myself that I am self-motived.  No instructors, no fines if I don’t show up to a class – it’s all up to me whether I do the workout, how long I work out for and how much effort I put in. For someone who used to look for any excuse not to exercise, this is  BIG DEAL! I was even asked to be a Sworkit ambassador.
  • In April 2019 I attended a pilates class in The Shard – the first example of how I had changed my opinion of exercise from something I have to do, to something I do for fun.  Wanting to write about the experience lead to the creation of this blog.  One event in a funky location wasn’t enough for me, so I started looking for more pilates events in funky locations around London, but there aren’t many pilates classes in unique locations. A lot of yoga though…. the lack of pilates classes didn’t stop me, in fact it just spurred me on and lead me to do my first yoga class on 17 July 2019 (two days before my 42nd birthday) on the roof of a bar overlooking St. Pauls’s Cathedral.
  • All the sporadic, one-off yoga events really got me into yoga. I always thought that yoga was the milder, stretchier little brother of pilates and that I wouldn’t be able to really feel it working the way pilates does. I was wrong. The more yoga events I attended and exposed myself to different teachers and styles, the more I realised that yoga was in fact able to give me the dynamic strength building workout I wanted.  So much so, that I joined MoreYoga on 24 Jan 2020 with first class on 26 Jan 2020 –  a day shy of the 1 year anniversary of my RTT session. At MoreYoga Cannon Street branch I actually do a pilates class on a Monday morning, so I’ve now come full circle.
  • I have lost 10kg since March 2019. The weight loss only really picked up once I started doing Intermittent Fasting in July 2019. I found that exercise alone wasn’t enough to get rid of those pesky fat rolls, but it definitely makes me stronger (mentally and physically) and has changed my body shape.

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I have done a mix of pilates, working out at home, and yoga consistently 3 – 4 times a week for a year! This is such a BIG DEAL for someone who had a pattern of giving up on exercise after two weeks.

I feel so priviliged to be living in London where I have access to yoga studios like MoreYoga and experiences like doing yoga on a glass walkway over The Thames or  under a blue whale skeleton or  just being able to appreciate a great view on my walk back to the office after a hour of yoga with an excellent teacher.

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If anyone is reading this, hoping to also reinvent themselves, my advice is to:

  1. follow your heart. It will lead you to the perfect therapy/therapist/book/podcast to change your mindset;
  2. be committed to making the change. It’s going to take about a month for the old habits to be replaced by the New You habits so stick with it;
  3. make it fun for yourself (like I did by combining exercise with new and unusual venues);
  4. be kind to yourself and take it easy

UPDATE: Twenty days after writing this blogpost, I enrolled in a Resilience & Wellness Coaching Certificate course! I submitted my application on 22.02.2020 at 11:11.   (I love repeating numbers, and especially 11:11.) The Reinvention that started on 2 February 2019 seems to have been leading me to this moment all along. I am incredibly excited to see what the rest of 2020 has in store for me!

 

 

When temperature goes up, blood pressure goes down in Hot Yoga study

When temperature goes up, blood pressure goes down in Hot Yoga study.

Taking hot yoga classes lowered blood pressure in a small study of 10 men and women, between ages 20 and 65 years with elevated or stage 1 hypertension, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Hypertension 2019 Scientific Sessions.  Five of the ten participants did hot yoga 3 times a week for 12 weeks.  Their systolic blood pressure dropped from an average 126 mmHg to 121 mmHg, and average diastolic pressure also decreased from 82 mmHg to 79 mmHg.

 

Source: ScienceDaily, 5 September 2019

Yoga at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Yoga in an art gallery! Another first for me and definitely yoga in a funky location! I would never have thought of looking on the Dulwich Picture Gallery website for a yoga event. Who would?! To make this even more appealing, I would be viewing the Rembrandt’s Light exhibition. I studied History of Art (and ceramics) in High School so this event combines my newfound love of yoga with my art background.

I got up really early on Sunday so that I could leave the house at 7 am to arrive at the Gallery at the requested time of 8:30. My journey from North West London to South East London consisted of a bus ride, two changes on the tube and another bus ride. When I left the house it was only 0 degrees!  Morning yoga classes in the British Winter requires some real dedication!

Start time mix-up

The ticket and events page expressly asked everyone to arrive at the gallery by 8:30 for registration, and the yoga would be from 8:45 to 9:45. I got there for 8:30 and was welcome by a member of staff and asked to wait near the cafe. By 8:35 everyone – roughly 50 people – had arrived but we had to wait around until 8:45 before the doors of the gallery opened. There, all 50 of us had to queue to sign disclaimer forms. We all pulled out our phones to show that we had tickets for the event, but the staff were only interested in getting us to sign the disclaimers. I thought this was strange, but I signed the form and went to find my place (more about this later). By the time everyone had found their places and we were ready to begin, it was 9 am – 15 minutes later than advertised.  I have to say I was a bit disappointed in this.  I had travelled far and had made the effort to be there at 8:30 as instructed, and then the gallery kept everyone waiting.

The yoga

As you enter the Soane Gallery you are struck by morning sun streaming through the skylights, filling the long gallery space with a beautiful soft light. 

I put down my Lululemon Carry Onward mat under “St Jerome and Giralamo Petrobelli”. St. Jerome is the bearded man in the pink wrap. An interesting fact about this painting, which I only read on my way out and had not realised as I was downward dogging next to it, is that it is a fragment of a much larger altarpiece circa 1563. The hand on the left, the hand of the devil at the bottom left corner and the lion on the right, were painted over and only revealed when the painting was cleaned in the 1940’s.

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The class started at 9 am.  It was a basic Vinyasa Flow class with lots of focus on breath and not many repeats of the flow.  It was definitely suitable for beginners. In fact, intermediate or advanced yogis would get frustrated with the slow pace – unless you were there for relaxation and/or enjoy breath work. I would say I’m at intermediate level and I didn’t feel like I had worked at all. I did however like how the instructor explained that when our feet are facing her, it would be “forward” in stead of “left” or “right” because there were people on both sides of her. 

 

 

When the class came to an end at 09:45 we were told that we had to queue again to claim our tickets for Rembrandt’s Light exhibition – it’s at this point that you show proof of purchase of the yoga event ticket. And here is another annoyance: the event description says “[….] and is followed by early access to Rembrandt’s Light.” and “yoga session followed by private view”. In reality our tickets allowed us to view the exhibit in a 30 minute time slot which started at 10 am – exactly as it does for anyone else who wants to view Rembrand’s Light on a Sunday.  There was no “early access / private view” to Rembrandt’s Light for us. We did have early access to the Gallery’s permanent exhibition because of course we were all milling about waiting for our allocated slot to open up, and that is a privilege that members of the public did not have, but it’s not what was advertised.

Rembrandt’s Light exhibition

 

 

The exhibition celebrates 350 years since Rembrandt’s death with 35 of his iconic paintings, etchings and drawings including three of Rembrandt’s most famous paintings of women: A Woman Bathing in a Stream, A Woman in Bed and the Gallery’s Girl at a Window all hanging together. 

 

 

I found the exhibition very well thought out with many special touches that really brought home the idea of light v. dark. I especially loved the display of “Christ and St Mary Magdalene at the Tomb” where the lighting on the painting shifts from dark to light, emulating the break of dawn.

By 10:30 it was time to head home, but not before I got a coffee from the the Gallery Cafe. I’ve been to yoga events before which included private viewings of exhibits (at the Design Museum London and Natural History Museum), but this is the first time that the ticket price also included a hot drink. It’s a really nice touch. And the coffee was very good.

My verdict

I was disappointed in the event organisation and advertising, and the yoga was too easy without modifications for those at intermediate or advanced levels. Maybe these things wouldn’t have bothered me as much if I didn’t have to get up so early on a Sunday and travel in the freezing cold, but I did. I feel I could have spent my £25 on a Triyoga drop-in class near my home and still had money left over for a latte and croissant.  But, saying all of that, it was still a nice experience to have done yoga in an art gallery surrounded by Rennaissance masterpieces. The experience would just have been more enjoyable, had the admin side of things been better.

Instructor:  A member of the British Wheel of Yoga. I didn’t catch her name.

Location: Dulwich Picture Gallery, Gallery Road, London SE21 7AD

Time: Advertised as 08:45 – 09:45, actual start time 09:00

Price: £25 which includes a hot drink from the Gallery Cafe and entrance to Rembrandt’s Lights Exhibition

Date attended: Sunday, 19 January 2020

Yoga mats provided: Some were provided but we were asked to bring our own

Yoga intensity: According to my Fitbit Inspire HR, I burned 92 calories with average bpm of 84 over 52 minutes.

Good to know: The DPG website states that you can get the P4 bus from Brixton station and alight at “Dulwich Picture Gallery” stop. However the entrance to the Gallery is not in the street where bus stops at the Main Entrance gates, but around the back of the building.

Something I learned: The Lululemon Carry Onward travel yoga mat is brilliant. It was very easy to carry it around with me on public transport, it was grippy, it’s long and the microfibre texture feels lovely under foot. The star of this yoga in a funky location, was my Lululemon Carry Onward Mat.

If you like doing yoga in quirky places, outside, or in iconic London buildings, check out my list of Funky places to do yoga and pilates around London.

 

Terrific Tuesday #9

On a Monday morning I’m rearing to go and to take on the week, Wednesday is the middle of the work week, on a Thursday I feel good for making it this far and on a Friday I can taste the weekend.

But what about a Tuesday? For me Tuesdays are the hardest day of the week to exercise.  I’m usually tired from the manic Monday and midweek might as well be a year away.

If you feel the same about Tuesdays, my Terrific Tuesday posts will provide motivation, a reminder of why we exercise and words of wisdom to make us feel inspired and turn Tuesday from terrible to terrific.

The best abs exercise is 5 sets of stop eating so much crap Lazar Angelov quote

“The best abs exercise is 5 sets of stop eating so much crap” – Lazar Angelov, Online Personal Trainer

Apparently weight loss is generally 75 % diet and 25 % exercise. Ouch! An analysis of more than 700 weight loss studies found that people see the biggest short-term results when they eat smart. On average, people who dieted without exercising for 15 weeks lost 23 pounds; the exercisers lost only 6 pounds over about 21 weeks. (Source)

You’ll be exercising very hard for very long to burn the calories of a Mars bar, so you might as well eat only half it and save yourself the aggravation.

Vegan diet can boost gut microbes and lead to improved body weight and blood sugar control

Vegan diet can boost gut microbes and lead to improved body weight and blood sugar control

New research suggests that a 16-week vegan diet can boost the gut microbes that are related to improvements in body weight, body composition and blood sugar control.

Changes to the gut microbes were associated with a reduction of body weight (an average of 5.8 kg due to the reduction in fat mass and visceral fat) and increases in insulin sensitivity.  The authors say that fibre is the most important component of plant foods that promotes a healthy gut microbiome.

Source: ScienceDaily, 16 September 2019

Terrific Tuesday #8

On a Monday morning I’m rearing to go and to take on the week, Wednesday is the middle of the work week, on a Thursday I feel good for making it this far and on a Friday I can taste the weekend.

But what about a Tuesday? For me Tuesdays are the hardest day of the week to exercise.  I’m usually tired from the manic Monday and midweek might as well be a year away.

If you feel the same about Tuesdays, my Terrific Tuesday posts will provide motivation, a reminder of why we exercise and words of wisdom to make us feel inspired and turn Tuesday from terrible to terrific.

It's not always easy, but it sure is always worth it

 

It’s not always easy, but it sure is always worth it.

This is a very hard truth. Getting up at 05:30 to exercise is not always easy. Some days I jump out of bed ready to go, but not always. Other days I have to remind myself that I will feel better afterwards, that I will be proud of myself for doing it, and that it feels damn good when I can put on my “thin” trousers and they fit.

It really is always worth it, but sometimes we need to remind yourself of that because there will be days when the easier, (but not better!), option is to just stay in bed.

 

 

 

Qigong at Triyoga

I was at a qigong class on Sunday evening – a first for me! I read that qigong is “Chinese yoga” and wanted to give it a try for my reviews of yoga in funky locations. I know qigong is not a funky location like Tower Bridge or the Walkie Talkie building, but it’s a new and different yoga experience for me and that’s enough to warrant a review on the blog. 

What is Qigong?

  • According to the National Qigong Association, qigong (pronounced ‘chee-kung’) can be described as “a mind-body-spirit practice that improves one’s mental and physical health by integrating posture, movement, breathing technique, self-massage, sound, and focused intent.”
  • The word is made up of  Qi (“subtle breath” or “vital energy”) and Gong (“skill cultivated through steady practice”) so loosely translated it means “vital energy cultivation” or “mastery of your energy”.
  • The goal of qigong is to increase and balance your vital energy by opening up the flow of energy in the meridians.
  • Just like yoga, qigong uses slow fluid movements which provide focused stretching, strengthening, and health maintenance.
  • Qigong is the foundation of both Tai Chi and Kung Fu as well as being considered both part of, and precursor to, traditional Chinese Medicine.
  • There are only a few simple rules: always move from the center, don’t lock the knees or bend the legs deeply; and arms remain neither limp nor rigid.
  • All movements are done from a standing position

I discovered qigong when I looked at all the different types of yoga classes on offer at Triyoga. They offered qigong at their Camden, Shoreditch and Ealing branches. I attended the Sunday evening Ealing class.

Triyoga Ealing studio

I’ve never before been to a Triyoga studio, but if all the studios are even half as nice as the Ealing one, I want to go to Triyoga studios more often and stay there much longer. No wonder they have a shop and cafe because who would want to leave immediately after class when the space is so calm and beautiful?  I will be returning to Triyoga Ealing in a few weeks for a Warm Vinyasa Flow class, but maybe I’ll join Triyoga and make it my go-to yoga and pilates spot..? #verytempted

So, is Qigong the same as yoga?

I would say a typical yoga class is 80% focused on the body and 20% on the mind: at the end of a yoga class my body feels strong and my mind centred, but the physical aspect is definitely larger than the mental or spiritual. In fact, if it wasn’t for the last 10 minutes of Savasana and/or the intention setting at the start of the class there wouldn’t be much of an spiritual aspect. (Of course, yoga is a way of life and built on Hindu principles with a spiritual core. What I’m speaking of here is an actual 1 hour class, not yoga as a whole.)

To me qigong felt the other way around with 20% focus on the body and 80% on the mind (energy or spirit). At the end of the class my mind was centred, I was relaxed and I felt totally zen.  It was clear that the purpose of all the movements I was performing in qigong was to re-balance and clear the energy, whereas with yoga the purpose of the asanas is to make the body stronger through controlled movement.

I therefor won’t say qigong is “Chinese Yoga”. It’s similar in the sense that it’s a “softer” exercise than for instance HIIT, weightlifting or a spin class, but it’s not the same. Just as yoga isn’t pilates, qigong isn’t yoga.

The video below gives a very good idea of what the class was like. We performed about half of these movements over 75 minutes. (I don’t think the class needed to be 75 minutes long, it could easily have been done in 45 minutes.)

 

My verdict

I don’t think I will continue with qigong. It was nice to experience it once and it has many benefits – in fact I think it will be especially good at times of stress to calm the mind if practised regularly – but I didn’t get enough out of it to warrant a regular practice.  Yoga provides me with just the right amount of calm, challenge and centering that I need, and when I want to push myself harder I log onto Sworkit for a strength training workout with dumbbells.

 

Instructor: Hanna Luna

Location: Triyoga Ealing, Unit 30, Dickens Yard, Longfield Ave, W5 2UQ

Time: 16:45 – 18:00

Price: I paid £12.50 for my class because I took advantage of the 2 for £25 offer. One day passes at Triyoga are £18.

Date attended: Sunday, 12 January 2020

Yoga mats provided: No need for yoga mats as Qigong is done from standing. 

Yoga intensity: According to my Fitbit Inspire HR, I burned 136 calories, with average bpm of 93 over 78 minutes.

Good to know:  If you sign up for the Triyoga 2 for £25 offer, remember that you have to do your two classes within 30 days, and the 30 days start the day you take up the offer, i.e. pay the £25, not the day you attend your first class.

Something I learned: The qigong dynamic movements are used to balance the qi by redistributing the energy from areas with too much to areas with too little, and the static movements are used to harness qi.

If you like doing yoga in quirky places, outside, or in iconic London buildings, check out my list of Funky places to do yoga and pilates around London.

 

 

Terrific Tuesday #7

On a Monday morning I’m rearing to go and to take on the week, Wednesday is the middle of the work week, on a Thursday I feel good for making it this far and on a Friday I can taste the weekend.

But what about a Tuesday? For me Tuesdays are the hardest day of the week to exercise.  I’m usually tired from the Manic Monday and midweek might as well be a year away.

If you feel the same about Tuesdays, my Terrific Tuesday posts will provide motivation, a reminder of why we exercise and words of wisdom to make us feel inspired and turn Tuesday from terrible to terrific.

If at first you don't succeed fix your ponytail and try again

If at first you don’t succeed, fix your ponytail and try again. It’s the female version of fixing your tie. You know we mean business when the ponytail is tight and every hair in its place!