Articles

The Dangers of Treadmills


In this audio, Charlotte addresses the use of treadmills which are commonplace in most gyms in the country but many people are unaware of their dangers. Constantly using a treadmill can cause repetitive stress injuries and strain due the Read more

Kefir healed my skin


The power of Kefir I have been living in South Korea for a year now and I have become very sensitive to foods which may possibly have caused what looks like a fungal infection on my skin. When I went Read more

Ntosh's Journey to Health Part 2


I have been on the Better4life nutrition programme and I noticed something... For the past couple of days I've noticed that I'm happier, my mood is so much better – almost nothing can get me down. Also, the energy drinks – Read more

Kefir keeps me healthy!


All the Better4life products are a true God-send.  The kefir has been my medicine for everything. I have been applying the kefir on my skin for the past 3 weeks every night and my skin is producing such a Read more

Country living in the city


I picked up the March issue of “Country Life”, drawn to its fresh outdoor images. Print has suffered a decline and it’s amazing how this magazine continues to flourish, glossy and bright. And then it dawned on me. Many Read more

What the car guard taught me

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He was standing in the queue, waiting for the teller to count his change painstakingly. A collection of silver and bronze coins. In his hand was a pie and a Coke – lunch for the day. Everyone was waiting with our “superior” notes and plastic money. In that moment, a dozen different thoughts and feelings struck me. I read a story in those few minutes. This man had courage-real and pragmatic. I marvelled at it. How ashamed would I feel paying with little pieces of change? He was actually helping the teller with her cash float, and this showed me he’d worked out a beneficial partnership from a potentially embarrassing context. She appreciated his change, even though it took longer to count.

Then there was his dignity. Shamefaced, I faced my own prejudices. I’ve always struggled with the concept of paying floating, and unofficial car guards to watch my car when I believe each shopping centre should do this for their customers. In that moment, I saw the validity and real value of his work because this man needed to eat, just like me, and who is to say my work is better than his?

And then there was the peculiar realisation of change. All change is a collection of little steps in one direction, just like the pile of change (loose coins) I saw being counted. It all added up to the right amount (the impact) needed to pay for this man’s lunch, and the change needed to satisfy customers like me. I know he had no idea, as he stood with slumped shoulders, but this car attendant taught me a weighty lesson. As I reversed my car, and waited for one of his co-workers to guide me out, I paid, bit my lip and said, “God bless you”, this time really meaning it.


Confessions of a Recovering Gym Bunny

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So, there’s an overwhelming amount of information available – in the beautifully broad and general virtual world and in the formal printed book industry, about all things related to exercise, wellness and fitness. You begin to get the feeling that you may also need a PhD, just to stay fit and in shape.

Somebody is always modifying something – a better ab crunch, a shorter, more intense workout. More sophisticated gym equipment. Optimised protein shakes. Paleo-atkins-macrobiotic diets shaken up and stirred and served again with another twist. The psychology of exercise: what you think when you work out. Right down to the multi-million dollar industry of exercise clothing, personal training and exercise studios.

No wonder many people prefer to sit on the coach than get exercising.

My confession: I was one of those gym bunnies who spent years in many different gyms, with different programmes and different goals.  I remember feeling awkward; unsure of what I was doing – hilariously avoiding the personal instructor hovering nearby – convinced I was doing the right thing, but not really convinced. There was always this frustration in my mind that I was working out so hard, so diligently, but not seeing the results I wanted. Or I thought I needed. So, what happened? Did anything change? Can I share any pearls of wisdom with you today.

Hmm, maybe not pearls, but certainly some clinchers that changed my perspective:

 #1 Your Ideal Body is Probably False.

The body you think you should have, and what you’re working so hard to attain is usually false. It either doesn’t exist outside of a designer’s Photoshop lab, or it’s been attained by eating things what wouldn’t sustain life for even a cockroach beyond 30 days. And gentlemen, this isn’t exclusively reserved for the appearance-mad fraternity of women. It affects men and women alike. And it’s mean and needs a beating.

#2 The Body is a Lever System Designed for Movement.

This may sound too scientific, but it changed the way I see exercise. I don’t even refer to it any more as I speak to clients. Movement is what we need and it’s what we should aim for every day. Some of my clients are teachers at schools and very few of them are overweight or weak – because they keep moving and stay active. Most don’t go to a gym (what a thought!), but they also don’t suffer from central obesity or laxity of ligaments like the rest of our chair-sitting office-bound workers.

# 3 You’ll Know Your Right Body Type Intuitively.

I look at my childhood photos and already I see a predisposition to a certain body type, a certain diet and a certain muscular-skeletal structure. It took me years to come back to how I should look and what I should be eating etc. But when it was clear, I shed the false expectations (along with some muscle mass) and began to feel truly comfortable in my own frame. If you were long, lean and skinny as a child, chances are you should have a long, lean, slimmer frame as an adult. If you really enjoyed meat and veggies growing up, it’s good to keep to them now in your later years. We get lost in the hype and bubble of nutritional science and need to remind ourselves that we were designed to know what we need.

# 4 Good Movement is Simple, Natural.

Lose the pseudo-science, mumbo-jumbo rhetoric designed to scramble your brain and all of the psycho-jargon often crafted to make you buy things you don’t need. Human movement is the simplest thing in the world. We were designed to walk, to jump, to lean, to carry, to stretch, to swim – a long stroll, a fast trot, and to run – for short distances (unless you’re from the Masai tribe or have Ethiopian genes). We don’t do too well exercising on artificial machines – which, and I know I’m standing on controversial ground here – includes bicycles. Example: Long distance cyclists run the risk of overdeveloping one side of their heart’s ventricle. And the best immune response from exercise is moderate – just in the middle of our heart rate low and high, and not longer than 40 minutes, done frequently. Like living and breathing. Moving every day. Making movement and exertion a normal, natural part of our lives and encouraging our bodies to move, even while we work in offices and drive cars to work.

 # 5 You’ll Enjoy What’s Good for You

If you’re not liking it after you’ve got beyond the beginning point of the difficulty of change – it’s not good for you. I teach many different people – of all sorts of shapes and sizes, ages, genders. You name it. Those that ENJOY their movement, their food and their lifestyle choices are HAPPY and WELL. Those that are trying to put on more muscle mass than their whole family tree combined are miserable – because it’s not natural and it takes a gross amount of misplaced resources – including chickens and whey protein – to make them get there.

It takes some experimenting, some testing and some firm “No’s” and “Yes’s” to fit into the right shape and quality for your life.

My favourite exercise now? Pilates hands down! It truly is a full body workout! Hey, why not sign up for one of my classes if you are in Joburg: http://www.better4life.co.za/group-pilates-classes/

Go for it. Find comfort and gentle truth in your movement, and be well.


Why we want to hibernate in Winter

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Take a break… Your body works hardest in winter.

Sometimes we forget that the internal combustion engine has been modelled on the human (and mammalian) body. And we forget, that exactly like a cold car feels on a winter morning, we too are working hardest when the air is coldest and driest.

The instinct to hibernate

Listen to yourself. We’ve done enough separation of body, mind and spirit. Human beings have the gift of functioning in tandem with all our parts, all the time. Winter comes approximately half-way through the year in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s a good half-way point pegged for rest and reflection. The body knows that it’s now time to battle viruses, lower temperatures and less viable air for respiration. This means greater output, and in a way, greater “fuel consumption” – more calorie-rich foods, like our winter squashes and meaty stews. We need more to stay in balance and maintain homeostasis (a balanced body). So, the desire to hibernate is good, instinctual and a healthy guide for activity. Reduce the length of our overall day,  spend more time at home, warm and resting and  generally breath deeper and working more restfully. This will keep our immune system humming and allow us to reflect and process on an emotional and spiritual level. No reflections= no direction.

The desire for a lower gear

Other seasons of the year, especially Spring (renewal) and Summer (harvest) speak to us of super- energy and great physical- holistic stamina. It’s easy to get caught up in this kind of thinking and “energy hype” all year round. I always use the ocean as an example of ebbs and flows. We would have no tides, and ultimately no life in the ocean without ebbs and flows. Human beings and all creation, to a certain degree, are oscillating creatures. We move from first gear to second, to third and beyond. To stay in one gear will completely and very quickly wreck a good engine. Continuing with our car metaphor, one gear can only provide a specific output of power (speed) flat and torque (strength) uphill.  When the landscape and conditions change, you and I need a different gear. My mechanic would physically remove my car if I chose to stay in second or third gear on the highway. This is abuse! And so too is our expectation to stay in one gear all the time. This is self- abuse. Gear down. Listen to your “revs” and celebrate the ebbs and flows in you!

The value of old fashioned sense

I recall growing up with an understanding that “gran will know” or an older neighbour always had a solution for a cold, a burn, rash or some other ailment. There were plenty of people who continued with the old traditions of protecting and celebrating life. Simple things like growing lemons, grapefruit and paw-paws in the garden. Filling the house with dried herbs and taking out carpets and rugs weekly for a good “dusting”. And also eating heavier vegetables ( eg. butternut, pumpkin, winter squash) in winter, and easier to digest foods like soups, bone broths and casseroles. Now, the “collagen diet” is doing the rounds and the medicinal world is singing its praises. But my grandmother knew all about saving the chicken carcass, boiling marrow bones and adding dried peas, lentils and pulses to soups. Old fashioned sense took a backseat to technologically driven medical research. Now this very same research is proving its validity. Do what your grandparents and  great grandparents (if they were healthy) used to do. Have a look at how artisanal (DIY) communities function, and take some simple pages from their books. To stay healthy, is more about maintaining your wonderful engine-mind, body and spirit – all year round – than jumping for the vitamin C or antibiotics. Above all, rest! Your body needs it.


There are No Negative Emotions

Articles, Charl's journal, Holistic wellbeing 1

Only Negative Responses

 

I’ve been thinking about emotions lately. How we’re quick to call some good (positive) and others bad (negative). I’ve done my best to keep the “negative” emotions out of my life. Like hate, rage, sadness or depression. Aren’t these the bad emotions we shouldn’t have? And so I pursue the “good” emotions of love, peace and contentment. But they don’t come without a fight.

Without a resolution of the less popular emotions, I find I cannot respond authentically. My realisation: there are no negative emotions. Only negative responses. There will be times when you and I are called to love, or to hate, to feel anger or to express peace. Emotions (e=motion) mobilise us to action. It’s HOW we react that determines the outcome. An ancient biblical proverb says, “When you are angry, do not sin.” It’s guaranteed that you and I will feel anger. It’s in how I respond that makes my anger positive or negative. Here’s an example: We need to get angry about things that are wrong; about injustice, about someone abusing us or someone else, or even our own failings. When we are positively angry, we do something constructive about the problem. If we don’t get angry, we don’t do anything. If we do get angry, and decide to resolve the anger negatively e.g. blaming someone else, pretending the problem doesn’t exist, we bring the opposite of life – death – into our lives. And our heart is shaped by this.

So I’ve been digging deeper. I’ve been asking myself, “What determines how I respond to life?” I’m sure most people know this, but I need to be reminded. The answer: It’s my values. What I believe. What I hold as most important. Values sit deep inside of me, hardly speaking at all, until there’s a challenge, and I need to choose. I’ve realised that I don’t know all of my values. Values are very deep. Some are thoughts; some are convictions. Others, we’ve simply taken on. What I’ve learned from this recent season is that I can choose my values and know them. They help me navigate powerful emotions according to my conscience and my true self. This means I grow, mature and become a safe person. Know your values. Know your heart. Live your values. Become the person you’d like to know.


How to stay happy in an unhealthy world

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I was sitting with a friend, doing what we all need to do (have a picnic!) and we were speaking about health. The pressure of trying to stay happy and healthy in an unhealthy world came up. My friend is starting her health journey and she knows there will be challenges to face. “How do you get it right, all the time?” she asked. Well there are two things I live by:

  1. I only live one day at a time and actually, only one moment at a time. Each moment well-lived adds up to a day. And it’s a day well-lived that adds up to a life.
  2. There’s grace. And it helps me on the days I fall and miss it. Don’t be so hard on yourself! Getting 100% of what’s needed right 70% of the time is enough. It’s not perfection that matters. It’s steady faithfulness to the best you can do with what you have.


Pilates for athletes

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Pilates is just for Sisters and Sissies, Right?

4 Benefits of Pilates for Athletes

 

It’s funny, the responses that I get from people. “So, what do you teach?” I answer, “Pilates.” Sometimes, there is that typical look of pity. “Oh, that’s like stretching for old people, right?” And then, others surprise me. “Oh, I’ve heard about it. My physio’s always telling me to do it. She says I need to strengthen my core.” This helps me. It means that a) I don’t have to explain this isn’t a pre-flying course or that b) This has nothing to do with a deceased Roman ruler called Pilate.

And then of course, there are the standard misconceptions. Many athletes (especially male) also give me that look, and seem surprised when I suggest they add Pilates to their workout. If you want the scientific and bio-mechanical basis, you’ll find it easily. Many excellent articles have been written on the benefits of Pilates for athletes. I’m not going to repeat their content. I’d like to share with you why, in my experience as a practitioner and trainer, Pilates is good for everyone, especially athletes.

Referring back to our original question, Pilates was designed by and named after a man: Joseph Pilates. This needs to be clear and set the record straight. Joseph, originally from Germany, is said to have been a human movement genius, at least 100 years ahead of his time. The First and Second World Wars, internment and POW camps, corsets and bloodletting defined his time. Joseph was very strong, completely masculine and also completely respectful of female and male strength. Read his story. It will inspire you.

Joseph was an athlete. He lived to a ripe old age and understood the pressures on super athletes. He believed in healing the body and utilising all of its levers naturally. He lived and taught so that men and women can walk with strength, comfort and grace. Dancers, actors, celebrities and normal people all flocked to his US studio to heal and rediscover their strength.

Now, here are some of my thoughts on why athletes should really look at doing Pilates.

Athletes need:

  • to be challenged differently
  • multi-varied movement to condition the brain
  • true fitness for flexibility, strength and endurance
  • a non-competitive environment
  • to breathe and destress

 

  1. Challenge all the Muscles

    Running, cycling, golf, canoeing or dancing are all sports that focus on a specific type and level of fitness. It’s like opening and closing the same door again and again, getting better at this door, but what about the others? Then there are the repetitive stress injuries that can develop from opening and closing the same door. The body is a system of levers designed for movement. All our levers and fitness forms need to be activated regularly or at the same time. Pilates does this simply and efficiently. Even one session a week can condition the body and realign the levers.

  2. Train with Your Brain

    Mechanical movement, especially under the influence of rhythm and music, switches the brain off, not on. Pilates challenges the brain in a quiet, focused atmosphere. It helps to recondition the central nervous system, which is rather important for quality of life.

  3. Embrace True Fitness

    Now, I say this as an athlete. I know what happens when my performance increases and the adrenaline kicks in after a very good climb, swim or run. I think I’m really strong and it’s without the context of total body fitness. Total fitness equals flexibility, strength and endurance. Pilates focuses on all three. It never becomes easy. It humbles me and helps me to see the equal strengths and weaknesses in others and myself.

  4. Friends and Fun Count

    Training regimens can be harsh and unforgiving. Highly competitive environments create stress, and inflammation from cortisol production. Training in a non-threatening environment, which focuses on the health of the individual and the group normalises us as athletes. We learn it’s not all about us. We are reminded that we are people too. We develop friendships. We enjoy moving our bodies and releasing pressure. Sometime we forget the importance of enjoyment. Fun calms us, helps us produce endorphins and stimulates our pleasure pathways – these are responsible for healing and well-being.

  5. You’re a Being not a Doing

    Living in a world where even your job seems to be on a conveyor belt, we need less paralysingly stress and more motivating stress. Pilates, in focused gentleness, helps us to breathe, reflect and just be. As we move, we rest. Peace is restored. We let go of outcomes. We focus on the gift of being alive. We see classmates moving with us. We appreciate the rich variety of the world. We understand and are reminded that we are human beings, not doings.

To all my athletes out there, I encourage you to find more healing movement. Go try a class. Confront the prejudices and misconceptions. Pilates is for you too!

www.better4life.co.za/group-pilates-classes/

 

 

 

 

 


A quiet mind and a healthy spirit

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There is an undeniable connection between the body, mind and spirit. All three facets need to be considered for true health to be a reality. A wellness programme must regard the key facets of a person and address ways to restore health to each part. Effective changes occur within the reality of each person’s life. And sometimes, a lifestyle needs to be changed itself. If a vocation or field of work is creating real unhappiness and disjuncture in the soul and spirit, no amount of organically grown food or specialist health supplements will restore joy. Only a change in work will. So in everything, all needs to be considered.

As a practical example, It is not enough to look at our food, but disregard the quality of our sleep. Or consider our weight, but only focus on calories and ignore nutrition. Ultimately, every decision that we make should consider that we think, feel and connect spiritually. For all parts to become well, we focus on all of our parts as a whole, not in isolation. We are mind, body and spirit. True change needs to address the way we think, feel, and connect.


The importance of good sleep

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Sleeping is the only time the body’s cells regenerate. Without sufficient sleep that follows optimal patterns, leading to the deep REM sleep (rapid eye movement), cells will be deprived of energy restoration and healing processes. Insomnia and poor sleep are debilitating occurrences and need to be taken seriously. The body keeps a sleep clock. Every hour that we miss is recorded as a deficit and our positive balance quickly runs out. It is very difficult to rectify this without making significant changes. Interestingly, the body doesn’t record sleep “credits” and oversleeping can be just as damaging as under sleeping.

Just as students studying for major exams do much better when they receive sufficient sleep, so each human being performs better in every kind of daily activity when their sleep has been adequate and refreshing. City light, rooms lacking ambient temperature, stress and poor dietary habits (including eating a large late supper) are all triggers in poor sleep quality. We need to sleep well. And the infamous slogan, “sleep when you’re dead,” should rather read, “die without sleep.”

In addition to healthy sleeping patterns, research increasingly indicates that happy people are healthier and for human beings to be healthy, we need to have healthy and varied relationships with others. These take time and effort, learning how to forgive, apply boundaries, make good choices in the people we spend our time with and allow to influence us. Never underestimate the power of close interpersonal relationships.


Keep moving

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Keep moving with some moderate physical challenge daily

The human body is a system of levers designed for movement. Prolonged (from 40 minutes upwards) periods of sitting send a message to the brain that something is wrong. In response, the brain deactivates energy burning enzymes, primarily located in the waist and posterior in order to conserve fat for illness or injury. Immune function is proven to be at its peak during moderate heart rate stimulation. It has also proven to be its lowest during no physical exertion and at risk when heart rate is above 70% i.e. the heart is being overtaxed and more free radicals are generated than protective antioxidants.

Endurance athletes age prematurely and often die from heart attacks due to consistent cardiovascular stress. In contract, the Japanese population follow a diet highly varied in ingredients (50 or more different food types in small quantities daily) and undertake moderate activity throughout their day. They also decrease their caloric consumption 15% for every decade over 30. These are interesting principles we can learn from. The body requires exercise in moderation every day, with some challenge. Simply taking the stairs, going for your morning walk and doing it briskly so that your heart beats faster equates to challenge.  This needs to occur every day and our lifestyles need to reflect our design for true health.


9 Health myths

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We’re bombarded with advice on healthy living which can be very confusing.
Here, we sort out the myths from the facts to keep you on track.

True or False:

1. Breakfast skippers tend to gain weight.

Answer: True– Eating a proper breakfast is one of the most positive things you can do if you are trying to lose weight. For many people, breakfast should include protein for energy. Ask Charlotte for more info on what the best breakfast for you: charlotte@better4life.co.za

2. Bone density starts to decline after the age of 50.

Answer: False– Your bone density declines after the age of 30. You need at least 200 milligrams of calcium daily, which you should combine with magnesium, or it simply won’t be absorbed.

3. Eating berries can help protect against heart disease and cancer.

Answer: True– Blueberries, strawberries and raspberries contain plant nutrients known as anthocyanidins, which are powerful antioxidants. Blueberries rival grapes in concentrations of resveratrol – the antioxidant compound found in red wine.

4. It’s better to drink energy drinks than water while you’re exercising.

Answer: False– Drinking water is best. Your body will burn the glucose from the energy drink first, before starting to burn body fat.

5. Always do cardio first to warm up the muscles, then weight training.

Answer: False– Experts say weight training should be done first, because it’s a higher intensity exercise compared to cardio. Your body is better able to handle weight training early in the workout because you’re fresh and you have the energy you need to work it. Conversely, cardiovascular exercise should be the last thing you do at the gym, because it helps your body recover by increasing blood flow to the muscles, and flushing out lactic acid, which builds up in the muscles while you’re weight training. It’s the lactic acid that makes your muscles feel stiff and sore.

6. Trail running is easier on the body than road running.

Answer: True– If your ankles, knees, and hips ache from running on pavement, head for the dirt. Soft trails or graded roads are a lot easier on your joints than the hard stuff. Also, dirt surfaces tend to be uneven, forcing you to slow down a bit and focus on where to put your feet – great for agility and concentration.

7. Eating fibre will help keep your digestive system on track.

Answer: True– Fibre helps keep the digestive system in order. It also reduces the risk of bowel cancer. We need to consume eating fibre rich foods such as wholemeal bread, pulses and cereals. For some it’s best to go the gluten-free route. Not sure what is best for you? Contact Charlotte to go through the Better4life Nutrition Programme. Charlotte@better4life.co.za

8. Diabetes and heart disease are two separate problems.

Answer: False– More than three million South Africans suffer from type 2 diabetes, and the incidence is increasing – with new patients getting younger. New studies show this type of diabetes is often part of a metabolic syndrome (X Syndrome), which includes high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease. More than 80 percent of type 2 diabetics die of heart disease, so make sure you control your glucose levels, and watch your blood pressure and cholesterol counts.

9. Doing Pilates regularly will help improve your posture.

Answer: True– Pilates works the deep core and stabilising muscles which will certainly improve posture if done regularly. Join a pilates class today!

Credit: www.hfpa.co.za