Eastern v Western Medicine

The human body forever captivates me in all of its beauty to carry out its millions of functions, each and every day that you venture around this earth. It baffles me the commitment that the body has to keep someone ticking over, even when they completely abandon their health, poisoning themselves with cigarettes, alcohol and food that doesn’t deserve to even be called food. But the body can also hold a lot of darkness when it comes to disease.  When the body has had enough, it clearly lets you know. I felt this in what some might consider to be subtle, but nonetheless has opened my eyes more to my commitment to health and nutrition.  

One CT of my esophagus, a handful of blood tests, more radiation by way of a procedure in hospital, called a barium swallow, and a whole lot of worry, drew doctors to the diagnosis of acid reflux. Here I was thinking I was dying a slow death, when a sensation of something being stuck in my throat, sporadically occurred over the course of this year.throat.JPG While it ended up being a minor diagnosis, that’s very easily treatable with lifestyle changes, it still woke me up to take more care of my health. I imagine that other diseases on people have the same effect, although I know of many that still choose to ignore the warning signs.

East v West treatment

I very rarely go to visit a GP, perhaps once a year, at least when I’m not head butting reefs in the Philippines. I’ve been very fortunate to find a doctor that practices a blend of Eastern and Western Medicine. His name is Dr Ali and he loves Ayurvedic approaches, one of the most ancient medical systems in the world. It pre-dates Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine combined.

Dr Ali is happy to print me a script of antibiotics, but he’ll forewarn me that it’s a last resort approach, running through the various side effects, such as the destruction of good bacteria in my gut and increase in free-radicals. He will even go so far as handwriting traditional Chinese remedies, or supplements to take if I choose to be prescribed with the antibiotics, in a bid to counteract their damaging effects. The Eastern and Western divide can be described in the following extract from National Institutes of Health:

“Western medicine, while excelling at acute care and surgery, puts great emphasis on the chronic use of drugs to suppress the symptoms of illnesses. What is forgotten is that our bodies have a natural wisdom and intelligence; they have an intrinsic knowledge of how to grow, heal, maintain balance, restore homeostasis, and regenerate. Our bodies have evolved over aeons with these capabilities, but when they are suppressed, for example, when nutrition, exercise, and diet are not given adequate attention, or people ingest toxins, then “lifestyle-related” diseases including obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease are much more likely to arise”.

Unfortunately, the divide between East and West has become all too much for Dr Ali and as he was helping me in my plan to tackle reflux, he told me he was taking off to Colorado in two weeks to study genetics as he’d had enough of the practice.

The Western Approach

I had requested blood tests of my own will, to rule out any issue with my thyroid and of course I was itching for the results. On the day of my appointment with Dr Ali, he had called in sick last minute, so I had to re-book with another unknown doctor.

Let me tell you, he was one of the coldest humans I had ever met. Even his white skinwestern medicine looked cold, as he pressed the dispenser of the antibacterial gel, that sat atop of his desk, lathering his hands in eliminate-all-bacteria, while his eyes glanced over my breasts and legs.

He remained expressionless, as he asked me why I had requested blood results for an issue with my throat. Before I could even answer, he found ways to talk over top of me. Scrolling through the results, he uninterestedly told me all my vitamin levels were fine and he couldn’t see anything worth concern. With a CT of my esophagus and blood tests showing nothing, I knew I had to book into the procedure in hospital.

The Eastern approach

After my results came back from hospital and I returned to the welcoming rooms of Dr Ali, the diagnosis of reflux was noted, but he also told me my blood tests were not great. My vitamin B and folic acid levels in particular, he described in his words as “ratsh*t”! On a running scale of worst to best, I had just made over the worst rating, which apparently was enough for the cold doctor to clear me of any concern. Something he had been taught in medical school Dr Ali mentioned.

The thing that shocked me most, was that the doctor had a discussion with Dr Ali asking chinese medicineif he had followed some particular code of practice, that again. had been taught in medical school in Australia. Dr Ali carrying over 30 years’ experience, in his unique blended approach and  practicing all over the world, mocked his colleague in his chest-puffing capabilities.

Dr Ali went back in the system and read the clinical notes of that doctor, from my visit to receive the blood test results. They were utterly appalling.  Any of the words that I managed to get out that day, throughout being cut, were recorded in the notes in quotation marks as if I was mad, and his final recommendation was to prescribe me psychotropics! Dr Ali laughed and said “well I won’t be doing that anytime soon”. My only guess is that as reflux can be triggered by stress and anxiety, this doctor’s approach was to prescribe me some anti-depressants! That shall fix the problem! I think I’ll stick to my yoga and meditation.

Holistic treatment

Of course a giant wave of relief washed over me as I found out that I was in fact, not dying. Relief turned into excitement in finding ways to better improve my already pretty good diet. The most uncanny aspect about the whole event, is that I’ve been writing health articles for a client on acid reflux for the past three months. I also had a gut instinct long before diagnosis to increase my vitamin B’s (being vegetarian) and had ordered PH test stripsnatural medicin for saliva months before.

Dr Ali handwrote his prescription of various supplements and Chinese Medicine that I could order to best treat my reflux. He also wittingly drew a map to the nearest fresh food market with the best raw treats in town.

It’s only been one week since I got my results, but I feel so full of life and energy, from mindfully increasing my intake of fresh fruit, vegetables from my garden, and Chinese teas containing a mixture of various healing plants and flowers. I’m yet to receive my supplements from an online order, but I think life will become even richer when I do.  I’m so proud of everything that I’ve learnt on holistic approaches to health over the years and everyone that has influenced that. Even though Dr Ali will be off overseas, on another journey and no longer there to guide me, I’m forever inspired to seek out alternative practitioners for any future health issues, and avoid prescription medications at all cost.

Better choices of probiotics

Recently I spoke to a friend about a house party I briefly showed up at and how I had only had two small 330ml bottles of Stones ginger beer. Those two small bottles held almost 60g of sugar as I later discovered. Of course this wasn’t to be found anywhere on the bottle, I had to search the internet. I wouldn’t consume that amount of sugar in many days let alone one sitting! She asked me if I had watched the documentary called That Sugar Film which I hadn’t but was inspired to do so that night. So I did.

People on this planet are growing sicker every day.

It’s a story of a completely healthy guy that gave up sugar but wanted to run quite a that sugar filmridiculous medical experiment to prove to others just how bad sugar is for your health. He went from no sugar in his diet to consuming the average Australian intake of a whopping 40 teaspoons a day. The aspect of the experiment that captivated me most was that the sugars had to be hidden sugars, such as those in breakfast cereals, juices and even savoury pasta sauces.

Within two weeks he developed fatty liver, his energy levels rapidly declined, his ability to focus completely decreased and was well on his way to a pretty dangerous health situation. After all, sugar is a very modern and foreign element of our lives as compared to our evolutionary past. Unfortunately, it’s become the norm to be in just about every food item in our supermarket.

Throughout the film I noticed common food products that I include in my diet but in moderation, as I always make sure I read the ingredient panel on the rear of the packet. However, I was a bit shocked to see him guzzling a milk probiotic supplement you might know as Yakult in Australia.

yakult

Here I was thinking I was taking control of my gut health with my daily probiotic intake, but really I was consuming 9g of sugar per tiny bottle. That’s over  two unnecesarry teaspoons. If anything that’s going to upset my gut balance not keep things in balance. Here are some other alternatives I’ll be indulging in once I use up the last of my Yakult supply in my fridge:

  • Pickles-Traditionally these include pickled cucumbers but any kind of pickled vegetables will boost your intake of probiotics. An easy ingredient to add to any salad.
  • Dark chocolate coated probiotic balls– it’s hard to go past dark chocolate in this convenient form and you only need one to three small balls per day.
  • Miso soup– A tasty form of probiotics you can sip on daily. Just be aware that one cup of miso soup includes 600-900mg of sodium so if you have a lot of other high sodium foods throughout the day, it’s better to keep a watchful eye on your intake.
  • Dark chocolate in general– aim for above 80% to get the highest intake of probiotics. Other great benefits of dark choc is that it’s an antioxidant rich food, great source of manganese and of course tastes great! It’s best in moderation though as you’re trying to lower sugar intake as much as possible!
  • Sauerkraut-One of the richest sources of probiotics and also a very affordable option. I wrote about the benefits of sauerkraut here.

As you can see there’s plenty of options available for alternatives to the cleverly marketed and convenient shot size bottles of Yakult. As Eastern practices are teaching us, health begins in the gut and we have to be sure we are looking after this balance for our overall vitality. Make it a daily habit to include probiotics somewhere throughout your day.

It is becoming increasingly clear that there are untold connections between our resident microbes and many aspects of physiology…” NCBI

 

Why you should know about the psoas muscle

It’s amazing to realise the level in which stress affects not only your emotional, but your physical body. Particularly the amount of tension your muscles hold as a result of that built up stress.  I’ve been practicing yoga for just over ten years and couldn’t imagine a life without it. I’d say there’s nothing better matched to a life as a surfer.

I first heard about a strange muscle called the psoas muscle, pronounced [soh-ahys] from my wise yoga teacher many years ago. Much of his practice had a big focus on this particular muscle, that literally holds your torso to your lower legs and controls everything from how you move to how you flex. It affects your strength, mobility and also provides stability for your vital organs contained above its shelf-like structure.

Do you spend much of the day seated?

I view hip opening exercises, and yoga in general, to be absolutely vital if you lead a largely sedentary lifestyle, such as an office job or even driving for long periods of time. The biggest focus for you, should be stretching the psoas muscle given how significant its role is within Where-the-Psoas-Muscle-is-located.jpgyour body.

I always ask myself, “how is my posture and flexibility going to be when I’m 80 years old?” A lady in my yoga class is well into her 70’s and is more flexible than those a third of her age. Including myself.

I’m also sure to start with small daily habits, knowing that these are the building blocks for long term habits (which I wrote about here). You already know how quickly time can pass by. Don’t you?

Understanding fight or flight

The monkey or reptilian brain is our inbuilt response mechanism, linked to fight or flight, and controls the release of adrenaline and cortisol. It also slows down blood flow to larger muscles when needed.

You may already know about stress related illnesses such as adrenal fatigue, which is an overloading of the sympathetic nervous system. This condition can result from leading a fast-paced life, where you’re continually trying to keep up with holding a full time job, looking after the family, fitting in exercise routines but seemingly never finding enough hours in the day to get everything done.

In stressful situations major muscle groups, including the psoas, are on alert and ready to fight yoga for healthor help you flee out of danger. To be continually placing pressure on the psoas is where the trouble begins.

Lower back pain

Holding onto stress in particular leads to muscle tightening and shortening. When this happens in the psoas, it can lead to many other issues particularly within the lower back.

You may complain of lower back pain and therefore book a massage. The massage may feel great at the time but doesn’t really get to the core of the issue.

Much like a doctor prescribing medication but not examining the root cause.

The shortening of the psoas muscle can cause radiating pain in the surrounding muscles. The psoas will contract if you spend a lot of time seated or engage in high cardio activities such as running.

Of course I’m not ruling out other medical conditions related to lower back pain, but it’s certainly a topic that may arouse your curiosity and make you think twice about signing up for that yoga class!

image courtesy of: http://www.enhancephysiotherapy.net.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Where-the-Psoas-Muscle-is-located.jpg

Passion lives here

What if you lifted all the pressure off yourself to perform in the blank areas of your life where your passion does not live and focused on the aspects you could never get enough of? Being a great lover. A great surfer. An adventurer and a free-spirit whose soul couldsurf lifestyle never be touched by anyone that comes into your space.

I’m not saying that blank areas are small and meaningless segments of your life. Quite the opposite. Your job for instance. How many truly love their 9-5? Sure it’s great if you do but luckily not all of our minds are created equally. I truly believe a life without passion is not much of a life at all and you’ve been taught, or even promised, to find it bountifully in all the wrong places.

Get a degree, work your way to the top, crush all below. How many of your passions are left untouched, collecting cobwebs amidst the chaos of chasing a career or a car or a house? tropicsDecades fly by. What if you so strongly felt in your heart of hearts that you’re put on this earth to just love. To just surf. To give others love. To give your kids your all. None of that has any monetary value yet all are ultimately priceless.

If you’ve found your passion in a very particular area of your life then that’s what gets your fire burning. Your vibration lifted. Take that energy and let it spill to those blank areas because you already found your purpose with so much certainty.

Think of finding passion as akin to being truly, madly, deeply in love. Your world just lights up.

Your underlying resistance that was once unexplainable vanishes. Things flow with ease and grace. You give more and can receive more. Stop wasting moments worrying about aspects and spaces that will never hold any value to you and only you. I’m not sure why, but things just start to make sense when you find your passion.

What you were looking for might already be in front of your very eyes.

The Wild Things

I feel my fiercely independent nature weaving into my daily life most profoundly when I sit still. I’m a wanderer, a drifter, a gypsy who’s never really found a home other than in the hearts of those whose souls call to converse with mine. But more often than not, I find my home in the ocean because its lines seem to run deeper than the thread of another. Floating above the earth’s surface encapsulated by sparkling blue waters, I feel it’s all the comfort and reassurance I need to get by.

The last full moon rose in my sign of Cancer and I hadn’t felt the need to crawl in my hardspiritual shell and tuck my claws away as strongly as I had in this moon’s pull. It wasn’t until after I felt waves of sensitivity, to everything, and an almost overwhelm, that I placed my eyes on an astrology report that spoke just to what I was feeling.

I’ve read that the stars and planets are a reflection of the current happenings on earth and that they are deeply in sync. Those that can whisper those reflections back to us have a gift of communicating with the universe.

I am a believer in astrology, not that I know too much about it, but I want more of its grounding explanations read to me to put everything in its place. I like things neatly in their place.

The moon brought out in me a feeling of panic, an overwhelm that I’ve been overseas for so long that my communities have spread so wide that they feel almost out of touch. Sometimes I forget that many can still reside in my heart, if not in my presence. I’ve thrived for so long in the vastness of the ocean on my own.

Watching the sun lazily rise above the misty horizon. Schools of bait fish passing through to disturb the ocean surface. The tide changing to create strong currents sweeping out to sea. Lone dolphins happily exploring the curves of the ocean floor.

I desperately wanted to scamper to find groups of friends, feeling I could easily distractlost island myself with resolution by external source. As the moon seemed to pull I pushed harder in return. I needed quiet. I needed to explore a corner of my soul that hadn’t been touched for so long.

Today as the moon wanes to barely visible, I feel the cooling offshore breeze from the furthest mountains on my face.

I feel it so deeply that I nearly trip over my own feet after I close my eyes and breathe it in. I was reminded of seasons that we’ve all left behind, cycles that come and go and the need to slow down and observe. To stay out of the chaos.

Authentic connections are what I most crave. If it’s anything less then I’m OK to get lost in my vege garden, talk to my dog, read about mythology and theories on our existence. I just want what’s real. Why don’t you go out and socialize…maybe another day. I want to learn a little more about myself.

Understanding Carbs

Are you looking at improving your overall energy and vitality? Do you want to surf for carbohydrates for healthlonger periods especially when you have back to back consistent swell? Whichever your needs and goals are, it’s important to understand the pivotal role that carbohydrates play within the body as carbs are your primary source of energy throughout the day.

Carbohydrates assist in the proper function of your nervous system, metabolism, brain function & clarity and muscle repair & growth.  When you consume  carbohydrates, the body then breaks it down into simple sugars and is absorbed through your bloodstream. The pancreas in turn releases insulin which is needed to transport the sugars from the bloodstream into your cells. It’s important to understand the difference between the two main types of digestible carbohydrates:

Simple Carbohydrates

  • Only contain one or two sugar molecules strung together.
  • Fuel the body for a short period of time, much like a sugar high. This can lead to subsequent consumption of takeaway foods or packaged foods as you are left unfulfilled.
  • Are often heavily processed such as candy, soft drink and cereals but are also naturally occurring in many fruits (the obvious healthier option!).

Complex carbohydrates

  • Contain complex and multiple chains of sugar molecules strung together.
  • Fuel the body for a longer period of time and are therefore the preferable type of carbohydrate to consume as you will be less likely to overindulge in other unhealthy foods.
  • Examples of foods which contain complex carbs are whole grain breads, nuts, legumes, nutritious vegetables, yoghurts and dairy products.

Why carbs are vital for high performance surfingwomens surfing

If you engage in high energy workouts or surf a lot, you probably are more habitual than most in monitoring your intake of carbs as you understand this to be a vital aspect of your training regime. This is particularly true if you wish to gain muscle or lose excess fat.

A diet which is moderate to high in complex carbs provides the energy to get through a workout. A bodybuilder’s diet in particular might combine a high intake of protein to assist in optimal muscle growth and recovery post workout. The higher your energy output, the more fuel (carbs) required.

Carbs and their link to weight loss

As a culture we are slowly beginning to understand that there is no “one size fits all diet” as our bodies are all unique, with different fitness goals and energy outputs, not to mention incredibly vast genetic structures. In saying that, it’s widely know that a diet high in carbohydrates combined with a lifestyle that is largely sedentary is closely linked to weight gain. This is also due to a high intake of fats, sugars and far too many refined foods

stripped of any trace of nutrient. Believe it or not, the Japanese have one of the highest intake of carbs globally, however still remain slender due to their low intake of saturated fats, sugars and refined products and a particular focus on complex carbs rather than simple carbs.

Often those that follow fad low carb diets for weight loss, find themselves low on energy. With careful observation of specific energy needs, it’s possible to reach a fine balance of just the right amount of carbs. We can all learn from the eating habits of Japanese as they have been touted to be one of the healthiest cultures in the world.

Is there an ideal time of the day to consume carbs?

Carbs are either used for energy or stored in the body, therefore you want to ensure everywomens surfing gram of carb you put into your body is going to be used. Consuming carbs late at night is often linked to weight gain for this very reason. The ideal time to consume carbs is at breakfast or lunch time in order for your body to burn through the carbs. However if you engage in high energy sports like surfing, you know to replenish your energy needs pre and post surf, regardless of the time of the day.

The main thing to remember is you don’t need to avoid carbs completely but rather to select nutrient dense, complex carbohydrates and to use them according to your energy output.

The transits to reach Philippines

Somehow I managed to survive two months in Northern Thailand, completely extracted from any sniff of a surf scene. It was a pretty beautiful place. I had initially planned on a six month stay to work on my online business. But for the first time since learning to surf, I completely lost my muscle tone in my paddle arms which was a very bizarre feeling. I so badly needed that extraction. To see the world through different eyes. But it was long enough. Tracking somewhat close islands for a chance of a wave, began to take over the time I should have been working on my online stuff. And then I did it. I booked four flights en route to Philippines. In particular Cloud Nine surf break. Boardless.  I like to talk about going on a surf trip prepared. Well this was going to be different.

Kuala Lumpur (KL)

Heading through KL is a pretty common route for surfers wishing to get a slice of Cloud9. I like KL as it’s been a transit point for multiple Indo, Mentawai and Malaysian trips. It’s familiar and I know where things are.

KL offers many options accommodation wise (affordable backpacker dorms to luxury hotels) and public transport is reliable and regular. Services are available by way of taxi,how to get to cloud9 train and bus direct from the airport. There’s two airports so make sure you get the right one. All Air Asia flights leave from KLIA2.

The city of KL itself is pretty bad and pollution
rules. It’s  rare to see blue sky through the thick smog that permanently coats the city.

Poverty is real, as it’s a common stop for refugees that have fled Myanmar (Burma) who stay illegally in slum-like conditions, waiting for the next option to flee the city. Usually by road and then sea.

Most with falsehoods on reaching the shores of Australia. The land of milk and honey.

As I found out, the Australian Government funds search and rescue operations in Malaysia by helicopter. They also carry out Police raids and water patrol units to hunt out refugees and send them back to where they came.

I spent three weeks throughout Malaysia in 2014 and the general vibe of the locals wasKuala Lumpur not great. They came across as quite unwelcoming. Perhaps the Australian Government’s influence is part of the reason why.

If you have an overnight in KL it’s worth checking out China Town in the city. Scores of markets line the streets, similar to the markets in Bali (Kuta).

As usual, be prepared to bargain for prices. You can get cheap clothes, sunnies, watches and bags. There is also an array of amazing food and fresh tropical fruit at low cost.

Transit through Cebu

OK so I must admit I didn’t quite do my research about Cebu. I just pictured a little island in the middle of a turquoise blue ocean, palm trees and beachside markets. Some of the atolls, reefs and islands we flew over were incredibly beautiful but by the time the plane flew over the island of Cebu, I realised it wasn’t anything how I had imagined. I had a one night layover here.

Grabbing the nearest taxi outside the small airport, I was in for a bit of a ride. From the driver, I had the usual “where you from, where’s your boyfriend, you had no one pick you up at airport?” type questions which you get used to when travelling alone as a female!

I was then quick to notice he was off-chops (drug induced) through his mannerisms and erratic energy.

At one Cebu travel point crossing a large bridge, where it was clearly sign posted that there was roadworks up ahead and the lane ended, he went straight through the signs, which smashed the rear of the taxi.

He burst out laughing and I said “taxi’s too big to fit through!” and his reply while throwing his hands in the air was “oh nah miss you’re just so beautiful it make me swerve all over the road!”.

The remaining trip involved him texting at every chance while swerving all over the road, running red lights and making up random and lengthy arrival times when I would get to my hotel.

I was pretty worried that he was actually taking me back to his house but so relieved when I recognised the sign for my hotel.

Stray goats roamed the city streets on miscellaneous missions, oblivious to the poverty that surrounded them. Kids barely old enough to walk, equally as oblivious as they clung tightly to their brother’s shirts, while mounting the back of rusted bicycles.

It wasn’t until I was safely in my hotel room, that I looked up “Cebu local news” on my laptop, that I realised just how bad it was. Bold text splashed the page, showing the past three days of events:

College student raped, killed in Cebu home. Man faces murder charges for daughter’s death. Lovers found dead in Cebu hotel. Boxing champ stabbed multiple times in domestic dispute.

Many were targeted Western attacks.

Luckily, downstairs from my hotel room was a small convenience store. I stocked up on asurfing cloud9 healthy array of white bread rolls, peanut butter, canned tuna and instant milo. Pretty much anything I could grab quick enough to then spend the duration of my time safely locked away in my hotel room.

I felt a million miles from Cloud Nine surf. Through tired eyes, I was surprisingly able to get a restful night’s sleep.

That morning I returned to the store to buy a local sim card.  While at the counter, I heard a kid whistling past the open shop door and glanced up to see a cheerful smile, dead chicken casually dangling from his clutching hand. I couldn’t help but smile back at him as our two worlds’ collided.

Past his small ripped t-shirt shoulder, something caught my eye on the other side of the busy street. A heavy looking, long and limp object in a white bag was being loaded onto the back of a pickup truck. Others that passed by, did not so much as blink an eye as they went about their day. I doubt I did either, as I struggled to hide my dinner-plate eyes. begging-1683496_1280

I honestly couldn’t be more happy to pack my bags and get the hell out of there.

It seemed my newly built hotel ($5.75 a night) was in a rough part of town. Their website did a great job at selling it to me.

I had to stand on the side of the road for a very long fifteen minutes praying for a cab to  pass by. Every passing car slowed to stare at my lonesome presence.

When a cab finally arrived, my bracelet got stuck on my lace shirt and I couldn’t lift my hand out to flag him down. It was like a nightmare unfolding before my eyes. Thank goodness a local guy came just in time to hail the cab for me. This ride was not as bumpy as the last.

Finally to Siargao

In the safety of the airport I could relax a little. I had two families come up to me and ask for photos in broken English. The kids giggled as their eyes curiously glanced over my hair, face and clothes as if they had never seen a Westerner before. Philippines kids

Once the plane passed over rusted tin roofs, visions opened to a vast ocean, full of every shade of blue imaginable.

Coming into Siargao is absolutely stunning, with a lush island rich in palm trees and jungles, peculiar shaped mountains and wide canyons. I could not wait to explore.

It was everything I hoped and more. Perhaps my excitement was exacerbated because my two months in Thailand without an ocean felt like an eternity.

Basic bamboo shelters lined the paved road, underneath thick canopies of palm trees dancing in the ocean breeze. The locals come equipped with that naturally laid-back island energy and are stoked living their simple lifestyles.

I was lucky to arrive when the swell was 6ft and barrelling at cloud nine surf spot. However I had to wait for the swell to back off as I could see just how challenging the takeoff was.

Top Tips for this Journey

Avoid the overnight in Cebu if possible!

-It really isn’t a safe place to be hanging out. The more I spoke to expats in Siargao, the worse the stories became.

It is possible to link your flights and get from KL to Siargao in one day with Air Asia from Cloud 9 boardwalkKL to Cebu. Then choose Cebu Pacific for the Cebu to Siargao leg.

Bring cash as there’s only one ATM 

-Best to get cash out before heading over as there’s only one ATM on the island and it’s regularly out of order. Never been happier with my purchase of my money bag that was strapped firmly around my waist under my t-shirt!

Watch your valuables in your hotel or shack

-I heard theft is very common here. Be sensible where you stash your cash, laptops, phones etc.

Take your own boards

-On the off chance you’re on a surf trip without boards (laughs). You already know tosurfing Philippines bring your own boards in your specific dimensions. Board hire is around 200 peso per hour ($6AUD) or 500 peso per day ($15AUD). Expensive. To buy a board here will set you back 12,000 peso ($370AUD). Cloud nine surf also has a high potential for breaking those boards in half.

Sunscreen and zinc

-Also very expensive here, about 520 peso (over $15AUD) for a small tube. Again experienced surfers know to bring their own.

Always be on alert

-Philippines is a dangerous country there’s no doubt about it. The use of meth is very common in many regions. The longer I stay here the more stories I hear of attacks on locals (mostly in transit to Siargao). Many attacks are in a bid to get money to fund their meth habits.

The threat of typhoon is very real

The slightest drop of rain will see your flight from Siargao back out to Cebu cancelled. The authorities simply don’t take the risk. If you can afford the luxury I would not booksurfing Cloud9 your international trip home until you are out of Siargao. Or better still make it a coupleI saw many surfers missing their next leg

Other than the general warnings, it truly is a stunning part of the world and one that blew my expectations right out of the water. I spent four weeks living in a very basic bamboo shack around the corner from Cloud Nine surf.

More in-depth rundown coming soon!

Mentawai Islands

If you’re a princess kind of surfer who must wear delicate designer bikinis and only paddles out to be “seen” by the men,  I highly recommend staying home as this place is not for the faint-hearted. If I could associate one word with Mentawai my first pick would be “wild”. Think jungle meet waterfall, meet crystal clear lagoon and waves that will absolutely blow your mind type perfection. If you’re a surfer, this is the one part of the world you definitely should not leave untouched.

Stay at home princesses

Just getting to the outer islands can become a treacherous and very tedious adventure, depending on your style of travel. For me I opted heading over to work at a surf camp, which turned into an accidental-lets fall in love at first sight with owner of camp- have craziest period of my life to date type of travel.

Totally unplanned. Totally let’s drop everything I thought I knew about life. Totally and utterly unforgettable.

Doing it rough

Over the period of two months in these islands, my mock itineraries included being the 10361064_10152102063020168_2727645846378015545_nonly Westerner sleeping top to tail amidst hundreds of local Indonesians on the floor of a rusted out boat.

The very same port to port journey in which a boat of similar description capsized in rough seas killing seven locals that same evening.

I sat for 12 hours in a tiny fishing village wondering if a boat home was ever going to arrive. I found myself being transported in dug-out canoes built to strictly transport supplies to the camp.

The scariest of all was stepping foot onto the same supply boat racing out through a narrow reef passage into the biggest, roughest stretch of ocean I have ever seen before, drenched to the bone and terrified if I would make it out alive.

vs doing it in luxury

Now, enough of the crazy stories.  The majority of surfers that visit the Mentawais opt for a more comfortable experience for their short period of time in paradise. There’s thirty or so charter boats from budget to luxury that buzz around the chain of islands.

You’ll also find a select number of land camps to choose from- most in which offer a safe and enjoyable ride from the mainland (to avoid the crazy alternatives that I found myself taking). The Mentawaisocean house feature the “no rules, anything goes” type lifestyle where you can truly live with no restrictions that you find back home.

Some surfers take this too far and end up living out there too long and completely losing their minds or going “troppo” as they say.

An amazing experience

Being a chick in the Mentawai rocks. Guys give you massive credit and respect in the lineup as they’re stoked to have a female join them in some heavy waves. Your surfing ability will improve faster than you can imagine, with mechanical barrels galore and long green walls that seem to peel forever.

When you’re not surfing  you can go brave the dense jungle, practice your Indo on locals in the small villages, pick fresh tropical fruit from the trees, explore outer islands and reefs,  snorkel & spearfish, gaze at picture perfect sunsets or pretty much anything your heart desires. But remember- no barbie dolls in these neck of the woods.

exploration

Every bite counts

This past week I’ve had an almost endless supply of energy where I’ve been able to wake at 5am every morning ready for a surf, a run, yoga or workout session before work. That energy just keeps coming as the day goes on and I’m able to commit another couple of hours after work to another session of any of the above.

Prolonged energy through food 

It didn’t take me long to figure out why I’ve felt so overly energetic. I’ve literally gone the whole week without eating anything “bad” as in heavily processed, high in fat or sugar or anything that you might consider to be junk food. I can’t remember the last time I was so health well behaved for an entire week as I usually follow an 80/20 rule when it comes to eating healthy vs eating average. By average I mean most of the products sold in the supermarket in packages. This week every time I thought to buy a pizza or something greasy I just thought why would I have that when I can extend my energy even further.

I’m not avoiding junk food because I’ll put on weight, my metabolism is lightning fast but rather I’m eating healthy food because I know the difference in the way my body and mind react to eating great food which is predominately raw and from nature rather than from a packet.

Foods attributable to this week’s energy

Fruits

I forgot how many amazing tropical fruits come out in summer in Australia. I’ve made a dramatic increase in my fruit intake including mango, pineapple, watermelon, apple and banana. Through eating more fresh fruit I’ve found my sugar cravings are a lot lower than
normal. Lately I’ve been inspired by FullyRawKristina who has eaten nothing but raw foods for over a decade. While I could never be fully raw it’s great to take small parts of her diet and integrate it into mine. I’ve also been inspired to make lots of fresh fruit smoothies and take a lot of recipes from GreenBlender. organic gardening

Fresh Salads

My salads are becoming a lot more of a mix of fruit and greens with watermelon and apple as the base fruits and shaved fresh broccoli, carrot, feta, tomato, roast veges and fresh corn as the bulk. I then add leafy greens like spinach, baby pak choi or Chinese kale fresh from my vege garden (organic) along with a selection of herbs, radish and cucumber (soon
to be tomatoes!).

In my Daily Habits article I talk about the importance of establishing what your golden meal is. This is the meal that you know makes you feel good inside and out and that yousalad can rely on for an energy hit. Mine is salad as I’ve used it in a mini detox as my main meals (lunch and dinner) for three days straight. I recognised a massive spike in energy, clear mind and overall wellbeing even after the first day. Most of my main meals this week have been salad on its own or with smoked salmon on the side.

Adding carbs

Morning

My breakfast is usually the meal with the most carbs as I know I can easily burn that healthy breakfast
energy during the day. Rolled oats are a great way to start the day as they are rich in fibre, carbohydrates and protein and contain a large array of minerals including manganese, zinc and selenium. On warmer days I’ve been enjoying them uncooked with a couple of tablespoons of greek yoghurt, a dash of honey and a sprinkle of muesli clusters or frozen berries. Eggs prepared in any way are also a great option as they are such a complete protein (contain all 9 essential amino acids needed for proper function) and contain many beneficial vitamins and nutrients.

Because my main meals (lunch and dinner) are low in carbs and protein I try to find other ways to fit them into my day and eat every few hours rather than three massive meals a day. There’s a great dried cracker/nut mix by Bhuja which is free of nasty flavouring & MSG as they use classic spices such as paprika, fennel seeds, cumin and chilli to flavour their mixes. They’re very addictive and I’m regularly snacking on them throughout the day. I love them because they’re high in protein-around 48g per 200g bag and carbs are around 88g per 200g bag. Occasionally I will use protein powders or bars if I’m on-the-go or the surfs pumping and I can’t wait to get out there, however I prefer to find more complete protein sources.

Evening 

My eating backs right off in the evening as I generally have a very early bedtime in order to organic saladrise early. It’s always good to listen to your body and if you’re not feeling overly hungry then there’s no need to prepare a main meal just because it’s ‘dinner time’. I know my body doesn’t like to have a high carb meal at night as I’m not burning any of those carbs and find I wake up feeling sluggish the next morning. If you don’t have the quickest metabolism then you need to watch your carb intake at night otherwise you can very easily put on weight as your body stores those carbs for future use.

Food as medicine

These past few years I have been drawn to the idea more and more so that food absolutely is medicine. I struggle to watch people suffer with many chronic diseases which are so painstakingly linked to diet but just aren’t being taught that by their GP’s. That’s not surprising given doctors are practitioners of medicine not nutrition. Of course they are great at what they do in so many aspects of their role, but there certainly is a huge gap healthy women when they simply write a prescription to blanket symptoms of a disease rather than look at the reasons why the patient is in that state in the first place. Sure they are successful in curing the symptoms, until the patient returns four weeks later asking for a further script.

One of my clients was a qualified pharmacist who suffered greatly from an auto-immune disease which doctors explained was “incurable” and that he had to live with for the rest of his life. He was prescribed medication that only induced more pain by way of crippling side effects. It wasn’t until he carried out his own research into a more natural approach where he began to experiment with adding and subtracting different types of foods and supplements in his diet that he saw astonishing results whereby he eventually cured his own disease.

He took what he had learnt back to his clinic and started sharing his wealth of knowledge healthy livingwith his patients and instead of writing a prescription for medication, wrote a shopping list for the patient to take to their local supermarket. The outcome was remarkable and patients would present weeks later totally cured of their disease that they had suffered from for years. Guess what happened to the pharmacist? He was made redundant as that particular pharmacy saw a huge loss of profits as he was sending all the patients to the fresh produce section of the supermarket! You can find more of his story here- www.therenegadepharmacist.com.

It’s not about a ‘perfect’ diet

It’s great to be on top of your diet and know what it takes to feel full of energy through the foods that you eat, but I also think you need to give some leniency for being misbehaved. When you do have a high focus on what you’re putting in your body then it’s a great thing to have a guilt free pig out on pizza and chocolate. It’s all about balance and moderation. I do however challenge you to go a whole day without putting any junk food in your body and feel the difference in your energy levels.

Daily Habits

I believe integrating small yet healthy habits each and every day is the key to long term success, overall health and living a truly enriched life. The way in which you move about your day today is an accumulation of previous habits formed over time. Routine used to be happy days surfer girlthe root of all evil for me as I had continual desires to be in a different country every few months, experiencing different cultures and riding different styles of waves.

Now I view routine as an important component of stability and closely intertwines with my habits, not forgetting spontaneity is what distinguishes between a routine and a mundane action.

I love that health seems to be “trending” where many, especially in my generation, are ditching boozy nights out for waking up at dawn for a workout followed by a green smoothie and organic muesli at their local cafe.

Social media in particular has allowed the growth and expression of lifestyle through captivating images and inspirational content and I believe is largely attributable to big trends such as what is occurring in the fitness and health world (and any other industry you can think of).

Small habits I integrate into my day 

Early bird gets the worm

As surfers we naturally know that the best waves often break early in the morning, before the wind has had a chance to make up its mind as to what it wants to do for the day. It’s also a beautiful time of the day around sunrise when the sky is painted vibrant colours andsunrise surfer

usually a good chance to beat the crowds. Other than from a surfing perspective, I always have been an early riser and find it a good time to fit in some form of exercise before work.

I always feel my days are longer and more fulfilling when I get up early and believe it’s a great habit to form. The flip-side is I have grandma like tendencies and am usually in bed by 830-9pm on weeknights, but I do find nighttime a little boring and have never had nocturnal tendencies.

Yoga

When I wake up I love to jump straight into some light yoga even if that means I’m starting out on the mat half asleep. If you watch many animals whether a dog, cat or pet rabbit, one of the first things they do when they wake up from a nap is downward dog (yes I had an indoor rabbit and they even do it!).

Downward dog not only stretches out your entire body but strengthens your arms and legs, stimulates vital organs and encourages healthy blood flow as your heart is above your head. After regular practice you will also notice a much healthier posture and an increase in energy.

While in the evenings I try to dedicate half an hour to yoga, my morning flow is only brief yoga for health-usually no longer than five minutes. I do however notice huge benefits in stretching out for this small amount of time and want my muscles to be a little prepared for a morning surf.

In the morning I focus particularly on sun salutations, spinal twists and hip stretches to awaken my body out of slumber. I find a quick morning yoga session equally as important as eating breakfast.

Health shots

Turmeric

This is a habit that I picked up on when I was in Bali. Sounds exotic but it was actually turmeric health benefitssome trendy Westernised cafe on the beach at Bingin that offered an array of “health shots” on the menu.

I remember getting a little bit addicted to a turmeric shot in particular, aptly called “the warrior shot”. Turmeric has been touted for its enormous health benefits being anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, a known fighter against cancer, a potent source of manganese, iron and a long list of other essential
vitamins and minerals.

I simply stir in one teaspoon of turmeric in a shot glass full of water and take every morning followed by a swig of orange juice.

Apple cider vinegar 

As I’m a coffee drinker I take a particular focus in balancing out the acidity in my body as ACV apple cider vinegar coffee is very acidic and quite harsh on the body.

Consuming processed and acidic foods without the balance of fresh vegetables and other alkaline balancing foods and drinks will leave you open to sickness, viral infections and disease.

Disease however cannot survive within an alkaline environment and it is well researched that many of our modern chronic illnesses have the common denominator of being borne of an acidic environment following a diet of poor nutrition.

Apple cider vinegar is very alkaline and therefore welcomed in my diet. I follow the same regime as the turmeric shot and (lazily) swig from the apple cider vinegar bottle of about 1tbs equivalent then shot it with the orange juice to hide the potent taste. I also ensure a daily intake of probiotics, usually in the form of home brewed kombucha, in order to keep good and bad bacteria nice and balanced. See my post here on making your own kombucha.

Consumption of Greens and fruits

I cannot emphasize the difference that fresh vegetables and fruit play in maintaining my energy levels. Yes many times I’ve had days where I’ve gone without them, usually if I’ve got a long day in transit eating airport fast foods or if I simply cannot access fresh produce.

I notice a huge difference at the end of the day and even the next day as I feel sluggish knowing I’ve loaded my body with processed foods. My secret weapon is always salad. Yes healthy fruit vegetableyou can make friends with salad (Simpson’s song?).

You too need to find what meal it is that you know you can rely on to boost your energy when it syncs with your particular body type.

Find it and incorporate it as much as you can in your diet (provided it’s healthy and nourishing!). When my day is abundant in a high load of fruit and vegetables I can think clearer, my sleep quality is improved, I surf much better and most importantly my mindset about life is so much more positive and I can go about my day with much more grace.

I have always grown my own vegetables and herbs (mostly organic) as I see a vegetable garden as a highly valuable asset given the price of organic produce!

Move those bones!

In Australia the Department of Health recommends a minimum of 30 minutes exercise a day. When you think about how much you walk say to and from work, the supermarket, to the coffee shop or anywhere else throughout the day, it’s not too hard to make up that 30 minutes.

I see 30 minutes as an absolute minimum especially if you’re in a sedentary office job like I am. I strongly believe in the saying “use it or lose it” and create daily habits surf paddlethat increase my time being active.

Luckily as surfers we can participate in a sport which doesn’t even feel like much of a workout as we’re so focused on the conditions around us and are having too much fun to notice just how many muscles in our body we are working out.

I often see boot camp type workouts going on in my local park as I’m walking board under arm out for a surf and always giggle to myself as the participants torture themselves lifting kettle bells and rolling tyres across the green. I always feel like yelling out “buy a surfboard it’s way more fun!” but surfing’s not for everyone and kudos to the guys doing crunches in the park.

Chemical free

While it took me a few years to almost totally eliminate chemical products from my life, it’s something I’m pretty proud of now. It’s an important part of my day to be conscious of photowhat’s going on and around my body.

As soon as you delve into the ingredients of common household products such as shampoo, toothpaste, moisturiser, makeup and all cleaning products, then you totally open up a huge can of worms.

Many companies aren’t required
to list many of their ingredients in their products and the chemicals that are listed are pretty detrimental to our health once you carry out a bit of research.

I always make sure I know what’s in my favourite bought items and if I have to use unknown products then I do so sparingly.

Along with what’s in our diets, the chemicals we surround ourselves in from moment to moment do quickly add up and increase our risk of cancer and other disease especially respiratory, allergic reactions and skin disorders. See my page on chemical free living here.

Attitude of gratitude 

Yes every day be grateful for something. Even if things in your life are pretty average right now, I’m sure you can be grateful for at least one thing. When I lost my job, relationship and house all at once I spent a lot of down time meditating and reading.

I carried out a challenge to write down 50 things that I was grateful for at that point in my life. It sounded1601300_10151881214930168_729639942_n like a ridiculous number but once I got into the flow of things it was actually very easy for me to think of things as simple as a roof over my head (my mums) and food on the table (thank you again mum!).

When life sucks it can seem like there’s nothing that’s going right and you can very easily get caught up in a spiral of negative thought patterns. This exercise helps to break that pattern and form a new habit.

You can feel a notable energy shift in the body when you are grateful for the things you have in your life. Gratitude is basically sending thank yous up above to whoever it is you believe in, whether a God or some other higher power. On that note, find ways to connect to that higher power every day as it will certainly give your life more depth and prevent you from living just at surface level.

Starting out your healthy habits

Setting up daily reminders to start out with is the best way to solidify your habits in theirhealthy living early stages. Set an alarm when you wake up to remind yourself to take part in whatever positive habit you want to include in your life.

Placing inspirational photos or mantras
around the house is something I’ve done since I was a young kid and probably will still do when I’m old and wrinkly. Visuals are a great aid in transforming your life from where you are now to where you want to be.

Remember the brain cannot distinguish between something that is real or something that is imagined. For more on this concept read the article “The Flaw of the Human Brain” which contains a simple brain exercise to help explain in further detail.

There are many other habits I incorporate into every day but the ones above are certainly ones worth mentioning! Remember that if you start out small then you will get the momentum once you start kicking goals to keep moving to bigger things.

Resources

Turmeric anti-cancer: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2758121/

Turmeric- World’s Healthiest Foods http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=78

Alkaline environments and lack of disease: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3195546/