To live fully, choose amplitude, not age, to define you

“Breathe deeply, put your shoulders back, and allow your body to take up space.”

This is how renowned choreographer, Twyla Tharp, defines amplitude. With age, she says, “we start to retreat, retract, become protective, secluded and start to ossify.”

With her mantra that age is not the enemy, but stagnation is as her motivation, Twyla has captured her positive message in a new book entitled: Keep It Moving: lessons for the rest of your life.

Hailed as one of the great choreographers of our age, Twyla, at 78, continues to choreograph at the American Ballet Theatre, and continues to redefine ageing with it. “Don’t accept the rumour that the body becomes less,” she protests. “It becomes different, hopefully more.”

She acknowledges that a career as a professional dancer is short lived, with 35 years of age signalling the end. “Ageing is the last taboo,” she claims. “We will do everything we can to deny that we have turned the corner. I knew that I would have to confront and wrestle with this issue of ageing, or I would be stopped … and I am not interested in being stopped; I worked too long and too hard for that.”

Twyla rejects the notion that we should feel guilty for ageing, or try to deny it to be a full human being. “You’re just not attractive as you used to be,” she says, “I’m different from what I used to be. Age is a change, not a disease, so be curious and don’t be afraid.”

“I wrote this book to help others believe that you are constantly evolving,” she explains. “We have had the notion of stagnation laid on us by our culture.” She encourages each of us to bring our physical intelligence to bear, especially as we age, so that we are reminded constantly to be in motion.

How do we do this, you ask. Twyla says that it is optimism that she looks for in a dancer – “you can do it, and if you can’t now, you will” – and it is the same attitude that will allow us to ‘keep moving’.

Twyla recommends making a pledge rather than setting goals. “A goal is something that you can accomplish,” according to Twyla. “A pledge, however, is something that you are working constantly towards that will never be finished.” The implications of this distinction is that you will always be drawn forward into a new adventure when you have made a pledge.

You can watch Twyla’s interview by clicking here.

Sleep takes up a third of your life

Are you getting enough to stay well?

When we are looking at improving the quality of our sleep, our Wellness Retirementor, Joni Peddie, urges us to get back to the basics of science, biology and understanding our body. 

Why is getting sleep – regular, deep sleep – so important?

As with almost all creatures, sleep restores the human body, mind and spirit.  What stress, constant demands and turbulent emotions deplete us of daily, can be replenished by a good night’s rest.

 “Sleep time is a busy time. Your brain needs to flush out the toxin buildup from the day. Each and every day, while you go about your business, beta amyloid (a toxin) builds up in your brain. To flush out these toxins (which research tells us leads to Alzheimer’s), your Pineal Gland in your brain needs to produce melatonin.

“But here’s the problem: As the sun sets, we switch on our office and home lights, and continue on our laptops or watch TV. We have become ‘multi-taskers’, doing all of this while answering WhatsApp messages and emails on our mobile phone.

“We may not realise that our brain detests all of this ‘after dark’ activity! Biologically we are designed to rest and digest after sunset. However, this seems impossible these days as we live and work in the new era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Joni advocates “rebooting the brain before you go to sleep.”  How do you do this?

“Switch off all devices two hours before you go to bed. If that’s impossible for you, then wear amber tinted glasses to block out the blue light that tells your brain NOT to produce melatonin.

 “Start taking note that insufficient sleep affects your overall health and makes you prone to serious medical conditions (obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes). In fact, night shift work is now known as a carcinogen (cancer causing). Given all this knowledge it is surprising that we do not know how to prioritise our sleep! We go on courses or read about time management and productivity tricks to make our lives run more smoothly, but give little attention to our evening ‘time management’ and the necessity to detox our brains.”

Joni concludes: “Remember that you are aiming for uninterrupted sleep. High quality, restorative sleep improves our brain function, aids muscle recovery, boosts longevity, balances our hormones, and protects our hearts and lastly fights fat.”

This short clip (click here) answers some of our ‘sleep’ questions:

  • How much sleep do I need?
  • Can I ‘catch up’ missed sleep?
  • What happens to my body when I don’t sleep?

If you are regularly missing out on uninterrupted, deep sleep, now is the time to become intentional about changing that. The benefits of good sleep cannot be emphasised enough.

Unscrambling stories – reality or fiction

Meeting Brené Brown (author of, among others, Rising Strong, Daring Greatly and, most recently, Dare to Lead) has been on my Bucket Wheel® ever since I read her very first book, The Gifts of Imperfection.

Her concept of Shitty First Drafts resonated with me, and I realised once again how powerful stories can be and how often we create fictitious stories in our heads that are removed from the reality of the situation.

How we remember things may not be an actual account of what really happened, but rather how we perceive it happening. As a Certified Financial Planner® I see this all too often, especially in discussions with clients around our relationship with money. We become stressed and anxious thinking about what may happen, and these thoughts are not based on reality.

I recognise how many times I desperately wanted to walk away from a situation, too fearful to tread where it may hurt or cause discomfort. Brené’s work has helped me in many difficult situations. She explains that we fabricate stories in our own minds to give us a way out, a convenient excuse to avoid uncomfortable conversations or hard decisions.

Have you ever been in a situation where you interpreted someone’s response with an entire story of your own making, detailing exactly what they meant as they shrugged or perhaps ignored you? And we don’t stop with just a broad story outline. We start embellishing the story with a beginning, a middle and an end, filled with details on why it happened, how it happened and what the long terms consequences will be. You end up feeling so fearful and worried that it physically starts impacting your health.

Brené Brown calls these stories “shitty first drafts;” our first response to a situation that is based on our beliefs or memories, whether real, remembered or fabricated.  We all have a tendency to fabricate imaginary experiences, which is an honest attempt of the brain to protect us from the threat of uncomfortable emotions. Our brain loves stories – it’s how we make sense of things – and how we protect ourselves. They may not be accurate, but they feel familiar. And we believe them! One of the stories I hear most often is the story of “not being good enough.”

Brené encourages us to get curious about the stories we tell ourselves. Here are some tips to help you unscramble your story:

  1. Stop and breathe, calm down your emotional response.
  2. Think about the story that is causing you distress. In all probability you are fabricating the wrong story.
  3. Write down your Shitty First Draft: uncensored and unedited.
  4. Challenge your story by looking for the emotion that your story is based on, most often shame, guilt or fear.
  5. Step outside your story and deconstruct the patterns.
  6.  Now rewrite the ending of your story, one that serves you and your health. This version should be a more accurate and less emotional account, based on what you know to be true.

This is an honest and reflective exercise, but if done with courage, you will be able to re-write you stories with new endings, instead of repeating old habits and behaviours.

Wishing you many healthy stories!

Best wishes,

Signs of colorectal cancer

Dr Jacques Badenhorst, gastroenterologist at the Christian Barnard Memorial Hospital, Cape Town, says that colorectal cancer is preventable and, with screening, can be detected early. It is commonly thought primarily to affect the elderly and men, but younger people and women are increasingly being diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the third most common kind of cancer. Although it’s slightly more prevalent in men, one in every 24 women will be diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer in her life.

Be aware of the signs of colorectal cancer:

  • Change in bowel habits (diarrhoea, constipation, or stool consistency)
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
  • Abdominal pain, cramping, bloating or discomfort
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained anaemia (iron deficiency)

“Many of these symptoms can be caused by something other than cancer (poor diet, a viral infection, haemorrhoids or irritable bowel syndrome), so get to know your body well so that you can report any noticeable changes to your doctor, particularly if symptoms last longer than a month,” says Dr Badenhorst.

According to Dr Badenhorst, a colonoscopy is the most effective method of diagnosing colon cancer. “It is a safe, comfortable, simple and widely available procedure that saves lives. A camera, or a colonscope, is inserted through the rectum to examine the entire colon and rectum and to take a biopsy if necessary.

“People with an average risk of colon cancer should start screenings at age 50. Earlier screening is recommended for anyone with a family history of colon cancer, polyposis syndromes or Lynch syndrome, and those who suffer from conditions that affect the gastrointestinal (GI) tract (irritable bowel disease, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease).”

A colon cancer diagnosis can be terrifying. Patients’ first question is: “What’s next?”  The best course of treatment is affected by the stage of the cancer.

Cancer staging takes place after initial diagnosis and may involve many tests. Each test helps your physician to determine how much cancer has affected your body. After determining the stage, your physician will recommend a course of treatment.

Stage 0 colon cancer:  abnormal cells are found in the colon wall or mucosa. A polypectomy is performed to remove all malignant cells. If the cells have affected a larger area, an excision may be performed (a minor, minimally invasive surgery often performed during the colonoscopy).

Stage I colon cancer has invaded the mucosa and the submucosa. Malignant cells may have affected the colon wall’s deeper muscle layer, but not any areas outside the colon. Surgery (a partial colectomy) is required to remove the affected area.

Stage II colon cancer has spread past the colon wall, but not affected lymph nodes. Treatment involves surgery to remove the affected areas and usually chemotherapy. If not all cancer cells could be removed, radiation may be recommended.

Stage III colon cancer has spread past the colon lining and affected lymph nodes. The cancer has not yet affected other organs in the body. Surgery removes the affected areas, and chemotherapy is required. Radiation may be recommended for patients not healthy enough for surgery or those still with cancer cells in their bodies after surgery.

Stage IV colon cancer has spread to other organs in the body through the blood and lymph nodes.  Those with stage IV may undergo surgery to remove small areas, or metastases, in affected organs. Often, the areas are too large to be removed. Chemotherapy may help shrink tumours for more effective surgery or to prolong life.

(Source:  All4Women, 5 March 2019)

The key to positive mental and emotional health?

Remember that you have choice.

Chartered Wealth Solutions client, Lindajane Thomson, has recommended a book that has received rave reviews from a range of sources. The Choice by Edith Eva Eger is the account of this young ballerina’s experience of Auschwitz, and how she has learned to live with life-affirming strength, finding purpose in helping others.

Here is Lindajane’s review:

It feels almost understated to write that Edith Eva Eger is an incredible woman with resilience and strength of character, but such a remarkable woman she is. Having endured horror and cruelty to the point of death, yet surviving because of her strong mind and determination to live makes her almost super human.

After the war years and having raised a family, she studied to be a doctor and a psychiatrist which enabled her successfully to counsel war victims with severe PTSD. She could empathise with her patients because of her own experiences.

Her life achievements are huge, so for Chartered clients, her life is a reminder that no one is ever too old to learn a new skill, acquire a new hobby, meet new people, read more books – we have time. Life is very precious as Edith Eva Eger has proved at the age of 90 something years.

“I can’t imagine a more important message for modern times.  Eger’s book is a triumph, and should be read by all who care about their inner freedom and the future of humanity.”

New York Times Book Review

The Choice is a gift to humanity. One of those rare and eternal stories that you don’t want to end and leaves you forever changed. Dr Eger’s life reveals our capacity to transcend even the greatest of horrors and to use that suffering for the benefit of others. She has found true freedom and forgiveness and shows us how we can as well.”

Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

The Chartered Library has two copies of The Choice available to be borrowed.

Heartfelt food matters

On the last day of an energetic and happy holiday, I suffered a heart attack. Although I had ignored slight twinges in my heart for a few months, it was a shock. Fortunately, I knew what was happening, having lost a partner like this 10 years ago, and, aware of the symptoms, I received timely and good care.

Caucasian female standing on boat with ocean in the back ground
Jeunesse, the picture of health on her epic trip last year

What attacked my heart I asked? Genetic high cholesterol, I am told, exacerbated by an often-careless lifestyle and diet. Though mostly vegetarian, fit and active, and has alleviated the stress of a hard-working life in recent years, I have not paid due attention to diet. The medics casually told me to follow a Mediterranean diet, though the first meal the hospital offered was a lump of minced meat on white bread topped by a hard-boiled egg!

In an attempt to recover as quickly and sustainably as possible, and though I have known about good food all my life, and even worked at the first raw, vegetarian, health food restaurant in Los Angeles in the early 1970s, I have again been researching current trends in healthy nutrition.

The clear message about our diet and our health

There is a lot of conflicting information to wade through, but the trend towards veganism and cutting out sugars is resounding. Since so many of our illnesses, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and various cancers, are linked to inflammation, caused by ingesting animal fat and sugar, this makes a lot of sense.

Increasing numbers are also becoming aware of the severe impacts of animal products on the planet and climate change because as meat and dairy are ingrained into our diets, they are also rooted in our environment. To produce one kilo of meat requires 25 kilos of grain and 15 000 litres of water. If all that grain was fed to humans, we could feed an extra 3.5 billion people. Livestock farming uses 30% of the earth’s surface, in a world where water, land and food are becoming scarcer, massively inefficient and inequitable!

Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions and when livestock byproducts are added this accounts for 51% of emissions! This industry is further a major cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction, including rainforests.

70 billion farmed animals are reared annually worldwide and 6 million are killed for food every hour. Most of these animals, sentient beings, are reared in terrible conditions causing them to suffer.

This morning I sip my tea with almond milk, grateful to be alive as I contemplate the good news that food marketers have realised the potential and now offer a wide range of delicious plant-based foods and alternatives to every kind of animal protein that helps me to feel better about my body and the planet.

Resources for healthy eating from Jeunesse (online, deliveries and some Cape Town restaurants and caterers):

Spar offers over 100 options for plant-based meals, and there are more on Woolworths shelves daily. Unilever has just bought the Dutch based Vegetarian Butcher.

Here are some plant-based food deliveries and restaurants: a corporate catering business that dishes up super affordable, deliciously wholesome and ethically produced meals to working professionals in Cape Town order healthy ingredients online, including dairy alternatives and snacks a directory of food for vegans in South Africa: what’s available and where to buy it a great variety of organic vegan foods to help you enjoy a balanced and wholesome plant-based diet deliveries of vegan meals in the Johannesburg area Cape Town restaurant where vegans and people with food allergies can find amazing food without sacrificing taste online food without preservatives, no man-made chemicals and no added or artificial sugars – delivered to you Vegan comfort food filled with all the necessary nutritional value, from frozen meals to cater for small functions to large Conferences, Weddings and Parties Cape Town raw vegan gourmet restaurant. Winner of the Condé Nast Gourmet award, best Wellness and Vitality restaurant in South Africa.

Questions make better choices

The simple habit of asking yourself “ I wonder why…?” could help you make better decisions in life.

Research says that up to 60% of our daily decisions are automated and not thought through.

However, if you ask yourself “Why?” you become more aware of your internal thought processes. When you ask “Why?” you are re-evaluating your habits, and in turn, learning about yourself.

So what, now what?

Challenge yourself daily.

During the day, pause, reflect and ask yourself “I wonder why…?” . For example : “I wonder why I am making these poor food choices?”

Why are you avoiding doing something that is a priority?

(This is a New FAB Habit 4 U from Retire Successfully Retirementor, Joni Peddie:

The cure lies in the cause

Wellness is not a point in time, but a continuous cycle. It is a continuum of cause and effect. 

Stress, anxiety and trauma are the most common reasons why people are unwell today.

It’s not the actual trauma or stress that causes your un-wellness, but how you respond or react to these events, the emotions that flow from your experiences, that impact on your well-being.

These are the health lessons presented by Dr Riaz Motara at a recent Lifestyle event for our Retiremeant™ clients.  To say I was inspired by Dr. Motara’s views on wellness is an understatement. I was so enthused that I immediately set up a follow-up appointment: I wanted to learn more!

Dr. Motara’s view on the correlation between health and our thoughts substantiates our Retire Successful philosophy that a healthy mind supports a healthy life. It’s about keeping your body fit, your mind challenged and your heart engaged.

Don’t discount the impact of your emotions
Dr Motara joins many other experts in the field of holistic health when he says that “fear” is the most significant emotion that underpins everything that happens to us as humans. It affects how we approach life, the decisions and choices we make, how we act or react – in fact, fear subconsciously steers almost everything we do.

The difficult part is that our emotions are not really a conscious choice to make. We feel, because we react to something in a certain way.

While fear is the core emotion, how we negatively react or feel, based on trauma, are derivatives of fear: hate, anger, disappointment, discontentment, abandonment, loss, insignificance – and the list goes on.

It all sounds so complex, doesn’t it? To explain, I shared with Dr. Motara that the therapist I was seeing after my third high-jacking told me that I brought all this onto myself. That made me angry! No – fuming! Then Dr. Motara explanation made sense: my negative emotions became my self-talk and all my efforts to heal after the trauma were based on overcoming my fear. I was so fixated with fear that I ended up attracting fear into my life. The stress and anxiety actually caused me to become unwell in body and mind.

It’s a matter of the heart
The same applies to your health. Being a cardiologist, Dr. Motara dedicates much thought and research to issues of the heart. He has actually found a strong correlation between depression and heart disease. He says that by treating patients holistically, and by delving into past experiences, he is able to determine when the heart disease started. For example, a client with heart disease also tested for low levels of serotonin. Motara discovered that the feeling of “un-wellness” and heart disease started hand-in hand, shortly after a traumatic life experience.

Motara believes that 50% of the cure of any illness is having insight into what caused it. Ask yourself:

  • When did it start? When can I last remember feeling great?
  • What did I get exposed to?
  • Does this correlate with how I am feeling now?

The answers are inside of us. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to access traumatic memories, but if you delve deep enough, and try to make sense of your behavioural patterns, you could probably pinpoint your health to a specific cause and reaction.

The cornerstone of complete wellness remains a holistic approach. It is essential to consult a medical practitioner to treat your symptoms, but it is also important to work on managing your emotions and dealing with all the challenges that life holds, which most commonly includes stress and anxiety.

So, this winter, while it’s cold and gloomy and early morning walks are not as appealing as in summer, why not spend some time exercising your mind towards wellness. I’ll join you in that!

Keep warm and well.

A new FAB habit for you – stretch

Feeling tense and depleted at the end of a day doesn’t have to be the norm. Try stretching (in a subtle or deliberate way) every hour, on the hour – it’s a great way to release stress and ground yourself. Stretching relaxes your muscles and increases blood flow throughout your body.

So what, now what?
Stretch while you are lying in bed, in the shower and even in the car – simple neck turns and arm stretches will do the trick. If you’re out and about and you need to reach for something on a top shelf, take a breath and move slowly and hold the stretch for about 20 seconds. Try some of these seated stretches from the Mayo Clinic.

Access some ideas for seated stretches by clicking here

Energise and destress your second half of the year

We are half way through the 2017 year. Your mental focus, emotional agility and energy have been relentlessly put to the test for days, weeks and months on end … and you may be holding your breath for or clenching your jaw needing another weekend away.

Why? Because stress is a given. Increasing demands on our ability to stay resilient, agile, creative, and energised are a given too.

There is an upside to stress, however. Stress releases hormones such as adrenalin and dopamine that can give us seriously cool mojo and drive to get things done. Embrace stress and the chemical reactions it causes but don’t abuse it because long-term stress, without the right resilience techniques, can, and certainly will have a really negative impact.

If stress is here to stay … make sure you embrace it and stay the ‘windscreen and not the bug’?

Two top tips to keep stress the good, not the bad, guy: 

  1. Create your own reality  

Stress can have an up or a down side. It all depends from what angle you look at it. Joni’s short video shares the outcome of a research project which looked at two different attitudes to stress with two very divergent outcomes! Click here to watch it.

  1. Change your words to change your world 

The FAB Quotient looks at three dimensions that can help you to manage stress. A quick immediate win. And everyone loves to WIN right? Change your words to change your world.

Over the next week, be aware of what words you choose to describe your perception of stress … especially with your loved ones at the end of long stressful days.

  • Are you completely exhausted? Or just more tired than usual? Or needing to recharge?
  • Are you terribly infuriated? Or annoyed but not angry? Or just a little uptight?
  • Are things so hectic you could die? Or are things really fast paced at the moment?

Words carry energy and can change not only your own physiology and brain chemistry, but also those around you. 

We’re not suggesting that you deny negative emotions or use affirmations that you don’t believe in. What we are suggesting is to use more accurate, circumstance specific words that focus on the upside, rather than the downside of inevitable stress.

Why not try this: the next time you are greeted with, “How are you?” before responding, think about the words you choose, and perhaps frame your response to highlight the upside of stress. Not easy, but not impossible!

And if words don’t work then drop out of cerebral headspace and move into your body … no, not by eating another chocolate or drinking more wine … but by tapping into creativity and physical stress release … put on your favourite tune as loudly as possible and dance around like crazy; go for a run with your fur children in a park; do a spinning or yoga class; or simply lie outside under the clouds and listen to music that makes you happy.

What else can you do? 

The FAB Quotient team regularly hosts workshops addressing common issues such as: cognitive fatigue; lack of initiative; anxiety; fatigue and lack of engagement or resilience.