7 tips to create the perfect home office for productivity

 

Your workspace plays a huge role in your productivity and concentration. Transform your desk space with co-founder and head of interior design at Designbx, Kerena Berry’s tips for creating your ultimate home office space.

 

1. Choose the right interior design style: find a style that complements your personality. Pinterest is great for collecting images that resonate with you. Or you can create a mood board by cutting out images of colours, textures, furniture and layouts from magazines and arranging them on a flat surface.

2. De-clutter: try the ‘office in a box’ approach. The digital era allows us to have less physical items to work with, so try to fit all of your business necessities into one box or basket – making your office portable too!

3. Bring the outdoors, in: indoor plants can bring life to an office and add natural purification to what might otherwise look like a commercial space. You can also hang ferns on walls and from the ceiling if you like the natural look.

4. Lighting: this can vary depending on your profession but having the right lighting for you is important. For example, programmers require darker spaces to ease strain on the eyes whereas designers prefer natural light to view colours and graphics.

5. Scents: place vaporisers around the office for a fresh and invigorating smell to stimulate productivity and creativity, and to keep spirits high throughout the day.

6. Tap into your creature comforts: design your space to suit your creature habits. If you get inspired in a relaxed environment, try setting oversized beanbags with lap trays in the room to help get your creative juices flowing.

7. Treat yourself: a signature piece such as a vintage rug or a designer chair to use for brainstorming can make the space feel special to you. Williams agrees that adding a comfortable armchair to your office to think and reflect, or a day bed for a power nap, is a great way to take a break from your desk. Studies show that 20-minute power naps when the afternoon slump hits can increase productivity going forward.

 

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Hormone check: why you may not be losing stubborn fat in problem areas

 

How do your hormones affect your ability to move stubborn fat? We turned to head trainer Alexa Towersey for her insight.

 

Why we store fat where we do is a product of our hormones and their interaction with the environment – a combination of nature and nurture. Our hormones either work for us or against us, and when even one is out of balance, it has a domino effect on the rest.  Any kind of hormonal imbalance can make losing weight an uphill struggle.

Hormones are in constant fluctuality and are affected by all our training, nutrition and lifestyle choices: how long and how hard we train, what we put in or on our bodies, when we go to sleep, how much water we drink and how much we stress. Hormones can explain why some women have slender stomachs but thunder thighs, and why getting older often requires different tactics.

The three most common female ‘problem areas’ are the stomach, the hips and the thighs.

1. Belly: cortisol

This is correlated to high levels of the stress hormone cortisol over a prolonged period of time. Cortisol is essentially responsible for our fight or flight response, but is only designed to be secreted over a short period of time. Any excess cortisol circulating in the body is converted to fat. The majority of our cortisol receptors are in the abdomen, hence this becomes the primary storage area. Stressful situations are not just emotional but include food intolerances, digestive issues, malnourishment, poor sleep, dehydration, overtraining and under-recovery. For the stress puppy, a solid plan of attack would be a periodised strength and hypertrophy weights program, HIIT, minimal caffeine and sugar, and a huge emphasis on stress management practices (yoga, meditation and massage).

2. Thighs: oestrogen

Oestrogen balance is essential for achieving and maintaining fat loss, but too much causes toxic fat gain, water retention, bloating and a host of other health issues.  There are two ways to accumulate excess oestrogen in the body: we either produce too much of it on our own (endogenous) or acquire it from our environment (exogenous). We are constantly exposed to oestrogen-like compounds such as plastics, pesticides and parabens. These are toxins and toxins are stored in fat cells, with the majority of female fat cells in the thighs. Women with oestrogen dominance tend to have success with training protocols that involve high volume and low rest with a focus on weight training for the lower body; a nutrition plan high in fibre and green cruciferous vegetables and a heavy emphasis on detoxification strategies (infrared sauna, Epsom salt baths, lymphatic drainage massage and acupuncture).

3. Hips: insulin

An excess of body fat around the hips suggests issues with insulin resistance, carbohydrate tolerance and blood sugar management. When we eat, the sugar in our blood stimulates the secretion of insulin from the pancreas. Insulin binds to cell membranes and when there is too much insulin in the blood, the cell body becomes stressed and the insulin receptors are shut off. The excess sugar in the blood is stored as fat. Essentially this is your nutrition site and fixing the problem is all about eating the right foods at the right time in the right amounts.

Ultimately our bodies are very clever, and by learning to listen to what they have to say, we are able to develop personalised long-term strategies for successful fat loss.

 

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The key to targeting stubborn fat

 

A lot of people have a misconception about what exactly ‘stubborn fat’ is. Vision PT Master Trainer, Daniel Tramontana sets the record straight with his expert insights. 

The term ‘stubborn’ almost creates an unnecessary mental predisposition when it comes to fat loss. Clients are often too quick to assume they have ‘stubborn fat’, when most people simply have more fat to lose before they can start burning fat in those notorious areas, such as the belly and hips.

The average fat loss dieter should not be thinking they can strategically target specific areas of fat. When losing weight, your body wants to save calories, so areas such as the arms, neck, fingers, face and feet tend to lean out quicker than the belly, butt and thighs, as having fat in these areas will burn more calories. The body is always adapting to be more efficient.

Clients that have already been training and/or dieting for fat loss from anywhere between eight to 16 weeks and are close to their desired body fat percentage can consider some of their fat as ‘stubborn’. In this case, a little more strategy can be employed.

I find that, for women, the upper body often needs to be almost completely depleted of fat stores before the lower body really becomes active. We store excess energy as fat based on two types of cell receptors: alpha receptors and beta receptors. Alpha promotes fat storage, while beta metabolises fat and makes it available to ‘burn’ as energy. Generally, women have much higher densities of alpha sites in the legs, butt and thighs.

If you want to burn fat from stubborn areas, decreasing alphas and increasing betas is the goal. This could perhaps be related back to our external and internal hormonal environment – basically our oestrogen to progesterone ratios. There is a lot of current research on this matter, and protocols that can help with this hormonal balance include: cutting down on non-organic food and coffee, increasing consumption of cruciferous vegies, drinking lemon water, reducing use of plastics and dry brushing. A useful website is ewg.org and their app Skin Deep, which indicates the toxicity level, effect on the body and potential for harmful additives found in your primary cosmetic and cleaning products.

Another specialised practice that can shed some light on potential imbalances and obstacles to fat loss is Applied Muscle Testing (AMT). Muscle testing works in the same arena as kinesiology, by testing your body for feedback to identify deficiencies in nutrients, problematic foods, potential beneficial supplements and even helping provide information on specific training protocols that may suit you personally.

Three easy things you can do today to expedite stubborn fat loss:

1. Exercise two to three hours after your last meal or on an empty stomach. This may reduce alpha receptor activity. It also causes us to increase catecholamine hormone production (adrenaline/noradrenaline), which may increase beta receptor activity.

2. Train intensely: use compound multi-muscle, multi-joint movements. For lower body, try lunges, squats and deadlifts. Include some type of interval training into your cardio workouts and then cool down with a 30 minute walk: this can assist in dipping further into fat for fuel now it has been released into the blood stream during training.

3. Stay positive: what your mind believes, your body achieves. If you tell yourself you can’t get rid of that last little bit of fat over and over, you’ll convince your subconscious mind that it’s true and it will obey you. Keep an open mind, visualise the results you want and don’t settle for ‘almost there’.   

 

 

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Breakfast coconut & protein chia recipe

Channel the healthy Sunday brunch vibes with this delicious chia bowl by the team at 360Health.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 250 ml light coconut milk
  • Chai tea, 4 tea bags
  • 1 scoop 360Health Protein (vanilla protein works well)
  • 500 ml light soy milk or almond milk
  • 2 tbsp honey, plus optional extra to serve
  • ½ cup white chia seeds
  • Fat free natural yoghurt, chopped pistachios and fig or fresh berries to serve

Method

1. Bring the coconut milk and tea bags to the boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer gentle for 2 minutes.

2. Add vanilla protein (shaken with a bit of soy milk).

3. Add the remaining soy milk, honey and chia seeds.

4. Mix thoroughly to combine, then refrigerate for 30 minutes.

5. Stir again and divide the mixture into four small cups or glasses.

6. Refrigerate again until you wish to serve. Top with a dollop of yoghurt, ½ tbsp nuts and a few berries.

NEXT: Looking for more breakfast ideas? Try these easy breakfast bars.

 

Fig and cashew paleo bars

Looking for healthy snacks on the go? Try these delicious fig and cashew paleo-friendly bars by our friends at Flannerys. They’re also vegan, gluten free, dairy and egg free, so you know you’re in good hands.

  • Ingredients
  • 1 ¼ cup Flannerys Own Organic Figs (stemless)
  • 2 cups Flannerys Own Organic Raw Cashews, plus extra for topping
  • 1 cup Flannerys Own Coconut Chips, plus extra for topping
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp sea salt, plus extra for topping
  • 1/3 cup Flannerys Own Coconut Oil
  • 1 tbsp Flannerys Own Cacao Powder

Method

1. Place figs, cashews, coconut, vanilla and sea salt in a food processor and blend until mixed well, but not pureed

2. Pour mixture into a lined baking dish and press down with a fork until mixture is flat

3. Mix the coconut oil, cacao powder and vanilla together in a small saucepan over a low heat until melted, then pour over the fig and cashew mixture evenly

4. Sprinkle extra coconut, cashews and sea salt over the top of the icing and place in the fridge for 2-3 hours or until hardened.

Enjoy!

 

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Banana nutella protein muffins

 

Satisfy your sweet tooth with this decadent yet healthy recipe courtesy of our friends at Goddess Nutrition and Beast Nutrition.

 

Nutrition (per muffin):

Calories 101kcal // Protein 6.5g // Carbs 11g // Fat 3.6g

Ingredients

  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 1¼ cups wholemeal flour
  • 1½ scoops (45 g) Goddess Nutrition™ Complete Recovery Lean Protein powder in Banana Marshmallow flavour
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • ½ cup plain non-fat Greek yoghurt
  • ¼ cup skimmed milk»1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup Nutella hazelnut chocolate spread
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts

Method

1. Pre-heat oven to 170⁰C. Coat a 12-cup standard muffin pan with cooking spray.

2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, Goddess Nutrition™ Complete Recovery Lean Protein powder, ground flaxseeds, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, combine eggs, mashed bananas, yoghurt, milk and vanilla extract. Then mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.

3. Fill the muffin cups halfway and drop a teaspoon-size dollop of Nutella in each. Then use the rest of the mixture to fill the muffin cups to the top. Sprinkle chopped walnuts on top and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack.

4. Store muffins in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

NEXT: Looking for more healthy recipes? Check out our recipe collection.

 

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Cinnamon, pear & date protein porridge recipe

Kick-start your day with this healthy, high protein porridge courtesy of our friends at 360Health.

Ingredients (serves 4)

 

  • 500 ml water
  • 2 pears, cored, peeled and sliced
  • 1 ½ cups multigrain porridge mix (e.g. rolled oats, triticale, barley, rye, rice)
  • ½ cup pitted dates, chopped
  • 1 scoop 360Health Natural Protein
  • 1 scoop 360Health Vanilla Protein
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • Skim milk, sugar-free maple syrup and walnuts to serve

Method:

1. In a saucepan, combine water, pears, oats and dates and bring to the boil over a low heat, stirring constantly.

2. Simmer the porridge for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pears are tender. Remove from the heat.

3. Stir in the protein powder.

4. Spoon the porridge into 4 serving bowls. Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve with skim milk and honey or maple syrup if desired. A sprinkle of walnuts adds a lovely crunch.

 

NUTRITION (per serve)

Protein: 24g // Fat: 8.5g // Carbs: 47g // Calories: 369

 

Get your hands on the 360Health recipe book for more delicious recipes.

 

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6 tips for a healthy gut

Nutritionist, exercise scientist, trainer and online coach Brooke Turner shares her tips for a healthy gut.

 

 

  • Increase your prebiotic intake, which good gut bacteria uses as fuel to nourish its growth and activity.
  • Eat fermented foods such as yoghurt with live cultures, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, miso and tamari.
  • Up your fibre intake, which is essential for having a diverse array of bacteria.
  • Avoid the use of antibiotics where possible. Antibiotics wreak havoc on your bacteria levels and can wipe out the good bacteria.
  • Avoid inflammatory foods which are highly processed and high in sugar. Opt for anti-inflammatories such as turmeric, aloe vera and slippery elm.
  • Manage your stress levels. A link between gut health and mental health has been proven in many studies so minimising stress can directly impact your gut

 

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6 ways to manage anxiety

Everybody has moments of anxiety, deep worry and high stress. Here are a few ways and tactics to help manage anxiety.

 

 

Counselling

The good news is that treatment for anxiety – for those that seek it out – is usually successful. Your first port of call is your GP to discuss your options and receive a referral to the best psychologist or counsellor, for your needs, in your area.

“The most recommended psychotherapy for anxiety disorders is cognitive behavioural therapy,” says Rudy Nydegger, psychologist and author of Dealing with Anxiety and Related Disorders. “It is not a template therapy method where each patient and each disorder is treated in a predictable and specific way. Rather CBT is an approach that relies on the use of many different techniques that are designed to deal with each unique situation and individual and focus primarily on the changing of particular behaviours, developing better strategies for managing troublesome situations, and learning how to think about, perceive and interpret circumstances in ways that lead to a healthier adaptation to conditions that are producing the symptoms.”

This could include learning how to self-monitor symptoms, relaxation and breathing retraining, and experimenting with behaviour, visualisations and relapse prevention techniques. While it’s not a quick fix – compared to medication, for instance – it will ultimately produce longer-lasting results.

“Using cognitive rehearsal and imagining how to do things differently help a patient to initiate new behaviours,” says Nydegger. “A technique called reframing is frequently employed to help people learn new ways to think about particular problems or situations.”

Mindfulness

A meditative practice of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is increasingly used as part of a holistic approach to the treatment of anxiety, as well as for chronic physical illness and pain.

“Mindfulness is a way of noticing how our attention gets pulled in different directions, and it’s a way of practicing the gentle, persistent art of returning our attention to the present moment,” says Dennis Tirch, cognitive therapist and author of Overcoming Anxiety.

“Mindfulness training has been demonstrated to be an effective treatment for a range of psychological problems, such as depressive relapse, anxiety and emotion-regulation difficulties. By developing our ability to be mindful, and by learning how to apply mindfulness to more healthy methods of coping with stress, we may become able to change our habitual and unhelpful responses to anxiety.”

Talk to your psychologist about mindfulness training and check out some of the free mindfulness meditation apps available.

Lifestyle changes

Is your lifestyle increasing your vulnerability towards anxiety? For a majority of anxiety sufferers, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Perhaps it’s time to de-clutter, delegate and slow down.

“If you feel that your life is spiralling out of control – with too many demands from your work, home, partner, family and friends – maybe it’s time to simplify,” suggests Wendy Green, author of Anxiety – a Self-Help Guide to Feeling Better. “If you regularly feel under pressure and stressed because of a lack of time, try reviewing how you structure your days. Keep a diary for a week to see how you spend your time and then decide which activities you can cut out or reduce to make more time for the things that are most important to you.”

It won’t hurt to be a little selfish, occasionally, for the sake of your mental health.

“Try saying ‘no’ to the non-essential tasks you don’t have time for or just don’t want to do,” says Green. “It’s a little word, but it can dramatically reduce your stress levels. If you find it hard to say ‘no’, then perhaps you need to develop your assertiveness skills.”

Diet

Nutrition can have a powerful impact on anxiety, for better and for worse, and can form an important part of an overall approach to rehabilitation.

“We use a number of therapies to treat anxiety, including exercise physiology, psychology, nutritional, medical and naturopathic support, gut health work and detoxification support for clients dependent on alcohol, medications, illicit drugs, sugar and caffeine, which we see a lot of in people living with anxiety,” says Pettina Stanghon, founder of mental health rehabilitation centre Noosa Confidential.

Dr Malcolm Clark, Melbourne GP and author of Doctor in the House, says that stress and anxiety play a major role in irritable bowel syndrome, both in triggering and worsening symptoms, including bloating, abdominal cramps, flatulence and loose, frequent bowel motions or constipation.

“Sufferers often report the return of their rotten symptoms when they are under increased stress at work or at home,” he says. “Depressed or anxious people seem to suffer from this problem more often than the rest, suggesting these may also be causes.”

To combat ‘gut anxiety’, eat a low GI diet (which also helps regulate blood sugar levels), reduce fatty foods and alcohol, and increase fibre intake.

Exercise

Developing a healthy exercise habit is highly complementary to an overall anti-anxiety approach.

“Exercise is likely the oldest form of self-management of anxiety, although alcohol is a close second,” says Bret Moore, psychologist and author of Taking Control of Anxiety. “Numerous studies have been conducted over recent years showing that exercise alone, or in combination with psychotherapy, is effective in reducing anxiety associated with a variety of anxiety disorders.”

In fact, one study found that regular exercise can be as effective as medication in people with panic disorder.

“Vigorous and sustained physical activity promotes the release of endorphins: neurotransmitters in the brain that promote a sense of euphoria and contentment,” says Moore. “This phenomenon allows joggers to overcome fatigue and pain during long-distance running.”

Medical support

A number of medications are available that provide effective relief – but not a cure – from anxiety. The first option, usually, are SSRI’s (or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). Traditionally used to treat clinical depression, and a little slow to kick in from the outset (they can take a couple of weeks to ‘build up’ to the complete benefits) they have proven to be very successful for many people. MAOI’s (monoamine oxidase inhibitors), which inhibit the breakdown of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain, are a similar option that may be recommended.

The old-school anti-anxiety tranquilliser meds – still used for individual cases – are benzodiazepines; immediate and highly effective, they do come with a catch.

“As effective as tranquillisers can be, they are less frequently prescribed today because they are addictive if taken for a long period of time and at a high enough dose,” says Nydegger “Also, increased tolerance can become an issue, which means a patient needs to continually increase the dosage for it to be effective.”

Beta-blockers may also be used for planned events, such as a speech or presentation, where anxiety can go into overload. They work by calming the heart, reducing hand trembling and may even be helpful with blushing and sweating.

For more information about anxiety and mental health go to mindaustralia.org.au.

 

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Sculpting lower body circuit

Carve your buns, quads, and hamstrings (plus a little bit of core) with this killer lower-body circuit courtesy of trainer Joni Ortiz.

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Power through the exercises quickly using your own bodyweight, or take it at a slower, harder pace by adding a set of dumbbells into the mix.

Model/Trainer: Joni Ortiz //  Photography: James Patrick

This lower-body circuit is great for strengthening and toning your lower body and, considering some of the largest muscles of the body can be found in your legs, you get the added bonus of serious calorie burn.

Complete 15 repetitions of each exercise with good form before moving on to the next exercise. Complete each exercise back-to-back with no rest in-between to ensure your heart rate is kept high. At the end of the circuit, rest for 30 seconds (advanced) to 1 minute (beginner), before starting the circuit again. Four rounds.


Forward lunges

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Stand holding your dumbbells by your side (if you have them) and step forward, lowering your back knee down to the ground and keeping your front knee in alignment with your ankle. Push through your heel back into standing position. Repeat for 15 reps, alternating legs.


Good morning – squat Rotation

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Start in a standing position. Move into a good-morning with a slight bend in your knees, hinging at the hip and with your back straight. From here, sit back into a squat (hold this for a couple of seconds) and then move back into a good morning.  Return to a standing position. This is one rep. Repeat for 15 reps, moving at a moderate to quick pace.


Single-leg deadlifts

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Start in a standing position, holding dumbbells at your sides. Shift weight onto one leg, lower dumbbells down, keeping a slight bend in the stationary leg, while kicking alternate leg back. Upon rising, push through the heel and squeeze your glute muscle for two seconds before lowering back down. Repeat.


Bench step-ups with kickback

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Stand facing a bench. Step up with your right foot and kick your left leg back at the highest point of the movement, squeezing your glute. Step back down to the ground and repeat with your opposite leg. Alternate legs until you have completed 15 reps.


Spiderman plank

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Begin in plank position, holding dumbbells. Bring your right knee towards your right elbow with a slight squeeze in your oblique, before returning back to plank position. Repeat on your left side and alternate sides until you have completed 15 reps.


Bench jumps

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Stand facing the bench. Squat down and jump up onto the bench into a squatted position. Think ‘light knees’ – you should not be banging into the bench with force, as this puts undue pressure on your joints. Step back down to the ground and repeat until you have completed 15 reps.   


Alien squats

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Get into a squat position with knees wide. Kick feet out without raising your upper body, before moving back down into the squat position. Repeat for 15 reps. This exercise should be completed quickly for best results.


Single-leg variation (lunge – kickback) 

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In standing position, shift weight to one leg, move into single leg lunge and, upon rising, kick alternate leg back. Move back into standing position before completing the same movement on the opposite leg. Alternate legs until 15 reps are complete. Remember to move quickly through the movement.

 

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