Conventional Vs Alternative Medicine. Does there have to be a winner?


 OK enough is enough. It’s time I bought into the whole “conventional” versus so called “alternative” medicine debate. A debate that seems to be gaining more and more momentum much to the frustration of people like myself.

Point 1.

We recently saw the very tragic death of a beautiful soul, Wellness Warrior Jess Ainscough. The ripple affects of this tragedy are still being felt. She has been accused of promoting an anti-“conventional” approach to healing her own rare cancer, and in doing so, has been implicated as someone who has irresponsibly influenced people against conventional medicine in the face of disease. Disease, which supposedly can only be cured and treated via conventional medicine.

How dare she advocate that we take some responsibility for contributing to our own healing by living a healthy, balanced, toxin-free and self-nurturing life!

Point 2.

The above tragedy has occurred within a social and cultural context demanding more and more information about health and wellbeing.

Nearly everyone claims to be an expert, or more importantly…..wants to be an expert.

Throw in a high profile celebrity advocating the latest and greatest restrictive “diet” (after all, if it worked for them it will work for everyone right?), social media and the internet, and you have a perfect storm resulting in an over load of ill informed, heavily biased and at times - blatantly inaccurate information.

Point 3.

Even more recently in the media we hear about Belle Gibson, Founding Director of The Whole Food Pantry.

Like Jess, she claimed to have healed her cancer by eating and living clean and toxin free. However it now seems that she never had cancer at all.

What on earth would possess someone to lie about having a terminal disease? Well I may not know Belle –but what I can say is that she is a young woman who knows EXACTLY what everyone wants.

To be the expert of their own mind and body.

We are craving information about health and wellbeing. Like Jess, what Belle tried to do was give people the tools to become exactly that – the expert of their own health and wellbeing.

In my book, that simply makes her misguided and perhaps a little greedy (and before you judge Belle think of a time when you told a white lie which quickly snow-balled into something you couldn’t back out of). Perhaps her heart was in the right place. After all, none of us are perfect, and we all make mistakes.

However, it now seems that you have to pick a camp. Are you all for “conventional” medicine? Or are you all for “alternative” medicine?

Wow. How ridiculously over simplistic and unhelpful.

I believe that we can heal our body through good nutrition and stress management, meditation and yoga.

I also believe that dry needling saw me running again after a painful injury.

I have seen patients of mine soar after only 1-2 sessions of kinesiology, and I have read enough research to believe that processed foods are heavily implicated in a number of diseases.

Having said that, I had both my children in state of the art fully equipped hospitals surrounded by amazing expert medical professionals.

I was treated by an amazing gastroenterologist when I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, and I have a medicine cabinet at home stocked with panadol, ibuprofen, and anti-histamines sitting right next to concentrated fish oil, magnesium, zinc, Vitamin B complex and probiotics.

Why can’t we be an advocate of BOTH conventional and alternative medicine?

Jess Ainscough wrote about her amazing team of medical professionals. She never shunned medical treatment; in fact sh

e had radiotherapy when she was first diagnosed with epithelioid sarcoma. What Jess did was compliment her medical treatment by taking responsibility for her own health.

All too often we put ourselves in the hands of medical professionals, relinquishing responsibility for our own health.

We need to start taking responsibility for our own health.

Medical Emergency rooms, GP practices are over loaded and under-resourced. Dr Google has become many people’s go-to when it comes to diagnosing and understanding health issues. We are searching for knowledge and seeking answers.

Consider also, that medical science, as we know it does not have all the answers. Our health system is dominated by research driven, evidence based approaches to “western” diagnosis and treatment. All of my study and career has focussed on clinical assessment, and applying treatments that have been the subject of clinical trials and meta-analysis.

I’m certainly not saying this is a bad thing. What I am saying, is that there are limitations to this type of research.

For example, many eastern-based treatments (used for centuries) exist within a completely different paradigm unable to fit into our western-based research methodologies.

This doesn’t mean they don’t work.

Simply discrediting something because there is no scientific evidence or proof is like saying that love doesn’t exist because I can’t “prove” it. How can you prove something exists or works if you don’t have the right tools to measure it?

Conventional medicine has many answers. If my son has a temperature I’ll give him panadol, and if I’m concerned that my running injury isn’t improving I’ll request an X-Ray/MRI and seek the appropriate medical treatment.

However I am also a huge advocate of naturopathy, acupuncture, kinesiology and remedial massage. I embrace it all and I could not care less if the “proof” for the success of these treatment modalities doesn’t exist in a peer-reviewed western medical journal.

I also have an autoimmune disease and I know exactly what causes inflammation in my body. I also know how to bring my system back to health. My GP or specialist didn’t tell me…..I worked it out by combining conventional and non-conventional treatment approaches.

Taking responsibility for our health means finding out what works for you. To do that, we need to pay attention to what our body is telling us and learn how to read the signs associated with ill health. In addition, it’s about PREVENTION.  

Making your health a priority.

So instead of feeling compelled to sit in one of these camps – consider sitting in both. They both have a role to play, and neither

has ALL the answers.

By opening yourself up to all of the options available, both conventional

and alternative, you will dramatically increase the likelihood of finding what will work for your mind and body.

We are all searching for the same thing – sustainable health, and prevention of disease.

Wouldn’t the world be a better (and healthier) place if all of those influential people in the media simply worked together, instead of working to polarize our society?

It seems the focus of providing real “health” information has been lost to a battle of ego’s? Sorry Pete, just my opinion ;-)


Do I really need to exercise THAT much to lose weight?

keepcalmI recently read an article on a popular blog/site that said; you really need to exercise for 1 hour six times a week to get any weight loss benefits.

My mind did a backflip......twice.

What a hideously inaccurate and unhelpful piece of advice given by a person supposedly qualified in fitness!

And here is why;

1. Metabolism. This differs from one person to the next. Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) can be altered through exercise, however the rate at which my body burns energy will be different to you. The older you get, your metabolism slows which is also why most calorie calculators will ask for your age in order to determine what you are burning.

2. Exercise intensity. Some people just work out harder. The same HIIT routine can burn 200 calories for one person, and 500 for another. The calories you burn during a workout are determined by a number of factors – it's impossible to give a definitive number!

3. Your diet. OK this is the main reason for my mental back flips. What you eat contributes 80% to your results when it comes to weight loss. No amount of exercise will help you lose weight if you are consuming way more than you can burn. Wow, rocket science hey? NOT!

Weight gain is more complex than you may think

In a nut-shell, weight gain is a combination of genetics, hormones, your diet, and the impact of environment on your lifestyle, including sleep, physical activity (including exercise) and of course stress (an increase in cortisol has a huge impact on our ability to burn fat).
All of these factors result in an imbalance in the energy equation. You gain weight when you eat more calories than you burn — or burn fewer calories than you eat. AND the way your body burns calories is likely to be different to how my body burns calories. To make things even more confusing, all calories are not created equal!
For example, there are 100 calories in two tablespoons of chocolate chips, and the very same 100 calories in just over 1 cup of blueberries. However, there's a huge difference in the way that they affect your appetite, your energy level, and your long-term health.
So back to the original question in the article;

How much exercise do I need to do to lose weight?


Regarding exercise, you must push outside your comfort zone in order to get results. However if you over do it, you risk injury, not to mention huge problems staying motivated.

I made this mistake when I started running a few years ago. I took on too much too soon, and ended up with an injury (torn peroneus). After my leg healed I then struggled to find the motivation to get back out there. Why? Because when ever I went for a run I was nearly killing myself, pushing way too hard.

I had to re-evaluate what I was doing. My body was giving me crystal clear information here. I simply had to listen.

Now, I push. Then I recover. Yoga/stretching, good nutrition, supplements to help my joints and muscles (Fish Oil, Glucosamine, Krill oil, Magnesium, and iron), and sleeeeep!

How much exercise a week? It depends on the week doesn't it? My advice is always to plan plan plan. You need to make yourself accountable and plan your sessions. However you also must be flexible.

Make use of the time you have, but be realistic.

My final pieces of advice?

Be kind to yourself. Your body can do amazing things if you nurture it. If you punish it, it will punish you back.


Your weight should not be the be all and end all. If you are healthy – then your weight will find it's way back to where it's happiest. Trust your body ;-)

How to love the skin you’re in!

love-the-skin-your-inThe "thin ideal" is something that so many women strive for. If you think about it though, we are all different. Our body shapes differ as much as our personalities. So why strive to fit in with what our visually obsessed society dictates, when YOU are far more interesting and beautiful? You just need to know how! Here's how you can begin to "self love"(in a completely non-vain way of course!).

Make a list of all the things your body can do; from lifting things, making things through to running, and the biggie......CHILDBIRTH! Our bodies are so much more than a shape and size!
Make a list of all your positive traits. Ok, so if you have some trouble with this one, what would your partner or friend say? Don't know? Then ask them!! But make sure you keep the focus away from appearance, and focus more on the wonderful and unique things that make you YOU!

If you are about to begin an exercise program, make sure you have goals that are fitness related as opposed to just weight/shape. For example, more reps, more weight, longer distance, better time. I am a firm believer that seeing the amazing things your body can do is way more satisfying than a number on a set of scales or pair of jeans. The other benefit of having goals like these? You can keep on making them! On the other hand, there is only so much weight you can lose before you're fitness actually starts to decline.

Challenge yourself! Set some goals and reward yourself when you conquer each step. Nothing helps us feel better about ourselves than feeling a sense of achievement!

Re-assess your relationships. Some people just don't like it when someone else is feeling fabulous. Sound familiar? Clean out your friendship closet and only invest in the relationships that make you feel good about who you are. As for the others? You don't have to throw them on the rubbish heap, just choose to put your energy and time elsewhere.

Clean out your closet (this time I mean your actual closet). Those jeans you were keeping for when you "lost those 10kg" Get rid of them! If you are a hoarder, get your bestie over, open a bottle of wine.....and get ruthless! What you have left should be a collection of clothes you feel pretty good in. There is no point in keeping clothes that are a constant reminder of what size you are NOT, or of how young you once WERE!

If you love to read the gossip magazines, become more aware and critical of the images you see. Research shows that constantly looking at "skinny and beautiful" images can make us feel less good about ourselves. The answer? Well, either limit your access to this kind of media, or be more critical! Look at how the image has been enhanced.

Ask yourself; "is this image REAL?". Take a look at the following YouTube link by Dove to see just how different an image can look with a bit of creative photo shopping!


And finally, celebrate being different! How boring the world would be if we were all the same. Strive to be the best YOU can be, and imagine a STOP sign the next time you catch yourself comparing your legs to Jennifer Hawkins, or your bum to Jessica Biel (ok so she snagged JT, but lets face it....even SHE isn't perfect!).

The REAL reason why diets don’t work!

Girl-measuringYou've tried them all, the Atkins diet, the Zone diet, the soup diet....the list goes on. Some have worked, at least for a little while, but the weight always manages to creep back.

"I lost 18 kg on the Atkins diet. It took a while but I felt amazing. It was like I had finally found the right formula for me. Because I could see and feel the weight coming off, I felt motivated to exercise for the first time in my life. My husband said he loved my new found confidence. I even started to enjoy shopping for clothes! When the global financial crisis hit, our business really suffered. I began spending more time at work, and less time exercising. I didn't gain any weight at first, but then I started using food to deal with my stress..........".

Is this a familiar story to you? The science behind weight loss is really quite simple: if you use more energy than you take in, you will lose weight. Conversely if you take in more energy than you use, you will gain weight. The key to maintaining a healthy weight – is about maintaining a healthy lifestyle.


First of all, the term "diet" is problematic. An accurate definition of the word takes into account a vast array of eating practices. In today's society however, it has become synonymous with strict rules associated with dietary restriction.

Generally, diet programs advocate restrictive eating. The type of restriction falls into three general categories;

Restricting the overall amount of food eaten (reduced calories)
Not eating at all for long periods
Restricting/eliminating certain food groups (like carbohydrates or fats)

These diets are a problem for a number of reasons. We know that food restriction of any type is strongly associated with over-eating and/or binge eating. A recent Australian study of teenage school girls revealed that young girls who "diet" are up to 8 times more likely to develop an eating disorder!

Depriving yourself of food only sets you up to overeat, resulting in an inefficient and sluggish metabolism. Furthermore, when your body is deprived of food, it then absorbs every nutrient in every morsel of food you eat storing any excess as fat. After all, your body has no idea when it will get it's next feed! This is often why people gain "extra" weight after falling off the wagon; their metabolism has slowed, and so their body is hanging on to every calorie consumed.

Restrictive diets also make you focus way too much on what you are eating (and not eating!). It can create an obsessional focus, making food your foe rather than your friend. Meal times can create anxiety and the thought of eating out can send you into a panic. A recent problem is the proliferation of iphone applications which help you "count calories", by recording everything you eat, including lettuce leaves! When eating becomes associated with high levels of stress, a number of physical problems can then result – such as heartburn, indigestion and intestinal bloating.

So what's the alternative?

Experts agree that the key to maintaining a healthy weight is to keep it simple. Following complicated "diets" advocating food restriction will help you lose weight, but for how long? Research shows that up to 95% of people who lose weight by dieting re-gain this weight within 5 years. Many end up gaining even more. So the jury is out on this one: diets do NOT work, at least in the long term.

If you have been yo-yo dieting you need to re-establish a healthy regular eating plan to "fix" your metabolism. This means 5-6 small meals a day.

  1. Breakfast
  2. Morning tea
  3. Lunch
  4. Afternoon tea
  5. Dinner
  6. After dinner snack (optional)

To maintain a healthy metabolism, it is important to eat every 3 hours. It also means consuming between 1500-2500 calories per day, 45-55% from carbohydrates, 20-25% from protein and 25-30% from fat.

Sound simple? Well it is and it isn't. In addition to restrictive eating, another significant trigger to overeating and binge eating is negative mood. One way to test just how much your mood determines what you eat is to try monitoring both in real time.

"By monitoring my eating and mood together, I have realized how what I eat (and how much) is influenced by how I am feeling. This tells me that it's not my bingeing I need to control....it's my mood!".

Negative mood states, such as; sadness, loneliness, anxiety, guilt, shame and anger can be tough to deal with. For some, they are intolerable. For these people, food can be a way of avoiding the distress associated with these mood states. Much like alcohol and drugs, overeating or bingeing can serve as a form of avoidance. Instead of dealing with the feeling, the feelings are "stuffed down" by overeating. The only way to overcome this is to learn strategies to help tolerate and manage the distress. By learning to co-exist with these unpleasant mood states and manage them more effectively, the food-mood connection can be severed.

In a nut shell, we need to get rid of the "diet" mentality, and instead work towards developing a healthy eating plan which fits into our lifestyle. Food should be our friend, as there is no such thing as "bad" food. Try experimenting with different flavours and recipies and look forward to eating out with friends. Imagine feeling anxious at the thought of spending time with your partner, feeling that they are un-attractive & feeling sick when you are with them! Well this is the relationship some of us have with food. Dysfunctional much?

Finally, the role of exercise should not be under-estimated either. Exercising for half an hour a day actually cuts your odds of developing heart disease by an impressive 40%. This should be of moderate intensity, such as brisk walking. Of course anything more than this and you cut this risk even more, plus reduce the risk of bowel cancer, breast cancer, diabetes and stroke.