Your guide to guilt free living
By Mary O'Malley

Speaking about women's hopes for the future, Libby Gorr (aka Elle McFeast) asked the TV audience to chant her desires:

"May peace prevail, may reason emerge and may someone give me chocolate!"

Gorr is a modern icon, a woman of intelligence, sass, good nature and humourwho has made the size of her bottom a statement on self-esteem. Female energies, Gorr argues, are far better spent pursuing life and love than staring fretfully at the mirror. After all, she reminds us, "when cupid shoots his arrow he is aiming for the heart not your bottom."

The current climate of uncertainty has forced many women to take stock of what is important—what we want, who we are and how we spend our precious energies. We may not have many hours to ourselves. As motherInc. speaker Rebecca Le Torneau quipped, "we’re so overstretched as mothers we’re having nervous breakdowns overnight to save time." But we do have choices.

We can decide where our worries go. We can decide to be kinder to ourselves. We can eat well and exercise regularly. We can work less frantically. And we can choose to give ourselves a break when the demands of life mean we don’t achieve all these goals—but make a private vow to keep trying until we strike a happy balance.

One of my favourites books is psychologist Stella Resnick’s The Pleasure Zone, an inspired study on how to discover the core pleasures in life—through physical health, emotional fulfilment, optimism, gratifying sex and positive aging.

We don’t "do" moderation very well, Resnick believes. "Most of us have been brought up believing that if you’re not in control you are out of control." With certain pleasures, she says, we believe that if we’re going to eat a slice we might as well eat the whole pie. "You can’t achieve moderation bouncing from one extreme to the other and figure it all balances out in the end," Resnick points out. "We need to learn to relax and surrender, a little bit here and there, throughout our day."

Take exercise, for example. Martha Lourey Bird, lecturer at University of New South Wales and consultant to Weight Watchers, says many women tend to adopt an "all or nothing" attitude to fitness. Many do nothing because they are too tired or busy to commit to a regular routine. Others exercise to the point where it’s detrimental.

"Guilt surrounds exercise," says Martha, who is pregnant and currently unable to do anything physical. "That would worry many normally fit women and they’d feel guilty that they aren’t exercising. I don’t feel that at all! I look at this time as a break I deserve. Guilt is such a destructive emotion and prevents us from seeing clearly so we can balance our lives."

Melbourne’s Margaret Rainbow, whose Inner Woman cassettes promote weight loss through positive self-esteem messages, says we owe it to ourselves to create a sacred place within our homes to experience silence.

"It does not have to be a large or out of the way place. Just a small place to go when you need time out."

There, you can meditate, scribble in a journal, reflect on your life and revel in the stillness—so rare in most mothers’ lives. "If you do this on a regular basis, the peace you will feel within will not only have an effect on your own life but also on your children’s lives," says Margaret.

Friends are another invaluable source of sustenance. We can support one another when the urge to self-flagellate surfaces. When we see everyone’s woes as our own. When we cram 28 hours into a day and wonder why we’re snappy. When we try to be mother, partner, daughter, worker, neighbour and friend without taking a moment to fuel the vehicle that drives us—ourselves. And we can tell each other in the kindest possible way: "Get a life, girl. And eat some chocolate."

Building blocks for a balanced body

Women’s checklist: Our bodies work best when they obtain good, fresh sources of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients. A good tip for ensuring all these dietary needs are met is to make a weekly shopping list that includes some, if not all, of these foods then find quick, simple recipes to suit. If you shop online, you can save your shopping order and submit it the next week, adding the few extras you need. If you still push a trolley for exercise, keep your list of living vitamins in your handbag for a ready reference. Sanitarium’s website has some quick, simple meals at For expert nutritional advice, check out

A: (Beta-carotene): Found in spinach, sweet potatoes and red peppers.
B: Folate is found in fortified cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, bananas, oranges and legumes while salmon, yoghurt, fortified soy drinks and soy meal-alternative products contain B12. Peanut butter and chicken are a source of B6.
C: Brussel sprouts, red peppers, broccoli and oranges.
D: Milk, cereals.
E: Vegetable oil, wheatgerm, sunflower seeds.
K: Spinach, lentils, strawberries, broccoli.
Iron:Shellfish, fortified cereals.
Calcium: Plain yoghurt and cheese.
Selenium:Seafood such as canned tuna, grain products.
Zinc: Legumes such as lentils and soybeans, seafood.

Soy Good

For women of any age, the humble soya bean may prove to be one of the most valuable weapons in their disease-prevention arsenal.
Low in cholesterol and rich in fibre, protein, vitamin B6 and the plant hormones known as isoflavones, soya is an all-natural food shown in many studies worldwide to lower blood cholesterol, alleviate the effects of menopause, assist in the prevention of osteoporosis and help fight against colon and uterine cancer.

Dr Barry Sears, author of The Soya Zone (HarperCollins) calls it a "nutritional superstar" for its ability to fight on so many fronts. He recommends a daily intake for women of 35g a day.

The popularity of soy has risen dramatically in recent years, fuelled partly by the fact that Japanese and Chinese women, who eat large amounts of soy, show fewer signs of menopause than Western women and enjoy a high rate of longevity. But, warns naturopath Jennifer Chalmers, be careful of interpreting such studies too loosely. The type and amount of soy consumed is important. Asian women consume small amounts of fermented soy in the form of tofu, tempeh and miso soup—all products now readily available on our supermarket shelves. Their diet is also balanced by omega-3 rich fish and other legumes.

When choosing your soy milks or soy products, avoid any that contain genetically modified ingredients. Preferably buy soy that is organically grown.
If you dislike the taste of soy, try crumbling some into a fruit smoothie or blend it with tropical fruits and juices to create a delicious summery mousse. You can mix with pumpkin to replace dairy products and use it in dishes such as lasagne to replace ricotta cheese.

Helpful H20

Cool, clear water from the purest, least contaminated source. If you did little else but drink a few glasses of H2o each day, you would be fulfilling one of the primary needs for wellbeing. Water has a direct impact on the working functions of the body. It cleanses and nourishes blood and body cells, hydrates skin and flushes toxins from the system. Six to eight glasses of water each day are recommended. So don’t just tuck a water bottle in your bag when you go walking. Keep it on your desk, by your bed, in the kitchen and in the car.

Instant Calmers

Food that can be kept at home or tucked into a handbag for those days when the children are running your ragged.

Bananas: Stress hormones tend to strip the body of magnesium, leaving the body tired and weak. Bananas are magnesium-rich, plus they contain potassium, known to help prevent gastric ulcers common to worry warts, and tryptophan, essential amino acids that produce the brain’s "feel good" chemical, serotonin. Together, these elements make the banana a convenient calming food in its own neatly wrapped package.

Chamomile: Drunk as a tea, chamomile is a common remedy for insomnia and nightmares and is so gentle that in diluted form it can even be given to babies. Chamomile also is an adaptogen, a "tonic" that supports the adrenal or other endocrine glands to help the body find a way around a problem without it reaching the point of collapse.

Porridge and beans:
All the B vitamins are essential for supporting the nervous system yet they are not naturally stored in the body. A good slow-release B complex formulation is highly recommended during stressful times or if you drink alcohol, suffer from PMS or migraines. Start the day with a bowl of warm porridge for breakfast—oats are an excellent source of B vitamins. Sprinkle some wheatgerm on topped for added effect. Take a packet of miso soup along to work as it contains B vitamins and potassium. Other good food sources include brown rice, soya beans and lentils.

Bread and mash: There is a reason we grab for a fresh slice of bread or a warm bowl of pasta or mashed potatoes when we feel confronted by life. They are high-carbohydrate foods that keep the blood sugar levels up and even out mood swings caused by either too little starch or too much sugar.

Exercise tips for the tired

If you have been up since 3am tending a baby, or have returned home late from work too exhausted to care about food let alone fitness, here’s some advice from exercise expert Martha Lourey Bird.
  1. When tired and frazzled, some exercise is better than nothing. If that means merely walking to pick up the kids instead of driving, so be it. That’s your exercise for today and be proud of it.
  2. Exercise should be enjoyable. If you hate swimming laps, don’t even consider it. Search until you find something that makes you smile.
  3. Look at exercise as "me" time. See it as a reward and escape, not a duty.
  4. Exercise need not hurt. It’s not a no-pain, no-gain situation.
  5. Make it sociable. Find a friend for a walk and have a skim milk latte at the end of it. When you spend your life motivating everyone else in the family, it’s hard to prise yourself off the couch. A friend can provide that impetus.
  6. Reward yourself with new trainers, top or track pants so you feel and look good.

Guilt-free treats

Indulging in life’s pleasures is good for you but feeling guilty about them can kill you, according to a British study reported in London’s Telegraph. People who fret about eating chocolate or enjoying a lazy day in front of the telly are more likely to have weaker immune systems that those who cheerfully indulge, the University of Hull study found. Participants were asked to draw up a pleasure-guilt ratio, noting all the pleasures they experience with the accordant guilt. The results were compared with much secretory immunoglobin –an index of the body’s first line of defence – each had in their body. Guilt-free hedonists came out tops. In any case, when it comes to culinary pleasures there’s simply no excuse for feeling guilty. Dozens of food books and websites now specialise in low-fat and guilt-free gourmet cooking that allow you have to have your cake and eat low-fat too. Good Medicine’s Lucy Kelley is one who features low-fat alternative recipes in each monthly issue of the magazine. Here are a few websites to get you started.

Five-minute fixes

The fundamental cause of stress is change, says motherInc. psychologist Molly Campbell. Our worlds are very different to that of our mothers. Our 21st century list of stressors includes everything from road rage and information overload to broken families, lack of job security and workplaces that still ignore the fact that women have children. Alone, it’s impossible to change the world around us. Adjusting our attitude towards it is our best defence against this new millennium malady known as ‘stress’.

Here are some simple solutions for shifting your mind to better places.

  • Picture the best: Imagine that worst that can happen. Really go to town on it! Now turn your mind to the best outcome. Note the difference in how you feel. Practise this exercise every day for three weeks. Chances are this new way of thinking will be firmly implanted in your mind.
  • Write away. Jot down every nasty thing you are thinking. Don’t hold back. Now delete the document from the computer or rip the page into shreds. Let it go.
  • Forgive someone. Harbouring resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.
  • Sit down, be quiet Strange as it seems, simply sitting quietly and listening to the sounds outside is incredibly difficult for most busy people. Next time you come in the door, take off your shoes, sit in your favourite chair, close your eyes and just sit for a minute or two.
  • Support systemWhen feeling overloaded, sit in a big, solid chair or against a tree in the garden and consciously feel the physical support it provides. It’s a great emotional booster.
  • Press pause: Stop whatever you are doing and just breathe, stretch, wander outside for a minute. Think of nothing—that’s actually hard.

Five things to know about chocolate

  1. A 1987 British study showed chocolate eaters live an average of a year longer than abstainers.
  2. The average chocolate bar is 60 percent fat and 50 percent of that is saturated. The good news is that it also contains stearic acid, said to be good for the heart.
  3. US researchers believe cocoa butter provides teeth with a protective coating.
  4. There is such a thing as virtual chocolate. The website, is a chocoholic’s heaven where you can send choc treats, send chololate e-cards and more.
  5. A standard chocolate bar contains 9 percent calcium, 9 percent riboflavin, 6 percent protein, 3 percent iron and 2.4 percent Vitamin A and Thiamine. It doesn’t replace a healthy meal—but at least it’s a small intake of recommended daily nutrients!

Cry, baby

Did you know 85 percent of women say they feel better after having a good cry? Crying is a great stress reliever. Take it from someone once dubbed the Town Cryer. The most therapeutic crying sessions tend to be when we can pinpoint the cause and have a good blub about it. Sometimes it’s hard to nail the culprit. On such occasions, head straight for the video store. Check the Romance and Drama shelves for inspiration. Tragic tales of lost love, dogs getting run over—it doesn’t really matter what your choice of stimuli. Return home with a box of Kleenex and work those tear ducts. Note the benefits.