Make my life better

Date

Michaela Fox

Three women began a lifestyle challenge on January 1 to make themselves healthier and happier.

The only way is up: raise your hands if you want to improve your health and wellbeing.

The only way is up: raise your hands if you want to improve your health and wellbeing. Photo: Alexa Miller/thelicensingproject

MAKE ME CALMER
Libby Hakim, 38, lawyer, writer, mother of two, Sydney.

The challenge: To learn meditation and mindfulness.

Why? "I have struggled with stress and anxiety most of my life. I worry unnecessarily and strive to be the best - a perfectionist, I guess. Working as a lawyer has trained me to be very analytical - it's hard to switch off at home and I attach a lot of self-worth to my achievements. Since the birth of my second baby, I've been exhausted and teary. Any small hiccup, which I should be able to handle, sends me into a spin. My mind is constantly racing and I fill gaps in my day with information: mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed. I want my mind to be free and still."

Libby Hakim has taken up meditiation.

Libby Hakim has taken up meditiation. Photo: James Brickwood

How? Daily meditation sessions following The Foundation Course, delivered via the Headspace app. The course consists of three levels with 10 sessions each, and a total of 450 minutes of meditation.

Advertisement

Goals: "To sleep better, worry less and relax more. I want to let go of the constant need to achieve."

The experience: "The first day was hard. I felt agitated at first during the meditation, which intensified my stress levels, but I relaxed during the last five minutes. I also went cold turkey with Facebook, resisting multiple urges to check my newsfeed.

Nicole Byrne is a new devotee of the Metafit exercise program.

Nicole Byrne is a new devotee of the Metafit exercise program. Photo: Luis Ascui

"My meditation sessions progressed to 20 minutes each during week two and I had trouble staying focused. I tried meditating in the morning, which was wonderful and helped set up my day. I was reassured by the message that expecting too much would hinder progress.

"I moved on to 'stress' sessions in week three. I found these useful and began to incorporate mindfulness into my daily routine. Pausing for just 10 minutes in a busy day restores my balance. I feel I've embraced the 'letting go' and 'don't push too hard' aspects of meditation.

"By the second half of the challenge I settled into some blissful meditations. The sessions guided me through visualisation techniques to help manage stress. If I'm feeling stressed, I close my eyes and take deep breaths and can stop myself getting caught up in unhelpful emotions – all in less than 30 seconds!"

Lana Morgan is following the Liver Cleansing Diet.

Lana Morgan is following the Liver Cleansing Diet. Photo: Luis Ascui

Results: "I am sleeping better and feel calmer and more centred. The Headspace app has the right balance of guidance and silence. Previously, I had expected meditation to be a magic cure for stress, whereas I now realise I need to do it not just when I'm feeling stressed but when I'm feeling okay. Limiting my social media use means I don't feel obligated to keep up to date with people's news. It feels like a weight has been lifted."

Will it continue? "Meditation is now part of my life. Just 10 minutes a day has a huge impact. I definitely feel happier."

MAKE ME FITTER
Nicole Byrne, 38, occupational therapist, mother of two, Melbourne.

The challenge: To follow the Metafit exercise program.

Why? "At 103 kilograms, I am seriously overweight. I've struggled with weight most of my life but this is my heaviest. I used to exercise more but since having my second baby, I've let it slide. For too long I have neglected my health. I feel sluggish and I want my body to be as energetic as my mind. I also want to choose the clothes I like rather than only the ones that fit. This is a big challenge and I am nervous, but determined to make a change."

How? Created by a former Royal Marine commando, Metafit is a 30-minute metabolic workout which combines traditional body-weight exercises with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) techniques. Nicole will attend at least four sessions a week and use the program's PT In My Pocket fitness app at home.

Goals: "I want to re-establish a fitness regime, have more energy and to rebuild my core, which has been obliterated by having two children. I want to ultimately lose at least 10 kilograms."

The experience: "I was very nervous heading to my first Metafit session on the 1st of January. I worried that I would be the most unfit person there, lumbering at the back of the class. And possibly I was, but it didn't matter. The 30-minute session was manageable, and I tried not to look around the room and psyche myself out. It hurt but it was good pain.

"I found it hard establishing a new routine. Waking early for classes was a shock, but by week three my momentum grew. I felt more familiar with the classes and noticed a big improvement in my endurance. The burpees hurt in every way but I persevered. By week four I felt stronger and calmer and had lost almost five kilograms.

"My enthusiasm and motivation didn't wane. I did four classes a week and some weeks managed five or even six. Whenever I missed a couple of classes I used the app at home. I also improved my diet by following the program's eating plan, avoiding processed foods and eating more fresh fruit and vegetables. Exercising first thing in the morning was initially a chore, but now I love it."

The results: "I'm amazed at how I've built up my fitness in just 40 days. My endurance has improved dramatically and I have loads more energy. I only lost five kilograms but I reduced my body fat by 13 per cent, and lost 10 centimetres off my waist. I feel fantastic. My new wardrobe isn't far away."

Will it continue? "Absolutely. I hope to lose a bit more weight, but the numbers aren't as important as how I feel and what I can do. I am stronger and fitter."

MAKE ME HEALTHIER
Lana Morgan, 42, human resources consultant, mother of three, Melbourne.

The challenge: To follow the Liver Cleansing Diet.

Why? "Since having kids, my metabolism has changed and I've put on a lot of weight. I often eat on the run and grab something quick rather than something healthy. I 'snack' on the kids' leftovers rather than eating a complete meal. I lack energy and my immune system feels weak. I need to make a drastic change to my diet and get back to healthy-eating principles. My struggle is that I am married to a chef who puts butter in everything and has no concept of moderate portions."

How? The Liver Cleansing Diet (LCD) is an eight-week detox diet designed to improve overall health and immune function. It is mostly vegetarian, dairy-free, high fibre and low fat. It includes a lot of raw vegetables and juices.

Goals: "To look and feel healthier. I want to have a clearer mind, healthier skin and more energy. Ideally, I'd like to return to my pre-baby weight, which would mean losing 10 kilograms."

The experience: "After an over-indulgent Christmas I was ready to detox. Each day begins with a warm lemon drink, followed by fresh juice 30 minutes later. The juice usually contains carrot, celery, kale and whatever vegies are in the fridge. Dairy and sugar (unless it occurs naturally in fruit) aren't allowed. I went coffee-free for the first five days and couldn't cope, so allow myself one a day with soy milk. The program recommends a liver tonic supplement but I decided not to take it.

"Initially, I felt the LCD was too difficult, and I missed family activities like pancakes on a Sunday morning. I started to become demotivated but I refocused and by week two I felt less bloated and more energetic.

"Being organised is key. I get up half an hour earlier to prepare the juice and a healthy breakfast, which is usually muesli with rice milk. Lunch is a wrap or salad. The evening meal is the toughest, especially on work days. I arrive home starving and mostly have fish and vegetables. It's hard to resist my husband's buttery risotto.

"The trick with the LCD is eating enough but keeping portion sizes down. I slipped up a few times. We went camping and my husband packed turkey rolls, which I devoured, margarine and all. I refused most of the naughties but couldn't resist a few marshmallows.

"It's been challenging, especially while juggling everything else. The biggest obstacle has been putting the focus back on myself. I haven't followed the LCD to the letter but I've stuck to the guidelines. I feel like I've re-educated myself about healthier eating, although portion size is still an issue."

Results: "I definitely feel better and have more energy. I lost 4.5 kilograms – not a dramatic result but my clothes are fitting better and I feel less bloated. People have told me I look well. I also sleep better and get more out of the day."

Will it continue? "Partly. I'll follow the principles of LCD but with more freedom. I'll continue with the juicing and using soy milk in coffee and muesli, and I'll limit sugary, processed foods. But I'd like to have one day off a week to eat what I want. I'd like to lose another five kilograms. I've got a beach holiday booked in March so getting into a bikini is extra motivation to continue."