Supplements

A bowl of yogurt with blueberries and banana

I have had a long aversion to vitamin supplements. There have been a few exceptions with other sorts of nutritional supplements. For instance, probiotics after a round of antibiotics, extra iron when I was pregnant and post-partum. For the past few years, I have been downing a concentrated turmeric elixir because there is some research that turmeric MAY reduce inflammation and hence reduce the risk of dementia. I am very keen on avoiding dementia!

But taking VITAMINS? No way! In my opinion, supplements just make for very expensive urine! You can get all the vitamins and minerals you need with a healthy, balanced diet.

Apparently not always, as I discovered.

Vitamins come from food, right?

Whoosh – Foosh!

Late last year, I fell on my outstretched arm when I was doing some volunteer work with the SES. The tree branch I was trying to move snapped sending me backward down a hill. Thankfully, I was wearing my helmet and although I struck my head on the pavement, no damage was done there.

The cinematic slow-motion fall took forever. “Don’t break anything at this age you old chook! That’s the start of the end!” I yelled to myself. Embarrassed and feeling like a real old lady, I jumped up proclaiming “I’m ok, all good!” to my colleagues.


At first, the injuries seemed superficial; a grazed hand and a sore bum. After an hour or so I could no longer deny the fact that every time I moved my arm it hurt. A lot. My team leader dropped me at the ER of our local hospital and I sat and waited.


The X-ray came back clear with no break but the radiographer said I should get a follow-up CT scan because breaks in wrist bones are very hard to see. The CT scan also showed no break. My GP diagnosed it as a FOOSH injury. (Falling onto an outstretched hand!). It needed strapping, rest and time and that was it.

A cascade of tests

The CT scan did show that there was a possibility of osteopenia – the precursor to osteoporosis. My GP sent me for a bone density scan and blood tests. Those results showed that my bone density was fine but that I had low levels of Vitamin D and B12. He suggested I take supplements and boost my calcium intake with extra dairy.

Cue scary music here like in an Alfred Hitchcock movie!!!
GASP!!!!!

VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS!!!!!

Vitamin D and aging.

Vitamin D deficiency? How? I spend way too much time in the sun!

As well as ingesting Vitamin D from foods, your body makes it when your skin is exposed to UV radiation. In turn, Vitamin D plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy skeleton because it is necessary for calcium absorption. As you age the pathways for Vitamin D synthesis slow down and calcium absorption decreases.

Next, you end up with a decrease in your skeletal density, then osteoporosis, then breaks, then nursing homes and then death! That’s how I see it anyway!


Vitamin D supplements are cheap and easy to come by. But stick to the recommended dose! More is definitely not better when it comes to fat-soluble vitamins. (namely A, D, E, and K.) Remember those polar bear eating Arctic explorers?

Just like plants, you do need some sun.

Role of Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a number of roles in the body apart from the maintenance of your skeleton including,

  • Maintaining a good immune function
  • Supporting a healthy nervous system including brain function
  • Regulating insulin
  • Regulating gene expression

Vitamin D levels are affected by our changing lifestyle. Staying in the shade and using sunscreen reduces our risk of skin cancer but it also reduces opportunities to make Vitamin D. Avoiding the sun altogether may lead to a serious Vitamin D deficiency. However, before you go out in the hot sun, slathering on the coconut oil as you go, note that you only need a little bit of sun! According to the Australian Cancer Council, you only need a few minutes, a few times a week in summer and just a little longer in winter. Using low-fat milk products could also contribute to dietary deficiencies of Vitamin D.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is absorbed in the stomach after some preliminary chemical restructuring. Your stomach manufactures an intrinsic factor that binds to B12 allowing it to be absorbed further down the intestinal tract. Of course, the ability to produce this intrinsic factor decreases as you age!

Vitamin B12 has many roles in your body including,

  • Blood formation and prevention of several forms of anemia
  • DNA synthesis
  • Nerve function

Sources of Vitamin B12

Active sources of Vitamin B12 are only found in animal sources (or supplements). There is some Vitamin B12 in various mushrooms and nutritional yeast. But, these sources behave differently in the body and are not reliable.

small yellowmushrooms
Inedible mushrooms!

Vitamin B12 and climate change?

Reducing your consumption of animal products is cited as one of the key ways individuals can reduce their climate impact. This is especially true for those foods produced by intensive farming methods. Getting enough Vitamin B12 can therefore present a tricky compromise if you want to live a sustainable/ethical lifestyle. If you are a vegan, vegetarian or one of the increasing number of flexitarians, you probably need a B12 supplement.

This makes me wonder if humans are meant to be strict vegans. If veganism was our true state we would have evolved to deal with B12 in a different way. On the other hand, I do think we need to reduce our consumption of meat from an environmental point of view. I eat eggs and dairy but have cut my meat consumption to once or twice a month. My next step is to ensure this meat is from a sustainable and ethical source.



There’s no point fighting it! I am getting older. I want to stay healthy. My body is not able to do everything it used to and it needs some help. I’ll still rely on my healthy diet to give me a very strong foundation but from now on my morning routine includes taking the supplements and the turmeric potion. For the next few weeks, I am also experimenting with magnesium, AND because I took a dose of antibiotics 4 weeks ago the capsule is a probiotic! OMG, I’m positively rattling!

BTW: The bruise on my bum was SPECTACULAR! All the colours of the rainbow and covering the whole cheek!

A year without alcohol – tick!

Wentworth Emporium

Last year was a different sort of year for all of us. My year began with an intentional change that started well before COVID19 came on the scene with a year-long challenge called the “Year of Zero”. As part of the challenge, I planned to go a full year without alcohol. In my post, in May 2020, I said I’d report back on how I went. Here’s that report.

I won! I did ditch the alcohol!

I went the whole year without alcohol! It ended up being less of a challenge than I had thought.  The hardest part was actually deciding if I would start drinking again. I had concerns and doubts because I was feeling fabulous! No hangovers, no missed days spent resting on the couch, more money, feeling clear-headed, and all the benefits you’d expect to gain from not putting poison into your body.  My joints ached less; I had fewer cold sores. My gut was more settled. I slept better. A repeat liver function test came back with excellent results. I didn’t lose weight which I thought I would. I didn’t lose friends. In fact, my social life didn’t suffer at all! It’s a bit hard to get a good handle on this aspect because my dry year coincided with COVID lockdowns. 

My friends got over hassling me about drinking, although one actually said “welcome back” when I had a glass of wine with them.  There’s something a bit off with the state of the world if that’s the perception of giving up the booze!

I used the app Habit Bull to keep me on track.

I’ve starting drinking alcohol again.

As the end of the year approached, I spent a lot of my mental energy deciding what to do. Would I drink? Wouldn’t I drink? Was my obsession about making this decision proving I was or wasn’t an alcoholic or, at best, someone with alcohol abuse disorder. (Something I have only just discovered is a “thing”).

WHAT SHOULD I DO!!

In the end, I decided I would have a few drinks on social occasions.  Soon after “breaking the drought”, I overdid it and woke up with a horrendous hangover! One of the worst I’ve had. Even though I had drunk much less than I would have normally have had on a “big night”. Out of practice, I guess. I imagined my poor liver shrivelling up and keeling over. It was scary. 

After that night, I had a stiff talk with myself and set down some rules. I would only drink when I was out. I wouldn’t drink at home alone. Ever! And then I would never have more than two.

It didn’t take long before I started to argue with myself and the internal dialogue was very persuasive. 

You’re an adult and you can have a drink when you feel like it!  Relax! You’re on holidays!

Robyn’s brain!

I quickly fell back into my old habits, albeit with more moderation.

Giving alcohol the flick for good?

In the vein of “when you’re ready to learn, the teacher will come” platitude, I have noticed more and more articles both in print and on the net about people being sober-curious and stepping back from our alcohol-laden society. I know I am not alone in this state of confusion about what our culture deems normal and acceptable and consideration for our own health. The stigma of being a non-drinker is nearly as bad as being a heavy drinker! For example, look at Charlie Hale’s article in Wellbeing’s Issue #190 about mindful drinking.

Charlie Hale writes about the new ‘sober-curious’ movement in Wellbeing.

Sober Curious

The term sober curious was coined by Ruby Warrington in her books Sober Curious and the Sober Curious Reset. The book’s marketing blurb describes exactly how I’m feeling – without the green juice!

It’s the nagging question more and more of us are finding harder to ignore, whether we have a “problem” with alcohol or not. After all, we yoga. We green juice. We meditate. We self-care. And yet, come the end of a long work day, the start of a weekend, an awkward social situation, we drink. One glass of wine turns into two turns into a bottle. In the face of how we care for ourselves otherwise, it’s hard to avoid how alcohol really makes us feel… terrible.

How different would our lives be if we stopped drinking on autopilot If we stopped drinking altogether Really different, it turns out. Really better. Frank, funny, and always judgment free, Sober Curious is a bold guide to choosing to live hangover-free, from Ruby Warrington, one of the leading voices of the new sobriety movement.

Booktopia’s blurb about the Sober Curious Book

What next?

I’m ready to have a good talk with you Alcohol!  You’re not working for me anymore! 

Having the whole year off the booze and then three months drinking alcohol again, has been like completing a controlled experiment. The results of the study show that I prefer the no alcohol condition. I’ve decided I don’t need booze, and although I do really like a glass of wine, I’ve learnt it’s better for me not to “break the seal”. I have ordered Ruby’s books, and I’ll write a review after I have read them. In the meantime, I know I am not a moderator and do better at abstaining.

So abstain I will. 

Style guide for living

I’m always looking for ways to make my life calmer and more enriching. I like lists! I like grand declarations and sticking to plans. (did you notice! 🙂 ) I’ve decided to adopt my COVID to do list as a style guide for living. Think of it as a personal list of T&Cs.

Why would I want a style guide for living? Modern life, pre or post-pandemic, is a mass of decision points. Living in a developed country, I have lots of choices. Take acquiring and preparing food for example. The choices I  can make include whether I:

  • waste or not waste food. 
  • shop at the multinational supermarket or the farmers’ market
  • buy stuff in plastic or not
  • buy bulk or not
  • freeze or not
  • eat meat or other animal products or not 
  • plan meals or buy on impulse

I could keep going. If I wrote a similar list for exercising it would be equally as long. Is a 5-minute burst of HIIT (high-intensity interval training)  really as beneficial as a one-hour walk/run? 

I want to choose healthy plant based food.

Decision fatigue is a real thing. 

Habits help us manage decision fatigue to a certain point but having a style guide for living can shepherd your choices and, to an extent, eliminate many of the daily decisions you need to make.  It leads to a greater level of automaticity and hence less anxiety. Choice is not all it’s cracked up to be as Barry Schwartz clearly demonstrated in his book the Paradox of Choice. If you have too many choices you tend to make none! Dr Laurie Santos also talks about this on her podcast, The Happiness Lab. Check out Season 1 Episode 8 on Choice Overload.

To-do becomes  Ta-da

A few months ago I wrote about my COVID to-do list and how I decided to turn it into a ta-da list as a way of celebrating success rather than beating myself up with the things I had not crossed off.  My aim for each day of lock down was to:

  • create something, 
  • organise something, 
  • learn something new and 
  • move everything (as in exercise). 

Ticking off these things every day was a TA-DA moment!  The things didn’t need to be big and were open to interpretation. This list served me well and I have decided to keep it as part of my life.

I want to re-badge the TA-DA list as my style guide for living.

Creating a small image counts.

Style Guide for Living

The style guide for living is not intended to be a daily to-do list but rather a way of living. I don’t expect to be able to cross each item off every day. Rather that I see myself as the type of person who for instance, values AND participates in regular exercise. It builds on my ikigai (reason for getting up) which I outlined in a recent post.

I have been mulling over an idea for a mnemonic to capture my style guide and make it easier for me to internalise and remember. The Ta-Da categories spell out a rather awkward COLM!  I want to be calm not COLM! I’ve been working on a better mnemonic – CALMER.

Here is my first attempt. 

C – Create before you consume. I don’t intend to create something everyday but rather be a person who creates before they consume.

A – Arrange (as in organise) – I will be a person who stays organised and de-cluttered.

L – Learn something new – I will be a life long learner

M – Meditate – I will meditate regularly to improve my mental health

E – Exercise – I will be the type of person who incorporates exercise into my life as often as possible.

R – Reduce/reuse/recycle – I will be the type of person who reduces their environmental impact.

This misses a few important aspects of life that I want to include, like healthy eating food, restful sleep and positive relationships. 

PERMA+

Greater minds than my own struck this problem too. PERMA is a concept and mnemonic that’s been around in the positive psychology space for a while now. PERMA focuses on five pillars that have been shown to lead to positive mental wellbeing, namely:

P = Positive emotions

E = Engagement

R = Relationships
M = Meaning

A = Accomplishment

To fill in the physical factors necessary for overall good health and to launch it into a state of flourishing,  the schema evolved to PERMA+ (said PERMA plus) The “plus” being good diet, exercise, and sleep, as well as resilience and optimism. They just lumped everything they couldn’t fit into the plus sign!

CALM-FEST?

I have been fooling with a few iterations for my own version of the PERMA+ concept and I’ve turned CALMER into a festival – CALM-FEST!

C – Create before you consume

A – Arrange (as in organise)

L – Learn something new

M – Meditate

F – Friends, family and my community.

E – Exercise 

S – Sustenance and sleep.

T – Tread lightly on our Earth.

It’s a work in progress!  If you have any ideas for better words that encapsulate my intentions, please comment below. Especially the “S” to cater for sleep and food.


Some of these intentions will be easy to achieve everyday. For others, I’ll be happy if I can do them 20 out of 30 days in the month. Borrowing from the ideas of BJ Fogg in his book Tiny Habits (which will be the topic of an upcoming blog post) at the very least each day should be a mini-festival!

Cut back on your daily decisions by working out your style guide for living.
Meditation helps settle your mind