If only healthy living and feeling amazing were easy! Today I'm going to show you that it is.
Today's podcast is a little different from normal.
This podcast first appeared on "Authentic Tea" with Dr Rachel Beanland. She's kindly agreed to allow me to publish it here.
Rachel and Dr Orlena chat about the why, what and how of healthy living.
And how easy it can be to create your amazing healthy life so you live to long and healthy life. And feel amazing every single day.
Rachel: It's absolutely wonderful to be joined by Orlena. She uses her experience and expertise to support women and their families to develop healthy habits and lifestyles.
Orlena's podcast Fit and Fabulous shares inspirational stories and ideas on how to create and maintain health and wellbeing. Orlena offers one-to-one and group coaching for busy moms who are feeling stressed and overwhelmed to help them find healthy routines, habits, and systems.
And Orlena also hosts the Healthy You, Healthy Habits Challenge for moms to create family habits that fit into a busy, hectic lifestyle. (Next challenge will be in the Autumn 2021.)
Welcome Orlena, it’s wonderful to have you today.
Orlena: Thank you so much for having me. It's an absolute pleasure.
Rachel: It's great to reconnect with you. We’ve been talking about how we were both at universities together and now years on, we are following slightly different paths than we were then.
But where was there a point in your own career or in your own life when you started to recognize the importance of good nutrition and how making changes to food and the eating patterns that we have could impact based on individual and also family health?
Orlena: That is a really interesting question. When I was working as a pediatric doctor, I was aware, obviously, that how we eat really impacts us.
So typically as a pediatric doctor, you're seeing a lot of kids with tummy pain, and a lot of that tummy pain is constipation due to not eating vegetables. And at that time pre-having kids, I would say to parents, “Oh you just need to eat more vegetables. It's really easy.
Now as a parent, I realize that it's not quite as easy to get our kids to eat vegetables as we want.
But the realization that I could do better came when I had kids. I have four children under the age of four and a half which, as you can imagine, stressful.
I started to see that I wasn't being the mother that I wanted to be. I was feeling stressed and this would manifest as snapping at the kids, feeling tired at the kids and just not being the person that I wanted to be.
I've got these four pillars which developed over a period of time by looking and thinking hard about what I wanted to change.
One of the questions I like to ask people is out of 10, how much energy do you have every single day to do the things that you want to or have to do? Very rarely do people say 10 out of 10, but I can genuinely say I have enough energy to do everything I want to do every single day.
I think so many people are so close and they just don't realize it.
Rachel: Do you think now, when you look back, where were your energy levels on that scale and was there a point where you really thought, “This is something I need to really change.”
Orlena: When I look back now, I would say my average was around eight, but I would definitely say there were times when it dipped to three.
I can remember times when on a Sunday morning, I go to a beautiful market and I buy loads and loads of vegetables and I have to come home and unpack them.
There would be times when, by the evening I just hadn't done it because I would come home, plunk everything from the kitchen table and then the twins would need feeding or nappy changing and all of that stuff. I just wouldn't get it this job until the evening and just thinking, “I just don't have the energy to do that.”
I remember at bedtime and reading to my children and just lying there on the carpet and thinking it's so nice just to lie down. And think I'm just going to lie here for a little bit to recuperate my energy before I start this other job. There were really dips in it.
How did that transformation happen to me?
I first recognized that I was always snapping, always crossed and grumpy. It wasn't helping the situation in any way whatsoever. It was just exacerbating and making everybody else cross.
I realized this isn't how I want it to be. And thirdly, thinking, this is a symptom of a bigger picture. It's like having a light on your dashboard saying that something else isn't working.
I teach four pillars which are nutrition, exercise, sleep, and mindset. I started at emotions and mindset.
How you can get stuck in this negative way of thinking. It’s normal for us to be negative. We're negatively wired but with self awareness you can overcome that and you can say, ‘Okay, this isn't a way of thinking that is serving me. I'm going to think in a different way.’
It's work to do but it's fun work to do.
I think another big part for me was exercise as well. I remember I'm now a keen avid swimmer and during the summer I will swim two or three kilometers every day in the sea.
This started for me when my children were little and they were going off to the swimming pool to have swimming classes. One day my husband returned with the two older children who were around five or six and I had been looking after the twins who are younger.
My husband came back and said, ‘Dante, hasn't been swimming because he didn't want to go.’
So I said, ‘Don't worry. I will go next week.’
I went with him the next week and got him in the pool. Then, I went upstairs to watch the class and thought it's ridiculously hot there, it's a bit boring and why am I not in the swimming pool swimming!
That was really the start of it.
I recognized that it really just gave me the space I needed.
As I say, I had four young children and when you have four young children, they'd like to jump on you, which is lovely but at a certain point, it starts to trigger your feeling of being attacked and you feel like you need a little bit of space.
So to go in that swimming pool and just have nobody touch me for however long it was, was just bliss. I started to really relish that.
I started doing swimming training and then swimming in the sea. And then last year, because of the pandemic, when we were all at home and my children weren't having to go to school. I started just going every single morning with my friends.
Rachel: That's amazing. Thank you for sharing that story because it's amazing to see how it's evolved.
Do you think some of that also was about realizing that you've been in a role where you were caring for a lot of people, both through your professional world, but also as a mum and being in a family where you're giving care all the time?
So, was it that moment also of ‘Ah, I can also care for myself.’ Do you think that was a bit of a realization?
Orlena: Yeah, absolutely. I see this so often with my clients and people that listen to my podcast. This is one of the big reasons why I want to talk to mothers in particular.
I think mothers are in such an amazing situation to help their children develop healthy living habits. And when you grow up with healthy living habits, it's just normal. It's just what you do.
There are so many studies that say, you know, children who go to university, they essentially eat the same way as they do at home. Children who are used to moving, do the same when they're older.
It's all about doing stuff without thinking because that's just what you do. Those are what habits are.
We can hugely influence our children's habits. And from a public health point of view, that's amazing because when people grow up with healthy habits, then obviously they're going to lead longer and healthier lives.
When you first have a baby and they need your care 24 hours a day, we get into that role of, ‘I am going to care for my baby 24 hours a day.’
You may be lucky and have some help, but normally it's minimal help. And gradually as that baby grows older, they become more autonomous, more able to do things for themselves.
We want to teach them to do those things, but we get stuck in this mindset. This habit of, ‘I have to put everybody first and I have to put my own needs right at the bottom of the pile.’
The reality is if you can care for yourself, by which I mean eat healthily, get exercise, get good sleep, replenish your batteries, then you are in a much, much better situation to care for whoever it is you're caring for because you've got the energy to do that.
As a parent, a lot of the work I have found is emotional work. Kids have such big emotions and it's exhausting. You know, it's like their emotions are like a roller coaster. Whilst we're connecting with them, we're taking on some of those emotions.
As adults, we're much slower to get angry, but we're much slower to calm down too. Our emotions are sort of being dragged along by our children.
Rachel: Do you think that some of that for you is also mirrored when you've moved into a different environment?
Some of the things you've been talking about going to the market, going swimming, being able to go to the sea, you've now lived in Spain for a period of time.
Was your move there also related to wanting to live a slightly different lifestyle or was that coincidental. Has that been something that's influenced the way that you've been able to look after yourself and your family?
Orlena: Yes, absolutely. So many amazing questions there.
On a personal level, yes, the reason I made that change was because I wanted a different lifestyle for myself.
As much as I love the UK and loved being in clinical medicine, it's a stressful job. I wanted a different lifestyle for myself and I hadn't really thought it out exactly. But now, as I look back, I can see that part of the culture in Spain was different. It's more relaxed. It's more laid back.
Now, the problem with habits is they are a double-edged sword. In that our brain doesn't care, whether we have got good habits or bad habits. To our brain, it's all exactly the same.
It doesn't matter whether your habit is sitting on the sofa, watching television or getting up on Saturday morning to go for a run. Your brain is just like, this is what we do. It's all on autopilot. But obviously there's a big difference for your body.
One of the things that I teach is how we change our habits. People think if you're super healthy and you've got this healthy lifestyle, it's because you're really disciplined and that's not true.
It's about how we set up our lives.
One of the key aspects is environment. There are lots of studies that show how in order to maintain good habits, you have to set your environment up.
For example, going to market. I go to market on Sunday where I buy fruit and vegetables. What's the worst I can buy, some grapes or some highly sugared fruit and vegetables.
I come back with kilos and kilos because I know that I need to feed my family for a week and I buy what's available which is basically vegetables. So the environment does play a huge role.
Rachel: I can really see how that's mirrored some of my experience from moving to France. Because the market is a big thing and I think that goes with how some European countries have retained that sense of local food and local produce. Really relishing the products that they can grow and sell locally.
When we first went to the market after we moved to France, I used to find that people were touching the food a lot and checking out which apple they really wanted to buy.
I was really quite shocked because I had never really interacted with my food in that way. I would go to a supermarket and I would pick up a bag of apples. I wasn't really thinking about where the apple had come from, what the apple looked like, whether it was going to be nutritious.
Rachel: Your podcast is called Fitness and Fabulous. Can you share a little bit about why it was important for you to share some stories and your thoughts on your podcast and where the title came from?
Orlena: I can sum up healthy living in two sentences, eat more vegetables and stop eating packaged foods and do some movement go to bed on time and think positive, happy thoughts. That's it. In a nutshell. And it's actually easy and simple. But most people don't do it.
Why don't they do it? It all comes back to habits. We’re not intentional about creating habits.
Why do I call it Fit and Fabulous? Because that's what I want people to feel.
It’s about healthy eating and healthy living. I do help people to lose weight but it's about weight loss for health.
The ultimate goal is to feel Fit and Fabulous and lead the most amazing life that we can and be really intentional about how we lead that life.
It’s like motivation. It's not like suddenly somebody just drops this out of the sky for you.
We have to generate these things and we have to work at them and we have to create habits surrounding them.
Once they're habits, they're really easy and you do it without thinking. That's essentially where I want people to get to.
Rachel: In yoga, the yogis will term as habits are like samskaras and they're like threads. So it's like linking to that unconscious thinking that you're talking about. The subconscious really actually drives so many of our behaviors.
If you can learn behaviors at a very early age, you're going to have those threads and those habits ingrained in you to be able to take forward into adulthood and you become much healthier by doing so.
Rachel: I know you host programs and run challenges several times a year where you're really helping mums to adopt more healthier habits and also for their families. Could you share a little bit about that? What are the challenges like for the women that come and join you?
Orlena: Thank you so much for asking. We have just finished my first challenge and I've got my next, one's going to be in July. It was super exciting.
The challenge that I did was aimed at mothers. It’s about understanding this thing about habits and about understanding healthy living.
What I want people to take from that is it's easy and fun. I always say if it's not easy and fun, it doesn't get done. So you have to create a system and habits and routines that work for you.
In this challenge, it's all about helping women just make one small change. The challenge is a week long. So you can't create a habit in a week, but what you can do is create the foundations for habits.
Once you understand something and see the bigger picture, it shows you that you can do it and that you can take those steps and move forward. And then at the end of that challenge, if people want to carry on, they can keep on working with me and implement those changes.
Orlena: There's what I call the rickety bridge between where you are now and when you want to get to, which is why you've got all of these habits set up.
The problem with the rickety bridge is that life happens and then you turn back to your old habits.
Then people start feeling deflated and like a failure. Many people say I've tried everything and nothing works for me, there must be something wrong with me.
It's not that they don't have normal physiology. It's all in their brain. It's that they've started crossing the rickety bridge but they haven't really got to the other side. If they're just stuck to it, they would have got to the other side and it would have been habit.
Rachel: You've mentioned about the group work and that support system. Do you find that by providing a space where people feel like they're going through a similar process to other people, gives them some support that maybe they don't have in their day to day life?
Orlena: Absolutely. There is evidence that shows that if you can make changes with other people, you're far more likely to succeed.
People build on each other. So they support each other when they're down, but they inspire each other as well.
Orlena: I love chatting to people. I'm so blessed that my job is essentially chatting to people. There is so much value in just being able to take a little bit of your space.
For a lot of people, there’s this nagging doubt of ‘I want to lose weight or I want to be more healthy, but how do I do it? I never create the space to actually address this situation.’
So just having time to sit and chat and have somebody else who's objective is very helpful. Just that 30 minutes is like gold dust. Many people just find that useful whether they carry on working with me or, or not. Even if they don't, they walk away going ‘I can do this. And it is easy.’
Rachel: Can you talk more about your four pillars and why you decided on them?
Orlena: First is nutrition. There’s so much information about nutrition and there's so much evidence as well, that the way we eat impacts our health.
If you're thinking about weight loss, most people think that they need need to go to the gym to lose weight. But it's not true. It's about 80% what we eat and 20% exercise.
Even if weight isn't an issue. Still what we eat has huge, great implications on long-term health. Nutrition is really interesting, but again, really simple. All you need to eat is more fruits and vegetables.
The second pillar is exercise. It’s the key to having energy. Our bodies are designed to be used.
We need to use our muscles every single day especially after the age of 40, you really need to be thinking about your muscle and your bone strength and how you can maintain that into later life.
The key is movement and it doesn't have to be complicated. It doesn't have to be going to the gym. It can just be simple things like walking or cycling or swimming or seven minute workouts.
Just be aware of how much you move. And I recommend that everybody have a sports watch as well to monitor your movement.
The third pillar is sleep. There's been so much research on sleep and what it does to our bodies. I don't know about you, but when I haven't had enough sleep, I'm just unbearable. On one level, it's so clear that sleep is important and on another level, the research now it supports that.
There are also connections to sleep and illnesses later on in life.
The fourth pillar is mindset or emotional wellness. You can't make positive changes unless you've got the right mindset because if your mindset isn't there, you're not going to do it.
Meditation is a really useful tool and I recommend all my clients really do meditation for what I call a maintenance tool to just help you every single day. But also you can use it as an emergency tool as well when you're feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
When your kids are climbing on top of you, you can just say, 'I feel a little bit overwhelmed and stress, I'm just going to take myself away for 10 minutes, calm myself down, do a little bit of meditation' That's demonstrating really good emotional control to your children.
Rachel: It sounds brilliant. And I could listen to you for a long time, because what I really love about the way that you're able to describe these concepts is it's really clear that you're using your experience as a doctor and your experience as a mum.
Rachel: As you mentioned, we were at med school together, which feels like a whole world away. Maybe you could just reflect on how your experience since then has got you to where you are now?
Is it something that you ever thought you would be doing when you left med school? And how has your career kind of found its path to doing something that you clearly get a lot of passion and enjoyment from?
Orlena: Well, first of all, thank you. Thank you for that lovely compliment. When I look back at my time in med school and my time working, I think it's such a busy time, and there's this career ladder that I had to climb.
When I finished my house jobs, I went off to Australia for a little bit and worked in a hospital there, and that was enormously fun. And then I had this impatience to get on the career ladder.
I went back to the UK and I started doing pediatrics, which I enjoyed, but I remember the consultants then saying, ‘You should be doing your exams really quickly.’
I found myself on this career path that suited me and I did enjoy it, but there was no relaxed time. I wouldn't imagine myself doing this because the goal was to become a consultant and essentially to get there as quickly as possible. It was really difficult for me to break away from that.
I say I accidentally lost my medical career because when I moved to Spain, I thought I was going to come here and work clinically. That didn't happen.
Orlena: I did adult medicine only for a short period of time, only my house jobs, but I remember feeling so heartbroken at the time that there were all these people who wished to turn back time just to live healthily so they wouldn't be in the position they were in.
I think that was one of the things that influenced me going into pediatrics because children bounce back to good health quickly. They are really unwell and suddenly they're so much better.
Whereas adults, it’s just a slow, downward decline after a certain point. And that's a little bit heartbreaking, particularly when you can see so many lifestyle factors that are contributing to that downward spiral.
Now, I love what I'm doing. I know it's less glamorous. I'm not saving lives anymore. I'm not resuscitating babies. I'm not stopping someone from dying. But what I'm doing is teaching people how to have that healthy life so that they don't need to go and see the doctors. I wish that the health system was set up so that we were teaching people this.
Now I can understand why it's not okay. It just doesn't really have the capacity to do that. But I do hope that in years to come there'll be more emphasis on preventative medicine. I can see it changing, but I think it's a long and slow process.
A lot of people don’t realize that their health is In their hands. They just think it happened to me. I suddenly got diabetes. No, you didn't suddenly get diabetes. It started happening 20 years ago. You just never noticed
Rachel: Yes, it’s taking that control and understanding what you can change. I think is quite empowering for people. And when they start that journey, it can really lead to a lot of other changes in people's lives.
There's a lot more of a lifestyle medicine movement particularly in the UK and also in Australia and across in the states. There's definitely a movement towards it. But looking back on how we were trained in med school, it wasn't something that there was a heavy emphasis on.
Hopefully in time, that can change so that the newer generations of doctors coming through having that as a big part of what they can share with people.
Like you say, where we're not able to continue to have these health systems that are overburdened if we don't think about preventing health in the first place.
Hopefully, as we see things change that will come through. But in the meantime, it's wonderful that there are people like you sharing what you're sharing so that people can start to do their own work and from their individual aspects.
Rachel: Where can people find out more about you and listen to your podcast? What's the best way for them to get in contact with you?
Orlena: The proper name of my podcast is Fit and Fabulous at 40 and Beyond and my website is drorlena.com
Rachel: One of the reasons that I absolutely love doing this podcast is meeting other women. It’s just so lovely to hear people's stories and to feel a little bit inspired by what other people are doing. I hope that the listeners will feel inspired by your story today.
Rachel: Before we go, my podcast is called Authentic Tea and the idea is really that we show up and be our authentic selves. So final question is, with who and where would you like to have your most authentic cup of tea?
Orlena: That is such a lovely question. All these famous people flitted through my mind, but actually, it's really just my close friends and family, particularly at this time, having not seen my mom for a year and not seeing my good friends. We would go to pizza normally in Italy and just have a weekend and we haven't done that.
So those are the kinds of people I would just love to see again. And hopefully in the next year I will get to see.
Rachel: That's beautiful. I'm sure you will be there. And when you do, there'll be even more special moments. Thank you for sharing it. And thank you for being a guest today. It's been really wonderful to chat to you.
Remember to go and check out Rachel's podcast, Authentic Tea and her website Reilience Yoga.
If you're ready to make changes and create your healthy life in a way that's easy and fun, come and chat with Dr Orlena.
Healthy You Healthy Family Challenge: https://www.drorlena.com/habitchallenge
Dr Orlena's FB group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/healthyhappyparenting
Your "Road map to Healthy Amazing You Chat": https://bookme.name/drorlena/dr-orlenas-breakthrough-session
Dr Orlena is a health coach. She helps busy mums go from "I can't lose weight" to feeling fit and fabulous. Find out more about her here.