Health and Fitness Issue 5

Page 1


Back pain from heavy school bags, controlled crying and more inside TODAY


Get fighting fit with Marta

Lighting the spark in the bedroom Yoghurt the good and the bad

Burn away Fat!

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Contents January 2013 INTERVIEW 3

Get fighting fit with Marta Starzyk

Sexual health 9

Fire in the bedroom

Mental health 13 Helping your teenager become a resilient adult

Physiotherapy 16 Shouldering the burden of education

Child care 19 Busting the myth of self-soothing babies

Nutrition 25 Get back on track after the Christmas indulgence 28 Want to lose weight? Don’t go on a diet 30 Yoghurt – the good, the bad and the ugly

Fitness 33 No sit-up, no crunch ab workout


he merriment of the Christmas season seems nothing but a distant memory. It would be great if we could say the same for the extra bulge that comes with the season of eating, drinking and overindulgence. New Year’s Resolutions to eat cleaner, exercise more and become better you have started to lose their appeal if they haven’t already been forgotten along with the Christmas merriment. Marta Starzyk is all about achieving goals and the only way to get there is to never give up, and keep pursuing your dreams no matter how small they may be. Carla Maree Vella talks about losing weight without going on a diet, while nutritionist Daniel Petre helps out with some tips to get you back to the preChristmas you. But health is not all about getting fit and losing weight. Mariella Dimech talks about helping your teenagers become resilient adults and Mireille Vincenti discusses the issue of heavy school bags and how they are affecting children’s backs. Whatever resolutions you have made for 2013, make them a lifestyle change and not just a fleeting attempt at a better life. Have something achievable to work towards – even if it is something really small – and reward yourself when you achieve it, don’t allow small setbacks to define the status of your new lifestyle as failed and remember how good it feels to be fitter, thinner and full of energy. I hope you enjoy this issue of Health and Fitness Today and look forward to receiving your suggestions and comments. Stay strong,

Men’s health 33 Getting the right first impression


Get the right first impression



Is that heavy school bag damaging your back?

Selfsoothing baby?


Matthew Bartolo Sex counsellor

Sylvana Brannon Childbirth educator



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Mariella Dimech Psychotherapist

Richard Geres Fitness instructor

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Carla Maree Vella Metabolic trainer

Daniel Petre Nutritionist

Managing Editor: Saviour Balzan Editor: Rachel Zammit Cutajar Cover photo: Marta Starzyk Printed at: Union Print

Don Pisani Fitness instructor

Mireille Vincenti Physiotherapist

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Fighting fit Mostly considered a male sport, boxing is becoming increasingly popular among women wanting to get fit. Offering a number of benefits including weightloss, increased speed, increased strength and body tone and discipline. Marta Starzyk has been boxing for over 3 years, a sport that has taught her control and discipline besides allowing her to become fitter than she has ever been before

Photography: RAY ATTARD



s Marta Starzyk walks into the room, it is immediately brightened. When you think female boxer you tend to think of butch girls who would have rather been born in male bodies, with the dark and brooding characters of Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby or Michelle Rodriguez in Girlfight, however with Marta this couldn’t be further than the truth. Her feminine beauty immediately attracts the attention of everyone around and her bubbly nature and love for life keeps you mesmerised. “There is a misconception that boxing is an aggressive sport that suits the male gender more than the female. “In reality it is an intense workout that is great for both sexes. To make it through three rounds of just two minutes each in the ring you need to be at a level of fitness far surpassing that required for most other sport. It also provides the fairer sex with a great tool in self-defence, should you ever need it.”

Marta has always been a very hyperactive person and always into sports. One day in 2009 while in Thailand, one friend suggested she try Muay Thai boxing and martial arts. “We got up early in the morning and he gave me a couple of cookies, telling me I’d need them later. When we got to the camp and started the workout I realised just how unfit I was when after 15 minutes I could barely keep up. “There were a couple of little Thai guys laughing at me, which just made me determined to come back the following year and kick their asses. Just two weeks after she returned to Malta she was walking along St Julian’s seafront and looked up and saw some people boxing in the window at Lord’s gym. “I really believe in signs and

4 - Health & Fitness Today • January 2013

this sure was one for me so I walked right up to the gym to see when I could start. “At the time not many women were into boxing and there was only one class a day that was suitable for women but I couldn’t make that class because of work commitments. The 7am class was geared to boxers who were already very fit but I told the owner of the gym, Steve Abela that I would join that class and I would succeed because I was determined to do it. “The first class was embarrassing and humiliating. It was just me and four big musclely guys and I couldn’t even make it to the tenth pushup. But I was determined to get through and it and kept pushing myself until I could eventually keep up with them. “When you start a new sport you are very rarely any good at it in the beginning, but with

When you start a new sport or anything else in life, you are rarely any good at it from the beginning, but with persistence and determination you can excel at anything. Just do not give up! That is the hardest part persistence and determination you can excel at anything.” After a year of training at Lord’s gym, Marta felt like she needed to go a step further and went back to Tiger Muay Thai boxing camp in Thailand where, this time, she could keep up with others there for training. “I absolutely loved the training camp. Even though there was a 90% male ratio and the women attending weren’t the most feminine, it was great. Nobody is treated any differently at the camp. Everyone is treated as a fighter, there to train.” On returning to Malta Marta felt like she needed to keep this new training up so began sparring with Haithem Laamouz – currently ranked 4th in the UK in the 60kg category. Today, though she is fit enough to fight, she keeps up her training though stays out of the ring competitively. “I’ve been asked why I don’t fight professionally but I’m not really interested. I do this for fun, to keep fit and as a release from the stresses of everyday life. I like my nose the way it is and don’t intend on breaking it. Sparring is good fun but you have to keep focused because if you make a mistake you do get hit. “My first black eye was quite funny. I made a mistake and got hit in the face. I didn’t think much of it until later on when I was shopping in my high heels in Sliema for a dress for a party I was going that night. I kept getting funny looks from other shoppers but only realised why when I tried on a dress and looked in the mirror. It was strange to see the pretty dress with the black eye.

INTERVIEW They seem to be from two different worlds.” Though accidents do happen, Marta says even though boxing is a fighting sport, it is never aggressive and her training sessions are all about fun and laughing and though they train hard they do spend a lot of time joking around and laughing at each other. “I’ve been to many gyms in my lifetime but none like Lord’s gym. It’s a boutique kind of gym with just three trainers, who are all intensely passionate about what they do and are always there to greet you with a smile. Nobody in that gym ever seems to be having a bad day and everyone is always happy to help you through your problems and achieve your goals.” One such occasion for Marta happened when she tore her cruciate ligament while at yet another training camp in Thailand. “The more I train the harder I want to push myself and in my last Muay Thai training camp I went a little bit too far with one of the kicks and strained my knee. It would have been ok had it not been for a tsumani warning that was called just

after the class. We were given three minutes to pack our valuables after which we had to run for the hills. The adrenaline that comes with fearing for your life kept the pain at bay

To make it through three rounds of just two minutes each in the ring you need to be at a level of fitness far surpassing that required for most other sport

but when it was clear that the tsumani wasn’t coming and we were allowed back to camp I was woken up in the middle of the night in excruciating pain.” When Marta heard that ACL surgery would put her on crutches and out of

Health & Fitness Today • January 2013 - 5

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60 seconds with Marta Starzyk Date of birth: 4 February 1983 Born in: Poland Moved to Malta: 2004 Job: Owner of a Polish travel guide website www. Loves: Travel, sports and extreme adventure

workout keeps my mind and body in balance. A firm believer in never Favourite music: Very much giving up Marta sat down depends on my mood. There with her physio and trainer is the perfect song for every to work out some form moment of training that she could keep doing straight after Favourite film: Beyond surgery. As the knee only Borders, starring Angelina affects the lower body, Jolie and Clive Owen they came up with a training programme that Favourite book: The she could do while sitting Alchemist by Paulo Coelho down. “It looks absolutely ridiculous – like I’m training action for six months she was to battle a three-year-old, but I devastated. “Training keeps am determined to keep up my me in control, I am an adrenatraining so that once I can start line junkie and intensive properly again I won’t be start-

ing from scratch. “There is no such thing as ‘can’t do it’. You can adjust your training but you never need to stop.” Three months after the surgery Marta is already cage diving with white sharks in South Africa, paragliding and slowly preparing for half marathon in Malta. “My life is very hectic. I travel a lot for work and pleasure, I love adventure sports and meeting up with friends. For me training is the one constant thing in my life – my time, my gym, my passion. When I travel, the only thing I miss leaving behind is the training

and my friends. “My advice to anyone wanting to take up the sport is do it, don’t look for excuses. You will always find plenty! Completing a training session leaves you feeling invigourated and though it is hard work and there are times when you feel like giving up, when you push through and get past your hurdles you can look back and feel like you are capable of getting past anything.”

For more information about the sport of boxing contact Lord’s gym on 99473065

Health & Fitness Today • January 2013 - 7

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sexual health

Come on baby, light my fire Men think about sex every seven seconds – an urban legend that conjures up images of gladiator-type men seeking out this most basic need at every moment in their day. This myth, however, can also lead to insecurities in a relationship when sexual desire begins to wan “We live for lust, love and beauty… pleasure was then our only duty” says the honest courtesan at the beginning of the film Dangerous Beauty – a biographical film about a courtesan who lived and worked in Venice. Her job was to tempt men to want her and pay to spend time with her. As any other sex worker, it is in the courtesan’s interest to keep her clients lusting over her. When talking about desire I am very interested in what courtesans and sex workers have to say as they sell sexual desire. Their clients need to desire them so much as to part from their hard-earned cash in order to spend some time in their company. Sex workers play with the

Matthew Bartolo Matthew is a Counsellor by profession. He is currently specialising in Sex and Relationship Psychotherapy at the Porterbrook sex clinic in Sheffield. Matthew works in private practice both in the UK and Malta. He organises weekends and seminars for couples, of all sexual orientations, and ages, who want to rekindle their intimacy.

What is sexual desire? psychological aspect of desire. Properly defining sexual They flirt with their clients and desire is difficult keep it exciting. as it can be Professional sex conceptualised workers tend to Physical in many different move around as intimacy is one ways. The Psythey know that aspect of a chiatric Associadesire is also fuelled by novelty so relationship and is tion’s Diagnostic and Statistical staying in the same affected by other Manual define area might exhaust sexual desire their clientele base. intimacy. Couples who have a strong as a motivaIn some ways sex workers have relationship should tional state causes an won half the battle not suffer from lack that individual to as the clients who of desire seek out sexual went to them are activity, though there because they this may vary feel like having from one individual to another. sex. On the other hand they Sexual desire can be triggered have to sell their services over by external and internal cues that of their direct competitors and may or may not result in and sometimes guilt and longsexual behaviour. term partners. Health & Fitness Today • January 2013 - 9

sexual health

How often to men and women think about sex

Some philosophers go as far can come at any time and as saying that sexual desire causes different responses in is the fundamental motivation different couples. of all human action. Women Robert* and Frederick have choose their clothing in order been together for about 5 to be desired by years. At the potential partners. beginning of High heels are their relationship known to make they used to be Research legs seem longer intimate almost and buttocks to shows that a lack every time they clench making were together. of sexual desire them more desirAfter three years in a relationship Frederick has able as they reis the cause of enact the physical noticed that he movements that a is always the insecurity and female body goes one to initiate tension between through during intimacy as time sexual intercourse. the couple goes by Robert’s Men buy expeninterest seems to sive objects to decrease. subconsciously There are prove their financial stability various reasons for Robto provide for a woman and ert’s decrease in desire but her offspring, hence attracting Frederick is quick to assume possible sexual mates. Others that his partner does not find just choose to shrug these him attractive anymore. This arguments off and talk about feeling tends to amplify all only desiring their partner in a insecurities that Frederick has sexual manner. Whatever the about himself. There are times case, research shows that when he does not feel loved desire is normal and healthy. or attractive anymore. The fact that Robert seems to turn When the flame begins to down his advances makes die out Frederick feel rejected and Research shows that a lack unwanted. This leads to Fredof sexual desire in a relationerick assuming that Robert, ship is the cause of insecuwho used to have a very high rity and tension between the sexual desire at the beginning couple. Lack of sexual desire of the relationship, is seeing

10 - Health & Fitness Today • January 2013

4 How often to men and women think about sex 4 Although the urban legend says a man thinks about sex once every seven seconds, scientific research says that the actual figure is much lower. Research published in an article in Journal of Sex Research last year, tallied the frequency of thoughts pertaining to sex, food and sleep in 283 college students. 4 The average man thinks about sex approximately 19 times a day 4 The average woman thinks about sex 10 times a day 4 Variation in both groups was large though larger in men than women. The men’s data ranged from 1 to 388 in one given day while the women’s data varied from 1 to 140 times per day 4 Men recorded more need based thoughts – about sex, food and sleep – than women 4 Participants with high erotophilia (comfort with sexuality) scores also scored higher in frequency of sexual thoughts, with no difference recorded in the two genders

find a different kind of antidepressant that might affect her sexual drive less. Spending time together talking about their situation with a professional can help the couple understand that they’re in this together and eventually get back to being as close to each other as they were prior to Jessica’s mum passing away. Guzeppi and Gianna haven’t had sex since they went to the old people’s home three years ago. Guzeppi complains that he can’t understand how Gianna, who always had a great sexual drive, has suddenly managed to go without just because they have moved to an old people’s home. After a lot of arguing and discussing Gianna admits that she always believed that people their age should not be having these “dirty moments”. As they are now living with other people they lack their privacy and she feels ashamed and embarrassed to be intimate in a home full of other people. Truth is that older people still have sex and once Gianna learns that people her age still enjoy each other’s company and that they are allowed to lock their room at night they might resume to their normal sexual intimacy. Physical intimacy is one aspect of a relationship and is affected by other intimacy. Couples who have a strong relationship and can bare all with each other should not suffer from lack of desire. Sexual desire can be strengthened by working on the relationship and intimacy. Couples are encouraged to spend time together talking and getting to know each other. Running errands together does not count as spending time together. By spending time together I mean talking to each other about the relationship and oneself. It’s about appreciating the person one loves the most. It’s about appreciating time with the person that one has chosen to spend so much time with. This time together can also help with trust issues and insecurities that do not help sexual desire. *Characters are fictitious, though these scenarios are commonplace For more information contact Matthew Bartolo on

Top 10 sex drive killers A low sex drive can be the result of a number of causes. Before you blame your lack of sex life on a bad relationship make sure none of the usual culprits are to the cause. Stress Though many people perform well under pressure, this is not the case in the bedroom. Stress at work, a sick family member or simply a hectic lifestyle with poor eating habits will affect libido. Learn to manage stress appropriately if stress is wreaking havoc on your sex life. Lack of sleep Not enough sleep causes fatigue and saps the libido. Whether its sleep apnea, insomnia or a hectic lifestyle that isn’t allowing you to catch enough Zs, address the problem and you’ll be rearing to go once again. Alcohol Though alcohol is perceived as an aphrodisiac, breaking down barriers and reducing inhibitions, in the long-term it numbs libido. Getting drunk may also put your partner off and the resulting intercourse is often lousy. The same goes for other recreational drugs. Body image Low self-esteem may make you feel like you are not sexy enough for your partner. Men may feel like their penis is too small, while women may be self-conscious of their breast size making them feel inadequate in the bedroom. Talking to a therapist may help improve body image and enhance libido. Obesity Obesity can lead to loss of libido mainly due to the social stigmas with being fat causing low self-esteem, though being overweight may also make the mechanics of sex difficult. Lose weight for a better sex life. Depression Depression kills the sex drive but then so do antidepressants. If lack of sex is the result of depression, this needs to be treated first and the low libido tackled once depression is controlled. Medication Loss of libido is a side-effect of many medications prescribed by doctors including anti-depressants, antihistamines, blood pressure drugs, oral contraceptives, anti-HIV drugs, synthetic progesteronemedroxyprogesterone and chemotherapy. Talk to your doctor before stopping any medication. Low testosterone Testosterone determines the level of sex drive and if this hormone dips too low then libido is likely to suffer. Testosterone therapy can be used to boost the sex drive.

Health & Fitness Today • January 2013 - 11

sexual health

someone else. His argument is “if he used to want it four times a week before and now only has sex with me once a fortnight he must be getting it from somewhere else.” Frederick needs to understand that there are many reasons for Robert’s lack of desire. Robert has been promoted to manager two years ago and this is causing him to feel anxious or stressed. He is working longer hours and is feeling a lot of fatigue. Stress, anxiety and fatigue are known killers of sexual desire. Robert has stopped his membership at the gym cause of the long hours at the work. As a result of this he has put on weight. Robert feels less attractive and hence is less willing to be intimate physically with his partner. In therapy Robert and Frederick need to talk about their insecurities and a way forward to get their physical intimacy back on track. Robert can be more assertive at work and together they can agree on the amount of hours that he should be at work. Sometimes it’s about saying no to new projects and understanding the importance of taking care of oneself and one’s relationship. Jessica’s partner, Alfred feels that they are not sexually compatible anymore. He always had a higher sex drive than his partner but Alfred has realised that since Jessica’s mum passed away last year they have never been intimate. Alfred wants to show Jessica how close he is to her by being intimate with her but he’s being faced with a brick wall every time he tries to even kiss her. Jessica’s mother passing away has caused her to become so sad that she was prescribed anti-depressants. Both the sadness and anti-depressants affect sexual drive. Jessica comfort eats and has put on so much weight in the last year that she has become obese, another factor that effects sexual libido. Dealing with bereavement together might help Jessica feel more supported in this very difficult time. This might help her understand that Alfred’s way of showing her his love and support includes physical intimacy. It is also suggested that Jessica talks to her doctor to try and

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Growing up has never been more of a challenge. Adolescence is a turbulent phase when a child becomes a pseudo adult continuously trying to adjust to a new identity and role. Today’s adolescents are struggling to deal with various levels of stress created from external and internal factors


or the busy lifestyle many who, everyone is despite leading, there faltering, is less and less risking and making time for intimate mistakes still learn direct contact through experiand communience to become cation between resilient adults all family members. is well and good. So often loving Yet, there are many caring parents Mariella Dimech who do not mancome to my age to rise above clinic shocked, Mariella is a pychotherapist specialising the challenges this dismayed and in addictive personalities. transitional phase worried because Besides working creates. There are they realise that privately with persons having problems such as many who suffer their child has depression, anxiety and silently and who been experiother emotional issues, she also conducts training feel that they alone encing serious within the organisational are feeling insecure, emotional and field focusing on incapable, unatwell-being and motivation mental probtractive, depressed lems. or lost. They may One of the not feel like this throughout main external factors exerttheir teenage years, but when ing pressure on adolescents a young person begins to sufis today’s media. The media ostracised could occur from fer consistently and does not and internet have a major role one day to the next without manage to get out of a negain exerting pressure on both even having to meet and tive situation serious problems sexes in the way they define interact with anyone directly. may develop. beauty and attractiveness. Young people want to feel This may sound negative; I The media sets the boundaraccepted by their peers, they may be presenting a dark picies and the norms for what is need to feel understood, seen ture of what such an exciting expected from adolescents. and heard. time in a young person’s life For example irrelevant of the All adolescents want to fit in could be offering. It may also efforts to state otherwise, and be a part of a group. ‘Fitsound daunting rather than being thin is still ting in’ might mean challenging, but in reality it depicted as a sign a number of things, The may at times actually feel this of beauty. from simply being younger a way. It is not only adolescents Adolescents, trendy, to smoking, who are at a loss during this especially females, person learns letting go of their time as the parents will usually often compare goals, drinking, how to be go the same traumatic times. themselves to taking drugs, being resilient the Parents are often concerned unrealistically thin active, more successful sexually if they are doing too much or models and goodeating disorders or and content the even being part of too little, they usually sense looking, perfectly person will be that something is not quite dressed famous a group of persons right, yet any endeavour to people. Some throughout who self harm. question or monitor their may then go on But not only does their life child’s life is often dealt with comparing theman adolescent have anger, disdain or frustration. selves negatively to deal with changToday’s lifestyle does not with their friends es in their physical help family members comaffecting their self-esteem and looks, hormone changes and municate effectively either. sense of self worth. a new and challenging social Due to the long hours spent Cyber bullying has now life, he or she also has to in front of computers, iPads become a common problem, deal with gruelling demands and TV as well as the very and feeling a part of or being in their academic life. This

is the time where important decisions are made and their future is often dependent on their achievements at school. Part of adolescents’ struggle to achieve independence is often based on their success at school and their capability measured on their academic performance. Parents often give a lot of weight to school results and acknowledge their child’s developmental progress based on their achievements. Adolescents however, consider themselves to be successful based on other factors as well. Being accepted by their peers, feeling good about themselves physically and having the right social skills to enter the adult world are more foreground to the young person in this transitional phase of their life. The healthy approach to adolescence is to promote resilience. Rather than just trying so hard to keep up with their peers, adolescents

Health & Fitness Today • January 2013 - 13

mental health

Overcoming growing pains

mental health need to have the resilience not feel included in his or to keep up with their dreams her social network, then this and challenges they face as needs to be addressed, help they are growing up. If an and support is necessary as adolescent is engaged in it may interfere in the process their academic of building up work and feels confidence. connected with Some young Conflicts could people connect the school they attend this will be an opportunity naturally with othcreate a support ers, whilst some for a young system helping find it harder, this person to learn to overcome life does not mean obstacles. how to voice their that with the Having the support the opinion and listen right confidence to skill cannot be to others too. choose friends learnt. A resilient who help each adolescent is not other through someone who is life events rather not affected by than having friends who are the obstacles in his or her life. not caring and supportive is Rather a resilient adolescent the difference between feeling is a person who acknowledgalone or connected with othes the difficulties and learns ers. When an adolescent does to cope with them.

BUILD YOUR RESILIENCE • Connect with others, surround your self with people who you can trust and who care about you. • Support needs to come from a caring and supportive family, supportive does not mean that they will agree with everything you have to say. • Encourage yourself to try, take healthy risks and learn from the challenges you face every day. • Recognise your potential by learning from your mistakes and by keeping in mind all the times you have succeeded. • Set realistic goals and be patient as you try and achieve them. • Recognise what you are feeling, some emotions may be very strong and most of the time they will be expressed as anger. • Think positive, have a sense of humour and help others do the same. • Be able to communicate with others, be able to share what you feel, ask for help and help others too. • Love yourself, look after yourself and love life with all its challenges, the harder the struggle the sweeter the taste of success.

People are not just born resilient and the younger a person learns how to be resilient the more successful and content the person will be throughout their life. In order to be resilient young people need to feel safe; they need to feel that they have a sense of belonging. This is created when there is ‘quality’ contact with people at home, close friends and healthy relationships at school. Even in this modern fast world it is imperative that family life is given importance. Do something together once a week, a ritual, maybe Sunday lunch, or Sunday movie night together. Allow some time at home where family members can just relax together. Adolescents need to build their self-esteem in such a crucial stage of their lives; therefore they need to surround themselves with positive attitudes and feedback. This does not mean that conflict is negative; on the contrary having conflicts could be an opportunity for a young person to learn how to voice their opinion and listen to others too. If young people feel safe, accepted, even confronted at home then the social scene they are adjusting to at this time of their lives may be more bearable and possible to adjust to. In order for a teenager to cope with stress it is important that there is a strong emotional bond with their mother, father or significant family member. Another important factor is that a teenager has goals and

believes that he or she can achieve them. Self-esteem plays an important part in adapting to the changing social scene adolescence offers, so believing in what they want to achieve and believing that they can achieve it is paramount to being resilient. In the past 25 years I have come across so many young people who have had to struggle in their lives to find their potential and start believing in themselves again. I have spoken with many adolescents who have communicated the opposite of what they are actually feeling. Instead of fear they have expressed anger, instead of trying to reach their goals they have rebelled and given up, instead of asking for help they have closed up and hidden behind an image of someone they themselves don’t even understand. As soon as they do not feel judged and begin to feel safe the wall starts to break down allowing the person to connect and understand. The most effective and touching moment in therapy is always when they actually believe and begin to recognise their own core values and potential. The moment a young person starts to believe that their potential is there is the moment when they know that they can face their challenges and grow.

For more information contact Mariella on

Health & Fitness Today • January 2013 - 15


Juvenile back pain – l There is growing concern that today’s back pack users are going to be suffering from alarming rates of neck and back pain in their thirties and forties


umerous studies have proven that most kids are carrying more than they should be, that heavy back packs are changing children’s postures and are affecting the low back and the intervertebral discs. A study published in Archives of Disease in Childhood, conducted in Spain, reported that out of a sample of 1,403 schoolchildren between the age of 12 and 17, 25% suffered from back pain that lasted for more than 15 days. Similar rates of back pain have been reported throughout Europe. Over half the children in the study carried school bags that were above the recommended weight of 10 – 15% of their body weight. The heaviest school bag carriers were found to be at 50% higher risk of developing back pain than those carrying the lightest school bags. Changing the normal posture of the spine has detrimental effects on spine health such as fatigue, muscle spasm and pain. A study looked at the time taken for fatigue to set in when children walk round a track with various loads. Fatigue rose disproportionately when the load was increased by as little as 10%. The ideal posture constitutes a series of curves that balance out each other. These curves allow for the least possible stress and strain on all the structures such as ligaments, discs, muscles. The heavier the bag, the more the child has to compensate by leaning forward, this will make the child look down. In order to see where he is going, the child will look up, hyper extending the neck creating two major changes in his posture, firstly a humped thoracic or upper back and secondly an increased neck curve which will compress the discs and nerves of the cervical spine. Two scenarios that should be avoided.

What can be done?

A joint effort by various stake holders is necessary in order to contain this problem, these

Mireille Vincenti Mireille qualified in 1993 from the Department of Health, Malta and then specialised in Sports Medicine for Physiotherapists where she obtained a postgraduate diploma from the University of London. She is currently reading for a Masters in Advancing Physiotherapy in Manual Therapy from Sheffield Hallam University. She is a member of the Malta Association of Physiotherapists

include, parents, children, back pack designers and schools.

By parents

Parents should influence the child’s choice when buying a back pack. Choosing a back pack may be a daunting task, with so many different styles and brands and fashion trends, it is easy to stray and buy a pack that may look nice but may be ill-fitting and not right for the child. Parents should, prior to getting to the shops, discuss with the child what the back pack must have so that it is easy to eliminate those bags that do not fit the criteria.

16 - Health & Fitness Today • January 2013

A back pack must be lightweight with wide and padded shoulder straps. Narrow straps will dig into the shoulders and compress delicate nerves running down into the arms. A waist belt is also a feature that is important, this helps distribute the weight more evenly across the body.

By children

Children, as the users of the backpack need to use the back pack correctly in order to avoid potential and unnecessary strains to the neck and back. Many studies recommend that children should not carry backpacks that are heavier than 10 to 15% of their body weight. Bathroom scales are a good tool to use for this. The most important strategy that the child must follow is to lighten the load. Unnecessary items should be left behind, and diligently following the timetable for the next day will save on some books. Heavier

By the school

How does it get so heavy? Specialist recommend kids carry bags no more than 10 to 15% of their body weight yet research shows that kids are carrying an average of double the recommended weight. How do their bags get so heavy? All items vary in weight tremendously – however it is easy to see how school bags get so heavy when the average weight of just some items kids take to school is added up. Textbooks – 3kgs Pencil case – 500g Diary planner – 400g Laptop – 2.5kgs PE kit – 1 kg Trainers – 1kg Water bottle – 1kg Lunchbox – 1kg Mobile phone – 200g Wallet and keys – 200g TOTAL 11kg

books should be packed at the back so that they will be closer to the child and will feel lighter. Besides packing the case responsibly, the way the child picks up the backpack and wears it is also very important. Both shoulder straps should be worn, bags that are slung over the shoulder or across the chest – or that only


– life’s curve ball

have one strap – aren’t as effective at distributing the weight as bags with two wide shoulder straps, and therefore may strain muscles. Straps should be tight enough for the backpack to fit closely to the body. The pack should rest evenly in the middle of the back and not sag down to the buttocks.

The school should play an integral role in this. Educating the children by showing them educational videos or asking the appropriate professionals to come and give a talk on posture will help. The provision of lockers to all students must be available and allowing for adequate time to get to lockers between lessons and at the end and beginning of the day is necessary. One other simple solution is to encourage schools to provide class sets of text books, so that personal heavy books can be left at home. Another solution may involve using an iPad with the downloaded material of the day. Besides all of the above, counteracting the long hours of sitting at school by engaging in physical activity and sports is a must. Reducing computer and television time must also be advocated. Many kids are carrying 30% of their bodyweight to school every day – the equivalent of an average adult carrying around 20kg. Backpacks today are twice the size of one’s carried a decade ago. For more information contact Mireille at

Health & Fitness Today • January 2013 - 17

Distributed by Vivian Corporation • T: 21320 338 • E: • W:

A baby’s cry is distressing both for the infant and the parents (and anyone else trying to get some sleep in the house). A mother’s natural response to her infant’s cry is to get up and comfort the baby, however theories support leaving the child cry in order for the child to learn to self-sooth. Though these techniques may lead to a baby that sleeps well, the baby will become less likely to form secure attachments as a result of a lack of trust that parents are always there


ontrolled crying – for many parents, these two words will conjure up a variety of thoughts and emotions. As with other parentingrelated issues, the topic can be a minefield from the definition through to the practice and every conversation in between. There are so many articles and blogs devoted to the efficacy and/or cruelty of the practice, it’s clear this issue can be divisive. When my children were babies I hated the idea of letting them cry, for any length of time, for any reason. With my first child, there was a point at which I attempted to wrap, pat, leave the room, wait it out, then go back in and start the whole process again. But for me it didn’t work. My heart was not in it, and if anything the attempt to “train” her only made her more distressed. So I went back to my original plan of settling Eva by rocking, patting, feeding and cuddling. I believe that going with my gut instinct helped me be a more relaxed mother and helped nourish the bond between me and my baby. Modern-day sleep “gurus” such as Gina Ford advocate variations on a routine-based technique that includes the use of controlled crying to help the baby “settle”. This popular author has no formal qualifications or scientific research to back up her claims; instead she relies on her years of experience and a “commonsense” approach that delivers the results many parents want. American paediatrician Dr Richard Ferber also popu-

Sylvana Brannon Sylvana is a single mother of four children, and the managing director of Smart Cells Malta which stores placental stem cells. After the birth of her first child, she set up a non-profit organisation, mamaKNOWS, where she acts as childbirth educator and offers parenting support to new mums.

larised a similar technique in the 1980s. Despite the popularity of controlled crying, it is not an evidence-based practice. Professor James McKenna, director of the Mother–Baby Behavioural Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, and acclaimed SIDS expert, describes controlled crying as “social ideology masquerading as science”. What this means is that despite a plethora of opinions on how long you should leave your baby to cry in order to train her to sleep, nobody has studied exactly how long it is safe to leave a baby to cry, if at all. Opponents of controlled crying have concerns about the impact of the

practice on a child’s emotional security and brain development. The Australian Association for Infant Mental Health (AAIMHI) states that, “the widely practiced technique of controlled crying is not consistent with what infants need for their optimal emotional and psychological health, and may have unintended negative consequences.” According to AAIMHI, “There have been no studies, such as sleep laboratory studies, to our knowledge, that assess the physiological stress levels of infants who undergo controlled crying, or its emotional or psychological impact on the developing child.” They go on to say that, “infants are more likely to form secure attachments when their distress is responded to promptly, consistently and appropriately.” Controlled crying and other similar regimes may indeed work to produce a selfsoothing, solitary sleeping infant. However, the trade-off could be an anxious, clingy or hyper-vigilant child or even worse, a child whose trust is broken. Unfortunately, we can’t measure attributes such as trust and empathy, which are the basic skills for forming all relationships. One of the saddest emails I have received was from a mother who did controlled crying with her oneyear-old toddler. “After a week of controlled crying he slept, but he stopped talking (he was saying single words). For the past year, he has refused all physical contact from me. If he hurts himself, he goes

Health & Fitness Today • January 2013 - 19

child care

Controlled crying – does it really result in self-soothing babies?



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child care to his older brother (still in is for babies to stop crying, kindergarten) for comfort. I feel controlled crying does work. devastated that I “Absolutely, have betrayed my babies will stop The more you child.” crying,” he respond to a crying says. However Neurobiologist Dr Bruce Perry baby when they’re he also says says that, “touch that the more young, the less and comfort is as you respond to they’ll cry when essential a nutria crying baby ent for infant brain they get older, the when they’re development and young, the less less demanding healthy growth as they’ll cry when mother’s milk.” He they will be, the they get older, acknowledges that more curious and the less deparents who prac- the more open to manding they tice controlled crywill be, the more exploring new ing are attempting curious and the situations to help a child more open to build self-reguexploring new lation skills but situations. argues that, “this technique Paediatrician Dr William is not going to lead to the Sears also argues that by traindesired result.” Perry agrees ing a baby to sleep without that if the desired outcome crying, you are producing a

What is controlled crying? The Australian Association for Infant Mental Health (AAIMHI) describes controlled crying as a technique that involves leaving the infant or child to cry for increasingly longer periods of time before providing comfort. The intention of controlled crying is to let babies put themselves to sleep and to stop them from crying or calling out during the night.

learned helplessness, the baby has given up on crying out for help. Sears, together with other popular childcare authors such as Elizabeth Pantley, have written books about how to help your child sleep without the use of controlled crying. It is the very principle that makes controlled crying work that is of greatest concern: when controlled crying succeeds in teaching a baby to fall asleep alone, it is due to a process that neurobiologists call the defeat response. Normally, when humans feel threatened, our bodies flood with stress hormones and we go into “fight or flight”. However, babies can’t fight and they can’t flee, so they communicate their distress by crying. When infant cries are ignored, this trauma elicits a freeze or defeat response. Babies eventually abandon their crying as the nervous system shuts down the emotional pain and the striving to reach out. One explanation for the success of crying it out is that when an infant’s defeat response is triggered often enough, the child will become habituated to this. That is, each time the child is left to

cry, he switches more quickly to this response. This is why babies may cry for say, an hour the first night, twenty minutes the following night and fall asleep almost immediately on the third night (if you are lucky). They are switching off (and sleeping) more quickly, not learning a legitimate skill. Personally I have found the cries of my babies (and children, as they have grown older) to be like the mythical sirens’ call – I am unable to resist responding as quickly as I can, particularly when it comes to helping them sleep well. I have found that hopping into bed with them when they wake is the best way to maximise their levels of security – and my time asleep. I have always reasoned that we help our children do most things during the day – you would not expect a two-year-old to make themselves a meal, for instance, without asking for help or expecting a level of supervision – so why do we demand more of them at night? And to me, it’s such a short time in our lives – they’ll be grown and independent before we know it – I want it to be as harmonious a time as possible.

Health & Fitness Today • January 2013 - 21

foot care

Treat your feet right and they will carry you into far places! Why put up with pain and discomfort when the simplest solutions are the most effective! It often happens that one resigns himself to pain and discomfort especially when it is associated with feet thinking that there is no solution. It is a pity that not many are acquainted with the great benefits of a good pair of custom made orthotics. Determining the cause of the pain and discomfort is very important to be able to eliminate the problem permanently as very often we tend to treat the symptom and not the cause. A pair of good insoles re-aligns your natural foot posture, distributes and reduces foot pressures more evenly from sore spots such as corns and bunions, give more stability and support to the foot and ankle

bones thus alleviating problems in other parts of the body. Knee pain, lower back pain, flat feet, bunion, arch pain, ankle sprains, metatarsalgia, shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis and many more problems can be solved by a pair of custom made insoles. After consulting with a fully qualified podiatrist and foot scan, a pair of tailor made insoles can be made to put your body in its natural alignment. Shock absorbency padding can also be added to the insoles, increasing comfort and protection. The material and type of the insole will be chosen after taking into consideration the foot problem, body weight and lifestyle.

There are also special orthotic insoles for different sports such as tennis, football, basketball, running and rugby. Sports people have noticed a considerable improvement in their performance after using these special insoles. Also some are specially designed for conditions such as diabetes and rheumatism. Insoles are like an alternative medicine, since they can relieve pain and discomfort. It is very important to have a regular check up at your podiatrist as many problems can be prevented. Children in particular should have a regular check up especially during their development stages when it is very important to monitor their development

progress, preventing conditions such as misalignments. These orthotic insoles can be easily adjusted and fitted in different types of shoes and sandals. They can also be easily altered to correct and/or improve shoe fit. They can be cleaned easily by using a damp cloth and soap. Amrita Footcare & Wellness Centre specialises in foot care and orthotics and also offer beauty and wellness services. Amrita Footcare & Wellness Centre, ‘Charles Court’, Flat 10, Level 2, St. Luke’s Road G’Mangia Tel: 21223665/79430094 e-mail: web site:

Shoes are made for walking but painful feet surely are not! Knee pain, lower-back pain, flat feet, bunion, arch pain, ankle sprains, metatarsalgia, shin pain, Achilles tendonitis and many more problems can be solved by a simple insole! There are also special orthotic insoles for different sports such as football, basketball, tennis, running and rugby. Insoles are like an alternative medicine, since they can relieve pain and discomfort for correcting posture and distributing pressure points in the feet. Take care of your feet! As they can take you far places into the far future if treated right!


Contact Amrita Footcare and Wellness Centre! Podiatrist and Orthotic Technician in attendance.

Amrita Footcare and Wellness Centre “Charles court”, Flt. 10, Level 2, St. Luke’s Road, G’Mangia Tel: 21223665 e-mail: website: 22 - Health & Fitness Today • November 2012


Kale – the new beef


ale, dubbed “the new beef”, has been deemed a new superfood with magic powers that help fight a myriad of diseases whilst also being very low in calories – perfect for the post Christmas detox. Though greens in general are nutritious foods, kale stands a head above the rest. Not only is it one of your best sources of beta-carotene, one of the antioxidants believed by many nutrition experts to be a major player in the battle against cancer, heart disease, and certain age-related chronic diseases, it also provides other important nutrients. In addition to beta-carotene, kale posses other important

carotenoids: lutein and zeaxathin. These carotenoids help keep UV rays from damaging the eyes and causing cataracts. According to recent research results, kale is an incredible source of well-absorbed calcium, which is one of the many factors that may help prevent osteoporosis. It also provides decent amounts of vitamin C, folic acid, vitamin B6, magnase and potassium. The manganese in kale helps your body’s own antioxidant defense system, superoxide dismutase, protecting you from damaging free radicals. Its folate and B6 team up to keep homocysteine levels down, which may help prevent heart disease, dementia, and osteoporosis bone fractures. Get enough of these nutritional greens in easy smoothies by simply blending a handful of kale with an apple, a banana and a cup of water, or check out this recipe for a warming, nutritious kale and white bean soup.

Kale and cannellini bean soup Ingredients • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

2 cups white beans (such as cannellini beans) ¼ tsp baking soda 1 tbsp olive oil 100g bacon, chopped 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped 2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped 3 ribs celery, finely chopped 8 cups chicken stock 2 bay leaves 1 stem rosemary Rind of a hunk of Parmesan cheese (optional) ½ tsp paprika 1 bunch kale, trimmed of tough stems and sliced thin Extra virgin olive oil (to serve)

Method 1. Toss the beans in a large mixing bowl, cover with hot water by 2 inches and stir in baking soda. 2. Soak for 18 to 24 hours, changing the water once or twice. Drain and rinse well. 3. Transfer the soaked beans into a large stock pot, cover with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. 4. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until beans are tender - about 1½ hours. Drain. 5. Heat the oil in a pan. Stir in bacon and cook until crispy. 6. Stir in onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Stir frequently, and fry until fragrant - about 10 minutes. 7. Pour in chicken stock, add rosemary, bay and the rind of a piece of parmesan cheese. 8. Simmer over medium heat, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes. 9. Remove from heat, stir in paprika and kale. 10. Cover and allow the kale to wilt in the residual heat of the soup for about 5 minutes. 11. Salt as needed and serve with extra virgin olive oil.

Health & Fitness Today • January 2013 - 23

Has your Christmas holiday been one big diet trap? For many of us, all our good intentions to lose weight and eat healthily go out the window on a special occasion, with many of us also vowing to get back on track as soon as we go back to work / get the kids to school / win the lottery… But are you finding it a bit harder than you thought to bounce back into your healthy eating habits?


ummer has come to an end and with it, children are hitting the books once again as the new school year commences and parents and adults return to their daily activities. The struggle to get back into regular routine comes along with the struggle to get back into the same shape you were at the beginning of summer – before the eating out too often, too much wine and way too many icecreams along with less time and motivation for exercise. However as the weather turns colder – if it ever does – we take comfort in bulkier clothes and layers, which is can turn into the only excuse we need to put a healthy lifestyle on the back burner.

Need a kick to get back on track?

Follow a few simple steps to make sure that you get back on the right track and get back into your healthy routine.

Grocery shopping

Avoiding sugary treats is hard enough when you are shopping,

easier to keep the sugary junk foods out of your diet during the week because you simply don’t have them.

Size does matter

Daniel Petre Daniel is a nutritionist registered with the Council for the Professions Complimentary to Medicine. He runs his own clinic, Karma Clinic and has collaborated with the Fortina Spa Resort for the last 10 years. Daniel was the first to introduce body stat and metabolic testing to Malta, as well as food intolerance testing. He is also qualified in Life Coaching

but if you succumb to buying them, the likelihood is that you will have to deal with the temptation of eating them for the rest of the week. If you can avoid those tantalising treats that occupy the middle isles on a weekly basis and fill your trolley with healthy snacks you’ll find it

It’s hard to shed pounds when you’re packing your plate full of food. Try and pick a medium sized plate and fill it as much as you can. Eating off a full plate it gives the perception you are actually eating a lot and will help you feel more satisfied, as opposed to putting the same amount of food on a larger plate.

Focus on foods that satisfy

Certain foods can help you feel fuller for longer, so make sure you include them in your diet: hard-boiled eggs, oat bran, curd and cottage cheese, prawns, crab sticks, tuna, sardines, vegetable soups will make you feel satisfied for a lot longer.

Spice it up

When it comes to condiments, just about anything goes except for sweet mustard and ketchup. Herbs, all kinds of spices, Dijon mustard, cider vinegar, savoury soy sauce, pickles, garlic, onion - there are hundreds of ways to create dressings and sauces for your meals that are as healthy as they are tasty.

Avoid soft drinks at all costs

Any soft drink goes straight to your belly. A great tip is to avoid all soft drinks - even diet ones. And the one that doesn’t contain sugar actually increases your cravings for sugary treats making it hard to resist.

Health & Fitness Today • January 2013 - 25


Bounce back from a Christmas binge

NUTRITION Train with a professional

How motivated are you? If the answer is I’ll do whatever takes then crack open that piggy bank and invest in a personal trainer. Even if it’s only for a few sessions to get you rolling. It’s their job to get you into shape.

Keep yourself waterlogged

An excellent way to keep your portions in control is to drink a big glass of water 20 mins before your big meal. It actually helps take your hunger away. Don’t forget – you should drink 30ml of still water for every kilo you weigh. For example if you weigh if you weigh 60kg you should be drinking at least 1.8 litres of water a day.

Walking breaks

Why not take two 15 mins

walking breaks a day. Start with one and gradually get yourself up to two. That’s an additional 30 mins of brisk calorie burning walking you will be doing a day. These fitness tips require very little change in your daily regime.

Be optimistic

Right now it looks like losing weight will be up-hill work. But remember how much easier it was to diet when you had the incentive of the holidays ahead of you? If you managed it then, you can do it again now.


Nothing works helps you reach a goal more than the idea of something to work towards, and while a sexy summer body seems a long way off you could have smaller achievable goals

that will keep you motivated through the winter. Pick certain milestones and reward yourself when you reach them

– whether its clothing, jewellery, or holidays you pick your rewards and work towards them on a daily basis.

For more information contact Daniel at Karma Clinic, Church Hill Court,Vjal Ir-Rihan. San Gwann. Tel: 9944 0384 • •

Health & Fitness Today • January 2013 - 27


Want to lose weight? Do not go on a diet Perhaps the most common and very cliched new year’s resolution is to go on a diet and lose weight, but going on a ‘”diet” is not the way to lose weight


he word diet in itself has a very negative connotation and gets most people thinking negatively right off the bat. The truth is that a diet shouldn’t be something that you go on for a couple of weeks. A diet is something that you should adopt to your lifestyle. Your diet should not be a plan of 6 to 12 weeks, telling you to avoid this and that and making you feel hungry and moody. A proper diet should be one that includes a wide range of foods which provide your body with the fuel and nutrients it needs to keep you feeling healthy and happy. There are tons of fad diets out there, but the reality of most diets is a harsh one. Whilst you might think that Atkins or WeightWatchers may be the answer to the new you in 2013, don’t be sucked into the pipe dream. Any diet plan that

Carla Maree Vella Carla is the blogger behind, a blog that provides clean eating recipes and fitness tips. She is a qualified fitness instructor and is currently studying to become a Metabolic Effect Personal Trainer. She has recently published her first fitness workout ebook called: Sexy not Skinny.

restricts you from eating carbohydrates for weeks on end is bad news. Most diets will boast great results but rarely share

28 - Health & Fitness Today • January 2013

what happens to people once they “go off” the diet. A diet shouldn’t be something you go on and off; your diet should be part of your ongoing lifestyle. Jumping from one diet to the next can actually cause more harm than good, so be warned. A rational way to look at any diet is to ask yourself “Is this something I can keep up for the rest of my life?” If it is not, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. So, if you are not going on a diet, what should you be eating to lose weight? Consider eating clean Eating should be something you enjoy, not dread. No more onion and cabbage soup for you whilst your family eats a pre-packaged pizza. Clean eating allows you to eat your favourite meals with just a couple of simple adjustments to the recipe. But, you say, my family loves burgers, pizza, pasta and

to be honest, so do I! Eating clean is not about never eating certain food again and just munching on lettuce leaves for the rest of your life. Eating clean is dictated by the food you purchase, how you cook it and put it together in a meal. The key to eating clean is to know exactly what you are eating, and to do so you must prepare all your own food and avoid junk food and pre-made and packaged foods that ”make life easier” or provide an “on the go” solution. Unfortunately, for packaged products to have the longer shelf life they boast, they are laden with preservatives, sugars and salts, which are strict no nos to eating clean. Clean meals consist of lean proteins such as chicken, fish, turkey and even lean red meats, lots of veggies, and wholemeal grains. Burgers can be turkey burgers, chicken

FITNESS burgers or even lean mince food is the enemy. Eating the meat burgers that you make right foods can help you reduce yourself on a wholemeal bun. hunger and even lose weight. Chips or wedges can be baked Adding more veggies to your sweet potato instead of fried meals and eating wholemeal starchy potatoes, Pizza can grains rather than high sugar, be home made on wholemeal high salt carbohydrates can wraps, using leaner proteins help energy levels and weight rather than sliced ham and loss. Starving yourself won’t goats cheese instead of prohelp you to lose weight, but if cessed cheddar. Pasta can be you think of each meal as opwholemeal pasta served with portunity to eat something clean lots of fresh veggies and a lean and lean, that’s when you will protein and fresh see changes. tomato sauce instead It is that less of a heavy cream sugary option A rational way that you eat for sauce. We are all busy, with to look at any diet breakfast, the jobs, study, children fruit you eat inis to ask yourself etc, and making our ‘Is this something stead of the preown food all from packaged snack I can keep up for scratch can sound that you avoid the rest of my like a huge obstacle, between breaklife?’ If it is not, but preparing food fast and lunch, in advance and followed by the then you’re having clean meals homemade wrap setting yourself and snacks ready in with real chicken up for failure. the fridge will make instead of prolife easier. Instead cessed chicken of thinking of what that you have for you are going to eat lunch, the clean and opting for the snack in the easy “throw into the microwave afternoon followed by a decent / oven” option, having meals size of protein and veggies that prepared will no longer give you you have for dinner that will that excuse. Sure, preparing make a difference. food takes time, but if you split Starting anything new is it up into two sessions a week it never easy, but eating clean is is a lot easier. something that you can start to Lots of people are under the adopt slowly. Essentially, eating very bad understanding that clean starts from what you put

in your shopping trolley. Make an eating clean grocery list and don’t stray from it when you get to the supermarket. Reduce temptation by keeping junk food out of the house and out of your office drawer so that there is less chance you’ll eat junk food when those cravings hit you. If you are going to eat junk food, at least make yourself walk to the nearest shop to get it and if that sounds like too much effort,

well then GOOD, because that is the point of it not being readily available. Clean eating is not easy, especially when you are not in the habit of eating clean meals but small changes in your normal meals can make a really big difference. Contact Carla on her blog or facebook page

San Michel – official water for the Land Rover Malta Marathon The Land Rover Malta Marathon will this year be taking place on Sunday, 24 February and San Michel is once again confirmed as the official water for Malta’s largest and most followed athletic activity. To mark this popular event, San Michel has introduced a limited edition label for its 50cl bottle, using graphics which are instantly recognisable through the use of different coloured runners in silhouette. This year’s marathon will once again see a record number of participants and more significantly a substantial increase in Maltese participants. The race starts in Mdina and ends at the Sliema Ferries, and the general public is encouraged to support the runners along the route and cheer them at the finish line.

Health & Fitness Today • January 2013 - 29


Yoghurt – the good, th Yoghurt has long been promoted as a health food, guarnteed to make you feel less bloated, whilst lowering cholesterol and giving you a boost of calcium, however is this really what the yoghurt in the supermarket is giving you?

Dieticians argue that when fat is stripped from a product, something else needs to be added to make the food tasty and hence get it off the shelves

Donatello Pisani Donatello is Master Trainer at The BodyForge. He has been involved in health & fitness for more than 20 years. He’s a qualified pharmacist and competitive bodybuilder, having represented Malta in international competitions. He is also a personal trainer and a nutritional advisor


hen sitting in front of the television you’re bound to catch at least one advert promoting the health benefits of yoghurt – super slim women saying that they feel so much better since they started feeding themselves the probiotics from the live cultures in yoghurt. However this is not always true and food marketers have found loopholes in food labelling laws to promote what can be an otherwise unhealthy product as a health food. This does not mean that every yoghurt on the supermarket shelf is bad for your health, however it does take an educated shopper to choose a yoghurt that is going to encourage the healthy bacteria in your gut and thus reduce your waistline. Health benefits regular intake of yoghurt promotes include a higher digestibility of yoghurt over milk, increased activity of good bacteria in the gut, good source of protein and calcium and lowering cholesterol levels among oth-

ers. However, the processes involved with getting the yoghurt from the cow to the shelf often involve removing any of the nutritional value from the yoghurt while pumping it so full of sugar you

30 - Health & Fitness Today • January 2013

might as well have just had a pudding cup.

Non-organic practices

It all starts with the health of the cow the milk comes from. Though some farmers use organic practices many

use excessive amounts of antibiotics, growth hormones, synthetic oestrogen and other assorted pharmaceuticals to increase the productivity over the lifetime of their cattle while also keeping them free of disease. These antibiotics and hormones are then transmitted into their milk and hence the yoghurt on the supermarket shelves. Exposing the human body to this level of antibiotics only increases the germ’s resistance to the drugs, meaning that when the body is run down and fighting disease, the antibiotics no longer work, giving rise to drug-resistant superbugs. Ingesting growth hormones used for cattle through their milk has been linked to early onset puberty, which is one of the reasons that today’s children are developing a full five to six years earlier than they did a mere 25 years ago. In addition, we have much higher incidences of breast, colon, prostate, and lung cancer due to the increased levels of insulin-growth factor 1, which is found in cows that have been injected. Farmers need their cattle to grow faster, so that they can start producing milk as early as they possibly can. To do this they are fed corn and protein and fat supplements – none of which form part of the cow’s natural diet. The

cow is designed to derive its nutrition from grass in its four chambered stomach, however keeping a cow on a diet of grass sees a productive beast after six years, while feeding it grain will reduce that time frame to just one and a half years.

Light yoghurt

While fat-free yoghurts are high on shopping list of dieters, this is yet another marketing ploy to push products that are not necessarily good for the body. Not all fat is bad and is actually a critical part of a weight loss plan, necessary for overall body health. Fat actually helps promote those hormones that regulate the fat burning furnace in the body. So, you really want to be having fats like that in your diet, instead of avoiding them. Dieticians argue that when fat is stripped from a product, something else needs to be added to make the food tasty and hence get it off the shelves – and that is where sugar comes in or even worse high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and artificial sweeteners. HFCS has been linked to definite increases in appetite, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia and more. In fact, if anything contains HFCS, it is almost always an indicator of poor quality food that is low on nutrients and high on disease potential. HFCS is also made from genetically modified corn and has been shown to contain contaminants as well as foreign substances which cannot be identified.

Calcium leaching

Yoghurt and milk are an excellent source of calcium are an excellent source of calcium – the problem is that cow’s milk is custom designed as an excellent

The good stuff Go for yoghurts that are real. Dismiss marketing terminology and look deeper into what’s on the food label to find out what you are putting in your body. 4 Go for brands that are truly natural as opposed to the misleading use of the word. 4 Choose sweeteners that are natural, like honey and fruit juice. 4 Favour brands that exclusively use milk that comes from free range, antibiotic free and hormone free cows.

source of calcium for calves, not humans. Human digestive systems do not readily process cow’s milk. Worse, milk acidifies the body’s PH, which needs to be neutralized in order to maintain a healthy environment. The body accomplishes this by using calcium – from our own bones. That means that drinking cow’s milk actually causes a loss of calcium, not a increase. In fact, the biggest milk drinkers were also the biggest fracture group in a study conducted by Harvard University. People with no ready access to cow’s milk actually have much

useless sweeteners in it. Even better the Greek yoghurt is actually loaded with double Avoid yoghurts altogether? the protein of normal yoghurt. Not all yoghurt is bad. It By spending your money on just takes some true quality label decipheryoghurts you ing to find out are not only which ones are increasing the healthy and which health benefits ones are pots full available to of sugar. Qualyour body but Some yoghurts ity and taste will you are also are packed full of also be better in endorsing natural yoghurts farmers who antibiotics, growth as opposed to the use natural hormones and sugar laden ones. practices synthetic oestrogen One of the and helpsupplements yoghurts that is ing them to actually a real yoproduce qualghurt and makes ity products. great choice for If everyone a snack and a demanded the smart fat-burning real deal then diet is plain there would organic Greek yoghurt. Havbe no more room for artificial, ing the plain variety yoghurt mass-produced products on makes sure there are no the market. stronger bones and are less prone to fractures.

For more information contact Donatello Pisani at The BodyForge, Santa Marta Street, Victoria Gozo. Tel: 2156 6626, 9940 7151 • •

Health & Fitness Today • January 2013 - 31


the bad and the ugly


No-sit-up, no-crunc C

ontrary to common belief, you don’t have to do lots of crunches and sit-ups to develop strong abdominal muscles. The latest guidelines by biomechanics specialists Dr. Stuart McGill and Gray Cook actually advise against the use of sit-ups and crunches to develop strong Richard Geres abs, the main reason being that repeated bending of the spine Richard is an internationally certified can cause disc herniations, betpersonal trainer and ter known as slipped discs. weight-loss consultant. He specialises in fat-loss The main function of the and physique enhancement abdominals is not to bend the spine forward (spinal flexion) as previously thought, but to stabilise and stiffen the spine when the upper body is subjected to external load, as for example when lifting a heavy object, when trying to dislodge a ridged object in front of us, or when applying a rotational or lateral force to the upper body. This is also good news for people with decreased spinal mobility as well as those who suffer from neck-pain, as all of the alternative exercises demonstrated in this article cause minimal or no spinal movement at all.



Position yourself on your toes and your forearms, with your body in a straight, rigid position. Abs should be braced and glutes contracted. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds without any movement. Avoid lowering or raising the hips during the hold.

Stability ball rollout

Stir the pot

Assume the same position as in the plank, but this time with your forearms on a stability ball. Start to perform small circles with the ball, maintaining a perfectly straight body. Aim for 5-10 circles in clockwise and 5-10 circles in anti-clockwise direction.

Stability ball rollout

Place your knees on the floor and your forearms on a ball. Straighten out your hips so that your body shows a straight line from the knee through the hips to the shoulder. Tighten your glutes, brace your abs and roll the ball forward slowly, without losing your posture. Pull the ball back and repeat for 10-15 repetitions.

Side plank

Lying on your side, position the elbow of the lower arm under your shoulder. Resting on your feet with your body in a straight line, lift your hip off the floor and bring your body into a straight position, holding it for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

32 - Health & Fitness Today • January 2013

Stability ball jackknives

Stability ball jackknives

From a push-up position, place your feet on a stability ball, keeping your body in a perfectly straight line. Now roll the ball forward with your feet, pulling your knees towards your chest. Return to a straight body position and repeat for 15-20 repetitions.

a cable pulley or elastic band with both hands, and hold your arms out in front with straight elbows. Turn your shoulders to the left pulling the cable/elastic to the left, without bending your elbows. Repeat for 15-20 repetitions and then repeat on the other side.

Cable/elastic band wood chops

Front squat

Standing in an upright position, grab

Even though this is not a direct abdominal


nch ab workout

Stir the pot

Front squat

Side plank

Spiderman push-up

exercise, the abs do a lot of stabilisation work in this movement, especially under heavy load. Place a barbell across your shoulders, holding it in place with both hands. To avoid the barbell from falling off during the descent, make sure to keep the elbows high in front. Squat down, maintaining a high elbow position and bracing your abs tightly. Push up into standing position and repeat for 8-15 repetitions.

Spiderman push-up

From a push-up position, lower your chest to the floor as in a regular push-up, but bring your right knee towards your right elbow. This causes your abdominals to contract powerfully, working the upper body and the abs at the same time. Aim for 8-15 repetitions. For more information contact Richard on

Cable/elastic band wood chops

Health & Fitness Today • January 2013 - 33


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34 - Health & Fitness Today • November 2012


Don’t let a first impression be their last

First impressions are important in every aspect of our lives. It is commonly said that people form a first impression of a person in the first seven seconds and in the first minute have already formed a strong opinion of a person. Whether meeting a new person at a job interview, important meeting or out on a date, it is important to get it right straight away making looking the part hugely important. Some simple grooming tips will ensure that their first impression of you isn’t their last


hey say that life is a journey. Every one of our unique characters and individual styles are developed over time by the collective combination of all our lifetime experiences. This is basically a complex concoction of achievements and triumphs sprinkled with the failures, odd embarrassing moments and never-to-repeat decisions. Passed on family traditions, general upbringing, education and choice of friends make generous contributions to the way we relate, react and through which perspective we analyse situations. Evidently and perhaps even sub-consciously, striving for success and happiness takes up a good chunk of our waking hours. Following a road map unlike any computerised navigational system which is marked with continuous challenges for reaching higher goals and objectives. Surprisingly, a milestone that was once considered as the ultimate pinnacle of our existence, soon becomes less important after being attained only to be replaced with something more innovative, adventurous and valuable. As human beings, we are continuously seeking refinement in the way we look and live. The choices we make, even the small and practically irrelevant ones, reflect our taste and therefore affect our status. This includes the car we drive, the clothes we wear and the food we order at a

Kevin Spiteri Ferriggi Kevin moved to Malta in 1987 from Canada and has been actively involved in the local health & beauty industry since 1997. His areas of expertise include Business Administration, Skincare & Gastronomy

restaurant for example. Inspiration for ways to reinvent ourselves may generally derive from the influential people in our lives, some red carpet idols and people that have actually made it. Most of us are out there to make a positive impression and leave a memorable and lasting thought. We can all secretly confess that we like being noticed in a crowd. Feeling important, or better yet, knowing that other people consider us as being special is truly a wonderful perception. Selfconfidence is a major element in performance.

Health & Fitness Today • January 2013 - 35

skin care

Grooming tips to make the right first impression Groomed hair Irrelevant of style in the current era, just make sure to prove that you made an effort. Clean teeth Be the first to notice anything wedged in. That’s the real reason why cars have rearview mirrors. Fresh breath This is a key element. Keep a spare pack of mints handy. Body odour You should not have one. Use an effective and long lasting deodorant or body spray. Fresh, clean and clear skin Periodic facial treatments and home care products will maintain lustre and a glowing face. Facial hair Smooth clean shaves are always in fashion no matter what Italian footballers are doing. Body hair Ideally, this should have been taken care of through human evolution. If not, some attention may be required. Hands and nails Stained, cracked & dry skin with long, dirty fingernails are a complete turnoff. Sort them out. Stiffness Your performance, self-confidence and probability of success are related to how revitalised and energised you feel. Regular back and neck massages help keep you at your optimum levels. Being sharp and alert Prepare and rehearse possible answers or replies. Memorise some statistics and a good joke. Get a good night’s sleep.

If you’re on top of your game, the chances are that you’ll probably make a killing. Grumpy salespeople do not earn decent commissions. Start meetings, job interviews and relationships in pole position. It’s harder to make up for initial losses when starting from the back end of the queue. Besides, even if you rapidly start gaining ground, you’ll probably run out of time or opportunity. Most of us are not designed to look like a movie star, but we can certainly make an effort to look the deal just the same. The appropriate presentation with a balanced dose of etiquette and wittiness plus a splash of

charm can more often than not, really work wonders. There are different perspectives of being attractive. It is not all down to square jawlines, perfect teeth, height and chiselled abs. Men need to find other ways to get bonus points and increase their stock value. A noticeable degree of politeness, etiquette and general good behaviour should always prevail. However, what use is a fancy business card if you fail the preliminary judgement round? Weaponise yourself further with the following heavy-duty beauty tips to step up to the realm of cool, calm and collected.

36 - Health & Fitness Today • January 2013

Dress code Classic, neutral styles and colours are always safe. Wear the correct size that you are today. Smart, neat and clean. When in doubt… throw it away. Perfume Not too strong, but enough to weaken female knees. Magical facial feature Smile a lot and be genuinely interested and actively engaged within the conversation. This makes your eyes sparkle. As we have sometimes witnessed while walking along the seafront, nature is dangerously resourceful when required; “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” (Quote by Mark Twain)

For more information contact Kevin at Men’s Works 24, Zebbug Road, Attard. Tel: 7969 1744 • 2144 8800 •

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