Seven ways to make sure Christmas is as much fun as when you were a kid!

Do you remember the excitement of Christmas when you were a kid ? Trying to figure out where Mum and Dad had hidden the presents ? Looking forward to eating three different types of desserts or just pudding and custard? Better still if the weather was fine enjoying weeks of school holidays with a gang of friends moving from house to house.

When you get older it gets harder to enjoy the day as so often the run up to Christmas day can be exhausting. It’s often a busy time with a combination of end of year events, extra shopping and cooking plus organising a range of presents. All this whilst trying to hold down a job as well as possibly wrangling children as well. So how do we find the magic of the day again?

  1. Start by only accepting invitations to events you really want to attend. Things that sound like fun or at a restaurant you really like or with people you really want to catchup with in person. Also look at your diary and make sure there aren’t too many events in the same week. If the invitation involves standing around at a pub drinking and you would rather be soaking in a hot bath then give it a miss.
  2. Make sure you are looking after yourself in the weeks leading up to Christmas – prioritise exercise by scheduling it in first. Book in appointments that are important for you whether its massage, acupuncture, beautician or hairdresser. You will enjoy the day more if you are in top physical form and not jump limping to the end of the year.
  3. Make gift giving easier by suggesting Secret Santa, even if its just for the adults. Buying one gift instead of six or eight reduces the load for shopping and also usually means that you get one gift that you really like. Other options could be doing a charitable donation instead of giving presents. It really depends on what will make your family happiest and reduce the stress associated with gift buying.
  4. On the day ensure the food preparation is shared with all the adults attending. Splitting responsiblity (and costs) for the celebration make it easier. Whether its prawns or ham, salads or desserts, sharing the work makes a big difference. If you are dealing with a variety of food intolerances then have a look at my blog A Gluten and Dairy Free Christmas .
  5. Break out the board games for entertainment, having some at an appropriate level for the group can really provide good entertainment for a few hours. Current favourites in my house are Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Katan but don’t forget old favourites like Monopoly and Scrabble. We also have a tradition of finding the silliest games possible like Hungry Hippos and Peanut Elephant.
  6. Make sure your Christmas menu includes something you really enjoy. The most recent addition to our Christmas menu is Donna hay’s wonderful stuffing cup recipe. It’s not hard to make and ensures there is enough stuffing for everyone.
  7. Start a new tradition such as watching classic Christmas movies as a family (options rang from Die Hard to Love Actually or The Holidays) or enjoy opening one gift each on Christmas Eve. Bake a favourite cookie, pudding or mince pie. The blog A Gluten and Dairy Free Christmas has my recipes for both pudding and mince pies, well they are modified versions of my mother’ recipes and are gluten free with a dairy free option.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist and has an online program called Ageing Outrageously. She is in practice at Elemental Health, St Ives and appointments are available on (02) 8084 0081 or by booking online at .

Over 50 and struggling with frustrating roadblocks to weight loss?

Are you finding as you get a little older that you are doing all the things that have always worked for you in the past but you can’t lost weight? In fact it even seems to be creeping on around the middle?

There are a few obstacles that can affect you as you get older that make it harder to lose weight. One of the biggest roadblocks is nutrient deficiency and there are three areas that are critical;

  1. Key minerals for metabolism like chromium and iodine.
  2. Protein in adequate quantities.
  3. Kilojoules at an appropriate level.

Chromium is a key mineral for blood sugar balance and low levels are often associated with cravings for sugar and carbohydrates (to give you the quick sugar fix). While its found in a range of foods, such as meat, grains, green beans and fruits, levels can be impacted by a diet high in refined foods and simple sugars.

Iodine is an important nutrient for glands and in particular the thyroid gland, which controls growth and metabolism. There aren’t a wide range of food options with iodine, which may explain why deficiency is fairly common. Good food sources include seafood, seaweed, organic eggs and celtic sea salt. Some products such as salt can be fortified with iodine.

A deficiency of iodine is harder to detect as quite often symptoms are sub-clinical, however one of the most common symptoms is weight gain. In more significant deficiency you see signs of fatigue, hair loss and chilliness. Another symptom that often appears for women is fibrocystic or “lumpy” breasts.

A combination of chromium and iodine deficiency results in a significant block for metabolism and makes it very difficult to lose weight.

Inadequate amounts of protein in the diet can also make it hard to lose weight. Many women often find they tend to crave carbohydrates as they provide quick and easy energy. Protein has the same kilijoules per gram but also provides balanced blood sugar for a longer period. Including an adequate amount of protein at each meal keeps your blood sugar balanced and reduces cravings. What is an adequate amount of protein? Generally for weight maintence you are looking at 0.8g per kilo and for weight loss between 1-1.2g per kilo.

Translated that means for a women who is 80kg she needs to be eating 64g of protein a day to maintain weight and between 80-96g to lose weight. You also need to be aware that typically the protein content of animal meats is usually about 20-25% whereas for vegetarian proteins its typically 10-15%. A typical day could include 2 eggs (12g of protein), a small can of tuna (24g) and a chicken breast fillet (50g).

Under eating is also a significant problem for many people. Years of yoyo dieting and keeping kilijoules low can reduce your metabolism and make it difficult to lose weight. An historical study in Minnesota with prisoners looked at the impacts of prolonged starvation with calories reduced so that participants lost 25% of body weight. The study showed a reduction in the bodies metabolism, as well as an increase in depression and emotional distress.

Eating inadequate kilijoules can cause your metabolism to slow down, meaning you won’t burn as much fat off when you engage in physical activity. Your body requires energy when you walk, work out, think, breathe, just about everything!When you deprive your body of the fuel it needs to burn calories, it will begin to store food and enter a sort of “survival mode.” So even when you exercise, your body will protect the fat that it has stored, and you may not be able to lose the weight you want to lose. 

To recover from long periods of yoyo dieting you may need to work on increasing your metabolism as a priority. Gently increasing exercise plus using hormetic stressors is a useful way to approach the problem. Heat and cold, stressors which boost energy and slow ageing has a good summary of some approaches which may be helpful.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health, St Ives. You can make appointments online or by calling on (02) 8084 0081. Christine is also the author of the Ageing Outrageously program and there is more information on the website here.

How does chronic inflammation affect your skin?

A key factor in accelerating ageing is long term inflammation and it can be damaging both to our bodies and in particular to our skin. Inflammation is a complex defence mechanism in which white blood cells move from from the circulation into damaged tissues to destroy the agents that potentially may cause tissue injury. Acute inflammation is a helpful response, particularly during an infection, whereas chronic inflammation is persistent and can lead to tissue damage. 

What are the usual indicators of chronic inflammation? Markers such as C Reactive Protein or Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (EDR) are often used as indicators and will commonly be checked on blood tests. CRP is often raised in the acute stages of inflammation and may continue to be elevated in the chronic stages as well. It is often used to monitor how people respond to a particular treatment.

Common sources of inflammation include the following;

  • Chronic infections
  • Lack of exercise
  • Diet
  • Isolation and chronic stress
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Obesity
  • Environmental exposures and toxins
  • Injuries

The body reacts to these triggers by increasing the flow of nutrients to the area to enable it to resolve however in some cases the trigger persists and you develop chronic inflammation. In the skin the chronic inflammation results in a layer of the skin thickening and may cause the lymphatic vessels in the area to increase in size and number.

Skin inflammation longer term can also result in senescent cells. Senescent skin cells, which accumulate over time, play a crucial role in the response to chronic inflammation.

Chronic inflammation arises when the immune system responds to persistent or recurring stimuli, such as infections, environmental factors, or cellular damage. In the case of skin, chronic inflammation can also be triggered by factors like UV radiation, pollution, or even chronic skin conditions. When the skin is subjected to such insults, it activates an immune response that recruits immune cells, including macrophages and T cells, to the affected area.

The Effects of Chronic Inflammation on Aging Skin:

  1. Inflammatory Molecules: Aging skin cells, known as senescent cells, release various substances like pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, and enzymes that break down the skin’s structure. These molecules attract immune cells and contribute to more inflammation in the affected area. This ongoing inflammatory environment can worsen skin damage and disrupt the natural healing processes.
  2. Impaired Function: Senescent skin cells have reduced functionality and struggle to perform essential tasks like wound healing and tissue regeneration. This impairment occurs due to changes in the way genes are activated and signaling pathways operate. Consequently, the skin’s ability to repair itself becomes compromised, leading to slower healing and an increased risk of chronic wounds.
  3. DNA Damage: Chronic inflammation generates oxidative stress, which can cause DNA damage in aging skin cells. This damage can result in genetic mutations that further contribute to the cells’ dysfunctional behavior. Over time, the accumulation of these genetic abnormalities can potentially raise the risk of skin diseases, including cancer.

Chronic inflammation poses a significant challenge to the health and appearance of aging skin. The release of inflammatory molecules by senescent cells, their impaired functionality, and the accumulation of DNA damage can lead to a decline in skin health and an increased risk of skin diseases. Understanding the impact of chronic inflammation on aging skin cells is crucial for developing strategies to mitigate its harmful effects and promote healthier skin aging. By adopting lifestyle practices that reduce inflammation, such as maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise and managing stress levels you can assist in maintaining healthier skin.

For more assistance in managing lifestyle factors and making the changes that will support healthier skin (and a healthier you) have a look at my resources including my free webinar 6 Tips for Ageing Outrageously .

Six ways to easily add six serves of vegetables to your day

Broccolini mushrooms and halloumi

Some days in clinic vegetables are my main point of focus. For so many people they tend to eat a lot of grains, toast, cereal and pasta but they are consistently light on vegetables. Fundamentally diet is 70% of the battle in maintaining good health and one of the best strategies long term is to have three cups of vegetables in your diet daily (1/2 cup = one serve of vegetables). Many people find it difficult to design a menu that enables them to meet the three cups so in this blog I am sharing some of my best suggestions for increasing the vegetables in your diet.

  • Start with veggies at breakfast. Add a side to your scrambled eggs of mushrooms, sauteed spinach or tomato. Make up a frittata with a range of vegetables and increase your count for a few days quickly and easily. Vary up the breakfast options with mushrooms and humuus on toast or smashed avocado with a corn salsa.
  • Add a smoothie that is based on vegetables during the day. Many people will add spinach or greens but have you ever thought about adding frozen cauliflower or pureed pumpkin ? One of my favourite sites for recipe ideas is Simple Green Smoothies which share lots of recipe ideas with their mission to help people fall in love with Kale. A recent option was an Orange Immunity Smoothie which had a protein powder, pureed pumpkin, banana and oranges plus cinnamon, tumeric and ginger.
  • Snack on vegetables when the mid afternoon slump hits try having carrot and celery sticks with humuus or guacamole dip as a snack.
  • Bulk up with veggies in a stew. casserole or bolognaise. My bolognese recipe uses some slow roasted eggplant in addition to the usual carrot, celery and onion. Basically put the whole eggplant in the oven for 40-45 minutes at 180C , after piercing it with a fork a few times. Student Budget Friendly Meals has the bolognaise recipe as well as a few other ideas for adding more vegetables.
  • Swap out half the meat in a recipe for lentils or chickpeas. Two of my favourite options are adding lentils to a bolognaise sauce or adding chickpeas to a casserole. Have a look at this easy tagine recipe from .
  • Make sides the star! Grill your protein and then add roasted brussel sprouts with pomegrante and tahini, honey mustard cabbage wedges, charred broccolini with lemon and garlic or maple roasted beetroot and pear.Looking for more ideas have a look at some more recipe ideas in Four easy ways to add brassica vegetables to your meals .

My Healthy Holiday Options ebook has eight delicious sides, a range of healthy salad options with legumes and some fun smoothie recipes, including a mango mint smoothie as well as banana cherry. It has some great inspiration whether its for a Christmas in July function or just a great way to add more colour and variety to your meals.

Easy eggplant salad

There are so many reasons to include more vegetables in your diet. The fibre in vegetables acts like a broom and helps keep you regular and the insoluble fibre feeds your beneficial gut bacteria which helps support your digestion and your immune system. In my recent blog What are the best vegetables for feeding your gut ? you can find all the information on the best type of vegetables to include to improve your gut health.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritonist based at Elemental Health St Ives. She is passionate about including more vegetables in the diet and encouraging her local cafes to provide more tasty breakfast options. Appointments are available online at or on (02) 8084 0081.

Too busy to shop and cook healthy meals ? Have you considered a meal delivery service?

Cooking at home is often the best way to improve your underlying health, however for many people it can be a challenge particularly when they are time poor. Food companies have identified this gap in the market and there are now a number of companies providing ingredients and recipes for meals that can be prepared quickly and easily. Meal planning services such as HelloFresh, Marley Spoon and Dinnerly provide delicious recipes with all the ingredients you need to prepare them. All you have to do is follow the instructions – easy!

Dinnerly is considered very cost effective per serve, however Marley Spoon servings are more generous. Hello Fresh has a wide range of meal options and seems to work out around $10 per meal, which is better priced than most takeaway. The meal planning services send only enough for the individual meals which also reduces waste. Most of the meals in these services are designed to be prepared in under half an hour.

What do you do when you don’t have time for cooking but still don’t really want to be ordering takeaway every night ? Add food intolerances or allergies and it can be harder still .

My top list of options which is a little Sydney centric is as follows;

  1. Nourish’d offers vegetarian and gluten free options and has the added advantage of having meals designed by a nutritionist. The range offers keto friendly, nut free and dairy free. There is a reasonable range of options which include beef cheek ragu with cauliflower mash, beef brisket and a sweet potato spaghetti.Sides to increase the vegetables include roasted broccoli, cauliflower mash and potato mash. Meals have a nutritional breakdown and are generally a good level of protein. The menu’s change weekly and upcoming options include a beef stroganoff with beetroot salad and sweet potato mash and a chicken masala, which shows some good variety. Nourish’d also appears have NDIS approval.
  2. Chefgood offers a range of no added gluten or dairy meals. Whilst not offering a gluten free kitchen this option may be suitable for those with intolerances but is not recommended for those who are celiac. The meal plans offer a number of meals between 5 to 14 meals a week with options which include low carb, high protein, vegan and vegetarian as well as a range of weight loss optins. Chefgood also has a range of add-ons which include additional sides and juices. The sides are not particularly inspired and include soup, mashed potato, greek salad and an avocado salad. Reviews on google are generally positive although there appear to be recent complaints about delivery issues. The company delivers to the eastern states and South Australia.
  3. Dinner ladies deliver frozen meals which have been cooked from scratch. There is a wide range of options although they do not seem to cover food intolerances particularly well they do provide a statement of allergens. The major issue seems to be the possiblity of cross contamination risk. The menu includes some good main course options including burgers, fritters, snitzels, stir frys, casseroles and pastas. This is a popular option with families.

For those who are looking for meal inspiration there are a number of blogs that may be helpful with recipes and meal plans. Have a look at Meal Plan Week One , Meal Plan Week Two , Four easy ways to add brassica vegetables to your meals and Spring Reset Meal Plan .

Which bodywork therapies help you manage chronic pain more effectively?

For many people bodywork therapies, such as massage, chiropractic and osteopathy are an effective way to support themselves when they are managing pain and particularly chronic pain. At a recent symposium on pain it was surprising to hear that the research really wasn’t there to support the use of bodywork therapies for reducing chronic pain long term, however there were studies to show that it did have benefit in the short term for symptom relief. The absence of studies does not mean that it doesn’t work it just means that not a lot of research has been done.

The research that has been undertaken does show the value of an holistic approach to treatment for chronic pain and include the use of graded exercise therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy as well as bodywork. So what are the best options for people when they are experiencing pain and how do you decide what will work for you?

Generally if the problem is structural its ideal if you can be assessed by a chiropractor or osteopath. An osteopath can support patients with manual therapy interventions including exercise prescription, needling and education to improve movement and reduce pain. Osteopaths also work on soft tissue with either massage or gentle activation. Chiropractors tend to focus more on the spine and alignment and will do manual adjustments to improve the nerves and their function.

When you are considering massage therapy look at what type of pressure you can cope with? For example for those who cannot deal with a strong massage it might be worthwhile looking at lymphatic massage, reflexology or gentler therapies such as craniosacral therapy. Let’s consider the relative strengths and benefits of each style so that you can decide what will best provide you with support.

Remedial Massage

Remedial massage assists in improving soft tissue or muscle function by improving the flow of blood to the area. It can also support you through recovery from an injury and reduce pain. Remedial massage can be tailored to the pressure that you can tolerate but generally involves a stronger style of treatment.

Lymphatic Massage or Manual Lymph Drainage

This is a gentle style of massage which works on the superficial lymph structures that sit below the skin. This is ideal for anyone recovering from surgery or an injury with significant swelling. The gentle flowing strokes can assist to improve the flow of lymph and reduce swelling and pain. Ideally with a lymphatic therapist look for someone who has done additional training such as the Dr Vodder course in Applied MLD. The therapists who complete this training are often qualified in other tools such as low level laser, taping and bandaging. This type of therapy works well for those who have been treated for cancer to support them particularly after the loss of lymph nodes.


Predominantly working on the feet , reflexology can assist with pain management through pressure on the soles in areas related to the underlying source of pain. By identifying areas that are congested or unbalanced the therapist can assist with the flow of energy to assist in healing. Reflexology can slow down nerve transmission which may interrupt pain pathways. It also helps with releasing endorphins which can then make you feel better. Reflexology assists with circulation and increases the flood of blood and nutrients around the body. Reflexology by promoting the relaxation response is an effective way to release stress and tension.

Reflexology is often used in palliative care settings as it is a gentle therapy where the client does not need to be mobile.

Craniosacral Therapy

Craniosacral therapy is a type of bodywork that relieves compression in the bones of the head, sacrum and spine. It uses gentle pressure on the head, neck, and back to relieve the stress and pain caused by compression. It’s thought that through the gentle manipulation of the bones in the skull, spine, and pelvis, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the central nervous system can be balanced which then improve the body’s ability to heal.

Craniosacral therapy is deeply relaxing and it will often take 48-72 hours for the full benefit to develop. It is common to see improvements in sleep after a treatment and it is useful for people who have had a history of concussion or indeed other trauma.

To find a practitioner who is appropriately qualified make sure you refer to the natural therapy association websites such as and also look for referrals from your other practitioners.

If you are recovering from surgery or an injury and would like more information about the best strategies for managing chronic pain please have a look at the recent Understanding and Managing Chronic Pain webinar on my website.