Written by Nyomi Graef
What stops us from making vital life changes? Ones that can boost our health, happiness and success. Common reasons include not setting any goals (or setting bad ones), fear, and having low standards. How can we power through these and other obstacles to make important life changes? Check out the ideas below, in part one of a series of blog posts on this topic.
If we accept low standards for ourselves and our lives, then why would we change? We won’t! Improving our health, eating habits, living standards, relationships, and so on, means increasing our standards. It’s like saying, “Enough is enough! I won’t settle for this quality anymore! I want better quality, so I will raise my standards, and I am prepared to do whatever is needed (within reason) to achieve it.”
Fear can immobilise us. It can stifle even the greatest achievers, and it’s one of our biggest goal killers.
What are some common fears? Failure, the unknown, going broke, pain, stress, and friends and family criticising or rejecting us, to name just some.
Let’s take fear of failure, as an example. Failure is a normal part of life. Not all plans and goals turn out as good as we hoped. Disappointing, yes, but it is often up to us whether we get completely crushed or not by failure. Get up and try again. Re-group/re-plan/re-organise...
Rise above failure to rise to the top. Most of the greatest achievers in the world failed at achieving at least one goal in their lives before they became very successful. In fact, many persisted through lots of failed attempts for years. Arnold Schwarzenegger has fantastic ideas about persisting through failure. Listen to his views about this topic on YouTube. He is a great example of rising above failure to become extremely successful.
Another common fear is “fear of the unknown”. This makes us stay in our “comfort zone” instead of making changes. The comfort zone might not even feel comfortable, but it is familiar. Lots of people stay with what is familiar to them rather than risk delving into the unknown (future), even though making changes could mean living a better life.
Life is full of risk. We all know that some risks are worth taking, and some aren’t. Make wise and constructive lifestyle changes − take that risk.
Be bold! Conquer fear to make the changes we must make to live the lives that we desire. Read books and articles about overcoming fear. See a specialist trained in treating your particular fear. Learn from people who have succeeded at conquering their fears to make the same life changes that you want to make. If we really want to change, then with the right resources, mindset and so on, we can.
Fitzhugh Dodson said the often quoted saying: “Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.” So true.
We might have fun going nowhere in particular, but, then again, we might feel stressed or upset, but we still aren’t going anywhere with a clear purpose. What a waste!
In order to succeed, we must set goals. We must know what we want to achieve.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tony Robbins and many other motivational speakers promote the value of goal setting. Listen to these success gurus. Their YouTube videos/podcasts are a good start.
We might set goals, but are they appropriate? Goals that are unrealistic, irrelevant, too vague, too difficult, and so on, are a waste of time.
The SMART technique is a common way to set goals. Many people like it and use it for goal setting. SMART stands for:
Every goal needs at least one plan. Benjamin Franklin apparently said the well-known saying: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Wise. So plan to win. How? As a start, why not use relevant elements of SMART goal setting (above) to create your plans? Also, have good reasons for your plans, as well as the right skills, knowledge, support, strategies and resources.
To make changes it’s vital to:
Use the above ideas that connect with you to help you overcome some common barriers to change. Read my second blog post on this topic, coming soon.
Written by Nyomi Graef
Do you think that muesli bars are healthy? If so, think again. Many muesli bars are highly processed junk food that contain unhealthy trans fat, loads of sugar, and lots of food additives. Eat these bars often and we are on the road to weight gain, increased risk of heart disease and other health problems.
Don’t be fooled by muesli bars’ slick marketing and packaging. Be wise. The snacks that we eat are important. They all add up to affect our health, body weight, energy levels and more. For better health and well being, choose good quality muesli bars. Key things to look for are bars that are low in sugar and salt, but high in fibre, with no hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated fat.
Recently I saw a wall of muesli bars near the entrance of my local supermarket. The packets had the usual marketing hype – the bars contained wholegrains, and they are great for athletes... But I was suspicious.
I read the nutrition panel and ingredients list. Yep, just as I thought, high sugar! The sugar content was nearly 40 grams (g) per 100g. Far too high! This is over double the maximum amount of sugar in a food (i.e. 15g per 100g) that Australian nutrition guidelines recommend. These muesli bars were sugary biscuits. Sugar was also listed among the top three ingredients in the ingredients list. No surprises there, and no good!
Now to the fat: they contained hydrogenated fat (‘bad’ fat). This fat contains trans fat, which can cause heart disease, inflammation and other health problems.
And there was more: the bars were highly processed, low in fibre, and had lots of food additives. So, just as I thought, these muesli bars were junk food posing as healthy snacks.
So what can we do about it? Check the nutrition panel and ingredients list on muesli bar packets for ourselves, and choose healthy bars over unhealthy ones. How? Use the tips below.
5 top things to check on muesli bar packets before you buy them
1. Check the sugar content
A diet low in added sugar is a cornerstone of weight loss. Most Australians (among many other nationalities) each too much added sugar. A high-sugar diet increases our risk of unwanted weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, inflammation and many other health conditions.
Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute (Baker IDI for short) is an internationally-renowned medical research facility. It recommends choosing fruit-based products (fruit is listed in the first three ingredients) with 25g per 100g or less of sugar. For all other food products, Baker IDI recommends 15g per 100g or less of sugar.
The Australian Government has a similar recommendation for sugar. For more information, read How to Understand Food Labels, published by the Australian Government.
Another tip for sugar: avoid muesli bars in which sugar is one of the first few ingredients in the ingredients list. Why? Ingredients are listed in order from highest to lowest in weight. Low-sugar muesli bars are better choices than high-sugar ones.
Food companies sneak sugar into foods under different names and in different ways. They all count as added sugar. Examples include honey, golden syrup, maple syrup, molasses, fruit juice, sucrose, maltose, dextrose, fructose, rice malt syrup, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup.
2. Look for food additives, and how natural and processed the bars are
Nutrition experts recommend that we eat mostly “real” foods. “Real” foods are natural/whole/unprocessed/minimally processed foods. In contrast, “fake” foods are highly processed/unnatural foods. Eat only small amounts of “fake” foods.
Many muesli bars are highly processed manufactured foods that bear little resemblance to healthy whole foods. A long ingredients list on the muesli bar packet, with lots of sugar and additives, is a big clue that you’re probably eating a “fake” food, not a “real” food. Other clues include low amounts of wholegrains, and the addition of hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated fat.
Avoid muesli bars with lots of food additives. These include preservatives, artificial colours and artificial flavours. A number of additives can cause health problems, especially in people who are sensitive to them. For example, some preservatives and artificial colours can cause hyperactivity in a number of people. Also, even though food additives are only in small amounts in foods, some additives can be harmless short term/in small amounts, but harmful long term/in larger quantities. Jamie Oliver talks about avoiding foods with lots of additives. Follow his lead.
Tip: don’t buy muesli bars that a kind and food savvy grandma wouldn’t bake for you because the ingredients list looks like the bars could only be made in a lab, not a home kitchen.
3. Check the fat content
Look for the word “hydrogenated” in the ingredients list on the packet. If this word in the list, don’t buy those muesli bars. As mentioned above, hydrogenated fats and oils, including partially hydrogenated varieties, can cause heart disease and inflammation, among other health problems.
The Australian Government recommends that we “Generally choose foods with less than 10g [of total fat] per 100g.”
Baker IDI says aim for 2g per 100g or less of saturated fat.
The Australian Government recommends less than 3g of saturated fat per 100g.
Saying this, however, research has found that not all saturated fat is unhealthy. This means that saying that all saturated fat is “bad”, so we should eat low amounts of all types of it, is false and misleading. For example, the fat in over-heated deep-fried oil high in saturated fat is unhealthy, but raw organic unrefined cold-pressed extra virgin coconut oil (which is high in saturated fat) has health benefits, according to various leading health professionals. Dr Joseph Mercola is one of a number of nutrition experts who promotes the health benefits of this type of coconut oil.
Remember that dietary guidelines are guidelines, and they are general recommendations. And guidelines can have exceptions. Avocados, olives, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, and oily fish, for example, contain lots of healthy fat, which we need for good health. So for these foods, the saturated fat content and total fat content doesn’t really apply when it comes to reading food labels on muesli bars. (These foods and oils, with the exception of perhaps some healthy oils, aren’t ingredients in muesli bars though.)
4. Read the fibre content
Baker IDI recommends a fibre content of 8g or more of fibre per 100g.
Generally, when it comes to muesli bars, and other foods, the more fibre the better. This is because most of us don’t get enough fibre for good health.
5. See how much salt (sodium) is in the bars
Baker IDI says look for 120mg of sodium per 100g of food, but this can be hard to find, so have an upper limit of 400mg per 100g. The Australian Government’s recommendation for sodium is very similar.
What are some better snacks than unhealthy muesli bars?
Suggestions for ingredients for homemade muesli bars
Important tip: make sure the bars are low in added sugar, this includes honey, rice malt syrup, golden syrup, maple syrup and so on.
Choose healthy muesli bars, and other healthy snacks, for you and your family. Use the above guide to help you.
For better health, and to promote weight loss, if you like eating unhealthy muesli bars, and don’t want to give them up completely, don’t think of them as an everyday snack. Eat them now and then – not daily – and only in small amounts.
There are plenty of recipes on the internet, in cookbooks, and so on, for healthy and tasty muesli bars. Research them for yourself, if you are interested.
Also, if you like sugary foods, for the sake of your health and your waistline, learn to like the flavour of less sugary foods. It takes time for our tastebuds to adjust to less sweet foods, but it’s worth it for good health and to sustain a healthy body weight.
Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, 2017, The Baker IDI Wellness Plan: scientific secrets for a long and healthy life, Australia: Penguin Books.
How to Understand Food Labels, 2019, Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, eatforhealth.gov.au, https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/sites/default/files/files/eatingwell/efh_food_label_example_130621.pdf
Mercola, J, 2011, Coconut Oil Benefits: When Fat is Good for You, Huffpost, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/coconut-oil-benefits_b_821453