Train your brain for healthy living

16:00, Oct 26 2012

Sometimes the best medicine is a dose of physical activity.

That is a Ministry of Health promotion for Green Prescriptions, set when your doctor or practice nurse gives you written advice to be active.

One was given to me in 2010 when I was diagnosed with diabetes.

A doctor said I was on the "fine edge" and if I changed my diet and became more physically active the condition could be controlled without drugs.

That seemed a brilliant idea.

My Green Prescription started while I was living in Te Awamutu and I admit I nearly fell off it after moving to Marlborough in May last year.


But help from Deborah Healy at the primary health organisation Kimi Hauora Wairau, a diabetes nurse at Ngati Rarua, and fitness and nutritionist adviser Margy Crosby at the Maori health and education provider Maataa Waka put me on track again.

I was a fulltime Family Support worker at Te Awamutu and thought I was living a really active live.

But after moving to Blenheim, where fulltime child-care became my main occupation, I realised I wasn't fit at all.

Deborah and Margy introduced me to different ways of exercising. Sit and Be Fit sessions had me exercising while sitting down.

But don't let that fool you.

You get out of it what you put in and the more weight I lost the fitter I became, and I started pushing myself further and further. Now I stand up and do the same exercises - and more.

The programme also introduced me to different ways of healthy eating.

That was an even bigger challenge than the physical exercises; I call it re-training the brain.

I'm from a big family and we would always sit down to a big meal: a big pot of boil-up and bread. My brain was used to that.

At my "sit and be fit" group, I learned about down-sizing portions, serving food on smaller plates, cooking quantities of food that matched the size of the family and preparing different foods in new ways.

Fatty fried foods were swapped for foods that were baked or grilled.

White-flour bread was replaced with wholemeal breads and less of those are eaten.

I learned about the nutrients in foods and how there aren't enough in those that seem the cheapest to buy, like white bread and spuds.

Savings can be made by growing different vegetables at home or buying them at reasonable prices from fruit and vegetable shops or the markets. And down-sizing the portion sizes can also mean down-sizing the grocery bills.

Since joining the Maataa Waka programme I have lost 30 kilograms, completed two half-marathons and taken up cycling.

I feel more alive, I can think straighter, I'm less stressed and things just seem to be falling into the right place.

The Marlborough Express