Fermented Foods – what are they and why are they good for you?

Welcome to the final installment of the Challenge Me Fitness blog series on gut health by our resident nutritionist Elle Eastwood. This week we are talking all things fermented. You can’t really step foot in a health food store without seeing a multitude of fermented foods. Pretty, rainbow coloured cabbage or ‘sauerkraut’ fill the fridges and strange names that all seem to involve the letter ‘ k’, like ‘kombucha’ and ‘kefir’ line the shelves. So are these fermented foods full of magical, super gut healing powers or are they just pretty, overpriced jars?



Fermentation is the chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria, yeasts, or other microorganisms, typically involving effervescence and the giving off of heat. Fermentation isn’t a new thing. It’s actually one of the oldest types of food preservation techniques in the world and is believed to date back to at least 5000 BC!  When foods undergo fermentation, bacterial microorganisms convert starches and sugar into lactic acids. It is this process which dramatically increases the nutritional value of the food and creates probiotics, live bacteria that are good for your digestive system. While scientists don’t know exactly how probiotics work, they have been proven in numerous studies to improve symptoms in those with gut problems as well as provide protection from infection and help to regulate metabolism. As a bonus, fermentation also preserves the life of food and enhances its flavour considerably.

Fermented foods normally come in dairy and vegetable origins, with the most common being yoghurt, sauerkraut and kimchi. You’ve probably also heard of kombucha, a fermented tea containing probiotics.



Fermentation enhances the nutritional content and digestibility of the food. It is also largely celebrated because it turns these foods into little probiotic powerhouses. As a result, consuming fermented foods is often encouraged to promote gastrointestinal health.

Examples of fermented foods and their nutritional benefits include:

Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) & Kimchi (Korean dish of spicy pickled cabbage)

  • The vitamin C content can increase by up to 600% after seven days of fermentation.
  • Has a low glycemic index after fermentation process
  • Is rich in L.plantarum probiotic strains
  • Contains anti-fungal compounds

 Kefir (fermented milk drink)

  • Improves cholesterol metabolism
  • May reduce severity of giardia infections
  • May improve gastric acid & pancreatic enzyme secretion

Kombucha (fermented tea)

  • Studies demonstrate favourable effects on cholesterol metabolism
  • Contains an array of organic acids shown to have antioxidant effects (repairs cell damage)
  • May reduce blood glucose levels
  • Has shown promise in aiding stomach ulcers


So there is merit to the marketing madness after all. Fermenting foods starts with relatively simple foods and turns them into little nutritional powerhouses. What’s doubly wonderful, is so many of them can be made from home for very little cost. Happy fermenting x

If you want to try making your own sauerkraut at home, check out this video for a step by step guide.


A little naturopathic side note: I would like to point out that like any good thing, fermented foods are not the be all and end all. If you have (or suspect) you have gut dysbiosis issues, it’s best not to be consuming excessive amounts  of fermented foods as they are widely grown bacteria which can provide a medium for growth for pathogenic organisms. You don’t always know what bacterial species you are feeding in the gut, so you if are on a gut healing protocol, it’s best to reintroduce fermented foods back into the gut slowly. Always consult your practitioner if in doubt.



Aloulou, A et al. 2012,’ Hypoglycemic and antilipidemic properties of kombucha tea in alloxan-induced diabetic rats’, BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine, vol. 12, no. 63, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22591682>

Bellassoued, K et al 2014, ‘Protective effect of kombucha on rats fed a hypercholesterolemic diet is mediated by its antioxidant activity’, Pharmaceutical Biology, vol. 53, no. 11,

Bourrie, B et al. 2016, ‘The Microbiota and Health Promoting Characteristics of the Fermented Beverage Kefir’, Frontiers in Microbiology, vol. 7, no. 647

Hawrelak, J 2013, ‘The Natural Gastrointestinal Masterclass: Session Two: Fermented Foods, Prebiotics, Synbiotics & Colonic Foods’


Elle Eastwood is a naturopath and nutritionist (BHSc) who first entered the world of complementary medicine after her own childhood journey with ulcerative colitis. Her experience of managing a chronic condition from a young age gave her a first hand insight into navigating an autoimmune disease diagnosis. Elle is committed to providing holistic treatment tailored to each individual’s unique needs. Ultimately, her goal is for patients to walk away from a consultation feeling happier and healthier!

Elle is also a kiwi, cheese lover and chronic tea drinker.




Does your gut health affect your skin?

In the last installment we discussed “Five foods to help heal your gut”. Hopefully you were pleasantly surprised to see that gut healing foods don’t always have to be peculiar, expensive products! Many simple foods can have therapeutic effects on our gastro-intestinal tract (GIT).

This week we are talking about how our gut affects our skin. This is a question I am regularly asked by my patients. So often, the skin is viewed as a completely separate organ to the rest of the body which can only be treated by slathering on multiple topical treatments. This couldn’t be further from the truth!



Our skin is the largest organ in the body, covering a surface area of approximately two square metres! Our main elimination organs are the lungs, liver, urinary system and digestive system. If these channels are compromised for whatever reason, toxins can often end up being excreted via the skin. Our skin is so often a reflection of what’s going on internally.

It is important to stress that skin conditions are multifactorial and each person’s unique presentation should always be considered. Nutritional deficiencies, hormone imbalances and compromised liver function are also important aspects to be mindful of when addressing skin conditions. In saying that, the explosion of research into the gut microbiome in the last few years has well and truly solidified the link between the bacteria in our gut and skin conditions.



A healthy, well-balanced gut bacteria eco-system plays an important role in ensuring the lining of our gut remains strong and able to act as an efficient gatekeeper. It should allow for the absorption of nutrients whilst blocking the entry of allergens such as parasites, fungi or pathogenic bacteria. If this barrier is compromised, it can cause the microscopic gaps between the gut cells to widen, allowing unwanted, larger toxins to pass through them and enter your system. The immune system then detects these intruders, mounts a response and causes inflammation.



  • A 2001 Russian study found that 54% of acne sufferers have significant alterations to their intestinal microflora.
  • A 2008 study showed people with sebaceous gland diseases (such as acne, seborrheic dermatitis and rosacea) were more likely to experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, constipation and reflux compared to those without sebaceous gland diseases.
  • A double-blind, placebo controlled trial showed a lactoferrin-enriched milk beverage significantly reduced acne lesions and acne grade over a 12 week period compared with placebo.
  • A recent meta-analysis concluded infants who were treated with probiotics had a significantly lower risk of developing eczema and probiotics are a successful preventative treatment in pregnancy and infancy.


This doesn’t mean that popping a probiotic every morning is a solution to skin problems, but it is certainly an important part of the jigsaw which should be considered within the context of everything else going on within the body. This research certainly demonstrates that what is going on within our gut has the capacity to impact everything else, particularly our skin. Before you lather up with another expensive skin lotion, stop to consider that bacterial ecosystem residing in your gut and if it’s trying to tell you something.


Next time, we finish up with the final installment in our gut series – I’m chatting about what fermented foods really are and why they are good for us.


Elle Eastwood is a naturopath and nutritionist (BHSc) who first entered the world of complementary medicine after her own childhood journey with ulcerative colitis. Her experience of managing a chronic condition from a young age gave her a first hand insight into navigating an autoimmune disease diagnosis. Elle is committed to providing holistic treatment tailored to each individual’s unique needs. Ultimately, her goal is for patients to walk away from a consultation feeling happier and healthier!

Elle is also a kiwi, cheese lover and chronic tea drinker.



Kim, J et al. 2010, ‘Dietary effect of lactoferrin-enriched fermented milk on skin surface lipid and clinical improvement of acne vulgaris”, Nutrition, vol. 26, no. 9, pp. 902-9

Kresser, C The gut-skin connection: how altered gut function affects the skin, <https://chriskresser.com/the-gut-skin-connection-how-altered-gut-function-affects-the-skin/>

Volkova LA, Khalif, IL & Kabanova IN 2001, ‘Impact of the impaired intestinal microflora on the course of acne vulgaris’, Klin Med, vol. 79, no. 6, pp. 39-41
Zhang, H, et al. 2008, ‘Risk factors for sebaceous gland diseases and their relationship to gastrointestinal dysfunction in Han adolescents”, Journal of Dermatology, vol. 35, no. 9, pp. 555-61

Zuccotti, G et al. 2015, Probiotics for prevention of atopic diseases in infants: systematic review and meta-analysis’, Allergy, vol. 70, no. 11, pp. 1356-71





Five Foods To Help Heal Your Gut

By Elle Eastwood – Naturopath & Nutritionist BHSc

In my last post, I addressed ‘5 things you need to know about your gut’ so this week we are talking about what foods you can eat that have healing effects on the gut. You probably already have a few in your kitchen!


Bone Broth

There is good reason bone broth is touted as one of the most healing and sealing foods for your gut and is the basis for many gut healing diets – because it’s true! Bone broth is an incredibly nutrient dense food. When the bones are simmered, minerals (such as magnesium, calcium and phosphorus) are released in easily absorbable forms, alongside important amino acids such as glycine, proline and glutamine. Bone broth is also a rich source of collagen and gelatin. Gelatin is particularly healing on the gastrointestinal lining by helping maintain the integrity of our gastric mucosa, thereby reducing intestinal permeability (i.e leaky gut) and having a ‘sealing’ effect on the gut.


Probiotic rich yogurt

It is a myth that probiotic supplements are always superior to food sources of probiotics such as yoghurt. In fact, yoghurt can provide a very effective medium for ensuring viable numbers of bacteria reach the small and large intestine intact. Vaalia yoghurt and Activia are both Australian made proven probiotic yoghurts. Vaalia contains 3 probiotic strains including Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG strain. L. rhamnosus GG  is a well studied probiotic strain, particularly for its use in reducing antibiotic-related diarrhoea and gut and skin conditions. Many clinical trials have demonstrated the therapeutic effects of using medicinal yoghurts. Best of all, both yoghurts can be purchased at most Australian supermarkets.


Anti-inflammatory Spices

Spices such as cinnamon, ginger and turmeric have beautiful anti-inflammatory effects on the body as a whole system, but are also very soothing on the gastrointestinal tract. I recommend liberal uses of these spices in cooking for all my clients, as they are so easy to regularly incorporate into meals. Cinnamon is a carminative and spasmolytic herb, meaning it’s very effective at reducing flatulence and easing symptoms such as nausea and indigestion.
Ginger is well known for it’s anti-nausea effects but also stimulates the flow of saliva, bile and gastric secretions & some research suggests, ginger may also have anti-ulcer activity by inhibiting gastric lesions. Similarly, turmeric wields anti-inflammatory effects on almost every area of the body. In the gut, curcumin is noted for it’s effects on reducing gastrointestinal spasms, abdominal pain and indigestion.


Prebiotic rich foods:

Probiotics are frequently discussed in relation to gut health, but prebiotics play an equally important role. Prebiotics are a non-digestible fibre compound which act as a fertiliser for beneficial bacteria, giving them food to grow. Typically they increase the levels of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria in our guts- aka the good guys. Ensuring adequate levels of these bacteria is important in protecting against gastrointestinal damage, promoting pH balance within the gut and supporting vitamin B production.  Prebiotic rich foods include onion, garlic, jerusalem artichoke, legumes, dandelion root, beetroot and pumpkin seeds. Feed the good bugs!


Slippery Elm

Technically, slippery elm is a herb (ulmus rubra) but it’s consumed in food form as a powder. The inner bark of slippery elm is what’s used medicinally. It is recognised as a mucilage- capable of trapping water, causing it to swell and create a gel like consistency. Slippery elm coats mucous membrane surfaces thereby soothing inflamed and irritated tissue. It’s soothing action and fibre content make it great for the treatment of diarrhoea by slowing down bowel transit time. It’s useful in all gastrointestinal conditions particularly gastric reflux, peptic ulcers, IBS and IBD.


Every single body is different and depending on what symptoms or conditions you are experiencing, healing the gut takes commitment and dedication. Be encouraged that food can be medicine for our gastrointestinal system and we get at least 3 votes a day to harm or heal! Next time, we look at how our gut affects our skin.



Elle Eastwood is a naturopath and nutritionist (BHSc) who first entered the world of complementary medicine after her own childhood journey with ulcerative colitis. Her experience of managing a chronic condition from a young age gave her a first hand insight into navigating an autoimmune disease diagnosis. Elle is committed to providing holistic treatment tailored to each individual’s unique needs. Ultimately, her goal is for patients to walk away from a consultation feeling happier and healthier! Elle is also a kiwi, cheese lover and chronic tea drinker. 




Braun, L & Cohen, M 2010, Herbs & Natural Supplements- An Evidence Based Guide 3rd Ed, Elsevier Australia, Chatswood, NSW
Hawrelak, J 2016, The Natural Gastrointestinal Masterclass Two; Prevention and treatment of travellers diarrhoea and gastrointestinal microbiota restoration.

Hawrelak, J 2003, ‘Probiotics: Choosing the right one for your needs’, Journal of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 67-75
The Weston Price Foundation 2003, ‘Why Broth is Beautiful: Essential Roles for Proline, Glycine & Gelatin, <https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/why-broth-is-beautiful-essential-roles-for-proline-glycine-and-gelatin/>

Core stability: what is it and why is it important?!

We’ve been talking about core stability for years but do you really know what it means? Did you know that your abs are more than just your 6 pack? Did you know that you actually have three layers of abdominal muscles with the deepest layers crucial to your core stability? Did you know that core stability relies on muscles other than your abdominals? Well read on to find out more!

What is core stability?

Core stability refers to your ability to stabilise your core (trunk/pelvis). The greater your core stability, the greater the control you have over your core and limbs thereby allowing more difficult exercises to be performed with reduced risk of injury. For example, runners who experience hip pain often find that improving their core stability improves pelvic control which in turn may eliminate their pain. Or as your core gets stronger with planking exercises, you are able to progress your plank by moving your arms or legs as your core control has improved.

Your core muscles should fire just before any movement you perform to help support your spine. Failure to do so may result in back pain or poor body alignment.

Anatomy of your core

Your core stability comes from the strength and activation of not only your abdominal muscles, but also your back muscles and pelvic floor!



  1. Abdominals: 3 layers
    1. Rectus abdominus – the ‘6 pack’ muscle which helps to flex your trunk
    2. Internal and external obliques – help to rotate and side-bend your trunk
    3. Transversus abdominus (TA)– the key to core stability – wraps around your body to insert via connective tissue into your spine. When you contract it, it acts like a corset to stabilise your core and protect your spine
  2. Back muscles – erector spinae, multifidus – work to stabilise your vertebrae and work in conjunction with your other core msucles to stabilise your spine, trunk and pelvis
  3. Pelvic floor muscles – the hammock of muscles that connect your pubic bone to your coccyx which support your internal organs as well as working with other core muscles to stabilise your pelvis
  4. Diaphragm – your key breathing muscle forms the top of your core and provides stability for complex movements

How to activate your core

The first step to activating your core is to contract your TA. Do this by gently drawing your lower belly (between your belly button and pubic bone) towards your spine by 1-2cm and maintaining it for as long as you can. If you rest your fingers 2cm inside your hip bones, you should feel your TA contract. Make sure you breathe normally as your TA must be activated while you move and clearly you need to breathe when moving and exercising! If you find you can only hold this contraction for a few seconds, keep working on it until you build up endurance. Your core stability muscles are endurance muscles as they need to be switched on whenever you move and exercise to protect and support your body.

If you are struggling with this, try squeezing and lifting your pelvic floor. You will usually feel your lower tummy come in slightly at the same time. This is your TA contracting as it has similar nerve supply to your pelvic floor muscles.

Once you have mastered the TA and pelvic floor contraction, you should aim to activate these muscles not only when you are exercising, but whenever you are moving (ie getting out of a chair, getting out of bed etc). The more you do practice, the quicker it will become a habit and you can start to progress your core strength training. Use the exercises described here to progress your core strength.

Next steps

We hope that gives you a better understanding of what core stability actually is, the muscles involved and how and when to activate them. Over the coming months we will be releasing a two week Challenge Me Fitness core strength program so keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram accounts for further updates! For further information, please feel free to contact me directly via [email protected]

The five things you need to know about your gut for good health

By Elle Eastwood, Naturopath and Nutritionist BHSc.


It seems like everyone is talking about gut health at the moment. We hear popular phrases like “everything starts in the gut!” and Hippocrates himself (the father of medicine) famously stated ‘all disease begins in the gut’. But why is it so important and how does gut health actually influence the rest of our body? This is the first of a 4 part series on gut health. In today’s article, we discuss the impact of the gut on your mood, weight, sleep and immune system.


  1. You have more bacteria in your gut, than human cells

The bacteria that reside in your gut are referred to as the gut ‘microbiome’. For every gene in your body, you have at least 350 microbial ones! Your gut microbiome weighs around 1.5kg and contains around 10,000 different bacterial species – it could be considered an additional organ! These gut bugs are just as critical to your health as your other vital organs, like your lungs, heart, brain and liver. Your gut microbiome is like your own unique fingerprint and helps to keep you healthy and happy!


  1. Your gut affects your mood

Approximately 90% of our body’s serotonin is manufactured in the large intestine. Your gut makes more serotonin than your brain does! Serotonin is our ‘happy’ neurotransmitter, essential for maintaining healthy moods and wellbeing. Tryptophan (the precursor to serotonin) is tightly managed by bacteria in your gut. This is why a healthy gut = healthier moods.



  1. Your gut affects your weight

Not only do genetics, diet and exercise play a role in determining our body weight, but also the microbes (bacteria) in our gut. Certain groups of bacteria have demonstrated they are extremely efficient at obtaining calories from food, thereby increasing calorie absorption. If your body is able to absorb more calories from food as it passes through your intestinal tract, the greater the likelihood of weight gain. Wre therefore want to keep these bacteria to a minimum. Eating high amounts of dietary fibre improves the ratio of ‘good’ bacteria and creates short chain fatty acids which the body can utilise for energy. Lean, slender people typically have much more diverse bacteria communities in their gut, in comparison to obese individuals.



  1. Your gut helps modulate your immune system

Approximately 70% of the immune system is found in your gut. The bacteria in your gut act like a gigantic gatekeeper army, working constantly to train your immune system to distinguish between harmful and non-harmful organisms. An overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria (known as dysbiosis) plays a major role in the development of allergies, autoimmune diseases and chronic disease.



  1. Your gut health affects your sleep

Exciting new research shows your gut microbiome can influence the timing and quality of your sleep. Gut dysbiosis is associated with an increased likelihood of experiencing sleep problems, fatigue and disrupted sleep-wake cycles. Alterations to our circadian rhythms, like what may occur from jet lag or shift working, can disrupt our microbial rhythms and have negative effects on sleep. Valuing our sleep and it’s quality is an important part of caring for our gut health!


So there you have it. The gut has wide reaching impacts over many important areas of our health. Improving the state of your gut will have a beneficial, ripple effect on your mood, sleep, weight and immunity.  Tune in for the next installment where I’ll be discussing ‘Five foods to help heal your gut’.



Hsin-Jung Wu & Wu, E 2012, ‘The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity’, Gut Microbes, vol. 3, no, 1, pp. 4-14

Perlmutter, D, 2015, Brain Maker; the power of gut microbes to heal and protect your brain for life, Yellow Kite, London, UK.


Elle Eastwood is a naturopath and nutritionist (BHSc) who first entered the world of complementary medicine after her own childhood journey with ulcerative colitis. Her experience of managing a chronic condition from a young age gave her a first hand insight into navigating an autoimmune disease diagnosis. Elle is committed to providing holistic treatment tailored to each individual’s unique needs. Ultimately, her goal is for patients to walk away from a consultation feeling happier and healthier. Elle is also a kiwi, cheese lover and chronic tea drinker! Find out more at www.wellwithelle.com


Special promotions for consultations with Elle are available for all Challenge Me Fitness members.



























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Winter Warmer: Pea and Ham Soup!

Winter is coming (to the southern hemisphere!) which means we start to crave warming foods such as stews and soups. Lucky for us, The Wholesome Nutritionist, Rarnie McCudden has a delicious winter warming pea and ham soup for us to try which is super easy and packed with vegetables and protein!


Prep time: 10 mins

Cook time: 6 hours

Total time: 6 hours 10 mins

Serves: 6 to 8

A delicious no fuss winter soup. Simply throw it in the slow cooker and let the aroma take over the house.



  • One brown onion diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1tbs oil
  • 3 carrots diced
  • 5 potatoes diced
  • 3 stalks of celery diced
  • 1 1kgm smoked ham hock
  • 5 cups dried split peas rinsed.
  • 1L chicken bone broth or home made stock.
  • 3 bay leaves



  1. Fry off the onion & garlic in oil then add to the slow cooker.
  2. Add diced vegetables, bay leaves, split peas, ham hock and broth / stock and cook for 6 hours on low or 4 hours on high.
  3. Remove bay leaves & discard.
  4. Remove ham hock & strip skin away then shred meat & return to soup.
  5. Let cook a further 20 mins then serve with some fresh parsley.
  6. A little hint. If you want to cook this while at work use an electricity timer on your slow cooker.


For more of Rarnie’s delicious recipes, check her out at www.thewholesomenutritionist.com


Squats – are they safe for your knees?

You’ve heard it before, squatting past 90° is bad for your knees. So what’s with all of those trainers promoting deep ‘ass to grass’ squats? While evidence suggests that deep squats promote greater strength development due to greater glute activation, controversy exists over the safety of deep squatting, especially for those with pre-existing knee conditions. So what is right for you? Read on to find out more!

Knee anatomy

In order to explain exactly what happens when you squat, lets first brush up on our knee anatomy. Your knee is a complex structure consisting of bones, joints, ligaments and soft tissue and is controlled by several key muscles. All play a key role in the optimal function of your knee.

Bones: Femur (thigh bone), Tibia (shin bone), Patella (knee cap)

Joints: Patello-Femoral Joint between your Patella and Femur (PFJ) and Tibio-Femoral Joint between your Tibia and Femur (TFJ)

Ligaments: Collateral ligaments (medial and lateral) which control sideways movement and cruciate ligaments (anterior and posterior) which control the forward/back movement between your tibia and femur

Other soft tissue: Cartilage which covers the bone inside the joint (ie. over the ends of the tibia and femur as well as the back of the patella), and Meniscus which is extra padding found in your knee joint to absorb force and protect your cartilage from damage

Key muscles: Quadriceps (thigh muscle) which straighten the knee and Hamstrings (behind the thigh) which bend the knee. Please note that there are several other muscles that are involved in knee control and movement however they are too complex to go into for the purposes of this article!


Squatting and the force

Now that we understand our knee anatomy a little better, let’s look at the forces occurring in the knee when we squat.

There are two types of forces at play when you squat:

  1. Shear force – Involves the forward/backward movement between your tibia and femur and is controlled by your anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments (ACL and PCL). Shear force reduces as you squat past 90° and is minimised when your feet are in a neutral position or slightly turned out.
  2. Compressive force – is due to the weight load placed on your knees (both body weight and external weights such as dumbbells, kettlebells and barbells) and is absorbed by your cartilage and meniscus. In your PFJ, compressive force is greatest at 70°-100° of knee flexion and decreases thereafter At your TFJ, force increase as you pass 90° flexion


So what does this all mean?

Deep squats enable greater activation of lower-body musculature (particularly your glutes) when compared to shallow squats. If you have healthy knees, given that most of the forces described above decrease after 90°, ‘ass to grass’ (deep) squats should be ok, as long as you use correct form (described below).


What if I have ‘bad’ knees

So that’s great for those with healthy knees, but what if you have bad knees?

If you have TFJ arthritis or meniscus damage, the compressive force will be your issue.  You’ll probably find that squatting to 90° is fine but don’t go deeper. You may also need to reduce your weight to allow you to perform squats comfortably.

If you have PFJ arthritis (or your knees make all sorts of grinding and clicking noises when under stress and sometimes swell after exercise), you will need to consider reducing your squat range to 60°degrees (because the deeper you go, the greater the contact between the patella cartilage and femoral cartilage and in damaged knees, this can rub and cause more damage – which is the grinding sound). You could also try a front squat (or goblet squat) instead of a conventional squat which places less compressive and shear force through your knee.

In summary, if you don’t have 100% healthy knees:

  1. Only squat to 60-90°
  2. Try the front squat instead
  3. Reduce your weight as required
  4. Choose some of the many other exercises that can be used to develop your glutes, hamstrings and quads
  5. Consult your trusted Physiotherapist


So what is correct squatting form?

Whichever type of squat you do, the five key things you need to focus on are:

  1. Place your feet where they naturally want to go. You might be told that your feet should be shoulder width apart and facing straight ahead. However, as every single one of us is different, your body will tell you where your feet are most comfortable. They can be wider than shoulder width, one foot slightly in front of the other (for example if you have a slight leg length difference) or with your toes slightly turned out. Experiment to find the position that is most comfortable for you
  2. Always maintain the natural curves of your spine to not only protect your back, but also allow the muscles at your hips (and therefore knees) to work optimally (otherwise the stress through your knees may increase)
  3. Make sure your knees track in the same direction as your toes – if your knees fall inwards or outwards, you place too much stress on the inside or outside aspects of your knees which can cause damage
  4. Keep your weight through your heels – this will reduce the compressive force through your PFJ by enhancing activation of your glutes and hamstrings
  5. Use an appropriate weight – don’t go too heavy too early. Make sure your technique is correct even as you fatigue before increasing your load


Other important information

Please also note that to perform a full squat, you need adequate ankle range of motion. Without this, your knees will tend to fall inwards, placing them under great stress and at risk of injury. How do you know if your ankle range is insufficient? Usually your heels will lift off the floor when you squat and your knees may fall in. Calf stretching and ankle range of motion drills will assist this. In the meantime, you can also practice squatting with your heels elevated (on small weights plates) until you have adequate range of motion.

Top squat tips:

  1. Warm up properly
  2. Choose the squat that’s right for you – full squat for healthy knees, reduced range and/or front squat for compromised knees
  3. Don’t go too heavy too quick – it’s much better to start with a lighter weight, get your technique right and ensure your knees can handle the activity before slowly loading up. Trust me, your body will thank you for it
  4. If it hurts – stop, modify you activity and see your local physiotherapist for guidance

Remember, as always, everybody is different so you need to find what works for you. If you have any concerns, please consult your trusted Physiotherapist. With their extensive knowledge of human movement, correct technique and how to train around injuries, they and can provide you with individual guidance.


We hope you enjoyed learning all about knee anatomy, the ins and outs of squatting and how to squat safely. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at [email protected]

How to develop good habits to achieve your health and fitness goals!

We all have health and fitness goals. We start new eating plans or workout routines and many of us struggle to stick to them. So how can we change this? We need to make these new eating plans and exercise regimes a HABIT!


So what is a habit?

Habits are the automation of previously conscious decisions. They are the choices we action, and then stop thinking about but continue to carry out, often daily. For example, do you have the same routine every morning when you wake up? When you move house, does this throw your routine until you have embedded the new habit? At some point, we all consciously decide what our morning routine will be. This routine becomes automatic when we stop consciously conducting the actions needed to achieve the outcome. This automatic behaviour is a habit.


Habits emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. A study by Duke University in 2006 found that more than 40 percent of actions performed each day were not conscious decisions but habits. By understanding how habits develop, it is possible to change them.


Habit loop

Habits are a process within our brains formed via a three-step loop:

  1. Cue: A trigger that tells your brain to go into auto-pilot
  2. Routine: The steps of the habit
  3. Reward: Helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.


Over time the loop becomes more and more automatic and eventually the brain starts to crave the reward when the cue occurs. The craving of the reward is what solidifies the habit loop. It is this craving of the reward that is key to turning good exercise and nutrition habits into a sustainable healthy lifestyle. Habitual exercisers have a clear reward:

  • More energy
  • Release of feel good endorphins
  • An evening of guilt free television
  • Feeling strong, fit and healthy
  • Fitting into clothes
  • Feeling less bloated


To achieve these rewards and create new healthy habits, a pre-determined cue is required, for example:

  • Exercising at particular times of the day or week:
  • First thing in the morning or as soon as you get home from work
  • On particular days
  • Being prepared to eat healthy with:
  • Weekly menu planning
  • Completing the grocery shopping at the start of the week


So what can I do?


There are five steps to achieving new good habits. Read the steps in the table below and the complete these steps for yourself to identify how you can instil new, healthy, good habits for life!


Step Detail
1. Identify the challenges you face or the goals you can’t seem to achieve What are the everyday challenges that prevent you from being who you want to be?
2. Identify your bad habits


What are the behaviours you repeatedly perform that prevent you from achieving your goals?
3. Identify dominant bad habits


Do you have one bad habit that if you changed would improve your other bad habits? If so, focus your attention here. If not, choose your top two to three bad habits to focus on.
4. Identify the cue and reward for each bad habit The cue is the trigger for the habit to occur.

The reward helps the brain confirm the act is worth remembering.

5. Develop strategies for new good habits


Once you have identified these cues and rewards, you have two options:

a)            Develop a new, positive routine to action when the cue occurs that enables you to retain the reward (or create a new, better reward!)

b)           Develop strategies to avoid or manage the cue and avoid falling into the bad habit loop


Good habits lead to success

Long term sustainable change is impossible without looking at your habits and identifying the behaviours that have prevented you from achieving your goals in the past. It’s time to eliminate these behaviours and develop positive sustainable habits that will help you be successful for life!


For more information on changing your habits, sign up to one of our three challengeme-fitness.com programs and receive the tools you need to change your unhealthy habits forever!

The 3 new year’s resolutions everyone breaks…and how to not let it be you!

  1. Get fit – there’s a reason your body breaks down after one gym session or run – you’re not used to it. Instead, commit to 3×30 minutes gym sessions or light jog/fast walk per week, slowly building up your strength and endurance. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
  2. Save more money – as with any goal, without a specific target, saving money is a tricky business. Instead, choose an outcome with a defined value – such as a holiday or yoga studio membership and track your progress with a savings calculator on your fridge
  3. That was my last…cigarette/late night/Big Mac…the struggle is real so don’t beat yourself up when you try to go cold turkey and fail. Instead try to slowly wean yourself out of your bad habits – your chances of success will be much higher.

It happens every year, as the Christmas cheer settles over another silly season, you emerge, tired, dusty, a little heavier and a little poorer. You decide to take action and vow to morph into the bright, shiny, new and improved version of yourself. One year its fitness, and you vow to lose 5kg, train 4 times/week, become a yoga guru and be that beautiful healthy specimen all your friends are envious of. The next year you plan to save more money so you can put a deposit on a house and finally break free of the rent race and live in a place of your own. Another year you are definitely giving up cigarettes/alcohol/fast food/ice cream – whatever your vice may be. But somehow life always gets in the way. So how do you not succumb to the statistics and achieve your new year’s resolutions in 2017?

  1. Set realistic goals – set goals that are measurable and achievable. If you have a larger goal, break it down into monthly or weekly goals, allowing you to have continual wins along the way and help instill new good behaviours to help you achieve your overall goal
  2. Track your progress – like any good work plan, if you don’t track your progress regularly (daily/weekly/monthly), progress slows, often to the point of cessation. Visually being able to track your progress is a valuable tool in helping you achieve your overall goal
  3. Get an accountability partner – sharing your resolution either publically or with your friends can help you keep it because it makes you more accountable. Knowing that they will check on your progress can be a big motivator. Consider making a pact with one or many of your friends and find your new, bright and shiny selves together!

So set realistic goals, track your progress, grab and accountability partner and watch as 2017 becomes the year that you do!

For further information, please email [email protected]

Tips for surviving the silly season!

It’s that time of year once again where day after day you find yourself at Christmas parties, lunches, dinners and end of year catch ups. So how do you stick to your fitness goals while still having fun? This is one of the most frequently asked questions by our clients. So read on to find out!


1. Drink in moderation

Sound lame? It’s not. Choose which events you will drink at and which you’ll stick to the soda water. Not only will your head thank you for it in the morning but so will your waistline when you hit the beach on your summer break!


2. Alternate alcoholic drinks with water

You’ll always have a glass in your hand, you’ll hydrate as you go, you’ll consume less sugar and you’ll consume less alcohol. It’s not hard and it can make a big difference!


3. Choose your drinks wisely

Alcoholic drinks usually contain many calories so choose wisely. Vodka soda and sparkling wine are usually the best choices for those watching their energy intake with cocktails being the most calorie laden (an espresso martini has approximately 300calories which is equivalent to a meal!). Or even Ask for a wine spritzer – half wine, half soda. You get the wine taste for half the calories and half the alcohol content with a little extra hydration. Make sure they don’t use lemonade – it’s full of sugar!

See below for the calorie content of your alcoholic drinks

Alcohol Liquid calories
Wine (150ml) 130
Champagne (150ml) 90
Beer (350ml) 150
Spirit (vodka, rum, whiskey – 30ml)) 70
Baileys (30ml) 110
Frangelico 70
Cocktail – ranges depending on ingredients

–          Espresso martini

–          Mojito

–          Caprioska


–          285

–          353

–          200


Mixer (250ml) Liquid calories
Tonic water 100
Dry ginger ale 75
Coca cola 105
Diet coca cola nil
Orange Juice 95
Lemonade 105
Lemon Lime & Bitters 108
Red Bull 120
Soda water nil


4. Eat first

We’ve all been there. Headed straight to a party or after work drinks on an empty stomach and end up eating loads of deep fried bar snacks or unhealthy canapes during the event or stopping off for kebabs or pizza on the way home. Avoid this rookie error by having a healthy high protein meal before you go out. Not only will you handle your alcohol better, but you’ll drink less and you won’t over indulge in high calorie foods!


5. Have healthy food prepared for when you get home

If you are hungry at the end of the night, if you know you have something healthy and delicious waiting for you in the fridge or freezer, you’ll be less inclined to succumb to fast food on the way home.


6. Drive!

When it all gets too much, your self-control is waning or your friends aren’t supporting your decision not to drink, driving to an event is a great self-imposed ban on excess alcohol consumption. When you wake up the next day feeling fresh and ready to train, you’ll be glad that you did.

And remember, it’s not just the calories from alcoholic drinks that are going to impact your goals. It’s also the effect of alcohol on your detoxifying organs and the subsequent impact on fat metabolism.


7. Schedule exercise and stick to it!

We all know how much better we feel after working out so don’t let this slip during the silly season. Schedule exercise into your diary like you would a meeting and keep that appointment! Better still, arrange to train with a friend or partner – knowing you will let someone down if you don’t turn up will help you stick to your plan and consider your behaviour the night before!


So there you have it! Challenge Me’s top tips for surviving the silly season. We hope our tips help you to navigate this period in a fun but responsible manner. So happy holidays everyone!


For the full list of tips and tricks that we give our clients to help set themselves up for success, sign up to one of our programs at www.challengeme-fitness.com.