Tonic Health media co-founder, Dr Norman Swan (pictured below), has been holding Q&A breakfast sessions at media agencies in Melbourne and Sydney to field anonymous questions from agency staff about health and wellbeing. Here’s adland’s most pressing health and well-being concerns according to the good doctor…
Touring Australia’s media agencies you notice one thing, the staff are young, bright, motivated and pretty engaged with their wellbeing. No question was off limits in our sessions, so anyone wanting a window into your colleagues’ mindsets should read on.
Sex and drugs featured strongly, with a few questions being asked on behalf of “a friend”, but issues around food and nutrition were most frequent. If I’d done this last year then gluten free diets would have been top of the list, but that fad seems to be dying a natural death. Instead:
- Is a vegan diet healthy?
This is a really good question.
Australia is said to be the third fastest growing vegan market in the world. Right now, the biggest body of evidence points to the traditional vegetarian diet (where dairy and eggs are consumed) showing significant health benefits. Low meat diets are associated with about a four-year increase in life expectancy and lower risk of Type 2 diabetes. So it’s a reasonably safe assumption that if you’re being sensible on a vegan diet and ensuring a good intake of essential nutrients, you’ll gain a similar benefit.
However, people practising vegetarian or vegan diets are probably healthier due to other lifestyle factors like being a non-smoker and getting regular exercise. You can’t expect just one aspect of your lifestyle to do the heavy lifting for your overall health and wellbeing. It’s a package of diet, exercise and healthful habits.
- Does the 5:2 diet work?
If you’re still looking to diet alone on order to lose weight, you’re doomed to medium and long-term failure. Almost any diet will help lose weight, from the most outlandish to the most sensible. If your aim is to look good on the beach this summer, or fit into a specific suit or dress for an upcoming event, then choose whatever diet suits you best. But use common sense when evaluating if a diet is safe.
The 5:2 diet, where you have two days a week with a very low calorie intake, is probably closest to the diet humans evolved to eat. Evidence from animal studies and a growing body of human research suggests that it works for weight loss and significantly improves metabolic health. It seems that stressing your body in this way, is good for it.
When dieting, consider a few things.
If you go on a diet with a deadline or event in mind, don’t be disappointed when your weight bounces back afterwards. Many people end their diets too soon, or take up diets that are unsustainable.
The current trend for singling out macronutrients like protein, fat and carbs, goes against scientific evidence. Studies show that your dietary pattern is what really matters, i.e. food content, cuisine style, cooking method, and how you eat.
Focus on slow cooking, eating more at lunch than in the evening, lowering your red meat intake and eating lots of fish, legumes and colourful vegetables. Also try to replace saturated fats with olive oil or plant sterols. Adhering to all these factors is associated with a six-year jump in life expectancy, but not necessarily abs and skinny thighs.
It all depends on what you’re looking for.
- What can you do about a hangover?
The lifestyle in agencies probably means you do most of your drinking at the weekend, consuming enough to get a bit drunk. Bluntly, this is binge drinking, and it may lower your inhibitions towards other substances like cigarettes, cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy.
One of the tricky parts of alcohol and other drugs is that they imitate the normal chemicals in your brain. But unlike natural chemicals, these ‘dirty’ chemicals depress your brain function in other areas. So when Monday arrives, often your brain is left with lingering depressant effects. In short, you might feel sad, sluggish and irritable. Sometimes this can last until Tuesday. So in fact your hangover can last for days.
Rehydrating can help the acute next day effects but a good treatment is to be more tactical at the start of the night.
When you get to the bar, try to make your first beverage a long soft drink and attempt to nurse it for a while. It will re-hydrate you after a busy day, and might offset the ‘dried out’ feeling that accompanies a hangover. More importantly, a soft drink will slow you down a little and hopefully stop you from drinking quite as much alcohol.
There comes a point in the night when you’re drunk enough to have a good time. Most of the time, we overshoot this happy medium. Getting too drunk can lead to other substances that compound your hangover. These choices make you feel good in the short term, but can leave you struggling for days to come.
My advice is to be kinder to your future self.