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New Year, new mindset – why movement matters more than exercise

This week Dr Louise is joined by Dr Hussain Al-Zubaidi, our brand-new fitness and longevity coach on the balance app. Dr Hussain is a GP who runs an NHS-based fitness and lifestyle clinic that helps patients to eat better, move more and connect with their community.

Dr Hussain is a long-distance triathlete but he hasn’t always been fit – a shock medical appointment prompted him into action after years of inertia and slowly but steadily he lost 24 kilos.

Here Dr Hussain shares what he’s learnt, including shifting your mindset from thinking about exercise as an obligation to choosing which movements you enjoy, be it a walk with friends or dancing. He explains why menopause can pose a challenge but also an opportunity to figure out what positive steps you can take for a healthier, happier you.

Finally, Dr Hussain shares three things you can do in this new year to improve your quality of life and longevity:

Get a partner in crime – someone who can support you. Without my wife, I wouldn’t have made these changes.

Try to control the cues in your life – we all have cues that trigger behaviours that we’re not happy with. You might need to change your evening routine, for example.

Harness self-belief. It really matters and is so powerful.

You can access Dr Hussain’s new content on the balance app, and follow him on Instagram @irondoctorhaz.

Click here for more about Newson Health.


Dr Louise Newson: [00:00:11] Hello. I’m Dr Louise Newson. I’m a GP and menopause specialist, and I’m also the founder of the Newson Health Menopause and Wellbeing Centre here in Stratford-upon-Avon. I’m also the founder of the free balance app. Each week on my podcast, join me and my special guests where we discuss all things perimenopause and menopause. We talk about the latest research, bust myths on menopause symptoms and treatments, and often share moving and always inspirational personal stories. This podcast is brought to you by the Newson Health Group, which has clinics across the UK dedicated to providing individualised perimenopause and menopause care for all women. Today, I’m very excited to talk to someone who I have met in real life and actually lives quite locally to me, which is quite unusual for podcast guests. But I’ve got Dr. Hussain with me, who is a RCGP so Royal College of GPs Lifestyle and Physical Activity Lead. He’s also Swim England medical advisor. He’s also a phenomenally fit person and is a triathlete and he’s a NHS GP and he’s actually a good friend and inspiration to get off the couch and do some activity. I’m not going to call it exercise, but just do some movement. So it’s a new year, new you, new us. We’re just wanting to talk openly, but I’m really keen also to introduce him to you and hear a bit about him and his story because he’s not always been a super fit, as you will see if you follow him on Instagram. So welcome to the podcast. Thanks ever so much for coming and joining me. [00:01:56][105.9]

Dr Hussain Al-Zubaidi: [00:01:58] No, thank you, Louise, for inviting me. [00:01:59][0.9]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:01:59] So we connected, I think I read something about you. I remember reaching out to you and talking to you about exercise and how important it is, but also how frustrated I am that so many women I speak to are really struggling with exercise and they’re almost being forced into doing exercise because they know it’s better, but they’re finding it hard because their hormone levels are low and they’re getting muscle and joint pains, they’re getting fatigue, they’ve got low stamina. And it’s great because like me, you’re really holistic looking at the whole body. But all the other interactions that go on, it’s not just exercise and nothing else. And for my work, it’s not just hormones and nothing else. And I know your lovely wife’s a psychiatrist, and it’s not just mental health and nothing else. All these things. And for me, the most important things are the three things I’ve just said. So hormones, exercise, mental health. And if I’m allowed a fourth thing, it would be nutrition as well. And actually, if we’ve got those four right, we’ll firstly reduce a lot of diseases, we’ll reduce a lot of suffering. And this whole longevity that everyone’s talking about, our healthy living will really improve. I hope you agree with that. [00:03:14][74.9]

Dr Hussain Al-Zubaidi: [00:03:15] 100%. You know, I think nowadays more and more people are caring about health spans, so the number of years they’re around with a good quality of life, then really kind of much else because it doesn’t matter what age you get to from a life expectancy point of view, if you can’t look after yourself, if you can’t, you know, walk to the shops, meet your friends, dress yourselves, things like this when you’re in your later years, then, you know, I don’t think you’re going to get the same enjoyment from life. And in reality, we can’t wait for problems to arise before we start taking action, because by that point it’s too late and the amount that you can do reduces. And I think, you know, you’re looking after a group that needs this sort of extra support more than anyone, because in reality, when when you go through the menopause and you have the change in your hormone levels, I often liken it when I speak to a number of my clients that I support with physical activity, to the treadmill is already set at a speed. Really, before you even get on, you’re going backwards because that’s just unfortunately the sort of the impact that, for example, a drop in oestrogen can have. And so I think we just have to be mindful of that. We have to be compassionate to ourselves and each other, that things aren’t going to be as easy as maybe you remembered. But the good news is that it’s positive. You know, there are things we can do, positive action-oriented tasks that can help to make things better. [00:04:39][83.5]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:04:39] Yeah, and I think it’s interesting isn’t it because there’s no diagnostic test for the perimenopause or menopause, as you know, we can’t just simply do a blood test or whatever. So we rely on women. So for us as individuals to try and work out if we’ve got any hormonal changes. And often in the perimenopause our hormonal changes can vary between minutes, seconds sometimes, or days or months. And actually one of the things that a lot of women tell me and I personally noticed, but hindsight’s a great thing, was that my yoga practice was really, really different. I was becoming quite stiff and it didn’t flow. And for any of you that do yoga, that whole sort of rhythmic flow, I do ashtanga yoga, so every breath is a different movement and it’s quite a powerful exercise. But I was like, God, this is hard, really difficult. And I thought it was because I was just a bit tired or, you know, I exercise a lot better mid-morning. Like I’ve had my breakfast, an hour after is the ideal time for me personally to exercise. It’s not always good. I can’t always do it because of work and everything else. So if I do it in the evening, it’s just not as good. So I was thinking oh maybe it’s just because it’s the evening and then I try and get up earlier and do it, but then I can’t do it before I eat because it will trigger a migraine. So there’s all sorts of things that I thought was my… But my migraines were worse. And so my joint pain, my joint stiffness, my motivation, my just everything had gone but my migraines as well. And I was getting more sugar cravings, but I just thought, Oh, it’s because I’m stressed. It’s because I’m stressed, because whenever you read, it’s all about stress. But actually, once I had the right doses of hormones, including testosterone, it’s so much better. Everything just works better. And of course, don’t get me wrong, I do have practices where it’s not good. But that’s not my hormones, that’s just, you know, our body’s changes. But if we’re more aware of our bodies, we’re more likely to pick up these things. And I think that’s really important. And it’s not just for hormonal changes for other conditions as well. I think when we’re using our bodies in different ways, we are more aware of any problems. You know, if I sat still all day, I wouldn’t be aware if I had pain in my knees, for example, because I’m not using my knees and like for even wear and tear arthritis. You want to pick it up early, anything in medicine you want to pick up early. So sometimes the more we move, it’s just little warnings, isn’t it, to our body. [00:07:04][144.7]

Dr Hussain Al-Zubaidi: [00:07:05] Yeah. And I like how you mentioned, sort of the connected to yourself because I think that’s what I get the most from physical activity is that you really do feel connected with your own body, whether it be swimming in open water or going for a walk with my wife or just spending some time outside, dancing, for example, you know, like that just gets you more connected with your surroundings, with your body, and you just find the movement joyful rather than a chore. Because for so many and in particular, if you are struggling with symptoms and it is more tricky, exercise, as some people call it, is a chore. But as you rightly highlighted in your book that I read, you know, if we can change that perspective from a chore to a movement you enjoy, suddenly you’re not looking at the watch every minute to see if half an hour has gone by. Suddenly you’re not counting every single calorie that you’re potentially burning, because when you use those metrics to guide it, it is so demoralising. Like you have to do so much exercise to burn anywhere near enough that you think is going to be significant. But if instead you’re going to a salsa class and you’re meeting your friends and you’re having fun, the hour’s gonna fly by, trust me and so that’s a really important aspect before we even think about what am I going to do to get more active this year, think about what do I actually enjoy that involves me moving? [00:08:28][82.4]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:08:28] Yes. Yeah, really important. But it’s very interesting because you came and spoke to some of our staff a while ago, which was amazing. And you were talking about a bit of your own story and you were actually saying, I hope you don’t mind me saying this, you said to some of your partners at work a while ago now, I’m going to learn to run. And you told me that they all laughed at you, so you clearly didn’t look like you do now and you clearly weren’t as fit as you are now. So what’s the story there? [00:08:56][27.9]

Dr Hussain Al-Zubaidi: [00:08:57] Yeah. So I think it’s something that, you know, if I share, I suspect a lot of people will relate to in that, you know, as I went through university and through early junior doctor years, I was very much being affected by what we call now the osteosarcopenic obesogenic environment. And the reason I’m putting all three in is because often you’ll hear obesogenic environment… [00:09:18][21.4]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:09:19] That’s lots of words for people to understand. [00:09:20][1.6]

Dr Hussain Al-Zubaidi: [00:09:22] It is and let me break that down. So that is a environment that promotes a reduced bone health, reduced muscular health in the sarcopenic element and increased weight. And what was happening? I was working. I was trying to do my best, you know, really just focusing on trying to improve my academic performance, my family, my background – that’s all they cared about. You know, if I was playing football, I would be told off, because I’m wasting time and I should be revising and I should be working and I should be striving, etc. And it came to a head when I had a blood test, which I can’t even remember why it was. I know that they were checking my hep B status because as a doctor you need to make sure that’s done. And they picked up that my liver function was off and so they sent me for an ultrasound scan and the sonographer said like he’d rarely seen a liver that was fatter than mine. And genuinely I hadn’t weighed myself for at least ten years. Now I look back on it, I didn’t look in the mirror and I think I didn’t purposefully not look in the mirror, but I think I obviously subconsciously didn’t want to look. And I even asked my wife, I was like, What’s happened? Like, and she was like, I didn’t want to tell you. But surely when you were buying more clothes because they weren’t fitting any more, I thought that that was the message. And she was obviously just too kind to tell me. But I wish she maybe had earlier. And, you know, I was 94 kilos. [00:10:50][88.1]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:10:50] 94. [00:10:50][0.0]

Dr Hussain Al-Zubaidi: [00:10:52] 94 kilos. Bear in mind, I am 70 kilos now. So that’s 24, you know, less. And, you know, I think the bit that scared me most was that I had now nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. And my father is currently in liver failure and was at the time in liver failure due to the same condition. [00:11:08][17.0]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:11:09] Right. [00:11:09][0.0]

Dr Hussain Al-Zubaidi: [00:11:10] And I just realised that like, I am just sleepwalking into my dad’s life and my uncle’s life. And so many of my family are overweight and struggle with that. And it was just that wakeup call that I had to do something. And before then, I hated exercise. Like with a passion. [00:11:27][16.9]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:11:28] So how old were you then. [00:11:29][1.0]

Dr Hussain Al-Zubaidi: [00:11:29] I was 25. What are you when you’re F1 [trainee doctor]? I think 25, so just come out of university about maybe a year, that kind of thing. And yeah, no, like it was just that wakeup call that I just had to do something about it. And I just started with just doing fast walks, like power walks with my wife, she would just motivate me and just say, Look, we just got to get outside. Let’s try and just get you moving a bit. And then from then, you know, I started to try running and it was really difficult. It was a challenge. I still didn’t enjoy it, but I went to parkrun, which is a weekly five kilometre free event. It’s up and down the country, it’s 9 a.m. every Saturday. And like they were so supportive there. And it also made me realise because I was being overtaken by people with like a double pram, like they had two like large kids, they probably should have been walking, to be honest, but they were overtaking me because I was so unfit. And so that’s when I went into that sort of meeting itself because I was like, you know, I want to get better. Just like in the same way that I focused on being, you know, a high achieving academically as possible, I wanted to apply myself at this. And yet everyone laughed because they just couldn’t picture me being athletic or even anywhere near kind of high performance. And to be honest, I didn’t really picture it myself, but I just wanted to get better and I just kept working at it and I focused on how can I make running more enjoyable. And for me it was doing it with other people. It was doing it with my wife in particular. And so slowly I would just get a bit better, a bit stronger. And then as soon as that started happening and I noticed that I was getting fitter, I was just enjoying it so much more because I was just finding that my days I wouldn’t get to the end of, let’s say, my GP day and feel absolutely shattered. I just feel slightly less shattered to start off with. And it just kept growing and growing and getting to a point where I was just, you know, getting faster and faster. And then I was winning parkrun. And it was strange because like it was now a year or two after I started, like I’d cross the line and I’d look back and there wouldn’t be anyone there. And I was just like, Oh, like, that’s strange. So therefore I started doing regional races, etc. But to cut a long story short, you know, the pinch-me moment was last year when I was on the start line of the world championships for long distance triathlon. And I was thinking, how the hell have you got here? And I think it just shows that it doesn’t matter where your starting point is and it doesn’t matter where you end. Like, for sure, people aren’t going to end up in the world championships, not everyone. Some people just don’t have time, etc., but don’t ever count yourself out because I used to think that, I just don’t have good genes because literally no one in my family has literally a fibre of any athletic ability. Just don’t count yourself out and just focus on yourself, because that’s all I did. Like the rest was just a surprise. I just focused on, okay, next month, how can I do a bit better? And by better it doesn’t mean getting faster, most of time is just how do I get more fun from it? What excites me? Just focus on that. [00:14:31][181.5]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:14:31] It’s so kind of you to share that story and it’s so inspirational, but it gives people so much hope because it’s so easy and we all do it, especially on Instagram, you look, Oh gosh, they’ve got this perfect life, perfect body and you think if someone’s always been like that, it’s so much easier to keep in good habits. Like if you’ve never ate a McDonald’s, you’re never going to start when you’re in your 20s. Well it’s unlikely. But if you’ve been brought up with certain and everything that you were describing about the bone loss, the muscle loss, the nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, it’s all inflammatory conditions. And this inflammation I’ve spoken about many times on the podcast, it accelerates ageing. And as we were talking earlier about this healthy living, it’s really when I think about population health, which I do a lot, and you look at areas of deprivation in England, the average age of a woman to keep being healthy when she’s living is 52. If you look in areas of affluence, so in better socioeconomic classes, it’s 71. So this 20 year difference in healthy living. And if you look, the government’s talks about these six main conditions and they are inflammatory conditions, so cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, clinical depression is still an inflammatory disease, Alzheimer’s. And there’s a lot, obviously, where we’re talking about nutrition and it is difficult to eat well. It’s very easy to eat badly and it’s often cheaper to eat badly. So that’s a massive conversation in itself. But actually movement is really good and there’s, what’s really upsets me sometimes is there’s a quite a big debate about whether exercising you lose weight or not. And I find that really difficult for two reasons. Firstly, it’s not about losing weight. It’s about being healthy. And I’m sure you agree with that. And secondly, how the hell do you know? Because you can’t do a randomised controlled study on yourself unless you have identical twins. But then we also know self-reporting is a real problem when you look at any of these studies. We all we all, maybe I don’t because I hate lying, but people do say, oh, yes, I did 40 minutes exercise when they probably did 30. And then it’s very hard in the studies, but actually it’s not about losing weight. And people often find their body shape does change. I’m sure you agree, there’s no doubt about when you exercise. But it’s not just because of the pure exercise. It’s probably because you’re sleeping better and you might be eating better and your metabolism will change on the type of exercise, but it doesn’t really matter. And I don’t feel that people should be listening to this thinking they’ve got to run to lose weight or they’ve got to do this exercise to lose weight. I feel very strongly that we should be thinking about investing in our future health and doing the right type of movement that is right for us. And so, you know, my mother always says I’m not an exercise freak, all these people that are, I’ve never… But now she’s got quite bad osteoarthritis and I see her struggling. And I, I think, oh, I don’t want to be like that. And in fact, she’s so much more mobile than a lot of her friends. But of course she takes HRT and I’m sure that helps. And she is active though, she’s not a sedentary person, you know, she’s always up and about moving and she’s still working, so she’s catching a train or she’s… So she’s, it doesn’t matter that she’s not spent a lot of time exercising. But also for me, I’m really worried about core strength and pelvic floor and that side of things. But also exercise improves our mental health. [00:18:07][216.4]

Dr Hussain Al-Zubaidi: [00:18:08] Yeah. [00:18:08][0.0]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:18:09] So, you know, it’s looking at what you want out of exercise, but often you don’t know until you do it. Don’t you agree? [00:18:15][6.3]

Dr Hussain Al-Zubaidi: [00:18:15] Precisely. And I know that a lot of people in particular when the new year comes around, like weight loss is the kind of primary objective. And if I think of the lifestyle clinic that I run and the NHS, like over three quarters, that’s their aim. And when I lost the weight, it wasn’t just any form of physical activity. It has to be multiple pillars. The key element is that you find something to start off with because in reality, to lose the weight look, you need to be active. You need to look to improve your diet, to remove calorie-dense foods, improve nutrition. You need to also ensure that your stress levels are better because we know that stress will guide you to make unhealthier choices. And you also need to help construct some control over the environment. Because it’s out there, it’s quite difficult. You go to restaurants, you go to supermarket, you go to work. But these things are kind of designed to unfortunately give you the wrong health inputs. Now, what I would say is, you start off with just one habit, just one thing. And for me, that was taking up running, okay. That will not be the right thing for everyone. I can tell you that now. Some people, no matter how many times they’ll try running, they won’t enjoy it. And that’s not they’re not bad people. They just need to find a different movement. But you take it that habit and you just focus on doing it as best you can, move it up. Because then what happened was when I started running, I eventually psychologically became a runner. And then when I had that habit and we call this a keystone habit, I started making other life choices based on that because I wanted to improve my running. I thought, Oh, is that doughnut going to help? Hmm, maybe not. You know, maybe I should have, let’s have some fruit, let’s have some nuts. And then it’ll be like, you know, is going to this social activity the right thing? Or should I maybe, you know, have a walk in the park with my friends, because I haven’t done anything all weekend, You know, it just helps to influence decisions because the brain likes doing positive actions rather than consciously saying, I can’t eat this, I can’t do that. I have to quit this because that’s just so negative. And all you’re going to be doing is craving that thing, in reality you’re doing because you’re coping with the stress and it’s actually providing some benefit. Although, yes, smoking’s going to be damaging your lungs, it does help stress relieve you and you’re doing it for a reason. So it’s about trying to, you know, look at how you can fix the underlying causes and create that identity that you want. And in the clinic that I do, my group clinics, I try to encourage everyone to consider themselves as their own personal athlete because the athlete is sort of the example of the most, we call it selfish, but I think we should all start being a little bit more selfish to ourselves. Because then you start making decisions that looks after you. [00:21:10][174.2]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:21:10] Yeah, I think you’re absolutely, well I know you’re absolutely right. And I often say to people when they say, how do you do everything? And I said, Because actually I’ve become more selfish as I’ve become older. And actually it’s on a Wednesday morning, we’re recording this, and I have somebody, James Critchlow, who’s a yoga instructor, comes over every Wednesday morning. I’ve known him for 15 years and it’s my really selfish time. I have an hour and a half on a Wednesday where I do a primary series of ashtanga with him. He comes over to our wellbeing centre and it’s a really important reset for me because it’s very selfish time. I could fill my diary a thousand times over, but everyone knows they can’t block it and I do it with a really good friend. So it’s great time to see her as well. And James has the most calming voice. So even if I didn’t do yoga, he just resets me mentally. But actually at the end of a practice, he always says Louise you’re so different at the end. You know, you do your relaxation and meditation at the end and it’s just everything lifts and it’s really powerful. And I also carve out time. I can’t do lots of exercises, like I said, before I have breakfast, but I often do 15 or 20 minutes of yoga. That’s enough. Otherwise I will know I’ll trigger a migraine in the morning. So I get up and do it before I have a shower. And I always think, Oh, 15 minutes isn’t much. But if I do that three times a week, that’s 45 minutes that I wouldn’t do so I don’t snooze my alarm. I get up 15 minutes early and my husband gets annoyed because I disturb him when I get up but it’s tough. But actually that’s really important to try and carve out that time. And then at the weekend I’ll do a longer practice and sometimes it means that the washing isn’t done on time or the dishwasher isn’t emptied or my house isn’t as tidy as it could be. But actually I know I couldn’t work this hard if I wasn’t investing in, you know, my yoga practice. And I wish I could say I will take up running, but I’m just not a runner. I like cycling. But I think if you know what’s right for you, then you’re more likely to do it as well. But I also think if I said to myself, right I’m going to do an hour’s yoga every morning, I would set myself up to fail. And after a week I would be torturing myself because I hadn’t done it. So you almost want to have smaller goals. Do you agree that you might excel and change your goals? So if you find that ten minutes walk, you’re doing very easily, maybe you could do 20 but not say I’m going to do an hour or two hours’ walk because I think that’s worse. It’s the psychology as well, isn’t it, that’s so important. [00:23:42][151.7]

Dr Hussain Al-Zubaidi: [00:23:43] The boom bust approach is something that so many people do. And up until that point where I really started to make changes, that’s what I was doing because don’t got me wrong, I didn’t just, you know, sleepwalk it completely. I did make attempts to lose weight in different ways. I did make attempts to try and get active, but I always wanted to do something big. You know, I want to be ambitious. We want to be able to tell our friends and say that, you know, I want to do something good. It’s only when I read a book by, you know, Rangan Chatterjee, which I’m sure many people know, that I realised that… Look, OK, let me try a different approach because this has not worked many times. And when I did that first sort of run, it wasn’t a run. It was just a walk. Because in reality, I hadn’t even walked for like more than four minutes or however long it took me to go from my car to work. And so how can I expect myself to run for half an hour, you know? And it was just crazy that I even thought that that was a possibility before. But I just started walks and I’d extend the walks, then I’d make the walks a bit faster, then I’d make the walks hillier, and then I start to add a few chunks of runs in there. And that’s the key, you have to avoid, you know, you have to curb your enthusiasm early on because we always have loads when we’re sort of writing this down and coming up with our resolutions. And let’s say you have that goal, what I tend to do with patients, I say, okay, that’s brilliant, but I want you to tell me ten steps to get to that goal because they want to do it in one. But I go no, break it down into ten and force yourself to do it for ten. And then each step make it time bound. Say, okay, so I want by three weeks’ time to be able to do X and then just keep adding those steps. Because if you have those little steps, you will feel good when you achieve it and when you maintain it and then you’ll feel even better when you have multiple steps that you’re getting to that staircase of eventually achieving the goal that you want to do. And you know, you mentioned 15 minutes there. That’s plenty of time. Like we know that not just from a sense of trying to make people maintain it. We know that from sport physiology, like 15 minutes you can do a hell of a lot. Five minutes, you can do loads and I will do five minutes sometimes because I just know that there will be benefit whether it be doing plyometrics for five minutes, whether it is just going outside in the morning and just walking around my garden for five minutes, you know, even if I’m not covering much distance, just that will help to just lower blood pressure, to lower anxiety levels. And when the choice is zero minutes or any minutes, I’m telling you now, take the any minutes that you can do. Don’t be upset that maybe life’s become busy and you can’t do the half an hour workout you planned. Adapt it, change it. And the last thing that I want to say is if you’re struggling to find any time and you feel that time is a big barrier, because in a lot of surveys, that’s normally in the top three of things that people say is a barrier. Then what you mentioned there of getting up that little bit earlier is so powerful because if you leave it to the end of the day, things will just get in the way, you know, like… [00:26:50][187.3]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:26:50] Course they will. [00:26:51][0.4]

Dr Hussain Al-Zubaidi: [00:26:51] WhatsApp messages, you know, your kids, you know, things that just will get in the way. But in those first 15 minutes, first half an hour of the day, normally, you know, things are quieter. You can just control that half an hour far better than you can if you planned it in seven in the evening. [00:27:10][18.7]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:27:11] Yeah, I totally agree. And it’s taken me many years to realise that as well. And I think, well, you hit so many things which are so important. And I talk a lot about migraines because they do control my sort of routine and my life. But I feel quite lucky if this sounds a bit weird because I know that if I ate that doughnut you’re talking about, I’d get a migraine later. I know that if I didn’t bring my own lunch in and went and got a meal deal, I would get a migraine later. So I have to be really organised and I have to cook my own food and think ahead and always have nuts because if I have a snack and it’s a bar of chocolate, I’ll trigger a migraine. But a lot of people don’t have that, do you know what I mean? [00:27:54][43.5]

Dr Hussain Al-Zubaidi: [00:27:55] Yeah, it’s like an early warning system, I like that. [00:27:56][1.4]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:27:56] Yeah, but also what they will do is just feel a failure because they’ve had a snack or they’ve done something or they think, Oh, no, well, that’s it then. There’s no point me exercising because I feel like this and I don’t really know how to get out of that because I am I am quite strong willed. But we all go through stressful times and we all think that food is going to give us joy and comfort. I don’t drink any alcohol either because of my migraines. I don’t eat chocolate because of my migraines, people go, Oh my goodness, what are your pleasures? My pleasure is actually one of it is obviously my work, but my family and actually just having me time. But I’ve adapted and that’s taken me 20 years or so to have this. But it’s almost like we all need a bit of a migraine to sort of think like, why am I getting this bar of chocolate? Why am I going to do this? And it’s often not because you want that really, really bar of chocolate, because obviously when you do eat it, you feel great for 30 seconds don’t you and then it’s gone. So it’s like, how can we detract ourselves by thinking, Actually, no I’m going to walk right rather than left. So I’m going to go right into the park rather than left into the shops, because then I’m not distracted by, Ooh, look at those chocolates when I go and buy the newspaper, I’m looking at the trees and the flowers and everything else. But it’s how we do that. And I’m sure in a lot of your lifestyle clinics and talks and the presentations you give, it’s this is a really important part of mindset, isn’t it? Because that’s so many… But it all sounds very obvious when I talk about it, but it’s taken me years to realise that because otherwise you play mind games and you’re like, Oh, I’ve done really well because I haven’t had chocolate today. So maybe I now need a treat tomorrow and oh my goodness, but now I’m a failure because I had, you know, I thought about it and it’s like, what are we doing to ourselves? And I think it’s harder than it was when I was growing up in the 70s because you didn’t have all these foods, you didn’t have takeaways, you couldn’t maybe you bought petrol, you didn’t have all these, you know, crisps like which are the size of your head to say, Eat me, eat me. It’s so easy. But it’s like, how do we do this internal psychology to just say, it’s okay, you don’t have to buy into all this. You know, it is hard though. It’s really hard. [00:30:05][128.3]

Dr Hussain Al-Zubaidi: [00:30:05] Exceptionally hard because there are really intelligent people working to make it harder because, you know, let’s think about food. They are designed designed to be weapons because they know exactly how a brain works. They know that we are still these primitive animals that are based on survival. Okay? And if you have the choice of lettuce or a calorie dense, high fat, high sugar food, then it wants that because that is going to survive. Okay? That’s what’s going to mean that you survive. And it’s the same with movement. A lot of people think that back in the day, like we were moving loads and that we loved it. But in reality, if you, for example, look at the tribes that are living a hunter-gathering lifestyle still, that’s like the Hadza in Tanzania or Raramuri in Mexico, these guys are spending as much time still as possible. They will go on ridiculous runs when they have to because they need food or they need water. They will not do it just for jokes. You know, that’s not what they’re doing it for. And so that’s how our brain is wired. Our brain is wired to be as efficient as possible. It’s wired to want as calorie dense foods as possible. And we’re now having to work to fight against that. I have complete sympathy for anyone that is not able to fight those urges because that’s how you’re wired. Now, I think what’s really important for people moving forward in setting the goals into this year is that they look to harness the focus on just one thing, okay? Just focus on one thing to start off with, okay? Because if you try to combat all these issues, you’re going to struggle on all ends. If you’re saying no to chocolate, if you’re saying no to this, and if that one thing is anything, my view is look at stress. Look at your life. And now a lot of people think that stress is something that’s automatic. They can’t change. But in reality, there are some hard decisions that you can take that means that your stress levels are going to reduce, whether it’s around relationships that aren’t serving you, whether it’s around work, that, look, maybe there’s a reality that you need to either change the kind of work you’re doing to something you enjoy more or the hours or the location, because for me, that was something that I changed and it had a transformative effect for how… I could therefore eat. I could move because I was so burnt out and stressed doing something that I didn’t feel like I was making the difference I wanted to. And I suddenly, just once the stress levels dropped, I was just able to make better decisions. I wasn’t coming home and just clicking Just Eat and ordering in terrible food. I wasn’t coming home and thinking, Oh, I can’t be bothered to do any walking or running or something like that. And so until I just reduced the stress, which often I always talk about that treadmill, you know, I talked about before how like the menopause can increase the speed. Well, stress and all these things that increases it even further growth. So it’s all about how do you slow down that treadmill, whether it’s reducing stress, whether it’s treating your menopausal symptoms, whether it’s looking at underlying issues and tough decisions, just slow down the treadmill as much as possible so at least at baseline, you’re not having to walk too fast because then you have the energy to go, okay, I’m now going to push myself in other areas of ways that stress is beneficial because that’s the key. You know, stress isn’t always negative. [00:33:42][216.5]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:33:42] Absolutely. Yeah. Really great. Great way to end as well. Thinking about everything. Every aspect of our life is so important, and I’m very grateful for your time. Before we end, though, there’s always three take home tips. And I do think that I’m going to ask you to come back more because there’s so much more we need to talk about. And there are going to be some events that you’re going to do here in Stratford-upon-Avon at the wellbeing centre as well. So I’m looking forward to how we can work more collaboratively. So before we end, three tips. So like we said, new year, new beginning, new resolutions, but what three things do you think that are not overwhelming that are easy hacks? Because I think life we’ve got to make hacks to improve our quality of life and our longevity and healthy living. So three things that you think would make a difference, not just to the person listening, but people around them who they’re listening as well. So everybody that we’re in contact with, three things that we could all do to share with others. [00:34:38][55.6]

Dr Hussain Al-Zubaidi: [00:34:39] Okay. So the first one and I’m going to try and say quickly, just because I always start getting tearful when I say this one, but that is get a partner in crime, because without my wife, I wouldn’t have made these changes. Okay. So tip two is it’s about trying to control the cues in your life. So we will all have cues which trigger us to do behaviours which we’re not happy with. I’ll give one really quick example. A patient of mine used to tell me that every time in the evening he’d sit down to switch on and watch Netflix. The urge to have something sugary was just ridiculously strong and he would just go to the kitchen. He tried to have something small. He’d get like a doughnut, cut it in half. But then by the time he got back to the living room to enjoy, he’d already eaten it. Like he literally just inhaled it and he didn’t even enjoy it. So he’d have to go back to the kitchen, get more, by the end of the evening he’s had way too many. So it’s about how do you adapt that? So for him, we decided to change his evening routine. We said, Look, let’s not watch Netflix in the evening. What can you do instead that you enjoy? And he said, I love reading. You know, I used to read loads and I love these kind of topics. And I said, okay, you know, let’s give that a go, you know, how about you read? And to make it even more exciting to read, join a book club. So therefore you kind of have that kind of, you know, force you to read so you don’t want to attend and not know what you’re talking about. And that works really well for him. You know, it changed the cues. So think about these cues. So that’s the second tip. And then the third tip is self-belief. Okay, now this really matters. There’s a story that I tell people just to illustrate just how powerful self-belief is. In the Tour de France in the 80s, doping was widespread. And a French cyclist called Richard Virenque was competing and he was tipped to do pretty well. But he was struggling. He was struggling to keep up with the group. And he asked his team, you know, what’s going on? And he heard from the other riders in the peloton. They always chat and talk during these events. And they were trying there was a new type of doping medication that they were using and he wasn’t using it. So he went to his team and he said, look, I need to be using this. That’s why I’m underperforming. That’s why I’m not doing well enough. And his team, they look, they didn’t mind doping, everyone was doing it, but they didn’t want to start something new in the middle of competition. You just don’t know how you’re going to react. Although he wasn’t doing great, he wasn’t doing terribly. He was sort of in around 10th position. And so what the physio did was I’m just going to inject him with placebo and just tell him that this is the doping drug. They did that. The next day was a time trial and he outperformed anything he’d ever done before. He smashed it and he was just unbelievable. He goes, God, this doping medication is incredible. And in reality, all he had was belief. Yes, at the time, not self-belief. In reality, if he just believed in himself, he would have made it. [00:37:38][179.0]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:37:39] Really great tips. I really like that. So thank you ever so much and thanks again for your time and all your work and energy as well. So thanks, ever so much for today. [00:37:46][6.9]

Dr Hussain Al-Zubaidi: [00:37:47] No, thank you Louise. [00:37:47][0.0]

Dr Louise Newson: [00:37:52] You can find out more about Newson Health Group by visiting and you can download the free balance app on the App Store or Google Play. [00:37:52][0.0]


New Year, new mindset – why movement matters more than exercise

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