Good habits for the rest of the year

It’s almost the end of January, and most of us have already given up on the resolutions we made as 2013 rolled in. But making some changes to your lifestyle and habits could save you a bucketload on physio or chiro bills, not to mention headache pills – and improve your productivity.

Sit less, move around more. At the office, make a point of getting up and talking to people instead of sending an email or picking up the phone. Try a standing desk or implement a policy where only standing meetings are allowed. I’ve been experimenting with reading books while using my Voltaren ball – it certainly helps .

Lighten the handbag. Women are like hermit crabs, carrying our lives with us wherever we go. Have you conducted a handbag audit lately? Is every item you keep in your bag absolutely necessary?

Sit up straight. Your mother was right: hunching over a laptop is bad for you. This is one of my biggest faults; I’d be claiming a lot less from Discovery if I just improved my posture.

Wear flat shoes more often. This is sacrilege to a lot of women I know, but high heels throw your spine out of alignment and set you up for years of chronic pain.

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The handbag audit

Handbags are dangerous things. I am convinced they are portals to a parallel universe. Things can get lost in a handbag, sometimes for years.

When was the last time you conducted a handbag audit? I perform this exercise every now and then just to remind myself what’s actually in the various receptacles I use to lug my stuff around. This week, I invested in a new handbag and I’m really excited about it. I found it at Oriental City Rivonia while on a mission to rescue that place from the Bermuda Triangle of retail. Have a look:

New handbag

Finding the perfect handbag has been a futile quest of mine for years. Either they’re too small, or they lack compartments, or they’re vulnerable to pickpockets. I like this one because it’s big enough to hold my laptop, I can hug it close to me, and it’s stylish. Also, it’s not passing itself off as Jimmy Choo or Burberry like some of the other handbags in the store, or the ones they try to sell you at robots, and that’s reassuring.

This is what I’m keeping in my new handbag:

Screen Shot 2012-12-12 at 11.52.59 AM

The only things missing are my Vodacom LTE modem (in my office), my handbag-sized tube of Voltaren (missing a lid, now lost somewhere in the Range Rover I used to drive), and my phone (which I’m using to photograph all of this). This is incredibly disciplined for me. Given the size of this handbag, and the fact that stuff is like gas molecules, and expands to fit whatever space you provide for it, I fully expect this thing to end up weighing half a ton.

My chiropractor will be making a fortune out of me next year.

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Martha rocks her heels

Martha in heels

Handbags and heels are bad for backs, but we can’t help loving them. This is my friend Martha Van Zyl – known as @Syll_ble on Twitter – at her birthday tea at Jam and Daisies in Brooklyn today. I was impressed that she’s able to wear heels (I battle) because five years ago she was in such terrible pain that she had to have a back op to repair a ruptured disc.

She’s convinced that sitting caused the problem in the first place, and specifically too much sitting while she studied for exams. (Interesting that studying for exams while riding an exercise bicycle triggered my own back pain issues.)

Eventually driving became almost impossible – she would go numb in her left leg, and since that’s the one you need for your clutch, it was a problem. Doctors told her she was too young to have the op, but she pointed out that she’d recover more quickly. She’s now in her mid 30s and will need another op in about five years, but her back is in good enough shape for her to wear heels and haul around handbags – as long as it’s not every day.

“Having that op was the best thing I ever did,” she says.

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“I now have a happy back” – Michelle’s back pain story

Michelle Kaplan says an osteopath worked for her. Here’s her story:
I’ve suffered with backache for about 6 years now on and off. I first saw a chiropractor 3 times a week (cost me an absolute fortune), who also told me I can’t wear heels – I was devastated. After seeing him 3 times a week for 4 months, I called it a day. I didn’t see an improvement and didn’t see the point of paying money to be tortured by him every session for no results.
I then saw a physiotherapist, who made things so bad that I had to go to the doctor to give me a cortisone injection just to ease things up and get me walking again. I then wrote the physio off as a bad joke.
I learnt to live with the pain and discomfort until I couldn’t even go for a run anymore because my alignment was so badly out of shape and had a ripple effect on everything down to the way I was standing!
A dear friend of mine, who is one of those excellent running-types referred me to her osteopath. I had never heard of an osteopath before that day. Apparently you can’t study to become one here in SA so it’s a very specialised field. What an osteopath basically does is work on the bones like a chiro and the muscles like a physio, but actually fixes things by bringing those very crucial bits into aligned harmony!
I saw her for 3 months and felt relief, I even got back to running and finished the 10km RunJozi (had a few blisters, but made it!) She also shows you how to keep yourself ok, so you don’t need to spend a fortune seeing her every week.
I’m now down to a visit every 6 weeks just to make sure I stay aligned and have a happy back.
Michelle’s osteopath is  Dr Nicola Frickle. She’s based in Bryanston and her number is: 011-234-8018.
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So I can’t wear heels. Sob.

Me at SAFW

Here’s a picture of me with fashion designer Gert-Johan Coetzee and former editor of Heat magazine Melinda Shaw at SA Fashion Week’s launch at Edgars Melrose Arch (I went along to support fellow Land Rover brand ambassador Craig Jacobs, who has items from his Fundudzi label on sale there). Can you see how I’m standing at a bit of an angle and my left foot looks a bit funny? That’s because despite the fact that I’m smiling, my feet are in total, but total agony. My soles were burning; I might as well have just attempted a Tony Robbins firewalk.

I can draw three points from this:

  • I am definitely missing a second x chromosome
  • I was an alien species at a function where everyone else wore insanely high heels – even one or two of the men (see below)
  • On the plus side, I don’t have to worry about back pain caused by heels, because I can’t wear them long enough

Here’s a picture of a man wearing insanely high heels (apologies for the blurriness):

Man in heels

I doff my metaphorical cap to him; there is no way I could ever wear shoes like that. The fact that even a short period of walking or standing in heels is now unbearably painful means I probably can’t wear heels period. Some women inject Botox in their feet to stop the pain from wearing heels – a so-called Loub job – but I’m not sure I’m up for that.

I am doomed, it seems, to a lifetime of sensible shoes. But possibly less back pain. Sigh.

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@battica gets her ball!

Today the planets aligned and I was able to get a Voltaren exercise ball to one of the six winners, Bonita Vos (aka @battica). Bonita, a graphic and web designer, told me she broke her coccyx as a child and can’t sit on a normal chair – so this ball is going to come in very useful.

Here she is demonstrating how she plans to use the ball.

Bonita sitting


As @anjavanstaden pointed out after Bonita tweeted about getting the handover, one of the ways you can use a ball at work is this one:

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Mel Bala’s pain in the neck

Everyone has their own set of knot with associated causes. For the letters sent out with Voltaren balls to various influencers, I had to do a bit of guesswork. Here’s the diagram we sent to Mel Bala:

So I’m not sure it was fair to blame it on the pillow – but hopefully I got some of these right (they’re the kind of lifestyle habits that cause back pain issues for a lot of women).

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