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9 Tips For Overcoming Chronic Illness

When I was in my early twenties, I thought I was on top of life, training for a marathon and forging what I believed was going to be a successful career in advertising, until one day life had a different plan in store. It decided I needed to spend the best part of four years in bed – sleeping up to 21 hrs a day, too exhausted to move and wracked with pain  – to the point I had to crawl upstairs on my backside because my legs were so weak.  What began as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, later progressed to SLE – better known as Systemic Lupus, followed by Hashimoto’s and a pituitary tumor.  Not exactly the flash corporate career in advertising and running achievements I had envisaged for myself, but what I thought was my worst nightmare, turned out to be the best blessing in disguise.
What the?! I hear you say….well you know the saying, every cloud has a silver lining and life has a way of sending us what we need at the perfect time, well it turns out my journey with chronic illness was the best thing that ever happened to me, because it set my life on a path, far richer and meaningful than the one I thought I was striving for.  To cut a long story short, I eventually overcame this period of chronic illness and ended up turning my experiences into my career  – as a Clinical Nutritionist.  Since then I have gone on to treat thousands of patients with similar conditions, or complex health problems, that conventional medicine was unable to relieve.
One of the most common questions I get today about my journey to recovery is – what did you do to get better?  Well the answer was actually pretty simple… I applied 9 specific things to my life, which lead to me to where I am today – fully recovered.   These 9 things are also what I see in people who overcome any form of chronic illness or in people living their healthiest and happiest life.


  1. I use food as medicine  – the food you eat will either create wellness or feed illness.  By that I mean that every food choice you make is either going to help you thrive or lead you towards a path of illness.  So don’t just base your food choices on what your body is craving, but consider what’s actually in your food and where it came from and how it’s been processed.
  2. I fixed my gut – healing your gut is the single most powerful thing you can do towards achieving your full health potential and overcoming any illness, no matter how minor.  Without an optimally functioning gut, no cell, organ or body system will function at it’s best.
  3. I adopted a “glass half full” mentality to life – you’ve probably heard the saying, “where your thoughts go, energy flows”, & through becoming aware of your thoughts, will help you to identify whether your attitude is generally one of positivity or negativity.  Many of us can find ourselves trapped in negative and defeatist thought patterns, especially when we are not healthy –  which can either lead to, or exacerbate chronic illness.  Breaking free from negative thought patterns is essential for healing your body.  Practice finding at least one thing you are grateful for each and every day – even if you think your life and health is miserable and eventually this will flow on to develop a more positive towards yourself and others.
  4. I learn’t to live in the present – most of us struggle with living life in the present, let alone understand this concept.  Learning the art of being present lead to one of the biggest shifts in my health – enabling me to worry far less about the things I could not control and let go of events from the past that I could change.   It’s not always possible to live each and every moment being present, and I still fall into the trap of either being stuck in the past, or worrying about the future, but acquiring the skills to catch myself out when I do this, eventually helped me to live a life far more in the present – and less stressed.
  5. I learnt to say ‘no’ – this was, and still is one of the biggest things I battle with, out of fear of letting people down.  I  also see this trait in many people with chronic illness, or adrenal exhaustion – particularly mothers – because they feel guilty for saying ‘no’ when they really want to.  But learning not to say yes to everything that is requested of us and gracefully saying ‘no’ to those things or people we know are a drain on our energy, is an essential step to replenishing your adrenals and energy to heal.
  6. I prioritised my health above everything else in my life – instead of trying to build my health around my life, I built my life around being healthy.  I know for many this concept seems impossible, but for me it was a choice I needed to make to enable my body to truely heal and find true happiness again.  Sometimes what seems impossible, is actually the thing that creates the most possibilities…. if only we let go of the fear and limitations in our thinking and belief systems.
  7. I learn’t to love and accept myself exactly as I am – Instead of wishing I was someone else, or comparing myself to others as many women tend to do, I learnt to love me for me – warts and all.  I eventually discovered I was good enough exactly as I was – even when I was sick, because through doing so, my mind and body stopped fighting to be someone or something I wasn’t.  In the end I reached a place in my health which was exactly where I wanted to be and I actually became my happiest, without it being conditional on certain people, places or achievements in my life.
  8. I became my own best Dr – being sick taught me to tune in and listen to my body, so that I could understand what it was telling me and what it needed – especially when things were not in balance. So rather than waiting until something went drastically wrong with my health to be able to know something wasn’t right, I am now able to sense when I need to pull back or shift my health back into balance, because my body clearly talks to me each and every day.  Infact even if you are not functioning at your best, your body is constantly talking to you, sending you signs and signals about where it’s at.  All you need to do is listen and act accordingly.
  9. I learnt to trust my body – The day I surrendered to my body and accepted that I was not able to control everything in my life, I also discovered that if I provided my body with the best opportunity to heal, and created an internal environment that would enable me to get well again, then my body would have the inate ability to restore itself back to optimal health.

So whether or not you suffer from some form of chronic illness or health problem, if you are not as satisfied or happy with your current state of health and maybe even with your life, then you will benefit from adopting these tips into your everyday life.  If you’re not sure where to start with getting your health back on track – sick or not sick, then why not join my next 6WK Eat Yourself Healthy program, where I will guide you step by step on exactly what you need to do, in order to achieve your full health potential.

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Thai Coconut Fish Curry

This is a really healthy and delicious alternative to takeaway or store bought Thai food that is often laden with palm sugar and bottled sauces and it’s super quick and easy to prepare. And further good news people: the fat in coconut milk is not fattening, but rather filling.  This recipe a great way to get children to eat fish thanks to the delicious coconut sauce, but you may have to leave out or tone down the chilli and spices depending on the sophistication of your kids’ taste buds.


What you’ll Need…

400 gms boneless, skinless white fish fillets – I like to use perch or flat head
1 Tbsp. virgin coconut oil
½ medium red onion, finely sliced
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
1 punnet of baby or cherry tomatoes
1 – 2 stalks of lemon grass, finely sliced
1 -2 fresh kaffir lime leaves (optional)
½ cup fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp Himalayan or Celtic sea salt
Cracked black pepper to taste
½ tsp cayenne pepper or 1 red chilli, seeds removed & finely sliced
1 ½ cups organic coconut milk
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh chives (optional)

How to make…

Wash the fish fillets and pat dry and cut into 2-inch pieces
Heat the coconut oil in a deep fry pan over medium-high heat. Add onion, ginger, lemon grass, keffir lime leaves, chilli and garlic and sauté until softened, around three minutes.
Add tomatoes and sauté for another 3 minutes, stirring frequently to break up.
Add the cumin, salt and pepper and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine and cook for two minutes.
Add the coconut milk and bring to a simmer.
Add the fish and cook for 3 – 5 minutes, (depending on the thickness of the fish), until the fish is opaque all over.
Add the chives and coriander and serve with a side of greens or steamed bok choy

Sally’s Tip… Serve with ½ cup of cauliflower rice in place of high starch rice, if you are extra hungry!

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How I Recommend You Exercise On The EYH Program

It’s around this stage of the program many of you ask me about ‘how’ or ‘if’ you should be exercising and the simple answer is, it’s different for everyone, although everyone should at least be moving each day, because a sedentary lifestyle has been scientifically proven to be more dangerous than smoking!   But before I go into more detail about my thoughts on exercise, I’ll start by telling you my secret tip for getting the most out of your exercise routine… it doesn’t involve thrashing yourself at the gym, or pounding pavements until you drop to the floor in a heap of sweat to be effective!  Many of us equate our level and frequency of exercise as a major influence on weight loss, but in actual fact exercise is not the key to effective weight loss, but rather our gut function and diet is – by at least 80%.  Don’t get me wrong – exercise is most certainly an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, but a growing body of evidence suggests that the benefits of exercise are more correlated with reducing your risk of diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer, as well as improving mental health and boosting motivation, vs reducing the number on the scales!

There are times when certain forms of exercise, or even too much can have a negative impact on our health, and that’s in the case of a condition known as ‘adrenal fatigue’.  You can read more about this condition in a previous blog post I wrote here.   Engaging in too much exercise when your adrenal reserve is compromised, is like spending money you dont have in the bank – causing you to go into debt- or in this case, ‘adrenal debt’.  If you’re suffering from a chronic illness, or adrenal fatigue syndrome, I recommend pulling back from high intensity exercise and focus on ‘restorative’ forms of exercise – like gentle yoga, stretching and breathing exercises, or walking.  This will enable you to build up your adrenal reserves whilst still keeping mobile.  As your health starts to improve, you can begin to exercise at a higher intensity and frequency, providing you listen to your body for signs you might be overdoing it. But remember, less is more when it comes to your daily training session in that you don’t need to spend an hour more at the gym to get the benefits, 20 minutes is plenty and even less if you are doing high intensity interval training – a type of exercise that involves repeated short bouts of high-intensity exercises, followed by brief recovery periods. This sequence is repeated several times in a row usually for a duration between 20–30 minutes.

Incorporating some form of resistance exercise is very important for maintaining muscle mass, because we age at the rate we lose muscle so through engaging in resistance exercises such as light weights, pilates or yoga, you’ll be helping to sustain your muscle mass and the more muscle mass you have the better your body will be at burning fat.

One of the most important things to remember about exercise is not to do it out of ‘fear’.  How many women do we see stressing over losing the 400 grams they gained over night because they ate too much on their dinner date?  If your prime motivation to exercise is out of fear of weight gain, you’ll actually trigger the release of stress hormones which over time will actually down regulate your metabolism.

Some of you may not realise how my health journey began some twenty odd years ago… pounding pavements and thrashing myself at the gym, whilst in training for a marathon.  My attitude to my exercise regime was not what I’d call ‘healthy’ looking back as I was very ‘precise’ about how often I exercised and for how long.  Lets just say that approach didn’t turn out so well for me, as exercised to a point where my immune defenses became compromised and I contracted glandular fever and cyto megalo virus, which later developed into CFS – chronic fatigue syndrome and subsequently, Lupus.  Since making a full recovery, my approach, to exercise is totally different!   My number one rule is – if I don’t enjoy it, I don’t do it!  I give myself permission to enjoy whatever form of exercise I engage in, which is one of my keys to staying committed to it.   Too many of us forget the simple concept that we’re allowed to be happy, no matter what you do, or where you are, or who you’re with in life, and exercise is the last thing that we should be dreading!  If you are, you’re engaging in the wrong form, so find one you love, or at least makes you feel good!

The rest of my exercise rules go a little something like this:

  • Listen to your body not your mind
  • Scale back if your adrenals are flagging
  • Move every day – even if it’s just gentle stretching or a walk in the park or by the ocean.
  • Build exercise into your routine the way you do anything else in your life
  • Get some sunshine
  • Walk or take a bicycle vs the car, you’ll be amazed at how much more movement you will get into your day when you do.

Now if you’re already in an exercise routine that is working for you and it happens to be pretty intense, like long distance running, cycling or any form of endurance exercise, then stick with it, but just be sure your mind is not overpowering your body when it comes to knowing when to take it easy, as I commonly this occurring in cases of ‘burnout’ or adrenal fatigue. Remember always listen to your body because it will tell you loud and clear if your exercise routine is benefiting you.

All rights reserved Sally Joseph. Copyright 2016