Viva Veganism!

Many myths and ridicule abound about vegan eating; from “it’s boring”, to unhealthy and makes you weak, that it’s not filling enough, that veganism is an eating disorder, and is for “hippies”.

Veganism is defined as a way of living that attempts to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty, whether for food, clothing, entertainment, or any other purpose. 

For these reasons, the vegan diet is heavily plant-based and devoid of animal products, including meat, eggs and dairy.

By all appearances, plant-based eating seems to have gained a firm foothold in Australia. According to research company Roy Morgan, about 12.1 percent of Australians – nearly 2.5 million people – were on mostly vegetarian diets in 2019, showing an increase from 11.4 percent in 2014.

Although the number of actual vegans – people who do not consume or use any animal products (and by-products) – is uncertain, Vegan Australia estimates that there are about 400,000 to 500,000 in the country. Numbers have also been on the rise in major Western countries like the UK and US. 

According to the Vegan Society: “Eating vegan is like other ways of eating: take care with what you’re putting in your body, and your body will take care of you. 

“However, vegan diets also have numerous advantages over others. Vegans are far more likely to reach the recommended 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, have lower rates of obesity and reduced risk of colorectal and prostate cancer.”

Of course, like any other form of eating, if you limit the variety of foods you consume and your recipe repertoire, or don’t make an effort try to learn about the nutritional plusses and minus of various foods, veganism could indeed be boring, unfilling, unhealthy, or weaken you.

I believe my mission is making people aware of the infinite flavoursome possibilities of vegan cuisine – by experiencing my food, joining my small group workshops, watching my recipes online.

Valeria Boselli, aka ValTheVeganChef, arrived in Australia in January, 2006, for a holiday after graduating from Milan’s Politecnico with a Master’s degree in architecture. She never left … and embarked on a mission to popularise vegan/vegetarian cooking, her personal passion. 

“I was supposed to only stay six months with the intent of studying English and to travel, but I ended up falling in love with the place and started working in hospitality instead,” Valeria says. 

“I started from scratch and soon found a mentor who taught me how to cook in an industrial kitchen. From there I learned everything I could from every job I worked. 

“A peak of my career as a chef came in 2014 with the opening (with two partners) of The Dandylion Bondi, a vegetarian/vegan restaurant based in Bondi Beach. 

“We ran the restaurant for three years and in that period of time I developed my own original recipes, often veganising popular ones, after a lot of experimentation.

“After Dandylion, I moved to the northern beaches of Sydney to focus on catering. After a couple of years working for various companies, I established my own – that is how ValTheVeganChef was born.

“A couple of years before the Dandylion chapter, I worked for Watson’s Bay Boutique Hotel (in Sydney’s eastern suburbs).  

“I had a few friends who were vegetarian and particularly from a Hare Krishna background – they never had animal flesh in their diet. 

“I started experimenting and cooking vegetarian dishes to be able to share with them my passion for food. 

“My vegetarian culinary skills and creativity quickly became of demand. Briefly after that I joined forces with two friends and created the Dandylion. By then I was vegetarian, but then with even more information available I adopted a full vegan diet.”

Valeria “fiercely disagrees” that a vegan diet is “dull and tasteless”.

“I recently watched SaltFatAcidHeat on Netflix, and although it is not vegan, the same principles apply: different techniques, good produce, learning about good fats, different elements containing salt, different ways to add acidity to a dish to elevate it to a different level.

“A very important part of my approach to vegan cooking is using herbs, nuts, seeds, raw or pickled vegetables to add different textures.

“I also love working with seasonal produce and playing with combinations of vibrant colours.”

Valeria described the key benefit of veganism:

  • To stop animal exploitation: Terminate slaughterhouses, leather and fur harvest, zoo and circus animals, exotic animal markets
  • Environmental benefits due to a more sustainable lifestyle: Contain carbon gas emissions, limit the transport of goods to within a local area
  • Health benefits: Diminish heart diseases, cancer and other pathologies linked to the consumption of meat

“After the amazing experience of having my own vegan-vegetarian restaurant in Bondi, I focused on catering, working for top Sydney companies,” she adds.

“It fulfilled my hunger for knowledge, techniques and organising skills, but I was struggling with the constant overuse of animal produces and waste.

“So I took the leap and start my own journey, not just in catering but in workshops and private cheffing. 

“I believe my mission is making people aware of the infinite flavoursome possibilities of vegan cuisine – by experiencing my food, joining my small group workshops, watching my recipes online, inviting me to be your chef and guide in a private plant-based, unique me l experience.”

www.valtheveganchef.com

Thrive Issue 5

Hello and welcome to the 5th issue of Thrive magazine 2021 – The year that we all focused on after doing our best to survive 2020.. For the amazing team here at Thrive, we are very excited for the year ahead in our continued curation of the high quality content you now expect from us, as well as some exciting developments in taking our next big step in being Australia’s premier health and wellbeing destination.

Thank you again for all the terrific feedback and valued suggestions for the topics and updates you would like to see more of in future issues. Many of these from the previous issue have found their way into this feature-packed version.

With the new year kicking off under what felt like same, same but same, (where did January go?) things are now looking up, the Australian Open is under way and with summer well and truly upon us.

In this issue of Thrive we have the amazing story of how an injured baby bird gave wings to a family in distress – and put them on a flight path to major destinations, a look at how through exercise immense health benefits can be achieved, being mindful about the way we breathe will boost both physical and mental health, a focus on how through isolation the rise in depression and mental health has become a real concern, as well as consumers wanting their beauty brands to deliver results while executing social and environmental responsibility in their approach, plus much more!

We want to make sure we keep tapping into the topics and issues vital to your physical and emotional wellbeing, and importantly will enhance your quality of life.

Read Thrive Magazine Issue 5

Sweet Poison

Sugar addiction is a common problem among our patients. They know sugar is bad for their health but feel powerless to stay away from it because it tastes so good. 

There is some debate among healthcare practitioners over whether sugar can actually be addictive or not but this is not going to be an academic article. If you feel like you cannot moderate your consumption of sugar, I’d like to give you strategies to help. 

Research has shown that reducing or eliminating sugar consumption can significantly improve obesity, fatty liver and Type 2 diabetes in only two weeks. These findings come from a study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

When consumed in excess, glucose and fructose can cause significant health problems. When you consume glucose, 20 percent is metabolised in your liver and 80 percent throughout the rest of your body. When it comes to fructose, 90 percent is metabolised in your liver and converts to fat 18.9 times faster than glucose. So unless you are extremely physically active, if you eat a lot of fructose your liver will be manufacturing a lot of fat.

According to Dr Tyree Winters, an osteopathic paediatrician specialising in childhood obesity: “Fructose provides no nutritional value and isn’t metabolised in the brain. Your body converts it to fat, but doesn’t recognise that you’ve eaten, so the hunger doesn’t go away. Many young patients tell me they’re always hungry, which makes sense because what they’re eating isn’t helping their bodies function.”

Fructose is the sugar naturally present in fruit but eating fruit doesn’t cause metabolic problems unless you really overdo it, or you are very insulin resistant and sensitive to sugar. The biggest problem with fructose is that it’s found in nearly all processed foods. 

Fructose provides no nutritional value and isn’t metabolised in the brain. Your body converts it to fat, but doesn’t recognise that you’ve eaten, so the hunger doesn’t go away.

Ordinary sugar (called sucrose) is comprised of a glucose molecule joined to a fructose molecule. Therefore, any food that contains added sugar is bound to be high in fructose. Liquid fructose, such as found in soft drinks and fruit juic, is especially bad because it gets absorbed into the bloodstream so quickly; heads straight to the liver and gets converted into fat.

Sugar can feel addictive and you may feel dreadful in the first few days of quitting it, as your body detoxifies. However, it’s worth it, because your metabolism will heal and you should feel significantly better after the first week.

The following strategies should help reduce sugar cravings …

Eat 3 substantial meals a day

The meals should be comprised of adequate protein and healthy fats, as these are what help to keep you feeling satiated. Nibbling all day or skipping meals is not the route to losing weight. You will probably end up eating too much in the end and feel overly full by the evening. 

You might need to add a little more fat than usual to your meals for a few days, as healthy fats are wonderful for reducing sugar cravings. Examples of healthy fats to include in your diet are olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, oily fish, ghee, nuts and seeds and the fat from grass-fed meat. 

It is also important to eat adequate protein, as this will stabilise your blood sugar. Examples of good protein sources are seafood, poultry, eggs, red meat and the whey in Synd-X Slimming Protein Powder from .

Drink plenty of water

It’s very important to stay well hydrated. Sugar and carbohydrates increase the production of hunger hormones. Therefore, you are likely to feel more hungry than usual for a few days after reducing consumption. Drinking water helps to reduce hunger and squeezing a little lemon or lime juice into the water can help to fight sugar cravings. The acid isn’t brilliant for your tooth enamel, so you may want to drink through a straw to minimise contact of the acid with your teeth.

Keep healthy snacks on hand

If you are suddenly struck with strong cravings for something you know you shouldn’t be eating, it really helps to have a healthy alternative on hand. Having a healthy snack mid-afternoon may prevent you from eating the whole kitchen in the evening. Examples of healthy snacks include nuts and seeds, a protein powder smoothie, hummus or guacamole with vegetable sticks or a boiled egg.

Don’t skimp on sleep

Plenty of research has been done showing that people who don’t sleep enough have higher levels of hunger hormones in their body and are more likely to overeat or eat unhealthy foods. It is so much easier to prepare healthy meals, exercise regularly and generally look after yourself when you’ve had enough sleep and it has been good, refreshing sleep. If you struggle with being able to get to sleep or stay asleep, magnesium may help you because it relaxes your muscles and nervous system. Magnesium also helps your brain produce the neurotransmitter GABA, which quietens down internal chatter.

Bad gut bugs or candida could be the problem

Having too many bad bugs in your bowel can drive sugar cravings. Candida overgrowth in your intestines can make you feel tired, irritable and give you a foggy head and poor concentration. It can also cause intense carbohydrate cravings. It’s a Catch 22 – eating sugar promotes the growth of intestinal yeast and having too much yeast in your gut makes you crave sugar. 

Candida is a type of yeast that is naturally present in everyone’s digestive tract. However, if your immune system is weak and your digestion is poor, Candida levels can get out of control. Because it is a yeast, it needs sugar in order to grow. 

Treating candida overgrowth can be tough because many different foods we eat are digested into sugar eventually and can potentially feed this yeast. Symptoms of excess candida in the digestive tract include digestive discomfort (gas, bloating, diarrhea), fatigue, headache, muscle and joint pain, blocked sinuses, sugar cravings, recurrent vaginal yeast infections, recurrent urinary tract infections, depression, foggy head and poor concentration, food and chemical sensitivities and sleep problems. Diet modifications help to eradicate candida and bad bacteria. Supplements such as Cabot Health BactoClear capsules can help with abdominal bloating and medically diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome.

Cabot Health’s Nature Sweet Sugar Substitute is a natural alternative to sugar I also often recommend to patients. It contains sugar alcohols (known as polyols), which are naturally occurring in many fruits and vegetables. They are sweet like sugar but are different in the sense that they do not have the harmful health consequences of sugar and do not cause spikes in blood sugar levels, cravings or binge eating. They are suitable for those with diabetes, insulin resistance or those trying to lose weight as they do not promote excess insulin secretion and contain only a fraction of the calories of sugar. Unlike their name suggests, sugar alcohols don’t actually contain any alcohol (ethanol) and definitely cannot make you drunk. They are natural sweet substances derived from plant sources that can be added to food and beverages to make them sweeter.

www.drsandracabotclinics.com.au

www.cabothealth.com.au

About the Author 

Margaret Jasinska ND is a naturopath with more than 20 years of clinical experience. She has has co-authored eight books with Dr Sandra Cabot (of The Liver Cleansing Diet and Cabot Health products renown) and divides her time between seeing patients at Dr Cabot’s clinic in Camden, NSW, and writing and researching new developments in health and medicine. Margaret’s main area of interest is in digestive and immune system disorders. She greatly enjoys empowering individuals to improve their health by giving them the tools and knowledge to lead healthier lives. 

The Loneliness Pandemic

As a trend forecaster, or futurist, whichever term you prefer, I’m not terribly surprised to read that people have started (or started thinking about) moving out of cities to country or regional areas – or, in certain celebrities’ cases, back to their Australian homeland – and that many are now becoming more engaged in their own local factions. In other words, more effectively returning to living in closer communities, and in closer proximity to nature. 

What is surprising – to me at least – is that it took a pandemic to make it happen.  

Loneliness and isolation generally walk hand in hand but being alone is not loneliness – there a distinction must be made. However, with enforced isolation as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, loneliness – and its link to a rise in depression and mental illness – has become a prime concern. With the ability to connect having been basically stripped from us, the pandemic has further exposed an underlying issue of modern society.

Prior to the pandemic, urbanisation was an increasing way of life, as well as of increasing concern. With 75 percent of the global population estimated to be living in a Mega City (more than 10 million inhabitants) by 2050, that left 25 percent of the global population to feed and farm the world. Which is not the best odds, if you are a betting person.

Not least, the cities themselves and the infrastructures surrounding them were being sorely tested. Transport, water, sewerage, food, farming, green lungs, green spaces in general were buckling under the weight of the migration into cities. But that was not the worst of it.

What was most distressing, was the incredible rise of isolation and loneliness, which is a key factor in decreasing mental health. Crowding into highly populated areas but connecting and interacting less. Of course, there is also that little thing called “technology”, living behind screens, thrown into the mix.

I still have in my mind the media report of an elderly Italian couple who were discovered in their city apartment by police. Their crying had alerted neighbours to call the police who, on arrival, found them crying their hearts out. Due to loneliness, it transpires, and their desperate sadness at the state of the world. 

In true Italian form, the police cooked them simple pasta with butter and cheese and sat around their little Formica table chatting to them to alleviate the pain. The image is burned into my brain – a tiny little table with a plastic flower tablecloth and a uniformed policeman at the stove, with these two beautiful old souls sitting in front of two heaped plates of simple pasta. The description on the Italian police’s FB page was so beautiful it was almost poetry. 

“There isn’t a crime. Jole and Michele are not victims of scams, as often happens to the elderly and no burglar came in the house. There’s no one to save. This time, for the boys flying over, there is a more difficult task to perform. There are two lonely souls to reassure.”

As the FB page goes on to so beautifully state, “it was a simple meal … but with a precious ingredient: inside it is humanity”. 

We are tribal at our core … We desire support, company and connection. Actually, we more than desire it – we need it.

Of course, I’m not saying that everyone who lives alone is lonely – the two are very different. In fact, the rise in one-person households has been attributed, in the main, to a choice encompassing a major lifestyle shift for younger generations who are eschewing marriage and focusing on career, education and other personal goals. 

Statistically, by 2039, the number of one-person households is projected to rise to 10.7 million. In Australia, it is currently estimated that 25 per cent of all households are single-person inhabitants.

The phenomenon is global and on the increase. So much so that restaurants, pre-COVID of course, were catering to solo diners on an ever-increasing scale. Emanating from Korea, eating and drinking alone (hon-bab and hon-sul) became an important new trend. 

Initially, it was thought to be the result of an increase in singles, but it soon became apparent it was a choice. By eating and/or drinking alone, people sought solitude to compensate for being constantly surrounded in densely populated Asian cities. This, of course, impacted upon other cultures and countries. In the US for example, party-of-one diners increased by 62 percent in 2018 as solo dining became more acceptable.

But with continuing and enforced isolation, being alone has, for many, become more akin to loneliness and its associated negatives than solitude.

And that is why it is really no surprise that we are returning full circle to the heady promise of community living. The absolute irony however being that now we are coming to understand the value, if not necessity, of human support, interaction and community – we now have to remain apart.

We are tribal at our core – hence the rise in tattoos over the past few years – denoting belonging to a tribe (even if subliminal for most people). We desire support, company and connection. Actually, we more than desire it – we need it.

It takes a village to raise a child, as they say. And it takes connection and community to assuage the loneliness and restore that one special but much-needed life ingredient – humanity.

www.creativesoul.agency

About the Author 

Lee-Anne-Carter is an Australian born journalist who has worked variously for the BBC and as Lifestyle Director of New Idea magazine. In 2019, she became Head of Global trend Intelligence for Swarovski Professional, based in their headquarters in Austria. This role saw her travelling the world visiting major fashion and creative houses to tap into and predict forthcoming consumer treads. She still consults to Swarovski but moved to Morocco with her husband Andre on 2018. 

FOOD is not the ENEMY

With summer and the onslaught of Body Blitz Diets, Summer Resets and Clean-Eating Challenges, you could be forgiven for thinking there’s a war brewing and the enemy is food.

The war against food is actually a war with ourselves. I know, because I’ve been there, fought that fight and the battle wasn’t worth it.

Our weapons are willpower and dieting and the casualties are many. Guilt-free eating, relaxed socialising, resilient mental health and a life free from calorie counting lie strewn across a battlefield of our own making. 

We command our self-control to reduce our carbs, count our macros and whip our food cravings into submission. 

Clean eating is king and we are its soldiers fighting the good fight against food. Except it’s not the good fight. It’s exhausting. And stressful. And unhealthy. 

The war against food is actually a war with ourselves. I know, because I’ve been there, fought that fight and the battle wasn’t worth it.

Thirty years ago, I spent my teens fighting against food in a highly restrictive eating disorder. 

Dieting was a way of giving structure to a life which felt out of my control and my whole existence revolved around food and exercise. 

Different hospital admissions, therapies and experts mostly focused on my eating rather than my relationship with food, but my dieting was not the problem. It was just a symptom of the difficulties I had relating to myself and the world around me. 

I describe this period of my life as none of food; a toxic relationship with eating and atrocious health.

After a decade of this, I was beyond rock bottom and decided I had to do something, anything, to drag myself away from restrictive eating. This was 20 years ago and before the ease of being able to Google anything unknown. 

I describe this [eating disorder] period of my life as none of food; a toxic relationship with eating and atrocious health.

I had not heard of intuitive eating back then but realise now that I used that approach to turn my life around. 

I decided that I would simply do the opposite of what I had been doing. I replaced restriction with permission to eat, self-criticism with compassion and dragged myself slowly through two years of recovery. 

I recovered so well that in rediscovering how amazing food is, I decided to become a chef.

Soon I was winning apprentice awards, representing NSW at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and earning a hat in the SMH Good Food Guide. 

This decade of my life could be described as enjoying ALL of the food, a great relationship with eating but not looking after my health particularly well. I was working long hours, scoffing down a meal while standing in a busy kitchen and not getting much sleep. 

As I gradually chose chef jobs that had better work/life balance and started to think about having children, I wondered how I could use food to reach my health goals without falling back into restriction. 

I had a growing interest in nutrition but didn’t want to fall for the seduction of the latest low-carb “lifestyle” and social media half-truths.

I refused to believe that being healthy always meant being on a diet but I wasn’t sure exactly what was the healthier alternative. 

So I enrolled in fulltime nutrition studies and three years later, qualified as a nutritionist. Thus began a new time of my life which includes enjoying all of the food, a joyful relationship with eating and being able to support my physical and mental health with both.

Now, in my nutrition practice, I help clients to not go through what I did and create a healthier, happier relationship with eating. 

I help them realise that they don’t have a problem with food, they have a problem with restriction. 

Most of my clients come to me completely overwhelmed after years of yoyo dieting and with no idea of what they “should” be eating. 

Their mental health is struggling and they’re sick of obsessing about food. But how did we get here when we know the vast majority of diets fail? How did we get to the point where something essential to life has become so complicated? The answer is money.

The global weight loss industry is worth almost US$200 billion. It profits from a pervasive diet culture that tells you thin is healthy, weight loss is an accomplishment and living in a size any larger than a model’s makes you lazy and less worthy. 

Diet culture has us convinced that we can’t be trusted with our bodies and that our hunger, physical and emotional, betrays us. 

With so many of our food options demonised, we are convinced only a diet can guide us through the confusion. The more we believe this, the more insecure we become, the more inclined we are to buy the latest, greatest diet and the superfoods that go with it. Ka-ching.

Food is not the enemy. Food gives us life and keeps us alive. It fuels our body and brain, helps us to grow and move through our day and yet it is so much more than fuel. 

We use food to celebrate, socialise, honour traditions, give us pleasure, as self-care, to show love and to have fun. Food is the foundation of good health but our relationship with eating is just as important as the nutrients we consume. 

So, from the depth of my experiences with eating and health, I beg you to consider this: the next time you’re tempted to fight against food, what would happen if you replaced self-control with self-care and made friends with the enemy?

About the author 

Kate is a qualified nutritionist, creator of the Diet Jailbreak program, award-winning chef, eating disorder survivor, media nutrition expert, member of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society and a 2019-2020 WELL global Nourishment advisor for the New York-based IWBI. 

You can find her at www.katespinanutrition.com or on Instagram.

Fly Free

“I’m not the woman I was. I’m not the woman I wanted to be. I am so much more than that … even in tragedy there is beauty.”

These are the words of Samantha Bloom, about the spinal cord injury that transformed hers and her family’s lives. Also, a cause to which she and husband Cameron have dedicated themselves, to raising awareness and funds for the past few years. 

From age six, Sam dreamed of being a nurse explorer, visiting isolated villages and far-off lands, helping people. “And falling in love one day and, if I was lucky, having a family of my own.”

Samantha achieved her childhood dreams. She travelled extensively, mainly through Africa as a nurse, met her great love and soulmate, Cameron, a highly talented and respected photographer, and is a happily married mother of three boys. 

The blink of an eye, a heartbeat, a split second in time … that’s all it took for life to change forever

Born and raised on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, where she now raises her own family, Sam also revelled in an active lifestyle, running, swimming, biking and surfing every chance she had. 

The moment it all changed

In 2013, life took a devastating turn on a dime. The family was on holiday in Thailand, enjoying the view from the rooftop deck of their hotel, when Sam leaned against a railing.

It collapsed, and she fell two storeys and six metres. The accident paralysed her from the chest down, her spine shattered at the T6 and T7 vertebrae just beneath her shoulder blades.

Sam also fractured her skull in several places, ruptured both her lungs, and her brain was bruised and bleeding. 

“The blink of an eye, a heartbeat, a split second in time … that’s all it took for life to change forever,” as she powerfully puts it.

“Once incredibly active and fiercely independent, I was now confined to a wheelchair and completely reliant on help from others for every little thing.” She was, however, still able to move her arms, which was to become a godsend. 

Life turned on its axis

When her condition was stable enough, Sam returned from Thailand a month later and spent seven months in hospital and rehab.

She was told her spinal cord was irreparably damaged; that she would never again walk, stand or sit up unaided.

Her injuries had also robbed her of her senses of taste and smell and she suffered from acute neuropathic pain caused by abnormal communication between damaged nerves and the brain. 

Days of darkness

When finally able to come home, Sam fell into a deep and consuming depression, as well as a state of anger.

“We live at the beach and it just rubbed it in even more,” she recalls. “I would be sitting staring at people surf. It would make me so sad.

“I found it hard to get out of bed because I had nothing to do. It was like I was on house arrest.”

The physical impact was utterly catastrophic but as Sam and Cameron tell Thrive, the psychological and emotional fallout was just as devastating.

“The mental struggle is huge – absolutely soul destroying,” she says simply.

Possibly the greatest challenge was the effect she felt she was having on her family – Cameron, and their three sons, Rueben, Noah and Oliver.

“I felt like the worst mum in the world because I wasn’t the same mum. I wasn’t energetic and happy.  I was angry and I felt so guilty that I wrecked their lives and their childhood.”

It’s now the stuff of international renown – virtue of two bestselling books and the movie, Penguin Bloom, starring Naomi Watts and Jackie Weaver, released on January 21 – that an injured magpie chick became Sam’s and the family’s unexpected saviour.

Penguin joins the family

The chick was found by Noah at his grandmother’s place three months after Sam returned home from rehab. 

The baby bird had a damaged wing after falling out of her nest and the Blooms were worried she’d die if they left her there alone. So she became a member of the family.

They called her Penguin because she was black and white, and her walk was more like a waddle. 

“We became inseparable and over time Penguin slowly brought life and laughter back into the house where sadness and sorrow had reigned,” says Sam.

“We didn’t realise she’d stay with us for quite so long. In a selfish way for me, caring for Penguin gave me the confidence that I actually was capable of looking after something, which I didn’t think I was.”

When the boys were at school and Cameron at work, Sam had long conversations with Penguin. She provided a shoulder for Penguin to rest on, and Penguin in return provided a shoulder for Sam to “cry” on. 

“I spoke to her about how much I hated this, with what had happened,” she says. “I felt bad for Cam because he had so much to deal with; obviously with me and looking after the kids and work too. 

“So I didn’t want to constantly complain to him. I would just complain to Penguin instead.”  

As she writes in her memoir, Sam Bloom: Heartache & Birdsong, released last year, Sam was so depressed that she was contemplating suicide. But caring for Penguin was the newfound purpose she needed: “I thought I was saving her life, but she was saving mine.”

Flying free

The boys loved their new sibling, too. However, Penguin was never a pet. She was free to come and go as she pleased, to be the wild bird she is.

As Penguin grew older and stronger, she would start spending more and more time away from the Blooms’ home.

One of Sam’s favourite memories is from her eldest son, Rueben’s 13th birthday. At the time, they hadn’t seen Penguin for about six weeks and were worried something had happened to her. 

“Imagine if Penguin came back today,” Sam remembers saying to Rueben. 

“We went to my mum’s for lunch and Cam got a phone call from a local lady saying, ‘I think Penguin is inside my house’. 

“Cam drove over and it was Penguin. He picked her up and brought her back to our place. It was the coolest surprise.”

The family has adopted a series of injured or abandoned birds over the past seven years. 

Caught on film

Being a professional photographer, Cam started capturing Penguin’s candid moments with the family. 

From Penguin snuggling with the boys in bed to pecking Sam on the lips, and casually sitting on everyone’s heads, he caught simple but extraordinary moments and shared them to an Instagram page. It quickly went viral. This led to the bestselling 2016 book, published in 13 languages.

“The moment they rescued the bird, [Sam] started to heal emotionally and become a more functional person again,” says Bradley Trevor Greive, the US-based Australian author – best known for his global mega-seller, The Blue Day Book – who collaborated on both Penguin Bloom and Sam’s memoir.

Riding a new wave

From this, Sam found a renewed sense of purpose and strength in taking up competitive para-canoeing, eventually placing 13th in the world and winning two Australian titles before representing her country at the 2015 World Championships in Italy.

“Sam always felt that Penguin had a remarkable sense of timing and around the same time that Sam left for Italy, Penguin returned to the wild for good.”

Today, Sam has reconnected with her love for the ocean and made a return to surfing. 

“Cam has been incredible from the moment it happened. He has had to put up with a lot from me but has never wavered in his support, compassion or positivity. It blows my mind actually,” Sam says.

In 2017, Nola Wilson, the mother of champion surfer Julian Wilson, sent Sam a package with a beautiful letter and handmade cowrie shell jewellery.

She also encouraged Sam to take up surfing again – a sport Sam has loved since childhood. 

“Nola played a huge role in getting me out into the ocean and back on a surfboard,” Sam says. “I think she understood how beneficial the ocean could be for me, not just physically but from a mental health perspective too.

“Every time Cam takes me out, I feel so much better and we always have fun. Getting back on a board has played a massive role in making me feel a bit like my old self again. I love being in the water, it brings a sense of freedom.”

But in true form, Sam took it to the next level: in August 2018, she was selected as a member of the Australian Adaptive Surf Team and has since won Gold for Australia at both the 2018 and 2020 World Para Surfing Championships.

Her efforts were supported by Blackmores, the iconic Australian health supplements company founded in Brisbane in the 1930s by naturopath Maurice Blackmore.

Cam has had to put up with a lot from me but has never wavered in his support, compassion or positivity. It blows my mind.

“Marcus [Blackmore, son of Maurice and the company’s biggest shareholder] and the whole team have been an unbelievable support to me,” 

Sam says. “They have been behind us all the way.”

She has also been taking their supplements for some years. A doctor told her after her injury that she had “the bones of a 75-year-old”. Sam believes that after taking supplements, her next check showed that her bones were normal for her age.

Riding the wave

Her next challenge was to get back into surfing and she has since won two World Para Surfing Championships, in 2018 and 2020 – these achievements also heavily supported by Blackmores (see video).

But arguably Sam’s and Cam’s greatest achievement has been to raise awareness and funds for spinal cord injury causes, notably www.spinalcure.org.au and www.wingsforlife.com.

Love letters, indeed.

The Face of Lockdown

It’s little surprise that after months of conducting conversations via video calls, many of us have started to analyse – and criticise – our appearances more. 

More than 1.6 million of us search for cosmetic surgery related topics every month and collectively spend more than $1 billion annually on surgical and non-surgical treatments, surpassing the US by 40 percent per capita. 

But after nearly a year of COVID restrictions and the virtual society it has generated – communicating with family, friends and work colleagues via platforms such as Zoom – doctors have reported a huge surge in demand for non-invasive facial procedures, such as anti-wrinkle injections, dermal fillers or skin resurfacing with device technology such as laser. 

There’s also been a clamour for plastic surgery such as facelifts, neck lifts, jawline contouring, rhinoplasty (nose jobs), eye lifts and breast augmentation, as people spend more time assessing their  thumbnails on video calls. It’s little surprise that after months of conducting conversations via video calls, many of us have started to analyse – and criticise – our appearances more. It’s not just a matter of staring at ourselves, either, but also looking at other people’s faces and comparing our own.

According to The Australian Financial Review, Australian plastic surgery and cosmetic treatments have increased by more than 50 percent during COVID-19. 

Melbourne plastic surgeon Dr Chris Moss, for instance, has reported that inquiries for facelifts have risen by 300 percent at his clinic, while rhinoplasty has surged by 200 percent.

What is it about pandemic video calls that have many people scrutinizing their every feature – and just how rational is it?

“Lockdown Face’ has become a thing,” says Adelaide cosmetic physician Dr Michael Molton, president of the Cosmetic Physicians College of Australasia (CPCA). 

“Over the last few months I have been inundated with people seeking advice and treatments who’ve never even considered cosmetic medical procedures before.

“I will regularly hear things like: `I saw my face on Zoom and this that and the other is wrong with it’.”

Dr Molton, owner and director of Epiclinic, says there’s a fine balance between respecting a patient’s opinion and what is actually the right course of action for them.

“I have had to say in some cases `that’s not true what you’re seeing. You don’t need this or that’. Medical professionals have a duty of care to do – or not do – what is in the patient’s best interests.”

The so-called “Zoom Boom” is a continuation of a trend that’s been happening for years, says Ashton Collins, director of UK aesthetic medical clinic Save Face. 

“Before it was ‘Selfie Dysmorphia’ (body dysmorphic disorder is a mental health issue in which a person obsesses about one or more perceived defects or flaws in their appearance),” she says.

“I think now it’s less about photos, and more about video calls. You see yourself in a certain way, and you scrutinise that and become obsessed with certain things.”

Dr Jill Owen, a psychologist from The British Psychological Society, warns the version of ourselves we see on our screens can be deceiving and distort reality. 

“The angle, lighting and limitations of the camera on many devices can lead to distortions of features – meaning, the image can be unfamiliar to the video caller, and very different to the picture they are used to each time they look in a mirror,” she says.

Dr Own adds that devices such as smartphones can further alter body image, due to the angles at which we hold them.

Obsessing over our own image can lead to “perceptual distortion”, she says, which occurs when we “highlight a fault, then focus disproportionately on this until it becomes magnified” in our perception.”

Says Dr Lara Devgan, a New York plastic and reconstructive surgeon: “There’s something inherently unflattering about a 30-degree, angled-upward, forward-facing camera on a laptop. 

“I had one patient, who was previously just happy with Botox and fillers, proceed with a face and neck lift as a result of being on endless streams of Zoom calls. She saw jowls and neck folds she’d never appreciated before quarantine.”

www.epiclinic.com.au

IF CONSIDERING PLASTIC SURGERY

Only doctors who have successfully trained through the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) have met the federally mandated requirements to become a surgeon. If your doctor does not have FRACS (Plastics) after their name, they are not accredited by the Australian government as a legitimate surgeon. Use the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ website’s surgeon finder to double check a doctor’s qualifications.

www.surgeons.org/en

IF SEEKING NON-SURGICAL COSMETIC MEDICAL PROCEDURES 

To ensure a doctor has attained the highest level of training for non-surgical treatments, look for Cosmetic Physicians College of Australasia (CPCA) fellows, if they are not specialist plastic surgeons.

www.cpca.net.au/

Beneath The Skin

Skincare based on clean beauty

The exposure to environmental pollutants has seen awareness grow about sensitive skin types that are more prone to allergic reactions. Skincare focused on improving the condition of skin with a gentle approach but without compromising results is on the rise. 

Skin Virtue is a newly launched non-comedogenic, anti-irritating, anti-allergen as well as anti-ageing skincare brand specifically formulated for sensitive skin types and Australian conditions.

New ingredients that provide alternatives to more intense and aggressive formulations.

This will mean there are options for all skin types. 

Such alternatives include bakuchiol, a plant-derived ingredient that has very similar anti-ageing results to retinol (a vitamin A derivative) without the potential irritation. This makes it ideal for those with extremely sensitive skin who cannot tolerate vitamin A. 

Customised skincare and treatment programs.

Skincare and professional treatments specifically tailored for an individual’s skin will take on a more diagnostic approach. That is, in terms of assessing skin and recommending personalised treatment programs to achieve the optimum outcome for the individual.

Ethical skincare with a sustainability focus will continue to gain traction

Consumers are wanting brands that deliver results while executing social and environmental responsibility in their approach. 

Medik8 is a sustainable brand that is cruelty free, with 100 percent vegan formulations, and is mindfully reducing their environmental footprint at every opportunity. This includes using recycled plastic and glass and FSC-certified recycled card in their cartons and packaging – all without compromising product quality and results.

Skincare will continue to trend towards research-backed and science-based ingredient innovations

CALECIM® Professional pairs a decade of research into stem cell technology and has produced a range that contains high concentrations of ethically derived Red Deer umbilical cord lining stem cell proteins, proving to be a game-changer in post-procedure care and skin regeneration and rejuvenation.

Device technology will continue to become more innovative

We will see more versatile devices that can treat multiple indications – extremely functional for a clinic while producing good outcomes for patients. 

We see a huge growth area in 2021 in the development of dermal filler delivery devices that are needle- and pain-free and capable of producing the same volume enhancement results as hyaluronic acid injectable dermal fillers. 

The HyaPenPro™ by Louise Walsh International, is a hyaluronic acid filler delivery device enabling the precise penetration of pharmaceutical grade sculpting and enhancement products into the skin – all without a needle. 

It is the only device of its kind approved by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the only US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-registered device. 

www.advancedcosmeceuticals.com.au

About the author 

Catherine Biedermann is the Managing Director of Advanced Cosmeceuticals, distributors in Australia since 2006 of premium cosmeceutical skincare brands and cosmetic medical device technology, such as lasers.