Monthly Archives: July 2015

Using Exercise to Overcoming Mental Health Issues Related to FIFO Working

Using Exercise to Overcoming Mental Health Issues Related to FIFO Working
Its well established there are strong links between the demands of FIFO work and mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicide. The aggravating factors being a macho culture where workers are reluctant to seek assistance or admit they have a problem due to redundancy risks, prison-like camp conditions and the supervisors being ill equipped to deal with workers issues. The end result for the FIFO workers and their families’ amounts to relationship stress, substance abuse, violence and or death\suicide.

Its clear there is a problem. The West Australian government Inquiry released today, sought to address the issue of FIFO suicide rates after nine FIFO workers took their life in one year. Although to be fair, this rate may be inline with suicide rates in the rest of Australia (These 9 reported deaths were onsite, there has been no investigation with offsite FIFO deaths). The WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy which represents the mining industry during the inquiry says there is little data to support the suicide link. An interim report published by the West Australian Education and Health Standing Committee stated “ is clear from the information reported…that the resource industry has an issue with mental health within its workforce..”

Could the answer be simple? In a survey commissioned by Lifeline in 2013 which studied nearly 950 FIFO workers, it recommended increasing self help seeking behaviour, developing targeted support, providing strategies to reduce the mental health stigma, exercise and eating healthily. Exercise and getting a good night sleep was listed by some in the findings, as a positive coping mechanisms. The WA Inquiry report recommended amongst other things * FIFO workers and their families should have access to an induction program to better prepare them for the lifestyle.

While the benefits of exercise and improved lifestyle seem abstract and hard to measure, they a no doubt evident. Exercise releases hormones called “Endorphins” and are named as such as they a naturally occurring opioids which block or reduce pain, ease feelings of anxiety and symptoms of depressions. It’s commonly cited by people after exercise that pain levels are reduced and they are left with a feeling of euphoria.

An investigation conducted by Joe Morgan of Fitness++ while researching ways of overcoming drug dependence through exercise, found that the body of work exactly fitted the problems related to FIFO workers, as exercise was a good way of improving or easing anxiety and depression symptoms. “The link occurred to me while reading about FIFO workers’ issues in the papers. If they have limited opportunity for exercise, or are making bad lifestyle choices then they are not unlike other people except the anxiety triggers are greater and may be amplified while isolated in camp. Regular exercise, improved nutrition and regular sleep help alleviate anxiety and depression symptoms.”

The Reported was tabled today by the Western Australian Government and can be found here.

New to exercise? Read my journey…

New to exercise? Read my journey…

I wasn’t always a fit guy. I started my focus on improving my lifestyle about 10 years ago, to support my wife at the time (who also decided to lose weight). I was too comfortable in my government job and in my marriage. The 30’s spread had hit and I bloated out to over 115kg’s. I decided for my kid’s sake I would focus on healthy eating and get more exercise to keep up with my kids. I’m not going to tout this as a weight loss regime but I did nothing more than enjoy a coffee for breakfast, a simple Subway for morning tea, lots of water, and then a calorie controlled dinner. I didn’t feel like I was missing out and I still to this day only feel like a coffee for breakfast, subway mid morning and some fruit to fill the day till dinner.  I do enjoy a beer or wine in the evening but usually after I’ve been for a jog or finished Kung Fu training. That’s been my life for the last 7 years.


I can tell my metabolism has slowed as I’ve aged because this hasn’t been enough to lose weight any more but its just enough to maintain my 85ish KG that I carry these days. Incidentally although that I am told I look fine and I don’t need to lose any more weight, that weight for my height and age (1.85m and 42) puts me at the very top end of the healthy weight range. Although the BMI is only a guideline it will give you an indication of where your weight should be at. According to the BMI 75kg is closer to the middle of my healthy weight range.


As humans we are prone to excess. As we grow up, we fly free from the control of our parents and eat and drink a little too much “just because”. At this stage of our life we are at pre-contemplation. We don’t think there is anything wrong and because weigh gain is a slow creeping occurrence, years can slip by with tens of KG’s added before we decide there is need for action.  Its only when those lifestyle choices takes its toll in one of various forms that we may take action. This can be bullying or a snide comment about our appearance, a single life event as a result of our lifestyle choices, heart attack or medical emergency or some other reason that makes us look at ourselves with fresh eyes and wish for a better body.


As we start to think about change we move into contemplation mode. This is a powerful time but the hard work hasn’t even begun. We need to arm ourselves with information. Talking to people about their success and failures and challenges, making a pro’s/con’s list can assist to motivate ourselves to move through this stage to action. I don’t really remember what spurred me to action and how long I was in the contemplation phase but I have always carried a back injury from my days as a tradesman and the pain gradually got worse as I carried more weight. So I think I just went from precontemplation to action in quick succession (although it’s more likely I was in contemplation for a while until my then wife  also decided to make a change). It was made easier that I was leaving for work at 6 in the morning to start at 7. I just didn’t have time to eat breakfast. From memory I was up early enough to make a coffee, stoke the fire to warm the house for the kids and wifey and then I was off to work. By mid morning I was hungry so I would eat. I think I staved off hunger the rest of the day by drinking water but I don’t recommend this. Its not particularly healthy and may cause failure. If you think of eating something unhealthy or at the wrong time as like having a cigarette (when you are quitting) then it helps to put the quest for health into perspective. A healthier alternative would be to eat small portions of food every few hours to keep the metabolism up and reduce the urge to eat a larger meal. Also if you are trying to quit smoking, eating small portions of fruit or drinking water when you have the urge to quit can help. If you are smoke and are at precontemplation then you will have no idea what I am talking about.


I buy lots of fruit and veges to keep my kids belly full with healthy food. They don’t eat it all, so I keep the remainder handy and in the fridge as a cool healthy snack to stave of hunger pains where I am likely to eat a larger meal.


New Years 2014 I did the NY resolution thing and decided to start jogging. This was for a few reasons. I always struggled with jogging. Plus I had a Martial Arts grading looming and I was worried about my fitness level. So I thought two 5K jogs a week would help. It did and it turned into three 6km jogs and one 10km+ jog a week. So I support the decision to start jogging by throwing out my crusty old shoes and spending what I considered an absorbent amount of money on new joggers. Turns out it wasn’t but it was still money well spent. I’ve since found out you should replace shoes every six month if you are jogging socially (twice a week) and more frequently Every few months) if you are training seriously!


As my exercise levels ramped up so did my thirst for more exercise. AT one point just this year I would wake up, pull on shoes and hit the road even before I knew what I was doing. At that point I was running two 10KM plus jogs and two 6K jogs all around the 6 mins/km mark. Not too fast not to slow. The highlight was a single 17KM facebook solo event I took part in to commemorate the death of an ordinary woman who was killed one morning while she was out jogging. Sad. I wanted to do 20 and I would have been able to if it wasn’t for the pain I felt in my knees. I felt at about the 10K mark I could run forever. Neither my lungs nor my legs would tire at that pace. I felt like 20 K’s was definitely achievable. At about 12 K’s my knees started hurting, at 15 I was worried I was doing damage and I stopped knowing I still had to walk 2 K’s home. But it was the highlight in my jogging career. The glow in my muscles felt fantastic and although I hadn’t completed 20 I had done a solid 15 K’s and had jogged/walked 17k all under 2 hours. Not long after this I changed my goals and I became focused on weight loss and upper muscle strength through resistance training. I came across a simple but comprehensive starters training workout from the one of the good folk from Fitnance, Paul Rackermann. I undertook a 8 week training regime to gain muscular strength. I lasted 3 weeks and I injured my tendons in the upper forearm. More commonly know as Tennis elbow. In short I trained at too high an intensity and injured my under prepared muscles. I will restart that regime, modify the exercise to ease the load on my forearms and start all over again. So that’s where I am now, in recovery mode, with a taped elbow biding time till I heal properly.


Its since been healing well and it’s given me moe time to put focus back on jogging. I bought new shoes again from Rebel Sports Maroochydore the other day and the sales man Neil invited me to jog that Wed night. SO I did and have met more like minded people. Its funny where this journey has taken me. Oh and I ran a PB for 10K too. All with my new shoes, spurred on with some friendly competition.

Fight the Fat


Fight the fat


by Joe Morgan

Why is it so difficult to stop making bad foods choices? Because the fast  food industry have invested millions if not billions of dollars into research and marketing to ensure you stay right where you are… With your mouths and wallets open!

Like the tobacco industry the fast food industry is there with you at every stage of your life. When you are growing up, in the form of advertising when your lazy parents left you in front of the television to baby sit you. You were left to sit for hundreds if not thousands of hours soaking up powerful images of tasty looking food with gorgeous people doing fun things to great music. A powerful combination. As you got older and you started exploring the outside world, you started seeing these images again and remembered the television and how it made you feel. The memories of the music, the fun, the mouth watering food. Google Pavlov’s dogs….

Pavlov was a Russian scientist who proved dogs could be conditioned to a certain response with an external stimulus. He would ring a bell and then feed the dogs. After a period of time, the dogs became conditioned to receive food when they heard the bell ring and started salivating merely from the bell ring.

The fast food industry begins conditioning us from the day we could hold our heads up to want to try these foods for the first time and to want it each and every time there after. The first experiences with these foods are fun even if the food tastes bad and is unhealthy (which it invariably is on both counts). There are often play centres for our lazy parents to dump us in while they inhale crap food, there are cute kiddy sized packages, with fun colourful packaging, fun clowns or other child friendly themes. As we grow the advertising grows with us. Have a crap meal on a particular public holiday, after or during (watching) an event such as cricket or football, or to make parenting easier by providing quick and easy family sized meals that we can pick up in the drive through. They are developed to be with us at every stage of our day therefor intrinsically intertwining themselves into our lives.

From your first moments when you could have independent thoughts and started speaking you became a spokes person for the fast food industry, begging our parents to take us until they gave up or we gave up trying.

While driving around you saw the imagery, see people consuming, heard people talking about it in the school yard, it got reinforced when we had our first themed birthday at a fast food restaurant.

We never stood a chance. Given we can assume we have been carefully conditioned, we will have to undertake the process of deconditioning to reverse the process. Education is the key.

People who know how many calories are required each day stand a better chance. People who know how many calories each meal contains have better success of reducing their calorific intake and have better luck at weight loss/dieting etc. People who keep their main meals down to 600 calories with spare change for morning and afternoon tea are able to keep their intake to 2000 calories per day and don’t put on weight in the first place.


People who have to relearn good habits are undertaking a process called counter-conditioning. Wikipedia defines Counterconditioning as “…the conditioning of an unwanted behaviour or response to a stimulus into a wanted behavior or response by the association of positive actions with the stimulus..” This is definitely the case with quitting smoking. The urges to want have a smoke are ignored in favour of undertaking substitute healthier lifestyle choices. IE when you feel like a cigarette you distract yourself by moving from the location, (if you are able to) having a drink of water, playing with an object or going for a walk. Gradually these new healthier habits replace the old ones as those urges decrease.

In a good example of counter conditioning, a small boy had his fear of rabbits lessoned gradually while eating food. Eventually the boy was able to replace the pleasure of eating food with the pleasure of petting the animal because eating food reduced his nervousness of the rabbit. (So now we have an overweight boy who likes rabbits haha)

Similarly when people quit smoking they tend to replace this nervous behaviour with another (comfort eating) thereby gaining weight.

Simply substituting old bad habits with new healthy ones can be enough. The following tips will help reduce the cravings:

  • Eat full, nutritionally balanced meals at evenly spaced times through out the day keeps your blood sugar level up sufficiently thereby reducing the chance you will snack on fast foods.
  • Eating healthily before you go out will reduce the chance you will snack on fast foods.
  • Take food to work will reduce the chance you will snack on fast foods.
  • Drink water between meals will keep you feeling full and will reduce the chance you will snack on fast foods.
  • Find a new good food hang out. Try a fresh sandwich bar or good Asian takeaway.
  • Find new friends or suggest they make the change too.
  • Plan daily exercise
  • Thinking and planning ahead is the key.


Some simple tips that will reduce excess calorie intake. Such as:

  • Take a six pack of beer to a friend’s place instead of a carton
  • Keep fruit and water handy
  • Use smaller plates at dinner time. (you may tend to fill a large plate which will result in excess intake)
  • Put you fork down between mouthfuls of food, fully chew each mouthful and have a sip of water before putting more food on your fork.
  • Give your body time to register when your hunger pains are over during a meal when you don’t feel hungry any more, STOP EATING. Put the remainder in the fridge.
  • Learn proper portion sizes for meals

These tips may seem overly simplistic and can be ignored or overlooked when trying to lose weight but people who have had success cite these above tips as being critical to success.

Why do we resist change? Why when faced with a clear path to success do we avoid that very path. Fighting the urge to eat crap food or make bad lifestyle choices is very simple yet extremely difficult. The conditioning that we have been subjected to is so powerful that change scares us. And fundamentally we are innately lazy and unless we are presented with a very simple solution (a magic pill) we will avoid the discomfort of change until some critical event happens. That critical event must often be life changing like a heart attack or cancer where we try to regain our health and we actually have a motivating factor to make solid change.

How can we flick that switch without having that critical event? Education is the key. Learn about exercise, learn to enjoy exercise (and you will enjoy it), learn about healthy portion size, and learn about a broad balanced diet. Make a healthy lifestyle the goal and weight loss will follow.

For more tips and advice follow me on Facebook.

And we are off and running

This new financial year marks the official beginning of Fitness++. A new start, a new location and a renewed focus to bring you the best of the fitness world, shed light on some of society’s lifestyle choices and question our own lifestyle decisions. But fear not we will steer you through the storm! Please raise you glasses to Fitness++ 🙂