The alarm goes off at 6.30am and you groan. Oh, for another hour or 10 in the Land of Nod! For some of us, even after we’ve rolled out of bed, had a shower, dressed, eaten breakfast, downed our first cup of coffee and arrived at work, getting through the day still feels like a struggle.
It’s something Dr Libby Weaver has noticed time and time again in her work as a holistic nutrition specialist. “When I ask people how they feel, the most common answer is, ‘I am so tired,’” says the nutritional biochemist, public speaker and author. “A lot of people think they’re exhausted because they work full time and have three kids. People have created these extraordinary lives – very rich, very privileged, very beautiful lives – but they can’t enjoy them because they are exhausted.”
Already with seven health and wellbeing books to her credit, Dr Libby’s new book Exhausted to Energized is designed to provide the tools for a more energised life. She shares her knowledge with us…
How important is energy for our wellbeing?
For so long, the only marker for wellbeing has been weight. And I am over it. Energy is the true currency of health. A much better reflection of your level of wellness is how you feel when you wake up in the morning. Do you get out of bed, grateful that a new day has dawned, feeling vital and alive, or do you press snooze and think, ‘Oh my God, how can it be morning already?’
Is energy something we inherit genetically?
There’s very strong science to show that what we receive genetically plays a role in that innate energy. But I see it as a bank account. We are born with that innate energy and then it’s up to us how we live our lives. We are either constantly dipping into our savings account or we are investing back in ourselves.
So why are so many people tired?
There is no one answer. There can be biochemical reasons, nutritional reasons and emotional reasons. For some people it can be physical – anything from the after-effects of glandular fever to low-blood oxygenation from shallow breathing. It could also be nutritional. Iron, for example, is still the most common deficiency in the western world. There are pockets of New Zealand where up to 25 per cent of women of menstruating age are iron deficient. That alone is exhausting.
Some people experience a long-term level of sadness in their lives which can be anything from the loss of someone close to them to feeling their partner drinks too much alcohol. Among the people I interviewed for my book, sadness and grief were common themes.
And some people might have something very seriously wrong with them?
Absolutely. Tiredness is such a generic symptom. People can think, ‘I’m tired because this is what my life is like,’ or ‘I’m tired because I’m getting old’, but the point of the book is to get people taking notice. If you’re feeling fatigued now and last year you weren’t, that’s your body giving you feedback. And regardless if it’s easy to deal with, like an iron deficiency, or it’s the beginning of cancer, it’s better to deal with it sooner rather than later.
Can reducing fatigue be as simple as getting a good night’s sleep?
Sleep is one of the simplest biological processes that our bodies have to go through for great health. In 2012 there were 680,000 unique prescriptions written for sleeping tablets in New Zealand. That’s a lot of people not sleeping properly. And if you never get to the bottom of why you are not sleeping properly, there’s a cascade of impacts on other body systems. I’m not for a second saying that people shouldn’t take sleeping tablets when it’s appropriate. Use the tablet – but make sure you address the reason for not sleeping.
What are some other common energy usurpers?
The way I would prefer to phrase it is ‘energy disrupters’. A lot of people run on an energy rollercoaster. It happens when we rely on highly-processed carbohydrates and also when we rely on caffeine for an energy kick. It sets us up for an energy rollercoaster – booming one minute and falling through the floor the next. Then the only thing that seems to help is more caffeine. It doesn’t mean you should never have it, but a good thing to do is pay more attention. Do you feel better on the day you have just one coffee compared to a day when you have three or four?
Should we expect to run out of energy as we age?
If energy is 100 per cent down to age, then every 80 year old would be exhausted and they’re not. People don’t have to be bouncing with energy at 80 – although plenty are – but what I encourage people to think more about is, ‘Am I more tired this year than last year?’, regardless of whether they are 25 or 85. People can be unaware of their own personal energy. They might become fatigued when they are 50, and they’re 60 before they realise they’re broken and can’t lift their head off the pillow.
Words by: Megan McChesney
Photos: Mike Rooke, Bauer Media