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“… diet, exercise and medications all have a role to play in weight loss”… or is there something more effective we could be doing??

Dr. Nicholas Chartres
5 min read

I recently spotted this article in The Sydney Morning Herald with the following headline “Why diet, exercise and medications all have a role to play in weight loss” 

The industrialized food industry (Coca-Cola, Nestle, McDonald’s et al.) along with the pharmaceutical drug companies that make these drugs love to read a headline such as this in our national newspapers.

In fact, they play a large role in this type of discursive framing. The industrialized food industry avoids being held accountable for causing the global obesity epidemic and the pharmaceutical industry profits from the medicalization of a condition that is preventable through strong government regulation.

As the headline suggests, this article discusses the need for new weight loss drugs to tackle obesity that have been shown to be effective in weight loss.

This article says that “the chorus of disapproval” for bringing new weight loss drugs onto the market is because people lack willpower and choose to be obese.

I strongly disagree.

As someone who has spent time working in the Metabolic and Obesity and Diabetes Unit in one of Sydney’s largest hospitals, I know (and evidence shows) that obesity is not caused by a lack of willpower. It was the main reason why I went from wanting to be a health practitioner trying to help an individual, to a researcher focused on identifying how various corporate actors like the industrialized food and pharmaceutical industries distort the science on the health harms of their products and undermine any regulatory efforts to limit their sale.

Obesity is caused by the industrialized food industry that has hijacked our food systems with Ultra Processed Foods (UPFs). Highly strategic food marketing practices coupled with biologically addictive properties of these highly affordable and available, high-calorie, nutrient-deficient UPFs mean that our willpower and innate physical and psychological mechanisms that control weight will always be overridden.

We didn’t/don’t blame an individual for being addicted to nicotine and smoking so we should not blame an individual for being addicted to these UPFs. They stimulate the same pathways in the brain. To limit the harm caused by smoking we regulated the tobacco industry.

“The chorus of disapproval” should be because pharmaceutical drugs are one of the leading causes of death with a large percentage of those who die having taken their drugs correctly. The article points to the success of the drugs in achieving weight loss in studies conducted up to 1 ½ years and their possible benefits in reducing heart disease and stroke.

But what about the long-term harms that these short-term studies can’t identify? As one of the experts points out – “we won’t know until they’ve been in use for a while”…. but the headline has already told us we need them to lose weight.

Additionally, health isn’t just about keeping weight off. If you continue to consume UPFs filled with chemicals and synthetic products, we know our risk of dying from cancerheart disease, and any causes will be higher than those who don’t. These drugs don’t change the quality of our food systems.

“The chorus of disapproval” should also be because as one of the experts highlights “people who need the help of these drugs most are often those who can least afford them”.

I recognize the urgent need for intervention for people that are obese and unable to lose weight (truly I do, with friends and family living with it), but this article exemplifies how our system of health care focuses on treatments (treatments that those that need them most can’t afford) rather than causes. Is this really what health care is?

And although both experts acknowledge the overconsumption of energy due to highly processed food and the role our genes play in us gaining weight and not being able to lose weight, nowhere in the article, however, do they say that we must regulate the food industry. Only at the bottom of the article was this one line “We also need other strategies, including a crackdown on marketing the junk food fueling obesity.”

My other main concern about an article like this is that the two experts that were quoted for this story have both received payments from the pharmaceutical company that makes the weight loss drug and this information wasn’t disclosed in the article (for one of the experts you can look this information up under the Medicines Australia “Payments to Healthcare Professionals”, for the other I searched their publications and funding).

This information is very important for the reader and should always be disclosed, especially when someone is recommending a new drug treatment.

Obesity and the health harms caused by obesity can only truly be addressed with systems-level change (so government regulation). This escalating burden of chronic disease, caused by entirely preventable lifestyle illnesses through the consumption of UPFs, along with the treatment of millions of Australians with drugs that may provide benefit without understanding the long-term harms, to me, is a health system completely broken and captured by the industrialized food and pharmaceutical industries.

While “Prevention and treatment are not the same”, how about we start with this framing first when discussing weight loss and obesity in the public domain:

  1. All clinicians, scientists, public health researchers, and consumers must advocate for regulation of the industrialized food industry, as we have with tobacco. For example – we must add graphic warning labels of breast cancer on UPFs that have been linked to such cancers; tax all sugar-sweetened beverages and UPFs that contain emulsifiers, colorings, or flavorings; ban all junk food advertising of sporting events and on television as we did with tobacco; pass legislation for subsidies that encourage farmers growing fruits, vegetables, and healthy whole foods and not farming to overproduce corn and soy used in the manufacture of UPFs.
  2. Drugs should only ever be recommended with extreme caution.
  3. If drugs are discussed publicly, explain to individuals that if you lose weight with drugs, you likely will need to keep taking the medications forever to keep the weight off and the long-term effects are unknown. All drugs have side effects and these weight loss drugs won’t improve your diet quality.
  4. Any experts that recommend the use of any pharmaceutical interventions disclose the financial conflicts of interest they have with the company that makes the drug they are recommending.

Perhaps then we will see headlines such as “Why regulating the food industry is the key to weight loss”.

Dr. Nicholas Chartres is the Associate Director of Science and Policy at the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment, University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Chartres conducted the first in-depth study of the association of industry sponsorship and its influence on primary nutrition research. He also analyzed how the food industry attempts to drive the research agenda by funding studies that measure the effects of nutrients, and not dietary patterns, that can be used to market food products. This research has contributed to an improved understanding of how these types of biases may influence the primary research that is used in informing the recommendations made in national dietary guidelines.

Corporate Wellbeing Provider, Good Mood Dudes, Rebrands to Good Mood Group

[Sydney, NSW] – A leading provider of evidence-based workplace wellbeing solutions, has today announced it is rebranding as Good Mood Group, effective immediately.

The rebrand reflects the evolution of Good Mood Dudes, from a small team of passionate wellbeing consultants to a well-rounded solution provider with a broad-reaching panel of highly regarded health experts.

The new name, Good Mood Group, has been chosen to reflect both growth of the business and its services.

Initially a provider of nutrition-focused wellbeing solutions, the business has shifted towards a model that covers what founder Dr Nick Chartres calls, a holistic model of evidence-based workplace wellbeing. 

“While some wellbeing providers focus on supporting organisations in one or two particular areas of wellbeing, Good Mood Group is committed to providing expert-led, evidence-based solutions across a range of areas we know are critical to individual mental health and physical wellbeing including sleep, stress management, along with nutrition and exercise or movement.”  

Good Mood Group’s solutions are designed to complement initiatives that may already be in place within an organisation, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and/or company-led wellbeing awareness initiatives and employee benefits. 

“While discounted gym memberships, step challenges and complimentary fruit definitely have their place, Good Mood Group is focused on providing a done-for-you solution – we’re a way for companies to ensure they are providing high quality, evidence-based education on areas that will influence an individual’s wellbeing. We help companies go beyond the usual employee benefits and implement a program that creates good moods – wherever you may be working from. Our new name reflects this.” said Chartres.

Good Mood Group counts several highly qualified researchers among their programme advisors, including public health experts, sleep epidemiologists, psychologists, physiotherapists, and exercise physiologists.

“We’re excited to expand on the work we’ve done with clients such as KPMG, Centuria Capital, the Zenith and others. We’ve been able to create solutions that break through misinformation and foster community, despite the new normal – a world where flexibility and working from anywhere is here to stay.”

“As an employer competing for talent, an accessible, well-rounded wellbeing solution to support evidence-based positive lifestyle choices should be a no-brainer. Not only (and it’s now well established) because it is an investment that makes a difference to the bottom line and retention, but because more good moods are important to public health – mentally-well workers are better able to support families, their community and those around them.” concludes Chartres.

The Good Mood Group website, social media pages, and other communication channels have been updated to reflect the name change. Current and future clients can continue to expect the same level of high-quality service and support from Good Mood Group.

For more information about Good Mood Group, its experts and services, visit 


Media Contact:

Dr Nick Chartres

Good Mood Group


Phone: 0403 959 502

Effectiveness of different modes of fasting

Dr Kieron Rooney
3 min read

Is it time to eat yet?

One of the most common questions I get asked when attending community talks is – what do you think about fasting for weight loss? Which is then almost always followed up with – what is the best fasting regimen to follow?

One of the greatest difficulties in answering this question is the scant amount of scientific evidence that compares, head-to-head, one style of fasting to another. As such, when I came across a paper conducting a meta-analysis comparing the effectiveness of different modes of fasting it is an understatement to say I was keen to read it.

First things first – what is a Meta-analysis?

A meta-analysis is where someone takes a whole heap of individual studies that have asked a similar question, and have measured similar things, but in different groups of people, and then puts them all together to pretend it was one large study. The authors of a meta-analysis quantitatively combine the results in the individual studies to come up with an overall combined result.

In the example of this paper, the authors went searching to find as many studies as they could that had compared the effectiveness of intermittent fasting for people trying to lose weight. They found 24 highly controlled studies. The smallest individual study was conducted in 16 people, the largest of the 24 studies was conducted in 332 people, and when the authors combined all 24 studies, they had data from a total of 1768 people that had undergone some form of intermittent fasting.

Importantly, these 1768 people did not all do the same type of intermittent fasting.

In this study there were people that had been in studies investigating alternate day fasting (0 calories or restricted calories one day, eat what you like the next); or they may have been following the 5:2 diet (0 calories or restricted calories two days a week, eat what you like the other 5); or they may have been following a time-restricted eating diet (you can eat everyday … but only in discrete windows of time such as 4-12 hours).

By including all these study designs, the authors were able to do some fancy statistical analyses to compare different types of fasting to each other, without having to run a study of their own that directly compared them.

Sounds neat right?

However, what this does mean is that this is secondary data, being analysed for a purpose not originally designed. So, while the maths is fancy and powerful we do need to keep in mind that it is a statistical study and at no point still, did we have the same person testing different types of fasting to see which worked best for weight loss.

Regardless, what does this study teach us?

First, if you perform any type of intermittent fasting for up to 3 months, you will lose weight compared to simply eating whatever you want whenever you want. However, you can achieve a similar amount of weight loss (up to 12% of body weight in some studies) by simply eating less everyday and not having to fast at all.


Where do we go from here?

Unfortunately, despite the impressive use of 1768 individual data points, we need to appreciate that there were only 24 studies included and not all of them tested the same fasting type – there were 12 studies that looked at alternate day fasting; 8 studies that looked at the 5:2 diet and only 4 that looked at time-restricted feeding. Further, the individuals studied were either overweight or obese, yet did not have any other metabolic condition such as diabetes or metabolic syndrome, so how well we can rely on this for individual advice is very limited. Regardless, we do see here some good mathematical evidence for alternate day fasting as the most effective approach to intermittent fasting for weight loss.

So to answer our first two questions – I think intermittent fasting is a method for weight loss in which the scientific evidence is building to support it as an effective method just as good as trying to reduce how much you eat everyday. And for those of us that like strict rules, intermittent fasting is a viable and a relatively easy method to comply with.

Which method of fasting is the best? I don’t know – but it looks like we have some points in the corner for alternate day fasting here.

Dr Kieron Rooney is a nationally recognised expert in nutrition research and translation into policy and practice.

To date, his novel research has focussed on how high sugar and/or high fat diets impact metabolic health.

He has been a vocal advocate for improved labelling of manufactured products with a number of successful campaigns related to junk foods marketed to children.

Kieron is part of the Good Mood Dudes network of experts available to support your wellbeing program. If you want to soundboard your wellbeing plan or hear how we’d get your program up and running, get in touch with our team for a complimentary strategy call today. 

Starting the year with good mental health

Dr Marianna Szabo
5 min read
The beginning of a new year is often the time to make changes towards a happier, healthier self. But what constitutes a healthier life when it comes to mental health?

According to the World Health Organisation, “mental health is more than the absence of mental disorders” 1 . We do not only want to survive; we want to thrive. Once our basic needs are met, we want to cultivate the best version of ourselves and a meaningful life.

Doing so can increase our resilience at those times when we face life’s inevitable adversities.

Martin Seligman, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, motivated a lot of research into psychological well-being and coined the term ‘positive psychology’. According to Seligman’s theory of well-being, there are five ‘building blocks’ towards a fulfilling life. If we apply our strengths to cultivate these five building blocks, we are moving in the direction of ‘flourishing’ 2 . Each of these five building blocks can be more or less important to a person, depending on their values, talents and interests. Each can also be cultivated and strengthened, using various techniques suggested by positive psychology.

What are the building blocks for a fulfilling life, according to positive psychology?

Positive emotions 

Naturally, a person who tends to experience anger, anxiety, or sadness more often than positive emotions, is unlikely to have a satisfying life. We differ in our tendency to experience positive emotions, even when we are going through the same experiences. If you are someone who tends to focus on the negative, remember that positive emotions can in fact be cultivated. We can train ourselves to pay attention to small pleasures in everyday life: a child’s smile, a beautiful tree, the smell of our morning coffee, the feel of clean sheets at night. Intentionally savouring such small pleasures goes a long way to balance out the natural tendency of our minds to seek out negative information.

Some people are drawn to high-energy positive emotions like excitement or enthusiasm, while others enjoy low energy positive emotions like calm, gratitude, awe, or peace. Find out what positive emotions contribute to your wellbeing and practice seeking these out every day, in small ways.

If we work on strengthening  the other ‘building blocks’ described below, they will also add to our overall experience of positive emotions.


Have you ever been so absorbed in an activity that you were barely aware of your surroundings, as if time stopped? It occurs when we fully concentrate our skills and attention on a challenging task, while being free from distractions 3 . It is also called ‘flow’, or more colloquially ‘being in the zone’. This kind of positive engagement is intrinsically enjoyable, and is often experienced by musicians, artists, and sports people.

On the less creative side, the attraction to computer games is also partly an expression of our intrinsic enjoyment of using our skills to master a challenging task. Other (perhaps less addictive), ways to experience flow may be by having a good conversation with an interesting person, reading an engaging book, writing, learning a new language, renovating or fixing things, gardening, playing sport, doing arts and crafts, and so on.

Of course, if you experience flow during your work tasks, you probably found a well-fitting vocation. If not, finding a hobby or other interests where you can experience this type of engagement would help increase the amount of positive emotion and satisfaction in your life.


Humans evolved to be social beings: connecting with others increased our very chance of survival. This has not changed over the millennia: having supportive relationships promotes well-being and helps us cope with difficult times. Loneliness, on the other hand, has been shown to be associated with both mental and physical ill-health.

Again, people differ in the amount, intensity and nature of social relationships they need. Extroverts find large social gathering invigorating and need these to feel more alive. Introverts prefer more quiet social encounters with fewer people, and find they need time alone to re-energise. A lot of people are somewhere in the middle between these two ends of the introversion-extroversion dimension.

Not only do we need others to rely on for support, we also feel better if we act kindly towards others, be they family, friends, or perfect strangers. Doing small acts of kindness for others produces an increase in well-being. If you feel that your life is lacking the kind of connections you need, you may want to put some effort into this ‘building block’ in 2023. Volunteer, join a club, make an effort to reconnect with long-lost friends: the resulting sense of belonging, compassion, kindness, empathy, teamwork, cooperation and camaraderie will add to your sense of well-being.


Many of us have asked the question of “why”: why am I doing this, why am I here, what is the purpose of my life?

Having a sense of purpose puts everything into context and adds a sense of positive energy to life, from work to relationships to many other pursuits.  Finding meaning is learning that there is something greater than yourself.

A sense of meaning can often come from spiritual beliefs and from a sense of belonging to a spiritual or religious community. For those without such beliefs, a sense of purpose can be derived from commitment to family or to a larger community, or to a cause. An active involvement in politics, work organizations, social justice, the environment, animal welfare, or any other cause that you feel is important beyond your everyday concerns will add meaning to your life.

Whatever it is, if you live according to your values, a sense of increased well-being can result.


All building blocks of a satisfying life interact with each other. For example, when we use our strengths towards success and mastery, our accomplishments can also increase positive emotions, such as pride. Conversely, a sense of accomplishment can be derived from our relationships, community engagements, or from our hobbies.

While accomplishments are important, they are probably the most ‘overrated’ aspects of life in our competitive societies.

If, looking back on your life so far, you notice that your achievements, or the pursuit of them, got in the way of taking care of other aspects of your life, such as relationships, flow, or meaning, it might be time to re-evaluate.

A balance among the five ‘building blocks’ is necessary to create a sense of fulfilment in life.

Of course, mental well-being does not mean that we are constantly happy, optimistic and confident. Negative emotions, self-doubt and loss are also a part of the human condition. To live an authentic life, we need to be able to acknowledge and fully experience negative emotion, while also keeping a ‘big picture’ view of our accomplishments, our relationships, and the values that give meaning to it all.



2 Seligman, M. (2012). Flourish – A new understanding of Life's Greatest Goals- and what it

takes to reach them. William Heinemann Australia. (1st ed)

3 Csikszentmihalyi M (1997). Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday

Life. New York: Basic Books. (1st ed.).

Dr Marianna Szabo is a Clinical Psychologist, a leading expert in Mindfulness, and a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Sydney.

Her research primarily focuses on mental wellbeing, mindfulness, and other meditation practices.

Marianna is part of the Good Mood Dudes network of experts available to support your wellbeing program. If you want to soundboard your wellbeing plan or hear how we’d get your program up and running, get in touch with our team for a complimentary strategy call today. 

Does Yoga Help With Low Back Pain?

Michael Ferraro
3 min read

Over the course of our lives, almost all of us will experience low back pain. And when we do, many of us will have someone telling us that we should be engaging in physical activity to relieve it.

Yoga is one of the most common forms of exercise to treat low back pain, particularly when it persists. There are many explanations for the proposed therapeutic effects of yoga – increased muscular flexibility and strength, increased physical and mental relaxation, and improved body awareness. People who do yoga to help with low back pain often report that it is helpful; but what does the science tell us?

A recently published gold standard review sought to answer this question. 

The review authors looked at all studies that compared yoga to another treatment, or no treatment at all in people with ‘chronic’ low back pain – that is, low back pain that persists for three months or more. The study aimed to determine whether yoga is beneficial for:

  1. low back pain intensity, 
  2. back-related function (things like the ability to walk or perform house chores), and 
  3. mental and physical quality of life.

A total of 21 studies were included in the review. Studies were conducted in the USA, Canada, Croatia, Germany, Sweden and Turkey and mostly investigated iyengar, hatha, or viniyoga yoga practices. Most of the study participants were women aged between 40 and 50 years.

So what did the authors find? 

Well, compared with doing nothing at all, a three-month course of yoga probably reduces low back pain and improves low back-related function. The catch is that these benefits may be too small to meaningfully change the impact low back pain has on one’s life. 

Ok, so doing yoga is a little better than doing nothing – unremarkable, I know! But is yoga better than doing other types of exercise for low back pain?

The authors concluded that there is probably little to no difference between yoga and other forms of back-specific exercises (think core training and physiotherapy rehabilitation exercises) on function. This is great news for those who don’t want to drop their sweaty Bikram class for an hour of pelvic floor exercises at the physio.

You might be one of the people that has indeed tried yoga for their back pain, but only found that it made it worse. Interestingly, exacerbation of back pain was the most commonly reported harm in these studies. The risk of an exacerbation was higher for yoga than for no yoga, but there was no difference in risk between yoga and other exercise forms. 

So, how do we make sense of this information? 

We know that exercise is beneficial for low back pain. While it seems that yoga only provides minimal benefits for low back pain, there is good reason to do it – for many people across the globe it is the only form of regular exercise they can adhere to. If yoga is not your cup of tea, there is no need to despair! Performing any form of exercise is likely to be beneficial for both your musculoskeletal and general health.

Michael Ferraro is a clinical researcher at the Centre for Pain IMPACT at Neuroscience Research Australia. 

His research is centred around the identification, development and evaluation of treatments for chronic pain, with a specific focus on rare pain conditions. You can follow Michael’s research on Google Scholar or Twitter.

Michael is part of the Good Mood Dudes network of experts available to support your wellbeing program. If you want to soundboard your wellbeing plan or hear how we’d get your program up and running, get in touch with our team for a complimentary strategy call today. 

What Employees Want

Good Mood Dudes founder Dr. Nicholas Chartres, sits down with The Guardian to discuss the new landscape of work/life balance and what employees expect from their workplace.

As featured in:

With the dust starting to settle after almost 3 years of disruption to our way of life due to Covid-19, evidence of what employees expect in the workplace is now becoming clear. 

While the transition to working from home came with its challenges as employees and employers had to conform to Covid-19 restrictions, what’s emerged is a new way to think about work-life balance. People are now seeking flexible work hours, healthier work environments, and autonomy in their roles over less valuable employee ‘perks’. Good Mood Dudes’ Dr Nick Chartres says “In most businesses right now, it’s all about autonomy and flexibility: the autonomy to select how many days in which people are going into the office, as well as the flexibility to adjust that on a week by week basis”.

But autonomy and flexibility are not the only important things people are seeking. “Natural light, fresh air, and end-of-trip facilities – so people can ride into work or go to the gym at lunchtime – are now pretty much mandatory for a lot of companies,” says Chartres. “Being close to public transport, supermarkets, gyms, parks, and green space is also great.” A workplace that makes the commute to work shorter and easier with the physical destination also being a place of comfort is a top request by employees today. 

Experts suggest that many people are now wanting to walk or cycle to work and when they arrive they want the office environment to offer an enjoyable experience that allows them to work effectively in comfort. Whilst psychosocial factors of company culture can impact the comfort of an employee in an office environment, things like having privacy to focus as well as spaces that support collaboration and interaction with teams are crucial.

Whilst the voices of those who prefer a more laissez-faire approach to leadership are being heard, it is important to remember that every employee is different and will have different needs when it comes to being able to work most effectively. 

If you’re looking to support your employees and are not sure where to start, book a strategy call with us today.

The Debate on Corporate Sponsorship of Our National Sporting Teams

In this opinion piece, Good Mood Dudes founder Dr. Nicholas Chartres provides his view on this article: Australian cricket captain Pat Cummins slammed for hypocritical ‘ethical objections’ of major sponsor Alinta Energy

Over the last two weeks, corporate sponsorship of our national sporting teams has been strongly debated across Australia, from the front pages of our leading newspapers and even the WhatsApp chat I have with former cricket teammates.

Australian men’s cricket captain, Pat Cummins has stated he has ethical issues about team sponsor Alinta Energy. Its parent company has been listed as one of Australia’s highest carbon emitters, and despite its well-publicized claims it is investing in renewable energy sources, is rated very low on The Green Electricity Guide which considers the timeframe companies propose to stop using coal, whether a company frequently causes local environmental harm, and is transparent in their marketing.

Those opposed to the views expressed by Pat Cummins have pointed to the fact that he has already received money from Alinta Energy to appear in ads, that he flies first class, and drives an SUV with high carbon emissions. All valid points that are hard to disagree with. 

And while climate change is the single greatest threat to human and planetary health, the current rates of childhood obesity have immediate consequences for our childrens’ future. The promotion of KFC by the Australian cricket team and its captain is of equal concern.

However, I applaud him for raising the issue.

I personally believe that we could use a threshold that if a company produces, manufactures, distributes, or sells a product that leads to health disparities and social and environmental injustices, then the government should prevent sporting teams from having them as a sponsor. Sport/professional sports should solely be about health promotion, especially for our children, and these industries sell products that erode such benefits. 

It is still not widely understood, but non-communicable diseases (NCDs), or chronic diseases are the main causes of deaths globally. Environmental exposures, including tobacco, petrochemicals, pesticides, ultra-processed food, alcohol, and pharmaceutical drugs like opioids, along with climate change-related events, including extreme weather and wildfires, are the main drivers of these chronic diseases harming human health.

The responses I have received to this idea when raised on my WhatsApp chat ranged from “well then, there will be no one to fund the teams, and the players won’t get paid, so good luck” to “you drink beers, fly on planes, eat Maccas and use Panadol, so..”. 

My response to these comments is grounded in the same logic as why we as a society eventually condemned tobacco advertising in sport – because we know the tobacco industry used sports and sportsmen as a vehicle to hide and distract from the harm of their products.

It remains to be seen, but I think there are still a lot of companies that will be able to fill the void left by these industries sponsoring our sporting teams. It happened when tobacco sponsorship was banned so there is good reason to think the same will happen again. 

Am I a good friend to myself?

On World Mental Health Day on 10/10/2022, the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched a campaign to “make mental health & well-being a global priority for all”, envisioning a world where mental health is “universally valued, promoted and protected”.

We have lived through very serious challenges to mental health during the past three years. The COVID-19 pandemic, major climate events, a war in Europe, and economic uncertainties have all added a series of long-term stresses to our lives. Chronic stress can undermine the mental health of many.

On World Mental Health Day, therefore, it is timely to pause and reflect on what we can do to “value, promote and protect” our own mental health, as well as the mental health of those around us.

In Australia and other economically developed nations, mental health is becoming increasingly accepted as a serious issue that needs discussion. Taboos around mental health struggles have been lifted by those who speak out about it, including famous sportspeople, actors and musicians. The positive contribution of these people to our ability to talk about mental health is immense.

So perhaps the most important thing we can do to protect our mental health is to start talking about it. Much like our physical health, mental health exists on a continuum. Sometimes we only need a little rest and support to get better, and other times we need assistance from a professional. When we feel a little more stressed or anxious than usual, turning to friends and family, someone who can listen and be present for us, can help a lot. But when we struggle with severe challenges, we need a specialist to help us get through.

Once we decide to seek help, the variety of mental health professionals available can be confusing. Where to start?

The best point of contact is your GP. Your GP can provide an initial assessment and a mental health care plan and refer you to a mental health professional supported by Medicare, usually a psychiatrist, a clinical psychologist, or a general psychologist.

What is the difference between these professions?

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialise and obtain further training in mental health. As such, they often use medication to treat mental health disorders. They usually see people with complex conditions that respond well to medication, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression).

Clinical psychologists have at least 6 years of education in psychology followed by a two-year psychology registrar program. They receive specialised training at the Master’s or PhD level in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions using a variety of psychotherapeutic techniques. Importantly, clinical psychology training programs are required to include treatments that are empirically supported: that is, several research studies have shown that the treatment works better than a placebo control condition. Clinical psychologists treat the whole range of mental health problems, but they do not prescribe medication.

General psychologists also have 6 years of education, but they have not completed a formal Master’s or PhD degree in clinical psychology. After studying psychology for 4 or 5 years at university, they usually obtain a Bachelor’s degree and further training through professional placements.

These professions are registered and regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), a government organisation that oversees health professionals’ training and professional standards to ensure the quality of care received by the public.

Other options to look after your mental health with the help of a professional include seeing a counsellor or a psychotherapist. In general, counsellors and psychotherapists provide services for people with problems and stresses in everyday living, rather than more serious concerns about mental health. Their services are not regulated by AHPRA, Medicare rebate is not available, and a doctor’s referral is not necessary.

‘Counsellor’ and ‘psychotherapist’ are titles that are not legally protected in Australia. This means that anybody can call themselves a counsellor or psychotherapist, irrespective of their background, level of education, or experience. If you decide to see a counsellor or psychotherapist (rather than an AHPRA-registered psychiatrist or psychologist), finding someone who is a member of one of their own accrediting associations, for example, the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) would be advisable. These associations require their members to meet certain educational and professional standards. This would help to ensure that you see a person with an accepted level of education and professional experience in counselling and psychotherapy.

It’s worth mentioning that many employers provide Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), which can include a limited number of sessions with a mental health professional. This may be with a counsellor, psychotherapist or psychologist, so it’s helpful to understand the differences.

Of course, prevention is often better than treatment, regarding both physical and mental health. There are many ways to look after our mental health, from making sure that we eat well, rest well and exercise well to nurturing or seeking out reliable, supportive, healthy social connections. A lack of social support is one of the best predictors of poor mental health in adults.

In general, however, a good way to look after our mental health is to ask ourselves whether we are our own best friend? Perhaps notice when you criticise yourself or berate yourself for a mistake, or when you tell yourself that you need to keep working even though you are running on empty.

Ask yourself: if my best friend, someone I care about and feel responsible for, were in this situation, what would I say? Would I criticise them? Would I berate them, would I push them, would I give them the same advice I am giving myself? Would I do this to my child?

If the answer is ‘no’, it is time to take notice of our self-talk and to develop an inner voice that is kinder and more understanding towards our own struggles. Becoming our own best friend is a great first step towards taking care of our mental health.


Dr Marianna Szabo is a Clinical Psychologist, a leading expert in Mindfulness and a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Sydney.

Ultra-processed foods: it’s not just their low nutritional value that’s a concern

In this opinion piece, Good Mood Dudes founder Dr. Nicholas Chartres provides his view on this article: Ultra-processed foods: it’s not just their low nutritional value that’s a concern


What if we said that by eating nutrient deficient food, filled with chemicals, you have a significantly higher risk of dying younger from heart disease or cancer?

Pretty scary, huh?

Well in the UK, US and Canada, and Australia ultra-processed foods (nutrient deficient food, filled with chemicals) now account for ~50% or more of calories consumed. 

The food industry has told us that by fortifying these ultra-processed foods with other nutrients, it makes them healthier for us. The Health Star Rating system in Australia is a prime example of this tactic. 

However, it has now been identified that chronic inflammation may be a key contributor to why ultra-processed foods increase our disease risk. The industrial-sounding products and chemicals both within these foods (flavourings, colourings, emulsifiers, and thickeners) and the packets they are served in (very high levels of PFAS or ‘forever’ chemicals are found in various fast food packets) may be recognized by the body as foreign – like an invading bacteria or virus. It is proposed our body goes into fight mode against these harmful agents, causing an inflammatory response.

So why is this so bad?

Scientists have established ten Key Characteristics (KCs) that reflect the properties of cancer-causing hazardous agents. These include things like does the agent alter DNA repair, induce oxidative stress, or does it induce chronic inflammation. These KCSs of carcinogens have been applied in the evaluation of more than 70 carcinogens at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the world’s leading agency for classifying carcinogens. 

When we are continually eating ultra-processed foods (which we must be if ~50% of our diet comes from them), then we are likely to be in a state of chronic inflammation and therefore at a greater risk of disease. 

The article then points to the best ways we can prevent this disease state from happening. 1) Do not eat ultra-processed foods at all, and 2) Eat a plant-based diet.

Simple enough, right?

Well, doing these two things can be extremely difficult. This is because our food environment is flooded with these hyperpalatable food products, their marketing and advertising is ubiquitous and persuasive, and they are very cheap, making them affordable for very low-income communities, who are often the highest consumers of these products. 

So, what is the solution?

Well, part of it has to be government action and regulation, just like how we regulated tobacco, by banning advertising, increasing sales taxes and introducing plain packaging, just to name a few.


Dr Nicholas Chartres is the Director of Science & Policy at the University of California, San Francisco working with the Program of Reproductive Health and the Environment. His work focuses on US federal chemical policy and regulation.

Nick received his PhD from The University of Sydney, where his thesis examined ways to reduce bias in public health guidelines, including the primary studies that are used in our national Dietary Guidelines. Nick also has a Masters in Nutrition.

Everything You Need to Know About Procrastination

“Procrastination is the Thief of Time” (Edward Young, 1683 – 1765)

Procrastination is a common human tendency. We all have, on occasion, postponed tasks despite the negative effects caused by the delay.

When procrastination becomes a habit, it can have serious consequences in life. We don’t only procrastinate at work or in education: we may also avoid obligations such as completing tax returns, delaying making medical appointments, or failing to keep promises towards friends and family. Feelings of guilt, anxiety or depression about the delays can then follow. Unsurprisingly, research has shown that chronic procrastination is associated with lower achievements in education, slower job promotions, and poorer mental and physical health.1

Why do we procrastinate, and how can we overcome this habit?

Procrastination can be caused by a large variety of factors2, which can be grouped into three domains:

1/ task characteristics (e.g., the unpleasantness of the task, unclear instructions or feedback)

2/ environmental factors (e.g., incentives for success, accountability, external distractions)

3/ personality facets (e.g., negative mood, avoidant coping style, poor emotion regulation)

Task characteristics

We often avoid tasks because they are unpleasant (for example, going to the dentist), or they are overwhelmingly large (for example, completing a major project or losing a lot of weight).

Environmental factors

Procrastinators usually do something else instead of the required task. The more available and pleasant that ‘something else’ is compared to the task, the easier it is to procrastinate. This is especially the case if the task does not result in outcomes that are worth the effort (for example, the task seems to have little meaning or value, or you expect that your achievements will not be recognised by others).

Personality facets

Not everybody will procrastinate to the same extent, even if the task is unpleasant. Several personality characteristics make us more likely to procrastinate, given the same task and environmental factors.

Briefly, procrastination can be seen as an attempt at emotion regulation in the face of stress. This attempt is usually successful in the short term but has serious negative consequences in the long-term.

For example, a person may consider the task too overwhelming, boring, or lacking in real value and interest. These perceptions can cause feelings of stress, anxiety, resentment, or other negative emotions. Procrastinators tend to have a lower ability to tolerate and set aside these emotions and concentrate on the task. Instead, the quickest way to reduce these feelings is to walk away from the task, do something else, and even convince ourselves that the other task is just as important.

Unfortunately, the deadline will eventually be so close that avoiding the task is no longer possible, and the procrastinator will finish the job at the last minute, often not having enough time to check for mistakes or create a polished product. If then the feedback is less than positive, the procrastinator may feel guilty (a negative emotion that can lead to more procrastination), or they may be able to maintain self-esteem by telling themselves that they could have done a better job “if only they had more time to do it”. Indeed, this ‘self-handicapping’ behaviour is quite common among people with low confidence in their abilities.

How to reduce procrastination?

Reconsider how you view the task. Procrastinators often focus on the unpleasant or anxiety-provoking aspects of the task. To reduce procrastination, it is important to make sure that all aspects of the task are considered and put into perspective. For that, we need to slow down and think about the task in a different way.

For example, if the task is overwhelming, we may decide to focus on achieving small parts, step by step. Deciding to focus on the time spent working on the task can be helpful. One may set a very rigid schedule: work on the task for exactly 45 minutes, then have a break for exactly 15 minutes and do something to reward yourself. Repeat, rigidly, until you have spent 4 hours working on the task. Have a longer break, then start again.  The most important point is to divert attention from how large and scary the task is and focus on the small achievements. They will add up and the task will be finished.

If starting is particularly difficult, again, take tiny steps. Make it easier on yourself.  Tell yourself: “I’m just going to open the document and read one page. That’s all.” Or, “I’m just going to put on my running shoes and take a walk around the block.” Or, “I’m going to find my tax expense receipts for just one month”. While it may sound like doing such small tasks is ‘not worth it’, they are a whole lot better than not doing anything! Most importantly, they will help you refocus your attention from your perception of how unattainable the task is. This may allow you to reduce your negative emotions about the task and make a start.

Change the task environment. We all know that limiting intrusions and distractions is important to stay focused. Turn off social media reminders.  If needed, put on an email notification saying that you are away from email for a couple of hours.

However, distractions are only a part of the total work environment. The positive and negative consequences associated with the task itself are very important. Were the expectations for the task clearly communicated to you? Do you feel supported, can you turn to someone for advice? Are your achievements recognised by your workplace? If you feel alone, unsupported, and unsure of what it is you need to do, procrastination is more likely.  A conversation with your supervisor may help if your workplace is open to feedback.

Consider your personality and coping style. Empirically supported treatments for chronic procrastination tend to emphasise the development of more effective emotion regulation skills3. People can learn a variety of emotion regulation techniques, such as deep breathing, positive self-talk, or setting up positive experiences as rewards for achieving small steps. Observing and changing one’s own thinking habits and emotion regulation styles is difficult, though. Procrastination is often associated with long-held beliefs (for example, a deep-seated feeling of not being good enough despite evidence for the contrary; or a belief that one needs to cope with everything without asking for help) that are so automatic that we are rarely aware of them. Reading a self-help book about procrastination or seeking professional assistance may be helpful in these cases4.


1Steinert, C., Heim, N., Leichsenring, F. (2021). Procrastination, perfectionism, and other work-related mental problems: prevalence, types, assessment, and treatment. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12.

2Steel, P. (2007). The nature of procrastination: a meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure. Psychology Bulletin, 133, 65–94. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.133.1.65

3Malouff, J.M., Schutte, N.S. (2019). The efficacy of interventions aimed at reducing procrastination: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Counseling and Development, 97, 117–127. doi: 10.1002/jcad.12243

4Steel, P. (2010). The procrastination equation: how to stop putting things off and start getting stuff done. Random House Canada.


Dr Marianna Szabo is a Clinical Psychologist, a leading expert in Mindfulness and a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Sydney.