Top GP's health reality check

One of Australia's best-known GPs admits it's ironic that it took a health scare like a pulmonary embolism - with just over a 10 per cent chance of survival - to convince her it was time for a reality check on improving her health.

In the quest of auditing her health, Kerryn Phelps learned more about complementary medicine, which helped fill in the final chapters of her first health book - which was 30 years in the making.

"My motivation for writing the book was to harness the desire people have to feel better but to give them a strategy that works," Phelps says.

"It's about enjoying life and having that sparkle of vitality. I've got patients in their 90s who are spritely and then there are those in their 20s who are dragging themselves around."

Phelps spent her childhood on the northern beaches of Sydney and draws parallels with the healthy bush and beach settings of the Illawarra, adding that we are living in an ideal part of the world to enjoy an active outdoors lifestyle.

"There's the closeness to nature and beaches and the opportunity to be active and out in the open," Phelps says.

"It's amazing how many people spend their days surrounded by four walls.

"From a young age I grew up in a natural environment, with exposure to surf, a healthy lifestyle and nature.

"I made sure that my children grew up with a clear understanding of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle."

But Phelps had unwittingly put her health on the backburner in 2003 when she was president of the Australian Medical Association, working ridiculously long hours, travelling across the country and running her own practice.

She had been receiving hormone treatment and put the constant tiredness and lack of breath down to being overworked. That was until she ended up in hospital because of an adverse effect from the hormone treatment.

"People walk around feeling tired and they accept that that's as good as they can be," she says.

Ultimate Wellness: The Three Step Plan examines the three stages of personal transformation.

There's the audit of your current lifestyle, the reboot - where changes are made - and then sustaining your new lifestyle to last a lifetime.

The main areas of focus include eating right, getting fit, sleeping well and finding balance.

There's information on how to lose weight effectively, what vitamins, supplements and herbs to consider taking, how to sensibly detox and how to boost your immunity.

"It's about constantly reassessing your priorities," Phelps says.

"It's about the quality of life and your experiences. It's not just about your productivity.

"People need to prioritise a trip to the market to buy fresh fruit and veg, plan meals and exercise - you need to make time for it just like putting that time in for an important meeting."

And although she admits to still being busy by choice, Phelps is proof that the method of auditing and rebooting a lifestyle has positive results.

These days she walks for at least an hour each day and makes time for stand-up paddling at Port Hacking, kayaking and bushwalking.

"People want to feel well in mind, body and spirit," she says.

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