Monday, 31 January 2011

Under the Knife

Well it turns out that I wasn't the only on with moobs on the mind yesterday as the Metro ran a story today about the increase in male breast reduction procedures. Apparently 'moob jobs' are up 28% since last year.

As plastic surgery becomes cheaper and more commonplace I think lipo and other fat removal procedures will start to be seen as a quick fix to unwanted weight gain. The problem with this approach is that unless you change the eating habits that caused the fat gain in the first place, it's quite possible you could end up with another set of moobs or muffin top before too long!!

Quick surgical fixes and crash diets just aren't long-term solutions to being out of shape and can leave people who have them still feeling terrified of food and not knowing how to eat well without gaining weight. It's not that I oppose these procedures (looking at recent pictures of Demi Moore you can see how much of a confidence boost a body lift could be!) but I hate the idea of people using surgery as a way to avoid having to apply some self-discipline when it comes to diet and exercise.

The idea that you can have a perfect figure and eat KFC is just not realistic and the fact is that it does take work and discipline to stay in shape, especially as you get older. But eating healthily and exercising won't just keep you looking good, it will also keep your body young, fit and healthy which is something you won't get from a moob job!

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Attack of the moobs

This afternoon whilst chilling out in the sauna, I noticed a couple of guys with some definite moobs. For anyone not familiar with moobs this is the slang term for man boobs, really not a good look. Along with the female 'muffin top', moobs seem to have been on the rise in the last few years.

So what are moobs and why do they occur?

In the same way that guys can develop a beer belly, they can also store their excess fat in their chest area. The obvious cure for this is to lose excess weight with the usual healthy eating and exercise, however if a guy suddenly starts storing fat in this area and/or is not fat elsewhere, then it may indicate an imbalance in sex hormones, with elevated oestrogen relative to testosterone. In some cases the hormones are so out of balance that men can actually develop breast tissue, but I think the moobs I was in the presence of today were due to the more common cause of an accumulation of fat.

Men, like women, produce both sex hormones in their body but in different ratios. If the ratio gets imbalanced in favour of oestrogen it can encourage deposition of fat in the chest area and may make it harder to shift. So why would these hormones get out of balance?

Well firstly testosterone levels naturally decline with age so moobs are more likely in later life. They can also decline with long-term excessive alcohol intake. It is also thought that the rise in chest fat, and also decrease in fertility, is due to the fact that men are also now exposed to much higher levels of oestrogen from external sources than their ancestors. One source is tap water which, due to the high use of the female contraceptive pill, can contain low levels of oestrogen. In addition our environments expose us all to xeno-oestrogens, oestrogen like chemicals that can be found in pesticides, cleaning products and toiletries. Xeno-oestrogens are also present in plastics and can transfer to food in the presence of heat, for example reheating food in plastic containers.

These xeno-oestrogens can behave like oestrogen in the body leading to symptoms associated with excess oestrogen. Which is why they are also bad news for women as they can contribute to PMS symptoms along with other hormonal balances.

To avoid xeno-oestrogens it is advisable to eat organic food whenever possible, wash your fruit and veg before eating, and drinking filtered water or store bottled water in a cool location out of sunlight. Store foods high in fat in non-plastic containers and avoid reheating foods containing fat in plastic containers.

Very low cholesterol diets can also lead to low testosterone levels as sex hormones are made in the body from fats, so being extreme with your diet, even in a way you may think is healthy, couldbe bad for you and even bring on the moobs!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Frankie says relax!

If you work out supplements can be so great to help you recover. My favourite combination is a drink of Cherry Active, water, Nutri Muscleze and Lamberts Glutamine. I find that even after a long run my muscle stiffness is minimal if I take this straight after the run with some carbs and then again the next day. This is such a great improvement on the quad stiffness that used to have me limping down the stairs!!

The only downside of this wonder combination is that because of the lack of stiffness I sometimes forget to stretch after exercise - I used to be reminded by the muscle-ache the next day. As a consequence my I now have super tight hamstrings.

I was talking to a yoga teacher about this today and how I need to up my yoga practice when I'm working out more intensely. Whenever I'm short on time and can't fit in all the exercise I want to do the yoga is the first thing to get cast side. However, in the same way that you need a balanced diet, it is also to have balance in your exercise programme. It should include cardiovascular exercise (to impreove heart health), weight training and weight bearing exercise (to increase muscle strength and bone density) and stretching and relaxation to relax muscles and destress the mind.

Without the latter it's easy to end up with some very tight knotted muscles increasing your risk of injury and general stress and tension in the body. If you stretch regularly you'll move more freely and feel more relaxed which is always good, especially for anyone who works in the city!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Freezing up

I've always been a cold person (physically!!), wearing socks in bed, needing lots of layers to stay warm over Winter and wearing a coat well into spring. But since I've been taking supplements specifically to support my thyroid I've noticed that I haven't needed the usual extra layers ... infact I didn't notice until some friends started saying how cold they were on a recent night out and I realised I had one layer less than everyone else and felt toasty.

Alot of people accept that they are colder than everyone else and it does seem that women are generally colder than men (due to their lower muscle mass as muscle tissue generates heat). However feeling cold can often be a sign that something is out of whack. An underactive (even just slightly underactive) thyroid is a common culprit but it's not the only possible cause, poor circulation, anaemia/low iron status and poor adrenal gland function are all possibles.

This is why it's always worth paying attention to anything that doesn't feel quite right in your body. Whilst feeling cold might not be that problematic, it may be the symptom of an underlying health issue that should be addressed and may be contributing to other health issues; plus it's actually quite nice not to have to dress like the Michelin man to keep warm!!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Haribo for breakfast anyone??

One of my clients had a very interesting breakfast the other day that consisted of red fruit muesli, mixed with fruit and fibre and Haribo Tangtastics ... yes that's right Tangtastics - she kindly provided a photo for authenticity! I do occasionally see some strange things on peoples food diaries but Haribo for breakfast is a new one!!

However, E numbers aside, this isn't actually much different to sprinkling sugar over breakfast cereal - a pretty common thing to do. However most breakfast cereals already have a high sugar content before you even add any sugar ... or Haribo!!

The red fruit muesli already had 25g sugar per 100g - so it was 25% sugar before the addition of chewy sweets!!!

Personally I don't see any benefit from eating refined sugar full stop unless you're an athlete or do intensive workouts in which case some fast sugars are necessary for post-exercise recovery. There are lots of tasty sugary foods that make a great treat, but are not suitable for everyday food.

It is perfectly possible to enjoy a sugar free breakfast. There are now quite a few non-sugar muesli's available ranging from my favourite, Neal's Yard Muesli from Holland and Barrett ... to the easily available no sugar Alpen. If you're used to very sugary cereals or granolas it might take a bit of taste adjustment, although using apple juice instead of milk usually adds sufficient sweetness. Porridge is also plenty sweet enough if instead of adding sugar you add chopped fruit or even some dried fruit. If you're a toast and jam person St Dalfour jam is delicious but has fruit sugar making it less bad for you than regular jam and also makes a nice topping on pancakes.

Basically there are no excuses for adding sugar (or haribo) to your breakfast ... although my client said it was necessary to deal with a particularly bad hangover!

Topsy Turvey

You've got to love French food ... good quality, fresh and delicious. The French also take a long time over their meals and have a great culture around eating en famille and enjoying their food. The downside to their approach is that they do tend to eat very late in the evening.

Eating your main meal in the evening doesn't make any sense metabolically - after you've eaten you're going to have very little time to burn off what you've just eaten, and sometimes not even enough time to digest it. So it's a recipe for poor digestion, weight gain and waking up feeling sluggish. And yet it's still pretty common for people to eat most of their calories for the day after 6pm.

I find that if I eat according to appetite I'm hungry for dinner around 6pm to 8pm and then have no desire for food after dinner until breakfast the next day. So when I'm in France and have to eat late it wreaks havoc with my routine. At 6pm I end up having a substantial snack that means I'm not hungry for the five courses I get served for dinner at 9pm!!!

Obviously if you're at home or able to choose when you eat out, try and eat at least 3 hours before you go to bed. If you really don't have a choice i.e. you're eating out with friends or a guest at someone's house, then have a carb based snack around 6pm and then keep to protein and non-starchy vegetables for dinner. If you do have a super late banquet and then feel like going straight to bed, try and keep upright for 40 minutes to give your digestion a chance to get going.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Healthier by half

I was enjoying an episode of Little Britain this evening that featured the deeply amusing 'Fat Club'. I've personally never been to a slimmers club meeting but I seriously hope that it is a very different experience to the one portrayed in Little Britain!!!

Amongst the 'useful' tips from the Fat Club leader Marjory is to eat as much dust as you like as it's low in fat!! (obviously never a good idea!) Another tip was that to halve the number of calories in unhealthy food such as chocolate, cake and fish and chips was to cut the portion in half and only eat half of it!! Obvious and initally not very helpful sounding, but actually a good idea you can put in practice.

I'm not suggesting you cut your overall food intake by half, but if you are going to eat an unhealthy treat food serve yourself half a standard portion. If you're still hungry then finish your meal with healthy foods, although w often eat unhealthy food not to meet our appetite but to meet a craving.

We also tend to decide how much to eat by how much we are served ... but why should some portion size convention determine how much you eat ... you have to stop eating at some point so just make the point earlier than usual and save yourself a few extra pounds!! Also by serving yourself a smaller portion you are more likely to savour the flavour and therefore find the food more satisfying - you'll know what I'm talking about if you've ever had any haute cuisine at a restaurant where the portions are tiny but delicious and you therefore make the most of every mouthful rather than inhaling your food. The fact is that however much you've eaten it will still feel like you've had a treat.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Beautiful beans

Once again Pod have come up trumps with a super healthy and hearty winter lunch. Their new Bengal bean curry, served with mixed rice, is super healthy and filling. It's gluten and dairy free, vegan, with no saturated fats and plenty of fibre. One of their mini portions with a sprouted bean side salad makes for a perfectly balanced lunch.

It also makes it easy to tick off one of the habits I'll be keeping up from bootcamp - that is having a daily portion of brown rice and pulses.

These two foods are the cornerstones of the macrobiotic diet (along with vegetables) and it's easy to see why, Both are low in fat, high in fibre and rich in vitamins and minerals. The fibre in both will keep you fuller for longer, maintain bowel regularity and can help clear cholesterol and circulating hormones from the body keeping both in balance.

Pulses are also a good vegetarian source of protein and the amino acids missing from pulses are present in rice so they compliment each other perfectly.

If you, or those you cook for, don't like either, they're fortunately easy to hide in other dishes. Pulses can be easily hidden in stews and soups, whilst brown rice is easily disguised when served with anything with a sauce as is the case with Pod's hot dishes ... so there are really no excuses!

Rest and repair

First up, apologies for my blog not coming through yesterday ... my blackberry is on the fritz ... good news is you get two for the price of one today!!

Alot of people have been hit hard by colds and flu over the last few weeks and in particular seem to be taking a long time to recover. This is mainly due to a couple of particularly potent flu viruses doing the rounds, but it reminded me of an article I read in the Economist before Christmas.

Just as in the recent Boots adverts, today's answer to a cold seems to be to does up on flu drugs and plough on as normal. However the study quoted showed how stress disrupts the healing process. It involved giving a small cut to the hand of each individual in the trial. One group was then put under stressful conditions and the other wasn't. The cuts in the stressful group took twice as long to heal ... yes that's TWICE as long.

I'm sure alot of people would say they realise that stress is bad for them, but I really don't think most realise quite how bad it is for you.

Stress suppresses the bodies rest and repair mode, impairing healing and immune function. Which means that if you're stressed you won't just take longer to get over a cold but also any injuries you have will take longer to heal and so will andy wounds leading to a higher risk of infection and great scarring.

That is why active stress management should be an everyday part of our healthy routine along with eating our five a day and getting some exercise.

So if you're taking a while to get over a bug, or have a sports injury that just won't go away then maybe it's time to switch off your blackberry and put your feet up.

Rest and repair

Alot of people have been hit hard by colds and flu over the last few weeks and in particular seem to be taking a long time to recover. This is mainly due to a couple of particularly potent flu viruses doing the rounds but it reminded me of an article I read in the economist before Christmas.

Just as in the recent Boots adverts today's answer to a cold seems to be to dose up on flu drugs and plough on as normal. However the study quoted showed how stress disrupts the healing process. It involved giving a small cut to the hand of each individual. One group was then put under stressful conditions and the other wasn't, the cuts in the stressful group took twice as long to heal ... Yes that's right TWICE as long.

I'm sure alot of people would say they realise that stress is bad for them, but I really think most people don't really realise quite how bad it is for you.

Stress suppresses the bodies rest and repair mode, impairing healing and immune function. Which means that if you're stressed you won't just take longer to get over a cold but also any injuries you have will take longer to heal and so will any cuts leading a higher risk of infection and greater scarring.

That is why active stress management should be an everyday part of our healthy routine along with eating our five a day and getting some exercise.

So if you're taking a while to get over a bug, or have a sports injury that just won't go away then maybe its time to switch off your blackberry and put your feet up.

Rest and repair

Alot of people have been hit hard by colds and flu over the last few weeks and in particular seem to be taking a long time to recover. This is mainly due to a couple of particularly potent flu viruses doing the rounds but it reminded me of an article I read in the economist before Christmas.

Just as in the recent Boots adverts today's answer to a cold seems to be to dose up on flu drugs and plough on as normal. However the study quoted showed how stress disrupts the healing process. It involved giving a small cut to the hand of each individual. One group was then put under stressful conditions and the other wasn't, the cuts in the stressful group took twice as long to heal ... Yes that's right TWICE as long.

I'm sure alot of people would say they realise that stress is bad for them, but I really think most people don't really realise quite how bad it is for you.

Stress suppresses the bodies rest and repair mode, impairing healing and immune function. Which means that if you're stressed you won't just take longer to get over a cold but also any injuries you have will take longer to heal and so will any cuts leading a higher risk of infection and greater scarring.

That is why active stress management should be an everyday part of our healthy routine along with eating our five a day and getting some exercise.

So if you're taking a while to get over a bug, or have a sports injury that just won't go away then maybe its time to switch off your blackberry and put your feet up.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The power of touch

I had a lovely massage today which was just what I needed ... afterwards I felt relaxed and calm and pretty much ready for bed!!

I think a lot of people see massage as an occasional treat for a temporary de stress - however it is highly therapeutic and regular massage can help in recovery from various health complaints including tension and anxiety but also compromised immunity, fatigue and toxicity.

The key benefits of massage are:

- relieving muscle tension: Swedish and sports massage are great for easing tense muscles. Even if you don't work out regularly sitting at a desk all day can have your shoulders in knots. Left unaddressed continued tension can lead to postural problems and aches and pains later on in life. Muscle tension is also holding stress in the body so left unchecked can heighten feelings of anxiety and anger.

- Fat breakdown: the pressure involved in massage can breakdown fat cell walls helping release stores fat cells. Lymphatic drainage massage or endermology is particularly good for this and often booked in courses to compliment weight loss programmes or help eliminate cellulite.

- Detoxification and immune function: improving lymphatic drainage isn't just helpful in weight loss, the main purpose of the lymphatic system is to drain away toxins and dead immune cells whilst circulating fresh white blood cells to fight infection. Therefore lymphatic drainage massage (although any massage helps) can be beneficial for detoxification and also for improving immunity, particularly in those who can't exercise so may have poor lymphatic circulation or who are suffering from fatigue conditions.

- Relaxation: most types of massage are relaxing (I have had some very non-relaxing sports and lymphatic massages which is normal!) and as stress is so common in the city and a contributing factor so much ill health, for this benefit alone it's worth having a regular massage. However it is also beneficial through the power of human touch - research has shown that babies don't thrive in the absence of human touch. This is why a hug makes us feel better, so if your partner/friends aren't that tactile then you might want to book in for a regular massage!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Graduation day!

Today was the last day of bootcamp and I can’t believe it’s already two weeks since New Years!

I have to confess that I managed up to 5pm today at which point I succumbed and had a packet of hula hoops!! But other than that I stuck pretty rigidly to the allowed and banned food lists and managed to exercise most days.

So how did it work out?

Well in just two weeks I’ve improved my fitness level and body tone as per yesterdays blog, and lost the couple of pounds I gained over Christmas. Other benefits have been more energy (although I did have a couple of foggy detox days), clearer thinking, better concentration, faster reflexes and my skin looks clearer and younger which is always good!

It hasn’t been easy though – sticking to a strict diet is difficult if you’re eating out and a total ban of unhealthy foods did make me crave them more. I was disciplined and didn’t succumb but over compensated by eating bigger portions of the healthy food I was allowed. I much prefer following the 80:20 rule of eating healthily 80 per cent of the time and then having what you fancy 20 per cent of the time – infact I’m planning on sticking to the bootcamp diet pretty closely (with the addition of some lean meat and eggs) for 80 per cent of the time… with the 20 per cent reserved for chips, steak, chocolate and the occasional packet of hula hoops!

As I said yesterday I’ll be relaxing on the exercise too, whilst I’ll still be active everyday I’ll listen to how my body is feeling and pick my exercise accordingly … interval training and weights if I’m feeling good, a gentle swim, walk or yoga if I’m feeling tired.

It’s definitely been good to start the year with a health kick, but now I think it’s time to ease off a bit!!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Firing on all cylinders

It’s the last day of bootcamp tomorrow and I have to say that although it has been a highly beneficial two weeks I’m looking forwarding to relaxing a bit – especially on the exercise front. I’ve only missed one day of exercise in the two weeks although I did have a couple of days where I was either tired so did a very gentle workout or super busy so only had time for 20 minutes of interval training.

I’ve always been a gym bunny so I didn’t think I would notice a big difference but exercising 6 times rather than 3 to 4 times a week does make a big difference. I’ve noticed an improvement in muscle definition, but the main difference has been in my fitness and strength levels. Today I did a Taebo advanced workout dvd that in the past I’ve struggled to finish but instead completed it without too much difficulty and without once thinking about giving up!

I think this improvement in fitness is down to two things, firstly the fact I’ve been doing interval training, which is just superb for improving your cardiovascular fitness. You might think exercising for twenty minutes couldn’t achieve much but do it regularly and you’ll feel the difference. It’s great for over winter training for any runners (more than 20 minutes on the treadmill is just tedious) or competitive sports people or just for anyone who wants to improve their fitness or not feel out of breath running for the bus!!

Interval training is like weight training for the heart – which is a muscle and can be worked out just like any other. Your body responds to a physical challenge by making sure it’s better able to cope the next time it arises so by pushing your cardiovascular fitness with interval training the body responds by strengthening your heart.

The same is true for exercising regularly – if you use your muscles every day your body works hard to repair and build them more than it would if the challenge was only weekly. This is the second reason that I think has improved my fitness and strength and proven to me that exercising every day, even for smaller amounts, can be more beneficial than one or two long gym sessions a week.

Raising your heart rate daily also gives your metabolism a boost – however it’s a temporary effect lasting for only a few hours after exercise so by doing it daily you’ll spend more time with a faster metabolism.

I have to admit I won’t be sticking to such a stringent regime once bootcamp is over but I’ll definitely making a more concerted effort to fit in exercise 5 to 6 days a week, even if it’s just for twenty minutes.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Switching to auto-pilot

It feels like everyone woke up this week and London is back to its hyperspeed bustle. It's making 'fitting it all in' the usual challenge, and although I've been sticking to bootcamp I must confess some sleep has been sacrificed.

I think for a lot of people that's the first thing that goes when life get's hectic ... that and then exercise! Whilst I stayed off the caffeine last week I've had a couple of white teas (like green tea, not as in black with milk) this week to keep me going.

This is why when it comes to setting yourself an exercise programme be realistic - can you really fit in 1.5hrs exercise every day? Just as for my blog on diets yesterday if you try to stick to an impossible schedule you'll end up feeling like a failure for not fitting it all in.

I'm personally in favour of getting into a routine of fitting in exercise, meals and sleeping hours at roughly the same time each day - your body loves routine so this will work in your favour and it will turn these from chores to habits that you do without even thinking, making taking care of your health automatic rather than tiresome.

Things to schedule into your weekly routine:
Food shopping - when can you pick up your fresh foods each week? If you can get bits on the way home without eating too much into your evening then that's great, otherwise pick a time on the weekend that suits. For the durable foods I'm all in favour of internet shopping, especially as they deliver within feet of your fridge!!

When do you like to eat each meal? Can you make these regular times? If you like an early dinner but it ends up taking ages to prepare, spend some time on the weekend pre-preparing some food for the week so you have instant dinners to hand. I always have brown rice, salad leaves and salad vegetables in the fridge and fish portions, vegetables, berries and gluten free bread in the freezer.

If you really don't have time to cook at all (and some people really don't) then get familiar with the healthy ready prepared options in your local supermarkets and keep the fridge and freezer stocked.

Exercise - be realistic - great things can be achieved in 20 minutes a day so you don't need to commit to an hour a day. Find a time and amount that fits into your life and keeps you fit without making you stressed. Exercising at the same time each day will help your body and make it habitual.

'Me Time' is so important and often overlooked - if you never have a minute to yourself start with ten minutes a day which you spend on your own relaxing (TV isn't allowed) - either reading (non-work - Grazia is perfect!), having a bath or literally sprawled on the sofa with your eyes closed if that's what you need! Ideally build up to 20 minutes. I like to do this when I get home in the evenings - you'll find that whilst you first feel knackered if you let yourself relax after 15-20 minutes you'll naturally want to and have the energy to get up and start tackling the to do list. If you've got a house full of kids this is even more important for your sanity but may have to wait til after the kids have been put to bed!

Look at the amount of time you spend working, commuting and sleeping (7 hrs should be an absolute minimum, 8 is better) and then see how much time is left and work out what can be done when - if it still doesn't add up have a serious think about whether you really do need to do everything you're trying to fit in ... do your underpants really need ironing ;-) do you need to cook a three course dinner every night? Is there anything on there you can delegate to your partner, kids, cleaner, PA?? Have you left any time to have some fun?

Have a day off - where nothing is scheduled - exercise if you feel like it, cook if you fancy it, but just do things for the pleasure of it. It will do your nervous system a lot of good to have one day where you're not tied to a schedule.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Diet pick and mix

Being January there are of course a million different diet books filling the shelves of every bookstore in town with baffled shoppers trying to choose between them.

Now whilst I'm a big supporter of general healthy eating I do think exercising some discipline and sticking to a regime for a short period can be a good idea to kickstart weight loss and break unhealthy habits.

So if you have decided to embark on a diet how do you choose one?

Personally I think the reason why diets don't work for a lot of people is that they find them impossible to stick to. I'm sure if you stuck to the diet to the letter then most of these regimes would work - at least in the short term - the problem is alot of them leave people feeling deprived of their favourite foods, leaving them grumpy and fantasising about cheesecake or whatever it is they're missing.

If, like me, you love carbs then sticking to a low-carb diet is super difficult - that's why I prefer low GI diets that still let me enjoy pasta, rice and my beloved sweet potatoes. If, however, you love meat and the idea of going without steak makes you want to weep then a Mediterranean style low-carb diet may be the thing for you.

If you find yourself baffled in the book shop scan through for the list of permitted foods in each book and see if it includes foods you naturally enjoy ... if the list makes you frown or wretch or you don't even recognise half the items on there, chances are you won't be able to stick to it!

If you can't live without sugar then it's probably a good sign that you should give it up, but if it's more that you're a total foodie and the idea of not being able to indulge and have some treat foods then you may be best off following a fairly strict regime to the letter six days a week and then have one 'day off' where you can enjoy whatever you fancy (a good day to eat out).

It's also good to get creative - if there are any of your favourite meals that aren't allowed on your new regime can you adapt them so that they are? I've made low-GI gluten free apple pie, soy 'cheesecake' and vegan chocolate brownies to keep me on the straight and narrow - do any of them taste as good as the original? No, sadly not, but I still enjoyed them and stopped craving the originals.

Just remember most diets fail because they're so unappealing you can't stick to them - so find a regime that still allows you some of your favourite foods and it will be much easier to suceed.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Making tofu tasty

One of the benefits I've found of doing bootcamp is that by cutting out a whole raft of unhealthy foods it's left more room in my diet (and in my stomach) for the healthy foods.

By cutting out meat I've naturally ended up eating a lot more pulses and by cutting down on gluten free bread and other processed gluten free products I'm eating a lot more brown rice - both of which will be doing me a lot of good.

Having also ruled out a fair few of my super quick and easy staple recipes it's pushed me to try some new recipes and in particular I've finally taken the time to make friends with tofu and have rather enjoyed it. Once I've finished bootcamp I'll keep in my diet, having some once or twice a week.

Tofu is a healthy source of protein derived from soy beans, but sadly it doesn't taste of anything ... it doesn't taste bad, just bland. The good news is that it acts as a blank canvas taking up flavours from marinades and sauces so it's worth taking the time to marinade it, or if your short on time buy it pre-marinaded.

Here are a couple of recipes I usually cook with chicken that turned out nicely with tofu instead:

Tofu brazilian (serves 2):
A quick and easy comfort dish, a bit like a xinxim.
Toss a packet of cauldron marinated tofu (160g) in 1/2 tbsp lemon juice, then stir fry in 1/2 tbsp of olive oil with 1 chopped onion and 1 minced clove of garlic for 5 minutes.
Add half a cup of coconut milk, 1/2 a red or green pepper chopped and 1 chopped tomato. Stir in 25g ground almonds and some black pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer until the sauce thickens. Serve over brown rice with a side of green beans or okra.

Green curry tofu (serves 2):
Mix 100ml coconut cream with 1.5 tbsp green curry paste (check for no sugar - I use 'Thai Taste' brand). Add 200g plain firm tofu and a pinch of salt and pepper and leave to marinade for 15-30mins. Heat 2tsp coconut fat (or sunflower oil) in a deep frying pan and fish the tofu out the marinade with a slotted spoon. Stir fry the tofu (reserving the marinade) and add the juice and finely grated rind of a lime to the marinade.
After 5 minutes add the marinade and reduce down for a minute. Serve over brown rice with a side of stir fried veg.
It's worth noting that most green curry sauces and pastes have sugar added so taste sweet, so if you're not eliminating sugar add 1tbsp of honey to the marinade for a taste closer to the usual thai green curry.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Quaking in your boots

I was asked today why someone's boots were suddenly feeling much tighter - not something you'd necessarily expect me to know - but as it transpired food was likely the cause.

The individual had been following a strict detox and then over christmas had eaten lots of foods they'd been avoiding on the detox, this made me suspect that infact the swollen calves were due to water retention due to eating foods that had been avoided during the detox.

The converse is also true - you can lose a whole shoe size if you cut out a food to which you are intolerant. This frequently happens to clients on a detox programme or very clean diet such as my bootcamp regime - infact I had to put some insoles in my shoes yesterday (although the cold also shrinks your feet).

When I first stopped eating gluten I lost half a shoe size which never came back (although probably would if I started eating gluten again) and so I had to give my entire shoe collection away to some very happy friends (I was broken hearted).

The reason for this is that if your body has become intolerant to a food it means that it has decided that particular food is going to do you harm and so it mounts an immune response. This can lead to bloating, skin rashes, breakouts, other allergies, sneezing, inflammation and elevated stress hormones.

The body tries to reduce the damage by diluting the food in the body and to do this retains water in the cells. So if you eat a food you're intolerant to you can hold up to 6Lbs of water weight. If you cut this food out for three weeks you will then often lose this weight and as fluid retention is common in your feet and lower legs this may cause your feet to shrink.

Incidentally if you lose weight and then hit a plateau above your ideal weight, despite eating very healthily and exercising, then an intolerance and associated water retention maybe the issue. It is also likely if you often wake feeling slim but by the end of the day feel bloated and puffy.

So if you're following any kind of detox or elimination diet and find your shoes a bit slippy then it means you're onto something and have cut out a food that you are intolerant to (although this also happens with serious weight loss). Don't ignore this symptom - try and work out which food was the culprit and limit your intake, as eating that food regularly could be damaging to your health ... the clue is in the shoe!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Knowing when to stop

Whilst enjoying my day off from bootcamp (exercise at least) I enjoyed reading through Sophie Dahl’s new cookbook, which is full of some surprisingly healthy and tasty looking seasonal recipes. Inbetween the recipes Sophie gives a candid account of her issues with food and weight fluctuations over the years and how she has found a healthy relationship with food.

One anecdote she includes is about how she tried a raw food diet but despite eating only raw healthy foods gained weight simply by over-eating. Now I’m totally against counting calories but even if you’re following my super-healthy bootcamp diet, if you’re eating more calories than you’re burning, you’ll still gain weight. So how much should you eat?

My problem with the calorie as a tool to decide how much to eat is that everyone’s metabolisms are running at different rates so it isn’t possible just from your weight and height to work out how many calories you are burning, and therefore should be eating. There are rough guidelines but it is so hard to be accurate that it’s very likely that you will either under-eat (at which point your body will slow your metabolism down further) or over-eat and either not lose weight or even gain weight.

But fear not – your body has it’s own way of regulating how much food you need and it’s called your appetite!! The great thing about your appetite is that it adjusts according to how active you’re being and how fast your metabolism is running, so if you listen to it you won’t over-eat.

The problem is a lot of us don’t listen to it and either start eating when we’re not hungry or don’t stop when we’re full. If you want to lose weight you should never start eating when you’re not hungry and you should stop when you feel satisfied, but before you feel stuffed or bloated.

To allow your appetite control to work properly you need to eat slowly without distraction (don’t read, watch TV or listen to music). Chew each mouthful thoroughly (15 times+) and put your cutlery down whilst you chew. Pause a few times during the meal to assess how you feel. If you feel hungry or neutral keep eating. When you feel satisfied or slightly full then stop – don’t keep eating until you feel very full or stuffed. If you eat like this you’ll be surprised at how soon you stop.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Comfort not cardboard

I very much enjoyed my lentil and sweet potato stew this evening but I know that this kind of 70s California hippy food isn’t for everyone and the real key to long-term success when it comes to sticking to a healthy diet is to make sure you are eating foods that you enjoy rather than 'health' foods that taste like cardboard. This is important regardless of whether you’re trying to lose weight or not – eating should be a pleasurable experience so finding foods that are both healthy and tasty is key.

For anyone on a diet high in salt, sugar and/or processed foods it may take some time for your taste buds to adapt, so a period of recasting where you make a disciplined effort to eat healthily may be required. However, even if you’re avoiding all the foods that I am for this two week period there is still plenty of tasty alternatives to your usual junk food. The key is to have your fridge and cupboard stocked full of healthy foods that you enjoy eating so that you don’t have to eat any bland or unpalatable food.

The first step is to go through the list of permissible foods from yesterday and stock up on any of those that you enjoy – ok so perhaps kidney beans don’t appeal to you but you enjoy hummous so keep some in the fridge for snacks, if you’re not a fan of tofu but like fish then stock your freezer with some salmon or cod.

Most people like the taste of at least a handful of different vegetables so think of your favourites and buy a supply for the week. Also think of which nuts you enjoy eating the most and buy a few bags to keep in your desk for snacks.

Next up think of your favourite meals and see how you can adapt them. You need to make sure the carbohydrates are gluten free and on the acceptable list, make sure you also have a healthy protein sauce, cut out the saturated fats and add some good fats and vegetables.

I love pasta, and thankfully with gluten free pasta I can still enjoy it – but instead of going for creamy sauces I serve mine with either a clean tomato sauce (Waitrose sells some good own brand clean tomato based sauces) or with some dairy free pesto (I use Meridian brand). I add some extra olive oil for fats (which adds moisture) or some sunflower seeds (which add crunch) and then add some kidney beans for protein (although you could equally add some tuna) and chopped up raw baby spinach for my greens. Even though it’s not macaroni cheese it’s still comforting and tasty. Another great pasta recipe is Jamie Oliver’s pasta peperonata to which you can again add pulses or fish (leave out the parmesan and crème fraiche to keep it diary free).

I’m obviously a bit of a carb monster as I’m also a big fan of the potato, particularly when there’s butter involved! However you can make a delicious mash with new potatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper and if you’re craving chips chop up some sweet potatoes into wedges add a little salt and olive oil (and some herbs if you fancy some extra flavour) and bake in the oven til brown. As for the oh so yummy (but very high GI baked potato) I use a sweet potato instead which is usually smaller and I find tastier – again served with a drizzle of olive oil and a small pinch of salt. All these make lovely sides to go with grilled salmon or poached cod, just add a vegetable side – fine green beans are good – and you’ve got yourself a tasty, super healthy, comforting alternative to fish and chips.

If you’re a red meat eater going without may be a trauma but you can make hearty red meat dishes bootcamp friendly pretty easily – for spaghetti bolognaise just substitute cooked lentils for the mince and for chilli con carne just use kidney beans – my flatmate made a lovely vegan chilli con carne adapting this Gordon Ramsey recipe by cutting out the mince and replacing with extra kidney beans (also leave out the sour cream) it was hearty and full of flavour – perfect for these cold evenings.

When it comes to sugary puddings I’m afraid bootcamp offers no sticky toffee pudding alternatives but after a few days off sugar your taste buds will start to adapt and you’ll enjoy the sweetness of a crisp fresh apple much more than you did before. And if you’re really in need of pud, I find some chopped up apple stewed with a little water and frozen berries and a sprinkling of cinnamon very satisfying.

For breakfast I’m quite happy with my brown rice porridge but for something more indulgent this weekend I’ll be making some French toast to feel like I’m having a treat. To do this toast some gluten free bread then blend 100g silken tofu with an equal volume of water. Dip the toasted bread into the tofu on both sides to make sure it’s covered and give it a couple of seconds to soak in some of the mix then in a medium-hot frying pan fry the bread for 3 minutes on each side (or til brown) in some coconut fat. In the meantime stew some berries (fresh or frozen) in a little water and then blend into a puree. When the French toast is ready put it on a plate, sprinkle it over with some cinnamon and then top with the berry puree.

If you prefer a savoury breakfast on the weekend then instead serve the French toast with a sprinkling of salt, some grilled tomatoes and mushrooms and some tofu scramble instead of eggs – even though the whole thing is gluten and dairy free and vegan it will still feel like you’re having a cooked breakfast.

Everyone enjoys a good cup of tea with their hot breakfast but even with caffeine and milk off the menu you don’t have to miss out – I’m a big fan of Rooibos tea either with organic soya milk (creamier) or with rice milk (more watery but sweeter). Yogi tea makes a lovely Chai style roobios called African Spice for a bit of variety. If I fancy a coffee I make up dandelion coffee (from the root rather than instant) and have either black or with soya milk and for an occasional treat on the run I’ll grab a decaf soya latte.

Bring on the weekend!

ps I forgot to include quinoa in my allowed carbohydrates list yesterday, probably because it’s not one of my favourites taste wise but if you enjoy it it’s a super healthy gluten free food.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Bootcamp bounty

Day 3 into bootcamp and I’m feeling rather virtuous .. so far I’ve avoided all the banned foods and gone to the gym every day J

I do however imagine bootcamp is probably easier for me to stick to than most as I’m one of those rare people who enjoys going to the gym and eating healthy food!! That said I wasn’t always such a healthy eater so this is a taste that I acquired over time - therefore eating healthily for two weeks, even if it's not your usual preferred food, may turn you into a healthy eater too!

Whilst I’m avoiding the banned bootcamp foods list, here’s all the good stuff I’ll be eating during these two weeks. I’ll be blogging on a few of these foods individually over the next two weeks but I thought it was important to start with a comprehensive list to show that there is some food you can still eat!!


Brown rice (eat a portion every day)

Sweet potatoes

Gluten free pasta

Gluten free bread (limit to one portion a day)



New potatoes (limit to three portions a week)


Sweetcorn or corn meal (polenta)


Pulses (kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas etc. - eat a portion every day)

Tofu (limit to every other day)

Fish (oily or white – limit to every other day)







All berries

(no more than two portions a day for the latter four)

Non-starchy veg

Eat liberally with lunch and dinner and for snacks.


Flax seed (ground or milled, can be added to pretty much anything to add some essential fats)

Olive oil


Nuts and no sugar nut butters (excluding peanuts)


Coconut fat or milk for cooking

To build a meal you need to combine a portion of carbs with a portion of protein and then a healthy serving of veg (or a piece of fruit in the morning if you don’t fancy vegetables with your breakfast!!). Add to that a tablespoon of healthy fats and you’re good to go.

I’ve listed my typical bootcamp meals below but if this doesn’t seem that appealing I’ll be blogging on how to adapt your favourite unhealthy meals to comply with bootcamp regulations tomorrow! And remember it’s just for two weeks!

Emilie’s Bootcamp menu:


Either brown rice porridge with berries or grated apple made with brown rice, sunflower seeds and rice milk (served hot)


Gluten free toast spread with cashew or almond butter topped with sliced apple and a sprinkle of cinnamon


Either a cold salad or a hot stew (homemade then heated at work) made up of a base of brown rice or sweet potato or new potatoes, with a portion of pulses and a variety of veggies plus seeds and seasonings (if you don’t have time to make this at home Chop’d and the Salad Factory can make up a salad like this for you).


an apple and some almonds

Crudites and hummous

Miso soup

Half an avocado with Newman’s Italian dressing

A palmful of non-roasted nuts


Cooked tofu or fish with either brown rice, baked sweet potato or gluten free pasta – either plain or with a non-sugar tomato sauce or dairy free pesto (tastes very much like regular pesto). Served with a side of green veggies (cabbage, broccoli, spinach, green beans etc) with some olive oil drizzled over the veg.

I also have a tasty drink of diluted CherryActive Cherry Active Concentrate 473ml combined with the juice of a lime every day for extra vitamin C and antioxidants.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Treadmill traffic

If any of you went to the gym today you’ll most likely have seen some interesting gym kit and work out styles (who knew some people didn’t know how to run!) which mark the invasion of the new years revolutioners! Whilst I will be secretly cursing all the novices who will make my gym overcrowded and unusable for the whole of January it is definitely worth harnessing new years enthusiasm to get you back to the gym which is why as part of my bootcamp I’ll be doing something physically active for 20-40 minutes every day.

If you think this is excessive just remember it’s only for 14 days and for any of the exercise uninitiated it can just start with going for a 20 minute brisk walk everyday. The key is to exercise at a level that you can repeat everyday. I’m no personal trainer so I’m including the regime I’ll be following at the end of this blog just fyi, but it’s important to pick something you will enjoy so if the idea of going to the gym turns your stomach then go for a jog outside, get some dumbbells to use at home or invest in some exercise dvds. My sister waxes lyrical about the Davina fitness dvds and I have a random selection myself for days when I really can’t face leaving the house!!

Whilst I say two weeks ‘straight’ I will be having a rest day each week where I will still do something active but something very low impact and something that is restorative and relaxing. In my case this will be 20-60mins of yoga (depending on how much time I have) but this could equally be going for a gentle walk on your way to pick up the Sunday papers.

For any of you who have no interest in exercise then read no further as I’m afraid today’s blog is a bit of a long one!

Other than weight loss there are lots of other benefits of exercising everyday:

- By making time to be active everyday for two weeks you will get into the habit of daily exercise – once you’ve done two weeks straight it will actually feel odd not doing something active each day making you more likely to keep it up.

- Every time you exercise it gives your metabolism a boost so by exercising daily you will upregulate it, increasing your rate of fat burning.

- The lymph fluid that carries your white blood cells around the body is moved through the lymphatic system by muscle contractions so daily exercise will improve lymphatic drainage (helping eliminate toxins and dead blood cells) and keep your immune system functioning well. This is why those who exercise a moderate amount get sick less often that those who are sedentary.

- Muscles act as ‘sugar sinks’ helping regulate blood sugar levels so if you build muscle you help even out your energy levels reducing those low blood sugar moments that have you reaching for a biscuit.

A word of caution: if you are exercising 6 days a week, as I will be for these two weeks, it is very important not to workout intensely for more than 40 minutes a day. This is because above 40minutes a day the exercise becomes stressful for the body provoking the production of stress hormones that can lead to both fatigue and increased fat storage, counteracting all the benefits of bootcamp. If you’re an athlete who sleeps 12 hours a day and doesn’t have a stressful day job to deal with then feel free to train like a maniac, but I doubt that applies to any NITC readers!! Also if you are ill or feeling very fatigued then please don’t exercise as you can make your condition worse and slow recovery time. If you’re not bed ridden go for a 20 minute gentle walk to get some fresh air and get your lymph fluid flowing.

Also please note that the 40 minutes doesn’t include stretching and cool down though so you can add these on, having a good stretch and relaxation session at the end of your workout is very beneficial for mind and body so spend at least 10minutes on it and enjoy taking time to relax!

My bootcamp regime:

20 minutes interval training (rotating between bike, treadmill and cross trainer)

followed by a 5 minute ergo (rowing machine) – please don’t do this if you haven’t been shown how to use a rowing machine properly or if you have any injuries

15 minutes weight training alternating between:

day 1: upper body (chest, shoulders, arms, back)

day 2: lower body and abs

I’m repeating this for 6 days a week for the next two weeks with one day off for yoga, although if I’m having a really busy day then I’ll do either the interval training or the weights, which will take only 20 minutes.

My interval training is based on that used in the Body for Life programme . You might think 20 minutes isn’t that long but if you do it properly you’ll really be working and it really improves cardiovascular fitness so is great for winter training for aspiring athletes.

My weight training exercises are pretty close to those in the Bodydoctor book (I just don’t do them all in one go). The book has good instructions although if you haven’t done free weights before I’d recommend you book some personal training sessions to learn the proper technique.

Bodydoctor: Trust Me, I'm the BodyDoctor.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Welcome to Bootcamp!

Happy New Year NITC readers! I hope you've all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year.


Having given you all a break from my blog and given myself a break from the usual healthy diet (a houseful of cheese and chocolate is too much for even me to resist!!) I have a feeling I'm not alone in needing a bit of a health kickstart to 2011!


So I'm going to be putting myself through a two week bootcamp and you're all welcome to join me!!


You see I don't make new years health resolutions – trying to do anything for a whole year is pretty tough – it's tiring just thinking about it!!! But choosing to do something for just 14 days is a psychologically acceptable time frame, if half way through you're really struggling you know there's only seven days left of it to stick to it and once you get to the end you'll probably think 'that wasn't so bad'.  It's also totally worth sticking to a health regime for two weeks as it can take that long for the benefits to show up in the same way that  there also seems to be a 7-14 day time lag on weight gain occurring after over-indulging – so don't be discouraged if results don't appear in the first week.


So what will I be doing? Well first up I'll be cutting alot of unhealthy foods out of my diet. I'm not going to go into the explanation as to the downsides of these foods (which I have covered before in my blog) but suffice to say you'll be doing yourself a big favour by avoiding these foods for two weeks.  These aren't all foods you'd necessarily want to avoid forever either - I don't always avoid eggs and meat but I've definitely eaten too many animal products over the last few weeks so for a two week kick start I'm going for a clean sweep.


Foods I'm avoiding:





Sugar and artificial sweeteners




If that seems to cut out most of your regular food don't worry I'll be blogging over the next two weeks with the rest of the details on my bootcamp including details of what I will be eating over the next two weeks.


I'll also be blogging on the exercise I'll be doing for bootcamp, but as an overview I'll be doing 20-40 minutes exercise a day for the two weeks, with one day a week "off" where I'll do 20-40 minutes of yoga to chill out. Again a 14 day time frame is pretty much manageable for most people – I certainly thinking resolving to exercise 5-6 days a week for the whole year is a pretty tough one to stick to.  But while it's quiet and no one feels like going it's not that difficult to fit it in.  More on exercise tomorrow but If you're not a gym bunny and this all seems a bit much just get off your tube or bus a few stops early and have a brisk half hour walk home everyday … not only will you have done some exercise you'll also very likely feel better for it !