Thursday, 30 June 2011

Who needs them? I need them!

NITC was in a packing frenzy this evening in an effort not to leave my packing up to the very last minute before I go away (my usual style)! Yes that's right I'm off en vacances ... but fear not you'll be left once again in the very capable hands of Ms Haribo, who seems ever closer to leaving her super geek research job and joining the circus having recently taken up circus silks! It's anyone's guess what she'll be blogging on ... but it will certainly be interesting.

Back to my packing ... amongst all the usual paraphernalia I always pack my trusty supplements to keep me in tip top health whilst I'm on holiday - the usual multivitamin, vitamin C and essential fats to compensate for unhealthy holiday eating, plus a raft of enzymes to help me digest my way through food my digestive system doesn't usually enjoy, namely bread and cheese!

Whilst it's ideal to try and get as many of your nutrients from your diet, I firmly believe that supplements are key in getting to and maintaining good health and they have certainly helped me immensely. So I was fairly horrified to read in Patrick Holford's blog that the NHS has issued a leaflet called ‘supplements – who needs them?’ claiming that most supplements are unnecessary, have no effect and could infact be dangerous.

Nonsense, in my opinion, but also sadly a sign that our health care is moving away from embracing complimentary therapies rather than towards integrating them. It is so important that people make the connection between nutrition and health, rather than thinking that what they eat is unrelated to their health problems and that conventional medicine is a cure-all safety net. Prevention is always better than cure ... and taking supplements always better than letting yourself get to the point where you need to take drugs.

If you've got two minutes read Patrick's interesting take on this, including summaries of the research supportive of supplements:

I'll be back on the 11th, have a great week.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Detox disclaimer

Re-reading yesterdays blog I realised I'd managed to make detoxing sound like a walk in the park!

If you're a clean living health bunny then it probably will be but if you're a city slicker you'll probably have a fair amount of coffee, alcohol, pollution and junk food related toxins stored away safely in your fat cells, perhaps along with some nicotine or drugs (prescription or otherwise).

The body, being amazingly well designed, stores away excess toxins that the liver can't deal with in hard to breakdown fat cells where they can't cause any damage to other cells. But if you suddenly give your liver a break from toxic overload it will usually take the opportunity to break these fat stores down and process the toxins. Upside: fat loss, downside: unpleasant detox side effects such as headaches, bloating, bad breath, low mood,
low energy, brain fog and flu type symptoms.

So it pays to be prepared for the worst if you're planning a detox, especially if you haven't done one before. Firstly clear your social diary for the weekend so if it comes to it you can mong out on the sofa rather than inflicting your grumpy detox persona on your friends. Secondly stock up on some detox aids that can help the liver clear these toxins away:

Mineral water - buy a multi pack and drink 1.5-2 litres a day. Add freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice to stimulate the liver.

Dandelion coffee - my favourite detox aid, don't buy the powdered stuff - boil up the root (see below) and drink a cup (without milk) whenever you're feeling foggy.

Yogi detox tea - I love the taste and it's full of some lovely detox spices

Milk thistle - add a few drops to a bottle of water and sip regularly

If all else fails try and have a nap - your liver is most active when you're asleep.

If you still feel rough by the end of four days then it's probably a sign you need to be leading a cleaner life day to day and you might want to consider repeating the detox in a couple of months. If you feel great pat yourself on the back and stick it in the diary for the same time next year.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

How to earn your health halo

If you've been following my blog series on detox and making some healthy changes you may be ready for a full blown detox. Right now I'd absolutely love to do one but finding a weekend that's free and detox compatible is proving difficult.

When I do find the time I'm going to do a four day fruit and veg detox. I'd possibly do longer if I didn't have a day job, but most city jobs are quite demanding and hard to deal with on a diet of carrot sticks.

However four days over a weekend are manageable and I've done this before starting on a thursday night with a dinner of steamed veggies and brown rice with some olive oil.

Friday is then fruit and vegetables only, either eaten raw, cooked or juiced. Fruit smoothies are ok too as long as no dairy is added. Pret's vitamin volcano and carrot juice are handy for this day as is the Leon superfood salad (don't eat the feta) or Pod's superfood salads (have the ones marked Vegan). I also buy punnets of berries to snack on and keep cravings at bay. Dinner will be a vegetable juice - usually the superjuice from Jason Vale's Slim for Life
which contains a huge range of fruit and veg in an unlikely combo (pineapple, avocado and broccoli all in one drink?!) that's actually pretty tasty and filling. If i'm still peckish I'll also have some raw veg crudites. Friday night or Saturday morning I also like to do the grapefruit liver flush from Dr Joshi's Holistic Detox
to kick my liver into action.

Saturday and Sunday will then be fruit and veg juices and water only. A juicer is essential, but doesn't have to be super pricey - my Philips juicer
does a good job and has lasted for years. Once you're used to juicing, making up palatible recipes is easy, but any of Jason Vales Juice Master recipe books are a good place to look for inspiration and guidance (don't ever make the same mistake as Ms Haribo and try and juice cauliflower).

I make sure I drink plenty of water throughout the weekend and have a proper rest, not doing any demanding exercise (yoga or walking or a gentle swim are fine) and avoiding all music, radio and tv (reading is fine) as stress impairs detoxification so you won't get the full benefits. This is probably what I find hardest about the detox, but once you finally switch off mentally you feel totally relaxed so it's worth making sure you do this.

Monday is back to work and back to solid food but I'll stay on fruit and veg only just like Friday until dinner time when I'll have some brown rice too.

Ideally for the rest of the week I'll avoid the usual toxic nasties to maximize the benefits - no caffeine, alcohol, sugar, sweeteners, additives or preservatives, wheat, meat or dairy. By the end of the week I feel I can polish my health halo!

Ps - you should only undertake a detox if you're in perfect health, if you have any illness chronic or short-term do not undertake a detox regime without consulting your doctor and/or nutritionist first.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Super sticky

As I left my overly air-conditioned office this evening and was hit by a wall of heat it dawned on me that whichever mode of transport I took I'd end up needing a shower when I got home.

Faced with the prospect if a super sticky journey home I did the only sensible thing, changed into my gym kit and ran home.

I can detect some NITC readers questioning my sanity at this point, but my logic was that if I was going to get sweaty on the way home I might as well also get some exercise.

Running in this level of heat and humidity is a very different experience to exercising in my chilled underground gym and one I imagine most people wouldn't enjoy (personally I love exercising in the heat but appreciate this is unusual). However there is one downside to gym facilities being kept super cool and that is that it can prevent you from having a good sweat.

Sweat is produced to cool you down as it absorbs heat energy from your skin causing it to evaporate. Sweat also carries toxins out of your body, your skin being your second main detoxification organ (the first is the liver). So sweating can be a useful mechanism to help eliminate toxins.

This is part of the reason why Bikram yoga can be so beneficial (it is yoga done in a high temperature room). However any exercise that makes you sweat for more than 10minutes will be helping detoxification.

It is always important to replace lost fluids with water or electrolyte drinks for lengthy exercise. If you're not sure how much you need just weight yourself before and after. For every 1kg weight loss you need 1 litre of fluid.

However, if you are following a strict detox regime then you should be resting and relaxing, not sweating it out on the treadmill. But you can still use this method of detoxification if you have access to a sauna, just make sure you follow the recommended time limits and drink lots of water to replace lost fluids.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

The big smoke

Anyone who knows me well knows how much I love London. Even after a lovely weekend away on the coast I'm always glad to be back in the city. Something I do appreciate when I go away though, is the fresh air. For all it's great qualities London isn't the cleanest least polluted place to live and you can feel it/even taste the difference in the air when you get out into the countryside or to the coast.

Whilst most detox regimes are purely focussed on not eating any toxins, but it’s also important to bear in mind how many toxins can be absorbed or ingested into the body from your environment, particularly if you're a city dweller. This includes exposure to car fumes if you live, work or commute next to a busy road, using synthetic cleaning products in your home and exposure to electro-magnetic radiation from routers and cordless phones.

All these can increase free radical damage in the body increasing your need for antioxidants and the increasing the toxic load on your liver.

So in the same way that you should minimize toxins in your diet you should also look at your environmental exposure to toxins and make changes to reduce these where possible:

•Journey into work – if you walk, run or cycle to work is it on a busy street? Could you travel on a less polluted route and if you’re cycling could you use a mask?

•Do you exercise outside? If so could you run/cycle in a park or along a footpath rather than next to a road.

•Do you use non-natural cleaning products or air fresheners in your home? If so you may want to switch to using natural products such as Ecover. Most supermarkets also have a ‘natural’ range of products.

•Do you have a router, wireless phone, or any other wireless devices in your home? These all emit electromagnetic radiation. Turn these off whenever you’re not using them to reduce your exposure. Also make sure you position any routers and base stations in areas of the house where you spend the least time, in particular don’t have these devices in your bedroom.

•Have a look at the ingredients in any cosmetics/skin products that you use as these will be absorbed into your body. Avoid products containing paraffin, petroleum, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulphate, DEA or synthetic colours or fragrances. More natural brands such a Liz Earle, REN and Korres, avoid using these ingredients.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Detox zzzzz

Despite yesterday's blog on how much easier it is to find detox friendly restaurant food, I should point out that if you're doing a proper detox you actually don't want to be out on the town partying. Instead you want to be maximising your sleep to give your body a good rest and also to give your liver time to detox, recover and repair itself.

In order to benefit from a detox you need to take it easy, relax and get plenty of sleep -
sadly due to my hectic summer schedule I've got to put my plans for a proper fruit and veg juice weekend detox on hold (taking part in a nine hour sailing race, as I'll be doing on Saturday, is not taking it easy!)

Still it's worth earmarking a weekend for a proper detox once a year. Not only will it do your body the power of good, but it's also great to take a break for yourself from a hectic city life and have some proper peace and quiet.

Even if you don't do a detox, taking a weekend off from your social schedule, turning off your phone, ignoring your e-mail and having a couple of good lie ins can be wonderfully restorative. If this seems impossible, just pretend to your friends that you're out of town for the weekend, put your phone on silent and put your feet up ... bliss!


Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Detox dining

I remember the first time I went gluten and dairy free for three months and every time I ate out all I could have off most menus was steak and chips. Tasty but not so healthy!

How things have come on since then ... tonight I met a friend for dinner and gossip at Las Iguanas and there was so much suitable food on the menu that I was paralysed with choice.

Not only were there lots of gluten and dairy free dishes but there were also lots of detox friendly dishes. There were at least four gluten free vegan options, including the butternut squash paella I had, along with some very healthy fish dishes.

Now whilst it can be hard not to order your favourite item on the menu (which would have been a XimXim tonight!) when eating out, it's still worth remembering that just because you're on a detox or health kick that you don't have to avoid restaurants.

Infact you can turn eating out into a bit of a challenge, just apply a bit of thought to your menu choices and see how healthy you can be, feeling all virtuous whilst your dining companion piles into their less healthy choice.

Asian cuisine is the easiest option - naturally gluten free and, aside from curries, usually dairy free. There are usually plenty of dairy free vegetarian options on the menu and delicious vegetable side dishes. Go for rice or rice noodle vegetable stir fries or non-creamy curries, sushi and sashimi, avoid anything battered and cream based sauces and order plenty of vegetable sides such as dahl or edamame

Italian - my favourite cuisine which might seem strange with all the pizza and pasta, but the fresh salads, grilled fish and marinated vegetables are all detox friendly.

Middle Eastern - very meat focused however all restaurants offer vegetarian dishes and it can actually be a lot nicer to enjoy a wide range of vegetarian mezze than one heavy meat dish.

French - a real challenge for anyone on a health kick - the french eat healthily at home but when they eat out they want to indulge so it can be tricky to find anything gluten and dairy free on a French menu. Still the French do great soups and can serve up some simple fish dishes - I had a delicious tomato soup and poached red mullet with vegetables at a restaurant recently.

British - traditional pub fare - steak and ale pie, fish and chips, lasagna - is not very detox friendly. But most pubs now offer a few vegetarian options and usually a salmon dish with new potatoes and veg that is a good option. If all else fails have the roast without any meat - so all veg and a few roasties - that might sound sacrilegious, but if you're commited to a detox and don't want to suspend your social life there's always a way.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The daily retox

One of the reasons behind easing yourself into a detox with detox dinners is that your liver is most active when you sleep so it's good to have an antioxidant rich supper before it gets to work. The reason you detox when asleep is because this is when your body can afford to divert sufficient energy to the liver for the detoxification process. Hence the best cure for a hangover is sleep and why people often wake up thirsty (detoxification uses up a lot of water).

So having had an overnight clearout it's a shame to start your day with a toxin laden breakfast even though that's what most city types do. The coffee, pastry combination, with maybe a flavoured sweetened yoghurt or cereal thrown in is adding to your livers 'to do' list from the word go. At 8am this morning I even saw someone drinking a diet coke on their way into work, laden with caffeine and artificial sweeteners.

Instead of 'retoxing' with your first meal of the day why not give your liver a breather with a light, easy to digest detox breakfast.

First up make sure you have plenty of fluids on waking - water is best but herbal tea or diluted fruit juices are also good choices.

Follow this with some raw fruit - full of antioxidant vitamins and live enzymes raw fruit are a great food to break your overnight fast. Best eaten 15 minutes before the rest of your breakfast to allow complete digestion and avoid fermentation.

Then have something rich in fibre - to help carry excreted toxins out of the digestive system. Oats are great for this (something I miss a great deal being gluten free) so sugar-free mueslis and porridge are a good option. Wholemeal or wholegrain breads are also good but go for wheat free as wheat fibre can be harsh on the digestive system and also encourage secretion of vitamins and minerals which isn't good.

And if you do need a caffeine hit go for a green tea which at least has some antioxidants thrown in!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Taking it easy

I must apologise to the London NITC readers for pretty much inviting todays rain with my talk of summery weather! This certainly feels like the wettest June I've experienced and the idea of sunning myself in a bikini feels months off (not two weeks .. aargh!). So whilst I actually feel like eating hot comfort food I have to keep my focus and stay healthy so I don't have a nasty shock when I find myself in a hot country where only a pair of shorts and a vest top will do!!

So having had my detox dinner it's time to suggest another way to ease yourself into detox. Certainly the most painful part for most people is cutting out the toxins ... tea, coffee, alcohol, sugar etc. ... but more on that later. Instead a nice way to ease into a detox is to start by increasing your intake of liver supportive foods as well as eating lots of veggies and drinking lots of water, and then once you've got all that in place start cutting out the bad stuff.

Here are my top detox foods and easy ways to add them into your diet in preparation for a full detox:

Grapefruit/lemon/lime - all stimulating for the liver, have the juice of half a lemon or a whole lime in water in the morning before breakfast or eat half a grapefruit, no sugar added.

Ginger - another liver stimulant. Add grated ginger to a stir fry, juice ginger root along with fruit or veg, add powdered ginger to your muesli, porridge or stir into your herbal tea.

Dandelion tea or coffee - very supportive for detoxification, so great when you're going through a detox to relieve detox headaches or brainfog, but also good whenever you've had a heavy night or a heavy meal.

Cruciferous vegetables - rich in sulphur, an important input into the detoxification biochemical pathways. Cruciferous vegetables have leaves that grow in a cross such as broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale or spring greens

Garlic, asparagus, eggs or onions are also sulphur rich foods

Glutathione rich vegetables - avocado, walnuts and tomatoes - these must all be eaten raw as cooking damages glutathione which is a powerful antioxidant used in the detoxification process

Coriander - helps the body detoxify heavy metals such as mercury (important if you've had mercury fillings put in or removed), can be added chopped and fresh into salads or stir fries adding a wonderful fresh flavour

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Detox dinners

Well I got caught in a big downpour on Saturday, but it still started to feel a bit more summery today and it made me think it's warm enough to start contemplating some sort of detox.

The principals behind detox are that by significantly lowering your intake of toxins and increasing your intake of nutrients that support liver function you can firstly give your liver a rest to recover and regenerate (yes liver cells can grow back) but also allow your body to release some of the toxins it has stored safely away in your fat cells, not only helping detoxify your body but also helping you lose weight (your body won't want to break down those fat cells containing toxins unless it thinks the liver has the capacity to detoxify them).

As I've mentioned previously I don't think that detoxing when the weather is cold is a good idea because your body is already under stress from the cold weather, and in addition will naturally want to hold onto fat to keep you warm, rather than break it down - so the body may resist the detox.

I also don't think throwing yourself straight into a deep detox is a good idea if you haven't already been following a very 'clean' diet, so it's actually good to work your way into it.

A great first step is having detox dinners. What this involves is eating a very low toxin easy to digest dinner every evening (other than one or two 'treat' evenings a week). This means that you're not loading your body with toxins just before you go to sleep, when your liver will do most of it's work, giving it more time to deal with stored toxins in the body. It's also a way to reduce your toxin intake overall as over-indulging at dinner time is a pretty embedded habit in British food culture. Another side effect is also that your digestive system is less over-loaded before bed leading to a better nights sleep.

Having detox dinners can also be a great tool to help kick start weight loss again, or lose a few extra pounds gained through a period of indulgence.

So what makes up detox dinner?
1) Vegetables - full of antioxidants needed by the liver for the chemical processes of detoxification, combined with fibre that can bind with the toxins in the gut to make sure you excrete them, rather than reabsorbing them (yes you can reabsorb toxins from your gut back into your blood stream).

2) Easy to digest carbohydrates - highly processed, refined carbohydrates can clog up the digestive system causing toxic build up, whilst alot of wheat can irritate the gut. Having low glycemic easy to digest carbohydrates such as brown rice, gluten free rice or corn pasta, gluten free brown bread or sweet potato helps your digestion work smoothly and eliminate waste.

3) Easy to digest low-toxin protein - unfortunately the way animals are farmed today and the pollution in the seas means that animal produce just isn't as clean and toxin-free as it should be. However protein is important for the bodies repair overnight so detoxing shouldn't mean going low-protein. Detox dinner proteins should be easy to digest and not derived from animal produce, such as pulses, tofu/soya (no more than three times a week) and good quality protein powders such as whey, rice or hemp that can be made into highly digestible smoothies.

4) water or herbal tea - an essential input into the detoxification process, drink regularly but have a glass before bed to make sure the liver has sufficient water supply

So what kind of dinner can you make out of this?? Here are some super-easy to prepare examples:

Home made brown rice vegetarian sushi rolls with tofu, avocado, carrot and cucumber

Lentil soup with gluten free brown roll and salad

Gluten free pasta with dairy free pesto (I like Meridian brand), baby salad leaves and protein shake

Baked sweet-potato with mashed tofu and herbs, or kidney beans and chopped tomatoes with a side of steamed vegetables.

Vegetarian lentil 'bolognese' with gluten-free spaghetti and a fresh vegetable juice (such as carrot, ginger and spinach)

Chinese vegetable stir-fry with gluten-free soya sauce and brown rice

Hummous with gluten-free brown pita strips and vegetable crudites to dip

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Can't get no satisfaction?

I was talking recently with a friend who's given up eating meat and she found that she was much hungrier and needed more snacks.

This actually isn't surprising if you think of the macronutrient content of meat. Both the fat and protein content slow stomach emptying and digestion delaying hunger.

Anyone who's ever followed a very low-fat eighties style diet will know that without enough fat you can develop an insatiable appetite which no amount of carbs can satisfy. If you are following a low-fat vegetarian or vegan diet where you mainly eat pulses, wholegrains and vegetables you're likely to be digesting your food quicker meaning your stomach will be empty sooner and your hunger will kick in sooner.

I have also dramatically cut down on my intake of meat in the last six months and have to say my portion sizes have gone up as a result. Not to say I've put on weight, I've actually lost some during meat free BeachCamp, but I've definitely felt less satisfied from my main meals than when I have oily fish or meat.

Adding eggs, fish, tofu and low-fat diary products is an easy way to remedy this, bringing more protein to the meal. However it's also worth remembering that both fats and fibre are also necessary to satisfy your appetite.

Unless a meal contains oily fish make sure you add a source of essential fats - flax or olive oil, olives, avocados, nuts and seeds all work.

Also make sure any low-fat or low-protein meals contain plenty of roughage - so raw fruit or vegetables or pulses.

Following these tips should leave you feeling satisfied without having to eat meat.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Cabbage for cancer

In the world of nutrition there are often 'hot topics' of the moment that get alot of coverage and are then forgotten. I was reminded today of the anti-cancer properties of cruciferous vegetables (vegetables with leaves in a cross formation), such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, something that was a hot topic a couple of years ago and now rarely talked about.

However it's worth remembering as there is a vast body of evidence that the particular phytonutrients in cruciferous vegetables are able to kill cancer cells without damaging healthy cells, so regular consumption of these vegetables can reduce your risk of developing cancer.

Ideally you should eat at least one portion of cruciferous vegetables daily. Which is great news if you like eating these veg but if, like me, you're not so keen then it can be easy to go absent mindedly go without eating them for several days/weeks at a time!!

As you know I never endorse eating food you don't like the taste of so the key for me to eat these veg is to find recipes I enjoy them in. One clever trick is to hide them in juices - both cabbage and broccoli juices can be easily disguised in a base of carrot, apple and ginger. Adding them to other dishes such as adding finely chopped steamed broccoli to pasta dishes can also make them more palatable.

However despite not being a cauliflower fan I actually like the recipe below for cauliflower steaks from The Kind Diet
by Alicia Silverstone (yes of 'Clueless' fame). Delia also has a similar one for cauliflower and broccoli that looks good but I've yet to try:

Cauliflower steaks:

Serves 4
1 medium - large head of cauliflower
1 large fennel bulb, stalks and fronds removed (optional if you don't like fennel - I love it)
2 tbsp Olive oil
fine sea salt, freshly group pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Slice the cauliflower as you would cut a loaf of bread, making 1/2"-3/4" thick slices, slice the fennel. Arrange the pieces on a baking sheet and brush with oil, season with salt and pepper.
Roast steak till golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. Flip the slices, drizzle with a bit more oil and roast an additional 10-12 minutes, until browned and tender.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Liven up your lunch

If, like me, you take a packed lunch into work it can be easy to get into a food rut and end up eating the same lunch every day.

This isn't just dull, making the vending machine treats a little harder to resist, but it's also not good for you. Every different food has a different nutrient composition, so if you're eating a narrow range of ingredients there's a much higher chance of not getting enough of certain nutrients.

The super well-paid city folk can buy their way out of this situation with healthy food delivery services such as Pure Package, which can deliver up to three healthy meals a day, if you really can't feed yourself, with a different menu every day!

Sounds fabulous? Well sadly so is the price, but fortunately they provide sample menus which can serve as great lunch inspiration for the rest of us. Most of their meal suggestions are easily replicated at home and if in doubt a google recipe search should find you something similar, so there's really no excuse for lunchtime boredom.

Pure package (several different menus available on their site):
Body Chef (send you their different menus by email):


Sunday, 12 June 2011

Precious advice

Working near Spitalfields market gives me access to a great range of shops and restaurants that you wouldn't necessarily find on your local high street. A dream for finding quirky gifts, international foods and also some fab clothes.

My absolute favourite find in Spitalfields, and in fact favourite shop full stop, is Precious ( who sell the most divine clothes in the city combined with really fabulous staff. Personal service and reliable fashion advice are a rarity in most clothes stores these days but extremely valuable if, like me, you're not a natural fashionista but can't bear to stick to the city uniform of drab suits and shirts.

But what has this got to do with Nutrition ... well being a Precious fan I read their excellent blog ( and along with last weeks indispensable advice on holiday packing (which I will be following in my efforts to try and pack for a week in France in a carry on wheelie!) they also mentioned the arrival of another new shop in the Spitalfields area ... Hummingbird Bakery.

For anyone who somehow missed the cupcake craze that swept the capital last year, Hummingbird is THE place to go for fairy light sponge and delicious butter cream icing. Great for a treat, not so great for the digestively impaired like myself!!

Still on further investigation it turns out they've started selling gluten free cupcakes, which made a great gift for a fellow gluten-intolerant last week and continued evidence of the increased demand for gluten free foods. Sadly, even minus the gluten, they're still total sugar hits ... but for when you're having your '20% of the time treats' I really do think you should go for the best of whatever you fancy ... and if it's cupcakes Hummingbird is the place.

I'm just holding out for them to start making gluten and dairy free cupcakes, although then I may struggle to stick to the 20% restriction!!

Friday, 10 June 2011

For the love of food

Tonight I enjoyed Man vs. Will at the Udderbelly (the purple upside down cow on the Southbank). In his show the Aussie comedian, Will Anderson, joked about the differences between English, Australians and Americans, including their attitudes to food.

In particular he theorized that the Americans have a bigger problem with obesity due to the way they love food and have so much focus on it.

It's true that the Americans love their food and this can encourage over-eating - particularly their association between food and pretty much all social activities. However the French and Italians are arguably more passionate about food without having the same obesity problem, although there passions are usually around quality rather than quantity.

And that difference is key - eating isn't just about fueling the body - although some diet regimes would have us act as if it were - we can't deny that eating is a pleasurable sensory experience that is also intertwined in our social fabric.

In this way good food should be celebrated and we should always aim to eat the highest quality produce, even for something as simple as our breakfast make sure the fruit is ripe and tasty or have a good quality muesli. If something doesn't taste good or isn't pleasurable to eat then put it to one side and eat something else.

Try it out over the weekend - you might be surprised at how much food you reject but also that when you really think about it you may be getting more pleasure out of some simple healthy foods rather than processed unhealthy ones.

Once you tune into quality in this way you'll find not only do you enjoy your food more but you'll generally eat less. Good food is savoured and eaten slowly, whereas eating something bland generally leads to mindless eating where you work your way through your food like a chore.
Perhaps if the Americans loved their food in this way they wouldn't be such an easy target for comedians.

Will is at the Udderbelly for the next three nights if you fancy a good laugh.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Summertime slaw

Whilst the weather is still fairly patchy at the moment I was fortuitous enough to have a few hours of sunshine for my bbq on Saturday.

I love a good bbq - tasty food, eating al fresco and good company, but they aren't always the healthiest of affairs. So one advantage of playing host is you can make sure there are some healthy options.

Amongst the usual bbq fare I included my favourite vegetarian/vegan/gluten and dairy free burgers (Tesco Mushroom and Tesco Bean Burgers), with tesco wholemeal gluten free rolls, fresh corn on the cob (boiled til they change colour then finished off on the bbq) and a few different side salads. One of the salads that was a big hit was a celeriac coleslaw.

It's a yummy alternative to coleslaw without the cream so it's dairy and gluten free and can be made with egg-free mayo for any vegans. Try and use real mayo if you can make it, or look for the lowest sugar content for shop bought - you'll find the 'lite' versions have more sugar so are actually worse for you than regular mayo.

Celeriac slaw:
Grate 250g celeriac root and 250g carrot (I use the larger gauge grater for this). Mix and sprinkle with 1 tsp fresh lemon juice to stop the celariac from browning.

Mix up the following dressing in a large bowl:
125ml mayonnaise
Salt + pepper
1tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp red wine vinegar

Add the grated celariac and carrot and mix thoroughly, then refrigerate for 20minutes and serve. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Time for a sit down

An almost universal complaint of clients in the city is that don't have as much energy as they'd like/used to have. Now whilst a lot of us probably think that's part and parcel of getting old, I personally think it doesn't need to be the case.

I've blogged fairly recently on how certain foods can rob you of energy (, but what we also neglect to do is get sufficient rest. Yes this includes sleep, but also just sitting down and doing nothing - something most A type, multi-tasking city folk find very difficult.

It seems as if in learning to operate at hyper-speed and become super efficient at work that we unlearn how to relax properly. Watching tv, going to the gym, playing squash, might all feel like stress relief but infact they still provoke a stress response and don't count as true relaxation.

What I highly recommend is that when you get home from work and just feel like collapsing in front of the tv, that instead you spend 10 minutes sat somewhere comfy, or even lying down, and just do nothing - no reading, no talking, no watching tv. Try and keep your mind calm too - let your thoughts drift around but don't start planning what you're going to do that evening or replaying about what happened at work that day.

You may fear you'll fall asleep, and this may happen, but what you'll be surprised to find is that after even just 5 minutes you're energy levels will come back up and you'll feel refreshed and ready to do something more constructive than watch re-runs of Jersey Shore!

If you really struggle to switch off mentally I recommend reading The Power of Now
to help you get into the habit of clearing your mind.

Doing nothing (for a short period!) is also good for weight loss reducing your circulating levels of stress hormones which encourage fat storage, particularly around the middle, so if you're trying to lose weight it's worth making some time to do nothing at all!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Day off!

As I commented in yesterday's blog I like to take a day off every week where I don't do any exercise, don't rush about doing chores, have a lie in and generally relax.

I appreciate that this is a luxury that those of you with kids can rarely afford but working out a rota with your partner to at least get a lie in once a week can be extremely beneficial.

Something I notice on these days off is that my appetite is much lower when I'm relaxed - this is to be expected as mental activity burns up calories just a physical activity does, so a stressful day in the office can drum up quite an appetite. Equally not going to the gym means that in the evening I'm also much less hungry.

This is one of the many reasons I don't give clients calories or quantities of food to eat and instead encourage them to eat when they're hungry, eat slowly, stop when their appetite is satisfied and then not eat again until their hungry.

Putting it into practice myself generally means having a small dinner on my day off, maybe some soup with a gluten free roll or some homemade nori rolls with salad, as I'm just not that hungry - cooking up a big dinner and eating my usual serving would mean taking in more food than I needed that day.

I think learning to follow your appetite really is the key to having the right food intake (unless your appetite is suppressed due to stress or deficiencies). Learn to eat to your appetite and you can constantly match your food intake to your activity levels and won't ever have to worry about how many weight watchers points or calories are in your lunch.


Sunday, 5 June 2011

Bye bye BeachCamp

It seems somewhat perverse to be blogging about BeachCamp as the rain pours down outside my window but, despite how it looks outside, it is June and we will all hopefully get to don our swimwear sometime soon!

I have to say with the rainy weather I've found I've been less motivated to stick to the regime than I normally would in my pre-holiday tone up. In particular I find the cold weather makes me reach for comforting food and there have been a couple of chip eating incidents in the past two weeks (shhh don't tell anyone)!!

Oh well, even us health professionals aren't immune to comfort eating! And sticking to any regime too rigorously normally needs to cravings for banned foods, so I'm now going to go back to my usual 80/20 rule ... pretty much following BeachCamp 80% of the time and 20% of the time eating what I want. This also includes one rest day a week of no exercise whatsoever so that I have a day where I don't feel under pressure to stick to a schedule.

Where alot of dieters go wrong is that once they've lost the weight they wanted to they go back entirely to their old eating habits and the weight comes back on again. This is where the 80/20 rule comes into it's own by instead gradually introducing the less healthy foods, but keeping to your healthy regime the majority of the time.

So what habits will I be keeping up from BeachCamp?

Well first up is drinking water on waking and before each meal - I'm generally pretty good at drinking enough water at work, but I find I forget on weekends, so this is a habit I'm going to try and stick to.

Eating some protein with each meal. From the big 5 (water, fibre, fat, protein, wholegrain carbs) it's the protein that I will sometimes not have enough of. Particularly with breakfast, so this is another habit I'm going to try and stick to.

Finally the half hour exercise rule. Those of you that know me might find it odd that I'd find this rule useful as I'm a total gym bunny. But actually by limiting myself to just half an hours exercise, rather than doing longer gym sessions, I've found my whole gym experience more relaxed and I've been able to fit in more sessions than I usually would. For example I was away this weekend with friends and so it would have been antisocial to go off to the gym for 1.5hrs but instead I took my running shoes and went for a half hour run before breakfast which really didn't eat into the day at all.

By sticking to these habits I'm confident that the time the sun does come out my good work will have paid off and I'll be beach ready!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Beachcamp: Banish the bingo wings

A common concern amongst women at the gym is that if they do upper body weights they'll end up with popeye arms ... not a good look!! Now whilst most personal trainers would brush this fear aside, it's one I actually share. Having trained with free weights a personal trainer for a couple of years I found that my biceps looked toned but also looked out of proportion to the rest of my body.

Whilst this is a purely aesthetic concern, it is part of Beachcamp's objectives to get in good shape for the beach including your upper body. For the guys this likely means developing an impressive pair of guns, whilst for the girls this probably means banishing the bingo wings without building too much bulk.

Building muscle and toning muscle require different exercise techniques, and so doing the right exercises can make all the difference as to the shape you achieve.

To build muscle: The most effective training, in my opinion, is pyramid training with free weights which involves decreasing reps with increased intensity. This is the training used in the Body for Life programme and is most effective when combined with frequent protein intake. All the details can be found on their site:

To tone muscle: If you don't want bulging biceps but do want toned arms then you need to do lots of reps with low weights. This is the premise behind the Tracy Anderson Method and also the weight training in The Bodydoctor
programme, which is a great all round toning programme with good instructions on proper weight training technique.

Whichever you go for you need to train your upperbody at least twice a week for decent results so some commitment is required, although just doing 30 pushups each evening at home will yield surprising results.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Butt camp

A week and a half into beachcamp and I'm really seeing results, my clothes are looser and for the first time in quite a few years my weight is under 8 stone (I'm only 5ft 1) - all cause for celebration. Best of all I haven't felt hungry or deprived the whole time, well with the exception some bacon sarnie envy last weekend!

The key to effective and painless weight loss really is in changing the quality of what you eat, rather than obsessing on the quantity. Eating healthful foods and following your appetite is really a whole lot easier and more enjoyable than counting calories, carbs or grams of fat and being hungry half the time.

However this method does rely heavily on cutting out the bad stuff - and for the duration of Beachcamp this means no sugar, dairy or meat.

If this is something you're struggling with and you need a motivator then getting your butt beach ready should be it - as well as contributing to weight gain these three foods are also major contributors to cellulite. So if you want to lose the orange peel effect it's time to drop the bacon sarnies and café lattes.

Cellulite is much more common in women but is also seen in some males. It is caused by a particular formation of fat so excess fat stores make it worse but water retention is also a major factor, so even if you're not overweight you can have it. This is why cutting down on toxins and allergens can help reduce cellulite, as can lymphatic drainage massage such as endermology, which drains fluid away from the cells. This can be expensive but there's no need to fork out - you can use a body brush at home to create the same effect or if, like me, you don't enjoy that particular sensation you can easily give your thigh region a quick massage each day when you moisturize. Apply firm pressure and massage in strokes up the leg towards the heart. And remember exercise also encourages lymphatic drainage as the muscles squeeze the lymph vessels moving the fluid around the body.

But there's more than just tackling cellulite when it comes to getting the perfect posterior. Unless you've inherited a naturally great shape, which some lucky people do, you'll need to put in a consistent effort in the gym to get a butt like JLo in time for the summer.

An effective programme combines weights twice a week (lunges and squats) with cycling or the stairmaster, also twice a week.

Cycling is great for shaping the bum and thighs, but you don't have to take up spinning to see results. Interval training on a bike at the gym (see will give you a resistance and cardio workout in just 20 minutes. Equally cycling to work, particularly on a heavy Boris bike, will give your thighs and glutes a good workout, especially if cycling uphill.

For those without access to a bike at work or home, the Tracey Anderson mat workout dvds have comprehensice sections of butt toning exercises, however be warned these can get a tad repetitive!