Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Trick or treat?

Happy Halloween readers, I hope you're enjoying some ghoulish antics
or even a spot of trick or treating this evening.

Overtime I have revised the dietary advice I give and follow inline with research and developments in nutrition but there are a couple of truisms that just get further reinforced:

- We should all be eating plenty of fruit and veg
- We should all avoid processed foods, especially those with non-food additives - which I'm afraid includes a lot of Halloween treats.

As further evidence of why we should be giving these kinds of ingredients a wide berth, I read today on the 'city girl bites' blog that phosphorous, another non-food additive, has now been identified as a possible cause of heart disease:

It doesn't surprise me - our bodies are designed to cope with foods and ingredients as we would find them in nature, not when they've been highly refined or artificially synthesised. Overtime I'm sure we'll discover even more negative effects from eating these kinds of foods.

This is why we should be eating a diet of wholefoods and home-cooked meals for our optimal health, however I appreciate that in practice that isn't possible.

To minimize the damage of any ready-prepared or processed foods you need to religiously start reading ingredients labels and avoiding non-food additives. By that I mean anything that isn't a standard ingredient you might use in your kitchen. So rice, that's a food ingredient, sulphur is a non-food additive. It only takes a few seconds but will help you avoid any nasty tricks in your treats.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Cupboard confessional

Us brits like to complain about our tepid weather, but the devastation in the US is a good reminder that we are actually very fortunate to live somewhere with such a moderate climate.

Thankfully all my friends and colleagues in new york are safe, but the idea of them all holed up in their apartments got me wondering about how I would fair foodwise if I couldn't leave my flat.

As is usual for a central london pad my kitchen is fairly tiny so I don't have room for any serious stockpiling, I do however keep a cupboard full of rice, pasta and noodles so I'd definitely be fine on the carb front for a couple of weeks.

Fresh fruit and veg would obviously be the first items to run out, but I do always keep a drawer full in the freezer with frozen fruit and veggies, so I've no excuse not to have my five a day.

If it wasn't for my big tub of rice protein powder, I'd run out of protein fairly quickly. I do keep a few fish fillets in the freezer and cans of pulses in the cupboard, but probably only enough for a week.

Infact the first thing I'd run out of would probably be treats - I deliberately keep supplies of chocolate, cakes, crisps and biscuits to a minimum at home as the easiest way to stop me eating them. This does mean that I'd be in trouble if the power went out though as I keep very little ready to eat food in my cupboards.

I'd be fine on the fat front with a couple of pots of nut butter permanently in the fridge and a shelf full of nuts and seeds to add to my breakfast porridge, salads and stir-fries.

All in all I'd be able to eat pretty healthily for at least a couple of weeks, electricity permitting. Have a look in your cupboards tonight and see how you'd fair - if you'd find yourself living of dorritos and biscuits then it might be time for a cupboard clear-out and healthy restock!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Preparation is key

A few people have asked me recently for some advice on how to cut out diary, gluten or both.  Cutting these out can be beneficial for a host of reasons and I think are worth everyone cutting out for at least a couple of weeks a year.

However it can be tough both mentally and practically. You need to be armed with a shopping list, some good recipes and to know what substitutes you can have for your favourite foods to keep on the straight and narrow.

Gluten free shopping list:
Bread - waitrose gluten free is the nicest in my opinion but all major supermarkets now stock a full range of breads, keep a sliced loaf in the freezer for toast cravings
Pasta - my favourites are Asda's own brand or Salute which is available in waitrose
Treats - most supermarkets also stock a range of gluten-free treats - scones, brownies, biscuits etc.  These are all sugar laden like their normal counterparts, but are good to have on standby for when you have serious cravings

Gluten-free recipes:
Asian recipes are gluten free 9 times out of 10 so get a wok and start stir frying. Here are a couple of my favourites:
Jamie oliver's Salmon stir fry
Delia's Chinese prawn stir fries
See my recipe page for my other favourites - they're all dairy and gluten-free:

For puddings I revert to Elana's pantry for recipes for fruit crumbles, brownies and other goodies:

Dairy free shopping list:
Milk: this can take some experimentation to find your favourite.  Sweetened soya milk or rice milk can be the more palatable and are a good place to start. I vary between unsweetened soya, rice milk and Kara coconut milk.
Dairy-free spread - switch your butter or margarine for a pure sunflower spread - check the label, I use 'Pure' brand or Tescos own 'free from' sunflower spread
Treats: Booja booja ice cream is my ultimate dairy-free indulgences but fruit sorbets are also a good freezer option.  Dairy milk is a no no but alot of dark chocolate is dairy free, Lindt is my favourite and I keep a bar of their 80% dark chocolate in my cupboard at all times.
Yoghurt: If you're a a natural yoghurt fan but going dairy free I'm afraid there isn't anything that tastes anywhere near as good as some organic bio yoghurt. Sojade is the closest thing and sugar free, otherwise you can get some Alpro Yofu which is pretty palatable but sweetened.
Cheese: There also isn't anything anywhere need cheese I'm afraid. You can get soya cheeses but they don't taste like cheese and are highly processed so I tend to skip them.
Dairy-free pesto: Meridian pesto is a store cupboard staple for me - adding lovely pesto basil flavour to freshly cooked gluten-free pasta, without the dairy hangover.

Dairy-free recipes
Again for recipes the best ones are the ones that are just naturally dairy free - don't try and make a diary free cheesecake or lasagna it will only end in disappointment!
Daily bites is a great blog to sign up to for gluten and dairy free recipes:
Vegan recipes are also of course naturally dairy free as are the ones on my page:

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Flag fresh

Firstly a big thank you for Ms Haribo and Zen dog for filling in from me last week. Great blogs as always and a useful reminder for me of a couple of things ... firstly that sugar is a real trigger food for me and a definite case of where a little leads to alot and also that I need to dedicate some more time for proper chilling out, yoga and meditation and not wait til my body starts telling me to stop.

On my way home this afternoon I stopped off for some groceries and started putting my usual staple fruit and veg into my basket ... then I snapped myself out of my auto-pilot and started looking at the labels ... nothing I'd put in my basket was from the UK and the most wasn't even from Europe.

It's a reminder, along with the freezing weather, that the seasons have changed and so has the British produce that's on offer.  Thankfully most supermarkets now put helpful union jack style labels on their british produce so it's easy to spot what's been grown locally and therefore is in season.  Eating seasonally helps keep variety in your diet, keep your food nutritious as local produce is fresher and helps the environment by avoiding unnecessary air freighting, plus it supports the UK economy.

I ended up putting back everything in my basket and instead buying some leeks, spring greens, carrots and peppers as well as a bag of conference pears. As we move into winter oranges, clementines, potatoes, squash, cabbage, broccoli and parsnips are also all coming into season but no need to memorize the list, just look for the Union Jack and shop accordingly.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Prevention over cure - good vibrations

I am going for an acupuncture appointment this evening which I always look forward to.  I go every 3 to 4 weeks as a preventative measure to help keep me well.  People ask me why I go for acupuncture and always expect me to have something wrong already but instead I say I use it to assist in keeping me feeling good.  I am by no means perfect in keeping myself well but I try my hardest to use all the preventative options out there rather than letting what might feel like a little niggle turn into something bigger.  In old China some doctors were, infact, kept on a retainer to keep people well and not paid when they got sick!  The change in this mentality is a different subject altogether!
Originally I went for acupuncture some years ago due to a lower back and sciatica problem and it really helped.  (This is what then got me interested enough to study it and change careers!).  I normally combine treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic, massage and nutrition to keep on top of any niggles, aches, change in mood or feelings of fatigue.  According to quantum physics we, and everything around us, are energy and energy vibrates at different frenquencies.  Slower energy takes more form (like a table) and faster energy take less form (like gas).  As humans, we have our own resonance and I like to imagaine that the beginnings of illness is actually a slowing down or alteration from our optimal resonance into one that doesn't suit us anymore.  This energy change is the point at which using complementaty/alternative medicines as a preventative can really work well for us.
In current times these preventative therapies could be seen as a luxury but there are many colleges and universities offering reduced price treatments in their student clinics.  This is a great option to be able to have regular treatments or dip and in out of different types of treatment depending on what you feel you need.  The student clinics are for final year students to gain hands on experience and are normally very well supervised by their tutors during the treatment.  I have listed below a few places in London that I have found.
Of course there are also totally free ways to increase your vibration such as meditation, relaxation, a walk in nature, listening to calming sounds, some yoga at home or even sending out kind thoughts to yourself and others.  But sometimes a nice massage is just what is needed and you deserve to take time out to look after yourself!
Have a lovely weekend - and remember to put your clocks back on Saturday night!  That extra hour is a free treatment to yourself and could help increase your vibration and have you feeling tip top in this murky weather! :o)
Zen Dog
yoga therapy
therapy - low cost option

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A wealth of information.....

Hi NITC readers, Zen Dog here for the last couple of blogs this week.....
Even though I am not a trained Nutritionist I try to stay on top of food news and views and have some blog/FB feeds setup to my phone to be able to catch-up with the latest health information from all over the world.  As a student of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, food is one of the key components in health and potential illness.  Someones diet can tell us alot about the symptoms they are experiencing and how an illness has progressed, so I always try to be watchful of my own food intake.
Out of all the new nutrition and health information out there though, today I wanted to talk about the new concept of the 5:2 fasting plan (note: I hate the word diet as it has so many negative connotations for people so I have chosen the word plan)
After watching Eat, Fast, Live Longer (BBC2) I trialled the 2 days fasting and 5 days usual eating plan for 6 weeks and I am still doing it to some degree depending on what is going on in my life.  If you are interested in this new concept then I would recommend watching the programme and doing some research first (some links at the bottom of the blog). 
The main points are that by cutting calorie intake, the bodies fat stores can be accessed and burned for fuel.  Scientific research has also shown the body can go into a 'growth' and 'repair' mode when dealing with less calories and also can switch down some reactions in the body which disturb the balance of health. 
Personally, I certainly noticed benefits such as weightloss and more specifically a change in my shape (I hold alot of my weight on my thighs).  I was more alert and had more energy.  On days I fasted I would just do gentle yoga and also try to not be doing anything stressful.  These are the important things to be mindful of as overexcising or having to give a stressful presentation at work can have a counterproductive effect during the fasting times. 
After the 6 weeks I had a week off when I had abit of a cold (which I nipped in the bud with some timely acupuncture) and also when I was juggling alot with my work and study.  Even when not fasting though, I have noticed it has somewhat changed my eating habits as it has brought extra awareness to what I am putting in my mouth and the biggest question - 'do I really need this?' 
I always hated the thought of counting calories (after lots of Weight Watcher experiences in my 20's!) and I know Emilie is not a fan but for 2 days a week when you make sure you only eat 500-600 calories it again brings focus onto your food and becoming more of a conscious eater.  Another major point is to make sure your 500-600 is from highly nutritious foods like green veg, pea protein, green juice, fresh vege soups, beans and pulse etc.  These will provide you with the energy you need and not spike your blood sugar which will take you into hunger!  This 5:2 concept does need a certain amount of organisation so you know what you will be eating.
From my Chinese Medicine training we know everyone is different and everyone needs to be treated as such - there is never a one certain treatment for one condition, it always depends on the individuals' symptoms.  So I take this and relate it to food too.  The 5:2 concept is not for everyone and I am not recommending as such.  But I would advise my patients - take responsiblity for your health and be open to new information.
Everyone can find their optimum health in different ways and if something isn't working for you then change it.  Be empowered by food and trial things in the knowledge that it doesn't have to be set in stone.  Make health work for you and be excited by all the accessible information out there that can help you to help yourself and get your body functioning well.
Zen Dog

Tuesday, 23 October 2012


Miss Haribo again,


I realised a terrible oversight from yesterday: I forgot the great Gary Becker aged 81 who still maintains a very interesting blog.


Becker's Nobel prize winning lecture "The economic way of looking at behaviour"  is well worth a read. (link but may be gated: )


But despite him inspiring my life of crime, today I'm going to talk about addiction. Becker is well known for his work on "rational addiction". To me this is really interesting because it means that we have more control over our addictions (sugar, Grazia, cigarettes) than the word "addiction" would imply and we have the power to shake them.

Addiction occurs because consuming the addictive thing now means we get happier from consuming it in the future, in other words eating a krispy kreme today makes you love them even more in the future, meaning you want to eat more of them. Even small increases in consumption today can lead to large increases in future consumption. We really need to remember the effects that "one delicious doughnut" will have on our future selves and our desire to eat more. It's not just my waistline today that will thank me for passing on sugar laden stuff but my future waistline.

Becker's work gives us some excellent strategies for dealing with our addictions:

First: sharply cutting consumption now can be very successful in giving up our krispy kreme habit

Second: even events in the future, such as a tax increase next year on alcohol, can make us cut down our drinking today.

Third: There are two stable situations: one where we consume a lot of the addictive good and another when we don't. We can keep the "good" state forever.

But to me the most useful thing is to really remember that we have control over our addictions and often there really are things (often with the help of others) that we can do to get rid of them.

Don't forget that addiction can be positive as well as negative such as exercise and that warm fuzzy glow when you do something nice. Just doing a bit of exercise today can set off a virtuous cycle of happy healthiness.

Miss Haribo

Monday, 22 October 2012

Acting your age

Miss Haribo here again,


Yesterday I talked about Al Roth. But this year's Nobel prize in economics was also awarded to Lloyd Shapley.


Lloyd Shapley is admirable in many ways, but I think one which few people know about is that despite being 89 he's still an active economist, still publishing work on very advanced topics.  He even gave some of my colleagues some advice on one of their papers recently! (Yes Miss Haribo is jealous.)


He's not unique amongst economists in producing good work in their later years:


J.K. Galbraith, who wrote some very famous work on the 1929 stock market crash published his last book at the grand old  age of 95.


Charles Goodhart is 76 yet has made massive contributions to understanding the cause of the financial crisis and possible reform efforts.


Paul Volcker is 85, yet has a rule (on banking activity restrictions) that came into effect this year, and only last week he flew over to these shores to give evidence about the effectiveness on proposed structural reform in banking.


I consider these four as role models in staying mentally active, well after their traditional "working" years are behind them.


We focus a lot on keeping our bodies healthy into old age, but our minds are important too, and we need to ensure that we keep getting mentally stimulated. It's easy to do a repetitive tiring job and then to come home and turn on the TV (I really love the Kardashians) and to veg out.  So try to make use of all the many things London and other cities offer such as art galleries, museums and adult learning centres such as Citylit or Morley College.  


And with that I'm fully justified at gawking at Ballgowns at the V&A for its "keeping me clever in my old age" properties.


Miss Haribo

Sunday, 21 October 2012


Miss haribo here,

In the first of an annual series I'm taking over the blog and writing about the economics nobel prize winners.

However, I don't intend to add to the number of articles explaining their work on the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design. That is far better done by peple elsewhere.  (e.g. )

Al Roth is also very well known for work on repugnance and other things which constrain markets. One of the regularities is that somethings become repugnant when money is offered or it certainly changes the nature of the transaction, for example paying for the food when someone has invited you to dinner or paying for sex. So my suggestion for this column, especially in these cash-strapped times, is to stop focussing on the things that you can't afford but to take this week celebrate the things you have that money can't buy.

Miss Haribo

Ps Probably the most famous example of Al Roth's work is on kidney exchanges. The shortage of donor organs is a real problem, yet only 30% of people are on the register.  I'm (probably) never going to acheive immortaility with my work but I can help someone live a better life after I die with only two minutes of effort.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Protein power

Well I'm already making tweaks from my Food Doctor reading and first on the list is upping my protein intake.

I'm a bit of a carb monster usually and having given up most meat and seafood it's made it even easier to end up eating carb heavy meals.

However skipping the protein isn't a good move as protein is an essential macronutrient, and also one that you can't absorb alot of in one go. Just because you have a big steak with your dinner, it doesn't mean you're getting as much as you need.

So what do you need it for?
Well firstly it's the building blocks for all our cells, not just our muscles, so a good regular supply of protein is needed to keep every part of your body in good nic. This includes hair, skin and nails which can become dull and weak with insufficient protein.

It's also of course the main constituent of your muscles so in order to maintain muscle mass and repair damaged muscle tissues you need plenty of protein, particularly after exercise and also more so as you get older when you body get's less efficient at digesting and utilizing protein so your muscles can start to waste. A higher lean muscle mass also raises your metabolism helping to avoid unhealthy weight gain.

Protein plays a key role in endocrine hormone balance and also blood sugar regulation. Insufficient protein can impair your thyroid and adrenal function leading to fatigue and inability to burn fats for energy. Eating protein with carbohydrates also helps slow the rate of digestion thereby reducing the amount of insulin you produce in response and so keeping your blood sugar more stable.

Pretty important stuff isn't it!

With protein on the brain I made sure every meal and snack today had some added protein and did find my energy levels were more consistent. I had a rice protein shake to supplement my breakfast cereal, I then had some plain soya yoghurt with raspberries for my midmorning snack, lunch was brown rice sushi with salmon, for my afternoon snack I had some major crisp cravings, but with protein in mind I had a palmful of raw almonds. Dinner was tofu stirfry.

As Ian Marber says, when you sit down to eat any meal or snack you should ask yourself 'Where is my protein'?

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Untapped resources

This evening I went to the library, something I haven't done in years! The last time I was there I was trying to finish my dissertation on co-enzyme Q10 and Parkinsons disease and my broadband was on the blink at home so I was just using their free WiFi!

Like most people I tend to buy my books rather than borrow them, but given that loans are free for three weeks (and you can also rent dvds for free) I'm starting to wonder why I haven't been using my library instead!

It's a fairly small one (canary wharf, churchill place) and yet they still have quite a good range of relatively recent health books including the rather scary 'OMG' diet book which tells you to drink lots of caffeine and skip breakfast, along with some more sensible titles from Ian Marber and Patrick Holford.

Whilst I like to own my cookery books and some nutrition books that I go back to again and again, I think it's good to keep my reading fresh and be aware of the latest ideas in food and health. Reading new books also helps give me some meal and snack inspiration when I start getting bored of my usual options.

I tend to alternate a book I'm reading just for pleasure, such as a novel or biography, with a book on health, whether that's a book on nutrition, exercise or another self-help book - usually on how to keep my life simple and stress-free!

Even if you're not a health professional, making time to read self-help health books can be time well-spent. As a result of my reading I find myself gradually making tweaks to my diet and lifestyle. Changes I've made prompted by reading include dramatically cutting down on my meat consumption, reducing my intake of processed foods (which were mainly gluten-free treats), totally eliminating any dairy food from my diet (rather than just avoiding lactose) and not getting so hung up on my to do list and what's still on it!

The result has been I've dropped a couple of spare pounds without going hungry, I sleep better and have blemish-free skin. The to do list still bothers me, but I'm better at sitting down and relaxing instead of multi-tasking like a maniac!

Tonight I took out the 'Food Doctor Diet Club' book for some new recipe ideas and helpful meal planners to get some more variety into my diet. The lady at the counter serving me clocked it was a diet book and kindly pointed out that they also have a 'Slimming World' club at the library if I wanted to join :-)

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Total washout

Although I feel consistently pretty healthy I like to give myself an annual health-check to check everything is as it should be and help me make beneficial tweaks to my diet and lifestyle to keep me on track.

This involves a range of laboratory testing to check my mineral and vitamin levels as well as testing various biochemical pathways and organ function.

In order to collect accurate results these tests usually require a 'washout' period beforehand where you stop taking all supplements (and medications where you're on them and it's safe to come off them). This is to get a good picture of your base health level without the help of whatever drugs or nutrients you like to take.

I'm now four days into my washout and really starting to feel it. I feel less energetic, am getting tired more quickly and need more sleep. My concentration isn't as good as usual and I'm craving more sugar and carbs.
I take a fair amount of supplements so it's no surprise to me that I'm feeling worse for cutting them out. Work's also been hectic so I reckon I'm using my b vitamins quicker than I can eat them which is why my energy levels have dropped.

It's only a five day washout and I'll be glad when it's over and I can get back to my usual regime.

I have to say that over time I've forgotten how different (and not in a good way) I felt before I reformed my diet and starting taking some comprehensive supplements. This washout serves as a useful reminder of why it's all very much worth the money and effort!


Monday, 15 October 2012

I've got a lovely pear!

Miss Haribo here,

Believe it or not I am one of Emilie's small mouthed friends. Two weeks ago I had my wisdom teeth removed, and apart from a few somewhat gross moments, I had a pretty charmed recovery.

I credit Emilie for a lot of this: her advice throughout the years meant I was fit and healthy anyway, but her advice to add nuts and avocado to smoothies to accelerate the healing process must be one reason why my healing has gone so well.

I'm pretty well known for producing smoothies that look like pond slime, and tasting pretty similar. Usually I end up adding a lot of berries to make the vegetables in the smoothie palatable, but this time I discovered something far superior: pears.

Adding pears to my smoothies rather than frozen berries made them deliciously juicy, and despite the mild taste of pears the taste of broccoli was well masked. It also keeps the smoothie relatively low in sugar rather than overloading all the good work with some sugary berries.

Pears contain lots of healing vitamin C and are high in antioxidants and a good source of fibre (essential when you are on a diet of soup).

Pear blended with nuts also made a nice base for a mixer!  I've always thought of pears as inferior apples but the last two weeks have changed my mind.

Miss Haribo

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Baby boon

I'm not a particularly maternal individual but entering my thirties have a lot of friends who are now either pregnant or preparing themselves for pregnancy.

Anecdotally it seems that having a baby can have the upside of resolving seemingly unrelated health issues, I've had direct reports in disappearances of lifelong asthma, acne, fatigue and other issues upon getting pregnant that have continued post birth.

It's well known that hormonal changes during pregnancy occur to make you feel fantastic and prepare your body for childbirth, however these changes maybe more long lasting. In the old days doctors would sometimes advise women with hormonal imbalances to have a baby to resolve them - this might seem pretty patronising and extreme advice but may infact be accurate.

I'm an ardent feminist but biologically there's no arguing with the science - women are physically designed to have children fairly early on in adulthood, so it makes sense that it may take the act of pregnancy and childbirth to put our bodies into a hormone and health equilibrium for adulthood.

Having a baby for any other reason than wanting to bring a child into the world and care for it for the rest of your life is clearly foolish, but faced with the significant physical changes that come with pregnancy and childbirth it may be reassuring to know that there's a good chance you'll come out the other side a healthier, happier person!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Penny pinching

According to today's news food prices are on the rise again. A shortage of cattle feed and the cost of oil are driving up meat production and food transport costs. This isn't good news given a lot of people are already on pretty tight budgets.

Sadly for those not tuned into health, economizing on food can mean choosing the cheaper processed ready foods leading to a reduction in the nutritional value of their diets.

However if you'r restricted on your food budget then now's the time to critically assess what you're spending on and see if you're getting good value for money in terms of nutritional content.

For example, £2 spent on a bag of apples to snack on versus £2 spent on a bag of funsize chocolate bars - same cost on your wallet but nutritionally one is positively good for you and the other is positively bad.

Some healthy choices will even save you money:
Processing costs companies money so unprocessed wholefoods are usually cheaper on a gram for gram basis for example microwave rice versus rice you cook from scratch. Don't pay for the processing, instead of buying ready meals or processed snacks buy whole ingredients and do more cooking from scratch. Not only will this save you money but your meals will be more nutritious as the processing usually removes a lot of nutrients.

Travel costs money - jetsetting fruit and veg come with the added price tag of their airticket. Save the money by buying British fruit and veg that's in season. It will be cheaper and more nutritious as the farmers can pick it when it's ripe and ready to be eaten, rather than being picked prematurely and then artificially ripened with chemicals. Look on the shelves as to where fruit and veg comes in from and you may be surprised/horrified.

Go veggie - a very obvious way to deal with the ever rising price of meat is to stop eating it altogether. I don't buy meat for cooking at home and use the savings to fund my organic food habit. Even if that's a bit extreme for you, just cooking a couple of veggie meals a week could save a couple £500-600 a year which is not to be sniffed at.

Get on the wagon - I haven't tried to add up how much money I save by not drinking but I'm sure it's at least a grand. That isn't why I don't drink, but if you're feeling the pinch it's such an obvious way to save money and improve your health at the same time. Just tell people you're not drinking because you're on a detox, or blame your doctor for telling you to drink less. I'm honest and tell people it's for my health and that I also don't want to waste any time being hungover!

Another habit to kick is starbucks - £3 for a hot drink? I don't think so! Save coffee for a treat and take your own teabags (preferably green) into work. You'll not just have more cash but you'll probably sleep better too.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Simple as 1, 2, 3

With all the diets, cookery books, latest superfoods and other fads out there it's easy to get confused as to what to eat. I've often had and witnessed decision paralysis in the face of a restaurant menu or stood at a fridge door, unable to decide what to eat.

When hit with such paralysis I revert to this simple formula and then eat whatever fits within it.  If I'm at home this might mean something pretty basic, but it always leave me feeling satisfied and knowing that I've made a good choice.

1) Choose a healthy protein, for me this is usually tofu, pulses or fish. If you feel like some meat go for something lean.

2) Choose a healthy carb to go with it - aim for something low GI or at the minimum not processed, new potatoes, sweet potatoes, brown or basmati rice are my favourites, bulgar wheat and quinoa are also good choices.

3) Make sure you have at least one portion of veg, even if it's just a salad starter or a raw carrot to
chomp on whilst you cook.

If you want to make it even healthier make sure there's some healthy fat in there - have some oily fish, sprinkle on some nuts or seeds or add a drizzle of olive oil.

Sunday, 7 October 2012


Me and hot doc spent some time this afternoon working out the optimal connection between our tv, freeview box, playstation and surround sound system to get the best image and sound we could out of all the devices. It was a bit of a faff but in the end worth it as we now have everything in beautiful Dolby surround sound.

You might wonder where I'm going with this, bear with me ... the point I'm trying to make is that there was no point having all this fancy technology without spending the time to make sure we had the right cables and had set it up correctly.  Well the same is true of food.

You can eat all the best organic wholefood available, but if you haven't got your digestion working properly you're not going to get the most out of it.  Impaired digestion means your food isn't broken down properly so you end up not absorbing as many nutrients from your food as you should and also developing gut irritation and food allergies from larger food molecules trying to pass through the intestinal wall.

I'm actually an excellent example of this having developed both anaemia and scurvy as a child (yes that's right, not something you would expect to see nowadays) despite being fed a very healthy diet that included plenty of meat and homegrown fruit and vegetables. Our garden had originally been an orchard and so we had fruit trees galore and more plums, apples and cherries than we could eat, and yet the doctor who saw me just couldn't believe I was eating any fruit and veg.  This phenomenon is known as malabsorption - where the gut is not absorbing food properly, and in my case was due to some strong food intolerances that were aggravating my digestive tract.

One of the key places to start in the task of maximizing your digestion is assessing your need for enzymes and stomach acid.  If you are regularly stressed and particularly if you multi-task whilst you eat and so aren't relaxed, then your production of stomach acid and enzymes is probably inhibited.  Signs of this can include bloating, feeling uncomfortably full after even small meals, acid reflux after eating as well as unexplained nutrient deficiencies.  One of the easiest ways to work out if this is what you need is to take enzyme and HCl supplements with your meals for a couple of weeks and see if you feel any different, particularly after eating. Other signs will be weak nails and hair (classic lack of stomach acid) or diarhhoea or indigestion after fatty foods (sign of low pancreatic enzymes).

Obviously it's best to seek the advice of your own nutritional therapist in choosing and taking these supplements, but if you don't have one you could try a good health food store for some advice on these kinds of supplements. Solgar, Biocare and Nutri all have good products in this area.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Why we get fat

So following on from my blog yesterday on exercise not necessarily determining your weight I thought I'd blog on what does.

For starters I'd like to clarify that often the amount people eat and what their body needs doesn't correlate, so for example if you're a petite girl who is in the habit of cleaning your plate when served the same sized portion as your rugby playing boyfriend even though you feel stuffed, then having a regular workout will affect your weight by burning off these spare calories.

You can even use exercise as a way to be able to eat more if you really love your food, or to help generate an appetite when you know you'll be having a three course dinner.

However what we eat is very strongly related to our appetite, so we need to look at the factors that affect appetite other than exercise to unlock the true key to staying slim.

For me there are three key elements, listed below. If you address all three your appetite will naturally regulate and you'll be able to enjoy your food, eat til your appetite is satisfied whilst easily maintaining a healthy weight:

- The first and most important is blood sugar regulation and hormones. If you regularly eat refined sugars and refined carbohydrates such as white bread, cereals and sweets then your body will produce a higher level of the fat storing hormone insulin. This will simultaneously make your body store a higher percentage of the calories you eat as fat and disregulate your blood sugar making you feel hungry more often.

The only way to fix this is to make a concerted effort to eat unrefined slow digesting carbs 80 per cent of the time (20per cent left for treat time!) and always balance carbs with protein and/or fats to slow their digestion. The results aren't quick, but after a couple of months can be quite dramatic so are worth the dedication. Brown rice, wholegrain bread and pasta, oats, pulses, quinoa and new or sweet potatoes are the best slow digesting carbs.

- The next element is nutrient levels. I've blogged on this recently so won't repeat myself here, but basically if you don't eat a nutrient rich diet your body will up your appetite to meet your vitamin and mineral requirements. Have a Jason Vale super juice everyday and notice how your appetite reduces.

- Finally there are artificial and 'drug' foods. These are foods/chemicals that induce an artificial increase in appetite. They include artificial sweeteners, white sugar, flavour enhancers such as MSG and other artificial flavourings and preservatives (look out for E numbers) and should be avoided as much as possible.


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Why workout?

Due to a combination of lack of time, lack of sleep, and feeling somewhat under the weather, I've not been to the gym in a whole week.

This is pretty unusual for me but totally necessary to avoid inducing a full-blown cold!

Not going to the gym at all does make somewhat anxious in terms of not gaining weight, but already my appetite has adjusted downwards and as I follow my appetite I'm eating much less accordingly. Hot doc on the other hand has started cycling to and from work and consequently has developed a huge appetite and a need for two dinners!

If any of you have read Gary Taubes 'Why we get fat' you'll already be well versed in how your appetite adjusts to what you eat and therefore, unless you totally ignore your appetite and follow a calorie controlled diet, in the long-run exercise doesn't actually determine your body fat levels.

For others of you this may come as a surprise - but logically if you exercise alot your body will compensate by demanding more fuel. Obviously if you exercise more and don't eat more you will lose weight but in the long run your body will adjust and burn less calories.

If this is true then why should we exercise?

- to develop muscle tone and build muscle strengh, this is important for posture, injury prevention, bone protection (strong muscles help prevent breaks) and of course vanity - however thin you are if you don't work out you won't look good naked!

- to help balance blood sugar levels - muscle works as a store for fast sugars, storing them as glycogen, so if you have larger muscles and also workout reducing your glycogen stores then if you eat sugary foods, more sugar will be moved into your muscles helping regulate blood sugar levels

- for cardiovascular health, being thin does not protect you from having a heart attack - everyone needs to do cardiovascular exercise to keep their heart healthy

- immunity and detoxification, your lymphatic system moves toxins and immune cells around the body, but it has no pump so lymph fluid relies on muscle contractions to move it round the body where it is needed - the more active you are the quicker your immune cells get to where they're needed and the quicker toxins are cleared. Plus exercise raises your basal metabolic temperature which activates immune cells helping kill off more bugs

- finally for your sanity, exercise is a great mood moderator and outlet for nervous energy, plus endorphins from a 30mins+ cardio workout leave you feeling great


Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Letting off some steam

I've got a couple of gripes to vent today.

Firstly why are there mince pies for sale in october? I know I was blogging about the cold weather yesterday but this is ridiculous, I don't want to be thinking about Christmas for another six weeks.

And secondly why don't Pret give you a spoon when you ask for your soup to take away like EAT do? They must know you'll need one when you get back to your desk! Although their smokey veg soup today was delicious making me a bit less peeved at them.

We all have our bug bears that wind us up and, however minor these might seem to others, they can cause real stress as they accumulate unless we have an outlet to vent them. Physiologically this build up of even minor stress can cause blood sugar disregulation, headaches, elevated blood pressure, central weight gain (think muffin-top), tension headaches and general irritability.

Thankfully this is what friends are for, not the only thing of course, but a very valuable aspect to friendship is having people who you know will lend you a sympathetic ear to vent about whatever it is that is annoying you, however trivial.

No one likes people who are endless whingers, but just being able to have a person to person outlet when you need it is so helpful. If you're meeting up with a friend for post-work drinks maybe allow yourselves each a five minute rant at the start of the evening to clear the air and then move onto the fun gossip.

It doesn't even have to be face to face, if things are getting to you at work then fire off an email with the subject line 'vent' to your most sympathetic friend, who'll then know they just need to read the message and respond sympathetically when they have some time!

Venting should be reciprocal, even if you think your friends get stressed over the most minor things. Just remember that you're cheering them up and helping them stay sane, isn't that what friends are for!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Hot stuff

Apologies for going awol, a busy week and lack of sleep laid me low for the weekend. Partly I think my body just went on strike over the abysmal weather - summer is clearly over (did it ever begin) and it's coats and hats now til April .. boo.

Whenever autumn hits I always lose all desire to eat salads and raw foods and crave casseroles, stews and cooked fruit. Your body knows what it needs and in my case it's warming foods that are easy to digest.

In winter our digestive system slows down so we need to give it a helping hand by eating foods that are easier to digest, in addition a hot breakfast and a hot lunch will help keep up your body temperature up during the day which helps your immune system function properly. This is why if you get cold you're more likely to catch a cold.

Consequently I end up usually buying my lunch rather than making eat, rotating between Leon and pod for veggie stews/casseroles and EAT for veggie soups. I also drink lots of herbal tea, spend 5minutes in the sauna at the gym whenever I have the chance, wear lots of layers for work and throw on a woolly jumper when I get home.

We also naturally need more sleep over winter so I try to get to bed nice and early, preferably after a long hot bath.

So now the temperature's dropped make sure you're all keeping yourselves warm (I sound like my mum!).

Ps for any of you still smoking, buy yourself a copy of Alan Carr's 'Allen Carr's Easy Way to Stop Smoking' asap and join Stoptober, Cancer Research's campaign to get smokers to quit for the month of October ... no excuses, no 'I'll quit next week', just do it.