Thursday, 31 January 2013

Missing the messages

Cosmetic procedures have been in the press this week as new legislation has been proposed to restrict who can administer botox, fillers and other superficial cosmetic treatments.

I'm not set against these treatments, although am in favour of their regulation, and have seen some really good results in people I know. However I think the high demand for these procedures does reflect our slightly imbalanced relationship with our bodies.

The media encourages us all to be vain/neurotic about our appearances to the point where we don't want to show any signs of ageing or even a spare (and healthy) extra pound. So people are eager to turn to quick fixes such as fillers or liposuction to sort these 'imperfections'. But we're missing the point if we think this is the answer.

How we look on the outside tells us an awful lot about what's going on on the inside and these are messages we should pay attention to.

If your skin is wrinkling or thinning prematurely then it's not just your skin that's ageing - it's all your internal cells too, which means that your organs are also wearing out too fast. Rather than getting some botox the answer should be to follow an anti-ageing diet (low sugar, high efas + fruit + veg, lots of water and sleep).

Not only will this extend your life but you can use this as a barometer of how effective your dietary changes are - as your skin starts to glow and look plumper and younger you'll know you're having a positive impact from the inside out.

The same applies to weight, stubborn weight around your middle is a big flag for potential insulin resistance/diabetes and/or adrenal and thyroid issues. A bit of lipo will not fix any of these underlying issues that could be highly debilitating in the long-run.

A low GI, high fibre detox diet would not only help shift your love handles, but also help regulate your blood sugar and reduce stress on your endocrine and cardiovascular systems.

If we all spent a bit more time focussing on what's going on on the inside we'd actually all end up looking and feeling a lot younger and not needing these quick fixes.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Not just for kids

If there's one food group we all need more of it's vegetables. Low calorie, high in fibre and water and rich in anti-ageing, anti-cancer nutrients they're winners on all fronts.

Unfortunately they aren't everyone's favourite food, otherwise we'd all live to 100! So sometimes a little trickery is needed to make sure we or our loved ones eat enough of them.

There's a few tricks we can use on ourselves, and kiddies, to get somme extra veggies in:

- simple bribery, you can't have dessert til you've eaten two portions of veggies

- disguise, veggies can be easily added to stews, curries, chilli, pasta dishes. For the extremely veg averse you can blend them into sauces. I have a friend who's husband won't go near a vegetable so she has to cook and blend them beyond recognition. Jessica Seinfeld's books are a great source of vegetable hiding recipes.

- dress them up, us grown ups with our more sophisticated pallettes may need something more exciting than a side of boiled broccoli! Mixing veggies together and adding herbs and spices can turn them from a chore to a delight. For recipe inspiration Ottolenghi's latest book 'Jerusalem' is a fab place to start.

- sauce them up. Whilst I'm in favour of eating veggies plain, I appreciate with some people that's just not going to work. If adding some sauce or dressing is what it's going to take to get you to eat some veg then so be it. Most people will eat salad if it's nicely dressed, olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper can also add a lot of life to steamed veg (add some lemon juice on top for steamed new potatoes), equally some sugar free soy sauce and a drizzle of sesame oil does wonders for stir fry veg. Ms haribo is the master of hiding veg in her fruit smoothies - add a handful of spinach or kale for some easy greens with a yummy fruit taste.

- if all else fails, add cheese! I've found that most people will eat vegetables if you add some cheese! Crumble in some feta to roasted peppers, or make a salad with spinach and goats cheese. I served up some stuffed courgettes last week topped with a little grated cheddar and there were clean plates all-round.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Food without the nonsense

Today I had to make a trip to the health food store and paid double the regular price of the regular version in tesco.

When in France last week I had a very different experience - I needed soy sauce for my marinated salmon. At the local spa supermarket, not a big store by any means, I bought their own brand soy sauce for half the price of today's purchase, ingredients: soy, water, salt.

I think this nicely summarizes a key problem in british food culture - we are quite happy to buy any old rubbish. If we all shopped critically and only bought food that only contained the proper ingredients then I wouldn't have to go schlepping around looking for soya sauce with only soya in it!

So this weeks shopping challenge is to only buy food with three or less ingredients, if the food you want requires more than three then make it from scratch yourself. This way you're much more likely to use fresh ingredients and get a more nutrient rich diet, without lots of added nonsense. And maybe after a while the supermarkets will start stocking food without the added nonsense!

Monday, 28 January 2013

The mindful meal

I think that all too often public figures, particularly politicians, are disingenuous or water down their opinions for fear of not saying what the general public want to hear, so I was delighted to read this article in the telegraph about Anna Soubry's frank criticism of British food culture: 

Her key bug bears are:
- people eating at their desks and working through lunch, rather than taking a proper break to "chill out, get your head back together, and enjoy what you're eating"
- not taking time to cook and enjoy home cooked meals
- people being weight obesessed - she had banned her daughters from using the word "fat" at home so they don't obsess about how much they weigh

Ok so she's had some flak for her comments, particularly around obesity being associated with lower incomes (statistically correct), but I'm glad someone is brave enough to level this criticism at the british people.

We all need to take responsibility for the distorted attitudes to food that mean we as a nation are more overweight than ever and that some kids now get to junior school without knowing what a vegetable is or how to eat with a knife and fork.

A good food culture is vital for the nations health and encouraging healthy eating habits in each other and in children is the key way to achieve this.

Teach your children about food, nutrition and how to cook and eat, encourage your friends and family to cook and enjoy healthy food. Treat cooking for others and sharing food as the joyous occasion it should be and take time over your meals, even when they are on your own. Put thought and care into the food you buy and the impact it will have on your body as well as the environment and above all take responsibility for what and how you eat - everything we do in life is a decision we have made, so be mindful in all your choices.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Simple salmon

Whilst our ski trips often involved catered chalets, this week is self-catered, which is nice in that it lets us choose the food and we take it in turns to cook a nice meal for the group (good for those of us who enjoy cooking).

Of course I try and keep things healthy so this evening I served up salmon.  Salmon is a great health food as it's full of omega 3 essential fats, that most of us don't get enough of in our diets, plus most people like the taste and texture, when other fish might put them off.  I recommend eating salmon 1-3 times a week, wild if possible or otherwise organic if you can get it.

I'm happy to eat salmon plain, but if you're catering for people who are used to everything having a sauce then a marinade can be a good way to make it a bit more appealing. Tonight I used the honey-dijon marinade from this gordon ramsay recipe  to prepare the salmon and it went down a treat.  If you're not that adept in the kitchen, this is a really easy recipe when feeding friends or family.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

My snow survival kit

I have many things to thank Ms Haribo for, not least for saving me from being a disastrous skier and introducing me to snowboarding!!  I might still be shocking at it, but I have alot of fun trying!

A winter snow holiday is also a great opportunity to holiday with friends, get some fresh air and exercise and for many to enjoy a week of hearty eating -- crepes, raclette, afternoon cake and tea, and the most delicious pralines we could ever find.  Not so good for eating gluten and dairy free though.

So here are my key snowboarding supplies to keep me fuelled for the slopes:

Gluten-free bread, actually now available in French supermarkets, for breakfast or afternoon toast with tea.

Gluten-free pita breads, much easier to make sandwiches with than bread - I make pita sandwiches with  smoked salmon and salad between two toasted pita bread. These pack nice and flat into my Camelbak.

A Camelbak water carrier  for plenty of easy access fluids to keep you hydrated on the go (note to Ms Haribo - there's a lock on the camelbak tube to stop it leaking everywhere if you squash it!).

Easy snacks for your snowboarding bag: Tescos mini nut or fruit and nut selectiosn (always on 3 for 2), Nak'd bars, raisin boxes, also if you're not gluten free Trek bars are great.

Rice cakes for healthy afternoon snacks if you want to feel virtuous whilst everyone eats cake, again available in French supermatkets. I pack some almond or cashew butter in my bag to have as a tasty topping, with sliced banana, or I top with a little honey, or some mashed up avocado with a pinch of salt.

Herbal tea bags - I keep things caffeine free on hols, not least because I don't want to have to pee after every run!! Lemon & ginger, or rooibos with soya milk (again available in the local Spa) keep me feeling warm and toasty before and after a day on the slopes.

Whilst you're out and about your choices can be somewhat limited. I tend to stick to omelettes with plain chips if we're lunching out and in the evening go for fish or seafood salad.  For a hot drink go for  Citron Chaud presse which is fresh lemon juice in hot water - delicious and a fresh supply of vitamin C.    A hot spiced apple juice also proved a total hit with our group, despite the fact it didn't contain any alcohol!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Man vs snack food

Some of our holiday party have managed to turn our evening meal into an episode of 'Man vs Food' and, I'm supposing to give themselves some inspiration, have taken to watching clips of the show on youtube.

If you're not familiar with it, I wasn't, this show involves the presenter Adam Richman facing the most unbelievable eating challenges against the clock, including eating a 72 ounce steak with chips in 60 minutes, 8oz is a regular sized steak!

How does he, or my holiday pals for that matter, manage to eat so much food in such a short space of time? Well our stomachs are amazingly expandable ... from an evolutionary perspective we need to be able to eat food when it's available incase we then face a food shortage.  These days a food shortage is rare, especially when you have a chalet full of snack food, so we don't really need to make use of our stretchy stomachs.

That's why when eating any food, treat or otherwise, we need to be mindful of not stretching our stomachs to the limit. The volume of food we need to eat in one sitting will differ at different times of day and depending on the kind of food eaten.  But in essence 2-3 times the volume of your fist should be sufficient for a proper meal.  Try plating up the right volume, then don't let yourself go back for seconds ... unless of course you're a professional competitive eater!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Beating your naughty nemesis

Hello readers!

Apologies for going AWOL, I got caught up in the snow induced travel chaos, and inbetween switching flights and airports I didn't get a chance to blog.  Holidays also mean I'm off my January daily habits and having a week long break where treat holiday food is allowed, although three days into it I'm already craving some vegetables and rice!!

It's funny how much you can crave junk food when you ban it from your diet, but if you aren't used to it and have it a few days running you'll quickly feel it's effects and not want to touch the stuff!! This is why short detox diets are such a great idea, you get the great feeling you get of having a clean diet, clear head, clean body ... then when you then go back to a regular diet you'll find yourself feeling more tired, lethargic, bloated.  Really feeling this contrast in effects can be very motivating in keeping your diet clean.

If you can't face a full detox you can do a mini version with any food that is your vice ... cut out coffee, chocolate, biscuits, crisps, sweets, whatever your naughty nemesis is, for a week, knowing that at the end of the week you can go back to eating it.  Just one week off is manageable for most people.  At the end of the week, before you let yourself have your treat, have a think about how you've felt that week, did you feel better? was it good to take a break from that food?  If you feel better consider restricting it as a treat, perhaps just for weekends, or days when you really need a pick me up.

Treat this exercise like a warm up for lent -  self-restraint is like a muscle that you need to exercise, start with something small and build up!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Thankyou 2

Today's task is to show gratitude and say thankyou to someone.

Showing gratitude is not just nice for other people, it's good for you - try saying thank you to everyone you meet tomorrow for any help they give or have given you. I guarantee you'll get a great reaction end the day feeling warm and fuzzy.

But I think it's also very important to show gratitude to ourselves. With a few exceptions most of us are our harshest critics and judge ourselves numerous times every day.

Whilst some insight and self-criticism is healthy to keep our egos and behaviour in check, a lot of us need to show ourselves a bit more love.

So today write down everything you like about yourself, ignore the negatives - you might think you have a muffin top, but you've got great legs! You may think you don't work hard enough at the gym, but you have done a good workout this week. Include positive personality traits, do you have a positive outlook? Who have you cheered up lately?

Limiting yourself to only writing down the positives will give you a much sunnier outlook and you'll find you start to accentuate these good points and exercise more of your good traits than you did before.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

My favourite place in the world

It's not a beautiful beach, it's not some picturesque countryside spot ... it's my bed!

I love to sleep, I wish I could do it more .. and today's task gives me the perfect excuse, as it's to have an early night and wake feeling refreshed the next day.

In an ideal world we'd all go to bed so early that we'd wake up naturally before our alarms went off in the morning. If you ever do this you'll find it's alot easier to get out of bed than when your alarm goes off mid deep in sleep.  Sadly we dont' live in an ideal world so that's not possible for alot of us, but just do it at least one weeknight a week and you'll be amazed how much better you feel.

Sleep is so important for health, it helps you live longer, think smarter, recover quicker, age slower, deal with stress better, stay slimmer, look younger and feel more energetic.  I don't think it needs much of a sell. But it's so easy to neglect, so make it your priority to try and get more sleep, even just an extra half an hour can cumulatively make a big difference.

And on that note I'm off to bed!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Super smoothies

Today's task was to do some endorphin producing exercise and follow it with a hydrating smoothie.

I find that it takes a good half hour of cardio exercise to get the endorphins to kick in, and if you can manage 45-60 mins you'll really get a buzz.

The flipside is that it's very easy to crash afterwards and that's why getting in some carbs 15-20mins after your cool down is key. If you miss this window you're likely to flag in energy 60-120 minutes afterwards and then have a raised appetite for the next 24hours.

So if you find yourself really hungry the day after a big gym session then you're not getting enough carbs post training.

Fruit smoothies make a great post-training fix. Blend up some ice with some tropical fruit for some fast carbs, with some berries for antioxidants, add some flax for efas and a handful of spinach (you won't taste it with the fruit). For protein add a scoop of whey or rice protein powder et voila, you have an antioxidant carb and protein rich smoothie.

Obviously that's easy if you train at home, but if you're out and about there are lots of great places like crrush where you can get something similar. I bought a fresh mango and soya protein shake at my gym this morning having run into work. Go for the dairy free option when you can (whey protein should be ok if you just have lactose intolerance).

As an at desk option pick up a bottled smoothie (innocent, m+s, pret all do good ones), drink a couple of inches out the top and then add a couple of heaped teaspoons of protein powder you can keep in a tupperware in your desk. Put the lid on, give it a good shake and drink! Easy!

Monday, 14 January 2013


Ok so I've found my hat and gloves plus the daily bites January calendar and it appears I have a bit of catching up to do.

Friday's task was to make a big pot of chicken or veggie broth to drink over the weekend for super immunity. It's actually been proven that as well as being good for the soul chicken soup does help fight off colds and flus - a combination of something filling and warming to help keep your temperature up, and eating something nutritious and easy to digest.

Whilst friday night might not feel like a night for healthy food, if you're in and can cook up a big pot of something healthy you'll have an easy couple of meals for saturday and sunday and be much less likely to go totally off piste with your diet. If you're still trying to shift some holiday weight do a weekend mini detox - make up a big pot of watercress soup (thicken with new potato and flavour with veg stock) and eat only that and fresh fruit and veg from friday night til Sunday night and start the week with a spring in your step and a couple of pounds lighter.

Saturdays tip was to plan your meals out for the week ahead. I'm not great at this as I like to tune into how I feel and eat accordingly, but it is worth having a think of some healthy recipes you might want to cook up during the week to make sure you have the ingredients you need. An empty fridge is a sure path to the biscuit tin.

Sundays tip was to have a natural treat of a date stuffed with sunflower butter (or use a nut butter if you prefer). As you'll know if you've read my blog for a while I'm pretty anti-sugar. If we all stopped eating it we'd be thinner, have better skin, live longer, have less heart disease, get less colds, suffer from less mood swings/anxiety/depression ... the list goes on. So do yourself a massive favour and give up the white stuff!

I'm not going to lie to you - it is hard, but so worthwhile, so to make it easier you need to let yourself indulge in some more natural and less addictive alternatives - dried fruit is naturally super sweet, particularly dates, and tropical fruit is also a super sweet treat. If you're partial to some baked goodies it's time to acquaint yourself with agave syrup and make some non-sugar cookies (see for recipes).

Finally today's task is to not just dream it, but to do it! I'm a big believer in 'just do it' mentality, when I find myself procrastinating I remind myself of this and get my skates on. When it comes to healthy there's a few examples:
- umming and aahing about going to the gym - stop thinking and just go, you can think yourself out of anything so don't give your mind the time to talk you out of it

- when you find yourself day dreaming about your goals, whether it's weight loss, fitness, learning to cook, stop staring out the window and take some action immediately - book a cooking class, go for a run, do an ocado order of loads of healthy foods

- if you find your brain debating if you should eat something naughty or healthy recognize that's what you're doing and default to the healthy option to end the debate - once you get in the habit you'll avoid many a trip to the office vending machine

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The big move

I moved house this weekend so I'm sure you'll all forgive me the brief blog. Hallie's January to do list got packed in a box and I've no idea where it is/what's on it!

Moving house, changing job, getting married or divorced, and having a bereavement are the big five in terms of life's stressful events. Sadly we can't avoid them and for some reason I've observed that they tend to come in pairs.

If you've been through any of these in the last twelve months it's important you recognize how stressful this event was, the toll it's taken on you emotionally and physicially and to make some effort to counteract these effects.

My move was relatively unstressful compared to others I've done, but still I've cleared my social schedule for the next few weeks in favour of some well paced unpacking, some yoga, a lot of early nights and the odd relaxing beauty treatment. I'm also upping my intake of b vits and magnesium and will be using my juicer to max out my veg intake.

After a while I'll find myself feeling restless and itching to go out on the town which will be my sign that I'm over the move and can move on!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Thank you...

Today's task is to write a thank you note or two.  If you haven't done your Christmas thank yous that's an easy one to tick off the list, but writing a brief note to aunty Mable to thank her for the socks isn't really the point.  Expressing gratitude is actually a great way to spread some good feeling and take yourself out of your own worries. You don't have to get the quill out and pen a note, it's actually nicer to thank people in person, but even a thank you text or email is nice to receive and takes two minutes to write.

Expressing appreciation or gratitude to others, not just for presents but for acts of kindness, support you've been shown, fun times you've had, helps us appreciate the importance of relationship with others and get a bit of perspective on our own lives.  Most of us are caught up in our own thoughts and worries and so can neglect our relationships with others and instead over-worry about our own little life bubbles.

Worrying unnecessarily doesn't do you any good, infact it's positively bad for you.  Those negative thought patterns create a physiological stress response, this means elevated blood pressure, insulin production and disregulated blood sugar, suppressed immunity, suppressed digestion ... in the long run worry can create genuine ill health.  So whilst doing nice things for others and showing appreciation might seem an altruistic act, it's actually just a healthy habit.

It's also worth as a separate exercise writing a note of gratitude for yourself.   List everything you're happy with in your life and everything you're grateful for.  We all have alot to be grateful for, the basics of food, a comfortable home, the benefits of good relationships, life's little luxuries - nice clothes, cars, holidays, hobbies we enjoy, having good health - even if it's not perfect it's probably much better than alot of peoples.  Focussing on the positives in your life will help give some context to the aspects that you're not happy with and overall reduce your stress levels.

I for one am grateful for all the people who read my blog, everyone who's recommended me to someone else, everyone who's encouraged and supported me along the way to study and practice nutrition and to spread the word on living a healthy life, so thank you to all of you!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Everyday energizers

I'm not doing very well on this weeks tasks - having failed to make a smoothie yesterday I then today was not able to fit in some endorphin boosting exercise which was today's challenge.

To be fair, not only was I short on time but I also wasn't feeling up to it. Having burnt out along time ago from excessive exercise and too little sleep, I've learnt to pick up the early signs of when I may be overdoing things and backoff rather than pushing myself and ending up exhausted.

So based on this experience I wouldn't recommend everyone exercises everyday. I would however recommend doing something that is restorative/gives you energy 30-60minutes a day. This could be exercise of varying intensity depending on how you feel, but this could also be doing some yoga or one of the following: using your gym's spa facilities, having a relaxing treatment such as accupuncture or massage, relaxing at home (watching tv doesn't count) - having a long bath, reading a book, even having a snooze if you're short on sleep.

Tuning into what your body needs/is capable of, will help you achieve a balance between doing things that are energizing, rather than draining, keeping you feeling full of beans rather than burnt out.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Smoothie starter

I didn't get a chance to read today's entry for the Daily Bites January calendar until just now, but really wish I'd had a chance to read it earlier and put it into practice, as it was to try a new smoothie recipe.

Having eaten out for both lunch and dinner today I feel a little stodgy and a healthy smoothie would have been a great start to the day to try and mitigate my later meals.  Still it's one to store up and use at a later date, particular because it's called the Coconut “Kale-ada” Smoothie and anything with coconut and pineapple in it is a winner with me!!

I have already resolved to have more fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies as part of my new year health kick.  The first time I read Jason Vales Slim for Life
 I went juicing mad and had a fresh juice every morning.  I certainly felt great for it, but like lots of my health kicks, in the long run I gradually lost my dedication. I now try and always have a veg juice on the weekend whilst I wait for my breakfast to cook, but I'm going to be adding in a couple of juices in the evenings too whilst I cook my dinner.

Juices and smoothies are such an easy way to up your fruit and veg intake, which isn't just amazing for your health in terms of all the nutrients and raw enzymes that you get from them, but also has a wonderful weight loss effect. By  starting a meal with a nutritious juice you'll find your appetite for your main course goes down alot, and over time having a more nutrient rich diet your appetite in general will decrease, as hunger is often the body seeking more vitamins and minerals, rather than more calories. So if you can try starting a meal with a smoothie and reap the rewards!

Monday, 7 January 2013

Letting it go

Today's post from the Daily Bites calendar is more of a thought provoker than a task:

"Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its struggles, it empties today of its strength," Come Ten Boon

How much of your life is wasted worrying about things that haven't happened yet? Probably a fair amount, and that worry isn't just a waste of time it's positively bad for you.  Our bodies are designed to cope with a certain level of stress, but more the occasional running away from a wildlife, rather than a constant thought pattern of worry. This constant level of stress is over-stimulating for our nervous systems putting the rest of our body out of balance and in the long-run can lead to fatigue, accelerated aging, weight gain, blood sugar imbalances, suppressed immunity and in some people total burn out. So letting yourself get worked up can be just as bad for you as eating a packet of crisps or a bar of chocolate.

Being stressed is something you have more control over than you realize - things may happen around you that could be a source of stress, but you can choose how you react to them.  So next time you catch yourself getting worked up, remember that this is bad for your health and so you need to stop this thought pattern, whether that's by actively doing something to address whatever is stressing you out, or recognizing that it is something outside of your control, clearing your mind, taking a few deep breaths and letting it go. 

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Triple tasking

Still on Hallie's January Calendar I've got three days to update you on. 

Friday was all about greens: kale, chard, spinach etc.  Green leafy veg is the most beneficial veg out there but also often peoples least favourite. I find I fall out of the habit of eating my greens quite easily, but with a powerful punch of minerals and anti-cancer and anti-aging antioxidants no one can afford to neglect their greens, so Fridays task was a good one for me.  When I'm struggling to eat my veg I turn to my trusty juicer - I generally start with a carrot and ginger base, but for anyone new to juicing start with an apple base for a more palatable start, and then add a big handful of leafy green veg, spinach or broccoli are my faves, I like to add half a lime or lemon too for an extra zing.  You can make your juice whilst you're cooking your dinner and then drink it before you sit down to your main course feeling virtuous.  Having spinach and rocket as a side salad instead of watery iceberg is also a really easy to get your daily greens.

Saturday's task was to relax by taking a walk or going for a run.  I love to run, and if I had the time I would run every day, but sadly that's not always possible, and infact it's not always relaxing.  A walk however is always good exercise and a great de-stressor.  For anyone who has a dog a daily walk is easy to tick of the list, but for those of us not fortunate enough to have a canine companion going for a walk just for the sake of it can feel a little odd. Incorporating some extra walking into your daily schedule though is alot easier.  On Saturday I went into town for an exhibition and instead of jumping on the nearest tube home I walked to a further stop via the shops for a bit of sale shopping.  Shopping might not seem like exercise but you can rack up alot of steps in the shops, as you can by jumping on the tube a stop later or getting off a stop earlier.

Today's task was to have a sugar free sunday and get your sweet fix from natures candy - fresh fruit.  I generally avoid sugar anyway, sugar is a total anti-nutrient, and only really necessary or beneficial if you're an athlete. For the rest of us it serves no benefit, but still is a constant temptation and an unwanted additive in most processed foods.  Over Christmas I did let my hair down and enjoy some sugar treats, but sugar always leave me wanting more which is why it's important to nip this indulgence in the bud and swap sugary treats for some naturally sweet goodies.  My favourite guilt-free sweeties are dried figs, or stewed pears or apples with some custard sweetened with agave and I find that dates can always satisfy the sweetest craving.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Dear diary

Today's task from the daily bites january calendar is to spend 5 minutes writing a journal.

This may not seem particularly health related but writing things down can be a great tool for improving your health, for example:

- writing down your goals helps make them more concrete, then spend a couple of minutes each day making a note of how you got on meeting them, any steps you took, any set backs, and what you can do the next day to achieve them - you'll be amazed how much quickly you achieve results, just by doing this.  It doesn't just have to be health goals, you can apply this technique anything you want to change about your life

- writing a food diary - just write down everything you ate that day and at what times, you don't even need to pass judgement or do anything about it, just write it down and you will start to become conscious of unhealthy patterns and naturally start to correct them

- venting - journalling can be a great stress reliever, especially when you want to let off steam. Just write down whatever is getting on your nerves. If it's a person writing down a rant you'd like to say to them (but don't for good reason!) can be especially cathartic

- if this all sounds a bit dear diary for you remember you don't need to keep a regular journal to get the same benefits.  If I ever feel overwhelmed or just not as positive minded as usual, a grab a piece of paper and write on it everything that is annoying me or that I'd like to change - literally everything however small.  Then on a new piece of paper I write down everything I could do to change or mitigate anything on the first list.  Even without taking any action I already feel better, and I usually then feel pretty motivated to start ticking things off the second list.

Infact I'm going to use this blog as my scrap of paper and give you a real example - right now I'm somewhat annoyed that I didn't make great use of my evening, this was partly because I arrived home tired and a little stressed and so immediately plonked down infront of the tv and then only had time for a few items on my to do list, when really I could have got it all done.  Action points for my second list to stop this happening again:

1. when I leave work try and walk part of the journey home, and use that time to unwind and destress, paying attention to my surroundings, rather than letting my mind go into overdrive, this will help me arrive home feeling less frazzled

2. when I get home, have a glass of water or cup of tea straight away to rehydrate (dehydration is a major course of fatigue)

3. have a sit down, but without the tv on.  At the end of a full day in the office we're all bound to be tired, expecting to come home full of beans and start rushing around the flat is unrealistic.  Having a ten minute sit down to just unwind can be amazingly restorative, and once you're properly rested you'll find you get a second wind.  However turning the tv on totally counteracts this, tv is draining on the nervous system, and has this amazing power to keep you in one stop for hours

4. learn to be a bit more zen about my to do list, at the end of the day I don't need to get it all done so right now I don't need to give myself a hard time - I did the urgent bits and enjoyed some sofa time, so it's not all bad and rather than trying to do anymore I should just go to bed nice and early and have a good sleep!!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

the new year flush

For those of you who don't have any specific goals for this month or who might need a bit more hand holding through January one of the bloggers I follow has come up with a great calendar of daily mini tips to get you off to a healthy start of the year.  It's so good that I've already printed it out and am going to be following it myself and blogging about it.

Today's tip from the calendar is to get hydrated - it's the perfect way to help your liver in it's efforts to flush your Christmas toxins.  It's also a great way to stop you reaching for the cookie jar - if you keep yourself properly hydrated you'll find sugar and snack cravings just disappear, and if you do break your  resolutions the best thing to do is drink half a litre of water and it will stop a binge in it's tracks.

So pour yourself a big glass of water right now and make sure you have a bottle to hand every day at work to keep you on track.  If you really can't face water plain have some diluted juice or some vitamin water to get you started.

Follow this link to Hallie's calendar, her blog is also worth signing up to:

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

A Happy Healthy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone!  I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year celebrations.  I have to admit to feeling somewhat weary today but that's more to do with dancing the night away to some seriously cheesy music til the small hours than having a hangover!

Whether you're hungover or not, alot of us start the year not feeling our best. I know I'm carrying a few spare Christmas pounds and have a bit of a food hangover going on from eating too much rubbish - even I can't resist the chocolates when there's a box in every room!!

So hopefully you're now sick of the sight of chocolate and feeling pretty motivated to have a healthy start to the year.  My first bit of advice to having a healthy 2013 is to not go crazy on the new years resolutions - if you weren't running everyday in 2012 you're going to find it really tough to suddenly do that in 2013 add onto that a calorie controlled diet and you're guaranteed to end up knackered and defeated in a couple of weeks.

If you want to make some more permanent changes you need to make them gradually.  Here's my recipe for making some more long-lasting new years changes:

1. Hit the shops ... no not sale shopping ... it's time to stock up your pantry with lots of healthy foods.  Clear out the cupboards of any sugary treats left over from christmas and stock the cupboards with healthy goodies like dried fruits, nut and seed mixes, non-sugar natural nut butters, tinned pulses, chopped tomatoes, healthy wholegrains - basmati and wholegrain rice, bulgar wheat, quinoa, rye or gluten free wholegrain breads and cereals. Keep a regular supply of salad veggies and hummous in the fridge and fruit in the fruit bowl so you have a fresh and instant healthy snack available anytime you're hungry.  If you're not a water drinker buy some non-concentrated fresh fruit juices to drink with diluted water to stay hydrated and stock up on some herbal teas.
If you want to work on your exercise regime as well as your diet, then take advantage of the sales and get yourself some nice looking gym kit.  When you've got some kit you feel good in you're more likely to get down the gym

2. Set yourself some realistic goals ... having some clear objectives will help guide your choices, but these need to be realistic and specific.  Losing 6lbs in a week is not realistic and not healthy - I'm setting myself the goal of fitting into my snowboarding trousers by the end of the month!  But these don't need to be weight specific, cleaning up your skin, getting rid of those bags under your eyes, being able to run for 30 minutes straight are all good objectives and should help focus the mind about what you need to do to achieve them.

3. Break it down, what are the baby steps to get you to your goal.  For me it will be firstly a dietary clean-up so day to day staying away from sugar, dairy and gluten all of which bloat me and pile on the pounds, next up I'm going to commit to running for 30 minutes 3 times a week.  For other objectives, this might involve cutting foods out that you know aren't good for you or keeping a food diary to identify your problem foods, committing to going to bed on time three nights a week, walking or running home from work a couple of nights a week or going to a yoga class once a week.

4. If it all gets too much and you find yourself faced with temptation, then just ask yourself what you can do in that moment that will make you healthy and happy - these are objectives we should all have for the new year.