Eat Well, Feel Good

Has lockdown left you overweight, tired and fed up?

Enjoy a more vibrantly healthy life. Learn to Eat Well.

Here’s my latest blog post –

I’m invariably late cottoning on to what everyone else has been doing for ages, so it was only recently I started doing some Joe Wick’s workouts.

I love them!

I started with the ‘Wake Up With Joe’ series and the other day I did the 1 Jan 2021 workout. Joe started the year by reading a letter he’d written.

Like most of us (including me) he has found Lockdown has affected his mental health, motivation, energy and mood.

He says you never regret a workout and he always feels better after some exercise.

He encouraged people to exercise in lots of different ways, not just focused on losing weight, but to get stronger, fitter and feel better.

As I listened, I thought about the parallels with food.

My work is all about people feeling great and having confidence choosing food that will boost their energy and health.

The main thing people enjoy when they learn to eat well is more energy. It’s almost instant. My old habits of cereal for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch gave me a feeling of fatigue that dragged me down. I’ll never go back to them because now I eat differently I enjoy feeling bright and ready for action.

Feeling good is the best motivator to carry on eating well.

Weight loss is a happy side-effect.

Joe also spoke about goals – not what you want in the end (outcome goals) but things you commit to do (process goals).

eg. resistance exercise each week is a doing goal to increase your strength.

Applying the same idea to food, a goal could be to eat one good meal each day.

I suggest starting with a real-food breakfast. If the first thing you eat (at whatever time) is good, it’s easier to keep eating good things later on.

Like increasing your resistance training as you find it easier, you could then progress to eating a real food lunch as well as breakfast.

Give it a go and feel good.

Top tip: To enjoy a more vibrantly healthy life, Learn to Eat Well!

 

For a Good Day, Eat a Good Breakfast

Some say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

I say it’s the most important meal to get right.

Sadly, years of mis-information, marketing and confusion mean it’s often the worst meal of the day consisting of little more than processed carbohydrate (here’s why that’s bad).

The trick is to find things you know will last you through to lunchtime. That’s very unlikely to be breakfast cereal or jam on toast which can set you up for rapid hunger, unhealthy snacking later on, and weight gain. Eating no breakfast can be preferable to bad breakfast.

Some of my clients have improved their weight and health simply by changing their breakfast habits.

  Here are some ideas that might suit you better.  They use the principle that every meals should contain plants, proteins and fats.

Some people do well on porridge made from natural oats. (Beware the type in sachets as some contain loads of sugar.) To add some protein and fat, top with nuts and seeds and a dollop of cream. For plants sprinkle on a spoonful of berries.

Boost your weight loss with low-carb porridge. It doesn’t have any oats! Mix ground flax seed, chia seed, desiccated coconut and protein powder with some coconut milk and warm until thick. Top with a bit of fruit, some full-fat plain yoghurt and a few flaked almonds.

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Muesli can be goodchoose one with plenty of nuts and not much dried fruit. Again, top with full-fat plain yoghurt.

Granola is less good as it’s generally sweetened and cooked in vegetable oil. If you enjoy it, it’s definitely worth making your own using coconut oil.

Smoothies are quick to make and easy to consume and with the right ingredients can keep you satisfied for 5 or 6 hours.

Base them on coconut milk, avocado, ground almonds, flax, spinach, protein powder, peanut butter, cream, eggs, yoghurt etc.

Add just a little fruit for sweetness eg ¼ apple, 1” banana or a spoonful of berries. (Fruit is sugar so an all-fruit smoothie (bought or home-made) is not a healthy option.)

To save time, you can batch up any dry ingredients in advance so that in the morning you just tip them into the glass with your veg, fruit and milk choice, whizz with a stick blender and drink straight from the glass.

Dry ingredients ready to tip in

Fry-ups can sustain you for ages. For traditional Full English, choose from bacon, egg, black pudding, sausage, mushroom, tomato. Another favourite of mine is the Aussie classic – steak and egg – fab with wilted spinach.

Fancy something a little lighter? Go continental with boiled eggs, ham and cheese (you can save time by hard boiling an egg the night before).

Dip avocado or buttered, wholemeal toast ‘soldiers’ in soft-boiled eggs.

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In the summer, Jon Gabriel’s light but satisfying plain yoghurt mixed with nuts, seeds, protein powder and fruit is hard to beat.

 

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For a change, go fishy with a tin of mackerel plus half a pear and some seeds or indulge in smoked salmon, delicious teamed with scrambled eggs and courgette.

Top tip: To have a good day, eat a good breakfast.

Obesity Strategy

Have news reports about obesity and coronavirus alarmed you? Do they make you determined to lose the weight that’s putting your life in greater danger?

Boris has certainly been spurred into action by his time in hospital. He realised that carrying extra weight is one of the highest risk factors for becoming seriously ill with COVID19.

Obesity also makes you more likely to suffer from heart disease, diabetes, several types of cancer, fatty liver, respiratory disease, and mental health problems.

To tackle all of this the Government has launched a strategy to slim down the nation.

Pexels

So what is their focus?

Calories.

Sorry, that’s how we got into this mess in the first place. Calories don’t help you make good food choices; they drive you towards processed foods.

Surely cutting calories helps. Will you not burn more energy than you eat?

Only for a while.

Our bodies are survival machines. Cut the food you eat and your body shuts down your metabolism and hangs on in there until it can put all the weight back on again. That’s why 100 people on a diet will all lose weight but later 95 of them will find themselves back where they started or even heavier than before. And the cycle will repeat.

Let’s go back to the beginning. What are people eating now that causes obesity and poor health? Food-like products. And that includes the low-calorie ones.

  • They’re addictive – so you over-eat.
  • Chemicals make them taste great – so you over-eat.

  • They’re low in the nutrients your body needs – so you over-eat.

  • They interfere with your body’s control mechanisms and stimulate appetite – so you over-eat.

  • The label says they’re healthy – so you’re fooled into thinking it’s OK to over-eat.

    A Colin Shelbourne cartoon from Survival Guide for the Skint.

Since calories became popular and the food industry got into gear 50 years ago, the weight of the average Briton has gone through the roof whilst health is in an ever steepening decline.

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The Government rightly blames advertising and the food environment we live in. We’ve been brainwashed into buying this junk and thinking it’s an acceptable way to feed our bodies. Offers are always for extra junk, not BOGOF on cabbages or steak. They’ve recognised this and I’m glad they’re introducing some controls.

What can you do?

Britain’s health was best between 1950 and 1970. Almost everyone was slim. Almost everyone ate real food.

Real food works with your natural appetite controls. When food satisfies you, there’s no need for will-power and no desire to over-eat.

I so hope you’ve all got used to doing your own cooking during lockdown and that you’ve been soothed by the rhythm of spending time in the kitchen, enjoyed what you ate and noticed how much money you saved.

It’s a missed opportunity but in reality the Government is unlikely ever to tell people to eat real food; they don’t want to damage the processed food industry.

So it’s down to you.

  • You can take control. 🙂

  • You can choose better food. 🙂

  • You can care for your body and nourish it. 🙂

Top tip: To be slim and healthy, forget the calories and learn to eat well.

No Substitute

The choice of coffees is dizzying in cafés these days. Not just flat white, cappuccino or Americano but many varieties of milk with which to make them. The supermarket range of milks has grown hugely too. Here’s a look at their nutrition.

Whole milk is rich and creamy with such high quality protein, good fats, high bio-availability minerals and vitamins and digestibility, it rates even better than steak. Dairy appears to protect against heart disease, strokes and diabetes.

Jersey gold top is creamier still and hasn’t been homogenised so the cream rises to the top – remember the blue tits pecking through foil bottle tops?

Unpasteurised milk is available from farms around the country and still contains its enzymes and beneficial bacteria. It might reduce children’s risk of suffering from eczema, hay fever and other allergies.

Organic is the gold standard for animal welfare and lack of chemicals.

Reduced fat milk contains good protein, lots of B vitamins and plenty of calcium and phosphorous. It is usually fortified with synthetic vitamins A and D because the natural vitamins are lost with the fat. However, without the fat, it is harder for your body to absorb the vitamins and the calcium.

A common mistake is to think skimmed milk helps weight loss. I call it the skinny latte fallacy. It’s the natural sugar in milk that could cause weight gain so less milk is a better strategy.

Goats’ milk is similarly nutritionally to cows’ and its A2 casein causes fewer allergies than the A1 protein found in most cows’ milk.

Lactose-free milk is really useful if you’re intolerant to the sugar in milk (lactose). In South East Asia and Southern Africa 90% are lactose-intolerant but in Northern Europe it’s only about 3%. This problem has been exacerbated now that most of the milk available is pasteurised which destroys the enzyme lactase you’ll find in raw milk. Another option might be to use the fermented milk kefir which contains hardly any lactose.

Filtered milk has longer shelf life. This comes at the loss of health-beneficial good bacteria. You can make up for this by eating live, natural yoghurt or kefir.

Long-Life milk has been ultra-heat-treated to sterilise it. It’s very handy for a weekend away camping if you don’t have access to a fridge, as is powdered milk.

Flavoured milks are a bit like runny ice cream with their added sugar, flavouring and other chemicals, so don’t ever think of these as healthy. The best I found on sale were from Shaken Udder. My grandfather used to make us milk shakes using Jersey gold top, a few strawberries or cocoa powder and a bit (not a lot) of banana in a blender.

Milk substitutes are helpful if you have allergies. They’re white and they pour but they’re not milk. Most of them have more than 5 ingredients and are therefore classed as ultra-processed. They may have synthetic vitamins and minerals added and most have low protein and fat but you can use other foods to make up for what milk would have provided.

Nut milks generally contain only ~2% nuts and might have more added sugar than that – check the label. It’s easy to make your own. Just soak some nuts in a glass of water overnight. In the morning, rinse well in a sieve and put in a blender with some fresh water. Whizz. That’s it. You can strain out the pulp if you prefer.

Oat milk and rice milk have little to commend them nutritionally and are mainly carbohydrate or as Dr Unwin calls it “soon to be sugar”.

Soya milk has high protein content but this has only a partial set of amino acids. Its calcium comes with the anti-nutrient phytic acid which blocks calcium absorption. I do not recommend consumption of unfermented soya in any form, including milk.

Coconut milk is good for fat and flavour.

Hemp milk is a new one on me and provides some excellent fats.

Top tip – You’ll only get the full nutritional benefits from the real thing but with so many types to choose from, you’ll always be able to put something white in your coffee.

Quote of the Month – a Calorie is not a Calorie

 

It’s extremely naive of the public and the medical profession to imagine that a calorie of bread, a calorie of meat and a calorie of alcohol are all dealt with in the same way by the amazingly complex systems of the body.

Professor David Haslam

Chairman of the National Obesity Forum

He’s absolutely right –

           – which makes it puzzling that the National Obesity Forum is completely hung up on calories. The main detriment of drinking sweet drinks (sugary or zero Cal artificial) is not the calories they contain but the fact that they make you hungry – and particularly hungry for junk foods.

Quote of the Month – Child Obesity

The obesity epidemic in children – no one wants to call it what it is. The kids are eating chemicals – processed and packaged foods. And they’ve designed chemicals to taste scrumptious.

Suzanne Somers (cancer survivor)

Don’t allow the fake food industry to set our guidelines.

Zoe Harcombe to British Parliament

There is a government consultation out now on food advertising to children – have your say:

Why Diets Don’t Work and What to Do Instead

We’ve passed Fail Friday now (3 ½ weeks into the year apparently) so most people will have given up on their New Year Resolutions, abandoned their diets and stopped going to the gym.

Diets are 10-a -penny and there’s always a new one to try, from boring to bizarre. You’ll lose weight on them, then pile it all back on later. That isn’t what most people want so it seems to me that diets don’t work.

As Jon Gabriel says,

If diets worked there would be really one diet, everybody would go on it, lose weight and that would be the end of it.”

It’s actually the diet that causes the weight regain (happens to 95% of dieters) so no need to blame yourself.

Your body is a wonderful survival machine and you can’t force it to keep on losing fat long-term through deprivation. Restrict energy intake and your body will slow your metabolism to protect you against your self-imposed food shortage. Much of the weight you’ll lose isn’t fat anyway but lean tissue that you need to hang onto. A better way is to invest in your health and happiness by learning to eat well.

Have you heard that a calorie is a calorie? That’s right from a physics point of view but it isn’t helpful for weight loss because your body reacts in different ways to different types of foods. The result is that some calories put weight on, others help you lose weight. Your body’s responses include fat storage or fat burning, increased hunger or satiety. Obsessing about calories is also bad because it takes the focus off the goodness in food leaving you lacking in important nutrients.

A Colin Shelbourne cartoon from Survival Guide for the Skint.

What really causes weight gain? Sugar is number 1, via the production of insulin and increase of appetite. Then there’s processed carbohydrate (called ‘soon to be sugar’), including flour and breakfast cereals. Then there are fructose and alcohol which create fat via the liver. Next come seed oils which your body loves to store. And don’t think sweeteners come free; they confuse your brain and upset your body’s appetite controls so you eat more. All those chemical additives can make your body produce fat to safely store them as a toxin-protection response.

The key therefore is to avoid these fat-storage triggers. They’re in most processed foods including: ready meals, takeaways, fizzy drinks, pastry, crisps, chocolate, booze, diet foods. These are the things people snack on all day.

For healthy weight loss, eat home-made meals that satisfy you for 4 or 5 hours to see you through to the next meal without snacking. Each meal should contain plants, proteins and fats. Breakfast in particular should contain enough protein and fat so that you don’t get hungry mid-morning. Here’s a piece I wrote on breakfasts to give you some ideas. Cook your own natural, nutritious food and let your excess weight melt away.

If you want to know more, including your personal metabolic type and the mixture of food that’s right for your body, my next Eat for a Better Life course starts on 20th February at The Foyer, Irish Street, Whitehaven.  Or have a one-to-one consultation any time by ‘phone or Skype.

Top tip – Give up diets, Learn to Eat Well!

A Little of What You Fancy

The closer we get to Christmas, the more unhealthy stuff is shoved in front of our eyes and under our noses. There are office parties, family gatherings and all sorts of social occasions where people will pressure us to indulge more than we want to (often to make themselves feel better)

 “Go on, have another…”

Thankfully we don’t have to eat and drink everything on offer and suffer for it, or refuse it all and feel left out; we can take a middle road, use the 80/20 rule, join in without excess and enjoy a little of what you fancy.

There’s a saying:

Don’t worry what you eat between Christmas and New Year, it’s what you eat between New Year and Christmas that really matters.

If you’ve been taking care of yourself, your amazing body will cope with a bit of unhealthy stuff especially if you keep putting mostly good things inside you. Great breakfasts, super lunches, healthy snacks, fabulous dinners, all home-made mixtures of plants and proteins and fats. You’ll take it all in your stride.

Here’s a Jon Gabriel breakfast that seems light but is nutritious enough to last for several hours – fruit, full-fat natural yoghurt, ground flax, hemp, chia seeds, protein powder and I like to add some nuts – just stir it all together.

Of course, some people will dive in with gay abandon, intending to fix the damage in the New Year. If that’s you, going on a diet is unlikely to be helpful so resolve to build in some better eating habits or have some nutrition coaching and learn to eat well.

There will be presents as well as food and I leave you a quote I just saw from Bernard Manning:

I once bought my kids a set of batteries for Christmas

with a note on it saying

“Toys not included”

Merry Christmas!

Jackie

What Time to Eat?

I usually write about what to eat, but timing is important too.

Your body doesn’t just gear up to sleep when it’s dark and wake when it’s light; every part of it has control clocks.

Artificial light means we can eat from pre-dawn until midnight nowadays. Unfortunately, this disrupts our circadian rhythm and is bad for our health.

It’s best to eat during the day when levels of digestive enzymes are high and your liver and gut are ready to deal with food. In the evening, saliva production slows down.  Also, if anything enters the stomach, there’s more acid produced. Your gut slows down for nightly repairs – but repair is difficult if food is still passing through – it’s like trying to re-tarmac a road with traffic still flowing. It’s better to stop eating 2 or 3 hours before bed.

I’m in favour of working with your body, so Prof Satchin Panda’s research on Time Restricted Eating struck a chord. (Listen to Dr Rangan Chatterjee interviewing Prof Panda here.)  An 8-10 hour window has been found in the lab to protect against (and to improve existing) obesity, heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease, cholesterol and high blood sugar. Prof Panda recognises that we don’t have a choice when we get up; we have jobs to go to and children to take to school. But we can choose when we eat.

I like to try things out.  Initially it felt weird starting work early then having breakfast at 9:30am but months into my self-experiment, I feel great. After 7:30pm I don’t eat – that’s a 10h window. Even a 12h window gives benefits, say 7am to 7pm.  Give it a try and find out how you feel working with your body’s rhythms. (Check with your doctor about effects on medication.) There’s also a global study you can take part in via an app (mycircadianclock.org).

Top tip – Give Time Restricted Eating a try