I recently went to Norway on holiday, brilliantly arranged by the lovely people at Cockermouth Travel. As well as the breathtaking beauty of the place, I was struck by the slim, healthy build of the population and the fabulous food! Game stew was a highlight plus lots of fresh fish (they love their herrings) and vegetables. (OK there were fast food places for tourists in the town centre; you’ll find that everywhere in the world nowadays.)
Breakfasts were a feast of cold meats, cheeses, fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables and yoghurt. That’s a high nutrient breakfast to fuel the national pastime of walking up mountains, come rain or shine. Over here continental breakfast has been diminished to coffee and a croissant – not satisfying, not healthy and not continental.
And more breakfast!
Going on holiday is a great opportunity to reconnect with real food. You might go to more exotic places that I do. Perhaps you’ve sampled the delights of young coconuts or fresh bananas which I’m told are divine.
It’s a shame we emulate the Americans more than Europeans. We eat more processed food than any other European country. We also have the fattest population plus the resultant deteriorating health. The French and Italians love their food and you can enjoy locally grown produce, artisan breads, grass-fed meat and amazing cheeses. Food is a high priority for them. They spend money on good ingredients and take time cooking and eating. Meals are not rushed or gulped down alone in front of a TV or computer. There’s a strong social element with lots of talk and laughter round the table. Enjoy it while you’re away and keep it up when you come back.
Top tip – make good food culture a holiday souvenir to bring back home.
What good fortune for men in power that people do not think.
The ‘men in power’ these days include those who profit from the processed food industry. Joanna Blythman has been undercover in the food industry to find out how true this is. If we really knew what was in all the artificial food we’re eating and the damage it is doing to our health, we’d stop and go back to cooking from scratch.
There’s a management maxim that states, ‘what gets measured, gets done.’ Our brains love to measure and compare. It works for business and it works in our personal lives too.
It’s human nature to want to improve. Knowledge is power. If you know how much you do, you’ll want to do more.
For exercise there are tools like pedometers and fitness aps that measure your activity levels. Ask anyone with a pedometer how much they walk and they’ll tell you it’s more since they got one!
I’ve been keeping training records for many years using a chart I developed when I was first selected to represent Great Britain in archery – see my book Succeed in Sport to develop your own chart. Colouring in the chart lets me see immediately the training I’ve been doing.
Use a measurement method that appeals to you. Gold starsare great for kids – and for adults too; a client of mine has been successfully using stars. Some people like tables of numbers. I coached a man once who drew a graph when he decided to stop smoking. His motivator was the cumulative money he saved and it went up and up!
For eating well, how about giving yourself credit each time you snack on nuts, have a drink of water, eat some vegetables or cook unprocessed meat / fish. Be observant, catch yourself doing something right and measure only what’s good. Let your natural motivation increase it. By building up the amount of nutrient-rich natural foods you eat, bad foods will automatically get squeezed out.
Celebrate and reward yourself for your progress, perhaps with a relaxing day somewhere beautiful.
I was heartbroken to watch a four year old girl having 8 rotten teeth surgically removed on Channel 4’s Junk Food Kids – Who’s to Blame? Also featured were a boy with fatty liver disease and an obese 13y old girl whose parents wanted her to have gastric band surgery in preference to improving the family’s diet. For all of these, typical fare at home was ready meals, takeaways,jacket potatoes with baked beans, piles of pasta, pizza, crisps, chocolate and sweet drinks – all guaranteed to pile weight on and rot teeth. The social media backlash accused parents of child abuse for letting their kids eat so badly but the parents were at their wits end. To them processed, sugary diets were normal and they didn’t know what to do to make them better.
Nutrition experts have campaigned many times for governmental control on sugar use by food and drink manufacturers. The government declined arguing that consumers can choose. Can they really? Manufacturers spend huge sums on advertising – and it works. Junk food is cheap, easy, quick and everyone eats it don’t they? Parents are left with a battle on their hands, parental discipline isn’t fashionable and a third of our children are overweight, many with bad teeth, both of which are entirely preventable.
What can we do? It seems the government isn’t going to help us and the manufacturers won’t so we need to support each other in raising awareness so that drinking water and eating real food become normal again. A dentist near where I live has created a Sugar Shock poster showing the amount of sugar in different drinks. It’s brilliant! I had no idea that flavoured milk is worst of all. A local cafe has a lovely Michael Pollen quote on their wall ‘don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food’. What can you do to help spread the message?
Top tip – for the sake of the children, lets help get each other back into real food
The long dark nights, wind and rain confirm that we are heading into winter. All around me, people are coming down with coughs and colds. In spite of their generosity in sharing – I don’t want one! Do you?
Did you know that most of your immune system is in your gut? Your susceptibility to disease can be affected by what you eat and drink. So when my husband came down with a cold, I reached for echinacea, wheatgrass and vegetable juices and coconut oil. Then I cooked up some of James Wong’s special chicken soup for colds including garlic, ginger, chillies. Effective and delicious.
To strengthen your immune system, eat more:
Oily fish and eggs for vitamin D. Among its many health benefits, vitamin D primes our T cells. Your skin makes it for you in the summer sunshine but I live far too far north to make much at this time of year so I take it as a seasonal supplement.
Vegetables – they give you lots of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antioxidants plus fibre to feed the good bacteria in your gut.
Coconut oil – has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.
Live natural yoghurt and fermented vegetables repopulate your good bacteria.
Sugar – it feeds bad bacteria, unbalancing your system.
Processed food – you want your body to fight infection, not use all its energy fighting bad food.
Eat right for your metabolic type (I can test if you don’t know)
Get lots of sleep to make the powerful anti-oxidant melatonin.
Exercise, especially out in the fresh air (but not vigorously once you have a cold).
It’s been a great summer of sport with the Commonwealth Games, golf (what a fab Ryder cup), cricket and the European Athletics Championships. My husband gets annoyed when sports people say they’ve given 110%. If you put 100% into something, by definition, that’s everything you’ve got. There is no more.When it comes to eating well, how far are you prepared to go? Do you need or want to eat 100% good things?
Recently, I went to a delightful concert with tea and cake at Higham Hall. A gentleman who had heard one of my talks watched with interest to see whether I would indulge. Knowing that a cream scone once in a blue moon wouldn’t do me too much harm, I had one (well, half of one). I ate it mindfully and enjoyed it very much.
Like sports people, the % effort you put in depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you have serious health problems, then it’s worth putting serious efforts into supporting your body by eating all good, nutrient-packed food. If you’re healthy and feel great, you might take a more relaxed approach.
What if you’re in-between with a few niggles, an expanding girth, declining energy, but nothing drastic?First, think about your physical state and the importance to you of it being better. Second, estimate current percentages of natural food and processed food you eat. Marketing is so subtle and devious that you might not even be sure which foods count as good and which as bad. Low-fat fruit yoghurts are a classic processed food posing as a healthy choice. Third and last, decide what you are willing to do to improve your life. Choose a level that gives you some benefits and that you can sustain.
Everyone I speak to at the moment is about to go away somewhere exotic. There are huge physical and psychological benefits to be had from going on holiday. It’s wonderful to be looked after; for someone else to cook and wash up for you, to make your bed and clean the floor. Holidays let us recharge and give us space and time to remember why we love to be alive. They’re a time to treat ourselves. We buy things we wouldn’t normally buy. We sleep in, stay up late and enjoy the luxury of doing what we want in between. Relaxation, walks, swimming, new people to meet and exciting places to go, quality time with loved ones – so far so good.
Food and drink is where it can all come unravelled. It’s so easy to go mad and stuff yourself silly, particularly on an ‘all-inclusive’ deal. In these credit-crunch days we want our money’s worth. The holiday word is ‘indulgence’. If you did a pre-holiday diet, the splurge can be partly fuelled by the deprivation you suffered beforehand. This ‘on or off’, ‘all or nothing’ mentality gives your body problems. Instead of just eating more, how about using mindfulness to get morepleasure from what you eat? You’ve more time than usual to notice how good your food looks and smells. Savour the tastes and textures. Eat more slowly and let your senses soak it all in. Fabulous!
If, like me, you’re spending the summer at home, you can take the same approach with home cooking, picnics, parties and BBQs. Even a simple salad for lunch can be an amazing experience when you give it your full attention.
Top tip: For maximum enjoyment of food – eat mindfully.
There was quite a furore in the nutrition world recently over a pronouncement that rather than our ‘5 a day’, we should eat 7 portions fruit and veg. The headlines shouted that this could save lives by reducing cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The number 7 is arbitrary, as was the number 5, not a conclusion of good science. Lifestyle differences were possibly the dominant factor in the findings of the study in question. However, there is a sound underlying message; vegetables contain goodness. Most of us (¾) don’t get anywhere near 5 a day, let alone 7.
Here’s a link to a piece Zoe Harcombe wrote about the study.
The right amount of veg is not the same for everyone and depends on your metabolic type but if you think you’re probably eating too little, what can you do? In the winter, soup is a warming way to get quantity and variety. Start with a good knob of butter in a pan and cook chopped onions, carrots and celery for a few minutes before adding stock, tomatoes, beans, herbs and any other veg you like. Bring to the boil. After it has simmered for about 10 minutes it’s ready to eat. In the summer, have a salad with your lunch and another with your evening meal.
Juicing is an effective way to get lots of raw vegetable goodness (although you lose the fibre). Mix lots of different types of vegetables plus a very small amount of fruit just to sweeten it – half an apple is plenty. In England, we’re not advised to distinguish between fruits and vegetables and that’s a shame. It’s better for your health to go easy on fruit. In Australia, the advice is 5veg + 2fruit. Buy more fresh food rather than processed products.
Top tip – don’t argue about the numbers, just eat more veg.