110% ?

It’s been a great summer of sport with the Such3Commonwealth 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.

Golf put MWLike 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.

Top tip – You decide how far you want to go.

Don’t Blame Your Age!

Clients sometimes say of their weight, lack of energy and ailments, ‘Well what can I expect at my age?’ I think it’s a shame that we’ve been conditioned to expect so little. It’s almost an abdication of responsibility – “there’s nothing I can do; it’s my age”. OK, we might suffer some wear and tear but our bodies have a remarkable capacity for renewal if we look after them. We don’t have to buy into the common pattern of junk food, inactivity and physical deterioration as if it was inevitable. If you commit to exercise and good food, perhaps you can stay younger for longer. It’s your choice.

You probably know people who are still sprightly in their older years and also young people who look and move as if they were decades older than they are. In my early 30s I was in a sorry state. Overweight and unhealthy, I felt lousy most of the time. Ten years ago I learned to eat well and transformed my life. I recently turned 50 but feel 19. Being 20 years older doesn’t matter to me; I feel young.

Find a good role model and emulate them. Jack LaLanne understood exercise and nutrition and lived a vigorous life to the age of 96. One of his sayings was, ‘Exercise is King, nutrition is Queen, put them together and you’ve got a kingdom.’

My grandfather was still fly fishing at 94.  Young at 94He was Italian and understood about eating good food.  When Channel 4 made a programme on the World’s Best Diets, Italy came second (just behind Iceland) and we saw a village of elderly people, full of vigour, eating only real food.  There is no paradox to the health of the French either; they eat well too.  Sadly the UK was way down with our love of processed food and you can see the results all around you in the population’s general lack of good health.

It’s always worth looking after yourself and never too late to get into good habits. Keep moving with a form of exercise that suits you, keep flexible and improve the way you eat. You’re worth it!

Top tips – you’re never too old to benefit from eating well.

Men Who Made Us Thin

If you’ve ever lost weight on a diet, chances are you put it back on again afterwards.  People can blame themselves for this, thinking that it’s a lack of will power and self discipline.  It isn’t true.  Others think overweight people eat too much.  Sometimes perhaps, but often that isn’t true either.

We’re told that all we need to do is eat less and exercise more – it sounds so plausible we believe it – I used to.  A BBC mini series, “The Men Who Made Us Thin”, looked into the diet industry – and the vast amounts of money they make directly as a result of their failure to deliver long term weight loss.  This is not news.  They’ve known since the 1940s that diets don’t work – it’s the reason for the continuing financial success of the industry!  So really they’re The Men Who Didn’t Make Us Thin.

Weight is classified using Body Mass Index; you’ve probably seen the charts.  The definition was arbitrarily changed from BMI 27 to BMI 25 resulting in millions of people who were fine suddenly being classed as overweight and therefore clients for the diet industry.  BMI ignores body composition. Many fit, muscular people without an ounce of excess fat come out as obese on the charts.  A better method is to aim for a waist measurement less than half your height.

Much of the diet industry’s profit comes from selling foods, including ready meals and processed foods which aren’t generally great for your health, or for weight loss.  They may be low calorie and low fat but calories are not all equal and fats are not all bad.  Most people would lose weight naturally and permanently if they switched to real food and leaned to eat well.

Top tip – If you want to get thin, eat well!

Live long 2

A study of world health including 187 countries has listed its top 10 – Britain is not one of them.

Japan has the longest life expectancy for both men and women. One factor might be their high intake of fish which means they get a good supply of omega 3 fats. Omega 3 levels could be linked to the speed of ageing.

Singapore was 2nd for men and 4th for women. A British lady I know has been living in Singapore for many years. As she begins to plan her return, she is looking forward to buying ready meals!  Her health could be about to take a nose-dive. Convenience food is not eaten in Singapore and this may be part of the reason for Luigithem enjoying health so much better than ours. Italy is in the top 10 and they are a people who love wonderful food, prepared from fresh ingredients.  My Italian grandfather was still shopping, cooking, playing bridge and driving right up to the day he died aged 94.

The United States was listed 29th for men and 33rd for women in spite of spending more than double the amount of money per person on ‘healthcare’. By healthcare, I believe they mean drugs and treatments that suppress the symptoms of diseases. I’m not sure how much they spend on action to promote health.  So it looks as though diet and healthy lifestyle factors are more important than money.

A Lancet reports shows that since 1970 we have gained slightly more than ten years of life expectancy overall. That sounds like good news; none of us want to die young. The sting in the tail is that we spend more years living with debility. We’re good at dealing with injuries, diseases and childbirth so these are no longer the main causes of death as they used to be. Instead we suffer from slow acting conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. I don’t know about you but 10 extra years in an incapacitated state doesn’t appeal to me.

The statistics are against us here in Britain.

It’s time to look after ourselves better,


deal with stress

and learn to eat well!

Live long

If you’ve overindulged during the Christmas period, you may not be starting 2013 feeling your best. Now I’m approaching 50, I find I’m increasingly interested in ways to stay young so I thought I’d look at strategies to not only live for longer but live better for longer.


Friendships and good social interaction extend life expectancy. It’s worrying that today’s kids often prefer computer games to playing with each other. Stress relief is also crucial as the stress chemicals your body produces upset the balance of your body’s functions.


Exercise is a good antidote to stress and also extends life and brings many health benefits. Sitting still is very bad and most of us do it for hours on end. You need some variety; not just endlessly pounding the streets but also stretching, resistance training and some higher intensity work. Recent research shows that excessive exercise can be damaging but not many of us do so much that we need be concerned.


I’ve seen the quote, ‘If you’re not learning, you’re probably dead.’ Education turns out to be important, they think perhaps because you learn to delay gratification and plan for the future, rather than just living for the moment. Looking to the future helps when you build new, better habits.


Of course what you eat and drink is of fundamental importance. You want your body to have energy and nutrients for repair and renewal as bits wear out. Natural meats and vegetables provide many nutrients that your body uses as raw materials. The toxins that come with artificial food rob you of energy as your body works hard to get rid of them. Manage your insulin levels by avoiding sugar and reducing intake of grains and refined carbohydrates. Good anti-ageing fats are omega 3 (found in fish) and medium-chain saturated fats (found in coconut oil).


Keep eating well and feel great in 2013.



Top tips: Eat well, exercise, keep learning and enjoy life with the people you love.


Happy New Year

The lovely stats helper monkeys at WordPress have put together an annual report for the Learn to Eat Well site.763sunflower

In 2012, there were readers from 49 countries, mostly in the UK with the US and Brazil not far behind.

People were most interested in the page on Courses for Individuals and Groups.

The most popular post was the first one on 15th Jan – ‘No Quick Fix’.


It’s still true of course that there is no quick fix to looking after your health and well-being.  It’s a life long commitment to a long life!  To help inspire you, how about watching Channel 5’s50 shocking facts about diet and exercise’.  Entertaining, attention-grabbing and containing a lot of very sound information, I really enjoyed it.

Have a great year.

Wishing you well



Food for Sport

In the middle of August, I was up a mountain in France as a member of the GB team, competing in the Field Archery World Championships. Before I went, I wrote about what I might eat.

Lots of people have views on what is required for sporting performance eg carb loading or energy drinks. Similarly to healthy eating, we are all different when it comes to our ideal fuel for sport. I have tried out lots of ideas over the years to find out what helps me feel good for the 7 or 8 (in France 9 or 10) hours of a competition day.

My food of choice when competing in Britain is sprouted mung beans, celery and cheese. We stay in bed and breakfasts so enjoy the benefits of a full English breakfast to start the day, from which I save the sausage to add to my lunch. I always have a bag of nuts with me with some pieces of protein bar mixed in. I take bottles of plain water to drink.

Competing abroad means thinking about how to get what I need as a high protein metabolic type. I know that full English will not be on the menu at Val d’Isere but I’m hopeful of cheese and ham. Lunch is trickier. The 2009 European Championships were also in France and they bombarded us with bread several times a day. Staying in the middle of nowhere, I had no choice but to eat it and suffered as a result. I love the taste but have learned that bread does me no favours. Actually lots of people struggle with bread and most of those don’t even realise that it’s a problem for them. If you think this might apply to you, try cutting it out for a couple of weeks and notice what happens when you add it back in.

 So this year I’ll take a range of emergency supplies and go shopping as necessary. Wish me luck!

Top tip: Learn what suits you and your sport.

P.S. What actually happened.

It’s true that bread was available in vast quantities, but I didn’t have to eat any because the food at the Village Montana hotel, Tignes was superb.  I started each morning with a shot of wheatgrass juice (from Tonic Attack) before a splendid breakfast of fruit, natural yoghurt, ham, cheese and boiled eggs (most days the weather was too hot to eat bacon and fried egg but it was available!). I took bread-free packed lunches.  Evening meals were salads, meat, fish and vegetables.  Brilliant.  Glad to have eaten well on this, my last trip with the GB team.

Photo by Gerard Zonjee of http://www.fieldarcher.org – pics and reports of international field archery events.

Eat for better sport

Most of the advice we get about what to eat is either well-meaning ‘one-size-fits-all’ generalities or advertising aiming to make us buy products.  As an international archer I received advice some years ago from a nutritionist that came under the first category.  Unfortunately eating in the way that is currently fashionable as healthy was not right for my body chemistry and I ended up overweight with a whole load of other problems.

I’ve just won the British Field Archery Championships for the 6th time.  At the age of 47 and with a 7 year gap since my last British title, I’m delighted.

(Picture courtesy of The Whitehaven News)

My good shooting this year (including a lifetime best score indoors) is the result of a combination of factors.  Using my record charts (described in my book Succeed in Sport, train-learn-adapt-improve), I made a change to my weight training pattern.  I also reviewed my performance profile, prioritised and following a great day with Lanny Bassham at Bisley, made some tweaks to my mental approach . And I benefitted from a reduction of work related stress.

I believe that eating right was another key factor.  Field archery competitions last for two whole days.  Many foods loved by sports people (chewy bars and artificial drinks) provide a swift energy hit followed by slumps, hunger, headaches, mood changes and weight gain.  Other foods (like sandwiches) take a lot of energy to process and leave you sluggish in the afternoon.  I wanted food that would digest itself and give me the nutrients I wanted to keep going steadily for many hours.

Among other things, I take fresh coconut, cheese and the magical sprouted beans and seeds.  They’re cheap, easy to grow and bursting with goodness.  Anyone who has been to one of my talks will know how much I love live food and the enzymes they contain.  Foods like this have a high water content; wet food is better at keeping you hydrated than dry food plus drinks.

You might have been put off by the recent E coli outbreak in Europe which was suggested (although not confirmed) to have come from fenugreek, mustard and rocket seeds from Egypt sold via a British company.  The company believes the infection is more likely to be due to how the seeds were used and handled than the seeds themselves.  Here, the Food Standards Agency, as a precaution, is recommending that sprouted seeds are eaten cooked rather than raw. That would kill all the enzymes that you grew them for in the first place.  I leave you to make up your own mind but if you do grow some, make sure you always wash your trays properly between batches so you don’t end up with bacterial contamination.

Sexy Summer Body

The summer is almost upon us (well hopefully soon) and many of you will be taking some time out to go on holiday and relax in the sun. This is the time of year when we suddenly remember that our bodies are important. As we strip off, we realise that everyone can see us!

This is a shared Survival Guide for the Skint and Nutrition Coaching blog post.  I’m passionate about food and health. The great news is that you can save money in your quest for a great bod.

Processed food is laden with additives and chemicals that your body has to work very hard to get rid of (or to store as fat). You pay mainly for all the preparation, packaging and advertising so the ingredients are rarely good quality. Buy real food and make your own meals to save money and improve your health.

Drinks can add up to a sizable percentage of your weekly shop. Fizzy drinks and alcohol cost loads and only do you harm. Fruit juices are better if taken in moderation. I like to dilute juices. The cheapest drink of all is water and the good news is that your body enjoys water much more than anything else. It’s even better if you filter it; jug filters work fine and are inexpensive.

The cheapest exercise is walking – guess what? Yes, it really is great for your body. It’s low impact so it’s kind to your joints. You can go when you want, for as long as you want and you put in the amount of effort to match your ability. Getting fresh air and sunshine is good for your lungs and skin. Good mental health goes hand in hand with good physical health. Being close to nature is good for you mentally (there are studies proving it’s good for you to be among trees). Walking is a pleasurable experience too. I’ve noticed that runners often look harassed or miserable but people on walks smile and say, ‘hello’.  You’re more likely to exercise if you find something that you really enjoy.

So eat, drink and exercise merrily, 

for tomorrow you don your swimwear!

Wishing you well