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:
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.
Don’t blame yourself – it’s actually the diet that causes the weight regain (happens to 95% of dieters). 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.
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!
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
Unless you are a cow or want to be the size of one – stop grazing!
Nigella Lawson is well known for her love of food and eating – but she says, ‘I’m not really a grazer. I like proper meals.’ She
gets pleasure from being absorbed in the experience. This is the opposite of the mindless grazing we see so much at work, on the street, in front of screens.
Don’t fall into The Snack Trap – eat well at meal times.
October is Cholesterol Awareness month – what better way to deal with your cholesterol than to cut out sugary/floury snacks?
Leek and Mushroom Tagliatelle
Different shapes of pasta interact with different types of sauces. This seems to go well with flat ribbons, hence tagliatelle. I made the one in the picture with pizzoccheri or you can use something else if you prefer. Spiralized courgette (courgetti) makes a good substitute for pasta if you’re avoiding wheat or watching your weight.
(Incidentally, the g in tagliatelle is silent so it should sound like tal iatelle, not tag.)
Chop a large leek or two small ones 50p
into coins about ½” (1cm) wide. Lay these flat and cut in half.
Wash the pieces well under running water in a colander and shake to drain.
Fry for 3 mins in a knob of butter or tbsp olive oil 8p
in a large frying pan.
Chop two handfuls of mushrooms and add to the pan 45p
Turn down the heat
Add: – 1/3 tin chopped tomatoes 12p
– squirt of tomato puree (~8 or 10”) 5p
– a chopped up stock cube 7p
– (or a desert spoon of bouillon powder 15p)
– good pinch of dried oregano 4p
– good pinch of dried parsley 4p
Season with salt and pepper
Cover with a lid, simmer gently for 10 mins, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, cook your pasta in fast-boiling, salted water 25p
At the end add 10 slices of salami Milano 59p to the sauce
Mix 2 tsp cornflour with a little cold water 2p, add, and heat to thicken
Drain the pasta, stir some butter or olive oil 8p
Top with the sauce and a good sprinkle of Parmesan 25p
Total for this taste of Italy £2.54. That’s £1.27 per person.
For a vegetarian meal, add double the mushrooms at the start instead of the salami at the end, £2.48 or £1.24 per person.
Next – I’ve been asked for a shopping list for the full set – coming soon!
May was National Walking Month so hopefully you’ve enjoyed taking the occasional stroll in the lovely weather.
Moving your body every day is a good thing. It’s only a minor factor for weight loss but crucial when it comes to health. For many conditions it’s better than any medicine, even having value in preventing and treating cancer. However, in common with many other good things, more is not always better and too much can hurt you.
I’ll just back up and do a detour to deal with the weight loss thing in case you fell straight off your chair. Food is the main factor for weight loss – not exercise. Weight training and high intensity interval training are best. If you’re one of the 1000s pounding the treadmill every day watching the calories tick, you need to know that aerobic exercise is the worst for weight loss. It generally burns very little and makes you quite a bit hungrier. Even if energy balance worked at all (which it doesn’t), the way diet clubs teach it is very misleading as Zoe Harcombe explains here. The energy you burn, above what you always burn at rest, does not cancel out that bun and a latte in the gym cafe. As Dr Aseem Malhotra says, you can’t outrun a bad diet. What matters for weight is the type of food. Some you’ll burn, some you’ll store. Different foods affect different hormones. But I write about that most of the time so I’ll get off my soapbox and end my diversion. Oh, but while I still have one foot on my soapbox, energy drinks are terrible, especially for children, and no one should drink them. More on drinks next month.
OK, where were we? Exercise and Health.
I always ask people on my courses to listen to their bodies. It isn’t something we’re used to doing. Life is all one mad charge forwards regardless of how we feel. We’re driven by external expectations, work, family, social norms. If our bodies complain, the usual reaction is to take over-the-counter drugs to silence the messages.
Most of us recognise that too much work is a bad thing but surely any amount of exercise is good.
If you feel generally snoozy and sluggish, it could be a sign that you need to move more.
If you are very tired and exercise doesn’t energise you, it could be a sign that your body needs some recovery. We often underestimate the importance of rest. It can seem a bit soft to take a nap or a day off. When I was on the Great Britain Field Archery team I remember hearing that the commitment to rest is as important as the commitment to train hard.
Shame I didn’t take more notice at the time!
I used to have a stressful job and I used exercise as an antidote. The more stressed I got, the more desperately I exercised. Adding to the burden, I didn’t know then about eating right for your metabolic type. My diet was full of sugar but lacking the fat that I needed. And there were toxins in the low-fat products I ate. I believed the adverts saying they were better for me; how wrong can you be? I got more and more run down and relied too much on cortisol and adrenalin to keep me going. I dragged myself out of bed each day feeling like death and forced myself onwards. You can scrape the bottom of the barrel of your resources for so long but the end result for me was a hole in the barrel. I suffered total exhaustion and chronic fatigue. I was incapacitated for a year and half.
I’m not the only one to fall into the excess exercise trap. Sometimes the consequences are more severe than I suffered and can appear suddenly. I was saddened by the death of a Cumbrian chef at this year’s London Marathon. Here’s a piece about the dangers of over-doing it and how extreme sport scars your heart.
Nowadays I prefer a bit of balance and self care to punishing my body with gruelling regimes.
What do you think counts as exercise? Have you realised it doesn’t have to be done in a special place (eg a gym) or for a certain period of time (eg an hour)? Actually your body is designed for continuous movement and you can include lots of things you might not have counted before. Vacuuming, washing the car, playing with the kids, digging the garden, dancing, walking the dog, doing a few squats while the kettle boils, reaching up to hang out the washing.
I’m a fan of Dr Mercola’s NO dump (developed by Zach Bush). I love Michael Mosely’s book on Fast Exercise – here’s a little HIIT video. And have a listen to this podcast on primal play Dr Chatterjee and Darryl.
Dr Chaterjee’s book The Four Pillar Plan talks about movement snacking and Dr Joan Vernikos explains the need for non-exercise movement throughout the day regardless of whether you do ‘exercise sessions’. Just standing up from your chair every 20 minutes lets your body engage with gravity and brings many health, strength and weight benefits.
Do you take your health for granted? I used to but not any more. Having experienced life without it, health is really important to me now and that’s why I don’t compromise on food, exercise and rest. I don’t want to ever go back to that misery.
Good health is a lot about self care. It’s about getting some exercise every day, but not so much that you burn yourself out. It’s about nourishing your body with good food, but not sticking so rigidly to a dietary regime that it prevents you from living a rich, happy life. It’s about deep sleep, rest and fun. It’s about balance.
Top tips: Real food is good. Exercise is good. Rest is good. Balance is good.
Nutrition is king, exercise is queen. Put them together and you’ve got a kingdom.
How do you decide what to eat?
Since the introduction of calories as a measure of food energy content, we’ve become obsessed with them. The government’s official messages at the moment mention nothing else. However in spite of its popularity, calorific content is a poor basis for making food choices.
A huge and powerful industry makes and aggressively markets low-calorie food products. The BBC showed some years ago in ‘The Big Fat Truth about Low Fat Food’, that these products are not good for your health.
Instead of thinking primarily about calories, I ask the people on my Nutrition Coaching courses to focus on the goodness in foods. Some foods provide nutrients and improve your health. These include fresh meat, fish, eggs, cheese, fruit, veg and natural fats. Good food gives you essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and enzymes.
Other foods are bad for you and your body has to work really hard to deal with them by using up lots of your vitamins, minerals and enzymes and most of your energy too. They leave you with compromised health and feeling exhausted. These include processed foods, biscuits, crisps, donuts, snack bars, fizzy pop, flavoured water and ready meals.
Bad food contains refined sugar, salt, damaged fats, artificial sweeteners and additives. Often processed foods are chemically altered to increase the appeal to your taste buds. They override your body’s ways of knowing when you’ve had enough and you can just carry on eating more and more.
So stop worrying about calories and think about goodness. Ignore the marketing hype which results in low-fat and low-calorie foods being labelled as healthy even if they’re not. Think instead how food can build your health or harm you.
Top tip – eat real food!
However 2017 turned out for you, we’re all hoping 2018 will be a good year. And you can make that more likely!
Did you know that the more you think about, talk about and write about something, the more likely it is to happen.
Jim Rohn said, “You are the sum of the five people with whom you spend the most time”
Who are those five people for you? Do they inspire you or drag you down? Since you’re going to end up like the people you spend time with it makes sense to keep company with the sort of people you’d like to be.
Jim Rohn also said you’re the average of “the five things around you, the ideas of the five books you read, the feelings from the five films or TV programmes you watch.” So it really matters what you choose to surround yourself with habitually.
I’ll continue with the theme:
- the five websites you read
the five people you follow on social media
- the five activities you do
- the five items you use
- the five songs you listen to
- the five foods you eat!
Thinking of food, I’ve spent January consoling people who over-indulged at Christmas and New Year by reminding them that our regular habits matter more than what we eat or drink occasionally. So what is it that we eat most of in Britain? Chicken perhaps, or potatoes? No, apparently, it’s white flour – hardly a health food. Why so much? Think bread, wraps, pasta, pizza base, pies and pastry, Yorkshire pudding, cakes, biscuits, pancakes…need I go on? No wonder much of the population is over-fed but undernourished. What can you do? (spoiler alert – top 5 at the end!)
Think of less processed alternatives to the floury things you eat.
- A cabbage leaf makes a good wrap (blanch it first to make it more flexible).
- Combine whatever filling you usually put in a sandwich with some salad. Top it with olive oil to make a superior lunch.
- Too cold for salad? Soups are a great way to get loads of different types of vegetables into your diet. You can put a bit of chopped up meat in for protein. (Use leftovers from dinner.) Have it with a hunk of cheese and there’s no need for any bread.
- You can make pizza base from cauliflower chopped up in a food processor. Mix with egg, cheese and seasoning and shape into a circle. Bake for 20 minutes before adding toppings.
- And there’s a wonderful Jon Gabriel recipe on YouTube for pizza that uses omelette as a base. It’s very satisfying; delicious hot when you make it or cold later on. Jon uses 3 eggs to make his but that’s too many for me so scale the recipe to match your appetite.
- Instead of pasta, you can make courgetti using a spiralizer or simply making strips using a potato peeler. Have some meat with it to make up for the bit of protein you lose from the wheat. Wider strips can replace pasta sheets for lasagna.
- Nuts (natural) and fresh coconut make great snacks.
- Sticks of carrot, celery and cheese with apple slices makes an easy, portable lunch.
- Instead of biscuits, have a square or 2 of the chocolate/nut/seed mix I showed you last issue.
- You can make buns using ground almonds as a base – just mix a large egg, a tablespoon of melted butter, 3 oz ground almonds, a sprinkling of raisins, ¼ teaspoon of baking powder, a pinch of salt. Bake in paper cases in a bun tin at Gas Mark 3, 160o C for about 25 minutes
- You can even make cake in a cup in the microwave. Use a mix of ground almonds, raisins and egg.
- Microwave ‘bread’ made in a mug is similar. Beat an egg with 2 desert spoonfuls of ground flax seeds, 1 teaspoon baking powder, pinch of salt. Cook of full power for 1min 20 seconds.
As you improve your habits, you’ll feel the benefits. Fill your diet with good nutrition by resolving to regularly include more good things in your diet.
Try these 5:
- vegetables – have some with every meal (potatoes don’t count)
- meat/fish – good quality, home cooked
- healthy fats – olive oil, butter, avocado, nuts
- fruit – have a piece or two each day (but skip the fruit juice)
- water – as your number 1 drink
Top tip: Make your main 5 foods/drinks good ones.
What with all the confusing messages in the press and TV programmes about diets most nights throughout January it isn’t easy to know what’s good. If you’re not sure, get in touch and Learn to Eat Well.