Sunday, 31 October 2010
Whilst this might seem odd to some of you, getting a baby out in the fresh air for an hour a day used to be one of the rules of parenting. The babies sleep better and seem to thrive better for the fresh air.
But it's not just babies that need their fresh air - adults need it too. Getting out in the fresh air increases our intake of oxygen, which is essential for energy production, and also allows our skin to manufacture vitamin D in the presence of sunlight. Plus if you go for a brisk walk this improves your circulation and burns calories. A walk can be also be very relaxing, particularly if you have a nice park or canal or river path nearby.
Sadly I'm sure most of us don't have time for a daily 60 minute stroll outdoors, but it's worth making the effort to get outdoors on the weekend especially now the clocks have gone back so we won't be seeing much sunlight. You might not feel like venturing out as the days get colder but wrap up warm and stick a reward at the end (take a long walk to the pub or a favourite cafe) and you'll find it more enjoyable!
Being outside all day is something I particularly love about holidays and I always feel better for it, especially when I'm sailing ... when I always sleep like a baby!
Thursday, 28 October 2010
Changing our eating patterns with the seasons makes sense - the changes in our environment change our nutritional requirements and how our bodies react to food. In the colder months food needs to be warming and easy to digest .. hence favouring hot food and a higher protein intake as protein is slow to digest and holds it's heat the longest keeping you warm from within.
The body will also naturally store more fat to keep you warm so there's nothing to fret about if you gain a couple of pounds, these should come off naturally in the spring.
Another reason to change your food with the seasons is that the nutritional content of food varies with the seasons as does the flavour. A tasty ripe in season tomato is a million miles away in taste and pleasure from a watery unripe one. Eating your fruit and veg in season will mean a higher nutrient intake and more enjoyment making you more likely to eat more fruit and veg.
The best fruit and veg for this time of year are:
Apples, plums & pears: I like to lightly stew them with some cinnamon and serve with natural yoghurt topped with chopped hazelnuts. EAT currently has a nice seasonal fruit salad with all these plus pomegranate which is also in season.
Figs: a lovely addition to an orchard fruit salad or bake and serve topped with melted dark chocolate
Squash: easy to roast either on its own or with other root veg to go with your Sunday roast
Mushrooms & Leeks: both lovely in soup or risotto, or just wilted down in a pan with a lid
Cabbage & Celariac: I'm not a big fan of cabbage but grated celariac makes a great substitute for cabbage in coleslaw and is also lovely boiled and mashed with apple.
Lamb's lettuce, watercress & spinach - ditch the iceberg and eat darker green salad leaves in the winter months.
Wednesday, 27 October 2010
sent off for some training which may turn out to be a total waste of time or
actually be rather helpful. I recently went on a course on improving
productivity at work that thankfully proved to be the latter.
I picked up lots of helpful tips that I'll be using at work, but afterwards
I got thinking about the application of some of these in terms of health. I
think in the world of work, especially with performance appraisals and
regular reviews, most of us are now used to setting goals or targets but
when it comes to our personal lives, including our health, I think the
majority of us don't do this explicitly.
One of the main points in the seminar was that most people's to do lists
don't actually list actions or things to do, more broad objectives, and so
this slows down actually achieving anything. The same probably applies for
people's health goals - whilst focusing explicitly on your goals for your
health is a very worthwhile exercise, it needs to be done in a way that will
get you to take action!
For example you may write down your objective is to improve your health, but
that doesn't tell you where to start so you could quite easily get nowhere
with it. You could break it down into more specific areas, for example:
Have more energy, improve the condition of my skin, have a leaner body,
however even then these objectives don't tell you where to start. To really
be effective, against each goal you must identify what you can actually do
about it, then pick one action and do it!!
I've put some examples below to get you started:
Have more energy:
- Buy some healthy snacks to take into work
- Eat every three to four hours
- Eat some protein with every meal and snack
- Go to bed at 10:30pm to get eight hours sleep
Improve skin condition:
- Buy a bottle of water every morning to drink through at work
- Buy some oily fish to eat this weekend
- Book a facial
- Read labels to avoid all added sugar
Have a leaner body:
- Resist the biscuits and chocolates at work this week and then reward
myself with a treat on the weekend
- Go to the gym three times this week
- Find a no sugar muesli to have for breakfast
- Only drink alcohol on two nights this week
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
The food diary is quite staggering - the head of the family ate a diet of almost only bread and tea with one meal of a meagre portion of meat and vegetables in the whole week.
Here's one day from the food diary:
* Breakfast - Tea, bread and margarine
* Dinner - Tea, bread and margarine
* Supper - Tea, bread
It's a heart breaking idea that people lived for weeks and even years only such impoverished diets and makes the huge food waste in today's society seem totally obscene.
Fortunately with the subsequent introduction of benefits very few in this country will eat even close to as poorly as this family, but it's good to remember how fortunate we are to be able to eat well given that some of our grandparents and great grandparents would have struggled to afford proper meals. It still is shocking that there are many millions of people outside the UK who are unable to provide enough food to properly feed themselves and their families.
So next time you're about to tuck into a tasty meal maybe pause for a second and remember how lucky you are to have that food to eat.
For those interested here's the article, and I promise a more upbeat blog tomorrow!
Monday, 25 October 2010
This kind of difficulty in turning down a free, or nearly free, feed is very common in British culture and is easily observed in the gluttony at all you can eat restaurants that you wouldn't see if people were paying by weight of food!
But I don't just think it's about the money - I think a lot of it is due to camel mentality - the desire to enjoy an over indulgent splurge with the idea that we can burn that food off later.
Some people just find food an inconvenience and would rather have only one meal a day (cooking and eating properly does take up a lot of time).
Infact we can store excess food very effectively as fat for use later but our camels hump usually materialises as a beer belly or muffin top which is not good both aesthetically and from a health perspective. Also most people find it hard to follow the splurge with the necessary self-restraint to burn off the stored calories so their 'hump' just gets bigger and bigger! Even if you manage the self-restaint, it is quite stressful on the body to repeatedly gain and lose weight.
One of the difficulties is when you're faced with food not ordinarily available to you ... a delicious discovery on holiday, a delicacy brought into the office by a colleague back from holiday or even your mum's home cooking when you go home for a weekend.
In these cases it's best to savour your food and exercise damage limitation. Serve yourself a small portion of a treat food and you'll make sure your savour each taste, rather than wolfing it down, and feel more satisfied and less gluttinous as a result. Also don't fall into the trap of 'Off the Wagon' mentality - you've had one slice of cake so you might as well have a blow out as you've already fallen off the wagon ... this kind of thinking can easily lead to regular over-indulging and unhealthy eating habits. Over-eating at any meal is bad for your waistline and your health - just remember if you don't want to look like a camel it's best not to eat like one!
Sunday, 24 October 2010
healthily by visions of having to live on a diet of brown rice and
vegetables and missing out on their favourite foods.
I'm a firm believer that food should be a source of pleasure so the best
approach is to adapt your favourite foods to make them healthier so you can
still enjoy them.
Ok so I sadly haven't found a healthy alternative to pies! But there are a
lot of English favourites that can easily be adapted:
Roast chicken dinner .. Actually a pretty healthy meal if you don't eat the
skin on the chicken and have boiled new potatoes or roasted sweet potato
wedges instead of roasted potatoes.
English fry up ... Skip the fried bread and hash browns, have some wholemeal
toast, poached or scrambled eggs, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms and some
grilled trimmed bacon.
Bacon buttie ... Have a wholemeal or granary roll, grilled trimmed bacon and
a few slices of grilled tomato instead of ketchup which is laden with sugar
- giving up the ketchup might be tough but if you cut down on sugar your
taste buds will adapt and you'll soon be happy to skip it.
Spaghetti bolognaise .... Make it with less than 10% fat mince and drain the
fat off once you've browned the mince. Add lots of veggies and make the
tomato sauce yourself or use some passata with herbs.
Curry ... A Friday night take out favourite but can be laden with sugar and
cream. Skip the sauces and the naan and go for grilled chicken tikka with
rice or a chapati and some veggie side dishes. Or if you want a curry with
a sauce check with the restaurant that it's not been made with sugar or
cream (yoghurt is fine). Waitrose also do some good readymade curries with
a 'clean' list of ingredients.
English puddings aren't so healthy ... all the pastry, sponge and custard
... but a hot pudding is such a comfort on a cold evening. Try stewed fruit
with cinnamon, baked apples stuffed with chopped walnuts and dates, grilled
bananas (grill with some honey on top) served with some natural or greek
yoghurt or even make a crumble but with a topping of oats, ground almonds
and fructose instead of the usual flour, margarine and sugar.
And if any of you have any favourite meals you can't live without but don't
know how to adapt send them in to NITC and I'll see if I can come up with a
Thursday, 21 October 2010
The word stress rightly has negative connotations, it's how you feel when your boss shouts at you, your car get's broken into or some muppet treads on your toe on the tube.
Eustress on the other hand is stress that feels good, euphoric even, ... the excitement of getting married or starting a new job or the thrill of a rollercoaster, sky dive, skiing a black run or watching acrobats drop six foot head first towards the floor and stop with only inches to spare! You're enjoying yourself so you don't think of these feelings as negative.
However any stress, whether negative or positive, when accumulated over time can be negative to your health. It encourages a faster heart rate, raised blood pressure, suppression of your digestive and immune systems, disturbed sleep patterns and central weight gain. So with busy city lives if you 'unwind' by playing a game of squash, watching a scary movie or taking part in extreme sports then you're simply adding to your stress load and not reducing it.
When you're truly relaxed your heart rate and breathing should slow and your mind become calm, you should feel unaware of time or deadlines and in a state in which you could stay in for a long period.
If you find this difficult then you might want to try assisted relaxation through meditation, yoga (hatha), massage, aromatherapy, reflexology or acupuncture. And if the whole idea of spending time relaxing is alien to you then you probably need it more than most!
Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Whatever your style choice a scarf isn't just a fashion accessory, it's also a weapon against the winter colds and flus that will start appearing.
You see most bugs will enter your system through your throat - either inhaled or ingested - so the mucosal lining of the throat is a first line of defence against bacteria and viruses. This is why there is such a concentration of immune tissue in your neck including your tonsils (if you still have them!) and lymph glands - the ones your Doctor feels for if you're ill.
Your immune defence is more effective at a higher temperature, which is why your body generates a fever when you're ill, so by keeping your throat nice and toasty you can help keep your immune system primed and ready to kill of any bugs before they make it into your system.
However, if whilst the rest of your body is kept cosy in your coat your throat is left exposed to the elements then it may get cold reducing the effectiveness of your immune defences. So now might be a good time to dig out your winter woollies.
Tuesday, 19 October 2010
This is pretty scary ... but it's easy to drink your way to obesity and ill health without going anywhere near an alcoholic drink.
However, you should aim to eat a high percentage of your caloric intake rather than drinking them as the body is designed to digest solid food and so drinking most of your calories can disrupt your appetite cues and affect your digestion.
A cocktail should therefore be an occasional treat not an everyday drink and the same goes for fizzy drinks, squashes and fruit juices. The French certainly drink plenty of wine and coffee but their main drink is water, served up with every meal. Scarily there are plenty of English people who never drink any plain pure water!
Monday, 18 October 2010
Luckily city types are also often fortunate enough to have some spare cash to buy them some time ... but what if you've already got a cleaner, get Tesco to deliver to your door, buy your clothes and shampoo online, buy your lunches instead of bringing a packed lunch to work ... and you're still struggling for time??
Well thankfully there's more that you can delegate than you may realise... an entrepreneurial friend of mine has setup a venture to help busy city folk claw back some of their precious free time and it's a brilliant service that I can't recommend enough.
Instead of letting your to do list get longer and longer and stressing about it just send it to LMES and for a very reasonable fee they'll take care of it, leaving you with more time to do the more fun things in life! Things you can farm off to LMES include making dinner reservations, ordering gifts, booking appointments, finding cleaners, doing your online shopping, downloading music for parties, buying and selling on ebay, organising a car service and even lettings and property management ... you name it ... although sadly they can’t go to the gym for you and burn off the doughnut you just ate!
There's no sign up fee ... it's just pay as you go. If you're interested send them a mail or give them a call 07872 396010 and they can send through more info and answer any questions you have. firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, 17 October 2010
It's the usual irreverent daily mash fare but I think it's true that food labelling has gone a bit crazy over the last few years, with various confusing health labels, guidelines, traffic lights and dubious health claims. The 'recommended daily amount for sugar' is one that tickles me. For optimum health you would cut refined sugar out of your diet altogether so how can there even be a 'recommended intake' is beyond me!
If you find yourself confused as to what to buy ask yourself these two questions:
1) Is this food rich in health-giving nutrients, so any vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants, lean protein or essential fats?
2) Is this food high in any anti-nutrients/unhealthy ingredients, so any added sugar, saturated or hydrogenated fats, refined flour, excess salt, artificial preservatives, additives or sweeteners?
If the answer to 1) is yes and 2) is no then you're making a healthy choice.
Thursday, 14 October 2010
Digestion is suppressed in the 'fight or flight' mode so it is therefore important to be relaxed when you eat. When relaxed your digestive processes aren't inhibited, allowing complete digestion, and your brain can register when you're full, which is why you may keep eating without feeling satisfied when stressed.
With busy city jobs it's easy to shovel down your lunch whilst emailing, listening to a conference call or thinking about all the work you have to do. All of this means you're unlikely to be relaxed. To keep your digestion running properly and to get the most out of your food you need to snap out of this mode, and the best way to do this is through conscious breathing.
This is the easiest form of meditation and can be done anywhere. It basically involves taking slow, deep breaths whilst emptying your mind of thoughts. But worry not, you don't have to spend 15 minutes sat at your desk in lotus position!
Just five deep breaths can make all the difference. Breath in slowly and deeply letting your belly and rib cage expand. Count to three as you breathe in, then breathe out, again counting to three to keep the two breaths the same length. Keep your mind clear other than counting and enjoy these few moments of peace. Keep a still mind whilst you savour your lunch, and then when you're finished you can go back to work mode.
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
There are clearly more interesting things to do with an hour but I know I'd feel so much better for the extra sleep. This is why I am both envious of and bemused by those who sleep only a few hours a night and still bounce around full of beans.
One such person is Margaret Thatcher who was well known to only have 3-4 hour sleep a night. What is less well known is that she had a little help in this with regular vitamin B12 injections.
Whilst B vitamins are no substitute for sleep they can really help keep your energy up if you're feeling a bit sleep deprived. I like to supplement with extra Bs when I'm feeling tired, but it's also worth eating foods rich in b's such as wholegrains, fish and eggs (which Maggie T ate frequently).
B vits are also important for brain function so it may be helpful to up your intake when revising for or taking exams or just to help you function better at work be it working in a bank or running the country!
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
Besides admiring this girls confidence to wear such an item (it had three dimensional crown shaped shoulder pads - see what I mean about hard to describe) it got me thinking about individuality.
Alot of us spend our youth trying to copy other people - dress, act and look like people we think are cooler or in some way better than us. Then somehow with age we realise how futile and silly this and start expressing our true individuality in how we dress, act and spend our time and money.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who wishes I'd realised the futility of trying to be cool much earlier! However it's a shame that not everyone extends the same attitude to their health - middle aged women trying the latest ludicrous diet being followed by some twenty something starlet, overworked stressed out city workers following intensive triathlon training schedules, busy mums trying to stick to Madonnas macrobiotic regime and even food stalkers (copying what your super skinny friend/colleague eats in the hope you'll end up the same size).
You see just in the same way that I have a totally different dress sense to the girl I saw today I am also likely to have a very different biological make-up. This is why if we ate the exact same food one of us might feel great and the other one might feel rubbish. This is part of the art of nutritional therapy - working out an individual programme that is best for your client rather than telling everyone to eat the same food.
On the plus side you don't necessarily need a nutritional therapist to help you work this out - a bit of experimentation and trial and error can be very illuminating. Try cutting out/cutting down the usual suspects one at a time (dairy, wheat, gluten, caffeine, alcohol. sugar) and see how you feel, try varying when you eat and whether you have fewer bigger meals or more frequent smaller meals.
You can do the same with your exercise regime - do you feel better working out in the morning or evening, are you exhausted the next day after a long session but full of beans if you make it shorter? You might be surprised at what works for you and save yourself alot of disappointment when you have to give up the latest fad diet or exercise regime because you feel totally awful on it!
Monday, 11 October 2010
This might not sound that interesting to most of you, but the advent of time keeping had a profound effect on daily life. Instead of structuring a day based on sunrise and sunset, schedules became based on time which doesn't vary with the seasons, with the exception of the silly one hour adjustment for british summertime. For most people this meant rising, retiring and eating all meals at the same time every day.
Whilst the advent of time keeping was a huge step forward, I think the resulting disconnect between our activities and the sun, and therefore seasons, was a negative consequence.
During the winter, when the days are shorter and colder, our energy is less, our bodies are less relaxed and we are more prone to infections so we'd all benefit from getting more sleep. Whilst in the summer most people tend to feel more relaxed and energised by the sun and are less likely to get ill.
Once the clocks go back you'd have to have a pretty understanding boss to be getting up after sunrise, but I do think it is beneficial to try and rise and retire as closer to sunrise and sunset than most of us do. In winter this means getting more sleep but in the summer you may want to try getting up half an hour earlier than usual (and going to bed half an hour earlier) - without changing the amount of sleep you may find you feel more energized.
Coincidentally next week the programme covers a tea set and the origins of the English tea drinking tradition!
Sunday, 10 October 2010
speakers mentioned that their results showed a much higher incidence of slow
metabolisms for British individuals than for those in other countries. No
conclusive reason for this had been identified but the speaker speculated
that this may be down to the fact that we drink so much tea!
It's certainly true that tea is a large part of British tradition and seems
to be served up in response to every situation ... just woke up, just got
home, bored at work, it's 11 o'clock, it's 5 0'clock, have guests over, time
for a gossip, to cheer someone up, .. it's quite easy to have five or six
cups a day.
So what's so wrong with something us Brits have been doing for centuries and
why could it affect our metabolisms?
Well the tea itself isn't the problem - it's the caffeine that's harmful.
Caffeine improves concentration and energy levels in the short-term by
provoking the body's stress response, however repeating this through regular
caffeine intake, in the long-run leads to reduced energy levels and
fluctuating blood sugar levels. Drinking caffeine also encourages the
excretion of certain vitamins and minerals from the body, including B
vitamins which are vital for energy production, so all this can combine in
the long run to lower energy levels and a slower metabolism.
Aside from the effects on metabolism, caffeine also encourages the leaching
of calcium from the bones into the bloodstream, weakening bones and
potentially leading to osteoporosis, whilst the raised blood levels of
calcium can lead to calcium deposits in joints contributing to
Despite the downsides tea drinking is often an ingrained part of daily life
and quite hard to give up. I come from a tea drinking household and found
myself unable to break the habit of regular cups of tea, so quit caffeine by
switching to herbal/caffeine free varieties rather than missing out on tea
altogether. My cupboards are stocked with a whole host of herbal blends and
when I go on holiday I always pack some tea bags so I can enjoy a hot drink.
These days most restaurants and cafes have a good range of herbal teas and I
find that most people have some chamomile or peppermint lurking in the back
of the cupboard. Even The Ritz offers Rooibos (redbush) caffeine free tea
with it's very traditional British afternoon tea so it's totally possible to
enjoy the British tea tradition without the downsides.
Thursday, 7 October 2010
But what if this weeks blogs are wasted on you - like me you're already taking a plethora of supplements - so many it's a surprise you don't rattle!
Well by tweaking the timing of when you take them, you can make sure you're getting the most benefit from them. Here are my top tips for timing your vits:
Generally you should take your supplements with food, rather than on an empty stomach - this is when your stomach will have the highest levels of stomach acid helping you break down and absorb your supplements.
Stagger your Bs and Cs - most vitamins and minerals are excreted after a few hours so it pays to spread out your intake. I have vitamins C and Bs in my multivitamin with breakfast and then take an extra B complex and vit C with lunch.
Don't take supplements with your morning coffee or evening glass of wine - both caffeine and alcohol encourage the excretion of vitamins whenever you have them, but you can reduce the effect by taking them away from each other.
Take vitamin C and iron together - the vitamin C helps you absorb the iron.
Top up your antioxidants before bed - you do your detoxification and repair whilst you sleep. Some extra antioxidants can support the liver and help restore your cells from the days stresses.
Take magnesium before bed or after exercise - it is a natural muscle relaxant, helping your body unwind.
Finally, unless you enjoy extremely vivid dreams (and possibly nightmares), don't take B vitamins before bed!
Wednesday, 6 October 2010
colds at bay and keeping your energy levels up ... but your multivitamin can
also double up as a diet pill!
So how does taking a bundle of vitamins and minerals keep you slim?
Without getting too techy, a lot of vitamins and minerals go into the
biochemical process of producing energy in your cells. If you're deficient
in these nutrients it can slow down your energy production slowing down your
metabolism and rate of burning calories. So topping up with a multivit can
help you burn more calories. Nutrients are also essential to the health of
your adrenal and thyroid glands which are both involved in fat burning.
I'm also a strong believer that your nutrient intake is a driver your
appetite, so if you're eating a diet low in vitamins and minerals your body
will up your appetite to increase food intake in a bid to increase nutrient
intake. A nutrient rich diet will therefore keep you more satisfied and
reduce your appetite and food cravings. Taking vitamin and mineral
supplements can therefore have a similar effect ... satisfying your nutrient
needs and thereby controlling your appetite.
So rather than reaching for a diuretic or stimulant diet pill to keep in
shape you might want to try a multivitamin.
Tuesday, 5 October 2010
I've also noticed that most of them are from Boots, often fuelled by the almost permanent 3 for 2 offers. However, whilst taking a Boots multivitamins is better than taking no multivitamin, it's worth pointing out that not all supplements are created equal.
But surely a vitamin is a vitamin whoever you buy it from?
I'm afraid not - you see vitamins and minerals come in different forms - for example Vitamin C can be magnesium ascorbate, potassium ascorbate, manganese ascorbate etc. Whilst calcium can be calcium carbonate, calcium gluconate, calcium ascorbate etc.
So why use one and not the other? Well certain forms are more absorbable than others and so provide more benefit in the body. Unfortunately these are usually the more expensive forms so when you buy a cheap supplement you're likely to be getting the less absorbable vitamins and minerals.
The higher quality brands, such as Biocare, tend to use the more absorbable forms and also in higher doses, so whilst you might be paying double for a more expensive supplement you may be absorbing more than 5 times as much in nutrients from it. As with many things in life you tend to get what you pay for.
Monday, 4 October 2010
In the eighties and nineties supplements were de rigeur but lately there seems to be some sentiment against them - seeing them as 'unnatural' or in some way dangerous partly encouraged by alarmist journalism.
Certainly it's possible to overdose on supplements with ill effects, but just in the same way that you could overdose on over the counter medication - all supplements will recommended dosage on the bottle.
One argument against supplements is that out ancestors never took them, however our lives and food habits are very different from how they were even two hundred years ago.
Food was grown organically and sold locally so was fresher and more nutritious than the fruit and veg we buy in the supermarket. Due to a lack of refrigeration food was bought daily and cooked and served much quicker than today, so the food retained more nutrients before being served. Most food was prepared from scratch including bread which was made with flour that was less refined than today so had less nutrients stripped out of it ... you get the picture.
And it isn't just that food is less nutritious today but also that our lives mean we need higher levels of nutrients. Much higher exposure to pollutants from cars and industry increases our need for antioxidants, whilst high stress life styles and lack of sleep mean we need more B vitamins. Exercise is of course excellent for you but the hoards of people who are now training for marathons, triathlons and various endurance events all have a higher nutrient requirement.
Of course if you live on a subsistence farm out in the countryside you're much less likely to need supplements than us city folk, but for the rest of supplements are an important addition to our diets.