Sunday, 31 July 2011

Missing the window

Something I always want more of and never quite get enough of is sleep. However my body tells me when I haven't had enough, as was the case last week. When I start feeling lethargic, not performing so well at the gym, and ultimately getting a sore throat (common when the body is under stress) I know it's time for a catch-up, which is what I did last night when I had a blissful 10.5 hours sleep.

Sleep is so important for your health and well being, as it is when the body has the time and energy to repair itself, build new cells and detoxify, but is often the first thing to be cut when you're short on time. I certainly will rush around doing chores, that really could wait til the next day, when I ought to be going to bed and the problem with this is I often miss the sleep window. This is the point at which your natural cicardian rhythm is preparing you for sleep - your cortisol levels drop, you start to feel tired and if you get yourself to bed you'll usually fall asleep pretty quickly. Unfortunately this window for most people is from 9:30pm to 10:30pm, and if you're not asleep by 10:30 you've missed it. Factoring in that it usually takes poeople 15-30minutes to fall asleep after getting into bed, you need to be in bed by 10am for optimum sleep - not easy.

If you miss the window your body detects that despite feeling sleepy you're keeping yourself awake, assumes this is for a good reason, and then starts producing more cortisol to wake you up. This can give you a nice second wind, but also may keep you in an awake mode til 1am when the cortisol levels wear off. Even if you do go to sleep you may have disturbed or light sleep due to the elevated cortisol levels. This is also why you shouldn't exercise late in the evening as this pushes up your cortisol levels, also disrupting your sleeping pattern.

Even if it's not possible every night, you should try and have at least two nights a week where you're asleep by 10:30 to make sure you have a good deep sleep. And on that note, having missed the window myself, I'm off to bed!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Make hay whilst the sun shines

Today we finally had some sunshine here in the big smoke and so I made the most of it and ate my lunch outside. It felt wonderful to be sat in full sunshine, but the benefits of sun exposure aren't limited to the temporary lift in mood - you need sunshine to manufacture vitamin D in your skin cells.

Vitamin D is one of the few nutrients which your body manufactures itself and most of the vitamin D found in the body will have been produced internally, rather than coming from food sources. It's also one of the main stored nutrients, whereas most nutrients wash out the body after a few days your clever body makes the most of the summer sun by storing Vitamin D in the liver for you to use over winter when your skin will be covered up.

This system works really well, unless of course the summer fails to materialise! So if you haven't got any holidays booked to more southern destinations you may be running low on Vitamin D right now.

Low levels of vitamin D put you at greater risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis, depression and most organ cancers - infact research into this vitamin continually digs up new ways in which it is vital for health.

The main food sources of vitamin D are oily fish and eggs so if you don't eat these foods regularly you're particularly likely to need a supplement. I usually supplement with drops over winter, but if the summer doesn't turn up soon I'm going to start a couple of months early!


Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The dating diet

As I mentioned in my blog on Monday, a new relationship can bring with it a few extra unwanted pounds due to over-indulgent dining and drinking. Even if you're not coupled up, the dating scene usually involves a fair amount of imbibing and it can be hard to keep in shape.

This is where lessons from my beloved Mr Montignac come in handy. The author of the excellent 'Dine out and Lose Weight', first published in 1986, Mr Montignac set out to lose weight whilst dining out everyday, and succeeded!

The full diet is too much to cover here but in essence it involves avoiding all sugar (only fruit or low sugar dark chocolate desserts are allowed for pudding) avoiding all carbohydrates with a high glycemic index (white rice, white bread, sugar, dried and tropical fruit, potatoes) and not eating any starchy foods other than pulses with a meal containing saturated fats ie any meal containing meat, cheese, butter, cream or eggs.

When it comes to drinking dry wine and champagne are allowed in small quantities, but sugary cocktails, diet or sugary mixers and beer are all out.

The Montignac Method promotes weight loss by regulating insulin production and in particular by reducing the damage of eating fatty foods by minimising insulin production when eating these foods. It also cuts out the addictive sugar and refined carbohydrates reducing the likelihood of over-eating. This means no crisps, biscuits, refined breakfast cereals and chocolate bars, but you can still enjoy a cheese board (no crackers). dark chocolate and fruit.

As for the dating scene, if you're lucky you may find a partner who has some healthy eating and exercise habits you might pick up. If you're a die hard carnivore and find yourself dating a vegetarian, instead of being horrified embrace it and try out some vegetarian restaurants.

If your new beau/belle is sporty then base some dates around an activity, play a game of tennis, go for a swim or even take up 'brunch jogging', which is Ms Haribos excellent idea of going for a run with friends motivated by the reward of brunch afterwards.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Lifting the fog

Apologies if you all saw this story during Wimbledon, but somehow I totally missed the news that Novak Djokavic found Wimbledon success having followed a strict gluten free diet for a year on the recommendation of his nutritionist.

Djokovic isn't the first top athlete to benefit by following a gluten free diet, Paula Radcliffe recovered from her gastric problems and fatigue during the Greece Olympics by giving up gluten.

But what's interesting about this article in the Wall Street Journal is that Djokovic benefited from cutting out gluten not just physically (it turns out even athletes aren't immune to holding excess water weight) but also mentally, with improved mental focus.

Brain fog is a common symptom with food intolerances and I'm sure accounts for a significant portion of the glazed expressions I often see on colleagues after a sandwich or pasta based lunch.

Fortunately you don't need to be able to afford a top notch nutritionist to work out if wheat or gluten are a problem for you. Just give up wheat for two weeks and see how you feel:

Are you mentally clearer?
Have you lost some weight?
Do you feel less bloated?

If the answer to all three questions is yes then it's probably a good idea to limit your wheat intake to the occasional treat. It's also worth taking the next step and cutting out gluten too ... you might not win Wimbledon but you may feel a lot better for it.

Full article:


Monday, 25 July 2011

The switch

I don't have a lot of free time so as a result don't watch a lot of TV. This is probably a good thing as a lot of the advertisements, particularly regarding food, wind me up.

However this weekend, whilst watching a movie, I saw an ad for Quorn that I actually thought was sending a good message.

The advertisement suggested switching regular sausages for quorn vegetarian sausages as a simple way to make sausage and mash healthy. Now whilst I'm not a fan of Quorn products myself, there are lots of great tasting vegetarian substitutes for unhealthy cuts of meat available in the supermarkets.

By substituting these into your favourite dishes you will dramatically reduce the saturated fat (and total fat) content making the dish much healthier and at the same time reducing the calories of your meal for those trying to lose weight. Vegetable based replacements will have the added bonus of upping your fibre intake benefiting your bowels (meat consumption is not good for bowel health).

Easy switches to make are:
vegetarian sausages in sausage and mash (I like Cauldron veggie sausages) or in a brunch sausage sandwich
Veggie burgers in wholemeal rolls for a bbq (tesco do tasty soy, mushroom or spicy bean burgers)
Substitute kidney beans for mince in chilli con carne
Use soy mince or lentils instead of mince in bologneise

For those die hard meat eaters amongst you don't dismiss this suggestion out of hand - at a recent party we served soy burgers rather than beef burgers and they went down well with the meat and non-meat eaters alike.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

A bit of a dish

Whilst new relationships are great for the psyche they can be bad for the waistline ... with a few pounds of 'happy fat' easily accruing. This isn't surprising as eating out in fancy restaurants or impressing your partner with your culinary skills at home is an integral part of courtship.

Luckily for me the new BF not only enjoys cooking but is just as happy to cook up healthy creations as rich and heavy dishes. So this weeks recipe wasn't actually prepared by myself, but the hot doc made it look so easy I think even I could manage it. It's reasonably quick to prepare, impressive looking and delicious so great to impress your date. The minty pea sauce would also be great served as a pea and mint soup on it's own served with a crusty wholemeal (or gluten free) roll.

Sea Bass and Scallops with Minty Pea sauce

First make the pea sauce. Heat 2 tsp olive oil in a saucepan and saute one small shallot very gently, stirring, until soft but not brown, about 1 minute. Add 1/2tsp minced garlic, 225g frozen peas thawed, 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves and 250ml vegetable stock from 500ml. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the peas are tender, about 5 minutes. Puree in a blender, adding enough of the remaining stock to give a thick but pourable consistency. Return to the pan and set aside.

Season 2 small (115g each) sea bass fillets and 4 king (or 8 small) scallops with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in the frying pan until very hot but not smoking. Saute the sea bass, skin-side down, with the scallops until golden, 1–2 minutes. Gently turn the fish and scallops over and quickly sear the other sides for 1–2 minutes longer. Take care not to overcook the fish. Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Reheat the pea sauce and spoon onto deep, warmed plates, spreading it out to a large pool. Place two pieces of sea bass, skin-side down, and two scallops on top of each pool and garnish with chopped fresh chives.

Serve with sides of steamed fine green beans and boiled new potatoes drizzled with olive oil.

Read More

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Stripping in the city

Finding yourself on stage in front of a couple of hundred people in just your underwear is likely most peoples idea of a nightmare but this clearly wasn't the case for the cast of Wunderkammer the circus show currently on at the barbican. The cast managed to somehow incorporate some element of stripping into pretty much every segment of their show, including the trapeze act (much to Miss Haribos delight) and their curtain call!

Still they had nothing to worry about, circus skills are incredibly physically demanding resulting in a lean cut physique. However for the rest of us, suffering from 'desk bottom', the sight of honed abs provoked serious body envy!

Whilst joining the circus is an extreme course of action to stay in shape, doing exercises that use multiple muscle groups such as rowing, kettle bells, medicine balls and sandbag training can be very effective for toning up. Not only can these exercises help get you to look good in your undies, but they can also be highly beneficial physically encouraging good posture, core strength and lymphatic drainage throughout the body.

Crossfit training, based in canary Wharf ( offer intensive full body circuit training and periodically hold free park sessions as a taster. However if the idea of heaving around kettle bells and sandbags turns you off there are also more fun ways to achieve this: gardening (weeding and mowing), modern dancing (particularly hip hop and pole dancing) and of course circus classes, available in the city at circus space and in Greenwich at aircraft circus, for all the fun you'll be having swinging from the trapeze you'll forget you're even working out!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The ex factor

I do get a few odd looks when I tell people how much I love going to they gym .. but I don't think I'm as perculiar as some of my friends make out - I'd say amongst clients the number who need to do more exercise and the number who exercise too much is roughly equal.

I think it's because us city types can be very driven and don't do things by halves, so we can be a bit all or nothing. This means it's not uncommon to meet city folk who've been overexercising for sometime and suddenly find that their energy has crashed - and this is something that I've experienced. If I had my way I'd work out for two hours a day but on top of a busy schedule and without enough time to rest and relax I know this just isn't good for me.

The reason for this is that exercise, particularly high endurance or duration, is stressful on the body. This stress wears out our adrenal glands by making them produce too much stress hormones - and once they are fatigued all sorts of things go out of wack - thyroid function is impaired, immune function starts over-reacting (frequent colds and food allergies), we are no longer able to cope with stress (tearfulness/getting angry or anxious easily) and fat burning is reduced and sometimes impossible (you can exercise every day and not lose a pound).

On top of this, high intensity exercise produces alot of antioxidants in the body, this can impair immunity, damage cells, accelerate ageing and increase your risk of diseases related to oxidative damage such as cancer and cardiovascular disease ... "wow, exercise should come with a health warning!" I hear you say! My intention isn't to put anyone off from exercising but it is important to put some consideration into your routine and nutrition to make sure your exercise routine is being beneficial. Here's how:

- Never exercise on an empty stomach - the 90s trend of exercising first thing on an empty stomach to burn fat is a sure fire way to create stress in the body. Even if you just have a couple of bites of banana, a small amount of carbohydrate before exercise can move it from stressful to beneficial. Fruit and fruit smoothies are good for this, as is fruit juice if you can't stomach anything more solid.

- your muscles need two things to recover from exercise - protein and rest. This means having at least two rest days a week and not doing weights on same muscle group two days in a row. Along with regular rest it's also a good idea to have a full week off twice a year. As for the protein it's best if you can have this within 1.5 hours of completing your exercise. Good options are whey or rice protein mixed into a fruit smoothie, a tuna sandwich, natural yoghurt.

- after high intensity exercise - spinning, running, rowing - for more than 40 mins then it's a good idea to have some fast digesting carbs straight after - infact this is the only time you should have high GI carbs. These will lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels and replace glycogen stores stoppingthe next day insatiable appetite for carbs you can get after an intensive workout.

- don't undertake intensive exercise over 40 mins more than once a week (a 1 hr gym class is ok with warm up and cool down and stretch). If necessary break up weights and cardio into two separate workouts. Exercising over 40 minutes can significantly increase stress levels reducing recovery and slowing muscle building and repair. Because of this I think splitting personal training sessions into two 30 minute sessions a week is more beneficial than having a 1 hour session.

- if you do exercise regularly and intensively make sure you counteract this will active relaxation, take a yoga class, have a massage and get plenty of sleep.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

French lessons on lunch

Apologies for yesterdays absence, I was feeling a bit under the weather so for once taking my own advice and taking it easy which meant no Blogging.

Just to round off my French theme from last week, Ms Haribo (always a source of useful articles) kindly sent me this article from the Independent on the difference between the French and English approaches to lunch. Worth a read for the historical context if you have five minutes, but as most of you are busy bees I'll summarize:

In essence the French treat lunchtime as a proper break, which is what it should be, and make sure they spend at least 60 minutes not working - this usually means a sit down lunch in a restaurant, not a sandwich inhaled at a desk whilst reading emails.

Whilst I'm sure we'd all love to take an hour for lunch or eat off the desk I know it's not practical, or sometimes acceptable, to do so - however if you're one of those people who's eaten their lunch within 15 minutes without taking a break from work than I urge you to reconsider.

Other than just not being a pleasurable experience, eating this way is bad for your health. Firstly if you are working you won't be physically relaxed and you're also likely to be hunched over your desk and not sat up straight - this means your digestion will be impaired which can lead to bloating, indigestion and incomplete digestion leading to food intolerances.

Secondly, being sat still all day makes you more likely to develop type II diabetes or insulin resistance so taking a walk after you've eaten is a good idea to help balance blood sugar and avoid the post-lunch slump and perhaps longer term health problems.

Finally, it's a total fallacy that you'll complete more work if you work through lunchtime - no one can maintain concentration and efficiency without a break - you should try to have a 5 minute break every hour and at least a half hour break from work at lunchtime. Try and eat away from your desk, either in a canteen or local eatery and if there really isn't anywhere else to eat then eat at your desk but lock your computer so you can't work whilst you eat and then go out for at least a 10 minute walk to get some fresh air. Without the afternoon slump you may even find you get more work done.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Lesson Trois: Taking your time

I was chatting with a friend on Friday about how relaxed I felt on my holiday and how I'm sure that had alot to do with having a break from the blackberry (I'm pretty disciplined about not reading my emails on holiday).

I'm sure many of you find the fast pace of London life pretty tiring, and one of the great things about holiday is just enjoying a slower pace of life. Even in Paris I think the pace is slower than London and a bigger emphasis is placed on work life balance - as a consequence people don't seem to be rushing about as much or with such tense facial expressions as you see in the morning commute.

This slower pace has alot to do with why the French live longer and seem to have a greater joie de vivre ... if you don't give yourself a second to rest and relax it's unlikely you're going to be enjoying life and stress is one of the biggest factors in ageing and health deterioration.

This slower pace also applies to food - the French eat much later than we do (I'm always starving by the time dinner is served) but they also take alot longer over their meals ... courses are more spread out and usually punctuated by grand debates, food is chewed more slowly and savoured and wine is sipped throughout the meal, rather than downed in a bar after work as you often see on a Thursday in the city!!! This is not only more sociable and civilized than whizzing through a meal, but also allows more complete digestion and gives your body time to detect when your appetite is satisfied.

I think sharing a good meal with friends is actually one of life's great pleasures and certainly something I'm going to make more time for, but even if you're eating solo, take time over your meal, enjoy your food, enjoy a bit of peace and quiet and let yourself sit and digest for at least 10 minutes after you've finished eating ... you may find yourself in a much better mood than when you started.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

French lesson deux: Accept nothing but the best

There's a reason you won't find French people eating soya cheese or low calorie diet yoghurt - simply that it doesn't taste as good as the original.

You see for the French eating and pleasure go hand in hand, so if something doesn't taste good they just won't eat it. This means no processed chocolate bars, ready-sliced loaves full of preservatives or unnaturally flavoured crisps (no cheesey wotsits)!

In the same way that if I'm going to indulge (usually in pudding) I want to eat the best of whatever it is I fancy - the French apply this approach to everything they eat.

Essentially if something doesn't taste good they'll discard it and eat something else. This doesn't just apply to indulgent treats, fruit must be ripe and juicy, vegetables tender and flavoursome, bread freshly baked, fish and meat super fresh.

This means the French are a very demanding consumer, and as a consequence the quality of the groceries in their supermarkets is much higher. Infact during my regular stops to acquire picnics at Carrefour and Intermarche I more than once declared that I wanted to move to France, purely based on the quality of food in the supermarkets. It's just a shame that British consumers aren't so demanding.

So for French lesson number 2: only buy the best ingredients and don't eat any food where you're not positively enjoying how it tastes. I've already discarded this morning breakfast on the basis of taste, although fortunately my lunch made the cut!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

French lesson 1 part 2

On reflection the French don't just have variety between their meals, but also in their meals. Whereas us Brits are more inclined to make one big dish - say a lasagne or risotto, and then just eat one big serving of it, the French will have several courses within a meal.

Admittedly they won't serve the 5 to 6 courses I was presented with every day (appetizers, starter, main, salad course, cheese, dessert, dessert wine and chocolates!), however all meals will be made up of a few components.

For example breakfast might be some fruit to start, a slice of wholegrain toast with jam (always go for St Dalfour) or some muesli and a natural yoghurt along with a cup of tea or coffee (herbal to be healthy).

Lunch will start with some salad or vegetable soup, followed by meat or fish with another vegetable side dish and either a carbohydrate dish or some bread on the side and then a simple pudding of fruit or natural yoghurt. followed by coffee (have decaf or herbal tea instead)

Dinner, will follow the same formula as lunch, but including a cheese course and perhaps with a more sophisticated pudding either involving fruit (fruit tart is a favourite) or chocolate mousse or torte (the french cook with good quality chocolate rather than eating processed chocolate bars).

All sounds much more appealing than a big bowl of cereal, a sandwich lunch and a big bowl of pasta for dinner, but it's also better for you. Having this kind of structure increases variety, increases the amount of fruit and veg you're having but also will make you feel more satisfied - studies have shown that if you eat just one food in a meal you will eat more of it than if you eat a variety.

So as an addition to yesterdays lesson on variety between the days, it's also worth putting some thought into how to introduce variety within your meals - it may just mean adding an extra salad course, or some fruit and yoghurt to your breakfast. Make sure you reduce your portion sizes to compensate, but as usual our appetite should guide you on how much you eat and you may be surprised how much quicker you feel satisfied by having multiple courses.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

French lessons

Whilst it is unlikely that my digestive system will ever be able to tolerate a diet of croissants and cheese, I've left France determined to take on board some lessons on their approach to food and eating.

Why? Well firstly you only have to spend an afternoon in Paris to notice the notable absence of obese people. Most Parisians from all ages and sexes are a healthy weight and often noticeably slim (but not in a scary American over-exercised way).
Secondly, despite their slimness they can be seen enjoying food that most of us would avoid in an effort to lose weight, without gaining a pound.

Whilst I was taking a week off from working, I did still pay attention to the French diet and approach to food, exercise and life from which I'll try and form into some useful lessons to share with you all.

Lesson One: Keep things interesting

Whilst trying to finish a dessert at the end of a four course lunch (my stomach was ready to burst) at my Uncles house I commented that whilst I was enjoying the food immensely, if I were to eat like that all the time I would be overweight. He firmly rebuffed me (in embarrassingly good English, given my French) "No! You would not get fat - the French are not fat. What is important is that they don't eat the same food every day".

This is very true ... the French don't eat the same food every day, they don't serve the same meat or fish two days in a row, they vary their breakfasts and lunches and they don't eat cream cakes every day - only as a treat. This isn't just the view of my Uncle, the renowned Doctor Mouton (the Hercule Poirot of thyroid medicine) also made a very similar statement to me in relation to food allergies and intolerances - if you eat the same food every day you are much more likely to develop an intolerance to it, leading to digestive and immune symptoms which can infact suppress thyroid function, slowing your metabolism.

However food intolerances are not the main reason I believe this approach works, I think there are two factors to this:

1) Eating a varied diet keeps your food interesting - when food doesn't taste good, or is repetitive we lose enjoyment and that's when we generally switch to mindless eating, usually mindless over-eating. The French only eat food that tastes good, and they change what they eat each day, so their food is always enjoyable, making them feel psychologically more satisfied and negating comfort eating (a pretty foreign concept to the French).

2) Eating a varied diet makes you less likely to develop nutrient deficiencies - A French person is unlikely to see the point of a nutritionist or nutritional therapist, or know what they do. They are equally unlikely to know the calories, fibre, fat or vitamin content of any of the food they eat. But infact by rotating their food and not eating the same meals over and over again they will automatically be consuming a broader range of nutrients than someone who eats the same meals each day, so it's not something they really need to worry about. They also eat food that is much fresher (often shopping for fresh produce on a daily rather than weekly basis) and usually grown or produced locally, this means the food will have a higher nutrient content. Altogether this means the French diet is likely to be richer in vitamins and minerals and consequently more satisfying to the body - if the body is missing a nutrient it will upregulate appetite in the hope you will eat a food rich in that nutrient.

Taking on board this lesson I'm going to try and not have the same breakfast, lunch or dinner any day this week. This isn't that easy if you're already on a fairly restrictive diet, but definitely something worth trying. For any readers wanting to give it a go start by writing down all the meals you ate last week, see what gets repeated and start switching in alternatives. In particular try not to eat the same grain (corn, rice, wheat, oats, spelt, barley etc.), type or meat or fish or fruit or veg two days in a row - a bit of head scratching may occur, but you also might start eating foods or trying alternatives that you wouldn't have considered before.

A menu that would meet this criteria would be:

Day 1
Breakfast: Oat based muesli with nuts and fresh berries
Lunch: Omelette and babyleaf salad
Snack: Carrot sticks with hummous
Dinner: Salmon with steamed greens and brown rice

Day 2
B: Wholegrain (or gluten free) toast with nut butter and a banana
L: Sushi with edamame beans
S: Pear with a few almonds
D: Baked sweet potato with vegetarian chilli

Day 3
B: Porridge with grated apple and milled flax seeds
L: Wholegrain or gluten free pasta salad with tuna and mediterranean veg
S: Berry smoothie
D: Prawn stir fry with Quinoa

Day 4
B: Soft boiled eggs with rye bread soldiers and a plum
L: Leon Chicken hot dish with brown rice and coleslaw
S: Small bowl of strawberries
D: Grilled beef (or tofu) kebabs with fresh corn on the cob and babyleaf salad

Day 5
B: Mixed fruit salad with natural (or soya) yoghurt
L: Wholegrain sandwich with chicken and avocado
S: Oatcakes topped with goats cheese
D: Grilled mackerel or trout seasoned with lemon and pepper, served with tomato and rocket salad and crushed new potatoes

Monday, 11 July 2011

Vive la difference!

Bonjour readers!

First up a massive thank you to Miss Haribo for her excellent blogs last week - I've already had a couple of readers say how much they enjoyed them - I fear I may be out of a job if I let her continue!! I hope as a result you've all signed up for some cookery lessons and circus skills classes!

Miss Haribo always exemplifies herself with her blogging honesty, and so following in her footsteps I must confess that my wonderful holiday last week was spent breaking every single piece of nutritional advice I give (well bar not drinking too much - it only takes one glass of champagne to make me giddy these days!!).

As I've blogged previously, trying to follow a meat, dairy and gluten free diet in France presents a bit of a challenge - one that I've stepped up to in the past by travelling with vast quantities of gluten and dairy free snack, by scrutinising restaurant menus and generally avoiding eating out. However a combination of very little packing space and eating several meals en famille (yes NITC is infact half French) meant that totally avoiding these foods was near-on impossible without excommunication from the family (at one meal every one of the five courses involved either wheat or dairy). As a result I decided to throw caution to the wind and let myself have a full week off - which meant no gym, no yoga, and lots and lots of cheese and croissants!!

Whilst this was all highly enjoyable my 'Kirsty Alley' fear was at the back of my mind - that by letting myself eat with total abandon a switch would flip and I'd never be able to return to healthy eating. Fortunately these fears were unfounded ... by day four I found I'd reached my cheese quota and by day five I'd gone in search of gluten free bread (the larger French supermarkets have fortunately in the last year introduced comprehensive dairy and gluten free sections). I came home craving light low-fat cooking and delighted in my lunch of vegan Nori superfood rolls (courtesy of Pod) and dinner of Vietnamese Prawn and rice noodle salad ... yum!

Infact my week off made me appreciate healthy food even more and made me grateful to live in a city where healthy intolerance friendly food is available for every meal - try finding a takeaway snack that is gluten and dairy free in Paris! So whilst we might moan about the quality of food here, compared to on the continent, it's worth being thankful for the great range of food also available to us.

More on how the French manage to stay so slim on their cheese, chocolate and wine diet (most definitely not a myth) later in the week!

ps Popping candy on your breakfast is not endorsed by nutritional therapists!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

try something new for 30 days

I am a massive devotee of Ted Talks. Partly because the wide range of subjects in bit size formats allows me to sound much more intelligent than I actually I am. But also because there are some pretty inspiring talks out there. Just go to and you'll see what I mean.

This one arrived on my iTunes recently.

It's a short light hearted talk about making new habits. But the most striking thing is how right at the beginning he says it makes your life much more memorable.

I do something similar: every month I try something new. Some of my thing have included flying trapeze, circus silks, appearing in a bodypaint animation, and some interactive theatre. And these have often been the higlight of my month, and often I 've ended up incorporating it into my life.
Emilie's blogged before about getting into a food rut, but the same applies to life in general. It's easy to get into a routine and end up doing the same thing all the time.

With exercise it's well known that shaking up your routine from time to time has massive benefits as otherwise your body gets accustomed to the exercise and you don't get the same benefits.

So try something new for 30 days, or try something you've never done before.

Emilie will be back next week with her much wiser advice.

Miss Haribo

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

becoming bendy

Sorry to anyone who was a bit surprised to see a lengthy disclaimer on the end of last night's blog post. That is the danger of writing a post on a blackberry.

In fact it is safe to say that last night I think I broke all of emilie's good lifestyle advice. I was in the gym so long and late that I had to sprint to catch the last train home. I ate dinner on the train whilst writing the blog and then went for drinks when I got off the train. And I ended up stressed and barely slept. The only positive thing was that I had anticipated this and packed a salad to eat after the gym the night before.

There really is a benefit in taking time out to relax. But it is really difficult for people like me, and sometimes the idea of doing nothing is almost sacrilege. But as I sat trying to torture myself into splits in tonight's dance class (I am not even close to doing them) it occurred to me that even I have come to love yoga.

I originally took it up to help deal with an injury and improve my terrible flexibility but I can definitely say that I am not only stronger and more flexible but also a lot calmer and relaxed.

So that is my advice for today: give yoga a go. There are so many varieties out there and the teacher really makes a difference to the class so don't let the fact that you tried it before put you off from trying again.

Miss haribo

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

A natural life
I am sure Emile has blogged before on the dangers of relying on low fat versions of foods but I saw this article on freakonomics which I thought gave it a new spin. Basically if your body is prepared to receive a lot of calories and it doesn't happen it gets very confused.

I thought this chimed well with general advice to avoid overly manufactured food. I was once told to avoid anything you grandmother would not recognise as food and I think that is a good rule of thumb to follow.

Miss haribo

Monday, 4 July 2011

Fish fun

My geekiness extends to loving school and learning so today I attended a fish cooking class.

I am sure we've all heeded Emilie's advice to eat at least two portions of oily fish a week and to eat less meat. But it is hard sometimes to put it into practice. Cooking fish is somehow more intimidating than cooking meat. Partly because it hardly ever comes conveniently packaged (M and S is a notable exception), and I find the fish counter quite intimidating.

But one of the great things about living in London is that everything is on your doorstep. So today I learnt how to pick fish in the market and know it is fresh; clean and prepare squid; filllet a fish;  made a delicious thai green fish curry and some fried mackerel.
I'll share the recipes when they email them through. But in the mean time I can highly recommend taking a class to brush up on some skills.

Today's class was at the classrooms culinary academy by Blackfriars station but I have also had good classes at Atelier de chefs

Miss Haribo

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Alice in Wonderland Tea

Miss Haribo here

Today I definitely indulged in one of my 20% bad times and had a very delicious afternoon tea with a friend. This was pretty special as (apart from the fact I try to avoid sugar and cake) it was based on the theme of Alice in Wonderland. So  amongst other things there was a 'drink me' bottle with three different flavours, a queen of hearts strawberry mousse, a popping candy ice cream lollipop and another one that turned my mouth hot.

Don't worry, this isn't going to turn into a week of blogging anarchy. There is a nutritional point to this. I spent five years in Barcelona, which is probably the heartland of experimental cooking: Ferran Adria's El Bulli is (was) about an hour away and the city is full of chefs who have trained there and have set up their own places. I love experimental food (I am a member of the experimental food society) so it was great to have food as pure entertainment again (although the sugary delights didn't match up to Espai Sucre in Barcelona).

It reminded me of something Emilie always says: that too often we don't take the time to really sit and enjoy our food; that we often eat whilst watching TV or reading or otherwise being distracted and don't focus on the meal in front of us. Which can lead to more snacking later as your brain apparently doesn't really form the memory of eating (recent study below). Focusing on the food not only makes for a more relaxing experience but also a more memorable one.

So on that note I'm off to add some popping candy to my muesli, yummmmy

Miss Haribo