Tuesday, 31 January 2012
Back in the day when I wasn't expecting to be home before 9 I'd often eat my dinner (and breakfast and lunch!) at work so wouldn't get home hungry, but tonight I got home at 9 having had nothing more than a few rice cakes as my afternoon snack.
The problem is that eating this close to bedtime is likely to disrupt your sleep, making it hard to get to sleep and possibly causing disturbed sleep. So if you're getting home late you need to eat something fast to prepare and quick to digest but sustaining enough to keep you asleep til the alarm goes off (early morning waking is often due to blood sugar levels falling too low).
So what's the best choice? Well infact breakfast is the answer? Healthy breakfast choices make good late night suppers. Something high in fibre, low in fat, preferably with a bit of protein but not too much, and super quick to pull together:
- Muesli with plenty of nuts and seeds is a good filling high fibre choice.
- Fresh fruit with natural yoghurt and seeds is also satisfying and sustaining.
- Sardines or poached eggs, or avocado + hummous for a veggie choice, on wholegrain toast are all superquick and tasty.
It may seem odd eating a bowl of muesli before bed, but you'll eat earlier and probably healthier than if you faff around trying to cook something or heat up a ready meal. It should also leave some time to unwind before bed - preferably an hour to give your food time to digest.
Monday, 30 January 2012
However, it's not all about you! The relationships we have around us are such an important part of our lives, that whilst we're obsessing over our own health regimes, we mustn't get blinkered and neglect to support our friends loved ones, especially in any efforts to make positive changes themselves.
Whilst diet sabotage is ever prevalent (friends pressuring you to eat pudding when you're trying to eat healthily, colleagues trying to drag you down the pub when you were planning to go to the gym) helping your friends be healthy, isn't just showing them support it's helping them live a long and healthy life - which is surely worthwhile! And you might get a bit healthier yourself on the way.
There are plenty of ways you can do this, but here are a few to get you started:
- know someone who's struggling to sleep? Offer them a green tea instead of an Americano - if you can get them to switch entirely they'll sleep better and be getting some extra antioxidants.
- know someone who's trying to quit smoking? Buy them a copy of Alan Carr's Quit smoking and keep them distracted when they have cravings. If they need a cigarette with a drink, make plans to meet over lunch instead of a pint, or catch-up over a game of squash or a round of golf.
- got a pal who's trying get into exercise? Offer to join them at the gym or plan a weekly saturday morning jog followed by brunch.
- have a friend on a diet? Not sure what regime they're following? Let them choose the venue so they can stick to their diet.
- take a basket of fruit round to a sick friend, or bring healthy snacks to the office instead of cookies and share them with your colleagues.
Sunday, 29 January 2012
Miss Haribo here!
January is almost over and I bet quite a few of us have already given up on those New Year resolutions to stop drinking and do a painting course, while giving up give up cheese and going to the gym more. Congratulations to those to haven’t but to those who have it’s only normal.
Sometimes our short-term self sabotages our longer-term goals. Or in other words we make decisions today that our future self would prefer us not to make. I’m sure we’ve all regretted some on the couch eating crisp sessions, or having a few too many drinks at an after-work drinks. This is what economists like to call time inconsistency, and often stem from hyperbolic preferences, which mean that we discount the near future incredibly heavily.
It’s ok for the couch or the gratin dauphinous to win occasionally (I believe 20% of the time), but what can we do to stop ourselves sabotaging our future selves? The answer is commitment devices.
These aren’t as difficult as you might think. Just telling someone about your goal and asking them to monitor you will help, as can arranging to do exercise with a friend. For example, I often make ‘gym dates’ with a work colleague early in the morning, this way I know she’s watching me and that I’m watching her.
Thursday, 26 January 2012
One key area in effective detox is lymphatic drainage. The lympahtic system carries toxins away from the cells to be detoxified by the liver so if the lymph system is congested you can't detox effectively.
One of the reasons cellulite is concentrated in the butt region is because sitting down all day reduces circulation to that area.
So how do you boost lymphatic circulation:
Well exercise is the obvious solution as the contraction of your muscles squeeze the lymph vessels and move the fluid around. However intensive exercise isn't recommended during a deep detox. Yoga is therefore a great compliment to detox as it moves the muscles and lymph fluid, whilst also increasing oxygen intake through deep breathing.
Manual massage is the super lazy way to drain your lymph fluid, and can be more effective than exercise, particularly if you have lymphatic drainage massage which is available at Elemis spas and other beauty salons. This kind of massage is focussed on the lymph nodes and channels and can be uncomfortable, but at the same time very effective. Be warned, you are likely to feel woozy the next day from all the toxins it unsticks - so go on a friday after work, drink lots of water and have an early night to let your liver process the toxins.
Endermology is a manual massage using a vacuum cleaner type machine. It's not relaxing, and can be uncomfortable, but it does work and can reduce cellulite when combined with a detox diet.
Coming back to Magdas original question, colonhydrotherapy can also be used to aid detox along with enemas (water or caffeine). These are obviously more invasive than having a massage, so why go through this?
Well, as I said before, if you are constipated then a detox may not be that effective as you may be reabsorbing toxins from your bowel. Therefore some form of manual colon cleanse at the start of your detox can really help clear out your bowels and make your detox more effective.
That being said I wouldn't recommend everyone has one done and that's because your bowel has it's own bacterial population and having a hydrotherapy treatment can disrupt this. Therefore if your bowel movements are regular and your not experiencing high toxicity then I wouldn't suggest having a hydrotherapy treatment. Whereas if you are highly toxic or constipated then a cleanse can give you a clean start, so you should follow it with a course of probitics and a detox diet, to encourage the healthy bacteria.
The beauty of a detox is that you can customize how you do it, for how long and do whatever extra treatments you fancy to go with it. So when it warms up it's worth spending a bit of time to design your own detox and reap the benefits.
Wednesday, 25 January 2012
That being said they can help speed your detox along and make it a bit less painful.
The key is not just to buy the latest fad 'cleanse' supplement but to think about what you need and pick accordingly.
Firstly you need antioxidants - the liver uses these in the chemical processes by which it neutralizes and excretes toxins. However on a detox diet you'll be getting loads of these from all the fruit + veg you're eating. A couple you might not be getting are CoQ10 and vitamin D which are found in meat, fish and eggs, so are worth supplementing if you're not eating these.
Secondly, if you're constipated, you may need some bulking fibre supplements. These will help speed up your excretion process which is what you want for effective detox. You can reabsorb toxins from the bowel if things aren't moving along as they should be and these fibres can instead trap them to stop reabsorption and make sure your bowel movements are regular. Simple natural laxatives such as flax seeds and psyllium husks can be effective for this but if you need something stronger go for natural fig or papaya based laxatives.
Thirdly, depending on how toxic you are, you may experience some unpleasant detox side effects - headaches, lethergy, even flu-like symptoms and this is where taking something extra can really help you get to the end of your detox:
-Milk thistle extract taken in water can help with these symptoms, whether you're on a detox of just have a hangover from over indulging. Take it in the morning with fresh grapefruit juice to kick your liver into action - grapefruit stimulates the first stage of the detox process.
- dandelion coffee is my personal favourite for dealing with detox and is especially good in helping with brain foggyness. Don't go for the powdered version with added lactose, brew it up from the root and have a cup every few hours.
- detox teas are a great, lazy, way to benefit from som detox herbs. Pukka, twinings, Dr Stuart and Yogi tea, all make good ones, but you may need to try a few to find ones you like the taste of. Have 3 cups a day.
And finally, you need plenty of water, preferably filtered or mineral, to help flush out the toxins and prevent water retention - buy a 1.5litre bottle at work and make sure you've drunk it by the end of the day.
Sunday, 22 January 2012
Wednesday, 18 January 2012
This months zen approach is very much about making small changes that aren't too traumatic so you'll keep them up for good. And little changes can be the best investments in the long-run - perhaps they don't make a big difference over a fortnight, but accumulated over months they could make a big difference and turn into natural habits.
Therefore, if you're not on any particular regime right now maybe consider making a little daily health investment, kind of like building up a pension pot to pay out in your old age.
Think of one thing you can do each day until the end of January to pay into your health pension and keep you healthy in the long-run.
Here are some ideas to get you started, doing the whole list would be a bit much but just one a day is totally manageable:
- add a big salad to your lunch or dinner to give you extra antioxidants
- don't add salt to your meal to reduce your chance of hypertension
- curtail your evening tv viewing and go to bed half an hour earlier
- get off the tube a stop to early and walk the extra distance to help burn excess fat
- sit in a sauna for 10 minutes or soak in a warm epsom salt bath to detox and promote immune function
- cut the fat or skin off meat before cooking it or even better choose a vegan meal for lunch or dinner
- drink water instead of wine with your dinner
- have a massage or do a 10minute meditation/breathing exercise to reduce stress levels and help lower blood pressure
- walk up the escalators in the tube instead of just standing on them to burn fat and get your heart pumping
- sweeten your breakfast with fruit instead of sugar
- have a fresh fruit smoothie or veg juice for your afternoon snack instead of crisps or chocolate
- swap your morning coffee for a green tea
- make your sandwich with brown bread (preferably wheat free) rather than white
- skip dessert in a restaurant and instead enjoy a fresh mint tea
- have a dairy free day and use soya or rice milk if you need a milk substitute
- try a new fruit or vegetable, increasing the antioxidant variety in your diet
- order brown rice with your meal instead of white, the brown husk is rich in b vitamins and stops the sugars digesting too quickly
- give someone a hug. Ok so that's not food related but human touch is a great way to feel loved and give you a lift. Give one and you'll usually get one back (just don't try hugging strangers on the tube!)
Monday, 16 January 2012
Unfortunately the rest of the city is in the same situation and the gym was absolutely packed this evening with quite a few frustrated looking people queueing for treadmills.
If you're training for a competitive event I understand the need for very specific training, but if you just want to be fit and healthy it pays to be flexible on what you do. Setting out on a strict exercise regime is a fasttrack to frustration, either not being able to fit it in or getting to the gym and finding the equipment you want isn't available.
The point is that exercising shouldn't stress you out but should be as pleasurable as possible. This isn't just part of my January zen diet approach, but is also key to maximize fat loss.
Anything that leaves you feeling a negative emotion, be it irritation at waiting for a treadmill or anxiety that you haven't been to the gym enough, promotes the production of stress hormones which in turn encourage the storage of fats, particularly around your waist, as well as increasing your appetite for a double wammy.
So if going to the gym actually stresses you out it could be counterproductive, leaving you with a spare tyre instead of a six pack. Infact look around next time you're in the gym and you'll be able to spot quite a few men and women who appear to exercise regularly so have toned arms and legs, but a noticeable gut, or as Ms Haribo refers to them 'flabs'!
If this is something you suffer from you may want to look at your exercise routine and see if it is a source of stress itself. Cutting down and switching to more enjoyable forms of exercise, rather than trying to stick to a strict intensive regime, could infact leave you both slimmer and happier ... a win-win!
Sunday, 15 January 2012
Everyone's saving money post Christmas and are just not in a party mood so my social calendar is way more empty than usual. In addition a lot of people are subjecting themselves to calorie restrictive diets, which is clearly enough to put anyone in a bad mood.
As I've said before I'm totally anti-calorie controlling when it comes to dieting and eating healthily, mainly because food just isn't that simple and calories don't truly represent what happens in your body. As an example, a guy friend of mine eats a whole 500 calories less than me a day and whilst he's a healthy weight he's taller and is certainly not slimmer than me.
The fact is if I ate 1000 calories of junk food a day I'd gain weight, but instead I eat approx 1800-1900 calories of healthy food which keeps me a healthy size 6.
The key is to eat healthily rather than spend your day adding up meaningless units, and the good news is that whilst everyone's in social hibernation it means less eating out and more time to cook up healthy meals at home. For me this includes cooking mainly vegan food, so no eggs, cheese, dairy or meat, although I do have the odd piece of fish and take iron supplements daily to compensate for the lack of meat.
Whilst quite a few friends of mine have a booze free January, which I applaud and encourage, a meat free January is also something I think most people would benefit from health and waist band wise and it's not as daunting as you think.
I use tofu in my stir fry instead of prawns or chicken, make bologneise or lasagna with lentils instead of beef and just up the kidney beans and leave out the meat to make chilli con carne or healthy burritos. For something super comforting I'll have Sainsbury's soya sausages with new potato and mustard mash, peas and gravy but minus the saturated fats and salt content of pork sausages.
If this still sounds a step to far, then at least try having 'meat-free Mondays' to give your body a break whilst diversifying your repertoire in the kitchen.
As I've time to cook I also try and make up a double portion of my vegan dinner and take the second lot to work for lunch - saving money and making sure I have a healthy lunch. By the time everyone emerges from their January blues I'll have lost weight and ready to don my party dresses once again!
Thursday, 12 January 2012
I’m not for one second suggesting that any of you are dogs! But Pavlov’s research applies to humans also and the same tricks can be used to get yourself into some healthy habits that you’ll do without even thinking.
The trick is to associate something that you do every day automatically, with a healthy habit that you want to form. If you make yourself do the healthy habit everytime you do your everyday task it won’t be more than a couple of weeks before you start doing the two together automatically without even thinking about it or having to motivate yourself.
Here are some easy suggestions to start with but I’m sure you can come up with some better ones yourself – just think about the healthy habits you want to become automatic and then think which regular tasks you can associate them with.
NITC’s Pavlov training:
Drink a glass of water before you eat your dinner
Always have a green salad with your dinner
Take a multivitamin with your breakfast juice every morning
Eat a raw carrot whilst you cook your dinner
Take an essential fat supplement with your dinner
Have a stretch or hold a yoga posture for ten breaths before you get into bed
Every time you unlock or logon to your pc at work take three deep full breaths to reduce stress and improve your oxygen levels and energy
When you’re moisturizing after you’ve taken a shower use your fists to massage the back and sides of your neck to clear your lymph glands
Wednesday, 11 January 2012
I know I might regularly chirp on about how little exercise city types get if they don’t make an effort, but for a couple of days last week I worked from home and realised how much less I moved around compared to a regular day in the office. Just the act of commuting (walking up escalators and to and from the tube station) and walking around the office (my desk is not located particularly close to the toilet) plus getting up from my desk to pick up printing or get drinks and snacks from the canteen or fridge means I do actually move around quite a lot.
Working from home, on the other hand, involves very little moving around at all – my living room and laptop are only 10 metres from my bed and the kitchen is about five steps from my laptop so all in all there isn’t much reason to move around. And I live in flat so there are no steps involved whatsoever. Basically the Kirsty Alley nightmare could quickly become a reality if I worked from home!!
And it’s not just weight gain I’d need to worry about … moving your muscles in essential for proper circulation, avoiding deep vein thrombosis/dangerous blood clots and keeping your immune system functioning properly as it’s only by muscle movement that you can move lymph fluid around your body. Lymph fluid contains your immune cells that help fight infection and also keep cancer in check by killing off the cancerous cells that are constantly created in the body, so it’s pretty important to move that stuff around. Poor circulation can also lead to constipation and headaches so if you suffer from either you may need to move more.
So what’s the answer? Well if you either work from home or are a house wife, you need to be disciplined and take yourself for a walk everyday, or get yourself a dog and then you won’t have a choice!! Getting outside for 30minutes fresh air will not only get your circulation going but help burn off some of those Nachos you were eating in front of Jeremy Kyle … I know you were!!
On a cold winters day it can be horribly tempting to stay in doors, but I find once I’ve been out I feel much better for it.
Monday, 9 January 2012
Wednesday, 4 January 2012
However this year I'm taking a different approach and inline with my zen dieting it's alot more relaxed.
This doesn't mean I'm turning into a couch potato, though, just that I'm going to be less regimented in what I do, and when, and respond to how my body feels when choosing what to do.
It's easiest to explain my approach in terms of questions as with the diet.
If you get to the end of your working day and you've already been to the gym, then bravo! Gold star for you! If however the most exercise you've done is walking to the canteen (not that uncommon) then ask yourself these questions:
Do I have the energy to exercise?
I know most exercise programmes insist you'll feel better if you drag yourself to the gym, come hell or high water, but if you're sleep deprived, over-stressed or ill it can be counter-productive so be honest with yourself.
If the answer is No, then consider at least a 15-20min walk on the way home (just get on the tube a stop later) or 20mins of a gentle yoga or pilates dvd when you get home, just to get your circulation going. Then make sure you have a relaxed evening and an early night.
If the answer is yes then spend a couple of minutes mulling over what you fancy doing.
Sometimes I fancy going to the gym, sometimes I just want to get straight home and then exercise there. There are days when I want to do something quite high impact for 40-50mins like tae bo or spinning and others when I just feel like a gentle cycle or swim for 20 minutes. Weights I usually limit to 30mins as I get bored but cheer myself along with cheesy tunes, and some days I just want to do something silly and put on a cheesy dance workout dvd at home (when no one is looking)! For a truly amusing workout just put on mtv and try and dance along with the routines :-)
By just doing what you fancy you're much more likely to exercise, rather than finding an excuse not to, plus if you're having fun you're less likely to produce as much stress hormones whilst you're working out (stress hormones increase fat retention, especially around your waist).
By the time you get to the weekend you will hopefully have enjoyed a few exercise sessions, but if you haven't done much it's a good time to fit some in. Firstly you have more time to do it and secondly you can catch-up on some sleep so should have more energy.
Think about what you did in the week and balance it out. Did you do all cardio? Then fit in a weights session, bodypump or some other toning class. Didn't have anytime for some stretching or yoga? Then do some after your workout. Are there any muscle groups you didn't work out this week (legs, back, chest, abs, arms)? Then make sure you do some exercise that uses them.
And remember weekend exercise can be more fun, having a kick about in the park, playing tennis or going for a bike ride all count.
We also all need a couple of rest days a week, so if you've been super good during the week then make sure you take Sunday off to chill!
By doing exercise you enjoy, but also resting when you need to, you'll be in better shape (physically and mentally) than trying to stick to the latest ridiculous celebrity exercise regime. Results might not be as quick but in the long run you'll stay fitter and feel happier.