Thursday, 31 May 2012
Anyone working in financial markets will be growing weary of the ongoing euro turmoil and endless speculation as to the outcome for Greece. Whilst it's all a pretty worrying prospect, I think we should all switch off this weekend and forget all about the ongoing turmoil.
Obviously some of you will need to stay tuned in, incase it all kicks off, but for anyone who can I recommend a four day technology detox - no tv, no laptop, no emailing, and no browsing the web on your phone. Calls and texts are fine as long as they're with people you like or preferably just to arrange meeting up. Preferably don't even pickup a newspaper and just make having fun and relaxing your priority for the next few days.
Back when old queenie was coronated there were no mobile phones or internet, let alone facebook. Friendships were maintained in person and boredom filled through activity not surfing the internet or watching reality tv.
Face to face socializing and getting some fresh air are both great for the body and mind. Whilst electronic gadgets can sap your energy, these activities can renew you and leave you feeling refreshed and upbeat.
So fill your weekend with friends and fun. Go to a street party, visit your friends, have a couple of proper lie ins, enjoy a Sunday and Monday night evening out, or take the opportunity to get away from the city altogether and enjoy the great outdoors.
Call your friends to make your plans and then turn off the blackberry and enjoy a technology free jubilee!
Wednesday, 30 May 2012
I find watching this kind of competitive reality television pretty stressful, mainly because I don't enjoy watching other people suffer!
However it reminded me of the little known fact that watching television is actually a stressful activity. You might not think it is as you're lazing on the sofa, but the stimulating nature of television can produce a physiological stress response.
For people who are burnt out it is recommended they avoid tv as much as possible in order to recover, but for anyone in a stressful profession it's important that you don't come home and then spend the whole evening watching tv. Proper down time involves peace and quiet and doesn't involve a screen whether it's a tv or computer.
Lying on the sofa reading a book or magazine is fine, as is taking a bath, going for a walk or just tuning out on the sofa even for just five minutes. Infact I'd recommend you do this first when you get home before switching the tv on.
Once you've spent ten minutes chilling out you'll probably feel re-energized and might want to do something more productive than vegging out infront of the tv!
Tuesday, 29 May 2012
At the moment I'm devouring 'The Sweet Life in Paris', a wonderful book by pastry chef David Lebovitz on his emigration from the US to Paris and culinary adventures along the way. For any Parisophiles this is a must read.
Not only is it an entertaining read but it is also peppered with wonderful recipes, mainly French (crepes, madeleines, endless chocolate desserts) but some not (peanut slaw, pork ribs). They all sound totally delicious and the whole book is making me hanker after a french diet of red wine, bread, cheese, good coffee and dark chocolate.
Sadly, as verified during last years Loire road trip, the french diet does not agree with me. My body tells me firmly and repeatedly that gluten, dairy, alcohol, caffeine and too much sugar don't agree with me and that's just how it is.
Still when so many french people are out there living healthy, happy goats cheese filled lives I find it hard to accept that I can't.
Even if buttery brioche and cheese and ham crepes don't float your boat (how can they not?), I'm sure most of you have experienced some diet envy towards a friend of colleague at some point - the girl at work who eats cake and chocolates whilst staying perfectly slim, the guy friend whose dinner consists of beer and pizza but still has a six pack - but we have to accept that our bodies all react slightly differently to the food and environment that we present them with.
It would be frankly pretty dull if we were all clones who could eat the same way, and our differences are what define us so we should celebrate and accept them all, instead of fighting them.
I might be half french but I'll never be able to live off a diet of bread and cheese. If that's the price I have to pay for feeling healthy and happy I can accept that!
Monday, 28 May 2012
I don't eat out that often so usually treat it as a treat meal* and order what I most like the look of. However eating out is a pretty regular occurrence in the city both with social and work dining and can leave you feeling stodgy and unhealthy.
So whilst the suns out and roast rack of lamb just doesn't appeal it's time to get into the salad habit.
Ordering a salad for your main course used to be the domain of only the strictest dieters, but these days restaurants have become a lot more creative and offer much more in terms of variety and flavour. I recently enjoyed a delicious yellow beetroot salad, and have also had some highly satisfying nicoise salads with fresh
tuna steaks just seared around the city.
Salads are usually the lightest choices in terms of calories and fats (order fish or seafood salads over meat), and usually much higher in veg content to other mains so can seriously help reduce the damage of regularly eating out. Plus in the summer a cooling salad won't leave you uncomfortably sweaty whilst trying to come across as suave and sophisticated to your date.
If you're feeling deprived you can order a less healthy starter for a little plate of deliciousness to satisfy your palate - plus we all know that starters are usually tastier than mains**.
*Having read Ms Haribos recent Grazia I was delighted to learn that popstar
Rhianna has a similar dieting ethos - having one treat day every week to keep her 'happy' and the rest of the time following a diet rich in wholegrains, fruit, vegetables and healthy nuts. Snaps to her for setting a good example.
**if you didn't know this already you will quickly realise it's true!
Sunday, 27 May 2012
What also struck me was how none of the food advertised is anything I'd actually recommend to anyone. Most tv advertised foods are highly artificial and highly processed ... Fast food sandwiches, flavoured sugary yoghurts, chocolate biscuits, ice cream ... basically junk that the body doesn't appreciate.
Healthy unprocessed wholefoods just don't make companies that much money so no one ever advertises them ... have you ever seen an advert for brown rice or fresh vegetables?
Despite my scepticism, advertising obviously does work because of all the money thrown at it, so given all the junk food advertising it's no surprise that britain has an obesity problem and rising rates of diabetes and heart disease.
Even when you're having a treat such as a dessert or some cookies, the best ones in health and usually in taste are homemade, not the ones you buy in a packet in a shop. If something can last in your cupboards for months think of it as a dead food, it's not going to be health giving.
If you're not a dab hand in the kitchen, then at least buy fresh goodies that have an expiry date of under a week and remember ... if a food is advertised on the tv it's probably not good for you!
Thursday, 24 May 2012
Unfortunately most of the conversation is not suitable material for the blog, not that you wouldn't find it entertaining!
However something that we did talk about was Zen Dog's recent ten day silent meditation retreat. A silent retreat is something I should definitely do at some point, but something that would definitely pose a challenge for me!
Zen dog's silent retreat was a pretty challenging one. For ten days you wake up at 4am, meditate for 8 hours a day, don't talk to anyone, don't read anything, eat only two meals a day and have no meat products, fish, caffeine, sugar, wheat, dairy - basically just eat very healthy vegan food.
Sounds a bit crazy, but it gives you such a break from city living - it's the total antidote - pure diet and total brain detox. Interestingly zen dog, who is a pretty healthy soul, still experienced quite dramatic detox effects and took 6 days to come through the fog.
This just shows how much we all do need to detox, even us healthy ones. We store so much of the rubbish we're exposed to, but it's not til we give our body a proper break that we can we process it all and realise how much toxic junk we're storing ... it's making me think it's time for a detox!
For more details on the retreat visit www.dhamma.org
Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Usually the act of writing this diary brings about a realisation in the author of what they shouldn't be eating and what bad habits they've fallen into, so they don't even need to be told what these are.
I think there's something about writing things down that make you face up to reality, but even more so if you know it will be read by someone else.
Still there's no need to fork out on an expert to read it - just buddy up with a good friend who you can be totally honest with. At the end of every day send your bud a quick email of your food and exercise diary for the previous day.
It'll quickly shame you into clearing up your bad habits. Plus you might develop some healthy competition and spur each other on!
Tuesday, 22 May 2012
I saw loads of joggers, cyclists, kids, on scooters, a few kickabouts going on in the park and some people just chilling out with friends in the sunshine.
Getting outdoors is so good for us and something city folk don't do enough of. Firstly, if you avoid the roads, it gets some fresh air into your lungs, secondly it gives our skin a chance to manufacture some much needed vitamin D and finally it's just much more fun than being in the gym or vegging on the sofa, especially if you can involve your friends.
Social interactions are good for the body and mind and we all spend too much time at work and not enough time with our friends - so whilst the suns out take the chance to combine the two - go for a jog with your friends in the sunshine, meetup for some rounders or a kickabout in the park. Even if you just want to meetup for a gossip combine it with a stroll around the park to get some fresh air.
I'm hoping I haven't tempted fate with this blog, but the weather forecast is for a hot sunny weekend so maybe it's time to make some outdoor plans for the weekend.
Monday, 21 May 2012
Their gluten free range, in the green packaging, also includes cakes and bread, but sandwiches are a welcome arrival as a quick lunch to grab on the run. At the moment it looks like they're limited to ham or egg, but hopefully as they get more popular they'll sell a wider range.
There is obviously a critical mass of gluten free individuals out there for these major supermarkets to be extending their ranges, as people get tuned into the benefits of going gluten free. Even if you don't have a gluten allergy or intolerance, it's good to have a few wheat free days a week anyway as modern wheat can be very irritating to the gut.
It also has a sleep inducing effect, hence the post pasta drowsiness, so having a gluten free sandwich for lunch, rather than a regular one, may reduce your need for post lunch caffeine.
Whilst I'm hoping for some healthier fillings in future, I'm a firm believer in voting with my feet so I'll be picking up a gluten free sarnie for my lunch tomorrow and hope some of you will do the same!
Sunday, 20 May 2012
However I got some new porridge inspiration thanks to goop, Gwyneth Paltrows blog. It covers all sorts of lifestyle advice, mainly for those with pretty deep pockets, but there are some good health tips on there. So it turns out that I have more in common with Gwyneth than I thought, and she too can't eat gluten, so helpfully posted some super healthy gluten free breakfast suggestions including a chia 'pudding' using Omega 3 and fibre rich Chia seed (which you can buy in Holland & Barrett). This isn't a hot breakfast, but it inspired me to devise my own recipe for a hot chia porridge - here it is:
Coconut Chia Porridge:
Mix 1/4 cup of chia seed, 1/4 cup of dessicated coconut, 1 tsp of non-sugar vanilla essence (Ndali), 1 cup of rice milk in a bowl, stir thoroughly. Set aside for 15 minutes for the chia and coconut to absorb the liquid, or leave overnight in the fridge ready for morning.
After 15 minutes you can heat up the porridge mix on the hob or microwave and then add your usual porridge toppings: mixed berries + cinnamon, grated apple and chopped hazelnuts, banana and a drizzle of honey - whatever takes your fancy.
Wednesday, 16 May 2012
Flying fairly blind in terms of who reads this, I'm working off the assumption that most of you are a similar age to myself so have similar health concerns.
However our nutritional needs vary quite a lot over our lives and so, not wanting to overlook any of my readers, I want to cover some of those differences.
As a child you have relatively high calorie needs compared to your size, so as well as needing lots of nutrient rich fruit and veg, toddlers and young children need a fair amount of fats and natural sugars as well as plenty of calcium for bone development.
In our teen years hormonal changes kick in that can be quite unbalancing and unsettling - at this time sugars and saturated fats should be minimized, but energy requirements are still high so lots of essential fats, wholegrains and protein are still needed. Lean meat can be particularly important in terms of protein, but also for key minerals that are depleted during puberty such as zinc and iron.
In our twenties we tend to do our least healthy living - burning the candle at both ends, drinking to excess and eating out or on the run. Even if you're burning off all the food you eat don't mistake staying slim with being healthy. However manic things get you need to make sure you drink enough water and eat your fruit and vegetables. Also avoid extreme dieting - your body might respond well in the short term, but you're setting yourself up for weight gain in your thirties.
In our thirties life starts to slow down and the pounds may start to pile on. Stay physically active with regular exercise but remember you need more sleep and downtime than you used to - training for an ironman whilst still only sleeping 6-7hours isn't going to work.
If you're becoming less active you'll need to shift the balance of your meal towards protein and eat less carbs (but don't go totally low-carb). To keep the weight off and reduce the risk of developing heart disease or cancer eat less meat proteins and have more fish and vegetarian proteins and avoid refined sugar as much as possible. Also remember your body might not be ok with the diet of your twenties - in particular you may have developed some food intolerances, so re-evaluate how your body responds to your diet and adjust accordingly.
In our forties and fifties protein becomes much more important as muscles will naturally start to waste. A combination of eating protein at every meal and actively training can slow this down, but without weight training your muscles won't have the stimulus they need to maintain their mass, so going for a swim or doing some yoga isn't enough. This is also important to maintain bone density, avoiding the risk of a disabling break later in life.
Digestion also slows down with age, so super chew your food and consider enzyme and stomach acid supplements to help the process. Soya, pulses, flax and other phytoestrogens also become important at this time for women in dealing with their reduced oestrogen levels.
From your sixties onwards your body and diet start to regress - appetite may fall and your ability to digest and make use of nutrients will definitely become impaired. Time to start eating like a teen again! Go for calorie dense but nutrient rich foods such as nuts and seeds and oily fish and supplement with whole oat muesli bars and other healthy treats. Eating rich, creamy and fatty foods may start to disagree with you as digestion becomes impaired so reduce your dairy intake.
If you're struggling to maintain muscle mass you may want to eat a bit more meat and probably need a stomach acid supplement to digest it and if you're not already taking supplements you definitely need to be now as your body won't be able to extract all the goodness from your fruit and veg.
If you make it too 100 (something I'm aiming for) then you're obviously doing something right and you shouldn't change a thing!
Tuesday, 15 May 2012
I joined the banking community fresh from completing my first degree in Economics and have worked there in some shape or form ever since, earning my degree in nutritional therapy along the way.
As with alot of city jobs, a remarkable amount of my time is spent in meetings, particularly with IT, and it was in one such meeting today that I heard the term 'solutionize' (finding a solution) for the first time which brought an involuntary smile to my face as a wonderful example of the management speak that all city folk will be used to hearing!
It was used to refer to the trap when faced with a problem of quickly 'solutionizing' before you've fully understood and considered the situation.
Translating that across to health it would be equivalent to treating a symptom such as eczema with a steroid cream versus finding out the cause of that symptom, such as a dairy allergy or poor stress resistance, and addressing the cause.
When it comes to health, if you jump straight to a quick fix solution you'll often be missing a message from your body that something more fundamentally out of balance that needs addressing.
That's why if you have any recurring but minor health symptoms such as headaches, skin breakouts, rashes, upset stomach etc. instead of going straight to the pharmacy for some over the counter meds you should consider your health and diet as a whole and whether you need to make more fundamental changes to your lifestyle.
For anything major your GP should be your first port of call, but for more minor complaints there is a host of useful information and advice available on healthy living and dealing with minor symptoms. The Patrick Holford and Food Doctor websites and books are an excellent place to find advice and inspiration to make positive changes.
You may have to try some different strategies, but pay attention to what your body tells you and you'll quickly find out what is helping. Alternatively of course you can take the guess work out and go straight to a nutritional therapist!
Monday, 14 May 2012
I do however know that there are a fair few of you based on the feedback I get, both over e-mail and from those of you I know in person who give me much appreciated encouragement.
When I started this blog it was with the simple intention of spreading the word on how fundamental food is to your health and to encourage healthy habits in others, and if just one of you has become healthier as a result of my writing then it's worth the effort.
Which is why I'm always delighted to receive feedback or questions you'd like answered, just email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some excellent feedback I had recently from a friend and reader was that not all of you will total health geeks, and so some of my stricter regimes and fine tuning will be wasted on you - no one goes from eating steak and chips to salmon and vegetables in a day - so could I give some more simple tips and tricks that anyone can follow?
Of course I'm happy to oblige and will be making an effort to include these in the blog periodically.
So today's tip is a really simple one - for any food that you add salt to (or buy in a restaurant - it will already have salt added), also always add freshly ground pepper. Why?
Black pepper has been found to enhance nutrient absorption from your meal and improve blood sugar and lipid levels. On top of this new research now suggests it helps block the formation of new fat cells, a good reason for most of us!
It also adds flavour and therefore is a good way to reduce your salt intake - season your food with pepper first and then add a little less salt than usual to taste, after a while you might even be happy with just pepper, reducing your sodium intake which is also beneficial.
Sunday, 13 May 2012
That's not a typo (although you can get a pretty good cardiovascular workout in the bedroom!), shogging is jogging followed by shopping.
I enjoy running, but find I'm much more motivated to do it if it get's me somewhere, for example to work. Which works on a weekday, but not on the weekend.
So on saturday, finding myself not motivated enough to go for a circular run, but also not feeling lazy enough to drive to the shops, I decided to combine the two and did a 30minute run to the shops and took the bus back with my groceries.
This might not work if you're going clothes shopping (I'm sure top shop don't want you trying on their clothes without showering first!), but doing food, homeware or other general shopping in your sports gear really isn't that unacceptable these days and you can actually get quite far in a 30minute jog. Plus you can get further if you're just running in one direction so you can explore unfamiliar territory.
Next time I might run to borough market and reward myself with a tasty treat from one of their stalls, or run up the canal to victoria park and refuel with an ice lolly!
Thursday, 10 May 2012
This is particularly true in the fruit and vegetable camp where more and more research suggests an incredibly diverse and significant range of health benefits.
Still I suspect that most people who don't eat enough fruit and veg know they are good for them and they should eat more ... they just aren't motivated enough to do anything about it.
This is where research can become a useful motivational tool, whilst general advice can fall flat, by providing a compelling reason to change your behaviour.
One such study published recently in the Annals of Neurology reported a relative delay in brain ageing of 2.5 years for women who ate a diet high in strawberries and blueberries when compared with a control group who didn't. That's a whole extra 2.5 years of keeping your marbles, which with our increased life expectancy is pretty valuable.
And why berries? Well the plant chemicals (anthocyandins) found in berries can cross the blood-brain barrier so can have a direct protective effect on your brain cells whilst other plant antioxidants might not. Just one of the many reasons to make sure you eat a good range of fruit and veg ... as the evidence shows they each have their own unique benefits.
For the full article and more nutrition research see www.lef.org.
Wednesday, 9 May 2012
As usual our conversation covered numerous and unrelated topics including how to optimize brain function though taking supplements.
In my opinion most people out there are not experiencing their full intelligence due to poor nutrition and lifestyle. All of the following can dramatically impair your cognitive function: drinking alcohol, smoking, eating refined sugars and carbohydrates, caffeine, lack of sleep.
Like a computer that's memory is being used up by lots of applications, your brain may literally be operating slowly due to your diet. However a lot of people will never be aware of this so won't reach their full brain potential.
To be fair these people might not even have jobs where being quick witted is that important. However if you're a professional poker player like Mr Paleo then being able to make quick decisions and hold your concentration is actually really important.
Obviously a good, clean diet and plenty of water are a necessary basis, but if you want to use supplements to maximize your mental ability then B vitamins, essential fats and antioxidants (the key ones for me being coq10 and resveratrol) are my top picks to give you the edge.
How can you tell if they're working? Take them for a month and test your reflexes, memory and mental arithmetic before and after and see if they've improved .. or maybe just try your hand at poker!
Tuesday, 8 May 2012
Well this one that she sent me is the most extreme I've heard of yet and in my opinion totally nuts.
The diet involves being fed a low-calorie protein nutrient blend through a nasal drip and not eating any food at all!
It works because it's less than 1000 calories so your body naturally goes into ketosis which suppresses appetite and encourages fat burning, but at these low calorie levels muscles also get broken down.
I can understand the motivation behind short-term pre wedding dieting - all women want to look their thinnest on the day they'll be incessantly photographed - but this is just too extreme and won't establish healthy eating habits for the future.
What worries me is that the quest to be slim so often seems to overshadow the quest for health - anyone prioritising their health would not choose to be fed this way and anyone considering a diet regime should make sure it's based around healthy foods. Then the benefits will be more long-term both in terms of weight and in terms of health.
Thursday, 3 May 2012
Sadly the packet was also in japanese so I couldn't identify what it was, which was a shame as I happen to have a weakness for crunchy snack food - crisps, nachos, roasted salted nuts ... Yum!
These aren't exactly health foods, but if you go for the plain or salted varieties then the health downside to these is limited to too much salt and fat. Alot of the flavoured varieties however contain a surprising amount of hidden nasties: added sugar (glucose, lactose, maltodextrin) chemical flavour enhancers and various additives which the body doesn't recognize so doesn't cope well with.
There are two simple questions that can help filter out the super bad from the slightly bad snack foods:
1. does the ingredients list contain more than five ingredients?
2. are any of these ingredients items you don't recognize and/or wouldn't find in nature?
If you only go for snack foods and treat foods to which no is the answer to both you'll likely be choosing the healthier options and can crunch away without too much concern!
Wednesday, 2 May 2012
Reading, sewing, playing music and taking long walks seem to be the main time fillers in period dramas. Whilst the idea of living without TOWIE of Mad Men might horrify you, the fact is that not having tv leads to a much healthier lifestyle - you are more likely to get outdoors, enjoy social interactions (positive for mood), do less mindless eating and also go to bed alot earlier without a late night movie to keep you up.
Screens, both computer and tv, also actively stimulate our stress response- watching tv might feel relaxing but it has a positive stress effect on the nervous system. So coming home from a stressful day working on a pc and putting the tv straight on is not a good idea.
I do understand the temptation to put the tv on as soon as you get home, especially if you live on your own so want a bit of background noise for company, but we should actively seek out some peace and quiet at the end of the day as an antidote to our stressful lives.
A good habit to get into is as soon as you get home sit down for 10minutes in silence. This can be very restorative and also gives your brain some downtime, but takes some discipline to start with.
Also during the day try to break up your screen work. I often print out documents to read on paper rather than onscreen, and see meetings as an opportunity for a screen break.
Tuesday, 1 May 2012
Our cells are outnumbered by the micro-organisms that live in our gut and they all like to eat - so when you're eating you're not just providing nutrients to your cells, but you are also feeding this huge population living inside you!
Given their volume you shouldn't be surprised to here that they have a huge impact on our health mainly through modulating our immune response (being a major influence in allergies and immune over-response), but they also effect how will we digest and absorb our food and even affect our appetite.
So what do they like to eat? Well that depends on the type (there are 2000 different types) but as an acceptable generalisation: those that are more problematic for health like to eat sugars and refined carbohydrates, a big mac with a chocolate milkshake suits them just fine, whilst those that are more beneficial have healthier tastes. Their favourite foods are vegetables, and second to that they like lower sugar fruits such as orchard fruits and berries.
The more you feed the unfriendly type the more they flourish and the less room there is for their healthy cousins to grow. So when you're putting food into your mouth don't just think about what you fancy eating, but also think about the 100trillion micro-organisms you'll be sharing your dinner with and what might be good for them!