Be Gentle to Yourself

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The end of the year. That time we reflect, we chastise and we berate ourselves and promise to try harder next year. Next year we will be thin, fit, organised, fabulous. We can do it. All the excess of the festive period is behind us, we’re ready for the new us.

What nonsense!

We are enough as we are. We should take the New Year reflections seriously but use them to review what we got right this year. The mornings we did get round to making a green smoothie to start our day, the week we managed the exercise class and the times we drove rather than imbibe at a night out. These are the tiny successes we should congratulate ourselves with, build on. Use to create habits which benefit us and our health.th

Resolutions made on the morning after are the least likely to be upheld. Unrealistic goal setting will lead to failure and disappointment and don’t we beat ourselves up enough already?

Here’s my advice should you want it:

  1.  Take small steps daily to try to improve your life. Inside and out. Too much of our society focusses upon how we look and not what we do. Some of the most beautiful people I know are those that give of themselves freely. Those who volunteer, who help out, who put themselves out for others. Those who forgive, who care, who contribute. Beauty and strength cannot be measured by appearance.
  2. Try to increase your intake of plants and fruits. Forget weight loss and think about health gain. My mantra. The more you rely upon health giving food the better you feel both physically and the effects on your body can be marvellous. I promise it can be as simple as that.
  3. Try to reduce your beige food intake. Think colour in your diet. Eat a rainbow daily.
  4. Never, ever embark on a diet. If you want to, ask me about my Kickstarter plan to a happier, healthier you.
  5. Take a moment to think how wonderful you already are. All of the things that you are getting right and how many people around you rely on you. Only you and just as you are.

Happy New Year!!

 

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Three ways alcohol is making you fatter

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It’s Christmas. It’s the time when we tend to overeat, overdrink and overmerry. Ok I made some of those words up. You know what I mean. Whilst I enjoy the odd tipple myself I have shredded any excess abdominal fat I had before and I think this is partly due to drastically reducing my alcohol intake. wine-1328532-639x802

I used to have at least three bottles of beer and probably the best part of two to three bottles of wine the husband and I shared weekly plus additional, occasional spirits. This was my average weekly intake without additional nights out etc. I’ve never been much of a ‘binge’ drinker due to really not enjoying being ‘drunk’ but I knew I was drinking far more than was recommended or safe. I made a number of excuses about how this was ok though. I deserved to relax, I was a healthy eater and exerciser so it wouldn’t have any real negative impact. I honestly believed my healthy body would cushion me from any of the ill effects of the alcohol I was consuming.

Then I was completely sober for a month and awoke to the startling effect that alcohol had been having on my body which I had ignored.

No disturbed sleep, no hangovers, fuzzy mornings, lethargy and sneezing fits or blocked sinuses (something which often occurred after wine in particular) and a much leaner torso with a loss of abdominal fat.

Why was I allowing myself to indulge to the extent I was? I came to the conclusion it was purely habit. I chose not to return to that habit. I still drink occasionally but no longer regularly and I am careful about what I consume. When you consider the obvious, physical effects it is clear that the hidden consequences are as drastic.

I’m sure most of my readers already know about the dangers of alcohol to the immune system, to the liver and that alcohol is fattening but do you know WHY it is so fattening? Possibly not…

Firstly, alcohol has all the calories but none of the value of the macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fats, therefore, the alcohol adds to the body’s energy intake but contributes nothing other than calorific content. Excess energy is stored eventually as fat and excess energy consumed as alcohol is stored faster than the equivalent of a macronutrient with nutritional value. Add to that the concentration of the alcohol, the ease with which it is consumed and the additional soft drinks and mixers it is consumed with, and alcohol becomes a fat storage powerhouse.

Secondly, alcohol is broken down by enzymes and metabolised eventually into acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is then further broken down into aldehyde dehydrogenase or ALDH for short. What you need to know about ALDH is that it is involved in the metabolism of certain fats such as cholesterol and some other fatty acids. Basically the chemical by product of the breakdown of alcohol in your liver is telling your body to store fat. The alcohol is effectively encouraging your body to make you fatter.

Add to this double whammy the suppressant effect that alcohol has on the brain and the increased likelihood of choosing high-fat snacks to accompany your drink and you have the perfect recipe for creating a very stubborn ‘beer’ belly or ‘wine’ waist

  • Alcohol is calorie dense but nutrient scarce. This encourages fat storage.
  • Alcohol then instructs your body, via enzymes from the chemical metabolism of the alcohol, to store the fat quicker.
  • Finally you add high calorie and sugar mixers and fat laden crisps or late night kebabs and bingo! Hello Belly Goodbye Slim Torso.

Just thought you might like to know… Cheers!!

 

 

 

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Christmas Carbohydrates: How to eat your fill.

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Carbs: bread, pasta, potatoes. Received wisdom, especially amongst dieters, is that carbs are bad and should be avoided. Is this true?

What is a carbohydrate though? Something stodgy? fattening? A temptation to sabotage your diet?

Carbohydrates are actually defined by the Oxford Online Dictionary as “any of a large group of organic compounds occurring in foods and living tissues and including sugars, starch, and cellulose. They contain hydrogen and oxygen in the same ratio as water (2:1) and typically can be broken down to release energy in the animal body”

Ok. That doesn’t sound too bad does it? Here’s the facts you need to know about carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. The brain, for example, feeds almost exclusively upon carbohydrates – glucose (monosaccharide)  in particular. We need carbohydrates to function but excess carbohydrate intake can lead the body to store the energy as fat.  Carbohydrates are broadly similar to saccharides which are sugars.  There are several kinds but they can be split into two main types: simple and complex.

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Simple Carbohydrates

The simple kind, also known as simple sugars, tend to be over processed and are typically found in lower nutrient foods. Examples include sugar, fruit and fruit juice, biscuits, white bread or white flour products like cake or pasta, commercial cereals and sweets. Surprisingly, the body’s best source of simple carbohydrates is fruit. The fructose in fruit, which increases as the fruit ages and ripens, can be easily converted to glucose, the body’s most common blood sugar. In addition, fruit contains a wide variety of nutrients without the additional fat content found in many of the other simple carbohydrate products.

 

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Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are better known as starches. Commonly found in whole-grain products, such as wholegrain bread, pasta and rice. While most people would rightly include potatoes as a starchy carbohydrate, it may surprise you that other vegetables are also starchy carbohydrates; beans, parsnips, corn and sweet potatoes. Leafy greens such as kale, spinach and cabbage are also excellent sources of complex carbohydrates. Over indulging in these starchy carbohydrates, however, can also lead to the excess energy being quickly stored as fat similar to the simple carbohydrates. The key difference, with complex carbohydrates, is that the fibre content in wholegrain or starchy foods makes you feel fuller quicker, assists your digestion and they can be much more difficult to over indulge with.  Whoever ate too much spinach or too many parsnips for example?

The nutritional science behind these premises is relatively complex so I’ve tried just to keep to the important points.

Overeating of any carbohydrates can lead to weight gain and the storage of fat about the body. That said, carbohydrates are essential for energy. Over eating the simple carbohydrates will lead to impaired blood sugar functioning and are likely to cause food cravings, mood swings and create a feeling of overall sluggishness.

Bottom Line: Carbs are NOT bad but not all carbs are made equal. Eating the nutrient-dense carbohydrates family (fruits, vegetables and wholegrains) will lead to increased vitality, energy and overall improved health keeping blood sugars even throughout the day and fuelling the body with not only glucose but with a range of minerals and antioxidants essential for a lean, healthy body.

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It was easier to be skinny in the 1980’s

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This is the surprising finding of the Journal of Obesity Research and Clinical Practice. They compared the diet of participants from 1971 until 2008 and the physical exercise of people from 1988 to 2006.

They discovered that someone in 1988 would be around 10% lighter than the equivalent individual in 2008.

They grouped people who ate the same diet, including macronutrient groups like proteins and fats, and undertook the same amount of exercise. They found that the equivalent people in 2008 were likely to have a higher BMI on average by 2.3 points than those in 1988.

This means that a person living now would have to eat less and exercise more than their equivalent in the 1980’s just to maintain the same weight.

One of the researchers, Jennifer Kuk, offered three reasons why this change might have occurred. read more here.

  1. Exposure to chemicals. It is thought that the prevalence of food packaging, together with the pesticides used in intensive farming, are interfering with the body’s hormonal ability to effectively process foods.
  2. Prescription drugs. Particularly the extensive use of anti-depressants, which are amongst the most heavily prescribed medications, and can factor in weight gains amongst those prescribed SSRI’s. The most famous SSRI is Prozac which was first marketed in the late 1980’s.
  3.  Finally, microbiomes. We rely upon microbiomes for a variety of functions, to defend against infection, to break down the foods we ingest and produce vitamins. It is suggested that the human microbiome in the gut has changed over the last few decades and researchers indicate that this may be linked to the widespread use of artificial sweeteners.

What does all this tell us? Basically, the artificial and factory produced foods which proliferate on our supermarket shelves are detrimental to our health and our waistlines in a variety of ways. That packaged ‘diet’ meal with artificial sweeteners to compensate for lack of fat may actually be making you fatter. And not how you think.

Eat fresh and natural as often as you can. Make sure you have some raw food every day, drink lots of water and avoid anything beige in colour if you can.

**I use the word ‘skinny’ to reflect the fact that the images of 80’s women are often substantially thinner than images presently. Skinny is not used in a pejorative nor judgemental manner in this context. I have also used the phrase ‘fatter’ and this also carries no judgement nor shame.

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