Low carb. Low fat. Low sugar. Wheat free. Meat free. Dairy Free. Vegetarian. Vegan. Pescatarian. Intermittent fasting. Paleo. Macrobiotic………..There are numerous diets out there at the moment, with more cropping up on a daily basis. Some are featured in magazines; Some are endorsed by the medical profession; others are endorsed by celebrity slimmers. For us mere mortals, it can all be a little baffling to say the least. With each diet comes a raft of supporters who all claim that this is THE diet. If you follow this one, you will finally shed your excess pounds. You will sprout long, lithe limbs. Your skin will clear up and glow. Your hair and nails will stop breaking and shine like glitter. You will be able to complete a marathon in record time. You will prove that you are committed to saving the world…… you get the picture!
The truth of the matter is that If you’re looking for big sweeping changes that are going to have long lasting, life changing consequences, then I hate to tell you, but there is NO QUICK FIX that is going to work. Complete physical and mental remodelling takes a lot of time, effort, dedication and money. And the most soul destroying part of it is that studies have shown that over 95% of dieters will regain their weight within 1-5 years. That’s a pretty depressing stat eh?! All of that effort for such a short period of basking rights. Believe me, I KNOW first hand how soul destroying the rollercoaster feels.
But, here’s the thing……. There is a quick fix way of making your mind and body feel better. It may not provide you with a slack jawed audience who marvel at your amazing duckling to swan transformation, but it will make you feel all glowy inside and have some amazing long term advantages to your health! Are ready for the secret??? Come a bit closer and I’ll whisper it into your shell-like………………
Drink more water and eat more veg!!! Ta-daaaaaaaah!!!
No wait, come back!!!
I know you’ve heard it all before, but really, it does work. Here’s the thing, if, 3 years ago, you’d have asked me about my veg consumption, I’d have said “yeah, but the thing is, I don’t really like veg!” and it was true. Because in my mind, veg was one of two things: 1) a salad comprised of iceberg lettuce, some tomatoes and a few slices of cucumber OR 2) some soggy carrot battons and a mound of overdone cabbage. Hell, it’s hardly surprising I didn’t like veg right?!!! So what’s changed? Well, I’ve more or less stopped eating meat and and when you do that, you really do have to make peace with veg! Although to be honest with you, with the current trend towards all things “clean eating”, the supermarkets are making it pretty damn easy. Just a super speedy jaunt into any Tesco, Sainsburys or Waitrose and you will find all manner of ready prepared fab veg opportunities. From cauli rice and courgette spaghetti, to steam in the bag combos of the best green selections our fields have to offer, I have truly embraced the ready prepped veg aisle recently. On at least 3 days of the week I will make myself a dinner or lunch that looks something like this:
Not the most photogenic of dishes, admittedly, but we’re not all about the looks round here!
Melt a little coconut oil, stir fry the aforementioned veg (I know lots of them are specifically prepared to be microwave ready, but I don’t have a micro so I have to get a bit creative!), pair it with a roast sweet potato/ some mashed avocado with chilli and lime/ some cooked quinoa/ a carton of black beans cooked with spinach and tomato puree/ ANYTHING ELSE THAT IS QUICK AND EASY AND TAKES YOUR FANCY, and you’re good to go. Super fast, super tasty food that makes your taste buds cheer with delight, your cells zing and your mind burst with pride at how super – humanly healthy and brilliant you’ve been. I’ve also started adding some of pre prepared frozen fruit and veg combos to my morning smoothies. We all know that when you have kids/a job/ any semblance of a normal life, speed and ease is where its at and in my mind all of these new fruit and veg offerings are a brilliantly helpful shortcut for ensuring that we get plenty of the good stuff down our necks. Whoop!
And when it comes to good old H2O, here are my secret weapons of choice:
Yup, a cheap (I think it was £6) BPA free drinking bottle from Sainos and a water filter jug! I know it sounds a little sad, but as well as the added health benefits, filling up from the water filter rather than the tap makes drinking water feel a little more refined and special. I do realise that for most people, it probably seems a little ridiculous but I can honestly say that since buying the filter about 6 months ago, my daily water consumption has shot up. Added to which, I know that my snazzy pink water bottle holds 800ml so if I drink 3 refills per day, I’m onto a winner. I carry it with me wherever I go, sip throughout the day and bob’s your uncle, before you know it I am a well hydrated bunny, a tag which carries with it innumerable health benefits (helps digestion, treats headaches and migraines, flushes out toxins etc).
So there you have it, a couple of really simple tips which can help you to feel ultra healthy and virtuous!
I’ve tried out some new recipes lately and have been throughly enjoying both making and eating them. It can be so easy to get caught in the same old routines and meal plans and sometimes you just need to give yourself a bit of extra encouragement to be more adventurous in the kitchen! Added to which, even though I was a little sceptical at first, I invested in Fearne Cotton’s new book this week (Cook Happy, Cook Healthy) and there are some GORGEOUS recipes in it. Anyway, none of these recipes have actually come from that book……most have been sort of mish mashy ones that I have adapted from various other recipes I’ve picked up along the way.
Here’s my current favourite breakfast! Vanilla and coconut chia pudding topped with Pip and Nut’s coconut almond butter, bee pollen and goji berries. Despite looking like frog spawn, it tastes divine, keeps me full until lunch and I know that I’m getting a gert big hit of goodness first thing in the morning thanks to the chia (a great source of protein, amongst many other things), goji berries (the most nutritionally dense fruit on earth don’t ya know! Chockablock full of amino acids, protein, vitamin C, iron, calcium, zinc……I could go on!! ) and the delicious bee pollen (which is just so full of goodness, I don’t even know where to begin!!! An amazing super food which really boosts my energy first thing in the morning.)
I’m including this primarily because it just looks so pretty!!! We have a new Waitrose in town, complete with a Cornish food store which sells food only produced in Cornwall, and from the fridge I picked up a box of Cornish grown edible flowers. Look at the impact they make! Aren’t they amazing?? How could you not be wowed when presented with a salad topped with those beauties??! Just beautiful!
This dinner was a definite winner! A vegan black bean chilli, gorgeous creamy guacamole and an amazingly zingy mango and sweetcorn salsa. Oh and some homemade tortilla chips on the side. A great Saturday evening dinner!
Talking of Saturday evenings………When Ben gets home on a Friday night, we both like to chill out and ease ourselves in to the weekend with a couple of beers, but rather than accompanying that with shop bought beer snacks, I’ve got quite into making my own. I definitely prefer to know exactly what’s gone into them and they’re so quick and easy to whip up, it really is no hassle at all. So, from the top, we have sea salt and apple cider vinegar almonds; tamari almonds and chilli and lime pumpkin seeds.
My latest favourite sweet treat…….refined sugar free millionaires shortbread, adapted from a Livia’s Kitchen snickers slab recipe. Yes, they contain dates and maple syrup and yes, I realise that that means they contain a lot of fructose, but the way I see it is that they act as a great transition food. Not so long ago, I truly was a total sugar monster. Seriously, I could devour a whole packet of biscuits in one night. Easy peasy! Now I know that the hardcore quit sugar lobby say you should quit cold turkey by cutting even fruit sugars out right from the start but, I tried and failed! For me, it was back to another all or nothing diet, and I have personally found that having home made, refined sugar free treats available in the house suits me far better. Yet again, it’s all about balance. The added bonus is that I am truly satisfied after just one or two small pieces…..something which NEVER used to happen when we had “normal”chocolate or biscuits in the house!
This week I have a whole new list of gorgeous recipes to trial and I’m going to have a go at experimenting with tofu for the first time. Wish me luck!!!!
………If only it was that bloody easy!! I’ll be honest with you, this is definitely the most difficult thing that I have struggled with over the last couple of years. When I first started on this journey, I was happy (due to my pre-conditioned way of thinking) to stockpile so called “clean eating” recipes and practice cooking them. I was happy to head to the local health food store (heads up Archie Browns!) and invest in exotic ingredients with mysterious names that I’d never heard of before. I was happy to search for a form of exercise that excited me and encouraged me to move my body for pleasure (although the search still continues to a certain degree!) I was happy and prepared to do these things because in theory, they were no different to the preparations I used to make when starting any new “diet”.
But then things got a bit deeper. I finally acknowledged the fact that the time had come where the biggest obstacle I had to tackle was not my bingo wings or my wobbly thighs, but my mind. The demons who had occupied my head and the majority of my conscious thoughts for most of my life. The demons that were always telling me that I was disgusting, hideous, sickening, not good enough, too fat for that dress, too fat to sit on the beach in a swimming costume, too fat to go on holiday to a tropical destination, too fat to audition for various singing gigs (yes, I am a frustrated singer!), too fat to learn to surf….. you get the general gist. The demons who had encouraged me to put my life on hold until I finally achieved the perfect size 10.
And then a year or so ago, I had a moment of clarity. I FINALLY realised that:
- So far, despite 30 years of dieting experience I have NEVER managed to achieve the perfect size 10 , so lets face it, my chances for the future aren’t looking great!
- Even if I was to manage to starve myself into a size 10 (a la meal replacement shakes) then the effort it would take to maintain such a figure until the day I die, would be nothing short of life-long mental and physical torture…….not really my preferred way of living!
- Why do I need to be a bloody size 10? Who has brainwashed me into believing that this is by far the best and only acceptable body size. Oh and while we’re on it, it’s not just about the dress size; you need also to refer to the very specific body shape pre-requisites ie. Totally flat tummy, toned lightly muscular arms with absolutely no hint of excess flesh, pert, round bum with just the right amount of wobble, exposed, graceful collar bones, the much sought after thigh gap, slim ankles and feet …..Yes, ankles and feet…… I’ve thought about it that hard……..I could continue………
Once these questions occurred to me, I couldn’t escape them. They took up residence in my head alongside the demons and it felt as thought they were arguing with each other (just like the characters in Inside Out!) until I slowly but surely began to break free of the shackles………the shackles of the media who constantly perpetuate the myth of the perfect female body; the shackles of clothes manufacturers with their ridiculous, arbitrary women’s clothing sizes which vary dramatically from shop to shop; the shackles of the GPs who tell us that we can only be healthy if we fit into the correct, ludicrous BMI band that our height predetermines for us; the shackles of the insidious diet industry with has brainwashed pretty much every woman I know so that we refer to food not as gorgeous, mouthwatering or bland, but instead as “good”, “bad” or “naughty”……….. I mean, seriously……WTF??!?!
So, I have put a lot of time, effort and work into improving my relationship with my body and altering my mind-set. And in fact, while my diet has changed for the better, I think that my biggest shifts have been psychological rather than physical. I have done a lot of soul searching, a lot of reading, and I have listened to a lot of fabulous people talk about the issues that I have struggled with and how best to overcome them. I could regurgitate their main points for you, but instead I thought it would be more helpful if I were to share what I feel are the most important lessons I’ve learned along the way. Things that I wish someone had told me at the start:
- Understand that you are most definitely not the only person who feels this way!!! There’s loads of help out there if you search for it (although obviously Happilicious.co.uk is THE place to be!) And the thing to bear in mind about this is that if so many other people are wasting their energy on focussing on the negatives of their own bodies, they sure as hell aren’t focussing on yours, right???!!! Just pause and think for a minute….Imagine what fabulous things we could achieve if we channelled all of that negative energy in a more positive direction…….
- This is something you will need to work at. It will not suddenly fall into place because you’ve read one body positive article. Throw yourself into it. Let it consume you. Let it take the place of all of your obsessive calorie counting and weighing! Read everything you can get your hands on; join Facebook groups; sign up to mailing lists; listen to podcasts. Study it. Live it. Focus on it. You wouldn’t expect to suddenly develop a monstrous 6 pack after one visit to the gym and learning to love and accept your body is exactly the same. It takes time, effort and practice. It is most certainly a journey. A bloody fabulous and very worthwhile one!!
- Don’t give up when you have a set back. This is certainly one that I have had to come to terms with……Every now and then, I get dressed, look in the mirror and have a bit of a breakdown because I don’t like what I see! We’ve all been there right? But here’s the thing I’ve come to realise, It happens to me now every 3 or 4 months……..It used to happen nearly every day!!! How’s that for progress? And I bet even Kate Moss has her moments where she doesn’t like what she sees in the mirror – we all have our off days!
- Listen to the way you talk to yourself. Ask yourself how you would feel if you heard someone talking to your mum/best friend/daughter in the same way? If you’re anything like me, you’d be outraged. So don’t do it! Focus on changing your inner script. Be nice to yourself. Use positive affirmations. It will feel really odd at first, but I promise you, it works. Remember: Our thoughts create our reality.
- Understand that loving and accepting yourself doesn’t mean that you’ll suddenly feel compelled to enter Miss Baywatch Bikini 2016…… (Although, if you do, crack on and best of luck to you, I’m sure you’ll rock!!!) And neither does it mean that you have to stop striving to make you feel like the best version of you. On the contrary, once you have accepted where you are, right now, you can then figure out all of the marvellous things you can do to make yourself feel even better. Self love is fuelled by self care, and that comes in many wonderful guises.
Do you know what? As soon as I started writing this list, I realised that I could probably just keep on going! Honestly, I cannot over-emphasise the power of working on your relationship with your body. I urge you to give it a try! If you want any tips or guidance, I’d be happy to help. Just leave a comment in the box below.
In case you can’t guess from my jaunty post title (!) I am just back from an uhhhh-maz-ing family holiday in Mallorca! I honestly had no idea what a truly beautiful place it is and after a week spent basking in perfect temperatures, swimming in warm turquoise blue, crystal clear seas and exploring the stunning coastlines and hills, I am definitely ready to start planning a return visit!
We opted to stay in a private villa, mainly for the fabulousness of a private pool (oh-SO-fabulous!), and also because we wanted to be able to cook and prepare our own food. Since starting on this journey, my priorities have definitely altered and whereas the old me would have been looking forward to eating anything as long as I didn’t have to make it (its supposed to be a holiday goddamit!!!!) this time, I was really keen to make the most of the amazing fresh fruit and veg that was available in Mallorca. I also didn’t want to return from holiday feeling bloated, fuzzy headed and as though I would need a monumental effort of get “back on the bloody wagon”.
On our first morning on the island, we headed to the local market in the old town of Pollensa where we were greeted with phenomenal stalls chock full with the most amazing fresh, colourful produce.
Ben getting carried away at the olive stall!
We went slightly OTT and spent a fortune on fruit, veg, olives, local honey and cheese, but it was worth every penny because it all tasted totes amaze and lasted us for the rest of the week. I had also brought a few bits and bobs with us (pre-soaked black beans, quinoa and freekeh, veg stock) and I was able to use those as bases to add to the market haul! Now don’t get me wrong, I did not cook every single meal we ate. In fact, we ate out a lot (mmmmm, paella!) but even then, we always searched for the places which were selling freshly caught fish and amazing veggi dishes rather than the pile them high, sell them cheap joints.
Do you know something……..It’s only when I stop to write this down that I realise i just how much my mindset has shifted over the last 6-12 months. My whole attitude to and relationship with food has changed dramatically and I LOVE IT!
Anyway, getting back to the food that I prepared, I thought that it might be a nice idea to share with you the sort of things I made. Now as I’m still getting used to this blogging malarkey, most of the time I totally forgot to take photos of the food that we ate (mental note to self- stop scoffing, start clicking!) but I did manage a couple and thought you might like to see them along with a list of the basic ingredients I put in each.
- Cooked and cooled quinoa and freekeh mix
- Red pepper
- Medjool dates
- Sundried tomatoes
- Cashew nuts
- Halloumi cheese
- Olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- Sea salt
- Fresh basil
This salad was a TRIUMPH! I had no idea what I was going to do for lunch and so basically went through the fridge and added whatever took my fancy. The sweetness of the dates and nectarine worked so well against the salty cheese and all of the different textures were wonderful too – crunchy cashews, creamy avocado. Yum, I could do with a hefty bowl of this right now! This is one I will definitely attempt to recreate.
Spot the can of beer – it’s all about balance!
- Tomatoes (as many different varieties as possible!)
- Olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- Leftover sweet and salty salad from the previous day
Tomato and mozzarella salad is a firm favourite with us, which is odd, because as a rule of thumb, I’m not mad keen on uncooked tomatoes! However there’s something about the combination of sliced toms, good olive oil, basil and creamy mozzarella that makes this irresistible and its one of our regular summer lunches whether at home or on holiday.
One morning I also made a huge breakfast fruit salad which went down a treat with everyone and although I don’t have photographic evidence, I’ll try to remember what I put in it!
- Water melon
- Medjool dates
- Plain natural yoghurt
- Unsalted mixed nuts
- Local honey
I basically chopped the fruit into manageable bite sized pieces and topped with the yogurt, nuts and honey. Simple and so delicious!!!!
None of this food prep was difficult or particularly time consuming. I didn’t follow any recipes and neither did I weigh or measure any of the ingredients. And yet, the food that we ate was so tasty and made us (I think I speak for the rest of the family too!!) feel brilliant.
Although many people will try to convince you that there are complex rules and regulations that you must follow in order to gain the most amazing health benefits from your diet, I believe that the reverse is actually true. The most amazing thing that you can do for yourself (and your family) is just to stop eating processed food! Its that simple!! I think that it is very easy to feel overwhelmed by the cult of clean eating. It can feel a bit like a cult or a club which you can only be a part of if you know how to make perfect pesto or have untold hours available to prepare a complex meal with ingredients which you can only track down on-line! I guess that what I’d like more people to realise is that as long as you buy fresh ingredients that you like the look of, you can’t really go wrong. Experiment. Throw things together. Remember what worked and what didn’t. And eat what lights you up and makes you feel vibrant!!! Its not about right or wrong, good or bad, naughty or saintly. Its not about calories, points or syns. It’s about gorgeous fresh food that you enjoy preparing, eating and sharing.
Oh and talking of freshly prepared food, check out what we found in a tiny roadside cave in the middle of the mountains……..
Without a shadow of a doubt, the sweetest, most beautiful, and certainly the freshest orange juice any of us had ever tasted! Bonkers but totally brilliant!
Anyway, let me know if you’d like me share some of my other concoctions. I always seem to be faffing about with food and I’m more than happy to show you what I’ve been eating. I even promise I’ll try to get better at taking food photos!!
Switch on any TV or radio station, or pick up a paper today and you’ll see that the world of UK nutrition has been brought into sharp focus by the mainstream media. Why? Well, The National Obesity Forum have had the temerity to publish a report which states that, contrary to what we’ve been brainwashed into believing over the last 30 years, eating a diet high in fat, might actually REDUCE your chances of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes. Now this is something that is not actually news to many of us, for there has been a choir of dissent within the world of nutrition which has been preaching this message for quite a number of years now. However, the government and a number of other mainstream public health bodies have yet to “get on board”!
In fact, in response to this morning’s report the chief nutritionist for Public Health England has stated that “Advice to eat more fat is irresponsible and potentially deadly”. Wow, pretty strong words there! However, rather than backing down, The National Obesity forum have come out fighting by allowing one of their senior advisors, Dr Aseem Malhotra to speak on their behalf. He has responded with an equally strong message, stating that “The change in dietary advice to promote low fat foods is perhaps the biggest mistake in modern medical history. We must urgently change the message to the public to reverse obesity and type 2 diabetes. Eat fat to get slim, don’t fear fat, fat is your friend.”
Dr Malhotra is someone I have been avidly following for the last few years, because while his straight forward messages about diet and obesity have been in direct opposition to the mainstream dietary advice, they have always struck me as revolutionary with their common sense! He is a cardiologist at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust and consultant clinical associate to the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (which has to add a heap of weight to his arguments…right?! oh, and, no pun intended!) and for a long time he has been very outspoken about his belief that it is sugar and not fat which is the culprit of Britain’s “obesity crisis”. While the anti-sugar lobby are now undoubtedly making headway in the public consciousness, the message to eat more fat has not yet been so well received. But maybe the tide is about to start changing?
So, as a trainee health coach, what’s my take on all of this? Well………over the last 30 or so years of following the guidelines from public health (and therefore too, many mainstream slimming clubs) we have been advised to focus on eating low fat food, and calorie counting if we want to lose weight. Lord knows I have tried this approach myself enough times. Has it worked…….ummmmmm, in the short term I guess, yes. But have I succeeded in keeping the weight off? No.
Now, this could be blamed on a lack of willpower at not continuing that way of eating ad infinitum, however I would argue that eating “fake foods” is absolutely not a long term solution to a weight problem. And make no bones about it, that is I what I feel this low fat message encourages….a reliance on and acceptance of “fake foods” or “food like substances” to feed us. Foods which have been processed and altered in order to lower the fat content whilst still maintaining some semblance of chemically enhanced and sugar laden flavour. It brings me back, yet again to my Muller Light habit! This belief that we must eat chemically altered food because it says ‘low’ or ‘no fat’ on the packaging and we have been reliably informed (by people who really should know better) that if we eat these products, we will lose weight. And we all know that losing weight automatically results in gaining better health right? Wrong!! Yes, obesity is damaging to health. Yes, being overweight puts you at a far greater risk of developing a myriad of life limiting issues, but so does poor nutrition. And poor nutrition is almost certainly something which can occur from blindly following a diet which aims for rapid, (but not lasting) weight loss. And for what it’s worth, I realise I might be accused of being a tad cynical here, but if we all suddenly stopped believing in and funding this message, just imagine how many huge multi-national, companies would start losing out……..Maybe this has a little something to do with the reluctance to revisit the Low Fat message and contemplate how maybe we might just have got it wrong?!!
What is the alternative? Well, in the words of another of my favourite nutritional gurus, Sarah Wilson, the only answer must be to “Just Eat Real Food”. Yep, it’s that simple. Real food. Real fruit, vegetables, grains and meat. Real food that you buy in its original form (or as close to as dammit!) and then you take home and transform into a delicious and nutritious meal where you know (and can pronounce!) all of the ingredients that have been added to it. The way our ancestors used to eat. Intuitively. In line with the seasons and focusing primarily on food that is produced locally to us. Simple, unrefined food which does not contain masses of added sugar or added chemicals (I’m guessing now is not the right time to have the organic debate!!)
And so from where I’m standing today, I find all of this unbelievably exciting! It feels as though the underground rebels are rising up, banging on drums and making their voices heard.
The revolution is coming and I know which team I’m on!!!