Tag Archives: health

The Perfect Diet

So here it goes.  A moment of truth…and shame.  Since I was about 15 years old I’ve been a chronic dieter.  And as a result, I’ve done a lot of damage to my body by depriving it of the essential healthy fats and other nutrients that it needed to be nourished.  And even worse, an imbalanced body like mine was utterly unable to support the healthy mind and spirit needed to really love myself.  The worst damage was done in the time leading up to my wedding when I began a 1000 calorie a day diet.  If I’d been just eating big bowls of vegetables and lightly steamed greens it might not even have been so bad, but I wasn’t.  I was incorporating the nutrition-less, empty calorie ‘diet’ foods like Weight Watchers meals and diet sodas.  And the awful thing, was that after 9 months of eating like this, depriving my body of any nourishment, I was exhausted, mentally and physically, and I wasn’t really losing that much weight.  I struggled to keep up my exercise routines because I had no energy.  I think I lost around 12 pounds in total.  I went to see a dietician at my local GP practice and her “sage” professional advice, after looking at my diet diary was to swap butter and olive oil for margarine and suggested that perhaps I should reduce my diet to 900 calories.  Yep, you heard it.  She wanted me to remove the small amount of healthy essential fat I actually WAS getting in my diet and replace it with toxic, hydrogenated, free-radical spread…I mean margarine.  Even I knew that was wrong, so I ignored her and continued with what I was doing.  It was only later, after the wedding and honeymoon, when I started thinking about wanting to become pregnant that things really changed and I realised the damage I had done to myself through deprivation dieting.

And now I’m ready to share with you the perfect diet.  Are you ready?  Here it is………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….there is no perfect diet.

There is a perfect diet for you, but there is no perfect diet that will work for all of us.  And here’s why.  It’s really complicated.  It’s because, get ready for it, we’re not the same person.  That’s right.  I’m not you and you’re not your neighbour John, or Sally who works at the supermarket.

Do I wish that we could all use the same diet and exercise formula and get the same results?  Yes, of course I do.  But genetics doesn’t work that way.  We each have different DNA (aside from identical twins, but even they express those genes in different ways) and so we don’t all have the same number of genes.  There is no perfect or ideal number of genes, so its not a competition.  But it does mean that some of us may have mutations with, or even lack, enzymes which are essential for different body processes.  (Bear with me here, this will come back around to diet.)  You may have heard of the MTHFR, COMT or BRCA genes.  MTHFR and COMT enzymes are essential for methylation, which is used to control gene expression.  Women who have mutations with these genes will have difficulty becoming pregnant and maintaining pregnancies.  On the other hand, the BRCA genes are tumour suppressing proteins and Angelina Jolie made the BRCA I & II genes famous when she had prophylactic surgery undertaken to remove her breast tissue, ovaries and fallopian tubes because of her high genetic risk for getting this cancer.  So what I’m getting at here, is that we don’t all process the world around us in the same way.  And we have to love our bodies for what they are.  The lack of this gene or a mutation with that gene doesn’t make us imperfect, but it does make us realise that we may have to take certain precautions to avoid higher risks for foods, toxins and lifestyles which our bodies are simply unable to handle.

Okay, so I started eating healthfully again.  I got skinny right?  Wrong.  I started eating normally for like the first time in years, and my body had no. clue. what. to. do.  I mean I’d basically been telling my body – in prehistoric terms – that I was going through a time of famine and so when it started getting a normal amount of food, and I’m talking like 1500-1700 calories here, it thanked the god of rain for sending it a time of plenty and it decided to store every calorie it could.  As fat.  Yay.  But the good news was that all this healthy food I was now eating allowed me to maintain a really healthy pregnancy and produce a really healthy baby.

So a year and a half on postpartum, no I’m not skinny.  I’m not where I’d like to be, but I’m okay with how I look.  I fit into my size 8 jeans and that will do for the time being.  I’m still breastfeeding my daughter and I’m grateful to my body for all its been through and for the beautiful daughter its given me and still helps to nourish.  I continue to support my thyroid health through diet and the use of therapeutic essential oils, and that is helping me enormously now.  So I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve very slowly found the diet that is right for me.  And actually, it isn’t a diet at all.  I’ve learned that I can’t eat too many sugars (argh!), one cup of coffee a day does me good (but more than that doesn’t) and that I definitely can’t process gluten very well (as much as I like to tell myself I can when I see a croissant winking at me from the bakery window).  However, you may not be able to tolerate coffee at all.  And some people have issues with one of their liver enzymes and can even build up high levels of mercury from eating something as simple as salmon, whereas the next person processes it perfectly well.  Even healthy juices green smoothies could actually do you a lot of damage if your thyroid isn’t functioning optimally.  And I haven’t even touched on how your gut flora fits in to all of this.  The list goes on.  Bodies are funny old things, aren’t they?

There is an easy and shorter – but more expensive – way to learn all of this about yourself.  You can get genetic testing done and enlist the help of a reputable nutritional therapist.  They can help you to understand your test results and to recommend bespoke  adjustments to your diet and lifestyle which will support what your individual body is able to do, and to avoid what it isn’t able to do.

I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to tell you that a Slim Fast shake is the perfect diet solution for you.  But its not.  Not for anyone.  And the one bit of generic advice I can give everyone is to get the toxic chemicals out of your food, cleaning and skincare regimens.  Eat organic, biodynamic or non-sprayed foods.  Eat more plants.  Use natural skincare.  Clean your home and office with natural cleaning products.  (They work just as well, by the way, and they cost less.)  Yes, we do have livers and yes, livers were designed to remove toxins from our bodies, but no one’s liver was designed to handle the amount of chemicals we eat, breathe and slather onto our skin every day in today’s world.

So whether you choose to go the slow route of figuring out the right diet for you, like I did (and continue to do), or if you opt for a faster route with the support of a nutritional therapist, I hope that above all you prioritise learning to love yourself and love your beautiful body.  Personally, I found the support of my Young Living essential oils incredibly helpful in both an emotional and physical capacity over the last 9 months of this process.  But I guess what I’m saying is be gentle with yourself, be kind to yourself, eat beautiful foods and move in ways that make you happy.

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Guest Post: Essential Tips for First Time Hiking With Your Kids

This week, Zara Lewis, blogger,  mother of 2 and regular contributor to High Style Life joins us for a guest post on essential tips for hiking with children.

As a person in love with hiking, it was one of my greatest fears that once I had kids I would have to forget about my passion. Luckily, it wasn’t the case; my kids love hiking adventures and nature as much as I do, and our hiking trips have been a great source of joy for all of us. Of course, some things had to change, and I have adapted and adjusted so that all of us can have fun but still be responsible.

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Be practical with your food

I remember back when I was a kid how my mother always packed just bare necessities in my backpack and I was devastated because I wanted chocolate and sodas like other kids. However, once I became a mother myself I discovered that my mother was right: you do not need a ton of sweets, but rather practical and nutritious foods to keep you strong. I always pack healthy sandwiches, my own protein bars, and plenty of nice fruit: apples, pears, and peaches. This way I am sure my kids are eating healthy food without sugar and additives, and most importantly: we never leave candy bar wrappers or any other sort of garbage behind.

It can rain anytime

Unfortunately, I had to learn this the hard way. After a couple of our hiking trips ended abruptly because of light rain that started falling suddenly, it became a custom of ours to pack light raincoats in our hiking backpacks. These do not take too much space, but are wonderful protection from the elements. We would end our walks suddenly even if it was just light rain, but now we just take our raincoats out and keep walking for as long as we want. Pro tip: you can even use raincoats instead of tablecloths when having a picnic, since they are water-resistant and a million times easier to clean afterwards.

ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR HIKING WITH KIDS 2

Thorough examination afterwards

Always carry hand sanitizer with you when going for a hike, but when you get home that is when the real battle starts. Remove all of your clothes and examine your body to see if you have any ticks or other possibly dangerous insect bites on your body. Do it for your kids too, and then use a natural cleanser to remove all the dirt from your hands, face, and body. Your face is putting up with a lot during your hikes, and it is important to wear a protective hat and apply sunscreen so you don’t get a sunburn. You can apply a face mask made of baking soda and activated charcoal to remove sweat and dirt particles from your pores.

Stretching and relaxing

Kids will probably want to run like crazy all the time, and that is fine. They are young and restless and they should spend their energy like that. As for you, try not to push yourself too much, choose a nice easy tempo and stick to it so you don’t pull a muscle or hurt yourself. You can even take a short break from time to time and stretch so your body can relax. What is more, there are some easy stretches you should do before you set out on your hiking adventure; this way your body will prepare and warm up so your hike will not be as difficult as you thought it would be.

Time spent with my family away from the city crowd is truly a blessing: we watch birds, learn about different plants and animals, and experience the seasons much more intensely than we would in the city. We are used to fresh air, the chirping of birds, eating while sitting on the grass, and the smell of earth after rain. Don’t be afraid to take your kids out for a hike, it is a beautiful experience which all of your family will enjoy.

The Lowdown on Goji Berry Juice

Goji berries.  Those little shrivelled orangey red berries you bought at the health food store that were disappointingly bland.  Remember them?  You bought them because of something about them being a superfood…but then they languished in the cupboard and they were thrown out after the expiration date.

Yes.  That was my experience anyway.

I really didn’t like them and proceeded to forget about them for the next six or seven years.

The Facts

Goji berries are also known as wolf berries and they originate in Tibet and China.  The best wolf berries come from the Ningxia Province of China.  They’re a member of the nightshade family, like tomatoes and aubergines, and they are considered a superfood because they are rich in antioxidants, as most berries are, and because of the generations-old traditional Chinese belief that eating them can lead to a long and healthy life.  As with most natural products, the big pharmaceutical companies don’t want to invest their money in researching inexpensive and easily available food products, and so the research which has been done on the health benefits of goji has been sparse and of poor quality so far.

However…here are some nutritional facts about the fruit and you can make your own conclusions about whether it is likely to offer some health benefits:

  • contains all the essential amino acids, which makes it unique amongst fruits
  • highest concentration of protein of any fruit
  • high in vitamin C
  • contains more carotenoids than any other food
  • contains 21 trace minerals
  • high in fibre
  • has 15 times more iron than spinach

In my internet travels, I found an online lecture which I took with a pinch of salt, as it was promoted by a particular brand of goji berry juice supplement, but unless they were out and out lying, the results were impressive.  The lecturer shared sample blood work results for their producBaseline Blood Samplet had done for an individual’s red blood cells.  First they showed the baseline blood sample of the individual.  The red blood cells were stacked and unhealthy with very little surface area.  The video doesn’t go into it, but I should explain that in cytology, stacked red blood cells are called ‘rouleau’ and this happens as a result of various types of physical and/or mental stress which sends electrical currents through the body, forcing the cells to change their charge and stick together.  In practical terms, this is what high blood pressure looks like.

The lecturer then showed the second blood sample taken from the same individual, only 15 Second Blood Sampleminutes after they had consumed 1oz their brand of goji berry juice supplement.  These red blood cells now appeared much healthier.  Again, the lecturer didn’t cover this, but in cytology these would be called ‘normocytes’ which are the red blood cells of a healthy person.  They have a dip in the middle, with lots of surface space to detox and they flow freely in the plasma because they are all negatively charged.

I then went to the NHS website to see what they said and they pretty well pooh pooh’d the benefits of the goji berry.  Not because they had any evidence that the goji berries did not do what the anecdotal evidence suggested, but because of the lack of solid scientific evidence in favour of them.   Unfortunately, without serious financial investment, such evidence is unlikely to be researched and conventional medical websites like the NHS will continue to sing the same tune.

However…when generations of a traditional culture have relied on a food for its health benefits…its usually for a good reason.  And there is an awful lot of anecdotal evidence as well as the evidence from the small number of studies mentioned above which suggest that regular consumption of goji berries can improve diabetes*, high blood pressure* and age related macular degeneration.    In particular, preliminary studies involving consumption of goji berry juice resulted in a feeling of well being and calmness, improved athletic performance and quality of sleep as well as weight loss.  So, I guess I’m willing to play that gamble for the small expense of a few goji berries every day.

The Problem

The problem is that goji berries and goji juice…well, they don’t taste very nice.

My Experience

I had heard so many positive things about a particular brand of goji berry juice, that I ordered a couple of bottles and about a month ago I started taking a 50ml shot of it daily first thing after waking in the morning.  At first it just tasted good and I didn’t notice anything special in how I felt.  But after about a week of taking it daily, I found my energy levels significantly improved.  I mean really really improved.  I went from a constant state of lethargy and “I can’t keep up with this toddler” to feeling absolutely rested during the day, perfectly able to keep up with whatever is new in the world of my toddler, and I never have that ‘shattered’ feeling I had all the time before.  I have so much energy.  And I’m not sure why, but also an uncharacteristically optimistic and positive outlook on life…which I guess I can just describe as an overall sensation of ‘wellness’.  Another result, which I was not at all expecting, but am nonetheless delighted by, is that I have lost about 10 pounds, despite no change in exercise or diet (aside from the addition of the goji juice).  And the product I purchased** tasted delicious as it was blended with other antioxidant juices and had a tad of stevia added for sweetness.

I suppose that after spending so many years being disappointed by so many supplements, vitamins, superfoods, eating trends and so on, in battling my general state of poor energy and fatigue, I’m a little surprised that I feel as good as I do just from one tiny glass of juice each morning.  But I do.  So I guess I should just be happy about that!

In Summary

I am seriously impressed by my experience with this goji berry juice and will continue taking it long term.

I did have some slight concerns about the fact that goji berries are grown in China, but the company that made the supplement I have been taking is very aware of issues of toxicity with foods coming from China and their berries come strictly from the Ningxia Province which is very remote and is separated from the rest of China by a desert.  In addition to this, they perform a metals test on every new batch of berries they receive. Goji berries from ANY other part of China are loaded with heavy metals, including mercury.

And, I’ll add that I also gave the dried berries themselves a second chance and made some goji berry muffins.  I’ve include a link to the video and recipe!  They were delicious!  (I don’t recommend making the sugar glaze as directed in the muffin recipe – they don’t need it.  You can also use regular flour in place of the einkorn flour, although Dove’s Farm does make an einkorn flour here in the UK, and the ‘Blue Agave’ just means agave syrup.  You could use honey instead.)

*If you are taking drugs for either of these conditions, or if you are taking a blood thinning medication such as warfarin, please discuss taking any goji berry supplement with your doctor first, as it could interact with these prescriptions.

**I bought this product at full price with my own money and have not been paid or otherwise compensated to review it.  The results I describe are honest and based on my own experiences using this product.  There are many goji berry products on the market, however, I cannot guarantee that they come from the Ningxia Province in China and are free of heavy metals.  If you are interested in knowing the product I used, please follow this link.  You can order it retail or set up your own wholesale account, in which case you may be asked for a ‘Sponsor or Enroller ID’.  I’d be very grateful if you used mine, which is #3514264 and they’ll send me some sort of referral thank you.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post.  I bought the product referred to with my own money and my comments are based on my own research and experience.  The information presented on this website is for informational purposes only.  The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals.  Consult your physician, nutritionally oriented doctor, and/or chemist regarding any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications.

Photo Credit: Healthyfig.com

Alternative Natural Sodas

The other day after coming out of the mum & baby cinema around lunchtime, I was absolutely famished, and headed into the Gourmet Burger Kitchen across the street for a veggie burger.  It was a hot day and before I knew it I had seen the chilly, frosted iconic glass bottle and had ordered myself a coke.

For me that coke was a very rare ‘treat’.  But like our American and Canadian friends, many Brits continue to drink their calories in the form of beer, wine, juice and soda.  I don’t need to shock you with the risks associated with soda consumption, which has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and obesity…because these aren’t shocking facts anymore.  They’ve been around for a long time now so its so easy to glaze over when you read them and just not take them seriously.

The high fructose corn syrup which sweetens soda comes from genetically modified corn that contains pesticides which – in only seconds – destroys your good gut flora, ruining immunity and contributing to an overall immune-compromised body that constantly struggles to find nutrients for survival and systematically loses the ability to fight off pathogens, parasites and antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

You’ll probably also know that diet sodas are just as bad, with research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society showing that diet soda intake is directly related to abdominal obesity in adults over the age of 65 and the waist circumference amongst diet soda drinkers being three times that of non-diet soda drinkers.  Oh poo.  Well, there goes that plan.

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Overall, surprise surprise, its just better to drink water.  The University of Bristol and Bangor University found that drinking sweet tasting drinks, regardless of their sugar content or lack thereof, dulls your sensitivity to sweet tastes in general and the sweet treat you once enjoyed becomes less of a special reward.  This establishes a vicious cycle eating sweet foods and drinks on a regular basis.

Okay, so water’s great as a daily thirst quencher, but what about on those special occasions like a BBQ or family movie night in front of the TV where you really do want a treat.  I’ve tracked down the…not ‘best’, but ‘least detrimental’ options for you which are available here in the UK:

Zevia

cola-flavorZevia do every flavour of soda you could want, from cola to grape soda to cream soda and root beer, all packaged in aluminium cans (although they do a glass bottle range now as well).  They do a tonic water for those of you who miss the occasional G&T and – get this – they even make a ‘Dr Zevia’.  Its sweetened with stevia, monk fruit and erythritol – all plant-based with no caloric value or effect on blood glucose levels – and they are Non-GMO Project Verified.

The good news is that in the US and Canada its available nearly everywhere.   (If you live in North America, here’s a Canadian coupon for $1 off a 6 pack of Zevia and for Americans, here’s a US coupon for $1 off a 6 pack.)

The bad news is that here in the UK its really tricky to find…unless you have a local Whole Foods Market near you, where they do stock a limited number of flavours.

Whole Earth

range-refreshingWhole Earth are a London-based company here in the UK which grew from a small macrobiotic restaurant back in the 60’s.  They make a range of organic sodas packaged in aluminium cans.  They make a cola as well as cranberry, lemon and elderflower sodas.  You can see their macrobiotic roots reflected in their cola which is flavoured with barley rather than the weird and wonderful botanicals you seem in some natural colas. They’re sweetened with organic agave nectar which has a lower GI than cane sugar.

Fever-Tree

2663-200ml-white-indian-tonic-low-res-rgbFever-Tree are a UK luxury botanical drinks company.  They primarily make mixers, such as tonic water, ginger beer, ginger ale and lemonade.  Their drinks are beautifully packaged in glass bottles so you do feel you are drinking something special with their products.  As a result, they have rather a lot of rewards to show for their efforts.  Their drinks are all sweetened using natural cane sugar and natural fruit sugar.

But, remember, its still sugar.  Its still going to spike your insulin levels.  Its still high GI.  It still has calories.  But its ‘real’ sugar, so it will be less damaging to your gut than the sugar you’ll find in a can of Coke.

Fentimans

fm_colaFentimans market their sodas as “botanically brewed beverages”.

But at 50 calories per 100 ml, their Curiosity Cola comes in at 8 calories per 100 ml higher than a can of Coke and it contains glucose syrup, yeast, sugar, unspecified flavourings, and a variety of e-numbers such as caramel colour (E150d) and phosphoric acid (E338).  Oh, and it is caffeinated as well.  It has been labelled by The Guardian as “The World’s Best Cola” however, so its up to you if that’s how you choose to spend your daily caloric intake.

They do a number of other flavoured sodas and cocktail mixers as well,  including a delicious Rose Lemonade (coming in at a whopping 52 calories per 100 ml).

They’re not organic and they only will confirm that their Victorian Lemonade and Ginger Beer are GMO free.  As such, I opted not to do a ‘taste test’ of their cola for this article and would NOT consider Fentimans to be a healthy alternative to conventional soda.

Roots

Because this article is about soft drinks available in the UK, we now come to Roots, a small, small, independently owned soda works in Granton, Edinburgh.  They make their soda by hand hoodoo-sodaand claim that their beverages are all natural fizzy drinks comprising of carbonated water, freshly squeezed whole fruit juice, raw cane sugar with infused flavour from herbs, spices, and petals.  Their sodas contain no artificial sweeteners, colourings, flavourings, preservatives or caffeine.

They’re not organic, but I like that they market their sodas as a special treat, only to be consumed once in a while, because “sugar is still sugar, and both fructose and sugar are *not cool* for us.”  At the moment there are only a couple of places in London carrying Roots sodas (BrewDog in Camden and Shoreditch).  I’m a mother of a 4 month old baby, so heading off the Shoreditch with the pram to taste a soda for my blog article wasn’t going to happen.  And as the company couldn’t provide me with a sample of their product for this article, I have to say I haven’t tried it yet.  I’ll update this article when I’ve done so.

Coca-Cola Life

Sigh.

1673295-slide-coca-cola-lifeOkay, I’m including this product in this article in no way because I think you should drink it.  I’m including it because some people will want to know:  “Is this a healthier alternative?”  Yes, its a healthier alternative to Coke Classic, in the way that cigars are a healthier alternative to cigarettes.

To start with, the green label is an absurdly obvious bit of greenwashing, as is the 30% of the bottle being made from unspecified plant-based resources (which I seriously wonder is GMO corn).  The product was launched in Argentina a couple of years ago and has now made its way to the UK.  (Pepsi have a similar product called Pepsi True, but as it doesn’t appear to be available in the UK, I’m not including it here.)

Coca-Cola Life contains 1/3 less sugar than regular Coke, but still contains 2/3 of whatever awful sugar it is that Coke uses in their normal soft drinks, along with a bit of stevia for “Natural Sweetness”.

And it tastes awful to boot.

Paleo Diet Review

At first glance, my friend Sarah and I couldn’t have more different diets to each other.  So when we found out that the the other had decided to try the high protein, high fat Paleo diet earlier this year for the month of January, we were equally surprised.  Sarah was surprised because she secretly wondered how the heck was I – a vegetarian – going to eat Paleo…and just what would I be eating?  And I was surprised because after 18 years of friendship, I’ve never seen Sarah go a day without eating sugar and dairy.  So, with some delay (I like to think as a period of reflection) we would like to share our stories and thoughts on the experience.

Sarah’s Story

At the beginning of January I sat down with my computer and a hand-drawn calendar and mapped out Paleo meals. And then my family of 5 followed the Paleo diet for one month. It was ambitious. I was hard. It was sometimes complicated. But was it worth it in the end?

Maybe?

As a stay-at-home mother of three boys (with ages ranging from “will eat anything that’s put in front of him” to “won’t eat it if it’s not peanut butter”), I struggle every day to ensure my kids are eating healthy food.  Mostly my approach is pretty basic.  I buy organic, local produce (when I can).  I use whole grains.  And I cook, every day.  But kids are kids.  And although some people have those children who will eat anything, I don’t.  So the idea to cut out whole food groups that my children will eat (pasta, bread, cheese) was something that I didn’t take on lightly.  Would my children starve?

They didn’t of course.  And neither did I.  Because by week three, I was cheating.  Well, I wasn’t cheating.  But the kids were.  Because you can’t tell a five year old that spaghetti squash is pasta (because it’s not).  And the baby, it turns out, really missed yoghurt.

It turns out that there are a lot of good things about the Paleo diet.  We ate a lot of vegetables.  We avoided refined sugars.  I tried baking with alternative flours, and have added some really good new recipes to my files.  We eat locally, sustainably raised meat anyway, so that wasn’t different.  But our meals did become more…protein focused.

But we did miss the foods that we love.  And that was sometimes hard (hence my caving and cooking the boys pasta because they really wanted it).  Like any diet that is quite restrictive, there were times when the diet wasn’t any fun. And at the end of the day, I’m not sure, for example, that legumes or dairy are really all that bad for you.

The intriguing thing about the Paleo Diet is that it seems logical. As humans, we evolved a certain way, to eat certain foods. So it makes sense that these are the foods we should be eating to be healthy.

But healthy eating, for me at least, isn’t about restriction.  It’s about ensuring that I and my family are eating the largest variety of foods possible – including carbs and glutens and legumes when appropriate.  The Paleo diet turned out not to be for me, but the discipline of really being conscious of my food choices was useful in “resetting” my meal planning, and getting me out of the post-holiday sugar-pasta-junk food rut.  Will I try it again?

Maybe?

But with so many food trends out there, maybe next January I’ll try “Vegan before Six.”

Kelly’s Story

Student Nutritionists go through something similar to first year med students – the med students tend to get a bit hypochondriac and nutrition students love to try out all the hype diets.  As a responsible nutritionist, I will someday know that everybody and their body is different and will suit a different diet.  Some people do better with high fat, high protein diets, others favour raw vegan lifestyles.  Others, like macrobiotics, and followers of Weston A Price favour a pretty balanced whole foods diet.  (No one flourishes on a standard diet of processed foods, though.  No one.)  However, until that responsible future nutritionist (me!) is qualified, I’m enjoying trying out all kinds of different diets and ways of eating; partly so I can see what suits me and partly so I can understand the challenges that my future clients might face when moving onto specialist diets for one reason or another.

Its pretty easy for me to try these things out, as my lifestyle is pretty flexible and I don’t have children.  However, I do have a husband.  But he’s easy, you know.  He’ll pretty much eat whatever I’m eating…

…but with a steak thrown on top.

So, back to Paleo.  I already knew that I had an intolerance to modern hybridised wheat (while seeming to do just fine on heritage wheats like emmer, kamut and spelt), so I wondered if taking all grains out of the equation might make me feel even better.  (I’m slightly extremist at times.)

I was pretty dubious about taking my beloved pulses out of my diet, but in the interests of the experiment, I did.  I was okay about eliminating sugar and terrified about eliminating most dairy.  As I don’t eat meat, but do eat fish, I substituted organic or wild fish for the pasture-fed organic meats.  Otherwise, it was pretty much the same.  I actually emailed the founder of the Paleo movement, Dr Loren Cordain, to ask about this and received a pretty frank reply that a life without meat was an unhealthy one.  Uh huh….so that was a nice start.

But I was assured by all the fancy-looking blogs I had read and high energy Bulletproof Diet TED talks I’d seen, that once on a high fat, high protein, low carb diet, I would immediately drop a ton of weight and become the happiest, healthiest and most energetic I had ever been.

As it happened, I had low energy all the time because my brain wasn’t getting the glucose it needed for me to get on with my very busy life, my mouth eternally tasted of grease from all the coconut oil, fish oils, avocados and grassfed butter I was eating and no to put too fine a point on it, I may as well have piped polyfilla into my digestive tract.

Oh, and I gained about 8 pounds.

So Paleo wasn’t for me.   (I mean, have you TRIED Bulletproof coffee???)

But it wasn’t all bad.  It gave me an opportunity to try out lots of recipes using different wholefood ingredients which was fun and educational.  A few (Paleo pancakes) have even continued on as firm household favourites.  It made me reconsider a lot of the health food store processed foods I still somewhat relied on and it weaned me away from dairy, to which I was completely addicted.  It was really nice in mid-winter to come home from the shops with nearly nothing packaged in a box or bottle – just fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs (oh God, so many eggs) and organic fish and meats.  And that’s what I’ve kept from the experience.

So a few months down the line, my food intake is a much more satisfying and balanced high complex carb, low fat, low-med protein diet and it suits me so much better.  I can eat all the fruits and veg I want, along with some legumes (I really missed those in January) and a bit of brown rice or wholegrain pasta.

Oh and yeah, I kept the coconut oil.  Just, um, its not in my coffee this time…

10 Achievable New Year Resolutions

Every year I ask my mother what her new year resolution is.  She says she’s giving up chocolate.  It lasts about 3 days.  Sound familiar?  Sure, I’ve made major life decisions which I have adhered to over the years, but I’m pretty sure that none of them were ever the result of a new year resolution.  In fact I struggle to think of a single new year resolution which wasn’t a complete failure.  So I’ve come up with 10 achievable changes to incorporate into my life for 2014.

1)  More Family Time

A while ago I made the decision that my job should make me as happy as the rest of my life does and I started training to become a Nutritional Therapist.  This has involved me keeping my day job while attending class on most weekends.  My work-school-life balance has been less than ideal for a while now and so this week I made the decision to reduce my hours at work and switch to a weekday class schedule, which will once again free up my weekends to once again spend Saturday mornings at Borough Market with my husband again or exploring Telegraph Hill with the dog…or even just spending a lazy morning on the sofa with a mug of tea and a copy of the Sunday Times.

2.  Grow Where You’re Planted

Maybe this one only applies to me.  I’ve spent my whole life thinking “life will be perfect when we move to….” and  “when we get a bigger house then  we can……”.  But maybe I just need to learn to love the space I’m in and cherish what I’ve got.   I have a warm and beautiful home with enough space to welcome our friends and a garden where I can enjoy the sun in the summer.  We live in a great neighbourhood with access to plenty of parks.  There’s always going to be something bigger and better and somewhere else that seems more exciting.  And who knows what the future might hold?  But right now, maybe I just need to nurture the little plot where I’m planted right now.

3.  Eat More Coconut Oil

Hey this is an easy one.  Coconut oil is great.  I’m a little biased because I love the stuff.  Its great for healthy skin (applied topically or when eaten regularly), for shiny hair (again, either applied topically or eaten regularly….or both!), for brain function (appearing to play a role in the reduction of dementia and Alzheimer’s), and it contains high levels of lauric acid which can kill  fungi, harmful bacteria and viruses.  Yes, its a saturated fat, but its structurally different to other saturated fats and is metabolised differently.  It fills you up, reducing your overall intake of calories, and even promoting a reduction in abdominal fat.  You know…your spare tire.  But make sure that you buy the raw, virgin, cold-pressed organic stuff.

4.  Take Your Vitamins.  (Not Just Buy Them)

I’ve got better with this over the last year, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.  I spend a lot of money on good quality  supplements and when I take them, I feel great.  I try to keep it down to a minimum, so I’m not rattling as I walk down the street, but there are a few vitamins I take as well as a couple of herbal tinctures and a fantastic breakfast shake which balances my blood sugar from morning to early afternoon because I really REALLY don’t wan to get diabetes!  That being said, I don’t particularly want my life to revolve around my vitamin schedule, but I do think it would improve my overall wellbeing if I just take the vitamins I’ve got when I’m supposed to take them.  (Even the yucky ones with kelp and spirulina that stink like low tide on a hot day and make me want to barf every time I take them.)  Its called structure.  I have very little of that in my life.

5.  Walk More – 10,000 Steps

“You know what, I really need to start walking less” said no one, ever.  Okay, that sounded like one of those glib Facebook shares and perhaps somewhere it is.  But really, walking is so good for you, and if you are at all able to engage in this exercise (i.e. not in a wheelchair or completely bedridden) then get out and walk some more.  I’m not really a pedometer kind of a person, but depending on your height and gait, 10,000 steps a day is between 5 and 8 kilometres.  There is a plethora of evidence that 10,000 steps a day will burn excess calories,  improve heart health and also can improve mental health. Any times in the past when I’ve gone through a difficult period, I know that walking has been my drug of choice.  I walk, walk and walk some more.  And when I think I can’t walk anymore, I just keep going.  This year I definitely plan to reignite my love of this simple activity – and best of all, its free!!!

6.  Think About Where Your Money Goes – Shop Local & Shop Strategically

Your pound, dollar, peso, whatever, is the best communication tool in the world.  Its better than Twitter, Facebook. customer feedback groups or the Amazon star rating system.  Because in the end, like it or not, the world is about money.  Every purchase you make tells companies (both big and small) what to keep making and tells stores what to keep stocking on their shelves.  For instance, today the average person in Britain consumes 36.4 kilos of sugar each year.  In 1997  that figure was 29.5 kilos.  This trend tells companies to produce more consumables (can you really call it food?) with sugar and to continue to make sweet foods sweeter.  By thinking about which companies, products and values we are supporting before spending our money, and taking into account the impact that even one person’s spending habits can have (remember that 36.4 kilos of sugar per year we’re all eating?  That’s over 230 million kilos of sugar in Britain alone), we are shopping strategically and helping to set the marketplace of the future.

7.  Try Something Different

Everyone gets caught up with crazy, restrictive or just plain unhealthy new year diets.  We suddenly realise we have to lose a whole whack of kilos which we just spent the last 6 months gaining and expect to lose it in two weeks.  Well, it don’t work like that, honey.  So instead of putting pressure on yourself, just remember how to enjoy real food and exercise again.  I find diet books exhausting.  They provide such rigid protocols I feel bored before I’ve even finished the second chapter.  But you know what?  Some different ways of eating are both really healthy and really fun.  For instance, in the spring, summer and early autumn months, I love eating a lot of raw vegan food.  There are some great bloggers out there with recipes that are so much fun to try:  Fully Raw KristinaFragrant Vanilla Cake and Live.Love.Raw.  Try it for a day.  A week.  A month.  Or even just one meal.  I’ve always been a little intimated to try eating Paleo, so on 1 January Mr Harris and I agreed to do it together.  There was no pressure – no commitment to adhere to it for any set length of time. Just to see how we got on with it.   And you know what – it couldn’t be easier having a grain-free lifestyle.  It makes the weekly shopping trip quick and easy (just fish, meat, eggs, fruit, vegetables and nuts!) and if I feel I just can’t get on without a bit of dairy, well, then I have a bit of cheese made from organic sheep or goats’ milk, which are much easier to digest.  Its not about discomfort and deprivation.  We might keep eating this way for another week.  We might keep eating this way forever.  But I’m just pleased that we tried it.  (And don’t forget to combine it with resolution number 5 above:  Walk More!)

8.  Meditate

(Uh oh…where’s she going with this?)  Meditation doesn’t have to mean a prayer rug and incense.  It can mean whatever it needs to mean to you to calm the near constant hyperarousal of the sympathetic nervous system which so many of us experience in our everyday lives.  We react to the so called ’emergencies’ in our work environments in the same way our bodies evolved to react to say, an attacking tiger.  While intellectually we can tell the difference, unfortunately our nervous system can’t, and adrenal fatigue is just all too common from overstimulation of the fight or flight instinct.  So what helps?  Meditation is one thing that can help.  You can sit on a prayer rug and silently empty your mind.  You can tune into Oprah & Deepak on their regular 21 day meditation sessions.  You can find a group of like minded people who enjoy chanting and ohm your hearts out.  I find it difficult to clear my mind unless I’m focusing on some type of gentle, preferably repetitive movement like walking or rock climbing, or being guided through yoga or tai chi.  I’ve even achieved a clear mind when swimming, looking at the bottom of the ocean floor or the tiles of the pool, and just focusing on gliding through the water while causing as little rippling as possible.  Or I don’t know, go fly fishing.  Just something quiet to take you away from the stimuli and scheduling of the rest of your life:  away from mobile phones, television, computers, wifi, traffic, screaming children and loved ones asking when dinner is ready and where the toilet paper is kept.   And by ‘you’, I mean ‘me’.

9.  Eat a Carrot a Day

Yes, I am going to eat a carrot a day.  I told you these were achievable resolutions.  I could bang on for days about the health benefits of carrots , but here’s a new one for me.  Raw carrots contain a type of undigestible fibre that binds excess oestrogen (and other toxins) and prevents them from being reabsorbed in the intestine.  Instead, your body can then focus its resources on progesterone and thyroid (yay!), rather than cortisol and oestrogen (boooooo).   And apparently all within just a few days of regular use.  (Ditto for bamboo shoots, by the way, in case for some reason you prefer those to carrots.)  Unfortunately, oatmeal – though also a good source of fibre – won’t do the trick.  This is because oatmeal provides good food for bacteria.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but the resulting bacterial endotoxins can put a chronic strain on the liver (liver processes toxins remember?), and divert its focus from storing enough sugar to process thyroid and other hormones….which could be the reason for the hormone imbalance in the first place.

And why do we care about too much oestrogen?  Less oestrogen means less strain on the liver, less inflammation overall and improved thyroid health.  Oh yeah, and boys, it also means less likelihood of you getting a nice set of moobs.

10.  Bake a Cake

Not just one cake.  Cakes on a regular basis.  And tea too.  Because what’s a home without a cup of tea and a slice of cake (in my case delicious almond, honey & orange Paleo cake) on a  Sunday afternoon?