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I’ve got a cereal bar tree in my garden

Ross from the TV sitcom Friends is a Paleontologist and as I’m sure you’re aware he manages to bore the backside off a donkey when talking about his work.  He studies and lectures on stone age times (apologies to all Historians out there for this probably inaccurate statement but it won’t change the message I need to get across).  From this we have adopted what is called the Paleo diet, i.e. the diet of man during these times; meals like Tyrannosaurus on toast, Pterodactyl a l’orange and Stegosaurus on a bed of wild rocket.  Maybe not.  Today’s version of the Paleo diet is based around only eating foods that were available at this time.  It has been slightly modernized as the foods available have changed a little and it consists of foods such as:

  •  Meat
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Berries
  • Mushrooms
  • Water
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

 

We were hunter gatherers, we ate when we were hungry and stopped when we were full but most importantly we only ate the foods that nature provided us with.  So by being a bit active and only eating natural foods we tended to stay lean and mobile.  We were lacking a decent health service back then (and I’m sure some of you think we still do) so that did put a bit of a spanner in the works when it came to life expectancy – and the fairly high chance of being eaten by your own dinner if you didn’t kill it quickly enough.

 

About 10,000 years ago we discovered farming which today gives us our healthy grains, brown rice, whole wheat pastas, porridge, dairy etc.  Although opinions differ amongst professionals like me, these foods could also be included on the list of foods that we should eat regularly but we don’t actually need them.  I know some of my clients certainly feel fuller for longer after some rice, porridge or pasta though.

 

So, next time you are about to put some food in your mouth ask yourself one simple question:  would this food have been available to me 20,000 years ago? 

 

“How do I know?”

 

Well start by using some common sense.  Do you think for example that a microwave meal existed?  Ok so we’re making progress.

 

If the answer is “no” to this question (not the microwave meal question silly the one about the 20,000 years ago) then try to replace it with something that was available.

 

What do I mean by this?  Well, we didn’t have processed foods, colourings, flavourings, emulsifiers, e-numbers and artificial sweeteners. 

 

For millions of years our bodies have been processing, digesting and using natural foods really quite well thank you, illustrated by how the planet’s population has not only survived but expanded out of control.  We have only been taking on processed foods for a very short period of time so we’re obviously going to be rubbish at digesting them.

 

If people only ate these food types they would be amazed at the results; in losing bodyfat, feeling stronger, more energetic, in their complexion and their moods.  Instead we add a low fat sauce here and some sugar there and before you know it it’s everywhere.  Now, I’m no angel, I just believe that if you could make more good decisions more of the time then you’ll see the results that will lead you to want to make even more of those sensible decisions.  We are a product of what we do most of the time, not every so often.  I’ll say that again; we are a product of what we do most of the time, not every so often.  Phew this means I can still have a boozy night sometimes then ;-)

 

When you are choosing your natural products over processed ones, try to have some protein, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals, water and essential fats with each meal and try to always be grazing on natural foods every couple of hours to keep your energy levels constant and your metabolism high.

 

When I suggest to people that they eat more natural foods they come back to me the next week with boasts such as “I’ve only had a banana and an apple today”.  Well done but it’s4pm!!  Your metabolism must have almost come to a standstill.  Oh and do you think you could add some protein as well please?!

 

If you only ate 100% natural foods then you would be doing what we have done for millions of years; eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, stay active, stay lean and healthy.  I don’t know about you but there’s only so much broccoli I could eat in one sitting!

 

So what is a natural food?  There are many misinterpretations:

 

  • We have apple trees but we don’t have cereal bar trees!
  • We can cut chicken breast from a chicken but it won’t give us pre-cooked chicken tikka pieces!
  • Half the raisins in the shops have been covered in glazing agents or vegetable oil so always read the ingredients carefully.  On the subject of ingredients, if there is only one single ingredient you are usually onto a winner (unless it’s lard).
  • Dried apricots are dark brown, the orange ones have been coloured to make them look tasty and so that they have a longer shelf life.
  • “Nuts are fattening” yes I agree that a bag of salted peanuts washed down with 5 pints isn’t great!
  • Bananas are very calorific.  Are you sure it’s the bananas?
  • “But it’s that seeded bread!”  Isn’t that just seeds and BREAD?!

 

Of course if you have certain dietary restrictions or requirements and/or medication that an expert has advised you to follow then please talk to that expert in conjunction with this.

 

I can’t think of anything worse, however, than going out to dinner with friends to celebrate a birthday or some other special occasion and ordering a salad with no dressing and drinking orange juice.  I would rather let my hair down when I go out.  I think that the longer you live a healthy lifestyle, the more likely you are to make better decisions automatically.  I might have a steak and chips in a restaurant but go out of my way to have a side salad or vegetables whereas in the past I’d just have the steak and chips.  I’ll try to eat the salad before the chips and then if I’m full it’s the chips I’ll end up leaving.  If I’m not full I’ll eat them.  I’ll eat a good quality steak that can be enjoyed more without a sauce but if I feel like a good peppercorn or béarnaise then I’ll have it.  I’ll have a starter if I fancy one and then there’s much less chance I’ll want a dessert.  I’ll drink what I like but one HUGE change I have made is the next morning I’ll get up and have a completely natural and healthy breakfast.  I’ll be straight back on track.  Admittedly, on occasions, with the mother of all hangovers I may well get up atmiddayand I may well have to use every last ounce of willpower but I get back on that right track.  That way, by the following day I’m back in the gym and feeling good about myself again and not sorry for myself.

 

It’s called having a balance.

 

Some people refer to the 80-20 rule; eighty percent of their diet is natural and twenty percent is tasty crap.  Apples were tasty once, we had to find food tasty to give make us want to eat it.  Strawberries are sugary enough as it is but over the years we’ve added cream and sugar (anyone for tennis) and now we’ve forgotten just how delicious they are on their own.  Our two basic instincts are survival and reproduction (not that I’m against chocolate and whipped cream in the bedroom) so we must have found all natural foods bloody gorgeous for a few million years.  I don’t know who made up the 80-20 split but what I do know is that the closer you can get split to 100-0 as often as possible the quicker you’ll get results.  Even though I still fancy the odd kebab or bacon sarnie, I also find them a lot harder to stomach than I used to, a sign my body is getting used to proper foods again. 

 

If I fancy indulging at home it may sound a little sad but I’ll have a cheese and pickle sandwich (or 3) but I won’t eat any bread the rest of the time.  Bread is a convenience food but I can’t think of anything more convenient than a banana; it comes in its own wrapper, doesn’t need to go in the toaster, tastes great and just one minor thing, having them as often as I want won’t turn me into Pavarotti.

 

So you see, it’s not about being square, it’s about making cleverer decisions more often.  Your mates don’t even need to know.

 

Go out, have fun, get up and get back on it.

 

Oh one last thing, for this to work you may have to stop going out drinking 7 nights a week – but hey you may want to live past your next birthday anyway.

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Shall I just starve myself?!

Picture the scenario, you’ve pigged out all Christmas and it’s week one of your New Year’s resolutions.  You hunt high and low for your gym membership card, accept the fact that it’s gone forever and reluctantly pay your £10 at the gym reception for a replacement card.  You stand in front of the camera posing for a new photo with a queue of other members looking on behind you and you are handed a new membership card with an even fatter photo than last time.  They’ve moved things around since you were last there but you locate the treadmills (as have 4,000 other guilty people) and off you go.  Twenty minutes into your walk/jog you are hyperventilating but it must be doing you good, even though you skipped breakfast (and therefore have no energy) as you were too hungover to face food (and are therefore dehydrated).  You start getting used to the machine again, your old friend of a little over a year ago, which helped you shift 3 pounds in 6 months, taking you from morbidly obese to very obese on those oh-so-useful charts that make bodybuilders and professional rugby players look fat (although you are unlikely to tell them to their faces).  You scroll through the functions and you come across the calories used in your 30 minute outing:

 

“One hundred and twelve!”

 

It’s so depressing, it has happened to us all, I don’t know why we look because we know it’s going to upset us but we can’t help ourselves.  Like being told “If you don’t want to know the score look away now” or “look away now if you don’t want to see the answer at the bottom of the screen”.  You don’t want to look as you know it’ll ruin your fun but you do.

 

What does this number actually mean though?  Well we know it’s not enough to burn off the tin of Quality Street that we devoured with our other half last night (as we had to finish off all the Christmas chocolates before we could go on a fitness regime), after a casserole washed down with a bottle of Merlot.  I don’t know exactly either.  I could look it up on line just like you could but let’s say it’s about 5 chocolates not 55.

 

What we need therefore is a starting point, a reference so that we can embark on an exercise and healthy eating plan and know that something is actually going to change.

 

When I ask people if they managed to do that run they promised me (and more importantly they promised themselves) they would do or whether they got their old bike out the shed, pumped the tyres up and actually rode it I often get replies like:

 

“No but I did have a lot of housework this week”

or

“No but I walked the dog 5 times”

or

“No but I lifted a lot of logs in the garden”

 

But you’ve had a house/dog/garden for years and you have said that you would like to change your shape, not keep it the same.  In my job I see people doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results!   I see people jumping on the scales week after week, praying that their weight has gone down.  These people are often highly educated, often run successful businesses, manage teams of hundreds of people or have raised a family single-handedly.  They would learn by their mistakes pretty quickly in any other scenario but this one, it’s bizarre…

 

To your credit, you are burning more calories than you would be watching TV so we need to give you some recognition for this.  Well done.  There you go.

 

What we need is some sort of starting point or reference point i.e. we need to know how many calories we use a day just being us.  Our daily calories we need to live is simply the amount of calories we need to lie down all day multiplied by how busy we are.

 

The amount of calories we need to maintain our current weight is dependent on our age, gender, weight, height and activity levels.  It is therefore known as our Total Energy Expenditure.

 

We could calculate this figure using fancy sums but an average female needs about 2000 and an average male needs about 2500 calories per day.  If you are not average, a mathematician or simply have too much time on your hands then please go online and find a formula to find the precise amount!  Not bad eh?  So you can have the whole box of chocolates – if you eat nothing else that day!!!  Don’t do that.

 

So now we know how many calories we need to maintain our current bodyweight all we have to do is burn a couple more than this each day and we’ll lose weight.  Simple.

 

Before you go starving yourself, I’m sure you have read articles stating that “safe” weight loss is around 1 to 2 pounds per week.  Why is that?  Well, if you know that you need 2500 calories to live and then you start taking on only 500 calories a day then look what happens:

 

1.  You get tired; your body hasn’t got enough energy to function, you may feel dizzy (a sugar low) and you may not be able concentrate.  Not ideal if you’re driving on the motorway or about to go to a job interview!

 

2.  If you are going to the gym you are unlikely to be able to run faster, lift more or swim for longer as you are like a car running without any petrol.  Not great psychologically and let’s face it we want to feel as positive as possible about all this right?

 

3.  If you have used all your energy up by midday (very likely on 500 calories a day) then why is it that you are still able to walk, run for the bus, play tennis, walk to the park with the kids (albeit hungrily)?  Well, the body stores some glycogen (basically energy) in the muscles in case you run out of food so it will draw this energy from your muscles.  Therefore any muscle that you have gained doing bodypump classes, cycling or free weights will diminish as you’re using it to provide the body with basic energy.  You really don’t want that to happen as your muscle to fat ratio will get worse!

 

4.  If you starve the body then, being a very adaptive chap, it will go into survival mode; what I mean by that is the body will do anything it can to preserve energy if you’re not feeding it so it will hold on to as much fat as possible. It slows down the metabolism of fat as it might need it to provide you with energy AS YOU’RE NOT GIVING IT ANY!  We want to speed up your metabolism, not slow it down!  Think of the word “breakfast”, meaning “to break the fast” i.e. you have fasted all night long.  While you are sleeping therefore the body experiences a long period of time without being given any fuel.  That’s one reason why they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Try to eat something as soon as you can in the morning as your metabolism has slowed right down.  I’m not suggesting you get up at 3.00 am for a snack by the way!  What do you mean you’re still on your way home from the nightclub at 3.00 am?!!

 

5.  You need energy to burn fat!  What?!  You need energy to pick up a coffee cup from a desk, to walk to the train station, to concentrate at work in fact your body needs energy to carry out every function.  The function we really really want it to carry out is to burn fat.  If we don’t give our body any food we don’t have the energy to burn fat so keep on eating!  There you go, some good news.

 

There you go then, some good arguments against starvation.  Anyway who wants to feel hungry all the time?  That’s what you have probably called “dieting” at some point in the past; we’re creating a new way of life.  A sustainable future.  “Diets” don’t work anyway.  Well if they did you wouldn’t be reading this would you?  Whatever “diet” you think you should do; whether it be no carbs, low carbs, alternating protein with carbs, sachets, shakes, powders, soups, counting points, counting calories, eating less or the Outer Mongolian Riverdance Eat It If You Want It Diet, you’ll only ever be able to keep the weight off if afterwards you find a balanced, healthy, natural diet that is sustainable forever so you might as well start with that one!!

 

All we need to do is take on slightly less calories each day than we use.  Roughly speaking we’re trying to take on 250-500 calories a day less than we use.  You’re never going do that exactly but that gives you a rough idea.

 

Personally, I’m not going to start counting calories for all the money in the world as it’s dull, time consuming and, most importantly, I know I won’t stick at it.  I do however think it’s important to understand calories to understand just how simple weight loss is. 

 

Just for a second, instead of calling them calories let’s call it energy.  We need a certain amount of energy to go about our daily lives.  When we eat we either use that energy to do things or we store it as fat.  That’s all fat is; stored energy.  We want less fat so we need to eat just enough to function properly but no more, so that the body uses a little bit of its fat (stored energy) each day.  It sounds like a tightrope balancing act to me which is why I won’t be counting calories.

 

Going hungry or “dieting” is not the answer.  We should never feel hungry.

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Cooking apples rock!

Got given a couple of cooking apples the other day (not sure if they thought I was in need of a few quid), cut them in half (yep core ‘n’ all) put a teaspoon of honey on top and chucked them in the oven at about 120 degrees for about 10 mins, added some crushed walnuts, back in for about 3 mins, took them out and poured some natural yoghurt on top – voila delicious dessert!

The longer you leave them in the softer they get so you choose but keeping checking til you know what you’re doin’ as I burnt the first one!!

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Can a healthy breakfast really be tasty?

I think I finally convinced another client to come off the processed <<insert famous brand name here>> cereal that she has for breakfast every day!

What did she have instead?

Well, we put a handful of porridge oats in a bowl with one to two tablespoons of crushed walnuts (yes we just smashed the sh*t out of them with a rolling pin) and put a splash of milk on it so it soaked into the porridge (no more than that) and nuts.  Then we cut up an apple into small pieces (but we could equally have cut up a pear or thrown on some blueberries), chucked that in with a small box of raisins (not ones with glazing agent or vegetable oil mind) and popped it into the microwave for a minute and a half.  Microwaves vary of course, we just want to warm the nuts (oooerrr missus).  The porridge and nuts should come out quite dry looking.  Drizzle a teaspoon of honey, half a sliced banana and a few tablespoons of natural yoghurt.

“It tastes like apple crumble” she said.

Result ;-)

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Broccoli versus lard

Which of these 2 food portions is better for you?:

500 calories of lard or 500 calories of broccoli?

Ok so unless you are a broccoli addict who hasn’t eaten fat for a week then I assume you said broccoli.  Try this one:

500 calories of lard or 700 calories of broccoli?

Aha!  So what happened to counting the calories?!

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Bread (How’s that for a creative title?)

Should you eat bread?  No.  Another mini adventure.

Bread features very highly on the glycaemic index meaning it hits the bloodstream very quickly, giving you a short spike of energy and then leaving you empty.

Here are a couple of things to know about bread (including brown bread):

 - Vitamins and minerals are lost when flour is extracted from grinding the grain and then added back in as part of the process.  It’s still no match for the naturally occurring nutrients that were there in the first place and have been lost! The food companies are using them in their synthetic form, which are not able to properly adapt to our bodies.

- A lot of breads contain additives, E-numbers, sugar and salt.

So yes, bread gives you energy, fills you up and gives you fibre but it is ridden with chemicals and lacks a load of nutrients that the body needs. 

So what to replace it with?  Something that gives us what we want from bread AND what we actually need!  The closer your food is to its natural source the better.  Bread does not grow on trees, apples do.  You cannot kill a slice of ham but you can kill a fish.

For breakfast, porridge is often suggested as it is one of the closest cereals to nature that we can get (i.e. no additives like there are in many breakfast cereals and no sugar coated dried fruit like there is/are in many muesli concoctions).  Some people will advise you against it but let’s be honest I certainly haven’t progressed to 4 raw eggs in the morning yet! For most of us, it is a step in the right direction as long as you remember that you need all the other essential nutrients as well:

i.e.

Essential fats – how about adding some walnuts?  I prefer the taste if I crush them but whole is also fine.

Protein – milk, nuts, how about adding some natural yoghurt either on top or separately?

Vitamins/minerals – add some berries or chopped banana?

Fat and protein are known as ‘gastric inhibitors’ and adding them to a meal lowers it on the GI scale, making you feel fuller for longer.  Maybe then you won’t feel less full on porridge than you do on bread?  If you have a mid-morning snack such as a piece of fruit or a handful of seeds then this could help.

Oh, one more thing; if you still don’t feel full then try this cutting edge new idea – eat more of these healthy foods!

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How do you value your gym membership?

I have learnt that very few people lose weight by exercising and now I have decided to launch a parallel product to help them with their food.  I suspect since you joined the gym you have seen at least 1000 people exercising.  How many of those have you looked at lately and thought “wow you’ve lost loads of weight?”  Maybe 3, maybe 1, maybe none?  I bet 999 of them joined the gym to lose weight so the results are very poor…..I have learnt the hard way….I have now accepted that I don’t lose weight when I exercise, only when I improve the quality of my diet.  This what I am teaching people so they see results quicker than I did.

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Weight Loss – Finally there’s a magic pill

Weight Loss – Finally there’s a magic pill

How many of you can identify with the following?:

You want to lose weight, you have paid your monthly gym membership, your joining fee, possibly rented a locker, bought all the fancy clothing, made the effort to pack a bag and travel there and missed Eastenders.

You then use 350 calories on an assortment of machines (bearing in mind watching Eastenders uses about 75 calories so you’ve only used an extra 275).  If you then you buy the super low fat, low salt, sugar free, low calorie, diet Chicken Caesar Salad at 400 calories then aren’t you going to walk out of there fatter than you walked in?!

Oh and you have paid a hell of a lot of money for the privilege!!

I’m sure there are some exceptional Chicken Caesar salads out there but on the whole you must have noticed the croutons, cheese and dressing, all helping the chicken and salad to rack up way more (useless) calories than an hour of exercise could ever burn.  I’m picking on the Chicken Caesar Salad a bit here but then again it’s probably the healthiest meal your gym has to offer.

My Lawyers have asked me to tell you that some gyms offer some extremely healthy menus and yours might be that gym!

And the magic pill?  Yeah right! But losing weight doesn’t have to be hard.

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