What’s Belly Fat Got To Do With Food Sensitivities?

Wow, what a week. I did my very first webinar last Saturday, thank you very much to those who were there. I’m happy to say I didn’t muck up the technology! Here’s some of the feedback:

“Awesome info.”

“I have just listened to the webinar session, and I have to let you know it was absolutely FANTASTIC!!!  I have taken notes, and will put them into action.”

“It was really excellent! The subject matter and presentation. Also, loved the client stories. I think my sisters would be very interested to watch the recording, too.“

The webinar was specifically for smart women approaching 50 (shhh!) and the topic was, “How to Have Peace of Mind Around Food And Curb Your Cravings Without Depending On Willpower.” If it interests you at all to pick up some useful information that you can apply to your everyday which will make a difference, here’s the link to the webinar replay. I don’t know how long this replay will be up for, and this is the only time you’ll catch me on my very first webinar! Lol.

So, what have I been denying?

Well, one of the things I shared on the webinar was the idea of food sensitivities.

Food sensitivities are when your immune system has a response to the food you’re eating. It causes inflammation which can show up in numerous ways – a runny nose, puffy eyes, fatigue, bloating, general puffiness, foggy thinking, lack of concentration, lack of motivation, poor memory, itchy skin, eczema, a rumbly tummy… The trouble with food sensitivities is that they can be hard to track and because we often think that our symptoms are a “normal” part of life, that it’s just “something that one gets”, we don’t recognize that those symptoms could be the result of eating foods that don’t agree with us.

Inflammation is actually a healthy response from our immune system. We all know, for example, when we’ve sprained an ankle, and our ankle goes red, swells up, feels hot to the touch and is painful, that it’s a normal part of the healing process. It can also save our life. But the inflammation that comes from food sensitivities is often ongoing when we continue to eat those very foods that cause the inflammation in the first place. In other words, the inflammation becomes chronic. What’s more, it is often also at a low level, which enables us to either not notice it or ignore it.

Here’s the thing about inflammation. It can be what’s causing you to hold on to that excess weight. Who would have thought, right?

Simplifying it as much as possible, inflammation cause physiological stress in your body, which in turn causes your stress hormone, cortisol, to be elevated. This in turn raises your blood sugar levels, which then also raises the level of another hormone, insulin. It’s the interaction of these two hormones being chronically elevated that then causes your body to deposit fat around the middle and to hold on to it.

As this process continues and we pack more fat into the cells, the fat cells expand until they are “full up” and then, they themselves start to get inflamed, kicking off another cycle of inflammation.

And what is good for you to know is that there is increasing evidence that this kind of systemic inflammation plays a central role in other more serious conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

So, how can you reduce inflammation?

Here’s the long and short of it.

  1. Discover if you have any food sensitivities and remove those foods temporarily in order to help your digestive system to heal. A good way to do this is by following an elimination protocol. Here’s one resource – Tom Malterre’s book (and if you happen to consult it, I’d personally leave out Phase 1).
  2. Significantly reduce or remove inflammatory foods from your diet, such as refined sugar, foods cooked at a high temperature, processed meats, artificial trans-fats which can be found in hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, margarine, refined carbohydrates, excessive alcohol.
  3. Include as many anti-inflammatory foods in your meals as you can. These are foods that help your body to quell the fires of inflammation, such as green leafy vegetables, broccoli, coriander (cilantro), blueberries, turmeric, bone broth, foods that are rich in omega-3 fats like salmon, matcha tea.

Now that said, I really don’t like having to say, “Don’t eat this or that.” So, instead, I’m going to ask you to focus primarily on (3) and raise your awareness to be able to do (1). Then eat, eat and eat all the foods that are good for you – nutrient-dense, real, whole foods. You can start today, by upping your vegetable intake. Just add one or two more servings, or three! With some delicious butter!

There, that feels so very much better, doesn’t it? 😉

Make your next years your best years.

Do women in their 40’s and 50’s really have to lose their waistline?


What a week! The “busy bug” found me and bit me. 🙂 But I am otherwise very well, and I hope the same goes for you too.

After my last newsletter, Elaine wrote with a great question (thanks, Elaine). She asked, “Question about the weight gain around the middle. Is it unavoidable or even essential to have that belt of fat? A good friend of mine, who is also a qualified yoga teacher, told me that it is essential to have that belt of fat to retain or compensate for the lower level of oestrogen in the menopausal years. She said her gynae told her that. Say goodbye to the hourglass shape once past fertile years and accept the rectangle because it is nature’s way. True or false?”

Interestingly, this last weekend, one of the lectures on my degree was on “Nutritional Therapy and Healthy Aging.” Our lecturer asked if getting to 50 inevitably means you’ll get middle aged spread, and then proceeded to show us that that isn’t true, as she is living proof of that.

So why is it that we often see evidence of the thickening waistline, and an apparent shift in body shape from the pear (wide hips and thighs, with more weight below the waist, consisting of subcutaneous fat – that is, surface fat surrounding the muscle) to the apple (fat around the middle, and often, also around the organs, known as visceral fat)?

The short answer is, unbalanced hormones.

During our fertile years, oestrogen is produced by the ovaries, and as we get into our 40’s and 50’s, and we begin to stop ovulating, the body looks to its fat tissue to help with oestrogen production. Fat tissue contains an enzyme called aromatase, which converts testosterone to oestrogen, so this becomes an important element of our hormone mix, because oestrogen helps with other bodily changes too, such as slowing down postmenopausal bone loss (which itself also happens because of less oestrgen).

Overall, therefore, as we get into our 40’s and 50’s, we produce less oestrogen, and lower levels of oestrogen lead to a change in the distribution of fat, depositing more fat around the middle. This happens even without any weight gain.

The trouble is, fat around the middle (specifically visceral fat) is more metabolically active than subcutaneous fat, and increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Plus, it is highly receptive to stress, and with ongoing stress being common in our modern lives, the depositing of and holding onto fat in this area is exacerbated. Why? Because with the ongoing stress, the body thinks that it’s going to need readily accessible fuel for “fight or flight”, which is the only way it knows how to interpret stress.

However, in our modern lives, we generally don’t fight or flee, but we do tend to have chronically elevated stress levels. So the body continues to circulate energy in our bloodstream that it means for fighting or fleeing, upsetting our balance of hormones further, and depositing even more fat around the middle for the ongoing stress it believes it needs it for. And now, it’s not just oestrogen, there’s also the interplay of cortisol and insulin.

So does it mean that we have to say goodbye to the hourglass shape and accept the rectangle, and place all the blame on oestrogen?

The bottom line is that our bodies are hugely complex systems, and it isn’t as simple as saying that oestrogen on its own makes you fat around the middle. Too much is just as problematic as too little, and it’ll also be relative to other hormones like progesterone. It’s really about hormonal balance.

That’s why it’s especially important for women in their 40’s and 50’s, to manage their stress levels, to eat the right foods that help to keep their hormones balanced, and to have the right kind of movement, and daily moderate movement, such as walking in particular – because this uses up the energy in the system that the body thinks it needs for the ongoing stress. See how it’s all inter-related?

I’m not a hormone expert. This is something I’m learning more and more about. But what I do know, is that I used to have much more belly fat, and it all came to a head when I started getting episodes of hot flushes, night sweats and insomnia. And when I changed my diet and lifestyle, some of my waist returned, and the hot flushes and night sweats went. The insomnia took a little longer.

Perhaps the most interesting thing of all, is that if I tip the balance on my eating habits for long enough that I cross the threshold, some of those symptoms come back. And the good news is, I know exactly what to do to get right back into balance again. Now, my next target is to get into optimal balance. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, where are you at? Are there changes that you know would be beneficial for you to make, so that you can get some of your waistline back? How would that feel?

Make your next years your best years.


How Romantic Dinners Could Be Impacting Your Health And How To Handle It

Have you ever been to a restaurant where the lighting is so dim that you can hardly read the menu?

Then there are those restaurants that are so poorly lit that they even have to provide reading lights along with their menus. So annoying!

Now new research reports that we are 16 to 24% more likely to order healthy foods when in a well-lit room, compared to when in a dimly lit room. Oh goodness, could romantic dinners actually be impacting your health?

The research points to evidence that the level of lighting affects our level of mental alertness, and therefore the choices we make. The brighter the room, the more alert we are, and the less likely we are to trade-off between the short-term benefits of taste/pleasure and the longer-term benefits of health/wellbeing.

This is biochemistry at work.

Overall, ambient light influences physiological reactions in terms of melatonin production, core body temperature, heart rate, and cortisol production, all of which are correlated with alertness levels.

What’s more, sales records show that those in dimly lit rooms ordered 39% more calories! (Not that we are into counting calories per se).

On the flip side, however, a more dimly lit ambience lends itself to our relaxing more, eating more slowly, even eating less and enjoying the food more. So what gives?

Here’s the rub. The research also stated that choosing between healthy and unhealthy options essentially force us to choose between options that appeal to the head (healthy options) and those that appeal to the heart (unhealthy options). Those of us who have walked that well-worn path of dieting are only too familiar with this – the battle between head and heart, the battle between willpower and desire.

You’ll most likely have already heard or read some tips on how to handle eating out – tips like, take a look at the menu for the restaurant you’ll be visiting beforehand and decide what you’re going to order, so that you’ll be less likely to end up eating something less healthy instead. Or, eat before you head out, so you’re not going to feel as hungry.

But these tips don’t help you to sort out the root cause and to align head and heart. Instead, they mostly satisfy your head and not your heart, and then the chances are that you’ll come away feeling less than satisfied and end up eating something else that’s even more unhealthy to plug that gap of dissatisfaction.

If you’re a chronic dieter, then you know exactly what I mean.

We need to appease both head and heart, not cause a conflict.

The good news is that there is a way to align both head and heart. You don’t have to have an argument with yourself each time you’re faced with food. You can have peace of mind and you can actually have your piece of cake and eat it – literally.

And it starts way before you ever set foot in a restaurant, romantic lighting or not.

Food means many things to each of us. It can mean a whole range of emotions – guilt, happiness, celebration, judgment, punishment, reward, family, friends, comfort – and it can even speak to your identity – I’m the one with the sweet tooth, I’m the one who always has desserts, I’m the one who loves crisps/chips. It’s also our way of pleasing others – I have to finish what’s on my plate so I don’t hurt my mom’s/grandma’s/aunty’s/friend’s feelings, and so on.

Then, there’s the physiological perspective too – is your body under stress because it’s not been getting the nourishment it needs to get you healthy and keep you there? This is your body’s prime prerogative and anything that pulls your body away from that creates stress.

Stress is that tension that exists between the point of happy equilibrium and where you’re at. And studies confirm what we already know – that stress can lead us firmly down the path of overeating.

So how do you reduce that tension or stress and align heart and head?

Long before your trip to any restaurant and as a matter of course…

  • Nourish yourself with food that’s rich in nutrients, by eating whole food as much as possible. This allows your body to relax, because chronic dieting puts it into starvation mode, and eating nutrient-dense food consistently and regularly helps your body to realize that it’s now getting the nutrients it needs to repair and to build.
  • Next, nourish yourself emotionally by learning to let in positive self-acknowledgment. Here’s one way to do this – start receiving compliments with grace. When someone says something nice about you, simply say, “Thank you,” and let it into every pore of your being. Don’t qualify – “Oh, thank you but….”. Don’t be dismissive. And graciously allow them the honour of having made and observation and voicing it to you. Don’t make them wrong with a, “Thank you, but…”

Then on the day of eating out:

  • Go ahead and look at the menu beforehand. Let yourself run through what your head thinks you should have, and what your heart says it’d like to have. Then pause, and ask your body what it would like to have too.
  • At the restaurant, order what will bring you the greatest balance of peace of mind. In fact, do this for every meal. You’ll automatically make a better food choice when you let go of judgment and come instead from a place of balance. When you first start to practice this, it might feel more as if it is a minimization of the feeling of angst or guilt. That’s OK. As time goes on, it will feel easier.
  • When your food arrives, feast first with your eyes – this is part of what is known as your cephalic digestion and starts the digestive processes in your body – it’s very healthy. (Get them to turn up the lights so you can see!)
  • Then take your time, eat and enjoy, without guilt or judgement. Taste and savour. And allow yourself to feel the greatest sense of satisfaction and nourishment than ever before.

The biochemistry of food and emotion is far greater than willpower, which explains why diets simply don’t work. So regardless of whether the lighting in the restaurant is bright or dim, jarring or romantic, the key to the battle is to nourish yourself first and foremost, each and every day, then when you’re eating, you don’t have to battle with guilt or angst. Instead you’ll get to savor every mouthful to the fullest and experience the deepest sense of satisfaction around food.


Biswas, D., Szocs, C., Wansink, B. and Chacko, R. (2016) Shining Light on Atmospherics: How Ambient Light Influences Food Choices. Journal of Marketing Research In-Press. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1509/jmr.14.0115

Polivy, J., Coleman, J. and Herman, C.P. (2005) The Effect of Deprivation on Food Cravings and Eating Behavior in Restrained and Unrestrained Eaters. International Journal of Eating Disorders. 38:301-309

Polivy, J., Heatherton, T.F. and Herman, C.P. (1988) Self-Esteem, Restraint, and Eating Behavior. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 97(3):354-356

Stress and overeating. (2011) Source: from Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Health Publications

The 3 Secrets To Creating Healthy Habits

I know, I know. The idea of habit. Many of us dread the idea of new habits. But the truth is, our lives are ruled by habit and I think that the reason many of us think that changing a habit is hard is because we’re going about it the wrong way.

You brush your teeth each morning as a matter of habit. How you tie your shoelaces are a matter of habit. The order in which you put your clothes on in the morning is a matter of habit. The same goes for the journey you take to work. These are all behaviors that you do automatically, without even thinking. And that’s the key – the fact that habits are automatic behaviours.

Habits allow you to do things with less effort, in less time and less thought – even no thought. What’s not to like about that?

But on the flip side, habits can make or break the deal when it comes to losing weight, eating more healthily, or changing your lifestyle. And if you know the secrets behind habits, you’ll set yourself up for success.

Forming new habits by including these secrets have actually been put to the test in various studies. One study found that individuals who formed 10 simple diet and activity behaviours lost 2 kg after 8 weeks, compared to 0.4 kg in those who didn’t form any new habits. And at the end of 32 weeks, through these simple habits, individuals lost an average of 3.8 kg.


  1. It’s much easier to choose a new behaviour (for example, eat protein with every meal), rather than give up an existing behaviour (such as, stop eating dairy), because you simply can’t build a habit around not doing something.
  2. Small changes lead to benefits over the long term. Small dietary changes that are sustained can help with weight management and regular light or moderate activity is better than none.
  3. The simpler the actions, the easier and more quickly they become habit.


To put these secrets into action, and to create new and simple healthy habits, follow these 5 simple steps.

Step 1. Decide What You Want To Do

The first step is to decide what you want your new habit to be. Be as specific as possible. Don’t just tell yourself you want to exercise more or drink more water. Instead say something like “I want to go for a 30 minute walk every single day” or “I want to drink 2 liters of water every day”.

Step 2. Chunk It Down

This step is especially important, because this is the one that can significantly decrease the feeling of effort that it takes to form a new habit.

Chunk down your desired new habit into a simple action that you know beyond any shadow of doubt that you can and will be able to do every single day. This becomes your first action step.

For example:

  • For your desired new habit of, “I want to go for a 30 minute walk every single day,” you know that you would definitely do 10 minutes of walking every day; if you were to think about 15 minutes, there’s doubt whether you’d do that every single day. So, 10 minutes of walking every day becomes your first action step.
  • Similarly, for “I want to drink 2 liters of water every day,” you might decide that ½ liter is what you can categorically do every single day without fail. So, drinking ½ liter becomes your first action step.

Step 3. Plan It In

Be consistent. Decide when and where you will do your first action step. Will you walk 10 minutes a day every day during your lunch hour? Will you drink your ½ liter of water every morning as soon as you get to work? Schedule a reminder and then do it at that time and place, every single day.

Step 4. Chunk It Up

Once this first action step has become habit, chunk it up to the next notch. How many minutes of walking now feels like a done deal? 20 minutes? Great! That’s your next action step. 1 liter of water? Perfect!

Step 5. Repeat Until You Reach Your Goal

Congratulations, you’ve made a healthy habit!

What new habits are you going to adopt? Here are some ideas to get you going.

  • Keep a daily food journal
  • Chew more slowly at every meal
  • Eat only dark chocolate of at least 70%
  • Have a smoothie for breakfast
  • Go to bed by 10 p.m. every night

Now, over to you. Come on over to the Facebook page and share your new proposed habit with us!




Gardner, B., Lally, P. amd Wardle, J. (2012) Making health habitual: the psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice. British Journal of General Practice 62(605): 664-666

Hill, J.O. (2009) Can a small-changes approach help address the obesity epidemic? A report of the Joint Task Force of the American Society for Nutrition, Institute of Food Technologists, and International Food Information Council. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 89(2): 477–484.

Lally, P., Chipperfield, A. and Wardle, J. (2008) Healthy habits: Efficacy of simple advice on weight control based on a habit-formation model. International Journal of Obesity 32(4): 700–707.

Lally, P. and Gardner, B. (2013) Promoting habit formation, Health Psychology Review, 7:sup1, S137-S158.

Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C.H.M., Potts, H.W.W. and Wardle, J. (2010) How are habits formed: modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology 40: 998–1009.

McGowan, L., Cooke, L.J. and Croker, H. (2012) Habit-formation as a novel theoretical framework for dietary change in pre-schoolers. Psychology of Health 27(Suppl1): 89.

Warburton, D.E.R., Nicol, C.W. and Bredin, S.S.D. (2006) Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. Canadian Medical Journal 174(6): 801–809.

3 Quick Tricks To Make Drinking Water A Simple Healthy Habit

OK, I have a confession to make. I should be drinking much more water here in Malaysia because the weather is so hot. The irony is, I drank more water in the UK even though the temperature is so much cooler there, primarily because I was vigilant in using one of the 3 quick tricks!

Most of us know that we should drink at least 8 eight-ounce glasses of water per day as part of our good health strategy. According to the European Food Safety Authority, adequate water intake for sedentary individuals needs to be 2 litres (68 ounces) per day for women and 2.5 laters (84 ounces) per day for men. This amount increases, depending on the weather, level of physical activity and if pregnant or not.

Water makes up about 60-70% of our body, and is present in our cells, tissues and organs. It is absolutely essential for life; while we can get away without eating any food for an extended period of time, we can only go for a few days without water. Maintaining the balance of water in our bodies is so important, that we have numerous amazing mechanisms to monitor and adjust the physiological functioning of various organs in our body to make sure we remain in a state of “euhydration,” defined as “the absence of absolute or relative hydration or dehydration”.

This diagram gives you a simplified indication of what actually goes on in our body to do this. No need to read all the detail unless you want to, but it’s good to glance it over to get a sense of how hard our bodies work to keep us alive through regulating our hydration.

Physiological mechanisms for regulating water
Source: Je’quier and Constant (2010)


We get our water from what we drink, what we eat and what we produce internally. But we aren’t able to produce enough water through our metabolism nor is there enough in the foods we eat to fulfil our body’s needs, and so, we need to make sure that we consume sufficient water.

Water is needed as a building material; more is needed when the body is growing. It is also needed for the metabolism of the food that we eat (being involved in hydrolysis of proteins, carbohydrates, fats and other nutrients), as well as being a transport medium for carrying nutrients to cells and removing waste products or toxins from them. It is also the main constituent of blood and is essential for the proper functioning of our organs and our body systems. It’s no wonder that too much loss of water in our body is life-threatening.

Water also provides lubrication for our joints, mucus, saliva, gastro-intestinal secretions, and helps our cells maintain their shape and function – just think, water is taken out of our cells when we are dehydrated and this causes our cells to shrink. It also helps us regulate our body temperature, through adjusting how much we sweat or pee.

Water also helps keep you mentally alert. Studies have shown that even mild dehydration (1-2% of body water) can affect alertness, the ability to concentrate and short-term memory function, and can also affect mood and feelings of anxiety and irritability.

Further, dehydration can lead to the development of headache, as a result of reduced total blood volume and dehydration in the brain tissues. Some observational studies further note that this can also trigger migraines and prolong them. For those with water deprivation-induced headache, relief from consuming water was experienced within 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Water can also help you maximize your physical performance. Athletes commonly lose about 6-10% of body weight in water during high intensity exercise, but it was found that even with mild dehydration as low as 2%, physical performance was reduced. Intense exercise or high heat can lead to experiencing more fatigue, reduced motivation, an altered ability to regulate body temperature and reduced endurance. It can also affect the perception of difficulty, making exercise feel more challenging, both mentally and physically. Thankfully, replenishing our level of hydration can reverse this and also reduce oxidative stress that results from high intensity exercise.

What’s more, water can also boost your metabolism and assist with weight loss. In two studies, consuming just half a liter (17 ounces) of water increased metabolic rate by 24-30% for up to an hour and a half. Some of this effect was a result of the body heating the temperature of the water to body temperature, and hence, it is more helpful to drink the water cold. Remember though, that drinking water alone will not increase your metabolism enough to show any appreciable weight loss by itself, but when added to your other weight loss efforts it will help, plus it will keep you from being dehydrated – a major nemesis to weight loss.

Sadly though, the majority of us do not drink nearly as much as our body needs to function at optimal efficiency.


“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.”
W. H. Auden (1907-1973)

Due to the way in which our thirst mechanism works, the feeling of thirst disappears before water balance is reached. So, how can you tell whether or not you’re dehydrated? Here’s a list of signs and symptoms:

Signs of mild to moderate dehydration Signs of severe dehydration
Dry, sticky mouth Extreme thirst
Sleepiness or tiredness Extreme fussiness or sleepiness in infants and children; irritability and confusion in adults
Thirst Very dry mouth, skin and mucous membranes
Decreased urine output Lack of sweating
Few or no tears when crying Little or no urination – any urine that is produced will be dark yellow or amber
Muscle weakness Sunken eyes
Headache Shrivelled and dry skin that lacks elasticity and does not “bounce back” when pinched into a fold
Dizziness or light-headedness Low blood pressure
Rapid heartbeat
Delirium or unconsciousness

Source: Mayo Clinic (2008) cited by Je’quier and Constant (2010)

Here are 3 quick tricks you can use to help get your daily water quota:

1) Eat water-enriched foods

About 80% of our daily water intake comes from drinking; the other 20% comes from the food we eat. Vegetables, such as lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes are 95% water. Fresh fruits like blueberries, apples and oranges are 85% water and are loaded with good nutrients and minerals; watermelon is 95% water. Supplementing your daily water intake with the recommend daily amount of fresh fruits and vegetables is a good way to ensure you are getting enough water.

2) Add flavor to your water

Adding flavor to your water does a couple of things. Firstly, it’s a simple way to make it taste better, which is not only great for a change, but also makes you more likely to drink it. And secondly, it can help provide some of your daily amount of vitamin C and replace electrolytes lost through sweating. You can add lemon to your water, for example. The juice of one large lemon has over 30% of your daily requirement of vitamin C and provides potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium. You could also try lime, cucumber, strawberries, kiwi fruit, ginger, mint – let your imagination run wild and try different combinations, like strawberry, basil and cucumber.

3) Put a day’s worth of water in a bottle

This is the one that did the trick for me. If you don’t track what you’re drinking, you’ll most likely not drink enough. A really easy way to keep track of how much water you’re drinking is to fill up a 2 liter (68 ounces) bottle with water and keep that in the refrigerator. You could also keep it on your desk, but getting up every now and again to grab your bottle from the fridge gets you moving which is another simple healthy habit (read why here). Keep drinking and refilling your glass throughout the day until the entire bottle is empty. This way, you’ll know you’ll soon get into the habit of drinking at least 2 liters a day, and you can gradually increase it to your own optimal level after that. Once you get used to drinking this amount of water each day, you’ll really notice how much better you feel.

OK! All set? Drink up more water for the week and let me know how you go!


Boschmann, M., Steiniger, J., Franke, G., Birkenfeld, A.L., Luft, F.C. and Jordan, J. (2006) Water Drinking Induces Thermogenesis through Osmosensitive Mechanisms. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism Vol. 92(8): pp. 3334–3337

Boschmann, M., Steiniger, J., Hille, U., Tank, J., Adams, F., Sharma, A.M., Klaus, S., Luft, F.C. and Jordan, J. (2003) Water-Induced Thermogenesis. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism Vol. 88(12): pp. 6015–6019

EFSA NDA Panel (EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies) (2010) Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for water. EFSA Journal Vol. 8(3): pp. 1459-1507

Ganio. M.S., Armstrong, L.E., Casa, D.J., McDermott, B.P., Lee, E.C., Yamamoto, L.M., Marzano, S., Lopez, R.M., Jimenez, L., Le Bellego, L., Chevillotte, E. and Lieberman, H.R. (2011) Mild dehydration impairs cognitive performance and mood of men. British Journal of Nutrition Vol. 106(10), pp. 1535–1543

Je’quier, E. and Constant, F. (2010) Water as an essential nutrient: the physiological basis of hydration. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition Vol. 64(2), pp. 115–123

Paik, I.Y., Jeong, M.H., Jin, H.E., Kim, Y.I., Suh, A.R., Cho, S.Y., Roh, H.T., Jin, C.H. and Suh, S.H. (2009) Fluid replacement following dehydration reduces oxidative stress during recovery. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. Vol. 383(1): pp. 103-107

Popkin, B.M., D’Anci, K.E. and Rosenberg, I.H. (2010) Water, Hydration and Health. Nutrition Review Vol. 68(8): pp. 439-458

5 Simple Sugar Swaps to Help Boost Your Immunity

Sugar has been on my mind a lot lately. I’m spending more time in Malaysia at the moment and the locals here (I’m technically one too 🙂 ) just LOVE sugar. It’s in just about every food, and there are cake shops everywhere. Even Starbucks has far more varieties of cake available than in the UK.

I have to confess that I had been over-indulging too, and I know from past experience that if I keep that up for too long, it lowers my immunity. No surprises, I came down with a cold. The great news is that my diet as a whole is based on clean and nutrient-dense foods, and I knew exactly what to do to get back on track. As a result, my cold only lasted a day and a half and as I write you, I’m happily feeling back on top once again.

But how exactly does too much sugar affect your immunity?

Sugar Affects Your Immunity

One of the major ways in which sugar affects our immunity is through its impact on Vitamin C.

Many of us are already aware that Vitamin C, also known as ascorbate, plays a role in our immunity. We often talk about taking Vitamin C when we get a cold, for example. Vitamin C is used by our body to help our immune cells (white blood cells) to multiply, and it is these cells that ingest and neutralize pathogenic bacteria and viruses, keeping us healthy, through a process known as “phagocytosis”.

In 1972, Dr. John Ely identified that the level of availability of Vitamin C in our cells determines the rate and intensity of our immune cells to respond when needed, and discovered the “Glucose-Ascorbate-Antagonism” (GAA) theory.

You see, in order for both glucose and Vitamin C to enter our cells, they use what are known as receptors. Because they are chemically configured so similarly, they both use the same receptor – the GLUT-1 receptor. This receptor is activated in response to insulin, which is released when our blood sugar levels rise.

However, the glucose molecules engage much more readily with the GLUT-1 receptors than the Vitamin C molecules. It’s as if Vitamin C is queueing up for the bus (the receptors) and just as it’s about to hop on, glucose comes along, jumps the queue and hops on instead. And then the bus conductor says, “Full up, Vitamin C, move on or wait for the next bus”. This means that the higher your blood sugar, the less Vitamin C enters your cells.

In other words, glucose competes directly with Vitamin C and restricts it from entering your cells. Hence, too much glucose in your system will have a direct impact on your level of immunity.

So the bottom-line is that we do need a slight increase in our blood sugar level, which happens when we eat, in order to facilitate the movement of Vitamin C into our cells, but too much is where the challenge to our immune system comes about.

5 Simple Sugar Swaps

The question now becomes, how do you boost your immunity? Quick answer – reduce the amount of sugar you’re consuming to keep your blood sugar levels more stable, and amp up on your intake of Vitamin C.

Having been a sugar addict, I know how difficult it is to even think about giving sugar up. It’s not necessarily that you haven’t tried, but those “sugar demons” somehow always win out. It’s not necessarily “your fault”, because of the bio-chemical effects that sugar has on your body, the impact of which is far greater than all of the will power any of us can ever muster.

But the good news is, there are some easy and simple swaps that you can start with, beginning today, which will help you to reduce the amount of sugar you’re eating.

Here are 5 ideas.

  1. Instead of jam on your toast in the morning, try some sugar-free nut butter. I especially love almond butter. Or mash an avocado and season with some Himalayan salt and some black pepper or some chilli flakes and maybe even a squeeze of lime. Plus, if you love coriander (cilantro) as I do, sprinkle a generous bunch on top!
  2. Swap your bowl of cereals for a bowl of warm porridge oats. Top with a generous dollop of whole yogurt (not the low fat version, because this has a high level of hidden sugar) or milk or coconut milk, and some nuts and a handful of berries. Hold off on the honey or agave syrup though and use the berries to give your oats that sweet taste instead.
  3. Reduce your fruit intake and have a handful of nuts instead, or a handful of a lower sugar fruit such as berries.
  4. If you drink fruit juices, then swap these out for pure coconut water. Fruit juices are essentially only the sugars from the fruit without any of the other nutrients, such as fiber, while coconut water is low in sugar and contains electrolytes, and also tastes delicious.
  5. Cut down on the sugar in your tea or coffee. In fact, try completely going without. You might also swap this for herbal tea instead. There are some herbal teas that have a “sweet” taste to them even though they don’t contain any sugar and I found this immensely helpful when I was going through the process of handling my sugar addiction. Particularly good ones are licorice, mint and chai. My favorite brands are http://www.pukkaherbs.com and http://www.yogitea.com
  6. OK, so this one isn’t specifically a sugar swap. Eat plenty more Vitamin C rich foods, such as bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, dark green leafy vegetables, cabbage, lemons, limes and sweet potatoes. Many people often think of oranges first up, when they think of Vitamin C. This is good too, but remember, don’t overindulge on fruit as a whole.

What other swap ideas can you think of? As always, I’d love to hear from you, so come on over to the Facebook page and share your thoughts.


Eat More Healthily by Paying Attention To Common Food Labels


I’m definitely an advocate for eating delicious, energy-giving nutrient-dense foods that help you to be healthy and keep to your optimal weight.

When you eat real and whole foods – foods that tend to be stocked in the very first section of the supermarket as you walk in – you seldom have to think about food labels. Fresh fruit and vegetables don’t come with a label, and neither do straight up cuts of meat (except for the pre-packaged cuts, which have labels to show the price and weight).

But when it comes to foods that have been processed in some way or ready-cooked meals, those labels can become a mine-field.

Food labels contain a lot of useful information, but it can be difficult to make sense of it all. Fortunately, you can make healthier choices without having to learn a lot of complicated scientific equations or mathematical calculations.

This is a simple guide to clearing up the most common sources of confusion about food labels, so you can eat more healthily.

Common Sources of Label Confusion

  1. Regard all sugars equally. Manufacturers sometimes use many different names for sweeteners, knowing that consumers may be trying to avoid sugar. Sugar is an “anti-nutrient”, which means that not only are you getting a lot of empty calories, it also uses up small amounts of valuable micro-nutrients to be processed. In other words, it actually costs you, nutritionally speaking, to eat sugar! Plus, it metabolises into advance glycation end-products (AGEs), which, speed up aging. Click here for a list of sugars, “by any other name”.
  2. Pay careful attention to serving sizes. Portions are another tricky area. Labels sometimes display the figures based on a half portion. You may expect to get 4 servings out of a small ice cream container, but does the label correspond? Make sure you keep a look out for those serving sizes.
  3. Consider the true value of “healthy foods”. There are many foods that are sold with “healthy” labels or brands that make it sound as if the food is good for you. Many of these are simply marketing terms, designed to help us feel as if we are being healthy, but may not necessarily be good for us. As an example, many foods that are “fat free” compensate by loading up with sugar. Similarly, many gluten free goods have to have something else included to provide the binding ability that comes from the gluten. The bottom line, read the label and know what you’re buying to eat.
  4. Be vigilant about trans fats. The “trans” fats found in many processed foods have been associated with heart disease and other health issues. A product may contain these fats even if the label says “0 grams.” That’s because, in the US, the FDA allows this as long as the amount is below 0.5 grams per serving, and there is no requirement to disclose trans-fats in the UK or in Europe. Your best protection is to eat mostly whole, natural foods. 
  5. Beware those 100% labels. These labels sound good, but even if something is labelled as “100% whole grain”, this does not mean that it is the only ingredient in the pack. What else is in it? The item that the food contains the most of, by weight, appears first on the ingredients list of a food label. What else is on the list? Always check the label to ensure that whole wheat or some whole grain is listed as the first ingredient and check that the other ingredients are things that are healthy for you too.

Diet plays a big role in the quality of our life and our overall well-being. Learn to read food labels like a pro and make healthier choices for you and your family.

Will you start today?

Sugar By Any Other Name


Confused by some of the names that appear on food labels? Some of those names are alternate names for sugar, and if we don’t know that, we could be eating far more sugar than we intend.

Here is a list of alternative names for sugar.

[columns_row width=”third”]
[column]Agave Nectar[/column]
[column]Barley Malt[/column]
[column]Beet Sugar[/column]

[columns_row width=”third”]
[column]Brown Sugar[/column]
[column]Buttered Syrup[/column]
[column]Cane Crystals[/column]

[columns_row width=”third”]
[column]Cane Juice[/column]
[column]Crystal Cane Sugar[/column]

[columns_row width=”third”]
[column]Carob Syrup[/column]
[column]Castor Sugar[/column]
[column]Confectioner’s Sugar[/column]

[columns_row width=”third”]
[column]Corn Sweetener[/column]
[column]Corn Syrup[/column]
[column]Corn Syrup Solids[/column]

[columns_row width=”third”]
[column]Crystalline Fructose[/column]
[column]Date Sugar[/column]
[column]Demerara Sugar[/column]

[columns_row width=”third”]
[column]Diastatic Malt[/column]

[columns_row width=”third”]
[column]Ethyl Maltol[/column]
[column]Evaporated Cane Juice Fructose[/column]

[columns_row width=”third”]
[column]Fruit Juice[/column]
[column]Fruit Juice Concentrates[/column]

[columns_row width=”third”]
[column]Glucose Solids[/column]
[column]Golden Sugar[/column]

[columns_row width=”third”]
[column]Golden Syrup[/column]
[column]Granulated Sugar[/column]
[column]Grape Sugar[/column]

[columns_row width=”third”]
[column]High-Fructose Corn Syrup[/column]
[column]Icing Sugar[/column]

[columns_row width=”third”]
[column]Invert Sugar[/column]
[column]Malt Syrup[/column]

[columns_row width=”third”]
[column]Maple Syrup[/column]

[columns_row width=”third”]
[column]Muscovado Sugar[/column]
[column]Raw Sugar Refiner’s Syrup[/column]

[columns_row width=”third”]
[column]Rice Syrup[/column]
[column]Sorghum Syrup Sucrose[/column]

[columns_row width=”third”]
[column]Turbinado Sugar[/column]
[column]Yellow Sugar[/column]



Is Dietary Fat Good or Bad?… 30 Leading Health Experts Weigh In

Think back to the last time you decided you wanted to lose weight or to improve your health.

Now ask yourself: On that morning, what did you do differently? Did you continue eating exactly the same but eating less instead? Did you try to count your calories? Did you cut down on fat and eat more carbs?

The truth is, many people aren’t always sure what the best strategies are, because there have been mixed messages about what it really takes to lose weight, feel great and reverse chronic disease naturally.

jar sand measuring tablespoon of ghee - clarified butter on grunge wood

One of the key areas of confusion has been around the subject of dietary fat. Dietary guidelines told us to eat less fat and more carb. These were based on the results of a study known as the Seven Countries Study. Unfortunately, the results of that study were “cherry-picked”, meaning, that only the findings that supported what the researchers wanted to show were reported. In short, it was bad science.

Fast forward to today. According to the Fat Summit website, “In 2015, the United States Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee removed any recommendations to limit fat in the diet (after concluding that it doesn’t make us fat or sick).” I am absolutely curious to hear more about this.

If, like me, you want to hear what the experts have to say, then I have something to share that I know you’re going to love.

The Fat Summit – “Separating Fat from Fiction” <— Check this out

Take a look at this amazing event, featuring some of the top leaders in health and wellness, and functional medicine. Hosted by nine-time New York Times bestselling author, and an internationally recognized leader, educator and advocate in Functional Medicine, Dr Mark Hyman, the list of speakers include David Perlmutter MD, Chris Kresser, Josh Axe, Nina Teicholz, JJ Virgin, Barry Sears, Gary Taubes, Walter C. Willett, MD, Christiane Northrup, MD, not to mention 21 other experts in the lineup.

For one week starting January 25, they’ll be weighing in (pardon the pun!) on dietary fat and the secrets to sustained weight loss, health and longevity. And incredibly, they’re giving all this away for FREE.

Here are just some of the many fascinating topics they’re covering:

  • Why eating more fat (and less sugar) actually leads to weight loss
  • Whether or not children should eat a high-fat diet
  • How carbohydrates impact hunger (I wish I had known about this years ago)
  • The research on red meat (does “grass-fed” really make a difference?)
  • The connection between toxins and weight gain
  • How to enjoy healthy meat (with minimal environmental impact)
  • The best sources of plant-based fat
  • The role of fat in ageing (ahhh, this one is close to my heart these days)
  • And much more…

Registration kicked off YESTERDAY and space is limited. Don’t put off what could well be the most important move you make all year. Sign up right now.

I can’t wait for you to watch this. This is going to change lives.

Here’s to a healthier 2016!



Food Really Can Be Your Medicine

If you could turn back the clock to become healthier, more energetic, more youthful and have a better quality of life, would you? And what if you could make changes to the extent of increasing your life expectancy while reducing the medication you need?

You may or may not have heard of “functional medicine” before. This is medicine which gets down to the root cause of the issue, instead of only treating the symptoms. Of course, there are times when it is absolutely appropriate to help alleviate the symptoms, but identifying and then resolving the root cause of the issue is generally not addressed at all.


The good news is that “how we do medicine” appears to be changing. The Cleveland Clinic in the US, started a Functional Medicine faculty earlier this year. And here in the UK, the BBC broadcast a programme called, “Doctor In The House,” which shows how Functional Medicine works – by taking time to really understand the individuals, their needs and their lifestyles. And this takes much more time than the average GP (physician) currently has for each time slot of less than ten minutes per patient.

On the show, we saw a man who had been diagnosed with diabetes some 12 years ago and was on 3 medications, yet his blood sugar levels were too high. But by the end of the show, having tackled the root cause of his disease, by changing what he ate, how he ate, and adding in appropriate movement to his days, he lost weight, and more importantly, his visceral fat levels were significantly reduced (visceral fat is fat that surrounds the organs and are associated with risks for certain health conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease), his blood sugar levels had returned to normal and as a result, he was able to stop taking two of the three medications.

He who takes medicine and neglects diet wastes the skill of the physician. (Chinese proverb)

Here’s the thing. Getting down to the root cause and then making changes in diet and lifestyle can make quick and significant impacts on health, for the better – even to the extent of reversing the markers of chronic health issues, such as diabetes, and reducing the medication needed. (I understand that the programme will be broadcast on BBC America in the new year, so be sure to watch that space).

Dr Chatterjee, the “doctor in the house” has summarised the main principles of his approach. It’s not rocket science, and the most important piece that underlies it all, is that of personal responsibility – making the decision that making the changes you need to make are worth it, so that you can have more energy, better health, improved longevity. So, here are Dr Chaterjee’s principles:

1. Eat well
2. Move well
3. Sleep well
4. Relax well.

They’re totally aligned with the 6 Keystone Tips which you can download here, if you haven’t already done so, to get you started.

Now your turn. What changes are you going to make to uplevel your health this week? What is it that you perhaps already know would be good for you to do, but you just haven’t made that step as yet? Come on over to the Facebook page and share.