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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.

References

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.

SO WHAT ARE THE 3 SECRETS TO CREATING HEALTHY HABITS?

  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.

PUTTING IT INTO ACTION

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!

Love

Veronica
xo

References

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)

REASONS TO DRINK PLENTY OF WATER

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.

3 QUICK TRICKS TO MAKE DRINKING WATER A SIMPLE HEALTHY HABIT

“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
Fever
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!

REFERENCES

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.

 

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!

Love

Veronica
xo

How To Eat For Health And Weight Loss

If you’ve ever been confused about what to eat to be healthy and to optimise your energy and your weight, you’re not alone. The world of healthy eating can be a minefield of confusion!

In the UK, the government issued guidelines on health, diet, lifestyle and wellbeing twenty years ago. But since then, there has been a lot of research and new knowledge gleaned in the field of nutrition and health and wellbeing… so is your thinking about what’s healthy for you been updated too? Or are you still holding on to now out-dated ideas, without realising that to be the case?

Now, the bottom line is that we are all bio-individual, meaning that each of us will respond or react differently to different foods and/or combinations of foods and/or relative amounts of the different food groups.

These guidelines provide the basis on which to build your foundation, and then you can tweak it from there.

Remember to download the 6 Keystone Tips Cheatsheet to Tame Your Expanding Waistline.

And also the BANT (www.bant.org.uk) “The Wellness Solution” Guidelines and “Fight The Fat. Beat The Bloat” Guidelines.

Once you’ve had a chance to read through the Keystone Tips and the Guidelines, just shoot me any questions you might have. Just click the “Ask Me” picture on the right and I’ll be very happy to help answer your question in a future episode.

Cheers

Veronica
xo

How To Remove The Angst And Reach Your Well-Being & Weight Loss Goals

Have you ever been frustrated that it’s taking you longer than you’d like to “get there”? Maybe you’ve hit a weight loss plateau and things just aren’t budging despite your keeping on track. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times in the past I’ve thrown in the towel and given up, even binged, simply because it all seemed like, well, “What’s the point of carrying on if I’m not seeing any results?”

Those were the days, before I understood about the way our bodies work. And today in my Bikram yoga class, I was reminded of it.

When we accept how nature works, and our bodies too, then we can relax, let go of the angst and reach our goals – ironically, more smoothly and quickly than if when we try and force it.

More haste, less speed. Such is the paradox of life.

Will you relax a little and let go of the angst?

It’s Snack Time, Baby!

It’s mid to late afternoon and it’s starting… dang those sugar cravings! No matter how many times you’ve tried, no matter how much willpower you exert, somehow, the sugar always wins in the end. Know what I mean?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, nearly half of us report an afternoon slump where energy and concentration are challenged. One of the most common reasons for afternoon fatigue is fluctuating blood sugar levels. If too much sugar is released into the body at once, by either waiting too long to eat between meals and/or having high carbohydrate or sweet foods, your body tries to rebalance your blood sugar levels by releasing insulin. This causes your blood sugar levels to first rise and then fall rapidly, leading to a quick burst of energy followed by a deep crash.

Many people experience this in the afternoons, especially after a high carbohydrate laden lunch. And therein lies the afternoon energy slump… you know, those times when you can barely keep your eyes open!

The first step, is, to mindfully choose the kind of lunch to have in the first place (Hint: some good healthy protein with loads of “above-the-ground” veggies). Either way, snacks are key. Yay! When we eat in a way that supports us, we can actually eat more and weigh less.

Snacks bridge the gap between meals and stop that rumbling stomach when lunch and dinner are hours away. They keep your blood sugar stable and your hunger in check so that you’re not raiding the vending machine or gorging everything in sight at your next meal. Snacks are also a great way to get in extra whole foods to ensure that you are getting in the correct nutrients for the day.

So, what kind of snack is the right snack? To keep energy levels up and bridge the gap properly, choose a snack made up of a complex carb, a healthy fat, and clean protein. This combination will increase your energy levels for a longer period of time. If you’ve been part of the “low fat brigade”, know that fat is important too. Not only does your body need it in order to function properly, but it also gives you satiety – that satisfied feeling that is missing when you eat a meal that’s devoid of fat. If you’ve ever had a super lean protein with salad and a non-oil dressing and then thought, “I know I’ve eaten enough to no longer be hungry but I just don’t feel satisfied, it feels like there’s a gap,” then you know exactly what I mean. At times like those, it would be oh so nice to have a yummy dessert just to finish up and feel satisfied, right?

But back to that afternoon slump. It’s the time of day when another cup of coffee or quick sugary snack seems like the perfect way to carry you to the end of the day. Don’t! With this snack list in hand, and a little planning, you can easily push through and run to the finish line. Don’t let that afternoon slump take control of you when you have the power to take control of it instead. Below is a list of my top ten snacks to beat that slump, so arm yourself with the ingredients and knowledge that you have the power to keep your hunger and energy in check all day!

Nine Top Snacks To Prevent The Afternoon Slump

1. A handful of raw unsalted nuts/homemade trail mix – the protein, fibre, and fat is a perfect snack combination

2. 2 cups of mixed raw veggie sticks and 2 tbsp of your favorite dip – hummus, tahini, pesto, etc.

3. Hardboiled egg, ¼ avocado, and tomato drizzled with some olive oil or you might like to try some flavoured olive oil instead – basil oil or chilli oil, for example.

4. ½ cup organic Greek yogurt (or a lactose-free option) with 1 tbsp nut butter, cinnamon, and ½ apple, sliced, OR Greek yogurt with 2 tbsp mixed nuts, seeds, and berries

5. Green smoothie – cucumber, kale, spinach, parsley, celery, lemon ginger, and coconut oil

6. Super smoothie – unsweetened almond milk, ½ banana, 1 tbsp almond butter, protein powder, vanilla, cinnamon, hemp seeds, maca powder/cacao powder, and ice

7. 1 apple, sliced, with 1 tbsp nut butter or coconut butter (yum!)

8. Berries with fresh mint and some almonds

9. Nori seaweed, canned salmon/tuna, avocado, spinach, and cucumber wrap

Oh, and one last thing. When you have your snack, really take some time out to savour every mouthful. Enjoy!

5 Top Reasons Why Smoothies are a Breakfast God-Send

You’ve most likely have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But are you one of many people who doesn’t feel like eating in the morning? Or maybe your breakfast is to grab a coffee on-the-go? And then again, maybe you do make time for breakfast, and your breakfast consists of cereals or toast and some fruit juice?

Now, here’s a question for you. Do you find yourself getting hungry only a couple of hours after breakfast and then craving for a pick-me-up – usually something sweet or high in carbs – some time after lunch? If so, then this is absolutely for you.

[Tweet “How we begin each day determines how the rest of the day goes”]

This is especially true from our body’s perspective. What we eat and when we eat, will determine if we feel energised and how that energy is maintained throughout the day, not to mention its impact on appetite and food (especially sugar) cravings later in the day. It has a direct impact on our metabolism and how we physically feel.

We all need energy to function. Even if we’re having a lazy day and not being particularly active, our body needs energy just to function. Yet, it’s so easy to want to just grab a bowl of cereals, or a slice or two of toast and maybe some fruit juice and a coffee or even forget about breakfast altogether. Sure, that gets you energy, but to what extent does it sustain you? I don’t want for you to just make it through the day; I want you to thrive, to feel energised and clear, and to provide your body with the building blocks it needs to keep you in optimal health.

A breakfast of cereals or toast, fruit juice and/or coffee is laden with sugar. What this means is that if you do have this kind of breakfast or skip breakfast altogether, you’re climbing on board the “crash and crave” roller coaster for the entire day. Yep, that’s right – the entire day – with fluctuating and increased insulin levels, causing even more cravings for quick pick-me-ups (are you picking at snacks before dinner?) and causing increased storage of fat. Over time, this can also be detrimental to your health.

What to do instead? Cue, smoothies.

Smoothies truly are a breakfast god-send. But first, let me make it clear, I’m not talking about the average sugar-laden smoothie made with a pile of fruits and not much else, nor am I referring to juicing. What I am referring to are nutrient-dense smoothies packed full of goodness.

Here are the top five reasons to regularly indulge in a delicious and healthy smoothie for breakfast.

(1) Quick and Easy. For those of us who are super-busy (who isn’t?), it’s super-quick and easy to prepare, taking just five minutes, even less, if you’re organised.
(2) Healthy AND Yummy. Smoothies are delicious and made with the right ingredients, they are nutrient-dense, chock full of vitamins, anti-oxidants, enzymes and minerals, meaning radiant and glowing skin plus strong, shiny hair and nails.
(3) Energy Boosting. A well-balanced low-glycemic smoothie gives you the fuel your body needs providing you with sustainable energy, without giving you fluctuating insulin levels I mentioned before. Hint: For a well-balanced smoothie, be sure to make sure your smoothie has these 3 elements – protein, healthy fat and fibre.
(4) Mental Clarity. The nutrients in your smoothie are easily assimilated, giving your body a break from having to work as hard at breaking down the nutrients from your food. Less energy is needed for digestion, releasing more energy for mental clarity, focus and concentration.
(5) Give Your Cravings a Kick! A smoothie that contains ample protein, healthy fats and fibre with minimal carbohydrates helps to stabilise your blood sugar levels. The protein keeps you full, the fats help you feel satiated and the fibre provides bulk for your digestive tract. By building further on this foundation on which you start the day, you’ll experience fewer cravings later on in the day.

There are umpteen different healthy smoothies that can be had, giving you plenty of breakfast variety. Simply toss in some greens, a little fruit and a healthy liquid like coconut water or almond milk, plus some protein into a blender and you’re good to go. You might even decide to amp it up in both the taste and nutrition stakes with some spices or superfoods.

Are you ready to give it a go? Head on over to our Recipes section right now for a delicious smoothie that’ll set you up for the day.

Why Are You Not Seeing Results Yet?

That’s often the cry of the dieter. You’ve…we’ve been sold the idea of quick weight loss (not necessarily fat loss, mind, but weight loss). You know, all those diet book titles – six weeks to…, eight minutes a day…, seven pounds in seven days….two days…. four hours…. – marketing messages that promise quick results and sell a promise of “quick and easy”. What they don’t tell you is that 95% of dieters may well lose some weight, temporarily, that those results are not sustainable and the weight piles back on again plus more. Sound familiar?

Carrying extra weight is a symptom that your body isn’t in balance. It’s one of the outward manifestations of your body not being at its optimal health. We’re so focused on our weight that we don’t relate our diet to other symptoms – eczema, allergies, blotchy skin, a less than healthy colour, dry skin, fatigue, brain fog…. Often, we put some of these things down to age, without even stopping to think that if we tackled the source of the problem, then our body could heal, and all of these other issues would clear themselves up and we could have our body be at its ideal body composition. We look only for linear measurements by which we track progress.

What’s more, so many people have learned only to measure progress by the weight on the scale. We weigh ourselves and become upset and throw the diet out of the window when the scale doesn’t show that same 2 pounds a week loss. But what exactly is that loss? Fat? Water? Muscle? We become attached to the number on the scale, which then determines how good or bad we feel about ourselves and then how well we treat ourselves, especially through our eating for the rest of the day.

It’s time to let that go

It’s time to take a step back and take a bigger picture view on things, and to understand that our body will heal if we provide it with what it needs. That healing takes time.

That is the way of nature. Children grow in spurts; they don’t grow linearly. So it is too with our bodies. As the teachers in my Bikram Yoga class say, “Same class everyday, not the same body everyday”.

Our bodies are an amazing bio-chemical lab.

Within the course of a day, the body shifts in temperature, metabolic rate, brain wave patterns, hormone levels, energy output, respiratory function… Each second, millions of blood cells are born and die. Your stomach lining regenerates completely in a week. Your skin surface is replaced in a month and your liver cells turn over in six weeks. Scientists say that our entire body is replaced within seven years.

It isn’t a static “same everyday” organism; it is living universe that responds moment by moment to its environment. This includes its external environment as well as its internal environment. Guess what? The foods that we eat determine its internal environment.

[Tweet “So, have you ever wondered why your body seems to recreate the same body over and over again?”]

If your skin surface is replaced in a month, why does it still look the same as last month?

Well, if you’re eating the same as last month, they there’s your answer right there… because what your body gets to use to rebuild itself is the food you eat.

The quality of the food that you eat determines the quality of the building material that your body has, which in turn determines the state of your health and metabolism, and so ultimately your body composition.

The visual measurement of skinny or fat is not necessarily a reflection of health.

You need to be healthy first

As Dr Schwarzbein, author of The Schwarzbein Principle, says, “You need to be healthy to lose weight, not lose weight to be healthy. It is only when you have completely healed your metabolism that you are primed for losing all your excess storage fat.”

So what gives? The idea that weight loss in and of itself is the goal. It’s not; it’s just one of the outward symptoms of a body not being at its optimal best.

Next week, I’ll write about what foods to start adding into your diet. And I won’t be asking you to take anything away.

In the meantime, start listing out all the things that you’d like to see improve – better and clearer thinking, clearer skin, shinier hair, brighter eyes, more energy, better quality sleep, fit of clothes, self-confidence, improved mood… what else can you think of?

Oh, and if you can start weaning yourself off your scales, that would be good too.

Until then.