Thursday, 5 March 2015

My Experience of Anorexia and the Need for Compassion

Hi everyone!

It's good to be back. After taking almost a year out to focus on my own health, I'm back and raring to go. I've been on quite a journey this past year (excuse the cliché, please) and I'm now so motivated, so focused, and so energised. I've learnt to work at my own pace, to say 'no' when I need to, and to show myself some compassion and not just be compassionate towards others.

Becoming unwell last year was definitely, in part, due to the fact that I wasn't allowing myself enough down-time and respite. Instead I was putting myself out there for anyone and everyone who asked for, or needed, my attention, care and hard work. And I love doing everything I can to help anyone I can, but if there's one lesson I've learnt, and one lesson that from now on will be my message to others, it's:

Love yourself as much as you love those around you. You deserve compassion, kindness and care as much as anyone else, and it's OK to say 'no' and allow yourself time and space to relax and recharge. 

Now I know that's easier said than done - heck it's taken me almost a year to come to terms with that fact. But it's true. And without remembering it, we're all going to burn out and succumb to the stress and non-stop busy-ness that everyday life brings. Or our underlying niggles of self-doubt, or 'I'm not good enough', or 'I don't deserve that' will become louder and louder until they become our confounded beliefs. 

I have learnt so much this year and so much of it I will treasure and pass on to as many people as I can. I began 2014 happy, healthy and committed to helping others through my work as a nutritionist. However personal circumstances caused a part of my past to surge back into my life at full pelt and knocked me to the floor. An insidious illness I went through during my teens and thought I'd overcome returned, the beast was back. And that beast was anorexia.

I had anorexia throughout my teens, until in my early twenties I became reasonably stable. There were little relapses here and there when I was overwhelmed with stress, and I was always a little underweight, but generally I was happy and healthy. So as I was in a place I considered as recovered as I could be (weight restored, all obsessions and compulsions non-existent) I gathered my folders of recipes and food facts and I signed up for a course in Clinical Nutrition so that I could teach others how to enjoy food whilst remaining healthy, how to live their life to the full yet still have time to prepare delicious home-cooked meals, how to lose weight without feeling deprived or restricting themselves. I knew I could teach people in a way that they needed to be taught, and once I was qualified, and now armed with medical knowledge as well as an encyclopedic knowledge of nutrition, I felt a sense of duty to help others improve their relationship with food and with themselves. This is why my approach, with each and every client, is non-faddy, non-restrictive and entirely holistic. So many nutritionists and 'weight loss experts' out there will tell you to cut out carbs or cut out fat or to not eat after 6pm or whatever other nonsense fad is bouncing around, but I will NEVER tell a client to do that. I have experienced the horrendous effects of cutting out entire food groups and of restricting my calories to such a low level that my brain's way of trying to convince me to increase my caloric intake is to force me to think about food every waking moment.

It may seem odd to some that a person with a history of anorexia would want to work in the field of nutrition. Some may believe it's inappropriate and wonder, "How could she possibly be in a position to teach others about nutrition, health and weight if her brain is warped by an eating disorder?". I have heard that exact thing said about me, and it hurt, because no matter how unwell I was in the past, and despite anorexia returning last year, my brain, my intelligence, has not been damaged. Even in the depths of anorexia I could tell you what a healthy portion size looked like or what a healthy weight looked like, but one of the unfathomable things about anorexia is that the rules and standards you apply to yourself are not applied to others; things that you know are 'normal' and healthy for everyone else are 'bad' for you because there's always a sense that, "I don't deserve that. I don't deserve that pleasure, I don't deserve to be healthy.".  In my experience of anorexia, I knew I wasn't eating enough, that I looked emaciated and what I was doing was dangerous, but it's a psychological illness that manifests physically, and with the patience, love and guidance of friends, family and the professionals who worked with me, I was able to reach into the emotional pain I was struggling to cope with, work through it, and release the pain and fear I'd been holding inside.

As soon as my illness hit me last April (and it really did hit me almost literally over night when my 'personal life' world was turned upside down and my heart was smashed to pieces), I knew I had to stop work. It wouldn't be appropriate for me to be teaching others about health and nutrition while I was ill. But I am now healthy when it comes to my body image, my weight and my attitude to food. I have restored my weight and I'm committed to continuing to treat myself well, to ensure I remain healthy and happy. Having had anorexia throughout my teens, I essentially have an extra ten years experience of studying nutrition, food labels, recipes etc. Perhaps at the time I was studying these things for an ultimately negative purpose, but now that I am better I have to take some positive out of that negative experience. I have to take what I've learnt and use it in the best and most appropriate way I can.

I so passionately believe that health, weight loss and even weight gain (for people recovering from an illness or who are struggling to maintain a high enough weight, for example) must be approached with care and compassion. Instructions, rule books, finger-wagging punishments and judgmental attitudes will only drive people's self-esteem into the ground. I know how important it is to consider a person's entire self: mind, body, soul - their lifestyle, their likes and dislikes, their emotional relationship with food, and so on.

So here I am, so grateful for experiencing everything I have during the last year because I have learnt so much and I have so much to share and so much to give. For anyone who may be questioning my ability or wondering how someone who has only in the last few months become healthy again after a short relapse into anorexia (I was unwell for seven months, spent three months restoring weight and in intensive therapy, and have spent a few months just maintaining this level of health, re-discovering 'me', nurturing myself), I want to reassure you. I am physically healthy and I absolutely do not have a 'warped view' of what is healthy, what constitutes overweight and underweight, what healthy portion sizes look like, how many calories or grams of fat one should have each day - I have been given the all-clear by medical professionals to return to work and, let me tell you, I can't wait. My experience with anorexia means I truly, honestly understand what it's like to have issues with food that affect every area of your life, and issues with your body, self-esteem, body image and self-confidence that can lead to negative self-talk, body dysmorphia, unclear boundaries with food and weight, and a whole number of issues around food.

I intend to reach out and guide as many people as I can, to learn from my experience and share with you what I've learnt in order to show you that there is light at the end of the tunnel, you can have a great relationship with food, you can have a wonderful relationship with yourself and your body, and you can find true joy in your life when you treat yourself the way you deserve to be treated: with compassion, respect, care, kindness and love.

If you're suffering from an eating disorder, in recovery, know or worry that someone you know may be struggling, or just want to find more information on eating disorders, these links may be helpful: (National charity supporting anyone suffering from an eating disorder) (South Yorkshire Eating Disorder Association, based in Sheffield) (UK based treatment for eating disorders and professional training)

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Recipe: Chicken/Quorn/Chickpeas with Chorizo/Black Olives & Tomato

This high protein, vitamin-packed recipe is great if you need to knock up a quick, easy and nutritious dinner within an hour. It's very easily adapted to suit meat eaters, vegans and vegetarians.

Serves 2


  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into chunks or 3 Quorn 'chicken style' fillets or 1 400g tin chickpeas, drained
  • 1 500g jar passata
  • 2tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 courgette, cut into chunks
  • 75g button mushrooms
  • 1/2 chorizo sausage cut into thick rounds and halved, or 150g black olives
  • 1tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
  • 1tbsp dried mixed herbs or 1tsp each dried oregano and basil
  • Fresh basil leaves, to serve
  • Cous cous or bulgar wheat to serve (optional)


1. Heat oil in large pan or wok and brown the chicken / heat the Quorn or chickpeas
2. Add the onions, courgettes, mushrooms and dried herbs, stirring regularly, until softened (no longer than 10 minutes)
3. Add the chorizo/black olives and heat for 5 minutes before adding the passata and tomato puree and stirring thoroughly
4. Cover and leave to simmer for 15 minutes before serving with fresh basil and cous cous or bulgar wheat.


Monday, 7 July 2014

The Dangers of Meal Replacement Diets

Spring and Summer are often times at which we feel pressured to slim down in order to look good in a bikini or to feel confident in our Summer clothes, so it’s not surprising that many people choose meal replacement diets to lose weight quickly or to kick-start their diets. However these meal replacement products can be dangerous and actually do our bodies more harm than good, despite the vast amount of health benefits or rapid weight loss that they claim to provide.

For me personally I find it bizarre that anyone would want to restrict themselves so much as to just drink shakes or juices or just eat cereal-type bars and omit all of the tasty, wholesome foods that they really can enjoy guilt-free. My ethos is to never skip meals, ignore hunger or restrict yourself so much that you feel deprived (most often this leads to binge eating, low mood and a lack of energy). Most importantly you need to nourish your body and consume adequate calories so that your metabolism doesn’t grind to a halt and so that your body can function optimally.

Dangerous Ingredients

Often the main ingredient in meal replacement bars and shakes or ‘detox’ juices is sugar. It may be labelled as syrup, dextrose, glucose, sucrose or maltose, to name but a few sugar pseudonyms, but it’s all the same thing. You may only be having 200 calories three times each day but the majority of these come from sugar, providing no nutrients whatsoever. The sugar rush you’ll experience after a shake or bar will give you enough energy to get through your day, but you’ll experience energy slumps, tiredness and mood swings. As your body tries to process this sugar it will release large amounts of insulin and, in turn, store the excess in your liver and muscle tissue.

Another ingredient commonly found in meal replacement bars and shakes is aspartame, a chemical sweetener known as a neurotoxin which has been linked to a range of unpleasant symptoms including migraines, muscle spasms, irritability and cognitive impairment. These occur because the hypothalamus (an area within the brain) cannot function properly when aspartame is present in the body and this can lead to hormonal imbalances. Aspartame is technically not sugar, and therefore companies are allowed to label products as ‘sugar free’ despite them being loaded with the chemical.

Slow Metabolism

Many people describe a feeling of euphoria and very high energy when they embark on a restrictive diet such as a shake diet. This is due to the endorphins released as a protective measure to ‘push you through’ the starvation period that your body perceives. Remember, we’re programmed to hold onto fat during periods of starvation as a survival mechanism and so that we can still ‘fight or flight’ even without many calories being consumed. Although you know that you are not exactly starving, your body doesn’t and so slows down your metabolism and stops performing functions around the body in an attempt to preserve energy.

Lack of Nutrients

It is a simple fact that your body cannot function properly without adequate nutrition. We need to eat foods with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals in order to avoid deficiencies which can cause hormonal imbalance, skin problems, migraines, nausea, irritability and so on. It is vital that we eat a range of fruits and vegetables, pulses, grains, dairy, meat, fish or soy products in order to obtain these nutrients and allow our body to adequately function.

In terms of fat, you need to eat fat to lose fat. Of course that’s not to say a litre of ice cream will help you to shed the pounds, it’s about the type of fats you eat. Omegas 3 and 6 – found in eggs, flaxseeds, rapeseed oil and oily fish – are an essential component of any diet, even if you’re trying to lose weight. Extra virgin olive oil, avocados and unsalted nuts – such as Brazils and almonds – provide equally important essential fats (the unsaturated variety, as opposed to saturated). In short, it is a myth that cutting out fat from your diet will help you to lose weight more quickly or keep it off in the long term.

Being on a meal replacement diet will also mean you’re missing out on fibre which can result in bloating, sluggish digestion, constipation and low energy. In the long term a lack of fibre can even contribute to the development of bowel cancer. Fruit, vegetables, pulses and wholegrains all contain fibre and must be consumed every day to keep your digestive system healthy and your energy levels up.

Safe, Healthy Weight Loss

If you do want to lose weight and keep it off, the message is to stick to a steady pace. Never ignore hunger or skip meals as this will slow your metabolism right down. On average, women should never reduce their calorie intake to below 1,200 and men below 1,800 (a GP may advise differently depending on your circumstances). Again this is to avoid your metabolism slowing down and to provide your body with adequate energy. No food group should be cut out completely, although sugar should be avoided (unless it’s naturally occurring in fruit and vegetables) and saturated fat should be reduced to no more than 30g for men and 20g for women each day. Unsaturated fats such as those in extra virgin olive oil, oily fish, nuts and avocados should be reduced to no more than 60g for men and 50g for women each day. You should aim for a weight loss of 2lbs per week if you're overweight and up to 4lbs per week if you're obese.

A typical, healthy day on a weight loss diet could look like this:

Breakfast – 2 slices wholegrain toast with marmite or nut butter.

Lunch – 1 avocado with salad and 2 oatcakes / 1 tin tuna in spring water with salad dressed with lemon juice and 1tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus 2 oatcakes.

Dinner – 1 chicken breast or 1 Quorn fillet or ½ block tofu, stir fried with vegetables and 1 serving spoon brown rice.

Snacks - Natural yoghurt with strawberries and 1tsp pumpkin seeds / 1 banana plus 10 almonds / ½ pot cottage cheese with 2 rice cakes.

I really do advise that you avoid any meal replacement diet. The effects that they have on your body are not worth any rapid weight loss you might achieve (note: rapid equals short term). Take it slow, enjoy food, be mindful of your portion sizes and don’t restrict or deprive yourself!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

National Vegetarian Week pt.II

It was my daughter's birthday yesterday so we had a sunny family picnic and I got to indulge in one of my favourite hobbies - cooking and trying out new recipe ideas! It was, of course, a vegetarian meal and I want to share with you four of the recipes I've been working on and that were very well received. Each recipe below serves between 4 and 8 people as part of a picnic/buffet.

Feta, Bulgur and Squash Gem Salad

  • 1 Pack feta, crumbled
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into small chunks
  • 200g (dry weight) bulgur, or you could use quinoa or couscous
  • 2 Red peppers, deseeded and cut into large chunks
  • 3tbsp rapeseed oil 
  • 2 Handfuls dried cranberries
  • 100g Toasted/dry-fried pumpkin seeds
  • 1 small bunch each fresh mint and parsley leaves

  1. Pre-heat the oven to Gas 7/220C/425F
  2. Cook the bulgur according to pack instructions (this normally takes 30mins) and leave to cool
  3. Boil the squash for 10 minutes before draining and placing onto an oven tray with the peppers and coating in the oil - cook for 30 minutes until the peppers are charred and the squash is golden and crisping
  4. Remove the squash and peppers from the oven and place the peppers into a bowl of cold water immediately before peeling off their skins
  5. Leave the squash and peppers to cool in the fridge whilst you mix together the bulgur, cranberries, seeds and herbs
  6. Once the squash and peppers are cool, add them to the other ingredients and serve.

Orzo, Tomato and Herb Salad

  • 200g (dry weight) Orzo pasta, boiled for 8 minutes and left to cool
  • 2tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2tbsp Red wine vinegar
  • 1 Large punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Handful fresh dill, leaves removed
  • 1 Pack fresh chives, chopped
  • 2tbsp Capers

  1. Mix the ingredients and voila! Ready to serve

Lemon and Garlic Hummus

  • 1 1/2 Tins chickpeas, drained
  • 3 Garlic cloves, lightly steam-fried in about 100ml water, not oil - don't let them brown
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Extra water, depending on preferred consistency

  1. Blitz the ingredients together, adding water as you go to achieve a smooth consistency
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve

Hot and Smoky Hummus

  • 1 Tin butterbeans, drained
  • 1/2 Tin chickpeas, drained
  • 1 Garlic clove, lightly steam-fried as above
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 3tsp Smoked paprika
  • 3tsp dried chilli flakes (depending on how hot you want the dip)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Extra water, depending on preferred consistency

  1. Blitz the ingredients together, adding water as you go to achieve a smooth consistency
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve

Monday, 19 May 2014

National Vegetarian Week

National Vegetarian Week is upon us and, as a vegetarian myself, I want to share with you some of my favourite veggie recipes. I was brought up vegetarian from birth and while I was pregnant I ate meat (it was my one and only craving, strangely enough!) however I now eat a plant-based diet again. My daughter, who turns four this week, eats meat and fish as I do believe there are benefits to including it in a balanced diet particularly in childhood, so I'm often cooking both meat-free and meat-inclusive versions of these recipes for the family. During NVW, why not try out some new vegetarian recipes and see if you feel any benefits - a meat-free diet has been proven to increase energy, lower blood pressure, improve skin and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (although eating meat does not always or solely cause problems in these areas). Many of my vegetarian recipes use Quorn - a brilliant source of low-fat protein which is filling and extremely versatile. Other vegetarian protein sources include beans, pulses such as lentils, grains such as quinoa, soy products such as tofu, and nuts and seeds.

Here are four of my favourite recipes - I'll be back soon with more. Enjoy!

Quorn 'Chicken Breast' Burgers with Slaw: Perfect for BBQs
Serves 4

  • 4 Quorn Chicken Style fillets, grilled or baked
  • 4 Seeded or Wholemeal rolls, toasted
  • 2 Large apples, cored and grated
  • 1 Small red cabbage, shredded
  • 2 Large carrots, grated
  • 1 Small white onion, finely sliced
  • 300g Natural yoghurt
  • 2 Little Gem lettuces, leaves separated
  • Handful of fresh parsley or coriander leaves (or both)

  1. Open and toast the rolls and place a couple of lettuce leaves in each
  2. Slice each fillet lengthways through the middle to create two thin fillets per person before placing them on the lettuce/rolls
  3. Mix the cabbage, carrot, apple, onion and yoghurt in a large bowl to make the slaw and place a large spoonful on each fillet
  4. Sprinkle a few parsley/coriander leaves over the slaw and close the bun.

Quorn 'Chicken' and Hummus Crunch Wrap: The Perfect Packed Lunch
Serves 4

  • 4 Quorn Chicken Style fillets, grilled or baked
  • 4 Wholemeal tortilla wraps
  • 2 Tins chickpeas, drained
  • 1 Clove garlic, crushed
  • 2tbsp Olive oil
  • Approx. 100ml water (depending on how smooth you'd like the hummus)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 Handfuls spinach, washed
  • 3 Large carrots, coarsely grated or cut into thin matchsticks
  •  4 Fresh beetroot, peeled and coarsely grated or cut into thin matchsticks
  • Cucumber, pepper, onion or any other crunchy veggies (optional)
  1. For the Hummus: Blitz the chickpeas, garlic clove, lemon juice and olive oil together - adding the water for a smoother consistency
  2. Spread the hummus liberally onto each wrap before adding the fillets (I slice the fillets into strips to make them easier to wrap)
  3. Add some spinach leaves and a handful of the carrot and beetroot before folding and rolling the wrap.

Quorn 'Beef' and Coconut Curry: Perfect for Dinner Parties
Serves 4

  • 1 Pack Quorn Steak Style strips
  • 2tbsp Rapeseed oil
  • 300g (cooked weight) Brown rice, to serve
  • 2 Tins coconut milk
  • 2tbsp Crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 Heaped tsp each of cumin, ground coriander, turmeric
  • 4tbsp Soy sauce plus extra to serve if desired
  • Large bunch fresh coriander - some leaves aside for serving but otherwise finely chopped (leaves and stalks)
  • 4 Large cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 Red chilli, sliced (remove the seeds for less heat)
  • 4 Pak choi, leaves separated
  • 1 Head of broccoli, including stalk (remove the woody parts), or cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 Green pepper (or red if you prefer a sweeter taste)
  • 2 Packs of either babycorn, sugarsnaps, mangetout or fine green beans
  1. Cook the rice according to pack instructions (this usually takes 20-30mins)
  2. In a large wok, stir-fry the steak strips in the rapeseed oil, adding a little water as the pan dries out
  3. Add the garlic, chilli and dried spices and stir fry for a further 2 minutes
  4. Add the coconut milk, peanut butter, soy sauce and coriander (saving some for serving) to the pan and stir until the peanut butter has blended nicely into the sauce (this take about 3 minutes)
  5. Add the vegetables and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how crunchy you like your veg (remember, the less your veg is cooked, the more nutrients they reserve!)
  6. Once the vegetables are cooked to your liking, serve on a bed of brown rice and sprinkle with the remaining fresh coriander.

Sweet Chilli Quorn 'Chicken' with Rice Noodles: The Perfect Quick Dinner
Serves 4

  • 1 Pack Quorn Chicken Style pieces
  • 2tbsp Rapeseed oil
  • 6tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 Red chilli, sliced (remove the seeds for less heat)
  • 2 Large cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 Bunch spring onions, sliced
  • 3 Peppers (I like to have 1 green, 1 red, 1 yellow), deseeded and cut into chunks
  • 1 Tin water chestnuts, sliced
  • 1 Pack babycorn
  • 100g Cashew nuts or 4 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted, to serve
  • 4 Small nests of rice noodles
  • Small bunch fresh coriander, leaves only, to serve (optional)

  1. In a wok, stir-fry the chicken style pieces in the rapeseed oil until they soften (you may need to add a splash of boiling water to help them cook if you're cooking from frozen)
  2. Add the chilli, garlic and chilli sauce and stir-fry for a further 2 minutes before adding the veg (at this point you may need another splash of water to steam the veg)
  3. Whilst the vegetables are cooking, prepare the rice noodles (they normally take 2-3mins) and toast the cashews or sesame seeds
  4. Once the vegetables are cooked to your liking, serve on a bed of rice noodles and sprinkle over the seeds or cashews and coriander.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Sugar: Friend or Foe?

Recently it's become more apparent that sugar is the diet devil: it's calorific and contains no nutrients. Doctors and scientists are telling us to stay away from the white stuff because more and more research is showing that it leads to disease and ill health. However it does provide basic, fast-release energy. Mind you, that's not to say that when you're feeling lethargic and your blood sugar's low you should reach for the chocolate or a sugary tea. Instead, to not only meet your energy needs but contribute to your five-a-day, fibre, vitamin and mineral needs, opt for fruit.

Are fruit sugars as bad as other sugars?

In short, yes, sugar is sugar no matter what form it comes in. However it's all about balance: fruit sugars aren't "better" for you, but fruit itself provide an array of nutrients and health benefits. It's packed with fibre which helps to fill you up, slow the release of energy into your bloodstream and supports your digestive system. One or two pieces of fruit every day is OK providing you keep the skin on, as this adds to your fibre intake (e.g. on apples and pears), and choose a fruit with a lower sugar content (see the end of this post for fruits' sugar contents). Fruit, as opposed to other high-sugar foods such as chocolate, ready meals, white
bread and fizzy drinks, provides essential vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin C which, as we all know is great for building the immune system as well as improving skin. Apricots, prunes and dark berries are rich in B vitamins which are essential for energy production; bananas, kiwis and mangoes contain potassium which helps to regulate your heartbeat, body fluids and nerve function while cranberries, pomegranates and cherries contain magnesium which helps your muscles to relax, supports your nervous system and strengthens teeth and bones. Each variety provides a hit of antioxidants which work to rid your body of toxins, keeping your body functioning efficiently, able to fight off infections and helping to prevent disease.

How much sugar should I eat?

The recommended daily amount of sugar for an adult is 90g. One teaspoon of sugar is equal to 4.2g of sugar, making you RDA around 21tsp. But before you start imagining adding 21tsp to your tea and coffee fixes throughout the day, it's important to remember that sugar is added to many - if not most - processed and pre-packaged foods including table and pasta sauces, breakfast cereals, baked beans, fruit yoghurts, even bread and milk! Try to prioritise your sugar intake - if you can't live without sugar in your coffee, try reducing it until your taste buds adapt and you can cut it out altogether. Replace your afternoon biscuits or cereal bar
with a piece of fruit and some raw nuts. Use naturally fat-free Greek style yoghurt instead of mayonnaise or ketchup (really, it works!). With a few crafty swaps you can dramatically reduce the amount of sugar you consume each day and you'll start to feel the benefits.

Why is sugar so bad anyway?

Sugar is addictive; when you eat it, beta-endorphins and dopamine (the feel-good happy hormones) are released, giving you a buzz which, when the sugar has entered your bloodstream and your body's converting it into energy or preparing it for fat storage, soon dissipates and your body physically craves another hit of beta-endorphins and dopamine. It is the same chemical, hormonal reaction that a drug users gets when they use their drug of choice, or an alcoholic gets when they have their first drink of the day, and it's why your first bite of chocolate tastes so good. Not only is sugar addictive - that's just the start - but it contributes to a variety of diseases. Insulin resistance, seen in Type 2 diabetes, is caused by your body's cells not reacting to insulin (which delivers sugar - glucose - and fat to your cells for energy). This causes the pancreas to produce even more insulin which is also 'ignored' by the body's cells, and the cycle continues. Over-consumption of sugar also contributes to obesity; when the body's cells have all the energy they need to function, any excess sugar is stored in fat cells (also known as adipose tissue). The more sugar you eat, the more likely you are to be overweight or obese. Sugar also wreaks havoc with skin; it causes breakouts, oily skin, dry skin, you name it. When your body starts to break down sugar into glucose, insulin levels spike which causes a sudden burst of inflammation, to which your body reacts by producing collagen-killing enzymes, leaving you with wrinkles and lifeless-looking skin as well as breakouts. Sugar also contributes to acne and rosacea in the same way.

What to eat if you're craving sugar

If you're hitting the afternoon slump and craving something sweet to pick you up, pause and consider your options. A slice of sponge cake, a Starbucks blueberry muffin and a bar of milk chocolate all contain 7tsp of sugar whereas a large chunk of fresh pineapple, a peach or nectarine and two handfuls of blueberries all contain under 2tsp while strawberries, raspberries and blackberries each contain less than 1tsp sugar in a two-handful serving. If you fancy fruit juice, make sure it's fresh (not from concentrate) and that it doesn't have added sugars (these are usually labelled as "fruit drinks") and make sure you stick to a 150ml serving - any more than this and the sugar content completely outweighs the health benefits due to juice's lack of fibre and often reduced vitamin content. If you
have a juicer at home, try juicing two or three vegetables (washed, with skins on) plus one small piece of fruit (again washed and with the skin on). Although you're cutting out the fibre content, you'll be giving your body a superb hit of vitamins and minerals and you'll find your energy levels soar. Alternatively, for something a little more indulgent, make a smoothie by blitzing either a small banana or a couple of handfuls of berries such as strawberries or blueberries with oats and 1tsp seeds and top up with almond/soy/cow's milk or natural yoghurt. The oats and seeds will provide fibre, iron and B vitamins (essential for energy and keeping you full) while the protein in the milk/yoghurt and fat in the seeds work to slow down the release of sugars into your bloodstream, keeping your energy levels balanced and preventing the dip in blood sugar later on. Make sure that whichever way you choose to eat sugar, even if it's the healthiest fruit option, add a source of protein and a little fat to steady the release of sugar into your bloodstream. Natural yoghurt, raw nuts and seeds, 1-2tsp peanut butter, cottage cheese or a small piece of hard cheese are great options.

Add protein and fat to your fruity snack to reduce the sugar rush.

Which fruits are highest and lowest in sugar?

Below are the sugar contents of a range of fruits. Remember, 4.2g = 1tsp.

  • Banana: 21g
  • Pear: 17g
  • 30g/1tbsp raisins or sultanas: 17g
  • Orange: 14g
  • Half a mango: 14g
  • Apple: 12g
  • Large handful grapes: 12g
  • 4 dried apricots: 12g
  • 2 plums: 10g
  • Large chunk of fresh pineapple: 8g
  • 1 peach or nectarine: 8g
  • 2 handfuls of blueberries: 8g
  • 100g Honeydew or Galia melon: 6.5g
  • 2 handfuls of strawberries (10 small): 5g
  • 2 handfuls of blackberries or raspberries: 4g
  • 100g Cantaloupe melon: 4g
  • 2 kiwi fruit: 4g

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Calming Yoga: 10 Minutes of Relaxation

I have always advocated yoga as an ideal exercise for anyone who's stressed, has digestive or joint problems, or who generally avoids exercise. Yoga is an amazing remedy for so many more conditions than I've just mentioned, but they are the top three conditions that I come across in my clients, and as yoga can do so much to help the body and mind it's one activity I would recommend over and over again. It's calming, gentle and relaxing and it doesn't feel like a chore or an intense workout. I recently discovered Total Wellness' short YouTube videos which guide you through a 10-15 minute yoga practice. Try fitting in a few of these sessions each week.

The Yoga To Make You Happy video is a particular favourite of mine, it's extremely calming and gets those feel-good hormones pumping due to the different poses' effect on the lymphatic system and thyroid gland. There are many more short yoga videos on YouTube, try a few out and hopefully you'll notice negative physical and emotional symptoms begin to ease.