Sunday 28 June 2015

Paleo Couscous - A Contradiction?

I found this great recipe recently, and wanted to share.  Even though it seemed a contradiction in terms!

Is your understanding that Paleo excludes grains? That was my understanding, so I was curious to see what the recipe had to share.

The couscous is made from cauliflower!  Awesome.

Anyway, enjoy the recipe and let me know what you think of it.

Effective Weight Loss  
Photo courtesy of Paleo Cafe

Compared to my homemade couscous salad, with couscous!

Couscous Salad Effective Weight Loss, Isogenix
My Homemade Couscous

Friday 26 June 2015

Is It Harder To Lose Weight As You Age?

It definitely felt like it to me, as I aged (yes, I'm in my 40's, okay, I'm at the end of my 40's!!) it seemed that my usual ways of losing weight lost their abilities to do the right thing? Are you like me and this happens to you?

It seems to be fairly well accepted, both in society and within the scientific field, that it becomes increasingly more difficult to shift those stubborn pounds and/or kilograms as you age.

Is it ageing though, or is it your modern diet?

Do you count calories religiously when you're eating out? What is this really telling you?  All it is telling you is the number of calories in the dish.

It's not telling you the quality of the foods you are eating.

A recently published article based on information from a senior researcher, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, of Tufts University and the Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston, shows that it is the quality of the food rather than the quantity of the food.

For instance, eating nuts, eggs, full-fat cheese and whole milk, either promoted weight loss, or didn't have an effect. While eating refined or starchy carbohydrates, or drinking sugary drinks, increased the weight (even when within calorie restrictions!).

The study, undertaken over 24 years, looked at the diets of men and women, and found that as their glycemic load increased (e.g. that extra white flour bagel!), their weight would also increase.  An example given was, adding 2 bagels to your daily diet, would equate to an extra pound in weight every 4 years. Doesn't sound much like that, but over 24 years, that's an extra 6 pounds of weight that needs to be released again. Imagine how much white flour and sugar you have in your diet, is this accounting for that weight creep, or is it just your age?

Basically, calorie counting alone is not enough to maintain your weight, or to lose weight.  Choose low glycemic carbohydrates, with a combination of proteins, fats and fibre to balance your diet.

A suggestion would be to choose healthy carbs, including vegetables, fruits and fiber-rich grains; proteins like fish, chicken and nuts; and "good" fats such as those in vegetable oils and fatty fish.  If you're going to eat a burger, forgo the fries, and even the bun, and have a salad with it (preferably without a mayonnaise dressing!).

Remember to always increase your exercise when you are eating a balanced diet, and your weight will maintain, or you will lose if you need to.

There is a great article that highlights some of the important points of difference between a low-carb high-fat diet, and a low-fat diet. The former giving a weight loss (without calorie restrictions) greater over a 12 month period than the latter - worth considering!

Remember, at the end of the day, it's about choices, make them good ones!

Monday 22 June 2015

Scales Not Budging?

This can be a dilemma when you are undertaking your life journey and looking at achieving your goal weight soon.  Why do the scales just refuse to budge?

There has been a new study published recently that may highlight why some people lose weight quickly and easily, yet when you follow the exact same protocol,  including the same exercise routine, your weight loss is slower!

Essentially, the study states that different people spend their calories differently. That we're individuals, and what works really well for one person, doesn't necessarily work so well for another.  Personally, this is no surprise to me! I've been a dieter for the majority of my life, and if you're at all like me, you know what your body responds to and what seems to work for it.  For me, it's calorie restriction and an increase in the exercise activities in a week that works for me.  For others it may be that the calorie restriction doesn't have to be much and they're on their path of losing weight, yet for others, it may be that the calorie restriction has to be extreme and the exercise too has to be extreme.  Whatever it is for you, find out what suits you and your body.

So, why the difference?  Researchers still don't really know, but think it may be due to the function of your thyroid, your nervous system activity, your appetite hormones (yes, hormones govern how hungry you can feel), your yo-yo history in the diet area (slower metabolism when you're a yo-yo dieter) or  how much brown fat you have (the 'good' fat, the more brown fat, the faster you burn up calories to create energy).

The answer for you, if you're on a slower path, is to realise that we are all individuals, and that your journey may take longer than your friend's, but it will still happen if you stick to your well-balanced nutritional plan, with your exercise routines.  Remember to also take other measurements of your body to monitor, it's not always about the numbers on the scales, as measurements can still reduce even when the numbers aren't.  This is what I do with my nutritional plan - so grateful for a well devised, researched plan to follow, makes life easy.

Saturday 20 June 2015

Emotions & Food

Emotions & Food (or Drink)

Warning: a long heartfelt post

Recently I have been going through some emotional 'stuff' and it's brought to the fore for me about how I treat my emotions when I'm sad and hurt, but also when I'm happy and laughing.

I have started to reflect on the journey I have been on over my entire life, and how food and drink (specifically alcohol) have played their role in this life, and how they have affected my body and it's journey to health and balance.

When I was young (shout out if you remember any of this happening for you), if I was upset, or sad, or hurting in any way, the ultimate way to sweep away those tears turned out to be a cuddle, a cup of milky, sugary tea and a bun/cake/biscuit.  That certainly stopped the tears pretty quickly.  But what is this really doing to your emotions?  On reflection, I can now see that it's about swallowing how you feel, not expressing what is inside, but pushing it downwards to ensure it is 'soothed'.  Swallowing pain is a habit.

I'm sure this happens the world over, and it starts before you are even on solids.  I watch mother's around me, especially with their newborn first child. They're unsure why they're crying initially, so a good way to soothe the baby is to feed the baby.  Where do we learn this? From our mother's and their mother's and the story continues.

Now, I'm not saying that this is a wrong thing (well, maybe I am, we'll come to that!!), but it's just as it is.  What we're not doing as a society, or even within our family, is acknowledgeing that this is what it's about. Instead, we're feeding into it and encouraging it.  We aren't stopping and asking the question, how do we change this so that our children have a better attitude around food (and even drink).

Culturally, this happens worldwide too. Recently, I've been watching a food program that is about different cultures and their food.  All of the cultures use food to celebrate.  Now this is not so much about pushing down negative emotions with food, but it is associating having a fun time with eating, and not with, e.g. dancing, or having a fun adventure with family.  Again, I'm not saying it's a wrong thing!

As we begin to grow into our lives, we have food all around us. We need a balanced meal, but sometimes the food choices are not so good for us.  Would I have avoided the yo-yo dieting routine if the food choices had been different?

Tell me, how many parents out there tell their children that if they're good, they'll be rewarded with a meal at MacDonalds?  What does this teach us about respecting our food and our bodies?

For me, the journey to where I am today is littered with examples of how food has been used as a soother, a comforter, a celebration, a reward, a comforting memory and yes, even as a weapon.

I remember well being taught that if I'm good, I can have dessert.  If I don't eat my cabbage I can't leave the table (and my sibling is laughing at me, hence the idea of a weapon), or have dessert.  If I stop crying, I can have a piece of cake and maybe a milo (cold sugary, malt and milk drink).  If I pass my exams,  I can go to a restaurant and choose whatever I wish (usually creamy, fatty foods!!). Here, have a glass of wine, that will calm you down.  You're looking tense, have a relaxing wine.  Not feeling confident, have a heart starter before you hit the clubs (usually a spirit).  I even remember a time I was going to run away, I must have been about 4 years old, I was caught filling my little suitcase up with home baking, I was convinced not to go as I could sit down with some of those goodies, and have them in the house!! Now whenever I am at home (where I grew up), I instinctively want to stop at the local store and buy a hokey pokey icecream, as it was a treat I had with my Dad in the months before he died, so a memory trigger.

All of these statements have been part of my history as I've grown up and as I've gone through adult hood.

Now, as I'm approaching 50years of age, I'm finally beginning to realise my triggers when it comes to food.  And some of them are

  • sadness and not wanting to talk (push those feelings down)
  • celebrating with friends and wanting to feel included (so low self-esteem)
  • boredom (what else can I do)
  • memories of loved ones passed away (memories of food sharing moments, so want to repeat those)

Some of the poor food choices have been

  • fried and salty foods
  • icecream
  • alcohol
  • bread and butter with peanut butter and honey

Now that I'm realising the triggers, it's now about how to recognise them, and to not succumb to the triggers and consequently the poor food choices I can make at these times.

I have been slowing implementing actions that change these choices.  Yes, I am still feeling the triggers, however as I'm aware of them, it's a more conscious choice over what I do with them.

In regards to the alcohol, I've instigated having soda water with lime slices in a fancy glass, or swapping out the alcohol for a low alcohol, small bottle, thus restricting the amount I have.

When it comes to food, I make sure that there are always healthy snacks in my handbag (I have fabulous fibre rich, protein rich bars that I carry with me everywhere, as well as my green tea infused chocolate) and cupboards. I enlist my husband to do the grocery shopping, so I can't be buying unhealthy snack food (he won't buy it unless it's on the list!). I use an app on my smartphone, making me accountable by having to write down all that I eat.

I also write in a journal every day.  In this journal I write about all that I'm grateful for in my life, including the tough things, including the fights with family, including the insults felt during the day, including the feeling of it being 'tough', and I also include why I'm grateful for these things. How they make me feel, that I'm acknowledgeing these feelings, that I'm realising that I can let them go. I also write about the beauty I see during the day, the Kookaburra that lands on our balcony (as he did today), the sunset as I write this will be going in (the colours are stunning, as they are most days, but also, I've lived another day, how incredible), there  is so much beauty around us, if we stop and see it. That has been part of my journey too.

I've also done a little ceremony this week, where I've written letters to those that have instigated the hurt in me recently (as it's my reaction that has hurt, not their action), and I've bought a beautiful box and ribbon, some wonderful paper to write the letters out on, and I've placed these all into the box, wrapped it up, with love and intention to heal. Letting go of what is in the box.  This has been truly powerful for me. Another trigger dumped, with love, from my life.  Feel so amazing and light (and I've not cracked a bottle of anything to celebrate that either!).

I've been thinking about this post for a couple of weeks now. A friend of mine has been posting on Facebook recently, some of her thoughts on her food addiction, and it has certainly helped me realise that I, too, have been struggling with this. That I too, have been reacting to triggers in my life.  And that we can all overcome this, we just have to make the decision to do this.  I know I've made the decision. I also know that there will be slip ups, heck, it's taken me nearly 50 years of practice to get where I am, I'm not going to change that overnight!! But it is changing, and for that, I am truly, truly grateful to have discovered what I can do, and learn and move on it!

Thank you all who have read this far for listening and sharing in my story, I hope it has helped you understand some of the ways food and alcohol can play a role in the lives of those around you.

Weight loss help

Thursday 18 June 2015

Plateaus And Breakthroughs!

Plateaus Can Be Stunning!

You know when you've been on your wieght loss journey for a while, and then you're almost there? All of a sudden, the progress slows down, or even stops, or (heaven forbid!!) it can creep back upwards for a bit.

This is what I call a stunning plateau, a beautiful plateau between two mountains, where you started, and where you will finish!

Nuns Valley, Madeira, copyright Sandra Venables

Yep, we all get them (don't believe those people who say they don't, I'm sure they're just putting that on!!)

So, what to do when you hit one?

You need to ask yourself a few quick questions:

  1. Are you relying on hunger as your cue to eat?
  2. Are you measuring your calories?
  3. Are you entering 'middle-age'?
  4. Are you exercising differently?

All of these questions, and the answers they provide, may lead you to a change of some habits that have crept into your daily routines lately, that have resulted in some change.

Let's look at the answers and how to ensure you're still on track.

1. Are you relying on hunger as your cue to eat?

This is a great question to ask yourself.  When you rely on reducing your calorie intake by not eating until  you're hungry, you're more likely to make poor choices in your foods or to overindulge.  By setting yourself a schedule of when to eat, you're more likely to make good choices and eat less.

The reason being, you are feeling full when you eat regularly.

So, schedule your meals and your snacks, to ensure you're eating before you get hungry.  And, make sure all your meals and snacks contain some protein!  Add to this some fibre, and you have the whole 'full' thing going on all day, every day, and your weight loss journey will pick up again.

2. Are you measuring your calories?

When you first begin a new lifestyle eating habit, quite often you're very diligent about having that 100g of meat in your meal. But, as time progresses, it becomes easier to 'weight by eye' This method of weight out foods is notoriously inaccurate!  So, if it's been a while since you've measured your daily calorie intake, then commit to a week of doing it again, just so you can 'get your eye in again'!!

You can do this by using measuring cups, scales and calorie or meal monitoring apps - there are many available online these days, for myself, I use the myFitnessPal app. Firstly, it's free, and secondly, it seems to cover a lot of foods I use, as well as being easy to add foods that aren't on there. Thirdly, it also monitors my exercise, my weight, my water and because I add in my height, it gives me an estimate of how many calories I need to intake in order to lose weight.

Ensure you're not underestimating your calories, and this change may re-start your loss progress.

3. Are you entering 'middle age'?

Sadly, as we age, our metabolism and hormones do change.  It seems to be fairly common for post-menopausal women (sorry ladies, but it does seem to affect us more than men) to struggle with the 'middle-aged spread'.  This is generally because we are losing muscle mass as we age. And it is muscle that is the 'burner' in our bodies!

So, it's about building your muscle as you age. This can be done through our exercise, but also by adding a bit more protein to the diet.  Look for about 1g protein for every pound of body weight (or 2g for every kilo), so e.g. 130lb person, 130g protein for the day, or for a 60kg person, 120g protein for the day.

The exercise that will help you retain your muscle density (not necessarily build muscle like body builders!) is resistance training, yep, pumping iron!!

Keep your muscles strong, and your body will require more calories to function, thus, kick starting your loss journey again.

4. Are you exercising differently?

When you first started your journey, how many times did you workout a week?  Has that dropped at all? Do you do different exercise now? Are you still doing resistance training, or have you given that up for all cardio?

Remember, you can't outrun your fork. Simply, if you're not losing weight, your eating habits are creating more calories than your exercise habits are burning.  Note to self: get back to exercising 4 times a week!!

Plateau busting foods for your daily menus

1. Fibre
Gives you that full and satisfied feeling, see my post on constipation for good fibre sources
2. Protein 
Gives you a full feeling also, but allows your body to grow your muscles, a great food source.

Remember to balance your diet with carbohydrates and good fats too.

Thursday 11 June 2015

Increasing Metabolism To Decrease Weight

Looking At Food Increases Your Weight!

Image courtesy of Ohmega 1982

Do you know the feeling of just looking at junk food and you feel like the weight has just piled on?

Has this happened to you?

As you age, this can be the case indeed.  I know for me, since I've turned 40 years old, it seems that no matter what I did, calorie restriction, increased exercise, less alcohol, nothing would stop the weight creep! 

Sadly, as we age, our metabolism is well known to slow down.  Ever heard any of your friends exclaim, but I used to eat this much and never put on weight!! Now it just creeps on!!

The trick is to understand that there are ways to increase your metabolism, even as you age, and therefore allow your body to burn more energy throughout the day.

So, how do you do this?

  1. Have more muscle
  2. Intense exercise
  3. Grow more muscle
Simple, right?  Okay, now for some more details!

1. Have more muscle
By increasing your muscle mass, your body will burn more calories to move it around, it also requires more energy to replace your protein cells that are constantly building within the body.  The way to increase your muscle mass is to do resistance training. Resistance training is essentially lifting your weights!  Girls, you need to do this too, it tones and creates muscles.  Four simple resistance training exercises you can do next time you're in the gym are:

chest press (chest)
lat pulldowns (back)
shoulder press (shoulder)
squats (legs)

2. Intense exercise
When you are exercising at only 50 - 60% of your capacity, you may feel like you are doing a long hard workout, but in reality, you're taking the easy option, and only burning up calories during your workout! This option does not increase your metabolism for the longer time!!  The intensity of your workout will determine how long you burn calories for after your workout. The less intense, the shorter the time!  So, all this information that is out there on HIIT (High intensity interval training) is important! Exercising at 80% capacity has been clinically shown to increase your metabolism! Short, hard and burn baby burn!!! Burn up those calories during and after your workout. HIIT it!

3. Grow more muscle
Isn't this the same as having more muscle? Well, no, it isn't.  In order to have more muscle (increase the size of your muscles), you need to feed your body the right 'stuff' to grow more muscles.  So, while you're exercising to increase the size of your muscles, you need to feed your body to grow more muscle that can then, in turn, become bigger!  To do this, you need to feed your body protein.  Studies have shown that whey protein is more effective to grow muscles than other protein sources. Whey protein has even been shown to boost the metabolism for longer than soy protein (so is then classified as a thermogenic food, needs more energy to digest).  Interestingly enough, fibre has also been shown to be thermogenic. There are also a couple of other interesting foods/drinks that can be classified as thermogenic, and these include green tea (ever heard of the green tea diet?), chillis and cayenne pepper (also caffeine).

So, exercise effectively, support your body with protein building and thermogenic foods, and speed up the metabolism so that weight gain is not an issue for you!

For more tips and info, always remember you can contact me or check out my Facebook page

Tuesday 2 June 2015

How Much Protein Is Good For You?

There are many differing opinions about how much protein is enough protein.

A recent review of studies has indicated that the intake of protein helps improve appetite, manages a healthy body weight, reduces cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors and increases dietary compliance.

The dietary compliance, for me, has been a major change in how I have managed my diet over the last couple of years.  Prior to understanding the benefits of ensuring my diet was protein rich, I used to attempt to lose weight by calorie restriction, and notably the protein content of my overall food would reduce.  Ultimately, this slows the metabolism, so when I stopped the calorie restriction, the weight would come back on!!  The CLASSIC YO-YO DIET EFFECT

The effect of feeling 'hungry' and not satisfied was that my ability to comply to a new lifestyle was soon broken down and I would resume my old habits.

With the increase in protein I now get from my diet, and the nutritional products I use, I can now happily stay satisfied and feeling full between my meals, this ensures my dietary compliance!

Needless to say, this is the first time I have ever kept my weight off (apart from a natural cycle of increasing and decreasing) for well over a year.  Enormous pleasure!!

Ultimately, if you are looking to decrease your weight, you need to speed up your metabolism.  Your metabolism uses 20 - 30% of the protein you take in, in metabolism and storage, compared to only 5 - 10% of your carbohydrates.  This means that your metabolism is less likely to slow with the protein sources, meaning that it remains high, thus burning up the extra 'storage' you have on your hips and abdomen!!  Love it!

Muscle building is what we are aiming for when we are losing weight, to do this, we need the protein! About 20 - 30g of protein per meal to ensure the muscle is being built, rather than lost. 

Most changes of diet that include calorie restriction ultimately result in muscle mass loss, which in turn results in a slower metabolism, and that yo-yo effect again!

Ensure You Obtain Your Protein!

I Do!