Tag Archives: metabolism

How stress turned me into a fat storing machine

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It was mid 2015 and I’d just left my corporate career of 13 years, having decided to start working for myself as a Nutritional Therapist. The thing is I didn’t really have a plan but I just knew I HAD to get out of my City office job and start creating a new life for myself, having spent 5 years training to qualify.

I didn’t have any savings, just one more months salary to come, then that was it until I started making an income self employed – something I didn’t have a clue about back then!

Some of my friends didn’t really understand and some of them still don’t, but I knew this was something I HAD to do and if I waited until I had a load of savings behind me first I’d be waiting a LONG time, plus I knew that NOT having a safety net would make me more determined and driven (which it totally did).

During the first 9 months of working for myself and trying to figure things out, making mistakes, dusting myself off, trying again, over and over, I became VERY stressed and lost a lot of sleep. As a result I gained a stone in weight over the course of those 9 months. My nutrition had stayed the same during that time and was pretty much on point, yet still the weight just kept creeping on.

I wasn’t sleeping properly at all for those 9 months, I’d toss and turn until 3am most nights and then have broken sleep until 7am when I’d get up.

The stress was affecting my sleep and my sleep was affecting my stress – it was a vicious cycle, and this changed how my body was running metabolically and put me into fat storing mode.

The high stress meant I had more of the hormone cortisol in my body, which can lead to things like fat gain, sex hormone imbalances (causing hormonal symptoms and more weight gain)

Stress was also creating inflammation in my body, which turned into chronic, low-grade inflammation. This chronic low-grade inflammation was having a negative impact on my hormones, especially the hormones that regulate blood sugar levels; insulin, and cortisol.

I was basically a fat storing machine with muscle aches and pains, digestive issues, and hormonal symptoms.

Apart from my nutrition still being very good I wasn’t doing anything else at all to look after myself. I was stressing and worrying from the moment I woke up in the morning, and even in my sleep because I would usually wake up grinding my teeth. I wasn’t taking ANY time out at all, I felt guilty if I went to the gym or to a yoga class, or if I spent the evening watching TV or reading a book or God forbid having any fun! I made zero time for the gym or any sort of movement including walking, and I sat in front of my computer for hours on end each day pushing and trying to make things happen for my new business. I was seeing a bunch of clients at a health club until 9pm a few nights a week then staying up late to write their programmes.

I pushed and pushed and pushed, and after 12 months like this, I was a stone heavier, and I know that my symptoms and weight gain would have been a whole lot worse if it hadn’t been for my good nutrition.

I knew things had to change – and it down to me to make those changes.

I signed up to an intro offer at a local yoga studio and did a yoga class everyday for the next 10 days, more the restorative type classes rather than strong fast ones, as I knew my body didn’t need any more stress put on it at this point.

I decided that at this point going back to the gym wasn’t going to be helpful as I needed to do things that reduced the stress load on my body and right now anything other than walking and yoga was just going to add more stress. 

After a beautiful run of yoga classes over a few weeks I started to fall asleep a little easier, I felt more ‘grounded’; a term I had always heard but never truly understood until then, basically I was feeling more calm, and more mentally and emotionally stable, and now operating from a far more powerful place.

I started to allow myself the time out that I should have always allowed from the start. Yes I was worried about making enough money each month to pay the bills, the rent and allow me to live, but working 16 hours a day and worrying all night wouldn’t help or make things happen quicker.

I started reading fiction books to help me switch off from my work and anxieties about money, I started to actually listen to Mark when he was talking to me, took myself out for walks in nature (my local green common), did lots of yoga, meditated as many mornings as I could (I did 5-10 minutes), and as I started to feel a bit stronger I added in 2 structured heavy weight lifting sessions per week, but NO cardio or ‘HIIT’ because that would just stress my body again and get me storing fat not burning it.

I’ve lost the weight now but its was SLOOOOOOWWWW, and it was never going to be quick. 

My body did nothing wrong, it simply responded to its environment – and that’s all our bodies ever do – they respond to their environment. If your environment is one of high stress, poor sleep, and zero down time then eventually it will start to respond – very negatively. 

Same way if your environment is one of calorie restriction diets and a tonne of cardio it will eventually respond by slowing itself (your metabolism) down in a bid to help you preserve as much energy as possible.

I’m glad this happened to me because it only equips me EVEN more for the work I do everyday. I help women find fat loss that lasts, get really healthy, and really happy. 

If you’re ready to learn how best to serve your body so that you CAN lose weight AND KEEP IT OFF for good, AND know how to navigate yourself through life’s twists and turns without them being detrimental then the next round of The Forever Plan is for you. Enrolment is open now and we kick off on Monday 3rd Sept for 12 weeks of unwavering support, education and transformation. Send me an email at francesca@flnutrition.co.uk if you’d like to know more and reserve your place.

To find out more about how my coaching programme (whether the group or one on one) can help you, please complete the application questions below to book a complimentary breakthrough call with me where we can speak about working with me in more detail. I can’t wait to speak with you!

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Confused about gluten and dairy? Should you or shouldn’t you?

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There’s a LOT of conflicting information out there about gluten and dairy, a lot of comes from people without the proper knowledge or qualifications to be talking about, whilst a lot of it comes from credible sources, but can you to know the difference? Hopefully that’s where I come in!

When  one of my clients is suffering from digestive issues and they really want to address them once and for all, then the two main foods I suggest they eliminate (usually along with many other suggestions that all work in unison with eachother) are gluten and diary.

I’ll ask them to cut these foods for about 6 weeks, to allow their gut to reset and have some ‘time off’ from having to work hard to digest 2 of the most difficult food to break down.

So you might already know that gluten and dairy aren’t all that helpful for gut health but maybe you don’t really understand why? I hope this helps to clarify it for you.

When it comes to dairy the main and most common issue is the lactose. This is the natural milk sugar found in dairy. Some people lack the enzyme needed to break this type of sugar down (lactase), and that can cause some horrible digestive trouble such as bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, and gas/flatulence. This is basically a result of the undigested lactose in the colon. Note that this is an ‘intolerance’ to NOT an allergy to dairy. A person might lack the enzyme needed to break down lactose due to their genes, or it can be a result of ageing, damage and inflammation of the small intestine or SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), which can all cause issues in producing the enzyme.

So, you might be genetically lactose intolerant or your issues with dairy might be due to poor diet (typical Western style of refined carbs and low fibre and diversity of vegetables, low healthy fats etc.), chronic stress, alcohol, infections, oral contraceptive pill medications including the oral contraceptive pill and antibiotics.

So, if your intolerance to lactose isn’t genetic then you can reverse the issue by working on your diet and lifestyle in favour of the balance of bacteria in your gut e.g. increasing the good guys and forcing out the bad guys, as well as increasing levels of digestive enzymes.

When it comes to other issues with dairy e.g. immune type reactions like eczema or hives for example, this is more likely to be due to casein which is a protein found in dairy. Immune reactions are not happening within the gut, they’re happening in the blood stream – so this means the protein casein would need to have seeped into the blood stream from the gut in order to cause the immune reaction. So the gut/intestinal wall/lining would need to be ‘leaky’ for this to happen (known as leaky gut or intestinal permeability).

If your gut lining is ‘leaky’ then things can now pass through into the blood stream that shouldn’t be allowed into your body, such as proteins like gluten and casein, bad bacteria, toxic waste and undigested foods particles. These things will cause immune reactions.

So, if you or someone you know are having immune reactions to dairy or gluten (knowingly or unknowingly) then chances are you have an imbalanced gut, because a ‘leaky gut’ is the cause, and the cause of the leaky gut is with dysbiosis (imbalanced gut bacteria) and inflammation.

This is why I don’t really do food intolerance testing, because if the gut is leaky then the test will likely show positive for a lot of different foods, and simply cutting those foods out wont actually address the cause of the problem in the first place. We need to address the leaky gut and then the reactions to certain foods will stop, unless of course its genetic lactose intolerance for example.

Immune mediated reactions to dairy might only be temporary. So, if we can rebalance and re-populate the gut environment with more beneficial bacteria and less bad guys, plus increase digestive enzymes, reduce the inflammation within the gut, and heal the gut lining then we can fix the problem.
There are some great new testing options available for gluten intolerance but as per the food intolerance testing, I would favour simply a trial removal of gluten for 4-6 weeks, whilst also working on rebalancing the gut, and then a re-introduction of gluten to see if any symptoms come back –much cheaper!!

So what are some symptoms of a dairy intolerance (whether genuine or due to an imbalanced gut)?

Well, the obvious signs would be the one’s I’ve mentioned above like bloating, diarrhoea, pain, nausea, and gas/flatulence, immune-mediated reactions to multiple foods (so not just dairy although we are talking about dairy in particular today), but also symptoms of inflammation within the entire body such as:

  • Achy joints
  • Fatigue (this was me in my 20’s and little did I know it was because of gluten!)
  • Foggy head
  • PMS
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Skin issues
  • Weight gain and or trouble losing weight
  • Water retention
  • Asthma
  • Autoimmune conditions e.g. Rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s
  • Depressions and other mood changes or disorders

The most effective way in my book to find out whether or not you’d do better without gluten and or dairy would be to take them out of your diet COMPLETELY for 4 weeks.

During this work on your digestion and gut health by:

  • Increasing foods that help to build up the beneficial bacteria in our gut like plenty of, and variety of, fibrous vegetables as well as fermented foods – my favourites are fermented vegetables like raw sauerkraut and kimchi, and coconut or water kefir.
  • Possibly supplementing with a good quality digestive enzyme and or hydrochloric acid incase your stomach acid is low (very common!) but its important to get advice from a properly qualified Nutritional Therapist on this.
  • Help the gut lining to repair and reduce inflammation of it by adding L-glutamine, homemade bone broth, and increasing foods rich in vitamin A (organic chicken or beef liver is super rich in vitamin A, then your brightly and darkly coloured fruit and veg too), zinc (good quality red meat and poultry, oysters! plus chick peas and pumpkin seeds), and turmeric, ginger, bromelain (pineapple) essential fatty acids from oily fish to help reduce inflammation.
  • Rebalance your life! Address the sources of stress and how you can reduce their impact. Start getting outdoors in nature more, listen to your favourite music, have relaxing baths, read books, listen to audio books and podcasts that inspire and lift you. Don’t be a slave to your calendar, see how you can strip things back and carve out more time for yourself. Are you over-exercising? Too much of the wrong kinds of exercise can be unhelpful for digestive health and gut lining integrity so address this if you need to. Remember, a body with an unhealthy gut is a body that will struggle to burn body fat.

Then after the 4 weeks (continue with the above for life please!) start to slowly re-introduce gluten and dairy back, but do it one by one. Wait up to 72 hours to check for any symptoms before you re-introduce the other one. Keep watching for symptoms as you SLOWLY build foods back in that you feel you want to bring back in, but if you’re happy without gluten and or dairy then don’t bother bringing them back!

Butter and ghee are usually better tolerated (yay) because they have much smaller amounts of dairy proteins and sugars, same goes for fermented yoghurts and milk kefir, I would just say always go for organic to minimize hormone exposure. Hard cheese usually has less in the way of lactose whereas softer cheeses, yoghurts and milk will be higher in lactose. So, if you re-introduce dairy slowly and type by type, you’re more likely to identify certain culprits and work out whether you can still include some but maybe not all dairy, or none at all and so on.

It’s so important to work on resetting your digestive health with the above steps AND sticking to it for life even once you might re-introduce dairy and or gluten foods back in from time to time. Your gut health should be looked after ongoing not just for a short period, much the same as a detox, we should be doing things DAILY to assist our liver, not just once a year for 7 days!

My stance on gluten and dairy?

I grew up eating pasta, bread, cereal, wraps and biscuits everyday, it wasn’t until I was about 23 when I trialed a month without any gluten and it changed my health and weight that was for sure! I decided that gluten could not come back into my diet on the scale I was used to but that I didn’t want to live without it completely, I’m not celiac so why be so strict I felt. So, I personally avoid gluten for the most part, about 80% of the time, BUT I enjoy a lovely sourdough toast with a weekend cooked breakfast probably about once or twice a month, I don’t say no to a bit of cake when its offered, and I love a good quality pizza or burger out from time to time too. Compared to the amount I used to eat this is nothing, and it doesn’t cause symptoms for me because I’m just not having it often enough for it to. In terms or dairy I have cheese occasionally (when I fancy it) and my cheese of choice is mozzarella, feta and haloumi, and I use organic grass fed butter a few times a week. I use coconut or nut milks and yogurts rather than dairy, and I opt for plant-based protein powders over whey for daily use with the occasional use of (organic) whey protein powder (I use Pulsin), I’m by no means neurotic about anything when it comes to food and nor should you be.

Dairy, your hormonal health and your weight:

So we’ve talked about dairy and your gut health but dairy can also cause or exacerbate hormonal imbalances, which isn’t good news for our waistlines or health. 

Dairy can increase a hormone called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and sometimes also other growth hormones and antibiotics (usually found in non-organic dairy hence why I always say to go for organic if having. If you have hormonal issues or conditions such as acne or PCOS then I would suggest reducing or eliminating dairy as much as possible for this reason, you just don’t need to be adding any more fuel to the fire. Dairy is quite what’s known as ‘insulinogenic’ which means it has the ability to spike our insulin levels rather high and this is thought to be due to the amount of lactose (milk sugar) as well as the dairy proteins. Any foods that spike insulin can cause the storage of fat around the middle, so just something to be aware of if you’re relying on dairy every single day and struggling with your weight.

A lot of people ask me about calcium when we talk about reducing or cutting out dairy. I get a lot of concerned faces asking how will they get enough! Do not fret, there are PLENTY of foods that contain calcium and some even more so than milk. Its just long been drummed into us that milk is the only good source of it.

Here’s a list of calcium foods and the amount per (very achievable) portion size (the recommended daily calcium intake is 700mg):

  • 1 cup of cooked kale – 245 mg
  • 56g of sardines (with bones) – 217 mg
  • 170ml or grams of natural organic yogurt or milk kefir – 300 mg
  • 1 ½ cup cooked broccoli – 93 mg
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds (throw into a smoothie) – 87.8 mg
  • 1 cup of watercress 41 mg
  • 1 spinach leaf – 9.9 mg
  • 30g of cheese 224 mg
  • 1 cup of bok Choy 74 mg
  • 1 cup of okra 82 mg
  • 30g of almonds (about 23 almonds) 76 mg

So there you have it I really hope this has been helpful! I know this was a LONG one so I hope you didn’t drift off and you managed to stick with me.

Jump on a call with me and we can discuss you biggest challenges when it comes to your health and weight, and or gluten and dairy questions! I offer complimentary 40 minute phone sessions so why not take advantage? Click here to book your slot. 

The Calorie Myth

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It’s long been drummed into us that ‘dieting’ is the way to lose weight. By ‘dieting’ I mean restricting calories and or food groups. So it’s no wonder that Britain’s dieting industry is worth an estimated £2billion.

I speak to so many women, friends included, that are struggling to lose weight and whenever they set out to finally make it happen they embark on some sort of fad or restrictive regime, like some kind of weight loss shake for breakfast and lunch and then a ‘normal’ dinner for example. I wonder how these women get through the day!

But I used to be just like that.

Throughout my 20’s (from 19 to 27) I did all the fad diets that were available to me. In fact I spent 8 years being constantly hungry! I don’t think a day went by when I didn’t hear my stomach growl in dissatisfaction from being so empty. I just couldn’t understand why I wasn’t losing weight. Similar to how the women I speak to today are feeling.

The trouble is it’s worse once you get into your 30’s and beyond. What MIGHT have worked in your 20’s will likely never work again past 30, and that’s mainly due to hormonal changes in the female body and also the years spent yo-yo dieting having damaged your metabolism and almost grinded it to a halt.

A lot of people see food simply as calories, and they believe that to lose weight we need to reduce/restrict calories and the weight will drop off. If only it were that simple, and if it were, would Britain’s diet industry be worth an estimated £2billion??

Some people WILL lose ‘weight’ if they restrict calories for a few weeks, BUT the ‘weight’ lost is mostly made up of water and muscle tissue – NOT body fat. Then once you start to eat ‘normally’ again you re-gain that weight plus some extra fat that probably wasn’t even there in the first place!

Why? Because your body thinks you were in a state of famine whilst you were restricting food and now that you are eating more food again it slows your metabolism and stores the now incoming food as body fat for when you next restrict food (think insulation for your precious bones).

We have what’s called a ‘set point’ weight, which is the weight at which your body likes to be at and keep you at. Calories restriction, which works against your metabolism, will eventually cause your body’s set point to rise and then it becomes difficult to lose weight on a deprivational diet, and once food is inevitably increased the weight comes back again, and so on, until you are left pulling your hair out years later wondering what went so wrong!

The answer? Don’t restrict your body of the food/energy it needs everyday in order to support metabolism and to function properly! Instead eat the right types of and combinations of foods that will keep your blood sugar levels balanced, support hormonal balance, gut health and metabolism.

Here is an example using myself. When I was trying to lose weight for the 3rd or 4th time in my later 20’s I restricted my calorie intake to no more than 1,200 calories per day. I was cranky, exhausted, hungry, and miserable every single day. When I had initially done this same regime earlier on in my 20’s it had worked for me and within a month I was looking and feeling slimmer (I now know that was water and muscle weight lost not body fat.) I then read about ‘BMR’, this is our Basal Metabolic Rate which basically means the amount of calories our body needs each day just to rest, or just to be able to ‘keep the lights on’ – it doesn’t include the energy needed to go out to work, walk around, think, make decisions, or do exercise. My own BMR at that time was about 1,480 calories.

So, if I needed an absolute minimum of 1,480 calories per day and I was having a maximum of 1,200 a day then is it any wonder I was feeling so awful; hungry, miserable, overcome with cravings and going on inevitable binges a couple times a week?! I was far from ‘at rest’ every day. I was walking to and from work, doing a 9 hour day in the office where I had to think all day long and make decisions, I was going to the gym after work and walking home again.

The point I am making here is that if my BMR was around 1,480 calories I should have been having about another 300-500 per day (depending on activity levels) to be able to support my metabolism and keep it ticking over nicely.

The result? Loss of water and muscle tissue and gain of body fat.

And that’s when I turned things around, and then took things a step further by studying and training to become a nutritional therapist and health coach so I could change my career and help other women just like me!

I used to be so fixated with the calorie number of foods that I became obsessed with that rather than the type of food the calories were coming from. This is an extremely unhealthy obsession as you’re not interested in the nutrition the food will provide for you but simply the number of calories it provides (we can eat plenty of fat-storing carbs all day and still be within our 1200 calorie allowance).

We need to look at food in terms of how our body will break it down – will it be used for energy, will it provide vitamins and minerals needed to optimise our health, or will it be stored as fat? THAT’S what matters. 

Let’s say someone’s BMR number is around 1400-1500 calories (the amount of calories they need at complete rest only) and they’re eating 2,500 calories per day, plus not exercising or moving much at all, then yes they are likely eating too many calories and will be gaining some weight. So they would need to be in some sort of calorie deficit to be able to start losing fat, but that deficit should likely be around 1800 calories per day NOT the common 1200 we are lead to believe is necessary for weight loss. Plus the source of those calories is all-important. Then once they reach their goal body size they can slowly start to increase calories slightly to a maintenance amount to maintain that ideal weight.

Calorie counting is outdated and it’s an ignorant way to view weight loss. It focuses on quantity and not quality of food, and this is absurd, seeing as certain foods cause the release of our fat storing hormones and others do not – regardless of calories.

calorie-countingDepriving our bodies of calories only leads to an eventual slowed metabolism which causes us to gain the weight back and then some, over and over, unless you get the right advice and finally change the way you eat for good.

Our bodies do not work like a maths equation. There is a LOT of other stuff going on within our bodies that must be taken into account when trying to lose weight.

The dieting industry views food simply as calories, and to lose weight we need to reduce our daily calories (to an alarmingly low number usually anything fro 800-1200 a day) and the weight will drop off. If only it were that simple, and if it were, would Britain’s diet industry be worth an estimated £2billion??

There is calorie counting, which looks only at the number of calories a food provides in relation to the restrictive number of calories allowed in one day, and there is what I call ‘smart eating’ which provides the body with the right amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as other nutrients, needed for optimum health – which in turn leads to ideal weight.

Counting calories fights against your body’s ‘set point’ weight whereas ‘smart eating’ lowers your set point weight. 

The quality of our calories is what matters for LONG TERM FAT loss. Improving the QUALITY not reducing the QUANTITY of our food results in reducing inflammation within the body (critical for fat loss), re-sensitizing our cells, and re-regulting our hormones and therefore lowering our set point (that ideal weight your body will want to keep you at).

Yo-yo dieting is something I want to see the back off for everyone. Losing weight shouldn’t be something that happens multiple times a year. Someone said to be the other day that “calorie counting works for me whenever I need to lose weight”, but this person is totally missing the point. If it really did work then they wouldn’t repeatedly need to lose weight. I am all about fat loss that is sustainable, and done in a healthy way that doesn’t damage your health and metabolism long term. If someone is overweight they should first try to identify the root cause(s) of their weight gain, address that, and embark on a way of eating that supports blood sugar balance, hormones, and gut health, and then metabolism and ideal weight is also supported. This is called sustainable FAT loss, no longer calling for yo-yo dieting throughout the year as the weight fluctuates due to calorie restriction and hormonal imbalances (insulin and cortisol) that leads to fat storage over and over again. Once the body’s systems and metabolism are supported through PERMANENT diet and lifestyle changes your ideal weight is maintained.

If you’re looking for a quick fix to lose excess weight then calorie restriction might work but for the short term ONLY and studies show that up to 70% of the non water weight lost from restricting calories comes from muscle. Calories counting slows down metabolism and takes away our muscle tissue – no thank you.  

Eating less and exercise more does not cause long term FAT loss. 

Eating in a way that provides your body with real, whole-food meals that nourish your body and do not cause blood sugar spikes (let’s call this ‘smart eating’) leverages the quality of your calories, which in turn takes care of the quantity of your calories (without the counting!).

Calorie counting doesn’t take a LOT of things into account that are KEY for weight/fat loss, ESPEICALLY for women, such as:

  • Insulin’s activity
  • Cortisol’s activity
  • Estrogen and progesterone levels
  • Grehlin and leptin’s activity – 2 other important hormones for fat storage/fat burning
  • Stress levels
  • Sleep quality
  • Adrenal health
  • Digestive health
  • Macronutrient ratios per meals/snacks (protein fat and carbs)
  • Activity levels and type of training
  • Food quality, nutrition provided by the food, and alcohol intake

Counting calories is not the way to go, what a woman really needs for sustainable weight loss isn’t calorie counting; it’s a diet that:

  • Addresses hormonal and metabolic problems (very likely for most women over the age of 35), thus making sure food is used for energy rather than being stored as fat.
  • Does not make you hungry, stressed, or miserable.
  • Encourages a holistic view of health, rather than nudging you towards unhealthy food choices just because they’re low in one “bad” category (e.g. carbs, fat, calories, etc.).
  • You can see yourself following for the long term.

For example, if you’re calorie counting but still consuming a diet that’s high in carbs not only will your weight loss be less efficient than it would on a low carb diet, but you will also find yourself going hungry. This is due to the decreased effect on satiety that is brought about by the consumption of carbohydrates (when compared to protein or fat).

Calories aren’t created equally. Your body will recognize and treat them differently. Your body doesn’t just digest calories…it digests the minerals, proteins, fats and vitamins in what you’re eating. And if you’re eating a 350 calorie diet dinner v’s a 600 calorie dinner of grilled chicken, sautéed veg, avocado, and brown rice…the second option is the better one for weight loss and management.

It’s exactly why you can eat a big plate of chips and a tub of ice cream with little trouble but can’t so easily eat a decent sized steak – because carbohydrates lead to a spike in blood sugar that makes the body want more of the same, whereas protein (steak) is satiating and stabalises blood sugar, keeping you fuller for longer.

In my opinion, it’s far better to reduce the amount of carbohydrate foods you eat at each meal and snack and focus on getting protein with every meal and snack and some healthy fats plus plenty of vegetables including dark green leafy ones and starchy ones like sweet potato, squash and beetroot for your carb sources over things like pasta, wraps, bread, big white potatoes and white rice, without too much concern for calories. If that doesn’t result in weight loss then you try taking another look at the amount of carbohydrates you’re eating e.g. are you having carb based snacks like lots of high sugar fruits, rice cakes, crisps or toast, rather than protein based snacks like nuts and seeds, boiled eggs, nut butter, plain full fat yogurt and berries? Then also look at your sleep, alcohol intake, stress levels, activity levels and type of exercise (too much cardio and not enough resistance/weights), thyroid health, and gut health. Book a Fat Loss Strategy Call with me today and let’s talk through your key struggles when it comes to your weight and health, and I can get you moving forward in the right direction, we’ll have 40 minutes together and its free. Click here to book your call slot in!

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So, switch the ratio on your plate, for example I love a curry as much as the next person but I am more than happy to swap half a plate of rice for more of the meat and plenty of vegetables and a handful of rice instead. Also pass on the naan bread for example, its just not necessary. The average British person would have the rice, the naan and the potato that’s mixed into their main or side dish, now that’s a LOT of unnecessary carbohydrate and the same goes for meals cooked at home, question the amount of carbs you’re having at meal times and as snacks. That is likely to be your downfall, NOT calories. I’m in no way telling anyone to cut out carbs or follow a super low-carb plan, that isn’t helpful either. I’m simply saying to focus more on the protein, healthy fats, vegetables and lower more nutritious fruit like berries. Then for your starchier carbs opt for root vegetables mainly and some whole grains like oats, buckwheat, quinoa (not actually a grain) and brown or wild rice. Start your day with the protein-rich breakfast such as eggs with bacon or smoked salmon, or a protein and ‘good’ fats smoothie with berries, which is really satisfying and keeps me going all the way through to lunch.

Understanding the effect of different nutrients (protein, carbs and fats and the smaller nutrients within them) on your body is the key, NOT calories.

In a nutshell, the more educated you are on what happens to the food you eat, the more likely you are to eat right. Forget about calories and instead be educated on what happens to the food you eat within your body, stored as fat or burned off. Counting calories does not take this into account and in my opinion anyone that tells someone to just cut calories and exercise more to lose weight needs to do their own research before dishing out advice.

The takeaway point here is that restricting calories is just dangerous, silly and unnecessary. Ideal weight is a natural side effect of being healthy, and this includes having a healthy functioning gut, balanced hormones, quality sleep, and a handle on stress. When we increase the quality of our food and exercise, we can heal our hormones, “unclog” our systems, lower our set points, and get our bodies to burn fat instead of storing it.

It’s the creation of new habits and making changes to your eating style and lifestyle that has the biggest impact and results in long-lasting success.

Before I go here are some quotes from some of the academic research into the effect of calorie restriction on the body in relation to weight.

“The researchers note that animals respond to food shortages by storing energy and gaining weight. Their model demonstrates that when food is in short supply – much like during a phase of dieting – an efficient animal will gain excess weight between periods of food shortage. Surprisingly,” says Prof. Higginson, “our model predicts that the average weight gain for dieters will actually be greater than those who never diet. This happens because non-dieters learn that the food supply is reliable so there is less need for the insurance of fat stores”.

“The best thing for weight loss is to take it steady. Our work suggests that eating only slightly less than you should, all the time, and doing physical exercise is much more likely to help you reach a healthy weight than going on low-calorie diets.” Prof. Andrew Higginson, University of Exeter

 

P.S. Book a Fat Loss Strategy Call with me today and let’s talk through your key struggles when it comes to your weight and health, and I can get you moving forward in the right direction, we’ll have 40 minutes together and its free. Click here to book your call slot in!

5 tips to help you break up with sugar

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I never used to last a day without a bar of chocolate, or two, it was just something I didn’t even think about. Then there was all the ‘hidden’ or not so obvious sugar I was eating such as bowls of pasta, sauces, dressings, white wraps, big jacket potatoes, breakfast cereals, crackers etc. Back then my health wasn’t great, for a young girl in her 20’s, I should have felt and looked much better. I had skin break outs, weak nails, patches of psoriasis and dry skin, IBS which was quite severe at times with numerous hospital visits, terrible PMS, constant headaches, and of course I was overweight with stubborn fat around the middle.

Our ancestors had sugar so what’s wrong with it?

We are born with a natural sweet tooth. To our early ancestors, foods that were sweet meant that they’d be a good source of energy, whilst bitter tasting foods were thought to be a source of toxins. However, back then, access to sweet foods was limited and so no one went overboard! In fact, nature has made it quite hard for us to access sweet foods (apart from fruit) when you consider how strong a sugar cane is on the outside and the heavy machinery that’s needed to extract the juice. Sugar cane juice is subtly sweet and contains things like B vitamins, magnesium, and other nutrients.

The problem is that today, the white (processed) sugar available to us everywhere that started out as cane juice has been refined so many times, and had all the nutrients stripped out. Back in our ancestor’s day, if they fancied something sweet they really had to forage for it, and when they found it they got a nice subtle hit of sweetness, along with some nutrients. Today though we certainly don’t have to forage for sweetness; it’s available everywhere in a wide variety of forms, and we are hit with an intense sweetness each time that just leaves us wanting and needing more of it.

Did you know?…

That our taste buds renew themselves every 10 to 14 days, so we can definitely train our taste buds away from sweet foods quite quickly, if we want to! This is what I did and it was the best thing I ever did! I started by switching my milk chocolate to dark chocolate (70-80% dark), at first it was bitter and I found it tough to make the switch, but after 2 weeks I had officially re-trained my taste buds, having almost spat out ½ a square of milk chocolate for it being far too sweet, and that’s still the case for me today 10 years later.

Gradually decreasing the amount of sweetness you take in is the best way. For example gradually reducing the amount of fruit you use in your smoothies or green juices whilst increasing things like spinach leaves and other green leaves, to start getting your taste buds used to more bitter flavours and less sweet. You will soon fine pure fruit smoothies far too sweet. Make one small change today and work with that for 2 weeks, then another change, and so on. Once you start to feel more energized and vibrant, you wont want to stop! The key is to increase your fat intake and include real, whole foods, keeping your body topped up with good nutrition throughout the day, to stave off cravings and hunger.

The word ‘addiction’ is usually associated with drugs like heroin or cocaine, but there is some evidence to suggest that sugar can be as addictive as drugs. But there is still some controversy about whether this is actually proven to be the case in humans, as most of the studies have been carried out on rats. In my opinion, if there is an ‘addiction’ to sugar it’s usually a result of something else that’s causing the body to crave sugar, and if that something else is addressed the ‘addiction’ is no longer.

I hear a lot of people say that they don’t have a ‘sweet tooth’ and so they don’t need to have sugary treats and snacks. But this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not addicted to sugar, as they may just be addicted to refined carbs, which are still sugar! Have you come across someone who doesn’t eat chocolate or sweets but couldn’t go a day without white bread, cereals, sandwiches, wraps, pasta, etc.?

Does any of the below apply to you?

  • You crave sugar e.g. chocolate, cakes, etc. often
  • You can’t say no to sugary snacks or treats when on offer
  • You’re not hungry but you still want sugary foods
  • Once you give into your cravings you find it hard to stop, and so might binge e.g. you can’t just have 1 or 2 cookies and you eat the entire packet in one sitting
  • The sugar you eat gives you a short-term boost of energy followed by a crash (think droopy eyes after a lunch of pasta or a big jacket potato)
  • If you try to cut sugar out you feel awful with low energy and more intense cravings
  • You might start the day well without sugar and then by the afternoon you start to crave it and usually give in

If any of these apply to you, there could be a few reasons for why this might be:

You may not be eating enough

Your body’s way of talking to you is via symptoms and cravings. If we don’t feed our body with nutrient dense foods it will eventually ask us to because it is lacking in certain important nutrients. The body’s request manifests itself as a sugar craving and leaves you reaching for processed sugar like a biscuit or a chocolate bar, and as these foods are so empty of nutrients your body never actually gets what it’s asking for so it carries on asking you which leads to another craving shortly after!

Are you stressed?

Adrenalin is the hormone that’s released when we’re stressed, to help us cope with the stress at hand, but it uses a lot of our glucose stores, which can leave us depleted and looking for more to fill the reserves back up again. This is a natural and very clever response by then body! The trouble is we tend to go for fructose rather than glucose (see above) so the body continues to crave, and we continue to eat more sugar. So the key here is to manage stress and thus reduce the amount of adrenalin we release! See below for tips.

You don’t get enough sleep

When we’re tired sugar is a quick source of energy so when your energy levels crash on a tired day we reach for sugar. Also when we are low on sleep we have higher levels of a hormone called grehlin which signals to your brain that it’s time to eat. The hormone leptin, however, cues your brain to put the fork down and when we don’t have enough sleep we have lower levels of leptin. Then there’s the cortisol spike that comes from too little sleep. This stress hormone tells your body to conserve energy (hold onto fat) to fuel your long waking hours, and causes sugar cravings. Being tired revs up the brains reward centres and leaves us looking for something that feels good – sugar! Sleep really is like nutrition for the brain, and ideally we want between 7-9 hours a night to keep these hormones under control.

You drink too much caffeine

Caffeine kicks the adrenal glands into action to release adrenalin, much the same as stress does, so again, you’re left craving sugar to replenish the stores of glucose.

Do you have an emotional connection with sugar?

Cravings can be triggered by an emotion such as anger, anxiety, or boredom etc. You may also associate eating sugar with easing emotional pain, or it could be linked to happy memories from your childhood where sweet foods triggering positive or comforting memories from the past.

Here are some tips to help you move away from a reliance on sugar as you move further into 2016:

  1. Always include some good fats with your meals from sources like avocado, nuts and seeds mixed into with your salads, extra virgin olive oil drizzled over meals, coconut oil and ground flaxseed in smoothies or porridge. This will help to keep you satiated keeping hunger and cravings under control, as well as providing your brain and body with key fatty acids it so needs.
  2. Switch coffee to herbal tea which is much more restorative for your health, especially if you’re someone that ‘can’t possibly live without your morning coffee.’
  3. Deep breathing can really make a difference here, breathing deeply sends a signal to your brain that you are calm and all is well, which reduces the amount of adrenalin that’s released. So, practice yoga and or meditation regularly or if you cant manage this then simply add a few round of deep breathing into your day, a few times a day, when you notice things are getting on top of you
  4. Use a good quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement daily to help you get the minimum levels of important nutrients, make sure it includes chromium as chromium can help to balance our blood sugar levels which can be helpful when you first start reducing sugar (whilst getting more levels from your food choices).
  5. Avoid using artificial sweeteners as they encourage sugar cravings and sugar dependence just the same. They don’t help to train our taste buds away from sweetness, really what we want to be doing is training ourselves to prefer savoury, only wanting sweet stuff from time to time and in moderation – putting you in control! Artificial sweeteners place a burden on the liver too as they are processed through our detoxification pathways, being recognized as a toxin.

Try to identify where your issues might be and work on those, that way you can eliminate whatever it is that leaves your body craving sugar, rather than relying on ‘willpower’ and simply forcing yourself to cut sugar out without identifying WHY you want it in the first place. Let’s all develop a healthy relationship with sugar rather than a dependent one :-)

 

Trying to lose weight? Change your approach with these nourishing principles

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Every Body is Different – Calories v’s Nutrients

The world of weight loss can be a confusing and overwhelming place; with so many different diets all claiming to be the new best approach. The problem is that every body is different and the biological needs of one person wont be the same as the another, and that needs to be taken into account when embarking on any weight loss plan. Many people can got through their adult life following diet after diet and getting no where, or losing some weight but then gaining it back again when they return to ‘normal’ eating, because lets face it, most of these ‘diets’ are difficult (and no fun!) to follow long term. When it comes to diets and calorie restriction many people could be wreaking havoc on their thyroid and adrenal gland health. We need to provide the body with the right environment for it to start burning fat.

Here are 3 principles that I hope will change your approach to weight loss.

1) Switch the focus to nourishment rather than calories

Focus on food that nourishes your body, giving it what it needs to thrive, burn fat and balance your energy and mood. Huge improvements in health and wellbeing can be seen from switching the focus over to nourishment from real whole foods, containing good fats, quality protein, and plenty of vegetables, and good quality carbohydrates, rather than counting calories. This shift will leave you feeling more satisfied, and help you to think more clearly and be more productive, because our brain needs to be nourished. You will probably end up eating more calories than you would think you should or ever have before, but once you see the old stubborn fat coming off and you start to feel great, and your cravings diminish, you will see that calorie counting wasn’t the key after all. For some people, restricting calories does indeed lead to weight loss, but this isn’t usually true fat loss, more water and muscle, and the loss is almost always unsustainable unless and not to mention unhealthy, the weight usually piles back on with a vengeance. Calorie restriction usually signals to our body that we are in some state of famine or distress and our bodies are very cleverly designed to deal with this.

Let me explain more – If we are highly stressed, or we are simply just under eating, the body goes into fat preservation mode. It does this to protect you and help you, only when we are desperately trying to lose weight/body fat we don’t really appreciate this, and unknowingly we are causing this to happen. It’s usually at this point that we blame ourselves and conclude that we’re not working hard enough i.e. we’re not restricting calories enough and exercising hard enough – we either give up or we start pounding the pavements more often and for longer, and eating less. This just makes the situation a whole lot worse, not to mention how bad it feels! The key is to provide the body with the right nutrition for it to feel safe and not perceive famine or stress, which just knocks hormones out of balance and triggering your body to hold onto your fat stores.

2) Understand how your body reacts to different foods, irrespective of their calorie content

For example, when you eat a bowl of Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes or a can of Fanta, the body absorbs the sugars quickly which raises the level of sugar in our blood stream to above its ideal level (which is about 1 tsp at any one time). This calls upon the hormone insulin to move the excess sugar out of the blood stream. Insulin looks to our body’s cells when moving the sugar, and it heads mostly our fat cells around our middle, insulin has an important job to do but it is a fat storing hormone. This scenario will increases inflammation in the body, raises triglycerides (fat in your blood), and blocks the appetite controlling hormone leptin. Leptin is a hormone that tells the brain when we are satisfied i.e. that we’ve eaten enough food. If the brain can’t receive this message then the body will most likely continue to feel hungry and we will continue to eat. So, can you see how calories have no relevance here? If this scenario of high sugar food choices is then repeated many times throughout the day, it will lead to weight gain (and stubborn midriff fat stores) and most likely lead to disease, seeing as inflammation, and fat in the blood will continue to rise, and leptin will continue to be blocked.

3) Make a shift away from the wrong carbs, but understand why

Carbs come in all shapes and sizes. The important thing to know is which carbs to avoid and which ones to include. The majority of people today are eating a low fat and carb heavy diet, and whilst they think they might be doing the right thing (according to mainstream media), they’re not. The government ‘Eatwell Plate’ is extremely out of date and incorrect, with its suggestion to keep fats low and have a third of our plate made up of bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, or other starchy food. This will only increase the scenario mentioned in point 1 above (fat storage!). The BANT wellness plate is much more up to date and supported by up to date research, you have a look at this here. It suggests that a quarter of our plate should be made up of whole grains and root vegetables, a quarter should be leafy green vegetables, a quarter of other veg, and a quarter of it protein making fish, poultry and eggs your principal sources of protein. Most people who eat a diet low in fat and high in carbohydrates (as per the government Eatwell plate) may feel like they’re never really full or satisfied long after eating, this is probably because leptin is having trouble getting through to the brain (see above). Instead of bread, white rice, white potatoes and pasta use whole grains like rye, quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, and oats, use root veg like sweet potato and beetroot, plenty of vegetables with lots of dark green leafy stuff, and use low sugar fruits like berries, apples and pears. These types of carbohydrate foods do not spike blood sugar levels in the way that starchy and refined carbs do, plus they offer a whole heap of vitamins and minerals that we so desperately need on a daily basis. Snack on nuts and seeds, hummus, avocado, cottage cheese, rather than carb heavy snacks like bread, cakes, biscuits and muffins etc.

If we stop focusing on calories and we focus on eating whole, real foods that nourish the body we are much more likely to be and feel healthy and keep our weight under control. The body has an in-built system that controls our appetite but by eating refined foods high in sugar, and keep fats low, we are messing with this system. Some foods that are highest in fat and calories are the most nourishing of foods that work WITH our system not against it, supporting our metabolism, rather than slowing it. These foods are much more likely to promote weight loss and decrease our risk of heart disease and diabetes, such as avocados, which is a fantastic example.

So, if you have trouble with weight around the middle then take a look at your approach to your diet, are you counting calories rather than nourishment? Is your diet high in sugar and carbs and low in fats? Is it high in hidden sugars coming from refined carbs like wraps or white bread, sauces in jars or packets, regular cereals we see advertised on TV? Check labels to look for the ‘of which sugars’ content and know that 1 teaspoon of sugar equates to about 4.4g of sugar, so if the label tells you there is 16g of sugar in the portion of that food you’ll eat then that’s a out 4 teaspoons in one go, that’s only going to spike your blood sugar and call upon insulin. ‘Low fat’ usually means high sugar/high insulin spike, so be aware! Keeping insulin at bay, and supporting the body’s natural hormonal system is a whole lot more effective than any calorie counting.

I hope you found this useful and it helps to steer you in the right direction :-)

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