Killing Bad Habits, Creating New Ones

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Part of achieving a lifestyle change and making it stick is killing old habits and creating new ones. When I began my weight loss journey a few years ago, I had to break some bad habits and adopt some new healthy ones. Everyone made it sound easy, like I could just flip a switch, but it was really hard. Along the way, I found some tricks and short-cuts that really helped me reinforce my behaviour changes. For anyone who has just started their weight-loss journey or is struggling to break bad habits, this post is for you.

Stop Snacking.

A lot of people who are overweight struggle to lose the weight because they are constantly eating, snacking, picking, grazing and consuming a few hundred extra calories on top of their regular meals. Food is a drug, it releases feel-good chemicals in our brain and our senses are heightened. Snacking is a bad habit when it is preventing you from losing weight or causing you to gain weight. But there are a few habits you can introduce that will help you stop your snacking habit. The most effective for me is chewing gum. I go through about 50 pieces of gum every 1-2 weeks. Yes, that’s a lot of gum. I also have very healthy teeth, according to my dentist, so maybe this gum-chewing habit is doing more good than I even realise. The second best habit to introduce is drinking more water. Every time you feel like a snack, drink a bottle of water. You will pee a lot more often so prepare for that, but your body will thank you for an increased intake of H2O. The third best habit to combat a bad snacking habit is introduce more physical activity. Change your routine. Are you snacking while watching Netflix in bed? Go to a class at the gym instead. Go for a walk and listen to a Podcast. Go walk to Starbuck’s and grab a decaf Americano. Replace your snacking with a different activity that will make you feel just as good, if not better, than that shitty kit-kat.

Drink less alcohol. 

Alcohol messes your body up. It sends your blood sugar levels sky-rocketing, only for them to crash and burn the next day. It is a depressant. It can change the composition of your gut bacteria. It increases your heart rate. So yes, it’s fun and it can make for a fantastic night out with friends, but it does not do the body good. If you struggle with your weight, alcohol may have an even greater impact on you than someone who doesn’t struggle with their weight. But there are a few new habits you can introduce to help kick the alcohol habit. Sign up for early morning gym classes on the weekend to avoid the temptation to go out boozing on a Friday night. Or sign up for a Friday evening gym class for the same effect. Alternate between champagne or red wine and water, so you consume half the amount of booze you normally would on a night out. If you’re going out for dinner, order a Diet Coke or sparkling water instead of boozing. You’ll still get a mental kick from the caffeine in the Diet Coke but without all the calories. Sounds boring, I know, but it will help you shed the pounds. Don’t stop socialising altogether, this isn’t good for your happiness, but find a way to cut down on booze while still being social.

Cut down (or out) refined sugar. 

When I was younger, I loved sugar. It was my drug. I drank it, in the form of Dr Pepper or Mountain Dew. I ate it, in the form of candy. I snacked on it, in the form of brownies, cookies and cakes. I had a terrible sugar habit and when my weight peaked at 210 lbs. in 2009, I knew I had to do something about it. It took years before I got to a place where I was consistently eating a low-sugar diet. I gradually cut down. Then I pretty much cut it out altogether. Then I got stuck in a restrict and binge cycle (e.g. no sugar for a week, followed by a big bag of Pic n’ Mix at the cinema on the weekend). Then I got to a place where I was having it semi-regularly but in extremely low amounts (e.g. a few squares of chocolate a couple of times a week). Refined sugar is the reason that most overweight people are overweight. So, how do you kick this habit when sugar is on pretty much every list of ingredients in the supermarket? Again, I go back to chewing gum (bubblegum flavour to be precise). Drink flavoured sparkling water (not too regularly though, it’s full of artificial sweeteners). Eat more berries or any other low-sugar fruit. Drink black coffee after large meals to help re-balance your blood sugar levels. Exercise more, to help maintain level blood-sugar levels. Eat complex carbohydrates like porridge or rye bread with breakfast for slow-release sugars and energy. Learn to think with your stomach and not your mind. Your stomach doesn’t want refined sugar, it will completely destroy the good bacteria in your gut. Your brain wants it because it’s a drug. My biggest piece of advice here is to not replace all sugar with artificial sweetener, because that’s not good for your body either. Also, don’t replace it with honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, etc. because those are all just different forms of sugar.

There is so much more I could write here. Instead, I’m giving you my perspective on the top three bad habits of overweight people and some top tips for creating and sustaining new healthy ones. I’ll save the rest of my thoughts for a future post! For now, you can check out fitness and food tips on my Instagram and Facebook page. Thanks for reading and have a happy Sunday!

Four reasons to try plant-based eating

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Two years ago, if someone had told me to go vegan or have meals without meat or fish, I would have laughed in their face. Then I suffered months of health issues, which wreaked havoc on my hormones, digestion, mood and life. So I decided in January 2018 to do a trial period of eating less meat and more plant-based foods. I wasn’t quite sure how it would go… would I be hungry all the time? Would I become morbidly obese? Would I have enough energy to exercise and lift heavy things? Would I waste away? Would my digestive system love me or hate me for it? Would I spend more money on food or less money on food? So many questions.

A few things happened, some positive and some negative, and I’m going to share the main benefits and drawbacks of plant-based eating, from my experience, with you today.

Five a Day

If you struggle to get your five-a-day, then go plant-based for a while. Making sure you get enough vitamins, protein and fibre in a diet that is mostly made up of vegetables, fruit grains and a few dairy products is not easy. I found myself making lunches with things like eggplant, butternut squash, carrots, chickpeas, tomatoes, courgettes, broccoli and brown rice. My snacks were apples and bananas on a good day, and dark chocolate covered almonds on a bad day. I drink almond milk and apple juice pretty regularly anyway, so I kept these in. Yum.

Digestion

Eating vegetables does not give you the same bloat as eating meat. And if you suffer from any form of IBS or IBD, you’ll know that digesting meat can sometimes be painful and difficult. After six weeks of plant-based lunches, I can honestly say that I felt the difference. My meals didn’t sit like heavy rocks in my stomach. And I didn’t suffer from any uncomfortable gas either. My body liked them and digested them well. Sometimes I felt a little bloated after a carb-heavy meal but green tea and black coffee helped ease that symptom. My body struggled with some foods like broccoli and cauliflower, which are extremely fibrous, but as with any dietary adjustment, it just needed time and patience.

Satiety 

It is possible to feel full on this diet but you need to really pay attention to your protein and fibre intake. This was the only problem for me. I wasn’t always full after a plant-based meal. Sometimes I found myself hungry a couple of hours after lunch and honestly, I hate snacking during the day. It messes with my metabolism and messes with my mealtimes. If I don’t pick the right snack, it also sends my blood sugar levels all over the place resulting in crashes and mood swings and all sorts of horrors (yes, I’m human and sometimes I make bad choices.) I played around with meals including more chickpeas sometimes or lentils or quinoa. I don’t know if I ever nailed it but again, it takes time, patience and tweaks before you get it right and find your flow.

Carbs

Plant-based eating means that you get to eat more carbs, which is great. Bananas, sweet potato, squash, carrots, berries, apples, brown rice, quinoa, oats, etc. More carbs means more energy, and fuel to thrive. If you’re a runner, you are probably used to eating a high-carb diet anyway. And if you’re not, then you’ll find you have more energy to burn in your workouts and cardio sessions. The only down-side to this way of eating? Sometimes, I did find myself over-eating or going too carb-heavy or too fat-heavy. It’s easy to fill up on bread and starchy carbs, but if you’re not using those to fuel yourself physically, the weight will start to creep back on.  And on the flip side, it’s easy to go too fat-heavy and gorge yourself on nuts and avocados. But if you’re not burning fat in HIIT-based workouts or balancing that out with a lower carb intake, your body will turn that fat straight into fat. DISCLAIMER: Every body is different. My housemate can eat an entire baguette every day and still stay a size UK 6. If I even look at a baguette, my hips and arms grow by like six inches.

Plant-based eating is great for getting your five a day and your stomach and bowels will thank you for it. But beware of over-eating, under-eating and eating too many calorie-dense foods. It’s easy to eat a banana peanut butter sandwich and think, “this is plant-based so I’m a beacon of health.” But you should probably be having raw carrots and homemade avocado dip instead — unless you’ve just run a 10K of course. If you’re strength-training, you’ll need to load up on protein like chickpeas, beans, tofu and peanuts. In fact, my body craved yoghurt after gym sessions, which told me that I needed more protein. If there are two key reasons to really try this, it’s: (1) to challenge yourself to eat more fruit and veg and (2) to find a way of eating that is good for your body and good for the environment.

Look… just try it. Give it a few weeks and then let me know how you get on. You can find me on Instagram or Facebook.

100K in 10 Days

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Running is exhilarating in every sense of the word. Part of the excitement is the physical challenge and sensation of feet pounding the concrete. Then there’s the feeling of sucking in fresh air, sweating and feeling a chill at the same time, fast heart beats and traveling freely at speed. But one of the most fantastic parts of running is the moments you experience when the world is waking up or going to sleep. Seeing the sun rise before everyone else has awoken. Seeing the grass still frozen as the planet warms up. Views of untouched snow and the sound of morning bird song. A road with no traffic or a lone plane in a cloudless sky. There’s something striking and powerful about experiencing these moments on a run.

When you become ill or someone in your life becomes ill, you suddenly realise how beautiful the world is. You look back at all the moments you took for granted. And all the things that seemed so important at the time, now seem so insignificant. You capture every possible moment of beauty that you can, from sunrise to sunset. Life is so fast, so full of stress and so burdened with unnecessary pressures. It is only when you slow down and make a conscious effort to really look and see what is around you, that you realise the extent to which life is filled with special people, special things and special moments. It is sad that it takes hardship or illness to make us stop and appreciate these moments, but it’s during the tough times that we feel gratitude the most.

When a friend approached me and asked me to run 100K in 10 days, I did not hesitate to say ‘Yes.’ He informed me that the mother of a girl I went to university with had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Rather than accepting the rubbish options the NHS offered her, she chose to undergo an experimental treatment involving lots of nutrient-dense supplementation and juicing. And it’s improving her quality of life dramatically. Being someone who is deeply passionate about holistic health and nutrition, I felt really strongly about Julie’s journey. It’s so promising to see a few select medical professionals embracing nutrition as a healing mechanism. We live on a planet that heals itself, the animals and plants that inhabit it. Why not use the planet to heal ourselves?

When Euan, Sam and I first started our 100K in 10 days, we felt great. The first couple of 10Ks were easy and enjoyable. But personally, my joints were on fire by day 3 or 4. On day five, I could only manage 5K due to a very intense day/week at work. I lacked energy and I lacked time. This meant I had to make up these kilometres at the weekend, which meant two 12K runs in a row. By this point, I was popping ibuprofen just to get through and my body felt extremely inflamed. On the final day, it was just about finishing without stopping or quitting. After ten days of non-stop running, we had done it. Ticked the box. Achieved. Off the bucket list. And we were already planning what we would do next! Every time my mind told me to quit, I pushed through. I told myself that my pain was insignificant and that I was stronger than I gave myself credit for. My ankles were crying, but they got their rest when all was done.

This running challenge was so much fun, because I was part of a team. The team effort was greatly motivating and we could track each other’s progress using Strava and Instagram. I made sure to take probiotics every night to help regulate my sleep and energy. My diet consisted of a lot of vegan protein, turkey, veggies, avocado, apples and bananas. Oh and of course, the odd bit of chocolate-covered nuts (#addict). Challenge yourself. And if you do, do it for a good cause. Please check out Julie’s story here and if you can, donate a couple of quid. It’s a giving time of year after all! Thanks for reading and if you do 100K in 10 days, please do share your experience with me here.

Saturday Workout: Legs and HIIT

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Checking out my progress in the mirror at Puregym following an upper body session. Shout out to all the ladies who lift!

There is nothing I love more than waking up on a Saturday morning hangover-free, having an Americano with Calorie-free Walden Farms caramel syrup and hitting the gym for a huge training session. Many of my commutes, lunchtimes or evenings are spent scanning personal trainers and fitness models on Instagram for ‘Fitspiration‘ and ideas for new exercises and workouts. Why not take #inspo from the best?

While I am on my way to the gym in the morning, I plan my workout in my head or on the Notes app on my iPhone. One of the joys of living in London is that the Puregyms in Zone 1 are virtually empty at the weekend because everyone who lives in Zone 1 probably has their own gym! For this reason, the weekends are when I typically get some of my best sessions in. No queuing for machines and more space to do explosive exercise and to create my own circuits.

More on the benefits of Weekend Workouts next Sunday, but for now, below is my Saturday Session. Remember to adjust the weight to your own fitness goals and always prioritise form over reps. Rest when you need it but try and keep your heart rate up. If you cool down, smash out 20 burpees to get warmed back up! Let me know if you try it and what you think. You can reach me on Facebook and Instagram. Happy Sunday Fun-day!

Legs and HIIT:

90 seconds Running 13.5 Km/h
15 Kettle bell swings 14Kg
10 push-ups
60 second plank
REPEAT X3

15 Reps Leg extension 45Kg
30 jumping jacks
REPEAT X3

15 (each leg) Split Squat 10kg (20Kg total)
15 Jumping squats
REPEAT X3

15 Full Clean and Press 20Kg
30 seconds Mountain Climbers
15 (each leg) Curtsey Squats 20Kg

REPEAT X3

12 Smith Machine Squats 60Kg
REPEAT X3
6-8 Reps @ 70Kg

90 seconds running 12Km/h
15 Burpees
REPEAT X5

Stretch! 😊

Fitness Struggles: Coping with an Injury (Part II)

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Since my injury, I have been focusing on building my strength and flexibility. This will hopefully make the recovery process easier as I strengthen the muscles in my legs, arms and core rather than losing muscle mass.

If you haven’t read my previous post ‘Coping with an Injury: Part I‘ then I recommend that you start there before reading this post. 🙂 In summary, I tore my Psoas muscle on the left side of my lower back/hip flexor approximately five weeks ago and it was a very difficult injury to recover from.

Stage 6: Assessing the Damage

As a person who is naturally impatient, it was very challenging to take a step back from my normal workout routine. I had to try certain exercises, assess the pain, and then figure out if I could continue or if it was too much. In week one, I could not walk without being in excruciating pain and discomfort. I even had to take paracetamol to sleep. I began with the cross trainer in week two. In week three, I began doing burpees, rowing, jumping jacks and body weight lunges. In week four, I began doing a lot of upper body weights, core work, and squats and lunges with a 10kg and 15kg bar. In week five, I increased to a 17.5kg bar and built up to the weights I was using before the injury. I added in leg extensions, jumping lunges, courtesy lunges, hip thrusters, dead lifts and then before I knew it, I was back to my normal routine with a little less of the explosive moves, but the normal weight. The best feeling was not having any pain. I felt strong again!

Stage 7: Helping Myself Heal

Thankfully, my medical insurance covered me for a consultation and six sessions with a physiotherapist. She has helped me cope with the injury both physically and mentally. She completely understood what I was going through and I trusted her more than I have ever trusted a medical professional in my life. She understood my fear of never being able to run again, my fear of gaining weight, my worries of not being able to exercise, and all of the emotional turmoil that came with such a complicated injury. From doing a lot of reading and research about nutrition and exercise as part of my own personal weight loss journey, I knew a few things could help speed up the healing process. First and foremost, a high-protein diet which wasn’t hard as I eat a lot of protein as it is! I also bought BCAAs and L-glutamine, which I took 3-4 times a week pre and post-workout to help my muscles heal and grow. Branched chain amino acids have been shown to help muscles repair. I figured it could only help, so why not? I took my regular supplements, which are: Omega-3 fish oil, Vitamin B complex, multi-vitamins, cranberry and a probiotic in the evening. Basically, filling myself with nutrients to try and heal as quickly as possible.

Stage 8: Unpleasant Side Effects

The worst side effect was the hormonal imbalances that I experienced during the few days following the injury. Going from vigorous workouts and exercise every morning to virtually zero exercise and constant pain wreaked havoc on my hormones. I felt deeply depressed. My stress levels sky-rocketed and I wasn’t sleeping well. My diet was horrendous. I binged on sweets, chocolate and all sorts of rubbish and did a lot of comfort eating. The guilt and depression following these binges was very hard to cope with. After doing some research, I bought a probiotic to try and help reduce the hormonal imbalance. Thankfully, my body is well on its way to getting re-balanced. However, the side effects of eating so much junk are- a lot of fat gain and a few lbs of weight gain. A frustrating set-back. This will take at least 2-4 weeks to fix, but it can be done. With a lot of commitment, motivation, and focus of course!

Stage 9: Baby Steps

Last weekend, I ran a 5K and only with mild discomfort. On Friday, I ran 8Km and felt absolutely fine. Yesterday, I ran 7.5Km and felt great! Today, I walked 16.5 Miles in total (all over London) and my hamstrings and calves are pretty fatigued, but mentally, I feel fantastic! I am starting to feel like myself again. This week, my goal is to work out for at least 30 minutes every day. I am not going to run every day because I know that this could risk irritating the injury or causing another injury. Although I feel like I “could” run a 10K every day, it doesn’t mean that I should. I need to take this one day at a time and really listen to my body rather than pushing it over its limits. But I feel like I am finally getting back to normal and I am so thankful that my injury is healing so well. I am so thankful that I can run again. I feel so thankful for my health. This experience has made me very aware of how important my health is to me. In fact, it’s probably the single most important thing in my life!

Stage 10: Moving Forward and Key Lessons

Moving forward, I am so much more focused on strength and flexibility rather than absolutely hammering my body in the gym until it is completely fatigued. I am making a promise to myself that I will stretch after every workout and use the steam room at my gym as often as I can. I will push my body and challenge myself but not punish it. And when I do push it to its limits, I will reward it with a massage or a spa treatment or something nice to show it some love! I will make sure to balance weight training with cardio, not doing too much of one or the other but equal amounts of both.

In the past twelve months, I have completed a Masters degree, been through a break-up, moved to a new city, started a new job, and I would truly say that this injury has been the most difficult thing I have had to deal with this year. It has been a physical and mental battle but I feel that I have learned a lot throughout the process. To my friends and family, if you are reading this, thank you for putting up with my constant moaning and my (virtually menopausal) emotional rollercoaster. I am hoping that it is onward and upward from here.

 

 

 

RECIPE: Spinach, Ham and Onion Omelette

Spinach, Ham and Onion Omelette

This breakfast will keep you going all the way until lunchtime! Or if you like, have it for lunch or dinner instead.

An omelette is a great way to get lots of protein and nutrients into your daily diet, and they don’t just have to be eaten at breakfast time. Adding extra egg whites, which are just pure protein, can help keep you full and help you maintain lean muscle. This is a really simple, easy meal, and contains a whopping 41g of protein, and only 10g of fat and 8g of carbohydrates (macros may differ depending on which brands you use). Ditch the ketchup, the toast, and the Heinz baked beans, and spice this up with hot sauce and some sauerkraut. Your tummy and your waistline will thank you. If you try it, let me know about it on Facebook or Instagram!

Ingredients:

  • 4 egg whites, 2 yolks
  • a big handful of Fresh Spinach
  • 50g of Cooked Ham
  • 1/2 a Red Onion
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Coconut Oil

Method:

  1. Whisk the egg whites and yolks in a measuring jug.
  2. Heat up approximately a teaspoon of coconut oil in a pan on a low-medium heat.
  3. Cook the red onion for 4-5 minutes until softened and then put it aside on a plate.
  4. Pour the eggs into the pan.
  5. Chop the spinach and the ham.
  6. When the eggs are mostly cooked, add the spinach, ham, red onion, salt and pepper, and carefully fold the egg over.
  7. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until the egg is cooked all the way through.
  8. Serve with sauerkraut for gut-friendly bacteria, and a little Frank’s hot sauce if you’re feeling like spicing it up!

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Tip: Hot sauce, peri-peri sauce and most of the spicy sauces in Frank’s range contain zero (or very little) sugars. This is a great alternative to ketchup or HP sauce, which are notoriously high in sugars and syrups.

Those Bikini Photos and Why I Posted Them…

Bikini Photos August 2015

These photos show me in a bikini, not flexing (left) and flexing (right). As you can see, there is a noticeable difference in how ‘lean’ or ‘tight’ I look, in my stomach and legs.

My Instagram account is just a collage of food photos. One of the reasons I started ‘Green Food and Running Shoes’ was to help people make better choices in their diet and eat healthier, more wholesome food. Diet is just as important, if not more important, than staying active. Every now and then, I like to share a photo of my weight loss progress and my muscle gain. This journey is about body transformation, inside and out, and I want to show people that you can go from fat to fit, without undergoing surgery or any extreme diets or shortcuts. On Monday 17th August, I posted a photo on my Facebook and Instagram pages which showed me in a pink bikini (pictured above). Upon sharing the photos, I received a spectacular variety of messages from friends and loved ones. Some told me to take them down, some warned me of what employers might think, and others told me I looked damn fabulous, and that they were happy for me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am super thankful to have people in my life who genuinely care about me. I take advice on board, when I feel it is coming from a good place and I am by no means stubborn or arrogant. Part of this blog as about me sharing my story and being honest without sugar-coating anything. So, to anyone and everyone who judged me for sharing those photos, deemed them to be inappropriate, or thought I should take them down, I would like you to read this post and then seriously reflect on whether you still feel the same way afterwards. Here are the reasons why I posted those photos:

  1. Bikini Confidence is something that many women, of all shapes and sizes, rarely or never experience. Wearing clothing that reveals every inch of your body, every little ounce of cellulite, every jiggle, every stretch mark, every blemish, and every imperfection, is extremely nerve-wracking for many women. For the first time in my entire life, I feel like I might be able to wear my bikini on holiday (30 days and counting) and actually feel somewhat comfortable. Not even ‘amazing’ or ‘sexy,’ just ‘OK.’
  2. High School Bullies taunted me for my weight from the age of 11 until the age of 18. In fact, it destroyed my self-esteem to the point where I would literally avoid pool parties or pretend that I was on my period so that I did not have to strip down to my bikini. Any trips to the beach and I wore one of those hideous ‘Tankini’ sets or shorts and a bikini top to try and cover myself up as much as possible.
  3. 8 Months of Hard Work is what it has taken to transform my body into what it is today. Or, if you count the time I have spent on my weight loss journey since my fattest point, that would be 6 years. Yes, that is correct, six whole years.
  4. Vacation Photos of me in a bikini are non-existent. Why? Because I hid my body and only let people take photos of me from specific angles. If there were photos of me where I believed I looked fat, I deleted them or begged the photographer to remove them from existence. How sad is that? All those memories that were captured were then deleted because of how much I hated how I looked.
  5. General Body Confidence is something I have genuinely never experienced. In fact, I will tell you that I used to wear my dad’s shirts in high school just to hide all of my curves and flabby bits. Then, I tried an alternative strategy, and wore jeans that were SO tight, they ripped in the crotch, because I thought it concealed my fat by sucking it all into uncomfortably-tight denim.
  6. To Motivate Others has genuinely been my primary goal throughout this entire journey since I started ‘Green Food and Running Shoes.’ There was nobody to help me lose the weight, or give me nutritional advice, or help me make better choices, or give me exercise tips. I had to learn everything on my own using magazines, online blogs and articles, and Google. Losing weight and getting fit is damn hard, and I want to show people that I am no fake; I am real and my weight loss and muscle gain is 100% authentic. Photos help me show my authenticity.

If you know me, you will know that I am not one of those vain, self-obsessed, arrogant, obnoxious girls whose entire social media profile is a collection of selfies that would rival that of Kim Kardashian. Even now, after repairing much of the damage I did to my body, I am still repairing the damage that others inflicted on my mind. My body photos are not shared for the purpose of gaining ‘likes’ or attention. They are shared for the purpose of showing others that their goals are not out of reach, and I am living proof of that. If you follow me regularly, you will know that I only share photos of myself once a month, if that. Most of my posts are food and fitness-related. My goal is not to show off; it has always been to offer encouragement, create motivation, and inspire strength. Forgive me if I share a photo of my body once in a while, but it is something that I am gradually learning to be proud of, rather than feeling ashamed. Thank you to those who read this. Next week, I have a recipe to share with you guys, as well as some tips for changing up your work-out routine. Have a great week!

5 Foods You Should be Eating Right Now

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A few weeks ago, I got SO bored of my diet. Sweet potato, broccoli, and greek yoghurt gets seriously monotonous after a while. I started browsing Instagram and Google for inspiration and started doing some research into healthy, high-protein foods that were trending. After some trying, tasting, testing, and researching, I want to share with you five foods that I think YOU should be eating right now. These foods are currently in my refrigerator and as I discover new, exciting foods with great macros, I will share those with you too. Here you go:

  1. Sugarsnap Peas: These crunchy, yummy veggies are often tossed into stir fry dishes or served up over-cooked as a side dish. But if you haven’t eaten them raw yet, you need to try this. They are actually sweet-tasting and super satisfying. Also, these peas are a good source of vitamin C and as we all know by know, you need vitamin C to maintain a strong immune system and fight those germs. Best of all, the calories are pretty much non-existent. Next time you’re tempted to reach for an apple or a high-sugar snack, have a few of these instead.
  2. Cottage Cheese: If I hear one person say to me, “I don’t eat cheese” when I suggest they eat cottage cheese, I am going to flip out. Cottage cheese (as long as it is plain, natural, and fresh) is a fantastic high-protein food that has virtually zero fat and zero carbs. In fact, 100g of the stuff (Tesco Extra Value range) has only 65 calories. You can mix in some protein powder and make it into a creamy protein super-snack, or you can put it on your eggs to boost your protein intake too. Or, eat it with some grapefruit and flaxseed for breakfast like I did today. For all your macros-obsessed people like me, the macros are on point so get on it, and get creative with it.
  3. Quark: For anyone on a budget who is sick of hearing people hark on about organic Greek yoghurt that retails at about £3 ($5) a tub, you seriously need to try quark. My trainer introduced me to this creamy slightly-cheesy dairy product, which has the same macros (sometimes better) as greek yoghurt. Eat it with smoked salmon, fruit, veggies, or whatever you want. Mix in herbs and make it into a dip, pretend it’s cream cheese, use it as a yoghurt substitute, mix in protein and sweeten it; but seriously, start eating it because it’s another high-protein, low-calorie food.
  4. Watermelon: Watermelon is the best snack to have if you are craving sugar or carbs. Yes, it has naturally-occurring sugars but not nearly as many as that candy that you are gagging for. This fruit is about 92% water and actually contains lots of antioxidants and amino acids, which makes it a great post-workout treat. It also has a reasonable potassium content, which helps prevent cramping as well. Watermelon is currently in-season, so get eating it before prices go up and availability diminishes.
  5. Zucchini/Courgette: This food is the latest craze in the fitness world as it is almost calorie-free and is a reasonably good source of potassium and a good source of vitamin C. In 1 cup of this veggie, there are only 19 calories! You can slice it up and grill it, roast it or add it to soups, stews, and salads. Some people, including myself, have found more creative ways to use it. People on low-carb diets have added it to their porridge (oatmeal) to increase the volume so as to trick their bodies into thinking they are eating more. It would double the volume of your oats if you are only eating 20-40g as part of a low-carb diet. I decided to add it to my protein pancakes and named them “Zancakes” because, why not? You can also join the zoodle club and spiralise it, creating an imitation of pasta noodles. Tesco have also started selling this product, but you can easily make your own.

Get creative with your food and remember that variety is important. Get your essential nutrients from different sources, and keep trying new things. Have a great week!

When Food Becomes Dangerous to Your Health

Watermelon

Did you know that there are 90 calories and 6g of sugar in 300g of watermelon, but there are 1500 calories and god-only-knows how many g of sugar in the same amount of chocolate!

During my weight loss journey, I have realised that my relationship with food is far more complex than any other relationship in my life. Periodically, I go from loving food to hating food and I have even found myself wishing that I could numb my taste buds. In previous posts, I have opened up about my crackhead-like cravings for chocolate, my prior dependence on mountain dew, my at-times distorted perception of myself and my eating, and my overall struggle with my weight and food. There have been times when I have felt completely alone and have felt like I am fighting a losing battle. Then there have been days when I have felt powerful, unstoppable, and have nailed my goals. All in all, it feels like a bit of a roller-coaster. But one thing I have learned is that I am not alone. There are so many people who have struggled with food-related issues of their own, and if the internet and social media has given us one gift, it is that sense of community for people like myself who at times, have felt very isolated. If you are reading this and you have struggled with food or your weight or your health, know that you are NEVER alone! There are people like me who have been through some tough times and are here to give you as much support and advice as we can. If I can help just one person make a positive change, then everything I have invested in this blog has been worth it.

One thing I have discovered is that food can become pretty dangerous when a ‘treat’ or a ‘cheat meal’ turns into a binge. Eating a diet that is too restrictive leads to ‘binge-ing’, which is essentially when a treat gets completely out of control, and someone over-consumes foods that they would not typically eat. This could be an entire tub of ice-cream, a family-size packet of cookies, candy, or a large pizza. A binge is different for every person. It is important to recognise that the term ‘binge’ should not be used loosely. Eating a packet of M&Ms is not a ‘binge’ in my opinion. Eating four or five packets of M&Ms could be classified as a binge. Why do these slip-ups happen? Why do we attack ‘naughty’ foods like a bear that has just come out of hibernation? Or a lion attacking it’s prey? There is something missing from our diet. Not eating enough calories, or carbs, or sleep, or lacking certain nutrients, can cause the body to crave what it is not getting. Stress, lack of sleep, and under-eating can all wreak havoc on our body and for those of us who live a fairly active lifestyle, the cravings can be pretty intense. There have been afternoons where I have wandered up and down the candy aisle at Tesco, staring and drooling over all the sweets like some insane drug addict that just escaped from rehab. Honestly, I have spent far too many minutes, and possibly even hours, of my life in that damn candy aisle.

It is scientifically proven that if you do not get enough sleep, your body craves ‘energy foods’ to keep it fuelled for a day of activity. People who have under-slept gravitate towards foods that are high in fat and sugar because their body needs extra energy to get through the day. It is also proven that hormonal imbalance, caused by poor diet or stress, can result in over-eating or eating high-sugar, high-fat foods. Now, I am not an expert, but I do have experience in the struggles of weight loss. It is so important to recognise WHY your body is craving, and try to figure out what it needs to get back to normal. Sometimes, a cup of tea will do the trick, or a tall glass of water, or even some raw nuts or berries. Know when your body is hungry, and when it is just suffering the dreaded ‘cravings’. Tonight, for example, I began craving chocolate and started day-dreaming about Cadbury’s. Now, I am convinced that it is largely psychological and that my brain is playing tricks on me. But I thought to myself, “hmm… I must be craving sugar” so I ate about 300g of watermelon and it did the trick. Watermelon has naturally occurring sugars in it but in 300g of this delicious fruit, there are only 90 calories and 6g of sugar, as opposed to the 1500 calories and god-only-knows-how-many grams of sugar in 300g of chocolate.

For people who are conscious of their weight or their body fat, binge eating can lead to distress, guilt, shame, and anxiety. If the cycle continues of restricting and bingeing, it can then lead to a fear of food or major food anxiety. And if it gets completely out of hand, it can lead to purging and sadly, eating disorders. Before it gets past that first stage, make a conscious decision to keep it under control. Step 1: Make sure you are eating enough (please- STOP restricting your calories; find out what is recommended for your weight and your activity level, and get your calories from heaps of vegetables, healthy starches, eggs, meat, and high-protein dairy). Step 2: Make sure you are getting enough sleep (minimum 7 hours per night, or 8 if you can manage it). Step 3: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate (at least one tall glass of water in the morning, mid-morning, lunch, mid-afternoon, and dinner; dehydration leads to false feelings of hunger). Step 4: Manage your treats (decide if you are going to have one small treat a day or a big treat at the end of the week and stick to it; don’t restrict yourself to the point where you are clawing at the doors of Krispy Kreme, and make sure you don’t go into your cheat meal or weekly treat hungry or you will overdo it).

Keep yourself busy. The times when we snack the most are when we are sat in front of the TV or on the sofa. The hit TV show ‘Gogglebox’ illustrates just how much we Brits love our sofa time. I mean, seriously, a nation of people sitting on the sofa watching a TV show about people sitting on their sofas watching TV shows? That is insane. Instead of watching TV every evening, pick activities to do a couple of nights a week. This could be a hill walk or a hike, a trip to the park, a pole-dancing class (I have tried it!), yoga, a swim, an art class (still life anyone?), or a trip to the adventure golf course. When you are active and busy, you aren’t thinking about food, and the temptation to snack or binge won’t even cross your mind. Recognise that binge eating never makes you feel good and that you are undoing all the hard work you put in at the gym; all that sweat and all those blisters are worth more than some junk food. One quote I saw on Instagram that really stuck with me was: “Love yourself more than you love food.” To you the reader, you are beautiful, inside and out, and you do not deserve to treat yourself or your body with harm. Treat yourself and your body with the love and care that you deserve, and please know and believe that you DO deserve it.

Peanut Butter Oreos

Obesity: Who is to Blame?

A trip to Five Guys

Fast food is hard to give up, even for the fit community! When I was overweight, like many Americans and Brits, I ate fast food at least once a week. Now, I save it for the extremely occasional cheat meal and there are things, such as soda, that I will simply never again eat or drink.

On Tuesday evening, I decided to watch the documentary ‘Supersize Me’ by Morgan Spurlock as I drank my cup of fennel tea and munched on some chocolate, which is most certainly not in my diet plan. This is a documentary I had seen before back in 2007 or some time around then, a couple of years after it was released. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it, especially if you are a fast food lover. To summarise it in a sentence or two for those of you who have not seen it, Morgan decides to eat only McDonald’s for thirty days and the effects that this fast food binge has on his body are shocking. The documentary brings to light not only the dangers of consuming fast food on a regular basis, but also the obesity epidemic in the United States amongst adults, adolescents, and most terrifyingly of all, children. There are a couple of scenes which really stand out to me after re-watching this almost a decade later. The first scene is of a group of children depicted in a middle school setting, who are choosing french fries, potato chips, cakes, and extremely sugary beverages for their lunches. The second scene is of several individuals, both adults and children, who cannot explain what a calorie is and what it measures. Furthermore, the schools in the documentary are stocked with vending machines which make sodas, potato chips, candy bars, and other unhealthy snacks, readily available for children who are in an environment where their food and beverage consumption is not as strictly monitored as perhaps it should be. What do these three scenes highlight as a real issue in today’s education system? There is a genuine lack of good quality nutrition education in our schools, and children are not being empowered to make good decisions when it comes to their own dietary needs and food consumption. However, there is another stand-out scene in which a mother is being depicted with her extremely-overweight daughter as they sob over the fact that they can’t afford to buy two Subway sandwiches a day and be slim like Jared the Subway Guy. What does this tell us? The ownership is on the parents, as well as the education system, to make sure they are informed about nutrition so that they can feed their children healthy, nutritious foods and raise a family free from health problems.

When I was nineteen years old and toppling the scale at almost 210 lbs (95kg), my mother looked at me with a sadness in her eyes and said, “I don’t want you to have a weight problem when you are still so young.” This memory will stick with me for the rest of my life, because at the time, I didn’t think I had a “weight issue” but looking back, I was putting my health at serious risk. Public Health England predicts that by 2050, 1 in 4 children in the UK will be classified as obese. In the United States, currently, more than one third of adults are considered obese. When are we going to wake up and start thinking about what we are eating, rather than consuming, and not questioning, what is put on our plate? We are trimming years off our life span and putting ourselves at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and ultimately, death. There is one thing that really stands out for me as a primary cause of this obesity epidemic; we have become a culture of convenience and we rate convenience, speed, and efficiency, more highly than our own health. Fast food has become predominantly drive-thru, supermarket aisles are stacked with more tinned and boxed meals than fresh ingredients, vending machines more accessible than ever in shopping malls, parking lots, and even inside actual supermarket stores, so that we can get a ‘quick fix’ whenever we need it. We are more pressed for time than ever before and we need to cram more and more into our busy day, getting less down-time and less sleep, so that we can ultimately be more productive. Americans eat out an average of 4-5 times a week. In 2013, research showed that the UK population is consuming more take-a-way meals than ever before, with Chinese (and lets face it, most of this “food” is not Chinese at all) being the nation’s favourite, probably because it is packed with more sugar than any other meal choice. When we don’t cook our meals, how can we know what is in them? Do you know what oils were used in the process of cooking your egg-fried rice? Do you know what ingredients are in the frozen chicken wings you ate at KFC? Do you know how many types of meat were used in the manufacturing process of the hot dog you ate at the movie theatre last week?

After chatting with one of my Scandinavian friends recently, she remarked on how ridiculous it is that some people actually believe that potato chips are one of your five a day. I retorted with a joke about how the FDA have classified pizza as a vegetable. Then I realised that, I used to be one of those people; the ones who are completely misinformed. Why was I misinformed? I believed most of what I was told by parents, friends and TV, and I never questioned it. I was the girl that sat and gobbled up a plate of Fettucine Alfredo with lobster thinking that because it was lobster, which was a seafood, it must be healthy. I was the girl that dipped her bread in olive oil and parmesan cheese and thought, “this must be a much healthier option than french fries.” I was that person who thought that having a side salad, which was basically iceberg lettuce smothered in a ranch dressing, before my main course meant that I was being “healthy.” Let’s think about what “healthy” really means for a second. If you are to classify something as being “healthy,” you are essentially maintaining that it will somehow benefit your health. If you are to classify something as being “unhealthy,” you are essentially saying it will have a harmful effect on your health. If you apply this concept to everything you eat, you will completely re-evaluate your nutrition and food consumption. But for this to work, you have to start learning about food and nutrition, and you MUST be honest with yourself. Stop eating, and living, in denial. Start asking questions and start doing your research*. (*Also, follow me on Instagram and Facebook as I am constantly posting articles, tips, advice, and sharing the things that I am learning!)

The internet, and mobile internet, has put the power in our hands as consumers to start educating ourselves about what we eat. Apps such as MyFitnessPal allow us to measure the amount of fat, sugar, protein, nutrients, and calories in most of the foods we consume. There are a wealth of doctors, nutritionists, and scientists who write blogs about food, diet, fitness and weight loss. Fitness gurus have shared some of their best tips for staying fit, getting stronger, and shedding fat. There is literally no excuse to be overweight or obese. You can choose to sit back, be angry, and believe what you are told, or you can choose to question everything, read the ingredients, research what you are eating and start taking better care of your body. I am not advocating ‘obsession’ and calorie-counting; I am recommending that you start educating yourself about nutrition like I started doing when I realised that nobody else was going to teach me. Take control of your health and you will thank yourself for it. It is never too late to change and no matter where your starting point is, 150, 250 or 350 lbs, you WILL achieve your goals if you genuinely want to lead a healthier lifestyle. Don’t compare yourself to other people and build your own online, and offline, support network. Never stop learning, never stop caring and never stop trying!