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!

How to Shed Body Fat: My Top 7 Tips

Tranformation Photograph

The left photo was taken in 2008 when I was overweight and out of shape. The right photo was taken last week. What a difference!

  1. Fish Oil: I take Omega-3 fish oil every single morning with my breakfast. Simply put, your blood contains things called ‘Triglycerides’ which are essentially fat. Anything you eat that is not used immediately for energy, is then broken down into fat, which is stored in your body in the form of triglycerides. If these build up, you will increase your risk of heart disease and other health-related problems. Omega-3 fish oil reduce the amount of triglycerides in your body, keeping your heart nice and healthy, and other evidence indicates that it contributes to weight loss as part of the process. There are numerous other benefits found in omega-3 fatty acid, which I would definitely encourage you to read up on!
  2. Green Tea Extract– I swear by green tea. I stopped drinking coffee and black tea back in November 2014 and have felt a million times better since. Green tea is my pre-workout fuel but also my daily energy source as I drink 1-2 cups with breakfast, 1 cup with lunch, and sometimes a cup in the afternoon if I feel like I need it. It is lower in caffeine so it tops up my energy but doesn’t speed me up like a rocket the way that coffee used to. If you hate the taste of green tea, you can purchase green tea extract as a supplement at most health food stores. It speeds up your metabolism and is full of antioxidants, and aids with digestion as well.
  3. Less Fruit, More Vegetables– Apples, bananas, and grapes may be delicious but they are also very high in fructose, which is sugar. The sugars from fruit may be naturally occurring but don’t be fooled by the myth that they are good for you. No sugar is good for you! Eat blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries instead. They may taste sweet but they have a fraction of the carbohydrates (sugars) that many other fruits have. Grapefruit is good too; it’s high in vitamin C and there are speculations amongst nutritionists that they can have fat-burning properties. Lemons are a must! They are a great source of vitamin C, being a citrus fruit, so pop a couple of wedges into your water daily for a vitamin C boost. It is important to get vitamin C as it helps maintain a healthy, strong immune system.
  4. Green Smoothies– Green smoothies aren’t for everyone but if you struggle to eat enough vegetables, or don’t like eating in the morning then you should definitely try them. Kale, spinach, broccoli, celery, cucumber, beetroot, lemon juice, lime juice, flaxseed, are all some of the ingredients I use in mine. I like to keep it simple and nutrient-dense. No, my smoothies are not sweet like some of the fruit smoothies you may be used to, but they leave me feeling energised, satisfied and clean afterwards. Check out my Instagram for photos, videos and recipes of my smoothie creations.
  5. Less fat, less carbs, more protein– Some of you are going to be confused because I was an advocate of the Paleo lifestyle for almost a year. However, I realised that I was eating way too much fat! Nuts, oils, eggs, bacon, seeds, dark chocolate, coconut milk… my diet was fat-packed and I was maintaining my weight, but I was not losing anything, despite the time I spent at the gym and out running. Paleo is a great lifestyle as it emphasises unprocessed foods and healthy fats, but if you are trying to “shred” and reduce your body fat percentage, you may struggle on this eating regime. The best diet to follow, in my opinion, is one composed of lean meats such as turkey, chicken and white fish, as well as plenty of eggs (whites only if you are really cutting), Total 0% fat Greek Yoghurt, natural peanut butter, and other high-protein ‘lean’ foods. Carbohydrate sources should come from rice, quinoa, sweet potato, carrots, beetroot, and other non-grain carbs.
  6. Supplements– My daily supplements are pretty simple- omega 3 fish oil, a multivitamin, and phD diet whey protein powder. After every strength training session, I have a shake. If I am having porridge for my pre-workout breakfast, I only eat 20-25g and mix in a tablespoon of protein powder. This may be the reason I have gained muscle so fast, and it means I stay fuller for longer. Protein powder can be stirred into yoghurt, added to smoothies, and you can also make protein pancakes and muffins with it as well. If you are crafty in the kitchen, you can even try making your own protein bars. Get creative! The diet whey protein powder contains green tea extract and amino acids that help your muscles recover, so you can get straight back to the gym the next day. If you are training extremely vigorously, you might want to consider drinking BCAAs (branch chain amino acids) during your workout so your muscles recover as you go, to help you train longer and harder. However, I am definitely not at that stage yet! Aloe Vera is a great natural diuretic if you are feeling bloated, water-loaded or a little clogged up. Always try adding fibre to your diet first, but if you need a little help, aloe vera works wonders. There are other supplements such as L-Glutamine, L-Cartinine and Creatine that can be added to your diet, but I am still learning about these so I will save my thoughts on those for a future post.
  7. Herbals teas– Every single evening, I sip on herbal teas. Some of my favourites are: liquorice and mint, peppermint, fennel, nettle, and lemon and ginger. Liquorice tea is somewhat sweet, which I like, as it feels like you are having a dessert. Peppermint tea is good for headaches and great for digesting after a meal. Fennel tea also aids digestion and it is so flavourful. Lemon and ginger tea has a little spice to it and is quite calming. Lemon balm tea is a good one for anti-stress and relaxation. Nettle tea is really good for water retention; you will pee everything out after drinking a cup or two of this! Sipping on tea helps me resist the urge to snack in the evenings but it is also really soothing. A must-try.

There is no miracle fat loss cure. Fat loss comes with hard work, dedication to your diet, and time. These are just a few tips to help speed up the process and help maximise your results. To anyone who thinks that lifting weights and taking protein will bulk you, this is not the case. If you balance the amount of cardio training with the amount of strength training you are doing, and monitor your ‘macros’ then you will be able to achieve your fitness goals. It may not happen straight away, but give it time, and you will see results. I have had to change my dietary plan several times and have had to change up my workouts too, in order to see the results I want. But finally, I am seeing my body change right in front of my eyes and I am loving every minute of it. So, do your push-ups without touching your knees to the floor, crank that incline up on your treadmill, and swap that salad for a protein bar. You will thank yourself for it when you start to feel better, faster, stronger, and fitter.

Top 6 Natural Sources of Protein

Fish

You don’t have to take a protein powder or supplement to get enough protein in your diet. There are many foods which are naturally high in protein and will help you build muscle, recover after a workout, and stay full in-between meals. Personally, I use a protein powder after I’ve been lifting because my muscles are like ‘FEED ME’ but I never take it after cardio. My approach to protein is to try and squeeze as much in my meals as possible so that I don’t get hungry in-between meals, and so that I don’t eat as many carbs. As a result, my muscles are reaping the benefits. According to the National Health Service in the UK, women are recommended to eat 45g of protein a day and men are recommended to eat 55g. However, some nutritional scientists are questioning this and considering that it may not be enough! So, download the app ‘My Fitness Pal’, take a food diary and see how close your protein intake is to the RDA.

Now, I will share with you my top six sources of protein, in my diet at the moment, and obviously this could change as I am always experimenting, but for now, here you go:

  1. Meat and Fish. Let’s start with the obvious source; meat and fish. There are between 18-25g in one roasted chicken breast, depending on the size and brand. The same goes for Turkey. These are also not high in fat like lamb, pork and beef. Fish is an incredible super-food but can be quite high in fat. What’s the best approach? Balance and variety, of course! If you are a meat-lover and need meat in most of your meals, go for the poultry.
  2. Eggs. When I was younger, I thought eggs were unhealthy and I avoided them. Instead, I ate fruit (aka sugar), cereal (aka sugar), toast (aka sugary grains) and low-fat yoghurts (aka sugar). If only someone had educated me and told me that eggs are pretty much a super-food! Eggs are packed with nutrients, I’m not going to list them all here because the list is long, but look it up! One boiled egg contains roughly 6-7g of protein. On my low-carb days, I eat up to 5 eggs. Either I eat 30g oats with 1 boiled egg for breakfast and then eat 2 boiled eggs with lunch (vegetables and a piece of lean meat), or if I’m hungry in the morning, I would have a 4 or 5 egg scramble (no milk) and a green smoothie. If your office is stocked with cookies, cakes and other naughty foods, take boiled eggs in with you. They are so filling and completely satisfy those hunger pangs or cravings.
  3. Greek Yoghurt. The only Greek Yoghurt I buy is the official Fage Total 0% Greek Yoghurt, because it is actually made in Greece, and has 10.3g of protein in a 100g serving. Do not buy the knock-off ‘Greek-style yoghurt’. If it has the word ‘style’ in the title, it’s just a very clever marketing tactic and the nutritional qualities are not going to be on par with the authentic Greek stuff. So, how do you eat this without being bored? Well, if you love yoghurt, eat it plan or throw a couple of chopped strawberries in there. Personally, I eat this several ways: (a) in a smoothie, (b) stirred into some oatmeal, (c) with a tablespoon of my favourite protein powder, and (d) with a teaspoon of coconut and some chia seeds or flaxseed. However, I am constantly coming up with new ideas so I will share them on my Instagram or Facebook as I invent them.
  4. Peanut Butter. This is also a fat source so be careful! Peanut butter is calorific and that’s mainly because, being a nut butter, it is very high in fat. My choice of peanut butter is Meridian because it has only two ingredients: peanuts and salt. There are no added oils or sugars, which is awesome! In a heaped teaspoon of Meridian peanut butter (approx 18g), there are 5.3g of protein and 8.3g of fat. If you trying a low-carb eating regime like me, then a little extra fat is necessary to make up for the carbs you aren’t eating, so a teaspoon of this in your oatmeal or on a rice cake is totally OK. Just don’t eat it with a spoon, because before you know it, you will have consumed 500+ extra calories! I speak from experience here!
  5. Chickpeas. These little beige peas are actually high in protein and fibre, with about 15g of protein in one serving (1 cup or 164g) and 12g of fibre. However, they are not a low-carb food and have about 45g total carbohydrates in one serving. Chickpeas are so versatile. They can be added to a salad or thrown in a soup or stew. You can also season them with salt and pepper and roast them until they are nice and chewy or crispy. You can also do the latest Instagram craze and make them into a cookie dough-like consistency by adding maple syrup, almond milk, protein powder and chocolate chips, or cacao nibs. Check out ‘CoconutVanillaSugar’ on Instagram for the original recipe.
  6. Quinoa. This is something that I am experimenting with at the moment. There are 8g of protein in a 1 cup serving (cooked). Grains don’t usually sit well in my tummy and the first time I tried this, I felt super bloated. However, my trainer has encouraged me to try it again through making fishcakes with it and mixing it with veg. I boiled a whole bunch of quinoa last night with one stock cube to add a tiny bit of flavour. I will keep you posted on how it goes!

Don’t be scared of the nut butters. I know that many of you will look at ‘peanut butter’ and think, “Yeah right! That’s what people eat to gain weight!” You are correct, and I guarantee you that they are eating the stuff that is packed with palm oil, vegetable oil, sugar, and high fructose corn syrup. If you are from the UK, you may have seen those bucket-size tubs of peanut butter in Holland and Barrett. Well, I consumed an entire tub in about 2 or 3 weeks and guess what, I’ve actually lost weight. Nut butters are awesome. Secondly, eggs do not raise your cholesterol, unless you have issues of hyper-sensitivity. In fact, they can actually have the opposite effect, lowering your ‘bad’ cholesterol and raising your ‘good’ cholesterol. Go and read about eggs instead of believing what your doctor tells you, and then try having a couple of eggs for breakfast instead of cereal or breads. Finally, find the form of protein that works for you. If you are vegan or lactose-intolerant or gluten-intolerant, there are other forms of protein out there. This is just my top list. Experiment, make it fun, add it to your other kitchen creations and find out what suits your diet best. 

How to Take the Perfect Transformation Photograph

These images were taken literally five minutes apart. Follow my tips and you too can have the most amazing transformation photograph!

These images were taken literally five minutes apart. Follow my tips and you too can have the most amazing body transformation photograph!

Many fitness products and weight loss products have Instagram and Facebook accounts that are absolutely filled with ‘Before and After’ pictures, where somebody has undergone a dramatic body transformation. Some of them are absolutely unbelievable where an average-looking person has lost 100+ lbs, and these are the kind I love because they are SO extreme. It’s like reading that book ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’ backwards, without the butterfly part of course. These people are like super-humans with the dedication of a Navy SEAL. We are all captivated by those extreme stories, where people push their bodies to the limit and drop half of their body weight or sometimes even more. But, what about those transformations we see on those cheesy TV commercials, Youtube videos or those social network pages that are blatantly trying to sell us something. Believe it or not, they aren’t all real. Some of you may know exactly what I am talking about; flashback to that TV commercial with the girl who looks a bit chubby and then transforms into this tanned, bleach blonde bikini model. It may look dramatic but if you take a closer look at the photo, you might notice a few things. Is the lighting different? Is it photo shopped? Is she posing the same way? There are tricks that these companies use to make somebody appear to have transformed, but really, it’s all an illusion.

They are bull-sh***ing you. Hopefully, the picture I have posted above illustrates how easy it is to manipulate a photograph, and I didn’t even use Photoshop. All I did was change the lighting slightly (by opening the curtains a little bit), add a filter to the right-hand photograph, adjust the angle slightly, and pose in a different way. The pictures were taken literally five minutes apart. How crazy is that? I mean, seriously, imagine how much I could have edited the right-hand photo if I had photoshop skills. I could have enhanced my quads, my calves, my lack-of-a-thigh-gap, my lack-of-abs and even given myself a breast enhancement. Perfecto! So, here are 10 tips on how to make your perfect transformation photograph:

  1. Go lift some heavy things to get those muscles bulging, if veins pop then even better.
  2. Tighten every muscle in your body, squeeze those abs but suck your belly in a little too, but not too much because you don’t want it to actually look like you’re sucking in. Fake-natural is the new natural.
  3. If you are a girl, put on a pair of heels to elongate those legs of yours and make your calves stand out and your ankles look skinny.
  4. Stick your shoulders back and stretch your body upwards; don’t slouch or you’ll look frumpy.
  5. Tan yourself and moisturise so you’re nice and shiny (I couldn’t be bothered doing this) or use a filter that makes you look more tan.
  6. Stick your chest out a little bit.
  7. Move your arms away from your body so the muscles look even more defined and you don’t have “flabby-arm”.
  8. If you have a thigh gap, accentuate it. If not (like me), make it look like you have one.
  9. Don’t drink water before your ‘after’ photograph but drink loads prior to taking your ‘before’ photograph to maximise bloating.
  10. For your ‘before’ photograph, take from the most unflattering angle that you know of and just try to look as stumpy as possible, blow that stomach out and slouch over so you look shorter than you actually are.

Now, you too can have the perfect transformation photograph! In all seriousness, please don’t make the same mistake I have and judge yourself against photographs of fitness models and bikini models that are posted online. I guarantee you that these people are complete experts in the art of posing and selfie photography. No, I’m not saying that they all use photoshop because many of them work damn hard. But I also guarantee you that they are not that lean all year-round, unless they are a super-ultimate crazy-hardcore body competitor in which case, I salute them. My point is, don’t be fooled by what you see on the internet. Transforming your body takes a long time and a lot of hard work. It isn’t going to happen overnight. Yes, my body has transformed a tiny bit since I’ve been with a PT and those photographs will come to you in a future blog post, but it’s been 7 weeks (so far) of dedication, commitment, good days, bad days, weight gain, weight loss, tears, smiles, and a lot of hard work. Ignore the diets that tell you your body will transform in only two weeks or only seven days. If it can make you drop weight or tone up that fast, it probably isn’t healthy or sustainable. There was even a guy I found on Instagram who drinks 1-2 glasses of red wine, and no water, the night prior to a photo shoot to dehydrate himself. Does that sound healthy to you? Hmm… The internet is full of mirages; you should know this, with the advanced tools like Photoshop and other photo editing software  that is available to us today. Don’t get sucked in, and don’t believe everything you see, because it can destroy you. Trust me, I’ve been there. Find the real people, the authentic ones, with real stories and real transformations. These are the ones who will inspire you the most, and these guys aren’t trying to sell you anything.

Fat is Good

Nut Butter

Fat is good. No, being fat is not good. Eating fat is good. Now, before you get excited, I am not talking about a Big Mac or a Milkshake. I am talking about salmon, avocado, nuts, seeds and butter. The good fats. I remember when I was a young teenager living in North Carolina and I discovered that guacamole was the best thing ever. Do you know what my mother said to me? Be careful, avocados are full of fat! I looked at this ugly green thing in front of me and I thought, “that’s weird, green food is supposed to be good for you and this bumpy pear thingy looks kinda healthy.” But, I listened to my mother and put the avocado down and swore I would never eat it again. If only I had googled it. Then I would have realised that avocados are a superfood; filled with potassium, fibre and vitamin C. I was also told by friends and family members that nuts were bad and they would make me fat. So, I ate low-fat and reduced fat potato chips instead along with low sodium crackers and snacks. Little did I know that these ‘low-fat’ snacks were full of crazy ingredients derived from corn (a government subsidised crop in the United States) such as maltodextrin and (genetically) modified food starch. I probably would have been much better off if I had just eaten that bag of peanuts.

You are going to think that I am crazy because I am going to tell you things that go against everything you have ever been taught. Please, go to your refrigerator and take out your margarine. Is it ‘Flora’ or ‘Utterly Butterly’ or maybe it is ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’? Think about what you are holding in your hand. You are holding something that a company has produced, probably as a result of multiple scientific experiments, to look, taste, feel and smell like butter but without actually being butter. What words pop into your head? The first one that pops into my head is “fake”. This butter-like substance is an imposter. In fact, let me just make it simple for you. Go to your dictionary and type in ‘margarine’ and read the definition: “a butter substitute made from vegetable oils or animal fats.” Hmmm… sounds gross. Butter on the other hand is the butterfat separated from milk and cream, and is a creamy delicious source of vitamin A. Vitamin A is key for good vision, immune system health and cell growth. So, unless you are lactose intolerant, skip the margarine and go for the real stuff- butter! Now, in my opinion, and some may disagree, the same does not hold true for milk. If you can give it up, I would. That is because one serving of milk has 5g of carbohydrates in it, which are all sugars, whereas Alpro almond milk has 0.1g. The last thing you want to do is spike your blood sugar first thing in the morning. If you think about it, the only time you really drink milk is on your cereal. Throw your cereal away, because it is probably full of sugar and weird ingredients, and instead, eat some oatmeal made with water or almond milk. Porridge, or oatmeal for the American readers, is higher in fibre, higher in protein, and contain plenty of carbohydrates but only a very, very small amount of sugars. If you like breakfast cereals, switch to oatmeal instead and if you are a gym-lover like me, stir in some of your favourite protein powder (there is a link to the phD Diet Whey that I am taking right now) to keep you fuelled through your morning and your workout.

While we are on the subject of breakfast, I must add that I usually have a green smoothie with my porridge and on my low-carb days, I have about five eggs instead of porridge. You are probably freaking out. FIVE eggs? She must look like the hulk! I can assure you I don’t. Eggs are not bad for you! You have been lied to! Eggs are low calories, at about only 70 calories per egg, but are high in Vitamin B2, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D. They do contain some fat but it is good fat and your body needs fat to stay full, and to feed your brain. Right now, I am doing carb cycling which involves going extremely low-carb for a couple of days in the week and then eating high-carb for another couple of days in the week. If you are eating low-carb, or want to try it for a while, eggs are the best thing ever. They keep you going for hours and there are so many different ways you can eat them; in an omelette, scrambled, or even poached. I would easily go through about 12 eggs a week. This morning, I wanted a low-carb breakfast so I had pancakes. Don’t laugh! These weren’t just any pancakes. These were protein pancakes! Four ingredients: eggs, almond milk, protein powder and flaxseed. The recipe is on my Instagram page. My tummy was happy, they were delicious and I felt full for hours.

When I was younger, I was so confused and misinformed about food. I would buy everything low-fat, low-sodium, low-sugar, low-whatever, without even reading the ingredients. I looked at the calories but I ignored the sugar and fat content. I ate cornflakes with skimmed milk and then wondered why I was hungry an hour and a half later. I would snack on pretzels and tortilla chips because they were advertised as low-fat and I thought they were healthy. Today, I eat peanut butter out of the jar sometimes but it’s Meridian peanut butter so there are two ingredients; peanuts and salt. I am not advising you do this but I am simply pointing out that fat is okay! There are stories on the internet of people who have increased their fat intake or have started eating a Paleo diet and have lost weight. I am one of those stories. Yes, I lost weight by exercising and making better choices with my diet, but the real results started happening when I started eating a clean, primal-style, healthy diet with a more healthy balance of carbs, proteins and fats. Oh, and I must add that my skin, hair and nails flourished. You have been taught to be afraid of fat and to keep it out of your diet but I challenge you to embrace it and start reintroducing it in small amounts, until you reach a point where you are comfortable with it. Start by sprinkling some nuts and seeds on your porridge, take a little bag of almonds to work as your morning snack, eat a little avocado with your dinner, and eat salmon for your Sunday lunch instead of chicken or turkey. Eat more fat. The results might surprise you.

Keeping My New Years Resolution

This is me at the top of Cavehill in Belfast, halfway through a 15.5Km run during my half marathon training.

This is me at the top of Cavehill in Belfast, halfway through a 15.5Km run during my half marathon training.

Last New Years Eve, I sat in the Malmaison Hotel in Glasgow and wrote down four specific New Years Resolutions on a piece of hotel paper. They were as follows: (1) pass my UK driving test, (2) visit Stockholm, (3) start a blog, and (4) read more books. Number four is debatable; I read more books than the year before but not as many as I would have liked. However, I achieved the other three goals pretty early on. What is the key to achieving your goals? In my experience, the more specific your goal is, the more likely you are to achieve it and if you set a timeframe, even better. In doing this, you are holding yourself accountable and trust me, the feeling of disappointing yourself is far worse than disappointing anyone else.

My New Years Resolution, at the beginning of 2010, was to change my lifestyle through going to the gym at least three times a week and eating a healthier diet with less alcohol and less junk food. I had read in a popular UK fitness magazine that the key to changing your lifestyle or your habits was to make the change for three weeks, and after that 21-day mark, the change would be pretty much permanent. With a lot of perseverance and determination, I made it past that three week mark and realised that the change was going to be long-term. Those three weeks were critical as it could have been so easy to give up through saying ‘yes’ to that pub invitation or through snoozing that 6am alarm clock. For someone who is a ‘yes’ person, saying ‘no’ was tough, but I am so glad that I found my inner strength.

How did I get past the three week mark? Routine. Decide on a routine and stick to it, even if this means getting up at 5am or 6am every single morning. I was a student at the time so my routine was: 6am wake-up, 6:45am library study session, 4pm gym session, walk home, 6:30pm shower, 7pm dinner, 8pm TV or reading, 10pm bed. For me, that 6am wake-up was made easier by the fact that I met one of my best friends to walk to the library together. I knew if I didn’t get up that I would be letting her down and this was that extra little kick in the butt to get up. I would encourage you to do the same and find a little bit of extra motivation to get out of bed earlier; meet a friend for coffee every morning at the same time or sign up for a class at the gym.

My early morning wake-ups are also made easier by the fact that I am a morning person. I am even more of a morning person now that I drink an 8 oz. glass of water as soon as I wake up every day. Then I eat my pre-workout food, check my email, read the news, and 45-60 minutes later, I hit the gym. If you aren’t a morning person, take your gym bag to work with you and you will feel obligated to go to the gym straight after work. Do NOT forget your gym bag because the moment you step in that door after a long day at work, the temptation to stay at home will be too strong. If you are a morning person but find it difficult to get up early, move your alarm clock to the window ledge or dresser so that you physically have to get out of bed to turn it off. Set two alarms if necessary in case you snooze the first one. It only takes about a week to get into a new sleeping routine and once you get into the habit of waking up earlier and going to sleep earlier, you will feel a million times better for it.

Motivation comes from you. If there is one thing I have learned through this journey, it is that you need to want this. You need to want the lifestyle change for the right reasons because if there’s one thing I have learned, thin doesn’t necessarily mean healthy and it doesn’t necessarily mean happy either. Happiness has to come from living a healthy lifestyle and loving your body and mind. The biggest thing I have realised recently is that a healthy lifestyle isn’t setting one goal and achieving it then stopping. You are constantly trying new recipes, new foods, new eating plans, new exercises and you are constantly trying to improve yourself to feel fitter, stronger and healthier. Success isn’t a destination; it’s a journey.

Being My Own Nutritionist

A work in progress, with emphasis on the word 'progress'.

A work in progress, with emphasis on the word ‘progress’.

What is a nutrient? A nutrient is defined as: a substance that provides nourishment essential for the maintenance of life and growth. So, nutrition is therefore the process of obtaining or providing the food necessary for life or growth. But how do you distinguish between what is ‘essential’ or ‘necessary’ and what is not? Are Peanut Butter Oreos essential for life and growth? I wish they were but they are not! Is water essential for life and growth? Definitely. Something I feel passionately about is nutrition education; I think that doctors or nutritionists should partner with educators to introduce nutrition education into mainstream schooling. However, until that happens, it is our duty to educate ourselves.

Nutrition is scientific. There is a guideline on the back of your food containers that tells you your ‘Recommended Daily Amount’ of each vitamin and mineral as well as your recommended intake of calories, carbohydrates, fat, sugars, fiber, protein, etc. This guide can be altered based on whether you are looking to gain weight, maintain your weight, or lose weight. There may be some readers shaking their heads, and trust me, I know it is more complicated than this, but for now, let’s keep it simple. Foods have different compositions of each nutrient so you can customise your diet to ensure you are getting appropriate amounts of all of them. This is why fad diets don’t work. You are restricting yourself and maybe even eating something that your body isn’t used to, which can have all sorts of crazy effects on your body.

Have you ever heard of “Freelee: The Banana Girl?” This is a Youtube star who tells her followers to eat a diet solely consisting of bananas (and a limited selection of raw vegan foods). This girl is a fruitarian so she only eats fruit. She even puts bananas in a blender with water and calls it “banana milk.” Personally, I think she should be sectioned. If you are only eating fruit and working out a lot, you might look fantastic but your body will literally be surviving on a constant sugar rush. Fruit contains Fructose, which is a form of sugar that is absorbed directly into the bloodstream. I won’t bore you with the science but if you ask a nutritionist what they think of a diet solely consisting of bananas, they will probably laugh in your face.

So, let me be clear, I am not a nutritionist. There is so much I don’t know, but what I do know is that fad diets, restrictive diets, diets where you only eat bananas, are not maintainable. So, what do I eat as part of my ‘diet’? Right now, I’m eating lots of kale, spinach, green apples, cucumber, celery, oats, almond milk, grass-fed butter, coconut oil, coconut milk, lean meats, sweet potatoes, lemons, eggs, fish, rice and greek yoghurt. These are some of the foods that I buy and consume on a regular basis. But this changes all the time. Get the picture? It’s all about balance and variety. You can probably find something from every single food group in my kitchen. The paleo and primal lifestyles are the ones that have appealed to me the most because they are all about eating clean, non-processed foods. This just makes sense to me. When I first started making “clean” meals, I thought to myself, “this tastes and feels really healthy.”

Where do I learn about food? Honestly, I follow nutritionists, dieticians, personal trainers, and other professionals on Instagram and I look at photos of what they are eating. There are a couple of blogs I follow as well, for recipes and to see other people’s stories. It also helps that one of my good friends and colleagues, Karen from ‘Good Clean Chow,’ is a nutritionist and she is kind enough to share tips and info with me every now and then. I am constantly seeking information on the internet and Google-ing ingredients or foods I haven’t heard of before. As we all know, the internet is full of rubbish, so I try to get my information from responsible and credible sources. I am a young professional who doesn’t have the kind of budget to afford a nutritionist, a dietician, or a personal chef, so I spend a lot of time educating myself. My friends might tell you that I am obsessed with food and I am sure it can come across that way sometimes because I do talk about it a lot. But I want to make sure that I am feeding myself things that will benefit my body rather than harm it. As I mentioned in my previous post, there is the constant worry that I will get fat or unhealthy again, and I will do everything I possibly can to make sure that doesn’t happen, starting with what I eat. I am still a work in progress, and lately I feel I may have hit a wall, but as Karen reminded me the other day, sometimes you need to congratulate yourself on the progress you have made rather than beating yourself up about how far you still have to go.

Welcome to Green Food and Running Shoes

This is a blog about how I completely transformed my body and my lifestyle without any diets, personal trainers, nutritionists, or surgery. I want to inspire other people who are on a pursuit of happiness and healthiness in their own lives, as well as offering some ‘foodspiration’ and ‘fitspiration’ to anyone who is interested. This first post is a brief history of my weight loss journey and a bit about how I got here.

The Beginning: A few years ago, I was a fat, sick, binge-drinking smoker who ate junk food and hated what she saw in the mirror. In the summer of 2009, my weight peaked at 210 lbs and I was buying size XXL clothes to try and hide how big I was. I made up excuses and did what every overweight person does and found ways to blame my situation rather than accepting the fact that it was completely my fault. You see, when you are overweight, the scariest part is facing reality and looking at yourself in the mirror for who you really are. When you admit that you have control over your body and what you eat, you then feel this sense of fear but also this great sense of empowerment. Once I admitted and accepted that I had control over my body and my weight, I began to make some changes. My moment of clarity was when I tried to go out for a run and couldn’t even make it to the end of the street and back. This was when I knew, I had to change.

One Step at a Time: Start Small. I started by increasing the amount of fibre in my diet and going to the gym to do about 30-45 minutes on the cross trainer about five days a week. I also started drinking more water and less soda and curbed my consumption of fast food. Through making these three simple, small changes, I was able to drop about 25 lbs in about two months.

Vegetables: One simple concept was a moment of complete enlightenment for me; there is an actual guide for your dietary needs. There are many diets and lifestyles out there; Atkins, Paleo, Primal, Vegan, Vegetarian, Raw Foods, Juicing, and the list goes on. All of these diets have one thing in common: eat more vegetables. Vegetables and nutrient-dense foods should make up the majority of your diet. It took me a long time to achieve this, and to be honest, I’m still working at it, but if you remember one thing, remember this. Green food is good food!

Clean Living: I quit smoking in 2010. I quit drinking soda and artificial drinks in 2013. I quit drinking coffee in 2014. Clean living is a lifestyle where you treat your body with respect and feed it things that are not filled with chemicals and damaging ingredients. Let me be very clear about something. I just ate Reese’s Pieces (my guilty pleasure)! I am not 100% clean but I hope that I can get as close to this goal as possible. I am so much closer to this goal than I was when I first started. My objective is not to buy any food in tins, cans, packets, tubes, or boxes. Most of my groceries are fresh produce, meat, eggs, fish, and foods that have not been processed.

Staying Active: When I started out, I couldn’t run a mile without stopping and gasping for breath. My first few trips to the gym in 2009 involved only the cross-trainer because that is all I could manage. When I took my first circuits class in 2010, I had to leave halfway through. In July 2012, I did my first Tough Mudder and in September 2014, I ran my first half marathon in 1:48. I had ZERO personal training. I figured it out on my own and I stayed committed and focused on my goal. I also walked everywhere and used minimal public transport. I try to exercise at least four times a week. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Today: Today, I am experimenting with the paleo and primal lifestyles because they are all about completely clean, unprocessed foods. I like trying new things but NOT “diets”! I do not believe in restricting myself. Restriction only leads to binging and guilt. I like a diet or lifestyle that I believe I can maintain in the long-term. I tried Crossfit last year but found it to be too risky in terms of injury. Right now, I am happy with Circuits, Spin Classes, weight lifting and running. I am considering employing a personal trainer to show me how to use weights properly and to help me rehabilitate my right shoulder injury. I am still working on curbing my treats (there are far too many…) and I am not ready to put on a bikini this summer. But hopefully, this blog will help me get to where I want to be.

You: I hope that you, the reader, enjoy reading this but most of all, I hope this blog helps you realise that you can achieve your own lifestyle goal if you want it badly enough. You all have a fire inside of you; a fierce determination waiting to be released. When you decide on a goal and you commit to it, amazing things can happen. Everybody has strength and courage inside, it is just a matter of finding them. This journey is not a straight path from point A to point B. This is a roller coaster of triumphs, failures, emotions, and challenges. There is no finish line but there are milestones along the way. This is a journey that we can continue for the rest of our lives. Let’s have fun while we are doing it.