Why diets don’t work and…
how to lose weight healthily

healthy-woman-chopping

I know how demoralising it is when you realise diets don’t work, especially when you end up heavier than you were a few years ago. It’s particularly frustrating when you keep trying to lose weight, but then regain it. Deep down you know why diets don’t work – yet it can feel like you’re a failure when you don’t lose weight—but it not you that is the failure. It’s simply that dieting is the wrong approach. Diets will never work in the long run mostly because you ‘go on a diet’ your expectation is that it is only for a certain period of time and then you will stop dieting. Of course you then go back to how you used to eat—and so the weight goes back on. Dieting forever is not the answer either. It has to be a change for life. Let me come back to this in a moment. First lets look at the 5 main reasons diets fail—again note it is the ‘diets’ that are failing—not you.

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How eating breakfast can help you lose weight

Why eating breakfast is good for you

breakfasts-selection
Breakfast like a King
Lunch like a Prince
Dine like a Pauper

Eating breakfast, as this old proverb indicates, is still the most important meal of the day. Several different scientific studies (see below) have shown this to be true. These studies looked at the relationship between eating breakfast, weight gain and the tendency towards Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease. These studies came out in favour of having breakfast to both reduce weight gain and to be healthier. So why do so many people skip it?

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How to improve your willpower
around food

woman-craving
When I ask people what is the biggest obstacle to losing weight and staying slim, most people say it’s down to a lack of willpower. If asked how this makes them feel, they tell me it makes them feel worthless and foolish because they are betraying their own desires. Yet very few people have been given the opportunity to learn about willpower—especially how to strengthen and improve your willpower.

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Can you eat chocolate and
lose weight?

woman-with-chocolate

and what about ice-cream, cakes, biscuits or crisps?

We are biologically programmed to love the very foods that can lead to weight gain—which is maddening isn’t it?

For our ancestors ate food with high fat and sugar to provide them with enough energy to live and survive. Our Victorian cousins, both men and women with physically demanding work needed to consume 3–4,000 calories a day. If we go back even further in time, our ancient ancestors needed between 4–6,000 calories a day. So foods with a high calorie content were sought after so that the volume of food wasn’t overwhelming.

For our typical life-style today, we no longer need anywhere near as much high energy (calorie) foods because it is too much for our body, yet our brain has not evolved to match our body’s lesser need for calories. In short, it is still wired to crave fat and sugar. Aghh!

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Have you been sold weight loss myths?

woman-6-myths

and what about ice-cream, cakes, biscuits or crisps?

Rant alert! If I see another TV ad with a beautiful woman, eating a well-known brand of desserts and declaring, ‘Only 99 Calories!’ followed by a man falling-over, I will switch my TV off. Really! These ads, along with those promoting zero-calorie cola drinks are so misleading. And so clever. These adverts show radiantly, healthy attractive people eating and drinking the promoted product, which subliminally conveys that if we eat/drink them, we too can look like them. The evidence, however, shows that artificial sweeteners stimulate the appetite and low fat desserts are so quickly digested, that you will shortly be hungry again. In short, processed, low fat foods and zero calorie drinks may lead to weight gain and not the weight loss they elude to.

What other weight loss myths are persuasively sold to you when the evidence shows they don’t help you?

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How cinnamon can help with weight loss

cinnamon I love cinnamon—it’s one of my favourite spices as it adds warmth and a hint of sweetness to both sweet and savoury dishes without overpowering the tastebuds. Yet, beyond it’s wonderful flavour and aroma are powerful and varied health giving properties, also cinnamon can help with weight loss.

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How to stop comfort eating in the evening

woman-comfort-eating-in-evening

We have all been there. Arriving home from work feeling weary, stressed and hungry we raid the fridge for food. When we begin eating like this, it is hard to stop and the last thing on our mind is the thought of preparing and cooking a healthy dinner. Afterwards, we feel dismayed, angry or sad about our eating behaviour. And, you don’t need to be a nutritionist to know eating like this regularly may lead to weight gain.

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How good sleep can help you
become slimmer

woman-sleeping
What we eat and how much we exercise are pivotal to weight loss, yet good sleep can help you become slimmer too, whilst poor sleep can contribute to weight gain.

How is your sleep just now? Do you toss-and-turn, wake-up multiple times for a trip to the loo, and still feel tired as your alarm siren-like wakes you from slumber? Everyone occasionally experiences a poor-night’s sleep, but for many people it’s not just the odd-night: it’s most nights. This can lead to a constant, low level exhaustion which not only makes life feel just a little more difficult, it also effects your hunger hormones.

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Going dry in January can boost weight loss

woman-drinking-water

After the many treats of food and drink over Christmas, going dry in January — alcohol-free — has become increasingly popular. It is mostly done to counteract the increased amount of alcohol consumed in December, or to raise money for charity – which is a great thing to do. It can also help boost weight loss, so today, I’d like to explore with you how this works.

As you probabaly know, most beer, wine and spirits are made from fermenting a grain, fruit, potatoes or sugarcane. Beer, whiskey and gin are made from barley; for vodka, it is made from either barley, wheat, rye or potatoes; for rum, it’s sugarcane and molasses; for wine, sherry, port and brandy it is usually grapes. All of these foods are from the carbohydrate family—which means they breakdown in to sugars. And it is this that is the main contributor to calories within a drink. Drinks with a higher alcoholic content have had more of the sugars converted into alcohol, which is why their calorie content is usually lower than wine or beer. Please don’t however, switch to spirits simply because of the calorie content!

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New Year’s Resolutions For Weight Loss

healthy-woman-new-year
Happy New Year! May this year be the one when your weight-loss, fitness and improved health dreams are realised.

In the UK, New Year’s Resolutions For Weight Loss and improved fitness is at the top of most people’s list. So I’d like to share with you how I help people reach their goals with proven Life Coaching techniques. Here are my 7 top tips.

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Are your blood sugar levels on a roller-coaster?

sugar-rollercoaster
Most people associate the term ‘blood sugar levels’ with diabetes—but your blood sugar (more accurately, blood glucose, but as most people refer to it as ‘blood sugar’ I too will use this term) rise and fall naturally according to what you have eaten or drunk, or how stressed you are, and how long it is since you last ate. Most people only have a vague idea of what is meant by blood sugar: it’s a term that sounds scary, so firstly know that it’s a natural part of your digestive process. However, because its role is not widely understood, you may unwittingly be creating a blood sugar levels roller-coaster which can lead to energy lows, weight gain (especially around our middle) and, if the roller-coaster goes on for too long, an increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Let me then share with you what happens in the body when we eat food and how you can learn to keep your blood sugar levels more steady.

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Can stress cause weight gain? 5 tips to stay calm and slim

stressed-womanWe are living in a world where stress is almost accepted as the norm. We work harder, faster and longer hours than ever before. Most people arrive home from work feeling tired, hungry and stressed. And when you are stressed, your body responds by releasing several hormones, and an unintended result of this can be weight gain. Don’t despair though: there are simple ways to counteract this. Let’s let’s first begin by looking at how stress can cause weight gain then discover ways to manage stress so you can remain calm and stay slim.

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Does Eating Bread Cause Problems?

bread-basket

As human beings, we have eaten bread as a staple food for around 10,000 years. So surely we should be able to eat it without any problem? Mmm… possibly not. Over the last 50 years, a lot has changed in the way we cultivate grains and how we (commercially) bake bread. Let’s look at how eating bread may may cause digestive issues and hinder weight loss.

You may already think that the culprit in bread is gluten – the protein found in wheat – and you are partly right, but it’s not the whole story. In the UK, 80% of our bread is baked in plant bakeries (bread making factories). The Supermarket’s own bread accounts for a further 17% of sales, but much of this is a pre-mix or part-baked dough also supplied by the plant bakeries too. The lovely freshly-baked bread smell literally wafted around the supermarket, is therefore a bit of a con. Only about 3% of bread sold in the UK is made by artisan or independent bakers.

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Do Calories Count? How many calories a day do I need?

calorie-abacus

We are so indoctrinated with the concept that weight loss requires eating less calories, that in the supermarket we often compare brands and choose the one with lowest calorie content. Yet this habit could so easily lead to weight gain—instead of the desired weight loss. Today I’d like to help you look at calories in more depth.

How many calories do I need to become slimmer?

The short answer to this question is, ‘No-on can give you an exact number’. But the longer answer is that there is some truth in the philosophy of losing weight requires a lower calorie intake, but the over simplified message used by the food manufacturers to promote food sales, is very misleading.

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Weight Loss In January – fill up with goodness

fridge-fruit-veg

As I write this, it’s January 5th, traditionally the last day of Christmas and time to take down the decorations. It’s also a great time to do a clean sweep of any leftovers such as Christmas cake, puddings, mince-pies, crisps, biscuits, roasted nuts, chocolate and sweets. Take a look in your fridge—what’s still lingering there? What’s still in your cupboards that’s not ‘clean’ and will continually tempt you? Are there chocolates starring at your from the lounge? What else needs to go?

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Best Way To Lose Weight In January. Step 1 Acceptance

woman-swimming
My first Christmas party this year was on December 5th. After a month of parties, a big family get-together, more meals-out than usual, and a big, delicious, wonderful Christmas Dinner cooked by my daughter, it wasn’t a surprise to find I had gained weight. And it’s OK. It’s just what happens at Christmas. It’s just temporary: not weight I need to carry for life—or even for very long. I have learnt to accept this is how it is at the beginning of January and I would like for you to learn how to do this too.

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Smoothies – Are they good for you?

smoothies-group

I am a great fan of smoothies—but not all smoothies are created equal. It depends on the ingredients. Today I would like to help you understand the differences between those that are nutritionally good for you, and can aid in healthy weight loss and those that could actually lead to weight gain.

To understand the differences, we need to have a quick look at what happens in our body when we drink a smoothie.

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Are you drinking enough water?

drinking enough water

drinking enough water

Have you come across the mantra: “Drink 8 Glasses Of Water A Day”? Have you wondered if drinking this amount of water can help you lose weight? Many people don’t understand the 8-glasses-a-day message and, by the way, what size are these glasses? It’s also banded around that drinking water can help with weight loss—but does that work? It’s all quite confusing. And so today, I’d like to explore this topic of drinking enough water with you.

One day, someone showed me a glass of water that was half full. And he said, “Is it half full or half empty?” So I drank the water. No more problem—Alexander Jodorowsky 🙂

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Tips For Weight Loss – How to stop yo-yoing

Lose weight—gain weight – it is so depressing! It’s time to find a new way

yoyo-message

video-yo-yoing-w150 Click here to watch the video.

Before 2009, I was always yo-yoing with my weight. There would be the day when I decided I just HAD to lose weight. So, it would be the latest diet—and often I would lose weight, then slowly—sometimes not so slowly—I would put it all back on again. It was so utterly depressing. Even though a healthier message about food and weight loss is beginning to emerge, pick up any womens’ magazine and you will find a Lose 7 lbs in 7-days or Lose a dress-size in just 10 days diet. And these diets may help you lose weight—but at what cost to you? Do these diets help you STAY SLIM afterwards? Are they healthy? Or are they just focused on the short-term win as eluded to in the title? If you follow such a diet, will you put the weight back on shortly afterwards? Then, will you try the next new diet when it comes out?

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What’s in your favourite strawberry yoghurt?

comparing-strawberry-yoghurt

I adore strawberries. Their sweet juices popping in my mouth as I bite into them brings me the happiness of summer. Perhaps I love them even more because the season is short. Oh, I know you can get those pumped up strawberries from far-away climes all year round, but they are simply not the same. So whilst they are in season, I eat quite a lot of them 🙂 And my favourite way to eat them is to create my own strawberry yoghurt.

Recently whilst enjoying my strawberries with a dollop of rich, creamy natural yoghurt, it made me wonder. How did my favourite summer dessert compare with the commercially bought yoghurts in terms of nutrition and calories? And what is really in these yoghurts that are ‘sold’ to us as being healthy? Let’s take a peek under the bonnet, so to speak, at some of the added ingredients and discover why they are in your yoghurt.

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Protein and Weight Loss—does eating more protein help?

eating more protein from plant sources

Ever since the days of the Atkins Diet there have been myths, truths, half-truths about protein and weight loss. Does eating more protein help with weight loss? How much protein do you need to be healthy? And which sources of protein are the best for you?

What is Protein?

Proteins are large molecules made up of strings of amino-acids. There are 25 different amino acids and 8 of them considered ‘essential’ as our body has to get them from the food we eat.Proteins help build and repair our body tissues – cells, organs, muscles, bone, skin, hair and fingernails. Protein is also required for making blood, enzymes and hormones.

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How To Reduce Belly Fat — and lose your muffin top!

reduce belly fatBums, tums and thighs—especially tums—are problems areas for women that can occur at any time in life but in particular after having a baby, when stressed out and  during the menopause. No-one likes the thought (or reality) of wriggling into jeans and having a muffin top of bulging belly fat. We’d all love to have a slim firm tummy so today let’s look at why fat accumulates around the abdomen and discover how to reduce belly fat.

Belly fat is made up of subcutaneous and visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat just under the skin: it is what you grab when you “pinch-an-inch” around your waist or what a personal trainer grabs with those embarrassing fat measuring clamps. Visceral fat by contrast is hidden, stored around the organs in your abdomen. Even slim women can have high levels of visceral fat hidden inside if they are inactive and have a poor diet.

Is carrying excess weight around your middle is simply down to eating too much, eating the wrong foods and not doing enough exercise? Perhaps yes, but also no for there is more to it than just this.

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Are you afraid of your
bathroom scales?

Afraid of the scales

bathroom scales

Do you, like the infamous Bridgette Jones, jump on your bathroom scales daily? Do you despair if they say anything other than a loss? Or are you so terrified of your bathroom scales that they are collecting dust from not being used? It’s time to understand a little more about weight loss and to see that your scales are just a tool —nothing more and nothing else. A tool though that can help you…

On average 55% of a woman’s body is made up of fluids. Daily this fluctuates slightly according to hydration and your menstrual cycle. The frequency of your bowel movements will also impact on your weight so very easily your weight may up or down by as much as 2lbs (about a kilo) which has nothing to do with the amount of body fat that you are storing. Jumping on your bathroom scales daily may therefore give you a false reading. If you need to wean yourself off daily weighing, choose 2-days a week and then eventually once a week where you weigh and record your weight. Weighing yourself at the same time of day also helps even out natural fluctuations.

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How hunger can stop you losing weight

Being hungry

Small portion of food on big plate isolated on white

Are you cutting back on what you eat and even now feeling the hunger pains, feeling grumpy? Why is losing weight so much easier yet so hard to lose them?

Losing weight requires your body has to convert stored energy (your body fat) into usable energy. From this comes the concept of calories in vs calories out – but the way your body processes food (and drink) is far more complex than this simple idea. How much energy you need each day depends on your unique body structure, energy needs, body type and many other factors. I never advocate counting calories, however as a concept there is some truth in the essence of it.

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Learning to love your body
—just as it is now

stop hating and begin to love your body Do you love your body—just as it is right now? Or do you hate the way your body looks back at you in the mirror?

Bring into your mind someone you don’t like so much – or maybe even hate. Are you inclined to be kind to this person? Do you treat them with respect? Or spend time really getting to know them? Are you gentle when they are stressed, sad or overwhelmed? Probably not. Rather I’m guessing the person you dislike (hate) gets short shrift and you move away from them as fast as possible because you don’t wish to be associated with them. What though if this ‘person’ is actually your body?

If you dislike/hate your body – are you going to be kind, respectful and gentle? Do you look at your body in a full length mirror and hate your reflection? Or perhaps hate it so much you rarely, if ever, truly look at your body? Yet your body is part of you and your body doesn’t want to be as big as it is either. Your body is not the enemy: if you begin to work with your body instead of fighting and hating it – it will change as you want it to. And as Jason Vale (The Juice Master) so eloquently put it: If you don’t look after your body—you’ll have no where to live.

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How do I become slim without dieting?

Healthy eating

ditch dieting – forks with different food

Have you being yo-yoing with your weight? Going on a diet, losing weight, then putting it all back on again and so-on. How long may I ask do you wish to keep doing this? Diets in the long run simply don’t work. More than likely though you will give-up before you reach your goal because you’re hungry, frustrated and/or bored with your food choices and/or feel deprived. And even you succeed in reaching your goal, do you know what to eat afterwards? Or will you more-or-less go back to your old eating habits—the very same ones that lead to you piling on the pounds in the first place? Then what? Diet again? How long are you willing to keep yo-yoing with your weight like this?

Albert Einstein defined insanity as: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Dieting, losing weight, going back to old habits, put weight back on, dieting again is a form of madness and makes you unhappy too. It’s time to adopt a new, healthier approach to food and your body as well as making some changes to what and how you eat. This new way ensures you’re never hungry, for being hungry is counter-productive for weight loss. Instead eating delicious, fresh food without a set regime—means you can choose what you wish to eat: not what someone else tells you have to eat. It also allows for you to enjoy a little of all the foods you have probably eaten over the Christmas period without it sending you into melt-down.

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How do you reach your healthy weight?

Reaching a healthy weight

healthy weight on scalesWhat is your healthy weight? There are many ways of defining your health weight: BMI (Body Mass Index: calculator on my Live Classes page), H2W (Height to Waist Ratio should be less that than 0.5) and also the weight you feel is right for you. Although the calculations help, begin this exercise by choose what feels right for you – you can fine tune it later on. The important part of this exercise is to write down the weight you wish to achieve and then work out how much in pounds or kilos you need to lose to get there. If this is a large amount – please don’t be scared: it is just what it is. This is the new you and a new approach that is about being gentle and kind to yourself.

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Alcohol And Weight Loss: Can you drink AND lose weight?

gin-or-waterWhat is the relationship between alcohol and weight loss? Can you enjoy a glass or two of wine (or your tipple) and still lose weight? Or do you need to acquire a taste for sparkling water?

Perhaps you loathe to even look at how alcohol may be getting in the way of your weight loss because after a long, hard day at work, you ‘need’ a glass or two of wine to unwind and relax? Or would weekends without your favourite drink be so dismal?

Although I ask everyone who does a Body Cleanse as part of one of my EatWell.BeWell programs to give up alcohol for 2–5 weeks, I know that most people enjoy alcohol and would not wish to give it up permanently. So that brings up the question: ‘Can you STILL drink and lose weight?’ Hmm… sadly it’s not straightforward as it is dependent on so many things including your age, health and current weight and your body’s ability to process alcohol: for you the answer might be; yes, no, or just a little! Let’s begin by looking at what happens when you drink alcohol.

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Which Milk Is Best? Cows, Rice, Soya Or…?

In the milk aisle today there is a growing choice of different milks—but which milk is best?  Cows, goats, sheep, rice, soya or one of the many different grain and nut milks? Many alternative milks are touted as being a healthier than cows milk—but which milk is best for you?

Cows Milk

 cows milk - Yeo ValleyWhole, Semi or Skimmed? The most popular milk in the UK is semi-skimmed which has had half the natural fat, in the form of cream, skimmed off the milk. Nutritionally though, whole milk may be a better choice. Why? When the cream goes so does half of the vitamins A and D found in the fat. With less fat content, proportionally semi-skimmed milk has a higher sugar content too. Skimmed milk has an even higher sugar content and is so watery that dried skimmed milk powder is sometimes added to give it more substance making this milk far from natural. If you currently use skimmed because you believe it’s a better health and weight-loss choice, consider switching as it really isn’t the best choice for you.

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Low Fat vs Good Fats—which really helps with weight loss?

good-fatsThe message of ‘Low Fat’ has been drummed into people wanting to lose weight so much that when I tell people they need to add fat into their diet, they are quite aghast! Not all fat is good for you—but some is not only good, but essential. AND having good fats in your diet can actually help you lose weight. So how do you know which is which? Today I wish to help you discover which to include or add to your diet and which to avoid.

What happens to foods labelled ‘Low Fat’?

When food manufacturers take fat out of a food (apart from when it’s skimmed off as in milk or trimmed off as in meat) it loses much of it structure. To ‘fix’ this food manufacturers add starches, gums and thickening agents to make it look as it did before the removal of the fat. Without its natural fat, food also tastes bland so sugar, and/or artificial sweeteners and flavourings are added. As the fat content is reduced, the carbohydrate content has been increases – in particular the quick-energy-release carbohydrates. Why is this important? It means your body will digest the food more quickly so you will feel hungry again more quickly – therefore ultimately eat more than if you had eaten the full-fat version. Worse still Low Fat foods with more sugar may increase your blood sugar levels which can so easily lead to your body laying down body fat. So apart from trimmed or skimmed off fat, please don’t be conned into buying “Low Fat” foods as a form of weight loss—they really don’t help you!

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Effects Of Sugar On Obesity: how war and corn played a part

corn on the cobFresh corn-on-the-cob cooked and smeared with a little butter is utterly divine for there is nothing quite like the experience of biting into a cob and the sweet juices exploding into your mouth. Yummy! Corn-on-the-cob is not typically considered a healthy food option for it has a naturally high sugar content, but by adding a little butter, this stops your blood sugar levels from spiking and nutritionally, it has good amounts of vitamin C, niacin and folic acid. So whilst corn-on-the-cob is not the best choice for an everyday vegetable, enjoy it whilst it’s in season—as it now is. Today though it’s not about the corn itself, but I’d like to share with you how the Vietnam War and an invention by a Japanese Scientist have all had an impact on your waist-line in a way that’s hard to believe.

The effects of sugar on obesity, heart disease and diabetes

Back in 1972, obesity was not prevalent, but there was a growing trend of people becoming heavier with links to disease and poor health. A British Scientist, John Yudkin, proved that sugar consumption rather than fat increased the chances of people having heart disease and type 2 diabetes. He wrote a book about it called: “Pure White and Deadly”. And yet his words of wisdom where dismissed and even ridiculed  by a massive discrediting campaign and character assignation which, shamefully, was funded by some of the big names in the food industry. See Telegraph article for more on this.

At the same time in America, Nixon was facing re-election. As well as negative impact of the Vietnam war, the USA was also experiencing a food cost crisis to and their chosen solution for the latter was to incentives the industrialisation of farming—in particular, to grow more corn. This worked so well, that soon there was a surplus of corn, but as this had had such a positive impact on the American economy, instead of cutting back production, they looked for new solutions for the surplus corn. They came across a Japanese invention that turned corn into a very sweet syrup – called High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). It was incredibly sweet, very cheap to produce and could replace sugar in so many products. Soon it was being mass produced in the USA and Coca Cola was one the first big brands to adopt it.

Meanwhile the sugar industry was beginning to feel the pinch as this new syrup was being used instead of sugar and they lobbied along with other interested companies like Coca Cola, to get the message across that fat, not sugar was was making people fat – not sugar or heaven forbid the corn that had become important to the USA economy.

And so fat became known as the enemy and the food industry started producing “Low-Fat” foods. What we consumers didn’t know was how they did it. Fat not only gives food it’s flavour, but it also helps give food its structure. When you remove fat from food (other than when it’s simply skimmed or trimmed off), it loses its structure and also its taste. To rectify this, food manufactures added, starch, gums, thickeners to replace the structure and then sugar to conceal the bland taste. Sugar was (still is) dirt cheap, bulky in texture and lower in calories than fat. Sugar in all of it’s different forms including HFCS is also highly addictive – which helps improve sales!

This massively over-processed food (fat taken out, starches and gums and sugars added) is not digested in the same way as unadulterated food. These foods are quickly converted into sugars and so unknowingly and unwittingly we have been eating far more sugar than is good for us.

It has only been in the last few years that the truth, which was known more than 40 years ago, is finally being acknowledged in being taken seriously. All of us who have struggled with our weight and have been trying to lose weight by choosing “low-fat” foods have been tricked! Not all fats are good for us: but we NEED good fats in our diet for both health and help keep us feeling full. What we absolutely don’t need is sugar. See my blog on Low Fats vs Good Fats—which really helps with weight loss?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments box below.

Eat Well—Be Well 🙂

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Comfort eating when stressed?
Why do we do this?

Why do we end up comfort eating when we’re stressed? Surprisingly, it may have begun when you were a tiny baby. Back then your only way to communicate with your parents was through crying, trying to tell them: “I’m hungry” or “I’m tired” or “I’m grumpy” and so on. Your parents eventually learnt to distinguish your different cries, but initially at least, one option was breast feeding or giving you a bottle. And so as a tiny baby you associated discomfort being eased with food, even if your distress had nothing to do with being hungry.

During your early childhood, food may sometimes have been given to you as bribe, such as: “If you are good, I’ll buy you an ice-cream.” You will have also associated yummy food at times when life was good, for example on your birthday or at Christmas time.

comfort eating when stressedWhat has this got to do with comfort eating today? These associations with food have become part of your subconscious programming where food equals both comfort and reward. Your brain is undoubtedly also be wired in a way where eating certain foods lights up the pleasure area of your brain (the dopamine neural pathways). And so when you feel down, sad, angry, disappointed, lonely, stressed or any other negative state, your subconscious will trigger behaviour that it has learnt to do when you feel pain. This behaviour might be to go an buy chocolate, or raid the biscuit tin, or pile food onto your plate or pour a large glass of wine. You will undoubted justify it to yourself saying: “I know this isn’t good for me, but it’s been a terrible day…”

But it’s a double whammy back-firing event. Firstly, food can only ease hunger pains: it can’t resolve any other pain. Secondly, because you are eating for reasons other than hunger, there is no “I’m full” off switch. The emptiness you feel inside can’t be filled with food, because the emptiness is in your heart and/or your soul, not your stomach.

THREE QUICK TIPS TO STOP COMFORT EATING

One of the best ways to reprogram your old patterns of behaviour is via EFT, however, you can change much of your self-sabotaging by simply becoming more aware of what you’re doing when you’re stressed.

1. When you feel compelled to go and get food to eat, ask yourself: “Am I physically hungry?” A quick way of doing this is to identify whether your hunger is coming from below or above your throat. Physical hunger will appear deep in your belly. Emotional hunger will show-up at the back of your tongue, or in the centre of your head.

2. Breathe deeply into your belly. Do 10 repetitions. The desire to comfort eat is to lessen the feelings of discomfort. Yet, these uncomfortable feelings are often in the land of the Bogey-man. These emotions are far more scary when they are hidden deep in the subconscious. If you breathe deeply, you change the state of your brain activity. You can then ask questions to yourself like: “What is that I’m really afraid of?” and bring the feelings into the light where they are then less intense. See one of my more in-depth TIPS articles: Belly Breathing can soothe away anxiety for more on how this works.

3. Do something that will genuinely help you process or deal with the emotion. If you feel lonely, pick up the phone, or arrange to go and see a friend. If you feel angry, let some of the anger out, by punching a cushion or go to the gym for a work-out. If you are feeling stressed at work, take a pen and paper and ‘free-flow-write’ about everything. This simple act of writing your stuff down is very therapeutic. Feeling sad? Then allow yourself to be sad for half-an-hour. Deep sadness needs to be acknowledged and felt, then it will dissipate. It’s only when we don’t allow ourself to feel this emotion (or any of them) that it lingers.

I know you can change your emotional eating habits: begin today by taking just one step that is different from your usual reaction. You may also wish to read my blog: Are you eating mindlessly?

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Carrying Excess Weight? It’s not JUST the food you eat…

Are you carrying excess weight and/or struggling to lose it? You may believe it’s because you are eating too much – and in part this may be true. BUT, and it’s a HUGE BUT, there are many other reasons why you are carrying excess weight and are struggling to get back to your natural, slim self.

OTHER REASONS FOR CARRYING EXCESS WEIGHT

woman-eat-biscuits • Your body may be carrying excess weight as a physical barrier to protect you from perceived emotional harm. This is usually a reaction to a traumatic or abusive event earlier in your life. It is entirely possible that your conscious mind doesn’t recognise this or even dismisses the event as neither traumatic nor abusive. However if your subconscious is ‘running’ a program that says otherwise, it is far, far more powerful than the conscious mind, and it can self-sabotage your attempts to lose this ‘protective’ weight. How do you know this might be happening for you? When you lose weight and begin to feel ‘better’ about your weight, you don’t seem to be able to stop your self-sabotaging.

• You may be intolerant to wheat and/or dairy. If this is true, then your digestive system is constantly struggling to process these foods which makes it inefficient. A sluggish, ineffective digestive system leads to weight gain and difficulties for losing weight. The way to find out if this is an issue for you, is to completely omit wheat and dairy for a at least 2 weeks (ideally for 4 weeks) then introduce wheat first and see how you feel, then 1 week later repeat the exercise with dairy. If you are intolerant or sensitive, on reintroduction—you will know! On a ‘clean’ system the reintroduction of a food that causes problems leads to excess gas, belatedness, and sometimes headaches, constipation or diarrhoea. If this happens, come off wheat and/or dairy and see if the symptoms then go away.

• Stress triggers chemical changes in your body which raises your blood sugar levels. If you don’t need to run or fight (in reaction to stress: this was our ancestral response to stress) then this sugar in your blood is not needed and will be converted to fat and most typically stored as body fat around your middle. See another or my blogs: Comfort Eating When Stressed?

• Food additives are of course tested for safety, however the vast majority of the testing is paid for by the food processors, rather than fully independent researchers. When tested independently, some food additives, for example aspartame (an artificial sweetener widely used in so called ‘diet foods and drinks) show very different results with independent tests showing it stimulates the appetite, and can give headaches and digestive problems.

• You may be eating a relatively healthy diet, but the wrong food at the wrong time of the day for your body. Again, this is due to your digestive system not being as effective as it can be. To find out more about Body Typing, see my TIPS article on Ayurveda: Eating for your Body Type (on my Red Dandelion website)

• What you think is a healthy diet, may be out-dated. Nutritional wisdom has changed quite dramatically over the last decade. TV advertising of so called healthy foods, are so misleading that, to me, it it is nothing less than fraudulent. Get up-to-date with some excellent books for example: “Spent” by Dr Frank Lipman, “Crazy Sexy Diet” by Kris Carr and for spiritual reasons for holding on to weight: “A Course in Weight Loss: 21 Spiritual Lessons for Surrendering Your Weight Forever” by Marianne Williamson

Was this helpful? Do let me know.

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Are You Confused About Carbs?

carbohydrates

Carbs are often thought of as the ‘bad guys’ in terms of weight loss. This idea came to the fore in the days of the Atkins Diet which promoted eating as much protein and fat as you wanted as long as you ate no carbs. Although the Atkins Diet was and is now widely recognised as an unhealthy way to eat and lose weight, many people are still confused about carbs. What exactly is meant by ‘carbs’ and are there good carbs and bad ones? Let’s delve deeper.

Carbs is the shortened name for carbohydrate which is a molecular structure found in all plants – so in terms of food, carbohydrates are found in all vegetables, fruit and grain. Our body is designed to function at its best on a diet that is mostly carbohydrates and with small amounts of protein and good fats. Carbohydrates are broken down by our digestive system into simple sugars which are used by our cells as a source of energy.

When people talk about ‘carbs’ what they usually mean is the starchy, refined, processed foods or those with added sugar. These foods can be detrimental to weight loss (see below), but raw or lightly cooked vegetables, most fruit and whole grains are really good for you as they contain lots of vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients (micro-nutrients that  provide a whole host of protective properties: anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-oxidant and some even have cancer fighting agents) and dietary fibre. Foods that are broken down into sugar rapidly are known as simple carbohydrates the not-so-good-for-you carbs and complex carbohydrates for those that are good for you, but very few people understand what this means. I prefer the terms ‘slow-energy-release’ and ‘quick-energy-release’ which shows these foods on a scale and it helps people understand that there are some foods that are in the middle.

The carbs that we need the most are those which our body finds relatively difficult to be broken down into sugars. These are vegetables and fruit (especially when they are eaten raw) and whole grains. When we eat slow-energy release foods our body converts the carbohydrates into simple sugars releasing it into our blood stream in a trickle which helps our cells get a constant, steady supply of the sugars from which it can produce energy—which is good.  When we eat quick energy release carbs—starchy, sugary foods—our body rapidly turns them into simple sugars which surge into our blood stream, increasing our blood sugar (glucose) levels. This amount of sugar in our blood-stream is too much for our body to handle and so insulin is secreted into the blood stream to ‘mop’ it up. Insulin converts the sugar into glycogen and stores it temporarily in the liver or in our muscles, or it converts it into body fat, storing it for a rainy not-enough-food day. The trouble is in the developed world the vast majority of us no longer go days without food, and so body fat is stored layer upon layer – until we do something about it.

When we trigger an insulin response to reduce our raised blood sugar levels, it’s often very efficient and it can cause our blood sugar levels to crash, making us crave even more sweet and starchy foods!  In this way a horrible vicious cycle is created. Not only does eating a lot of this type of food increase your tendency to put on weight, it has the devastating effect of overworking your pancreas (which secretes insulin), which is partly why there has been such a big increase in Type II Diabetes and obesity.

So carbs are the biggest group of foods and not just the few identified by those that contain high levels of sugar, starch or have been highly processed. Choose to eat a lot of the slow-energy-release foods such as vegetables (regular potatoes are best limited: sweet potatoes are fine), good amounts of fruit (limiting those that are very sweet such as bananas, dates and grapes and dried fruit), and eat small amounts of whole grains such as brown or wild rice, oats and wholemeal flour.

Try to really limit foods you eat with added sugar, or refined grains, or food that has been highly processed or modified. This includes most breakfast cereals, anything made with white flour, virtually all ready meals, all commercial fruit juices (even the ones that tell you it counts as ‘1-of-your-5-a-day’ for they are very high in sugars), any foods where on the ingredient list you see an “–ose” such as: glucose, lactose, sucrose etc, and most foods labelled “Low Fat” as these almost certainly will have had the fat replaced with starches, gums and thickeners all of which are quick-energy release carbs.

If you have a question about Carbs or any other aspect of Clean Eating – please ask me and I shall be delighted to help you.

Eat Well—Be Well 🙂

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We Eat With Our Eyes – and they deceive us!

It may seem a strange idea, but it’s been shown that we eat with our eyes in terms of  how much food we put on our plate. Although many of you will have realized that habit dictates portion sizes too, what you may not realize is that your eyes and brain subconsciously assess how much food will be enough to satisfy your hunger by considering the volume of food (or drink) that is in front of you.

In Brian Wansink’s brilliant book, Mindless Eating, he recounts dozens of experiments that his Food and Brand Laboratory have undertaken to understand what influences our food choices. Some of his studies are really funny, like the bottomless soup bowls he rigged up where, unbeknownst to the customers, their soup bowl was secretly and continually filled from the bottom of the bowl via a hidden tube. Because the bowl never emptied, people had nothing to visually judge how much they had eaten and so on average people ate the equivalent of 2 bowls of soup and some people ate 3 times as much!

In another experiment Brian invited 53 MBA Students to watch Super Bowl Sunday with the tempting free, eat-as-much-as-you-like buffet of chicken wings, dips and soft drinks. At each table there was an empty bowl for chicken bones. What the students didn’t realize was that on one side of the room, the waiters kept removing the bowls of bones and replaced them with a clean, empty bowl whilst on the other side the bones were allowed to pile up. As the bones were taken to the kitchen, they were counted, weighed and recorded. The result? On the tables where the chicken bones were regularly removed from the tables, the students ate on average 7 chicken wings each. On the tables where the bones were allowed to pile up, the students ate on average 5 that is 28% less. Without a visual reference, we can’t judge how much we have eaten and despite thinking we eat according to hunger, we use our eyes to tell us how much we can eat.

HOW WE EAT WITH OUR EYES

Turkey portion on a big plateTurkey portion on a small plateAs shown in these experiments, we eat with out eyes, but they are not very good at judging  It seems we gauge our portion size in relationship to the plate or bowl that  it is on, or in. These photos demonstrate this. This is one of my meals, first placed on a large white dinner plate. The portion looks small and my eyes ‘ tell me’ it’s not enough to fill me up, so after I have eaten it, I may be tempted to have seconds. Then I moved my food on to a much smaller plate. Now the portion looks large—even though it’s exactly the same—and my eyes now judge I will be full when I have eaten it and therefore I won’t crave seconds. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself.

Also remember it takes 20 minutes after eating before your ‘full’ signal truly comes into the play. Before that point, your eyes will tell you how much to eat.

HOW MUCH WE DRINK IS ALSO JUDGED BY OUR EYES

200 ml in each glass—but our eyes are deceivedTake a look at this photo. I’m sure you’ve already guessed what I’m about to say – all the glasses contain 200 ml in them, but it doesn’t look like it does it? Although the tall narrow glass is not full, it still looks like more than in the short, squat glass. Choosing your glassware will impact on your portion sizes too.

So, to help you monitor your food and drink, consider your plate sizes. It is fashionable to have larger plates than we used to have. If you dinner service has such a thing as a fish plate, then use this instead of your main plate. If you don’t wish to replace your entire service, charity shops often have old style crockery with plate sizes much smaller than we have now.

Eat Well—Be Well 🙂

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How Family Influence Eating Habits – and your friends too!

family influence eating habitsPerhaps unknowingly, your family influence eating habits. I have a memory from early childhood of being told to eat every thing on my plate. I was told to be both grateful and not wasteful for children in Biafra were starving. At the time I didn’t understand where these children lived or even how my eating helped them (to be honest the logic still eludes me) but none-the-less I obediently ate everything on my plate. Children who experienced war-time rations and those of my generation will have had similar messages drummed into them, and so even today I feel somewhat uncomfortable when I leave uneaten food on my plate. What messages did your family give you that still influence your eating habits today?

John de Castro, a psychology professor in Georgia, USA has done extensive research that shows that we eat far more food when we eat with other people. Eat a meal with one other person, and your food intake increases by 35%. With every extra person who joins your table, the more food you will eat. With remarkable consistency you will eat an extra 47%, 58%, 69%, 70%, 72% and 96% when you eat with two, three, four, five, six or seven or more people. No wonder we eat until we feel like stuffed turkeys at Christmas time! It also explains why people newly in coupledom, often put on weight. Why does this happen? There are many reasons, but two key ones are: When we eat in a group, subconsciously we will match our intake to that of others around us. And, by being engrossed in the conversation(s) and the social interactions, we are far less aware of what and how much we are eating (and drinking) and therefore we usually end up eating more.

CHANGING HOW FAMILY INFLUENCE EATING HABITS

Eating with family and friends is truly a delight. However, so eating with them doesn’t end up with you piling on the pounds, consider these ideas to help you change the influence others have on your eating.

    • Score out of ten your physical hunger before you begin to eat. A score of 10 = stuffed (this score is generally reached on special occasions like Christmas) and 0 = ravenous.

 

    • Ideally only eat when your hunger score is 4 or less.

 

    • Based on your hunger score and BEFORE you begin to eat, choose visually how much food is enough to ‘fill’ you and then put that amount on to your plate. We really eat with our eyes. See my blog: We eat with our eyes—and they deceive us!

 

    • Remember it takes 20 minutes for your ‘full’ signal to reach your brain.

 

  • Choose not to accept ‘seconds’ with a smile.

When eating in a restaurant, if a larger portion is served than you know will satisfy your hunger, mentally decide to leave a certain portion of your food on your plate (not always easy if you have been drilled with the idea of cleaning your plate, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes).

When engrossed in a conversation, don’t simply ‘rest’ your knife and fork in your hands, instead actually put them down. When there is a real pause in the conversation, look at the remaining food on your plate before picking up your knife and fork to once more step into conscious eating.

All of these little tips can help you, but it usually helps to focus on one or two of these first and get them embedded into your new way of eating before you move onto the next.

Eat Well—Be Well 🙂

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A Lack Of Willpower? Luckily this isn’t vital for weight loss

a lack of willpower?Do you believe it is a lack of willpower that stops you from losing weight? If you have tried countless diets and are still overweight, please know it is NOT because of your lack of willpower. In fact, it’s likely that your willpower is stronger than most people because you haven’t given up despite not having the success you desire, you keep on trying.

Diets don’t work. Some diets are, frankly, crazy and unhealthy. But any slimming diet that restricts what you eat and when is doomed to fail because life simply isn’t like that. Life is constantly changing and unfolding. No-one has a life where you can exactly eat ‘this’ food on ‘that’ day. So what happens on the day you can’t eat what you’ve been told to eat? Well, usually that is the day where everything goes pear-shaped.

Willpower (the power of the will) is something that is done consciously. Unfortunately the power of the conscious mind is tiny compared to the subconscious. According to Prof. Bruce Lipton (in his book Biology of Belief) the subconscious processes 20,000,000 environmental stimuli (i.e. bits of information about how your body is functioning and in your internal and physical environment) per second compared to just 40 stimuli per second by your conscious self. Trying to change your diet when you only use your conscious mind is going to be incredibly hard if not impossible.

How then do you lose weight? It’s not as hard as you might think. Although you need to make some changes to successfully lose your excess weight and then stay slim, try to do ONE thing differently and then consistently do it. Here are some ideas that can help you.

COMBATING A LACK OF WILLPOWER – ONE STEP AT A TIME…

Although taking just one step seems insignificant when you are trying to lose weight, when you change one bad habit for a good one, you can move on to the next habit and in this way, in a surprisingly short time, you will have made big changes. Following are some ideas:

    • Choose to significantly increase your portion size of colour vegetables whilst diminishing the size of starchy/refined/sugary foods (such as potatoes/white rice/ food made with white flour). Make sure at the same time that you have a portion of protein too (eggs, meat, fish, beans, lentils). This helps you create balanced meals which are healthier for you as it increases your nutrient intake and decreases the foods that can lead to weight gain.
    • Begin reading ALL food labels. If a food label has ingredients listed that you don’t recognise as a food (i.e. chemical names or E numbers) put it back on the shelf! Food additives have only been around for less than 100 years. The human body evolved over 50,000 years. These chemicals are not easily processed by your body: most have to be processed by your liver making it have to work harder than it needs to.
    • Switch any bad-habit snacking foods for healthier options that include fruit, nuts, seeds, crudities with houmous or even a little nut butter (not though peanut butter).
    • Next time you emotionally comfort eat, ask yourself what are you trying NOT to feel? What emotional hole are you trying to fill with food? Make a note. By constantly checking, you will usually find it is the same emotion. By being your own detective in this way, it helps you know what must change or be released so you no longer hide your emotions behind food.
    • Start walking more! Exercise is a vitally important part of being healthy. Walking is so good for you and can be easily increased every day. Of course this also applies to any sport / fitness that you like. Make exercise an important part of your life.
  • Breathe more deeply. Give yourself the precious gift of 15 minutes just to sit still and do nothing! If you are familiar with meditation, then great, increase your practice. But if you have never done this, just sitting still and consciously choosing not to attend to all that is going on, will help to relax and de-stress you. A lot of the overeating happens due to stress. Being more relaxed helps you make better choices.

Remember – choose just one habit to change at a time. Also consider if stress is at the root of what’s going on as stress induces chemical changes that throws all willpower out of the window. See my article: How Stressed Are You? on my Red Dandelion website. Please know that your eating  habits many be  down to emotional eating – see more on Emotional Eating. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is an easy-to-learn tapping therapy that you can do to begin to reprogramme your subconscious. I teach EFT on my weight-loss course, but you can find loads of demos on YouTube. Finally knowing, understanding and ‘getting’ that your body is not a robot. You needs and desires change on a day-to-day basis. It’s never what you eat on a single day that matters – it’s how you eat most of the time.

People who are naturally slim often really enjoy food. They don’t count, track, measure or restrict what they eat. They are more naturally in tune with their body. Once upon a time, even if that was only when you were a child, you were too. You can tune back in, you can reprogramme your default habit of overeating (and drinking) when stressed and/or emotional. So, please let go of the idea that it’s just a lack of willpower to lose weight – instead see that you can change your relationship with food and your body back to place of honouring and loving yourself. And in this way you can lose all of your excess weight and keep it off forever.

Eat Well—Be Well 🙂

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How Advertising Influences Food Choices

We don’t like to admit that advertising influences food choice—but I think both consciously and subconsciously it does. Food manufacturers also determine, to a large extent, our portion sizes by providing food in set sizes – which may be too big for what we need. And I know for sure that the brands pay a lot of attention to the aspirational lifestyle that is attached to their product. For example, the Diet Coke ads typically show a slim, flirtatious, funny, attractive women easily attracting the attention of a hunky man. Today I’d like to show you how advertising influences food choices and how we can become more in control of what we choose.

Everyday you are bombarded with literally dozens and dozens of different food choices. Walk down your high street, watch TV for just half-an-hour, pop into your local supermarket – and you will see just how pervasive and persuasive food advertising is. No wonder we are so easily drawn into making choices based on the advertising messages so cleverly put across to us.

advertising influences food choicesSo how do we change—how do we get back into control? Firstly know a little more about food selling psychology. We are all attracted to objects that are bright red and yellow. Red heightens our awareness as it is so associated with danger whilst yellow is associated with sunshine and happiness. So supermarkets and food packaging use red and yellow to draw our eyes to the food and/or deals they are making. This classic popcorn poster is a typical example of how advertising influences your food choices. The red and yellow background draw your eye towards it like a magnet. The yellow sunburst and its radiating lines out from the popcorn gives the impression of sunshine happiness – but the killer is the tag line: “Buttery Fresh”. Your brain is hardwired to like both sugar and fat and so simply triggering the idea of eating butter, if you were to eat this popcorn, makes your mouth water and the word “fresh” is not random either for at a basic level we know that fresh food is better for us than old, stale food. Please know that advertising food is very sophisticated: it’s never just about a pretty picture.

Knowing all of this creates a dilemma because if we consciously had to make every decision about food, nothing would get done! And yet, our unconscious eating habits may be having a terrible impact on our waistline as well as our health.

HOW TO STOP THE WAY ADVERTISING INFLUENCES FOOD CHOICES

The majority of food manufacturers and supermarkets are primarily wanting to make money. Apart from some notable exceptions, the vast majority of brands selling “healthy” and “low-fat” foods are far more interested in how much they can sell to you rather than helping you become and stay slim. If they can sell larger quantities of food to you, this means they can make more money. With this in mind they use many different psychological tactics including special offers, selling bigger sizes, product placement, the colour and shape of the packaging even using fear as a motivator (e.g. foods to reduce your cholesterol). Mostly we are totally unaware of how our food is ‘sold’ to us because they have made it oh so easy to put another packet of food into your trolley. There are thousands of ways they do this, but let me share just a couple with you so you can buy with your eyes wide open.

‘Buy one—get one free’ offers are often just a way of off-loading excess stock, but if you buy more, will you then eat more? Supermarkets know the answer is usually ‘yes’. How do they know? Because they track what you buy, not necessarily individually (loyalty cards tell them so much about your buy habits!), but collectively. They know certain foods, like bakery items, crisps and biscuits can be sold in multiples and they don’t effect your next week’s shop.

Next time you visit your supermarket, go with new eyes. Look-out for the deal placed at the doorway: they know that if you succumb to this, you will buy more than intended. So if it’s not on your list—don’t be tempted. Look at the packaging of the foods you pick-up – how much is it influencing your purchase. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but every day you make a better, wiser choice, you are one step closer to a healthier, slimmer body.

On my Eat Well—Be Well programs, I teach you how to make much better food choices; how to avoid food being ‘sold’ to you; how to choose food that is nutritionally better for you, which foods will give you real energy versus highs and lows and how to eat more naturally for permanent weight loss. See the side bar for the dates of my next programs.

Eat Well—Be Well 🙂

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Boxing Day Hangover And My Sugar Addiction

It all began a week before Christmas when a client gave me a big box of chocolates. At other times of the year, I would thanked them kindly for their gift but later given them to someone else as that much sugar would blow my system—but I thought, ‘It’s Christmas, these are yummy chocolates, it won’t hurt me if I only have 1 or 2 chocolates a day’. And so in the days leading up to the big HoHoHo the chocolate box was slowly demolished. And my sugar addiction, like other addictions, cascaded into desiring more and more sweet treats. Insidiously my usual 80:20 Clean Eating went out of the window. I was also eating more wheat – again because I was out with friends and was tempted by the delicious seasonal fayre and the false conviction that it would be OK.

Christmas Day here on Portland was a quiet yet delightful day, and food of course played a big role. My daughter Tabs and I enjoyed our morning cooking together and preparing food for the day. The turkey was a triumph – our best ever attempt, succulent and tasty  and the large selection of vegetables some with special toppings were nothing short of perfect. And we had all the trimmings including bread sauce and my special recipe stuffing. Pudding was a ginger, pineapple and cream log and I drank a sparkling fruit drink instead of wine. In the afternoon and evening we ate more chocolates, sampled the exotic sweet dried fruits I been given and yet later still more nibbles, pickles and Christmas ham.

woman-stomachache-w250As Christmas night to a close, I began to feel bloated with an unladylike amount of gas – my usual reaction to wheat. I had the beginnings of a  headache too – rare for me – and I guessed that it was down to eating so much sugar and probably not drinking enough water.

Boxing Day morning dawned and  I awoke feeling really awful. My head was throbbing  hangover style. My nose felt stuffed up. My fingers had swollen up like sausages making it impossible to remove my ring. My whole body felt inflamed. My stomach was still bloated, my mouth dry, and my energy levels zero. Although I had loved the food I had eaten, it had made me feel so awful that I felt quite ill.

Why had I indulged so much? Especially when I know so much about sugar addiction and how food impacts on my body? For heaven’s sake I teach women about this! Why had my 80:20 Clean Eating gone off the rails? What was different this year from the other Christmases?

I think it’s because I’d become quite blasé about my sugar intake. I love sweet things, although some of my old Christmas favourites, like Liquorice Allsorts  are now too sickly sweet to for me, most of my treats (the 20% of my food that is n’t pure, Clean Eating) are mostly sweet, sugar based treats. I came into this Christmas feeling more stressed, tired and  emotional than usual. I wanted to believe that it would be all OK and in truth I think I didn’t really think – instead I buried my head in the sand and let old Christmas habits reignite themselves. Only my body can no longer handle it. And the result was feeling quite horribly yuck!

My sugar addiction and letting go of perfection

Reading this I’m aware that some of you will be thinking, well, if Jennie can’t do it, what chance have I of adopting and being successful at Clean Eating? It must be too hard. The reason for sharing this with you is to let you know I’m not perfect, I don’t always get it right. I am a sugar addict. Unlike alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and drug addictions, we can’t stop eating food. I decided to share this with you because you too don’t have to be perfect – in fact you are perfect with your imperfections for your beautiful soul is not a robot. Clean Eating is at times challenging because the vast majority of people have not adopted this way of eating. Choosing to honour your body, to care about the food you eat, to want to know where it has come from, how it has been handled in a world where most people don’t care is taking on the role of rebel, swimming up stream, standing out from the crown – and yes putting your head above the parapet. Yet to me, it is so worthwhile. This hiccup has lead to putting a few pounds on, but they will be lost again very rapidly too. My weight no longer yo-yo’s. I have radiant health; it’s rare for me to catch a cold or virus or any kind as my immune system is very healthy because most of the time I eat incredibly well.

So yesterday I began by forgiving myself for my over indulgences and chose to eat more simply. Already I’m feeling better for whilst I still can’t get my ring off my finger – I can now move it to my knuckle. The celebrations aren’t over yet—it’s my daughter’s birthday tomorrow and I’m going to  New Years Eve party, but I’m now  honouring my body once more, the treat will be that: treats, not massive over indulgences.

If you too are feeling bloated and slightly ill from eating and drinking too much, please too forgive yourself too. In the next few quiet days before the final celebrations to welcome in the New Year, choose to honour your body and what you eat and drink. It’s not about being perfect: instead in these special days of the year, simply do the best that you can, by making the best choices you can. Every decision you take to honour your body counts. You don’t need to be a martyr – just  caring for your body as you would care for your very best friend.

Eat Well—Be Well 🙂

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Christmas Without Gaining Weight? Is It Possible?

If you have adopted Clean Eating and are losing weight, what do you do when facing the biggest eating and drinking event of the year? With so much tempting food and drink around is both possible to enjoy Christmas without gaining weight?

Christmas without gaining weight?Christmas is not the time to be a martyr over weight loss – it’s time to enjoy the wonderful foods of the season. What you eat over one or two days will not seriously impact on your weight. And yet therein lies the problem for most people. Christmas celebrations now begin on December 1st and go all the way through to the New Year. There are more than the usual social get-togethers with office do’s, mock-Christmases, sports and club parties and parties because it’s good to celebrate Christmas! Eating and drinking more than usual on ALL of these occasions as well as on the Christmas Day and Boxing Day – will most likely lead to gaining weight. As with many things then, there needs to be a balance of enjoying the season’s rich food and drink combined with a modicum of restraint.

Tips to enjoy Christmas without gaining weight

Following are some ideas to keep you (loosely) on track. Some may not work for you: that’s OK but the really important part is to think it through so you don’t begin the New Year sad and mad with yourself because you’ve piled on the pounds. Thinking things through before all of the parties and celebrations can make a big difference to how much or little weight you gain.

• Christmas Day and Boxing Day – enjoy the food and drink without worrying. If you are having a traditionally cooked Christmas meal, it will be mostly fresh and mostly additive free. Enjoy and savour each mouthful.

• Alcohol intake in December radically increases for most people, and this can be big downfall for those trying to keep their weight steady during this time. Why? Because when you drink your favourite tipple, it stimulates release of the neurotransmitter Dopamine, which makes you feel good. So good in fact that your brain (almost) demands you have another drink. The pleasure felt intially increases, but your cognitive abilities also diminish so one glass leads to another – and on another level you body is trying to sober up and so starchy foods become very appealing creating a double whammy in terms of the impact on your blood sugar levels. One way of modifying how much alcohol you consume is to alternate alcoholic drink with a soft drinks – or to dilute the alcohol with a double mixer, have a wine spritzer or a shandy. Also know that sugar from alcohol is more likely to get stored as body fat if you just have the drink by itself: having a glass of wine with a meal is less likely to cause a blood sugar spike. See Alcohol And Weight Loss: Can you drink AND lose weight?

• Many people have the week off from Christmas Eve to January 2nd. If this is you, choose one day in this week as a digestive resting day with a detox of some sort. I like to have a mung bean soup day. Download a pdf to read more about it. There are many different ways to detox; from a hard core liquid-only day, to a gentler one where you simply cut out all of the junk. If you choose to do a detox, please honour your body and do this with love and not as a punishment for overeating.

• Weigh yourself regularly. Many people have a fear of weighing themselves at times like this – fearful that they have put on several pounds (or more) and so like an ostrich they bury their heads in the sand. Your scales don’t tell you the whole story of what is going on for you – but they are a useful tool and should just be thought of such. Weighing yourself once or twice a week (remembering that your weight will naturally fluctuate 1–2 lbs) allows you to keep track of what is happening to your weight. If you find you have put on 3 or 4 lbs then you can reign yourself in a little. This is much easier to deal with physically and emotionally than if you wait until January 2nd and find out you have put on more.

• Keep drinking water. If as part of Clean Eating you have increased the amount of water you drink, remember to keep this up. This can be surprisingly difficult when your normal routine is changed and water isn’t readily offered. Be aware of your water needs as this helps your digestive system as well as help you minimise your desire for other drinks or reaching for food by mistaking thirst for hunger.

• Making better choices. Without stepping into martyrdom, you can none-the-less make subtle changes to your food and drink choices that collectively make a big difference to whether you sail through the season at the same weight or put on weight. Choose to eat more coloured vegetables than white ones which are typically more starchy. Have more vegetables than meat. Have a slightly smaller portion of Christmas pudding, or just one mince pie, or just a few chocolates instead of the whole box.

Finally, be very forgiving of yourself if you go way off track and bring yourself back to Clean Eating as soon as you can. If you need any further help – do get in touch with me.

Eat Well—Be Well 🙂

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Festive mocktails and non-alcoholic drinks

festive mocktailWith Christmas just 2 weeks away (eek STILL so much to do!) party season is in full swing and many an alcoholic drink will be drunk. But what if you don’t want to drink alcohol – or not drink as much as usual? Are you doomed to celebrate with just a sparkling mineral water? No! Mocktails and non-alcoholic drinks are increasingly popular and can help (if you need it) feel more like part of the party.

The following drinks are still high in natural sugars, even though many of them rely on natural sweetness rather than added sugars, so they are for treats and special occasions.

M&S do a small range of sparkling non-alcoholic drinks for example their Raspberry Crush and Normandy Apple. They also do 2 non-alcoholic mocktails – one that mimics Pina Colada and the other Tequila. Both are quite sweet – but a pleasant none-the-less.

Feel Good do a range of still and sparkling drinks without any added sugar or additives. Their sparkling Cranberry & Lime has a refreshing, slightly tart flavour. Several other flavours available.

Cherry Good is a range of different cherry juice drinks. Their sparkling version is crisp and fresh with no added nasties.

Appletise (with pear and grape versions also available) are simply carbonated pasteurised fruit juice. Very sweet and high in natural sugars, but again a better option than your usual fizzy drinks.

Amé has a range of 4 or 5 different flavours – sweetened only with natural fruit juices. Their Orange and Grape is light – although slightly to sweet. They used to have a version called “Dry” which I really liked: sadly it has been dropped.

Belvoir and Rochester are two brands that do mulled-wine-like drinks. Both have added sugar but are with the exception of citric acid, additive free. (Citric acid is a natural preservative found in citrus fruits; commercially it’s made from feeding mold with sugar).

Mocktails – they are becoming more popular in the fashionable bars and restaurants. Don’t assume that a non-alcoholic drink isn’t available – sometimes it’s just buried somewhere deep in the drinks menu. Even if it doesn’t appear – you can ask a barman/woman to rustle one up for you.

And if you still want to enjoy a a little of your tipple, but not just as much as usual/before, then opt that every second drink is a non-alcoholic one, or make your drinks go further by opting for a drink with a double mixer i.e. a Gin with 2 tonic mixers, or a wine spritzer, or a shandy instead of just a beer.

Raising a Cherry Good glass to you all!

Eat Well—Be Well 🙂

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Are You Eating Mindlessly?

eating mindlesslyWhat did you eat for breakfast this morning? Was it your ‘usual’? Is that usually cereal, toast, a cooked breakfast, just a coffee, or perhaps even a smoothie? Did you consider how hungry you were before you ate and whether or not this is what your body needed this morning? Or did you, in the rush to get on with your day, pour the same amount of cereal you always have, toast the 1 or 2 slices you always have, or whatever you usually do every morning?

We unconsciously eat many of our meals and snacks. For example when eating your main meal—do you finish everything on your plate? Did you (perhaps as you always do) reach for a second helping? Do you always have a biscuit with a cup of tea at 4 pm? If a family member eats something you don’t normally eat when alone, do you automatically join in with them? Whilst watching TV, do you grab a snack? What do you go and get? Do you have a nibble of it enroute from the kitchen to the lounge?

Oh my… we all do this, don’t we! Unfortunately, our unconscious eating habits can also lead to weight gain and/or unhealthy food choices—not something that is desirable!

In Brian Wansink’s excellent book: “Mindless Eating: Why we eat more than we think” he shares the results of a poll of 1,521 Americans regarding typical eating habits that showed:

91% watched TV when eating meals at home

62% were sometimes too busy to sit down and eat

35% ate their lunch at their desk whilst they continued to work

26% often ate whilst driving

I have no idea whether the figures would be significantly different if this study was conducted in the UK, but walk down any high street and you will see many people walking and eating. When you eat whilst doing something else, you’re not focused on what you are eating and therefore it is easy to overeat. More than likely you will chew less thoroughly too. Regularly eating on the go like this can easily account for an overloaded digestive system and weight gain.

How to become a conscious eater and stop eating mindlessly

Changing deeply ingrained eating habits takes time. Our unconscious actions/habits are mini programmes that run along neural pathways in our brain which don’t require conscious thought. To get a new habit equally ingrained means you need to do your new behaviour repeatedly. Although there are methods and techniques that can speed up this process (like Emotional Freedom Technique or hypnotherapy), under your own steam if you can consistently eat in your new chosen way for 30 days, you will have effected a change in your neural pathways and in this way becomes your default programme. The secret of success is to focus on no more than 2 new eating habits at a time. For example, remembering to check how hungry you are before eating, and remembering to chew your food more thoroughly.

To reprogram your brain, you need lots of reminders because your old way is so entrenched. So here are some tips to help you:

Click on this link to goto my Seven Daily Delicious Habits TIPS article to read how this works and download your own Seven Daily Delicious Habits form.

• Allocate 1 or 2 of your food habits to this list of 7. It may seem contradictory to tell you only to choose 1 or 2 food habits then choose 5 others, but eating habits are far more challenging to change than others.

• Create an affirmation. Write it out on 6 or 7 sticky notes. Affirmations have to be in the present tense, for example, “I thoroughly chew each morsel of food before I swallow”. Now take your sticky notes and place them in many different places: on the fridge, inside a kitchen cupboard door, beside your bathroom mirror, in your cutlery drawer and so on. Every time you see your note, pause and read it to yourself.

• Tell someone what you are doing. By sharing your intention, it helps keep you on track.

• Be loving to yourself when you ‘forget’ and your old programming takes over. Just start over. Persistence is key.

Eat Well—Be Well 🙂

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Butter or margarine? Which is best?

butter in butter dishDue to persuasive advertising, most people believe that margarine, or the ‘Healthy Spreads’ as they are now often called, is a better choice than butter. But is it? Which is best for you – butter or margarine? I believe butter is better. Please don’t misunderstand: I’m not saying lashings of butter is good for you: it isn’t! Often there is a much better choice of an oil or fat, particularly in cooking. However, if you are going to choose one over the other, my recommendation would be butter. I know this is controversial, so let me explain a little more.

Butter and the saturated fats argument

In the early 60’s it was thought eating too much saturated fats, increased your cholesterol levels, and that this was contributing to the epidemic of heart disease. It’s now known it’s not as a simple as that. But back then butter, which is high in saturated fat, became the enemy. And so began a move away from butter to margarine: the latter’s status changed from a poor-mans-butter into a ‘healthy’ spread with new manufacturing techniques using polyunsaturated oils.

In 1964 Flora was launched onto the market as a ‘healthy’ margarine. An intensive advertising campaign educated people in the benefits of polyunsaturated fat. Flora positioned itself as the champion to reduce heart disease and became the sponsor of the London Marathon. It is largely down to their marketing that most people still believe margarine is better for health than butter. But this marketing doesn’t tell you how margarine is made…

The manufacture of margarine

Flora’s main advertising message was that polyunsaturated fats are so much better for you than saturated fats. And I agree—when that is, these oils are in their natural state. By the time these oils appear on our table, they are anything but natural. Let me start at the beginning. Polyunsaturated fats are found in seed, plant and nut oil. Oil: not solid fat. To make margarine the oils have to be transformed into a spreadable solid.

The extracted plant or nut oil are first neutralised to remove any free fatty acids which would give the margarine an unpleasant taste. The oil is then bleached and filtered to remove unwanted colour or impurities. To solidify the oil, one of several different methods are used: hydrogenation, fractionation or rearrangement. Hydrogenation was the most popular way. This involved heating the oil to a very high temperature then pumping hydrogen through it, which solidified the oil. To become the product we know as margarine, this solidified oil has to be coloured and flavoured. To get the texture ‘right’, whey, brine and emulsifiers are added. Finally, vitamins A and D are added to match the levels found in butter.

The old hydrogenation process produces what are known as trans fats. In the 1990’s science began to show that people who consumed significant amounts of trans fats were twice as likely to have a heart attack. Flora’s promotion of their margarine as a heart-disease minimising product was now shown to be potentially increasing the risks! Quietly, Flora switched away from hydrogenation. It took them over 2 years to change over to a different production method, but many of their rivals took years longer. As late as 2010 there were still some margarines being manufactured in this way.

The new way of solidifying oils is mostly done by either fractionation or rearrangement. The former involves chilling one oil (usually Palm Oil) to the point where its saturated fats crystallise and become solid. These solids are then blended into another oil until it reaches the right degree of plasticity (the texture for spreading). Rearrangement blends together two oils which have different melting characteristics. Blending the two together at the right temperatures changes the combined composition to form a solid.

Low fat margarines

There is an urban belief that if you eat foods with a lower calorie content than a similar product, which has a higher calorie content, then the former must be better for you.

Low Fat margarines were created to meet the desire of eating less calories. To create a lower-fat content margarine, manufacturers replace some of the oil with buttermilk, or they increase the whey and water content. The calorie content of full-fat margarine is the same as butter. Low fat margarines ‘feel’ light in the mouth: more watery—because they indeed have more water. It is fat that gives you a feeling of fullness. Low fat or “Light” versions often lead to a tendency to use more to get some taste, which really defeats the object of choosing them.

What’s really in our processed foods?

We are largely ignorant of how processed foods are actually made. When we pick up margarine or any other food and scan the ingredients list, we don’t know what changes the manufacturing process has done to the natural ingredient and its nutritional content. The oils used in margarine manufacture, in their raw state, are rich in vitamins and nutrients, for example, Olive Oil has good amounts of Omega 3 whilst Palm Oil (often hidden under the pseudonym of “vegetable oil”) has excellent antioxidants. All of these nutrients however are destroyed by the bleaching and high temperatures that they go through in the manufacture. Vitamins are added because the production process destroys those found naturally in the oils.

Labelling laws means that the ingredients of processed foods have to be listed, BUT chemicals used in the production process, but that do not end up in the final product, are not required to be listed. For example the bleaching chemicals and nickel used in the solidification process of margarine are not listed on the label.

In moderation—butter is probably better than margarine

Your body evolved over millennia to digest a whole range of different foods and it does so very efficiently when given natural food. Your body has not evolved to digest the chemically changed foods that were unknown to our Great Grandparents let alone our ancient ancestors.

Butter is no longer churned by hand: like margarine manufacture, most butter is produced in farm factories which look nothing like domestic kitchens, and yet the process is still the same as it has been for centuries: cream is churned; buttermilk is drained away; salt is added. It is not artificially changed.

Butter has a higher percentage of saturated fats than margarine. A diet high in saturated fats can be damaging to your health, and yet the modification of oils in the production of margarine can, in my view, be far more damaging to your health as your body hasn’t yet evolved to digest these changed compounds. My view is that in very modest amounts, butter is better than the same amount of margarine.

Finally, it is interesting to note that our French cousins eat far more butter and cream than we do in the UK and yet they have a far lower rates of heart disease. Cooking and preparing natural food is still high on their agenda. The difference in levels of heart disease could well be down to their use of more natural ingredients—even ones which we know are not particularly good for your health.

Eat Well—Be Well 🙂

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Zero calories – please don’t be fooled!

Note from Jennie: This blog was written in May 2013. The ads mentioned about burning off calories after drinking a Regular Coke have been dropped, but the persuasiveness of the their current ads and what’s really in these drinks is still important – so I’ve decided to publish it on this website

Stop! Don’t drink that can of Coke…

Forgive me: I’m about to have a rant, but before I do, let me breathe and give you some information so you know where I’m coming from. Also I need to say up-front, that there was a time when I was hooked on Diet Coke, so I know how addictive it is.

zero calories in cokeCoca Cola is, as I’m sure you know, the world’s largest soft-drink producer. Globally, 1.7 billion servings of their drinks are drunk every day. Only 2 countries in the world do not (legally) sell Coca Cola: North Korea and Cuba. Their yearly revenue in 2011 was over $35 billion which makes them equivalent to the 84th largest economy in the world.

Originally, Coca Cola was made from extracts of the Kola Nut (for it’s caffeine content) and Coca Leaves (source for cocaine). Today Coke doesn’t contain either of these ingredients, but there are several different recipes. For example Regular Coca Cola made in the USA is sweetened with HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) whilst in the UK Regular Coca Cola is sweetened with sugar. Each can of Regular Coca Cola contains the equivalent of 10 sugar cubes. Imagine putting 10 sugar cubes into a your mug of tea or coffee—yuck!

A recent study led by Imperial College, London, showed that just ‘one-can-a-day’ of fizzy drinks with sugar increases your chances of getting diabetes by 22%. But the report implied that drinks without sugar, did not increase the risk. However, artificial sweeteners are NOT good for your body. The use of Aspartame in particular is contentious and in terms of weight loss (see below).

Recently Coca Cola is positioning itself to be seen helping the obesity epidemic. Of course they don’t mention they played a part in encouraging us to drink their sugar laden drinks!

COKE’S TV ADVERTS

Coca Cola ads are always slick, clever and beautifully shot, but they are truly misleading!

The latest Regular Coke TV Ad, says a can has 140 calories that you can easily burn off with a bop – or if you’re not in the mood for exercise, then drink Zero. It is scientifically proven that the calories-in/calories-out theory is far, far too simplistic. Your body DOES NOT count calories! Where you get your calories from is far more important than the number. How you burn your calories will depend on a whole host of different factors: age, gender, hormone levels, physical stature, your body type, muscle-to-fat ratio and so on. Sugar has zero nutritional value to your body. A sugary drink like Regular Coca Cola quickly increases your blood sugar levels. If you don’t have an instant need for this energy, your body will reduce your blood sugar levels using insulin to mop up the excess sugar and convert it into stored fat.

Zero’s Ad message is: “You won’t notice the difference in the taste”. Cue clever cinema Ad where a handsome guy in a cinema foyer is secretly switching Regular Coca Cola orders for Zero. Then ‘surprise’, before the film starts the audience is shown the switch. The final message is “No Sugar”, but what they don’t tell you is all the additives they have put into the drink to replace the sugar.

And the current Diet Coke Ad uses a well-used formula where a group of gorgeous, healthy, happy young women find a way to get a handsome guy strip off his shirt to reveal a toned six pack. The ad’s message makes you believe that “Zero Calories” is good for you with the powerful sub-text is that you too can look like and be like these people. There is not one person in these ads that is remotely overweight.

BUT the Diet and Zero drinks are NOT any better for you than Regular—no matter how persuasive their ads make you believe that they are. All of their Colas can have a negative impact on your health.

WHAT ARE WE REALLY DRINKING?

Below are the ingredients that Coca Cola lists on their drinks: ‘flavourings’ don’t have to be declared. I currently don’t understand why they aren’t, I suspect it’s to do with a brand’s secret recipe.

Regular Coca Cola: Carbonated water, sugar, colour (caramel E150d), Phosphoric Acid, natural flavourings including caffeine.

Diet Cola: Carbonated Water, colour (caramel E150d), sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame K), flavourings including caffeine, Phosphoric Acid, Citric Acid: contains a source of Phenylalanine

Zero: Carbonated water, colour (Caramel E150d), Phosphoric Acid, sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame K), flavourings including caffeine, Acidity Regulator (E331): contains a source of Phenylalanine

I willing to bet that you don’t know what some of these ingredients are—I had to look a few of them up too! We have come to trust brands like Coca Cola and assume that they would never put stuff into our food and drinks that would be harmful to us. It’s not deliberate I’m sure, but I do believe that profits come first. Many of the ingredients in processed foods are questionable, not least that our bodies have not evolved to be able to process them. Although each food additive has to be tested for safety, there is no research to show what happens when we ingest many of these chemicals together.

Caramel E150d – it’s chemical name is sulphite ammonia caramel which is manufactured by heating sugars with a sulphite and ammonia (yes, the stuff found in cleaning products) or ammonium compounds.

Phosphoric Acid – is used to acidify the colas giving it the tangy slightly sour flavour. It’s a cheaper option than Citric Acid. Phosphoric Acid has many uses: it’s used in dentistry, helps remove rust and is found in many cleaning products. Various studies have shown that Phosphoric Acid can have an adverse effect on health. Lower bone density was observed when Phosphoric Acid was consumed in carbonated drinks containing caffeine (Heaney and Rafferty 2001). Another study in 2007 (Saldana, Basso et al) found that consumption of colas (all varieties) was associated an increased risk of chronic kidney disease.

Aspartame – this artificial sweetener has masses of controversy around it’s effects on health with claims about it causing migraines and digestive problems, with wilder claims about cancers and tumours. Whilst it indeed has zero calories, there are many studies showing it acts as an appetite stimulant, which is counter productive for weight loss.

Acesulfame K – is another artificial sweetener, that like Aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar. It has a bitter aftertaste but when blended with Aspartame, this bitterness is masked.

Citric Acid – is a natural acid found in lemons and citrus fruits but it now manufactured using a mold and fermentation technique.

Caffeine – is a socially acceptable stimulant that is highly addictive. On my weight loss programme I ask people to take caffeine out of their diet, and there is a dramatic improvement on the quality of their sleep when they do so.

WHY AM I GETTING HOT UNDER THE COLLAR?

Because these very clever ads by Coca Cola (and many others: Special K may get it’s own rant one day!) are incredibly misleading. There is a truly an epidemic of obesity and it is ruining people’s lives. As well as the major health risks that comes from being overweight or obese there are the social costs of feeling unlovable and having low self esteem too. I feel it’s wrong to deliberately mislead people in the way that Coca Cola are doing via their adverts that their drinks can help people struggling with their weight, when their Diet Coke and Zero are not healthy alternatives.

I want for you to be conscious of what Coca Cola are NOT telling you. That perhaps like me you will switch to drinks that are based on natural ingredients only.

Coca Cola and other large corporations respond quickly to changes in the market place. If enough people stop drinking their current offerings, they will very soon come up with a different version—perhaps one that is based on natural ingredients.

OK, rant over! what are you thoughts? Please let me know.

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