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Keto 101

Burn fat faster than ever! Watch your fat disappear!

Ketogenic (‘keto’) diets have taken the world by storm.

You’ve probably read the headlines and wondered whether you should take the plunge if the results are really that dramatic and that easy. But are they, though?

This article will give you the inside scoop on what the diet involves, whether it’s healthy and even sustainable for ‘normal’ people. Here goes …

What Is Keto?   

The keto diet is the ultimate low carb diet. It’s also moderate in terms of protein and very high in fat.

In essence, it’s pretty much like the Atkins diet, but its fans like to describe it as a more modern version of it with a solid scientific basis. The major differences between the classic keto and the Atkins diet is the former emphasizes healthier keto fats, less overall protein and no processed meat (such as bacon) and has more research to back up its efficacy in the management of numerous health conditions – more on this later.

Although dieters tend to lose weight, there is more of an emphasis of the ketogenic diet as a therapeutic diet, which may improve compliance for those that follow it for health reasons. Like the Atkins diet, the ketogenic diet aims at keeping the body in permanent ketosis. Let’s take a look at what that actually is …

Ketosis

During ketosis, the body uses fat for energy. It doesn’t normally, though. The body’s preferred fuel source is glucose, which is the easiest molecule for it to convert into energy. This glucose comes from dietary carbohydrates.

With the ketogenic diet, you dramatically lower your intake of carbs and increase your intake of fats. As a result of this carb-limiting diet, the body no longer has the glucose it needs for energy. So it has to find an alternative energy source—and that source is fat. Fat starts to get broken down into ketone bodies (ketones for short), which generate food for your cells to produce energy. It will continue to do so until carbohydrates are reintroduced and glucose can once again be used. If that doesn’t happen, it will keep burning fat reserves indefinitely and that forces the body into a state of ketosis. Ketosis is in fact a natural process that helps you survive when food intake is low.

Benefits

Research clearly shows that the ketogenic diet can be effective for weight loss. It changes your metabolism from burning sugar to burning fat. Because it’s largely based on protein and fat, it’s filling and satisfying which means no hunger cravings and consistent energy levels.

It also helps fight diabetes- by reducing your carb intake you reduce the levels of insulin being released after a meal. This helps reduce blood sugar levels and reverse “insulin resistance,” which is the underlying problem contributing to diabetes symptoms.

It can help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides and increasing “good “cholesterol.

It can help protect against cancer- certain studies suggest that keto diets may “starve” cancer cells. The regular cells found in our bodies are able to use fat for energy, but it’s believed that cancer cells cannot metabolically shift to use fat rather than glucose and are therefore starved of their fuel in a ketogenic diet.

Over the past century, ketogenic diets have also been used as natural remedies to treat and even help reverse neurological disorders and cognitive impairments, including epilepsy, Alzheimer’s symptoms, manic depression and anxiety.

Potential Downsides

The diet is very strict. So, you might not be prepared for having to cut back on many fruits, your favourite cappuccino or latte, and alcohol (it’s not cut out entirely – spirits are OK but watch the sugary mixers, and champagne and wine are not so bad in moderation but it very much depends on your sensitivity to carbs).

One of the most important characteristics of any diet or eating plan is not its ability to help you lose weight in the short term, but whether you can easily follow the plan for the rest of your life, and enjoy and thrive on it? And whether it provide all the nutrients you need to stay healthy?

Altering your food group ratio so drastically is really hard to do even short term. So, often when people go off it, they gain the weight back — and maybe even more.

These rapid weight fluctuations can put stress on the heart. Recent research found that people who have the greatest variability in measures like fasting blood glucose, cholesterol, blood pressure and body weight are 2.3 times more likely to die from any cause, and more than 40 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke compared with those who stay more stable. Staying stable in these measurements is healthier than constantly going up and down. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to reach a healthy weight, only that restrictive diets that lead to loss and regain can make you worse off than when you began.

The specific foods you choose on keto matter, too. Make sure you don’t rely too heavily on animal sources of fat and protein such as cheese and meat. The latter is associated with a 43 percent higher risk of mortality compared with those who emphasise vegetable sources such as healthy monounsaturated, polyunsaturated fats from olives, avocados, seeds, nuts, and omega 3 fats from oily fish.

Finally, it’s worth bearing in mind that genes may affect your ability to metabolise fats. So, the diet shouldn’t be considered a blanket-diet for everyone. Keto isn’t just about weight loss, it’s about our metabolism on a cellular level.

However, having said all of this, there are many variations of the keto diet which can really help meet individual needs and goals.

What Do You Eat?

Included

Meat, fish, poultry, eggs.

Leafy Greens like spinach and kale.

Above-ground vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, etc.

High Fat Dairy like hard cheeses, cream, butter, etc.

Nuts and seeds

Avocado

Berries – raspberries, strawberries, blueberries blackberries, and other low GL berries

Other fats – coconut oil, high-fat salad dressing, saturated fats, etc.

Excluded

Grains like wheat, corn, rice, barley.

Sugars: honey, agave, maple syrup.

Fruit like apples, bananas, oranges.

Potato, yams, etc.

Getting into Ketosis

There are no fixed percentages for macronutrient distribution (i.e. not a specific ratio of fats, carbs, etc.) as not everyone is equally sensitive to carbohydrates. This means you’ll have to test where your carb threshold lies by measuring ketone bodies in the urine, blood or breath.

You might be reading this thinking, ‘I can do this’, but the reality can be very testing. It can, in fact, take 4 weeks to get there and during the transition period many experience ‘keto flu’ – flu-like symptoms i.e. digestive issues like constipation, headaches, weakness during workouts, being moody, losing libido and having bad breath. Fortunately, these side effects don’t affect everyone and often only last for 1–2 weeks. This happens when the body runs out of glucose and has not yet learned to switch to using fat for energy – that’s because it hasn’t had to for such a long time. Until you become ‘fat adapted’ (i.e. your body has re-learned to use fat) there is a period of low energy. It is this taxing time that can put people off.

The people that do well on a ketogenic diet are those with a really compelling reason to do it, perhaps one of the chronic health conditions this diet can help.

Broccoli with Chilli, Garlic & Crunchy Almonds

Broccoli is one of nature’s superfoods if ever there was one, bursting with vitamin C and packed with liver-supporting sulphur. Turn up the flavour volume with this delicious simple recipe.

INGREDIENTS  

1 head of broccoli broken into florets

1 red chilli, thinly sliced (deseeded if you prefer less heat)

Handful of flaked almonds

4-6 garlic cloves sliced thinly

Sea salt

2 tablespoons olive oil for frying

 METHOD

Lightly steam the broccoli for 3-5 mins until tender.

In a frying pan gently heat 2 tablespoons olive oil, then add the chilli and garlic and cook for 1-2 mins.

Do NOT take your eyes off the pan here because you don’t want the garlic to burn or it will be bitter and you’ll have to start again. You just want to take the edge off the garlic and soften the taste.

Then add the flaked almonds for 20 seconds.

Finally add the cooked broccoli, season with a little salt and gently mix everything together and serve. Enjoy!

Simplified from Ottolenghi’s Grilled Broccoli with Chilli and Garlic Recipe

Heal Your IBS

 

If you’ve just been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, the good news is that it doesn’t have to be a lifelong sentence! There’s a lot that can be done with nutrition and lifestyle to help support you because they are tailored to your individual needs, depending on the underlying causes of your IBS. Each person will have different root causes, unique triggers and struggle with different symptoms so an individualised, holistic approach is especially helpful.

IBS symptoms can include bloating and gas, cramping and abdominal pain, diarrhoea and/or constipation, and changes in poop colour and appearance.

Causes of IBS Symptoms

  1. Imbalances in the composition of the gut bacteria in the colon (large intestine). Specifically, those with IBS tend to have decreased levels of “good” bacteria, such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, and increased levels of harmful strains such as E. coli and Clostridia.
  2. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) -a kind of bacterial imbalance where the small intestines harbour an abnormal number of bacteria. Compared to the colon, the small intestine should have a bacterial concentration that is considerably lower.
  3. Increased Gut Permeability (or ‘Leaky Gut’)– the gastrointestinal tract is lined with a single layer of tightly packed cells designed to keep unwelcome visitors and large undigested food molecules out of the bloodstream. If the barriers between cells become permeable or ‘leaky’ undigested protein molecules and bacterial toxins can pass through and trigger immune reactions and inflammation
  4. Gut infections– many studies have confirmed a link between bacterial gastroenteritis and future development of IBS.
  5. Food Intolerances– are extremely common in IBS patients and include gluten dairy, seafood, and soy. But bear in mind that food intolerances themselves are often symptoms of deeper causes like SIBO, gut infections, and/or gut permeability.
  6. Gut-brain Connection– The digestive tract is sensitive to emotion. Anger, anxiety, sadness, elation—all these feelings can trigger symptoms in the gut. That’s because the brain and the digestive system are intimately linked through a two-way communication channel. It makes total sense. When we’re nervous we feel “butterflies” in our stomach. When we’re full, the stomach sends a message to the brain to stop eating.

What You Can Do About It

Here are some of the approaches that have helped my clients who have suffered from IBS symptoms.  

Testing for Root Causes

Testing is extremely useful as it helps identify root causes of IBS, and saves a lot of time.

Stool testing can be very helpful in determining how well you’re digesting your food, whether you have a bacterial imbalance or unwelcome visitors such as parasites or yeast overgrowth contributing to your symptoms.

A SIBO breath test can be done to determine whether there is an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. 

A simple elimination diet or food intolerance test can be used to help identify potential offending food.

Once testing identifies imbalances, nutritional approaches can be used to help rebalance gut bacteria and support healing of the digestive tract. Below are some of the tools I commonly use in my clinic.

Digestive Support

Digestive enzymes and stomach acid– can be used to help support optimal digestion, which in turn helps reduce IBS symptoms. Stomach acid is vital for protecting against infectious agents and digesting food but also for preventing bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, especially important when addressing SIBO-related IBS.

Probiotics– can help boost levels of friendly bacteria and thereby help support optimal intestinal motility (to reduce diarrhoea and constipation), reduce gut permeability and intestinal inflammation. The most appropriate probiotic will depend on your specific issues- in SIBO for example, certain strains are better tolerated than others.

Low-FODMAP Diet– clinical trials have consistently shown that adopting a diet low in FODMAPs can significantly reduce the severity of IBS symptoms. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides, and polyols and is a kind of short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed by humans. These unabsorbed FODMAPs are fermented by intestinal bacteria, resulting in gas, bloating, and abdominal distention. FODMAPs also draw liquid into your intestines, which can contribute to abdominal discomfort and diarrhoea. However, it’s important to realize that a strict low-FODMAP diet is not for everyone, and it is primarily a way to manage symptoms in the short term. Maintained long term, it can lead to reduced bacterial diversity in the gut, which can actually contribute to IBS.

Mind–Body Approaches

As I mentioned above, the digestive system is connected to the brain. Stress signals along the gut-brain communication pathways can actually affect stool transit, increase sensitivity to abdominal pain and discomfort, increase intestinal permeability, and disrupt the delicate balance of intestinal bacteria. Having effective ways of managing mental stress is not only important in itself but also helps other approaches to be more effective- this could be walking in nature, meditation or yoga for example.

Yummy Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Here’s how to make a perfect cauliflower pizza crust, for a healthy and low-carb option. It seems that there are a lot of steps but there aren’t, it’s just to provide clarity. Time-saving tips included!

Ingredients- Serves 4

  • 2 pounds cauliflower cut into floret
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup soft goat cheese (chevre)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
  2. If using fresh cauliflower, steam it until very tender and can be pierced with a fork.
  3. If using frozen cauliflower, be sure to thaw it completely, then continue with the following steps.
  4. Pour the completely thawed, or freshly steamed, cauliflower into a large food processor fitted with an “S” blade. (You may have to do this in batches if you have a smaller food processor.)
  5. Process until a rice-like texture is created.
  6. Drain the “rice” thoroughly to get all the excess moisture out! A lot of extra liquid will be released, which will leave you with a nice and dry pizza crust.
  7. In a large bowl, mix up the squeezed-out “rice”, egg, goat cheese, and spices. (Don’t be afraid to use your hands! You want it very well mixed.) It won’t be like any pizza dough you’ve ever worked with, but don’t worry– it’ll hold together!
  8. Press the dough out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (It’s important that it’s lined with parchment paper, or it will stick.)
  9. Keep the dough about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick, and make the edges a little higher for a “crust” effect, if you like.
  10. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 200F, until dry and golden, but not burned. Use the parchment paper to flip the crust over, and bake again until the other side is nice and dry, about 10 to 15 more minutes.
  11. Add your favourite pizza toppings to the crust, such as tomato sauce, olives, anchovies, peppers, onions, chicken, cheese and then return the pizza to the 200ºC.  Bake an additional 5-10 minutes. Slice and serve warm.

Recipe Notes

Time-Saving Tip: Make a double-batch of cauliflower pizza crusts to make one for now, and save one for later. After baking the crusts, wrap up the extra pizza crust in foil, and FREEZE it for a quick “frozen pizza” to enjoy another night! All you need to do is add toppings and bake at 200ºC until the cheese is hot and bubbly.

Slightly adapted from https://detoxinista.com

Eat Your Way to Radiant, Healthy Skin

Healthy, beautiful skin starts with nourishment from within. Older cells are constantly shed and replaced by younger ones and a steady supply of key nutrients is essential to support this rapid growth. Skin health can be compromised by overexposure to the sun and tanning beds, strong soaps, chemicals and poor nutrition.

Most people don’t give a second’s thought to their skin – unless they’re scowling at the wrinkles, wobbly bits in the mirror or have an issue like acne, psoriasis, or other skin conditions. Your skin does a fabulous job keeping your insides in, protecting you from infection and radiation, and keeping you warm. There’s also a huge amount you can do to keep your skin looking healthy and fresh and – I’m happy to tell you – stave off the wrinkles without buying that expensive anti-ageing cream. Read on to find out how.

Avoid or Reduce the Bad Guys

Smoking, alcohol, caffeine, food additives like flavourings and colourings, sugar, and tobacco are full of cell-damaging free radicals which play havoc with your skin. Free radicals can damage the skin by trying to grab an extra electron from atoms in the skin. When atoms are taken away from molecules in the skin, it causes damage to our skin’s DNA that can speed along skin aging. Think about where you could cut down.

Be Fat-Friendly

Essential fats found in oily fish, avocados, nuts act as a natural moisturiser for your skin, keeping it supple and improving elasticity by keeping cell membranes soft and smooth – they’re nature’s perfect skin plumpers. Omega-3 fats from oily fish encourage the body to produce anti-inflammatory compounds which can help inflammatory skin conditions in particular, such as eczema and psoriasis.

Just in case the word ‘fat’ sends a red flag up for you, I want to reassure you that scientists have finally admitted that the ‘eating fat makes you fat’ mantra was flawed. Eating the right type of fat, in appropriate amounts, is not only not bad, it is really, truly GOOD for your skin and health.

Eat Back the Clock

Stock up on a rainbow colour of fruit and veg- more veg than fruit though. They contain powerful antioxidants that help protect skin from the cellular damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants help reduce skin inflammation and the speed of skin aging and degeneration. These antioxidants are crucial for your entire body – not just your skin. Betacarotene found in carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin, and lutein found in kale, papaya and spinach are potent antioxidants which are important for normal skin cell development and healthy skin tone.

Eat them raw or lightly steamed as cooking for long periods destroys enzymes, minerals and vitamins. Increase your intake step-by-step: make a concerted effort to add at least one extra portion of veg (about 80g) every night this week to your evening meal. You should also aim to ‘eat a rainbow’ over the course of the week – that means picking as many different colours of fruit and veg as you can.

As a very general rule, each different colour group contains a different set of plant chemicals. Scientists now know that bringing a variety of different antioxidants into your diet has a synergistic effect, which means the combined result is more powerful than the individual parts.

Drink Up!

Keep skin cells plump and full or your skin will look shrivelled and dehydrated – a long cry from that radiant glow you’re going for. Cells also need water to regenerate and remove the build up of waste products (toxins). It’s a very simple (and free) step that most people don’t prioritise and yet the results can be striking.

Don’t forget that some fruit and vegetables, such as watermelon, courgette and cucumber, also contribute fluids – the added benefit is that the minerals they contain will increase the rate you hydrate your body and skin.

Aim for 1.5-2 litres a day, depending on weather conditions and your level of exercise. You’ll soon see the benefit for you skin.

Helpful Nutrients For Skin Health

Vitamins A, C, E and selenium are antioxidants that limit the damage free radicals do to collagen (a structural protein which gives skin its firmness ) and elastin fibres (a protein which helps keep skin tight).

Foods to include (aside from the vitamin C and the vitamin A foods below): sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, Swiss chard, papaya, mustard greens, asparagus, peppers, Brazil nuts, fresh tuna, some meats including pork, beef, turkey and chicken, cottage cheese, eggs, brown rice, sunflower seeds, spinach, oats, mushrooms.

Vitamin C is needed to produce collagen, which strengthens the capillaries that supply the skin with nutrients. And it’s also a super antioxidant.  Foods to include: blackcurrants, red peppers, kale, collard leaves, broccoli, kiwis, oranges, courgettes, cauliflower and spinach, citrus fruit.

Vitamin A stimulates the production of new skin cells. A lack of vitamin A can result in dry, rough skin as well as too much keratin production (a protein which holds skin cells together to form a barrier) in the hair follicles. This can cause small pimples or swelling on the skin, often forming part of a rash. Foods to include: sweet potato, carrots, butternut squash, spinach, kale, collard greens, turnip greens, romaine lettuce.

Vitamin D. People today are aware of the importance of maintaining optimal blood levels of vitamin D for their overall health and well-being. What many people do not know is that vitamin D plays an integral role in skin cell growth, repair, and metabolism. We get most of our vitamin D by the action of direct sunlight onto our bare skin. It’s hard to get enough vitamin D from food alone, but try to include more sardines, salmon, tuna, swordfish, eggs, orange juice, fortified cereals – and don’t forget a daily dose of getting out into the sun!

Zinc is involved in the normal functioning of the sebaceous glands in the skin (which produce oil) and helps to repair skin damage and keep skin soft and supple. A lack of zinc can result in poor skin healing, eczema and rashes. Foods to include: venison, fish, ginger root, lamb, lean beef, turkey, green vegetables, oats, nuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, yoghurt, scallops.

Essential fats for making cell membranes. A lack of essential fats causes cells to dry out too quickly, resulting in dry skin and an increased risk for inflammatory skin conditions. Foods to include: oily fish (salmon, sardines, halibut, scallops), green leafy vegetables, chia seeds, flaxseed, walnuts and tofu.

Watch What You Put On Your Body

The skin is the largest organ in the body with a surface area about the size of a double bed. One of the core principles to remember when it comes to skin care is that whatever you slather onto your skin will be absorbed into your body and enter your bloodstream. You’ll be surprised at the amount of toxins that can enter your body through your skin, especially through cumulative, daily exposure to toxic ingredients found in modern beauty products such as shampoo, cosmetics and lotions.

Women are especially at high risk of this kind of toxic overload. If you use make-up on a daily basis, for instance, you can absorb almost 5 pounds of chemicals into your body each year! These chemicals can cause hormonal imbalances, fatigue, headaches, digestive upsets, flu-like symptoms, and aching joints, which are just some of the symptoms of toxic overload.

Here Are A Few Toxic Ingredients To Avoid In Skincare:

Parabens– Have hormone-disrupting qualities that mimic estrogen and could disrupt your body’s endocrine system.

Mineral Oil, Paraffin and Petrolatum– These petroleum products coat the skin like plastic – clogging pores and creating a build-up of toxins. They can disrupt hormonal activity. When you think about black oil pumped from deep underground, ask yourself why you’d want to put that kind of stuff on your skin…

Sodium laurel or lauryl sulfate (SLS), also known as sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)- SLS combined with other chemicals may become a “nitrosamine” – a potent carcinogen.

Propylene glycol– a common cosmetic moisturizer and carrier for fragrance oils. May cause dermatitis and skin irritation.

 Learn How To Deal With Problem Skin

A targeted nutrition plan can work wonders for skin problems like acne, eczema, psoriasis and so on. This kind of personalised nutrition is often poorly understood and isn’t really talked about in the media. It doesn’t work to just add to your diet a single ‘superfood’. However, a bespoke plan that takes into all of your skin – and health – concerns can make a huge difference. Ask me how. I’d love to help.

 

Arthritis: What You Need To Know

As we get older, one of the things that can start to happen is that we experience aches and pains. If your aches and pains are a regular feature of your life, it’s definitely worth asking your doctor or physio for advice. Sometimes that regular twinge you are getting is something more serious, but don’t let the possibility of ‘something more serious’ prevent you from getting it checked out. If it’s nothing but creaking joints, that’s great. If it’s something else, well we can work on that too.

You may have guessed that the ‘something else’ I am thinking about is arthritis. I want to share some of my top tips for using food to help alleviate some of the symptoms of arthritis.

Types of Arthritis

There are 2 types of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage between bones and joints wears down, allowing bones to rub together rather than giving them the protection and cushion they need. Cartilage is made up of collagen and other substances that make connective tissue both flexible and strong. Cartilage covers the ends of bones where they meet the joints — and deterioration over time can affect the shape and functionality of the joints, making it painful and difficult to carry out everyday tasks.

Under the age of 45, it’s more common in men, and over the age of 45, it’s more common in women. By the time they get to 50, 80% of people will have symptoms associated with this type of arthritis, which starts as a stiffness in the hips, back, knees or other joints. The joints then become increasingly swollen and inflexible.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects someone’s joints and causes ongoing pain, swelling, stiffness and limitations in terms of movements. For most people, their rheumatoid arthritis symptoms tend to flare up at times and become worse when inflammation levels rise, but then become better for a while, only to return once again. It can be triggered by genetics, or a bacterial or viral component, and also environmental or lifestyle factors. About 80% of sufferers are women. The body – for whatever the reason – develops antibodies against its own tissue, and it attacks the cartilage and connective tissue. Over time, joints become inflamed and enlarged.

There are a number of factors that are important in managing arthritis:

  • How good your digestion and detoxification are
  • Blood sugar balance
  • Inflammation
  • Levels of essential fats
  • Allergies

Underlying Causes

The key to improving the symptoms of arthritis is to work on the underlying causes rather than just treating the symptoms.

Digestion

The scene for inflammation – even if that inflammation is elsewhere in the body, e.g. the joints – is often set in the digestive tract. If the gut environment is disturbed (a disruption in the normal balance of bacteria), this can lead to bacterial infection, parasites, intestinal permeability (aka ‘leaky gut’), allergies and intolerances.

What then happens partially digested food proteins get into the bloodstream, along with other toxins and microbes, putting greater pressure on the body’s detoxification processes. Once the liver starts to become over-taxed, any dietary or environmental toxins may cause further inflammation.

A programme that works on creating a good gut environment is ideal. Probiotics and prebiotics can be very helpful.

Blood Sugar Balance

There is a big link between inflammation and how well your body responds to insulin, the hormone produced in the pancreas to help control blood sugar levels. If your body has a reduced sensitivity to insulin, for example due to long-term poor dietary/lifestyle habits or you are diabetic, this can lead to high levels of sugar and/or insulin in the blood. Too much of either is toxic and can trigger inflammatory reactions.

Learning to balance your blood sugar levels plays a key role in managing the symptoms of arthritis. This is achieved through eating adequate amounts of protein at every meal and snack, increasing the amount of non-starchy vegetables, and considering the quality and the quantity of the starchy carbohydrates you eat.

All of my work with clients looks at balancing blood sugar, which focusses on eating real foods (not weird things you can only buy at health food shops), keeps you feeling full, and helps you manage your cravings.

Inflammation

In pretty much every circumstance, joint problems are linked to inflammation and sometimes also to problems with the immune system (autoimmunity).

The body produces chemical agents in the body to either switch on or reduce inflammation.

Prostaglandins are one of the main chemicals in this process, and these are the easiest to manipulate with diet. There are 3 different types. Types 1 and 3 are anti-inflammatory and type 2 is pro-inflammatory (causes inflammation and promotes pain).

Omega-6 fats can convert into either type 1 or type 2 prostaglandins. Eating a diet high in omega-6 polyunsaturated animal fats (found in processed food, ready-made meals, meat and dairy produce – particularly non-organic) has the body producing more of these less desirable type 2 prostaglandins. Reducing animal proteins and dairy products can bring symptomatic relief.

Omega-3 fats on the other hand, can only go down the route towards the anti-inflammatory type 3 prostaglandin. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fats are found in foods like walnuts, flaxseeds, hemp, chia seeds, and oily fish. Monounsaturated fats, e.g. avocados and olive oil, are also anti-inflammatory but work differently and are not involved in these specific pathways.

High levels of sugar and insulin can also direct the conversion of omega-6 fats down the type 2 pro-inflammatory pathway.

There’s another group of chemicals called ‘free radicals’. These are highly reactive oxygen molecules that “steal” electrons (a negatively charged particle that orbits the nucleus in an atom of matter) from neighbouring molecules to stabilise themselves.  You might have heard of free radicals in skincare commercials. They are linked to accelerated ageing, cancer and other diseases. What helps keep these unstable molecules in check are antioxidants (again, something often talked about in skincare).

Antioxidants are found in large amounts in brightly coloured fruit and vegetables. The different colours tend to indicate the type of antioxidants produced – all are good. What we know about antioxidants is that they have a synergistic effect – eating a variety of different ones (by eating a large range of different coloured fruit and veg) has a greater effect that eating the same volume of the same type of fruit or veg.

Bottom line? Eat a LOT of vegetables and a moderate portion of low sugar fruits like berries (which have some of the highest antioxidant levels of all fruit).

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, talk to me about whether a more restrictive diet would work for you. This further cuts out all grains, nightshade foods (like potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, and aubergines) and other foods thought to play a role in causing an inflammatory environment.

Levels of Essential Fats

Omega 3 fatty acids (found in oily fish, seeds like flax, pumpkin and chia, and walnuts) are important to include daily because of their anti-inflammatory properties, which are well-documented.

Allergies

Many people with inflammatory conditions have allergies or intolerances, some of which may be due to leaky gut, where food proteins are able to get through the gut lining, triggering an inflammatory immune response. Common offenders are dairy products, yeast, wheat and gluten, other grains, eggs, beef, chilli, coffee and peanuts. If you experience arthritis – or in fact any other inflammatory condition, there may be mileage in having a food intolerance test. Ask me for details.

Food Action Plan

Remove Gluten and Dairy products

Reduce Animal protein

Increase non-starchy vegetables of all kinds (eat a rainbow of colours),vegetable protein such as pulses, oily fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil

Increase specific foods: celery, chilli, garlic, ginger, pineapple, red peppers, shiitake mushrooms, sweet potato, turmeric

Supplements– there are also numerous supplements which have been researched and can help reduce inflammation, including fish oil, curcumin, proteolytic enzymes, Boswellia. Ask me for details as it’s best to take them under supervision.

Stay Active

Low-impact exercise which doesn’t overly stress sensitive joints, including cycling, walking, water aerobics and yoga is beneficial for strengthening the muscles around the affected joint. this provides added support and reduces strain. Exercise has been shown to help lower inflammation and can even help prevent unnecessary replacement surgeries.

Is Eating Dairy Healthy or Not?

Whether or not you should eat dairy products is one of the things that people most ask me about as a nutrition professional.

There’s the argument from the dairy industry and conventional medicine that if you don’t eat dairy you’re putting your bone health at risk.

Other health professionals have long argued that consuming dairy products causes low-grade inflammation in the body, may increase the risk of cancer, drain your energy and give you spots.

Vegans also argue that eating dairy isn’t natural for humans, and that dairy farming involves cruelty to animals many of us are unaware of, plus it significantly contributes to global warming.

In this newsletter, I want to give you all the details on what’s good and not so good about dairy, and the positive benefits of giving up milk-based products. If you’re even considering ditching dairy, there is one really important thing you need to do. I’ll tell you about that too.

WHY SHOULD I EAT DAIRY?

Dairy products contain a range of beneficial nutrients. Of course, there’s calcium, but it’s also a good source of protein, vitamins D and B12 and phosphorus.

Let’s talk about the calcium in dairy, because this is the thing you are told you will miss most if you stop consuming milk-based products.

Bone is not static but is constantly changing. Old bone breaks down and new bone is formed on a continuous basis. In fact, the tissue of the skeleton is replaced many times during life. When you get past 30, your process of bone breakdown is a bit speedier than new bone being made, so you need to make sure you’re getting good levels of calcium to fortify your skeletal frame.

Although you can get calcium from other foods, the reason why dairy is touted as being the best source, is that the calcium from milk-based foods are more readily absorbed by the body.  Skip down to the bottom of the story to find out how you can safely choose not to have dairy in your life. There are some specific foods you will need to eat.

Cow’s milk also contains the omega 6 fatty acid conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Studies suggest CLA can help with weight loss, and can reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer. CLA is also contained in grass-fed beef.

IS DAIRY BAD FOR YOU?

The bottom line is that human beings weren’t designed to drink milk of any kind after the weaning period (around two years old). Not human milk, and certainly not milk from cows, sheep or goats. Some cultures have embraced drinking dairy products, and people in those cultures have genetically adapted to tolerate it. Others haven’t and for those people in particular, eating dairy can cause problems. Two of the biggest problems associated with dairy are digestive and skin issues.

Let’s have a look at the undesirable stuff in dairy products…

Contrary to popular misconception, growth hormones are banned in the UK and antibiotic use is limited. However, a dairy cow can be given reproductive hormones and prescribed antibiotics by a vet to ensure she is kept in a condition to produce an unnatural amount of milk.

Contains oestrogen. Small amounts, true, but still oestrogen. Some cancers and medical conditions like endometriosis, PMS, fibroids and even menopause are linked to a dominance of oestrogen compared to progesterone.

As well as having more naturally occurring sugar than you’d think. A cup of milk has about 3 teaspoons. Sugar, I hear you say. Where? The type of sugar in milk is called lactose. You might be tempted to say, ‘I’ll have lactose-free milk then’. Lactose-free milk has had the milk sugars broken into galactose and glucose. Same amount of sugars, different currency. However, the milk sugar is often the ingredient people do not tolerate, so a lactose-free milk can provide the benefits of regular milk without the dodgy tummy.

Non-organic dairy products contain antibiotic residues, so if you are eating dairy, try to choose organic.

Many studies have examined the relationship between dairy consumption and cancer. Some studies indicate that dairy may protect against cancer, while others suggest that dairy may increase cancer risk. Most of them are so-called observational studies. These types of studies use statistics to estimate the relationship between dietary intake and the risk of getting a disease. Observational studies can not prove that a food caused a disease, only that those who consumed the food were more or less likely to get the disease.

And you’re more likely to get spots or have acne. There’s significant data supporting the role of dairy consumption in the development of acne, with the strongest association being skim milk. Scientists aren’t 100% sure of the reason why though it’s likely to be something to do with the hormones present in milk. Another theory is that dairy products stimulate insulin secretion and scientists have found that more insulin means more acne.

HOW WILL I FEEL IF I GIVE UP DAIRY?

Everyone will be a little different but these are some of the reported benefits of ditching dairy:

  • Less nasal congestion and stuffiness.
  • Better sleep.
  • Clearer skin.
  • More energy.
  • Weight loss.
  • Reduction in bloating/ other digestive symptoms.
  • Fewer headaches.

I’m not going to go into the impact on the environment of consuming less dairy, and the animal welfare argument. Too many variables. I’ll leave you to just ponder that.

WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES IF I DON’T WANT TO EAT DAIRY?

My favourite non-dairy milks are almond, coconut, hemp, oat, and rice. You’ll want to choose the unsweetened varieties if there is an option.

Use these in porridge, overnight oats smoothies and the like.

THE FOODS YOU NEED TO EAT WHEN YOU’RE GIVING UP DAIRY

You’ll be missing out on calcium for bones, so you’ll need to find it some place else. That means letting more of these foods into your diet on a daily basis: cabbage, spring greens, bok choy, kale, broccoli, okra, almonds, tofu, and fish where you eat the bones (like tinned sardines or tinned salmon with bones).

The RDA (recommended daily allowance or how much a healthy person needs to eat to not get sick) for calcium is 700mg a day.

A fist-sized serving of tofu can be between 200mg and 800mg. One serving in a stir fry at night could get you your calcium fix for the day.

Small can of sardines has 351mg.

2tbsp sesame seeds have 280mg.

2tbsp chia seeds has 179mg.

A cupful of cooked kale has 177mg. Raw (because less fits in the cup), it’s 53mg.

A small handful (about 35g) almonds has nearly 100mg.

A cup of broccoli has 43mg.

Should I eat more spinach to increase calcium?

Some – like spinach or chard – contain oxalic acid, which binds to calcium and can mess with your body’s ability to absorb it properly. Turns out Popeye was eating the wrong sort of greens because, even though spinach technically has a lot of calcium, it’s only a tenth as bioavailable as that from milk due to the oxalic acid.

But, wait, I couldn’t give up…

You don’t have to. If you love pizza, try giving up dairy but having an exception for pizza. Although going completely dairy-free would be the goal, even taking most of the dairy out of your diet can still bring benefits. For most dairy products, there is an excellent dairy alternative. Some are most surprising. I wonder whether you have experienced the delicious creaminess that a handful of cashews can bring to a soup, for example?

However, there are some groups of people who really should give it a miss; those who have an intolerance to dairy would do well to remove it entirely for at least three months to heal the gut. And, if you have a true allergy to dairy (IgE reaction), you will want to steer clear forever.

Would You Go Vegan?

Being vegan is really fashionable right now, and those in favour of this way of eating will tell you that it’s the absolutely healthiest diet you can have from a nutritional perspective, plus you get to save not only the lives of animals but the planet too. For many of us it could be a bit challenging to go from where we are now to a 100% vegan diet.

So, I’m going to put it all out there for you: what it means to be vegan, what’s great about it, potential drawbacks and where you might struggle – and I’ll also be giving you tips for getting started, whether your intention is to immerse yourself fully or if you just fancy dabbling (either is fine – just saying).

WHAT IS A VEGAN DIET?

A vegan diet is a stricter version of a vegetarian diet. So in addition to not eating any meat, fish or seafood – i.e. dead animals, a vegan diet also cuts out any food stuffs made from animal sources (some of which are the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat). So, not just cutting out chicken meat, but also cutting out eggs. In the same vein, not just cutting out beef but also milk, yoghurt, butter and cream. And that means honey, too, as well as certain wines* and desserts (gelatine).

In a nutshell, vegan diets abstain from ALL animal products and consume only plant-based foods  which means NO meat, fish, eggs or dairy.

There is no set macro of micro nutrient ratio for a vegan diet; just vegetables, grains, fruit, nuts, seeds and any other foods made from plants. However, since the main vegan protein sources are pulses and grains, and only a combination of the two provides complete proteins (containing all the amino acids), by definition this can be a high carbohydrate diet.

* If you’re wondering ‘why is wine not vegan?’ Here’s the answer…all young wines are a little bit cloudy thanks to tiny molecules like proteins, tartrates, tannins and phenolics. These are completely harmless, but we wine-drinkers like our wines to be clear and bright. To make the wines clear, wine makers have traditionally used some added ingredients called ‘fining agents’ to help the process along. They include casein (milk protein) or albumin (egg whites), gelatine (animal protein) or isinglass (fish bladder protein). They act like a magnet, resulting in far fewer ­– but larger – particles that are more easily removed.

Advantages Of Going Vegan

  • Cruelty-free
  • Promotes natural foods
  • Rich in vitamin C, fibre, antioxidants and other plant chemicals
  • Helpful for some health conditions (rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, other auto-immune conditions).

Potential Challenges In Going Vegan

  • Natural food is not a requirement to comply with the diet
  • Does not explicitly encourage healthy eating patterns
  • May be nutrient deficient (B12, haem iron, omega-3 fats, complete protein)
  • Often high in carbohydrates which can lead to weight management issues
  • Can be too low in protein, which could be problematic if you’re stressed or recovering from adrenal fatigue
  • Does not limit or exclude sugar
  • Not suitable for elderly, pregnant women, type 2 diabetics, or those with high triglycerides or carbohydrate intolerance
  • Not always practical, especially when travelling abroad
  • May or may not be effective for weight loss

IS BEING VEGAN HEALTHY?

 Good question! There have been various well-publicised assertions over the years (most notably the book The China Study and, more recently, the film What the Health) that claimed eating a vegan diet was the healthiest thing you could do. A vegan diet, when carefully planned and executed, can be healthy for many people — however, it’s not always a good idea for everyone nor does it automatically mean it’s a healthy diet. And it depends whether you do it short or long-term.

Some studies have found that compared to lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets (those who eat eggs and dairy but not meat), vegan diets seem to offer additional protection for obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular mortality. On the other hand, studies also show that there are some nutrient deficiencies that tend to be higher among vegans, especially those consuming processed diets or struggling with other health conditions that interfere with normal nutrient absorption (like anaemia, or being underweight).

Although vegans commonly take an interest in how diet relates to health and tend to educate themselves about nutrition, the vegan diet does not explicitly prescribe healthy foods. There is a vegan alternative for every junk food out there.  And you can live on white toast with margarine and jam (and see your blood sugar levels sky rocket) while still being vegan – and that is certainly not healthy.

Given that the vast majority of health complaints are linked to chronic inflammation, a plant-focussed, antioxidant-rich vegan diet plays an important part in mediating inflammation, and it will certainly not hinder your attempts to become more healthy. Plus, given we don’t eat nearly as much fibre as we should for optimum health, committing to eating more plant foods is only going to be a good thing.

But, it may not provide sufficient nutrients for combatting certain conditions, notably auto-immune conditions where inflammation is at the root cause- here the addition of fish and eggs would better support the immune system.

Compromise….? Because a vegan diet can be both hard to follow long-term and is also potentially problematic, some people prefer to stick with a “flexitarian” approach instead which involves eating fewer animal products. For example, you might not consider yourself a vegan or even a vegetarian, but you can still make a conscious effort to limit your intake of animal products, focusing on eating plant foods the majority of the time. With this flexible approach you might still choose to have animal products several times per week but probably not every single day.

Things To Be Mindful Of On A Vegan Diet

  • Vegan diets don’t provide the fat-soluble vitamins A and D. You can’t get vitamin A from carrots. What you get is beta carotene, which is the precursor to vitamin A.
    • You may have heard that carotene can be converted into vitamin A, but this conversion is usually insignificant.
    • Firstly, it takes a huge amount of carotene to convert into a small amount of vitamin A.
    • And, if you have low thyroid function, impaired digestion or a lack of healthy fats in the diet, this conversion won’t happen at all.
  • Vegan diets (unless you’re eating a lot of natto – a kind of fermented soy) don’t give you the vitamin K2. This is needed for shuttling calcium into your bones.
  • Many people try to be vegan by relying on fake food ­– they replace milk, cheese and meat with foods manufactured to look and taste as though they are milk, cheese and meat. What is used is non-foodstuffs, including stabilisers, gums, thickeners and highly processed protein extracts. Moreover, you may be counting your vegan cheese in as a source of protein, when many of them are actually made from carbs or fats.
  • Vegan diets can be low in protein– proteins are broken down into amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle and are important for cellular health, proper metabolism and the immune system. Too little protein can contribute to muscle wasting, cognitive changes, mood swings, low energy and a weakened immune system.
  • Vegan diets are low on vitamin B12 and iron. The readily-absorbed forms of these nutrients are found in animal products. Several studies suggest that up to 68% of vegans are deficient in vitamin B12.
  • Several studies have shown that both vegetarians and vegans are also prone to deficiencies in calcium, iron, zinc, and essential fats like omega 3 (fats which can’t be made by the body but need to be obtained from food- or supplements) which are readily- absorbed only from oily fish.

HOW TO GET STARTED ON A VEGAN DIET

Some people like to make changes all in one go. If this is you, choosing a vegan recipe book from the resources I’ve listed below will be helpful.

Or you might try changing one meal at a time – possible having a vegan breakfast during your first week, adding a vegan lunch during week two and so on.

You might try changing one product at a time, for example, swapping traditional cow’s milk for almond milk, or butter for coconut oil. There’s a plant-based alternative for most things you can think of.

One thing that you can look forward to is some exciting new recipes. Bringing vegan principles into your life even a few days a week (assuming we are talking veg-based meals rather than fake or junk foods) will deliver a whole new taste experience. There will be things that you love – and things the family rejects. It’s all part of the fun of discovering new things.

RESOURCES – BEST VEGAN BLOGS

The Colourful Kitchen www.thecolorfulkitchen.com

Deliciously Ella www.deliciouslyella.com

Minimalist Baker www.minimalistbaker.com

Oh She Glows www.ohsheglows.com

The Vegan Woman www.theveganwoman.com

RESOURCES – VEGAN RECIPE BOOKS

Christine Bailey, Go Lean Vegan: The Revolutionary 30-day Diet Plan to Lose Weight and Feel Great

Hugh, Fearnley-Whittingstall, River Cottage Much More Veg: 175 easy and delicious vegan recipes for every meal

Angela Liddon, Oh She Glows

Angela Liddon, Oh She Glows Everyday

Ella Mills (Woodward), Deliciously Ella

Ella Mills (Woodward), Deliciously Ella The Plant-Based Cookbook: 100 simple vegan recipes to make every day delicious

Celeriac Ribbons Tossed with Chard, Garlic & Pumpkin Seeds

One of my favourite recipes, courtesy of BBC good food. It has fibre for a healthy digestive system, high amounts of vitamin C to strengthen the immune system and lots of B vitamins to keep your energy up. Just serve with some chicken or fish for a healthy, balanced meal.

Ingredients

1 small celeriac, peeled

1 lemon, juiced

40g pumpkin seeds

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

15g butter

4 thyme sprigs, leaves removed

2 finely chopped cloves of garlic

½ tsp of dried chilli flakes

1 bunch of chard, leaves separated from stalks, stalks sliced and leaves shredded

Method

  1. Using a good vegetable peeler, cut long, wide strips (about the width of pappardelle) around the circumference of the celeriac, into a bowl of water and lemon juice, until you have lots of ribbons. Allow for more than you would if using pasta.
  2. Dry-fry the pumpkin seeds in a pan until they’ve puffed and popped. Set aside.
  3. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the celeriac for 1 min, drain and reserve the water. In a non-stick frying pan, heat the oil and butter until the butter has melted and foamed up. Add the thyme, garlic and chilli.
  4. Cook the garlic mixture for 5 mins until fragrant and almost golden, add the chard stalks and stir, cooking for a couple more mins. Add the pumpkin seeds and the chard leaves, season and squeeze in some lemon juice. Add the celeriac and a slosh of the cooking water and toss, shaking the pan until the sauce looks glossy. Divide between plates and serve.

Are YOU Suffering from Festive Food FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)?

Hey, would you like to come to the party, spend the evening at that place, have a mince pie, egg nog, mulled wine, taste my world-beating Yule log…?

And you’ll go because you can’t resist. You’ll feast like you’ll never see another meal, and you’ll consume frightening amounts of festive tipples because otherwise you’ll be missing out on all the fun, right? You’ll worry that this is your only chance to eat turkey stuffing until this time next year so you’ll have to eat it, even though you’re not really hungry! Small wonder. Apparently, the British cram 44% more social occasions into December than any other month.

What is Food FOMO?

FOMO – shorthand for fear of missing out –is  the pervasive and often unjustified apprehension that others might be having way more fun than you, and that you’re somehow being left out of all the said fun. It usually goes along with the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.  We hate feeling that we aren’t there for something important, something epic, something fun, where memories are made and friendships created.  And it reaches its annual high any day now.

But did you know that we also experience food FOMO?

Digging A Bit Deeper

Food FOMO isn’t our fault as it’s often driven by cultural and biological programming we’re unaware of. Our survival as an individual within a tribe, and thus our survival as a species, once hinged on being “in the know”. To not be aware of a new food source, for example, meant you literally missed out on something that could mean the difference between life and death.

When humans began to create more stable farming communities, being in the know involved paying attention, being in the right places at the right times to get resources and information and engaging in the gossip of the day as it filtered through the community.

We actually have a part of our brain that specializes in sensing if we’re being left out and it activates the stress response. In an attempt to prevent the stress response, which doesn’t feel good at all, some people will (unfortunately) redouble their efforts to not miss out on anything.

Because we are also a species that values and seeks out variety, we feel compelled to partake in it all, lest we miss out on anything. We are also culturally programmed to over-value losses and under-value gains.

Scarcity thoughts lead many of us to have anxiety around food, rather than food being enjoyable. The “lack” mentality also means that we allow food to control us. It’s also very difficult to feel satisfaction when filled with food FOMO because there will be the constant niggling feeling that there’s just not enough to satisfy us. In this way food FOMO leads to eating past the point of what our bodies need or want, causing anxiety, physical ailments and overall malaise, and getting out of tune with what our body really needs.

All of this means we put more importance on the food we may be missing out on, and less on our goals and well-being.

So, FOMO really is not your friend this month (or indeed any month) – especially if you want to maintain your weight, energy, mood and support your digestion over the holidays.

Let’s take a look at how that festive FOMO usually pans out…

You’re committed to healthy eating during the Festive Season, and you go to just a few buffet parties or events. The food looks delicious, but you are watching your weight, so your deprived mouth can only water. There’s a very subtle fear that you are never going to be able to have any of these delicious treats ever again. The fear of missing out activates your survival instinct to consume everything and anything. And so you go on a binge, and your healthy eating plans are obliterated. The self-recriminations start.

The big question, of course, is what are you are you really missing out on? Nothing. OK, maybe some sweet or high-carb treats, some booze filled evenings and such. But eating and drinking these have a flip side: blood sugar imbalance, energy crashes, irritability, poor sleep, bloating and other digestive issues, and almost certain weight gain (if you consume in excess) – and that’s without mentioning the negative self-talk for having over-indulged.

There’s another thing about this festive FOMO and it’s that it has you giving up taking responsibility for your actions around food and alcohol (you would have been able to resist, right, but it was the party season?)

FIX YOUR FOMO AROUND FOOD

There are several things going on when it comes to food. Your fear of ‘missing out’ on that delicious dessert is the first. But also refusing food (though it should be a basic human right) is mired in emotional meaning both for you and for the host.

The answer is not to find more and more creative ways to say no. If you have to own up to eating healthily around this time or being gluten or dairy free, this seems to compound the original offence of not wanting to eat.

Can you get that it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t want to stuff yourself to the max with the cheese smorgasbord and mince pies? It doesn’t mean anything about your relationship with food, or how you feel about the host. You just don’t want the cheese smorgasbord or mince pies, or not to the extent that you’re so stuffed you feel sick!

Your action plan is this:

  1. HAVE AN ACTUAL PLAN Before you go to bed each night, plan out your food for the next day. This is never more true than during the Festive Season, when parties, chocolates, cookies and “treats” are just about everywhere.
  2. DON’T TRY TO DIET JUST NOW Set a maintenance goal instead. This is much more realistic and it is achievable, even at this time of year. It will also give you the freedom to enjoy yourself without feeling deprived, or that you’ve failed, which in turn means you’re more likely to rebel (and this is code for heading straight for the box of chocolates without a second glance).
  3. TAKE A BALANCED APPROACH Manage portions. Eat slowly. Savour each mouthful.
  4. YOU EAT WELL AT OTHER MEALS. Lots of vegetables. Making sure you’re feeling full with smart carbohydrate choices and plenty of protein-rich foods. Then you head to your party, have one or two drinks, a few nibbles and – most of all – enjoy time with the people you love!
  5. OH, AND DON’T GO TO A PARTY HUNGRY If you do, you’ll be fighting a losing battle. Have a low GI snack before you go – just a little something that includes protein and slow release carbs (cottage cheese or unsweetened nut butter on an oatcake, for example).
  6. KEEP FAMILY CHOCOLATES OUT OF SIGHT so you’re not tempted to tuck in just because they’re there. Ever heard of the ‘out of sight, out of mind diet’?
  7. Go from FOMO to JOMO. It’s all right to happily avoid certain activities and have the “Joy Of Missing Out (JOMO).” Learn to get comfortable with the idea of doing what you actually want instead of what you feel like you should do. In the end, you will be much happier if you are following your own urges rather than those of someone else.
  8. KNOW YOUR PRIORITIES Remember that each person has different priorities in life. Know what’s important to you so you can really analyse every opportunity that comes your way. When you treat everything as a priority, nothing is truly important. Remember that you can do a lot of things in your lifetime, but you certainly cannot do everything. You won’t be having a blast during every single moment of your life, and that is all right.

Try asking yourselves these questions next time you’re faced with food FOMO:

  1. Is this a real or perceived food scarcity?
  2. Is my body physically hungry right now?
  3. What is driving my decision to eat right now?
  4. Is this food readily available to me or is this a special or seasonal food that only comes around once in a while?
  5. Am I stuck in dieting mentality right now, which is telling me to restrict calories or limit what foods I eat?

FIX YOUR FOMO AROUND ALCOHOL

Frequently, party goers who are cautious about their alcohol consumption are viewed with suspicion. You can roll out the usual excuses for abstention: I’ve got a hangover from the party the night before, I’m on antibiotics, I’ve got a really important work thing tomorrow, and the like.

If you want to have a few glasses of wine, have a few glasses of wine. But make that decision inside of what you know to be your social schedule over the entire Christmas period.

How does the amount of socialising stack up against your health goals?

To be clear, you absolutely can honour all your social commitments but, in order not to find yourself tempted by the usual crash diet in January, hear this: it IS possible to go out, have fun, eat well and not have everyone notice you are being ‘healthy’.

If you cut back on the amount you are drinking at social events – even choosing not to drink at some events at all – you can feel the improvements almost immediately. On those nights that you don’t drink at all, you’ll sleep better, wake feeling more refreshed, you’ll have much more energy, and your mood will be better. The impact on your waistline will be positive too – alcohol is a big contributor to belly fat and is brimming with unnecessary calories.

Here are a few suggestions for cutting down – if that’s what you choose to do.

  1. Decide how much you are going to drink (maximum) before you go out.
  2. Consider telling someone else who will be there (friend or partner, perhaps), to help keep you accountable.
  3. Don’t feel pressurised by others. It’s your life and you are the one who makes the decisions.
  4. Have an excuse ready when you want to give it a miss (remember ‘no, thanks, I’d rather have …..’ is perfectly OK.

So, you see, the fear around missing out is just an illusion. And, actually (in social media terms, certainly) FOMO is a bit old hat. What’s trending right now is JOMO, the joy of missing out. Think what you will be gaining from taking on board some of my tips, enjoying yourself without over eating or drinking too much…