Thinking of becoming Sober Curious?

Ahhh….A drink after a long day to take the edge off before bed, and then maybe a few more on the weekend to help you loosen up when you go out with friends. Socially, drinking is one of main ways we enjoy being with friends.

The trouble is it’s easy for those units to mount up, without even being aware of it (when I ask my clients to write down how much they actually drink, many of them are very surprised). And over time it can have really detrimental effects on your health, mood, energy levels and weight. Because some of these problems can creep in overtime, you may find it difficult to link them directly to drinking.

The recommended guidelines for alcohol are no more than 14 units a week, with at least 2 alcohol free days per week. A typical bottle of wine will contain 10 units. It’s easy to get through a bottle with three generous glasses in a night! Let’s face it, whoever pours a small glass?

Do you ever wonder if you drink a little too much? Maybe it’s crossed your mind on occasion that you have a problem with alcohol (even if you’ve not spoken those words out loud)? Do you use alcohol like a social crutch to give you confidence at parties and events? Do you often wonder what life would be like without alcohol or even why on TV, films and even in real life the alcohol flows freely at practically every event? It’s like we should all be drinking, and without it, we must be having less fun.

Have you ever thought about cutting down? And then maybe worried that not drinking seems somewhat suspect. After all, abstaining is often interpreted as a tacit indication that you struggle with alcoholism (itself a stigma and kept private), or that you’re just a virtuous teetotaller who’s a party- pooper and doesn’t know how to have fun! Trying to cut back though can be difficult and often meets with disapproval from others.

While you might be eating well, doing your yoga or Pilates, meditating, getting your 10,000 steps every single day, at the end of a long day, you get back from work, kick off your shoes and head for a glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc. Soon, one glass is a second glass, which becomes the rest of the bottle.

I wonder if that sounds familiar?

If any of these questions above have crossed your mind, perhaps you are sober curious.

The sober curious movement is gathering pace and not drinking is really rather trendy. To be clear, ‘sober curious’ is not the same as sobriety (being 100% sober). According to Ruby Warrington, author of the book Sober Curious, it’s not that you’re either a drinker or teetotaller. Rather, it’s about bringing a “questioning mindset to every drinking situation, rather than going along with the dominant drinking culture”. Sober curious is a movement that welcomes you at any stage of your questioning the role alcohol plays in your life.

It may be that you have already dipped your toe into extended periods of sobriety – Dry January, Go Sober for October. Being sober curious the rest of the time is a natural extension. There are even sober bars popping up where you get to socialise over mocktails and kombucha rather than a G&T.

Author Ruby Warrington – the first to coin the phase – began thinking about her alcohol consumption in 2010 in terms of its impact on her health and wellbeing. She was drinking in a very socially-acceptable way. The way you might see openly portrayed on social media, it wasn’t like she was drinking secretly or during the day. Maybe a few glasses of wine on a few weeknights and a mini-binge at the weekend. Like many, she was simply doing it without question.

But then she began to question the role it played in her well-being, drinking less and less often. And then she stopped almost completely. With that came relief from hangovers, sleepless nights, and anxiety, plus a new sense of self-confidence and a stronger ability to cope with daily life. She calls her approach to drinking sober-curious, which she describes in her book Sober Curious.

Feel like exploring this for yourself?

Being sober-curious starts with asking yourself:

Why am I choosing to drinking right now?

Is it expected of me that I will have a drink right now? If so, how do I feel about that?

What will this drink do for my health and general well-being?

Think about what it is that you actually want.

It’s also important not to focus on what you’re cutting out. Instead, focus on everything that you’re cultivating or creating space for now in your life by looking beyond drinking.

When you do drink, ask yourself: How is this drink actually making me feel compared to how I thought it would make me feel? You might begin to notice that alcohol makes you feel tired and groggy and doesn’t give you the lift or the release you were looking for. And these experiences might make it easier to choose not to drink on some future occasions.

If people question you, it may sometimes be easier to have an excuse. For example, “I’m just not drinking this month” or “I’m driving.” Sometimes it’s easier to shut down the question, depending on who’s asking and whether you are comfortable sharing. Don’t be afraid to say to friends that you’re taking some time off from drinking, that you’d like to do something different instead (on a night you would normally go to a bar) . Remember, you don’t have to justify yourself to anyone. But if you feel the need to, I always tell my clients to use me, their nutritionist, as the reason!

Can you ever drink if you’re sober curious? Of course! Being sober curious is not about never, ever drinking. It’s simply being more mindful about when and why we drink, and how it fits in with the other things we want in our life. And that’s something we could probably all do with more of in every aspect of our lives.

SOBER CURIOUS RESOURCES

Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington

The Sober Diaries: How one woman stopped drinking and started living by Clare Pooley

Drink?: The New Science of Alcohol and Your Health by David Nutt

Alcohol Lied to Me: How to Stop Drinking and Get the Real You Back by Craig Beck. There are some excellent hypnosis tracks to go with this book by Craig Beck

Kale with Japanese Dressing

This flavourful dressing is easy to make and quickly transforms simple steamed kale or spinach into an irresistible dish.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1kg kale, tough ribs removed – spinach is also delicious
  • 60g toasted white sesame seeds (if you can’t find toasted seeds, you can buy raw sesame seeds and quickly toast them yourself)
  • 3 tablespoons Mirin (sweet sake for cooking)
  • 2 tablespoons Tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • optional: 2 teaspoons Sweet Freedom syrup or Stevia
  • optional: if you are the type of person who happen to have dashi on hand, add a splash or two to the dressing

Method

Add a few tablespoons of water to a large frying pan, and in 2 batches, steam-fry the kale leaves for 2-4 minutes until greens are tender. You might want to put the lid on the pan to speed this up.  The age, size and heartiness of your kale will determine how long you’ll need to cook the leaves. (Keep in mind that spinach will need much less cooking.)

While the greens are cooling make your dressing. Using a mortar and pestle or food processor, blend toasted sesame seeds, Mirin, Tamari, rice vinegar, and Sweet Freedom/Stevia. It’s easier to achieve a creamier consistency using a food processor.

When the kale has cooled to room temp, grab half and squeeze between your hands to removed excess liquid. The cooked greens will stick together in a log-shaped clump after being squeezed together in your hands. Take that roll of greens and slice it into 1/2 inch wide strips then transfer chopped leaves to a mixing bowl.

Before dressing your salad, keep in mind that this recipe gives you a VERY generous amount dressing. You may only need to use as little as half the dressing.

 

Adapted from Yummy Suppers

 

Spinach & Halloumi Salad with Blueberries

The saltiness of the cheese goes perfectly with the tannins in the spinach and the sweetness of the berries. Soaking the Halloumi leaches out its preserving salt, and also softens the cheese nicely.

Serves 2

Ingredients

250g Halloumi cheese

100g Fresh blueberries

1 cup fresh spinach

1 tbsp olive oil

For the dressing

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

½ tsp lime juice

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of sea salt

Method

Cover the Halloumi and soak in water for a few hours or overnight.

Drain and cut the Halloumi into slices.

Heat the olive oil in either a frying pan or a griddle.

Gently fry the Halloumi until lightly golden on each side. Drain on paper towel.

Mix the salad dressing ingredients.

Place the spinach in a bowl and dress.

Put the Halloumi cheese pieces on top of the spinach and sprinkle over the blueberries.

Season to taste and eat immediately

 

Adapted from Divalicious

Beat Festive FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)

Hey, would you like to come to my Christmas party, have a mince pie, my home-made eggnog, warming mulled wine, taste my amazing Yule log…? If everyone else is eating cake and you’re not, you feel deprived. If everyone’s got a drink in hand, you feel like awkward if you don’t and feel like you totally should be too. You feel like if you don’t have all this food and drink, you’re missing out on something (FOMO). And, to make matters worse, the food pushers will insist that you are in fact missing out on something if you aren’t an active food participant.

And you’ll give in 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?

Where Does It Come From?

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.

So, how does that festive FOMO usually pan 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!

Ask yourself what exactly are you missing out on????

Let’s be real, while it’s true that you’re missing out on the opportunity to talk about how good a dessert tastes, sharing a plate of fried mozzarella sticks, or having a third drink, you’re also not battling with your waistline, dealing with fatigue or doubled over with a stomach-ache. So in all reality, what are you missing out on?

Your action plan is this:

  1. INSTEAD OF FOCUSING ON WHAT YOU CAN’T HAVE, FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN HAVE. There are amazing flavours, foods and healthy dishes that will totally satisfy your palate and give you something to talk about with your family and friends.
  2. TASTE A BIT, BUT DON’T EAT IT ALL.Instead of eating a piece of whatever, eat a bite instead. You’ll be able to talk about it without feeling guilty about it later.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. TAKE A BALANCED APPROACH Manage portions. Eat slowly. Savour each mouthful.
  6. 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!
  7. 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).
  8. 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’?
  9. 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.
  10. 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 yourself 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?
  6. What exactly are you missing?

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…

Fish Curry With Tomatoes And Tamarind

Use a sustainable white fish like hake and serve up this healthy, Indian spice-pot with green beans, cauliflower and brown rice.

Ingredients- Serves 4

  • 1 onion cut into quarters
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves
  • 2 cm piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 red chilli roughly chopped
  • A bunch of coriander, leaves separated from stems
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • a small handful curry leaves (optional)
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp  ground coriander
  • 1 tsp  ground cumin
  • 400g plum tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • sustainable firm white fish (such as hake or pollack) 500g, skinned and cut into 4cm cubes

Method

Step 1 Blend the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli and the coriander stems in a blender until it makes a paste. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and fry the black mustard seeds and curry leaves until fragrant. Add the paste. Fry for 2 minutes then add the turmeric, coriander and cumin. Fry for 2 minutes more then add the tomatoes and the tamarind with 200ml of water an cook with lid on until the tomatoes start to break down.

Step 2 Stir in the fish, cover and simmer for 5 minutes until cooked. Serve with brown basmati rice, broccoli and green beans.

 

 

Adapted from From Olive magazine

Greens & Broad Bean Shakshuka

Broad beans (also known as fava beans) are packed full of fibre. They contain vitamins K, folate and B6, as well as zinc, copper, iron and magnesium. To save time you can buy them frozen.

  Ingredients  

   1 bunch asparagus spears

    200g sprouting broccoli

    2 tbsp olive oil

    2 spring onions, finely sliced

    2 tsp cumin seeds

    large pinch cayenne pepper, plus extra to serve                                                                                                                                                

    4 ripe tomatoes, chopped

    1 small pack parsley, finely chopped

    50g shelled peas

    50g podded broad beans

    4 large eggs

    50g pea shoots

    Greek yogurt to serve

Method

  1. Trim or snap the woody ends of the asparagus and finely slice the spears, leaving the tips and about 2cm at the top intact.
  2. Finely slice the broccoli in the same way, leaving the heads and about 2cm of stalk intact.
  3. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the spring onions, sliced asparagus and sliced broccoli, and fry gently until the veg softens a little, then add the cumin seeds, cayenne, tomatoes (with their juices), parsley and plenty of seasoning, and stir.
  4. Cover with a lid and cook for 5 mins to make a base sauce, then add the asparagus spears, broccoli heads, peas and broad beans, cover again and cook for 2 mins.
  5. Make 4 dips in the mixture. Break an egg into each dip, arrange half the pea shoots around the eggs, season well, cover with a lid and cook until the egg whites are just set.
  6. Serve with the rest of the pea shoots, a spoonful of yogurt and sprinkle over another pinch of cayenne, if you like.

 

 

 

Courtesy of Good Food Magazine

Nutrition is Powerful Medicine

Food literally changes your biochemistry and gene expression

Did you know that the food we eat is so powerful that it turns our genes on and off, to alter our weight, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, cancer growth, and even our chances of healthy ageing, among numerous other aspects of our health? Until recently, it was believed you were stuck with the genes you were born with. But we know from research  now that your genes get turned on and off and are expressed to greater or lesser degrees depending on your diet and lifestyle factors. The impact of nutrition on our genes is called nutrigenomics.

It may be that our genes load the gun and are responsible for our predisposition to getting certain illnesses, but our diet and lifestyle pull the trigger, and largely influence whether or not we get them. Nutrition is powerful medicine you can use to your advantage.  It can literally change your life.

A healthy diet can make a big difference in your life but what happens if you don’t know how to start? A Nutritional Therapist can help set you on the right path to healthy living and ageing.

How can a nutrition professional help you?

So what’s to understand about good nutrition?! Everyone knows what a balanced diet is, right? There are articles on healthy eating in every newspaper and magazine. Why would you want to go to see someone to tell you what to eat?!! Your mum did that for you, didn’t she?

Most people get – on a conceptual level at least – that they should probably eat a bit better than they do, they should probably move more and take the time for more ‘me time’ to live a long and happy life.

‘Life’ seems to get in the way of achieving that. Many of us are juggling jobs and the complexities of modern relationships, leaving little time to dedicate to the business of ‘being healthy’. Convenience often wins. It’s not that that’s wrong per se, but here’s the thing: all the time we are not eating or moving or living well, we are silently getting unhealthier.

That may actually be going-to-hospital sick or it may just mean having health niggles that bother us greatly but that we have learned to cope with or accept as inevitable. I’m talking about things like IBS or other tummy troubles, PMT, arthritis, skin conditions, stress or anxiety, haywire hormones, or possibly weight that has crept on over the years and you can’t seem to shift it, no matter what you try.

What I want to share with you today is that the food you eat matters more than you can possibly imagine. Research confirms over and over again that every time you eat, you are literally self-medicating because food changes your biochemistry, and can make you feel rotten- or at the top of your game.

Amazingly, in many cases, simply by making changes to your diet, improving the quality of your sleep and exercising correctly, many illnesses can be prevented or the symptoms improved so markedly that there is a really profound shift in how you experience life. I’ve seen it happen many times and it’s actually a lot easier than you might be thinking.

Putting your nutrition knowledge into actual daily practise

Although Nutritional Therapy is evidence-based, and there are hundreds of thousands of research papers on the power of nutrition on health, it used to be referred to dismissively as ‘complementary medicine’. It’s only now that the science of what and how to eat is getting the recognition it deserves and is being actively promoted by a small number of well-known and recently enlightened conventional medical doctors, like Dr Rangan Chatterjee and Dr Michael Mosely.

Essentially, Nutritional Therapists apply the latest research in nutrition and health sciences to you and your symptoms and formulate a diet, lifestyle and (sometimes) supplement plan to support the body’s own healing processes. They also use the latest cutting-edge tests to help pinpoint key imbalances in the body’s functioning, where appropriate. If they’re health coaches too, they will focus on enabling you to put that knowledge into practice. Because what’s the point of having nutrition knowledge if you can’t put the ideas into practice in a meaningful way, or break through whatever barriers have held you back in the past?

Personalised detective work to find the root cause

Nutritional Therapists take a very personal approach. You might hear practitioners talk about people being ‘biochemically unique’. That means that there isn’t a single way of eating (or lifestyle for that matter) that is right for everyone. Isabel might have IBS and you want to lose weight, for example. Isabel might have a history of antibiotic use, while you had your gall bladder out when you were 14. Isabel might have an intolerance to dairy, while you hate strawberries. I could go on, but you can imagine the thousands of different permutations here. And the fact is that your DNA, previous medical history, any current symptoms as well as what you like and don’t like, not to mention your personal circumstances are all important when a Nutritional Therapist creates a plan for you. There is no way the same “protocol” is going to work for Isabel, and for you.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever gone to the doctor, weren’t seen on time and then spent just a few minutes with your doctor before being ushered out? Or perhaps your health care provider sent you home with a few new prescriptions and no real explanation as to why your health was suffering? While most traditional GPs really do their best, unfortunately, they only have a maximum of 10 minutes to spend with you, they treat your symptoms rather than finding the root cause, and often you walk out with a dissatisfied feeling. A Nutritional Therapist invests a lot of time and skill to dig down deep, and do the detective work needed to find contributing factors, thread them all together and find root causes of symptoms.

You could of course download something from the internet – if you knew what you were looking for – but it’s not the same as having someone connect the dots and put everything together for you, and then give you the support you need to make the adjustments fit into your daily life long-term. A Nutritional Therapist may also work with supplements targeted to a specific condition or your own health goal. This can be a minefield – potentially dangerous and inevitably costly – if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Functional Medicine is the way forward: connecting genetic, environmental, diet and lifestyle factors

It’s unfortunate that so many people don’t understand what a huge effect a personalised food and lifestyle programme can have on the symptoms they have or how they experience their life.

Newspapers are full of soundbites about the latest foods, but they don’t really join the dots, and it’s difficult to see what might be possible for you. I’ve been told by GPs themselves (some of whom have been clients) that the vast majority of doctors – even those being trained today – have next to no current knowledge or practical experience of what their patients should be eating or how they might integrate the theory into their actual daily lives. They live in a world, by and large, where the primary solution presented during your 10-minute session lies in a prescription. They have few other options available to them.

Some – like Dr Chatterjee – are taking on training in something much bigger called Functional Medicine, often referred to as the future of 21st century medicine. Most Nutritional Therapists in the UK have been trained in the Functional Medicine approach. This addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms because it views the body as one integrated system, interacting like a web, rather than as a collection of independent organs divided up by medical specialties. Functional medicine practitioners spend time with their clients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental, diet and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease.

If you think about it, nearly all medications merely suppress symptoms. Only very few are an actual cure – antibiotics come to mind here, one of the most important innovations in medical history, to which we owe much. The exclusively pharmacological approach conventional medicine so often employs usually does little to uncover the root causes. Metformin lowers blood glucose – but why is it high in the first place? Statins lower cholesterol – but why is it elevated? Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) numb pain – but why are you in pain? These are the questions nutrition professionals will ask before embarking on a quest to find out the root cause.

What happens in a nutrition consultation? 

Your first consultation will last around 60 to 75 minutes. You will have been asked to complete and send back a nutritional therapy questionnaire before you visit. This is in your interests as I analyse it and research where necessary in advance of your visit, so that we can get you moving forward straight away when we meet. During the session we’ll clarify your medical history, your health goals and any other challenges you’re facing, what you generally eat, what you like to eat, what you hate to eat and how you have to eat (on the bus, in a rush at your desk, and so on). It’s a partnership rather than me prescribing what you should be eating and doing (which usually doesn’t work, unless you’re the type of person who works best when someone explains what you need to do and you then just go off and do it come high or hell). I always explain to you why I’m recommending something and then if you’re happy to go ahead we discuss how you can put it into practice.

Nutritional Therapy programmes usually run over a period of months. That’s because most of us need longer term support to help us implement the programme, make changes in a way and at a pace that suits us, and to deal with any challenges or questions that come up.

What if I already know what to do?

Knowing what you should be doing is only part of the problem if you are unhappy with an aspect of your health. Integrating your programme into habitual daily life and staying motivated for the long haul is the hardest part of any plan. The single best way to stay in the zone is to have a buddy or coach who can give you a nudge or call you out if you start to go off piste. I’d say this is the single biggest thing that makes the difference between reaching your goal and actually staying there. That’s where health coaching comes in. It keeps you accountable and on track to ensure all that good work doesn’t go to waste.

If you’d like to know how you can take back control over your health and weight, and see if Nutritional Therapy is right for you, please book in a complimentary call here. I’d love to speak to you!

https://app.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php?owner=14670092

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

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.

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