Confessions of a chocoholic….

I have a confession to make….. my name is Michelle and I am a chocoholic.  You may find this hard to believe but, trust me, I am not immune to the lure of the dark sweet stuff.  Of course I kid myself that its the 70% cocoa kind so therefore its good for me.  I can hear you now hoping and praying that I’m going to say “go for it, its full of antioxidants so eat away to your heart’s content”!  Sorry to disappoint but , like anything in life,  it’s keeping things in balance and moderation that are the key.  So when my few squares a couple of times a week habit became daily and all I could think about, I knew I was in trouble and had to do something!

 Anyway, enough of my confessions and this is all leading somewhere…… sugar addiction.  There really should be a SAA (sugar addicts anonymous) on every street corner.  Sugar addiction is real and can be just as hard to overcome as kicking any other addiction and has been likened to nicotine and cocaine addiction.  So how do you know if you have a problem?  For me it was when my love of chocolate went from a few squares a couple of times a week to wanting and thinking about it all day. Do you find yourself reaching for a quick pick me up in the afternoon; is your hand in the cookie jar or chugging back a soft drink to get you through? Do you suffer from any of these symptoms or problems?

  • Weight gain or struggling to lose weight
  • Depression, mood swings, irritability or aggression
  • PMS or hormone imbalance
  • High blood pressure
  • Metabolic syndrome, Insulin resistance, hypoglycaemia
  • Poor immune system
  • Foggy brain, poor memory
  • Fatigue, exhaustion
  • Inflammation – often in joints
  • Binge eating or always hungry
  • Skin – adult acne

Kicking the habit is not for the faint hearted and,  like any other addiction,  there is a withdrawal period which can be hard initially but well worth the effort.  The first week is the hardest and usually by the end of day one the headache will hit you hard,  but this should reduce over the coming days.  The next to visit you will be the cravings, oh almost enough to drive you mad but hang in there,  you’ve done the hard work now. 

 I know it seems easier to just leave sugar in your life but trust me, the improvement in your health, energy, thought process, clear skin and the few extra kilos that will come off will be a great reward for the effort.   With these great tips it should make giving up the white stuff just that little bit easier.

  • Planning is everything.  Remove temptation from the house. Trust me when the cravings hit the tempting foods shout very loud at you from the pantry  “eat me, eat me”! 
  • Eat regularly, approximately every 3 hours to keep your sugar levels stable and keep hunger at bay
  • Have plenty of healthy snacks ready to get you through – think veggie sticks with hummus, boiled eggs, apples, nuts, seeds, celery with almond spread, tinned fish
  • Protein will help get you through by stabilising your sugar levels,  so ensure you have protein at every meal and snacks (as above)
  • Ditch the white carbs, they are just sugar in a fancy disguise
  • Water – ensure your intake is 2 litres per day.  If you currently already have this you may need to increase slightly to help keep headaches at bay
  • Herbal teas can help keep you going by providing a bit of energy and satisfy a sugar craving.  Green tea is a great pick me up, and peppermint is great for after meals to curb any cravings
  • Ensure you eat breakfast, eggs, porridge, quinoa or a low GI oat based cereal
  • Eat lots of fresh vegetables and lean protein for lunch and dinner to saturate your body with the much needed vitamins and minerals it needs during this phase
  • Exercising – will help reduce cravings by releasing the feel good hormones
  • Sleep – be kind to your body and give it some extra rest while it goes through the detox phase of breaking the addiction

 Now we all have our own sweet poison, mine is chocolate.  Yours could be the sugar you put in your tea, the cravings for the white flour carbohydrates or that afternoon dash to the cookie jar.  Whatever it is, good luck on your sugar free journey.  I’m on day four and the headaches are reducing but the cravings are still shouting at me! 


Is winter weighing you down???

Oh baby its cold outside…. Time to get out those winter woollies and ugg boots and hibernate.  Unfortunately with this weather also comes less exercise, comfort eating and carbohydrate cravings and before you know it a few kilos have creept on, sound familiar??  Its also a time of year when most of us pick up one or two colds, or worse the flu, so what can we do to help combat winters health challenges.

  • A good hearty breakfast to kickstart the day and your metabolism.  Reach for the porridge with added LSA or chia seeds, or eggs with spinach and tomato.
  • Menu plan and be prepared, keep your freezer stocked for those busy times.  Doesn’t matter what you are making, double the ingredients and put the leftovers in the correct portion sizes in your fridge.
  • Soup, soup and more soup.  A wonderful, warming healthy comfort food, really there is nothing better on a cold day than to tuck into a great big bowl of steaming soup. Best of all its simple and you don’t need a recipe, just add vegetables, beans & legumes or organic chicken to some stock and let the stove top do the rest.  My favourite at the moment is carrot, sweet potato and chickpeas or what I call the ‘crisper soup’, you know whatever you have left over in the fridge at the end of the week in a pot with stock & herbs.
  • Dust off the slow cooker and have dinner prepared while you are at work.  Just remember to always serve with some steamed green vegetables to balance the meal out.
  • To ward off colds and sniffles add plenty of garlic, onion and leeks to your meals for extra flavor and powerful antioxidants.  They are well known for their anti-bacterial action, promote a  healthy liver and boost our metabolism.
  • Include a wide variety of vegetables every day, think of a rainbow on your plate – carrots, sweet potato, capsicum, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, green beans, kale, zucchini, corn – colour!!!
  • Keep hydrated, although its harder to drink water during winter we still need it just as much to help flush our toxins and keep our kidney healthy.  Plus all that cold and wind outside and the extra heating inside really dries out our skin.
  • Fish – a great lean protein its also full of essential Omega 3 fats that help protect our skin, important for our brain function and memory and an important part of any weight management and healthy lifestyle regime.
  • Keep your snacks in check – instead of high calorie, nutrient deficient white flour and sugary products, go instead for nuts and seeds, a piece of fruit, boiled egg, cup of fresh vegetable soup to keep you going between meals. 
  • Maintain some exercise,  its easy to let it slip during winter but its important to still keep it as part of your routine.

Need help keeping your resolution?

Happy New Year to everyone, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year with friends and family.  By now you will have all set your New Year Resolution and the biggest one by far has to be to shed those extra kilos and reduce our wobbly bits.  The first couple of weeks are great but  unfortunately by the end of January most people have given up on their goal and returned to old habits.  There are many reasons for this and here are my top 5 pitfalls that often bring even the most well meaning of people unstuck. 

1.            Not eating enough.  Sounds silly doesn’t it but often when we embark on a weight loss regime we reduce our intake so much that it can’t possibly last, we can only survive on a reduced diet for so long!  This will also decrease your metabolism which means when you stop starving yourself you will put all the weight back on and more!  Welcome to world of yoyo dieting. 

 2.            Poor planning.  If you are going to change your eating habits the best thing you can do is plan for it and think how you are going to make this happen!  Think about the types of meals you are going to prepare – have you made a stir fry before or do you need to get a recipe?  Sounds simple but hugely important.

 3.            Hydration.  Are you drinking enough water, a minimum of 2 litres per day and perhaps more on a very hot summer’s day.  We often mistake hunger for thirst, so before you reach for the snack or seconds have a drink and wait to see how your body responds.

 4.            Drinking your calories.  While we are on the subject of drinking make sure that you are not drinking soft drinks, cordial or lots of fruit juice which has many hidden calories.

 5.            Portion control.   In today’s society our portions are out of control, we are bombarded with the notion that more is better and upsizing is the way to go!  Unfortunately this is not the case and it’s important to go back to basics and reduce your portions slowly over time.

 There is no denying that changing our eating habits and adopting a healthy lifestyle can be a challenging and difficult experience.  Be realistic with your resolution, set your goals and how you are going to achieve them.  My biggest tip is to eat smaller regular meals with 2 snacks a day, concentrating on real, nutrient dense wholefoods. 

 Next time I’ll cover healthy snacks, which would have been my number 6 in the pitfall list.

Lettuce All Eat Salad….

Pardon the pun but I just couldn’t help myself…  The warm weather is well and truly here and its the perfect time to make salads a staple part of our diet.

We often think of salads as boring and not filling enough but that doesn’t have to be the case, gone are the old fashioned salads of our childhood of just iceberg lettuce, tomato and cucumber and tinned asparagus!   There are a variety of salad leaves available with many different tastes and textures.

Lettuce leaves contain virtually no fat and are very high in nutrients, making them an ideal to consume on a daily basis.    Generally speaking the darker the lettuce leaf the more nutrient dense it is, so leave the iceberg lettuce and embrace some of the other varieties available at your local shop.  Iceberg does have its place as a great introduction to salad for kids as you gradually introduce the other varieties as their palates mature.

Increasing the amount of salads we put in our diet can have a huge beneficial impact on our health, energy and waist line.  They are high in vitamins, antioxidants and fibre and are able to treat a number of health conditions.  Lettuce aids our digestion and is beneficial for our liver health (which can only be a good thing as the silly season approaches).

Lettuce is high in Vitamin B9 (folate) which is important for all women but especially those who are planning to or are pregnant.  Most lettuce contains a high amount of fibre to prevent and relieve constipation.  Also high in the powerful antioxidants Vitamin C and betacarotene for disease prevention and a strong immune system.

If I haven’t convinced you to reach for the salad bowl yet, how about the fact the high water content and antioxidants will make your skin glow and the low fat make it the perfect nutrient dense food for any weight management plan.

Increasing our vegetable intake will reduce our saturated fat, this is the bad kind that increases cholesterol and therefore puts us at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease so including salads is a quick and easy way to control our cholesterol levels.

So now that I’ve sung the virtues of the humble lettuce, I loved to share with you my top 3 favourite lettuce/leaves  to include in your next  salad.

1.            Baby spinach, not just for popeye its as tasty as it is high in iron, vitamins and chlorophyll.

2.            Cos (also known as Romaine)  this is often overlooked but really packs a punch nutritionally with high amounts of Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Folic Acid and dietary fibre.  A great alternative to iceberg lettuce.

3.            Rocket, not technically a lettuce but a wonderful way to spice up a salad.

Grab your salad bowl and enjoy!

To Detox or Not??

Following on from my last blog about spring cleaning your diet, it got me thinking about the popularity of Detox.  There are many products in the market available at your local supermarket or chemist and even online.  But the question is, should we?  I’m not a fan of the detox in a box, coupled with a diet of  2 weeks of deprivation.  If we are really honest the torture of the 2 weeks of eating nothing just causes us to binge on day 15!!

Detox does have its place in a healthy lifestyle and in my opinion a gentle healthy detox between seasons is a good way to transition between different eating habits and a time to take stock of any bad habits that have been formed.  Spring is the perfect time to commence a gentle detox  as we relinquish our hold on the heavy, comfort eating of winter and retrain our palate to enjoy the delicious , healthy and light spring and summer fare.  There are several ways to detox and if you are serious about doing it, I have a guided 4 week program available.  However, making just a few changes can have a positive impact.

  • Start the day with a glass of warm water and squeeze of ¼ – ½ lemon.
  • Give up coffee, tea, soft drink, cordial for a few weeks.  Green tea, Rooibos and other herbal teas allowed.
  • Drink minimum of 2 litres of water a day.  If you are exercising try to drink an extra 500ml. Gotta flush away all those toxins.
  • Give up alcohol for a month, it is Octsober after all!  At the very least ensure you have 5 alcohol free days each week and no binge drinking on the other two nights.
  • Give up the white flour products and discover how good you will feel without the fluctuating blood sugar levels.
  • Embrace your inner domestic goddess and get cooking in the kitchen with lots of fresh produce – fruit, vegetables, salads, fish, nuts and seeds, legumes.
  • Eat at least one salad every day
  • Eat at least 2 pieces of fruit every day

Spring has sprung

After one of the coldest winters for many years we can all rejoice that Spring has finally arrived!  Time to peel off those layers, venture outside and play in the sunshine.

We often spend this time spring cleaning our houses, emptying the cupboards and getting rid of the cluter we no longer need.  Spring is also the perfect time to spring clean our health  and begin new and healthy habits.

Follow these quick 5 tips for a healthier you with a spring in your step!

  1. Revise your menu plans and bring them up to date with range of fresh new spring produce hitting the shops now.
  2. Now that winter is over we can pack away the slow cooker and casserole dishes.  Its time to move on from the high carbohydrate, heavy and comforting winter meals.
  3. Bring out the wok and experiment with different vegetables and herbs to make tasty and healthy stir fries.
  4. Have a salad every day, either at lunch or for dinner.  Try some different lettuce leaves and add the usual suspects like tomato and cucumber but then mix it up a bit with some legumes or roasted vegetables.
  5. Increase your water intake and the days get warmer.

Give your metabolism a Boost

As busy women often juggling the pressures of work and family we often forget about our own wellbeing and consequently our health suffers.  We experience low energy levels, poor immunity and weight gain, often caused by quick fixes and stress resulting in a slow metabolism.  Here are a few tips that can easily be incorporated into everyday life to enhance our wellbeing and give our sluggish metabolism a boost!

  1. Stop Dieting! Sure you’ll see results initially but these diets are restrictive and not sustainable.  Your metabolism slows down as your body tries to conserve energy which means any initial weight loss is regained and then some (sound familiar).  A healthy eating plan for life is really the only solution for long term health, wellbeing and weight management.
  2. Eat Breakfast. Kick your metabolism into to gear first thing in the morning.  Choose a low GI based cereal, fresh fruit and a sprinkle of LSA or chia seeds for a balanced breakfast to set you up for the day.
  3. Eat Regularly. Going for long periods without eating allows your metabolism to dip and can also affect your blood sugar levels driving you to the biscuit tin for a quick fix.  Instead aim to eat at regularly intervals every 3-3 ½ hours, 3 main meals and 2 healthy snacks with a balance of carbs/protein/fats.
  4. Balance your sugar levels.  The quick fix of coffee, chocolate, white flour products plays havoc with your blood sugar levels causing spikes in sugar and the need for insulin which over time and result in insulin resistence, lead to weight gain which ironically will reduce your metabolism.  So its important to eat regularly and choose low GI foods in their natural state, the less processed foods the better.
  5. Iodine.  Have your levels checked and if you are feeling very tired also asked your GP to review your thyroid levels.  Iodine is important in thyroid function which is responsible for maintaining your metabolism.  Iodine can be found in iodised salt, seaweed, seafood, nuts and eggs.
  6. Reduce stress. When we are stressed we release the hormone cortisol which can trigger food cravings and tell our body to store fat which in turn reduces our metabolism.
  7. Exercise. Increases your muscle to fat ratio which has a positive impact on increasing your metabolism.  More muscle means you will burn calories even when you are doing nothing.

Most importantly eat well, choose a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, poultry and fish, low fat dairy, nuts, eggs and incorporate legumes into your daily diet.  Aim for 2 pieces of fruit a day and 2 cups of vegetables twice a day, and stay away from the white flour, sugary products.