Keeping weight off when dieting stops

Dieting is not for the faint hearted – it’s a life sentence. Yes there are those lucky few with a high metabolism who appear to be able to eat what they want and never put on weight. They’re likely to still be in their 20s, no kids, with time and money for the gym. For the majority, weight control equals maths (counting calories consumed vs. calories spent) plus motivation (willpower not to exceed calories consumed vs. calories spent). It’s a simple sum but the statistics show that many of us get it wrong and for an equally simple reason. There is no such thing as coming off the diet. 

We have to accept that returning to old eating habits will inevitably cause the weight to return too. We have to create new habits that we enjoy and that hopefully will last a lifetime. We have to connect with the reasons why we want to lose weight and keep it off and remind ourselves of this when faced with temptation. Weight control is within the grasp of those who reprogramme their minds to not just accepting but welcoming the rule of following healthy eating advice at least 80% of the time. And why not? Wanting to feel fit and fabulous inside and out is why we tried the diet in the first place. In summary, the desire to fit into the LBD or reverse the threat of long term illness such as diabetes has got to be greater than the desire for another helping or the forbidden desert. However, all work and no play makes us dull and doomed for failure so I think you can have your cake and it eat it but once a week.

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Green Juice

I am a green smoothie fan. It’s a lazy way towards your 5-A-Day. A friend of mine shared this recipe with me, originally from the Sirt food diet. It’s a juice recipe but I think it’s such a waste to throw away the solids and they don’t add that much to the calories anyway.

  • 2 large handfuls (75g) kale
  • a large handful (30g) rocket
  • a very small handful (5g) flat-leaf parsley
  • a very small handful (5g) lovage leaves (optional)
  • 2–3 large stalks (150g) green celery, including its leaves
  • ½ medium green apple
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ level tsp matcha green tea

She omits the green tea and adds mint, cucumber and chia seeds (the latter for protein). I prefer it less “earthy” and add orange and a handful of spinach too (for a creamier texture).

I don’t know much about the Sirt food diet but any diet advocating dark chocolate and red wine is one I think I could stick too! Cheers!

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Achieve Wunderful Eyebrows

wunderbrowFor thicker and beautifully sculpted eyebrows, read on.

Wunderbrow is the best eyebrow product I have ever used and does exactly what it says on the package. Watch this video to see how easy it is to achieve perfectly groomed and thicker eyebrows. Wunderbrow is an eye gel that’s smudgeproof and water resistant so there’s no risk of the panda  look. It fades away in a few days unless you want to remove it sooner. The only downside is that if you use too much gel (and it’s easily done) your eyebrows can look fake. For a more subtle look, try Wunderbrow D-Fine. This is a dual ended brow gel and brow definer. The angled brow definer helps shape the eyebrow, create definition and fill in sparse areas. It can be used on its own for a very natural but more defined and thicker eyebrow. The brow gel at the other end can be applied using the brush provided, over the brow definer to add colour and depth – great for an evening out or for those with very thin eyebrows.  I just wish Wunderbrow D-Fine was available in all 5 colours that Wunderbrow is instead of the limited 3 colours. I think I’m in between Black/Brown and Brown!

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Counting calories on low carb diets

Controlling how much we eat is still important even on a low carb diet!

Low carbohydrate (carb) diets have become a much followed food trend amongst those wishing to lose weight, improve diabetes control or their overall health. There are many different kinds of such diets but the common factor amongst all of them are recommended higher levels of fat, protein or both to compensate for the reduced carbohydrate intake. Opinions continue to differ on both the effectiveness and safety of low carb diets with the NHS continuing to advocate a lower fat and higher carb diet.

Friends who have lost weight on the Atkins diet have attributed their success to not having had to count calories and feeling fuller when compared with other diets, helping them stick to the plan.  Feeling fuller on more fat and protein is easy to understand. Fat takes longer to digest than other foods whilst foods high in protein are naturally satisfying. But I’ve never been able to shrug away the fear of eating more fat. It’s more calorie dense than carbs so in theory, we have to eat less if we substitute fat for carbs to obtain the same amount of energy. Is there a maximum amount of fat we can eat, beyond which it becomes dangerous? What happens to the excess?  Don’t we just store it?

Proponents of a very low carb diet argue that it stimulates lower levels of insulin release, the hormone responsible for promoting fat storage. They further argue that low levels of insulin removes the need to count calories as very little fat storage occurs, therefore preventing weight gain.

But insulin is not the only hormone involved in fat metabolism and storage. This article – Dietary fat can’t make you fat – uh yeah it can is a good read if you are considering a low carb diet for weight loss. It confirms what I have always believed. Weight loss can only happen when you burn more energy than you consume regardless of the path and diet you choose.

But two things are for sure. A significant reduction in “empty” carbs (cakes, biscuits, sweets, crisps, pastries and white flour) with a moderate increase in healthy fats and protein (olive oil, avocados, nuts, oily fish,lean meat, eggs, dairy) and a switch to wholegrain carbs will keep you fuller. If you eat less than you burn, you’ll lose weight.  If you exercise, you’ll raise your metabolism and so you’ll burn even more energy. Eat less, move more. That’s my Mantra.



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Is weight loss achieved through success on a plate?

“Portion control” is a strategy I come across more and more frequently in the health literature as a means of losing and controlling weight. But does it actually work?  One theory against this approach suggests that eating less tricks the body into interpreting this as a sign of starvation and a need to conserve energy by reducing the metabolic rate. This causes the body to burn even less energy and hence a vicious cycle is created of supply vs. demand for food that hinders weight loss.

In support of the theory is the notion that the majority of us eat far more than we need. A contributory factor for this may lie in the fact that it apparently takes the brain 20 minutes after we’ve eaten to recognise that we are indeed full. However, by this time, many of us have already over eaten. We’ve got used to this full feeling such that as soon as the first hunger pangs set in we automatically reach out for yet more food. A friend of mine, recognising the importance of portion control recently embarked on a  healthy eating and fitness programme and was both surprised and deflated about how little food she could eat that would not interfere with her weight management plans. To her, this was not sustainable and the warning bells indicating failure were ringing loud and clear.

The stomach incidentally, is on average the size of an orange and comparatively small to the size of the average dinner plate. A plausible solution might be to eat a small amount of food, equivalent to the size of an orange and wait for 20 minutes  before deciding whether we need seconds to reach satiety. This, according to Alix Avery, the designer of the Full Stop Bowl, could help us reduce our expanding waistlines without actually dieting. Alix’s stomach sized and shaped bowl is designed to hold just the right amount of food, without the need for weighing. Just fill the stomach shaped “well” of the bowl with whatever meal you fancy and that’s your portion control sorted.

But again, to answer the question – will it work? At the very least, it will raise our awareness of exactly how much we are eating. That’s no bad thing as let’s be honest, most of us kid ourselves about the truth or are in blissful ignorance.  We still need to be mindful that we are what we eat. An orange-sized portion of desert or chips will have us reaching for our next meal far sooner than if we fill the bowl with vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, pulses, whole grains and moderate amounts of lean meat, fish and dairy.  Just as many of us have grown accustomed to eating plenty, it may be possible that by eating foods that keep us fuller for longer, we can re-train our bodies and our minds over time about how much food to expect. Plus, ignoring hunger every now and then is surely not harmful and can provide us with a much needed safety net for indulging when we need?

To conclude then, size does matter, as I’ve said before, but so does quality. If like me, you think the Full Stop Bowl is not sufficiently attractive to adorn your dinner table, try using a side plate instead of the dinner sized version if you need the visual prompt for portion control. A less practical solution would be to try eating every meal with chopsticks – each meal will definitely take at least 20 minutes!

Happy healthy eating.

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Ashley Banjo deserves 3 gold stars!

Ashley Banjo appeared on last week’s edition of Saturday Kitchen and he is my unsung hero. The TV was providing some light background entertainment as I was getting ready that morning. I heard James Martin, presenter of Saturday Kitchen instructing the audience to place the apples in the roasting tray and sprinkle with butter and sugar. I thought he was making apple crumble until I saw the pork shoulder. I started to pay attention! James then started explaining to his guest for the week, Ashley Banjo – lead dancer of dance group Diversity and Got to Dance judge that you need to rub the fat of the pork shoulder with lemon juice and salt to make crispy crackling. Seeing Ashley’s shocked expression made James ask him “Have you never had a packet of pork scratchings with your pint of beer in a pub?” Ashley politely replied” No” but his facial expressions spoke a thousand more words, none of them positive. I don’t blame him. To want to eat a packet of crispy fat is ludicrous – unless you’re happy heading towards obesity! Saturday Kitchen was turning into a bit of a comedy sketch. I was hooked!

The salted pork shoulder was ceremoniously placed on top of the apples and then in the oven to roast for 3 hours. Next to prepare was the mashed potato.  A moderately healthy dish I thought until James claimed that the perfect mash is equal quantities of potatoes, cream and butter. Ashley looked as shocked as I felt!

It was now time to remove a roast pork shoulder that James had prepared earlier. True to his claim, the fat was golden and crispy all over and if you tried not to think about what it was, looked quite delicious. But Ashley didn’t look convinced! Unperturbed, James made the final preparations for the dish. He lifted the fatty pork off the tray to reveal mushy apples swimming in the fatty juices. James and guest chef Nick Nairns were salivating as they explained that you now have a ready made apple sauce to complement the pork. To make the gravy, you gather up the juices from the pan and heat to thicken.  Ashley looked into the pan and said “You’re not seriously going to use that are you? That can’t be good for you. That’s just a heart attack waiting for you in the pan!” Words of wisdom falling on deaf ears Ashley, I said to myself.  James at this point tried to change the tone of the conversation by asking Ashley about his up and coming TV programme, to which Ashley replied “Yes, If I’m still alive, that’s Got to Dance, every week from Sunday.” James, ever the professional and totally unwilling to be put off by an uncooperative healthy freak of a guest, began to serve, first a couple of slices of roast pork, then buttery mashed potato and finally a crispy hunk of crackling! Finally, the gravy (or more appropriately the nail in the coffin) liberally doused over the meat and potatoes. Time for Ashley to taste as he forced a tiny morsel of meat into his mouth. The well trained cameraman moved away from Ashley’s face just as the poor guy started to retch. However, not before I caught sight of the priceless moment as I collapsed in heaps of uncontrollable laughter. James Martin may have achieved a Mitchelin star or two in his time but I don’t think he’ll be awarded a gold star from Ashley Banjo anytime soon.

Many cookery programmes are great entertainment but they should alert the audience to “Don’t try this at home without consulting your doctor first!” As for Ashley, I give him  3 gold stars for having the courage to say what he’s really thinking, even if it’s live TV and he’s pissed off the entire cast of Saturday Kitchen. I hope that a coronary or two has been prevented this weekend because of his efforts. TV Chefs, clear up your acts and stop clogging our arteries.

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Chips count as 1 of your 5-a-day!

According to a Sainsbury’s survey  a quarter of Brits think the above is true!!!!!!! There are many reasons why so many of us are not achieving the recommended 5-a-day of fruit and vegetables: time, cost, they may be boring etc. However, if we knew the fruit and vegetable content of many of the everyday foods we buy, would we be more tempted to buy foods with a higher fruit and vegetable content? The Government continues to be optimistic that improved food labelling will guide consumers to healthier eating. Alongside its plans to label foods with the fat, sugar and salt content by Summer, it is introducing the Responsibility Deal’ calling on food producers to make it clear when pre-packaged food contains one or more portions that count towards the five-a-day and to provide a wider range of healthy options for consumers. Time will tell whether as a nation we care about healthy eating and use food labelling to influence what we buy or whether the majority of us  will continue to be ruled by our desires rather than our needs.

Talking of desires, I was invited for lunch at a friend’s last week and I was pleasantly reminded of how good vegetables can taste. Try roughly chopping peppers, onions, leeks, broccoli, butternut squash and sweet potato, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with basil and oregano and place in a medium hot oven for 45 mins. I love adding a whole bulb of unpeeled garlic brushed with olive oil and roasting on top of the vegetables. Once the vegetables are cooked, you can peel the garlic cloves and squeeze the soft sweet garlic over the vegetables. Minimum preparation time and utterly delicious!

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