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Friday, February 25, 2011

The kinds of foods that nutritionists *shouldn't eat*

I am often asked if I eat this or that, to which I reply ‘I eat everything’, which includes lots of things that nutritional therapists really shouldn’t eat.  But that’s not hard really, seeing as some NTs have a fairly long list of foods you shouldn’t eat, including things like tea (builders, obviously, not nettle), mayonnaise and tomatoes.  But I also eat things such as butter, chocolate, white bread, and crisps which I’m fairly sure would be off limits for some of my colleagues.  [Actually that’s not true, I believe that everyone eats chocolate even if it is in the legendary realms of ‘just a square of organic dark’.]

I have heard lots of nutritionists say that eating these and other kinds of forbidden foods is fine ‘in moderation’; it’s the kind of phrase you hear on news programmes when a nutritionist is speaking about the obesity epidemic or some other public health problem related to food.

My question is what does ‘in moderation’ mean?  Who is the moderator?  Who says how much you’re allowed to have?  Do you have to check in with the Food Police to make sure you’ve not overstepped your quota?  I think it can end up feeling like any amount of these off-limits foods is too much.

Really, your own body needs to be the moderator.  I think it’s great when you can develop your own sense of how much you need of anything.  My friends at Beyond Chocolate call this ‘Be your own guru’.  Who else has the right to dictate rules about what’s appropriate for your body?  Trust yourself.  Your body loves you (because you keep it alive) and it only wants foods that are going to make it feel great.  And yes, sometimes that is a bag of chips with plenty of salt and vinegar!  Sometimes it’s a roast dinner with loads of green veg.  And sometimes it’s a lentil soup with a side of quinoa salad.  It could be anything at any given moment.

Personally, I don’t believe it’s possible to purposefully limit or exclude certain foods from your life indefinitely.  Sometimes it’s not even possible to do it for a short while.  Although I meet plenty of people who believe that they should be doing so, mainly because of the ‘in moderation’ message and resulting confusion.  So when they inevitably slip up from this impossible regime, they feel bad about themselves.  But still the cycle continues, eating these ‘bad’ foods regularly, whilst desperately trying not to, and feeling guilty about it.  And my point is that chocolate (or other forbidden food) is here to stay.  It’s here forever, and there’s nothing the Food Police can do about it, so you might as well get used to it.

So once you’ve established that it’s highly likely that you’ll continue to eat chocolate (or other ‘naughty’ food) for the rest of your life - whether you think you should or not - you might as well make peace with it, rather than eating it and feeling guilty.  How can you make peace with a food?  First try being honest with yourself and accept that you enjoy and eat this food regularly.  Be aware of what you’re eating, and how you feel before, during and after. 

If you can accept that you are going to eat chocolate regularly (probably for the rest of your life), you might as well enjoy it.  Buy the best you can afford, enjoy it and eat it slowly – if you’re doing something you love, surely you want it to last as long as possible to fully appreciate the experience?  And why not buy you’re favourite chocolate and your favourite foods to have when you fancy them, rather than depriving yourself and then ending up buying some nasty sweets at the petrol station or local shop (which you might not particularly enjoy) because you’re so desperate?  You may worry that if you allow yourself to eat this way, you will end up with an incredibly unhealthy diet, but what usually happens once you give yourself permission to eat it, it just becomes normal.  Just another type of food that you love, that appears on the shopping list each week.  No urgency or sneaking food.  No stress or guilt.  And your body would soon start to grumble if you fed it a mono-diet of chocolate, and would soon be craving something green.

After reading this, you may well be wondering what kind of nutritionist I am if I encourage my clients to eat chocolate!  Well, this is only part of what I do and my role as a nutritional therapist is to help you find peace with food, and to learn to nourish your body with exactly what it needs.  I also help people with all kinds of health problems that can be rectified by changing how they eat, and through using carefully selected nutritional supplements.  My earlier blog post here explains more.

PS: I do sometimes drink nettle tea and eat quinoa salad.  They're quite nice.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Is your saucepan toxic?

Nearly everyone has a non-stick saucepan in their kitchen.  And for good reason - they make life much easier.

But it has been known for some time that the material used to make the non-stick coating - PolyTetraFluoroEthylene or PTFE - can release toxic fumes when heated to high temperatures.  A particularly nasty chemical called PerFluoroOctanoic Acid or PFOA is released in these fumes and is potentially carcinogenic.  Not nice at all.  How do you know if you're cooking at the temperature at which this toxic chemical is released?  Well, you don't really unless you habitually cook at a lower temperature or have a thermometer handy to check the temp.

I realise that when you start to investigate, a lot of modern time-saving inventions turn out to be toxic or unhealthy, and usually I take a balanced view, believing that 'there's only so much you can do' to protect yourself from the hazards of modern living.  However, for me, cooking with plastic or a non-stick coating that's potentially toxic has never felt particularly great and I am very glad to have found a solution.

A whole range of cookware is now available which is completely free of the toxic non-stick coatings.  GreenPan manufacture saucepans and cookware which are coated with a non-stick ceramic lining made of minerals, rather than plastics containing PTFE.  The ceramic coating is completely safe at high temperatures and has fantastic non-stick properties.  The whole range is available online here, but my favourite is this wok which is on its way to me as I type!

I think it's great when products like this come along because you don't need to change the way you live to get the healthy benefits.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Eco-Friendly Valentine's Gifts

I love Nigel's Eco Store.  It's great for finding unusual gifts and things for the home, and as a bonus everything is environmentally friendly.

They currently have a lovely selection of Valentine's gifts available.  I particularly love this silvered tea light holder made from recycled glass by a fair trade cooperative in India.  Lovely.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Seven in Eight

New figures released by Cancer Research tell us that one in eight women will get breast cancer.  Apparently the charity’s figures show that breast cancer rates have risen from one in nine, to one in eight.

This is very sad news for women, and another sign that the pattern of health and disease is changing in our society.  It’s the long term, chronic diseases that prevail - diseases caused by ‘lifestyle factors’ and genetics, rather than infectious diseases.

There is a lot I could say about how to protect your cells from damage through healthy eating, or about how this statistic is misleading, but this news made me think of another way in which this information will affect women.

How many ladies will now be thinking ‘it could be me’ on hearing this stark statistic?  How many will now feel compelled to reduce alcohol intake or increase exercise in an attempt to reduce their risk?  [increased acohol consumption and lack of exercise have been cited as important risk factors in developing the disease].

Many of us know from first hand experience that when we are spurred on to adopt a new ‘healthy regime’ it will often fail after a short while, leaving us back where we were with old behaviours, along with added guilt about how these behaviours maybe slowly killing us.  And we may be feeling like failures for not having the resolve or the motivation to look after our health properly.

But even if you do manage to continue a new healthier regime, how will you ever know if you’re doing enough?  Maybe you’ll still have the guilt and fear despite exercising regularly, drinking less alcohol and getting your five-a-day.

Sadly, in my opinion, news like this generates a great deal of fear among the population.  And it's another item on the list of 'Things We Should be Doing'.  In this respect, I think most people would be better off without hearing news like this, and it may actually be affecting people's health in a way that is often overlooked.

Through being trained in kinesiology, I am very aware of the impact that negative emotions (both extreme and subtle) can have on the body.  Holding the body in a vibration of fear is not healthy in any way.  But because it can be very difficult to measure the effect that energy and emotions have on the body, mainstream medicine doesn’t accept this view.  Kinesiologists (along with many other energy workers) would tell you that the influence is immense.

Of course I’m not saying that this kind of news should be censored so as not to upset people, I’m just commenting on how I think it could affect people.  There’s no easy answer. 

Except how about an alternative headline:

‘Seven in every eight women will not get breast cancer’.  

I think it sounds better.

My new website is now live:

My new website is now live!

I have made it much simpler and with less pages.  I hope you like it.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

What's happening to breakfast?

I am naturally suspicious of any food advertised on TV, but I became especially suspicious when I recently saw the advert for ‘Belvita Breakfast Biscuits’ – have you seen it?  These biscuits are ‘made with wholegrain’ and are especially 'designed for breakfast'.  In the name of research I bought some and have done a quick evaluation.  Nutritionally, they are a bit like hobnobs with added vitamins.  Except hobnobs contain nearly twice as much fibre as Belvita Breakfast Biscuits.  

If you sift through the information on the packaging, their claim that ‘the carbohydrates are regularly released over 4 hours to keep you going all morning’ is only when the biscuits are part of a ‘balanced breakfast’.  And if you continue to scrutinise the packaging, you will see that the manufacturers suggest that a ‘balanced breakfast’ consists of a low fat yoghurt, a portion of fruit and a cup of tea or coffee.  I think this is totally misleading.  The TV advert and packaging makes you think that eating four of these for breakfast will keep you filled up for four hours.  Not so, you need to eat a yoghurt and a portion of fruit too!  And I don't think you can really put a time limit on how long a food will keep you going for - we're all different, and it depends on what you've eaten the day before, what you're doing, how you're feeling etc.  

I think my biggest grievance is that this is another step towards making breakfast into a snack rather than a meal.  And it’s a move away from real food.  What happened to kippers or eggs for breakfast?  Or just good old toast, jam and butter?  See my earlier post about butter.  And jam is a traditional food made with seasonal fruit.  So many of the newer breakfast products available are overprocessed bars or sugary cereals with little nutritional value at all.  You only need to look at the kids’ breakfast cereals and they are nearly all covered in sugar or chocolate flavoured. 

I don’t think that for breakfast you need to be confined to a ‘breakfast food’; some people are perfectly happy to have left over shepherds pie for their breakfast, or a bowl of noodle soup.  But I do think that it’s important to eat real food, made from natural, real ingredients - that’s what makes your body happy.

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