Is what you know about healthy eating making you fat and tired?

Oh wow – nutrition and diet info is everywhere!

And each expert and association tries to lead you in their direction because they know best and their advice is going to help you.  Right?

Well, as my grand-daughter says, “yeah maybe…”

Everyone has heard (and maybe lived through) the intense focus on how much you eat.  This has gotten way too much attention because while this does affect your weight and energy level, it’s certainly not the “holy grail” of health.

Let’s focus a bit more on the often overlooked (and proven) benefits of what you eat and drink and how you eat and drink it.

What you eat and drink

The “calories in, calories out” philosophy (i.e. how much you eat) is being drowned out with research on other factors that may be just as important.  Don’t get me wrong limiting calories and eating less than you burn is certainly necessary for you to lose weight but that’s simply not the only factor for long-term weight loss and maximum energy for everyone.

I’m not giving you free rein here to eat as much as you like.  You can certainly still continue to count your calories,  but don’t forget to also pay attention to what you eat.

Ideally, you need a varied diet full of minimally-processed foods (i.e. fewer “packaged” “ready-to-eat” foods).  This simple concept is paramount for weight loss, energy, and overall health and wellness.

Every day this is what you should aim for:

  • A colourful array of fruits and veggies at almost every meal and snack. You need the fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Enough protein. Making sure you get all of those essential amino acids (bonus: eating protein can increase your metabolism).
  • Healthy fats and oils (never “hydrogenated” ones). There is a reason some fatty acids are called “essential” – you need them as building blocks for your hormones and brain as well as to be able to absorb essential fat-soluble vitamins from your uber-healthy salads.  Use extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, eat your organic egg yolks, and get grass-fed meats when possible.  You don’t need to overdo it here.  Just make sure you’re getting some high-quality fats.

Do you really think that 2000 calories consisting of lean protein, veggies and smart carbs every day would have you end up looking like you would if you ate 2000 calories of highly processed foods packed with sugars, salt, preservatives, additives and ingredients you can’t pronounce?  If you do, then we need to have a chat. 🙂

How you eat and drink

Also pay attention to how you eat and drink.

Studies are definitely showing that this has more of an impact than we previously thought.

Are you rushed, not properly chewing your food, and possibly suffering from gastrointestinal issues? Do you drink your food?

When it comes to how you eat let’s first look at “mindful eating”.

Mindful eating means to take smaller bites, eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and savour every bite.  Notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture.  Breathe.

This gives your digestive system the hint to prepare for digestion and to secrete necessary enzymes.

This can also help with weight loss because eating slower often means eating less.  Did you know that it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full?

Thought so!

We also know that more thoroughly chewed food is easier to digest and it makes it easier to absorb all of those essential nutrients.

And don’t forget about drinking your food.

Yes, smoothies can be healthy and a fabulously easy and tasty way to get in some fruits and veggies (hello leafy greens!) but drinking too much food can contribute to a weight problem and feelings of sluggishness.

Don’t get me wrong a green smoothie can make an amazingly nutrient-dense meal and is way better than stopping for convenient junk food – just consider a large smoothie to be a full meal not a snack.  And don’t gulp it down too fast.

If your smoothies don’t fill you up like a full meal does try adding in a spoon of fiber like ground flax or chia seeds.

Summary:

Consider not only how much you eat but also what and how you eat it.

Here’s a fabulous smoothie recipe you can try – just remember, it’s a meal.  This a good breakfast option.

Recipe (Smoothie meal): Chia Peach Green Smoothie

Serves 1

handful spinach

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1 banana

1 chopped peach

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

Add ingredients to blender in order listed (you want your greens on the bottom by the blade so they blend better and have the chia on the bottom to absorb some liquid before you blend).

Wait a couple of minutes for the chia seeds to start soaking up the almond milk.

Blend, Serve and Enjoy!

Tip: Smoothies are the ultimate recipe for substitutions.  Try swapping different greens, fruit or seeds to match your preference.

Bonus: Chia seeds not only have fiber and essential omega-3 fatty acids but they  contain all of the essential amino acids from protein.

References:

http://summertomato.com/wisdom-wednesday-salad-dressing-is-your-friend
https://authoritynutrition.com/20-reasons-you-are-not-losing-weight/
http://summertomato.com/the-science-behind-mindful-eating-what-happens-to-your-body-during-a-mindful-meal
http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3061/2

Three tips to avoid over-eating at meals

avoid over-eating

It can be so easy to overeat at special events and meals out with friends.

And it’s not just the abundance of delicious food but also the people, the occasion and the ambiance.

It is way too easy (and common) to indulge on those days.

But it doesn’t always stop there.

Sometimes we overeat on regular days.  Or at regular meals.  Or All. The. Time.

Here are three tips to avoid over-eating at meals.

(By the way, turn these into habits and you won’t have to rely on willpower!)

Tip #1: Start with some water

When your stomach is growling and you smell amazingly delicious food it’s too easy to fill a plate (or grab some samples with your bare hands) and dive into the food.

But did you know that it’s possible to sometimes confuse the feeling of thirst with that of hunger?  Your stomach may actually be craving a big glass of water rather than a feast.

Some studies have shown that drinking a glass or two of water before a meal can help reduce the amount of food eaten.  And this super-simple tip may even help with weight loss (…just sayin’).

Not only will the water start to fill up your stomach before you get to the buffet, leaving less room for the feast but drinking enough water has been shown to slightly increase your metabolism.

Win-win!

Tip #2: Try eating “mindfully”

You’ve heard of mindfulness but have you applied that to your eating habits?

This can totally help you avoid over-eating as well as having the added bonus of helping your digestion.

Just as being mindful when you meditate helps to focus your attention on your breathing and the present moment being mindful when you eat helps to focus your attention on your meal.

Do this by taking smaller bites, eating more slowly, chewing more thoroughly, and savouring every mouthful.  Notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture.  Breathe.

This can help prevent overeating because eating slower often means eating less.

When you eat quickly you can easily overeat because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full.

So take your time, pay attention to your food and enjoy every bite.

Bonus points: Eat at a table (not in front of the screen), off of a small plate, and put your fork down between bites.

Tip #3: Start with the salad

You may be yearning for that rich, creamy main dish.

But don’t start there.

(Don’t worry, you can have some…just after you’ve eaten your salad).

Veggies are a great way to start any meal because they’re full of not only vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and health-promoting phytochemicals but they also have some secret satiety weapons: fiber and water.

Fiber and water are known to help fill you up and make you feel fuller.  They’re “satiating”.

And these secret weapons are great to have on your side when you’re about to indulge in a large meal.

Summary:

Have your glass of water, eat mindfully, and start with your salad to help avoid over-eating at meals.

References:
https://authoritynutrition.com/7-health-benefits-of-water/
http://summertomato.com/the-science-behind-mindful-eating-what-happens-to-your-body-during-a-mindful-meal

Three fabulous breakfast foods

breakfast food

Do you love your breakfast?  Do you have a short list of “go-to” recipes?  Or do you need a bit of inspiration to start eating breakfast again?

Getting some protein at each meal can help with blood sugar management, metabolism and weight loss.  This is because protein helps you feel fuller longer and uses up a bunch of calories to absorb and metabolize it.  So I’m going to show you how to get the protein, as well as some veggies and healthy fats for your soon-to-be favourite new “go-to” breakfasts.

Breakfast Food #1: Eggs

Yes, eggs are the “quintessential” breakfast food.  And for good reason!

No, I’m not talking about processed egg whites in a carton.  I mean actual whole “eggs”.

Egg whites are mostly protein while the yolks are the real nutritional powerhouses.  Those yolks contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats.

Eggs have been shown to help you feel full, keep you feeling fuller longer, and help to stabilize blood sugar and insulin.

Not to mention how easy it is to boil a bunch of eggs and keep them in the fridge for a “grab and go” breakfast when you’re running short on time.

And…nope the cholesterol in eggs is not associated with an increased risk of arterial or heart diseases.

One thing to consider is to try to prevent cooking the yolks at too high of a temperature because that can cause some of the cholesterol to become oxidized.  It’s the oxidized cholesterol that’s heart unhealthy.

Breakfast Food #2: Nuts and/or Seeds

Nuts and seeds contain protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  Nuts and/or seeds would make a great contribution to breakfast.

You won’t be fooled by “candied” nuts, sweetened nut/seed butters, or chia “cereals” with added sugars – you know I’m talking about the real, whole, unsweetened food here.

Nuts and seeds are also the ultimate fast food if you’re running late in the mornings.  Grab a small handful of almonds, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds as you’re running out the door; you can nosh on them while you’re commuting.

Not to mention how easy it is to add a spoonful of nut/seed butter into your morning breakfast smoothie.

Hint: If you like a creamy latte in the mornings try making one with nut or seed butter.  Just add your regular hot tea and a tablespoon or two of a creamy nut or seed butter into your blender & blend until frothy.

Breakfast Food #3: Veggies

Yes, you already know you really should get protein at every meal including breakfast; but this also applies to veggies.  You know I would be remiss to not recommend veggies at every meal, right?

Veggies are powerhouses of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, and water.  You can’t go wrong adding them into every single meal of the day so if you don’t already you should definitely try them for breakfast!

And no, you don’t need to have a salad or roasted veggies for breakfast if you don’t want to but you totally can!  You wouldn’t be breaking any “official” breakfast rules or anything like that.

Adding some protein to leftover veggies is a great combination for any meal.  Including breakfast.

Wow, 2000 workouts!

workouts

We’d like to congratulate Dorrian on achieving a massive milestone by completing 2000 workouts!

Dorrian was the second person through the door when the gym originally opened as a Curves and has stayed with us through all the changes into the current version of Inspire Fitness.

You are definitely an inspiration to other Dorrian, we’re immensely proud of you!

Everything You Need To Know About Cholesterol

cholesterol myths

Cholesterol Myths and What to Eat Instead

Historically there’s been a bit of an over-emphasis (borderlining obsession) about cholesterol and how it affects your health.

Often people are concerned about cholesterol without anyone ever explaining to them what it actually is.

While cholesterol is an actual molecule what it is bound to while it’s floating through your blood is what’s more important than just how much of it there is overall.  In fact depending on what it’s combined with can have opposite effects on your arteries and heart.  Yes, opposite!

So cholesterol is just one component of a compound that floats around your blood.  These compounds contain cholesterol as well as fats and special proteins called “lipoproteins”.

They’re grouped into two main categories:

HDL: High Density Lipoprotein (AKA “good” cholesterol) that “cleans up” some of those infamous “arterial plaques” and transports cholesterol back to the liver.
LDL: Low Density Lipoprotein (AKA “bad” cholesterol) that transports cholesterol from the liver (and is the kind found to accumulate in arteries and become easily oxidized hence their “badness”).

And yes, it’s even more complicated than this.  Each of these categories is further broken down into subcategories which can also be measured in a blood test.

So “cholesterol” isn’t simply cholesterol which is harmful, it has very different effects on your body depending on which other molecules it’s bound to in your blood and what it is actually doing there.

So, the old “Cholesterol’s Bad” Myth

Cholesterol is absolutely necessary for your body to produce critical things like vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun, your sex hormones (e.g. estrogen and testosterone), as well as bile to help you absorb dietary fats.  Not to mention that it’s incorporated into the membranes of your cells.

You get that it’s an important molecule now, right?

The overall amount of cholesterol in your blood (AKA “total cholesterol”) isn’t nearly as important as how much of each kind you have in your blood.

It’s the ration of LDL compared with HDL in your blood that’s important to note.  Too much LDL compared with HDL may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease although it is absolutely not the only thing to consider for heart health.

Eating cholesterol increases your bad cholesterol, or does it?

Most of the cholesterol in your blood is made by your liver.  It’s actually not from the cholesterol you eat.  In fact, cholesterol medications block an enzyme in your liver (HMG Co-A reductase, to be exact) because that’s where your cholesterol comes from!

In fact, what you eat does affect how much cholesterol your liver produces but not necessarily in a bad way.  After a cholesterol-rich meal your liver doesn’t need to make as much so it switches it’s cholesterol production line into slow-mode.

Is the aim to get your cholesterol as low as possible?

As with almost everything in health and wellness there’s a balance that needs to be maintained.  There are very few extremes that are going to serve you well.

People with too-low levels of cholesterol have increased risk of death from other non-heart-related issues like certain types of cancers and in fact, suicide so trying to get your cholesterol too low can have negative effects.

Are Drugs are the only way to get a good cholesterol balance?

Don’t start or stop any medications without talking with your doctor.

And while drugs can certainly lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol they don’t seem to be able to raise the “good” HDL cholesterol all that well.

Guess what does?

Nutrition and exercise!

One of the most impactful ways to lower your cholesterol with diet is to eat lots of fruits and veggies.  And we mean lots, up to 10 servings a day.  Every day.

You can (should?) also exercise, lose weight, stop smoking, and eat better quality fats.  That means fatty fish, avocados and olive oil.  Ditch those over-processed hydrogenated “trans” fats.

So as you can see the science of cholesterol and heart health is complicated and we’re learning more every day.  Cholesterol doesn’t necessarily need to be the scary subject it’s made out to be.  And there is a lot you can do from a nutrition and lifestyle perspective to improve your cholesterol level.

If you want any further help on this or other lifestyle or weight management issues please get in touch. We’re happy to help.

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-cholesterol

http://summertomato.com/how-to-raise-your-hdl-cholesterol

https://authoritynutrition.com/top-9-biggest-lies-about-dietary-fat-and-cholesterol/

How to Improve Gut Health – 29th May – World Digestive Health Day

healthy gut, healthy you

Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”

And while this may not be 100% true for every disease in every person, more and more research shows that our gut (digestive system) has a bigger role in many diseases than we used to think. And we’re not just talking about heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, IBS, IBD, etc. We’re talking about all kinds of issues like allergies, pain, mood disorders, and nutrient deficiencies.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Our gut is the portal to the outside world. It’s here where we take in disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. We also take in nutrients (and toxins) through our gut. The nutrients we ingest and absorb are the building blocks of every single part of our body. We’re just learning the connections between our gut and other areas of our body, like our brain (have you heard of “the gut-brain axis”). Not just our gut per se; but, its friendly resident microbes too. These guys also have newly discovered roles in our gut health and overall health.

So, let’s talk about the roles that our gut and our gut microbes play in our overall health. Then I’ll give you tips to improve your gut health naturally.

Our gut’s role in our overall health

Our gut’s main role is as a barrier. To let things in that should get in, and to keep things out that should stay out. Think of “absorption” of nutrients as things we want to let in; and “elimination” of waste as things we want to pass right through and out.

This seemingly simple role is super-complex! And it can break down in so many places.

For one thing, our guts can “leak.” Yes, like a long tube with holes in it, it can allow things to get into our bloodstream/bodies that can wreak havoc (bacteria, undigested food, and toxins). You name it, whatever you put into your mouth can be absorbed by your gut and get into your bloodstream, even if it’s not supposed to. And when your gut wall gets irritated, it can “leak.” When this happens, you get inflammation, which is a starting point for many diseases that don’t seem linked to the gut but have a sneaky connection there.

FUN FACT: About 70% of our immune system lives in and around our gut.

A healthy gut is not a leaky gut. It maintains its barrier and shuttles things through to be eliminated. Maintaining a healthy gut barrier is the first pillar of gut health.

The second main part of your gut are the billions of friendly health-promoting microbes. Gut microbes help us digest and absorb nutrients. They fight off disease-causing microbes, make some vitamins for us, and have all kinds of other health benefits, like mental health benefits, reducing inflammation, and stabilizing blood sugar.

So, keeping your gut microbes happy is the second pillar of gut health!

How to improve gut health

There are a lot of natural ways to improve gut health. Let’s start with what to stop. It’s always best to eliminate the cause, so let’s stop giving our guts junk to deal with. How about eliminating added sugars, processed foods, and alcohol? Try that for a few weeks, and you may be amazed at how much better your body (and gut) feels.

You may also want to eliminate other gut irritants. Dairy and grains contain common compounds known to irritate some people’s guts. Sometimes you only need to eliminate them for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference for your health.

By eating nutrient-dense foods, we allow ample macro- and micro-nutrients into our gut to maximize the chance for absorption. These nutrients help our bodies build and repair our gut, and every other body part as well. Some of the most nutrient-dense foods include dark leafy greens, colourful fruits and veggies, liver, and fish.

The second pillar of gut health is our microbes. By ingesting probiotic-rich foods and drinks, we can help to replenish our gut microbes. These are found in fermented foods like kombucha, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Make these a part of your daily diet.

Whole foods are full of gut-friendly fiber. Not eating enough fiber increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Fiber plays lots of roles in our gut, including whisking away some of those pesky bad bacteria and toxins so they can be eliminated. Fiber also helps to feed our friendly resident microbes that help us absorb and digest our food better. What foods have a lot of fiber? Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even cacao.

And don’t forget the uber-important lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep, stressing less, and getting the right amount (and intensity) of exercise for you. It’s easy to forget some of the simple, but key links there are between what we do with our bodies and how well they function.

Conclusion

The function of your gut is key to your overall health. There are two pillars of gut health: maintaining a good barrier and maintaining healthy gut microbes.

The main ways to improve both of these naturally is by eating nutrient-dense whole foods. Foods filled with nutrition, probiotics, and fiber. And eliminating common gut irritants like added sugar, processed foods, and alcohol.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/does-all-disease-begin-in-the-gut/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-nutrition-gut-health

http://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-gut-bugs-what-they-eat-and-7-ways-feed-them

Watermelon & Mint Icecream – cool, creamy and virtually sugar free!

watermelon

Should ice cream be a breakfast food?

Probably not normally but I made this early this morning and ended up having a bowl while waiting for my breakfast to cook.  It’s really creamy and stays refreshing because it’s not too sweet.

Ingredients:

Half a watermelon (cubed and frozen overnight)
A can of coconut milk
A couple of springs of mint
2 tblspns agave syrup (optional – you could use honey or maple syrup instead if you prefer).

Pop everything in your blender and blend until it’s soft scoop consistency.

DISCLAIMER – Make sure your blender is up to blending frozen things – we’re not replacing any burnt out motors!

You can put it in the freezer for a couple of hours to freeze a bit more until you get the consistency you prefer.

Enjoy.

Be Inspired To Run

running group

Our new running group is proving really popular with both members and non-members.  Aimed at non-runners and returners to running, Di takes groups out three times a week.

The goal is to build up to a 5k distance.

The group is very friendly and completely non-competitive.

Sessions are only £2 (6 sessions paid in advance).  For more info call us on 01249 463002.

A Member Becomes a Coach

beginners Boxing

We’re incredibly proud of our member Leann, who recently went to London to do the Hatton Academy Boxing for Exercise Course and passed with flying colours.

Hatton Academy is owned and run by Ricky (The Hitman) Hatton and so although the exercise classes that Leann will be coaching will be aimed at general fitness you can be sure that the boxing techniques taught are real.

Leann is going to run a Beginners Boxing for Exercise class on Monday nights at 6pm.

Good Posture is Essential For Good Health

Good posture

Our modern lifestyles are doing nothing good for our posture and consequently our health.   All those millions of years learning to stand upright and we spend all our time sitting down!  Compound that with the amount of time that we spend checking our phones and our posture really suffers.  According to the American Journal of Pain Management  “Posture effects and moderates every physiological function from breathing to hormonal production including spinal pain, headache, mood, blood pressure, pulse, and lung capacity.”   Also, according to an article in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society poor posture has also been linked to “a trend towards greater mortality”.

So What is Normal Posture?

In normal posture you stand with the skeleton aligned so that your head, torso, hips and legs are help upright with minimal muscular force and placing no strain on the ligaments.

Two major risks to normal posture are the amount of time you spend sitting (normally this means slouching) and the amount of time you spend checking your phone.  Your body adapts to help you do the things that you do regularly or for long periods of time even if it’s not designed to accommodate those positions.  It’ll just do the best it can.

Over the past 7 years mobile usage has grown from less than 30 minutes a day to 6 times this at nearly 3 hours a day for an average adult! This forward head tilt occurs every time we look at our phone and effectively changes the weight of the head from 10-12 pounds to as much as 60 pounds. Over time, this puts excessive strain on the spinal joints and causes tension within the muscles of the neck, shoulders and upper back.

What should you do to improve your posture?

First, try to change your position frequently.  If you work at a computer or sit at a desk for much of your day see if you can move from sitting to standing at regular intervals.  Standing desks are becoming more common giving you that option but if that’s not feasible in your job then at least stand to answer phone calls or get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour.

Also, start holding your smart phone at eye level. This will prevent you from excessively flexing your head forward. Additionally, squeeze your shoulder blades together 5 times every time you look at your smart phone as this will help strengthen your mid back.

If you’re at all concerned about your posture or would like to know if you’re already storing problems for the future we can carry out a PostureScreen assessment for you.  This involves taking two photographs and then marking specific points on your structure.  The software then assesses and highlights any deviations from normal.  We charge £25 for a PostureScreen (£10 for members).

You can then use this information to regularly do exercises that will combat the effects of poor posture by strengthening the muscles of the neck and upper back.

The earlier you start, the better – do them not only for your posture but for your overall well-being!

If you’d like more information about the PostureScreen Assessment please give us a call on 01249 463002.

References

http://abcmiracles.com/research/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15450042

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