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What’s going on at the gym.
What’s going on at the gym.
On 27th March our clocks go forward an hour in line with Daylight Saving. We often think of this as the true start of spring and are grateful for the lighter evenings but have you ever wondered how this change affects your sleep?
You might think the only way the change to DST impacts your sleep is by making it an hour shorter for one day. But the truth is you’re more likely to have trouble falling, and staying, asleep and this can last for up to a week or much longer after the change.
When the clocks go forward and you wake up an hour earlier than usual — and go about your day eating, working, and exercising an hour earlier than usual — your body experiences a kind of jet lag. You won’t living in sync with your circadian rhythm, the internal clock that dictates our energy levels over a roughly 24-hour cycle.
One of the things that your circadian rhythm controls is when your body feels awake and when it feels sleepy so when it’s out of whack it can be harder to fall asleep. That leads to low energy the next day — think grogginess during an important 10 a.m. meeting.
Too many nights like this and you’ll end up with sleep debt. This is the amount of sleep you “owe” your body over the last 14 nights when compared to your sleep need. The amount of sleep you need is genetically determined with the average being 8 hours 10 minutes, plus or minus 44 minutes or so. Although there’s always a chance, you’ll fall in the 13.5% who need 9 hours or more sleep per night.
Sleep debt is one of the biggest factors determining how you feel and perform each day.
Clearly Daylight Saving Time can have a significant impact on us for days, or even weeks to come. Circadian misalignment has been linked to impaired cognition, cancer, workplace injuries, traffic accidents, heart attacks and strokes.
Obviously DST is going to happen whether we like it or not but you can reduce the impact of that lost hour of sleep by having good sleep hygiene and maximising the sleep you DO get. Switch off screens at least an hour before bed. Don’t drink coffee later in the day. Avoid heavy meals at least 3 hours before bedtime. Keep your bedroom cool and dark.
I need to make a confession………………………………………………………………………………..
I joined Inspire Fitness earlier this year.
It sounds so easy doesn’t it, but it wasn’t.
I had booked with Carolyn to come and look round after Christmas. I had been unwell for a few months and recently been diagnosed as perimenopausal. Having read lots about the vast array of symptoms I was suffering there were lots of indications that exercise can really help with the mental issues as well as the physical.
But lockdown came again. The gym was closed and my health took a turn for the worse. I started on HRT – the first type was horrific and I was worse than before. And my work stress became so overwhelming I was signed off.
Things were pretty bad there for a few weeks.
And then Carolyn contacted me to say the gym was going to be able to re-open with covid safety measures in place and did I want to rebook to come and take a look round. I tried to explain that I had been unwell and that due to severe anxiety at that point I hadn’t actually left the house for 2 weeks.
She was so kind and understanding I felt a bit silly turning down her offer. Armed with new HRT and pulling on my big girl pants I decided that I didn’t want to live like this anymore and I was going to have to really dig in and try to help myself.
So the day came. And I’m stood outside of the gym racked with nerves (I was actually shaking!). I HATED the gym. What was I thinking? I’m fat and unfit! I’m going to look like an idiot! All these negative thoughts ran through my head and I nearly turned around and walked home.
I’m so so glad that I didn’t.
The gym (and the HRT!) has transformed my life. Without the HRT I wouldn’t have had the emotional capacity to try something new and without the gym, I wouldn’t have scrambled together the resilience to become a less anxious and more confident person.
I train 5 times a week – sometimes 6! And it turned out I’m strong and I love weights! All along the staff team has coaxed and encouraged me, supporting my victories and providing words of wisdom on days when it’s been a tough session. One of the coaches quickly realised that I wasn’t working at capacity and chatted me through the different programmes offered, and recommended something she thought might be a bit more challenging for me.
I’ve been a member of Inspire for less than 5 months and I’m so grateful for the support shown to me by the team and the other members. The friendship and comradery I found have been amazing, it really is like no other gym!
I have increased my strength and flexibility, developed my cardio and improved my metabolism (just love seeing my stats on the app!!). I am about to complete the Athletic programme, it’s been very challenging, but hugely satisfying.
Oh. And I’ve lost 46lbs. So lockdown and menopause can do one – this lady is determined to be fit and fierce at 50.
I am now a certified gym bunny – there I said it!
There’s no doubt that what you eat can have a big impact on how you feel, right?
Mental health and brain health are complex. So are the foods we eat, and the ways our bodies interact with those foods. While we don’t know the exact mechanisms how food and nutrition help, we do know a few ways food impacts our moods.
First, what we eat becomes the raw materials for our neurotransmitters. “Neurotransmitters” are biochemical messengers that allow our nerve cells to communicate (ever heard of serotonin, the happy hormone?). They are important not just for thinking and memory, but also for mental health.
Second, what we eat affects our blood sugar. And having unstable blood sugar levels can contribute to mood swings.
Let’s talk about mood-boosting and mood-busting foods.
Some nutrient deficiencies can look a lot like mental health problems; this includes deficiencies in B-vitamins, vitamin D, and the mineral selenium. So, getting enough vitamins, minerals, (and other things like antioxidants) are key. These nutrients not only reduce inflammation but also fuel the biochemical reactions in our bodies. Including those that create neurotransmitters. So make sure you’re eating a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. In fact, studies show that people who eat the most fruits and vegetables are the happiest.
Also pay special attention to vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin), as it’s not naturally occurring in too many foods. Selenium is an essential mineral found in Brazil nuts, walnuts, cod, and poultry. Try to add some of those to your weekly diet.
Second, make sure you get enough protein. Protein is your body’s main supply of amino acids. Amino acids are very important for mood issues because they are the fundamental building blocks of neurotransmitters. Protein also helps to regulate blood sugar. I recommend eating protein with every meal; this includes dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, poultry, and meat.
Third, complex carbohydrates like sweet potato and quinoa are great too. They allow better absorption of key amino acids like tryptophan. Tryptophan is used by your body to make serotonin (your “happy hormone”) and melatonin (your “sleepy” hormone). So, if you want to relax, try these in the evening.
Fourth, fish and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids (nuts, seeds, and algae) are also mood-boosting. Omega-3s are definitely “brain food” and may help to ease some symptoms.
FUN FACT: One study showed that giving one multi-vitamin and one omega-3 fish oil tablet per day to prison inmates reduced the incidence of violent behavior by 50%!
Last but not least, make sure you’re hydrated. Mild dehydration can cause mood issues as well.
You won’t be surprised to hear me say processed foods are mood-busters, right? One study suggests that eating a lot of processed foods devoid of nutrients can increase your chances of becoming depressed by as much as 60 percent! This is on top of the research that shows nutrient deficiencies can look like mental health problems.
“But it makes me feel good!”
Yes, some of these mood busters can make you feel better temporarily. Some big food companies study how to maximize the “pleasure” centers with the perfect amount of sugar, salt, and fat. Not to mention the color, texture, and taste; they can light up our taste buds and make us feel good… in the short term.
A few other things to avoid are:
Bad moods can lead to bad eating habits; and, bad eating habits can lead to bad moods. If you need a mood boost, stick to minimally processed nutrient-dense whole foods. Things like fresh fruit and vegetables (including leafy greens), nuts and seeds, eggs, fish, poultry, and meat. Avoid common mood-busting foods like alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.
And remember, sometimes “feel good” junk foods, only make you feel good temporarily.
Lot’s of people avoid fat in their diets believing it will make them fat, raise their cholesterol and cause heart disease BUT…
Not all fats are created equal!
Fat is one of the three critical macronutrients; along with protein and carbohydrates. Some fats are super-health-boosting; and others are super-health-busting.
Health-building fats support your brain, hormones, immune system, heart health, and moods. Health-busting fats pretty much bust all of these (brain, hormones, immune system, heart health, and moods) so are best avoided.
As a general rule, the fats from whole foods that are the least processed will be the healthiest for you. But, you already knew that, right?
So let me give you a definitive list of the fats to use, and the fats to avoid.
Health-boosting fats are from:
You probably already know, virgin oils are the best option. Getting the oil out of a whole food involves some processing. Sometimes it’s by squeezing, or heating. Other times it’s by using chemical solvents. The word “virgin” is used to show minimal processing (and no solvents!).
According to the World Health Organization’s Codex Alimentarius:
“Virgin fats and oils are edible vegetable fats, and oils obtained, without altering the nature of the oil, by mechanical procedures, e.g., expelling or pressing, and the application of heat only. They may be purified by washing with water, settling, filtering and centrifuging only.”
For example, Extra virgin olive oil must:
Plus, the minimal processing helps to maintain some of the quality of delicate fat molecules, as well as their antioxidants. Win-win!
Just be little careful when choosing your oil because often the bottle will appear to contain virgin olive oil but when you look closely it’s been mixed with more processed oils to bring the price down.
Health-busting fats are from:
Hydrogenated oils are particularly bad; this is because they contain small amounts of “trans” fats. Studies show that trans fats lead to insulin resistance, inflammation, belly fat. They also drastically raise the risk of heart disease. Lose-lose!
Don’t forget, we’re not just talking about buying bottles of these fats for home cooking. We’re also looking at the processed foods, most of which contain them.
How to get more health-building fats
First, ditch any foods in your cupboards that contain safflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil, or any hydrogenated oil. Soybean oil alone accounts for over 75% of oils consumed by Americans, so you can imagine it’s a popular product in food manufacturing in the UK too.
Second, try substituting one of the health-building oils whenever you have a recipe that calls for the other stuff. Try flax oil in your salad dressing, avocado and/or olive oil in your cooking, and coconut oil in your baking.
Third, make healthier versions of your go-to processed foods. We’ll help out with a recipe later in the week that contains healthy fats.
Now tell me: What’s your favorite fat and why? Let me know in the comments below.
Do you ever feel a bit “overextended” in the belly after a meal? Perhaps “gassy?” Have you ever carried a “food baby?”
Well, bloating is common. Up to 25-30% of people experience it regularly. It happens when you have trouble digesting. The symptoms come from excess gas, reactions to foods, or food not moving through you as well as it could.
There are many possible reasons you might experience these symptoms. Maybe because of a medical condition, a food allergy or an intolerance to what you’ve eaten.
It can also result from how you eat.
If you have a serious digestive issue like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), then you should have been given some dietary advice so make sure to eat accordingly. Same goes if you know certain foods give you gas. Simply avoid them.
If you’re already doing those things, and still experience bloating, here are some great tips for dealing with it naturally.
1 – Don’t overeat
If you overeat at a meal, then you’ll feel bigger around the mid-section. You’ll feel more pressure in your abdomen. Plus, you’re giving your digestive system a hard time. It’s better to eat until you feel almost full and not overindulge. Grab an extra snack or small meal throughout the day if you have to. Just don’t over-stuff yourself in one sitting.
2 – Avoid sugar alcohols
Sugar alcohols are low-calorie sweeteners made from sugars. In an ingredients list, they end in “-ol,” and include things like sorbitol, xylitol, and erythritol. They’re found in some chewing gums and sugar-free foods. Some people experience bloating after eating foods with these. So, try avoiding them and see if that helps you.
3 – Avoid swallowing air
Sometimes the gas that causes pressure in your digestive system is from swallowing air. Things like carbonated drinks are the biggest culprit here. You can also swallow air if you eat with yoru mouth open, when you chew gum or when you drink through a straw, so try avoiding these and see if it helps.
You can also swallow air when eating too quickly or while talking when you eat. Which leads me to…
4 – Eat slower, more mindfully, and less stressed
Eating too fast isn’t doing your digestive system any favours. Digestion starts in the mouth so take time to really chew your food. It should be liquid before you swallow it. A secondary benefit of this is you will naturally find you eat less and may lose weight. Be mindful and enjoy the time you are spending eating your meals. Savour them.
Stress can also affect digestion and cause increased bloating. Stress-reducing techniques can help. Try meditating or deep breathing (but not while you’re eating). 🙂
5 – Try peppermint
Peppermint oil has been shown to improve bloating. It’s thought to increase transit time by relaxing the stomach muscles and increasing the flow of bile. Try steeping fresh peppermint leaves, or a peppermint tea bag, and drinking it slowly. See if that helps reduce your symptoms.
There are a bunch of natural ways to deal with bloating.
First, avoid it by not eating things that give you gas or aggravate a digestive issue. Try not to overeat, consume sugar alcohols, or swallow air. Also, eating more mindfully and reducing stress can help too. Finally, if you are experiencing bloating, enjoy a cup of peppermint tea.
If you do all of these, and still experience bloating, then you may have a food intolerance so try tracking what you eat and your symptoms to see if you can recognise a pattern. If you have a major concern, then please see your doctor.
If you always seem to feel hungry, you are not alone!
There are many reasons to feel hungry. Of course, the most obvious one is that you are actually physically hungry. Perhaps your stomach is empty, your blood sugar has dropped, and your hunger hormones are having a party.
But other times, the hunger may not be physical hunger. It may be a craving or an emotional trigger. These are common reasons why some people eat too much. It could be brought on by a certain type of diet, stress, boredom or a myriad of other things going on in your life.
It’s easy to mistake “psychological” hunger for “physical” hunger.
Let’s talk about the difference between both of these types of hunger, and give you some tips on how to figure out which is which.
Physical hunger vs. psychological hunger
Your “physical” hunger is regulated by the body through your hunger hormones to ensure your survival. You don’t want to be completely drained of fuel and nutrients for a long time because you might get so weak that you’re unable to go hunting (yep, your physiology still thinks you hunt Wildebeast!) So, you’re programmed to seek food when your body physically needs it. This can be triggered by your stomach being empty or your blood sugar dropping too low.
“Psychological” or “emotional” hunger is eating to overcome boredom, sadness, stress, etc. It’s based on a thought or feeling. It’s what happens when you see a great food commercial or smell a bakery. It’s not from your empty stomach or low blood sugar.
So, here’s how to tell which is which.
Six steps to figure out if you’re physically hungry or not
1 – The first thing you need to do is stop! Take a pause to evaluate. Scarfing down that protein bar at the first sign of hunger isn’t necessarily going to help you.
2 – Now that you’ve stopped. Pay attention to where this hunger is coming from. Can you actually feel or hear your stomach growling? Did you skip a meal, and haven’t eaten in hours? Or are you seeing and smelling something divinely delicious? Perhaps you’re bored, sad, or stressed? Are you using food as a diversion from a task you don’t want to do? Take a peek into all these areas and really pay attention.
3 – Have a big glass of water. Wait 5 minutes and see if you still think you’re hungry?
4 – Now observe your hunger feeling for at least a minute. If your feelings are the source of the hunger then you may be using food to avoid an uncomfortable feeling, admitting that you’re sad or lonely isn’t a great feeling but being uncomfortable doesn’t hurt you, covering those feelings in chocolate and ice-cream just might!
Sit with the uncomfortable feeling for a minute, acknowledge it and let it pass. It will, I promise. Try some deep breathing or go for a walk and think about the emotion. The more you do this, the weaker that signal to swallow your emotions with food will get.
5 – If you’re sure it’s not emotion and your body really physically needs food then take the time to find something nutritious and healthy to eat. If you’re craving something processed and full of sugar it’s a clue that it’s not physical hunger but back to those emotions again.
To fill you up the food you eat should be high in protein, fibre, and water. Eat slowly and mindfully. Chew well and savour every bite of it.
6 – Rinse and repeat at the next sign of hunger.
The feeling of hunger can manifest for many reasons. Of course, if you’re physically hungry and need the food and nutrients, then this is what it’s for!
But often, there can be an underlying psychological or emotional reason you might feel hungry.
Use this process over and over again to feed your body what it actually physically needs and you’ll find it easier to manage your weight and eat for good health.
There are lots of different kinds of salt: pink, iodized, kosher, sea, etc. They either come from salt mines in the ground, or from evaporating the water out of salt water and what all salts have in common is they contain the mineral sodium.
Salt has been a popular additive in food for centuries, both for flavour, and as a preservative. It preserves the food by drawing out the water that bacteria and mould need to grow so it doesn’t spoil as quickly.
When we talk about salt, most of us think of our salt cellar, or what we add to vegetables that we’re cooking but actually, 75% of our salt intake comes from foods we buy. These can include the obvious ones such as snacks like crisps, and salted nuts but also bread and biscuits, ready- made sauces, packet sauces, stock cubes, breakfast cereals, canned foods, pickled foods, boxed foods, deli meats, restaurant food, and fast food. In the same way that savoury foods often, surprisingly, have sugar added, sweet foods can often have some salt!
Salt is actually “sodium chloride.” It’s about 40% sodium and 60% chloride; this means that one teaspoon of salt (5,000 mg) contains about 2,000 mg of sodium.
Sodium itself is not that bad! In fact, it’s an essential mineral and an essential electrolyte in the body. It helps with fluid balance, and proper nerve and muscle function. But too much sodium can begin to cause problems! Regularly getting too much sodium can increase your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, stomach cancer, and kidney stones.
That one teaspoon with about 2,000 mg of sodium should be pretty much your entire days worth but anyone who eats pre-made, packaged foods tend to eat far more than that. And, if you’re at high risk for those conditions, then you should probably restrict your intake closer to 1,500 mg of sodium each day.
You might be wondering what role salt plays in increasing blood pressure? And why it makes you thirsty?
When you eat salt, it quickly gets absorbed into the blood. Your body recognizes that the blood is too salty, so tries to dilute the blood with more water (i.e. with thirst signals to make you drink more). More water in the blood means more volume of fluid your heart needs to pump and more fluid pushing against the walls of your vessels. It also sends more blood to the kidneys so the sodium can be filtered out into the urine.
As you probably realise, increased blood pressure also puts a strain on your kidneys and other sensitive vessels, including critical vessels in your brain and heart.
Limiting salt intake can help reduce blood pressure.
Pro Tip: You can reduce high blood pressure by eating more whole foods, and more mineral-rich plant foods.
If you are healthy and eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods, then you probably don’t need to worry about your salt intake. Feel free to add a bit of salt during cooking or at the table for flavour.
If your doctor has told you to reduce your salt or sodium intake, then you can do this by reducing your intake of processed foods, adding less salt to the food you make, and eating more plant-based foods.
It can feel harder to eat healthy at this time of year. We think of salads and light meals in summer but come the colder weather we start to think of heavy, stick-to-your-ribs, warming foods and often our calorie consumption creeps up.
But, there are some simple swaps you can make that help you stay on track.
Use Pumpkin in Cake Mixes
One of the easiest healthy food swaps you can do with your autumn treats is to use pumpkin puree in your cakes. Use pumpkin puree to replace fat and eggs. This goes really well in spiced cakes but don’t be afraid to experiment.
If you want to follow a recipe instead of adjusting one here’s a lovely spiced pumpkin cake recipe: Spiced Pumpkin Cake
Sweet Potatoes Instead of White Potatoes
Many people enjoy potatoes, especially in the autumn when you want something a bit more filling but they can lead you to overeat carbs. Instead of having traditional white potatoes in your dishes, try sweet potatoes. These are filled with nutrients. You can have stuffed sweet potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, or even sweet potato soup.
Use Cauliflower for Low-Carb Options
If you are on a low-carb diet, then you should be very familiar with cauliflower. The bland taste and slightly rough texture of cauliflower makes it perfect as a substitute for many of the carb-rich foods we tend to love. You can use it to make mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes, use it instead of rice with it, or even make cauliflower steaks. Be creative and find different ways to substitute the higher-carb ingredients with cauliflower.
Quinoa Instead of Rice
One more substitution you can make for a healthier meal is to replace your rice with quinoa. Rice is fine, particularly brown rice but quinoa has higher protein levels and is more nutritious. As it’s autumn why not go for a harvest quinoa side dish with squash, pumpkin, roast brussels sprouts and spices, which would be really healthy!
Even those people who follow a strict diet and understand the calorie content of everything they eat (who are these people!) can still have a bad day and slip with their nutrition.
In our society, emotional eating is such an ingrained and normalized behaviour that we even see it in popular films and tv programmes. What does the leading female actor turn to when unhappy? A tub of Ben and Jerrys! Notice you don’t often see the leading male actor following this behaviour but that’s probably a subject for another article.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it. The human brain has evolved to reward behavior that increases our chance of survival. One of these things is eating.
The tough part is that our brains are wired to reward us for high calorie, high energy foods. Such foods were vital to sustaining our ancestors, but in today’s world where food is plentiful, this aspect of the brain ends up working against us.
What constitutes emotional eating?
In the journal Appetite there is an article, Relations between negative affect, coping, and emotional eating (catchy title huh?) that deals with this question point-blank. Their findings state that “emotional eating is related to reliance on emotion-oriented coping and avoidance distraction in eating-disordered women as well as in relatively healthy women.”
There are two things to take away from this. First, emotional eating doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. Second, if you eat to cope with daily life and this is your chief way to cope, then it would be worth exploring other ways to cope that would serve you better.
How To Stop The Habit Of Emotional Eating
Try to identify your triggers. Some find it helpful to keep a food diary. Record not only what and how much you ate but also how you felt. This may bring to light a pattern in your eating. Is it stress, boredom, loneliness, prevarication, anxiety, or some other emotion that’s triggering you to eat?
Recognizing a pattern allows you to develop a strategy to break it. Patterns such as eating after a hard day at work, during high-stress times, after a heartbreak, or when lonely or bored are signs of emotional eating. Yoga, meditation, and regular exercise can help reduce stress levels. Talking about your feelings is a much healthier coping mechanism than eating. Food is sustenance, it shouldn’t be used for comfort.
Distract yourself. The best distractions from emotional eating are things that take only about five minutes—just long enough to help you switch gears. Not only can this help stop the behavior but it can help change your mood, hopefully taking away the feeling of needing to eat. This could be as simple as a cup of tea, a few exercises, a quick breathing drill, or reading a few pages of your latest book. Try to come up with your strategy.
Make it easier on yourself and take away the temptation. Clean out your fridge and cupboards of all unhealthy foods that you typically indulge in.
Get support. Those who lack a quality support system tend to emotionally eat more often. Talk to a friend about what triggers your emotional eating and what you want to try and do about it. You’ll probably be surprised when you open up to them that their response may be very similar.
This is definitely a testing time and even the most positive amongst us are finding it hard to stay resilient in the face of all the challenges we’re currently experiencing. It is possible to build resilience though and if you’re experiencing excessive negative thoughts then it’s something you should spend some time fostering.
In any adversity, there are those who wilt and struggle to cope, while others just pick themselves up, dust themselves off and carry on as if nothing happened? These people aren’t special, they just have better coping skills, and this is something anyone can develop.
Being flexible in your thinking and open to adapting to a situation are two ways that help people to be more resilient to negative situations.
Whereas someone who may feel entrenched in their negative feelings finds it harder to distance themselves from those feelings and change direction, those who are willing to see emotions as things that grip them tighter the more they focus on them and understand how to let go and change direction quickly, come out on top.
In a way, emotions are like quicksand or Chinese finger traps.
By seeing negative events in your life as flexible, short term situations, you can more easily move on.
Let’s imagine someone who sees these negative events as a fixed point in space and time (pardon the sci-fi speak, but this does make sense). To them, that negative event is a fixed point in their life. It’s always there. Nothing they can do will change that fact that there is some level of failure or disappointment in their lives.
Those who view situations as being temporary though will be more likely to see the same situation as a speed bump in Life’s rearview mirror.
So what can you do to help you adopt this outlook?
It’s important to try and release negative thoughts and being aware of how you’re thinking is a good first step.
Start to notice your thinking. When you catch yourself thinking a negative thought, whether that’s about you, someone else or a situation. Note that you’ve had that thought and then try to switch it for something a bit more positive.
For instance, you might wake up, hear the rain, and think “Oh great, it’s raining again, I’m going to get wet on the way to work and spend all day feeling damp and horrible”. Make a mental note that you’ve had a negative thought and try to reframe it as something a bit more positive such as “Oh it’s raining, I’ll wear my new coat. It’s lucky I’m not halfway to work before I realised it was going to rain”.
It can take a while, but the more you do this, the more resilient and positive your thinking will become.
If you want to break it down then just spend a few days noticing and naming. Spotting the negative thoughts is a skill in itself and will take some practice.
Just because you don’t get something done the first time doesn’t mean you won’t get it done at another point in the future. No one writes a book, paints a portrait, or drives a car the first time they try.