Category Archives for "Weight Loss"

How Much Sugar is Too Much?

reducing sugar for health

Everyone’s talking about how bad sugar is for you. There are even entire documentaries on the topic such as “That Sugar Film”.

Obviously sugar is not a health food. And “added sugars” (ones that are not naturally found in whole foods like fruit) are particularly bad. They’re not only bad for diabetes; but, also for your waistline, mood, and energy levels.

Organizations and governments are (finally) declaring a maximum amount of daily sugar intake although many of them don’t actually agree on what that maximum number should be.

The problem is that sugar is everywhere. It’s naturally occurring. It’s also added to just about every processed food there is. And this “added sugar” is a factor in many chronic diseases we see today. Sugar is inflammatory. Too much is associated with weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and cavities. Too much sugar is a huge health risk, no matter how you look at it.

Let’s discuss the difference between “added” sugar and “naturally occurring” sugar.

Fruit and other healthy whole foods contain sugar. They also contain water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals. They are good for you. Eating fruits and vegetables is a well-proven way to reduce your risks of many chronic diseases.

“Added sugars,” on the other hand, are concerning. In 2013, the American Heart Association calculated that about 25,000 deaths per year were due to sweetened beverages. “Added sugars” are also in baked goods, sweets, soups, sauces and other processed foods. You can find sugar on the ingredient list as many names, often ending in “-ose.” These include glucose, fructose, sucrose, etc.

So, “Total sugars” = “Naturally occurring sugars” + “Added sugars.”

Tips to reduce your sugar intake

For one thing, ditch as much processed food as possible, regardless of their sugar content. There are a ton of studies that show that processed foods are bad for your health. Period.

Here are some of my most popular recommendations to reduce your sugar intake, so you don’t get too much:

  • Reduce (or eliminate) sugar-sweetened beverages; this includes fizzy drinks, sweetened coffee/tea, sports drinks, etc. Instead, have fruit-infused water. Or try drinking your coffee/tea “black” or with a touch of cinnamon or vanilla instead.
  • Reduce (or eliminate) your desserts and baked goods and bake your own instead. You can easily reduce the sugar in a recipe by half.
  • Instead of a granola bar (or other sugary snacks), try fruit, a handful of nuts, or veggies with hummus. These are easy grab-and-go snacks if you prepare them in a “to-go” container the night before.


Why am I always hungry?

overeating emotional eating weight loss

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.


Food As Comfort: Stop Bad Eating Habits And Emotional Eating

emotional eating and tips to stop it

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.

Mindfulness… Without the WooWoo!

meditate for weight loss

When we talk about mindfulness and meditation people often think it’s something a bit “new-age” and not for down-to-earth, practical, “normal” people but there’s a real buzz about it nowadays and that appears to be well deserved.

Because…yes, it really does work. The fact is, science shows definite health benefits for people who use mindfulness and meditation.

Before we dive in, let’s just make sure we’re on the same page when we say “mindfulness” and “meditation.”

“Meditation” is the ancient practice of connecting the body and mind to become more self-aware and present. It’s often used to calm the mind, ease stress, and relax the body.

Practising “mindfulness” is one of the most popular ways to meditate. It’s defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”

Mindfulness meditation is well studied in terms of its health benefits. Let’s talk about a few of them below.

The link between mindfulness and health = stress reduction

Did you know that 75-90% of doctors visits are due to the effects of stress? Isn’t that staggering?

And, doesn’t it make a ton of sense to practise something that’s free, can reduce your stress levels and reduce health issues too.

Mindfulness reduces inflammation, reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and improves sleep. All of these can have massive effects on your physical and mental health.

Let’s briefly go over the research in three main areas: mood, weight, and gut health. But know that the research on the health benefits of mindfulness is branching into many other exciting new areas too.

Mindfulness for mood

The most immediate health benefit of mindfulness is improved mood.

In one study, people who took an 8-week mindfulness program had greater improvement in symptoms according to the “Hamilton Anxiety Scale.” They were compared with people who took a stress management program that did not include mindfulness. It seems that mindfulness training was key to lowering symptoms.

Other studies show that mindfulness has similar effects as antidepressant medications for some people with mild to moderate symptoms of depression.

While mindfulness isn’t a full-fledged cure, it can certainly help to improve moods.

Mindfulness for weight

Studies show that people who use mind-body practices, including mindfulness, have lower BMIs (Body Mass Indices).

How can this be?

One way mindfulness is linked with lower weight is due to stress-reduction. Mindfulness can reduce stress-related and emotional overeating. It can also help reduce cravings and binge eating.

Another way it can work for weight is due to “mindful eating.” Mindful eating is a “non-judgmental awareness of physical and emotional sensations associated with eating.” It’s the practice of being more aware of food and the eating process. It’s listening more deeply to how hungry and full you actually are. It’s not allowing yourself to be distracted with other things while you’re eating, like what’s on TV or your smartphone.

People with higher mindfulness scores also reported smaller serving sizes of energy-dense foods. So, it seems that more mindful eating = less junk.

Mindfulness about food and eating can have some great benefits for your weight.

Mindfulness for gut health

Recent studies show a link between stress, stress hormones, and changes in gut microbes (your friendly bacteria that help your digestion).In theory, mindfulness-based stress reduction could be a way to help prevent negative changes in the gut’s microbes.

Also, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) seems to be linked with both stress and problems with gut microbes. In one study, people with IBS who received mindfulness training showed greater reductions in IBS symptoms than the group who received standard medical care.

The research here is just starting to show us the important link between stress, gut health, and how mindfulness can help.


Science is confirming some amazing health benefits of the ancient practice of mindfulness meditation. For moods, weight, gut health, and more.

Do you regularly include it in your life? If so, have you seen benefits? If not, would you consider trying it?  After all, it’s free, just takes a few minutes a day, needs no equipment and you can do it pretty much anywhere.

Let me know in the comments below.

5 Appetite Suppressing Foods To Help You Eat Less

appetite suppressing foods to help curb your appetite

It seems almost inevitable these days that we all eventually end up on a mission to improve our health. Whether it be to lose weight, gain muscle, or just stay fit and not have to worry about common health issues that can crop up. A fortune is spent advertising supplements, diet programmes, fitness equipment and the “latest new, best method” to be healthier.

There are plenty of people looking for the easy route, the quick fix. Some pill or shake that will give them the results they desire. But getting healthy and staying healthy is hard work and takes time and commitment. Achieving your health goal is more of a matter of adopting an alternative lifestyle as opposed to something that you do for a month, then your good to go.

Managing to stay a healthy weight is a key factor in living that healthier life.

Processed and junk food is doing us so much harm. Between the modern lifestyle, which is mostly sedentary, and junk food, we have dug quite a hole for ourselves. Poor eating habits have left many of us completely out of tune with our satiety signals.

Lucky for us there are a few things we can eat or drink that will help to curb our appetite and potentially reduce the amount of food we’re consuming. Most of it is nothing fancy, and I’m sure you have most of these things at home. Here are five to get you started:

1. Coffee: Now, most people have probably experienced this or at least heard about its appetite-suppressing effect. For a long time, people thought it was the caffeine that was causing this effect. Interestingly enough, it is not, decaf has the same effect because of the satiety hormone PPY.

A clinical trial (Coffee, hunger, and peptide YY; Greenberg JA, et al) reports that “our randomized human trial showed that decaffeinated coffee can acutely decrease hunger and increase the satiety hormone PYY.” When this clinical trial was finished, the researchers were surprised at the results, but they also noted that more studies need to be conducted to figure out the exact mechanism.

Remember, not all of us do well with coffee and drinking coffee after lunchtime can affect your sleep so don’t over do this one!

2. Chicken and fish: Add more protein to your diet. Recently studies were completed at Purdue to show the effect of a high protein diet. They sought to show the satisfying nature of lean protein. What they found was that participants who took in about 30% of their calories from lean protein felt fuller for longer. The trick is choosing the right protein source. A few recommendations would be lean poultry, eggs, and legumes which are beans and lentils.

3. Whole grains and fibre rich foods: Try and get enough fibre in your diet. A randomized study called Dietary fiber and weight regulation found that when participants ate an extra 14 grams of fiber daily, they decreased their calorie intake by up to 10%. The reason for this is fibre stretches the stomach causing it to release fullness hormones.

Aside from keeping you feeling fuller longer, opting for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds promotes your overall health. Many of these foods also contain beneficial nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

4. Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water: Having a large glass of water before your meal will make you feel fuller sooner, so you end up eating less. For this tip to work, try to drink the water as close to the meal as possible. Plus, the added hydration is always beneficial since many people don’t stay adequately hydrated during the day.

Another way to achieve this effect is by starting your meal with soup. In a paper published back in 2007 by the journal, Appetite researchers were able to show that eating a bowl of soup immediately before a meal decreased hunger and reduced total calorie intake. On average, it was about 100 calories per meal.

5. Spices: If you can tolerate it try adding some more spice to your meal. A recent meta-analysis by Purdue University examined the effects of capsaicin, found in hot peppers, and capsiate, found in sweet peppers. It found these compounds may help decrease hunger and increase feelings of fullness. Although this meta-analysis only included a few studies, it’s still something to consider.

Healthy Eating Shouldn’t Be Boring

Deciding to change your diet and improve your nutrition is an admirable step, but it can be difficult to stick to a new eating plan if you find healthy food “boring.” You’ll soon begin to lose interest in eating meals loaded with fruits and vegetables while limiting the foods you used to crave.

The good news is, there are plenty of ways that you can keep your new diet interesting and enjoyable, so you’ll be more likely to continue the diet long-term.

Here are a few ways that you can keep a balanced diet interesting and prevent yourself from becoming bored.

Drinking Shakes or Juices

The thought of adding fruits and especially vegetables to every meal might make you shudder, but there are simple ways to get your vitamins and minerals. The easiest and best way to get all those important nutrients is by making shakes and smoothies that are loaded with all the vitamins and minerals you need to live a healthy life.

We’re not talking shop-bought ones here, they’re usually loaded with more fruit than veggies and are super-sized, loading you up on calories more than nutrients!

What’s great about making your own shakes and smoothies is the serving size. Rather than having to eat several cups of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, you can get the same amount of nutrients in an 8 or 16-ounce beverage.

You also have full control over the ingredients you’re using and the nutrients you’re taking in. That means you can try out new recipes with your favourite fruits and vegetables without getting bored of the same old thing every day.

Focus on Variety

A monotonous diet is bleugh! One of the most common reasons that people give up on their diets is because of the monotony of it all. Though there are certain foods and beverages that’ll help to improve your health and nutritional intake, it can be incredibly boring to eat and drink the same few items every day.

That’s why variety is so important! There’s no shortage of healthy foods and beverages and there are practically unlimited recipes to keep you interested in your diet and health, all at the same time.

The best way to implement variety into your diet is by doing your own research and compiling a comprehensive list of healthy recipes. In addition to learning about new foods that you didn’t even know you liked, you’ll always have something new to look forward to on your diet!

Leave Some Room for Fun

Starting a new, healthy diet usually means leaving your favourite foods in the past, especially if they were full of salt, fat, or sugar. While you know it’s for your own good, it’s completely normal to crave these foods every once in a while, even if you’re on a strict diet.

Your body requires food and beverages to stay alive, but as humans, we also get an enormous amount of enjoyment in what we’re eating and drinking. So allow yourself a little indulgence occasionally. A new diet doesn’t always mean you have to eat healthy 100% of the time.

Though you should do so in moderation, you should leave some room for fun when it comes to your new diet. That means allowing yourself to eat some of your favourite foods, as long as you’re not doing so every day or seriously setting your goal back.

Final Thoughts

When you think about nutrition, you probably think about swapping out your entire current diet and replacing it with nutrient-dense foods. Though doing so will undoubtedly improve your health, it can be a bit boring and negatively impact your relationship with food. That’s why it’s so important to keep your new diet interesting and something you can stick to.

If you want some pointers to get you started then we can help you out at Inspire Fitness.  If you just want some ideas then we’ve got recipe packs which consist of healthy, nutritious but delicious recipes.  You can even subscribe and get a new recipe pack each month with 15 super, healthy recipes including breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options.  Every recipe has the macronutrient breakdown, simple instructions and MyFitnessPal barcodes if you’re tracking your intake.

If you’d like a bit more help, then perhaps our 21-day transformation is for you?  3 weeks of meal plans, grocery lists, coaching, and daily check-in to provide accountability.  Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

How to Avoid Unnecessary Snacking at Home

One of the biggest challenges of being at home so much is excessive snacking.  So easy to overeat snacks without realising it and as you’re at home and they’re permanently available, it’s hard to resist.  Not only is this going to be hard on your figure, but it might make you feel sluggish, and increase the cost of your food budget.  Typical snack type foods don’t often come cheap.

Here are a few tips that can help you control some of the extra snacking you have been doing.

Keep Snacks Out of Sight

 This old rule is great for so many reasons. When you see something right in front of you and are constantly reminded of it, your brain tends to want it whether your stomach is hungry or not. Instead of having extra temptations you don’t need, keep your snacks in the cabinet, fridge, or a snack drawer.  Even better, keep them somewhere that it’s a nuisance to get them from, like the garage or a high cupboard. When you are hungry, you’ll remember they’re there, but won’t grab a biscuit or packet of crisps every time you go to the kitchen just because you see them sitting there on the counter.

 Have Designated Snack Windows During the Day

 It can also help to stick to some kind of schedule or routine, not just with your activities, but meal and snack times. Think about what your routine was like before. You likely had 3 meals a day around the same time, with a snack break in the afternoon. You can still do this while at home! Choose a schedule that works for you and try not to eat any snacks outside of the designated snack window. It will make you think twice when you go for an extra granola bar when you know your snack time is coming up in an hour or so.

 Stay Busy and Distracted

 A lot of times, snacking while at home isn’t from hunger or even cravings, but from boredom. The best way to combat this is by staying busy. Find a new hobby, learn a language or new skill, play with your dogs or kids or do a puzzle. Try to find more activities that keep you occupied during the day.

 Know When You Tend to Snack

 Lastly, be aware of your own triggers or when you tend to go for snacks. Maybe this is when you get bored, or when you are procrastinating from doing a chore you’re not looking forward to. You might eat snacks just because you see them there, or because someone else in the house is eating. For some people, it is more likely after getting stressed by the news or to deal with difficult emotions. None of these is a bad thing, but the more aware you are of what triggers your snacking, the more you can prepare for it.

Recipe: Dill Soup with Turkey Meatballs

Ok so we’re not out of the soup woods yet!  We’re still having plenty of days when a big mug of soup is the only thing that really hits the spot.  Here’s one that’s a little different.  It’s filling enough to be a mid-week meal as well as a satisfying lunch.  Enjoy!

What you need:

For the meatballs:

  • 9 oz. (250g) ground turkey breast
  • 1 tbsp. breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. dill, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp. wheat flour
  • 1tsp. coconut oil

For the soup:

  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 10 oz. (300g) potatoes, peeled, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled, chopped
  • 4 ¼ cup (1l) vegetable stick
  • ½ tsp. turmeric
  • ½ bunch dill, chopped
  • 4 tbsp. cream (oat or dairy)

What you need to do:

Place all meatball ingredients, apart from the flour, into a bowl, season with salt and pepper and mix well with your hands.

Using slightly wet hands, form small balls (around 12), and coat them in flour.

Heat the coconut oil in a pan and fry the meatballs briefly until golden brown, then transfer onto a plate.

To make the soup, heat the oil in a large pot, over medium heat and fry the onion for 2-3 mins until soft.

In a butter pot, fry the diced onion, then add the potatoes, as well as the carrot. Season with salt, pepper and turmeric then cook for about 5 minutes stirring often.

Pour in the stock and bring to a boil, then cover and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add in the fried meatballs, reduce the heat and cook for 15 minutes. At the end of cooking, add the chopped dill.

Take the soup off the heat and add the cream, mix well and serve.

Recipe: Raspberry Breakfast Trifle

Trifle for breakfast?  Surely not… oh but it’s so quick, so yummy and so healthy!

What you need:

  • 2 cups (450g) cottage cheese
  • 10 oz. (300g) raspberries
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 8 tbsp. muesli

What you need to do:

Place the cottage cheese, 2/3 of the raspberries and honey into a high-speed blender and blitz until smooth (you can also use Greek yoghurt instead of cottage cheese). Keep the rest of the raspberries for garnish.

Prepare 4 not too big glasses or jars and layer the trifle.

Start with a layer of raspberry cheese, 1 tbsp of muesli, and some fresh raspberries. Continue until you use all of the ingredients.

Serve immediately or keep in the refrigerator until required.

Recipe: Vegan Lemon & Coconut Cake

healthy cake

Sometimes we just need something a bit sweet and naughty, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to “fall of the wagon”.  You CAN treat yourself and stay on track.

Wet ingredients:
1 cup (240ml) almond milk, at room temp.
1/3 cup (80g) coconut oil
2/3 (125g) coconut sugar
2 tbsp. lemon juice

Dry ingredients:
zest of 4 lemons
1 cup (80g) desiccated coconut
1¾ cups (210g) all-purpose white flour, sifted
1 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. baking soda

What you need to to:

Heat the oven to 180°C (355° F).

Line a 1 kg / 2 lb tin with baking paper.

Whisk softened coconut oil and sugar together with an electric whisk. Add in the lemon zest, lemon juice and room temperature plant milk and mix well with a spatula. Next, add in the desiccated coconut.

In a small bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder and baking soda. Next, fold in the flour into the wet ingredients and mix well, then transfer the batter to the prepared baking tin.

Bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and the top is nicely browned. Allow to cool completely before serving.

Once cool you can sprinkle the cake with some icing sugar (optional).