The Anti-diet: Get off the sofa

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You knew this was coming, right? Pre the industrial revolution we’d burn more calories in a day than Michael Phelps. Thanks to Henry Ford et al., circuit training and cardiovascular drills have been since added to our vocabulary. I confess to not being a fan of the gym. For me, counting down the minutes on a treadmill to a symphony of MTV and grunting men is to be dreaded and procrastinated. Yet, I’m not ready to trade in those barbie proportioned jeans…

Yoga & Boris' Barclays Bikes

So, I swapped the Northern Line for a bike. Not only do I burn off lunch, I get home earlier, having ticked off exercise and avoided half an hour squished into a random armpit.

I also discovered I quite like yoga. Not only does it tone, detoxify and burn countless calories, it calms our chatty brains. Note: Addiction. Is. Not. Zen. Or conducive to a social life or relationships. I’m all or nothing, it seems. #onetoworkon

You’ll shed pounds being cheesy in Zumba or running around a Volleyball court or football pitch. And call me crazy, but clip-in shoes and padded spandex aren’t a pre-requisite to getting on a bike. If on the other hand, you’re spurred by mastering countless triathlons, I salute you.

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The Anti-diet: Pop

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I’m afraid there’s no easy way to say this: fizzy drinks may in fact be the work of Satan. A 500ml bottle contains over 200 calories and a whopping 53g of sugar. That’s basically 60% of your GDA for sugar. 60%! Diet drinks fare temptingly better on the face of it: Coke Zero has as the name suggests, well, zero calories. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch as they say, and let’s not forget the tiny matter of our health:

Fizzy drinks: Aspartame, sugar.

There were press rumblings last year over artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame and their links to cancer. What’s more, diet drinks are a false economy. Duped into thinking we’ve gulped down sugar (or food), our meticulous bodies set to work on producing stomach acid and insulin… only to find there’s nothing to digest. Cue: hunger and superfluous eating.

We live in a world where the disturbing Size Zero ambition sells beauty magazines that paradoxically, sit alongside waist bulging, super-size portions of addictive fakeness. As a rule, I err away from dogmatic approaches to eating: everything in moderation, right? This is one instance where I must humbly disagree.

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The Anti-diet: Keep calm & hydrate

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Yup, the old 2 litres a day mandate. Groan! Believe it or not though, hunger pangs are often our bodies signalling for fluids. Have a glass of water and give it 10 minutes before eating; you may be surprised.

Water bottles

Either way, the dull old hydration debate is not to be sniffed at. Water aids digestion and reduces the fat we absorb from our meal. It flushes out toxins and excess sodium, prevents fluid retention, is crucial for our organs and helps concentration. Even low levels of dehydration can cause attention levels to plummet.

And in the same waiting vein, sitting to enjoy and chew your food properly is key. I know there are never enough hours in the day but scoffing at break neck speed means we tend to eat more than we need before realising we’re full: It takes 15 minutes for the gut to clock it’s at capacity.

The Anti-diet: Keep Calm & Hydrate. Wholesome Seduction

There’s also the matter of our poor digestion. When we’re on the move blood is diverted to the muscles, causing our colon to work at half speed. So women, sometimes multi-tasking isn’t all its cracked up to be.

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The Anti-diet: Blah blah moderation blahhh…

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If you do nothing else, heed this tip. I could fill Santa’s sleigh with the Weight Watchers nemesis foods I sample each year, so it’s largely assumed I must have a chocolate spitting bowl. I don’t.  It’s very simple but the vast majority of you won’t like what I’m about to say: I stop eating when I’m full.

The Anti-diet: Blah blah Moderation blahhh...

As obvious as this sounds, it took me a good 6 months to master. Suddenly surrounded by food in my café, Root I got over excited. And of course, a Scot never throws away. Two years in, I was hit by the realisation that 30% of the food I consumed was surplus to requirements and I resembled a prize heifer.  OK, maybe I’m exaggerating but it took a significant expanse of cortex to check if I really needed the entire family size trifle – Trifle for One as a friend aptly named it in my honour. For the record, I didn’t sell giant trifles in Root, this was more of a weekend indulgence.

If eating is the highlight of your day, you won’t like the next bit either: We don’t need the volume of food we think. Our stomachs are only the size of our not so giant fists. In fact, portions are 40% bigger than they were 20 years ago. Thank you Supersize America.

Side Plate Eating. Moderation.

In this case, Victoria Beckham’s only eating off a side plate trick isn’t entirely off the mark. I’d gently suggest not taking your own receptacle to dinner parties if you want to keep your friends (and dignity), however.

Coming soon: Breakfast like a king, and why fat and carbs are our friends. Again, applying The Moderation Principle. In the meantime, munch on some wholesomely seductive winter recipes that won’t bust your gut: Zesty fish pie, Mash not Smash, Hummus, Almond butter; even Orange, almond & chocolate cake.

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The Anti-diet: Fresh, naturally

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By this I mean made by you. Or your granny / the local deli / anyone not advocating the use of ingredients you’d expect to find in a science lab. As this blog eulogises, food is our fuel. I have a sneaking suspicion our growing girths and ever more vociferous food intolerance grumbles, can largely be attributed to the unpronounceable nasties poured into our ready-meals.

Seasonally Seductive Variety

Our bodies like variety. And by eating seasonally, you automatically tick the balanced diet manifesto. At the very least, you’ll never unwittingly consume horse in your beef burgers again.

Horse Burgers

And don’t get me started on salt, fat and sugar. It’s now common knowledge that many ready meals contain over half our recommended daily allowance of the former in a single serving. As a result, salt has become a swear word when in fact, our bodies need it to function.

It’s like this: Our heart is a muscle. Our digestive tract and limbs, amongst other things, are controlled by our muscles. Without salt, said muscles can’t move (hence cramp). If you’re not living off packaged loaves or processed food, you can probably scratch this one off your worry list.

Caravan Coffee, Exmouth Market, London.

By the same token, coffee houses such as Monmouth, All Press and Caravan (pictured), don’t do skinny milk. Because lattes weren’t invented with watered down, processed lactose. Coffee and the sweet, velvety cows milk are perfect partners. Enjoy them as they’re meant to be – in a smaller cup as opposed to a 32oz Venti bucket.

Pick and MIx. Love Hearts.

And what is the deal with sugar? When did we Brits develop such a super saccharine tooth? Most Rhubarb crumbles are now sweeter than Pick ‘N Mix with even ready meals and low fat foods typically loaded with sugar. It’s no wonder obesity and diabetes are on the increase, hence the press recently turning into our most vociferous saccherophobe (sugar hater). sugar demon taking such a beating by the press of late. On current trends, by 2050 half the UK adult population will be obese. We currently stand at 1/3. Nice.

For the record, the legendary J. Sheekey’s still flies the flag for our tangy British crumble favourite, complimented with the silkiest, vanilla bean speckled crème Anglais. #drool

JSheekey Oyster Bar, London.

“But I don’t step foot in my kitchen before 9pm”, I hear you groan. Without wishing to sound like Martha Stewart, soups, stews and salads can be super quick to prepare. The key is to make bigger batches for the fridge or freezer.

Next week I’ll blog some key recipes that can be mixed and matched for a week of almost instantaneous post work suppers and office lunch boxes, putting into easy practice what must seem like Anti-diet overload! In the meantime, click on the Seasonal Seducers and recipes for Wholesomely Seductive eating that’s a way of life, as opposed to a starve v. binge battle.

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All Anti-diet posts have been approved by nutritionist and Gather & Gather colleague Kate Taylor, find her on Twitter @kate_t85

The Anti-diet: Cold turkey

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In a similar vein to our Moderation tip, there’s also the matter of comfort eating, which alas, is in no way reserved solely for the broken hearted. There’s a world of difference between real hunger and emotional hunger and I’d hazard a guess the majority of us are a tad wobbly on this one. When I have a sudden, overwhelming craving for a bacon sandwich right after breakfast, I have to question if my salacious glands would be quite so alert to the prospect of another bowl of porridge. If the answer is no, willpower permitting, said bacon sandwich is off the menu. At least, that’s the plan…

Stoats porridge. Wholesome Seduction

The one saving grace about habits though, is how quickly they can be unformed. There is of course, a cold turkey phase requiring infinite determination to resist the supermarket yellow label shelf of Quality Street, but the more sugar we eat, the more we crave. Similarly, the chemicals in junk and processed food are actually addictive, the effects can last several weeks. Manufacturers find this helps sales.

Chocolate towers

So, the theory goes that having broken from our addiction (allow 21 days…), we no longer crave or indeed contemplate, our former food obsession. I can vouch for this, before having fallen off the wagon, I somewhat naively opted for a daily chocolate brownie addition when concerned excessive cycling may make me too thin. Needless to say, the malnourished look is no longer something I distress myself over.

When going sugar (semi) cold turkey, a square of dark chocolate (min 70% cocoa) after a meal can be a handy trifle preventative. And as luck would have it, Seasonal Seducer cocoa contains anti-oxidants, iron and magnesium, along with the unpronounceable phenylethylamine, which is said to mimic the feeling of being in love. Minus the drama.

Some of my favourite Love Drugs to aid your fickle will power: Seed & Bean Dark chocolate & coconut; Montezuma’s Sea Dog (70% cocoa, lime & sea salt – amazing) or Peru dark; and L’artesan du Chocolat Pananama Organic 72%

Remember, the idea is to use the handy square size pieces as a guide. That way, you can have your (mini) cake and eat it.

Click here for why our bodies and brains love Seasonal Seducer Dark Chocolate. And for more Anti-diet tips click on the Tag on the right, or type Anti-diet into the Search box at the top.

All Anti-diet posts have been approved by nutritionist and Gather & Gather colleague Kate Taylor, find her on Twitter @kate_t85