A New Year’s Resolution: Weight Loss & Healthy Living

Diet & Weight Loss

Well, it’s that time of year again…yes, where everyone reflects on the previous year and contemplates changes; weight loss and creating healthier lifestyle choices normally making it into the ‘top ten’! Perhaps its your New Year’s resolution? Are you feeling hyped and positive going into 2015? … All ready with your new ‘kick-ass’ healthy-living regime to create a healthier you?! Perhaps you are now the ‘master of your temple’ and no one is going to stand in your way…not even yourself? If you answered yes, what is your plan of action?

 

Photo by: Israel Byrne_Flickr

Weight loss and living a healthier lifestyle should resonate further than a ‘New Year’s resolution’ though… because we deserve that much right? To be healthy and happy for more than 2-3 months of the year? Of course we do! But if you think it’s a simple process, think again (I’m not saying this to discourage you, I just think it’s better to be open and honest). If it was easy to lose and maintain weight loss, there wouldn’t be such an obesity epidemic!

 

Negative behaviours learnt over decades can take ages for us to convert into positive ones…but it is possible. It’s not a perfect system and we have to be able to accept the highs with the lows of this new journey that we’re about to embark on… and of course, how weight loss works. For example, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “you can’t out-exercise a bad diet”…well you can’t change unhealthy habits until you can explain and accept what is causing them in the first place either!

 

Successful weight loss stems from a combination of controlling your actions & emotions…

 

The 5 Building Blocks For Successful Weight Loss

  1. Motivation: You might of have had a recent health scare or received unsolicited comments from your family or friends… but unless you are motivated for healthy changes and a better quality of life (maybe this requires you to ask for help & support?), you’re not going to change your unhealthy habits…period!
  1. Exercise regime: Firstly, do something you enjoy, your more likely to stick to it. Making time to exercise (with a realistic schedule) will aid weight loss and create a healthier body and mind; check out my previous article for fitness guidance. The more you exercise…the better you’ll feel….and eventually you’ll start seeing positive changes that will motivate you to keep it up…but you know that this is only part of the healthy living/weight loss equation.
  1. Healthy Diet: Weight loss requires a daily reduction of calories. You can’t out exercise a bad diet…. So do not treat your body like a human dust bin and expect to be the epiphany of good health! Do you know anyone that spends an hour in the gym a few times a week and still eats takeaways, sweets and drinks alcohol because they think they have created the perfect energy balance? How do they look? Are they a model for healthy living?

Calories in vs. calories burned folks! Even if you reduce your calories throughout the week and have a big ‘blow-out’ (you know, the “I allow myself to eat anything for a day”)…might be enough to undo all your hard work! To loss 1Lb a week you must burn 3500kcal through diet and exercise….so everything in moderation. Enough said!

4. Self-analysis: It’s your rational, explanation and acceptance ….why are you overweight? Why are you changing your lifestyle? If your emotions are running high they can reek havoc on your lifestyle choices… not addressing your: overeating at meals, how your emotions trigger mindless eating, secret binge habits that are possibly followed by hours of exercise to try and counteract it, or induced vomiting will not create the ideal environment for change….you are more likely to fall back into old lifestyle regimes.

You can’t expect weight loss to make you happy (thin or overweight, everyone has problems and concerns) and equally you cannot eat to try and suppress your emotions…

It’s important to address your mental health. Your mind is essential organ like everything else. If your heart or kidneys were sick, would you not seek intervention? Why not do the same in this instance?

  1. Commitment: You love the results, but do you know how to keep the momentum going? You have to plan ahead to help instil your positive lifestyle changes and commit to making these changes ‘permanent’; keep them small and practical to keep yourself motivated!

 

 

 

10 Reasons Why Weight Loss Regimes Fail

Photo by: Anitarium Nutrition Team_Flickr

 

 

1. You do not take the time to plan ahead, e.g. preparing healthy lunches, making time for  exercise, meditation etc.

2. Unrealistic goals/expectations: being too fixated on numbers or body shapes, e.g. losing a stone in one week and wanting to look like a super model is non-sense, as is assuming dieting alone will rid you of fat and cellulite.

3. Your emotions: Not trying to fix/address the underlying reason(s) why you are fat, overweight, unhappy etc and thinking weight-loss will make you instantly happy.

4. Lack of knowledge: about healthy foods/portion sizes and exercise.

5. Lack of support and/or pressure from: family, friends, work colleagues and the media (a.k.a horrible gossip magazines pushing the latest skinny celeb!)

6. Refusing to incorporate exercise.

7. Too restrictive! Not eating enough and the lack of nutrients will cause hunger and inevitably, unhealthy food cravings & binges takes over.

8. Undesirable physical side-effects, e.g. G.I problems (constipation, diarrhoea, bad breath) or mental decline (fatigue, irritability, brain fog, headaches or mood swings) due to (see number 7!).

9. You make the age-old mistake…you view it as just another fad diet or crazy ‘detox’ and not a lifestyle change.

10. Cheating in the kitchen, e.g. relying on ready meals or convenience foods (even ‘weight watcher’ ones) and do not try to learn essential cooking skills to maintain a healthy lifestyle (beyond your initial weight loss) through the acquired knowledge of ‘healthy foods and portion sizes’.

 

Ways to stay motivated, kick-butt & keep living a healthier lifestyle!

 

Weight Loss & Healthy Living Tools

Photo by: Yacine Amirl Flickr

 

  • Embrace changes and the lows and highs of your journey.
  • Ultimately we are our own worse enemies when it comes to sticking to healthy lifestyles… so stop making excuses and standing in the way of your own success!
  • Keep a weight loss diary. Record your food intakes, moods, exercise and body measurements. This can allow you to reflect on changes, possible set-backs and what stimulates your food choices.
  • Exercise! Make a plan, whether it’s using your local leisure centre, walking to work, only using stairs and not the escalator or a running app on your mobile to help motivate you….
    • Eat a healthy breakfast: set your mind, body and metabolism up for the best day possible!

      Photo by: Brent Hofacker Flickr

 

  • Knowledge of healthy foods and where to source them in your local town. Try cooking in advance, prepare your own lunches and snacks to avoid temptations at work.
  • Kitchen essentials: to prepare and  store healthy foods, e.g. tupperware, a blender, slow cooker, food processor, low-fat cookbooks etc.
  • Do not use foods at ‘treats’. Save for a holiday, new clothes, a down payment on a house….create positive choices and reinforcements (that will not cause weight gain) and reduce negative temptations and old habits.
  • Keep temptations out of the house! Its simple and the so many of us can vow for this (myself included). Its all about portion control …and sometimes that means making something very scarce!
  • No restrictive ‘diets’! Eat an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables and source: lean meats, fish, nuts, legumes, pulses and whole grains. Why not even try going vegetarian or vegan for a month? Veganuary anyone?! 

    Photo by: Helga Weber Flickr

 

  • Have a ‘Stress Outlet’, e.g. meditation, dance class, a spa day with your friends…something that will distress your mind and body…balancing hormones, mood, diet & a better quality of sleep= weight loss.
  • Create a support network! Have one in place consisting of friends, family, your GP, dietitian or recognised nutritionist or even weight loss club etc. It needs to consist of the people that are going to encourage, motivate and offer you support with your new journey!
  • Bedtime routines! Eat your main meal 2-3 hours before bed, wind down 1-2 hours before bed and create the perfect temperature, lighting etc. in your bedroom that will enable an ideal night’s rest (preferably for 7-8 hours!).
  • Read daily/weekly, do puzzles! Keep your mind active and prevent mental decline!
  • Photo by: Paul Bence Flickr

  • Being mindful of existing medical conditions, e.g. diabetes, PCOS, heart disease. Learn how to support and treat them through healthy lifestyle interventions.
  • Focus on body measurements rather than what your bathroom scale says.
  • Give your old, ’fat’ clothes to a charity shop because you won’t be needing them anymore!
  • Keep hydrated! Check out my other article for quick tips on hydration. 
  • Health ‘M.O.T’s’: Try and overcome any fear of needles and get your cholesterol, blood glucose and standard blood work checked… because ignorance isn’t bliss.

    Photo by: Gemanji Flickr

  • Don’t be afraid to say ‘NO’ to people! Whether it’s to their office baked goods or meeting them after work at a pub…especially if it interferes with your new lifestyle choices, e.g. tell them you’ll meet them for a quick bite after you go for your nightly jog! If they have a problem with this, then its something that they can reflect on….maybe they will realise they should be exercising more themselves!!

 

Major life changes…whether it’s weight loss, creating healthy living habits, planning for a family or saving for a house….these major milestones/events all require planning because they face potential hurdles, hardships and problem solving ahead!

If you stumble at the first hurdle, just pick yourself up from that moment and move ahead. Do not dwell on your failures; people are always too quick (by nature) to put themselves down. Praise yourself every step along the way and remember nothing is impossible if you really desire and work hard for it….especially now that you have the tools for success!

 

If you have any questions regarding the following information, please feel free to drop us a line.

 

Thank you for all of your kind thoughts and support this year. 

 

Article written by: Lynn Risby
Feature image by: Faycel fx_Flickr

Iron: Understanding & Supporting Healthy Intakes

Diet & Weight Loss

Most of us have been told that iron, especially in the form of spinach (think Popeye!) ‘gives us muscles and makes us strong’! Although I’m sure vegetables were the last thing I was thinking about when I was five!  However, when it comes to understanding the importance of iron’s role and making sure we have a healthy intake of it- how does your knowledge and diet weigh up?!

 

 

Photo by: Kalli McCleary Flickr

Photo by: Kalli McCleary Flickr

The human body contains 2-4mg of iron (men usually and naturally have higher levels); approximately two-thirds is found in Haemoglobin (Hb).

Haemoglobin is a protein found in our red blood cells that: carry oxygen around our body, mygoglobin in our muscles and it also gives it its red colour; myogloblin accepts, stores, transports and releases oxygen.

The body uses iron to make Hb. A protein called transferrin binds to iron and transports it around the body. Without enough iron, our organs and tissues become starved for oxygen.

 

Iron-Deficiency Anemia By: Ed Uthman Flickr

Ferritin is another protein that helps store iron by binding to it; approximately 25% of our iron is stored as ferritin.

It’s found in our liver, spleen, skeletal muscles and bone marrow. Only a small amount is found in the blood, but this is an indicator of how much is stored in our bodies; low ferritin levels are indicative of iron deficiency which causes anaemia.

 

Functions Of Iron

Photo by: Barack Shacked  Flickr

Photo by: Barack Shacked Flickr

Energy Production

If iron stores are low, Hb production slows down, therefore the transport of oxygen is diminished resulting in fatigue, dizziness and lowered immunity.

 

 

Photo by: The American Yoga Academy FlickrImmunitymmunity

Immunity

Our immune system depends on it for efficient functioning; the production of new enzymes is dependent on iron, which is important when we are recovering from illness or strenuous exercise.

 

 

 

 

 

DNA. Photo by: AJC1 FlickrRequired For DNA Synthesis

Iron is required for the function of many proteins involved in cell cycle and DNA synthesis, e.g. Ribonucleotide Reductase.

Production of red blood cells; they help carry oxygen around the body.

 

 

 

Consequences of Low Iron

  • Iron deprivation can result in harmful effects, in particular to our: cardiovascular, respiratory, brain and muscle function.
  • Iron depletion occurs when iron stores are low or exhausted and further decreases can produce iron deficiency anaemia. Iron deficiency anaemia is the most common consequence of a lack of dietary iron.
  • Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world. Mclean et al 2008, showed that it affects nearly 2 billion people globally; a significant problem in the developed world affecting approximately 50% of the global population and 74% of non-pregnant women.

 

 

Why Women Are At An Increased Risk?

Photo by: Mini-DV Flickr

  • Menstruation with long and/or heavy periods.
  • Eating disorders and/or various ‘restrictive dieting regimes’.
  • Following a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle with improper instruction.
  • Consecutive pregnancies/ bleeding during deliveries.

 

 

 

All women should be given dietary information to maximise iron intake and absorption regardless of whether they are vegan/vegetarian or following a ‘typical’ balanced diet.

 

 

Groups At Risk Of Iron Inadequacy

Photo by: Howard Dickins Flickr

Photo by: Howard Dickins Flickr

  • Pregnant women
  • Infants and young children (needed for physical and mental growth)
  • Frequent blood donors
  • People with colon cancer or heart failure
  • People with G.I disorders or that have had G.I surgery
  • Vegetarians/vegans/fussy eaters

 

 

Signs And symptoms of Iron Deficiency

Photo by: Rajesh Jhawar Flickr

  •  Pica
    • Apathy
      • Dizziness
        • Depression
          • A sore tongue
            • Breathlessness
              • Exhaustion/weakness
                • Reduced endurance
                  • Unusually pale skin
                    • Frequent infections
                      • Restless leg syndrome
                        • Memory problems/difficulty focusing
                          • Brittle nails/ concave or spoon-shaped depression in the nails

 

 

Iron DRV’s (UK)

Average adult woman:

(19-50yrs) = 14.8mg/Day (inclusive of pregnant women).

*Breasting feeding could require up to an extra mg per day.

Average adult man:

(19+) = 8.7mg/day

NB: Please refer to your own country’s nutrient guidelines; quantities may vary.

Quick Facts:

  • These DRV’s take in to account that with normal iron metabolism only approximately 5-10% of dietary iron is absorbed through diet and supplements.
  • Children and adolsences having growth spurts may find their intake of iron isn’t adequate.
  • The iron in breast milk has a high bioavailability. Unfortunately not in amounts that are sufficient to meet the needs of infants older than 4 to 6 months. This is why children older than 6 months should not be exclusively breast fed.
  • On average, 1mg of iron/day is lost through faeces, sweat, urine and the exfoliation of old skin cells.
  • Women of child bearing age lose on average 20mg/month through menstruation- but this can vary.
  • Blood donors can lose approximately 200-250mg of iron with each donation.

 

 

Types Of Iron In Our diet

Photo by: Michael T nicknamemiket/ Flickr

Photo by: Michael T nicknamemiket/ Flickr

Haem:

Is iron found in ‘meat’. Its bio-availability is greater and is generally unaffected by other food components.

The bioavailability is approximately 14-18%* from mixed diets that include vitamin c and substantial amounts of meat and seafoods.

 

 

 

 

Photo by: Ric W Flickr

Photo by: Ric W Flickr

Non-Haem:

Is iron found in foods of vegetable origin or fortified foods and is the main form of dietary iron.

The bio-availability is lower and is therefore harder for your body to absorb. The bioavailability is approximately 5-12% (1).

 

 

 

 

 

Some Common Foods That Contain Iron

*Sources: 2,3,4

 Have a look and see if you can roughly calculate what your current iron intake is!

 

Factors That Can Increase & Affect Overall Iron Absorption

Photo by: Flickr

Photo by:V/ Axiomista  Flickr

  • The absorption of iron is affected by the presence of other foods in our guts, e.g.

 calcium, tannins, phenols, protein (inclusive of eggs & milk) and phytates (phytic acid) which all hinder iron absorption.

We should all avoid drinking caffeinated teas, coffee and milk around meal times, especially if we’re taking iron supplements.

 

 

 

Photo by: Julia Khusainova Flickr

  • Vitamin and iron are best friends! Vitamin C helps to increase of the absorption is iron, particularly non-haem, e.g. drink a glass of orange juice with your morning porridge!

 

 

 Our Diets & ‘Supplementation’ For Health And Well-Being

  • Purchasing cookbooks can help inspire new ideas to make sure you keep your meals nutritious, varied and ‘iron rich’. 🙂
  • Some studies have shown, including this article (found in the Journal of Food Science), that cooking in cast iron pots/pans can possibly increase the amount of iron in your food, especially when cooking high-acids foods, e.g. applesauce or tomato-based recipes. Apparently the greater the acidity of the food and the longer you cook it= the more iron that is transferred into the food; it’s a nice thought, but this would be hard for us to measure!
  • If you are embarking on a vegetarian or vegan diet, it’s a good idea to talk to your GP, a dietitian or a recognised nutritionist to make sure you have all the facts & avoid ill health. If you do suffer from, e.g. ‘heavy’ periods, an underlying G.I problem, or have a limited budget, it might also be a good idea to speak to a health professional about possible supplementation to lower your risk of iron deficiency anaemia.
  • If you are diagnosed with iron deficiency anaemia, your GP might prescribe iron supplementation or iron therapy; even an oral contraceptive pill to decrease menstrual blood loss during periods.

We should consult with our health care provider before taking loads of extra supplementation, especially if you are taking prescribed medications, regardless of whether it’s iron or, e.g. vitamin A, zinc or calcium. Firstly, to make sure we are going to do ourselves any harm, e.g. unsupervised use of iron supplements can reduce the absorption of other essential nutrients (such as zinc and calcium) and secondly they can recommend the ones with the most bio-availability and that may cause the least amount of gastrointestinal effects etc.

Unfortunately, taking mineral supplements, especially iron can cause undesirable side effects…

 

Possible Side effects of iron supplementation:
  • constipation
  • nausea
  • sickness
  • diarrhoea
  • heartburn
  • tummy ache

These types of side effects can make compliance poor and will have knock-on effects on your well-being.

 

So having read my article, hopefully you are just a few informed choices away from improving your health….

…As everyone has a responsibility to themselves to source and eat a healthy diet, regardless of their food likes and dislikes…

…Because it’s all too easy to just assume that we are getting enough iron, but the reality is that it’s all too easy to not get enough!

 

Article written by: Lynn Risby BSc Nutritionist
Feature image by: Miserablespice Flickr

 

Sources:
1. Am J Clin Nutr May 2010 vol. 91 no. 5 1461S-1467S
2. USDA Database
3.Foods Standards Agency (2002) McCance and Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods, Sixth summary edition. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemisty
4.Foods Standards Agency (2002) Food Portion Sizes, 3rd Revised edition edition. London:TSO

Plant-Based Proteins: It Really Isn’t A Mystery!

Diet & Weight Loss

Protein is essential, regardless of the type of lifestyle or diet we follow; it’s an important building block of life. Our digestion processes breaks down protein into amino acids that enables our bodies to perform a wide range of functions, such as: cell growth and repair, managing our metabolism and body processes (making hormones and enzymes) and also forming parts of our organs, muscles, bones, collagen, connective tissues, skin, nails and hair.

 

Besides the above, it can offer a high satiety level and depending on the source, comes bundled with a range of macro and micro nutrients, including: fibre, B-vitamins (niacin, thiamine, riboflavin and B6), Vitamin E, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc and omega 3 fatty acids.

 

Every protein molecule consists of a chain of amino acids. There are many types of amino acids, but our body can only produce 11 ‘important’ amino acids that are used to make up proteins within our bodies. There are 10 essential amino acids that must be derived from protein-rich foods; good, quality protein sources (in adequate amounts) are essential as the body does not ‘store’ protein and therefore needs a regular supply from our diet.

 

 

If you have already decided to take the plunge and try a vegan lifestyle, even on a ‘flexi’ basis, I’m sure your more than aware of where your dietary protein is coming from.

It is one of the most common questions vegans or vegetarians get asked “where does your protein come from?”

Typical ‘westernised diets’ obtain protein from: meats, eggs, dairy, poultry and fish. These can all can be good sources of protein, but some of these foods are not ideal if we are watching our cholesterol, prefer to have alternative dietary choices or want to follow a vegan lifestyle! Good sources of plant protein include: nuts, seeds, pulses, beans and soya products; there is also some in grains.

 

 

Our Daily Protein Needs

For a ‘typical’ man or woman, the Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) for protein is:

0.75g Of Protein/Kg of Body weight (BW)/Day

For example….

  • A 70kg man needs 52.3g protein/D
  • A 58kg woman needs 43.5g protein/D

The average UK daily protein intake is: 88g for men and 64g for women. So it’s obvious that the current consumption is beyond the current recommendations.

NB: There is approximately 30g of protein in 100g of roasted chicken breast. So if you are having protein (from animal sources) at every meal in addition to grains etc, you can see how it quickly adds up!

 

 

Protein Combining

Various plant proteins are not considered ‘complete’ because they lack one or more essential amino acids, however they can be ‘combined’ as part of a meal, e.g. eating a grain and a legume. This is ‘protein combining’ which can result in a higher biological value of the food and provide complete proteins.

With any type of diet, it’s a good idea to look into how to make these ‘complete proteins’ (See Table 1);  the UK Vegetarian Society also gives a nice explanation.

 

Protein Combining: Meal Examples

 

Some of the major contenders for plant-based proteins…

 

Common & Nutritious Plant Protein Sources

Here’s a nutritional breakdown for some plant protein sources….

 

Nutritional Info: Protein From Plant-Based Foods

*Sources: 1,2,3

 

For example: If I consumed porridge made with 40g of oats, 15g of almonds, 10g of flax seed, 250ml soya milk and some berries, along with 2 standard fresh apricots, a 250g potato with 200g of baked beans and a small, a low-fat stir-fry with 150g tofu, a vegetable mixture (inclusive of dark leafy greens) on top of 65g of brown rice, I would be more than meeting my daily protein needs (it provides approx. 55g of protein); let alone whatever other fruits, vegetables or nuts/seeds/grains I decided to eat!

 

Photo by: nalm fadll Flickr

Photo by: nalm fadll Flickr

So let’s not let the food industry or anyone else dictate our dietary choices, because that’s what we have- choices.

Nature has so much to offer us, and there is such an assortment and amalgamation of cuisines… that I have to wonder why would anyone want to stick to a ‘typical westernised meal’ of meat and two vegetables anyway?

 

Whether you are trying to save money, are struggling financially, have decided to make some positive lifestyle changes to your health, or maybe even have a new ethical stance on animal welfare… rest assured, plant-based proteins are nutritious, varied and relatively cheap to buy; especially beans and lentils in their dried varieties.

 

We do not have to consume over-priced whey protein powders, meat, poultry, fish or any other animal products to meet our daily protein needs. With a carefully planned plant-based diet, we can reap the benefits of ‘complete nutrition’ and improve overall health. Whilst a high protein diet on its own is unlikely to cause you ill-health, if the source of the protein is from animal products high in fat, then your overall diet is probably unhealthy; if coupled with unhealthy lifestyle choices it can increase the risk of heart diseases, bowel cancer, stroke and possibly osteoporosis.

 

If you are unsure of where to start, there are lots of resources available…

  • The Vegan society
  • The Vegetarian society
  • BBC Foods (they have a decent supply of recipes that you can adjust to your personal preference)
  • An endless list of blogs that have personal recommendations of recipes and/or plant-based cook books.

 

And…

Photo by: Jena Jezy Flickr

Photo by: Jena Jezy Flickr

Don’t let all the chopping and meal planning discourage you, it comes with the territory and it’s essential to make sure your plant-based diet is ‘nutritionally sound’; like a lot of things in life, the best things take a little patience and perseverance but are worth it in the end.

 

Happy plant-based cooking everyone! 🙂

 

Article written by: Lynn Risby BSc Nutritionist
Feature image by: qual dieta Flickr

 

Sources:
1. USDA Database
2. Foods Standards Agency (2002) McCance and Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods, Sixth summary edition. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemisty
3. Foods Standards Agency (2002) Food Portion Sizes, 3rd Revised edition edition. London:TSO