A new year and as usual a mad frenzy of media, TV and articles on the latest must-do extreme diets; extreme exercise regimes; dubious explanations of what works, what doesn’t, ugghh! I find it so wearing and can only imagine that most other people do too? It is no wonder that this overwhelm of largely contradictory information leaves people so frustrated that they give up by mid-Jan and go straight back to previous habits, good or bad.
So I feel now is the time to remind you of my 4 Fundamentals to Good Health which, if you manage to address over time, your body will give back with bountiful energy, stabilized weight, optimal body fat levels and great balance of brain chemistry and hormones – what more could you ask for? Also, if you create the habit of these principles, whether it’s Christmas, Easter, birthday celebrations or commiserations, there will never be a need to ‘blow it’ and then have to claw back your ‘good habits’ and have that gut-clenching feeling of ‘oh no, why I did I do that to myself … here we go again’…..
So here goes with a pared down super-simple reminder of what it takes to help your body help itself and a few new little gems that I have come across since I wrote the book: ….
1/ Keep you blood glucose (the sugar in your blood) under control: You can achieve this by greatly reducing your GPS foods Grains, Potatoes / Parsnips Sugars / Sweet Foods.
Understand the significance of eating foods that significantly increase blood glucose levels:high blood glucose = insulin response = turning on your fat storage system and turning off your fat burning capacity. Depending on how many diets you’ve tried and failed on; how much greater your waist measurement is to your hip measurement; how long you have been eating GPS foods on a daily basis; how long you’ve been on a low fat diet – then you may have a degree of insulin resistance, meaning you are in a high insulin and therefore fat storage state for hours at a time. But this is not only an issue of fat burning, or not, high blood glucose levels are highly inflammatory, trigger issues throughout the body, including in the brain – hence Alzheimer’s being spoken of as type three diabetes.
2/ Nurture & nourish your beneficial gut bacteria on a daily basis: do not underestimate the power and importance of having healthy gut bacteria. From enhanced mood, sustained concentration, reduction in anxiety and better capacity to cope with stress, through to improving insulin sensitivity and fat burning, increasing energy, enhanced digestion and better balanced immune system. Our gut bacteria influence every system in the body, If you look after them, they will look after you.
This means avoiding or greatly limiting the foods that preferentially feed the nasties that are inevitably living in your gut, which funnily enough are largely GPS foods and meanwhile super-charge your beneficial bacteria by following the 3Fs:
F no.1 is Fibre-rich food for their PRE-biotic content:
Plenty of pre-biotic foods to improve the good gut cultures. Prebiotics are fibres that your good bacteria feed and thrive on and in return they produce wonderfully beneficial by-products. Diversity is key, so go for a wide range of fibre-rich foods rather than just lots of one of two kinds.
Prebiotic foods include
• A rainbow of vegetables i.e. a wide range of colours and textures. Different veg have different types of fibre that offer arrange of benefits.
• Nuts and seeds of all kinds contain lovely fibre. To super-charge the power of the fibre, soak nuts and seeds overnight inn water at room temperature with a spritz of lemon or lime juice. In soaking, you are not only make the nuts & seeds more digestible with fewer anti-nutrients, you also have swollen fibres, full of water that goes to the gut to feed your bacteria. Chia and flax seeds are especially good to soak. They attract a lot of water and then create mucilage, a lovey gloop full of gel water – highly hydrating and soothing for the gut.
• Pulses – known to be windy because of the high fiber content that can be challenging digestively if the balance of your gut bacteria favours the less than good. Some people have to limit pulses while some gut restoration goes on, but once assuming beans and lentils do not cause uncomfortable bloating or reactive bowel function, they provide great prebiotic fibres. Make sure they are really well cooked.
• Inulin-rich foods – inulin is a well researched highly soluble fibre that has many gut health benefits. Again, it can be challenging with those with IBS-type issues, so use with caution. Rich in leeks, onions & garlic, under-ripe bananas, plantain, asparagus and Jerusalem artichokes.
F No. 2 is for Fermented Foods:
Certain foods contain PRObiotic i.e. live, beneficial bacteria. The devil is in the details here, so look at labels to check for unpasteurized and raw. A live food, is a fermented food and if it is still live, it will have to be in the chiller cabinet of a shop, so anything on a shelf with a long shelf life will not be live. All fermented foods should also taste sour as the fermentation removes the natural sugars in the food. Fermented food include:
• Organic natural live yogurt
• Dairy kefir (a potent fermented dairy drink)
• Coconut Kefir -a non-dairy version of the above
• Fermented raw veg like sauerkraut, Kimchi and these days there are some
fabulous raw slaws becoming more readily available.
• Kombucha -a fermented tea (watch for the sugar content)
• Mature cheeses, esp. if made from unpasteurized milk.
F No. 3 is Fasting:
By eat less, or less often, the gut bacteria get a chance to a bit of super-charging and regenerating. The power of intermittent fasting is so significant and far-reaching that it is the third of my Four Fundamentals:
3/ Regular Intermittent Fasting
Allow your body to rest and renew by regularly practicing intermittent fasting:
Throughout all of history there is evidence of peoples all around the world fasting. It may have been for religious reasons, as part of significant ceremonies, to help purify and cleanse. Today many scientific studies have shown multiple and significant health benefits to fasting on a regular basis.
Benefits are very far-reaching if practiced on a long-term, regular basis. They include:
• Helps to heal the gut wall / ‘cleans-up’ mucus lining improving absorption of
nutrients and the environment for the beneficial gut bacteria to thrive.
• Down regulates inflammation
• Encourages better immune function
• Improves hormone sensitivity esp. insulin, leptin & ghrelin
• Increases autophagy activity (the body’s cells dying off once damaged – this is
• Increases production of growth hormone
• Improves ability to burn fat
• Offers many cognitive benefits including some protection from neuro-degenerative
diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Intermittent fasting is a way of initiating all of the health benefits of fasting using various short-term fasting techniques that makes the process practical for the long-term. One of the most well-known the 5:2 protocol where 2, non-consecutive days a week, you eat about a quarter of your normal food intake. Based on the average female daily consumption of 2000 calories and men, 2,500 then women should aim to eat no more than 500 calories on a fasting day and 600 calories for men. The calories can be split throughout the day or eaten as one meal.
The 5:2 protocol allows your gut to rest 2 days a week as you are putting relatively little load through your system on a regular basis. Having bone broth on these days is highly recommended on fasting days as it is highly nourishing but low in calories.
The 16:8 protocol is what is known as time-restricted fasting. You do not reduce the amount you eat necessarily, but you restrict the time in which you eat. The 8 hour window when you can eat, allows for 2 good meals and a snack in the middle if necessary. The longer you practice this system of intermittent fasting, the less likely you are to need to snack in between, which will further enhance the benefits. If you feel you can exercise towards the end of your fasting period you will also enhance the benefits. Once you get good at this, try for 18:6 a couple of days a week for added benefit.
4/ Move more, exercise less:
Moving regularly, limiting long periods of sitting to no longer than 50 – 60 minutes without getting up and moving around a little. Doing some structured exercise is key, but doing lots and lots of something that is not very demanding has limited benefit.
Short intense and muscularly demanding of big muscle groups is the way to go for triggering the fat burning switch, building muscle and improving overall health. This is known as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). There are many ways to do it, but classic HIIT exercise include the good but grim Burpees, squat jumps, high knee sprints etc. So much good info on-line about this type of training now, but something that is key to remember is to do short, hard bursts to trigger a metabolic response that goes on for hours and days. It’s the after-effect that counts, the post-training response is where the magic happens, so doing more, more often is not the answer.
So there you go – take it gradually, work through these points and make them part of your life, not something to do like crazy and then stop and once you are comfortable and familiar with each change, then get going on something new.
Getting good sleep, managing stress and improving the quality of your down-time are also massively key to long-term good health, I’ll write more on these soon – here’s to your very best and prolonged health in 2018 onwards.