Christmas gifts that keep giving: Gut Reaction’s top 5 wish list

The gift of Inner Balance with HeartMath (from £143)

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HeartMath Inner Balance is a fantastic option for those wanting to improve emotional and physical health. This clever device delivers instant heart rate variability feedback AND can be used to effectively re-train the nervous system, leading to less-stress and better moods.

Science has now shown us that the rhythm of our heart beat affects how we think and feel, and that learning to shift your heart rhythm through heart-centred breathing activities may increase your emotional composure, help you feel less-stressed or anxious and think clearer. And who doesn’t want that?

Find out more: www.heartmath.co.uk/

The gift of genetic insight with NutriQlu (from £280)

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Did you know that by tailoring your nutritional needs to your genetic profile, the benefits of nutrition on your health can be maximised? The NutriQlu test will unlock the secrets of your DNA to identify genetic predispositions for food intolerances, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, ideal exercise type and more.

This simple swab test essentially takes scientifically complex information and converts it into a custom actionable report - essentially a personalised prescription of dietary and exercise recommendations enabling you to train smarter, eat better and recover faster.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how genetic testing can help you better manage your health and habits, please contact me for a chat today and I’ll also be able to provide you with access to my discount code entitling you to 5% off Qlu’s own prices.

Find out more: www.gutreaction.co.uk/testing

The gift of essential oils with Doterra

This year I’ve started to learn about the power of essential oils in helping manage health naturally.

What I love is that they can be used in so many ways – whether that be misting to create an uplifting environment in the home, attending to family health complaints, or pampering one’s body or skin.

I’m a fan of the Doterra brand for the incredible quality of their oils and, if you’re not familiar with them already, I can connect you with an essential oils expert who will guide you in how to make best use of any oils you purchase for yourself or others.

View the Doterra Christmas Gift guide

Buy now: www.mydoterra.com/followgutreaction

The gift of water with Chilly Bottles (from £20)

I carry mine everywhere!

Single-use plastic bottles make me sad so I love the concept of reusable water bottles - and this stylist range is just the best when it comes keeping water cool when out and about or at the gym.

Find out more and buy now: www.chillysbottles.com

The gift of nourishment with Gut Reaction (£90)

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Helping people prioritise their nutrition and wellbeing is a great way to show you care and help them start 2019 feeling at their best.

I’ve created a special offer so you can give that opportunity to someone you love to help them identify any weak areas in their current nutritional status and lifestyle habits, and get inspired about making some small but positive changes that will get them great results.

It’s just £90 for a gift voucher for a one-hour Nutrition & Wellbieng Consultation plus a mini follow-up (value £150).

Find out more and buy now: www.gutreaction.co.uk/gift-vouchers



9 ways to avoid Christmas weight gain (and still have plenty of fun!)

As we enter the festive season, I reveal the top reasons why you may be prone to piling on the pounds at Christmas, as well as my favourite tips for avoiding weight gain – whilst still enjoying yourself. 

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It’s normal to want to indulge over Christmas, after all it's a wonderful time of celebration, but unfortunately the number of people joining diet clubs and gyms in January speaks volumes about how many regret their festive binges.

Is this a familiar pattern for you? Perhaps you’ve grown up associating food with pleasure and fun, so subconsciously you fear that if you don’t eat everything available, somehow you won’t have a such a ‘happy Christmas’. Or perhaps it's too easy to slip into a ‘one more won’t hurt’ mind-set, when you know that one more, is really one too many. 

When working with clients on weight management programmes, I am always keen to help my clients understand what kind of things have tripped them up or blocked their success in the past. These are a few of the things that often come up:

Portion control – have you ever felt you’ve waited all year for Christmas, so you’re not about the hold back?  The extra roasties or chocolates don’t seem to matter.

Social life – family commitments, work lunches and endless parties mean that you are literally overloaded with temptation, sometimes on a daily basis. And hangovers add to the urge to eat junk food and veg out on the sofa.

Sedentary lifestyle – a busy social life means exercise routines get put on the back burner as we swap dumbbells for the remote control. The average family spends 3.5 hours watching TV on Christmas Day. Swap that for some gym time and you’ll have done the hard work of actually making a start come the New Year!

Mental ‘hall pass’ – willpower goes out the window at this time of year. It’s almost as if you tell yourself that it’s fine to binge on everything in sight as you’ll lose it all when you go on a January diet / detox.

But the fact is, you really can still enjoy the festive season and not gain weight. As a qualified nutritional therapist, I work with clients to take control of their relationship with food and plan how to get through times when over-indulgence might feel hard to resist. Here are my 9 favourite simple strategies you could put in place before the festive season. Follow these and there is no reason why you can’t start the New Year looking and feeling fantastic:

1 SET A FESTIVE FOOD GOAL

It’s unrealistic to try and avoid all temptation over Christmas, but by setting a specific goal – say, limiting yourself to one treat a day, or scheduling in a quick workout once or twice a week to offset your increased calorie intake – will help you stay on track. You could even make it into a fun game and get the whole family involved. 

2 EAT SMART

If you don’t have a plan (for parties, going out, visiting friends, having family over and so on) you are setting yourself up to fail. Be clear in your mind what your healthy options are, and if you know you’re going somewhere you won’t be able to eat the right foods, take some nutritious snacks or meals with you.

Fill up on some protein-rich ham or leftover turkey, or keep sugar cravings at bay with a homemade energy ball before you hit the party circuit.

3 PORTION CONTROL

Eating from a smaller dish causes you to eat less, because the food itself looks more substantial. If you transfer food from a 12-inch plate to a 9-inch plate, it looks like more food and you, therefore, feel more satisfied.

4 AVOID EXCESS

Christmas excess can lead to hangovers, and hangovers often lead to poor food choices, especially a tendency to seek out sugar and starchy carbs. Research reveals that fat from certain foods, including ice cream and roast potatoes, goes straight to the brain and tells you to eat more! It triggers messages that are sent to the body’s cells, warning them to ignore appetite-suppressing hormones that regulate our weight.

The effect can last for a few days, sabotaging efforts to get back to a healthy diet afterwards. Dr Deborah Clegg, who conducted the research, explains: “Normally our body is primed to say when we’ve had enough, but that doesn’t always happen. When you eat something high in fat, your brain gets ‘hit’ with the fatty acids and you become resistant to insulin (which regulates blood sugar levels) and leptin (the hormone that suppresses hunger). Since you are not being told by the brain to stop eating, you overeat.”

5 OUT OF SIGHT

If you want a Quality Street chocolate and all you have to do is reach to the tin and help yourself, chances are you’ll end up eating a handful. But if you have to get your shoes on, walk to the shop in the cold to buy some chocolate, you probably wouldn’t bother.

Ever heard yourself say “take this away from me, so I stop eating?” With food directly in front of you, it’s easy to overindulge. Once it’s removed, you realise you aren’t even hungry – you were just eating because it was there. So, make a decision to keep unhealthy foods out of sight in cupboards or better still, don’t buy them. 

6 LOAD THE VEG

Veggies don’t need to be doused in oil and roasted to within an inch of their lives to taste good. One of my favourite festive side dishes are thinly sliced Brussels sprouts, which I flash-fry with garlic, pine nuts and a dash of white wine. It’s so tasty, I make it all year round. Slow-cooked red cabbage and apple is another fantastic way to get some much-needed nutrients.

7 SLOW DOWN

It takes around 20 minutes for your body to tell your brain that you’re full. If you eat quickly, you’re more likely to eat more. Slowing down gives you time to recognise and assess how hungry you really are.

One trick I use is counting chews (it’s tedious but it works). If you chew a bite 10 times, you’ll eat slower. I also found myself enjoying food more, as there’s more time to actually taste what I’m eating. Eventually it becomes second nature to chew more.

If you’re in a group, try to be the first person to start eating and the last to stop. Pacing your eating like this will get you to eat more slowly without getting in your head about the specific amount that you eat.

8 CIRCLE OF SUPPORT

Emotional support is crucial to some people when they are trying to focus on eating healthily. Research shows that people who felt supported by their friends and family were 50% more likely to stick to a healthy eating plan.

So ask your loved ones to help you avoid temptation by not to offering you sugary treats. Buddy up with a family member who is also trying to lose or maintain their weight. Having that moral support will boost your chances of success (and you won’t be riddled with that horrible feeling of regret the next day).

9 BE KIND TO YOURSELF

It is the season of goodwill, after all. If you slip up, don’t beat yourself up or see it as an excuse to write off the rest of the day and eat everything in sight. Just chalk it up as one bad decision and move on. You can get back on track tomorrow.

Now... relax, have fun and focus on what's REALLY important about the festive period - spending quality time with your loved ones and friends. 

Gut intuition - follow it!

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Last time, we looked at the gut-brain connection and the impact of food on mindset and emotions. Eating to support mood is key in my book in terms of promoting a happier outlook in all aspects of life, as well as fuelling our motivation to continue to eat well. 

Now in my last post in this series, we’ll take the concept of the gut as ‘second brain’ a step further and explore a different take on ‘Gut feelings’ and how it can help support a more ‘intuitive’ approach to eating.

Researchers have determined that the enteric nervous system is constantly providing information to our brains regarding our nutritional needs. But most of us learn to eat by listening to messages coming from outside of ourselves - messages from our parents, teachers, friends, or the media including health claims and marketing messages.

In this context, it is all to easy to overlook, or override, the messages that your own inner source of knowledge is telling you. 

Yet the body is actually very clever at giving us signals about its general health and what it actually needs. For example, food cravings are an example of how the body might be hinting to us to correct a nutritional deficiency. Specifically, cravings for chocolate can be due to the need for more magnesium, while a desire for fatty foods may reflect a need for increased omega 3 fatty acids.

The condition of our skin, hair and nails may signal other nutritional deficiencies; urine colour will flag potential dehydration or possible liver stress; and bowel movements provide all sorts of clues to the functioning of our digestion system. 

So, how to tune in and trust your body’s wisdoms and learn to eat intuitively?

The first state is observation. It’s by starting to notice how your body is really feeling, the messages it’s giving you, and distinguishing the difference between physical and emotional hungers, so that you can more easily recognise your own eating patterns and how well your food choices are actually serving you. 

From this point of recognition, you can start to develop trust in your body’s inner cues regarding hunger and fullness, which sets you up to start making great choices around eating.

To support this, do give yourself a health dose of vitamin T - that’s Time! When you eat while in a rush or being absorbed with other thoughts and activities, this may lead to overeating, bloating, poor digestion and missing out on some of the true pleasure of eating. When you slow down you will be more ‘present’ and able to eat with more awareness of what’s going on in your body as well as savour the sensory experience. 

Undeniably, there may be certain emotions, situations, events which you may find throw your ability to trust your intuition around food including how, what and when you eat. In this case underlying beliefs, habits, or emotions may be getting the better of your gut, and some additional work may be required in order to address them and move forward.

So, do you need to slow down and tune-in? The simple act of listening to, trusting and following gut feelings, can lead to weight loss, improved energy and a better experience of life. What’s your gut telling you?

Clean eating - fact or fiction?

How disappointing. In a bid to expose a few pseudo science diet scams in the USA , Dr GIles Yeo in Thursday night's Horizon tarnished the reputations of some of the UK's pioneers of healthier eating, and for the general public it may have potentially raised more questions about how to approach healthy eating than it answered. Shame on you BBC. 

As a registered nutritional therapist who supports people with personsalised dietary advice based on the most up-to-date information available, I believe healthy eating is both a science and an art, and was irritated by Dr Yeo’s attempt to discredit the ‘clean eating movement’ - which, whilst flawed, deserves praise for the huge amount of much-needed awareness it’s brought to healthy eating in recent years and for inspiring the nation with innovative new ways to cook and enjoy ’real food’. 

I appreciate there is a risk that a small subset of clean eating followers will follow a little too closely the personal ’stories’ of today’s fashionable figures, some of whom do extol the benefits of cutting out food groups and in doing so may make the mistake of confusing the personal philosophies of unqualified healthy eating heroes for evidence-based nutrition advice or investing heavily in extreme plans. I also realise that with gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan being thrown into the media limelight, there is potential for additional confusion around what constitutes healthy eating at a time when the general public is still getting to grips with the mixed messages already out there surrounding sugar, carbs and fats (side note: science evolves constantly and even the government guidelines are often based on outmoded / ‘bad science’). 

However, I think its important to keep an eye on the big picture - and in the overall health landscape I perceive the role of Ella and other high profile people of that ilk (and this includes males with similar approaches such as Joe Wicks and James Duigan of Clean & Lean fame who escaped criticism on last night’s programme) to be generally a positive one. I see them as advocates of a healthy lifestyle, and promoters of cooking from scratching, encouraging us to ditch processed foods and inspiring new ways for us to get more vegetables into our diets.

So what if their recipes sing the virtues of kale, spiralised courgettes, turmeric, sauerkraut, quinoa and chia seeds. We now know how to 'clean up' a burger or a brownie by making it from fresh wholesome ingredients at home. These are ‘real foods’ and I love the important message of basing the best part of ones diet on unprocessed, fresh food with a good balance of vegetables. 

And the ‘real food’ message of ditching processed foods and embracing simple, uncomplicated natural ingredients is the big simple message I think that the experts and media alike needs to convey to the public - alongside raising awareness that when one does need nutritional support in refining your choices for your personal needs and health situation, as opposed to simply trying out some colourful new recipes, there are credible, knowledgeable nutritional experts out there and a way to help you learn to eat healthily and intuitively, whilst avoiding commercially driven scams or going to extremes. 

So a sexy title brought the publicity to Thursday night’s show, now I just hope the audience did not make the mistake of confusing the con-men with the women who encourage us to ditch process foods and inspire us to enjoy real food.

6 weeks & 6 top tips to WOW them this Xmas

Start today.  Sparkle-up for the party season by making these simple changes to your eating habits.

  1. Create a powerful vision in your mind of yourself enjoying yourself sparkling and shining this Christmas. Focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want, and creating a clear vision of this will help make your goals more real and move you towards them more quickly and easily.
     
  2. Breakfast can set the tone for the rest of the day - so , no excuses, get everyday off to the best possible start with a glass of water with hot lemon followed by a nourishing, 'feel good' breakfast based on protein rich foods, good fats and slow-releasing carbs. Gut Reaction favourites are eggs, half an avocado and a slice of rye toast, or greek yogurt or porridge oats with nuts, mixed seeds and berries. 
     
  3. Stress and lack of sleep have a massive impact on our wellbeing. So to get a Christmas party glow, start looking at ways you can ditch the stress and increase your sleeping hours. They often go hand in hand, so deal with one and it is likely that you will get the other sorted too. What can you do differently? 
     
  4. Ditch simple, empty carbohydrates in favour of gluten-free grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, millet or brown rice and challenge yourself to add in more veggies everyday so that half your plate is loaded with colourful veg and leafy greens at lunch and dinner times.
     
  5. To help 'streamline' your gut and to help keep you regular, add in my favourite gut-friendly foods - in very small amounts initially!:
    • Sauerkraut - for its hit of beneficial bacteria. No time to make your own, then try this one.  
    • Gelatin powder - add a sprinkling to soups, smoothies or hot drinks for its gut supportive amino acid profile.
    • Flax seed - reputed for their combination of fibre and omega 3 content, daily use of flaxseed has been shown to improve gut bacteria and insulin sensitivity in overweight women. Add 1-2 tablespoons of milled or crushed flax seeds to smoothies, over breakfast foods or incorporate in home baking recipes.
  6. Become an intuitive eater. Whatever you consume, whether it be a glass of wine or a nutrient-packed smoothie, try to do it for the right reasons. Eat slowly and enjoy it!
If you would like more personalised nutritional guidance and support in implementing changes, why not join me for a 6 week Refocus programme? Read more here >

Getting to the guts of cravings

The good news is the greater the number and diversity of microflora species in your gut, the less likely you are to have cravings. So re-establishing a healthy ‘inner ecosystem’ may be one tool in your toolbox to help free yourself from cravings as well as maintain a healthy weight.

n. A food craving (also called moreishness or selective) is an intense desire to consume a specific food, and is different from normal hunger. 

Do you blame your own willpower when it comes to holding off the urge to consume sweet treats or junk food? Perhaps it feels like some foods are just too addictive to resist?
 
In practice, there are a number of reasons why we experience cravings – some have physiological origins, others are emotional and some come down to habit.
 
However, have you considered that your gut bacteria may have a role to play?
 
Studies have found that the 100 trillion bacteria that occupy our guts feed off the food we eat – and they can become manipulative in order to survive.
 
These tiny but powerful microbes can in fact influence our feeling of fullness, change taste receptors in our mouth and make us feel bad until we have eaten that particular food that bacteria needs to survive.
 
The fewer microflora species in your gut, the more likely you are to be controlled by a species request for its food source.  So while you might think your sugar and carbohydrate cravings are due to a lack of willpower, it could be that microbes in your gut are exerting their willpower over you.