• Grumpy, irritable and comfort eating?


        OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis week there has been much written in the press about mental health, but something which is less touched on is a SAD; temporary condition which affects millions of people worldwide throughout the winter months.

        SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a condition which can have a profound effect on mood, and mental health from late autumn until the spring. Symptoms can include tearfulness, stress and anxiety, lack of concentration, irritability, feelings of low-esteem and worthlessness and general despair, and in severe cases sufferers can feel suicidal. A lack of sleep can often be a major issue, and it can also influence appetite, immunity and production of feel good hormones such as serotonin, which help us feel positive and motivated.

        The main cause is the lack of sunlight, which causes the brain to produce more melatonin; a hormone which helps us sleep at night. Melatonin production is triggered by the brain as darkness sets in, and then cortisol is produced as daylight emerges to help us feel awake and active, so longer darker days can cause hormone imbalance which can impact on many facets of our well being. This hormone shift can encourage comfort eating and binging, blood sugar imbalance leading to mood swings, and weight gain. Another side effect can be an impaired immune system, which can explain why we are so susceptible to colds and flu at this time of year.

        So what can you do to beat the winter blues?

        • Help support your gut health by cutting back on sugary foods such as refined carbohydrates (cakes, biscuits, pasta, bread and potatoes), and foods we tend to be more intolerant to such as wheat and dairy. Switch white rice and bread for brown rice, grains and wheat germ. Sweet potatoes are a filling and good alternative to white varieties.
        • Reduce stimulants; caffeine, alcohol and chocolate might offer a quick fix when you need a pick me up, but they can trigger cravings and play havoc with your blood sugar levels and brain function in the longer run.
        • Increase your fruit and vegetable portions to boost your vitamin and mineral intake to support your immune system.
        • Boiled eggs brighton hove nutrition wellbeingEggs are the perfect winter fast food. Plenty of ways to cook them; they are cheap, nutritious and rich in Vitamin D and choline and which supports the brain.
        • Essential fats are vital for your brain function so include oily fish, nuts and seeds and olive oil.
        • Look for foods that will help you produce serotonin. Turkey, chicken, fish, avocados, bananas and beans will help. These are also rich in Vitamin D to help make up for lack of sunlight.
        • Get outside in the daylight as much as you can. Take time at lunchtime to leave your desk and go for a walk. If that’s isn’t feasible, look for daylight bulbs to use in your office or home.

        bean soup01

        Finally, comfort eating is fine if you choose the right options. One pot dishes such as bean and vegetable stews, shepherds pies, fish pies, or curries will give you nutritious filling meals to keep you going until the days start getting much longer!

        So, if your friends, family or colleagues are grumpy and irritable this winter, a good place to start is with their diet. After all, as Paul Theroux once wrote “Winter is a season of recovery and preparation.”





      • So..do ‘diets’ really work?



        There was a fascinating insight into the world of dieting this week with the start of a new series on BBC2 which reinforced all my beliefs that fad diets just don’t work. Whilst some of the failure statistics the presenter quoted may be under debate on today’s blogs and forums, the over-riding message that came across was that the concept of the modern day ‘diet’ is an industry fuelled by commercial enterprises with much charisma and a desire for large profit margins.

        Most honest of all was the former Financial Director of WeightWatchers who admitted that the reason the industry is so profitable is because, on the whole, the commercial diets tend to fail, so people return, spend more money and try again.

        It was also fascinating to hear that the industry effectively began back in the US when a statistician for a big insurance company re-defined the parameters of ‘healthy weight’, and in doing so, re-classified a huge proportion of possibly healthy Americans as being overweight. This was latched on to by the US Government and medical institutions, creating a perfect breeding ground for companies hoping to thrive on the guilt and worries of the population and create a solution to this new-found national neurosis.

        We undoubtedly have a growing obesity problem, not just in the UK, but worldwide, with the World Health Organisation now saying that obesity is a great problem than starvation globally.

        So is there a role for ‘diets’ or should we be looking for other solutions? iStock_000019276692XSmall

        Firstly, I prefer to use the term weight management. The words ‘diet’ and ‘weight loss’ imply deprivation, which automatically triggers a mindset of failure. Surely it’s better to embark on something positive and achievable which gives you lasting, healthy and sustainable results?

        Each person should be treated as a unique individual, recognising that weight issues can be caused by a variety of reasons, so it is too simplistic to say that merely eating less is the solution. If that were the case everyone would achieve their targets and we wouldn’t have a national crisis! For some it could be related to medical issues which need to be understood and addressed, such as adrenal insufficiency, thyroid problems, stress or prescription medication. For others, previous experiences and psychological issues can be the root cause.  How many of us were told as a child ‘Eat up – there are children starving in Ethiopia’? These childhood habits can stick and cause immense harm.

        Social factors also need to be looked at; in particular the way we now have constant access to convenience foods 24/7. We eat on the run, and eat mindlessly with little thought or understanding about what or how much we put in our mouths. Combine all these factors and you can see the problem.

        A lucky few might have the wherewithal to change their habits with little apparent effort and hit their goals on their own. However, there are many people who simply don’t have the know-how to unravel all these elements and get back on track.  For them, a structured plan can be useful and group programmes also have their benefits since peer support and encouragement will always help promote success. These things can be hard to achieve on your own!

        Rather than crazy fads, what we need are realistic and achievable ‘health’ programmes which offer long term re-programming of habits without doing anything extreme and harmful which will pile the pounds back on further down the line and leave a frustrating sense of failure.

        Ideally this should combine a medical overview to understand why weight might be increasing; education to learn how each food group is vital for health and wellbeing.

        For some, a group dynamic can help provide additional peer-group encouragement; also psychological support and motivational coaching can help explain habits and overcome barriers to success; but finally expert guidance is vital to develop new healthy habits which become a natural part of daily routine around real life which includes holidays, meals out, birthdays and festive meals. The secret is to learn a few healthy habits, relax around food, and most importantly discover how to enjoy it again.

        Poached salmon with avocado salsa

        So pack away those meal replacements, pills and extreme diet books and take a new approach. Focus on eating lots of the good and tasty stuff rather than obsessing about what you ‘can’t and ‘shouldn’t eat.

        Our practical and realistic weight management programme offers a unique approach combining my qualified nutritional support and advice, with motivational coaching and hypnotherapy provided by Marco from OpenMindz to offer the additional techniques which will help you reach your goals.

        The next 6 week Brighton and Hove Weight Management course starts on Tuesday 1 October in Preston Park, offering a small but supportive group environment. We know it works, so come and join us!

        Contact me for more information.

      • Enjoy a dairy free Easter

        hove nutrition Easter bunny Easter can present an enormous challenge for anyone who loves chocolate but is struggling with a dairy intolerance or allergy; and this can be particularly distressing when children are involved.

        Everywhere we look, chocolate is tempting us, and it can be hard to say no to a small child when faced with Easter egg hunts at nursery school, supermarket shelves laden with goodies, and well-meaning visitors bearing chocolaty gifts.

        The good news is that there are dairy free alternatives to be found in Brighton & Hove – you just need to know where to look.

        Moo Free do a fabulous range including a dairy free chocolate egg and also a bunny bar; both of which are also lactose free. Check their website for stockists but they are available in some branches of Waitrose. Montezuma’s have a mini egg range which is vegan and dairy free, and some Sainsbury’s and Holland and Barrett stores stock the Choices range of Celtic Chocolates which are egg and dairy free.

        So if you, or your child, are following a strict dairy or lactose free regime; there’s no need to miss out this Easter.Chocolate Egg (cracked)

        For everyone else, remember that dark chocolate is a better choice than lighter versions which are full of fat and sugar. Dark chocolate contains compounds called flavonoids which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties so can help prevent heart disease. Eating dark chocolate also helps stimulate endorphins, or feel good hormones, which can lift your mood. This is thought to be because cocoa contains serotonin which acts an anti-depressant.

        But remember that chocolate of any kind also contains a large number of calories – so everything in moderation if you are watching your weight! Far better to reach for the Green & Black’s mini bars than the large slabs on offer at the newsagent’s desk!

        Brighton nutrition daffodils


      • The delights and temptations of market shopping.

        I was reminded of the joys of fresh produce on a visit to Borough Market in London at the weekend. Having only ever walked past it when closed, curiosity got the better of me and we finally made the effort to make a trip, coming away with a bag full of treats – all healthy and delicious.

        Fresh vegetables Borough Market

        The sights and smells which hit you there remind me of the adage that we eat with our eyes; and having been seduced by a feast of colour, that was certainly the case. Digestion literally begins when we see foods and then smell them, and this stimulates the secretion of pancreatic enzymes to support the digestive process.

        As well as being great fun, market shopping can be a significantly cheaper way of buying your fresh fruit and vegetables, with the added bonus of no wasteful packaging. The produce is usually locally sourced and tastier than you are likely to find in most supermarkets, and it was noticeable that only seasonal produce seemed to be available, so it’s a great way of supporting your local farmers to survive against the multiples. The only downside to ‘budget’ market shopping is the temptation of the treats which weren’t on your list but the ever-persuasive traders draw you towards. The mushroom pate was divine and so far this week has adorned a jacket potato and stuffed a chicken breast; and the Vietnamese chicken curry was mouthwatering.

        Fresh spices were abundant offering an array of amazing ingredients for my next curry. Turmeric (or ‘poor man’s saffron’)  is one of the healthiest spices available, containing curcurmin – a powerful chemical which has anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties; great for supporting arthritis and allergies,and fantastic when added to basmati rice with pine nuts, onions and raisins to make fragrant rice. As for the  L’Ubracio  ‘Drunken Cheeses’ soaked in Italian merlot and cabernet wines, well – all in the cause of vital research! Indian spices Borough Market

        Local Sussex traders were well represented. Sussex Fish from Seaford had some beautiful fresh cod, sole and pollock – all caught sustainably off the south coast; but Flax Farm Linseed Whole Foods from Horsham won the day with their FlaxJacks ®; all wheat free and some even gluten free, using quinoa and millet instead of oats – a real treat for the Coeliacs amongst you.

        For their delicious recipes visit http://www.flaxfarm.co.uk/linseed_flaxjacks

        Next time you are in London with some time to spare, go and visit Borough Market to savour the sites and scents, and in the meantime try exploring your local farmers market to see what there is to tempt you.

        Purple sprouting broccoli Borough Market  Red chillis Borough Market apples Borough market Leeks Borough Market 2013-03-09 12.39.09