Health and Wellbeing in Lockdown

The spread of COVID-19 aka Coronavirus has caught us all by surprise, with the rapid spread and the lockdown imposed by most countries. I didn’t know the severity of the virus until the number of deaths in the UK started to rise. I had initially thought we were only going to be home for a couple of weeks, sadly I was wrong.

No doubt you have been reading online tips/ watching videos of ideas for the lockdown. I have to say I am really impressed from virtual singing to workouts to cooking, etc. It is amazing how people are suddenly picking up new skills, families spending time together, people getting creative, doing things they have been putting off.

On a personal level, it has slowed me down as I no longer have to rush around from day to day. Fortunately, I can work from home but this has also meant I have a very ‘proper evening’ after work. It means being able to enjoy my meal without rushing, as my brain is planning for work the next day, as I eat my dinner.  I am now able to have a relaxing evening, have unrushed phone/video calls with family and friends.

As a result of this unexpected free time, I have gone back  to a hobby I abandoned a couple of years ago – beaded jewellery making. This time around I decided to try a new (wire weaving) technique. After several tries and errors, I have gotten better and ordered a large number of bead pendants. I have also intensified my HITT workout and go for walks after work, which is very refreshing as I was initially struggling to switch off. Like a lot of people, I have been part of online quizzes which is really good fun – looking forward to this week’s quizzes.

In conclusion, this definitely is the time to just slow down, take stock of our lives. I believe lots of people (including me) will come out of this crisis a lot better and stronger, having learnt a lot about ourselves and abilities. Make this Lockdown count, do those things you have been putting off, learn a new skill, study, read that book, relax more, etc.

Stay safe.


Staying Fit – what works?

It is that time of year – new resolutions to keep fit. Everyone knows that the fitness and wellness industry is megabucks, we are offered discount gym memberships, sports wear are displayed at the entrance of shops, etc.

Before you go out to buy, order gym outfits or book membership. Have you thought about the type of fitness really works, just because there are adverts everywhere and others are going to the gym, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to. There are other ways to keep fit; for example; power walking, swimming, dancing, skipping, running, cycling, handball. My preferred activity is working out to HITT videos on my favourite youtube channel. It is very gruelling but I enjoy it and the result.

All you have to do is go for what is not only suitable for you but an activity you actually enjoy. Exercising should be fun, if you are not enjoying an activity it means you need to move on to something more suitable. However, do bear in mind that any activity you choose should leave you out of breathe and help you lose weight. Some activities may take a bit longer than others but hang in there.

Advantages of keeping fit.

– can prevent heart disease

– diabetes

– osteoporosis

-improve the quality of your sleep.

-builds your confidence

-good for your mental health

-keeps your brain activity

Whatever, activity you decide to choose make sure you are consistent. Other ways of keeping fit are taking the chairs instead of the lift, getting off before your bus stop and walking to your destination.

In conclusion, make sure you have ‘rest’ days, as you don’t want to overdo it as it could result in injury or even illness.

What does 5 a day really mean?

There appears to be some confusion over ‘what constitutes 5 a day. Some of the common examples over the years has been eating 3 pieces of fruit during the day and 2 portions of vegetables for dinner. Or eating fruits in one sitting and vegetables later or vice versa, and the list goes on, I won’t bore you any further. Quite frankly, I am not surprised people are put off the whole idea or simply frustrated; or just lack motivation to adopt a 5 day as part of their eating habits, some say its boring, hard work cumbersome, etc.
I am glad that ‘legitimate’ information has now been provided, in other words, a lot more clearer.  But there is a debate on how to make 5 a day more appealing to fussy eaters and kids who don’t like fruits or vegetables, the most popular suggestion is hiding it in their food. So how do you achieve that? See below for my ‘two bits worth’ of tips:

– ‘hide’ veggies such as celery, carrots, courgettes (zucchini) in your cooking. Eg; pasta sauces, curries, etc. Trust me it’s absolutely delicious, especially in pasta. I don’t want to suggest peas because I have seen kids literally pick this out of their food, just go with colourful veggies that way they don’t notice it too much.

–  include tomatoes, lettuce, spinach or other types of leafy vegetables in your sandwiches, omelettes-  fresh/frozen and canned fruits can be added to cereals; plain yogurt; smoothies;  the latter is perfect for on the go breakfast* – dried fruits such as raisins and currants can be eaten as a snack but according to experts, this should only be consumed (a handful) at meal times as they can rot your teeth. Now this was a new one for me, as I have always had dried fruits as snacks at work, needless to say I no longer eat it. – the jury is still out on  beans, legumes,lentils as they are not considered to have enough nutrients, in other words, it’s just a tiny portion. However, this should not stop you adding it to your cooking, as it is a good source of protein and gives ‘volume’ to your meals
Getting your 5 a day is fun, you don’t have to limit it to cereals or in cooked meals, it can be delicious as a snack. Eg:  sliced apples as a dip with peanut butter; celery or carrot in hummus, etc.

*Link to my ebook – Breakfast on the go for Busy People.

Fad/Crash Diets

Everyone would have known and heard of the numerous diets on the market, including those endorsed by celebrities. I am not here to pass judgements, merely to give my personal opinion and share my personal experience. No one can ever say they understand how something works or empthasise unless they have actually been through and experienced a situation/emotion themselves.

First things first, a lot of these celebs endorse these diets as a form of marketing/advertising for these companies, in other words, they get paid. True some celebs may have actually gone through the diet themselves but if truth be told, majority haven’t. Its just a matter of paying big bucks which they know they will get back later in huge profits. At the end of the day, the celeb is just a human being who wants to make money just like the rest of us, so why should they turn down extra cash and freebies, would you. Well I guess it depends on what it is, personally I would say no to what I can only see as deciet.

Anyway, let’s get back into the topic of discussion, sorry I got carried away with the moral high ground but I like to say things as it is – apologises if you are easily offended.

I decided to go on a detox diet as I wanted to flush out all the toxics in my systems, following the cookbook and advice of a well known British presenter. She looked great on screen, who was I to doubt her. When I say I ‘followed’ her cookbox, I mean I tried every single receipe, followed the advice sheets, what to eat from day to day for a month.

Guess what? But not without weeks of headaches, constant hunger pangs, trips to the loo and so on. My skin was free (I was prone to acne) of spots, especially on my back. Not long after I stopped the diet, I started having health issues so I went to see my doctor. I was diagnosed with anemia!! It turns out that I had deprived my body of iron and so began a 5 year long course of medication.

I went back to my eating pattern, introduced liver, spinach, kale and other iron based into my diet. My health got a lot better, the tiredness and dizziness began to diminsh, eventually came off my medication when my doctor gave me the all clear after my last blood test. I have been fit and health since then.

Since then I have shared my experience with those around me. Fad diets work for a ‘season’ but are not effective long term. The keys to successful losing weight (and making it stick) is to eat healthily without restrictions, and exercise – that is your long term goal. Otherwise you will find yourself putting all that weight back when you get really bored ( the main reason people quit) with the fad diet. According to an expert (I’m not naming because it will be free advertising) ‘spending your life weight-obsessed, and going on and off diets, is no way to live’. And that my friends is why I refuse to use the word ‘diet’ any longer.

I mean the first 3 letters (die) is enough to put anyone off which is why I am not suprised when people put off or dismissive, I don’t blame them. I prefer the terms weight loss or a healthy lifestyle as this signifies commitment, and not a short term fix. This doesn’t mean it should be scary, it should be fun not a chore, you have got to do it ‘happy’ otherwise there is no point.

The other key is to introduce alternatives into your food – please see previous post. Do remember losing weight should not be just be to fit into that wedding dress, the body gets really ‘confused’ when its introduced to certain foods and then back to the same ole food, its like a yoyo – echoing the expert I quoted earlier.

So what am I saying? Losing weight should not be a temporary solution its a commitment or put another way a scarifice. If you want the pounds stay (and not creep back in) then you have to be willing to do the hard work. Just think of the health benefits when you embark on a healthy lifestyle that could prolong your life/wellbeing.

As previously stated I am not a fan of diet (ing), not only because of the negative connotation attached to it. I mean the first 3 letters (die) is enough to put anyone off which is why I am not suprised when some people in my life are put off or dismissive, I don’t blame them. I prefer the terms ‘weight loss or a healthy lifestyle’ as this signifies a commitment, and not a short term solution. This doesn’t mean it should be scary, it should be fun not a chore, you have got to do it ‘happy’ or there is no point.

In conclusion, do consult your doctor or seek the advice of a health/nutrition professional before starting your weight loss programme especially if you have health issues. Our bodies are different, what works for Jo is not going to work for Linda, etc.

All the best as you embark on the journey of a healthy lifestyle, it will be interesting to hear your stories, please feel free to leave a comment so other readers can be encouraged.

Been Healthy in 2020

I don’t need to tell you what happens when a new year begins – new year resolutions. Most of which are usually centred around a healthy lifestyle. This is the time of year that the dieting and gym industry make their money, this is not the purpose of this blog. I prefer to say goals rather than resolution because it means I am being true to myself.

Making goals is very important if you want to embark on a healthy lifestyle in the new year. Permit me to share my tips based on my personal experience.

  • Make realistic goals, know what you are capable, forgot about others or what they may think of your goals. You are doing this for you and not anyone else.
  • Seek medical advice so you are heading on the right path. If it doesn’t go in line with your list, don’t be disappointed, follow the advice as your body can do only do so much.
  • Start small, in other words, baby steps.
  • Set a meal plan – I wrote about this in full details in one of my previous posts.
  • Exercise and healthy eating goes hand in hand. You can’t seperate the two, just how many days a week you exercise.
  • Record your progress.
  • Evaluate
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon, just pick up yourself and get back on the journey. I regard the healthy lifestyle as a journey, as it is for life not a season.
  • Celebrate every milestone, no matter how small.
  • Reward yourself – it doesn’t have to be anything expensive or monetary, just something you like.

I hope you find this post useful, there are no short cuts to a healthy lifestyle. Fad diets, supplements, drinks are only for a season, this could be discouraging and dangerous as it has been known to lead to health issues.

Let me know how you are getting by posting a comment or getting in touch with me.

Avoiding burnout at Christmas and the New Year

It’s less than a week to the ‘most wonderful time of year’ but it can also be the most stressful time of the year. There are so many things to do, some may have completed all their shopping, wrapped presents, etc. But for others they still have so much to do and are already in panic mode, feeling stressed and agitated, even though they have been so organised. Then there are others who have not started their shopping and are running around frantically trying to get everything ready.

There is a danger of been burnt out, which of course means you can’t really enjoy the day with your loved ones. It’s important to think of your wellbeing as people have been known to be ill on Christmas day as they have been run down.  Then there is New Year celebrations, meaning (for those who do) that there is no time to come up for air. Although, not as much preparations as Christmas but it can still be stressful especially if you are planning a party. From personal perspective can I offer tips to ensure you don’t crash – your wellbeing?

Tips for Wellbeing at Christmas and New Year

  1. Make a realistic list, not a wish list.
  2. Don’t try to do everything by yourself. If you have a family, delegate task.
  3. Carry out tasks in tiny chunks, know your strength and what you are capable of.
  4. Don’t take on too much – don’t feel bad about saying no.
  5. Stick to your budget – need I say more?
  6. Enjoy yourself, don’t be bugged down with uncompleted tasks, your family and friends (I hope) will understand.
  7. Eat the unhealthy food and snacks but in moderation. Try not to beat yourself up if you have not had time to exercise or found yourself eating unhealthily, don’t give up. The important thing is to go back to your healthy lifestyle after the celebrations.
  8. I have to state the not so obvious (I do this a lot); don’t forgot to take time out for yourself. Yes be selfish, there is only one you, if you don’t take care of yourself you will be no use to anyone else. Harsh but true – I am literally saying this out loud to myself as I do this a lot.  I am working on this and hope to be better in the New Year.

Healthy Eating substitutes

It never ceases to amaze me the reaction I get when I tell some people, the healthy substitutes I use in my cooking and baking. The reaction (I mention the sub for an ingredient), is ‘weird’, ‘ tasteless’ , boring’, and the list goes.

Let me just clarify, food subs are not boring or tasteless. In my experience I have found some foods more tastier/more delicious than the ‘original’, i makes me wish I had discovered this sooner. I will be honest sometimes it doesn’t always work, so I try another sub, as the saying goes you never know until you try. Put another way its a case of trial and error.

There are quite a vast number of substitutes, I have listed the popular ones below. Personally I keep discovering new ones all the time. Think of the substitutes as a journey of discovery or a new adventure for your taste buds.

  • white rice replace with brown rice/ courgetti or cauliflower rice
  • white flour replace with wholemeal/buckwheat/spelt/rice
  • white pasta replace with wholemeal pasta
  • double/sour/single cream replace with natural/Greek low fat yoghurt or low fat creme frais
  • butter or oil in baking replace with applesauce (shop bought or homemade) or natural Greek yoghurt.
  • potatoes replace with sweet potatoes, butternut squash
  • spagetti replace with courgette/butternut noodles
  • streaky bacon replace with back bacon
  • water for sugary drinks, add lemon or fruits such as strawberries if you don’t like the taste of plain water.
  • fizzy drinks with soda water, add fruits or pure juice

If you want to snack without filling guility try this healthy option

Chopped vegetables and lower-fat hummus

Handful of raisins; sultanas. instead of chocolates or biscuits. You can still get your sugar fix but in moderation.

Handful of unsalted nuts – rich in fiber and a wide range of nutrients

Sugar free jelly – for a guilt free dessert

Plain rice cakes or crackers with hummus or natural nut butter

natural low fat yoghurt with chopped fruits

Bonus – healthy way to cook; use spray oil or dry fry using a good quality non stick frying pan.

As I mentioned earlier the ‘list’ is endless, you will discover your own alternatives as you go along. I hope you enjoy trying out the subs, like I said its a journey of discovery, keep experimenting with other foods.