Mindful eating

Mindful eating  is based on mindfulness, a Buddhist concept. It is something that is suggested to be beneficial AND something I like to practice myself. Although it may not be for everyone, there is research to suggest that it may be a very helpful tool and has also been associated with increased enjoyment whilst eating and reduced episodes of bingeing.(1)

Additionally, it may be helpful for individuals who suffer with eating disorders, depression and / or anxiety. (2, 3)

Mindful eating encourages you be more aware of your senses and acknowledge your mind and body’s response to the food you are eating. By slowing down and eating mindfully, it may help you identify and become more in-tune with your hunger and satiety signals and appreciate the taste and textures of the food, thus increasing enjoyment!

The fundamentals of mindful eating include:

  • Eating slowly and without distraction.
  • Listening to physical hunger cues and eating until you’re full.
  • Distinguishing between actual hunger and non-hunger triggers for eating.
  • Engaging your senses by noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures and tastes.
  • Learning to cope with guilt and anxiety about food.
  • Eating to maintain overall health and well-being.
  • Noticing the effects food has on your feelings and figure.
  • Appreciating your food.
  • Enjoying your food.

The concept allows you to replace automatic thoughts and reactions (may also be distractions) with more conscious responses. (4)

Although it is not realistic to eat mindfully at every meal – (we lead busy lives and sometimes there is just no time to sit down and enjoy your food properly) – but perhaps practicing this X amount of times a week, may be helpful to you. Now like I said, this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I personally make an effort to eat breakfast and dinner in a mindful way. I enjoy the whole experience so much more! But hey, that is just me!

How to practice mindful eating

Practicing mindfulness includes a series of exercises and meditations.

If committed, some may find it helpful to attend a seminar, online course or workshop on mindfulness or mindful eating.

However, the points below make a good starting point if you want to experiment with eating mindfully:

  • Slow down: Eat more slowly and try not to rush your meals.
  • Chew thoroughly.
  • Get rid of any distractions by turning off the TV and putting down your phone.
  • Eat in silence, or try having the radio on in the background if you prefer some background noise.
  • Focus on how the food makes you feel.
  • Focus on the taste and texture of the food.
  • Savour each bite.
  • Try and identify when you start to feel full.

To begin with, it is a good idea to pick one meal per day, to focus on these points.

Once you’ve got the hang of this, mindfulness will become more natural. Then you can focus on implementing these habits into more meals.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22888181/ 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21181579
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15256293/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19241400
  5. https://www.thecenterformindfuleating.org 
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How to put on weight in a healthy way

I often get messages from people, particularly on instagram, who are looking for advice on how to gain weight in a healthy way. There are so many ‘tips’ out there in regards to losing weight (but do keep in mind if found on instagram they may not be the most reliable ways to ‘lose weight’). When it comes to your health and weight, please do not consult Google or social media as your reliable source. Your health is not worth sacrificing so please make sure you seek advice from a Registered Nutritionist or Dietitian.

Talia, is a lovely friend of mine and Registered Dietitian currently working on an inpatient eating disorder unit, so I thought she was an amazing person to ask to write this blog with me. She dedicates her job to helping individuals who are very underweight, restore their weight in a safe way. Here we are going to provide you with some information in regards to weight gain.

Is it simply a case up of upping your portion sizes?

You will need to increase the amount of food that you’re eating to gain weight, but the type of foods eaten need to be considered as well. What you are currently eating will influence what dietary changes might need to occur, for example, if you’re cutting out a food group or avoiding particular foods this will need to be addressed to ensure you are taking in the right balance of nutrients from all food groups. Normalising eating behaviours can be challenging so simply being asked to increase portion size is not as straight forward as it might seem for many people, especially as hunger and fullness signals can’t always be trusted if you have been restricting dietary intake for a while. It is likely that activity levels will need to reduce too so that your body can divert energy to restoring weight.

Should you just ‘binge’ until you restore your weight?

No, this isn’t recommended. Intake should increase gradually so that weight gain is steady and better managed from a mental health and physical health perspective. ‘Binging’ to restore weight can actually be very harmful to your health if you have a severely low BMI and have restricted your carbohydrate intake over an extended period of time. This increases your risk of developing re-feeding syndrome which although rare, can be critical due to a shift in fluids and electrolytes. It is best to consult your Doctor or Dietitian to assess this before starting weight restoration.

Is there a certain food group you should be focusing on?

I see a lot of clients that are very focused on meeting their 5-a-day of fruit and vegetables during weight restoration. For weight gain, these foods are of a lower priority as they don’t provide the main fuel source and building blocks your body needs to gain weight. Getting a balance of macronutrients (carbohydrate, fat and protein) from enough wholegrains, starchy foods, meat and alternatives and added fats should be emphasised in the initial stages.

Is there a certain amount of kilos that is considered ‘safe’ in regards to gaining weight gradually?

Yes, generally between 0.5kg-1kg of weight gain per week is considered safe. Weight gain can be more rapid at the beginning due to fluid shifts, increased gastrointestinal content and the development of oedema (swelling due to build-up of fluid). It is not uncommon to gain up to 2-3kg in the first couple of weeks as a result of this which can be distressing but it is important to know that the rate of weight gain does normalise. It is difficult to know how your body will respond during weight restoration as weight gain can fluctuate and some weeks you might even experience weight loss which can be confusing, but is a normal part of the weight gain journey.

Should you cut out exercise whilst restoring weight?

This really depends on your weight/BMI and your physical health (heart rate, blood pressure, blood tests etc). The amount and type of exercise allowed should be decided in collaboration with your Doctor (either your GP or Psychiatrist) and Dietitian. We know that physical activity has a positive impact on anxiety, depression and social connections but at a severely low BMI, minimal exercise or “bed rest” is generally recommended to allow the body to conserve energy, start restoring bodily functions and re-build muscle tissues. The next step once some weight gain has been achieved would be to incorporate low intensity activities such as a gentle, short walk or yoga and continue to build up from there. High intensity activities like HITT, running, gym classes and team sports should be avoided until BMI is back within a healthy weight range, your physical health is normalised, and you get the all clear from your Doctor. For some people, it can take several months or years to return to this level of activity. It is also important to note that when activity levels increase (this might even be returning to work or studies), the amount of food you need to continue gaining weight will likely increase.

Do I have to eat high sugar/high fat (“junk foods”) to gain weight?

Although it is not 100% necessary, most of the time the answer is yes and there are a few reasons why:

  1. To gain weight you have to eat more food and increasing portion size can be quite challenging. Incorporating nutrient dense foods that are high in energy, or high fat/high sugar within a balanced diet can help to reduce the volume of food required
  2. These foods are part of a normal diet so there is no reason why they should be avoided
  3. These foods can be targeted (falsely) as the cause of weight gain and can be feared and cut out of the diet. Gradual exposure to these foods and regular inclusion in your diet will help to develop a more positive relationship with food over time as this fear decreases

What are some of the common side effects of gaining weight?

It is very common to experience several physical and psychological side effects during weight restoration. You may experience an increase in anxiety, abdominal pain and bloating, feeling full all the time and constipation and/or diarrhoea. These physical symptoms can occur as a result of the abdominal muscles and muscles of the gastrointestinal tract losing tone and strength after a period of undereating. The stomach is hyper-sensitive to larger portion sizes, food takes longer to empty from the stomach and due to loss of muscle tone, the abdomen can appear rounded after eating.

Some strategies to help make this process more comfortable include wearing clothes that are lose-fitting, using distraction and self-soothing activities after meals, limiting fluids consumed with meals (have them between instead), including energy dense foods to reduce portion.

You can follow Talia on Instgram and check out her website www.taliacecchele.com. 

 

If you are suffering from an eating disorder, having support can be an essential part of recovery. https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk have some excellent resources.

Lunch time meal prep

Need to prep your lunch? Can’t think of something quick, easy and deliciously nutritious? I got you covered!

To get the most out of a lunch box, I like to make sure its well balanced and contains carbs, protein, essential fats and veggies! And of course tastes delicious! I always get messages on Instagram asking for on the go lunch ideas and whilst I have many recipes, I thought it would be helpful to put them all in one place! So below are my top 5 lunch box recipes to help get you through the week… (I recommend making

Herb tofu with mixed grains, wheat berries & greens

Simply steam the veg and add the tofu and grains cold, ready to heat up at work!

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Veggie box

This one is super easy to cook and then reheat at work but you can also eat it cold and on the go!

Ingredients: 125g cooked quinoa, 3 beetroot falafels, 100g cooked black beans, 80g steamed asparagus

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Bean & Lentil stew

This can be made in batches to freeze in lunch boxes too!

  • BEAN & LENTIL STEW (serves 3-4)
  • 1 x 400g tin of Black beans, drained
  • 1 x 400g tinned chickpeas, drained
  • 2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
  • 200g Green lentils, dry
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 x 400g tinned Tomatoes
  •  400ml Vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp Chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

    1. In large pot add vegetable broth and lentils.
    2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to med-low and simmer for 20 minutes.
    3. While lentils are cooking, in a large pan add olive oil, onion, red pepper, and garlic.
    4. Saute 5-6 minutes until softened.
    5. When lentils have simmered for 20 minutes, add the mix from the pan and remainder of ingredients to lentils pot.
    6. Simmer the stew for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    7. Do occasional taste tests and add more or less spice to your liking. Add to your lunch boxes!
    8. Serving mine with freekah – Enjoy!

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Plant based box

  • 125g mixed brown rice and quinoa (cooked)
  • 100g black beans, cooked
  • 100g chickpeas, cooked,
  • 160g mixed greens
  • 3 tbsp tomato and basil pasta sauce – I use one straight from the jar!

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Buddha bowl style

Here it is pretty simple – you choose a grain, a protein and some veggies! For this bowl you will need a mix of brown rice and lentils (around 125g in total – cooked), 30-40g of grilled halloumi, 4 veggie falafels, spinach leaves and steamed broccoli. Bang it in a lunchbox and you’re good to go!

 

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My Vegetable pasta recipe is also a great one to box up and enjoy hot or cold!

To keep up with new recipes, make sure you follow me @sophieshealthykitchen

Get to know your Gut!

There is more and more research emerging when it comes to gut health and I often get lots of questions on my instagram page about the gut and digestive health. I thought it would be beneficial for a lot of you if I dedicated a blog post to this topic, and I am delighted to introduce the lovely @TheMissionDietitian AKA Kaitlin Colucci, Registered Dietitian and gut health specialist, to give you the low down on gut health…

What do we mean by ‘gut health’?

When you type ‘Gut Health’ into Google, you get more than 1 billion results returned. From books, to blogs, to the BBC – everyone is talking about gut health.

The gut is referring to the function of your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The GI tract starts at your mouth, and finishes…down the other end. So includes your oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum and anus.

The main function of the gut is to absorb nutrients from the food we eat, whilst also ridding solid waste from the body. As well as this, the gut also hosts a huge amount of bacteria – both good and bad, which is better known as the gut microbiome.

Approximately 100 trillion micro-organisms exist in the human GI tract and these can all aid with digestion of nutrients, support a healthy immune system, and more recently have even shown a link between stress, anxiety, insomnia and weight gain via something called the Gut-Brain-Axis. This is essentially a pathway in which the gut talks to the brain and vice versa.

Bad bacteria does find it’s way into the gut and when it does can cause symptoms such as diarrhoea or constipation, excessive gas, and irritable bowel.

There is no universal definition for ‘good gut health’ and no two people’s gut microbiota are the same. The absence of gut symptoms such as bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, excess flatulence, abdominal pain etc. may be an indicator of good gut health. However, research has shown that 1 in 3 people suffer from one or more of these symptoms.    

What sort of factors may influence our gut health?

Studies looking at human twins have shown that although there is a heritable component to the gut microbiota, there are many factors that independently influence the composition of the gut microbiota.

There are many causes for this, some of which can’t be helped such as ageing and becoming ill. However stress, unhealthy dietary habits, antibiotics, mood, sleep and smoking are among the causes that can be helped.

Aiming to reduce and manage your stress levels can do wonders for your gut health. Aiming to do 30 minutes of exercise every day, or even 10 minutes of mindful meditation can help to reduce stress levels. Lifestyle factors such as stress and sleep have been shown to have a significant impact on the gut bacteria, which may explain the association between lack of sleep and weight gain.

We all become ill at times when antibiotics are a necessity, but avoiding antibiotics unless absolutely necessary saves healthy gut bacteria from being wiped out and causing long term changes to your gut microbiota.

Healthy eating is also key to good intestinal health. Studies done in animals have shown that eating a diet low in fibre and high in processed foods has been linked with alteration in gut microbiota and increased chronic disease risk.

A variety of plant foods are necessary to have a variety of strains of good bacteria in the gut. Try to eat the rainbow when it comes to fruit and vegetables, or eat the alphabet when it comes to plant based foods.

Can IBS symptoms be controlled through our diet?

Some people, particularly those with IBS have a very sensitive gut and can’t tolerate some types of fermentable carbohydrates termed FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, di-saccharides, mono-saccharides, and polyols) and may be recommended to trial a low FODMAP diet. FODMAPs are types of prebiotics. Prebiotics are types of dietary fibres that reach the large intestine undigested where the bacteria ferment them. Foods rich in prebiotics include artichokes, onion, garlic, asparagus and leeks.

The low FODMAP diet is a diet that is recommended for 4-8 weeks and should be delivered by a Registered Dietitian. The diet aims to reduce the amount of these fermentable fibres from the diet and therefore reducing IBS-like symptoms. Research has shown that the low FODMAP diet can be effective in up to 70% of people with IBS. However, once your symptoms have reduced to below your tolerance threshold, it is important to trial a structured reintroduction of each high FODMAP food, again with guidance from a Registered Dietitian. This is because not everyone responds to high FODMAP foods in the same way, and it is important to reintroduce some fermentable foods that don’t trigger symptoms back into your diet to increase variety, and help keep your good gut bacteria happy.

Are probiotics really worth it?

Probiotics are foods that contain live beneficial bacteria such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha and kimchi. You can also buy probiotic capsules or drinks. However, evidence for the effect of probiotics is mixed and the most convincing evidence is in the prevention of antibiotic associated diarrhoea and treatment of travellers diarrhoea.

Nevertheless, it is important to remember that these types of foods have been eaten as part of a healthy diet for centuries and lack of evidence does not always equate to lack of benefit.

We know that probiotics do not cause harm. Therefore if you want to trial a probiotic supplement you should trial one for at least four weeks whilst monitoring the effect. Always take at the dose recommended by the manufacturer.

Are there certain things we can be doing or certain foods we should be eating to help with our digestion?

  • Eat a varied diet rich in fibre

Adults should be aiming to eat 30g of fibre each day, but most of us are only achieving around 18g. Aim to eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes and pulses. Aim to gradually increase your fibre intake and ensure to drink plenty of fluid as well.

  • Experiment with new foods

Try a new food each week, especially those containing natural probiotics as these can help the good bacteria in your gut and don’t come with a big cost that some supplements do.

  • Avoid unnecessary medications

Particularly overuse of antibiotics as these can wipe out your good bacteria and cause long term changes to your gut microbiota.

  • Stop smoking and drink alcohol in moderation

Cigarette smoking has a bad impact on your gut bacteria and alcohol can alter the balance of bacteria within the GI tract.

  • Exercise

Ensure to exercise regularly as this can help to regulate bowel habits. We should be aiming to do 150 minutes moderate aerobic activity every week such as cycling or brisk walking. You can break that down into 30 minutes five times a week. We should also aim to do two additional days of strength exercises that work all major muscles.

  • Simple habits

Digestion starts in the mouth, so chewing our food really well is an important part of digestion. Take your time to eat and enjoy food sat at a dinner table where you can.

Also avoid wearing excessively tight clothes, especially high-waisted trousers that sit right by the stomach as external pressure can worsen your symptoms.

  • Create time to relax

Due to the Gut-Brain-Axis, if we are stressed this can have a negative impact on our gut bacteria. Therefore aim to find time in your day to relax and de-stress.

  • Know when to seek medical advice

Always be on the look out for red flags, and if something doesn’t seem right, talk to your doctor or GP. Red flags include:

  • Unexplained and unintentional weight loss
  • Blood in your stool
  • Family history of coeliac disease, bowel cancer, or inflammatory bowel disease
  • Anaemia
  • A change in bowel habit lasting more than six weeks if you’re over the age of 60years.

Make sure you follow Kaitlin over on her Instagram page @TheMissionDietitian! 

Vegan Meatballs

You guys know I am all about easy recipes and this one is no exception! If you’re looking for a meat free alternative to meatballs, then look no further! These 6 ingredients bites can go in a stir fry, with spaghetti or even taken on the go as little snacks!

Vegan meatballs (makes 12-16 meatballs)

  • 1 can of lentils, drained (about 220g or 1 cup of lentils)
  • 2-3 tbsp of fresh basil and parsley, chopped
  • 1 small onion (75g of onion), peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 flax seed egg (1tbsp flax seed + 3 tbsp water)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup (15g) nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbsp (15g) ground almonds
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  • In a food processor, pulse the onions until broken down, then add the garlic and lentils, pulsing until the lentils are broken up too.
  • Add in all of your remaining ingredients, mixing until combined.
  • If you mix is too wet, add a little extra ground almonds, so it’s just firm enough to pick up with your fingertips. The mix will be very moist, however, this is how you want it!
  • Roll the mix into balls, placing each of the balls onto your prepared baking tray.
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until the outsides look golden and crunchy. (They’ll firm up when they cool).
  • Optional: Fry them up in a little olive oil like I do – it makes them extra crispy!
  • ENJOY!!

 

You can see more of my sweet and savoury recipes that are uploaded daily to my instagram page!

Healthy New Year

It is just so predictable – January hits and we are bombarded with weight loss diets, juice cleanses, meal replacement shakes with 20% etc. And it doesn’t help when you see the likes of the Kardashians jumping on board and promoting this rubbish! But let me remind you, these celebrities are PAID (A LOT) to promote these products and they have no interest at all in your health.

The word ‘diet’ is often used in the month of January as it the most popular month for purchasing gym memberships and embarking on a new meal plan you may have come across online, in a book or in a magazine. You should know, that many of the ‘diets’ available to the public (such as ones published in magazines) are not recommended by qualified nutrition professionals. Unfortunately, it’s usually an ‘influencer’ or celebrity who is promoting their ‘amazing new diet’ that helped them ‘lose 10lbs in 2 weeks’.

So, as a qualified nutritionist, I am here to tell you why you DO NOT need to buy in to any of this diet b*ll****.

Let’s think about this for a minute; what will you get out of a ‘detox’ diet or a calorie restricting diet, or even just a 3 day ‘juice cleanse’? I can confidently answer this question with the response: absolutely nothing positive! Embarking on some sort of fad diet will most likely hinder your relationship with food and leave you feeling worse than when you started. Ultimately, fad diets are not sustainable. I can tell you that there is no research that promotes a positive outcome in regards to the long-term effects of low fat, low calorie, restricting fad diets. In fact, the relevant research actually tells us that weight loss achieved by a non-sustainable diet will most likely lead to additional weight gain in the long run, thus causing you to be more dissatisfied with your body than before.

Now think about this: what about if we learn to LOVE our bodies and BE KIND to ourselves and not feel the need to restrict!? How great would that be! Now I know that’s easier said than done, but I really do believe that the first step to having a healthier relationship with food IS ditching diet culture. Just opt out. If you see it, unfollow it, ignore it, pay no attention to it – because all they want is your money!

I am also going to let you in on my ‘top tip’ to help you start loving your body more –throw away your scales!

Your happiness and perception of your body should not be determined by the number on scales. Period. As individuals, we come in different shapes and sizes; that is what makes us unique. We are not all meant to be the same weight because we are all biologically different. Plus, have you ever stepped on the scales and had it ruin your whole day? If the answer is yes, throw them away now!!

If you feel you need nutrition support, please only ever seek advice from a registered and qualified nutrition professional.

 

Intuitive Eating

I am often asked about ‘eating intuitively’ but as a Registered Associate Nutritionist, it is something I am continuing to research. I believe it to be a very powerful way of eating but with ongoing CPD courses under my belt, this is not something that I have studied enough, to give an expert opinion on. Therefore, I have invited the wonderful Kirsten Ackerman, MS, RD to collaborate with me and help break down what ‘eating intuitively’ really entails and whether or not it is for everyone….

Kirsten, could you talk us through the principles of IE?
 
There are ten principles of Intuitive Eating:
1. Reject the Diet Mentality – Essentially, diet mentality is rooted in external food rules that dictate our choices are food. For example, eliminating carbohydrate based foods (ahem, keto). There are rules that someone else set that we decide to blindly follow. They are not based on INTERNAL cues that we can physically experience ourselves.
2. Honor your Hunger – Pay attention to the sensory feedback of different levels of hunger in your body, For example, some people can very easily miss out on early signals of hunger in their body (irritability, dull headache,etc). For other people, subtle hunger is very apparent in the form of grumbling in their stomach or starting to daydream about lunch. But even so, many times in our hectic culture, it can still be easy to go hours before eventually eating. This can create so much chaos in our relationship to food. Learning to notice and honor your hunger when it shows up will help to foster a more peaceful relationship to food.
3. Make Peace with Food – There is no moral value to food choices. You are not good for eating a salad and you are not bad for having dessert. Learning to neutralize your perceptions of the morality of different food is so important. It is also important to start experimenting with unconditional permission to eat all foods. When we set restrictions for ourselves around food, it drives us to feeling more cravings for that food. It also increases the reward of having that food when we eventually give into the craving. By allowing for full permission to eat all foods, we will eventually find a balance that works for us. And, as scary as this principle can be, it is powerful when you experience it for yourself. P.S. You really won’t eat chocolate chip cookies 6 times per day for the rest of your life. Once the restriction dissipates, your body will ask for a return to balance.
4. Challenge the Food Police – Start questioning the diet mentality thoughts and rules that pop up in your mind. Examples: “I shouldn’t eat past 8pm” or “I shouldn’t eat any added sugar”.Call these thoughts out when you notice them and recognize them as food police thoughts.
5. Feel your Fullness – Similarly to honoring your hunger, to feel your fullness you have to start recognizing the sensory feedback of different levels of fullness in your body. Subtle fullness can be hard to detect. With practice, you’ll find a stopping point that feels best for you most of the time. Remember: if you do eat past fullness, this is not a moral shortcoming. It is simply an opportunity to ask yourself what this might suggest: did you go too long without eating and you were ravenous? Were you feeling emotional in some way and looking for comfort in food? Stay curious.
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor – Allow yourself to find pleasure in your eating experiences. Choose foods that sound delicious and satisfying to you in the moment. Choose a comfortable eating environment without distractions. Of course, this won’t be every time you eat. But pay attention to how satisfied you are when you are truly paying attention and being mindful during your meal compared to when you rushing.
7. Honor your Feelings Without Using Food – Again, there is nothing morally wrong with emotion eating. However, there are ways to cope with emotions that will address what is going on for you in a more direct way and, ultimately, will leave you feeling better. Start tuning into and recognizing your emotions, particularly in moments when you find yourself reaching for food outside of physical hunger. Consider ways of addressing your emotions more directly. For example, after a long stressful day at work, maybe you could use some gentle joyful movement like exercise or a walk.
8. Respect your Body – Accept your genetic blueprint. Accept general body diversity. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Recognizing this is step one. The next step is finding ways to treat your here and now body with more respect. How can you provide it nourishment and energy in a way that feels good? How can you honor its cravings in a way that feels good? How can you move it in a way that feels good? How can you shift your negative thoughts about your body to something positive? How can you express gratitude towards your body?
9. Exercise – Feel the Difference – Rather than choosing movement for the purpose of its calorie-burning effect, choose movement that is enjoyable and feels good to you in the moment. It can be gentle, it can be a short period of time, it can be anything. Movement is so supportive of health regardless of the impact is has (or does not have) on your body size. You deserve enjoyable movement, whatever that is for you.
10. Gentle Nutrition – After exploring your relationship to food and working to heal it, consider how to nourish yourself based on basic nutrition principles can feel really good. This is not always a top priority for every person, and that is okay, too. But if it is, my recommendation is always to consider what you can add to your plate and your overall diet rather than what you can eliminate or avoid. All foods fit.
 
Can anyone eat intuitively?
The fact of the matter is that we were all born intuitive eaters. As children, we knew what and how much our bodies needed. Environmental and cultural influences often lead us away from this intuition. So, I really view the practice of intuitive eating as a returning back to something we already know how to do. That being said, there are always exceptions. A couple examples I can think of would be someone who is receiving treatment for a medical condition and on many medications may lose their appetite entirely and, if left entirely up to their intuitive, might not choose to eat at all. Another example is in the early stages of eating disorder recovery, hunger signals are usually entirely muted and fullness signals can be premature. In these cases, internal cues around hunger/fullness are not reliable. However, outside of these extreme cases, intuitive eating is really the most peaceful way we can relate to food.
 
How about if someone is suffering from an eating disorder  how might they be able to benefit from IE?
 
Eating disorders occur along a spectrum. I consider this spectrum to start with dieting and progress towards a full blown eating disorder. I think everyone on this spectrum can benefit from the intuitive eating framework. However, those that are in early stages of recovery from a full blown eating disorder, as mentioned above, cannot rely fully on their hunger/fullness cues. Everyone can benefit from many of the other principles such as rejecting the diet mentality, learning to cope with emotions without using food, and making peace with food.
Please do let us know if this was helpful. You can find Kirsten on her instagram page @theintuitive_rd and informative podcast ‘Intuitive Bites’ available on iTunes and Spotify.

The ups and downs of social media and the impact on mental health

Over the past decade and more so in the past few years, social media has had a big impact on the way in which we communicate with each other. There has been a variety of research that has looked at whether or not social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have a positive or negative effect on mental health.

Most of us are aware that apps like Instagram can be a wonderfully inspiring platform to be a part of however these social media networks may also have a negative influence on how we feel about ourselves…

I find with a lot of my clients, that they fall into the trap of comparing themselves to other people on social media which may bring out their inner critic.

Several studies have suggested that the prolonged use of social media, may be associated with signs and symptoms of depression. Additionally, some research has indicated that social media usage might be associated with low self-esteem, especially in children and adolescents. But, other studies have presented opposite results in terms of positive impact of social networking on self-esteem. The relationship between social media use and mental problems to this day remains controversial, and research on this issue is faced with numerous challenges.

I am delighted to have the lovely Sarah, who is currently studying Medicine, to share her personal views on the role of social media and her experiences in regards to mental health…

 I started my Instagram when I was in Year 9 in high school, which was 6 years ago when I was 14 years old. I initially created the page to share my passion for health and fitness, so I focused on posting motivational quotes, healthy recipes, workout tips etc.

Over the years, my account became really popular and I was lucky enough to amass a large following! My followers began to take interest in MY fitness routine, MY diet and what I was doing personally. As such, my account shifted to become more about myself and MY lifestyle.

When the account became more personal, it began to have a detrimental effect on my mental health. I would compare the posts of myself to my other posts or to other influencers and stress over why “I didn’t get as many likes” or “as many followers”. Ultimately, I blamed in on the way I looked – I tricked myself into thinking that I just wasn’t as “fit” or “pretty” as them. To change the way I looked, I began to excessively restrict my diet and cranked up my exercise routine to an unhealthy, absurd level. This amalgamated into the development of a pretty serious eating disorder & exercise addiction which almost took my life.

Ever since I revealed my diagnosis and I shared by recovery, the role of social media on my mental health has done a complete 180o. For a long time, I was terrified of sharing what I was going through. I was terrified of revealing that I had an eating disorder because of the stigma that surrounds mental illness. I thought that my followers would think I was “weak” and that I “did this to myself”, so I only ‘had myself to blame”.

In actual fact, the response from my following was SO positive and supportive. Everyone just seemed to want me to get better. There was no blame, only understanding. Thus, I find that my following played (and still plays) a MAJOR part in my recovery.

Whenever I have doubts about the way I look or whenever I start comparing myself to others, I just have to read the comments on my photos. Seeing something like “You look so healthy and full of life” or “It makes me so happy to see your recovery” encourages me to push those depressing thoughts away and remember that I perfect the way that I am. I don’t need to look like someone else. I don’t need to be anyone else.

 I’ve also taken steps to unfollow accounts that idolise a certain body-type (think girls with 6-packs or thigh gaps) and instead, only follow accounts that celebrate ALL body types.

This is just one example of the ups and downs of social media and that is NOT to say it will be the same for everyone and have the same level of impact. Along with the research linked in this blog and with Sarah’s contribution, it simply demonstrates the potential power of platforms such as Instagram and it is so important to remember that at the end of the day – social media is not the real world. It is also important to note that your ‘Instagram world’ may depend on the people you follow… If the posts on your feed are not making you feel good about yourself, perhaps unfollowing them is a good idea.

If you are someone who struggles with the negative effects of social media, please seek help from a qualified professional.

References

Pantic I, Damjanovic A, Todorovic J, et al. Association between online social networking and depression in high school students: behavioral physiology viewpoint. Psychiatria Danubina 2012; 24:90–93  [PubMed]

Jelenchick LA, Eickhoff JC, Moreno MA. “Facebook depression?” Social networking site use and depression in older adolescents. The Journal of Adolescent Health 2013; 52:128–130  [PubMed]

Blascovich J, Tomaka J. (1991) Measures of self-esteem. In: Robinson JP, editor; , Shaver PR, editor. , eds. Measures of personality and social psychological attitudes. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, pp. 115–155

Kuss DJ, Griffiths MD. Online social networking and addiction—a review of the psychological literature. International Journal of Environmental Research & Public Health 2011; 8:3528–3552 [PMC free article]  [PubMed]

Other resources

https://www.mind.org.uk

https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/mental-health-services/how-to-access-mental-health-services/

https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk

Gut health & fibre

Fibre is becoming more and more talked about particularly in relation to gut health… I also get a lot of questions about gut health so wanted to bring you guys the latest research on it –

What we do know, is that fibre has a positive impact on gut health. Here in U.K., stats show that we need to boost our fibre intake by around 60%. We are recommend to eat 30g of fibre a day and the countries estimated intake is currently around 18/19g.

The UK get most of their fibre from cereals and cereal products such as bread, rice and pasta. It is important to note that refined grains such as white bread, have been stripped of their fibre. This is not to say we shouldn’t eat white bread, but opting for wholegrain the majority of time provides us with more nutrition. Other foods high in fibre include fruit and veg! Often people forget about this.

How does fibre work?

Fibre plays many different roles including helping to improve glycemic controls, blood sugar balance and stimulating the colon. And as know, it is also becoming increasingly famous for its effect on gut microbiota

Fun facts

  • Our gut microbiota, is something we develop with age and it weighs as much as our brain!
  • It has been estimated that we are 45% human and 55% microbes /bacteria by number of cells
  • The gut produces vitamins and hormones, it strengthens the intestine and trains the immune system.
  • It can also communicate with our Central Nervous System

Health benefits

Research by Rossi & Dimidi found that for every 7g increase in fibre:

  • 9% lower risk of cardiovascular disease
  • 7%lower risk of colon cancer
  • 7% lower risk of stroke
  • 6% lower risk of type 2 diabetes

What does 7g look like?

  • a potato with skin
  • bowl of baked beans
  • a portion of veggie sticks (carrots / cucumber)

Jacka et al. 2017 looked at gut brain axis in mental health. The study looked a patients diagnosed with depression and found that dietary intervention may help with symptoms. (Note these patients were still on medication but the study showed that a high fibre diet helped their symptoms further). This diet included 50g fibre a day!

Diet in general (added omgega 3s may also have helped) so were looking at whole diet -not just reliant on one nutrient but it is helpful to look at the specific mechanisms behind it.

Barriers in regards to including fibre

  • perceived as more expensive
  • perceived as boring

But, it doesn’t have to be boring or more expensive…

How to increase fibre in diet –

  • Include more nuts, legumes, whole grains, fruit/veg in your diet
  • Freeze your fruit and veggies – it tends to cheaper and they may retain more nutritional value
  • Buy tins of lentils, beans and chickpeas – they’re cheap and easy to add to meals.

Please note that those who have been diagnosed with IBS may need more guidance in regards their diet and fibre intake and should seek advice from a registered health professional.

References

https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/en/publications/irritable-bowel-syndrome-and-diet(d6c9322c-5079-4073-add7-b803f15131f4).html 

https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/en/publications/dietary-fiber-intervention-on-gut-microbiota-composition-in-healthy-adults(f9b2521e-1513-43f5-9739-777023204fbc).html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/