Category Archives: Hormonal health

The alternative to dieting

My tip today is “Ditch the diet”!

How many diets have you tried during your lifetime so far? How many days have you woken up thinking “Today’s the day the new diet starts!”? How many days have you found yourself making excuses to delay it, or let yourself ‘be naughty’ (it’s your Mum’s birthday afterall), or just that you can’t be bothered?

Well let me let you into a secret – Diets Don’t Work!!!!

Plenty of research studies have found that while you might lose weight in the short term by ‘dieting’, over a five year period people who diet are likely to pile the weight back on AND THEN SOME (when compared with people who didn’t diet).

My life totally changed when I realised this – ditching the dieting mentality is probably THE MOST powerful thing you can do for your body and your PCOS. Unconvinced? Read on…

Although the research studies refer to eating a ‘low GI diet’ as an effective way to help manage your PCOS symtoms, I want to encourage you to reframe how you think about this …. in my head I never ‘diet’, but I AM committed to the ‘low GI way of life’. For me, the word ‘diet’ conjures up a picture of something temporary (you too?). People are either ON or OFF a diet … but PCOS-friendly eating has to be different.

You need to commit to doing this for yourself INDEFINITELY, because PCOS doesn’t just go away. You need to make PCOS-friendly eating your ‘NEW NORMAL’. End of story.

 That’s why it is SO important to work out how to make this way of eating work for you and your lifestyle. If you feel you have to be ‘good’ and use willpower, then the chances are that will-power will fail you at some point and you’ll feel like you’ve ‘fallen off the wagon’. This often results in a binge … and then a long struggle to get back on track. I’ve seen and heard about this pattern again and again – it really isnt’ helpful.

One of the best things you can do for your body (and your PCOS) is to banish this ‘dieting mentality’.

Get out of the the mindset of ‘being good’ and obsessing about calorie counting. We’ve become so brain-washed into weight loss as the be-all and end-all goal. But this actually misses the point! Weight loss is a SIDE EFFECT of eating well.

A happy body will naturally find its best healthy weight.

By obsessing over the numbers on the scale and how to shift them downwards, there is a tendency to get too focused on the amount of energy in food (ie. the calories) and you are at risk of totally  ignoring the stuff that’s good and useful!

Instead, I recommend adopting what some people call a  “Nutritarian” approach to eating: look for the choices that are going to give you the best value in terms of nutrients rather than for things claiming to be ‘low calorie’ or ‘low fat’. These are just clever marketing messages designed to keep you trapped in a cycle of yo-yo dieting. Look for real, simple whole foods. Real food doesn’t need fancy packaging or wiley marketing messages to sell it. Don’t be a victim to advertising.

If you get into the habit of focusing on nutrients you will automatically eat more healthily (most nutrient-dense foods are plants). So if you fancy eating rice, by choosing brown rice or wild rice instead of polished white rice, you will give your body a whole package of extra vitamins and minerals along with the basic carbohydrate that gives you the calories.

By adopting this approach to food, you’ll begin to learn to listen to what your body needs.

Remember we are all different – we are different shapes, sizes and have differing body types. Do you have a fast or slow metabolism? Do you tend to use up the food you eat quickly (and get hungry quickly)? Or are you a bit of a ‘camel’ – can go for hours without needing anything? Do you feel better when you eat a diet that is higher in carbs or one with more protein? (You may find these questions tricky and could benefit from some one-to-one support or group coaching to help you to get clear about these).

 

So rather than today being the day that the new ‘diet’ starts, make today the day that you commit 100% to finding a PCOS-friendly lifestyle that works for you.

It won’t happen overnight – just make a start – start taking baby steps in the right direction. Find ways of eating good, healthy, whole-foods that you genuinely enjoy (this might take a bit of time and effort but is well worth it). Stop the excuses and the procrastination and start moving in the right direction towards a PCOS-friendly way of eating and living that WORKS for you. That you stick to because you actually enjoy it and you like how it makes you feel …. and not just because you’re being ‘good’. You can do this!!

 

This blog is based on an excerpt from my ebook “PCOS-friendly Eating – The Ultimate Do’s and Don’ts”. Get your free copy here.


Struggling to make PCOS-friendly eating habits stick? My online “PCOS-friendly Eating Kickstart programme” could be the answer … spots are limited – sign up here to hear when registration opens.

Don’t assume low sugar foods are always healthier!

This is a trap that it is easy to fall into. You must have been asleep if you haven’t yet got the message that sugar is BAD for you … and right on cue, those clever food marketing people have seen this as an easy bandwagon to jump onto. Suddenly our supermarkets are brimming with products shouting that they are ‘sugar-free’ or ‘low-sugar’.

However, just because something is marketed as “Low Sugar” it doesn’t automatically mean that it is the healthy option. As I’ve said before (and I really can’t stress this enough)- READ THE LABEL!!!

‘Low sugar’ may just mean that a product is full of artificial sweeteners which have been linked with spikes in insulin and blood sugar as well as disruption to the hormonal signals that tell you when you’re full (read this). If you are trying to eat in a way that is PCOS-friendly then this is NOT helpful – particularly as balancing your blood sugar levels is key to keeping your hormones happy.

So when eating ‘low GI’ and looking for alternatives to refined sugar, I strongly advise you to steer clear of the artificial stuff and stick to natural alternatives such as honey, maple syrup or stevia.

Delicious raw chocolate brownies that are good for you!

 

TRY THIS – if you need a sweet treat then take a look at my favourite recipe for raw chocolate brownies that are delicious, indulgent AND positively ‘good for you’!

 

 

WHAT NEXT? If you are ready to take PCOS-friendly eating to the next level check out my 30 day PCOS-friendly eating kickstart programme. You’ll learn how to make the BEST choices for your PCOS without having to stick to a boring, rigid diet. Click here for more info.

Gluten-free seeded super-bread

This recipe has been quite literally life-changing. I was really missing eating bread (have you SEEN what is in shop-bought gluten-free stuff?) and so this recipe has fulfilled a real ’need’.

It’s really versatile – can be savoury or sweet and behaves like ‘proper’ bread so I don’t feel deprived or annoyed that I’m not eating a crusty granary loaf from the village shop. What’s more, the gluten-eaters in the family also love it so we don’t end up having to bake twice.

Its really easy to make – just four simple steps (mix all the dry ingredients together, add water, leave to absorb it for about an hour and then bake). I’ve been enjoying playing around with the ingredients a bit – it seems to work well with different types of nuts and seeds. I think my favourite version so far is walnut and sunflower seed. I’ve also found that using a self-raising gluten-free flour (or adding some baking powder) really helps to lift it a little, otherwise it can be a little ‘dense’.

Recipe – Gluten-free, Seeded Super-bread.

(Based on a recipe from the Deliciously Ella blog (which was in turn based on a number of other recipes from around the internet)).

 

1-superseed-bread2

 

200g gluten-free flour or brown rice flour

350g seeds (pumpkin and sunflower work well)

200g nuts (I like almonds and walnuts)

3tbsp psyllium husk powder (this is essential to bind the bread)

2 tbsp chia seeds (optional)

500-600ml cold water

Seasoning

Herbs (optional)

 

1. Grind the nuts and seeds finely in a food processor (you can leave a couple of handfuls out so that the bread has some whole seeds in it too).

2. Mix all the dry ingredients together and season.

3. Add the water slowly and stir. Leave for about an hour so that the water gets fully absorbed.

4. Place in a bread tin and bake at 200’C (400’F) for about 45 mins (test to see if it is cooked using a clean knife – it should come out of the bread ‘clean’)

I love this bread straight from the oven with butter and honey or marmite, toasted with avocado and a squeeze of lemon juice or with a bowl of veggie soup.

Banoffee Pie Chia Pudding

Banoffe Pie Chia Pudding Image

Struggling with food cravings is quite possibly THE most common reason I hear for why healthy eating plans are ditched. A strong craving for something sweet and creamy can have you reaching for the nearest milk chocolate bar. While the odd ‘treat’ isn’t necessarily a major issue, many women find that one thing just leads to another and before they know it, it’s a full-on binge (“I might as well eat that now – I’ll restart the diet tomorrow” – does that sound familiar?!)

A really useful cravings-taming trick that I recommend, is to identify what sorts of foods you tend to crave and then make sure you have a healthier alternative (that still ‘hits the spot’) close to hand.

This healthy ‘Banoffee Pie Chia Pudding’ can really satisfy if you are craving something sweet and creamy. It only takes a few minutes to prep, and not only is it dairy-free, gluten-free and free from refined sugar – it’s crammed full of ingredients that are postitively good for you and so it is completely guilt-free too!  

 

Creamy Banoffee Pie Chia Pudding

Ingredients:

–        3tsp chia seeds

–        1/3 cup of dairy-free milk (I’ve used almond)

–        2tsp of all-natural almond butter

–        1 Handful of almonds

–        1 banana

1. Crush the almonds and put at the bottom of a glass.

2. Drizzle the almond butter over the crushed almonds.

3. Slice up the banana and layer it on top of the almond butter.

4. Pour in the chia seeds and the dairy-free milk. 5. Keep it in the fridge overnight (the chia seeds will soak up the milk and become creamy and soft)

6. Enjoy!

Would you like to explore what underlies your food cravings? Join me on 16th October 2014 at 8pm (GMT) for a FREE webinar all about PCOS and cravings and how to understand them. You can reserve your spot here.

Indulgent, guilt-free, chocolate pudding

I get strong carb/sugar/something creamy cravings around the time of my period. Having a batch of this made up in the fridge ensures that I don’t end up with my nose in the biscuit tin or my daughter’s Easter Chocolate stash (yes she still has some left – how does she do that?).

This delicious, indulgent, guilt-free chocolate pudding is incredibly quick and easy to make (will take about 5 mins out of your day) and sets in about an hour in the fridge (but tastes yummy when its still runny too!). Please note that this recipe is quite sweet so you might want to reduce the amount of maple syrup if you’re trying to re-educate your taste buds to like less sugar.

 

Indulgent, guilt-free, Chocolate Pudding

 

Ingredients

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup tahini

1 cup dairy-free milk (I like rice/almond or coconut best)

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons raw cocao (or more if you like it really dark)

1 tablespoon lecithin granules (buy from a health food shop)

 

1. Blend all the ingredients except lecithin granules until thick and creamy.

2. Add lecithin and combine well.

3. Pour into dish or individual glass bowls and set for an hour in the fridge.

4. Delicious served with fresh strawberries or raspberries.

IMG_2478

Would you like to explore what underlies your cravings further? Join me on 16th October 2014 at 8pm (GMT) for a FREE webinar all about PCOS and cravings and how to understand them. You can reserve your spot here.

Do you know someone who might like this recipe? Please be sure to share it with them or pin it on Pinterest.

Cravings – the vital question

Social media creatives2Today I am diving deep into WHY we get cravings – why certain foods seem to call out to us, while others hold little interest. I also share a very personal story and explore the possibility that had I learned to listen to my body sooner (rather than battling to control it), I might have avoided a whole roller coaster of heart-break.

Quit the drama!

I recently surveyed a group of women about what their most common cravings were. Unsurprisingly, the winners were sweet things and chocolate with fizzy drinks, coffee and fatty foods (such as crisps) following close behind.

Most of my clients struggle to some extent with cravings, often blaming them for years of failed ‘diets’ and efforts to lose weight. Significant chunks of time spent each day fighting internal private battles – trying to suppress urges to eat certain foods that they have branded ‘naughty’ or ‘forbidden’. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is coaching them through the process of releasing this food drama to a place where they find that life is so much simpler!

My fat fighting began at 13

I was about 13 when I heard about Rosemary Conley’s “Hip and thigh diet”. The basic premise being that fat makes you fat … advocating a low fat diet if you want to lose weight. As an impressionable early-pubescent teen, I embraced this idea enthusiastically. I wasn’t overweight, but like many girls of a similar age I was feeling self conscious about the lumps and bumps and curvy curves I was developing and I was terrified that I might be regarded as overweight. I subsequently embarked on a mission to obliterate as much fat as possible from my diet. No butter, no cheese, no oils, …. I drove my poor mum insane by refusing to eat bacon unless every last tiny bit of fat and rind was removed and it had been thoroughly dried with kitchen roll to remove the grease. No peanut butter, no milk chocolate and I became expert in making fat-free cakes (I had a desperately sweet tooth remember?).

I craved crisps

It wasn’t until I reached my early 20s that my puppy-fat disappeared that I remember being plagued by cravings – particularly for salt and vinegar crisps and creamy things, but I kept up the denial – trying to be ‘good’. Refusing to listen to what my poor body was asking for. I had been vegetarian since age 17 and then lived with a vegan for a couple of years too so was still eating a very low fat diet.

Fertility problems

It was around this time that I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) as I rarely had periods and suffered from mood swings and skin outbreaks. If you’re not familiar with it, PCOS often walks hand in hand with fertility problems (not really surprising if you don’t have a regular menstrual cycle) and sure enough, a few years later, my husband and I found ourselves on a rollercoaster of unpleasant drugs and fertility treatments which culminated in my worst fear – IVF.

Learning to listen not fight

When I emerged from the blur of pregnancy and having a sleepless babe/toddler/pre-schooler I had a new respect for what my body was capable of creating and withstanding. I quit trying to control it and learned to listen. I cleaned up my diet and began to eat meat again (fat and all) and was astonished to find that after 20 years of mayhem (up to a year between periods), my cycle stabilised – regular as clockwork. It turns out that fat is an essential part of a balanced diet and very necessary for certain hormones to function properly.

So with hindsight, I guess those cravings were my body trying to tell me something. Something really very important. Something that maybe, just maybe, could have saved me from the emotionally and physically draining fertility treatments that eventually broke my marriage? Who knows.

Listen don’t suppress

My point is this: cravings are our body’s way of communicating to us when something is out of balance. Ignoring a craving is like ignoring a distressed baby. But by trying to connect with your craving and really understanding what triggers it and why, you can glean invaluable nuggets of information, helping you to understand what changes you need to make to improve our health.

It can take time and skill to really understand what underlies a craving, but some are simple to decode.

Try this simple exercise

Think about the last time you had a strong craving for something. Try to remember as much as you can about the circumstances: time of day, where you were, what you had been doing, what you were about to do etc.

Now look at the following list of common causes for cravings and see if any of them seem to ‘fit’ the circumstances:

1. Were you tired?

When we are tired our bodies look for quick sources of energy. Your body sees SUGAR as ideal as it requires very little processing (digestion) before it is useful. A caffeine craving is another common response to being low on energy.

2. Were you sad?

Learning to associate certain foods with comfort, is something that many of us do in childhood. This can lead to years of battles with comfort eating into adulthood. Learning to recognise comfort eating is the first step to finding different ways to manage your emotions that serve you better.

3. Were you bored?

Being bored, stressed, uninspired by a job, or lacking a spiritual practice can also prompt emotional eating. Many of us get into the habit of reaching for certain foods as a substitute for entertainment or to fill the void of insufficient ‘primary food’ (note – primary foods are things that nourish you, that aren’t food i.e. relationships, your work, exercise etc).

 4. Were you dehydrated?

Many of us are chronically dehydrated and it is sometimes easy to confuse our body’s requests for water with mild hunger. Next time you have a craving try drinking a full glass of water before you decide how to respond to it, wait 10 minutes and see if the craving subsides.

5. Could your hormones be the cause?

When women experience menstruation, pregnancy or menopause, fluctuating testosterone and oestrogen levels can cause cravings. Many women crave high carb foods around the middle and end of their menstrual cycles.

6. Is you diet properly balanced?

The essential parts of a balanced diet are protein, healthy fat and healthy carbs, plus a range of vitamins and minerals. If what you are eating does not meet your body’s requirements, you may find it will produce odd cravings. For example, inadequate mineral levels can lead to salt cravings.

What next?

Try journalling about your cravings and look for patterns. What do you think is behind your most common cravings? Leave a comment below – I promise to read them all.

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