What NOT to do when trying to lose weight?

Diet Pills/Skinny Teas

Clever advertising and celebrity endorsements may be enticing you to believe that there really is a quick fix to shedding a few pounds, but do not be fooled.

There is not enough credible scientific evidence supporting the weight loss claims that these products offer. However, you can count on some unpleasant side effects and future health repercussions that may come with them. 

Diet pills can often contain caffeine and green tea extract. Some studies show some effects of these but only if your caffeine consumption is already low < 300mg/day (2 cups of coffee and 2 cups of tea, and don’t forget about energy drinks, Coca Cola and chocolate, which also typically contain caffeine!). As well as this, when we say some effects we are talking about 0.8kg-1.1kg over a number of weeks.[1]

Another study looking at green tea extract vs placebo showed that a group of participants taking placebo actually lost more weight. [2]

As for caffeine , if your consumption is already pretty high, adding diet pills with caffeine in them a) won’t give you any effect and b) you may end up suffering caffeine side effects such as headaches, jitteriness, insomnia, anxiety, GI distress such as diarrhoea, stomach cramps, irritability and so on.

Skinny teas often contain senna, which is a natural laxative. Prolonged use of this can cause long term damage to your gut lining, severe dehydration and nutrient malabsorption.

*(unsolicited advice alert)* – save yourself some money and spend them on a personal trainer, that’s what I did in the beginning of my journey and it changed my life forever! (thanks to Tracy @Brainbox Coaching & Fitness)

Meal Replacements

Relying on just meal replacements for weeks/months is definitely a bad idea, as they are not only costly but contain either zero or very low fibre content. You will quickly feel the effects of that in the bathroom…

Such products may also contain low amounts of vitamins and minerals so do check out the ingredients to get the best blend, if that’s what you think you want to try. 

And remember, although you can lose weight quickly, you will likely regain it all back soon after. [3]

Drinking excessive amount of water

Water is crucial to sustain our bodily functions, which include immunity and acts as first line of defence.  Making sure we drink enough water throughout the day will help avoid dehydration, which can manifest itself in headaches, dizziness, loss of concentration and coordination. Water can also help with managing hunger and can be a great help before reaching out for a snack.

However, drinking an insane amount of water or going on ‘water fast’ is completely unnecessary when it comes to weight loss. There’s no actual evidence how much water we need, you can ignore those formulas based on your weight telling you how many litres you should be drinking. 

Studies that do exist show inconclusive and insignificant results [4] 

Cutting out Food Groups/Keto

I personally don’t fully support diets that eliminate food groups. Ketogenic diet is a great example, which supposedly helps you turn into a fat burning machine by cutting out all carbs. The mechanism behind this diet is based on your body starting to utilise fat stores as energy, converting them into ketones. Ketones then become the main source of energy for your brain other vital processes in your body. 

In theory and practice this can work but it’s very restrictive and can cause issues with your digestive system due to lack of fibre in the diet.

Ketogenic diet is very high fat, moderate protein and very low in carbs. It pains me to see that people turn everything up side down in their lives to follow this diet, when there are so many other methods that would not require such a rigid path. 

Taking Ketones

You might think that we’ve finally outsmarted our bodies and can trick them into a state of ketosis by just supplementing with Ketones exogenously. Unfortunately not! Taking ketones and then having a positive result on a test strip (like a pregnancy test) does not warrant that you are actually in Ketosis. The test just shows that you have ketones in your urine but they won’t start burning fat for you, unless you are in a natural calorie deficit from consuming less energy.

So it’s fair to say that this is another fad…please understand this before buying them!  

Becoming a Vegetarian or Vegan 

Unless you are approaching this from an ethical point of view, going vegan or vegetarian will not guarantee you looser trousers. 

Drastically changing your diet will be hard on you physically and mentally. You may find yourself craving certain things and overeating as a result. Plant based diets are heavy on starchy carbohydrates and you will likely see the scales number go up due to the extra liquid carbs are attracting (3g of water per 1g of carbohydrate).

It can be dangerous restricting your diet so much without proper planning and a consultation with a professional as you may end up suffering with deficiencies in key vitamins and minerals (B vitamins, Protein, Calcium, Iron, Zinc, Omega 3, Vitamin D). 

If you were under the impression that following a vegan/vegetarian diet was healthy and healthy would warrant weight loss  – you’ve been fooled. Many vegetarian and especially specific vegan convenient products on supermarket shelves are highly processed and often contain a poor amount of key nutrients such as protein.

I definitely would not want to discourage you from ever pursuing becoming a vegetarian or a vegan, if this is your goal but I would first encourage you to shift towards a more plant based/centred eating approach, keeping your usual protein and dairy sources for awhile. With time, you will become more comfortable and skilled preparing meals from scratch using a wide range of vegetables, pulses and substituting meat/dairy sources with healthy alternatives. Alternating meat free days is also a fun approach to getting used shifting focus from meat as the centre of all your dishes. 

Rigid dieting/following diet plans.

I’ve had clients expecting me to give them a meal plan to follow; to just tell them what to eat and what not to eat. This is why I now specifically state on my website that I do not offer meal plans.

Having spent enough time studying weight management from a psychological perspective, I learned that that adherence is key! If you can’t stick to a certain way of eating for a prolonged period of time, you will hate it and will fall off the wagon eventually, probably scarred emotionally and carrying more pounds than you did before. 

There should not be this concept of ‘on plan’/ ‘off plan’ because it creates an unhealthy boundary between foods that are supposedly good or bad for you, which in turn mirrors the way you feel about yourself and choices you make. 

I always recommend to just sit down and have a chat with yourself, to be honest and realistic. Try asking yourself these questions:

What was the reason behind my weight gain? 

Is it something I can work on myself to do I need to seek support to overcome past or present hurdles in my life? 

Find your inner WHY you want to lose the weight and start envisaging how you might want to go about it, not just from the dieting perspective. 

Assess your trigger foods and situations that make you turn to certain foods for comfort. 

What events in the past have snowballed into an unhealthy pattern of eating? 

What foods do you like and don’t like? Are there any foods you would like to try or eat more often?

Are there are social aspects of your life you are forgetting to include in your plan? (do you spend your Sundays with family or you eat a family dinner every night when everyone gets home so you don’t get excluded from it just because your meal plan says ‘you’re skipping dinner today or enjoy your shake!’. 

Social and family support is vital when working on changing your lifestyle and habits, try not to exclude yourself from those around you and use ‘I’m on a diet’ excuse, unless you don’t like your family!

If you need help navigating this complicated world of dieting, feel free to get in touch and we can discuss a way forward for you.

Healthy Ageing and Longevity.

What should we eat?

I’ve always been interested in longevity as I, for one, want to live my longest, healthiest life possible (I am still in my twenties!) – I’ve got to say, it’s never too early to think and prepare for these things! Ever since I started getting interested in Nutrition seriously, I have been doing my best to help my family members to introduce nutrition and lifestyle changes to improve their quality of life. My grandma is 80 and due to life’s hardships she developed a few herniated disks in her spine and suffers with osteoporosis, which means that she has to wear a corset permanently. Yet, she makes sure to start her day with some stretches and exercises. I also taught her to have a protein shake every now and then! 

So what actually happens when we start to age? And when?

Ageing is a process of gradual physiological deterioration that all living beings experience with time. [1]

The research I’ve seen indicates that gene expression changes involved in neuronal function, mitochondrial fitness (this is how our body gives us energy to perform daily functions), DNA repair, antioxidant activity, and stress response occur at around 40 years old. [2]

However, we all age at different rates, depending on our DNA, external factors such as smoking, the environment and our social and economic position.

How can this manifest itself?

  • Development of disease
  • Lower (lack of) Vitamin & Mineral absorption
  • Hormonal changes
  • Onset of sarcopenia – gradual loss of the muscular skeletal mass
  • Reduction in cognitive capacity
  • Obesity and sarcopenic obesity
  • Undernutrition/Malnutrition 
  • Frailty 

It’s not all ‘doom & gloom’ thankfully, as there are a number of dietary and lifestyle changes you can make on the way to healthier ageing!

Vitamins and Minerals

Photo by Anna Tukhfatullina Food Photographer/Stylist on Pexels.com

Diversify your meals – start now by welcoming new fruits, vegetables, pulses, seeds and nuts that perhaps you have never had before?

Research suggests that at around 50 years old, we stop absorbing B12 and B9 as well as we used to, which can cause a number of unpleasant gastrointestinal issues. Supplementing with a Multivitamin that contains B vitamins might be a good idea. However, don’t ever ignore any new symptoms and check with your GP to rule out anything more serious.

Protein

Protein is a building block in our body, it’s the main structure of everything and as such has many functions, to name a few:

  • Muscle and bone health
  • Immunity support
  • Wound healing and recovery
  • Hair, nails and skin health
  • Digestive enzymes 
  • Hormone Function

When it comes to the ageing population, studies have shown a blunted response to protein synthesis hence lower absorption.  Sharp decline of muscle mass is also noticed after menopause. [3]

This can, in time, lead to Sarcopenia, the consequences of which are often severe in older adults, as the strength and functional declines can in turn contribute to a number of adverse health outcomes, including loss of function, disability, frailty and depression. [4]

The good news is that our understanding of Sarcopenia has been growing and evolving. The key message from the body of research is to aim to consume in the region of 25-30g of protein per meal combined with daily physical activity. [5]

To give you an idea what that would look like:

  • a piece of steak (40g), 
  • a chicken breast (35g), 
  • 200g Greek Yogurt 0% fat/ Cottage Cheese (28g), 
  • 3 large eggs (22.2g)
  • a scoop of protein powder in your porridge or yogurt would give you between (25-30g)
  • quorn Mince 100g (14.5g)
  • a pint of whole cow’s milk (18g), Soy milk (14g)
  • 200g Quark (18.2g)
  • 200g Alpro Greek Yogurt (11.6g)
  • one slice (28g) of cheddar cheese (7g)

I would suggest hitting that first protein goal at breakfast as you will have a full day ahead of moving around and/or exercising, providing that all important stimuli for the muscle protein synthesis to occur.

It would also help having a couple of protein rich sources at each meal to give you a greater chance to hit that desirable goal of 25-30g of protein. 

Calorie Restriction

Research into Calorie Restriction and Intermittent Fasting offer an intriguing promise in the areas of ageing, longevity, disease and even cancer treatment. So far though, only animal studies seem to offer any conclusive evidence. There are some human studies that show metabolic improvement in fasting trials. [6]

During fasting, cells start to restore themselves and enhance intrinsic defences against oxidative and metabolic stress, providing an anti-ageing effect. This process is called ‘Autophagy’. It is our body’s way of cleaning out its damaged cells in order to generate new, healthier ones. 

We now know that Autophagy reduces with age [7] and so we need to find ways to give ourselves every opportunity to ‘tidy up’! Having lighter days calorie wise during your week and exercising may help things move in the right direction and induce autophagy. 

Bear in mind though, it is quite difficult to change your eating patterns drastically as we are very much accustomed to eating 3 meals per day plus snacks. 

If this is something you might want to try (and there are no medical conditions preventing you to) I would suggest approaching this method with some careful planning and consideration. 

Personally, I think it’s worth trying to slowly work towards extending your natural window of the overnight fast, when practical. If you can, try having breakfast later than usual and then have an early dinner with no more food until the morning. This would gradually help you move towards a 15-18 hour fasting window. You don’t have to worry sticking to this rigidly but having a couple of ‘fasting days’ a week is better than none!

Movement and Exercise 

Resistance Training has been studied so extensively in connection with healthy ageing and if you don’t own a set of dumbbells and/or resistance bands in your house – go get them now! Ask for some help from a professional on how to perform some of the trickier exercises properly but for some of the simpler ones, just use your common sense.

Of course, we all need to start somewhere so try doing what you can now, bearing in mind your own strengths and weaknesses. Do some gardening, climb those stairs, find a hobby that would increase your physical activity, buy a treadmill or a step to get the exercise done indoors (as I can fully sympathise with those self-isolating these days).

Losing our mobility can have devastating effects on everyday life, not just physically but also mentally. Doing everything we can now to prevent significant physical deterioration down the line is key. After all, health is never just about the absence of disease but a multifaceted state of both complete physical, mental and social well-being. [8]

Look after yourself and motivate others to make positive steps toward a healthier and longer life. 

Blue zones 

Blue zones are places with a high population of centenarians – Okinawa Japan, Ikaria Greece and  Loma Linda, California.

More recently Blue Zones have become a movement in itself, where people and even communities are adopting changes from this lifestyle. Are you up for taking up this challenge? (if so, let me know)

The data comes from years of observations and typically they eat meat (except for the Loma linda community, they are vegetarians), dairy, plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  Physical activity is the main connecting factor between these groups. I will never forget seeing a BBC documentary about Japanese grannies (in their late 80 and early 90s!!!) diving in the water to catch eels. They looked fit as a fiddle, I tell ya! 

Here are some common themes connecting the Blue Zones communities:

  • No overeating/calorie restriction 
  • Food grown and cooked locally
  • Regular consumption of wholegrains and pulses
  • Physical activity
  • Afternoon siestas
  • Sun exposure
  • Minimal stress
  • Cleaner environment
  • Meaning of life, belonging, religion, community

Supplements

If you find yourself confused with the choice of health supplements available these days, I’ve compiled the following list of basic supplements anyone can consider for optimal health:

  • Multivitamin, B vitamins + Calcium – preventing deficiency. 
  • Fish Oils – preventive and controlling measure of cardiometabolic risks, hormone and brain function
  • Vitamin D – bone health, support of the immune system, improvement of depressive symptoms 
  • Whey/or plant based Protein Powder and Leucine [9] – to help hit the protein goal
  • Creatine – data suggests can aid with cognitive function on top of bone and muscle density 

*Your GP can prescribe a corrective dose if you are particularly deficient in a specific element.

Final thoughts 

In conclusion, I feel that we just need to go back to the basics, use what we have around us (seasonal veg), strive for a healthy balance (we all know what it looks by now!) and keep as active as possible. As the blue zones have shown us, extended life span comes not only from physical health but from social factors and tradition as well.

I guess what we can draw from that is that our body is adaptable and flexible as long as we give it space and time for movement, healing and nourishment. Seek self-fulfilment and family/community support to strive together.

Hey there! I am Anna..

Welcome to my website and my first post. As you may have noticed, I live and breathe all things Nutrition (my friends and family will vouch for that … You will often catch me talking about poo and gut problems, IBS, PCOS, fibre, butter, overeating, ranting about fad diets, and so on and so forth, and I am genuinely sorry for that, in case they didn’t enjoy it, which I can’t imagine they wouldn’t?!)

However, on a bit of real note, I’ve been suffering with an imposter syndrome lately, self-doubting, losing trust in myself, my passion and knowledge. My greatest fear is to be seen as just another ‘Nutrition Guru’, drinking my green juice and talking about things that don’t matter.

As such, I thought I’d write a little bit of introduction about myself so that you could see my passion but equally my human imperfections and life experiences, that I tried to channel to become healthier and more respectful of myself.

I became interested in Nutrition when I finally decided to take control of my life, and stopped blaming my genes, upbringing or my life situation. I was at my heaviest 99.9kg (15 st 7lb) during the last year of University when the pressures of securing employment and making good grades were at their peak. I was eating lots of cheap, processed foods combined with all the sugary sweets you can think of, on a daily basis.

My diet lacked healthy variety and my poor kitchen had never seen any enthusiasm! I was getting fed up, on the verge of giving up, thinking that I’d never be able to lose the weight and I’d better just accept it. I simply could not imagine going a day without eating Club Mint chocolate biscuits after dinner and watching TV. My energy levels were so low that I could not imagine doing anything else!

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Finally, in 2016 at a friends’ wedding, after a few glasses of wine I found some courage to book myself in to run a ‘Race for Life’ Pretty Muddy 5k run with obstacles for Cancer Research. This prompted me to make a few dietary changes and start training.  I told myself that I would be racing for myself, my health and my future because NO ONE ELSE was going to do it for me. This message kept me going during the training and a few years on I still see it as my motto.

My life changed dramatically not just physically but mentally as well. I’ve built a healthy lifestyle, gained enough confidence to try new sports, walk and run for miles, met lots of amazing, like-minded  people, and inspired those around me to keep fit and stay healthy.

Currently, I am a Certified Nutritionist, continuing to learn and striving for new heights. I would love to use this platform to share my Nutritional knowledge, occasional bad jokes, personal struggles and experiences. We are all so similar in our struggles that I sincerely hope you will find some of it useful, that would be praise enough for me!