This week I have been thinking about the psychology of overeating again. I have had a great week but there are points in life where your resolve to eat healthily often get tested and I had several of these occur last week.
I went out for a meal with an old university friend – now the main reason we do this is to catch up on our lives so it’s the chat, not the food that matter. We met on the first day at university and have been friends ever since (over 35 years) even though our lives were very different, to begin with, we have very similar ways of looking at the world now and both did a biochemistry degree so we enjoy a philosophical chat without husbands and children in earshot.
However, eating out can make you think oh sod it, I’ll eat whatever I want. I have discovered a way to avoid falling in this trap. What I do is check the menu online before I go and resolve to choose what I like to eat (generally salmon or sea bass is they have it) but also what will be healthy and not masses of calories and I put it in my FitBit app on my ‘phone. It takes that emotional impulse out of eating out. It helped that my lovely friend is struggling with her menopause weight. She is trying to kick her sugar habit and was refusing to eat any dessert. I have to say sugar is not my addiction of choice and I tend to go for cheese and salt-rich foods. We also drove to the restaurant as we both live a long way from each other so have to meet at Hatfield Galleria which is in the middle for both of us. This meant I could drink my favourite sparkling water instead of calorie-laden gin and tonic. We had a great evening and I didn’t overeat what could be better than that. Eating out does takes a bit more planning to stay healthy but it is worth it.
Saturday, I went to a Star Wars themed 25th wedding anniversary party (yes really) dress code was dark side or light side (basically black or white). However, there was a free bar and buffet food (which is probably the least nutritious food on the planet), and really tests resolve. Again before I went I planned how many glasses of wine I would have and how many sausage rolls and decided that I would dance as much as possible and talk to anyone that looked interesting to keep me away from the buffet table. This strategy worked really well as there was a brilliant live band ( No Limits Street Band) and I racked up 25,000 steps dancing and had a fun night watching my funny brother dance with the party host (dressed as a stormtrooper) and I didn’t overeat or drink too much.
On Sunday, I was very tired and this is when I tend to want junk food. Again to avoid stuffing crisps down (my go-to comfort food) I ran a nice hot bath using my favourite Sanctuary bubble bath. Having a bath or shower when you want to stuff food in is a great diversion tactic, you can’t eat crisps in a bath they just get all soggy!
My top tips to avoid overeating and comfort eating are:
- If eating at a restaurant check the menu before and choose the healthy stuff you like to eat before you go (add it to your tracker so you know the calories) that way you’ll feel less tempted in the restaurant.
- At a party, again plan what you’ll eat and drink before (even put it in your FitBit or tracker so that you know the calorie intake) and try to dance or chat to interesting people as this will keep you from the buffet table.
- Feeling tired and want to eat junk food (do something to distract yourself like have a bath or read a book/magazine).
Overeating is often psychological, as well as a physical thing and this week I’ve been thinking about what helps me keep a lid in what I’m shoveling or guzzling each day.
My top tips are:
- Weigh food – often you are putting much more in than you think and if you’re tracking what goes in and out on a Fitbit or other fitness tracker then you need to know accurately how much you’re putting in. Food scales are very cheap to buy and once you get used to weighing food it becomes second nature.
- Do food swaps, where you swap unhealthy carb and sugar-rich processed foods for more natural plant based and protein-rich food.
- If you feel like you want to eat through stress or boredom (I’m an emotional eater so if things get stressful or I get tired then junk food is my poison of choice) then do something else to relax you.
I was feeling out of whack on Sunday so I went and had my nails done instead of stuffing down my Easter stash of chocolate, which I’m limiting myself to a small controlled, weighed amount of every now and again.
A couple of my favourite food and drink swaps are:
- My gin and tonic for sparkling water. I have found that alcohol gives me terrible hot flushes (this one is a horrible menopause side effect) and is really high in calories. A gin and tonic (which is quite low in calories compared to wine) is around 171 calories and if you think you only need an extra 500 calories per day to put on 1 pound per week then alcohol and also fizzy drinks can pile it on you quickly. The upside is if you limit alcohol and sugar-laden fizzy drinks then it can help lose weight quickly too. Again this one is phycological and I have found that if I make my sparkling water look like a gin and tonic it doesn’t feel quite as difficult to do the swap and after a while, you don’t really notice it and I don’t miss the night time sweats it can bring on! I have found now I really like sparkling water so had a soda stream as a Christmas pressie so I can have it when I want without buying loads of plastic bottles of it.
Another food swap I like is having a cheese and tomato omlette instead of a pizza and this saves a ton of calories (average 4 egg omlette is around 600 calories) while a pizza can be around 800-1000). Again if you make it look like a pizza then psychologically it is easier to adjust to. The other upside is that an omlette has loads of protein in it which means you’ll feel full for longer. Why? Here comes the science – protein reduces the amount of ghrelin (the hunger hormone) produced by the brain and this keeps you feeling full for longer.
What helps you keep your intake in check or what food swaps work well for you? Leave a comment to share your weight loss secrets.
This time last year I was almost 2 stone heavier and getting very unhealthy. I thought I would share three tips on how I started a weight loss programme.
- Buy a fitness tracker and use it! I have a Fitbit Charge 2, and I love it because I didn’t realise before I used it how little I moved my big fat butt off of the seat and I was eating way more than I was moving around. Without this, I would never have known the scale of the problem I had. I also bought a different strap for it so that it looks and feels much more like a watch. I put in the things I eat every day into my ‘phone, along with my weight loss goal and it lets me know when I am near the limit of what I can get away with shovelling in each day. I have also set mine to tell me when to move so that I get up off my seat and then it becomes easier to move about more and get more exercise in.
2. Look at what you’re eating/drinking and make small swaps to reduce calorie intake. For example, I swapped my morning cappuccino for a skinny cappuccino with cinnamon on instead of chocolate sprinkles. I also swapped my morning crisp snack habit for nuts and seeds, they are more protein dense so keep me feeling full for longer and they have the crunch I like.
A lot of weight gain occurs because you have made small changes to your lifestyle that you haven’t noticed – it’s a bit like the plane that was supposed to fly to Düsseldorf recently and ended up in Scotland (Plane flies to Edinburgh instead of Germany). It got there because the small course deviations weren’t noticed and it’s the same with weight. You only have to end the day with an average of 500 extra calories (i.e. 3500 calories per week) to put on a pound in weight. The upside is you only have to reduced your calories by 500 every day to lose a pound per week. This means you can eat 250 calories less and do 250 calories worth of exercise every day and you’ll lose a pound per week. How good and how easy to do is that for you!
The cappuccino swap saves me around 70 calories and that’s a lot towards my 250 saving for the day and it doesn’t taste any different so I have managed to keep to this when I had lost my weight.
3. Find the exercise that you like doing, for example, I have found a Zumba class (Zumba with Annie) where everyone is friendly and the class is fun. Guess what – I actually look forward to going to the class and it burns around 250 calories every time I go.
I also love going for walks – it’s totally free and I get to look at the great countryside (again a nice 3-mile circuit about an hour’s walk burns over 200 calories).
So to kick-start your weight loss, in summary:
- Use a tracker
- Make small food and drink swaps
- Find and do exercise you like doing.
If you do these 3 things, you’ll be well on your way to losing weight and being healthier – good luck!
A friend of mine has asked for some tips on weight loss motivation so I thought I’d share some ideas on what made me lose weight last year to see if any of it resonates with you.
- Have someone take a full-length photo of you. If you look and think crikey I look like a goddess then no need to worry but if on the other hand, you think who is that fat old trout then this is a really good motivator to lose weight.
Just so you know what made me take a long hard oh my goodness, who is that woman double take – here are a couple of photos (trust me these are not even the worst ones). The first one I had done for an extra agency (as some of you know I do TV and film extra work as a side hustle) and the other picture was a before picture for The Daily Mail MyBody Challenge with Myleene Klass and The Mail Online. I looked at these and wanted to cry because in both pictures – I thought oh no it looks like me but in a fat suit! This is a tough thing to do but you know what, it really does give you the boot up the bum you need to make those little lifestyle changes that can produce sustainable weight loss.
2. Try on some clothes you love to wear and you look great in and if they don’t fit, then this sure is a hell of a motivator. I have a favourite dress and again I had that heart-sinking feeling when I couldn’t even zip it up, let alone wear it. I know this is really hard to do but sometimes giving yourself a reality check is the only way to go. Here’s me back in my favourite dress after losing the weight.
3. Have a health check. There’s nothing like being told that your cholesterol is high and you’re at high risk of diabetes to give you the kick up the behind you need. I had my blood tests done last year because I was getting out of breath walking up one flight of stairs! How bad is that? My blood work basically came back as being at risk of a heart attack. At the time a friend of similar age to me had just had a heart attack and seeing how it can affect your life so dramatically put the wind up me enough to back away from the crisp cupboard (yes we have a cupboard with crisps in!)
Have a go at these three things and I suspect one or all of them might be what tips you over the edge if the menopause middle has hit you hard into thinking how can I get the old me back!
Other than trying to keep on the straight and narrow with maintaining my weight, life, in general, has been interesting over the past week. On Friday, I was asked to be an extra on a Bollywood film (can’t tell you which one as it’s top secret) but it was a fab experience and a very surreal way to spend a Saturday. Made all the better by being asked to come dressed as a guest at a posh party, because it was fun to get out a dress that I used to be able to wear without the zip straining at the seams.
My blog post next week will have some tips on how to make small changes to your lifestyle which ensure the weight comes off and stays that way.
I can’t believe it’s April already and I haven’t posted for a while as my work has been incredibly full on with press tours to Munich and Amsterdam in March and a conference in Vienna. Thank goodness we’re still part of the EU or who knows what getting in and out of airports would be like!
I have managed to maintain my weight at a steady 8 stone 2 which is incredible considering the amount of temptation there is when you travel for work and how hard it is to find healthy food. I have managed to find a good tasty and (relatively) healthy breakfast in Wetherspoons, which I go for now when I’m going through airports. It has a nice big hit of protein so helps to keep you going all day.
But, when you’re away it can be tricky especially when you’re presented with lovely food The trick is to not load your plate and find interesting people around you to talk to so that you don’t pile a shed load of stuff on your plate.
Here’s the starter we were presented with at a restaurant in Munich – it is a sharer but in some ways, that’s worse as the temptation is to keep dipping in and out.
It is tricky to get good stuff at airports but it can be done and I often travel now with a healthy snack of nuts and seeds already prepared to keep me on the straight and narrow!
Life has been good and because I seem to be cracking the weight loss thing, I was featured in the Daily Mail, in an article by the lovely Sam Brick on what I’m doing to keep the weight off and got to meet two fabulous women, Virna Baillie, who did my hair and make-up and Natasha Pszenicki who took this fantastic picture of me.
I was also lucky enough this week to meet another brilliant woman, Cat Daniels. Cat asked me to be a hair model for secret hair extensions so I was on The Jewellery Channel with Hayley Sparkes.
Hayley is multi-talented as she was brilliant as our presenter and also did my hair in this lovely side do. All in all, it’s been an exciting couple of months and I can still fit in my clothes – hooray!
I haven’t posted in a while as work and life has been so busy. My fitness has taken a battering as I have been working later and not getting to fitness activities. I’m writing this as I whizz across the German countryside to go and visit a client. Today, has been pretty active as I got up at 3.30 (ouch) to go to Heathrow and then to Frankfurt so by the time I had walked between stations, airports and to the hotel I have managed to rack up 10,000 steps without trying.
Since finishing the channel swim challenge I am now thinking about what new fitness challenge to undertake in 2019. I did manage to finish Annie’s Zumba challenge (if you went to one class per week for 10 weeks she gave you all the classes up to Jan 20th free of charge) at least I have motivation to go to Zumba in January! I’m thinking of returning to modern jive classes or taking up Argentine Tango I can’t decide which yet.
I’m also going to set myself the goal of not putting on more than 4 lbs over Christmas so that I don’t have to lose a couple of stone again by March. I have managed to keep to 8 stone which was my goal weight for the Myleene Klass MyBody Challenge for six months now (something I have never done in the past as I’m a serial yo-yo dieter). However, this time instead of slipping back to bad habits, I’ve maintained the good ones and I’ve done this by sticking to these golden rules, which are a variation on Bright Line eating:
- Limiting flour intake to one or no flour based item per day
- No sugar
- Weighing food
- Supersizing veggie portions to cover half the plate with veg.
- Monitoring my calories in and out via my FitBit charge 2 and not going over my intake vs exercise each day.
- If I have a bad day and break the Golden Rules getting straight back to them next day instead of going oh well I had a bad day yesterday might as well have another one today (that really is the road to being overweight really quickly). If I can keep doing this over the Festive season then I won’t have to try to lose a shed load of weight in January! I’m using this picture of me in my goal body and weight as motivation not to pig out.
Fitness has been good this week. I have at last finished the Aspire Channel Swim Challenge and have swum the 22 miles of the English channel, finishing at the weekend at Hitchin Pool. Thanks to everyone that donated on my just giving Fundraising Page for Aspire Charity we have raised £200 to help people with spinal cord injuries.
Here I am with my swim hat on, looking very pleased to have finished.
For those of you who have asked about what I eat to keep me going with swimming, here’s a great dinner, which is filling, low-fat and full of nutrients.
Chicken casserole but you can use Quorn Chicken Style Pieces instead of chicken.
Here’s the recipe, which is easy to make:
600 grams of chicken or Quorn chunks, 1 onion, 1 tin of chopped tomatoes, a chicken or vegetable oxo, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 400 grams potatoes, 400 grams of squash or carrots, 2 tablespoons of gravy powder, 200 grams sweetcorn (I use frozen). Chop the onion and fry with the chicken in the olive oil in a large non-stick saucepan until the chicken is no longer pink (usually around 10 minutes), add the chopped tomatoes, crumble in the oxo cube, add 1.5 pints water and the gravy powder and give everything a good old stir. Chop the potatoes and squash into chunks, add in with the chicken and stock mix and boil for 10 minutes then leave on a low heat to simmer for another 20 minutes with a lid on the saucepan. Put the sweetcorn in a layer on the bottom of a casserole dish, add the casserole mix you have just boiled on top of the sweetcorn and put in the oven at 150 degrees for 1 hour.
Why is this a good dinner? Here’s the science: Chicken contains plenty of protein (ghrelin the hunger hormone is suppressed by protein) keeps you feeling full for longer. Olive oil is also better for you than margarine for cooking as it contains pretty stable monounsaturated fatty acids and has a high level of protective antioxidants, most margarine contains trans fats which your body doesn’t recognise as food so finds it hard to digest and ends up floating around clogging up your arteries. Tinned tomatoes are high in lycopene, shown to help lower the risk of heart disease, prostate and breast cancer. Squash and potatoes are high in fibre (keeps you full for longer) rich in antioxidants and flavonoids. Since this casserole contains lots of veggies and liquid, you will feel full but won’t have consumed tons of calories.