You have been dieting and exercising but the weight is not shifting - how frustrating is that!? The first thing to do is get yourself checked out by a medical practitioner, as certain conditions such as underactive thyroid can get in the way of your efforts to lose weight. If your doctor gives you the all clear, however, it's time to look at other factors that may have affected your weight. A major culprit causing weight gain is stress. When you are stressed, your adrenal glands secrete 'fight or flight' hormones such as cortisol. Way back in our evolution, we needed this response to help us run away from or fight a stressor- for instance, to give us the energy we would need to run away from a wild animal. One of the effects of cortisol is to convert protein stores into glucose which enters the blood and is distributed to the muscles where it can be readily accessed- perfect for 'fight or flight'. Nowadays, however, we don't often have the same kind outlet for our stress- that is, one that burns up lots of energy. If our boss asks us to type up a big report at the last minute, it's unlikely we'll be able to run around at the same time to burn up the glucose. So if stress becomes chronic, you'll tend to find that blood sugar levels become elevated. Normally your body would up its production of insulin to return your blood sugar levels to normal, but cortisol inhibits insulin (because your body thinks that the glucose is 'needed' by the muscles). The result? Chronically raised blood sugar levels that also, paradoxically, leads to the cells of your body being glucose deficient- as insulin enables glucose to enter your cells. Your brain then causes you to feel hungry, making you prone to overeating- especially high calorie foods such as fats and easily converted to energy foods such as carbs. Another worry is that cortisol can also release triglycerides from storage- that's fat to you and me. If not used fightin' or flightin' then this fat is then stored round the belly area. This is because your body stores the fat close to your liver where it can be quickly converted to energy if needed. The bad news is that fat stored here increases the risk if diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease etc. So what can you do to relieve stress?
Try yoga, Tai Chi, meditation and relaxation techniques.
When we are stressed we breathe quick and shallow, into only the upper chest. When we are calm we breathe slow and deep. We can create a feeling of calm when we are stressed simply by taking some consciously deep breaths. When we practice deep breathing regularly, we start to react to stressors in a more considered way.
Aerobic exercise 'burns off' stress hormones.
Take B vitamins to help keep the nervous system functioning well. When we are under stress our bodies need more B vitamins and they cannot be stored in your body.
Stress can arise from tension in your body. Try yoga and maybe a magnesium supplement.
Get enough sleep. You are more likely to become stressed if you are sleep deprived - we will look more into this next week.
My favourite stress buster is to spend time in nature. After walking in the woods for an hour or by the river, things look much better. You become more tuned in with the changing seasons and you never know what you might see - birds, deer, squirrels (I always carry some hopeful shelled peanuts!).
First things first - I hope all my American friends have a great day as they celebrate Martin Luther King Day. Meanwhile here in Yorkshire, it is raining heavily and cold but today's Meatless Monday is just the thing to bring a touch of Mexican warmth to a cold winter's day. It's also Blue Monday today, supposedly the most depressing day of the year, but the chilli in this dish has been shown to improve mood. I have baked the tortilla strips rather than frying them, as is usual so that they are lower in fat. Vegan Mexican tortilla soup Serves 2 You will need
1 tbsp organic olive oil 1 onion, peeled and chopped 1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced 1/2 red pepper, diced 1/2-1 tsp pink salt in 500ml hot water 6 tbsp sweetcorn kernals 6 cherry tomatoes, halved 6 tbsp tomato puree 1 can black beans To top 1 tortilla, cut into slices olive oil spray 1 avocado, diced (optional) Heat the oil and fry the onion for 2-3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients in the order above and stir. Bring to the boil and reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile cut the tortilla into strips and spray with olive oil spray. Place in an oven at 200 degrees for 10 minutes. Divide the soup into two bowls. Top with tortilla strips and diced avocado if using.
We are halfway through the winter and our immune system has been working hard. After the festive season also we can feel a little down: spring still feels a way off. What we need is a pick me up. This juice has oranges and apples for vitamin C, an antioxidant which not only protects your cells from free radical damage but they also promote antibody production to see off those 'invaders' (microbes) that cause illness. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, which keeps your mucus membranes healthy as a first line of defense and also boosts your white cell production. The ginger adds a little warmth and the avocado adds creaminess as well as some 'good' oils. So, let's get juicing For 2 glasses you will need 1 medium orange 1 large eating apple 1 medium carrot 2 cm piece ginger, peeled 1 small avocado You might also like the following videos on my 'sister' blog - 'Introduction to juicing'- http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/an-introduction-to-juicing.html 'Seasonal juicing- September'- http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/seasonal-juicing-september.html 'Seasonal juicing- October'- http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/seasonal-juicing-september.html
Here in York, UK we have had all weathers this week - heavy frosts, high winds and now we have snow forecast. All this means that in winter our skins can get very dry and central heating can make the drying effect worse. Facial oils can replace the oils that the weather takes out of the skin but there is no need to buy expensive oils. Sweet almond oil can be bought quite cheaply and lasts for ages because you do not need much. It has a slightly nutty smell which is not unpleasant. It softens and smooths your skin by reducing moisture loss from your skin. There are two types of almond oil but it is the sweet almond oil you need to use - the other can be toxic. Made from edible almonds, sweet almond oil is light so easily penetrates your skin, hypoallergenic so usually fine for sensitive skin, and non-comedogenic, that is non-pore blocking so also usually fine for acne-prone skins. In fact, because sweet almond oil is rich in vitamin A, it can prevent acne flare ups. It also can ease skin inflammation and irritation. More than this, sweet almond oil is rich in vitamin E, which like vitamin A has antioxidant properties, preventing free radical damage to your skin. Free radicals can attack the collagen in your skin. This is the 'scaffolding' in your skin so when it breaks down your skin sags. By preventing collagen breakdown, sweet almond oil therefore is anti-aging. It also anti-aging because it protects your skin from UV damage and help repair UV damaged skin (don't be fooled, the aging rays still get through in winter if not the burning rays) - I would still use a sun cream however once the oil has soaked in. I like to use sweet almond oil at night - if you like you may add a single drop of rose oil. In fact sweet almond oil is too good to save for winter - I like to use it all year round. Stay young
It may be January but we can recreate a feeling of summer through our food. This vegan version of a Tex-mex hot dog from Mexico would also be great for those summer barbeques. Originating in Germany, the hot dog took on a new identity when it was 'adopted' by the Americas. Quick to make and assemble, let's whisk ourselves off to warmer climes. Serves 2 You will need 2 large or 4 small vegan sausage 2 hot dog buns For the salsa 2 tbsp sweetcorn kernals 1 medium avocado, peeled, stoned and diced 1 red chilli, seeds removed and sliced thinly 1/4 red pepper, diced 2 chopped tomatoes 2 tbsp lime juice 1/2 tsp coriander leaf pinch stevia For the drizzle 50ml soya milk 1 tbsp organic olive oil 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar 1/2 tsp wholegrain mustard Romaine lettuce for serving Cook the vegan sausage according to the manufacturer's directions. Meanwhile assemble the salsa by combining the ingredients. To make the drizzle place all the ingredients for the drizzle in a blender and whiz up It is then simply an assembly job. Open the hot dog bun and place a lettuce leaf on the bun. Top with the vegan sausage, salsa then spoon the drizzle over the salsa. Done. Enjoy