Ah, the Festivities are behind us and, if you're anything like me, you've eaten, drunk and been merry! It might be you've made a New Year's Resolution to give-up a favourite food or "to go on a diet"; I've heard we're more likely to fail if we use that phrase. Rather we should think of it as a life-style change to ensure that the yo-yo weight-loss / weight-gain cycle is broken. Ho-hum... if only Santa could have given us that without us having to make effort!
Although I'm lucky to now be at my mid-range BMI (that's a measure of health), as I come from a line of short overweight-women that hasn't always been the case. In fact, at 17, I joined my Mum and Gran at Weight-Watchers on a weekly basis. I try to keep abreast of this emotive and confusing subject for my own and professional interest but it's hard to pick out good, research-based information. Of course, I am by no means a nutritionist or dietician, but it is nice to be able to help point people in an informed direction. However, as a coach and a hypnotherapist, where my skills lie is to support, motivate and help with habit change. Through visualising your goal then emotionally and mentally associating to it, you open up a new way of being; building a new neural pathway that helps move you from the "I want" to the "I am".
So, if weight-management is your target I thought you might like help sifting through all that is being thrown at you about "dieting" as the year starts. You might like to know about a book called "The Diet Myth - The Real Science Behind What We Eat" by Professor Tim Spector. It draws on current science and tells us why the balance in our microbiome (our gut microbes) and its interaction with our body plays a crucial part in our weight. He rejects diet fads embracing food diversity for a healthy gut and healthy body. He favours a Mediterranean diet which he lists as predominantly fish/vegetables/beans/lentils and fruit and enthuses about extra virgin olive oil, blue cheese and natural yoghurt. As usual he advocates exercise which will lift your spirits, stress-bust and burn calories. Of course, some people find it easy to maintain a healthy weight without knowing how important their gut microbes are. Perhaps though it can be a key contribution to YOUR success?
The current trend of juicing raises an alarm for Spector, as it removes the fibre which carries fat from the body. Processed foods are a no-no because the body does not handle the added chemicals well. That strikes a huge amount of food off the list, such as, preserved meats (e.g. sausages, ham, salami). Foods with a long shelf life (e.g. cakes, biscuits, butter-like spreads) are off the menu too as they contain worrying hydrogenated fats. Fructose (the sugar present in fruit) is to be watched - indeed I noticed my large glass of supermarket-bought orange juice this morning contained 26% of my daily recommended sugar intake! Counter-intuitively, low-calorie diet foods and fizzy drinks laden with artificial sweetener are a non-starter. Spector recommends sticking to white meat, such as chicken, for the most-part, although it seems an occasional steak and glass of red wine are allowed. He considers dietary supplements potentially very harmful. The good news is he is less concerned by calorie counting, the bad news is he'd like a sample of your stool! The book is an accessible read and highly recommended, particularly if you've tried "the usual" and are a bit stuck.
Channel 4's programme "Food Unwrapped - The Diet Special", aired on 2 January 2017, provided information along the same lines as Spector's book. I'd recommend the programme if you've time to take a look - the link's below. It challenges the Government's Eat-Well guidelines to cut-out fat and makes a plea to cut-out foods containing sugar. Currently the guidelines encourage us to avoid fat but to eat carbohydrates. The trouble is we need to look at the packaging's small print to discern if it is the sugar or the starch form of carbohydrate we're eating as these are extremely different nutritionally. Be wary of those so-called "healthy" breakfast cereals! The programme also reveals that there's evidence to support intermittent fasting, so if you like skipping breakfast then here's your invitation to do so. They looked at the so-called "Wolverine's" 16:8 diet, when all eating is done within an 8 hours period each day (apparently Hugh Jackman used it before playing the part). Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve our metabolism. Spector gives the supporting evidence for the 5:2 diet which allows normal healthy eating for 5 days a week then restricts calories for the 2 remaining days: men to 600 calories and 500 for women.
Another fact mentioned on the programme is how a poor sleep routine is linked to being over-weight. Apparently sleepy people are more stimulated by food! Nick Littlehales' book, "Sleep - The Myth of 8 Hours, the Power of Naps...and the New Plan to Recharge Your body and Mind", explores sleep management in huge detail. That's hardly surprising as he is a sleep coach to Olympic athletes, some Premier League and Sky cycle teams. What you need to know, most of all, is just how important darkness is for sleep and how important sleep is for good health! Research shows to avoid obesity your sleep should average 7 hours. Incidentally those sleeping less than an average of 5 hours are at greater risk of diabetes (type II). Note, however, that 8 hours a night is an average and not for everyone. You might be like Usain Bolt who likes a good 10 hours, or more like Margaret Thatcher who existed on about 5 hours per night along with day-time naps. In Littlehales' programme, your sleep time can vary from night-to-night to accommodate your life-style as sleep is measured over the week and includes naps. Our natural body clock 90 minute cycles are known as "circadian rhythms" and are a crucial part of his programme. They continue night and day with your body dipping between 1 - 3pm and 5 - 7pm - ideal times for a wee nap just like the continental siesta.
Sadly inexpensive calorie-rich food is on offer almost everywhere and the NHS recommended exercise levels are higher than even an energetic enthusiast might guess. It takes a while to become conversant with what nutrition and calories are in a portion of food. There are great Apps out there to help though. But if you've gone down that route and you're battling the bulge unsuccessfully perhaps there's more you can think about to increase your chance of success? Good luck and I hope this has been of use to you. Remember if you've other health issues and you are not used to doing exercise, do get advice from your GP before embarking on your healthy life-style change. If your BMI healthy weight-range seems a long way off, keep going forward step-by-step: that's the weigh to go! And as ever, if you'd like some coaching or hypnotherapy for weight-or sleep management (or anything else) please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 075 548 54321. Coaching is available by Skype so your location makes no difference. My Hypnotherapy and NLP sessions are available at Mulberry House, a delightful complementary health clinic in the West End of Edinburgh. Please scroll through my testimonials to read about how I have helped others.
For those interested please find below references and links for further reading/viewing:
Spector Tim (2015) THE DIET MYTH The Real Science Behind What We Eat Weidenfeld & Nicolson UK
Habermacher Andy (2016) The Human Brain and Coaching; Emotional Drives and Coaching; Motivational Patterns and Coaching - Excellence in Neuroleadership International Coaching Federation Webinars (Book available)
Littlehales Nick (2016) SLEEP The Myth of 8 Hours, the Power of Naps...and the New Plan to Recharge Your Body and Mind Penguin
Summit Life Coaching Limited, Hypnotherapy and NLP - January 2017. Not for reproduction without permission.