Category Archives: Health

Habits + Pen + Paper = Long Term Success

It’s the weekend, you are heading out for the night to your friends birthday party.

You look in the wardrobe and pull out you favourite pair of jeans. Pulling them on you notice your thighs are a little bit snugger than they used to be. ‘They must have shrunk in the wash’, you think. You zip them up and struggle at the last button. Twirling around (as you do when nobody is looking) you view from all angles the apparent new tightness, your sense of unease grows. ‘No worries’, you figure as you pull out your favourite shirt, ‘I have only worn it a few times and it is always a winner’ you reassure yourself. Buttoning it up, a feeling of fear and dread takes hold as you realise the shirt is also extremely tight.

You are stunned and embarrassed all in one.

Suddenly at that moment, like a bolt of lightning, you decide you must do something radical to reverse this trend. Monday can’t come quick enough to start your new healthy life.

When we start a new exercise plan or a healthy diet, we are generally full of enthusiasm and vigour. The ‘trigger’ to start this new way of life can be very powerful and can be full of heart felt emotion. We may jump head first into all manner of crazy low calorie juice diets and ultra exercise plans. We punish ourselves for getting into the situation we found ourselves in the first place and believe the all or nothing game plan is the only method to bring success.

After a week or two of hard graft, we may have fallen off the wagon somewhat, the juice diet is replaced by the normal pattern of eating and after missing a session or two of the extreme exercise, you decide to return to the safe haven of the couch.

Feeling a sense of defeat, you console yourself with that piece of chocolate you have been depriving yourself and think that you gave a good shot anyway.

Unfortunately without an actual long term plan many people will be doomed to failure every time they get determined to make a change.

Meaningful change requires a change of HABITS


woman sitting with her legs crossed on bed and writing in a journal

No matter how string our intent, will power is only so strong and we will eventually return to our normal ways.

Without changing our habits we are just setting ourselves up for a fall. Becoming healthier, losing weight and getting fitter is a long term life project. It should not be a something we do for four weeks and expect to see amazing results.

If you try to run a marathon by sprinting at the start, you might make great progress initially but it is unsustainable. You will burn yourself out and may have to pull out due to overexertion or injury. If you start slowly, you will make slower progress, but you will quickly gain confidence, the miles fly without too much effort as you reach towards your goal. You are far more likely to get to the end.

What the hell does this mean in our lives?

Gung ho approaches to our fitness and health can work for some but not for all. Most people work better with small, sustainable changes over a long period of time.

Pick one aspect you want to target with your Diet, Exercise for this month.

Pick something so simple, that it will be impossible for you to fail. This is crucial, people think that picking something easy is a waste of time but the confidence that you get from achieving something, no matter how small can be dramatic. When these positive changes add up over a period of time, this is where the magic happens.

Get a diary and write down your two goals for the month.

Work on them solely for the month and forget the rest. When you achieve them, pick something else for the next month but make sure you retain the first habits you tried to develop.

As we are at different stages in our journey, we will all have different goals and expectations. Everyone can pick their own goals but examples could be…

  1. Diet – Eat two different vegetables with dinner. Eat two/three pieces of fruit a day. Reduce alcohol to 10 units per week. Eat protein with breakfast. Drink 2/3 litres of water every day. Consume take away foods only once a fortnight. Eat ‘healthy food x’ instead of ‘unhealthy food y’. Will refuse all cakes and chocolate in work.
  2. Exercise – Walk for 30 minutes four/five days a week.  Every Saturday morning, go for an hour cycle. Do a body weight circuit or a dumbbell workout twice/three times per week. Use the bike to go to work on a Monday and Friday instead of using the car. Use the stairs instead of the elevator whenever the opportunity arises. Get over 6000 steps every day on your pedometer.

Now get a pen and paper and write down your monthly targets. You will be glad you started in a few months time.

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Filed under Exercise, Fat loss, Health

12 ‘to do’ Checklist for Today

1. Get 30 minutes exercise. It doesn’t matter what it is, run, walk, trampoline, cage fighting, just do your heart and lungs a favour and move a bit.

2. Eat vegetables for lunch and dinner. Seriously stop acting like an 8 year old and just do it. Opt for a salad or soup for lunch instead of the sandwich, eat a lot of colourful veg for the dinner and less spuds, pasta or rice. Bonus points for breakfast veggies.

3. Go to bed half an hour earlier than usual. I’m sure whatever is on tv isn’t that good anyway. You can record it if you really want.

4. Eat a hand sized portion of protein at each meal. Men can have two. 3 eggs, meat, fish, 3 tbsp of Greek yogurt, scoop of protein powder, cup of beans/nuts will all do the job as a portion.

5. Drink lots of water. Hardly groundbreaking stuff and I’ll not sell a book on the back of that recommendation but just do it anyway.

6. Call your parents (if you are lucky enough to still have them) and ask them about their day.

7. Get outside for 30 minutes. I’m not talking about doing yoga along the babbling stream or anything, just get out, get some fresh air and plug yourself out for a while.

8. Give three people genuine compliments. ‘That frock you are wearing is lovely’ ‘you’re hair is looking so clean this week’ are not good examples. Please think of better ones.

9. Laugh at something. Share a joke or have the craic with your buddies. Alternatively watch this.

10. Do one thing that has been on your mind for ages. Something that you have been meaning to do for a long time. It will be a great weight off your shoulders even if it’s just a small thing. I certainly have a long list that I can immediately tackle.

11. Give yourself a challenge to target. Aim to do 10 full press ups by January. Do a 5k race by the end of the year. Run a marathon in 2016. Climb Kilimamjaro during lunch. Whatever, it doesn’t matter. Nothing focuses the mind like a challenge with a deadline.

12. Eat a few pieces of fruit. Go mad and try something different like a kiwi, a melon or a peach.

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Filed under Disease prevention, Exercise, Health

FAQ about the PH Fitness Class

corrie 2x2ft (1)

A hypotetical conversation with Claire (35) from Stoneybatter. (Yes, I made up a person and made up a conversation)

Hi Philip, I just saw this flyer about your class and I was wondering who the class is catered towards?

Well Claire, it’s nice to meet you. We cater for men and women who aren’t happy with how they currently look and feel. Most of our clients are female between 25 and 40 who want to lose some weight, tone up and feel better about their fitness and health. We can provide a road map to help them get from where they currently are to where they would like to be. The class environment is great for people as it provides a social outlet as well as a fitness class.

Oh right that’s great. Unfortunately though I haven’t done much exercise recently, will the class be too hard for me?

We cater for all fitness levels. All exercises have regressions and progressions that allow people with different abilities to get a great workout. Many members have started with no experience of resistance training but have quickly learned the basics and are progressing at a great rate.

What is resistance training? That sounds hard?

No need to worry, resistance training is a super form of exercise. It means using resistance to challenge the muscles to get stronger and develop shape. It can take many forms such as bodyweight exercises, lifting weights, cable pulls etc. We try to concentrate on the main human movements such as push, pull, hinge and squat.

Won’t that make me big and bulky? I want to lose weight!

No, it absolutely won’t make you big and bulky Claire. That is a major myth amongst many women. Resistance training is the most effective training method to help women and men improve body composition. By building muscle, your body does many wonderful things that help turn you into a fat burning machine. Your metabolism increases, you burn more calories at rest and your new found strength will catapult your fitness and health to new levels.

Also women cannot build as much muscle as men because of hormonal differences so instead of having big bulky body, you are more likely to achieve toned and slender physique.

Great, sounds like just what I need. But what type of class can I expect?

It is a class that emphasises strength through a variety of basic human movements. Stand-alone strength exercises are followed by a resistance circuit that will really work the heart and lungs giving a strong cardio hit. We want our clients to be the strongest version of themselves.

We place a strong emphasis on learning proper form and technique. We also pay particular attention to mobility, if a person has restricted movement, we will make sure they perform various exercises throughout the session that will tackle particular issues.


I’m tired just hearing all that, are you sure that won’t kill me! Did I mention I haven’t done any exercise in ages?

There is no need to fear Claire, we are well aware some people may have absolutely no experience in doing any exercise or have done very little in many years like yourself. It takes courage to start a new regime. Everyone will work at a level that is suitable for them. Your body may be sore after the first few sessions as you adapt to the new stresses but our intention is not to flog people with incredibly tough workouts. We hope that everyone works from a level where they feel challenged to improve and progress in a sustained and fun environment.

Cool, that’s reassuring, thanks Philip, is there anything else that I will need to know before I sign up? 

Yes, there is a strong nutrition component. I encourage all clients to keep a food diary. Research has shown that people who keep regular food diaries are far more successful at maintaining healthy body weight or losing weight in the first place. We also give people nutrition advice and a template to help them improve their lifestyle habits to ensure progress can be achieved.

Remind me again, where and when do the classes take place? 

Oh yes, the classes are run in the hall in St Paul’s CBS primary school. It is located on North Brunswick Street around the corner from Smithfield square. They currently run every Monday and Wednesday at 7pm.

How much are the classes?

It’s ten euro for a pay as you go class and 50 euro for a block of four weeks. People can sign up whenever they like.

Don’t forget, the first class is free of charge so you can come and try out before you buy a four week block.

Brilliant, do the classes run the whole year? 

There will be some breaks, classes will not run on bank holiday Mondays, over the Christmas, Easter holidays and during August. We find that people like this break and are away on holidays at these times of the year. We follow the primary school calendar to some degree.

Ok thanks Philip for all that information. I am really looking forward to getting started. Do I need to bring anything for my first class on Monday?

Just come wearing comfortable workout gear but bring a bottle of water and a can do attitude. The first class is free of charge so if you want to join you can pay starting from next Monday on.

Super, I’ll be there, I look forward to it.

Cheers, will see you then Claire.

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Filed under Bootcamp, Exercise, Fat loss, Health, Nutrition, weight training

Interval Running Workout

Running Intervals

Running is a great mode of exercise for most people. It is free, requires little equipment and is super for body and mind.

If are new to exercise, just getting outside in the fresh air for a walk or a jog will do you wonders.

For those who have been running for quite a while, maybe it is time to take things up a notch. Over time your body will adapt to a particular training stimulus so it is important that you change the intensity, distance, speed etc.

Interval type running is a great way to get an excellent workout in a short space of time. Short intense bursts have been shown to be effective in increasing metabolic rate thus helping with the fat loss process, improving health markers and increasing fitness levels.

So have a look at the picture provided, pick a new workout and give it a go!

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Filed under Exercise, Health

Do you know how to eat?

You might think this is a silly topic to write a post on. Sure you just put the food into your mouth and you chew it for a bit, swallow it and it goes into your stomach. Done and dusted!

It is not that simple unfortunately. There are a number of factors that go into how we eat and these can impact how we digest and absorb our food and can even derail our attempts at weight loss.

eating on the run

1. Eat slowly
Most of us eat too quickly. We are always in a rush. We scoff down our breakfast before going out the door every morning. We gobble up our dinner afraid that we will never see another meal in our life. This type of eating can present challenges for health, performance and body composition regardless of whether we eat healthy foods or not. Hunger and appetite signals do not kick in for 20 minutes by which time we may have eaten far too much. If we can slow down our eating, we will be more capable of noticing appetite cues and possibly noticing that we are full.
As a challenge, record how long it takes for you to eat your dinner. If it takes 5 minutes, you definitely need to slow down! We should be aiming for 15- 20 minutes. This may not be possible at first but aim to add a minute on to the next meal and gradually increase your meal time from there.

I’ll hold my hand up in this department, I have had to tailor my own eating habits and take my time as I’m quite susceptible to a bit of speed eating. It is not something that comes naturally to me, coming from a large family where being able to eat fast means you would get the extra few scraps that were available!

Helpful tips: Sit down, eliminate distractions, relax. Take smaller bites, chew the food properly. Sip water rather than drinking large gulps.

2. Eat in a calm relaxed manner

Eating when stressed is a very bad habit. We need to take time to eat and digest our food properly. Unfortunately many of us eat in stressful environments. We eat on our way to work, at our desks and when we are doing a myriad of other tasks. When we are stressed, our sympathetic (or fight or flight) nervous system is activated. This increases heart rate, releases energy and prepares the muscles for action. This also slows body processes such as digestion which are less important in emergencies. Our digestive system is not functioning optimally at this moment and any food consumed will not be digested properly.
We may be eating a healthy diet but if we are eating it in a state of stress, our digestive system will not be activated and nutrients will be lost.

When we activate the parasympathetic division, we conserve and restore. The heart rate is slowed and blood pressure is lowered. In this situation, the digestive tract is fully stimulated to process food and eliminate waste.

Helpful tips: Make time to eat in a relaxed and calm manner. Do not eat in a rush. Prioritise eating time.

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Filed under Food, Health, Uncategorized

What to eat for breakfast?

Most people would have grown up eating a breakfast of cereal with some milk, a slice of toast and a glass of orange juice. This would have been considered a healthy breakfast and would have been and still is the staple meal for many of us before we go to school or to work.

Unfortunately this type of breakfast most likely is doing more harm than good for our bodies.

The cereal depending on the quality is more than likely full of processed grains and refined sugars with minimal nutritional quality. The milk most commonly used by people is low fat, which is quite processed and has the goodness (the fat) taken out. The fruit juice is basically sugar water, since fibre in the fruit has been removed. The toast again is high glycemic carbohydrate similar to the cereal and fruit juice and contains gluten which some people cannot tolerate.

Eating foods such as these with a high glycemic index (pushes up blood sugar very quickly) in the morning can promote fat storage and can increase hunger levels later in the day.

When we consume foods with a high GI such as these, our blood sugars rises. Insulin is released by the pancreas to take these sugars away and store them until they are needed. If we have been exercising, our muscles and liver have used up their glycogen stores (energy space) and can take up these sugar easily. If more then likely, we have been resting or inactive (as more of us are in the morning!), insulin has no glycogen stores to replenish so the sugar is put into storage to be used at a later stage (fat accumulation).

Another downside of consuming foods with a high GI is it is very difficult to regulate hunger and satiety levels. After eating a high GI food, blood sugars will rise. The insulin kicks into action taking them away. After insulin has done it’s job, our blood sugars will fall and we suddenly feel hungry or crave something. Again we have a snack of a cereal bar or piece of bread to arrest our low sugar levels and suddenly they are up again. This rollercoaster of high and low sugars is very harmful to the body and can lead to fat gain and metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

What should we eat?!
It is best to eat foods that don’t cause a large spike in insulin(low GI foods), that are slowly digested and help stabilise blood sugar levels. This will help you feel full for longer, avoid cravings and make you less likely to overeat during the day. We need to get away from the idea that we should eat cereals for breakfast. This is a notion fabricated by big food companies to make us buy their products.

Protein and fats
Eggs, fish, meat, some fruits and veggies, greek yogurt and berries, nuts and seeds.

If you are used to eating the standard high carb breakfast you may find the above recommendations hard to get your head around. They may be new and difficult to adopt at first but they are extremely effective at helping to lose body fat and improve general health.

Here are some meal suggestions:
2/3 Scrambled eggs with 2 slices of bacon and half an avocado
Salmon fillet, with spinach and tomato sauted in butter
2-3 spoons greek yogurt with mixed berries and a spoon of flax seeds
2 boiled eggs, 2 sausages (80%pork), tomato and mushroom.

This is my own breakfast a few days ago…salmon with avocado, onions and baby tomato. Loads of good fats and plenty of protein.

Breakfast Pic

If you are in a rush…these can be made the night before and put in a lunch box in the fridge:
2 hard boiled eggs
Greek yogurt with blueberries and a handful of seeds
Piece of cheese/tomato wrapped in ham/turkey slices

If you have a low body fat or have exercised prior to breakfast then it is perfectly fine to include some carbohydrates in your breakfast.
Oats, sugar free museli, sweet potatoes are some good choices. These are slow releasing carbohydrates as they contain lots of fibre and will not cause high spikes in our sugar levels.

Now it is up to you.
Have a look at your current breakfast. Is it the reason why you are craving foods, why you cannot control hunger and why you are putting on weight despite eating what is ‘recommended’?

Give the recommendations above a go and I’ve no doubt your energy levels will soar!

Best of luck, thanks for reading and have a nice day!


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Filed under Breakfast, Food, Health, Nutrition

5 simple steps to a healthier life

1. Go to bed earlier.
The closer to 10 o clock you can go to sleep, the better for your body. Human as mammals are programmed to sleep according to the cycle of the sun, it is our natural circadian rhythm. If we decide to ignore this, we feck up our hormones , disrupt our immunity and generally mess us up.
Tip: Turn off the tv, put away the phone and get to bed early!

2. Eat more vegetables
We all know vegetables are very important for us. Yet we don’t eat enough of them. Stop fussing over whether you should put chia seeds or goji berries into your yogurt and get things into perspective by doing the basics. A simple way to boost your health, performance and immunity to illness is just to eat more vegetables every day.
Tip: Include a variety vegetables in every meal.

3. Positivity is key
“There are two kinds of people, those who think they can and those who think they can’t, they are both right” Henry Ford.

We all know people who are constantly negative, they are non stop complaining about their bad luck and their misfortune. The world is against them and they never get a fair chance. ‘I won’t fail if I don’t make an effort so I’ll stay where I am’ is their motto.
There are other people who seem to get their fair share of breaks, they are not afraid of making mistakes and see every situation in a positive light, even the bad ones. They just use them as a learning curve. These people will give everything a go and see every failure as a stepping stone to success.

Tip: What type of person do you want to be? The person who can or the person who can’t.


4. Don’t stress the small stuff
We are exposed to a lot of stress in our daily lives. Some stress is good, it focuses us mentally and physically for a particular task and we can do it more efficiently. Other long term stress can be severely debilitating for the body and cause us huge problems.
The hormone cortisol is released in the body when we feel stressed. This fight or flight hormone channels all our blood into dealing with this stressful situation. Our body does not distinguish between fighting a lion, being late for a meeting or playing an important football match. This elevated cortisol helps us in all these situations. Our heart rate rises, adrenalin is released and blood moves to our limbs readied for action. If we manage to kill the lion (or run away!), get to the meeting in time or play well in the match, it has served its purpose. Soon the stressful situation has been removed, our rest and recovery mechanisms can kick in again.
Unfortunately many of us live our lives in this constant state of high stress where our body thinks we are fighting lions all day long and churning out buckets of cortisol. Too much cortisol can reduce immunity, cause fatigue, cause weight gain and accelerate ageing.

What can we do? Although we can’t avoid stressful situations altogether, we can change the way we perceive them. Don’t worry about the small stuff, getting angry in a traffic jam is not going to get you there any quicker!
Tip : Don’t sweat the small stuff
For a full list of ways to cool the stress levels check out here…

5. Get on your dancing(exercise, hiking, football, gym) shoes
Get some exercise! Whatever exercise you like doing, just do it. The merits of exercise are all well established and it’s many benefits to our health.
The key is sometimes finding an exercise that we like doing and just sticking to it. Whether it is dancing, running, cycling, taekwando, squash, bog snorkelling, etc it doesn’t really matter. There are hundreds of clubs around the country offering a variety of different options. Also there has been a massive upsurge of people taking part in adventure races and triathlons in recent times. Get some mates, pick a race, do a bit of training in the lead up and make a weekend of it. A full list of races for the adventure types can be viewed here.

Tip: Get off the couch and get out exercising. Your mind and body will thank you for it.

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Filed under Exercise, Health, Uncategorized

Childhood Obesity – Who is to blame?

Obesity is a huge fat problem in Ireland today. With 40% of all adults overweight and 25% classified as obese. Using your maths skills you would have worked out that around 2 out of every 3 Irish adults are above their correct weight!
Alarm bells should be ringing in your head I hope!!…this is not good. This trend is getting worse and has increased considerably since the 1990s.
How are children fairing out? Well not so good. According to the ‘Growing up in Ireland study’ 20 per cent of 9 year olds were overweight in 2011 and a further 7 per cent are obese. Again we see that 1 in every 4 children have a weight issue.

This will obviously lead to a poorer quality of life and a higher likelihood of illness and sickness.

So who is to blame?

This is a hot topic in the media at the moment, people are looking for scapegoats to pin the responsibility on. Here we look at the possible candidates.

1. Parents: the primary provider for the child. They are the ones feeding the child the food, surely it is their fault that the child is overweight? They create the environment around the child which determines how much exercise they do. Do parents do enough or take responsibility for this role? Are they limited by lack of education, certain financial strain or a particular environmental or social situation?
Could they possibly be the ones making their child obese? Can we fathom a situation where parents are knowingly poisoning their children with harmful foods by making them obese or do they just not know the difference between foods that nourish and foods that harm?
Maybe it is not just the parents fault, maybe they are just shaped by their environment and are just pawns in the bigger picture that they are struggling to control?

>cereal killers

2. Food Companies: Big Corporate food companies. McDonalds, Dominos, Coca Cola, Mars etc. etc.
Are the majority of us obese because of the big money making globo-conglomerate monsters that are everywhere in society today? The food they provide tastes good and sure if its a ‘treat’ then isn’t it fine once in a while!? Our shops and society are laden with these processed, sugar filled foods which are highly addictive. We are being constantly bombarded with flashy advertisements directed at our youth with happy people eating these shiny tasty food! Parents are told some of these foods are low in salt, low in fat, low in calories, are fortified with this that and the other and ‘should be eaten as part of a balanced diet’. Are we being brainwashed by the these companies into thinking that these foods are just part and parcel of modern life? Are we supposed to eat cereal for breakfast? Do we have to drink coke and eat popcorn at the cinema? Do we really need to drink sugar bomb sports drinks before/during/after exercise to fuel our bodies? This what the advertisements say, surely they can’t be wrong, can they?
3. Government The Government of our country.
Could they possibly be responsible for the obesity epidemic which is taking place at this current time. Is it not in their interests to have a have a healthy strong workforce of people instead of a group that fat and sick? One would think so. Most governments in the world endorse the food pyramid. We all know what it looks like, it has been drilled into us for years. We see it in school books, we see it in medical documents and on government websites. It basically says eat loads of grains and don’t eat much fats. If we were to jump into a time machine and travel back 10,000 years ago (prior to the agricultural revolution, when we started cultivating grains) into human history, we would see that humans did not eat many grains. We obviously survived for millions of years and became the strongest race on the planet without eating them but now they are considered the ‘staple’ according to our government guidelines. Our DNA has not changed that much in the last 40,000 years. At that time we ate a diet full of protein, fats, nuts and vegetables whilst now we are being told by our government to eat a diet with a predominance of refined carbohydrates in the form of pasta, rice, potatoes and bread. Why are we being told to eat these grains? Who decided that they are good for us? How did people do before Government guidelines came in? Read my blog here on traditional diets

Broccoli child
4. The Child The child themselves.
The children of our country. Are they at fault? Are they responsible for their own declining health?
Those extra sweets and chocolates they ate at the party, surely they should have shown restraint? Did they not realise that they were very bad for them !
Why didn’t they ask for a bike for Christmas instead of a Playstation 4, did they not realise that the extra exercise they could have done would have been better for their health instead of sitting inside watching a screen!
Surely they should have kicked up a fuss looking for green vegetables as they wandered the stalls in the supermarket with their mother as she was doing the shopping. Then the child would have had something better to eat for dinner!
The children today are not to blame as you may have noted from the tone of my sarcasm above. They are products of their environment. Unfortunately the environment that many children grow up in is not very conducive to health or for alleviating obesity and they are suffering as a result.

Vending machine
5. Our Environment Is the environment to blame?
We live in a world where convenience and speed has become so important. We want everything now and get aggrieved if we have to spend time working for it. The same thinking has evolved with our relationship to food. With our hectic lifestyles and busy jobs, eating has become a secondary concept. We eat to alleviate the symptoms of hunger as opposed to eating to keep us healthy and nourished. Our world has sped up and the quality of food and attention to our food has declined as a result. Some people would rather sleep in an extra half hour rather than getting up to prepare a healthy breakfast. At lunch we grab a sandwich rather than preparing a healthier alternative in advance. For dinner we may eat whatever the local chipper has to offer or get a ready meal for the microwave to cook.
Also for children the options are pretty desperate if they were looking for something to eat. At schools there may be a vending machine full of sugary food or the local chipper. The shop may have some healthy food such as fruit but the child will be instantly drawn to the tasty treats that line the counter.
We live in a society where it is acceptable to be overweight. We are normalised by the customs and habits of the people that we typically spend our time with. If all your friends eat take away, smoke cigarettes, drink fizzy drinks etc. then you will be conditioned to think that everyone does it and that it is fine. Whereas if your friends eat well, exercise, then you will judge yourself based on them. The same applies with our weight and our children’s weight. If the majority of children in our society are overweight, we tend to look at a typical overweight child as the ‘norm’, just average and therefore consider it ok and pass no heed on it. Unfortunately the ‘norm’ weight has been increasing for many years.
Child computers

6. Sedentary Lifestyle– Is an inactive lifestyle to blame?
When I was a young lad growing up, I regularly built massive big tree houses with loads of rooms, played football for a minimum of eight hours every day during the summer, wore a groove 3 inches deep in the road with all the cycling and mowed so many lawns that the mound of grass was the size of a small house!
I think we all look back at our childhood with some degree of rose tinted glass syndrome regarding our own activity levels but I think it is quite clear that children today are not exposed to or engaged in the same levels of exercise and activity that children were years ago. As a primary school teacher I regularly see children who struggle to run for a short period of time or have difficulty walking up a few flights of stairs without bursting into a sweat. I am aware that many parents have concerns for safety in their neighbourhoods and children are not free to roam as they were years ago, but does that mean that they should just leave them inside watching the television?
Although many children regularly participate in sports clubs, the research suggests that only 3 in 10 children get the recommended 1 hour of physical activity per day. Televisions, phones, computers are becoming increasingly more integral part of children’s lives and parents are allowing this to happen. Schools also are restricted in the time they can give to exercise. The curriculum guidelines suggest 1 hour of exercise per week. This will not make much dent in the 7 hours recommended per week!
Where will our children get more exercise? Is it the parents fault? Is it our society and our schools that is to blame?

So who really is to blame???

As you may have read, I think there are a combination of reasons why obesity is rising especially amongst children but realistically the parents must shoulder the responsibility. Parents have the power to change their children’s lives for the better. They are in charge of what the child eats, what the child does on a daily basis and must have the courage and conviction to make the correct decisions to enable their children lives their lives free from disease and obesity.
Unfortunately if 2/3 of adults are overweight themselves, can we realistically expect these people to be effective role models and instruct their children to make right decisions when they seem to be incapable of doing so themselves?
Lets hope so but it’s important that they know what they are doing.
Education is the key thing and although most parents want the best for their child, some are unwittingly doing damage without realising it. In part 2, I hope to present some simple steps parents can use in their lives which will help themselves and their children get back to full health and escape the dangers of obesity.

Note: I’m not a parent and I don’t pretend to suggest parenting is an easy job. This post is not intended to criticise parents but help them see how they can help their children!

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Filed under Disease prevention, Exercise, Health, Nutrition

Time to get off the low fat train!

Two trains are about to arrive at the platform, the low fat train and the full fat train. Which train do you choose?

Up until a 40 years ago there was no such thing as the low fat train and everybody travelled full fat. But since the 70’s and 80’s there has been a shift towards the low fat bandwagon. The full fat that we eat naturally in animal foods (that humans have been eating for millions of years) suddenly became the culprit for heart disease and obesity. Some studies including ‘The seven Countries Study’ which have since been disproven seemed to suggest that it was the fat and the cholesterol in our food that was causing these problems. In 1977 the ‘McGovern Committee’ in America gave the first clear guidelines to the American government that the ‘low fat, high carb’ was the way to go despite protests from others who stated that sugar was the problem not the fat. The governments of the world and many food companies soon realised that there was a lot of money to be made from this ‘low fat movement’ and within a few years fat was enemy number one and grain food were the golden child. But did everyone get healthier and leaner following the new food pyramid which promoted grains and demonised fats? 

Check out this short video on which explains how fat is not a problem.

Take a look at the chart below and see for yourself, although correlation does not prove causation it does make a good argument.   


Source: National Center for Health Statistics (US). Health, United States, 2008: With Special Feature on the Health of Young Adults. Hyattsville (MD): National Center for Health Statistics (US); 2009 Mar. Chartbook.

Nowadays we have a situation where we are being told from an early age to eat according to the government issued food pyramid. Children are being indoctrinated with the notion that fat is bad and that eating loads of bread/pasta/cereals are good. Doctors who do not get very much nutrition coaching in medical school advise patients to eat ‘healthy’- to follow the food pyramid. Unfortunately we as a nation are seeing a continued rise in obesity, cancer, diabetes and other diseases.  

When I talk about fat, I am referring to naturally occurring fats that are in all animal products. In butter, meats, eggs, dairy, fish, nuts, seeds, olive, coconut and palm oil. Processed oils and trans fats are very dangerous to the body and should not be eaten.

If you are not convinced, here are some reasons why you should full fat foods.

1. Low fat foods are full of sugar and other chemicals

When the low fat movement came out and the manufacturers decided to remove the fat from the various products, they discovered that they tasted crap. They replaced the fat with lots of sugar and flavourings and other crap to make them palatable. These made the product taste good but now the original food has became a processed piece of garbage. Low fat foods are basically foods with the goodness removed and extra rubbish put in.

2. Low fat can raise chances of getting heart disease and other autoimmune disease

Heart disease is the most common form of death in the western world. Traditional population who ate diets high in fat had near minimum levels of heart disease. Once these people were exposed to western low fat type diets, their levels of disease soared. They got obese, became diabetic and levels of heart disease rose. Read more about the work of Weston Price in my article here.

3. Low fat foods make us fat

A low fat diet is pretty much a high carb diet. Many people in this modern world live sedentary lives and have jobs and lifestyles which have a low energy output. These carbs that are consumed by the body are turned into glucose. Glucose is stored as glycogen in the muscle and liver cells and becomes available for energy whenever required. If this glycogen store does not get used up then the cells , then the additional glucose consumed cannot fit into the cells and gets put into fat storage. Alternatively consuming a diet with a higher percentage of fats can make us less likely to overeat as fat and protein consumption regulate hormones which make us feel full and reduce hunger.

4. Low fat can mean higher cholesterol

For years consumption of dietary fat and cholesterol were considered the number one cause of high cholesterol in our body. We were told to lower our intake of saturated fats in eggs, red meat and butter. We were also told to eat lots of whole grains, and eat heart healthy vegetable spreads. Again the information was wrong!

In actual fact eating more fat will lead to an increase in ‘HDL’ cholesterol which is the good cholesterol and shows an decreased risk of heart disease. Also a higher fat diet can change the particle size of ‘LDL’ cholesterol from small dense particles (which are dangerous) to dense fluffy ones (which are nice and friendly)!

5. Low fat can lead to brain disfunction

Low levels of DHA, a fat found in omega 3 fatty acids has been associated with memory loss, difficulty concentrating, Alzheimer’s disease and other mood problems.

To wrap up, we need to get back to basics regarding our fat intake. Food should be there to enjoy as nature intended. Fat is not meant to be removed from milk or yogurt, real butter is not going to make you fat, eggs will not give you high cholesterol. Stay away from anything marketed as ‘low fat’ as it is more than likely a Frankenstein food with a multitude of other crap thrown in. Eat real, unprocessed, locally produced, real, whole foods as much as possible and you will not go wrong.  

You are back standing on the platform at the train station. The man on the loudspeaker shouts out: “the low fat train will be departing Platform 2 in 5 minutes and Is stopping at Low energy, Obesity, High Triglycerides, High Cholesterol, Sickness, and Heart Disease”

“The full fat train is departing Platform 1 and is going express to Optimal Health”

…I know where I want to go!



Filed under Disease prevention, Health, Nutrition

Weston A Price and a traditional diet

Weston A Price

One of the biggest influences of my beliefs about nutrition comes from the work done by a man named Weston A Price. He was a dentist from Cleveland in America. At the beginning of the 20th century Price was getting presented with an increasing number of people with dental cavities and physical degeneration. This he considered was due to a shift in the way food was being manufactured and the type of food people were consuming. In a short space of time people were beginning to consume more refined sugars, flours and processed foods. Local agricultural practices were being replaced by larger industrialised food processing methods.

In his search for answers to best practice, Price decided to visit the most isolated and primitive communities in the world that were free from western influences to study their diet and see how this impacted the quality of their teeth and their health in general.

Price studied isolated mountain people in Switzerland, island communities in the Outer Hebrides, members of the Maasai tribe and other African peoples, native Americans, the Inuit populations, Australian Aborigines and some South American tribes.

What Price discovered and this should come as no surprise to anyone was that these populations who rigidly their unprocessed, traditional foods had exceptional levels of health.

He found that these peoples who enjoyed an unrefined, unprocessed diet consumed an incredibly higher amount of vitamins and minerals than those consuming the manufactured and processed foods. They were robust and healthy, they had wide jaws and a full set of teeth with zero to no cavities. They had strong resistance to tuberculosis which was rampant at the time and showed no signs of the modern diseases which were becoming prevalent in western societies around the world. He also noticed that when the natives began eating foods other than those they traditionally ate, thing began to go wrong.  Once strong and healthy individual exposed to manufactured sugary, flour based foods with vegetable oils were sick more often and showed far less immunity to disease. They also displayed extremely deformed teeth structure.

Difference in teeth

What was interesting was that the diets varied in terms macronutrients content, I.e. the amount of protein, fat and carbohydrate but what was critical was the fact that the all foods were unprocessed, unrefined and ‘organic’.

If milk was consumed, it was raw or cultured. Animal sources were of huge importance and the whole animal was eaten, including organ meats and bones for broth. Animals were reared in their natural habitat and not extensively farmed or given foods to fatten them, Any grains consumed were whole grains and were only used after soaking or fermenting. All fruits and vegetables were grown naturally without artificial fertiliser or herbicide and eaten in season.

Many of the diets did have large quantities of fat compared to modern diets. The Inuit people consumed up to 80 per cent of their diet from animal fat (sea mammals, fish, land animals and birds) and very little fruit and vegetables due to the nature of the harsh cold climate. This high consumption of fat might scare the hell of most of us today but these people had no cancer, obesity, heart disease, cognitive disfunction or infertility. Unfortunately since then, they have been exposed to many of the ‘great’ new manufactured foods of western society and their once successful social structure and health has begun to unravel. Diabetes and obesity is extremely common amongst modern Inuit and they are succumbing to the diseases which are prevalent in western society.

Nutrition and physical degeneration

The main message that Weston Price tried to convey in his book ‘Nutrition and Physical Degeneration’ was that a diet full of nutrient dense foods was critical to maintaining optimum health. These traditional foods were chock full of vitamins and minerals and this ensured that the bodies who consumed them were free from strong and free from illness.

Take home message: most of us do not live on an isolated island or a jungle tribe so we will be exposed to ‘bad’ foods on a regular basis. To best ensure we maximise the quality of the food we consume we can try to follow some of these principals.

1. Eat in season, organically grown, locally produced fruit and vegetables.

2. Eat beef, lamb, game, organ meats, poultry, eggs from pasture raised animals.

3. Eat full fat milk products from pasture fed cows, raw milk, yogurt, cheese.

4. Use animal fats such as butter liberally. (Not margarine or pretend butter crap!)

5. Eat whole unprocessed foods.

For a full list of recommendations you can read the Weston A Price homepage.


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Filed under Disease prevention, Health, Nutrition, Uncategorized