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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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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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10 ways to help prevent Childhood Obesity

In the previous blog I outlined some culprits for the increasing levels of obesity that our children and ourselves the adults are currently experiencing in our modern world. 

Now that we are aware that there are many environmental factors which contribute to obesity, parents must realise that they have the primary role and the power to stop and reverse the effects of this scourge enveloping our children. 


Parents Time To Listen Up…

Your child is depending on you to make sensible and correct dietary choices for them to enable them to live happy, healthy lives and to reach their potential. 

1. Be a good role model

Parents need to show a good example to their children regarding their food choices and their exercise habits. They should try to eat healthy and get regular exercise. They should encourage the consumption of healthy nutritious food on a regular basis and educate them on what type of foods are good or bad for us. 

2. Provide healthy food with suitable portion size

Children should have access to unprocessed, nutritious foods especially in the home environment. Fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, dairy (if tolerated) nuts and seeds should be the staples of each meal. These meals should be smaller than regular adult portions. Unfortunately in this modern world, processed and convenience food is everywhere. It is best to eat less calorie dense/nutrient rich food as much as possible. 

3. Home Environment

  • Eat meals as a family
  • Involve children in the preparation of food
  • Healthy snacks should be available, fruit, nuts as opposed to junk food

4. Sleep

Children need to get enough sleep to ensure they grow, regenerate and recover from the day. Lack of sleep has been linked with increased levels of obesity. Children between the ages of 5 to 12 need to get around 11 or 12 hours sleep every night.


5. Drinks

Water is the substance of life. Children should not be drinking their calories. Fizzy drinks, sports drinks, fruit juices are all full of sugar and very harmful when consumed in large doses over a long period of time. Stick to the water.

6. Physical Activity

Children should be engaged in 60 minutes of exercise every day. This can be easy to attain for people who play sports but for others it can be difficult. Walking the dog, helping out with household chores, playing with friends, cycling and other games can all be ways to get some activity in the day.


7. Reduce Screen Time

Sitting is the new smoking. Sitting for hours on end at home watching television screens and computers can create bad habits that sap energy and draw life from our bodies. Get outside for some fresh air and some sunlight and you will do your body the world of good. 

8. What did your parents eat!?

What you eat before and during pregnancy can have a huge influence on the health of the baby. Most parents are aware that drinking alcohol and smoking whilst pregnant is harmful so it is frowned upon to do so. Eating a diet full of sugar and junk food can also be terrible for child development, yet the notion that ‘I am eating for two’ prevails and some mothers eat junk liberally. This over consumption of calories by a mother during pregnancy is closely linked to a higher probability of obesity for the child later in life. 

9. Treats should be treats

The world would be a boring place if we could not indulge and enjoy some of our favourite foods from time to time. Unfortunately when treats become the norm, then we have a problem. Children who are given fizzy drinks, chocolate and crap on a regular basis think it is normal to eat this crap every day and they don’t understand the notion of a ‘treat’. Eat healthy, nutritious foods most of the time and leave the treats at weekends or special occasions. 

10. Focus on health not weight

Eat to be healthy, don’t eat with calories in mind. Food should be something that the family should prepare together and eat together. The love of good healthy food is a gift that should be nurtured and harnessed. If we eat the right foods, we will never have to worry about counting calories because our body will feel full and our hunger will be regulated. Food should be something that we look forward to eating and not just a mechanism of alleviating hunger.  




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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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Precision Nutrition

Precision Nutrition

This week I signed up for the Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification.  It is something I have been eager to do for a while so when the date came I decided to take the plunge and get on board.

I have been following their work for quite a while and have really enjoyed their common sense yet thoroughly well researched advice. I know the certificate will be a great asset to me and my development as a personal trainer.

Although I have read many books on nutrition and completed different modules within my fitness courses, I have never done a specific nutrition course. I looked at doing various courses in Dublin and others online but the PN course stood out. It was extremely highly recommended by others who have completed the course so that was very reassuring.

I am very much looking forward to learning the trade secrets and trying them out in the real world. More knowledge and more learning, bring it on!

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