Redefining Healthy and Five Easy Wins for a Happier Healthier You

Redefining Healthy and Five Easy Wins for a Happier Healthier YouThere is much said at the moment about the echo chambers we live in, and how they’re making us too insular.

It’s a bit of a contradiction though, because we’re also told that in order to live a happy life we must surround ourselves with like-minded people. Ones who share our values and contribute to our joy, not steal it.

However, in order to grow and truly flourish, we must never stop educating ourselves. We mustn’t be afraid to go against the grain, and not follow the crowd.

This means stepping out of our comfort zone, and exposing ourselves to (sometimes) uncomfortable truths. We then have to be willing to take those truths on-board, and make them beneficial to ourselves and our families.

We need to talk about the elephant in the kitchen: Sugar

There is little more annoying than being given conflicting information on what constitutes healthy eating. For years we were told that fat was evil should be avoided at all cost. It was hugely advocated that we should buy ready made fat free products, even though we now know they are loaded with sugar and/or artificial sweeteners.

This might be a revelation to some, but it’s the fat that makes the food taste good, and natural fats are great for us. It has recently come to light that the sugar industry have been manipulating us for years.

After my PCOS diagnosis in 2007, I was told by two doctors that I’d need fertility treatment to conceive. Not happy to just resign myself to this information, I did a ton of independent research. I found that there is a strong link between PCOS women, who are insulin resistant as I am, and type two diabetes. Bottom line was, if I didn’t get a handle on my sugar intake, then I would likely not see an improvement in my symptoms. Worse still, I could end up with diabetes later down the line. This awesome Ted Talk goes into depth about insulin resistance.    

redefining healthy and five easy wins for a happier healthier youFiguring I had nothing to lose, and everything to gain, I set about changing the way I ate. The first step was completely cutting out refined sugar, and replacing it with natural alternatives. I also excluded all pre-prepared food, unless I was eating out.

I’d never felt as healthy, but the best thing was falling pregnant with Polly in October 2008. Even though it meant buying a new wedding dress, I was more than happy to get married with a bump. Two more naturally conceived pregnancies followed within four years, and I don’t for a second think it was coincidental.  

If we want to be truly healthy, it is up to us, as individuals, to take control of our own health  

If we want to live a healthy life, we have to nourish ourselves well, which means making our own food out of fresh ingredients. This might seem like a major inconvenience in the short term, but it quickly becomes the norm. A friend of mine has a great saying.

“If it’s important, you’ll find the time. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.”  

We also have to be prepared to take a long hard look at the way we ‘treat’ ourselves. You only have to walk into a coffee shop to see that most people think nothing of having a slice of cake with their latte. Everything in moderation is wonderful for those who are able to show restraint, but most people I know will openly admit that they eat far too much sweet stuff. The fact is, it’s highly addictive, and very difficult to break free from. 

I can safely say that I noticed a world of difference both mentally and physically once I started eating less sugar and processed carbs. Food is medicine, and the sooner this becomes common knowledge the better 💗

Five easy wins to reduce your sugar intake, leaving you feeling truly healthy

Get your body burning fat in the morning

According to this recent article, most children start their day by eating a sugar laden breakfast. I’m sure the same is true for many adults too, and I’m almost certain that they are getting hungry way before lunchtime. When we eat sugar for breakfast, because it’s so addictive, we will chase our next hit of sugar all day long.

Eating fat and protein instead will get our bodies burning fat as it’s fuel, which keeps our blood sugars level. It’ll also help us not have mood swings, and keep us fuller for longer. Check out my recent post with some ideas for truly kick ass breakfasts.

Redefining Healthy and Five Easy Wins for a Happier Healthier You

some of the food I eat on a regular basis

Stop drinking sugar

We’ve all seen the infographics, detailing the shocking amount of sugar contained in a can of fizzy drink. But what about the shop bought juice made from concentrate?

What about the flavoured coffees with tons of syrup in them? What about the milkshakes and energy drinks that I see older school children drinking every day? None of these drinks will hydrate us, but they will almost certainly see us riding the blood sugar roller coaster.

Diet drinks are just as bad, as they almost always contain harmful chemical based sweeteners. Even freshly pressed fruit juices and smoothies contain lots of natural sugar, so should be limited. Ultimately it’s best to drink water. Sorry if that’s boring, but it’s true.       

Avoid supermarket free from products like the plague 

Having allergies and intolerance mean that you can’t eat certain things, and always have to miss out on the exciting food. I rode the merry-go-round of misery, otherwise known as exclusion diets, for years. It started in 2002 when I cut out dairy, and over the course of the next decade, I became intolerant of many different foods.

I learnt very early on not to trust supermarket free from products. Not only do they usually cost a small fortune, they are more often than not poor quality from a nutritional point of view. It sickens me that desperate people on exclusion diets are being ripped off as much as they are. If you need to eat free from, it is, without doubt, best to make your own food. 

Check out the Free From Fairy’s gluten free, rice free flour blend. Which is super versatile, and makes free from baking as easy as if you were using a wheat based flour. Vicki also has a ton of information on her site about living gluten free, as her daughter is a coeliac.            

Scrutinise every single label of every single product you buy

I will never understand why so many people choose not to read the labels when they are buying their food. It literally astounds me. When Polly was diagnosed allergic to corn and all it’s derivatives, when she was two and a half, I had to learn a new language. Corn is cheap to produce, and high fructose corn syrup is sweeter than table sugar. Therefore, it is used a lot in processed food, because lets face it, sweet things taste great.

Here’s the thing though, it’s not just corn or maize that you have to be aware of, if you want to exclude it from your diet. Corn comes in many disguises, and is often sneaked into a product several times. Check this list out for all the ingredients they derive from corn – it’s exceptionally eye opening. A good rule of thumb is this: avoid ingredients that you can’t pronounce the name of, because chances are they aren’t going to be good for you.

Get in the kitchen

There are no quick fixes or massive shortcuts, but there are things you can do to save time. Batch cooking several meals and freezing them (if you have the space) is a great way to lower stress when you’re starting out. Soups, stews and curries are ridiculously easy to throw together in one pot. Keep it as simple as you can at first, then get adventurous once you have more time.

You really don’t need to have tons of money to be able to cook. In fact I save a fortune by making all our food from scratch. Check out my food archive, which has tons of recipes in it.

I’ll leave you with my fail safe beef stew. I defy you to cook this meal and tell me that (a) it didn’t taste great, and (b) wasn’t silly easy to make!

Why I am Considering the GAPS Intro Diet for my 6yo

Polly GAPS IntroIn Spring 2014 I embarked on the all natural auto-immune healing diet GAPS, which is an acronym for Gut and Psychology Syndrome.

It consists of three stages, the first being a six step introduction diet; the second stage is Full GAPS – a Paleo-style grain free, refined sugar free, commercial dairy free diet; the third stage is introducing fermented grains and healthy starches such as sweet potatoes.

What causes gut and psychology syndrome?

According to Natasha Campbell-McBride, the doctor that created GAPS, all auto-immune disease (which encompasses everything from allergies to depression to thyroid dysfunction) starts in the gut, and is likely to be caused by leaky gut syndrome and/or a disproportionate amount of bad gut bacteria.

Leaky gut gets worse with each generation, and mine are a prime example of what Campbell-McBride calls a GAPS Family. My mother has an under active thyroid, urticaria and various other issues; I had severe reflux as a baby which led to stomach surgery aged five and have suffered all my life with food intolerance. My eldest daughter is very similar to me on the intolerance front; she also has the poorest immune system of our family (and most other kids that we know); and she is autistic.

Campbell-McBride says that until the gut is healed you can mask your symptoms but you’ll never be cured. Check out this awesome article for more info by the fabulous Dr. Josh Axe. 

I’d heard about GAPS from reading other blogger’s personal experiences such as this and this. Real people who cured their lifelong food allergies, and debilitating auto-immune diseases with the GAPS diet. There is also a  scary looking text book (that’s actually very easy to read) written by Dr. Natasha giving her theories on why some folks health is as bad as it is. Given that my third child was only eight weeks old, and I average reading only two or three books a year, I whizzed through it in two days. Her words sung to me, and I knew I would have to take action by giving this diet a go. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, it was a huge undertaking!  

The most important part of the very first step of the intro diet – which most people do for around one week – is drinking a ton of home made meat stock (also known as bone broth). The quickest and easiest way to make it is by boiling a whole chicken with sea salt and water for a couple of hours. Your entire food consumption for that first step is drinking the stock and eating the boiled chicken meat. If you’re able to tolerate non-starchy veggies then you can add them to make yourself a bowl of soup. It’s delicious real soup, just like Grandma used to make. But that’s it.

No dairy, no sugar – natural or refined, no grains at all, no starch, no caffeine, no booze. The only extras are a cocktail of supplements, including probiotics, omega fish oils and digestive enzymes.

You are completely stripping your diet back to the very basics, giving it plenty of nourishment to sustain you while your body goes through a period of detoxification. The aim is then resetting your auto-immune function and getting it to work better. After that first step you introduce foods one by one, starting with egg yolks and home made sauerkraut.

It’s a big deal, and even though I was used to eating Paleo before starting GAPS, it still took me two attempts to get it right. I whizzed through the six steps too fast the first time, and also cheated by keeping a morning coffee. I paid the price by going back to the very beginning six weeks later.

Second time around I spent five days on each of the first three steps of intro, and hung out on step four for months. By then I could eat so many foods that I felt I was having a delicious and varied diet, and I didn’t feel deprived in the slightest. I guess once you’ve lived on chicken soup anything else feels like fine dining!

I won’t go into too much detail here as it’s already a long post, and I documented my entire journey from start to a year update on a separate blog, so check out Mummy Tries GAPS if you’re interested. 

GAPS worked for me. I have clarity of mind, clear skin and am not a walking wreck despite suffering from severe sleep deprivation. My depressive thoughts are largely kept at bay and ultimately I’ve never felt this good in my entire life. People often ask me how I’m able to function given my challenging life, and the answer is GAPS! 

When I started intro we put the kids on to Full GAPS, but we’ve never been super strict like I was with my own eating. We always let them have cocoa in home made cakes and natural snacks; we let them eat the odd sausage roll or something similar if we found ourselves at the farmers market at lunch time. We have always been strict with not letting them have refined sugar, but some days their natural sugar intake has left a lot to be desired.

It all has an effect, how any parent can say there is no link between diet and behaviour is beyond me.

stock makingWhich is why we are seriously considering putting Polly on GAPS Intro. Not because we think it will ‘cure her autism’ (anyone claiming this is being rather bold in my opinion), but if it took her even further up the high functioning end of the spectrum then that would be a bonus. We’re looking at doing it because I know first hand how damn good I felt on GAPS Intro, and I would love for her to feel that great!

I’m absolutely certain that once we got through the first week or two she would feel as amazing as I did. Plus, if we don’t do it, I’ll always have a little nagging feeling in the back of my mind wondering if things would have turned out differently if only we had given it a go. I’d do it with her too, so she only saw me eating the things that she was. It would be a huge challenge in the short term, but I am positive my entire family would reap the rewards in the long run. 

An action plan for now

It’s a rather controversial thing to do though. To essentially make a six year old child eat soup morning, noon, and night for a whole week. The way I see it, a week is a very short amount of time and passes really quickly, but it would be an exceptionally difficult week, and I’d never put her through it until I had done extensive research and found a suitable practitioner to help us.

As of this week we are being super strict with all the children eating a Full GAPS diet. Just to dispel a few common myths: no, it’s not really low carb or ketogenic. It is simply a natural way of eating that doesn’t allow grains, starchy veg, refined sugar or processed food. It’s varied and interesting, and unbelievably nutrient dense. Just by cutting back on sweet snacks (albeit natural ones) I’ve seen an improvement.     

There’s a huge part of me hoping that we don’t have to put her on GAPS Intro, but only time will tell.

Would you do it?   

**Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor am I giving medical advice, I am simply sharing my own personal experience and views**

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