Clare Garcia is the Creative Director for Gather & Gather and a self-professed lover of food. In her blog, Clare gives her tips on how to make small changes that will make you look and feel better without compromising on the ‘good’ stuff.
Writing this blog and working in food, I’m often asked for the wholesomely seductive Holy Grail. For me, food is one of life’s greatest pleasures. A zero fat / carb / dairy diet would leave me bereft of joy. And surely abstinence makes the heart grow fonder, right? However, I also derive a significant amount of happiness from feeling fit and healthy, and squeezing into jeans that would be snug on a 15 years old ballerina.
Food is fuel; it should not only taste good, but do us good. Here are some of my tips for living your life; employing a modicum of consciousness into your daily nourishment; and opting out of chronic and tortuous calorie counting along the way. I guarantee you’ll feel fitter, have more energy, and should you so desire, lose weight in the process.
Stop eating when you’re full – if you do nothing else, heed this tip. As obvious as it sounds, it took me six months to master, when I was hit with the realisation that 30% of the food I consumed was surplus to requirements, and I was becoming rotund! We don’t need the volume of food that we think we do. Our stomachs are only the size of our not-so-giant fists. So, Victoria Beckham’s only eating off a side plate trick isn’t entirely off the mark. I’d gently suggest not taking your own receptacle to dinner parties if you want to keep your friends (and dignity), however.
Breakfast like a king… and supper like a pauper. For many Brits consumed with work, breakfast is coffee, lunch is a sandwich that can be eaten ‘on the go’ and the evening meal is our chance to blow all those daily banked calories. You have the entire day to burn off breakfast; but supper sleeps with you. When you starve yourself, your body thinks it needs to conserve energy and goes into hibernation mode, burning fewer calories. When you finally eat, your clever body stores (yup, stores) any fat as a back-up in case you deprive it again. Eating breakfast tells your body that you’re awake and kick starts your metabolism. Eating smaller meals, stopping when you’re comfortable and eating three to four times a day makes sense to your digestion. Let it do its job and it will reward you.
Carbs v Protein – eating nothing but kumquats can make you fat. If eaten in isolation, carbohydrate may as well be a lump of lard, it would seem. OK, maybe this is a slight exaggeration but I find the visual helps me focus. It’s all down to our blood sugar levels. I’ll save you from the convoluted workings of the Glycaemic Index, but just heed this: High GI foods (the white stuff: tatties, pasta, etc) turn almost instantaneously to sugar in the body, producing insulin (= sugar rush, then slump), which tells your body to store fat.
Our shrewd bodies crave a combination of protein, fat, fibre and carbs. Pulses and quinoa are therefore a veritable gift from the Gods to be coveted. Not to mention easily incorporated into soups, stews and salads. Eggs, olive oil, nuts, lean meats and avocado are not to be avoided on pain of death, they are our friends!
Cold turkey – comfort eating is in no way reserved solely for the broken hearted. There’s a world of difference between real hunger and emotional hunger; surplus to requirements, it’s likely the latter will make you gain weight. The more sugar we eat, the more we crave. Similarly, the chemicals in junk and processed food are actually addictive. Manufacturers find this helps sales. One saving grace about habits though, is how quickly they can be unformed – allow 21 days.
When going sugar (semi) cold turkey, a square of dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa) after a meal can be a handy binge preventative. Luckily cocoa contains anti-oxidants, iron, magnesium and phenyl ethylamine, which is said to mimic the feeling of being in love – minus the drama!
Keep calm and hydrate – groan…yes, it’s the old two litres a day mandate. Believe it or not hunger pangs are often our bodies signalling for fluids. Have a glass or water and wait 10 minutes before eating; you may be surprised. Water also aids digestion and reduces the fat that we absorb from our meal. It flushes out toxins and excess sodium, prevents fluid retention, is crucial for our organs and helps concentration. Even low levels of dehydration can cause attention levels to plummet.
Fresh, naturally – as in made by you, or anyone not advocating the use of ingredients you’d expect to find in a science lab. I suspect that our growing girths and ever more vociferous food intolerance grumbles, can largely be attributed to unpronounceable nasties poured into our ready-meals to mimic the effect of real cooking. Our bodies like variety, and by eating seasonally, you automatically tick the balanced diet manifesto.
And don’t get me started on salt. Many ready meals contain more than half our RDA and as such, it’s become a swear word. We need salt to function, just not too much. If you like coffee, then enjoy it as it’s meant to be, with real milk but in a smaller cup as opposed to a 32oz Venti bucket. And, if you don’t step into your kitchen before 9pm, the key is to make bigger batches of food for the fridge or freezer – Tupperware suppers on tap!
Pop – fizzy drinks may in fact be the work of Satan. A 500ml bottle contains over 200 calories and a whopping 53g of sugar. That’s 60% of your GDA for sugar! Diet drinks are tempting on the face of it, but there’s no such thing as a free lunch. The press has recently talked a lot about artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame and its links to cancer. What’s more, diet drinks are a false economy: duped into thinking we’ve gulped down sugar, our meticulous bodies set to work on producing stomach acid and insulin… only to find there’s nothing to digest. Cue: hunger and superfluous eating.
Get off the sofa – if you’re not a fan of the gym, try to find something that you like. Yoga, for example, not only tones and burns countless calories, it calms our chatty brains. And being a team player isn’t just a CV strap-line, you’ll shed pounds running around a Volleyball court or football pitch. Try to walk or cycle to work, or at least to the train station. And call me crazy, but clip-in shoes and padded spandex aren’t a pre-requisite to getting you around on a bike. If on the other hand you’re spurred by mastering countless triathlons, then I salute you.