Category Archives: Health & Fitness

Posts related to heath and fitness, diet and exercise, eating well and looking after your body

Food Intolerance discovery: Part 2

I’d carried out a food intolerance test (see part 1) and I was determined to try and avoid the foods flagged as me being intolerant to for the next 3 to 6 months. How hard could it be?

The biggest kick for me was the cow’s milk. It’s in everything!!

However, I’d already reduced my cows milk intake, after realising how horrific the cow milking industry is and my fiance had found a great substitute coconut based milk called Koko. Oddly, this consists mainly of water and grape juice, but has enough coconut in it to taste like a skimmed cows milk with a hint of coconut!

I’d initially found it a bit thin on it’s own, but mixing half half with cow’s milk had been a great compromise, and I’d been drinking my homemade lattes like this for months already. But could I go 100% Koko? Some people would already argue I was already 100% Koko… but that’s another story ūüôā

The short answer is yes – I didn’t like it so much at first but quickly got used to it. I did look at other options; I wanted to avoid soya milk as soya bean had been flagged up as a borderline intolerant food and my fiance’s test had flagged it a definite no no for her – plus I hated the taste! Rice milk was an option for me but not her; but I didn’t like the flavour either.

But what about cheese?

We visited a local health store and checked out their vegan cheeses. Most are made with soya, so no good – but we found a coconut milk based one that’s pretty damn good! It doesn’t melt so well, but we can live with it for a few months. We also found some gorgeous coconut milk based yogurts; the downside with those is that there were bloody expensive!

Eggs though – how the hell to replace those?

Well, in baking, you can – by creating ‘chia eggs’. You take a tablespoon of chia seeds, grind them a little to crack the shells, add 3 tablespoons of water, and put in the fridge for 15 minutes.

What comes out is a gloopy gel – which seems to work as a perfect egg replacement in baking! Well, in everything I’ve made so far anyway, including a gorgeous buckwheat flour (more on buckwheat later) based ginger cake.

But you can’t exactly serve ‘chia egg’ ‘sunny side up’ or as an¬†omelette.

So I’m missing eggs from that side… but I will survive for a few months.

Next to address was wheat.

Not a problem really. I don’t eat bread; see my other posts (life changing bread and keeping fit: the early days). I don’t eat breakfast cereals these days. Gluten isn’t an issue, and nor are oats, the main ingredient of our life changing bread, which isn’t really a bread in the old fashioned sense and contains no wheat.

Except… flour. Most flour is wheat based. That means no croissants or pastries. Now that¬†i sa little distressing! However, these types of ‘naughty’ foods are only an occasional treat anyway, and I figured I could avoid them for three months or so.

Peas and beans I could cope without, and I’ve never been so bothered about raspberries. The three nuts flagged though were a disappointment – the ‘red’ entries, cashews and almonds, were major ingredients in my daily ‘life changing bread’. However, peanuts – the nut that most people have an issue with – was in my ‘green’ list. So, I’ve substituted cashews and almonds in my recipe for red skinned peanuts – and fortunately it works well.

The most serious blow to my happiness though was the indicated intolerance to brewer’s yeast.

Beer and cider contain a lot of this. Definite no nos.

However, to my horror, I discovered that it’s also used in red wine (as well as white and rose).

At this stage I seriously thought ‘sod this‘ and just stick to my usual diet. How could I live without red wine?

Actually, it being late spring at this point, I was drinking less red wine and more refreshing, cooling drinks. Surely I could replace red wine through the summer with some refreshing cocktails?

A new cocktail shaker and a re-stocked liquor cupboard has indeed confirmed that.

Cocktails!
Cocktails!

Actually, it’s debatable whether drinking wine would be an issue with a ‘mild’ brewers yeast intolerance. If I had an actual allergy, even the smallest amount could be an issue, but that’s not the case. The amount of yeast left in a commercial bottle wine will be minute; home brewed wine might be a different matter though.

And some lager is potentially okay due to the filtering process – some lagers are triple filtered.

However, my new found cocktail making skills were keeping me and the fiance happily satiated for the time being.

She decided not to start her diet yet, due to the sheer volume of foods flagged as high intolerance – it will be much harder for her; as a vegetarian she’s¬†also limited. Without being able to eat soya, beans and eggs either and¬†ensuring she gets sufficient protein could be an issue. Chickpeas are a good source, but although they weren’t flagged as an intolerance on either of our tests, we do often feel bloated after having them – and we can’t live on just chickpeas!

However, I was able to cope reasonably well, and was keen to try the experiment. I’d got by the milk issue, but I was missing eggs – especially my staple omelette when I worked from home two days a week and at weekends. What could I eat to fill me up?

I’d mistakenly confused wheat and durum wheat at this stage – so I thought I couldn’t eat pasta or noodles (it turns out I can, as long as they’re not egg noodles). However, a visit to the local health shop found both buckwheat pasta and buckwheat noodles! The former are ok; a tad bland and almost chewy for my liking. The noodles however, I found excellent – buckwheat has a slightly nutty flavour; with some green pesto mixed in they were gorgeous! Unfortunately, they are significantly more expensive than normal noodles though.

I figured I could make a few things myself, using buckwheat flour (also from the health shop) as a substitute for wheat flour. It’s naturally gluten free, so my fiance could also enjoy it. Buckwheat isn’t a wheat anyway – it’s from the beetroot family!

My first experiment was to make ginger biscuits. I replaced eggs for

Buckwheat flour gingerbread biscuits
Buckwheat flour & stevia gingerbread biscuits

the ‘chia eggs’, and made it a little healthier by replacing half the sugar with stevia, agave syrup and honey for golden syrup, and coconut oil in place of butter. My first batch wasn’t bad – a little dry and crumbly. My second was much better; and I will attempt to make a third soon now I’ve discovered a few things about the way the ingredients work together.

As my fiance could no longer enjoy our ‘life changing bread’ – not just because of the gluten in the oat (you can get gluten free oats) but also because of the linseeds and sunflower seeds which were also flagged on her intolerance test – I decided to try and make some ‘normal’ bread but replacing flour with buckwheat.

Most of the recipes I found combined buckwheat flour with rice flour (no good for the fiance) or other gluten containing flours, or flours I’d never heard of, yet alone knew where to source. But then I found a good one that looked adaptable that used buckwheat groats. I didn’t have these, just the flour, so I had to make some estimates on ingredients proportions.

It didn’t work out so well – I ended up with a very heavy and dense loaf.

The next time I actually sourced some buckwheat groats and made it

buckwheat bread
Buckwheat bread

as per the recipe; it came out much better but to be honest I didn’t enjoy it. The buckwheat groats tasted ‘greasy’ somehow to me. I then recalled eating buckwheat in ‘groat’ form previously and not being a huge fan. Yet as a flour it had worked well in the ginger biscuits – where else could I try it?

I experimented further.

My most successful creation was buckwheat tortilla wraps. These are beautiful! They’re thicker than normal tortillas as the chia egg doesn’t ‘flatten’ so much like eggs do, but they taste great.

We also made some pizzas (with coconut milk based cheese). We went for thin, crispy bases. My fiance loved the crispiness but I found it a little too crispy and prefer a chewier dough – still, my daughter enjoyed the mess of making the dough and it was quite a satisfying meal!

My work colleagues had noticed me eating ‘life changing bread’ as well as my fibre drink (see A dieting aid that works) and we spoke about my experiments. He was eating¬†some Jamaican ginger cake. My urge to eat some was overwhelming… I resisted, and instead the infamous words of Barney Stinson (of How I Met Your Mother) echoed though my head: “Challenge accepted“!

The next day I made buckwheat flour based gingerbread cake!

I found three normal gingerbread cake recipes and combined them. Working out the ‘wet’ ingredients and how much sweetness I needed was the tricky bit. I was replacing eggs with the chai eggs; that was fine. One of the recipes was a little healthier and used applesauce in place of so much sugar or molasses (black treacle). Another used golden syrup. I had no treacle or golden syrup, so I opted for a little brown sugar, half the white sugar of those recipes and a dash of stevia to sweeten, apple sauce, honey and agave syrup.

It worked beautifully!

Buckwheat flour gingerbread cake
Buckwheat flour gingerbread cake

Actually it was almost too sweet and too sticky – if such a thing could be said of gingerbread cake!

My fiance absolutely loved it (and has requested I make some this weekend for her to take to friends in Poland she’s visiting) and my work colleague decided it was better than the store bought one – success!

But it still wasn’t exactly healthy; I think I could half the sugar (and up the stevia a little) and agave syrup content and it would still be moist and sweet enough, and be a bit more healthy.

Even with lots of sugar though it’s still far healthier than a traditional gingerbread cake – one of the nice things about buckwheat flour is that it’s a low GI food – that is, it has a low glycemic index. According to some theories (see my blog, Montignac diet: I don’t do diets!), consuming foods with a high GI (such as normal wheat flour) with sugar/fat is far worse for weight gain then combining sugar/fat with low GI carbohydrates. Buckwheat flour also benefits from having a relatively high protein content too. Win win!

Buckwheat flour isn’t the answer to everything though – despite it being incredibly useful. It doesn’t work so well on it’s own in bread, as I’d found. I did some research and found that you need to combine different gluten free flours when baking, as they all have different properties, and you need to somehow replace the effects that gluten would normally create. Buckwheat is quite heavy and nutty too – Sorghum flour is apparently closer to wheat flour, and produces much lighter and fluffier results.

It doesn’t have quite as much protein as buckwheat though, and is apparently harder to digest.

Neither have any starch – something that is required to bond ingredients and help with raising of breads. The usual solutions are to mix in some corn flour or potato starch – but both of these are on our ‘to avoid’ lists. It looks like Tapioca flour (Tapioca starch is the same thing) might be a good solution.

Buckwheat flour also isn’t great as a thickening agent – I made a buckwheat flour bechamel sauce (with Koko coconut based milk of course) last week for a cauliflower and broccoli bake. It tasted great but took ages to thicken. Apparently arrowroot flour is a good thickener.

Another trip to our local health store is in order!

Before I’ve had chance to visit though, I fancied making a moussaka, and this time I combined buckwheat flour with some ground chickpeas – basically gram flour! That worked much better and thickened up nicely.

Seven or eight¬†weeks into the diet now… I will continue to experiment and will post a new blog with any interesting recipes (I want to try and make a gluten free baklava!) I find and will also post after the 3-6 months is up with the results.

Food Intolerance discovery: Part 1

My fiance has suffered from skin problems for many years, and the primary cause appeared to be down to what she ate. The only problem was determining exactly what it was that was causing the problems. Food intolerances – as opposed to food allergies – can take several days to show, and the symptoms are often cumulative.

We’d tried restricting certain foods for several days to try and find the culprit, but often had conflicting results. It seemed that it may be down to a combination of foods, and other conditions, such as sleep (a lack of good sleep seriously affects her skin), humidity and use of skin moisturiser.

She’d seen many dermatologists through the years, but no one seemed to have the answer.

In the end we decided to give one of the online food intolerance tests a try; we chose the Cambridge Nutritional ¬†Sciences blood test. There’s lots of debate on how accurate these actually are, but we thought it was worth giving it a shot. We went for the¬†Food IgG Antibody Testing; this detects levels of antibodies in your blood to indicate which foods you may be intolerant to.

I figured that whilst we were at it, I’d try the test too. I don’t have any major skin problems; just a little dry skin on my hands and occasionally on my cheeks. I do often have a very red nose and cheeks though; I’d previously noticed that seafood could trigger my redness. I’m often pretty bloated too – for years I’d eaten healthily and worked out and have always joked that I have ‘abs of steel’ but that they are buried under a layer of flab! Truth be told, there’s not so much fat there, but my stomach is rarely flat – it’s very often bloated. Could a food intolerance be causing that?

In short, yes, it could. But the tests aren’t cheap, so I opted for a the basic test that indicates whether or not you have any intolerances at all, but doesn’t actually tell you which (although suggests which food groups may be affected) – you can then opt to upgrade and do a more comprehensive test. There are a number of options available, based on food groups. For example, they do tests specifically for vegetarians and vegans.

The blood sample kit arrived. You have to prick your finger with a little device and then squeeze the blood into a tube. It is not easy. For a start, one drop of blood is a tiny amount – they need a lot more than that. After some trial and error, we found the best technique was to put our arm down (to help blood flow) and the other person squeeze the others finger, and scrape the drops into the tube. It took about 20 minutes to fill the tube sufficiently.

We then sent the samples back and waited.

My test flagged up that I had potential intolerances.

My fiance had gone for the full test covering everything – and we were somewhat horrified by the results.

She was intolerant to everything.

Ok, that’s an exaggeration. But the list of intolerances was far more than we’d expected.

Intolerances are listed on a numeric scale; those less than 23 are not considered an issue. Between 23 and less than 30 they are listed as ‘borderline’; 30 and above are problematic and classed as ‘avoid’.

Flagged as¬†‘avoid’, with the highest level of intolerance first, her list ran:

Pistachio, Egg White, Pea, Yeast (Brewer’s), Yuca, Wheat, Agar Agar, Cashew Nut, Cola Nut, Flax Seed, Pomegranate, Tangerine, Sea Bass, Nectarine, Yeast (Baker’s), Bean (Broad), Couscous, Fig, Radish, Soya Bean, Bean (White Haricot), Milk (Cow), Squash (Butternut/Carnival), Turnip, Hazelnut, Plum, Apricot, Bean (Red Kidney), Gliadin (Gluten), Mango

That’s some list!

Having an intolerance to soya and beans in general was a problem for my fiance, who’s a vegetarian. Rice and potatoes¬†were flagged on her borderline intolerance list.

I decided to upgrade my test and find out my specific intolerances.

Oh dear.

My reading for cows milk was off the scale – 160+.

I drink so much milk! Every day I have one or two large lattes, I often drink milk on it’s own, or with a protein shake – the protein whey itself having originated from cows milk!

Another surprise was that both egg whites (121) and egg yolks (41) came up ‘red’ – I’d usually eat 2 or 3 omelettes a week, made with 3 eggs each. Oh, and with cheese added – made from cow’s milk, of course!

food intolerances results
My food intolerances results

It also showed I was intolerant to peas, beans (red kidney beans and white haricot beans), barley and wheat. Cashew nuts and almonds were also flagged as ‘red’. The only fruit shown was raspberry – yet oddly, strawberry, the fruit most people have an intolerance or allergy too, showed as being fine – this only scored a 1.

What I also found odd was that wheat was flagged as a high intolerance with a value of 53, yet gluten, oat, rye, durum wheat and bakers yeast were shown as green. Brewers yeast was a different story though – in the red at 52.

On the borderline results (yellow) were potato, corn, hazlenut, crab (prawn and lobster were ok and in the green) and soya bean.

So what did this mean?

Well, I wasn’t going to die if I ate these foods – I’d been eating them all my life.

But by avoiding them, perhaps I’d be less bloated. Perhaps my nose and cheeks would be less red.

Apparently, by avoiding the foods flagged for 3 to 6 months, you can ‘reset’ your system and potentially remove that intolerance.

Even if the ‘reset’ didn’t work, I was interested to see what the results would be by avoiding those foods.

After all, how hard could it be?

Life changing bread: The best thing since sliced bread

My girlfriend recently stumbled across the recipe for ‘life-changing bread’ which has, literally, changed our lives.

Okay, if you love your soft white bread then it’s not probably not going to help you. This bread doesn’t really work for sandwiches; it’s too firm. To be honest, it’s consistency is closer to cake – but it’s far more healthy than cake, or even ‘normal’ bread for that matter.

The nice thing about this recipe is that it contains no sugar, and no yeast. There’s a theory that many so-called gluten intolerant people may not actually be gluten intolerant as such; the issue is often down to the way ‘modern’ (since mass production techniques discovered in the ’50s) bread is made. Manufacturers discovered that they could produce bread in half the time, which meant massive savings in production costs. The technology was quick to be adopted, and has more or less been the method used by most bread makers for the last 60 years.

That is, unless you buy ‘proper’ bread that has been baked for a long enough period for the yeast to be fully processed – or sourdough bread which doesn’t use yeast as such.

Modern bread is full of salt, sugar and preservatives too, and is simply no good for you.

I read that many people who were supposedly gluten tolerant had been able to eat ‘traditional’ and sourdough bread without any problems.

I’ve never thought that I’ve suffered from any gluten/bread intolerance, but when I first found out about this, I realised that I’ve often felt very bloated by bread. It seems that this intolerance to the unprocessed yeast can cause some irritation. I switched to sourdough bread and found this much better.

This ‘life-changing bread’ is far better than even that though, and it’s quick and easy to make.

The basic ingredients are:

1 & 1/2 cup of oats
1 cup of sunflower seeds
1/2 cup of linseeds
1/2 cup of nuts (almonds/cashews etc)
3 large tablespoons of psyllium husk powder
2 tablespoons of chia seeds
1/2 tablespoon of salt

1 & 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoon coconut oil
1-2 tablespoons of nut or olive oil

The psyllium husks are probably not something you have lying around at home… but are apparently essential to the recipe (I haven’t tried making it without though to be honest); we get these from eBay but I guess you might find in health shops… we certainly haven’t seen any in UK supermarkets.

Mix all the dry ingredients together.

NB: Trying swapping/mixing your almonds with hazelnuts, or cashews, for a sweeter flavour.

Tip: use warm water to help melt the honey/coconut butter.

Pour the dissolved mixture over the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. It shouldn’t be too sloppy, nor too stiff.

Leave for at least one hour to soak up the liquids.

The mixture should now be fairly stiff and sticky. Don’t worry if it’s a little soggy still; you can wait a little longer before baking (and add a little extra oats if it’s still too wet) or just bake for a little longer. If liquid is still visible then that’s too wet; add more oats.

Crumple a sheet of baking paper (to make it easier to shape) and line a loaf shaped baking tray. Pack in the ingredients, pushing the mixture down well and into the corners. We fold the baking paper over the top and push down to give it nice square edges.

Pop it into a pre-heated oven at around gas 5.5/6 / 160-180C for about 20-30 mins. The top should start becoming firm and a nice yellow brown colour.

At this stage, remove the tin from the oven. Put a fresh sheet of baking paper on a baking tray and remove the bread, flipping it upside down onto the new tray. Remove the old baking paper, and put it back in the oven, ‘upside down’, for 30-45 mins, depending on how moist the bread was initially, and how ‘crunchy’ you like your bread. Ideally, it should be a nice brown colour – if it starts going black you’ve probably overdone it!

Life changing bread
Life changing bread – my recent version with red skinned peanuts, citrus fruits and ginger

You should be able to ‘tap’ it and it feel firm but not ‘solid’ – hard to explain but after you’ve done it a few times, you know what the right feel is.

Let it settle for a bit before eating – if you try and slice it too soon, it will be incredibly crumbly.

It normally lasts about a week before going off, although in summer I’ve noticed it sometimes going off a day or two before that.

I’d say 8 times out of 10 times it comes out great; occasionally it can be a bit too moist at first (but will dry out with time) or slightly overdone, it which case it won’t last quite as long as it will be pretty dry after 4 or 5 days. You’ll learn the best mix/way of baking for yourself.

It’s delicious dipped in a little olive oil with balsamic vinegar!

This literally has been ‘life changing’ for us, in the sense that we’re no longer snacking on unhealthy snacks – having a ‘loaf’ (more like a brick!) of this around at all times means we have a tasty and handy snack. I take a slice or two to work, and have some in the car in case I get peckish on the commute; we often take some when we travel on holidays – or anywhere for that matter – in case we’re hungry enroute.

It can also easily be modified… we often add pumpkin seeds or different nuts to subtly change the flavour. We often add rosemary for another lovely taste; I once added black olives and sundried tomato. Adding fruit such as raisins is also an option – but bear in mind these are often high in sugar! Our recent batches have been made with citrus fruit peel added – delicious!

My latest attempt added a tablespoon of ginger powder, some chopped crystallized ginger cubes, pumpkin seeds and a smattering of dark chocolate! Not bad, but I’ll add more ginger next time (I can hardly taste it), and this was one of those times when I slightly overcooked it and it’s a bit too dry for my tastes… oh well, can’t win them all!

I’m also tempted to try adding banana and dates (or maybe fig)..!

Enjoy!

NB: This isn’t gluten free... but I believe you can purchase gluten free oats, so you could try making it with those. I’ve noticed some gluten free flours are difficult to get to rise in breads, but this is a different type of bread – there’s no yeast, no baking powder or baking soda – it doesn’t really need to rise as such – so perhaps it will work?

A dieting aid that works? Part 3

By using a fibre drink supplement that my girfriend had found in Poland, a slimming aid made from natural ingredients (see part 1 of the story here), I had managed to get back to my ‘best’ weight of 74kg – and I’d been able to half my gym visits.

I was no longer struggling with hunger.

I then also tried the Daniel Fast (see my Daniel Fast blog here) for four days and I lost a couple of kilograms. I’d actually crept back up to around 75/76kg at that stage after a holiday and over indulging somewhat on the local food.

Still, I’d dropped below the unbeatable 74kg and managed 73.5kg!

I’m 36 now. I don’t think I’ve been that weight since I was 18.

And the side effect the fibre drink has had on me is that my stomach seems to have shrank.

Meaning I’m just not as hungry as I was before. Even without taking the drink!

Previously, I’d wake up, and my stomach would growl at me even whilst I was taking my morning toilet visit. I’d be in a rush to get dressed and downstairs to make my breakfast.

Even a reasonable sized breakfast would only fill me for a couple of hours, three at the most. I’d have to eat every two to three hours throughout the whole day. If I didn’t, and I ignored the stomach rumbles for longer than half an hour, I’d get stomach ache that could last for days.

I now wake up in the morning and I’m not hungry for 45 mins to an hour, sometimes longer.

I can have a cup of tea or coffee and last another hour before I want any food.

Before this, I was hungry immediately upon waking, and had to eat. Tea or coffee wouldn’t help.

Now I can go for 2 hours without food and just having one drink.

And food fills me for longer now. When experimenting with food combinations with the Montignac diet (see my post on the Montignac method), I found a 3 egg omelette with a small amount of cheese (one babybell) would last me 3 hours.

Now my stomach has shrank, it keeps me going for 4 hours.

One day I realised it had been 5 hours since I’d ate!

Ok, some days I just have ‘hungry days’ and seem to need more. But in general, I’m just not as hungry, and the food fills me for much longer.

When hunger does strike, it’s less aggressive. I can ignore it for longer and it doesn’t hurt so much.

I’m not having a fibre drink¬†every day. And often I’ll only have one or two to help pad out a long day. Now I’m back at the office with a long commute and don’t have the same kitchen facilities as home, I’m having two or three of them to help me out.

I’m not having a breakfast cereal at all now. I’ll get up, get ready, drink a coffee on the way to work (I pre make a shot in my espresso machine the night before, then add cold milk in the morning), have a fibre drink¬†when I get there (approx 2 hours after waking) and a banana or other snack an hour or so later, and that’s my breakfast done – another fibre drink¬†around midday¬†sees me through to a lunch at 1:30pm. One day I was exceptionally busy and didn’t notice the time nor feel hungry so was able to skip that dose¬†and just have my lunchtime egg salad.

So I could slip a breakfast cereal back into my diet and maybe only have 1 fibre drink¬†a day, or none – but it’s convenient this way as I can set off on my commute ASAP and beat the rush hour traffic.

Also having less carbs helps with the weight loss.

Within a couple of weeks of the new job and eating in this pattern, with another fibre drink¬†or small snack (a slice of life changing bread – will have to write a post about that; it’s a healthy bread equivalent my girlfriend makes made purely from oats, seeds, nuts, and a little oil & honey to hold it all together – beautiful) when I get home from work followed by an evening meal such as salmon with a side salad, I was down to 71.6kg¬†(158lb; 11 stones 4 pounds).

That’s 2.5kg (5lbs) less than when I was hitting the gym 6-8 times a week.

The last time I went to the gym?

12 days before.

The week before that I’d been twice. The week before may have been 3 times… but I’d been away to Ibiza for 4 days before that and only a week later had a long weekend in Poland for a wedding. So I’d not been eating so well and the gym was required to burn some excess calories off.

Now though it seems I don’t even need to go to the gym, and I’ve hit my lowest weight ever.

And I feel great!!

BTW I don’t advocate not¬†going to the gym – we all need exercise. I just haven’t had the time recently. I’m still making sure I walk as much as I can and on holiday did plenty of swimming.

6 weeks into the job & new routine and exercising mildly twice a week, I’ve hit the all time low of 70.3kg (155lb; 11 stones 2 pounds).

So… where can I buy this wonderful fibre drink¬†I hear you ask?

Well – I’m afraid it’s not on sale yet, at least not here in the UK. And it’s only on limited sale in Poland too, as a new product its only online at this stage and not in the pharmacies, although hopefully it will be in the near future; most people in Poland buy their supplements from pharmacies – look down any road in a Polish city and you’ll see two or three of them!

Due to this, they only have limited sales at the moment, which means that they’ve not been able to bring down the price yet, so it’s a not cheap at around ¬£80 a month – although personally I think it’s certainly been worth it.

UPDATE: I now have an update (1st July 2015; original post written October 2014)! An equivalent product called GGA Fibre Pro Supplement, which I have been using for at least the last 6 months with the same results, will be on the market this week! And it will be almost half the price of the Polish equivalent. Please watch this space for more info, or like my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/myastoquiz to keep updated, or drop an email to skrylsolutions@gmail.com for more info.

UPDATED JULY 2015:
GGA Fibre Pro is now available here!

I just want to point out again that I am not a nutritionist, a dietician or a doctor. I’m a computer scientist! So this is just my take on things and it’s worked well for me. When dieting you should always seek professional help if in doubt.

A dieting aid that works? Part 2

I used the fibre drink dieting aid over the next few months (see part 1 of the story here).

I’ve never been a fan of dieting products. I’d rather eat everything in moderation and aim to eat healthily, and following a variant of the Montignac method seemed to be helping (see my post on the Montignac method), but I was still struggling to keep myself filled up between meals and shed those extra few pounds of fat.

My problem was that I kept getting hungry and needed to eat, else my stomach hurt!

This fibre drink sounded like a possible solution.

The idea behind¬†it¬†is that you drink a ‘natural’ (powder made from natural ingredients, primarily apple fibre) beverage that fills you up between meals.

And it seems to work!

By drinking a dose¬†between breakfast and lunch, another early afternoon and another before my evening meal, I’d managed to skip one small meal, plus was eating my evening meal later so wasn’t becoming peckish later and snacking before bed time.

Over the course of several weeks, this had a great impact.

The best weight I’d managed to achieve previously, over several years, was 74kg (163lb or 11 stones 9lbs). This was pretty good on the body mass index scale; a good weight for my height of 178cm (5 foot 10 inches).

To achieve this though, I was having to exercise hard.

Mondays I worked from home, and would do a 40 minute work out, consisting of 20 minutes of mat work (stretches, press up, push ups, crunches etc) and 20 minutes of mixed weights and bag work (I used to do Taekwondo, so kept up the practice with a large punch/kick bag in the garage).

Tuesdays would be the same.

Wednesday I would get up at 6am and drive the 2 hour journey to North Wales from the East Midlands. I would have a 45 minute work out at the gym, consisting of 15 mins mat work, 10 mins weights and 20 minutes cardio – treadmill, bike, cross trainer etc.

If I wasn’t feeling too knackered from the drive/days work, I’d go to the gym in the evening for another 45 mins – although the last 10 mins tended to be a dip in the jacuzzi or a steam in the sauna ūüôā

Thursday I would get up reasonably early as I would have gone to bed just after 10pm on the Weds, so I would have a 25 minute swim before work, the same 45 minute work out at the gym at lunchtime AND I’d also go to the gym in the evening again for a similar work out.

Friday I wanted to leave early for the 2 hour drive back to the East Midlands, so I’d only have 30 mins at the gym, concentrating on cardio usually.

If I had time on a Saturday I’d also slip in another home/garage work out.

That’s a pretty intense routine.

Admittedly, I didn’t stick to it 100% – some days working from home I’d need to use the lunchtime break to pop to the bank or perform some other job. Occasionally, Thursday nights I’d end up at the pub with my Welsh housemate (he wasn’t Welsh, but the house was, he was from New Zealand – I shared a house with him and another when working up there) instead of the gym.

But in general, I worked hard at it. And I was eating reasonably healthily; I wouldn’t eat burgers or pizzas (ok, the odd pizza – once a month?) and my beer intake was very low – although I did enjoy a few bottles of wine ūüôā

Gradually, over a couple of years, I got my weight from around 78/79kg to a steady 75 with the absolute peak being 74kg.

And my stomach wasn’t flat – I wasn’t fat as such, but I couldn’t shake off the wobbly layers of fat sitting on my stomach and sides.

I just couldn’t get any better than this… eating less, I was starving and unhappy. And I was pushing myself to the limits at the gym, and often strained a muscle – which then left me unable to exercise for a while, and my weight would climb again.

It was a constant battle, and I normally remained in the 76 to 78kg range. If I was ill or did a more serious injury, and couldn’t exercise for a few weeks, I’d climb up to 80kg. When I missed some exercise, went on holiday, over ate, then couldn’t exercise again due to other reasons, I hit 82kg (180lbs, 12 stone 12 pounds – more than a stone heavier than my best), and felt awful.

I felt heavy, and sweated more. It made me feel tired.

I ate as healthily as I could for a month and hit the gym hard and managed to get back to the ‘happy ground’ of 76-78kg.

Again, this wasn’t so bad. But I didn’t like that flab on my stomach, and I just felt much better and fitter when I was a few kilos lighter.

Just for the record – I’m not obsessed with weight. It can flicker 1 or 2kgs anyway from day to day; especially if your scales are as fickle as ours! But it gives you an overall idea and measurement, and I have rounded these to averages.

I just knew that I felt ‘good’ around 76kg but even better at 74kg.

It just wasn’t achievable on a permanent basis without exhausting myself.

Then I met my girlfriend. I was spending more and more time with her and not exercising enough… I worried my weight would start to climb again.

I exercised at every opportunity and kept a closer eye on my weight. Fortunately she is very into healthy eating and has provided my salvation!

This was through a combination of the Montignac diet (Montignac method) and later on, a Polish fibre drink we found.

Before I started using the fibre drink, I was hovering around the middleweight 76-78kg range; I was using the gym less but the Montignac method was enabling me to keep it from increasing.

So what happened to my weight after a few weeks of using the fibre drink product?

Down to 74kg with no effort.

Well, not no effort at all… but significantly less than before.

I’d been doing 6-8 workouts a week before to get to 74kg. Now I was doing 3 or 4.

And I was still being careful with what I ate – but I wasn’t making any additional effort.

I had simply reduced my intake, without being hungry.

I bust the 76kg barrier and hovered at 74kg and could even treat myself to the odd pizza!

Hooray!!

And things over the next few months got even better…

Part 3 available now: A Dieting Aid That Works: Part 3

A dieting aid that actually works?? Part 1

I like to think of myself as an “optimistic realist”.

I try to never be pessimistic, but I am skeptical, especially when it comes to ‘dieting aids’. You can do all the research you like online about a diet but you’ll never know if it really works for you unless you try it yourself. And unfortunately, many online diets are just marketing scams. Many dieting products are unnatural and full of chemicals.

The product I tried though is a little different.

This is a natural product that is currently only marketed in Poland (my girlfriend’s home and somewhere we regularly visit), however, an equivalent should be coming to the UK soon.

In the UK, our small talk is about the weather.

In Poland, the small talk is about your health.

Supplements are big business in Poland.

The¬†new supplement we found is a little unique –¬†it’s based on natural ingredients and intends to fill you up longer whilst aiding weight loss.

The product consists of a powder that you add to water and drink. It’s fibre based, mainly consisting of apples and glucomannan (Wiki article on Glucomannan). The idea is that this helps fill you up, yet contains no fat, minimal carbohydrates (fibres – which are not absorbed by the body) and only four calories per drink.

 

The idea is that you take 3 servings each day, between meals. The drink fills you up so you eat less.

Having struggled all my life to keep myself full, yet limit the amount I ate to prevent my weight increasing, and wanting to avoid all the unnatural, chemical based ‘meal supplement’ shakes out there, this sounded like a great idea.

I gave it a go.

Previously, I’d wake up, and be instantly hungry.

And as I’ve mentioned in some of my other posts, if I’m hungry, I have¬†to eat.

And soon.

If I don’t, I get a nasty stomach ache that can last for days.

So, on the first day of using the new product I woke up, went to the toilet, and my stomach rumbled his usual morning greeting.

FEED ME FEED ME FEED ME

Ok, Mr Stomach. Let’s get some breakfast.

I had my usual portion of 3 weetabixes (or is that weetabixi?) with a small topping of blueberries, sunflower and chia seeds (which are supposedly filling but they haven’t worked particularly well for me) and semi skinned milk, and a cup of tea with a dash of milk.

This normally fills me up for 2.5 to 3 hours – i.e. I’m hungry way¬†before lunch and I have to find something suitable to keep me going.

Sure enough, two and a half hours later, the air around me is disturbed by a deep low grumble.

I managed to ignore it for 10 minutes but then the grumbling returned in force.

Let’s give this fibre drink¬†a go.

I mixed the powder with some hot water and shook away.

It didn’t mix very well. But it’s not supposed to. The makers wanted to keep it as natural as possible, so there’s no fancy dissolving agents in there. Using hot water helps it to dissolve better.

If you give it a good shake and drink it immediately, it’s dissolves reasonably well, with only a small amount of powder left at the bottom.

It tastes quite pleasant – it has a vanilla and apple flavour.

I headed back to the PC to check my emails.

Just under 30 minutes later my stomach growled at me.

Ok, it hadn’t lasted long, but it had given me a 30 minute respite. I grabbed a banana.

These normally fill me for 30-45 minutes, an hour at the most.

1.5 hours later I suddenly realised I wasn’t hungry.

Well, I hadn’t been until I thought about it, then boom: RUMBLE RUMBLE RUMBLE.

Ok ok Mr Stomach, I’ll feed you. It’s lunchtime anyway now.

So I get ready to have my ‘lunch’ – a chicken salad.

I say lunch because I normally have two.

A chicken salad will only fill me up for two hours. About the same as wrap, which is what I used to eat in place of a less healthy sandwich – modern bread is terrible for you (another post coming up on that!). Then I realised how much fat and unnecessary carbs there were in a wrap and as I’m merely eating at my computer desk at work or home, the convenience factor of a hand held wrap verses a knife and fork requiring salad isn’t significant. The salad is healthier and keeps me going for the same amount of time, as the tortilla wrap is replaced by more chicken (filling protein) and tomatoes and greens.

Note that a sandwich would also only fill me for two hours anyway, so it’s not like the healthier option filled me up for any less amount of time.

So usually I’d be hungry around 11, 11:30 and have a salad. Before I got hungry again I’d hit the gym at about 1, and the work out would distract me from the hunger until I got back around 2 and then I could eat a second lunch – another chicken salad, a wrap, or perhaps a ‘prawn cocktail’ – my healthier version, made with low fat yoghurt, lemon juice, chilli powder and chopped cucumbers. Very tasty.

Yet it’s more like 12:30, 1ish now – I’ve lasted about 90 minutes longer. That might not sound like a massive difference, but I’ve only had one dose of the product¬†so far, and I can have two more today.

So instead of having my salad, I take another fibre drink.

This time it takes about an hour until I’m hungry. I have my chicken salad, expecting it to fill me for the usual 2 hours.

It fills me for 3.

Awesome!

So it’s almost 5pm now, and I’ve eaten significantly less than I normally do. I’ve only had one chicken salad.

I decide to have some scrambled eggs, thinking that will last me nicely until around 7pm when I can have my evening meal.

It lasts me until about 7:30pm, and then I realise I can have my third dose.

Down the hatch it goes and I don’t need my evening meal until 8:30pm.

I have a salmon fillet with fried asparagus and a handful of fresh cherry tomatoes. Lovely.

Oh, and a glass of red wine, of course. It would be rude not to!

I normally struggle 2 or 3 hours after my evening meal and get peckish before bed. I end up nibbling on some nuts, or worse, cheese, washed down with – you guessed it – more wine.

But I’ve eaten later, and I’m remaining full for longer.

I eat nothing more before going to bed.

So let’s recap.

Normally I would have eaten:

7:45 Breakfast cereal
10:45 Banana
11:30 Chicken salad
14:00 Chicken salad
16:00 Scrambled eggs
18:00 Evening meal
21:30 Nuts/cheese/snack

Today I’d eaten:

7:45 Breakfast cereal
11:15 Banana
13:45 Chicken salad
16:45 Scrambled eggs
20:30 Evening meal

With the 3 fibre drinks in the day, but remember they have no fat or carbs – just fibre.

I’d managed to cut out a chicken salad – i.e. one small meal normally lasting 2 hours – and the naughty evening nibbles.

In the course of one day, that’s not a huge difference.

But over several weeks… there’s quite an impact.

And things got even better; see my next post coming up soon!!

Now available: A Dieting Aid That Works: Part 2

I just want to point out again that I am not a nutritionist, a dietician or a doctor. I’m a computer scientist! So this is just my take on things and it’s worked well for me. When dieting you should always seek professional help if in doubt.

Daniel fasting diet part 2: Trying it for myself

I’d been very skeptical about the fasting diet my girlfriend had been trying.

She was trying a variation on the 2000 year old ‘Daniel fast’ and only allowed a limited amount of fruit and vegetables; no tea,¬†coffee, dairy, eggs, fish/meat, or alcohol.

Side effects were exhaustion and headaches.

Why bother?

Because it was an excellent way to detox, loose weight, and potentially ‘reboot’ or ‘reset’ the human bodies immune system.

And it had seemed to work well for her, improving her skin condition.

It’s not a convenient diet to do, depending on your work, life and social situation.

But I wasn’t working that week and after seeing her positive results figured that it was worth a shot.

One axiom in life I follow is that you should try anything once. You never know unless you try.

But…

How would I survive without my morning cuppa cha? (translation: cup of tea)

How would I cope with being hungry?

One problem I’ve suffered with pretty much all my life, or at least from my teenage years – I can’t remember much further back¬†than that – is that I’m very regularly hungry.

I’ve never been fat as such as it just makes me feel terrible; I’ve veered towards the overweight border a few times and felt so¬†bad I’ve quickly cut back on my eating or exercised more to get my weight under control. But I’ve struggled to keep ‘the perfect¬†weight’ without having to be very careful with what I eat and ensure I exercise regularly – mainly because I seem to have a¬†problem in filling myself up.

Up until recently, I’ve had to eat pretty much every 2 hours. Occasionally something would fill me up for 3; and yes, I could¬†stuff myself to last longer but then I would feel bloated and sleepy.

It’s not that I could ignore the hunger – a deep rumbling noise that could be heard by anyone in the near vicinity would vibrate¬†through my bowels.

And it would hurt.

If I did ignore it, it would go away. For 10-15 mins, a maximum of 30 mins.

But then it would return.

And this time it meant business.

It would really start to hurt, and I’d have to eat.

On the few occasions I’ve been caught short and was unable to eat, I’d be in pain for a while, and it would finally pass, but¬†then my stomach would be very displeased with me. When I’d finally come to eat something, it would feel like lead in my stomach.¬†I could then have stomach pains for the next few days.

Was something wrong with me?

My work colleague Dave would joke that I had worms and I was feeding them to keep them happy.

I knew he was joking, but I decided to do some research and even asked the doctor once.

It wasn’t that – it was just the way my stomach worked. I needed to eat regularly.

I’ve been assured that this is a healthy way of eating by my once nutritionist and fitness instructor brother.

But trying to get the balance right and eat healthily, in a work environment, or out and about, is tricky, and you end up having
unhealthy snacks.

I won’t go further into this now as I will cover it in my other posts. But recently I’d manage to ‘train my stomach’ to not have¬†to eat so often, via a combination of the Montignac method (see¬†Montignac Diet: Part 1 and Montignac Diet: Part 2) and using Slim XL (post/link coming soon).

Back to the Daniel Fast. I figured I’d give it a go.

Due to my recently improved diet and ability to last a bit longer between eating, I was no longer waking up starving. I was able to get up, refresh myself and dress and check my emails, before making myself a cup of hot lemon water.

Half an hour or so after this, i.e. about an hour after waking, I was starting to get hungry.

So I ate a bowl of tomatoes and onions with a dash of salt and black pepper.

Tasty, but I overdid the onions.

My stomach hurt.

It hurt for quite a while and I wasn’t too happy. I drank some more lemon juice.

Eventually my stomach started to settle. I couldn’t work out if I was hungry or it still hurt. But I concentrated on doing some¬†work on the computer and stopped thinking about it. I had an apple herbal tea that helped settle my stomach further.

I had an apple. It went down ok.

Then some of my girlfriends delicious lecho; basically a ratatouille Рi.e. a stew of onions, courgettes, tomatoes, peppers and aubergines with a bit of chilli powder and other herbs.

We’d also bought a juicer recently (see the posts Juicing: Part 1 and Juicing: Part 2) and I was drinking refreshing juicers such as¬†apple and cucumber, or tomato, carrot and basil.

I survived the day.

I didn’t even get a headache – just a dull ache early in the evening that lasted about half an hour.

I hadn’t struggled with being hungry.

I did feel absolutely bloody knackered.

I collapsed into bed and slept for about 12 hours.

I woke up feeling very refreshed the next day and got up and cracked on with a few jobs around the house.

For the first hour, I’d even forgot about drinking or eating, aside from a glass of water when I’d first woke up.

Then my stomach reminded me of his presence.

I had a lemon drink, and that kept me happy for an hour.

Then I had a bowl of tomatoes – with significantly less onion than last time. It was good.

I snacked on some carrots grated with apple.

I had a apple herbal tea.

I ate another bowl of lecho.

I snacked on some Polish fermented cabbage, a bit like sauerkraut.

I had more freshly juiced low sugar fruit and vegetables.

I didn’t worry about being too hungry; I was managing to fill myself up.

Apparently, when you are only eating food with low glycemic indexes (GI), you body thinks it’s fasting and goes into a different¬†mode. Allegedly it stops sending the “I’m hungry” message to your brain. If I’d added oil or anything with high calories or a¬†high GI value then my body would have stopped it’s process of burning away the bad cells – i.e. fat, damaged body cells, spots¬†and even moles.

You can get rid of moles with this diet?

Again, I become skeptical.

However there does seem to be research that suggests this works, and that you can cure all sorts of¬†body ailments. There’s even talk of restoring eyesight, healing scars, curing infertility, and dare I say it, healing cancer.

I quote again Dr Ewa Dabrowska from the Medical Academy in Gdansk (as in my first post):

“Contemporary civilization is associated with enormous changes in almost all areas of life, including in the field of human¬†nutrition. Natural Foods lost their biological value being replaced by processed food; refining deprived food of precious fiber,¬†several vitamins and micronutrients, while subjecting foods to high temperatures led to the destruction of enzymes and changes in¬†the spatial structure of proteins. The consequence of food processing was the emergence, on the unprecedented scale, of a number¬†of chronic ‚Äúcivilization” diseases of a degenerative character, such as -inflammation of atherosclerosis, and cancer. And yet 100¬†years ago, when food was natural, the main cause of death was infectious diseases such as influenza and tuberculosis, and not ‚Ästas it is today – heart attacks and cancer.

It is known that a man as a biological creature has remained unchanged over the centuries; the cells still have the same needs in
terms of nutrients, as thousands of years ago. If a departure from nature was the cause of civilization diseases, then natural¬†foods based on vegetables and fruits could be an example of causal treatment of these diseases.”

To do all of this though, you need to fast much longer.

I lasted 4 days – which wasn’t bad, considering I’d only meant to do 3 days.

The second day I’d been fine in terms of hunger, but had a swine of a headache for an hour in the evening.

The third day I’d been a lot hungrier, but just ate vast quantities of the delicious lecho stew. I’d been a bit tired later but¬†had no headache.

On the final day I felt absolutely fine and celebrated with a glass of wine in the evening that went absolutely straight to my head!

I’d have been tempted to try a fifth day but we were going away for a few days and it’s just not practical when you’re not at¬†home.

So would I do it again?

Did it cure any of my problems?

My girlfriend is going to do it on an ad-hoc basis. If she has a day where she has no customers or isn’t too busy, is at home and¬†it’s convenient, she will do the diet for 1 day. Maybe even 2 or 3, depending on how she feels.

There’s no harm in doing it, it seems to help her, she feels absolutely fine with it and it also helps with weight loss.

As I do an office job now, with a long commute, it’s not so practical for me to do. On Saturday afternoons I pick up my daughter¬†and look after her until Monday or Tuesday, and we’re are often out and about, and again, it’s simply not practical to do.

But on the occasional Saturday I’ll do it. Or on the occasional day when I can work from home.

Why not? I lost 2 or 3kg – that’s about 6lbs – in 3 or 4 days. And if I’m only doing the odd day here and there I won’t suffer¬†from any headaches or tiredness.

It didn’t cure my red nose and cheeks (possibly¬†Rosacea?) or my damaged tailbone. Nor my -8.5 eye prescription. But I didn’t
expect it to!

It seems to be helping my girlfriend with her skin condition though, so perhaps it could help you.

At the end of the day, people have been doing it for 2000 years, so why not give it a try?

More information can be found in the book Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast.

I just want to point out again that I am not a nutritionist, a dietician or a doctor. I’m a computer scientist! So this is just¬†my take on things and it’s worked well for us. When dieting you should always seek professional help if in doubt.

Daniel fasting diet part 1: Fast? No chance. Me hungry!

As soon as I heard the word ‘fasting’ my thoughts were: no.

I need to eat!!

But the Daniel fast – or at least, the version my girlfriend was trying – actually allows you to eat as much as you want – but restricts you to a limited subset of allowed food.

(NB: we have since learned that to have the maximum benefit, you should also restrict the calorie intake).

The Daniel fast goes way back to bible. Now, I’m not religious, and have no interest in the diet from that side of things; but the original concept of man not being excessive and eating reasonably sits well with me.

There’s lots of evidence to prove that eating less, rather than overeating, leads to better healthy and a longer life span. Experiments¬†were carried out on monkeys for twenty years. One group were able to eat as much food as they liked, whilst another¬†was restricted to eating 30 percent less. The monkeys that ate more were three times more likely to suffer from diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Half of those monkeys died in the twenty year period, whereas only 20 percent of the restricted diet monkeys died. Research also showed shrinkage in certain brain areas of the over eating group.

(NB: Other research has disputed this outcome… but that always seems to be the case with research, they often contradict… the question is which to trust?)

Healthier fasting money on the left, over eating monkey on the right
Healthier fasting money on the left, over eating monkey on the right

My girlfriend wasn’t intending to do this diet long term. She’d read something very interesting about short term fasting, in that it enables the human body and immune system to do a kind of ‘reset’ and repair itself.

Ever again the skeptic, I ummed and ahhed and wanted more evidence.

Yes, my Windows Operating System gets its knickers in a twist and a reboot will sort it out, but does the human body work in the same way?

Quite possibly.

Research has apparently shown that performing a Daniel fast – or similar style fast – has helped to cure or improve numerous skin
and health conditions in a number of people eating excessively. The reasons are due to the way our diets have changed in the last 100 years – we’re just not eating naturally anymore. I quote:

“Contemporary civilization is associated with enormous changes in almost all areas of life, including in the field of human nutrition. Natural Foods lost their biological value being replaced by processed food; refining deprived food of precious fiber, several vitamins and micronutrients, while subjecting foods to high temperatures led to the destruction of enzymes and changes in the spatial structure of proteins. The consequence of food processing was the emergence, on the unprecedented scale, of a number of chronic ‚Äúcivilization” diseases of a degenerative character, such as -inflammation of atherosclerosis, and cancer. And yet 100 years ago, when food was natural, the main cause of death was infectious diseases such as influenza and tuberculosis, and not ‚Äď as it is today – heart attacks and cancer.

It is known that a man as a biological creature has remained unchanged over the centuries; the cells still have the same needs in
terms of nutrients, as thousands of years ago. If a departure from nature was the cause of civilization diseases, then natural foods based on vegetables and fruits could be an example of causal treatment of these diseases.”

(from Ewa Dabrowska, long-time employee of the Medical Academy in Gdansk)

My girlfriend suffers from some skin problems and also has a problem with the membrane in her nose breaking, and she was interested to give the fast a go.

The original diet has been around for more than 2000 years so it couldn’t be all that bad!

There are more extreme versions of the Daniel Fast, but she decided it was worth trying a particular method for 6 days, which I will describe.

She could eat only fruit and vegetables, but only low sugar fruit such as grapefruits, lemon, and apples, and only low Glycemic¬†Indexes (GI) vegetables (see my posts on the “Montignac diet” for more information on GI levels: Montignac Diet: Part 1 and Montignac Diet: Part 2) – so potatoes were out.

No legumes – i.e. lentils or beans.

No rice or bread – GI levels too high.

No meat or fish.

No eggs.

No oil.

No tea.

No coffee.

No milk – no dairy at all, so no yoghurt, butter.

No alcohol!!!!

Crikey, that’s stricter than a fully vegan diet.

How could she cope eating and drinking with such restrictions for 6 days??

I couldn’t do that!

But I did… well, for 4 days. But more on that later…

So what the hell can you eat?

A great substitute for a morning cuppa was half a lemon freshly squeezed into hot water.

An hour or so later, for breakfast, a bowl of chopped tomatoes and onions. A dash of salt and pepper is allowed.

For lunch, steamed broccoli and cauliflower.

For dinner, she made a variation of the Polish dish ‘lecho‘, that was basically a ratatouille – i.e. a stew of onions, courgettes,¬†tomatoes, peppers and aubergines with a bit of chilli powder and other herbs.

Drinks of water, or lemon hot/cold water, or herbal tea (not black tea with fruit flavours but actual herb tea Рwe had a lovely apple flavoured one with also happened to be a natural dieting aid, handy) were allowed.

At the end of the first day, she felt exhausted. On this diet you are taking in significantly less calories than the body normally needs and a side effect can be lack of energy.

But she hadn’t been hungry. She’d made a huge batch of lecho which she could ‘snack’ on, and the cherry tomatoes we’ve discovered¬†at a local fruit and veg shop are just amazing; they taste so fresh and juicy, almost as good as the ones I’ve eaten fresh in¬†Mediterranean climates, so she was quite happy to keep eating those.

She was also able to snack on apples, carrots (raw) and fermented cabbage (think German¬†sauerkraut). We’d also bought a juicer¬†recently (see the posts Juicing: Part 1 and Juicing: Part 2) and we were making delicious tomato and carrot, or apple, carrot and basil¬†juices.

The second day she got the first headache.

These can be side effects of the diet, and another reason I didn’t fancy trying it.

But they only last an hour or so (bear in mind you’re not allowed to take any pills or supplements!) and then pass. At the end of¬†the second day she was even more shattered, and to be honest, looked pretty bad.

My skepticism grew.

However, by the third day, apart from a small headache in the evening, she was fine. She also reported that the skin in her¬†nostril had practically healed – it normally took weeks before it healed after cracking. Was the ‘reboot repair’ working already?

It wasn’t even supposed to work that quickly, so she was even skeptical herself – but nonetheless happy!

Her skin on her back though wasn’t looking good, but she wasn’t worried. One of the side effects is that the condition can get
worse before getting better.

The last 3 days of the fast proceeded smoothly. Her stomach had become accustomed to the diet and she was needing to eat less,
wasn’t feeling hungry, having any more headaches or feeling tired. She lost some weight and felt good.

Her nose had healed!

And her skin on her back was much better.

One thing to note at this stage: this is not a practical diet.

Depending on your work/love/family/social life, this can be very inconvenient.

There’s practically nothing you can eat if you’re eating out.

If you’re at work all day and have limited kitchen facilities you’re in a mess. If you’re tired and have headaches in the¬†afternoon it’s not ideal when you’re at work, and potentially dangerous if you have a long commute.

If you have children and they’re eating a typical diet it’s hard not to finish off their leftovers or have a lick of their ice¬†cream. Again, if you have a headache and no energy in the afternoon and have a young child demanding attention, forget it!

If you are single and out every few nights with friends or on dates, it can be hard not eating out and not drinking alcohol.

My girlfriend was in the early stages of her new business and although she had taken plenty of future bookings, was pretty much
free for at least a week, so it was a good time for her to do the diet.

After her good results and the fact that I was currently not working either (I had some work lined up but not for a few weeks) I¬†figured that I would give it a go for 3 days. Her lecho had been damn tasty and I was quite happy to eat that, and I’d been¬†drinking too much wine recently and a detox would do me no harm.

I will shortly post how I got on.

For further reading, try The Daniel Fast: Feed your soul, strengthen your spirit, and renew your body.

I just want to point out again that I am not a nutritionist, a dietician or a doctor. I’m a computer scientist! So this is just¬†my take on things and it’s worked well for us. When dieting you should always seek professional help if in doubt.

The effects of food on your skin: healthy eating

I never realised how much eating the right food could affect your skin.

Everyone’s heard the old saying, “You are what you eat“. And it’s not just a fable that if you eat too many carrots, you will¬†turn orange – the high beta-carotene content means that if you eat a sufficient amount, your skin will take on an orange¬†pigmentation.

I also knew that too much chocolate and other junk food could make your skin greasy.

What I hadn’t realised was how sensitive your body really is to the fuel you supply it until recently when we experimented on my daughter.

I will rephrase that.

My six year old daughter suffers from a mild eczema. She gets an itchy rash on the insides of her arms, and sometimes on her back and the backs of her knees. She has had this for a few years, and when younger would scratch it excessively, making it much worse and sore.

The doctor advised the usual creams and to some extent they have helped soothe the itching, but they never really prevented it.
DoubleBase was probably the best. My daughter being a little older now has more control over scratching it, but on occasions when it becomes particularly itchy, sometimes succumbs.

In spring this year my girlfriend and I went on holiday with my daughter to Portugal for about 6 days. Her skin was particularly
bad at this stage and the sun tan lotion caused it to itch further.

The first two days were a typical holiday. We ate ice cream, lots of sugary desserts, and my daughter regularly ate sweets from
the resort shop.

Her rashes became very angry looking and the itching almost unbearable.

My girlfriend also suffers from a skin condition and after avoiding ‘bad’ foods and potential allergens such as seafood and nuts,¬†her skin had improved.

Also aware of the fact that sugary foods tended to make my daughter rather hyperactive, and with the combination of a day in the heat of the sun tiring her out resulting in unpredictable behaviour and sleeping patterns, we decided to adopt a much healthier diet for the next 4 days.

No sweets or lollipops, no ice creams, no sugary desserts.

Fortunately for me, my daughter is very logically minded and listened to the plan with reason; after all, the itching was driving her mad. She also loves tomatoes and fruit so we were able to keep her happy with healthy alternatives.

At the end of the holiday, even after using sun lotion and the occasional dip in the chlorine filled pool (which also seems to be a source of irritation), her skin was much better.

Did the diet help? Or was it just that the Mediterranean sun had healed her skin?

A few weeks passed and then she went away for a weeks holiday with her Mum, visiting her Grandmother.

Her Grandmother owns the village store, that stocks a mouth watering array of sweets, chocolate and cakes.

My daughter came back with her skin worse than ever.

A healthy diet for a few weeks and her skin cleared up again.

True, sun tan lotion may be playing a factor too; we try and use a mineral based one now. It seems pretty clear though from the combinations of food and lotions that food is playing a major role in her skin condition.

We now maintain as healthy a diet as we can. She used to get a sweet every morning from ‘the sweet fairy’ if she’d been good/got¬†ready on time/cleaned her room etc. I’ve now phased that out, and try to avoid giving her sweets at all. If I do, I go for the¬†‘healthiest’ ones without preservatives, unnatural colourings and fake sugars (sugar is better than most of the alternatives).¬†Her mum or other relatives occasionally give them to her so I don’t feel she’s missing out; I’m just trying to reduce the overall¬†negative side effects on her.

Don’t get me wrong: on a sunny day, if we pass an ice cream van, we won’t say no.

On a rainy day, if we pass a coffee shop and there’s a particularly appealing looking chocolate cake, we won’t say no.

But we are more reasonably in general and we won’t ‘pig out’ as often as we used to, and we will share a cake, rather than over¬†eating. If there’s several we like and we can’t choose, previously we’d get them all!! Nowadays I argue that we will come back in¬†a few weeks and try the others.

She asked me the other day why she no longer got “sweets from the fairy”. I reminded her of the holiday and the trip to her¬†Grandmothers and the effect that ‘bad’ food had on her skin. She accepted this and has only mentioned it a couple of times since,¬†with the occasional sad ‘awww‘ sound, but gets over it quickly, and is mollified by the occasional ice cream. She also has a¬†dollop of honey on her yoghurt most days – although I only give her half the amount I used to and she doesn’t seem to have¬†noticed.

Besides, honey is a natural sugar Рits the sweets, processed food and other junk food containing the preservatives, colouring and chemical Es that I believe are the source of the problem.

We’ve also cut back on juices; the sugar content is way too high (there was an interesting photo on Facebook showing sugar content in popular drinks: Sugar in drinks). She’s always loved lemons and
is very happy with our ‘home made lemonade’ drink which is simply half a lemon squeezed into soda water. It’s a little sour for¬†some, but she loves it – and it’s very healthy. Although it’s not so good for her teeth so I’m making sure she at least uses a straw!

She still has some dry patches on her arms that occasionally itch, but the bad bits of the back of her knees have gone and it’s¬†rare that her back is affected.

So the next time your skin looks or feels bad, don’t reach for the creams – think about what you ate over the last few days, and¬†try to eat healthier food.

Juicing part 2: The perfect juicer

Continuing on from part 1 of this post, ‘To juice or not to juice‘, we had tried the VonShef juicer and although it was a bargain for the price and would be an ideal solution for many, it just wasn’t up to our demanding carrot juicing needs!

Determined to find the right solution, my girlfriend spent many hours reading through UK and Polish juicing and health forums, product reviews and guides.

And found the Kuvings Cold Press Juicer for £341.

Kuvings Whole (Cold Press) Juicer
Kuvings Whole (Cold Press) Juicer

This juicer promised to deliver everything we wanted – slow pressed healthy juice and no need to chop up carrots!

We always look around for the cheapest price, taking into account any cash-back deals through TopCashBack. I don’t recall which was best at the time as prices seem to fluctuate, but there’s currently a good deal on Amazon and a few for sale on eBay for less than we paid.

When it arrived it was like an early Christmas for my girlfriend.

Unpackaging the contents of the box, she wasn’t disappointed, and kept bringing me parts with a big smile on her face saying “ooo its so small!”¬†and “FEEL the quality!”.

It did feel pretty solid. But would it meet our expectations?

Well, it looked the part – surprisingly small and in a lovely deep red colour (here’s ours in red, there’s a silver one and I believe you can find in black and white too).

We powered her up and started juicing.

The results were very good. Carrots could be fed in whole. No more time consuming chopping! And the results were better than the VonShef; still some froth, but plenty of beautiful juice and NO clogging this time! And it was sooo quiet!

We’ve been using for two or three months now, and we are happy to report success. We are juicing about 5 days a week, getting through approximately 8kg of carrots, 4-6kg of apples, 1kg of beetroot and 20 grapefruits a week.

And it’s coping admirably.

We are now chopping the carrots a little to help ‚Äď it copes with whole carrots but you can see that the unit is under some pressure and the plastic parts are being strained – we are slicing each carrot into 4 pieces (not much effort) in an attempt to prolong the products life.

The juicer has a cap system, whereby you can close the cap and put water in the system to rinse it, and open to cap to wash it through. This works well, but if you are planning on making one stronger flavoured juicer and one milder, consider making the milder one first, as the flavour may remain unless you wash the whole unit properly.

The unit does get warm after about half an hour. However, its rare that we need to juice for longer than that. If you purchase a different juicer to the Kuvings, ensure it has good ventilation near the motor; the VonShef we had previously didn’t.

Being a slow juicer, it’s not fast in it’s operation – but the time saved in chopping fruit & veg that we had to do for the VonShef, and indeed, many other pricier models, is huge and more than compensates – especially to be able to have healthy, slow pressed juice. It’s relatively easy to clean too – it even comes with a brush and a handy circular tool to clean out hard to reach areas.

Ok, it still struggles a bit with leaves. But from all the research we’ve done, most juicers do, except those specifically developed for leaves – and then those ones struggle with harder vegetables such as carrot.

If you are juicing celery, rhubarb, or anything with long fibres, then these must be chopped into short pieces to break the length of the fibres. Due to the nature of the vertical juicer, with a 90 degree angle going down, long fibres can cause the juicer to clog and even become damaged. If you want to regularly make juice mainly with leaves, celery, wheatgrass and other fibrous vegetables, then you may need to buy a horizontal juicer.

So perhaps it’s true – if you want an ideal, complete solution – you do need to spend ¬£3000 on a ‘proper’ slow press juicer rather than a masticating juicer (see the first post, ‘To juice or not to juice‘).

In the real world, I’m sure most people would be happier to compromise and accept an occasional use handy product such as the VonShef at around ¬£66 or a great little regular workhorse Kuvings Cold Press Juicer¬†for around the ¬£300 mark.

Get juicing people!

Some tips for you:

  • Immerse carrots into cold water 30 mins before juicing in order to soften/moisten
  • The slow juicer is slow ‚Äď if you want good results, give it time to process the food through the auger. My girlfriend will only¬†add more into the machine when she sees that not much more pulp is coming out. If you feed in food too fast, you’ll notice that¬†the pulp is wet; i.e. you’re not extracting as much juice as you could
  • It’s good to mix up the soft and hard products (i.e. carrots and apples) bit by bit when feeding into the juicer ‚Äď the harder¬†carrots will then push out the soft pulp from the apple left overs
  • If you do regularly juicing, invest in a composter bin – make use of all that pulp leftover
  • You can also use the almost dry pulp leftovers to make your own home made flavoured vinegars (may post later on that!)