Lasting weight loss is not about what you eat, but why and how you eat. The 5 principals of eating artfully- weight loss is a joyious consequence.Read More
“Our life is frittered away by detail…simplify, simplify.” Henry David Thoreau
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I was in a rush the other day looking for something quick and satisfying to eat between clients. I didn’t have long, and with Claudia in my arms (I can’t believe she’s six months old) my options were limited. So, I grabbed a tomato as it was out on the counter winking at me, (tomatoes should never be kept in the fridge by the way as the cold mutes their flavour). I sliced it, sprinkled it with sea salt, I like Maldon sea flakes, some ground black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. I’m currently using The Lilliput Trading Company extra virgin olive oil, it’s an Irish company by way of olives from Greece, its peppery taste is rich and delicious.
In my dash, I was reminded of the above quote By Thoreau which is included in a selection of beautiful greeting cards I picked up recently. I’ve been turning it over in my mind for weeks, not sure what it was speaking to. But sitting down to my tomato it hit me.
It’s time to simplify what we eat. I mean really simplify.
There are so many beautiful blogs and books available offering the most delectable recipes and I love the return to home cooking which seems to have taken off in recent years, but sometimes it can all seem a bit too much. I know time is an issue for people, also I hate opening a cook book, setting my sights on something that looks divine and then realising that I need to pop to the shops as I’m missing some necessary bits to complete the recipe.
This doesn’t need to be the case.
This week I encourage you simplify, if you use good quality fresh and preferably organic ingredients, and if you slow down and allow the natural flavours to speak, something truly delightful will happen: you will be reminded of the beauty of simplicity.
This morning for breakfast I had a hard-boiled egg, with slices of tomato and cucumber, a drizzle of olive oil and of course the obligatory smattering of salt and pepper. Claudia sucked on some tomatoes too, though perhaps she got more on the floor than in her mouth!
So, consider simplifying in some easy ways, and I think food is a really good place to start. The Italians do this really well with many of their dishes having just a few ingredients, allowing the beauty of the combinations speak for themselves (think Buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and basil).
With this in mind, I also want to draw your attention to a final thought. The food pyramid has been recently amended here in Ireland, where before we were encouraged to have the bulk of our diet comprise of wholemeal cereals and breads, potatoes, pasta and rice, this has been replaced with fruit and vegetables. We are now encouraged to eat between five and seven servings per day, though I heard recently that in France that number is significantly higher, with the goal of twelve servings per day!
So, as you simplify, eat fresh fruit and vegetables in their natural form, or as close as. Substitute jam for some mushed up raspberries on your bread. For your snack forgo an energy ball and have a hunk of cheese and some sliced apple and so on…
While you’re doing that, what other ways could you simplify things and what effect might that have on your quality of life, health and wellbeing?
Food for thought.
P.S. If someone you know might enjoy this, please share it!
I regularly send out these emails to my mailing list. If you like what you see, why not sign up here?
For some of you it's been a while as I've been busy getting to grips with the joys of juggling motherhood and client work, so I've had very little time to write anything at all (other than the finishing touches to my new book which comes out in October!). So mea culpa for my absence.
On to todays topic. Pleasure....
We recently spent a glorious couple of days at Mimi Thorisson’s Manger workshop in Bordeaux. As a devoted Francophile I stumbled across Mimi’s blog while no doubt googling something to do with France and food. I was immediately drawn to her message which seemed to me to be: jouir! This resonated as it's a sentiment which I advocate in all things; life, food, friends, work…
The workshop runs out of Mimi’s home in the heart of the vineyards in the Medoc region of France. It is a celebration of good food, wine and company. Here I learned so much more than how to keep a soufflé from collapsing... what I came away with is a sense of the importance of pleasure around food. Sourcing it (from people who put love into their produce which translates in taste), cooking it ( with love, patience and with others), eating it ( with a glass of something that will compliment the meal), in a beautiful setting (effortlessly achieved with some flowers and candles- regretfully we can't all move to the south of France!), and being present in the moment.
Mimi told me about a study from the 1970s which I immediately looked up and want to share with you, because it is absolutely fascinating. I hope it will give you pause, as it clearly supports my food and weight loss philosophy. In fact, this study led me to some more interesting research which has helped me to understand the magic of our innate biological imperative to enjoy our food, something I have long advocated for from a psychological perspective, but I now understand the physiological necessity too.
Permit me, if you will, to get a bit science-y here and please read to the end. I guarantee you’ll be glad if you do as I think it will change how you approach food forever…
(A bold claim I know).
Five biochemical reasons why enjoying your food is essential…
1. The importance of eating food you actually like.
This is the study which Mimi told me about that initially sparked my interest. Researchers fed two groups of women, one Swedish and one Thai, a spicy Thai meal. The Thai women, who presumably liked the meal more than the Swedish women did, absorbed almost 50 percent more iron from it than their Swedish counterparts. A second condition followed: the meal was again served, but this time it was blended together into an almost unrecognisable mush. Interestingly, when the meal was served as a mushy paste, the Thai women absorbed 70 percent less iron than they had before, from the exact same meal!
The researchers concluded that food which is unfamiliar, (Thai food to Swedish women), or unappetising, (mush rather than solid food), is less nutritious than food that looks, smells and tastes good to you.
The explanation can be found in the digestive process itself, in the relationship between our gut and our brain.
Imagine sitting in your favourite restaurant before a delicious plate of your favourite fare. The sights and smells evoke pleasure and tell your brain that the meal will be enjoyable. The brain responds by pushing your salivary glands into high gear and ordering your stomach to secrete more gastric juices, resulting in your body absorbing more nutrients as your mind and body have prepared themselves for the food you’re about to eat.
This is in stark contrast to a pre-prepared diet dinner. This sight will result in your brain sending a less enthusiastic message to your mouth and stomach, causing the food to be less thoroughly digested and metabolised.
So the nutritional value of food is a synergistic combination of the nutrients in the food and our reception of that food. If we remove enjoyment from the equation, the nutritional value of the food diminishes.
Isn’t this fascinating? I think so. But it’s what I always suspected.
2. The life sustaining function of taste
Another study, which it upsets me to share as I hate animal testing, further supports this idea.
Scientists destroyed the nerve centres of a group of rats so that they couldn’t taste anything. The control group of rats, who luckily maintained their nerve centres and the rats without the ability to taste, were fed the exact same food. Alarmingly over a short period of time, the rats who had lost their ability to taste died, while their flavour-filled counterparts were thriving.
On autopsy, the researchers found that even though the rats had eaten the same healthy amount of food as the control group, they had died of malnutrition. Their organs had wasted away as if they had been starved, indicating that because they could not taste the food, they could not absorb the nutrients they needed to sustain themselves.
3. Our bodies natural and indeed magical system
Add to this the fact that when you eat fat or protein your body produces the chemical cholecystokinin. CKK aids digestion by stimulating the small intestines, pancreas, gallbladder, and stomach. Once CKK is released it then shuts down appetite by sending a message to the hypothalamus to say you’ve had enough. Finally, it stimulates the sensation of pleasure in the cerebral cortex to tell you to enjoy. All this is triggered as soon as we eat fat or protein.
This magical little chemical functions to metabolise our meal, tell us when to finish our meal and tells us to enjoy it while we eat it-isn’t the body truly marvellous?!
So to feel satiated we must recognise that pleasure, metabolism and appetite all function in a synergistic way if we allow them to. Unfortunately, we are so used to thinking of pleasure as completely separate to the nutritional process. Worse still, we are now conditioned to think that if we’re enjoying our food it's probably not good for us as we worry that we won’t be able to stop eating it. My clients often tell me that they will actually avoid the food they enjoy all together for fear of binging. Yet the effects of CKK indicate the exact opposite is true.
4. We cannot escape the biological imperative to enjoy our food!
Interestingly, one of the chemicals which increases our appetite is neuropeptide Y, which tells us to search for food. This chemical is naturally elevated in the morning as we are in need of fuel for the day. Its also raised when we are deprived of food, especially when we are dieting, by sending the message to encourage us to eat carbohydrates. If you eat mainly low calorie food or if you restrict yourself to a bland diet, your body will respond by chemically demanding pleasurable foods to feel satiated. So we really need to recognise that neuropeptide Y indicates that we cannot escape the biological imperative to experience pleasure and enjoy our food!
5. Endorphins also burn fat...
Further compelling evidence that we must enjoy comes from how endorphins function. Endorphins, typically associated with pleasure, are reproduced naturally throughout the body, most notably in the brain and the digestive system. One of their most significant functions is to make us feel happy.
Just by eating our endorphins are elevated, which supports the idea that eating is an inherently pleasurable experience. Another function of endorphins is that they stimulate fat mobilisation, so the same chemical that makes you happy also makes you burn fat! Add to this the fact that the greater the endorphins release in your digestive tract, the more blood and oxygen will be delivered there. This translates into increased digestion, assimilation and essentially greater efficiency in burning calories.
So that’s the science-y bit, but what does it mean?
While I was at Mimi’s magical cookery workshop we ate delicious fresh food with lots of butter, cream, sugar, fat and flavour accompanied by a vast array of fabulous wines. Mimi is the picture of health and we discussed her attitude to wellbeing. She, like me, believes in eating the best quality food available and enjoying it. This makes perfect sense as our body is hardwired to find pleasure in eating good food and this in turn fuels our metabolism- it really is a beautiful system, which we should appreciate and respect.
So many people claim to be food lovers, yet they feel guilty when they eat ‘bad’ foods, or they eat too fast to savour the taste. In this case the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system can only register a minimum amount of pleasure and so we are physiologically driven to eat more, because we are chemically compelled to seek out pleasure and expect it in our food. If we’re eating ‘diet food’ we will maintain a hunger that we cannot fully satiate.
So I encourage you to shift your thinking. Stop trying to override your body’s natural urges to enjoy. Listen to your body, eat foods you enjoy and feel the pleasurable feelings, trusting that these are triggering your metabolism and also triggering feelings of fullness. We all have a beautifully balanced system within us, its time to allow it to thrive!
Karina Melvin BSc. Psych., MSc. Clinical Psych.
Registered Practitioner APPI
Psychologist & Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist
Its unusually quiet here this morning, and its the first chance I've had to steel a few minutes to write in a couple of weeks. A LOT has been going on, much of which is very exciting! Its wonderful to see that spring is almost upon us, indeed here in Ireland it's in full swing! The daffodils have opened and are brightening up the roadsides and even the most modest of gardens at the moment.
This past few months I have been sowing a few seeds of my own, some of which are coming into full bloom now, some later in the year. One being the new website! I've been working away on this new one, and though I really loved the old one, made by two fantastically talented sisters, Kate and Elizabeth, sadly the site had to evolve. As a complete wordpress novice, I needed something easier to use and change whenever I felt the whim. The result of which, you're seeing here, I hope you like it!
I will, over the next weeks, be adding to the recipes and in time I hope to have a rich selection of easy, practical and tasty recipes for you to enjoy. To have a peruse now, take a look here. If you're not terribly adventurous in the kitchen, may I recommend my 'kitchen sink' brown bread, its terifically easy to make, and hard to mess up, it tastes wonderful and is the perfect base for innumerable combinations. Really its an essential staple and I always have a loaf on the go.
The other 'seed', is something I'm really excited to share with you, and that's the Artful Eating book which will be out later this year. For the past few months, while growing our little little one, I've also been growing this book, which I cannot wait to share with you! It will be filled with recipes, stories, practical tools and strategies to help you achieve a balanced life where you can enjoy food and your body. So many of you have asked me if a book was in the pipeline and I'm delighted that very soon you'll be able to enjoy it!
I usually like to include something practical and helpful in here, so I have an extremely helpful post I'd like you to check out today, its called: Discover how to reprogram your mind to eat less and enjoy food more. Really the title is the essence of what Artful Eating is all about!
I couldn't end this post without mentioning our darling little girl, Claudia, here with her doting Father!
I've spent the past few weeks getting to grips with being a new mom and finding a way to balance working with my incredible clients, being a breastfeeding mother and managing to maintain my sanity! Simply put, this has only been possible with both support and preparation. If you haven't already, do check out my advice on the invaluable benefits of preparation here. I also have the privilege of working from home, which makes life so much easier, and I have the support of a husband who works from home too, so we are a great tag team!
But I now understand, more than ever, the importance of carving out time for oneself, and creating helpful daily rituals which support our mental and physical wellbeing. If you follow me on social media, you already know that this month I am encouraging you to do the '21 day gratitude challenge', check it out here. There is so much scientific research to support the incredible benefits of gratitude, so I encourage you to join us, you'll be so glad you did!
I hope you are having a wonderful weekend, it was St Patricks day yesterday, a national day which celebrates all things Irish, we enjoyed good food and wonderful company with family visiting from London and the Netherlands. Lots of singing, dancing and reminiscing!
Do get in touch and let me know what you think of the new site, I'd love to hear from you!
For far too long we have been influenced by weight loss and diet regimes that profligate the idea that we should prohibit foods we love. First fat was bad, then sugar, now we are being overloaded with messages that tell us we should be eating mainly fruit and vegetables and juicing everything to lose weight! These diets seem almost to be a fad, leaving us with the question are there even any diets that work? Every aisle of the supermarket is filled with all sorts of diet foods, and diet versions of our favourite foods. They have even now developed a 'low-fat cream' - isn't this an oxymoron?!
I love living and eating in Dublin, Ireland. However, while I was on holiday last year- a two week cruise around the Adriatic- I discovered that unwittingly I had ended up in a pseudo-science experiment for the taste buds. We were travelling on Cunard's Queen Elizabeth, a cruise with an illustrious past, favoured by the British Royalty no less- five star all the way! There was fancy fine dining with silver service and we were required to get all dressed up in our glad rags for the evening meal. It was truly magical.
DIETS THAT WORK
A DIET FILLED WITH QUALITY FOOD
However very quickly I noticed something inescapable, the food on-board- which was beautifully prepared and presented- couldn't hold a candle to the simple fare we were eating on the islands and inlets we stopped into each day. The fresh food simply **TASTED BETTER**. It was fresh, less salty, bursting with flavour, simple, uncomplicated and so fabulously filling.
While this is something I have been an advocate of for a long time- good quality ingredients and fresh produce (the ultimate key to achieve weight loss) - the contrast in our daily fare was so striking that it left a lasting impression. I still remember the mouth-watering simple Greek salad we enjoyed in a tiny little restaurant in Crete (see the recipe below).
Now I am not suggesting that we all hop on the first plane to Greece, considering the country's financial climate it's probably not the best idea right now. However the message is simple:
EAT WELL- AND YOU WILL EAT LESS!
Do your very best to eat good quality ingredients- you will taste the difference and as a result YOU WILL EAT LESS because tasty food is packed with flavour! Weight loss will be a joyous consequence.
I think this really counts with vegetables and fruit. Always, where you can, buy organic. I order from the organic supermarket and they deliver to my door. I get a MASSIVE box of fruit and vegetables which are in season and so taste delicious! This box costs 20 euro (including delivery) and consists of the bulk of my food shop for the week! Buying organic doesn't have to cost the earth. We should aim to eat less, waste less and eat well.
ENJOYING OUR FOOD IS THE KEY TO DEVELOPING A HEALTHIER RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD.
This goes for sweet things too- you are MUCH BETTER OFF spending 3 euro on a 100 gram bar of delicious, organic fair-trade chocolate than you are buying a mars bar or a multi-pack of bars for the same price. You will eat less and savour the delicious flavour- win win- right?
- Know your food budget and make it count.
- Remember if it tastes amazing you will need less of it to feel full as you savour each mouthful!!
Time and again it is recognised that the Mediterranean diet is the healthiest for us- those who eat this diet, on average live longer and are healthier. The bonus is that the Mediterranean diet is so yummy!
I’ve included an amazing recipe below. Check it out, eat it, savour it, and enjoy every bite! If you are looking for more support in your weight loss journey- drop me a line at email@example.com I'd love to hear from you!
Mouth-Watering Greek Salad:
- Roughly slice a couple of deliciously ripe tomatoes per person.
- Roughly chop half a cucumber.
- Peel and thinly slice a red onion.
- Add Kalamata (black) olives.
- 200g of feta cheese- cut into thick slices or go authentic and leave it as one big slab on top of the salad!
- Add half a thinly sliced green pepper.
- Most people use dried oregano, but it is much better with fresh- Scatter either over the salad.
- Add a splash of good quality extra virgin olive oil.
- Optional- add a squeeze of lemon.
- Sprinkle with some sea salt flakes.
- Toss together and pile on to a small dish and ENJOY!!!
Make sure the tomatoes are really ripe and juicy- this is key! Also the cucumber should be chilled and from the fridge, resist the desire to peel it. This salad must be served cold to be truly refreshing.
If you want to achieve your dream body without the pain of dieting check out my Artful Eating mini course. This is a free training where I will show you how to lose weight without any drastic diet or fitness regime. I have helped so many fantastic people fall in love with food and their body- weight loss is a joyous consequence!
Thanks so much for reading, if you like this post or feel someone you know could benefit for the message please share!
At a meeting this week I was asked how I get so much done. I was a bit taken aback by the question, because I don't really think about it consciously. So I gave a very tangental answer. But the question was sitting with me later in the week when a client spoke about how they found being prepared and organised for the week ahead quite challenging.
The question persisted.
We headed West late last night to visit my in-laws, they live between Manchester in England and Louisburgh, a tiny little village on the west coast of Ireland. When you walk up the little lane to the beach, you really feel like you are at the edge of the world, staring off into the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean. I live on the seafront looking out at the Irish Sea, and this has a completely different feel altogether. It's comforting and cosy and contained. So last night, after a very busy week, we drove from one edge of this little island to the other.
I woke this morning and was struck by something I had actually long forgotten. Waking up to complete silence. No noise, no cars, just silence. It was surprising to actually notice it. And with that realisation, something else struck me. Time seemed to have completely slowed down. If I were at home right now, I would have plenty to be getting on with. But here it's quiet, peaceful and very relaxed.
This reminded me of a motto of sorts I've acquired recently enough which has really helped me to carve out the time required to do the things I need and want.
My husband is a Rolling Stones fan ( though who isn't when all is said and done!). A few months ago I was overwhelmed, juggling a fair few plates and I was feeling frazzled to say the least! One evening, seeing how overwhelmed I was, he put this record on:
Now I've heard this song so many times, I'm sure we all have! But listening to it in that moment, late one night while I was desperately trying to multitask, something happened. Looking at Liam relaxing on the couch, I actually started to hear the lyrics, it felt as if Mick Jagger was trying to tell me something...
"Time is on my side..."
I love this sentiment and I carry it with me everywhere now. Its as if recognising this fact had altered time, I now feel like I can squeeze more out of my day without feeling squeezed. As I often say, it's all about the mind set!
I'm sharing this with you because I think it's the secret to my ability to be an organised person and get the things I need to do, done and I think this is especially important if you have little ones. In fact I would say it is a necessary rather than something to strive for.
I'm talking about this with you because our ability to plan and prepare when it comes to weight loss is an essential tool which will really help you move towards your weight loss goal. So today I want to share the strategies which I find really effective because I fundamentally believe it is key to prepare meals in advance. But first let's look at what happens when we aren't prepared:
If you don't have the right foods preprepared in your cupboard or freezer, you will reach for something you think is convenient, but may not actually be the best thing for you to eat. This leads to the inevitable feeling of guilt and frustration. So preparing meals in advance and always having what you need on hand will prevent any unhelpful snap decisions.
How to prepare meals in advance:
1. Your freezer is definitely your friend, so start by clearing it out and assessing what you have and what you actually will use in there. It can become a dumping ground for things you think you'll use at a later time, but you forgot about. So throw out anything thats been lingering in there too long and doesn't seem enticing to you.
2. Once you have space, it's time to get organised. Every week I block off about two hours to prepare meals in advance for us to eat during the week. This may sound like a lot, but think about it. It means you'll make a big mess only once, and you will have everything you need conveniently available for the week ahead.
We take time out to clean the house, do the washing or watch our favourite tv show, so carving out time so that you and your family can eat healthily seems like a good idea to me!
3. Ordering your food online is an excellent idea. It saves oodles of time and means you only purchase exactly what you need. You can organise when to have it delivered so that it can coincide with your weekly food prep time. If ordering online isn't an option for you, then make a list before you go to the shop. Decide what you want to make for the week ahead and only buy what you need. Try to use what's in season.
4. I usually cook up a large batch of about three different dishes and freeze them in individual portions, that way they are easy to reheat. One I'll do in the slow cooker. A favourite in my house is bean chilli, the recipe for which I'll add below. And then I'll have something going in the oven and a few things on the hob. I also make a large batch of soup as part of preparing meals in advance for the week. At the moment with the occasional sunny day, I'm loving the opportunity to make gazpacho (recipe below), which I find freezes really well.
I love listening to some music or a podcast and relaxing as I cook. This is time that slows down as I enjoy creating and tasting. It most certainly isn't a chore. I feel this way because I know that we will have delicious food for the week.
5. During my prep time I also pick and wash the salad as this can be quite a time consuming job, and it lasts a good few days in the fridge. I encourage you not to buy the pre washed stuff from bags, it doesn't taste as good and its covered in chlorine and chemicals to keep it looking fresh, not very healthy!
6. I'll typically make some hummus and maybe roast some peppers and preserve them in sunflower oil, both of which easily jazz up a salad, or open sandwich.
7. I also prep my green smoothie ingredients by chopping everything up and freezing them in individual portions, so they are ready to whip out in the morning in no time.
So I have thought about and prepared easy dinners, soups, lunch accoutrements, my breakfast green smoothie, but perhaps the most important piece is always having something delicious and good to snack on!!
8. To that end, I also bake a lemon or courgette (zucchini) cake or some scones which freeze really well. I first slice the cake into individual slices so that I can pop it in the toaster if it takes my fancy. This also works with a scone.
9. My fridge always has natural yogurt, as I adore a little tea cup of this with honey, crushed pralines and a tablespoon of oats. This is a quick snack which works for me any time of the day (though it is typically my breakfast staple). I suppose it replaces the bowl of cereal which I would have snacked on in my youth! Having hummus in the fridge is another staple which will come in handy should you feel a bit hungry, with carrot sticks, it's just delicious!
10. Finally, always have your favourite fruit in a bowl somewhere visible. If you make a habit of reaching for a piece of fruit to snack on as opposed to a slice of toast or a biscuit, you will quickly start to notice the difference. I always have pink ladies as they are my absolute favourite. I think it's really worth buying the best quality fruit you can, as here you really will taste the difference. We are now very used to having our fruit in juice or smoothie form, but nothing beats the smell of peeling an orange. Eating fruit in its natural state, takes time, tastes delicious and will really fill you up. Make sure the fruit is visible as studies have shown that people who have fruit somewhere visible in their home are on average likely to weight a significant amount less than people who have a toaster or breakfast cereal on view!
The idea here is that you should always have what you need to hand, that this should become an enjoyable part of the fabric of your week. Remember, time is on your side and you will be surprised at how easy it is to prepare meals in advance. Once you commit to incorporating an activity into your life there will always be time for it. Carve out a time that suits you, get prepping and the following week you will not miss a step as you have an abundance of the right foods to nourish you as you move towards your goal weight.
What do you find most challenging about being prepared? Or do you have some helpful tips you'd like to share? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences so email me firstname.lastname@example.org I respond to every email I receive!
To falling in love with food and flavours,
Both of these recipes freeze really well and so are great for making in batches....
Three Bean Chilli
1 tblsp veg oil
1 large carrot, chopped into small dice
1 large stick celery, chopped into small dice
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 red chilli (if using) finely chopped or 1/2-1tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tblsp tomato puree
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick, or piece of cassia bark
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp soy sauce
1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
1 pepper, small dice
100g each dried kidney beans, aduki beans and black eye beans, or a 400g can of each, drained
Handful of chopped coriander leaves and chopped scallions.
- If using dried beans, soak and cook as recommended on the packaging prior to starting the chilli
- Add the carrot, celery, onion, garlic and fresh chilli if using to the oil in a large wide pan on a medium hot heat and sweat until onions are translucent, about 10 mins
- Add tomato puree and stir for 30 seconds, then add the cumin, coriander, bay and cinnamon, smoked paprika and dried chilli if using. Stir fry for a minute.
- Add chopped tomatoes, chopped pepper and soy sauce, bring to simmer, cover and leave on low heat for 10-20mins, stirring occasionally, until veg is cooked through. Adding pepper at this step leaves a bit of crunch. If you like it more cooked add with other veg at step one.
- Add all the beans, stir, bring to simmer, cover and cook on low heat for 10-15 minutes until beans are hot. Keep an eye on it, add a couple of tblsp of water if it is a bit dry.
- Add chopped coriander leaves, chopped scallions and serve with a dollop of sour cream or some chopped avocado. Delicious!
About 2 pounds of ripe red tomatoes, roughly chopped into chunks
1 green pepper, cored, seeded and roughly cut into chunks
1 cucumber, about 8 inches long, peeled and roughly cut into chunks
1 small mild onion (white or red), peeled and roughly cut into chunks
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, more to taste
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more to taste, plus more for drizzling
- Combine tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, onion and garlic in a blender or, if using a hand blender, in a deep bowl. (If necessary, work in batches.) Blend at high speed until very smooth, at least 2 minutes, pausing occasionally to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
- With the motor running, add the vinegar and 2 teaspoons of sea salt. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil. The mixture will turn bright orange or dark pink and become smooth and emulsified, like a salad dressing. If it still seems watery, drizzle in more olive oil until texture is creamy.
- Transfer to a large pitcher (preferably glass) and chill until very cold, at least 6 hours or overnight.
- Before serving, adjust the seasonings with salt and vinegar. If soup is very thick, stir in a few tablespoons ice water. Serve in glasses, over ice if desired. A few drops of olive oil on top are a nice touch.
I’ve been asked how one can maintain or lose weight without counting calories.
This is a great question, as the central tenet of most diets is to monitor our daily food intake, either through calorie counting or by some abbreviated from of this, created by the likes of Slimming World or Weight Watchers. Yes, while we stick to the rigors of the numbers we do lose the weight, but once we emancipate ourselves (over give up) then we are in trouble! The weight piles back on without the structure and limitations telling us what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’... so how can we lose weight without counting calories or sticking rigidly to a diet?
Please permit me to digress a little in order to answer this question...
"To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge." Copernicus, 1473-1543.
Copernicus' major work 'On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres' was finished by 1530. Its central theory was that the Earth rotates daily on its axis and revolves yearly around the sun. He also argued that the planets circled the Sun. This challenged the long held view that the Earth was stationary at the centre of the universe with all the planets, the Moon and the Sun rotating around it. This theory challenged convention that the earth was the centre of the universe and it took a long time for this fact to become accepted!
This is always the case with anything that differs from the consensus and our inclination to stick with what we know, is precisely why we struggle to move away from dieting and calorie counting.
Because it has been part of the fabric of human society for so long.
The idea of counting the number of calories in food took off after Doctor Lulu Hunt Peters published Diet & Health: With Key to the Calories, in 1918. It sold millions of copies throughout the 1920s, becoming the first diet bestseller. She urged women to view food as calories, and not to consume more than 1,200 a day.
We have spent almost a century counting calories and in that time our weight has steadily increased along with a general dissatisfaction with our weight. Something is going terribly wrong.
I hope by now you know that I’m passionate about helping you to stop dieting. In fact, it’s my mission!
I want everyone to feel freedom with food and to love their body.
Because diets simply don’t work. Research has shown that the most likely outcome from dieting is to actually put on weight. So this should be incentive enough to throw out the rulebook, right?
I’ve a little story I want to share with you that I hope you find as fascinating as I did, about a woman called Emily who most definitely threw out the rule book...
Emily O’Mara is a 126-pound woman who was on a mission of her own. She wanted to find out who served the best cheeseburger in her hometown of Louisville. (Louisville is allegedly the home of the birth of the Cheeseburger). So Emily decided she was going to eat two burgers a week for a year, which roughly equated to 101 burgers!
How can this woman's mission help advance mine? Her experience can teach us a lot about how we eat...
She wanted to find the best cheeseburger and fries in Louisville, keeping in mind that “the best” is a subjective measure. Emily is a self confessed fast-food foodie. As she says herself “I love it. I know it’s not good for me, and I did read that book Fast Food Nation. It made me very, very hungry. I watched the documentary Super Size Me. I thought it was the best commercial for McDonald’s I’d ever seen” (!).
Now when Emily first thought about eating two cheeseburgers a week for a year, she was beyond excited. But she hadn’t really thought it through. Her friends were concerned, wasn't she afraid that she would gain loads of weight and her cholesterol would go sky high?
She resolved to get a cholesterol test the first and last day of her study and she weighed herself about once a month and monitored her blood pressure.
Based on all her results, and calculations (she had a complex marking system), the best burger was from a little family-owned drive-in here in Louisville called Dizzy Whizz. They’ve been around since 1946. They do not try to be old-school, they just are old-school. Serving up a very greasy burger with tasty French fries.
The winner: Dizzy Whizz was ranked No. 1 by Emily O’Mara for best cheeseburger and fries.
After this year of two cheese burger meals a week, what do you think happened Emily?
How much weight do you think she gained?
Emily is about five-foot-five-and-a-half and her beginning weight was 126 pounds, with a total cholesterol of 160. Anything under 200 is good.
Her LDL — that’s the bad cholesterol — was 93. Anything under 100 is good, and her HDL — that’s good cholesterol — was 49. It should be over 50 if you’re female, so she just at the break there of having good cholesterol.
Then she ate two cheeseburgers and fries a week for a year....
After this mission, she weighed exactly126 pounds and her cholesterol was 179!
So her cholesterol rose a bit, but was still safe. In fact her good cholesterol actually improved. It went up to 56, which for a woman, again, it should be over 50. Her LDL, the bad cholesterol, was 107. That’s a little bit high, but not too bad.
What can Emily’s experience teach us?
In an effort to offset her bi-weekly indulgence, you might think that Emily stuck to a strict diet and counted every calorie. Surely that’s the only way she managed to stave off heavy weight gain.
NOT AT ALL!
How Emily Lost Weight Without Counting Calories
She did exactly what I encourage all of you Artful Eaters to do. And it clearly worked!
- First she made sure she got at least 10,000 steps or in that range everyday, by downloading a pedometer to her phone. She also increased her exercise by walking as many places as she could. She would make the effort to walk to the burger joints as opposed to driving, or if they were too far to walk, she would ride her bike.
- Secondly, because she was so afraid of gaining weight from these burgers and fries, that she ate much more healthily than she normally did. She didn’t go to fast-food restaurants except the twice per week days. She avoided bakeries and fried food, pizza or pasta.
Without calorie counting or overly monitoring her food intake, she well compensated for the fact that she was eating burgers and fries twice a week. Her consciousness went up about her health on all those days when she wasn’t eating burgers and fries. She ate much healthier.
So a year of eating cheeseburgers and fries twice a week turned her into a healthier eater overall. “And I didn’t even realise it, because I was so focused on those burgers and fries,” Emily acknowledged.
Emily’s compensatory behaviours were simple, easy and effective. Much simpler than calorie counting, right?
Despite it being entirely possible to lose weight without counting calories, there is still a major push towards focusing on calories in and out and on intensive exercise regimes.
Yet all calories are not created equal. Now, this is a much larger discussion than we’re going to have now but, briefly, it’s worth remembering that a calorie is technically a unit of energy — in this case, the energy that fuels the human body. In that regard, a calorie isn’t a very precise proxy for what we think of as “nutrition.”
Two thousand calories in a day that are all carbohydrates will have a very different effect than 2,000 calories of proteins or fats. Also when we focus on the calorie count, we tend to eat more processed foods, which are less satisfying and higher in sugars. We also tend to be more hungry as we are constantly monitoring what we eat and are working from a position of deprivation which is not sustainable!
So, using calories as your only measure of nutrition can be a bit misleading. Like using speed — miles-per-hour — as your only measure of how good a driver you are. There are plenty of good fast drivers and plenty of lousy slow drivers; you also need to know how to steer, and hit the brakes.
It is entirely possible to lose weight without counting calories. Calorie counting is tedious, misleading and frankly unsustainable in the long term. I think Emily’s approach is much more enjoyable and manageable, don’t you?
In Emily’s own words, “what I realise now that I’m thinking back on it, and I didn’t realise it at the time, is that if you want to get on like a diet, or you want to be more healthy and you talk to a dietician or personal trainer, the first thing they’re going to say to you is “you need to count calories. You need to weigh your food. You need to have eight to 11 servings of whole grains. You need to have two to three servings of fruit everyday. Blah, blah, blah.” And instead of being obsessed with all that, I was obsessed with the burgers and the fries! I just feel like I inadvertently kinda just turned, turned the diet conventional wisdom on it’s head. And I disciplined the fun, which sounds like an oxymoron. But it really was fun, and it really was disciplined. And, like I said, I didn’t even worry about like, “Oh, today I’ve gotta have fruits and vegetables. I just ate ’em. I didn’t even think about it.”
Emily’s cheeseburger diet – if you even want to call it a diet – was based on what you might call compensatory behaviour. If you take on some extra risk in one area of your life, you might need to compensate by adding some precautionary behaviour in another area.
Some of us are certainly better at this than others, but it is a nice act of faith, isn’t it? Faith in ourselves, and our ability to self-regulate, as opposed to relying on some top-down guideline that may produce the behaviour you’re hoping for.
Emily’s experience can teach us a lot about balance.
What I am encouraging you to do, is be like Emily while she was on her Cheeseburger Mission!
Do enjoy indulgences, but balance them out (as you can see my husband joyously doing here!).
As much as I love cooking and enjoying the fruits of my labour, I also love going out to eat. And you can be sure I do not opt for the soup and the salad! I have a starter, main course and dessert thank you very much!
But the next day, I will naturally eat less, as I compensate for last nights indulgences.
This is easy to do, practically and psychologically as I don’t feel like I am depriving myself. I naturally seek out lighter foods, as I’m not that hungry and still feel pleasantly satisfied from last night's indulgence.
Isn’t this a much better way of being than constantly counting and limiting what you can eat?
You can enjoy the good things in life, but instead of focusing on calories in and calories out, eat a diet which comprises mainly of healthy non processed foods.
Lose weight without counting calories.
Be active and try and hit 10,000 steps per day. It’s not that hard!
Eat delicious foods you enjoy but balance it out.
I challenge you to stop calorie counting for one week.
Yes, to completely stop monitoring what you eat and to throw out the rule book. Instead eat try eating a varied diet of healthy non-processed foods with some delicious indulgences thrown in. I know you will be surprised to see what happens….
Now it’s your turn.
Are you consumed by calorie counting?
Do you feel out of control if you aren’t constantly monitoring what you eat?
Do you trust yourself enough to shift towards balance and away from control and deprivation?
It may be that you need a little bit of help shifting towards a life where you are naturally balanced and feel freedom with food and flavours. If you feel this way, get in touch! I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences so email me at email@example.com. I respond to every email I receive.
To falling in love with food and flavours...
I was out with some dear friends at the weekend. We went to one of these quintessentially Irish pubs with lots of old men propped up at the bar drinking creamy pints of Guinness.
(In my opinion there are only two spots in the world that serve the best Guinness, The Cobblestone in Smithfield- a very old and authentic traditional music haunt in the heart of Dublin, and Murray’s on Inisbofin, a tiny Island off the west coast of Ireland. I don't know if it's the setting, and I’m not typically a fan of the black stuff, but from these taps it tastes like cream and I LOVE cream! This reminds me... I also once had a pint of Guinness in an Irish bar on Gili Trawangan, which is another tiny Island, though off the coast of Lombok so much less windswept. Interestingly, both Inisbofin and Gigli Tarwangan have a lot in common; you can leisurely stroll around both Islands and they both have an Irish bar! Well on Boffin that's not so surprising...)
I’m open to challenge on the best pint of Guinness, so do send in your suggestions! But today I want to talk about something I observed during that lovely dinner and something I hear my clients talk about all the time, and that's GUILT. Now, I want you to eat guilt-free!
One of our dinner companions was really struggling to enjoy the meal out, as they were on a diet and desperately trying to lose weight. They found ordering really difficult, opting for the salad and skipping the starter, while the rest of us enjoyed the fabulous choice of fresh homegrown offers on the menu. By the time it came to dessert, our uncomfortable dinner companion seemed eager to leave, as they clearly couldn’t enjoy the meal and did not want to sit around and watch as we indulged in some seriously tasty Irish cheeses and homemade brown bread ice cream.
If you have never tried brown bread Ice cream then this is something I insist you remedy immediately! I still remember the first time my mother made it for us, I must have been about seven and I genuinely thought I was tasting a little bit of heaven. I always order it if it’s on the menu, but my mom's version is still my all time favourite (see my recipe in the recipe bank).
Our dinner companion did not enjoy the meal. In fact, speaking with them after, they told me how difficult it was to be ‘good’ and that it only seemed to work for them when they didn’t go out to socialise and when they avoided alcohol and banished all things ‘bad’ from the house. This included things like butter, cheese and bread by the way.
My dear friend was caught up in something I think we all can identify with. This oscillation between being ‘good’ and ‘bad’ when it comes to food. What is more concerning is that their mood and sense of well being was tied to what they ate. So if they had a good day, they would feel happy with themselves and if they had a bad day they would feel absolutely rotten about themselves, which would generally lead to more bingeing on the ‘bad’ stuff.
I can actually identify with this myself, as in my first trimester, my cravings were so bizarre! For the first time in years I was desperately craving Monster Munch. If you’re not from Ireland or the UK then let me explain, these are a type of puffed up corn chip which are highly processed and full of all sorts of unnatural ingredients. Not what you want to be munching on when you’re growing a little one and yet they seemed to be the only thing that helped with my nausea! I would feel so guilty after eating them, indeed I could hardly enjoy them at all, even though they once were a childhood favourite. I would feel pretty guilty, especially since I am an advocate for good eating (which in my book is avoiding overly processed foods). So that guilty feeling is fresh in my mind. I hate it, and I hate that so many people deal with it on a daily basis and allow it to affect their mood. It doesn’t help, it doesn’t prevent you from flip flopping between being ‘good’ and ‘bad’ so what’s the point?
Stop feeling guilty! My top tips to help you eat guilt-free...
Here are the strategies which I share with my Artful Eaters to combat the unnecessary guilt that comes from trying to be ‘good’ but inevitably ending up being ‘bad’...
1. I have NO TIME for this good/bad business. Enjoying a love of food and your body is all about balance.
Not controlling and trying to constantly stave off foods you love. What I mean by this is listening to your body and eating what you want when you want. Allowing yourself freedom with food actually has the opposite result than what you would imagine. It is entirely possible to eat guilt-free! Once you know that you can have something if you want it, it removes the ‘badness’ and the reliance on willpower from the equation. This means you can enjoy the food without attaching all these negative thoughts and feelings to it. When you do this, you are MUCH LESS LIKELY to overindulge and binge; feeling freedom around food means you’re more likely to eat one cookie instead of the whole tin- try it and see!
2. When you do overeat, or indulge then make sure to compensate the next day.
This is a continuation from my first point on balance, is that when you do eat out, and enjoy a scrumptious three course meal like I did last weekend, then you should compensate the next day by having a lighter dinner and avoid the sweet treats for a day or so. To find out how to do this effortlessly check out last week's blog here.
3. Use the rule of halves: Halve anything you want to eat, especially sweet treats.
This will immediately help prevent any guilt from rearing its ugly head. If you want to eat a sweet treat or dessert, go ahead, but halve it before you even start to eat it. I have a very sweet tooth, I’ve always had and I love cakes and treats. Baking is as relaxing to me as a bubble bath and a glass of champagne, seriously! So in order to feel freedom with the good stuff (cakes, pastries, chocolates etc,) I halve everything and give away or put away, or if it's not salvageable, throw away, the other half. (Well if I’m honest if it doesn't have chocolate in it my dogs get it!). The rule of half is so simple and so powerful. All the flavour is in the first few bites anyway so eating slowly and consciously will allow you to eat less, enjoy more and stave off any guilt.
4. Whenever you begin to feel guilty about something you have eaten do this powerful Cognitive Behavioural Therapy exercise: an ABC work sheet.
My fourth and final tip is the most powerful one I can share, and I encourage you to use this if you find that you are feeling guilty about food, or if you are feeling overwhelming anxiety or dissatisfaction with your body. This is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy tool which my clients absolutely love. The key with this is that you must physically go through the exercise in written form. It will only take a couple of minutes and will help melt away any guilt you feel. So take a few minutes, sit down at your desk (that's mine below!) and do the worksheet.
Below there is an example of an ‘ABC sheet’ to help you learn to eat guilt-free. The first row provides the headings and the second row tells you what to do. Finally the third row provides an example of how to use the sheet. Try it out whenever you feel yourself experiencing negative thoughts around your body, or what you have eaten. Going through the process of actually writing the thoughts out is really cathartic and will help reduce and often eliminate the bad feelings.
Or click here to download the Guilt ABC sheet
Isn't it time you stopped beating yourself up about food and your body?
Ask yourself, how is this serving me? Is it helping me to achieve my dream size? Try these tools and strategies to help avoid feeling guilty and, if you do go all out and end up feeling guilty for it, do the work sheet. I know you'll love it!
Now I'd like to hear from you! If you tried the worksheet, how did you get on? If you really struggle with this issue, tell me about it. I'd like to hear your story. I read and respond to every email I receive and I LOVE hearing from you!
Let's eat guilt-free and enjoy freedom around food,
I have built up great confidence in the kitchen and now absolutely adore cooking. It’s my down time, when I’m at my most relaxed. I love nothing more than turning on some music, putting on an apron, opening the fridge and seeing what I can whip up. While I have lots of gorgeous recipe books, I now rarely stick to ingredients or directions, though I suppose I was never one to colour within the lines...
When I was in my early twenties, my friends would know to line their stomachs before coming to eat at mine, as inevitably my experimentation would fall short of my hopes. (Think Bridget Jones' inedible blue soup…). But I continued to try and fail many times. The problem was that I hadn’t mastered the basics and if I’m honest, I was too impatient. I didn't feel confident or happy in the kitchen. Learning how to bake has helped me with this immensely and I will certainly share more tips and strategies to help you become a more competent home cook at a later date.
But today I want to address the number one saboteur for the home cook and that is a lack of confidence in the kitchen.
Confidence in the kitchen
I now love entertaining and really do take any opportunity to have friends come together to share food, stories and music. Yet this is something that once seriously stressed me out. To overcome this fear I simply moved from frantic to relaxed and confident and now I love seeing people enjoy my food. It is just one of life's simple pleasures. How did I make this transition? I gave up on trying to create perfect food, I stopped following complicated recipes with too many ingredients and I started mastering a couple of very simple, yet flavoursome dishes. These things combined certainly helped grow my confidence.
And so what I think is absolutely key for anyone trying to shift to a less processed diet, is having the confidence to cook from scratch. So many of my clients tell me that they don't have time and that they don’t feel confident in the kitchen. In addressing the issue of time, I suggest you check out my strategies and advice to address this here.
In an effort to address the second issue, confidence, this week I’m sharing a recipe that is fool proof and simply delicious. I love it because it’s an eye pleasing dish, it tastes amazing and it really only consists of three ingredients.
Simple recipes are always the best in my opinion. They are usually easily adaptable, as you can often substitute one ingredient if you don't have it with something similar. They are quick to make, and, with good quality ingredients, the flavours speak for themselves. With that in mind, when you are starting off, favour simple over complicated and always buy the best ingredients you can afford.
Simple recipes will definitely help grow your confidence and reinforce your resolve to cook more as you feel proud of your creations. Remember- positive associations breed repeated behaviours.
So when it comes to addressing confidence, try this dish. Think of it as that little black dress that you know you can throw on and you’re guaranteed to feel amazing!
Butternut Squash & Ricotta
Butternut squash is such a versatile vegetable, I love to roast it and use it as a base for soups salads and this simple hearty dish. This recipe serves 2.
- 1 Small Squash
- 1–2 garlic cloves (unpeeled), lightly bashed
- A few sprigs of thyme ( only if you have it
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive or rapeseed oil, plus extra to serve
- 100g ricotta
- 30–40g thinly sliced parma ham/bacon lardons
- A squeeze of lemon juice
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 190 C /370 F/ gas 5. Peel and deseed the squash, then cut into chunks.
- Put into a roasting dish with the garlic and a few thyme sprigs, if using. Trickle over the 2 tablespoons of extra virgin oil, season with salt and pepper and toss well. Roast for 40–50 minutes, or until the squash is tender and starting to caramelise, giving it a stir halfway through cooking. Discard the garlic and thyme and leave to cool completely.
- Put the roasted squash on individual plates or a large platter.
- Dot the ricotta over the top. Tear the ham into shreds and scatter over the squash and ricotta. Tear the leaves from the rest of the thyme sprigs, if you have them, and scatter over the dish.
- Season with pepper, salt and extra virgin olive oil. Finish with a little squeeze of lemon juice, then serve.
For as long as I can remember, Autumn has always been my favourite time of year. I love the turning of the season from summer, which is very hit and miss here in Ireland, to Autumn, which you can really see and feel. The air turns crisp, but it's still bright and fresh. As a perennial student, I must love school! I can still remember my first day of school, skipping in the front gate holding hands with my best friend. We were completely fearless and I have enjoyed school (for the most part) ever since, which is probably why I love teaching so much. So September always feels like the beginning of my year, much more so than January.
Henry David Thoreau
Though last January I did something a little different. Instead of committing to a list of new years resolutions, or indeed even just one noble pursuit, I chose a word to inform my year. I did this because I do love new years resolutions and the magical idea of fresh beginnings, but I am completely hopeless at sticking to them. In my youth I really struggled with lent and I am ashamed to admit I never managed to keep it up. So instead of feeling like a bit of a failure, yet again, I chose a word to inform my actions and intentions as I thought this would be easier. Little did I know what I was getting myself into....
I planted this tree from a Lemon pip a couple of years ago and I love to see how much its grown from a tiny seed that we usually discard...
The word I chose for this year was 'grow', and magically (or not so magically) I became pregnant, started this mission of mine to help others learn to love their body and enjoy food, started writing a book, doing a phd and growing emotionally and spiritually. It has truly been quite a journey so far!
It seems like this one word has informed everything I've done and its been so enjoyable.
Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder
I'm sharing this with you because I believe there is always space to grow and learn and the best position to do this from is one of understanding that we don't know. I stumbled across Socrates' sentiment “Wisest is she who knows she does not know”, when I was about 13 and gifted the book Sophie's World, which is a marvellous book at any age. Many years later, during my training as a psychoanalyst, I came again to understand the importance of allowing space for not knowing, and privileging that position. I think this is what has fuelled my appetite to grow and to never stop learning.
With all this in mind, I have two things I would like to share with you this week:
The first is this: don't think you know it all when it comes to losing weight.
When they first come to meet me, my weight loss clients always say the same thing: "I know it all. I've tried everything and I know exactly what I should be doing, I just need some help with motivation".
But a position of certainty doesn't allow any space for lasting change!
While I haven't come across this professionally, I'm sure you've all herd that trite adage:
'The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results!'
Well, doesn't this aptly fit with dieting?
So please, this week, let go of all the old inhibiting ideas you're holding on to about weight loss and diets. They haven't worked so far and they are not serving you. Forget about the 'I have a slow metabolism...' or 'being overweight is in my genes...' or 'the only way to lose weight is to stick to some strict diet and deny myself the foods I love...'. What rubbish. The latest scientific research proves that biology is not destiny. There are plenty of people with the 'obesity gene' who are not overweight. Fact.
Isn't time you changed your story and thoughts around losing weight and allowed for the idea that you may not know it all?!
The second thing I'd like to share with you, I think perhaps is the most important lesson I've learned in my life so far, and it's one my wonderful clients have taught me as I opened my eyes this year to growing and not just in an academic fashion (which historically has been my predilection).
The second thing is to love yourself.
Love and treat yourself like you love and treat those special people in your life; your children, family, dearest friends, and pets if you happen to have the privilege of sharing your home with a furry friend! Self love is not a narcissistic pursuit, is a necessary baseline for feeling good, enjoying life and enjoying others. Looking good is a happy consequence.
Luther & Pip
For some of you this may be more challenging than others, and it can take a bit of effort to begin with, but allowing yourself to look in the mirror and focus on the good bits, not the flaws is a lovely start. Instead of honing in on the thing you did wrong, focus for a couple of seconds on the thing you did right. When we love and respect ourselves we are much more inclined to do things that serve us, like eating well, minding our physical health and believing we can achieve our goals.
Recent research within the field of Positive Psychology has a lot to contribute to this idea of being in a position of self love which actually facilitates feeling happy and achieving your goals.
Now if you ask someone why they are unhappy they will usually tell you something that is going on in their external world, or they'll say its because of their genes- that they have a family history of depression, or obesity or a neurochemical imbalance. If we were in a science class right now, this is exactly what we would be taught: You are a result of your genes and your environment.
But when positive psychologists studied happiness, they actually discovered a very different picture. What they found was that if they knew everything about your external world; how much money you make, where in the world you live, what your education level is, whether your married or not, have kids or not.... with all this information combined, short term happiness is very easy to predict.
If you eat a chocolate bar, you feel happier and five minutes later you may think 'why did I do that?!'
But when looking at long term levels of happiness: your happiness, your joy and your meaning over days weeks, months and years, having all that external information combined, psychologists can only predict 10% of the variability of happiness amongst people! 90% of long term happiness is not about your external circumstances, its about how the human brain processes the world you find yourself in.
How you process the life you have, the size you are and most importantly, your relationship with yourself, is to do with the position you take up in the world, not your circumstances. If you change the lens through which you view the world and your experience of it, you will actually dramatically increase your level of happiness, wellbeing and self love.
Unfortunately most people follow a formula for happiness and success that's actually scientifically broken and backwards, which actually limits both happiness and success. Most people think "if I can just work harder right now, then I'll be successful" or "as soon as I achieve my desired weight then I'll be much happier".
Think about how often we do that! "As soon as I lose the weight I'll feel good about myself"...or "as soon as I fit into that outfit I'll like myself"... or "as soon as I meet the right partner I'll feel happier"...
In each one of those moments, happiness is on the opposite side of success.
The problem is, every time you achieve your goal your brain changes the goal posts of what your desire looks like. So if you achieve your desired weight, you suddenly feel you need to lose more!
So we need to turn the formula on its head.
What psychologists have found is that when the brain is in a position of feeling positive, our ability to achieve our goal or desired outcome improves dramatically.
A lot of people think that happiness can be reduced to genes and their environment, but research proves that its absolutely not true.
You can deviate from your genes and your environment if you commit to just two minutes a day.
Positive psychologists conducted an experiment with a group of people who were potentially 'genetic pessimists'. People who had been practicing pessimism their whole lives and at the time of the experiment, were in the middle of the recession, so they had lots to feel down about! They were required to record three things that they were grateful for every morning for 21 days. By the end of the experiment they had 63 things that they were grateful for, which is robust, but not the point.
The point is happiness is a pattern within the brain and you can actually learn to be in a state of happiness. Not if you do isolated bursts of changes in your life, but by actually creating positive patterns in your daily experience.
As the pessimists started their day thinking of three things they were grateful for, their brain got 'stuck'. They started scanning the world, not just for the fires they need to put out, or what they feel they were lacking, but also for the things that provided meaning. They had begun to create a happiness advantage. This resulted in their health and well being improving, their relationships improving and their ability to achieve their goals improving.
So what the researchers found was that by getting people to think of three things they were grateful for over the course of 21 days, they literally trained their brains to become more optimistic. This shift dramatically changed their experience of their world and facilitated them to much more easily achieve their goals.
Would you believe that you can do this with 4 year old children, and 84 year old grumpy men! Whats truly amazing is, if you chose to do this, your levels of happiness and optimism will rise above your genetic set point and indeed deviate from your environment. This is so powerful because people really believe that they cant move beyond their situation. But you absolutely can!
With this in mind, I want you to start by consciously shifting to a position of gratitude and happiness in order to allow for some self love. It's time to create some new thought patterns...
So for the next twenty one days I want you to commit to this experiment:
- Each morning wake up and before you get out of bed, I want you to count ten things that your thankful for, one on each finger. The key here is to really feel the good feelings of gratitude as you do this. I also want at least five of those things to pertain to you, what your thankful for about yourself, both physical and mental.
Ten is more than three, but I just know that you can find lots of things to feel thankful for!
This may be challenging at first, but go with it. Just by committing to this one simple, and I must say truly lovely, exercise you will begin to notice a shift in your thoughts as you start to move from being negative about yourself and your body, to being kinder and more respectful.
Good things will come from this, I promise you!
Give it a go and do get in touch and let me know how you get on, you may be surprised at what you discover about yourself.
If you're interested in the free Artful Eating mini course, sign up for it either at the top or bottom of this page, its packed with lots of actionable information to help you start to make the right changes and achieve the body you desire without dieting!
To feeling good and embracing changes,
I’ve had family visiting from France this past week and it has been a wonderful excuse to experiment in the kitchen. We've enjoyed lots of eating and long chats over endless cups of tea, catching up on life and sharing stories. Their youngest member Aiden, turned two during the visit, so of course I wanted to throw him a birthday party, I decided that this would be a perfect time to challenge myself to see if I could make healthy eating for kids fun.
I remember my birthday parties from childhood, they were (to me, at six or seven) very grand affairs. My mother would invite everyone we knew. All the children, not just from my class, but my brother’s class too. Growing up in the countryside, we were lucky enough to have lots of space to accommodate children spilling out of every room and every corner of the garden. I always felt the house came to life on these occasions. We would have a bouncing castle (probably a health and safety nightmare now!), or some form of entertainment, a magician or clown.
I absolutely loved my birthday and I love birthdays in general. I think it's really important to take the time to celebrate a new year, to reflect on the year past and contemplate the ones to come. I see growing older (and hopefully wiser) as a privilege and so welcome each new year, or wrinkle with appreciation.
But back to birthday parties... My mother used to go nuts filling the table with sweets and jellies, rice crispy buns (which are a childhood favourite I still regularly indulge in), fizzy drinks, crisps, cocktail sausages, chips, pizza, burgers, mini chocolate bars, biscuits and of course...cake! Thinking back on it now, healthy eating for kids was not a priority, in fact it was a shocking display of all the things we would not want our little ones to eat. But times were very different and birthdays were all about indulgence so these things, which were usually off the menu, were permitted in abundance.
The menu for Aiden's party was inspired by another recent birthday celebration. Last week I took my grand aunt out to lunch to celebrate her 78th birthday. I chose a very 'hip' restaurant on Sandymount Green called Buckle up! I don't love the name, but the food is so fresh and innovative and I wanted her to try something a little bit different. We both ended up ordering beetroot burgers. I was slightly apprehensive, but they were delicious. So delicious that we just had to ask the chef for the recipe and I thought the party would be a perfect opportunity to play around with my own version. So I stock piled some organic beetroots and got grating. With courgettes in season, I was inspired to double up and make both a courgette/zucchini carbonara, with a fresh summer salad of course, and a courgette cake which is my absolute favourite, ( I’ll add the recipes below). So no fizzy drinks, or overly processed sweets for these little darlings! Thankfully they were all far too young to be disappointed...
Actually I was quite surprised at their reactions to the birthday menu. Had I shared the menu with the wonderful mommies, I suspect they may have had a bit of concern as healthy eating for kids is not your typical party menu. So in the end I did give in and also made some pasta with a sweet pepper and tomato sauce, just in case.
Two things struck me about this tots party. The children were all served up the pasta initially and the moms graciously tried my less than traditional party fare. And you know what? They loved it! So much so that the children wanted to eat what the mommies had on their plate. Very soon we had a table full of little purple mouths! (I do wish I had better photos and caught this wonderful sight to share with you, but I was far too preoccupied in the kitchen!).
My clients tell me often that they have to cook two and three meals to accommodate the fussy eaters in their family. This is madness! Good food, especially vegetables, can be transformed into delicious fare which children will love. Just experiment, be adventurous yourself and your children will follow. Children take their cues from their parents, so if you eat it, they will too!
The other thing I noticed is the amount the toddlers ate and how they ate. Left to their own devices they ate slowly, chewing and enjoying their food. They reached for and sought out what they wanted and clearly ate until they felt satiated. None of them over indulged on the cake, or ate too much of anything. So mommies and their little ones all left feeling happy and healthy, instead of wired and hyper from too much processed rubbish.
This is something we can learn from. Typically toddlers have not yet developed an emotional relationship with food. They aren't concerned with eating too much, or too little. They just eat what they want and if their mommy lets them, they stop when they are full. They don’t care about the conventions of meal time and return to eat when they feel hungry again.
Why healthy eating for kids really does work
Trying to understand why our children have a naturally inquisitive and almost instinctual palette reminds me of a psychological experiment I read about which was conducted many, many years ago where our innate nutritional wisdom was documented. A group of toddlers were put in charge of feeding themselves. They were offered 34 nutritionally diverse whole foods, including water, potatoes, beef, bone jelly, carrots, chicken, grains, bananas and milk. What each child ate, and how much, was entirely up to him or her.
The results were astonishing. Instead of binging on the sweetest foods, the toddlers were drawn to the foods that best nourished them. They ate more protein during growth spurts and more carbs and fat during periods of peak activity. After an outbreak of mononucleosis, curiously, they consumed more raw beef, carrots and beets. One child with a severe vitamin D deficiency even drank cod liver oil of his own volition until he was cured. By the end of the experiment, one doctor was so impressed with the toddlers’ health that he described them as “the finest group of specimens” he’d ever seen in their age group. Incredible, isn’t it?
So I want to leave you with a thought today. The only thing that limits us is our thoughts. We think that our little ones won’t eat this or that. We think that we are denying ourselves if we don’t have the beef burger and chips. We think that times of celebration, like a birthday, should allow for ‘permission giving thoughts’ to eat all the things we typically try to avoid.
But I encourage you to get creative and experiment- it’s so much fun! Let go of old limiting beliefs and throw out the rule book. Let’s celebrate with delicious nourishing whole food that the whole family can enjoy. Try it. I think you just might be surprised….
Now I would love to hear from YOU.
Do you have trouble feeding your little ones?
Do you find that you struggle not to give in to the little voice inside your head that encourages you to over indulge?
Hit reply to this email and let me know. I read and respond to every email I receive and I am here to help!
If you have a question you'd like answered or you would like me to cover a specific topic send me a tweet at @karinamelvin, or just hit reply to one of my emails with your question. I would love to hear from you!
Also, if you need help and you want to know more about how to achieve your dream weight without the pain of dieting, then just go to www.artful-eating.com and sign up for the free mini Artful Eating course.
Did you miss last week’s post? You can read it here
There are fancier recipes out there for beetroot burgers, but I always like to try and keep things simple. I didn't weigh or measure as I was scrambling for time, so these are really just ‘guestimates’- sorry! But you are looking for a consistency where the burger will stick together, not too wet, not too dry. So here’s my version which made enough mini burgers to feed seven big ones and five little ones:
5 decent sized raw beetroots grated
2 large onions, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
250g of ground almonds
A LARGE handful of coriander/cilantro ( because I adore it!), roughly chopped
Two large tablespoons of jumbo oats
Two free range eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper
Grate the raw beetroot into a large mixing bowl. Then add the rest of the ingredients and mix gently until they bind. Make into burger patties and leave in the fridge to rest for 20 minutes or so before cooking them. You can grill them, BBQ them or shallow fry them- whatever takes your fancy. Serve with some feta cheese crumbled on top, or crème fraîche, with salad or some roasted sweet potato fries.
I really recommend a spiralizer for this one. I love mine and use it at least once a week- well worth the investment!
150 g (5oz) streaky bacon, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
5 courgettes, put through a spiralizer or peeled into ribbons using a Y-shaped peeler, then cut in half lengthways
2 large egg yolks
50 ml (2 fl oz) double cream
50 g (2oz) Parmesan, finely grated, plus extra to sprinkle
Fry the bacon in a large frying pan over medium heat until golden. Stir in the garlic and fry for another minute. Add courgettes and fry for about three minutes- you don’t want to over cook the courgette as it will become soggy, you just want to warm it through. Whisk together the egg yolks, double cream and Parmesan. Season well. Stir the cream mixture through the courgettes and cook for 1-2min, tossing regularly. Serve immediately, sprinkled with extra Parmesan, if you like.
So easy and so delicious!
This is a super simple cake that you can whip up really quickly. It freezes well and is a very popular afternoon tea treat in my house. It is the EASIEST cake you'll ever make as the courgette melts into the batter making it a lovely moist cake that will keep for a couple of days. I especially love this cake as it doesn't require any accoutrements, no need for cream, icing, or butter- it tastes delicious all on its own! But for a special occasion this is an easy one to dress up with a little extra love. As you can see from the photos, I am not into perfection when it comes to food aesthetics. Good enough is just perfect to me. I think its worth making a bit of effort on presentation, but do not chastise yourself if a cake doesn't turn out perfect. Remember that its nothing a little bit of icing, or cream can't remedy!
110g or 1 cup grated courgette (roughly 1 courgette/zucchini)
175g or 1 cup caster sugar
112ml or half a cup sunflower oil
2 small eggs
1/2 vanilla pod, scraped of seeds, or 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
165g, or 1 & 1/4 cup self-raising flour
¼ tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
For the centre and topping
250g (9 oz) tub mascarpone cheese
2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted
250g or whipped cream
Berries for garnishing
Pre-heat your oven to 160C/320F/gas mark 5. Grease and line a cake tin with baking parchment. In a mixing bowl, beat together the grated courgette, sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt into the wet mixture. Pour mixture into the tin. Bake for one hour, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. Leave to cool and turn out. To make this simple little cake look more enticing I added a layer of mascarpone through its middle by making two batches of the above and baking two rounds of cake. Mix the mascarpone cheese in a small bowl with the vanilla extract and the sieved icing sugar. Spread evenly over the top of the first round then place the second round on top. Cover the top with whipped cream and berries. Store in the refrigerator.
As I write this morning the rain is pouring down. I just opened the back door to breathe it in, the smell, the sound and the colours. The sound is wonderfully reassuring, consistent heavy plops of rain. I find my self wondering if its too early in the morning to light a fire...?
I love this time of year and I adore being all cosy inside when its pouring outside, the perfect combination to me. It feels peaceful, safe and familiar. I was definitely born in the right country, you've got to be a fan of rain if you live on a little island on the edge of the Atlantic!
Thinking about that now I realise that so much of this past year has been about embracing the unfamiliar and pushing myself outside my comfort zone. But this has all been in the spirit of growth and the journey has been incredible so far.
As I've shared with you before I chose the word 'grow' to inform my year and my how that's infused absolutely everything; physically, spiritually and emotionally!
But what I've come to understand is that my growth has been all about helping you to grow. I have been working on Artful Eating for a little over a year now, researching, testing, developing, creating, and helping wonderful people all over the world to overcome a lifetime of negative thinking and behaviour.Read More
Well Christmas is almost upon us!
It certainly didn't creep up on me this year, I’ve been anticipating the big day for many months as I am expecting on the big day! So this is a particularly precious Christmas for us.
As I sit here writing this, the smell from our Christmas tree is just glorious. The house feels so festive and cosy, the perfect space to welcome a new person into the world. So I am filled with joy and anticipation about the next few days, weeks and also in a very tangible way, the next few years that stretch out before us. I am so curious to know what our little one will be like and I can’t wait to meet her!
It is that time of year where we try to take stock and reflect on what has gone before and what the future will hold. The thought I’d like to share with you, and that I’d very much like you to hold on to, is that you are the one who determines the life you have, the size you are and how good you feel. In a way I think this has been the most important realisation I have made this year. It’s something I’ve probably always known, but it has become very clear to me this year.Read More
THIS JANUARY IT’S time to finally recognise that the diet is dead. Successful weight loss is not about what you eat, but why and how you eat.
Studies show that up to 80% of women are on a diet or think they should be. This represents chronic dissatisfaction. Alarmingly, recent research from UCLA looked at a number of dietary interventions and discovered that most dieters gain back almost all their weight and potentially more.
So the most likely outcome from being on a diet is to put on more weight than when you started. In fact, recent neuroscientific research has established that our bodies actually resist weight loss.Read More
Its been quite a week here! Normally the week between Christmas and New Year is a lull of rest, relaxation, good books and for me, cooking! But this Tuesday we welcomed our daughter, Claudia Grace into the world. I now understand why they call babies a 'bundle of joy' because thats exactly what she is!
Before giving birth I was quite nervous, as so many women had told me about their birth experiences and most of them didn't sound too pleasant to put it mildly! But I was determined to have a 'natural' birth, which meant no interventions unless absolutely necessary and no pain relief.
I'm sharing this with you because I realised something over the course of the labour, which indeed became increasingly painful (!), because there is a lesson here that I think is very helpful, especially at this time of year.Read More
Having spent the last ten days in the beautiful little fishing port of Honfleur, I have returned home from my holiday feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. Honfleur is a very old fishing port with cobbled streets and tall wooden buildings which sigh into each other. This is where the impressionists came to paint ‘en plein air’. I’ve known about the place for a long time and it definitely didn't disappoint. We stayed in a fourteenth century town house with a winding wooden staircase and had breakfast brought to us each morning- what a sight! This was definitely breakfast ‘french style’, with baguette, different types of pastry and croissants,bien sûr! I ate, enjoyed and savoured the warm, fresh breads. This is what France is all about for me...Read More