Category Archives: Good health

Why cutting your sugar intake is about more than obesity

UK health experts want to see less sugar in the foods we eat, fruit juice and fizzy drinks banned from the dinner table, and possibly even a sugar tax.

In an instant, the current recommended sugar intake has been halved, so that an adult woman should now aim to consume no more than 25g of added sugar (5-6 teaspoons) per day; 35g (7-8 teaspoons) for a man.

About time too. If as a nation we don’t take action on improving our diets, there is no chance of beating the obesity crisis whereby in the UK, 67% of men and 57% of women are either overweight or obese, according to a recent Global Burden of Disease study. More than a quarter of children are also overweight or obese.

But cutting your sugar intake is about more than obesity. Being overweight increases your likelihood of suffering from a whole raft of unpleasant conditions, with type-2 diabetes sitting right there at the top of the danger list. That’s right, you won’t just be fat. You will also be seriously unwell.

One in three adults in the UK are at risk of developing type-2 diabetes, and sufferers are getting younger. What used to be a later life condition is turning onto a middle age problem – and younger. But despite these warning signs, new research from ShARP (the Simply Health Advisory Research Panel) reveals that more than 60% of us are unconcerned about it, and 40% admit to general ignorance about Type-2 diabetes.

Maybe it’s time to start getting worried: if you’re overweight, inactive and have a family history of diabetes, the bad news is: You Are Likely To Get Diabetes. Fact.

Which means …
1. You’re FIVE TIMES more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, because diabetes damages your vascular system.
2. Painful foot ulcers caused by nerve damage as a result of diabetes are likely to reduce your mobility.
3. You’re 20 TIMES more likely to require a foot or lower leg amputation.
4. You’ll suffer more infections, because diabetes means high sugar levels in your body – and bacteria and fungi thrive on sugar!
5. You’ll be low on energy and suffer from extreme tiredness.
6. You may suffer renal disease because of the damage caused by high blood sugar to the small blood vessels within your kidneys. Kidney disease kills one in 10 people with type-2 diabetes.
7. You’re at increased risk of glaucoma and cataracts, which occur 10-15 years earlier in people with diabetes.
8. You are also more at risk from blindness as a result of retinopathy, because fluctuating blood sugars – especially high blood sugar, as in diabetes – damage the blood vessels at the back of your eye.
9. People with diabetes are 10-20 times more likely to lose their sight than a person with normal blood sugar levels.
10. Getting diabetes in middle age increases your likelihood of a form of brain damage associated with dementia.
11. In fact, blood sugar problems can actually shrink your brain: diabetics have an average of 2.9% less brain volume than non-sufferers, scans at the world-famous Mayo Clinic have shown.
12. Your long- and short-term memory will deteriorate as a result of diabetes: a condition known as vascular dementia.
13. You are at high risk of suffering from depression.

Well, wouldn’t you be depressed on realising that you’ve contracted a preventable disease that entails serious life changes (ongoing medication to control your diabetes and related conditions, taking more exercise, avoiding foods that contain glucose – that’s sugar, folks) – for the rest of your life?

Go easy on the sugar and do your whole body a favour.

What is mindful eating?

Goji and blueberries

How many berries are too many?

Mindfulness is massive at the moment, but can you harness it to solve the specific problems of your relationship with food?

That’s what I wanted to discover during an Introduction to Mindful Eating seminar run by the London-based Mindfulness Project. So how does it work?

Think about the last time you scoffed a whole packet of doughnuts, or an entire baguette, or a family-sized bag of sweets. How did you feel afterwards: guilty? A bit sick? Disappointed in yourself? Maybe even worse than that.

The point about Mindful Eating is that it encourages you to be compassionate about your behaviour around food rather than beating yourself up over what you might think of as  your ‘naughty’ eating habits.

In Mindful Eating, there are no bad or good foods, no calorie counting or portion control. It focuses instead on teaching you to be aware of what you are eating, helping you learn to make choices, and embrace your food issues rather than turn away from them.

So you ate more biscuits than you feel you should have done? Explore how you felt while you were eating them, how you felt after eating them, and how you are going to approach a packet of biscuits next time you feel the urge.

In this way, you will begin to create your own unique relationship with food – and learn that you can be in control of what, when and how much you eat. Applying the principles of mindfulness to your eating habits is all about recognising and thus harnessing what course leader Dr Cinzia Pazzolesi calls ‘the automaticity of eating’.

‘The mind is like a puppy,’ she explains. ‘It is easily distracted.’ So the key to Mindful Eating is to train your mind to focus ‘above the chatter’ so you can jumpstart yourself out of automatic pilot mode whereby you hoover up every crisp in the packet, then wonder where they all went.

During the free one-hour seminar, we tried simple meditation techniques designed to help put us back in touch with the reasons why we eat, and learned how to become more aware of the smell, feel and taste of the food we choose to consume.

Recognising the mechanisms of your eating is a way to help you decide whether to have one cookie/piece of chocolate/strawberry or go for a second or third. And that is why Mindful Eating is an ongoing choice rather than a diet or eating plan that lasts for a finite period of time after which you need to re-train your normal eating habits. Mindful Eating itself can become your norm.

The Mindfulness Project runs four-week Mindful Eating Courses, teaching techniques to help end mindless/stress-related/emotional/binge eating as well as help you free yourself from being painfully judgmental about your attitude to food, eating and your weight.

Find out more about Mindful Eating and other Mindfulness courses at www.londonmindful.com 

Get a glow on

As a California ex-pat, there are few things I like more than being bronzed. Having a real tan would be ideal, of course, but after many an afternoon spent worshiping every last ray of sun in the local common only to come home more pale than when I left, I realised trying to get tanned naturally in London is a fruitless endeavor.

Nonetheless, it took me living here with the palest of skin for three years to try my first spray tan. Unsurprisingly, they’re not incredibly popular with the California set, and I worried I’d end up looking, feeling and – worst of all – smelling funny. But then I tried one, and I’ve never gone back. It was BeauBronz at Brown’s Hotel, and I left glowing, both on the inside and outside. Finally, I was back to my California hue, and I didn’t have to rush outside at the slightest whisper of sun. To think of all the extra time this would free up!

I’ve tried countless other spray tans since, but I always end up going back to my beloved BeauBronz. There are four different shades depending on how subtle or dark you want to go – I always choose a just-back-from-LA shade, natch. Plus, it’s made with all natural ingredients so it’s great for sensitive skin or anyone who isn’t so keen on breathing in and spraying tons of chemicals on their skin. Best of all, it doesn’t reek of biscuits. What more could you want?