Simple ‘3 Step’ Weight-Loss Goal-Setting Plan for 2014

What does 2014 have in store for you? Are you going to wait around to find out, or are you going to go out and make it happen..???

With Christmas all unwrapped for another year (pretty much), now is a good time to at least start to think about what we would like to achieve next year, particularly in relation to our weight-loss plans.

Regular goal setting for weight loss is an important, on-going activity if we are to ultimately reach our goal weight conclusively. But just setting a ‘general’ goal to say “lose 30 pounds”, is often too vague to be effective. On the other hand, meticulously planning every calorie you’re going to consume next year is far too detailed. In fact, the more detailed and intricate our plan is, the more likely we are to concede defeat if we deviate from that plan by the tiniest degree.

My advice; Keep It Simple.. 

In fact, you can simplify your weight-loss goals for next year into just 3 questions. Take a little time to think about these questions now and over the next few days. This will help you in formulating what you really want for 2014 and will also help you in ‘generally’ keeping on track with things, throughout the year.

Weight Loss Goal Setting Question 1 – What IS Your Goal?

You want to lose weight, and you may even have an idea of how much weight you want to lose – but WHY do you want to lose it?  What will it do for you if you lose those extra pounds? What difference will it mean to your life?

Do you want to have more energy?  Look better?  Feel sexier?  Wear a specific size clothing?  Get it clear in your mind what you REALLY want, and write it down. (This is REALLY important. When we write ideas down, this is processed by a different part of the brain than just ‘thinking’ about those same ideas and significantly increases the likelihood that you’ll follow-through on your plans)

Then, spend a few minutes further clarifying even those goals. Why is it important to you to have more energy?  What will looking better or feeling sexier actually do for you? etc

The clearer and the closer you can get to uncovering your TRUE desires that are driving you to do this, the more motivated you are going to be to take action and maintain it.

Weight Loss Goal Setting Question 2 – What Habits Do You Want to Break?

Write down a list of habits that you want to break. You know the ones I mean!

These will be habits that have prevented you from making progress toward your goal weight in the past; such as eating too much fried food, drinking too much alcohol, eating too much or too late, watching too much television, etc. 

Be as clear as you can and again, expand on any items so that you can uncover the true reason you wish to get rid of this old habit.

For example, “I’m going to pick at least 3 days each week where I don’t even turn the television on, because I’m fed up with being served up with mind-numbing trash, night after night, that claims itself to be entertaining and even more fed up with being brainwashed by a barrage of cheesy commercials that subliminally coerce me into gorging on all the wrong things! Rather than spending all that time motionless in front of the TV, I’m going to get MUCH more stimulation by doing X, Y or Z” etc, etc

Weight Loss Goal Setting Question 3 – What Are The Habits You Want to Form?

Okay, so you’ve had a mental clear-out of some of the habits you want to be rid of. So now, make a list of habits you want to ‘form’ to replace the ones you’re bidding farewell to and again, write these down. Do you want to drink more water each day?  Exercise for 45 minutes, three times a week?  Reduce your portion sizes?

Again, expand on these as much as you can, to really get to the heart of why you want to form these habits, For example, WHY do you want to drink more water? - “I’m going to drink at least 3 litres of water each day to help with controlling my unhealthy food cravings, assist with my portion control and optimise my body’s 'fat burning' process. It will also give my confidence a much needed boost as my skin and hair look better and my mind feels sharper and more focussed…” etc, etc

Breaking your goals down to these three simple questions, helps you in creating a daily ‘action plan’ in your mind that will ensure you’ll have a much clearer, more powerful picture of exactly what you wish to accomplish. This in turn will ensure you a far easier time staying focused and motivated, and will continue moving you forward, taking more of the steps that you know you need to take.

Another great way to get your weight-loss plans for 2014 off on the right foot, is to down-load your copy of The Weight Loss Black Book. It’s packed full of ideas that will help you decide which habits need to go, which habits you’d like to replace them with and how best to make sure all of this happens and sticks!

Claim your copy of The Weight Loss Black Book now, by clicking HERE

Finally, I hope all your plans and celebrations for New Years Eve go smoothly and that you come out the other side not-too-worse-for-wear..!!

Have a good one and I’ll look forward to catching up with you in 2014



The Trick To Staying In Control Over Christmas

We’re well and truly into the build-up to this years Christmas season, so right NOW is a great time to think about what we need to do to make sure we aren’t several pounds heavier by the end of December..!!

One-off indulgences do not cause weight gain; weight gain is caused by gradual, sustained increases in calorie intake; those extra nights out with friends, the seasonal office parties, an extra mince pie here, a large glass of wine there, boxes of chocolates on-the-go and so on. And whilst all this is going on, we often make matters worse by allowing basic lifestyle habits to fall by the way-side, leading to excessive weight gain.

So, to have a fabulous time over Christmas without worrying too much about the scales, the trick is to pay a little bit closer attention to some of the basics; keep these in-check and you can certainly avoid, or at least ‘limit’ any damage to your weight-loss progress. Here's a sample of some of the most common party-season habits that cause our weight gain. Stay mindful of these and act NOW to avoid the extra pounds creeping on..

Forgetting to Drink Enough Water
Okay, so we’re out shopping for hours on end and there are lots of extra functions and events to distract us from our regular routines, but if there’s just one thing for us to maintain some level of focus on, it’s keeping our water intake up. With all the extra seasonal temptations that are inevitably on offer at this time of year, our bodies really will NOT be forgiving if we allow our fluid intake to drop. Remember, a litre of water for every 5 stone (70 lbs) of body weight, every day.

Not Getting Enough Sleep
This one may take a bit of planning ahead, but it IS worth it. The effects of not getting enough sleep can very quickly disrupt our metabolism, cause our energy levels to drop and increase our cravings for unhealthy foods. So, if you know in advance that you’re going to be burning the candle at both ends this Christmas, whether it’s late night shopping, visits to Christmas Markets or a lock-in at the office party, make sure you give yourself the ‘edge’, by planning to get at least 7½ to 8½ hours of sleep each night. 

Going to Parties Hungry
A common mistake is overindulging on high-fat pastries, crisps and dips while waiting for the "real" food to arrive. Avoid overeating at functions and parties by ensuring you don’t arrive at an event starving. Have a filling (healthy) snack 60 to 90 minutes before you go, such as an apple or a handful of nuts.

Ditching the Exercise
Make it a priority now, to maintain your gym commitments, regular walks and even plan some extra activities to compensate for the extra food you'll be eating. Planning ahead and sticking to your plan will again give you and extra edge and prevent those lethargic feelings (after eating fatty, sweet or hi-carb snacks) creeping in.

Overindulging Too Early In The Season
When does ‘Christmas’ actually start anyway? I know people who have been attending Christmas Functions since the middle of November!! (You know who you are!!). Try to differentiate "special" occasions from run-of-the-mill drinks with acquaintances. This way you can indulge when there is a truly special occasion but keep on track with good habits for the weeks beforehand.

Buying Too Much Food
Why is it that we go into some kind of ‘shopping frenzy’ at Christmas, stacking our trolleys up as though the supermarkets are going to be closed until Easter..?? We do it out of habit and because everyone else is doing it. Get a reality-check and save yourself some money here.. most of the big stores are only closed for ONE DAY, or two days at the most. Cupboards stocked with excessive amounts of snack food, chocolates and seasonal rubbish are a recipe for disaster. Purchase only what you need and try to avoid falling into the trap of buying large boxes (sneakily marked up as ‘Family Packs’) of chocolates and snacks.

Snacking On Poor-Quality Nibbles
Okay, so we probably aren’t going to avoid some of these nibbles all together, so opt for quality rather than quantity. Good-quality cheese, seafood, nuts and chocolates bring much taste and enjoyment to the palate, while cheap crackers, pastries and crisps do not. Savour the experience of eating good-quality food occasionally, instead of putting-up with cheap, high-fat, low-quality snacks.

Eating Everything On Offer
Next time you are at a party, pay attention to the thin partygoers compared to the overweight ones. Generally, slim individuals are pickier when it comes to food choices. Each time food comes around ask yourself: "Do I really feel like eating this?" It's often all you need to keep in control.

Overindulging In Alcohol
The festive season should not be seen as an excuse to forget our personal limits with alcohol. Try to have two alcohol-free days each week, drink plenty of water and avoid high-calorie mixers such as sweetened juice, soft drink and flavoured drinks.

Letting Christmas Run Until January
It’s a good idea to put things in place now, that will allow you to get back on track with your usual diet and exercise habits by 2nd January or, before you know it, February will be here and the extra Christmas weight will be with you for the rest of the year.

Developing an "All Or Nothing" Attitude To Dieting
Rather than mentally writing off the next four weeks in terms of your food intake and activity patterns, think like a thin person. Enjoy good-quality, tasty treats in controlled amounts, but balance them with nutritious summer foods including salads, seafood and fresh fruits. Look at the time off over this period as an excuse to move your body more and you will be well on your way to a fitter and healthier 2014.

Go on then..

Stay in control and have a wonderful build-up to Christmas..!



Weight Loss Success by Being Accountable..

One of the big secrets of a successful weight-loss plan, is to find yourself an Accountability Partner who will help, guide and mentor you along your path, as well as giving you a timely ‘lift’ when things aren’t going to plan.

First of all, what exactly is an Accountability Partner?

An Accountability Partner is someone who helps a person stick to his or her commitment to achieve a pre-agreed outcome or goal.

So, in terms of a Weight Loss Accountability Partner, this is someone who will listen to what your weight-loss plans are, support you to keep those weight-loss plans on target, then hopefully, eventually help you in reaching your ideal target weight.

Your Accountability Partner can ‘smooth-out’ the emotional highs and lows of losing weight.

Any weight-loss journey will often be an emotional roller-coaster ride of highs and lows. So it’s vital that when we’re faced with tough challenges, for example, a bad day at work or a family argument, we don’t let our emotions blow things out of proportion and cause us to throw the towel in with our weight-loss plans.

One of the jobs of our Accountability Partner is to help keep things in perspective, in a level-headed way. For example, if someone said to themselves, “I’ve been really good for three days, so that means I deserve to binge on junk food, fizzy drinks and chocolate all night”, their Accountability Partner might remind them that they aren't thinking rationally and help them in realising that weight-loss doesn’t work like that and that there are other, more sensible ways of enjoying occasional ‘treats’.

We do things differently when we’re accountable to others.

Do you find yourself acting a little differently when people are watching?

For example, if you were being evaluated by your boss at work, wouldn’t you perhaps put that little bit of extra effort in to protect your reputation?  Or how about the way you are when you’re in the house alone, compared with how you are when you have a houseful of important guests?

The same principle applies with weight loss. It’s natural that we want people to think highly of us, so when we tell someone we’re going to lose weight, we have a little extra incentive to actually shed those pounds because we don't want to come across as someone who talks the talk, but doesn't walk the walk. This principle also applies if you go to the gym. If you have a partner that you regularly train with, you are far more likely to go the gym on days that you’re not feeling your best, simply because you wouldn’t want your partner to think you aren't committed.

Emotional strength, just when you need it.

It’s obviously a good idea to choose an Accountability Partner who has either already achieved what you are looking to achieve or someone that is also working to achieve the same goal at the same time as you. In the case of the latter, you pretty much become each other’s weight-loss mentors.

In theory, losing weight is pretty straight-forward physically; we just need to burn off more calories than we consume. It is the mental and emotional part that is more challenging. So if we’re constantly communicating with someone around us who has faced or is facing the mental and emotional moments of weakness that we are, this can help us understand that what we are feeling is normal and that it is possible to get through it.

For example, if someone had reached a point where they’re saying, "This is no use, I just can't lose any weight", their Accountability Partner could reassure them, responding with. "I felt exactly the same way at your stage and here are some of the things I did that helped me fight through it…."

Two minds are better than one

Let's face it none of us knows EVERYTHING there is to know about a given topic… If you already knew everything about losing weight, chances are you wouldn’t be reading this right now. So, it helps to have someone else around to give you opinions. It also helps to hear different weight loss strategies and ideas.

More than two minds may be even better; why not set up an Accountability Group amongst your friends, colleagues, family, etc? That way, you all become accountable to each other.

Think about it; if you have 4 people around you who are all facing the same challenges as you are when you become stuck, having them encouraging you, spurring you on and telling you, “Come on, you can do this..”, is going to be a hundred times more powerful than feeling stuck, with no help or encouragement and trying to fight through it alone.

A Confidence Boost at just the right time

There are lots of negative ramifications when our confidence is low and we don't believe in our self. Talking to someone about our experiences throughout our weight-loss journey, sets our mind up to begin the mental process of feeling better about ourselves. When we talk to someone, this dialogue is processed by a different part of our brain than merely ‘thinking’ about a problem. This social interaction significantly improves our confidence, our self-belief and our chances of achieving our goals.

Once we get comfortable talking to someone about our weight loss problems and challenges, we begin to believe that, “YES, we can actually lose this weight”. Confidence and belief are probably the two most important key components of success.

Who makes a good Accountability Partner?

If you decide you are going to enlist some help in the form of an Accountability Partner, choose someone who is around you on a daily basis; like a co-worker or family member.

Sometimes people feel embarrassed at the fact they need to lose weight, so you may choose to pair-up with someone from a slimming club or even someone you’ve interacted with over the internet on a weight-loss forum.

The key is to choose someone with an assertive communication style that will actually hold you accountable. If you choose an Accountability Partner that is too aggressive or harsh, it’s likely that their style will mean the arrangement won’t last very long; too passive and it’s likely they’ll just be telling you what you want to hear. Choose the right person, and the whole accountability thing can be the key to your success..

What you can do right now..

1. Think about and write down the names (in order of preference) of 3 to 5 people who you feel would be a good Accountability Partner, based on their personality, on your relationship to that person and your goals.

2. Ask them if they’ll help you out. Most people would feel quite privileged that you respect their opinions and value their encouragement, so you should have no problem finding the right person.

3. Make sure to point out how important your goal is to you and to not let you slip by the way-side.

Go on then, get yourself accountable..!

Until next time..



Why Am I Hungrier After Dark...?

Do you get hungrier after dark?

Don’t we all at some time?? What is it at this time of year, that causes us to head for the kitchen as soon as the Sun has disappeared over the horizon??

A few weeks ago, I mentioned how brushing your teeth after your evening meal can help to prevent overeating or snacking at night. Since then, I’ve been bombarded with questions from people who can relate to this issue of eating after dark....

So, why is it that some of us seem to get hungrier after dark…?

Night-eating is a wide-spread, and difficult to pin-point component of emotional eating. For some people it starts as far back as infancy, so a quick tip such as ‘brushing your teeth’ isn’t always going to resolve it.

However, if you at least have an awareness that there is more to night-eating than simply ‘the urge to eat tasty snacks’ and you want to do something about it, that’s a start.

To explore your ‘after-dark’ eating further, I recommend the following things;

Emotional Roller-Coaster

Come On.. If this was your blog, wouldn't
you show a picture of a roller-coaster???
If ‘after-dark’ brings up a lot of feelings or emotions for you, look into what the night represents for you personally. For most night eaters, they have some anxiety about the evenings. It might be loneliness. It could be a fear of the dark. It might be a time they miss their spouse (if, for example, either of them work shifts) or wish they had a spouse. It might be a fear of being home alone. It might be dread for the day ahead… Actually write out a list of the feelings and emotions that the night brings up for you. Next to the list, write another list of some of things that could address those feelings and emotions directly (When we write actions down, they get processed by a different part of the brain that makes them far more likely to be carried out). It’s safe to acknowledge that, “Yes, food is one ‘indirect’ way of addressing those emotions”. So, what are the other ways that would work for you?

Keep Temptation At Bay

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m a big believer of keeping temptation at bay whenever possible. If the night makes you crave certain things, just don't keep those foods in the house. Some might be willing to get up and drive to fulfil a craving, but putting some space between you and the chocolate/ice-cream/sweets/crisps, etc  can make a big difference. At least, it gives you some time to reflect and make another choice.

Create New Habits

If you associate your after-dark activities with snacking, think about what you can do to change those associations, until new habits are formed (it usually takes around two weeks to form a new habit). For example, many people link things like watching TV with eating. In this case, what would be something else you could do while you watch TV, that would help you develop a new association? This could be literally anything from filing your nails, texting on your phone, completing a word puzzle, ironing, moisturising your hands, stroking the dog or cat, doodling, etc, etc

Worried About Staying Awake?

Lots of people have anxiety about being able to fall asleep. If this is you, you might rely on an after-dark ‘feast’ to engineer your drowsiness. If this seems to have worked in the past, your mind becomes satisfied that it has found a solution that works. The key here, is to show your mind that there are other options. Look at creating an alternative bedtime ritual for yourself to induce sleepiness. A bath is a great option; 10 to 20 minutes in a bath can raise your temperature slightly and induce sleepiness. Or it might be a cup of soothing tea, a lavender cream foot rub, a meditation CD, reading a book in bed, etc. It might be a few things. Experiment with this until you find what works for you.

Find A Boredom-Busting Activity

People who are plagued by boredom or loneliness, tend to acknowledge this is the reason they eat at night. In other words, they already know what the answer is; it’s just a matter of making a commitment to yourself or even challenging yourself to do something about it. What long term activity can you do that will make those dark evenings more fulfilling?? Write a book, take up a new craft or hobby, start a blog, start a home study course, re-decorate the house room-by-room, etc, etc  

So, it really is NOT a coincidence that your stomach seems to know what time darkness descends, and once you’ve identified the link for yourself, you CAN challenge yourself to do something about it.

Go on then…

Shed some light on your own night-time cravings..!



How Can I Drink All That Water...?

One of the questions I get asked the most, is something along the lines of “How am I supposed to drink all this water?” or “What can I do to make drinking all this water easier?”

As you’re already aware, water plays a huge part in any weight loss regime (or any other healthy regime for that matter). In fact, there isn’t any weight-loss program in the world that can by-pass our bodies demand for water. We NEED water. For a reminder of some of the benefits, click here.

We need to drink a litre of water for every 5 stone (70 lbs) of body weight, every day. Yes, I know that’s a lot..!! In fact, for an average 12 ½ stone (175 lb) person, that’s around 200 U.K gallons per year!! (240 U.S gallons per year!!) – It’s a small lake..!!

A lot of this is about getting rid of some of the habits we already have, and replacing them with more hydrating ones. The good news is that once your body gets used to processing the required amount of water each day, it gets easier; you’ll actually notice beginning to crave it. So, here are 20 tips that can hopefully help in making a few hydrating habit changes….

1 Carry water with you. (Not exactly rocket science this one!). Having your own water supply on hand makes drinking water a no-brainer. Slip a reusable water bottle into your hand-bag, brief-case, gym bag, desk drawer, car etc, and be sure to refill it regularly.

Having accessible water makes you more likely to sip on it instead of fizzy drinks or other non-hydrating drinks and can provide a visual cue to drink more water.

2 Pace yourself. At first, it might seem like a lot of water, but you don’t need to drink it all at once. For example, if your target is 3 litres per day, and you’re awake for 15 hours per day, it’s just a litre every 5 hours; or a U.K pint every 3 hours or so... If I gave you a pint of water, would you be able to drink it in the time it takes to watch The Lord Of The Rings..???

3 Develop reminders. Try setting some sort of alarm on your phone, tablet or computer as an hourly reminder to drink water, or decide on a few personal “triggers” for drinking water.

Triggers to sip water can be routine activities such as receiving a phone call, passing a drinking fountain, stretching during work or workouts, hearing someone say your name, or watching commercial breaks during television programs. You can even stick a few ‘Post-it’ notes around the house or office with WATER written on them.

4 Campaign for a water cooler in your office. Okay, it might sound like a big ask at first; but if you’re going to spend a third of your life there, having an inexpensive water cooler or purified drinking system available to you and in close proximity throughout the work day, you would be more likely to grab a glass of water than to head to the kitchen to refill your coffee cup.

5 Prepare flavoured water in advance. Having a large pitcher of pre-flavoured or purified water in your home refrigerator makes it easy to refill your water bottle every morning or to grab a glass of water at each home meal.

6 When you’re out socialising, hold a glass of water (and drink from it, of course!). Holding (and drinking from) a glass of water will help you pace yourself at social events, parties and dinners that offer tempting food and drink. Try drinking a water between bites of any unhealthy food you're faced with. For example, it’s much harder to eat an entire piece of cake if you have to drink a glass of water between every single bite! To keep the wine or beer from bolstering your calorie count too much, drink a glass of water for every glass of alcohol you consume. Not only does this help to limit your consumption, but it helps counteract alcohol’s dehydrating effects. And when you have a glass in your hand, no matter what's in it, you’re less likely to be bombarded with more drink offers in the meantime.

7 Replace at least one drink per day with water. For example, consider a glass of water instead of a second cup of your morning coffee.

8 Try comfort water. This is a great tactic for coffee and tea drinkers. While you’re waiting for the coffee to brew, down a glass of water, squeeze in a bit of lemon and sip while you wait. Try another cup of warm water after you’ve had a mug or two of coffee. Hot water with lemon is also a great treat on a cold afternoon or evening. Invest in a new kind of herbal tea every time you grocery shop until you’ve found a couple that are just right.

9 Quench your thirst with water. Studies show that when you are thirsty, water will satisfy your thirst just as well as other beverages, such as sports drinks, soft drinks, or juice.

10 Drink Water Before, During, and After Meals. Make it a habit to down a quick glass around mealtimes. Drinking a glass of water, or at least a few sips, before, during, and after eating any meal is a great way to up your daily water intake.

Sip water with each meal (especially when you’re drinking alcohol). Replace your typical drink during meals with water, or at least have water to drink on the side. Not only can this save you money when you eat out, but it can also cut the calories you consume by drinking and make you less likely to consume additional calories from food

Follow up each meal with a small glass of water. Drinking water during and after each meal can help you feel full longer after eating and aid in the digestion of your food

11 Try herbal or fruit teas, or decaffeinated tea or coffee as a replacement, or occasional replacement to your regular tea or coffee fix.

12 Add lime, lemon, or other natural flavourings to your water. Slipping a slice of citrus fruit into your water can add a subtle flavour to perk up plain water, making it easier to drink more water throughout the day. Try mint leaves, cucumber slices, or berries for other flavour options.

13 Combine habits. Get in the habit of drinking a cup of water when you do other things in your daily routine. Love long baths? Fill your water bottle when filling the tub. Working out? Keep your bottle beside you. Heading for bed? Have a glass on the bed-side. Catching up on your favourite soap? Always have a glass of water on the go. Develop water habits that go with your routines.

14 Don’t put your glass down. Instead of putting down an empty glass or heading for the dish washer, refill it with water and keep sipping.

15 Drink through a straw and you'll take bigger gulps and drink much more.

16 What comes out, needs to be replaced. Every time you’ve visited the loo, make a habit of drinking a glass of water before you get back to what you were doing

17 Make it a morning ritual. Start your day by drinking one or two glasses of water. Start early, feel better, set the trend for the day.

18 Eat water-rich foods like watermelon (92 per cent water by weight) for a refreshing, hydrating break from sipping. (just be sure to include the calories in your daily plan).  Or try sugar free jelly as a snack. Very low in calories and you can actually count it toward your fluid intake.

19 Have a big glass of water at every transitional point of the day: When you first get up, before you leave the house, when you sit down to work, when you go to lunch…etc

20 At home always keep a glass of water handy while watching TV, doing laundry, making dinner or surfing the net. There’s an added advantage by keeping water cold. Some find it tastes better and your body will burn more calories heating it up to body temperature. Having said that, room temperature water is better if we're dehydrated, as our body absorbs it more quickly.

So there you have it, some ideas to help in creating new, water-drinking habits. And if you’re able to incorporate just 2 or 3 of those ideas alongside what you’re already doing, that will definitely be a step in the right direction for your weight loss plans.

To get you started, why not go and grab yourself a glass right now…???



What Your Food Cravings Are Telling You.

Cravings are the body's way of telling us what we need. But how accurate are they?

Why is it that we crave sugary snacks or fat-laden junk foods and never healthy choices, such as salad..?

Whenever we experience an overwhelming desire for certain types of food, there are a number of factors that are associated with this;

1. Dehydration.

This is by far the biggest reason many of us struggle with our weight. We need to drink around a litre of water each day, for every 5 stone (70 lbs) of body weight, in order for all our bodily processes to function properly. If we’re drinking less than that (and most of us drink MUCH less), our bodies will suffer from at least some of the effects of dehydration. One of these effects is that our brain ‘confuses’ the signals between ‘hunger’ and ‘thirst’; meaning that when we actually need water, this feeling manifests itself as a ‘hunger’. So the first thing to do when you get a craving, is drink a full glass of water.

2. Nutritional Deficiencies.

In order to operate at our optimum capacity, we need to nourish our bodies every day with a variety of macronutrients and micronutrients. If the body doesn’t get enough nutrients, it will send messages in the form of cravings. For example, inadequate mineral levels produce salt cravings, and overall inadequate nutrition can lead to cravings for non-nutritional forms of energy, like sugar or caffeine.

3. Hormones

When females go through menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause, fluctuating testosterone and oestrogen levels may cause unique cravings. Sometimes it is beyond our control, but if we have an idea when these cravings are likely to strike, it gives us the opportunity to prepare healthier options to satisfy our temptations.

4. Underlying Emotional Issues.

Staying in an unhappy relationship, feeling lonely, being disappointed with the opposite sex, being stressed, or uninspired by a career, lacking a spiritual practice, or having an inappropriate exercise routine (too much, too little or the wrong kind) may all lead to emotional eating. In these cases food serves as a substitute for entertainment or to fill the void of primary food.

Is it likely that someone would go to their fridge at 11pm and grab that chocolate ice cream, if they were with a loving partner who tells them how special they are and how much they care about them? Probably not.

Would someone snack all afternoon on biscuits and crisps if they were totally immersed in a fabulous, interesting project they’re working on? Probably not.

Sometimes it’s useful to look at all areas of our life and be aware that it’s not necessarily the food we desire, but other forms of nourishment: love, inspiration, friendship, fulfilling career, movement, hobby or feeling significant.

Does Dieting Affects Our Cravings?

There is now little doubt that dieting significantly increases our cravings for food. Last year, a University of Leeds study investigated the link between food restriction and food craving. A group of 129 participants (dieters and non-dieters) were assessed, completing food, mood and craving diaries for 7 days. Of the 393 craving incidents recorded, dieters experienced significantly more food cravings than non-dieters, with chocolate being the most craved food, accounting for 37% of all cravings. Also, compared with non-dieters, dieters experienced stronger cravings that were more difficult to resist, and for foods they were restricting eating.

What Are Your Cravings Trying To Tell You?

Craving Chocolate

Why we crave it
For a start, it tastes good! It's sweet on your tongue and creamy in your mouth. It provides calories and fat to ward off any hunger that may occur over the next few hours. It temporarily boosts your blood sugar, and even alters some chemicals in your brain that make you feel better. The caffeine may help you become more alert, and at the same time the serotonin (a neurotransmitter) more calm. Why wouldn't we crave chocolate constantly? It does so much for us!!!

How to control it
Women who increase their intake of the mineral magnesium, by taking a supplement, or by eating nuts, wholegrains and spinach, reduce their hormonally driven chocolate cravings. Interestingly, researchers at University College London found that subjects who were told to eat chocolate when not hungry found their cravings became weaker. Eating it on an empty stomach made their cravings stronger.

Chocolate also increases our levels of serotonin, a mood boosting hormone,  meaning cravings can also be related to an emotional need.  With this in mind, this emotional need can be satisfied by reaching for a loved one, friend, pet or any activity that makes you feel good. Healthy cocoa or dark chocolate also has the same serotonin-boosting effect.

Craving Sweets

Why we crave them
There are many things that can lead to craving certain foods, but it seems that stress is the leading cause for sugar cravings. Stress can be biological or emotional. For example, not getting enough sleep, being dehydrated or being hungry are all biological stresses. Emotional feelings like sadness, guilt or being upset can lead to feeling stressed and also lead to sugar cravings.

There are also environmental triggers that we have to be aware of. These are usually external but they are still powerful. A great example of environmental triggers is going to a movie. When you walk into a movie theater usually the first thing you notice is the overwhelming smell of buttered popcorn. Then, as you turn towards the refreshments counter, you notice all the brightly colored boxes and the biggest array of 'pick-and-mix' imaginable! You see the overstuffed boxes of popcorn and you can probably even hear more corn being popped by the second. (Are you craving popcorn yet???) This is where all that memory stuff kicks in. You're familiar with this scene. Maybe you've experienced a movie with a huge bag of M&M's at your side. Our mind connects things like buttered popcorn or M&M's, with the pleasure-centres in our brain. We have pleasurable memories of eating those foods, satisfying our cravings and experiencing their enjoyable contribution to the whole 'movie night' thing. So it's natural for those cravings to show up when we're in this type of environment.

Understanding environmentally triggered cravings is key. It's hard to reduce sugar cravings if we're surrounded by sugar and environmental triggers that cause us to crave sugar. These triggers can become more powerful the more we try to give-in to them. This is part of the reason why we might experience intense sugar cravings or processed carbohydrate cravings 10 days into Lent, when we've given up sugar. Our body is so used to eating high sugar foods and highly processed carbohydrates that our brain has strong memories associated with those types of foods.

How To Control It
The main, long-term trick for you to break sugar addiction is to PLAN AHEAD. Plan ahead as much as possible and make good choices at the supermarket. Pack healthy snacks like apples, nuts and berries to take with you to work. Keep some of these foods in your desk drawer so you're always prepared. Most of all, know the triggers that cause your own sugar cravings and be prepared for them.

Craving Savoury (Salty) Foods

Why we crave it
Cravings for salt can occur when we're used to eating a lot of salty foods and then try to cut back on our salt consumption. Salt cravings can also be the result of a range of medical conditions, some more serious than others. Here are more of the reasons why we crave salty foods.

Our Body Needs Salt
Our body consists of 60 to 70 per cent water. Salt is one of the electrolytes that helps our body maintain an appropriate balance of fluids.

We need to eat about one teaspoon (6 grams) of salt each day to maintain healthy salt levels in our body and much of our daily salt requirement comes from salty foods. Eating too much salt however, can lead to high blood pressure.

Common Reasons for Salt Cravings
We may find ourself craving salty foods when we try to cut these foods out of our diet for health reasons. This is because once our body has become accustomed to salt, it will continue to anticipate that same level. However, this type of salt craving will subside with a little time (and will power!)

Natural salt contains a number of trace minerals not found in table salt. If we're craving salt but don't have any additional medical symptoms, our salt cravings could be the result of a trace mineral deficiency. Eating salty foods temporarily relieves cravings of this type, but they return when our body fails to absorb any trace minerals from the salty foods we've eaten.

Salt cravings can also be the result of mild dehydration. When we sweat, we lose salt from our body. If we have salt cravings after exercise or after perspiring on a hot day, we've probably lost too salt and/or other electrolytes.

Medical Reasons for Salt Cravings
Salt cravings can be a symptom of a serious medical condition and are often associated with adrenal disorders, such as Addison's Disease and Adrenal Cortex Disease. Other causes include hypoadrenocorticism and hypoparathyroidism. If your salt cravings are accompanied by other physical symptoms or if they seem to come on suddenly and strongly, consult your doctor to rule out underlying medical conditions. It's likely
your doctor will consider your personal and family medical history when making a diagnosis, and run blood tests to determine if your salt cravings are the result of adrenal dysfunction or another medical condition. Your doctor may also perform urine tests, and, if you're a woman, check for pregnancy, since pregnant women often develop cravings for (amongst other things) salty foods.

Complications of Salt Cravings
Salt cravings can easily lead to over-consumption of salt and salty foods. While our body needs a small amount of salt to function properly, eating too much salt can lead to dizziness, excessive thirst and dry mouth. If you eat too much salt for a long period of time, you could succumb to high blood pressure and develop a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

Craving Fatty Foods

Why we crave it
Firstly, it’s perfectly normal to crave fat. That's because animal fat is the primary constituent of the evolutionary human diet – We’re hard-wired to crave it. Not only that, ‘low-fat’ diets just make us crave fat even more. Here’s why…

Although many individuals associate fat with weight gain, fat is actually an essential component of a healthy, well-balanced diet. Some of the essential vitamins required by your body require fats for absorption. Vitamins that require fat for absorption include vitamins A, D, E, K and the carotenoids. Additionally, our bodies require fat for normal growth and development, for maintaining cell membranes and for cushioning for our internal organs.

When we consume fat, it fills our cells and helps to insulate our body. Our body also uses fat as storage for energy; after exhausting the energy from carbohydrates, our body relies on its fat stores for fuel.

Also when we eat fat, our body releases a protein called Galanin in large amounts (Galanin helps the neurons in our brain communicate with each other);- our bodies also release Galanin when we haven’t eaten for some time... this helps to explain why our body craves fat when we are hungry.

How to control it
When choosing fats to eat, we should consume mostly unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats will still satisfy our need to consume fats without subjecting our body to the health risks associated with saturated fats. Also, try to avoid processed foods. Not always easy, but if we aim to achieve that at least 80 percent of what we eat is ‘natural’ foods, this can sufficiently limit our intake of ‘man-made’ processed foods, which are pumped full of ingredients that cause ‘drug-like’ addictions, causing us to crave those foods even more.

Craving pasta and bread

The Likely Culprit: A Sleep Shortfall
If you can’t pass a bread basket or pasta bowl without wanting to dive in headfirst, a chronic lack of sleep is most likely to blame, says Michael Smolensky, Ph.D., a professor of environmental physiology at the University of Texas-Houston School of Public Health. “Your brain functions best on eight hours and 15 minutes of sleep nightly, yet many busy women are slogging along on six hours -- or less!” The problem, say UCLA doctors: Deep sleep is essential for restocking your brain’s stores of the appetite-taming hormone serotonin; and as serotonin levels plunge, carb cravings go through the roof. “Within two days of becoming sleep deprived, almost 100 percent of people start grazing on breads, buns, and other starchy foods!” says Dr Smolensky.

How To Control It
Make it a top priority to get at least eight hours of serotonin-boosting sleep nightly, and your carb cravings could disappear in as little as 72 hours.

Ten More Ways To Beat Those Cravings;

1. Eat Small Amounts Of Healthy Food Regularly: One of the biggest reasons for cravings is the crash in blood sugar which makes us feel like we need something to eat immediately. Eating small amounts of healthy food regularly (every 3-5 hours) ensures we aren't suddenly ravenous when our blood sugar drops.

2. Chew Gum: You can usually stall cravings for something sweet by chewing sugar free gum. It will satisfy the craving, keep your mouth busy and distract you until the craving passes.

3. Brush Your Teeth (This Works!): Once you feel the cravings coming on, go and brush your teeth. Do a thorough job and even floss too. We're conditioned NOT to expect food for a good while once we've brushed our teeth; it's as if our brain temporarily 'switches off' our hunger receptors. A combination of the mint flavour in your mouth and all the hard work you've just put in, means it's highly likely you won't want to eat, giving you the chance to distract yourself by getting on with something else.

4. Avoid Your Triggers: There's a lot to be said for steering clear of temptation altogether. If there's a vending machine or kitchen cabinet that always tempts you or triggers cravings, avoid it. Dispose of all the goodies that tempt you in that kitchen cabinet and then avoid it altogether. Walk around and avoid any vending machines, etc, until they no longer cause your cravings.

5. Break Any Habits That Bring On Cravings: Sometimes, we unconsciously develop habits that encourage habitual cravings. Examine your schedule and see if you make any habitual trips to the 'sweet cupboard' or other place where you give in to cravings. Replace the negative pattern with a positive one until the habit is broken. For example, during those times when you used to indulge in negative snacking habits, make a point of distracting yourself by painting your nails, listening to relaxing music, going for a walk, watering the plants, tidy your inbox, browse through a treasured photo album, treat yourself to a hot, bubbly bath, etc, etc.

6. Always Drink Water First: Sometimes we feel hungry when in fact, what our body actually needs is water. Don't fall into the trap of giving in to your instincts; drink an entire glass of water, wait for 3 minutes and see if that eliminates those hunger pangs. Not only will you be hydrated, you'll also feel fuller.

7. Wait For The Craving To Pass: Okay, some will power required here; the trick is, don't tell yourself that you're definitely not going to have anything, tell yourself that you'll re-evaluate the craving after 15-20 minutes, then go and do something else you find engaging or you enjoy. Often cravings are simply the result of being bored. Chances are, if you find an engaging or absorbing activity, you'll forget all about the craving.

8. Realize the Cost Of Giving In Is More Than The Calories: Know that giving in to the craving will actually make it more difficult to say 'no' the next time. Fortunately, the opposite is also true; success brings on more success. Each time you conquer a weight loss challenge, the next challenge will be easier.

9. Get Enough Sleep: Many studies suggests that a lack of sleep contributes to a shift of hormones that influence hunger, cravings and appetite. Whilst we can certainly 'get by' on less, virtually everybody needs 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night, in order that their brain and body functions at its very best.

10. Many Cravings Are Thought To Be A Sign Of Nutrient Deficiency From Our Foods. One simple way to start correcting these deficiencies, is to take a basic multivitamin and mineral supplement. It is not necessary for this to be a mega dose pack of micronutrients. A little can go a long way to correcting deficiencies when taking a quality multivitamin and mineral supplement. With the correct amount of nutrients in our system, the mind and body work as they should and are less likely to trigger cravings.

Cravings are bound to crop up at some point, particularly when we take on-board a regime of healthier eating. But as time passes, there will be progressively fewer cravings, and taking steps to identify and overcome the triggers, makes this process go even faster.

Have a fabulous, craving-free weekend!



Why Processed Food Plays Havoc With Our Weight

When was the last time you really took a close look at the nutrition label on any of the processed food items you regularly eat? If your diet consists mostly of products that come in a can, jar, foil-wrap or cardboard container, they have likely been ultra-processed by one of the food manufacturing giants.

What are processed foods? Anything that has to endure a process in order to come to you the way that you receive it. Anything from crisps, chocolate bars and cereal bars, to fast food, sandwich fillings and ready meals… all processed. White bread? Processed. “Smooth” peanut butter? Processed. Fizzy drinks? Fruit cordials? Soy milk? Processed. Flour (of any kind)? Processed. Even baby carrots are processed…!! As you can see, it would be pretty unrealistic to cut some of these kinds of things out altogether, that’s why it’s about limiting your intake.

When food endures a process, more often than not this means that outside chemicals have been introduced. This can be anything from the chlorine that your cute little baby carrots were soaked in before they were packaged, to the avalanche of ingredients in your white bread.

Ultra-Processed Foods are Developed in a Food Laboratory

Food manufacturers know that their food must appeal to our evolved sense of taste for sweet, salt and fat. The reason we crave these tastes, is so that we’ll want to eat natural foods that already contain these flavours and are packed with vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients that help prevent disease. Instead, laboratory foods are infused with sugar and hydrogenated fats that tease our taste buds and provide us with little more than empty calories that boost blood sugar, cause weight gain and initiate chronic illnesses including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Processed Foods are Calorie Dense and Nutrient Poor

The main problem with ultra-processed foods is they deprive your body of the essential nutrients required to maintain optimal health and alter metabolism toward overweight and obesity. A steady diet of laboratory manufactured foods typically consists of twice the daily calories required to maintain an ideal weight and less than one-quarter of the critical nutrients we need to preserve health and avoid illness. While processed foods satisfy our taste for a variety of different flavours, over the course of years they lead to a nutrient deficient state that leads to disease development and weight gain.

The vast majority of processed foods of course are created by businesses that have profit margins to protect. Profits are important; that’s just how business works. Unfortunately, health is more often than not, secondary. In order to provide us with seemingly inexpensive items and still make money, they’ve got to use cheap ingredients. As such, cheap ingredients that are commonly used in a vast array of processed foods are processed carbohydrates.

Processed carbohydrates are problematic, because the process that they go through in order to be boxed, tinned or plastic-wrapped, calls for the valuable part of the carb to be removed; the fibre. The part that not only helps us to feel full, but helps us to empty our digestive system to make room for more food, is removed. The main reason for this is because fibre generally can’t withstand that much time on the shelf. Think of how long ‘truly fibrous’ foods tend to last at home – the fruits, the vegetables; not much beyond a week or so.

When you enter your favourite supermarket, where do you head first? Do you walk straight toward the fresh fruit and vegetable produce? Or do you head for an aisle way? If you’re heading for an aisle way, chances are you’re heading straight for the processed foods.

So, if something as innocent as baby carrots and peanut butter can count as a processed food, how do we know what to limit?
Start with the ingredient list. Almost every processed food originated from a traditional recipe, which means in theory, it should be easily created in our home, using ingredients that we could generally find in our kitchen, right? Do you keep monosodium glutamate in your house? How about fructooligosaccharides? Is there a jar of that in the back of a cupboard somewhere? Probably not. If it contains ingredients that you just wouldn’t find in your kitchen, leave it be.

Avoid the magic potions.
If it has a “Just Add Water” label on it, again, leave it be. A problem with processed food is the fact that it usually disintegrates into what it originated from after you ingest it, only to revert back to a congealed ‘blob’ once digested… a ‘blob’ that can leave you bloated, constipated and unmotivated. Don’t let your hunger manipulate you into falling for the “just add water” magic potion.

If the flies don’t want it… you don’t want it.
Humans are supposed to compete with animals (including flies) for resources. We also have the mental ability to win these competitions. The reason I mention this is because we’re attracted to the same foods for the same reasons. Flies are attracted to our meat, our fruit and our plants because they are nourishing and packed full of nutritional value. If you go to a supermarket, you don’t see flies in the aisles; you see them around the produce. That’s where you should be. Okay, you might have to swat a fly or two off of your tomatoes but believe me, that’s a victory worth winning.

So, the secret is, to maintain a healthy diet and to prevent our bodies being tricked by false hunger pangs and unexplained cravings, we need our food to come to us as untouched as possible, as light on the chemical interference as possible, as desirable as possible as often as possible.

Go on then… feel good about enjoying your next unprocessed meal today...