Tag Archives: Nutrition

An update on Operation Chrysalis…

“Operation what?” cry my new readers.


Let me fill you in.  Basically, back in September, I began to feel like a big fat caterpillar.  I had put the weight on that I had fought to take off in the previous 6 months and I decided to start again and to lose all the weight that I want to lose.  Initially I tried to do it on my own, using my own knowledge of nutrition and what worked and what didn’t for my own body.  The plan was to use the winter as my form of cocoon (they are also called Chrysalises, hence the title!).  The idea is that come the spring, when the summer wardrobe is back out from the loft and everyone want to looks awesome in shorts, I shall take off the winter layers and reveal my new butterfly me.  Or if not the entire transformation, certainly a good way towards it.

Operation Chrysalis

The first two months of Operation Chrysalis did not go well.  I discovered, week after week, the weight was going back on again.  So, I decided to take the bit between my teeth and head for a local slimming class.

It so happened that I got a text message from one of the leaders I used to go to slimming class with, and as I do not believe in co-incidences, I decided to go along.  So… I did.  In the 8 weeks since I have been going (even with Christmas and New Year festivities in the way) I have lost 15 and half pounds.  This is really, really good for me, because with my PCOS and Insulin resistance, losing weight is incredibly difficult for me.  I have great support at home, which is crucial, and I must say, it is rather pleasant to have people from Church come up to me and tell me how good I am looking, and have I lost weight.  It is massive boost to the morale, and makes you want to keep going.

tape measure

I have also taken my measurements.  Those inches are really beginning to show.  I have to wear a belt with all my jeans now.  Some of my skirts are too loose on me.  I am actually looking to take some of them in.  This is, let me tell you, a FABULOUS feeling.

Seeing as it is a New Year I have committed to a new start on the diet front as well.  I lost 1.5 pounds this week, but I am going back to basics on the eating plan.  I am going to write down everything I eat (“write as you bite” is the phrase I am taking away from today’s class!) and hopefully I shall come away with a good weight loss next week too.

If any of you are undertaking your own “Operation Chrysalis”, how are you getting on?


It might be Autumn… but I am thinking of butterflies…

Every self respecting butterfly will have headed for warmer climes by now, I am sure.  In the UK, it is cold, damp and pretty miserable today, and I am not sure about everyone else, but my summer wardrobe has been retired until sometime next year.  My autumn/winter “Let’s wear layers” wardrobe is out and now heavily in use.  Yet I am still thinking about butterflies.


Here’s why.  After my self administered bahookie kicking on Friday, I took a critical look at my eating of late and I was not that impressed.  In fact, it would be safe to say that I was much less than impressed and I know my eating habits need an overhaul.  This is not unusual.  Every 6 to 7 months, I need to check out what I am eating, appraise it and then tweak it to make sure I am getting the nutrients I need and I am not snarfing too much. Also, I don’t know about you, but after holidays, I find the relaxed eating patterns often stay around a little too often.  I need to get back on track.

Then I looked at the amount of exercise I take.  I am much, much better now than I was when I was stranded in an office for 10 hours a day… but I know I can squeeze more exercise into my life somewhere, somehow.

And then, in the shower this morning, the idea came unbidden into my head.  Operation Chrysalis.

You know that the life cycle of the caterpillar culminates in the Chrysalis, right before it transforms into a butterfly?  Well, that is what I want to do over autumn and winter.  After being wrapped up in layers and woollies for 6 or 7 months, I want to reveal myself in spring/summer as a butterfly.  Rather than the big hungry caterpillar.  Again.


So how am I going to do it?  Faddy diets?  No. They wind me up and are rarely effective. Never eating anything?  No.  Not sustainable, and very, very bad for you, plus I am not good at depriving myself of food.  In fact I suck at it.  So, the only way is to be sensible.

I hereby commit to eating only food my grandmother and great grandmother would recognise.  I also commit to eating slightly less of them, because I need to retrain my body to recognise when I have had enough.  Also, I am going to let myself eat what I want on Sundays.  This has to be sustainable, and being incredibly virtuous for 7 days a week is not just impossible, it is impractical.  I am also going to avoid artificial sweeteners and lots of fats.  I will still use fats, because you need them for proper nutrition, but not loads of them, because that is bad for you.  If I want biscuits, or ice cream, or cake, then I will make some.  If I go off the idea because I have to expend the energy of actually going and making it then I wasn’t that committed to the cause in the first place, was I?

ggrandmother food

I also commit to drinking no diet soft drinks.  If I really want a soft drink then I will drink the full sugar variety.  As I don’t like the taste of most full sugar varieties, it will mean I will drink more water, which has to be a good thing.  Despite my protestations to the contrary, I do not drink vast quantities of coffee, so I will keep my coffee intake the same, and instead drink more fruit and spice infusions and proper tea.  I would say I will drink green tea, but I can’t stand the taste, so I am not going to do that.  This is about enjoyment as well.

And finally, I commit to doing more exercise.  I have MASSES to do in the garden over the winter to get it ready for the growing season next year, so that will definitely add to the exercise regime.  Add to that the housework and all the painting and stuff I want to do in the house and that is quite a bit already.  But if this caterpillar wants to be a butterfly then I am going to need to step it up a bit more.  So, I have exercise DVDs that need to be used.  There is also the Wii Fit Plus.  I need to work out a plan of using them.

weighing scales

Of course, one thing I haven’t mentioned is how I am going to track my progress.  Generally speaking I am anti scales and weighing, though that is a handy way of doing things.  So, instead, I am going to measure my body as well as weigh it.  I think weigh in day will be Wednesday and I shall measure myself at the same time.

Who else wants to play along?

Medicine is NOT healthcare

I recently saw this poster on Pinterest.  I loved it so much, I pinned it twice.



This has been moving around and around in my head all weekend, and I wanted to explore it a little bit more in my blog post this morning.


Before I start, I want you folks to know that I am full of admiration for the medical profession.  Their training is brutal.  They have to remember HUGE amounts of stuff.  Most of them went into the profession for the right reason, to make people better, and healthier and to give back to their local or global community.  Not only that, but medicine can do amazing things.  It can cure Cancer.  It can help people with debilitating and progressive diseases live something approaching a normal life.  But somewhere along the line, something has gone wrong.


I have heard from many people (and experienced it on the rare occasions that I go to the Doctor) that when they go to their General Practitioner most people are given a prescription for something after just 5 minutes of consultation.  In the UK, GPs have to see a certain number of patients everyday, so it means they only have a certain amount of time for each patient.  It is clear that they do not have time to even take the meerest peek at their patients medical records, let alone take a good look at them and work out what is really wrong with them.  They listen to what the patient has to say, make a snap judgement about what is happening to them and then decide on the course of treatment, all in a maximum of 10 minutes.  I don’t care how well trained you are, that is not going to work for the patient.  At best, you are treating the symptoms only.  At worst, you are just prescribing something to get the present patient out of the door and onto the next one.  What this means is that you are just treating the symptoms.  You are not approaching the whole question of health and why the patient is not as healthy as they should be.


After my weekend, when my hubby and I drank our monthly bottle of wine (over the two days, and yes, that will be it for the entire month!) and we ate pizza and had sweets and all kinds of bad stuff for us, I can tell you, I do not feel particularly well.   I am not “ill” per se, but I am not fizzing with vitality like I should be.    So, back to eating properly, and if I want something sweet, I will have an apple.  Imagine if everyone stopped eating convenience food and ate proper food, cooked from scratch.  I reckon the queues in the doctors surgeries would reduce significantly.  They wouldn’t disappear altogether, because people will always get ill, but there might be a bit more time for the doctors to talk to their patients and actually LISTEN to them.


Obviously, I am going to bang the drum for holistic healthcare.  I am studying it, with a view to doing it as a business.  Of course I am going to say this is the better course.  Yet, I can’t help thinking that taking a longer time and looking at the wider view of the patients life will allow the Healthcare professional  to have a much clearer and rounded view of the person in front of them.


That, and  the onus needs to go back onto the citizens to keep their health in the best way they can.  We need to eat good food.   We need to stop relying on convenience and trash food.   There is a generation of parents who have no idea how to cook a meal from scratch.   We need to get people back into their kitchens, cooking properly.  It doesn’t have to take hours.  It doesn’t have to be more expensive.  But it has got to be healthier to know what is in your dinner, hasn’t it?



One method of Life Coaching…

I have been doing a lot of research about Life Coaching.  I must admit that when I first started studying, I was not at all sure about this aspect of my qualification.  I thought it was going to be a lot of bluster and faff and really rather useless.  To my surprise, I have absolutely loved it, gained a great deal from reading around the topic and in fact, I can quite see it becoming most of my work when Viridian Herbalist goes live.


While I have been doing my research online, I have found various methodologies of coaching to think about, and I want to share one with you today, because it makes so much sense to me.


The essence of life coaching is to help people achieve their goals.  There is every likelihood that the client will have issues in one area of their life which is putting up some kind of obstacle between where they are and where they want to be.  Sometimes the client will have a clear understanding of where that obstacle might be (and it might not just be one… it could be a whole obstacle course!) but on other occasions, they might not even know what they want out of life at all.  So, Life coaches tend to have their own differing ways of assessing their clients requirements and getting to a solution.

cart wheel

One such methodology I have found is that of a cart’s wheel.  I love this analogy.  If you have a wonky wheel, then moving forward is going to be incredibly difficult.  Each part of the wheel looks at a different aspect of life.  It has 12 spokes, and each of these spokes correspond to something different.  On the chart I found we have nutrition, exercise, stress mastery, relationships, finances, work, play, health care, environment, life purpose, self esteem and finally spirituality.  And right at the centre is the hub of it all, self care.


If you think about it, all of those areas mentioned above need to be balanced and addressed to have a happy and healthy life.  If any of them are out of balance, then you are going to feel a little off and you won’t be able to achieve whatever it is you want to.  The most important of these though, is the centre of the wheel, the self care.  It is like being on an air plane where they say in the safety talk to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others to do the same.  You need to take care of yourself to make sure you can take care of anyone who depends on you.


As a life coach, I would see my role as to initially see where my client is in terms of balance on this wheel.  I would suspect that most people will be higher in some areas than in others.  Getting that balance right is going to be key to the happiness of the client and the eventual achievement of their goals.  But I suspect, more often that not, I will be providing blinding glimpses of the obvious.  Sometimes you need a person outside of your life to show you a direction and what you need to do.


I can not think of anything more rewarding than that!

The new plan…

I am a person who is motivated by plans.  I need to have one to make sure I am working smarter as well as sometimes harder.  I have more energy when I have clear goal, and if I can get something down on paper that I can look at and measure progress again, well, I am in clover.  (Sometimes, I also worry about myself and whether I really need to get out more!)


I have noticed in the last couple of months that my direction has somewhat drifted.  This is not really surprising given the fact I was moving house and settling in and all that, but I noticed last week that I had a distinct lack of motivation to write the blog everyday.  I also noticed that my Herbalism studies have REALLY backslided.  Although there is an excuse, if I want my new life to happen, I need to take myself in hand and get on with it again.  So, it got me thinking.  How on earth am I going to fit this in to the life I am leading now in the big house, with the big garden and the prospect of children thrown into the mix as well?


Well, the obvious answer is that I need to make time for everything I want to do.  So, cue a piece of paper and a pen, and a list of my priorities.  This blog is definitely on this list, because I thoroughly enjoy writing it, and it keeps my literary muscles flexing.  It is a good habit to have.  But it does take quite some time to get the idea, write the blog, edit the blog, edit it again, find the pictures, put it all together and publish.  And frankly, I could use that time for my other priorities.


And here we come to the crux of the matter.  What I intend to do therefore is to reduce the number of times in a week that I blog.  I am going to aim to blog three times in a week.  Ideally, that would be Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but it needs to be flexible, so I might sneak one in on a weekend if the other days get a bit packed with things to do (like adoption meetings, Mum and baby groups, cleaning, studying, gardening etc).  My plan is also to have a kind of theme to each time I blog.  So, Mondays I envisage being about Herbalism/Gardening/Nutrition, Wednesdays will be about Life Coaching and Personal Management and Fridays can be stuff about studying and any micro-business stuff I might want to blog about.


I would really love to have your feedback about this new structure.  Lets let it bed in for a couple of weeks, and if you think there can be some tinkering around the edges, I would love to hear your ideas.


Now… I am off to hang out wet washing and then do some weeding in the garden.  I have to… it’s on my plan!


Heart Healthy Diets

This blog post has been inspired by a very good friend of mine who recently had a heart attack.


In researching this post, I have found a host of information with tells me that if you include these foods in your diet, it will really help to reduce your risk of heart issues.  Here is my list of foods to eat, as well as a supplement which might help matters.


from stockfresh.com

from stockfresh.com


High fibre foods keep cholesterol levels in check.  So, this means that bowl of All-Bran in the morning is a good thing (despite tasting like twigs) but you can also have barley, oats, brown rice, lentils and beans.  I love all those things.  You can also add bran to your baking, if you like making breakfast muffins for example.


from livingcivil.com

from livingcivil.com


Olive oil is always trotted out as being heart healthy, and it is, because it is a source of mono-unsaturated fats.  Obviously you need to be moderate in your use of it.  Good fat is still fat.


from anuts.com

from anuts.com


Apparently, 2 tablespoons of Peanut Butter will provide you with a third of your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin E intake.  Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin, and has been indicated as important in heart health.  Again, be moderate with Peanut Butter, because it is calorie heavy.  Other nuts are healthy too.  Pecans, a personal favourite of mine, are high in Magnesium which is great for the heart.  One ounce of pecans drizzled over a spinach salad can deliver a third of your daily requirement of the mineral, and taste fantastic okay.


Whole-wheat bread is a no-brainer.  1 slice has 11 mcg of selenium.  Selenium is an important anti-oxidant which works with vitamin E to protect your heart.


red wine


How about a glass of wine?  Yup.  A 5 oz glass of red wine each evening is great for your heart.  But no more.   I don’t know about you, but I find it tricky to stop at just one glass of a nice red wine.  I usually try and find heart health somewhere else.  Apparently a 1.5 oz glass of Whisky  offers the same effect.


Again, it turns out that your Mother was right.  Eat your Broccoli!  It has Calcium in it.  Also Kale, figs, pinto beans and okra are great calcium sources, without the dairy fats we are all used to hearing about.  Turns out Popeye was onto something as well.  Spinach is a great source of Vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid and all these help prevent heart disease.  Plus, if you replace boring old lettuce with spinach in your salads, they taste so much more interesting.  Sweet potatoes are great too because they have lots of Vitamin A in them.  Let’s not forget about fruit though.  Strawberries  are full of Vitamin C, are a great source of fibre and potassium which are all important for heart health.


Eat chicken and salmon.   3 ounces of chicken provides a third of your daily requirement of Vitamin B6, and Salmon is loaded with those Omega 3 fatty acids.  They lower your triglycerides and reduce blood clots that could block the arteries.  In addition, it has Vitamin B12 in it too.  Oh, and it tastes good too!


Garlic has been used for years and years.  Turns out it is chock full of antioxidants, and it is also a mild anti-coagulant.  You need to a couple of years of eating garlic daily to get the heart benefits from it, but on the upside, you shouldn’t be bothered by vampires!


The supplement which is recommended is Co-enzyme Q10.  It apparently re-energises your heart cells.  In trials it has also been shown to block the process which creates plaque build up in the arteries and helps to lower blood pressure.  When I take it, I get an upsurge in energy too.


The most obvious advice is, don’t smoke, do exercise, watch your weight and eat a healthy diet.


And to my friend?  Get better soon!

Nutrition for the developing brain…

Last night, my husband and I attended our first group session for prospective adopters.  Not only did we see a rather harrowing DVD about the  sort of children in care, but also we had a session about something called “brain parenting”.

from national geographic

from national geographic

Brain parenting is cutting edge neurology promulgated by Dr Daniel Hughes and Dr Jonathan Bayling (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Brain-Based-Parenting-Neuroscience-Interpersonal-Neurobiology-ebook/dp/B005LW5JQ2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390384260&sr=8-1&keywords=brain+parenting).  The work that these gentlemen have done in essence shows how human interaction can have a huge effect on how brains develop and function.  We were so intrigued we came home and bought the book!  I can’t wait for Friday when it is due to be delivered.


As we drove home though, my husband casually asked “What sorts of nutrition can help brain development in our prospective children?” I immediately thought of Omega 3 fatty acids and folate in the form of good old green leafies, but after that, I drew a blank.  Cue research this morning.


A Google search unearthed an academic paper by Michael K Georgieff entitled “Nutrition and the developing brain: Nutrient priorities and measurement”.  A rather dry title perhaps, but really interesting.  Basically, the brain needs various nutrients to grow and function properly, but one thing which came through from my reading of the article is that it is a fine balance.  Overdosing on the nutrients can cause problems just like deficiency can.  Having said that, the article is also very clear that early deficiencies when in utero will still result in brain dysfunction even after the nutrient has been reintroduced and got back up to the appropriate levels.


Once again, Nutrition is clearly vital.

from the food advice centre

from the food advice centre

The brain requires a lot of different nutrients for proper development, and some are more surprising than others.  Obviously, the first thing you need to Protein and Energy.  Protein is obviously found in meat and fish, but it is also present in dairy product, Tofu, Beans, Eggs, and nuts and seeds.  Energy in the body is usually in the form of glycogen and it is garnered from the metabolising of foods.

oily fish

There are also certain fats which are good for brain development which are referred to as Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids.  These are basically the Omega 3 and 6 fats which you will no doubt have heard of.  Dietary sources of Omega 3 fats are walnuts, flaxseed oil, soybean and canola oil, fatty fish and fish oils and algal oils.  Omega 6 fats can be found in corn, safflower oil, cottonseed, Evening Primrose oil, borage oil, blackcurrant seed oil, as well as meat, poultry and eggs.

iron and zinc

The brain also needs Iron, Zinc, and Copper.  Dietary sources of Iron are Molluscs, Liver, Squash, Beans and pulses, whole grains, dark leafys, beef and lamb and dark chocolate.  To get Zinc in your diet eat seafood, wheatgerm, spinach, seeds, Mung beans and Mushrooms.  Copper can be found in liver, oysters, sesame seeds, dark chocolate, nuts, lobster and sundried tomatoes.


The final section of nutrients required by the brain are Selenium, Vitamin A, Choline and Folate.  Selenium is actually tricky to find enough in the modern diet, but it is available from Brasil nuts, seafood, wholewheat bread, rye and mushrooms.  Vitamin A can be found in Liver, Paprika and other red peppers, dried apricots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, squash and dried herbs.  Choline can be found in soy beans, egg yolk, butter, peanuts, cauliflower, lentils and oats.  Folate, or the soluble Vitamin B, can be found in fruits, beans, peas, asparagus and brussels sprouts.


That is a long list of foods we need to eat for optimum health.  I think it is safe to say that what we need to do is be moderate, be sensible, and eat a wide variety of foods.  I plan on introducing any child I might adopt to as many flavours and foods as I can depending on any intolerances or allergies, of course.

dark chocolate

I am however, DELIGHTED that dark chocolate is on that list!  From the foods above, which is your favourite?