If I only had a brain…

Scarecrow

I can’t even begin to explain what a week I’ve had…

For the last few weeks I’ve been involved in completing some psychometric tests as part of a study into the health of the human brain…cool huh?

The culmination of these assessments ended this week with a series of brain scans that will be used as part of a wider study that involves eight universities across the UK.   The information will be collected together so that it can be analysed. The overall aim is to better understand how the healthy human brain looks in MEG (Magnetoencephalography).  This is a technique for directly measuring brain activity. Brain cells communicate with one another by exchanging small electrical currents and these currents induce a magnetic field that is distributed around the head. Such fields are detectable using a MEG scanner and their measurement allows the universities to determine the location of any electrical activity in the brain, and how the patterns of that electrical activity change over time.

So the first part of the day I had my head in a MEG scanner which was then followed by more psychometric tests and then followed up with a series of brain scans using MRI.  The cool thing about this MRI is that MRI technology was first conceived in Nottingham by 2003 Nobel prize winner Peter Mansfield and is one of very few with a tesla rating of 7 (Geek Mode: on)…In other words the imaging they can get from this machine is extremely detailed.

I have to say that the whole day was so awesome that its taken me a couple of days just to process all the information I was handed at the end.  Its safe to say the human body absolutely fascinates me since I took a very keen interest in my own health 5 years ago but any chance I can get to help out in future is definitely something I’m keen to pursue going forward.

So here are a couple of images taken on the day of my brain…Glad to see one exists!

HeadShot1

HeadShot2

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Is this item as healthy as its claimed to be?

We’ve all been there…we see a product on the supermarket shelf that markets itself as healthy so we put in the basket and feel good for making the right choice.

I’ve seen a few of these of late; the breakfast cereals with the added Vitamin D, the box of Tea Bags with the extra Vitamin B6, the list goes on, but what grinds my gears a little is the way they market these products to the unsuspecting public.

Maybe I’m being a little too harsh but marketing has become a bit of a buzzword of late. Having Vitamin claims in BIG BOLD letters right on the front of the packet can be a tad misleading if you don’t know what you’re looking for on the back of the packet under ‘nutritional information’.

For any company that markets its product with extra vitamins and minerals, they have to include a ‘Nutrient Reference Value (NRV) as part of the nutritional information label.  NRVs are based on levels of nutrients associated with nutrient requirements.  The good news for consumers is that not only does it have to represent the included dosage but they also have to represent this as a percentage of Recommended Daily Intake.  So if you have an NRV of 11% then the likely dosage isn’t going to be great…

BUT

This is where the marketing machine gets to work because they can and will promote their product on the basis that its healthy for you and sometimes in a misleading fashion.  I would ask therefore that if you see a product marketed as healthy, just take a few moments to look at the nutrition label on the back, because chances are you paying inflated prices for minimum health benefits.

Do I eat takeaway food?

A curious question I was asked the other day…In fact I get asked all the time what foods I eat, so lets get a little context here…

As a nutritionist, no food is off limits but it really depends on what your goals are…

Would I eat tonnes of pizza if my goal is fat loss? probably not!

That’s not to say I don’t eat pizza, I do, I choose to make my own though because I can get all creative with the ingredients, and my version of pizza is substantially healthier than the type of pizza you would find on the high street.

I guess it come down to a number of factors and making your own food should be a high priority.  Why do I say this? Well you really get an appreciation of the value of food and you also get a couple of important life skills, time management being one of them.  Cooking food that brings everything to a conclusion at the same point is pretty impressive once you’ve mastered it and there nothing that beats that feeling of accomplishment when you have a meal that you’ve prepared and cooked yourself.

When time is a limiting factor, we tend to default to ready made foods that we can quickly heat up in the microwave or order in like takeaways, yet these foods are relatively expensive, calorie dense and nutrient poor compared to buying in single ingredient foods like fruit, veg and quality sourced proteins.

Case in point would be a meal out for a family of 4 for around £60, yet with a little planning you could source around 4-6 days worth of food for the same money.

So instead, why not take some time to prepare nutritious food at the weekend that you can quickly heat up during the week if you are tight for time?

…a bit of planning can go a long way 🙂

Healthy Turkey Curry

This recipe takes around 10 minutes of prep time and around 20 mins to cook, so why not give it a go and report back in the comments below 🙂

The good thing about this recipe is that you can use different sources of animal protein and it still tastes good so if you fancied a beef curry instead then this works well too (obviously the nutrition information is based on Turkey breast so you will have to amend the details)

Ingredients (In order of throwing it all together!) – Serves 2

  1. 10g Butter (I use goats butter for its creamy texture)
  2. Very Large Onion (Roughly 300g should do it)
  3. Cloves of Garlic or 1/2 tsp Garlic Granules
  4. 400g Tin of Chopped Tomatoes
  5. Half of bag of Coriander Leaves (Roughly 15g)
  6. 1 or 2 Chillies depending on how spicy you want it (add more if you like it extra spicy!)
  7. 250g of Turkey Breast
  8. 1/2 tsp of Turmeric spice
  9. 1 tsp of Garam Masala spice

Instructions

  1. Put the butter in a wok and allow to melt
  2. Chop and dice the onion then add to the butter.  Allow the onion to soften and turn slightly brown.
  3. Add the garlic and stir it in.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes and continue to stir
  5. Add the fresh coriander and stir in
  6. Slice up the chillies then stir them in
  7. Dice up the turkey breast then add in
  8. Add the Turmeric then stir in
  9. Add the Garam Masala then stir in
  10. Place a lid on the wok and allow 20 min to simmer stirring occasionally

Nutritional Information (KCal: 335, Carbs: 27g, Fat: 7g, Pro: 41g)

The key to motivation…

is Mindset!

Think back to a time when you had a task to complete.  It could be anything from simply cleaning the house to the first day of a new regime…remember how you felt?  Were you a little apprehensive? Did you procrastinate a little before getting stuck in? Then here’s a little tip for you…

Treat the task as if it were ‘Groundhog Day’…Give it everything you have and if the task goes beyond 24 hours reset the mindset as if its day one all over again….it really works!

If you’ve ever been on a diet you’ll remember that on day one you decided to start a fresh and get in all the healthy stuff to help you on your way but by the weekend the motivation to carry on weakened, so to keep going just remember that every day is day one.

Its incredible once you remember to mentally reset each day.  Wake up with the same energy as before and tackle the day as if it were your last!

Hit me up with comments and let me know how you get on 🙂

Floatation Tank Experience…

As an holistic & lifestyle coach, I’m very much interested in all avenues of well-being from nutrition right down to stress and sleep and I’ve been involved in some pretty amazing research to date, but a lot of the time I like to get in amongst the research and actually try things out for myself.  One such tool that presented itself to me was the option of an hour long session in a floatation tank.

Now for some, the very thought of being in isolation in a confined space brings on feelings of anxiety (the very issues that Floatation Tanks attempt to address!) so for what’s its worth here’s my take on yesterday’s experience.

For starters it’s important to shower beforehand as the solution within the ISOPOD is highly concentrated Epsom Salts.  Epsom Salts have a high magnesium content and for those that don’t understand the benefits of Magnesium, it literally serves hundreds of functions within the human body (1)

Because of the high mineral content, the water you lie in allows you to float unaided.  I’ll come on to why that’s important in a moment.

The hour long session provides you with 10 mins of relaxation music while you relax to a state between being awake and asleep.  This is then followed by 45 minutes of complete quiet with 5 mins of relaxation music at the end as a mental queue that the session is coming to a close.

You are given a set of ear plugs so that it avoids the Epsom Salt solutions from entering the ear canal; it also deprives your sense of hearing.

The pod itself has an internal light which allows you to turn off, again depriving you the sense of sight (it’s pitch black in there when the lights are out!).  You enter the pod fully naked too so as to deprive your body of the sense of touch, so removing all the sensory input that your brain has control over allows the mind to enter a deep state of relaxation.  Some people may find this concerning but to me removing all these inputs allowed me a deeper experience than I was expecting.

The experience is as close to zero gravity as we on earth are ever likely to experience.  Being in suspended animation was amazing, my mind was racing to start with and I found myself trying to tilt my head up.  Once I consciously realised I was doing it, I let myself go completely.

The feeling of letting go completely was so calming I could see how this type of intervention would work with clients with high stress markers.

Would I use it again?  Absolutely, the full benefits of a second or third session will be even more intense as I now have a full appreciation of what to expect, but believe me when I say that this is something I would definitely recommend anyone having a go at.

If you have any questions on this, feel free to leave a comment below…

Thirsty?…

So this week in the UK we are anticipating a mini heatwave, so how should we stay hydrated?

A quick calculation of how much fluid you should ideally take in is basically 1 fl.oz for every kg of body weight, so for me that’s an easy 80 ounces.  To convert that number to a more realistic value is to multiply that number by 0.0296 for the amount in litres, so for me that’s 2.39 litres.

If you’re like me and you find it difficult to consume that much on a daily basis, get into the habit of keeping a 500ml bottle handy and take regular sips throughout the day.  If you own a smartphone, then there are also water apps that remind you too! (..a step too far including me!)

I’ll be honest, I struggle to keep hydrated because the taste of water is unpalatable to me so I have to spice it up a little by adding some lemon or lime juice to it.  Have a look at this clever little device which I’ve been using for about a year now (Citrus Zinger)

Another option I use to keep fluids up is to eat fruits high in water content like grapefruits, watermelon, pomegranate and cucumber (a few ideas there for you!)

Be mindful of beverages like caffeinated teas and coffees as some of these can also dehydrate you.

If you have any other clever tips on how to stay hydrated, then feel free to add a comment below (I’m always on the lookout for new ideas to keep hydrated!)