OOPs you did it again! Christmas is over for another year, and you’ve got that sluggish feeling of overindulgence, guilt and maybe even disappointment in yourself. Any minute now everyone from your friends to the media will be talking about getting back in shape, exercise, dieting, but does taking back control of your weight and your health have to be so daunting – and so hard?
Not according to award winning nutritionist and gut health specialist, Dr Lucy Williamson. She urges us to be more kind to ourselves and show a little compassion; make the start of the year the start of a new health journey and a gift to yourself. You don’t even have to deprive yourself of all the foods you love, just eat them in a different way.
“As a Nutritionist, I know the first question we always need to ask is ‘What’s stopping me from making the changes that deep down I really want to?’”, Lucy says.
“Your answers may include barriers like lack of time and knowledge, confusion, the need for convenience, or ease…. the list can be long in our busy world with information overload. But with a little effort, you can make changes that will have long term positive health effects.”
To get started, Lucy recommends these 3 steps:
It’s all in the planning!
You’re going to need time to plan what foods you can eat and where to find them, sorting your recipes and developing a routine for some batch cooking perhaps. This commitment to yourself may involve taking a day off work – but it’ll be worth it and you deserve it!
Use your Gut Brain Axis
We know from robust research that this is a super-highway of information, connecting the hidden potential of our gut microbes, (our second brain), with our thoughts. So, draw on that gut feeling, your inner wisdom! It’s very real and it also needs us to de-stress. Plan in a short daily meditation, like a breathing practice. This helps you to mentally get out of your head and into your deeper needs.
Nurture your Gut Health
because this is also a very sustainable way to keep a healthy weight. The good news is that there’s no dieting required, just a change of eating habits. Eat a wide variety of plants, (remembering that this includes, fruit, veg, nuts, seeds, grains, pulses, beans and even herbs and spices) to provide vital dietary fibre, eat fermented foods little and often, and get your gut-loving antioxidants by choosing brightly coloured foods such as tomatoes, red cabbage or watercress.
Eight for Weight Plan
With this fresh new approach and having made this commitment to yourself, it’s time to follow the Eight for Weight Change Plan; eight ways to achieve lasting positive weight change.
Avoid Ultra-processed foods (UPFs)
Processing foods involves a total change in its structure and function. This means we absorb its sugar more easily, swapping valuable nutrients for high energy instead. This upsets our appetite control, including our gut health. Check labels on supermarket foods for these two questions:
o Do you recognise the listed ingredients? If not, perhaps you don’t want to eat them.
o What is the figure for ‘carbohydrates of which sugar’? Remember 1 tsp = 5g and we don’t want to eat more than 6 teaspoons daily; less if trying to lose weight. And Artificial sweeteners? Avoid them!
Choose Whole foods
If plants, this means you will get more gut healthy fibre and antioxidants (see above); if animal sourced foods such as yoghurt, cheese or milk, choosing whole rather than ‘reduced fat’ will satisfy your appetite better (seek advice if you live with Type 2 Diabetes or you’re trying to balance blood cholesterol). Think about Plant Drinks – it’s important to know that these are not a nutritional alternative to dairy milks. Sustainable soy can provide a good protein source and British oat milk a nice change of flavour, but some plant drinks give us a higher blood sugar response which means we’re more likely to be hungry more quickly. Watch out for additives like seed oils in them too.
Embraces the fact that certain foods when eaten together can reduce the energy we get from them. I recommend that you add in higher protein, fibre and healthy fat foods, when eating carbohydrates. This slows down sugar absorption, regulates the appetite better and nurtures gut health. Even if having a piece of sourdough and cheese – have some nuts on the side too or swap jam for peanut butter. A helpful rule is 2/3rds plants and 1/3 animal foods on your plate. This is what is meant by ‘plant-based eating’.
After a tiring day we turn to what’s in the fridge! Having planned some ‘you-time’ into your schedule, however, use this time to work out how to fit batch cooking a couple of meals into your week. It’s also a great opportunity to think about how to add extra plants into your food eg add lentils and other veg into a Bolognese
Rest and digest!
Preparing our digestive system by taking time to appreciate our food first, helps our appetite control to kick in better. Digestion is complex; you’ll notice the first stage – saliva in your mouth – if you simply think about your food for a few minutes before tucking in! Try to follow your natural diurnal or circadian rhythm too – in the winter, with shorter days, it’s easier to eat dinner earlier and breakfast later, giving a nice 12-14 hour overnight fast. Great for gut health!
Use a smaller bowl or plate, take time eating your food – enjoy this together as a family or with friends – and wait for 20 mins before deciding if you actually need seconds or not!
All the above should mean you feel the urge to snack less. Are you just thirsty? Have some handy snacks available like whole nuts and dried fruit or some dark chocolate (try sucking it rather than chewing!)
Avoiding UPFs will greatly help this. It’s worth remembering that flavoured coffees, breakfast cereals, granola bars (even some oatcakes) alcohol & bought sauces are just some of the foods where sugar is hidden. This adds up through your day!
To help get your new food regime underway, try these delicious recipe ideas from www.lwnutrition.co.uk. Including the one we have for you today, there will be another each Monday for three weeks!
Hearty Pearl Barley Kedgeree
Using barley is a great way to add fibre to nurture gut health and source British too!
White sea fish like haddock is a great source of high-quality protein for muscle strength and anti-inflammatory, mood boosting Omega 3.
Prep time 10 mins
Cook time 40 mins
- 500g smoked haddock (approximately 1 side)
- 500ml full fat milk
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 free-range eggs
- 150g pearl barley
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 25g butter
- 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 20g fresh ginger, grated
- 2 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tsp ground turmeric (or fresh, finely grated)
- 150g baby spinach leaves, washed
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 30g fresh coriander, finely chopped
- 150ml water
- Salt and pepper
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 4 spring onions, finely chopped (optional)
- 100g Dairy Greek Yoghurt
- Glug of rapeseed oil
- First poach the smoked haddock in a shallow, non-stick pan (with a lid) and pour over the milk. Add bay leaves. Cover and place on a medium heat, allow the milk to come up to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes until the fish flakes easily.
- Remove the fish from the pan and set to one side to cool. Reserve the milk. Wipe out your pan ready for the next stage.
- Meanwhile boil your eggs for 7 minutes. Remove and place into a bowl of cold water to cool. Peel and quarter the eggs.
- Add the butter and rapeseed oil to your pan (2) and cook the finely chopped onion gently for 5 minutes until translucent. Add garlic, chilli & ginger. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the curry powder and turmeric. Stir frequently to ensure it doesn’t stick. Cook for another 5-10 minutes until nicely aromatic. Add the pearl barley and stir well.
- Slowly start adding the reserved milk in stages, allowing the barley to absorb the liquid in between additions and stirring frequently (as you would with a risotto). Keep going until all the milk is added and then continue with the additional water. The barley will take about 25 minutes to cook through.
- Finally add the diced tomatoes, spinach and half the coriander. Flake in the smoked haddock (discard the skin). Stir well and cover to allow the spinach to wilt down and the fish to heat through. Season with S&P and the lemon juice.
- Turn off the heat, stir through yoghurt and then garnish with the eggs, reserved coriander and chopped spring onions.
So, as we head into 2024, gift yourself the time you need to support positive changes for your health. It doesn’t necessarily have to entail a dramatic increase in exercise, or a deprivation of certain foods, even chocolate; just an improved attitude towards yourself. After all, you’re worth it!
To find out more about gut health, discover more recipes, or to sign up to Lucy’s Gut Health Course, visit www.lwnutrition.co.uk
Look out for the next three recipes on The Wonderment in the coming weeks. Don’t forget to join the conversation over on social media too. You can find us on TikTok, Instagram, Threads, Facebook and Twitter.
Dr Lucy Williamson
Lucy lives on the edge of the Chiltern Hills with her RAF husband, two teenage children and Raurie, the border terrier.
Today Lucy Williamson is an award-winning Nutritionist specialising in gut health, but her career path was somewhat unorthodox, making her approach and knowledge base unique.