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Kickstarting Your Health in 2016

I started writing this article and realised that there was far too much to put into one blog post, so here begins a journey of several posts which are all about Kickstarting your Health and will form part of a course I will be running next year. As always, your comments and feedback are invaluable to me.

This is borne from several things; not just my love of improving health and wellbeing, but my love of food and also my passion of promoting breastfeeding.

This will apply to anyone, but very specific to breastfeeding mamas as I have seen many asking for advice and guidance with diet as it is somewhat a grey area.

Since the start of the new year, I have seen countless posts on Facebook promoting faddy diets and detoxes, now I have a problem with these generally for the following reasons:

* Detox is a medicalised process which is done when you have an substance abuse addiction: Sugar (though addictive) is not the same as heroin

* Your body can cope with the excesses of Christmas, so long as you do not maintain that level of consumption year round

* They usually involve buying specific products £££ (often these products have very poorly absorbed nutrients in them)

* They often involve meal replacements or calorie restriction - some as few as 400 Kilo Calories per day

* These plans are not maintainable

* They mess up your metabolism long-term; your body doesn't know whether it is coming or going

So there we have it in a nutshell... Please ask me for more info if you'd like!

With regards to breastfeeding mums specifically, I am member of many parenting pages and I have seen lots of mums obviously desperate to jump on the bandwagon and shed some lb. I feel your pain, sister I really do. BUT these are not the way forwards...

Yes, they promise quick results but it is really not something I would recommend; many products are actually unsuitable for breastfeeding and some contraindicated completely, but ultimately unless you are either a nutritionist, herbalist or breastfeeding specialist (I'm talking qualified, insured and member of a professional body) then it is unlikely that you will know the intricate details of these products and their interactions with the needs of a breastfeeding mum and babe.

Stage One - Being Kind to Yourself

I say to lots of my patients that they need to 'be kind to yourself' and this is something which is miscontrued often to mean 'eat pizza and cake'. What I actually mean is that you shouldn't be fighting against your body, heavily restricting calories and eliminating entire food groups all at once, you need to nourish and nurture your body - drink plenty of water, get good exercise, rest and be happy!

I would advise ditching booze, processed foods and sugar; bread is a biggie for hidden sugar, so switch to breads like sourdough and try not to live on it. If you need a quick microwave meal then go for higher quality brands such as some of the more expensive supermarkets; far less crap and still cheaper and healthier than a takeaway. These weird and wonderful chemicals used in processed foods can put an unneccesary strain on your digestive system, which includes your liver; your liver is spending too much time focusing on metabolising these alien ingredients to concentrate on its day job, which will have a knock on effect not only on your bowels, but hormones, weight, stress, skin...I think you get the point!

What I mean is good, lovely, seasonal soups and stews, crack out the slow cooker and use it as much as you can for maximum output from minimal input. I have managed to modify lots of our family favourites to be slow cooker friendly. Cooking slowly means that you can use slightly tougher cuts of meat - which tend to be tastier anyway, plus loads of nourishing root veggies. Because it's cooked with the lid on, you are getting more of the vitamins and minerals which you would have lost during the cooking process. Plus, being minimal effort it's a win in the energy expenditures stakes, particularly if you have littlies to worry about and breastfeeding to be done.

You can even slow cook porridge overnight, though you may have to refer to someone else for a decent recipe on this as I haven't managed it succesfully yet!

If you're using lean meats, plenty of veg and stock in your slow cooker, you're not adding tonnes of additional fats and sugar to your food, so as well as being nutritious, it'll be filling and will encourage weight loss when incorporated as part of a healthy plan. Taking on healthy fats in the form of Omega oils are important - Omega 3 in particular (we generally have too much Omega 6 in our diets) which can be found in oily fish, linseeds, rapeseed oil and nuts including walnuts.

I'd also guide you towards eating organic and grass fed meats if you're a meat eater. It costs more but is SO much better for you (and the planet) and if the knock on effect of that is you eat a bit less meat and more veggies, then that's usually not such a bad thing...

Using herbs and spices is a brilliant way to help jazz up a veg soup, reinvent sweet potato wedges or to make fish and meat more exciting; it doesn't need to cost a fortune and it doesn't need to be massively time consuming. I actually buy ready chopped root veggies frozen, for those days when everything is going wrong and I can throw it, some lean diced beef, thyme, bay leaf, seasoning and beef stock into the slow cooker on low for five hours. It takes all of five minutes but the result is amazing and it tastes like I have spent a lot longer on it.

Stage Two - Nutrients - maximise Nutrient Rich Foods

Loving your body and ensuring you are getting plenty of nutrients from your food is key, particularly if you are breastfeeding; it has been shown that even a poor diet can produce good milk BUT that doesn't mean that you should try it! Ultimately, you have been through pregnancy, labour and now breastfeeding so your body is going to be in 'nutrient deficit' anyway; huge restrictions at this stage would simply add to that defecit and further deplete your stores, potentially causing you physical and emotional symptoms as a result.

Do remember that an RDA of a vitamin or mineral is just the level that below which you will start to show signs of deficiency, it is NOT the optimal level which is very different.

Don't get me wrong, ditching bad habits is not a bad thing, but so soon after having a baby and whilst your body is still nurturing them it is not a great idea. You need to look after yourself as you would them, think about it that way.

I can help you to look at your diet and lifestyle, to make better and more nutritious choices and kickstarting your health that way, rather than being starving for a fortnight before thinking sod it and ordering an enormous chinese takeaway and consuming a bottle of pinot (ok, we have kids so maybe not an entire bottle, the hangovers are not worth it!) . If you make a change, it needs to be something which you can manage long-term, involve the family in and enjoy... that way you are far more likely to be succesful. The same for exercise; if you hate the gym then the chances are you wont stick at it, but find something that you love and soon you'll be hooked!

Key points to take away this week:

* Be Kind to Yourself

* Ditch using bread as a cornerstone of your diet

* Ditch processed foods!

* No one is perfect: just make sure your 'bad food' isn't setting you back weeks

* Slow cooker! Borrow one perhaps to try out. This will make life SO much easier and enable you to cook lovely nutritious family meals with very little effort

My next post will be focussing on some healthy recipes which have been tried and tested by myself and friends plus super ingredients to include in your diet :)

Love, health and happiness

Jo xx

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