Why You Shouldn’t Be Scared Of Carbs

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Carbohydrates. Potatoes, White Rice, Pasta, Bread.

Comfort food.

An essential deliciousness, that is an everyday staple for the majority of a population.

Carbs fuel the body, are natural and taste amazing. If you’re into training and looking after your bod, then you’ll be more familiar with the likes of slow release carbs like sweet potatoes , brown rice or purple rice and various grains- maybe that ol’ ‘kee-no-wa’ (quinoa ) that nobody actually knows how to cook.

Carbs are an awesome and essential resource for your body after training.

Here’s the sitch: You do a hardcore HIIT session and feel like a machine, pumped, iron legs, dripping with a satisfied sweat.

Then, because you’re restricting your diet to no carbs and more fat, you make an over buttery omelette that tastes bleurgh, feel satisfied that you’ve had your protein and energy hit ( from the fat) , but wonder why you’re feeling a bit ‘off’ later in the day.

This is what has happened: Your muscles love you for the protein, but hell, they are not thanking you for the lack of glucose essential for boosting your tired bod. So now it’s decided to throw a strop and slow down in an attempt to reserve energy.

Not great when you have another 5 hours at work.

We’re not even talking about carbs on a ‘stuffing your face with pasta salad’ level, we’re talking friendly, low GI carbs that slowly feed your body with a much-needed boost of energy.

Unfortunately, due to the Keto, Low carb type diets, we have developed a minority of potato dodgers who freak out when they come into contact with a grain of rice. Yes, I am talking about this on a personal level. I used to have a breakdown if  ate more than half a banana in case it took me out of ketosis. Ii thought I ate loads of carbs when I had 150 g of rice once a week. This could be you people.

NOT HEALTHY.

I was part of the high protein high fat crew, which works amazing for some, but what these advocates of low carb forget to mention is that not one diet fits all.

I had no energy and felt fatigued, constantly injured, nauseated and grumpy AF. People knew that I was lacking in carbs if I suddenly became irritable on an evening, or snapped when the bloody ice machine wouldn’t work.

No carbs make you miserable.

However, you learn how your body works, and over the years, I have adapted to  carb back loading around workouts, which basically means eating your carbs on a night time (not necessarily in large amounts). This works for me, and not eating carbs in the day when my body might store them as fat and instead on an evening when it will be stored in the muscles as glycogen is now a habit.In all honesty, I just love it, because I know I get a big bowl of sweet potato or sticky brown rice after a hard training session on a night.

Tangents aside,  I am going to tell you all the reasons why carbs are your friends and why, if you train regularly  you should eat them like the carb monster you truly are.

They Keep You Full

Satiety. This is the feeling of a satisfied full. Not too full, not still hungry, just right.

That’s what I recommend aiming for at meal times. On a low carb diet, you can slip into the habit of being constantly ‘too full’.  An hour or so later, when your blood sugar drops, due to the lack of carbs, you are starving again. This leads to overeating and feelings of guilt. Imagine if you just ate a small portion of dripping in butter sweet potato, or a salty hot bowl of soy sauce smothered brown rice and egg.

You will feel comfortably full, and have no need to nibble before bed.

They Fuel Your Next Workout

Think of carbs as your fuel for that insane workout you want to smash tomorrow before work.

Here are two different scenarios, so you can compare:

Life with no carbs:You can’t wake up, press snooze multiple times and roll up to the gym with only half an hour to spare. Instead of attempting a hardcore sesh, throwing weights around, you opt for an easy half an hour run. The result, you’re starving, but don’t have time for a decent breakfast. You have burnt a few calories, not built any muscle or strength and you may as well have stayed in your cushy abode.

Life with carbs: Alarm goes off just as you’re putting on your trainers. You actually run to the gym ‘cos you got time to burn. Those pull-ups you couldn’t complete all week? Well, how about  three sets done. BOOM. Sprint home, shower, banana protein shake with honey and a fried egg consumed. All before work. You are amazing.

See where I’m going…?

They Boost Your Serotonin And Dopamine Levels Aka Stop You Being A Bitch

Seratonin and Dopamine are brain chemicals that make you happy. Serotonin keeps you calm, relaxed and promotes an overall feeling of well-being.Serotonin helps you sleep peacefully and more easily, ahhhhh.

Dopamine is its partner in crime. Not only does it boost motivation and drive, but it plays a part in feelings of pleasure and is our natural anti-anxiety pill.

If your body is lacking in carbs, then this dream team are lacking too.

The low down is; when you consume carbs, your body releases insulin, which causes a process that ultimately wakes up and boosts your serotonin directly. Pair that with a bit of protein and your on the path to triggering good ‘ol dopamine too.

Good vibes all round ay?

Keep Blood Sugar Stable And Maintain Your Weight

Those who fear carbs ( yes i can see you there, hiding in the meat aisle) are seriously missing out on a secret. Yes, carbs will help you lose and maintain weight.

Why? Well when you don’t eat carbs you end up weak (as discussed above) grouchy and have crazy bloody sugar spikes when you do eat a bit of carbs, your body clings on to any fat in an attempt to survive, instead of repairing and building muscle.

How does having consistently balanced blood sugar (and hormone) levels sound?

When your energy is stable, you don’t have ridiculous dips during the day and your body really utilises what you’re putting into it, to repair and improve itself. Do you want to feel like superwoman? Then you know what ya gotta do!

The Conclusion

Choose sweet potatoes and happiness.

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Try this comforting dish after a hard HIIT session:

Ingredients

1 Large Sweet Potato

½ tbsp Non-Salted Butter

1 tbsp Chopped Chives

Salt & Pepper

Chop Sweet Potato into cubes and boil in slightly salted water for 20 minutes, or until soft and you can put a knife easily through them.

Drain in a colander. Melt the butter and chives in the pan. Add the sweet potatoes and smother in the butter with a bit of salt and pepper for a minute or so.You can even pan fry them for extra crispiness like the above!

Serve with even more butter or alongside a big chunk of meat or fish.

NOM NOM NOM.

 

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Why Me And Garlic Are No Longer Friends

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Garlic. The base ingredient to every dish that’s worth eating. Garlic is a bulb from the galactan family that is an easy to prepare, delicious and necessary part of human life.

Garlic is just something that you eat, no second thoughts about it, it’s just too good to not.

Or so I thought.

Being half Italian (who would have known) I have lived through years of garlic being a daily supplement to my diet. It’s good for health apparently- makes you live longer, your Dads uncle, he’s like 80, he eats garlic every day with a glass of wine and copious amounts of coffee.The garlic is literally, what keeps him going. Apparently.

So all through my childhood, tweens, teens and twenties I consumed it in everything alongside my enemy number one (gluten) in pasta sauces, salad dressings, hummus, marinated with meat. The list winds on.

Then I hit 21 and it all turned to shit, literally.

Daily bloating, stabby stomach pains and gas. Alongside this, nausea sets in and you can spend a whole day in bed, hating life.

‘Must have had gluten yesterday in something’ you think. It’s torture trying to figure out what you can’t bloody eat now. This went on until I discovered the FODMAP diet.

Garlic you ill bitch, you’ve been sneaking around hiding in sauces, soups and god know’s what, trying to be my Lil’ bezzer and the whole time you’ve been stabbing me right in the bloody abdomen.

Why? WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY?

That’s it now. You’re gone. Even in Vietnam you’re my number one in google translate không có tỏi- yeah that’s right! NO GARLIC.

Not even cooked, not even when everyone is like, ‘Em’s give garlic a try, it will be fine cooked.’ No, it will not be fine. You know why? ‘Cos garlic, you’ve done it again.

You are a LIFE RUINER. As I lay on my bed with my laptop balanced on my distended tum , like a prop mocking me . You will not do this again. I’m serious. GARLIC – YOU ARE NO LONGER, MY FRIEND.

I don’t care if I’m Italian, I don’t care if you taste bloody unreal. You are the apple and I am Eve. But I ain’t a dumb bitch who listens to random slithering things. Nope

Cya.

Arrivederci.

Galactan be gone! I’ve got me a new best mate.

It’s called peppermint tea.

This Weekend Workout Will Motivate You

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Is your usual workout driving you insane with boredom, or have you totally lost focus of your goals?

It’s normal to wonder why you are doing something and realise you’re not actually getting anywhere. If you want to make changes in your workout regime and get yourself feeling fab once more, then read on.

This post will focus on simple exercises that can be incorporated into your week to stay in shape and keep you focused (at least for a few weeks!).

Like you, I get bored easily with too much routine, so I use the below exercises as core movements and drop them in and out of my weekly workouts, depending on how I feel.
Currently I have about five body weight/ free weight routines I switch up. I try to do a few runs, cycles and HIIT sessions to get things over and done with quickly on busy days.

Read more over at my guest blog on La Holista.

6 Strategies To Conquer An Eating Disorder

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Eating Disorders of any kind are tricky things. They tend to nestle their way into your life through different avenues. They can be triggered by various life events, feeling’s and situations. They are like an authority who tells you what you can and can’t do, and are constantly lurking around like an irritating little bitch.

My experiences with Eating Disorders is that they seriously take over every molecule of your body until you become it. They can seriously bugger up your personality, your family and your social life if you let it. I became someone no one recognised. I wasn’t the spontaneous, food loving girlfriend or the fun mate who used to say yes to impromptu outings.

I was the nervous mess, who had a panic attack whenever anyone spoke about going for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Everything I put into my mouth was measured, weighed and calorie counted. If I went over my 1000 kcals a day then it was considered a massive failure.  I would tell myself I was fat, I would purge binge purge binge purge until I had no energy or anything left in me. I was weak and feeling nauseous constantly and unable to concentrate or focus on anything. I had to tell my mates that I could no longer go for dinner and had to do non-food things, just so I could enjoy being with them and not be worrying constantly.

I would get stressed if anyone used my food because I had calculated everything and was worried that if I got over hungry , I might binge and purge and then make myself worse. One of the main problems was that I suffer with PCOS and intolerance to gluten-I manage this through a low sugar and carb diet in order to keep any symptoms (aka acne and abdominal fat) at bay, as discussed in my PCOS article. You can understand how this threw a whole new spanner into the works with an Eating Disorder.

It was shit.

Read more over at my Guest Blog on La Holista.

 

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Breakfast For One In Saigon

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Breakfast as you know, is my favourite meal, and living in Saigon is no exception to this.
I can’t access the protein powder that powered me through the day in the UK, and walnuts with Greek Yoghurt comes out at about £6 for a small amount. 

This means i have had to come up with new recipes to keep my sweet tooth satisfied.

Berries are just not really a thing here- you can buy strawberries from the side of the road, advertising themselves as ‘Dalat Strawberries’. However I am slightly wary about the conditions these are grown in and the authenticity of their Dalat-ness.

BUT pineapples are in season, as are papaya and to my relief; lovely ripe yellow bananas have suddenly reappeared, after disappearing before and after TET holidays.

So here is a lovely lil’ take on my original sweet omelette. I am slowly becoming addicted to it. Help!

Ingredients:

1 Ripe banana chopped

⅓ Pineapple incl soft core (or papaya) chopped into small squares 

3 Eggs

1 tbsp Butter (or event better coconut oil)

100ml Soy/rice/coconut/milk

1 tsp honey

1 tbsp homemade almond butter or peanut butter ( I use La Holista’s )

Sorry the pics are a bit rubbish but it tastes amazing!

Fry the pineapple in half the butter for a couple of minutes until slightly golden.  

Whisk together the eggs & milk of your choice. Then add the other half of the butter to the pan and add the eggs and banana. Keep it on a low heat and use a spatula to push the edges down so they don’t burn. 

  When it is still a little bit runny, but mostly set, flip it over in half and turn the heat off to ensure it doesn’t overcook. Serve up with the almond/peanut butter and honey smothered all over it. 

So yummy!  

On lazy days I sit in the sun and eat it avec chopsticks on my balcony…as you do in Asia. 😉 
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Skincare in Ho Chi Minh City

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Ho Chi Minh City has many, many positives and like any place, it has it’s downsides.

One of those, being the difficulty to keep usually beautiful  skin perfect in an over polluted city.

I have first hand experience of this. In the UK my skin was lovely. After years and years of struggling with teenage to mid 20’s acne and being on multiple antibiotics, I finally had it under control through  a low GI, low sugar and low dairy diet.  I swore ( and still do ) by Liz earle cleanse and polish and some French skincare, and that’s about it.

Fast forward a few months and my skin to living in Ho Chi Minh was still totally fine, but I had begun to notice little blocked pores on my chin, jawline and around my nose. My friends had also complained about breakouts in the same area. This got my thinking, what is causing it? Just the pollution or something else too?

Believe it or not, I have a really awesome international diploma (CIBTAC) in skincare as well as health and nutrition ( my info isn’t all made up ya know 😉  ) so I do like to think I know a thing or two about helping problem skin, after dealing with it for a couple of years in my ‘yoof’  and with stressed clients!

The way I deal with it is to analyse  and review any possible  causes and tackle them one by one.

This is what I would recommend to anyone struggling with strange breakouts in a polluted city:

  1. Diet

What are you putting in to your body?  I was diagnosed with Polyscystic Ovaries a few years back, which can cause troublesome skin. After persevering, I solved this by stripping back my diet to pretty much zero sugar, and eating only low GI food products. I would call myself a little bit of an expert  in how sugar affects your insulin levels and increases hormone production in the body. Its interesting, I recommend having a research around, and feel free to ask me questions about how insulin imbalance can wreak havoc on skin. You will know if your skin troubles are hormone related if breakouts are usually situated on the jawline, they’re near your thyroid gland and if that’s blocked ( usually the case with high levels of insulin resistance) then you should really focus on your diet!

I also suggest keeping up your hydration levels, especially in a hot city. I drink about 4 litres of water a day here and it definitely helps. Less alcohol too guys and girls!!

  1. Protect your face people!

My best investment hands down is a pollution mask and a massive helmet with a visor. Having moved just outside of the city, my commute is longer, dustier and dirtier. Imagine sweating profusely and having to be sat for for up to 20 mins in the middle of hundreds of motorbikes in an already polluted city. Add street food vender bbq smoke and construction work left right and centre, and you can understand why your skin isn’t looking too great. Get yourself a mask now*. If you don’t ride a moto, get some bloody huge sunglasses instead of a helmet and you’ll be sorted.

  • remember to wash your mask every few days or I just stock up on disposables!
  1. The Water.

Now I don’t think the water affects my skin in HCMC, however I have had experience living in London and that water is HORRIFIC. Hard water hates me. It leaves a lovely layer of grease on your skin. Think what is does to your kettle- lovely hey?

I researched this when I was living there, and if I could have afforded it, I would have had filters attached to my taps and shower. Something to consider if you have the dolla!

Ok, so we’ve looked at a few of the possible causes and prevention methods.

Now, what can we do about it?

Here’s what I have done to treat my skin here in HCMC and it will most definitely help you skin sufferers too:

  1. Cleanse thoroughly.

I use Liz Earle Cream Cleanser every morning and night. This is bloody hard to get hold of here, but I am lucky and get my family to ship it over. If you can’t go to those extremes, there will most likely be something similar here – its Asia for god sake, everyone is obsessed with skincare!

On top of this I brought an AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Cleanser) with me called ‘Priori Skincare, Gentle Cleansing Gel’  It’s running a bit low, but I have sourced another similar brand called Derma-e  (sometimes available from Saigon Scent and also Phu Quoc airport randomly!) they do AHA and BHA cleansers. My friend also told me about Paula’s Choice, which I heard can be ordered online to Vietnam.

I use the AHA cleanser every few days if my skin gets a bit ‘bumpy’ or if it’s been a particularly humid day.

  1. Squeeezeeeeee

This isn’t technically the best thing to do, but if you have really blocked pores, a little bit of extraction ain’t gonna hurt. It’s rank, but the most satisfying thing ever. Just make sure before you get those little black heads out, you wash your hands and use tissue. Remember, be gentle!

  1. Exfoliate

Post extraction, I use my favourite exfoliator,  Avene Gentle Purifying Scrub  or  Liz Earle Gentle Exfoliator  if you can get hold of it here, or order online.

Do this twice a week and look out for any other exfoliators if you can’t get the above, with jojoba beads that won’t scratch the surface of your skin.

  1. More masks.

I have sworn by face masks for years. The best one I have ever used is Comfort Zone Active Pureness mask. I use this on my t zone and Liz Earle Nourishing Treatment mask for my cheeks and neck.

However, there is a new bad boy on the scene, Dermal.

My friend Amber, having lived in Korea for a while (known for its awesome skincare) introduced Dermal’s collagen sheet masks to me. OMG they are life changers, my skin has never looked so bloody good after using one of these.  My fave is the Royal Jelly collagen mask. Royal Jelly is promoted in Asia to have acne curing properties and the ability to speed up scar healing. If you are an avid tanner like myself (tut tut!) you need to make sure they don’t contain whitening ingredients first, however a bit of pearl powder can make you look fabulously glowy!

Use a mask once a week. Do it a day or so before an event, just in case it’s the first time using a product and you get some kind of reaction. The rashy look isn’t the most attractive in selfies.

Dermal facemasks are available on Amazon or in Guardian stores in Ho Chi Minh.

  1. Tone

In the UK I never toned my skin, only after threading treatments. Here it’s essential. I wash my face in the middle of the day sometimes, but if you’re at work and can’t do that, a toner works wonders. Even pure rosewater, which contains Vitamin E will do. It just lifts any pollution and grime from your skin. Also invest in some Avene Spring Water Spray if you can get your hands on it!

  1. Moisturise

Every morning, I apply a light layer of Avene Hydrance Optimale Light Spf 20. Living in a hot country, you need spf every single day. This stuff is non comedgenic ( doesn’t block pores) and keeps skin hydrated, which is essential when keeping oil at bay. Believe it or not oily, problem skin gets worse if dehydrated so get on it.

On an evening I apply Avene Ystheal Anti Wrinkle Emulsion (I’m getting on a bit now) and I wake up with lovely glowy skin.

By following the above steps, within 2 weeks my skin is back to its normal self, and I have recommended this regime to a few of my friends, so we will see how they get on too.

If you have any questions, just comment below and if you think your friends or family may benefit, share share share.

We all want beautiful skin at the end f the day, there’s no reason not to have it!

 

Learning something new.

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Back in the UK, whilst I was finishing my dissertation, I procrastinated by writing blog posts. One of them was the ‘Post Uni Bucket List’. The list was written as motivation to get through a hard time- basically a narrated daydream, of a world that wasn’t filled with literature reviews and citations.

My passions ( you may have gathered) lie in the food and health industry, so the two points that were high up the list were; to get back to Kickboxing and then back that up  with learning the completely new art of Yoga, in an attempt to gain  some much needed flexibility.

Why did I not already do these activities in the UK?  Cost and time, mostly.

In Saigon, neither of those are large barriers to personal goals. A positive, in a crazy place-another factor to those who stay in Saigon, long after they were meant to leave.

Since moving to Thao Dien, a wonderful little ‘bubble’ of expats, based 5-10 mins (how fast can you drive?!) outside of the city, I have started to settle a bit more. To keep implementing a feeling of belonging and a sense of achievement, I finally joined a gym around the corner. Bodyshape offers pretty amazing facilities and classes. It is not cheap, however fitness is my thing, and I would rather spend my hard earned Dong on my health and sanity, over cheap rum on Bui Vien any day!

Kickboxing and boxing are offered at the gym. I am not so hot on regular boxing, but as I couldn’t make the kickboxing, I went along anyway.

Bloody glad I did. The instructor was awesome, he listened to me when I dropped in to the convo about my kickboxing past and seemed thrilled to be training me in proper leg work.  Kickboxing gives you a feeling of euphoria. I don’t know if it is just me, but when something comes back to you, as if you had never stopped-it’s the best feeling ever.

I’m not going to brag, but I still got it.

Even the feeling of frustration when my foot work was rusty, which was followed by nostalgia of how hard it was when I first started, was amazing. I understand that the first weeks are harrrrrrd. It is a physically and mentally strenuous sport, like all martial arts. It takes a lot of brain power and patience to get the drills right, whilst trying to not get whacked in the face at the same time.

Even knowing that I have insight into why I am finding it hard, is exciting, it’s something to work towards and overcome.

To be a good kickboxer, you need perseverance, endurance, high cardiovascular ability, strength and most of all, flexibility. The last one is my biggest struggle.

That’s why my next mission was yoga.

Fast forward to today. I completed my first ever, proper one to one yoga experience.

I am an absolute total novice when it comes to Yoga and taking into consideration that I cannot relax to save my life, it is a massive thing for me to take on.

My new Yoga instructor is a teeny tiny, beautiful (aren’t they all) Vietnamese girl with a six pack.

I felt HUGE compared to her, but you kind of get used to that here.

Deep breathing was the first task. It’s the opposite of how I know how to breathe, you use your stomach muscles and concentrating on when to breathe and how to do the movements is the hardest part.

I was absolutely abysmal.

This is not a feeling I am used to.  I am good at sport and fitness, hitting a wall so quickly in something, was difficult to overcome. The amount of times I nearly gave up in that hour lesson was ridiculous. Instead, and possibly due to lots of experience trying to get better at things, I decided to do the exercises but asked for the easiest versions, instead of tackling the ones she gave me, really badly.

The instructors here lack patience, or so I have found. Maybe it is just the language barrier though. Who knows?

My instructor was bending me backwards, standing on my arms and twisting me into painful positions, all whilst I tried to breathe and not fall over. That sense of not knowing how to do it and the irritation of ‘why can’t I just do it already?’ was empowering, strangely.

I thought you know what, in 3 months, I am going to be marginally better, 6 months; I will be a pro-ha!

It did me good not being the best at something for once, doing something so unfamiliar really made me appreciate how hard others work to achieve things. Not to mention my Vietnamese students, they do so well learning English at a young age, it was refreshing to relate with how they must feel every time they just don’t understand what I am saying, why they might misbehave and give up.

Patience definitely develops with age, and I can identify that in myself now.

It’s an addictive feeling, trying to learn something new and it’s given me another purpose to stay in this place, as homesick as I am some days. It makes being here worth it.

To pick up kickboxing, something that makes me feels amazing again. Then on top of that, have the chance to really learn Yoga, a completely new activity that I have longed to try, but haven’t had the luxury to, is a phenomenal thing. Especially when one of them ends with deep breathing, essential oils and a massage and stretch out by your instructor.

Not a bad way to kill time in the heat.