Are a good diet and exercise both crucial for weight loss?

With restrictions finally lifted and summer on the way, the motivation to diet and exercise is greater now than it ever has been.

And with that comes the range of questions associated with exercise; does diet really matter? Can I just exercise and eat what I want? Does my diet really matter when I exercise?

Although I would love to say all you need to do is exercise, for the most efficient weight loss a combination of  a clean diet and exercise is the best way.

And this can be achieved in a number of ways, and doesn’t mean going on any crazy diets. Rather it is the complete opposite, and with a little willpower much easier than you might imagine.

diet and exercise

Diet and exercise go hand in hand

When we exercise your body uses the energy from the food you provide it to fuel yourself through that exercise.

When you feed your body sweets and treats, your body automatically stores these as fat reserves because naturally we are built this way in case of food shortages.

However, with the surplus of resources we now have available, if we don’t exercise our bodies will not use up these fat reserves and just keep them.

Now lets look at the alternative where you are exercising but don’t give your body the right fuel:

Lets say you are exercising 2 hours a day, but you aren’t giving your body enough energy or the right amount of energy to carry out the exercise.

You might be okay for the first day, and maybe even the second (although I highly doubt it) and by the third day your body is giving up on you because you aren’t giving it what it needs.

This is an extreme example, but the point is that if you give your body what it needs, it will give you what you want.

Alternatively if you don’t give your body what it needs, it doesn’t have the fuel or resources to deliver.

And equally if you give your body too much of what it doesn’t need, it’s going to store those reserves rather than using them, and that isn’t what you want either.

Long term gains over short term pleasure

So what is the solution to this? Well the reality is that sometimes the only person standing in your way is you.

If your long term goal is to be a healthy and happy person, but your short term self wants to eat foods that don’t benefit your body, perhaps it is time to make some changes.

An easy tip to try and help you make better food choices is to reduce the amount of choices you have to make. Let me explain.

Tip 1

If you have the option of eating healthy or unhealthy food in your home, the chances are you will go for the unhealthy food because – let’s face it – it is more tasty.

But if it was not readily available and you were hungry, you would have no choice but to eat the healthy food.

Tip 2

With the busy lives we live, another easy tip is to try and plan what you will eat beforehand and prepare those meals for when it is time to eat.

In this way you have done all the hard work of deciding, and when it comes to eating, you just get to enjoy your nice and balanced meal.

It definitely is easier said than done, but implementing these small changes can make a big difference and ensure your diet isn’t holding you back from achieving your long term goals.

Is a high protein ‘Carnivore Diet’ good for your body?

The ‘Carnivore Diet’ has been attributed by many to Shawn Baker, a former American orthopaedic doctor who promotes the diet as the best and only way to eat and live.

However, the original idea of the carnivore diet can be traced back to German writer, Bernard Moncriff who authored The Philosophy of the Stomach: Or, An Exclusively Animal Diet, in 1856.

With time and many individuals looking for alternative weight loss methods, people have tried the carnivore diet in an attempt to help with physical health, as well as mental health and autoimmune diseases.

What is the 'Carnivore Diet'?

In its basic form, a carnivore diet is a restrictive diet that only allows the consumption of animals and animal products. This would be for example meat, fish, eggs and other dairy products like milk.

In complete contrast to veganism, it excludes all other foods such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, grains, nuts and legumes.

In many cases people follow the carnivore diet to differing extremes. Some people may follow it around 70% of the time whilst others may just have a more protein based diet.

The aim with the carnivore diet is to have a zero carb diet, and is therefore seen as the next level of dieting compared to mainstream diets such as keto or paleo.

How does it affect the body over time?

The carnivore diet is marketed as being able to treat anxiety, depression, obesity, arthritis and more, but little to no research has been done on the effects of following the diet over long period of time.

In the short term, people can experience incredible weight loss results due to protein being more filling and in turn resulting in less calories being consumed.

 

A study by Lennerz and colleagues in 2021 found that those people who followed the carnivore diet experienced few negative effects and actually reported health benefits and high satisfaction.

However, many health and dietary professionals agree that the increased meat consumption can result in high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol levels in the body. And in the long term some effects may include a lacking in basic nutrients.

Dietitian Nichola Ludlam-Raine believes in the long term it may have serious health implications including the development of a poorly functioning immune system, meaning people following the diet could catch illnesses easier.

What drives us to try these extreme diets?

In many cases people are trying to avoid the arduous task of exercising on a regular basis and trying to keep a balanced diet in order to lose weight.

Instead they give in to this ‘quick fix’ mentality that diets can sort the issue of excessive weight gain in a short space of time.

The problem with this mentality is that it is temporary and cannot be sustained over the long term. As humans our bodies naturally crave the food we restrict ourselves from, and often this can make dieting quite a miserable experience.

As well as this when we diet our bodies believe that we are going into a potentially threatening situation and instead of losing the fat, it will try to retain as much of it as possible.

 As a result, despite the initial drop in weight the body will suddenly experience a plateau and unless taken to the next ‘level’ will not display any further weight loss.

A lifestyle choice rather than a diet

Speaking from experience, it is much better to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle rather than following a diet.

Doing even a small amount of walking a day can help with trying to shift the excess weight and help you feel better physically and mentally.

As well as this, building healthy eating habits can help create a proactive choice to remove excess sugar and saturated fats from your diet in the long-term lead to a healthy reduction in weight.

Here are 12 tips from the NHS on the best way to lose weight:

  1. Do not skip breakfast – it sets you up for the rest of the day
  2. Eat regular meals – to keep you full throughout the day
  3. Eat plenty of fruit and veg at least a minimum of 5 a day
  4. Get more active – to help you physically and mentally
  5. Drink plenty of water – so that you don’t confused thirst with hunger
  6. Eat high fibre foods – to keep you full and aid weight loss
  7. Read food labels – to understand how healthy the food is for you
  8. Use a smaller plate – to reduce portion size and avoid overeating
  9. Do not ban junk food – it only makes you crave them more
  10. Do not stock junk food – to avoid the temptation

More from Behavioural Foodie...

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your food habits?

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused drastic changes in food choices, dietary habits and general health. If the current state of affairs continues this could be detrimental to the health of the population.

Behavioural science techniques can be used to create better food habits, and reduce our unhealthy dietary choices.

Shifts in shopping choices and eating habits

Humans are naturally creatures of habit, in that we create certain routines, we like or enjoy ways of doing certain activities and we even allocate particular times in the day for our daily pursuits.

When these habits are disrupted due to external environmental factors, for many it can be quite unsettling and cause major shifts in behaviour. These can be both positive or negative changes based on each individual person’s preferences and what people value most.

With the never-ending coronavirus pandemic looming over us, many of you may have noticed shifts in your food shopping patterns, eating habits and general physical and mental health.

Are these food behaviour changes positive or negative?

A study by Janssen and colleagues in 2021 revealed that shopping habits were seen to shift from fresh foods to more long lasting foods including canned foods, frozen foods, cakes and biscuits.

People were seen to be shopping less during lockdowns and there was an overall increase in consumption of foods with a longer shelf life.

Interestingly, the study highlighted that although 15 – 42% of participants displayed a change in how much they ate and how often, these were not all negative changes.

In fact, the study showed that people diverged in both positive and negative ways, indicating that the pandemic has different effects on people’s lifestyles and their consumption patterns.

How has the pandemic affected dietary choices?

Another study by Bennet and colleagues found that lockdowns have had both positive and negative impacts across Europe and the world.

Their research highlighted people eat more snacks and increased the number of their daily meals. This was seen in people choosing to indulge in comfort foods, processed foods and fried foods.

With these negative diet habits many people were seen to experience increased weight gain and limited physical activity, as well as mental health issues.

Why are we making these behaviour shifts?

The reason for many of these behaviour shifts can be explained by our natural heuristics and biases.

When we first moved in lockdown, many of our regular everyday activities were disrupted. We were limited in how much we could buy, we were unable to go to the gym and making healthier choices was in general more difficult.

1) Intention-Action Gap

As a result an Intention-Action Gap was seen to form in many people. This is where a person intends to eat healthy, exercise regularly and keep a stable mindset.

However, because of being stuck at home it was much easier to relax, snack on foods and procrastinate the idea of finding other ways to maintain our general health. Hence the gap between intention and action.

This can be attributed to a certain type of conditioning many of us will have for ourselves when we get home. People tend to see their homes as a place to relax after a hard day at work.

Once we moved into this environment full time, our brains confused being at home with relaxing and enjoyment rather than work, making it even more difficult to make healthy choices.

2) Present Bias

Another variable that affects all of us is that we suffer from Present Bias. As the word suggest, present bias is where we value the present more and want to have immediate pleasures.

Naturally we find it more difficult to make a trade-off between the present moment and a time in the future.

With the unpredictability of lockdown many of us were unsure when we would be able to go back to a healthier lifestyle.

Due to our minds seeing this as a potentially high risk situation, we naturally gave in to the present bias and ate what was available and comforting.

How can we reduce unhealthy habits as COVID-19 evolves?

Below is a easy three step method to ensuring you can create a new habit and in time maintain these habits.

Let’s say we want to increase our physical wellbeing and add a walk into our daily lives.

Our first step is to:

1. Ensure activation – meaning we make sure we have a reminder and a set time for when we carry out our daily walk.

Thereafter we look to facilitate the process by:

2. Boosting ability – we make it easy for ourselves to complete this walk i.e. we choose a quiet time in our day where we can carry out the activity.

And thirdly to ensure we repeat the behaviour:

3. Make it rewarding – make it an experience that you want to repeat again. Listen to your favourite podcast or call a friend and chat while you walk.

This three step process can be used for any behaviour habit you want to implement and can help increase your healthy habits as COVID-19 continues to affect us.

See more from Behavioural Foodie...

New year resolutions and visions

It’s finally the end of another extraordinary year. And after what feels like an eternity, we are entering into a new year with entirely different perspectives, behaviour patterns and habits.

With this new year comes a range of challenges, goals and of course our new year, new me resolutions.

Whether that’s to be more mindful, have a career shift, lose weight and get back in the gym or be a more content person, we hope this new year helps you develop the motivation to achieve those goals.

New year resolutions and regular articles

Since the last post on our website some time ago there have been a variety of changes, and as a company we are shifting our efforts to bring you a more educational and fulfilling experience.

The plan over the course of the next year is to return to posting regular articles once a week, covering a range of topics from Veganuary to personality and food choices to climate change influencing your behaviour.

These discussions will all have a behavioural science perspective to help you understand how and why you make certain food choices.

Marketing, photography and behavioural science

As well as this a range of articles will be written around marketing, photography and behavioural science, and how you can learn or use these tips in the new year.

Our larger aim is to be able to educate beyond written articles, and provide this information to you in a range of multimedia channels on different platforms.

By the end of this year, our vision is to create a platform where individuals can read and enjoy quality content on a regular basis.

If you have any ideas, suggestions or topics that you would like to know and read about, you can let us know by emailing email@behaviouralfoodie.co.uk.

From everyone at the Behavioural Foodie team, we wish you all the best in 2022 and a Happy New Year!

Talonmore: Introducing A Non-Alcoholic Alternative That Will Change Your Life

Alcohol vs Non-Alcoholic Drinks?

From alcohol to non-alcoholic alternatives: Why are people making the switch?

Alcohol is defined as ­an organic substance which derives from fermenting sugar with yeast. For many people drinking is a part of socialising when celebrating or even enjoying a meal.

In recent times, many people have been moving away from drinking alcohol. When socialising, in many cases it is difficult not to drink. As a result, individuals are making the decision to choose a non-alcoholic alternative.

Is alcohol better than non-alcoholic?

There are many arguments that alcohol has benefits. Professionals are divided on the subject, but some evidence suggests there are benefits in small quantities. Research shows it can reduce the risk of developing and dying of heart disease. There is a possibility it may also reduce strokes and risk of diabetes. In particular whisky contains antioxidants and has proven benefits in anti-ageing and hair health. Many experts say that 1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks per day for men is a low risk amount that can be beneficial for health.

However, many people find it hard to control the level of alcohol they consume. As a result in many cases the bad can outweigh the good.

What are the disadvantages of alcohol?

Since alcohol is defined as a drug, the drawback of enjoying too much alcohol can cause addiction. It can be seen in people from all walks of life and in varying levels. Addiction to alcohol is defined as someone who heavily relies on drinking and cannot stay sober for an extended period of time. This is a disease which can be very gradual, but has huge effects on behaviour and mental state.

Alcohol addiction can look like:

The emerging non-alcoholic drinks market

Having had discussions with  people who drink alcohol, many of them are now choosing non-alcoholic alternatives. But why?

For some they say it is for the health benefits. When you drink alcohol you don’t actually digest it. Instead it goes straight into the bloodstream and travels to every part of the body. Hence why the effect of alcohol can be felt so quickly. It then effects your brain, kidneys, lungs and liver. These effects can also depend on your age, gender, weight and the type of alcohol.

Many individuals feel this is too high a price to pay to enjoy a night out with friends. They would rather enjoy the socialising, without having to sacrifice their health.

Behavioural science behind non-alcoholic drinks?

As always, I like to look at the behavioural decision making for individuals shifting over to alternatives. In my opinions there are 3 main reasons why individuals are choosing to make this switch.

1) Availability

In recent years the market size for non-alcoholic beverages has increased dramatically, and yet is still in it infancy in terms of size. There is reason to suggest that in the next ten years this will grow rapidly. Such that for every alcoholic drink there will be a non-alcoholic alternative. Because of this availability it gives people an alternative choice which they did not previously have. 

Although this seem trivial, having a choice to drink an alternative will encourage more people to make the switch. They can still enjoy a night out and appear to be having a drink. And as a bonus avoid the hangover the next morning.

2) Cognitive Dissonance

As described in my post on veganism, many people can hold conflicting views about alcohol. On the one side, they enjoy the effects of it and nights out. On the other, it is a costly activity which is not necessarily required. Many people also feel discomfort from the idea of being unable to be fully in control of themselves when under the influence of alcohol. And the added health implications adds to this discomfort.

This coupled with the effect of being unable to remember many aspect of their evenings can result in cognitive dissonance. As a result people are switching to an alternative where they can have the best of both. This also removes the metal discomfort of having less control over their actions, and sacrificing a healthier life approach.

3) Mental Health

Since alcohol is a depressant in that it reduces pain, many individuals use it as a way of release or escape. It can feel like a comfort to many people to have that release from the daily stresses of life. However by doing so, some people can feel the only way to be happy is under the influence of alcohol. The brain associates happiness with drinking by as process of classical conditioning and can this be extremely detrimental.

As a result, this can cause levels of instability and feelings of depression. The more it becomes a habit, the harder it is to break this habit and it turns into a vicious cycle. However, with the alcohol alternatives tasting as close to the real drink, many people can experience a placebo effect. Individuals can feel that same happiness they felt previously, without having the after effects.

This is not to say that non-alcoholic drinks can cure addiction, but more of an example of how they could be utilised in the future.

Why am I writing a blog post about alcohol?

I am aware that many of you will be thinking why is Mariam writing a blog post about alcohol?! And you are right in thinking it is completely abnormal. I am not here to promote drinking or trying alcohol. The real reason to write this post is to talk about a non-alcoholic product.

Let’s talk about Talonmore

Talonmore is a company which was introduced to me via my job and caught my attention. This was partially due to the fact that this is a non-alcoholic spirit, which I haven’t really seen around.

Talonmore do things differently

With many non-alcoholic drinks the process is one where they distill the drinks. Thereby removing the alcohol from the drink itself. In many cases this can leave traces of up to 0.5% ABV.

Talonmore take a different approach. Through brewing and infusing, they have mixed their signature brand flavours like ginger with local Scottish water. By doing so they bring you a drink that is replicating a dark spirit.

Instead of switching entirely aware from alcohol, Talonmore is bringing you a 0% ABV which you can consume on its own or by mixing it with other drinks. With Talonmore only very recently launching their product and being Scotland based, I was very interested in writing this blog post.

Watch this space!

I think the non-alcoholic drinks market is fascinating and a space to definitely watch. For drinks like Talonmore, it is the perfect time to enter the market and grow as a company. Talonmore offers a cheaper, healthy and more life sustaining alternative.

That’s all for now folks…

Thanks again to you all for reading my blog posts. I hope you enjoyed this one, and if you have any comments please feel free to write them below or via email@behaviouralfoodie.co.uk.

The Truth About Uncontrollably Craving Chocolate

Why am I Craving Chocolate?

I love chocolate! Chocolate can feel like the best part of your day or your moment to relax after you have had a tough time. But sometimes it feels like you can’t control this desire to consume chocolate. Craving chocolate almost feels like an overwhelming sensation that can’t be tamed or reduced. However, it may be due to reasons other than simply lacking in self-control.

1. Sugar Fix

There are a range of reasons why you might all of a sudden feel the urge to eat chocolate. More often this is more than a feeling, and it feels like your body is pleading for it. The reason for this can be due to your body asking for a sugar fix. When your blood sugar level drops, your body will look to find food which can provide you with a glucose boost in the fastest way possible. As we all know, different chocolates contains varying degrees of sugar. Your body will use this easily consumable product as a sugar rush to get the blood sugar level back to where it should be.

2. Caffeine Boost

If you have seen my previous post on coffee, you know the effects of caffeine on the body. Chocolate can have differing amounts of caffeine depending on the level of cacao content. Ground cacao is the main ingredient in chocolate and comes from cacao seeds. This contains a natural amount of caffeine, which remains even after being roasted and ground for chocolate. Therefore the greater the cacao content, the greater the caffeine in the chocolate. So if you crave dark chocolate, you might be trying to feed a different craving of caffeine!

3. Stress

Often when we are stressed we look to something of comfort to help. Chocolate can often be the best go to food for comfort. The reason for this ‘instant relief’ is due to the endorphins that chocolate releases in the brain. Endorphins are your body’s natural pain reliever and when you are stressed you look to relieve this pain in some way. Chocolate an be an easy fix in many cases, but that moment on your lips can really turn into a lifetime on your hips!

4. You are just Hungry

This might seems obvious but hear me out. When you are hungry you are lacking the energy to carry on with the day ahead. Your body knows this and will look for fast carbohydrates to replenish the energy supply. Many refined sugars can be a fast solution, and so chocolate will give you a quick rush and allow you to carry on. However in many cases you will be left feeling unsatisfied after eating the chocolate, and will still be hungry.

Churros with Nutella from Edinburgh Christmas Markets [Edinburgh, Scotland]

How do I Stop Craving Chocolate?

In my opinion there is not a quick fix for stopping a chocolate craving, and I don’t think there should be either. Sometimes it’s important to give your body what it needs, as cravings can give us signs about what our bodies are lacking. Having said that, I always think it is smarter to exhaust all other options before resorting to eating massive amounts of chocolate.

1. Listen to your body and be intuitive

I bring this point up a lot in my blogs because I genuinely believe it to be such an important one. Many people live a life where they feel their minds and bodies are separated. such that there is no connection between the two. I am of the opinion that our brains and bodies are two information providers. They work simultaneously to help us live. Relying on only one or the other can be detrimental. As a result it’s important to use both to determine what is the best course of action for ourselves.

It is a very difficult way to live when your mind is telling you no, and your body is telling you yeah! Therefore being logical and allowing yourself to indulge a little is much better than trying to constantly control yourself. Diets can feel like a cage and will never be a long lasting fix. Instead we need to adapt our behaviour by rewarding ourselves a little, whilst remaining in control.

Homemade Chocolate Strawberries

2. Always eat sugar second

Lets travel back to my childhood for a moment. My mother taught me a very important lesson well before I was studying human behaviour. I loved having sweets when I was little. Any time I wanted one I would run to my mum and plead for anything sweet. And my mother’s reaction would always be the same; eat an apple first and then come back. So off I would go, eat the apple and come back. Then it would be eat a banana and then come back. Off I would go, and then back. Next was a pear, a plum, an orange…you get the idea.

So in this way I would slowly fill up on healthy food which had natural sugar levels before turning to the artificial stuff. That’s not to say my mum always restricted me and sometimes she just let me have it. The point is that I learned to always eat my meals, and use fruit as a sweet alternative. Since becoming an adult, if after eating a full meal and eating fruit I still want the chocolate, I have a small amount to fulfil the craving. But many times I won’t need it, because actually I’m just hungry, lacking energy, stressed etc. Normal foods can help you to rebalance your body. It’s important to always try alternatives before going straight for the sweets or chocolate. I use this method to this day, and I feel it helps enormously with my cravings so I would urge you to try it!

3. Exercise is your best friend

Now I know when you are hangry the last thing you want to do is exercise. However this is mainly for when you are stressed, anxious, or under pressure. Many times our lives can feel very chaotic, and that pressure or stress can be difficult to deal with. Chocolate can seem like a coping mechanism with the endorphin release. However, exercise can produce this same ‘feel-good’ endorphin release that helps to reduce the stress. I would recommend doing any type of exercise that you enjoy. It doesn’t need to be a 5k run (unless you want to do that sort of thing). You can go for a walk, do some yoga, whatever works for you. And it doesn’t have to be for a prolonged period of time either. Even 30 minutes of this time out can help clear your mind and make you feel more in control.

I am aware of the fact that it takes about 30 seconds to eat a chocolate compared to 30 minutes of exercise. Nevertheless this can be beneficial in many ways other than just avoiding chocolate. Remember than your body needs a healthy mind to function properly and vice versa. Listening to your mind when it tells you to take a break is important, as long as it is not over indulged. A healthy mind makes a healthy body, so be sure to look after all aspects of your being. Remember that you will have only one mind and body, so the earlier you start looking after it the better!

That's all for now folks!

That’s all for today folks. I hope you enjoyed this blog post. After taking a small break to recharge, I am back and excited to write about all the topics you have submitted. If you have any suggestions or comments let me know below or via email@behaviouralfoodie.co.uk

Oreo Milkshake from Steak, Cattle & Roll [Glasgow, Scotland]

7 Interesting Caffeine Facts that You Probably Didn’t Know

What is Caffeine?

Many of us wake up the in the morning and our first thought is our morning cup of coffee. Some people take it for the taste, others due to routine. But for the majority it is for the caffeine. Caffeine is a natural stimulant found mostly in tea, coffee and soft drinks. It works by stimulating your brain and nervous system in order to keep you alert and reduce the onset of tiredness to the mind and body. It is recommended that up to 40 grams of caffeine a day is healthy for most adults. This is equivalent to around 4 cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of Coca Cola or 2 ‘energy shot’ drinks.

1. Caffeine can Affect your Behaviour

It is a well known fact that caffeine can make people feel more awake, work faster and feel generally less tired. Caffeine enhances the dopamine chemical in the brain which helps control your motivation, emotion and movement. Therefore it can directly affect your behaviour by enhancing those signals. When you are tired, your body naturally will try to slow you down and stop you exerting excess energy and using up resources. However, with the caffeine in the system your body no longer feels tired and you are able to do so much more.

Now you may think this is great! I can do more and all I need is a few cups of coffee! However the flip side of this is that many people can become dependent on the feeling that caffeine gives them. As time goes on the body will build up a tolerance to the level of caffeine it is receiving. When the body is then deprived of this, it can lead to craving coffee. However, this isn’t for the flavour and rather the feeling it gives you. In turn you may experience withdrawal.

2. You Can Experience Withdrawal

Caffeine withdrawal is when the body is deprived and reacts in unpleasant way including headaches, tiredness, difficulty concentrating, nausea, muscle pain and irritability. The general rule of thumb is that these will be more severe the more caffeine you consume. These symptoms can occur 12 to 24 hours after the last caffeine intake and can last from 2 to 9 days.

3. Caffeine can Feel Additive

Although these symptoms are severe, it cannot argued that caffeine is ‘addictive’. When the body builds up tolerance, over time people may consume more to achieve the desired effect. This in turn can make people feel like they are addicted because they require that ‘hit’ during the day. However, the body is ‘dependent’ on the caffeine rather than being ‘addicted’ like it would to a drug.

4. Caffeine can Affect your Mental State

A range of studies have shown that withdrawal from caffeine has both physical and mental side effects. The mental effects can include dysphoria, delirium, nervousness, restlessness and anxiety. Many people will not associate the coffee they consume as a contributor to these factors. But in many cases caffeine can affect sleep cycles, and in turn effect many of these issue which require sufficient sleep. Although caffeine is a useful stimulant, in many cases people can overconsume and cause themselves more harm than good. As always, it is important to consume caffeine in moderation and intuitively decide how it affects your body. You may find you feel more tired but less anxious if you reduce your caffeine intake.

5. There are Ways to Reduce Withdrawal Symptoms

Although this is difficult, there ways to reduce caffeine withdrawal symptoms. There is no quick fix, but if you are experiencing severe headaches you can take an over-the-counter medication to ease the pain. My advice would then be reduce the amount of caffeine you consume in a day. If you are feeling particularly dizzy or nauseous, it is advised to take rest and remain hydrated. Increasing your water intake can help your body deal with the caffeine levels, and dehydration can lead to many issues. See my blog post on hydration for more info!

6. How to Reduce your Caffeine Intake

I have found the best way to reduce caffeine intake is to identify the source from which you receive it, whether that is coffee, tea, soft drinks or any other beverage or food stuff. Using the example of coffee, check how much caffeine you are intaking per cup and try to ensure this is at an acceptable level. Thereafter, try to wean yourself off the drink. If you drink 4 cups, try having 3 and substituting one cup for a decaf alternative. Your body may experience a placebo effect where it believes it receives a hit due to the associative conditioning between the coffee and the caffeine. As a result you may feel less affected by missing out that 4th cup.

Many people can consume a caffeinated drink out of habit. If you replace this habit with an alternative one, it may help you to reduce to 1 or 2 cups a day. Using decaf drink is a very achievable way of doing this and one I highly recommend. As a person who has reduced her own intake, I can tell you that it wasn’t easy but it was definitely worth it and I used this decaf coffee method. Remember than your body is an incredible machine and you can anything as long as you put your mind to it!

7. There are Incredible Benefits to Living Caffeine Free

Less anxiety and headaches

In my experience, I have had fewer headaches and felt much less anxious and irritable with reducing my caffeine intake. I feel much more in control of my own feelings and moods and I am not heavily reliant on a food or drink to make me feel ‘good’ or awake. It helps me to listen to what my body is wanting or telling me to do.

Better sleeps

I also feel I have much better sleeps without it. My body feels tired at normal times and I feel much more rested the net day. This in turn means I have less of a need for a morning coffee the next day. I think this is an ongoing cycle that you can build on and over time you will definitely see the benefits.

Whiter teeth

Chemicals found in coffee, tea and soft drinks can definitely affect the colour of teeth and in many cases stain them. I am sure many of you are very particular about how your teeth look and so cutting out caffeine can definitely help with this.

More balanced hormones for women

I feel like this point should have a blog post all of its own! Women can especially benefit from being caffeine free as it can alter and increase oestrogen levels. Although this can change depending on your ethnicity, it can be particularly concerning if you suffer from conditions like endometriosis, breast cancers and ovarian cancers. This is because high oestrogen level are directly associated with the causes of these. Its been shown to also worsen certain menopause symptoms. As a result for the women especially try to reduce your intake if you can!

Healthier digestion

Caffeine has been shown to have a laxative effect and stimulate bowel movements. As a result consumption in large amount scan cause diarrhoea or loose stool. By reducing it you can help your mind and behaviour, as well as your gut and internal organs.

That’s all for today folks! I hope you enjoyed this piece on caffeine and withdrawal. If you have any comments let me know below, or using the email address email@behaviouralfoodie.co.uk.

How To Fix Easy Weight Gain And Difficult Weight Loss

Easy weight gain and difficult weight loss? Today’s blog post is about why gaining weight is so easy, but losing weight seems so difficult.

Although there are some people who struggle with trying to put on weight, the majority face the battle of trying to keep it off. Many times we find ourselves working so hard to lose the weight for months, and yet can pile on the pounds within a few weeks.

So how is that fair?! And why does it happen? Unfortunately I can only help with the second question!

Why Does Weight Gain Happen So Easily?

In an ideal world I would love to say if it isn’t your fault, but in this particular case, it is your own previous self who has caused this issue for you. Unfortunately it’s not the extra doughnuts or cake that you ate last weekend. Instead it’s your fat cells that have formed.

What Are Fat Cells?

This process begins in your infancy through to your early 20s where the number of fat cells in the body increases. When you start consuming a high-fat diet, your body reacts by producing white fat cells or adipose tissue. Once you hit mid-20s your body maintains and protect the fat cells you have created over this time period. This then becomes your homeostasis condition and what your body recognises as ‘normal’.

These fat cells will then remain and can grow or shrink based on the type of diet a person consumes. After we have created these fat cells even if we go on a diet we can only shrink them, but they will not entirely disappear. As a result, if we ‘fall off the wagon’ it is much easier to put on the weight again because these fat cells will easily return back to a ‘normal’ size again.

Now you might say, we are all doomed. However, there are many other contributing factors which can help or hinder this weight journey and the process that comes with it.

Are Diets To Blame For Weight Gain?

One of the reasons many people struggle with weight is the never-ending dieting culture we live in. Magazines are constantly trying to give us new ways to lose weight, to name a few including Atkins, Keto, Paleo, Cleanse, etc. The list goes on and on. When you follow these diets you are essentially ‘starving’ your body of what it is asking you for. As a result when you go back to eating ‘normally’ your body will either start storing this food in case you decide to do another diet, or will make you eat more in order to make up for the shortage. Many studies have shown the hunger you feel after a diet is up to 3 times stronger, and so you will overeat to compensate for this increase in hunger.

How Does Mindset Relate To Weight Gain?

Many of us have tried these diets and not managed to stick to them. But why is this the case? Your mindset has a MASSIVE part to play in this. Normally when we diet it’s like a switch in our brains. Once we start a diet, we tell ourselves we are ‘on’ and work really hard to stay on track. But as soon as we are ‘off’, the majority of people will binge eat and ‘treat themselves’ for working so hard. These types of diets can be a quick fix over a short period of time, but they are not built to be sustainable food choices. Neither in terms of keeping the weight off, nor continually doing for months or even years.

In order to stick to a diet it needs to be sustainable and affordable food choices that we could follow or revert back to easily. In my opinion that isn’t a ‘diet’, it’s a lifestyle. And finding a food lifestyle which works for you can be challenging, believe me. There are so many factors to consider including physical movement, exercise, country, religion, culture, accessibility to raw materials, finances etc.

What Is The Best Course Of Action?

My advice would be to try and see what you are consuming in the day, and when you are consuming them. Many of us enjoy evening treats but this might be the underlying issues. I think everything should be eaten in moderation and so eating lots of salad won’t fix the problem. On the other hand, limiting the desserts and snacking will. Trying swapping in healthier fruits and veg to replace daytime snacking. And if you read my blog post last week you will know how important it is to stay hydrated! Drinking plenty of water will definitely help you to stop overeating and help you build better long term habits.

I would also say that it is possible to follow a healthy lifestyle and not give up all the cultural food you are eating. Try adjusting ingredients for healthier alternative so that you can still enjoy your food in a better way. Moreover, making more homemade food and maintaining control over portion size and ingredients will be much more beneficial than eating out. Always remember that eating out is a treat, and so it shouldn’t be indulged in too much.

Try This Behavioural Science Hack!

I love giving you little tips and tricks you can use as home which are well known behavioural science concepts. An easy way to reduce food intake it to use a smaller plate. The smaller size will trick you into thinking you are eating a large amount of food and this can instantly help you to stop over eating. 

Additionally, using a red plate instead of a white one can instantly help with this process. Colour psychology has shown individuals intake less food when eating out of red plates. You can read my post on IGGI to learn more about your food biases and this intriguing product.

That’s all for today folks! I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you have any comments let me know, I love to hear from you all!

Is Water Really As Important As They Make Out?

If you have ever read articles on how to be healthy, they will normally recommend you drink plenty water. While this is very helpful advice, it doesn’t really explain why or how to implement this behaviour change.

Why should we drink water?

The human body is made up of about 60% water. As a result we need water to help our bodies in many ways including physical activity, consumption of food and to remain hydrated. The common recommendation is to drink 8 glasses of water, with each glass being around 237ml (8×8 rule). It is important to try and consume this over the course of the day to achieve maximum benefit. This can be water in its purest form, or through water based drink like tea. Although water can be found in other drinks, many of these contain caffeine and large amount of sugar. Therefore above all, pure water is the easiest and healthiest option.

What is water hydration and dehydration?

Hydration is a state where ones water level are sufficient and they are not experiencing any symptoms of dehydration. On the other hand, dehydration can occur when the body loses more fluids than it takes in. This can cause a range of issues to your body and so it is important to keep your water levels up. If you are dehydrated you can experience feeling thirsty, feeling dizzy and lightheaded, feeling tired, dry eyes, mouth and lips. A very obvious indicator of dehydration is the colour of your urine. A dark yellow and strong smell indicates dehydration. As well as this, urinating very little can be a result of lack of fluids in the body.

What are some of the health benefits of water?

1. Higher energy levels and brain function

Your level of hydration can significantly affect energy levels and brain function. For example, studies have indicated even mild dehydration can impair brain function in many ways. As well as this dehydration can impair mood and cause headaches due to a lack of energy. In addition, people may feel overly tired and lack the motivation to do physical activity. Your body is in a sense trying to slow you down and stop you moving in order to preserve energy. By ensuring you have enough fluid intake you can ensure these energy levels remain high and improve brain functionality.

2. Helps maximise physical performance

When you are hydrated, your body uses this water to regulate your body temperature. in other words, when the body is too hot it releases sweat to cool you down. This is more noticeable when it is a hot day, or when you are experiencing high levels of activity through physical movement and exercise. However, when the body is dehydrated it cannot regulate the body temperature as effectively, reduces in energy and you can lack motivation. This will cause the exercise to become more mentally and physically challenging. In order to maintain the best performance level you should be having water during and after your physical activities.

3. Aids weight loss

I often have people tell me that they have a constant habit to eat food throughout the day and that they cannot lose weight. Many people will feel ‘hungry’ all day and will respond to this feeling with food consumption. Upon some enquiry, I have found a lot of the time, many people only drink 1-2 glasses of water a day. As a result, they mistake this feeling of thirst for hunger and in turn cause more problems for themselves. Water can also increase your satiety levels and boost your metabolism rate. Furthermore, the time of day when you drink your water can also be very effective. By drinking water half an hour before meals you can help with remaining hydrated as well as helping to control consumption levels. Consequently, this increased water intake can help reduce your weight gain.

How to I increase my hydration levels?

In my opinion, the best way is to implement new habits into your life in order to try and increase the level of fluids you intake on a daily basis. We can use behavioural science techniques to try and build new habits and continually improve on them.

When trying to form a new habit, many of us face the ‘Intention-Action gap’. This is a gap where an individual has the awareness, intention and knowledge but lacks the ability to adopt these new habits. This in many cases is due to forgetfulness, which results in people reverting back to their old bad habits of not drinking plenty of fluids.

What do I need to do to form a new habit?

Make it Automatic

A habit needs to become something that is an automatic and unconscious response. Meaning that it needs to feel effortless for us. As humans we want to have the easiest life using the least amount of effort. By making drinking water like second-nature, we can easily increase our water intake.

Create Cues

Secondly, every new habit needs a cue. Most habits are triggered by cues, and we can use these cues to increase our daily intake through the day. Many people will have notifications on their phone telling them to drink water which is a great way to have constant reminders. Alternatively, you can buy a water bottle! I have many of these and find that having the water bottle on my desk is a visual cue for me. This in turn reminds me to drink the water when I feel I need it.

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

Habits need to be repeated in order for them to be effective. The exact number of days it takes to form a habit can differ, but is it important that for a prolonged period of time we repeat the behaviour until it becomes a normal part of our lives. But how can we encourage ourselves to continue repeating a behaviour?

Treat yo self

Rewards! By rewarding yourself for repeated behaviour you can trick your brain into automatically wanting to carry out this behaviour. This is understood from B.F Skinner’s experiment and operant conditioning, where the consequences of a response will determine how likely the action will be repeated. Therefore, by rewarding yourself every time you drink water, you can increase your chances of repeatedly doing it. This doesn’t mean you eat a chocolate bar every time you drink water!! Finding something that words for you is important, like 5 minutes to sit down, or pausing work and going outside etc.

Invest in a water bottle!

I, like many others, used to struggle with water intake and constantly trying to increase it. Since I bought a water bottle it has been SO much easier. I work for a water bottle company called Ion8 who’s bottles I use for all my beverages and they are great! Here is a picture from my hill walk below!

Fasting, The Astonishing Benefits Of Ramadan And Mind Discipline

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and one of the most important months in the Islamic Year. It lasts for 29 / 30 days and is a time of year when fasting occurs. During this time Muslims around the world give up consuming all food and drink (including water) from dawn until sunset.

Why are Muslims fasting?

There are a range of reasons why Muslim fast. Firstly, the obvious being it is a commandment from god. As 1 of the 5 pillars in Islam, it is a fundamental part of the Muslim faith. As a result, Muslims all around the world come together for this month. It is considered an act of worship for the believers. Consequently it allows them to spiritually connect with their God thereby attaining taqwa (God-consciousness). It provides the opportunity for individuals to exercise virtues such as patience and self control. This is obtained by abstaining from food and drink as well as all other desires whilst fasting. As well as this, it helps Muslims to be appreciative of the blessings they have. Thereby feeling compassionate towards those less fortunate and in need.

Is there any science behind it?

There have been multiple studies on the effect of intermittent fasting. Harvard medical school have suggested the benefits include reducing weight and belly fat, reduce insulin resistance, reduce stress and inflammation, heart health, cellular repair, brain health and lifespan. Naturally this can be applied in helping a range of conditions including PCOS which I covered last week.

Since intermittent fasting consist of not eating for 14-16 hours and only eating in a 8-10 hour window, it is a little different from Ramadan. Ramadan has a dawn to sunset fasting time, and this can vary depending on when Ramadan is in the Gregorian Calendar. In addition, this changes based on where you live in the world.

Are there any health benefits?

Building on this, studies have shown that entirely removing food and drink has remarkable effects on the body. Reduced meal frequency helps prime the body to lose fat. Furthermore, fasting for 30 days has seen to reduce level of LDL cholesterol and anxiety. These are majority risks for cardiovascular diseases, and so it is argued that Ramadan helps to prevent heart issues and boost health.

Adding to this, fasting for as little as three days can help the immune system of individuals. Researchers found with fasting the body started to pump out brand new white blood cells, which helped the immune system to combat diseases also.

There have been some studies that have suggested that cancer may also be helped with fasting. A study using mice with cancer tumours showed the tumours reduce at a greater rate when fasting and chemotherapy were coupled, rather than the chemotherapy alone. However, this is still an area which requires some scientific study.

Can I incorporate fasting into my daily life?

There has been a recent phenomenon which many people have been adopting known as the 5:2 diet. This is a diet where individuals fast or eat around 500-600 calories for 2 days of the week and the other 5 days eat normally. However this is not a ‘new’ concept for lots of Muslims. The Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) would fast on Mondays and Thursdays, and so many Muslims follow this in order to replicate his actions. With these fasts, you can reap the benefits of fasting on a weekly basis thereby improving your health.

Does fasting improve mind discipline?

It is agreed that fasting can help boost your brain, with the benefits been seen in mental well-being and spiritual focus. A study by scientists in the USA found that this mental focus achieved in Ramadan increased the levels brain cell production thus improving brain function. Furthermore, the reduced production of the cortisol hormone means that stress levels are greatly reduced during and after Ramadan.

If you remember my blog post on self control and sticking to diets, I discuss our chimp and our human. The chimp wants instant gratification (like a child) but the human will be more willing to wait for the long term gratification (like an adult). Muslim believe that each individual has a Nafs which can be translated as you ego or inner self. This Nafs has lowly desires which can either lead you to good or bad. With the constant desire we have around us, Nafs can lead us towards that which is not good for our mind, body and soul.

One of the ways to control the Nafs is through fasting and it is advise to do when one is struggling with lowly desires. If we relate this to eating behaviour, fasting can help individuals to control their chimp (child) and ensure that their human (adult) stays in control. As a result the individual can make more logical decisions around what food they eat and how much of it. Fasting can therefore help to reduce weight and encourage healthy eating on a daily basis.

Why not give it a try!

Since Ramadan has just started, if you are not already fasting, why not give it a go? There are many health benefits to be reaped, and you can keep your Muslim friends company too!

Have you tried intermittent fasting, 5:2, or Ramadan fast? Let me know in the comments below or via email@behaviouralfoodie.co.uk!