Tagged: health

Tomato & Basil Sauce – sugar free!

TomAndBasil

In any supermarket the shelves are stacked high with ready mixed cooking sauces in jars. They are very convenient and that’s why millions of jars are sold every day.

The downside? Many of them have a high sugar-content when really most of us are trying to cut down on sugar intake.

When it comes to Tomato and Basil Sauce, not only does it not need sugar – it actually tastes loads better without it!

This sauce is REALLY easy to make in a couple of minutes.

You will need:

  • 2 tomatoes
  • Small carton of passata
  • Rapeseed oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Dried basil
  • Stock cube
  • Black Pepper
  • Salt

Method:

Put all the ingredients in the pan, as follows, before putting on heat.

  1. Pour a glug of rapeseed oil in a saucepan.
  2. Crush and finely chop the garlic clove and add to oil
  3. Chop the tomatoes and add to pan.
  4. Pour on the passata.
  5. Add a stock cube – chicken or veg cube are fine.
  6. Sprinkle over with the dried basil.
  7. Add a few twists of ground black pepper.
  8. Add a pinch or two of salt.
  9. Put the pan on the heat and let it start to bubble.
  10. Turn down to a very low simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
  11. Pour over chicken breasts or pasta for a great taste – sugar free!

Jaded Heart

JadedHeart 3D cover HdBack04

Apologies for my absence on here for a few weeks. I have been working on a new book – Jaded Heart – which came out today!

Jaded Heart is the story of love, loss, grief, addiction and recovery.

After the sudden death of my parents and my son, thirty years ago, I spent decades looking for personal peace.

This book shares my personal journey through trying to cope with loss, addictive behaviour and coping mechanisms.

After three decades I have finally come to a place of greater peace and share the journey in this very honest account.

Jaded Heart will help those struggling with loss, grief and addictions.

Jaded Heart is my story, but it may be your story too.

The book is available on Amazon, on Kindle and in Paperback.

Here is a short video about the book.

Jaded Heart from RSVP Trust on Vimeo.

The book is available on Amazon here…

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jaded-Heart-story-addiction-recovery/dp/1511954000

Have a banana!

banana

Over the last couple of years of intentionally trying to improve my diet, one simple habit stands out as the easiest and possibly the most effective change I made. A daily dose of banana.

A banana gives an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy. Bananas contain three natural sugars – sucrose, fructose and glucose combined with fiber.

There is no question that bananas give us a great energy boost, that’s why they are popular with athletes.

But bananas also help protect us from several illnesses. Blood pressure, anemia, constipation, nerves, and ulcers are all often eased by eating a banana.

According to a recent survey undertaken by MIND, those suffering from depression felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.

The old saying, ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ should be updated to a banana a day.

I prefer mine when they are nice and ripe, with a few brown dots on the skin. I have one chopped into my porridge every morning for breakfast, with a spoonful of honey.

I also use them in my fruit smoothie recipe.

Go on. Have a banana!

(If you found this post helpful, please share with your friends!)

If you want energy, avoid energy drinks!

EnergyDrinks

When I read this tragic story I realised caffeine is a much more dangerous drug than we realise.

‘My heart just hit the floor’: A mother’s pain after her son died from drinking FOUR energy drinks daily… as a doctor warns no more than two caffeinated beverages per day

The 35-year-old truck driver had suffered a massive heart attack and died from caffeine toxicity

A mother is determined that no one else will have to endure the pain of their child dying from consuming too many energy drinks.

Shani Clarke’s son, Michael, used to drink at least four 500ml cans of Mother a day – as well as four to five cups of coffee before he was found slumped behind the wheel of the 11 tonne truck on the side of the road in Perth on January 30 this year.

The 35-year-old truck driver had suffered a massive heart attack and died from caffeine toxicity.

by Leesa Smith For Daily Mail Australia – 3 September 2014.

(Read full article)

Most of my life I have been a chain coffee drinker. I needed a shot first thing to get the day started, another to get to work, and throughout the morning to keep me focussed… Or so I thought.

In my mid-thirties I began suffering from chest pains. It felt like I was having a heart attack. I went to the doctor. His first question was ‘How much coffee do you drink?’ When I told him he said that was almost certainly the problem. I cut back on the caffeine, and guess what? The chest pains stopped immediately.

As life went on the caffeine consumption increased a little. But I could feel myself starting to get irritable and tetchy by mid-afternoon.

Caffeine is a strong addictive drug. It is the fact that we are addicted to it that makes us think we ‘have to have it.’

Caffeine is in coffee but it’s also in tea – lots of teas not just ‘normal’ tea. It’s also in cola drinks and most energy drinks.

It might come as a surprise that caffeine is not just an addictive drug, it’s also a model drug of dependence

Caffeine is produced by more than seventy-five plants, which use it as a pesticide. That’s right – a pesticide! When we consume caffeine, our body thinks that some kind of emergency is happening. It floods itself with dopamine, epinephrine, cortisol, and acetylcholine. That’s what gives us that feeling of stimulation and being wide-awake and alert. But the human body is not designed to live at that intense state of emergency alertness for long periods of time, let alone every day.

It takes about 24 – 36 hours to come off this drug so, if you are a daily consumer, prepare for a serious pounding headache for a whole day.

Once you are off the drug, you’ll feel a lot calmer, happier and less irritable.

I quit caffeine on 16th October 2014 and I’m not planning to go back. I no longer wake up with caffeine cravings. I still meet friends in coffee shops and cafes but only if they serve decaf, which most of them do.

The alternative

If you want a slow release, safe energy drink, try my smoothie recipe. A pint of that should see you right for the day, with no health risks and lots of health benefits!

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dANGER

anger

We all feel angry sometimes. That’s part of being human. Feeling angry isn’t a sin. However, we need to be cautious if it happens frequently. If we have made anger a lifestyle, we are in real danger.

I’ll hold my hands up – I’ve been angry for a long time about the death of my son. It was no one’s fault. It was just a serious health issue he was born with. Those who tried to help did miracles. For the three years he was with us, we are very thankful. But small children should not die. That is just wrong.

I was never sure what to do with those feelings of frustration and hurt. For the most part I tried to block them out. I can think of times when I felt really angry about things that really didn’t matter. I’m sure I was projecting my frustration and anger onto those petty situations.

The word ‘anger’ is one letter removed from ‘danger’ If you fly into a rage, you can be sure of a bad landing. When our emotions are out of control, so is our life. Anger makes our mouth work faster than our mind. We end up saying and doing things we will regret later.

Anger is like a theatre curtain ready to part for the first act of the play. Behind the curtain stand all our lonely feelings – the actors ready to perform – guilt projection, discontentment, discouragement, abandonment, despair, unending feelings of inadequacy. Anger is the curtain that hides all these feelings from the outside world.

It’s easier to be angry than to deal with the real feelings because then people won’t see how much you’re really hurting because anger keeps people away.

Getting into a rage doesn’t make us ‘big’ or clever. In fact, the opposite is true.

Anger and rage are really unpleasant for those around you. If you are just an angry person, who takes things out on your family and those around you instead of dealing with the real issue, you will soon be without friends and your family will look for ways to avoid you.

Anger never accomplishes what you want it to.

In addition to all of that, anger is actually dangerous for your physical health.

Emotional stress and anger trigger the release of stress hormone cortisol in the body. Small releases of cortisol can give the body a quick burst of energy.

However, higher and more prolonged increases can cause lots of negative effects.

Cortisol is public health enemy number one. Scientists have known for years that elevated cortisol levels interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease. The list goes on and on.

Anger does kill. A study in the journal ‘Circulation’ finds that those who explode with anger are at a greater risk of strokes and sudden death.

Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels also increase risk for depression, mental illness, and lower life expectancy.

So what can we do?

If we don’t deal with the cause of our anger, we end up projecting that anger onto other people and situations.

After years of feeling overwhelmed by past hurts I think I have somehow come to terms with my grief and anger. Life is a bit poo sometimes. That’s just how it is. Time to move on.

Better to make some new happy memories with those we still have than waste our life with rage.

We do have a choice. We don’t have to be angry. We can change.

What is the root of your biggest frustration? Does it come out as anger to those around you sometimes?

If so, what are you going to do about it?

My friend Paul McGee has a lot of helpful advice on this issue. Check out his books or watch his short videos at SUMO (Shut Up Move On).

Whatever you do, do something! Don’t let anger become a lifestyle!

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End of the year as we know it

2014

Well limbo is coming to an end – those few days between Christmas and New Year. As Ian McMillan put it:

‘At the tail end of December, the days huddle together for warmth.’

– Ian McMillan

I don’t know how you feel about 2014 but I have mixed feelings about it.

Several friends were diagnosed with life threatening cancer in 2014. So there has been lots of prayers and visits to different parts of the country. So far so good.

This in turn made me get myself checked out. I’m not very good at going to the doctor – I average one visit every decade. But this time my visit turned into blood tests, scans and having a camera shoved up my rear end!

Fortunately, it turned out I only have a slight problem with my prostate but nothing serious. Old age apparently.

But remembering that gratitude increases happiness, what am I thankful for in 2014?

At the beginning of May I finally gave up alcohol. And in September I gave up caffeine. These were two things I’d been trying to do for years, so well done me! (Pats self on back).

(By the way – if you want to quit alcohol all together but you are finding it hard or impossible, I can recommend Jason Vale’s book Kick the Drink Easily! Lots of people think they could just stop if they wanted to, but find it’s a lot harder than they think!)

In November I began keeping a food diary again, which is the only way I’ve found to lose a bit of weight.

I took more exercise this year specially cycling to work more.

All that has given me an increased feeling of health and wellbeing, so I plan to stick with all of those things.

These are things I sometimes have as New Year resolutions and then fail to achieve.

Resolutions never work unless we are prepared for a change of lifestyle.

Dieting for a coupe of months achieves nothing, if we just go back to unhealthy eating at the end of it.

As ever, I am very grateful for a loving family and the friends I have, and all the great supporters for the work we do in Africa and the UK.

I want to continue to take more simple steps to improve my life every month, so that the accumulated effect of these simple steps becomes transformational.

I’ll be putting together a FREE e-book and also publishing a more substantial book on Simple Steps to Improve Your Life in 2015.

If you want the link to the FREE e-book, it will only be available to members of my email list. They also get a FREE extra thought on life improvement each month. One email a month. No SPAM. I NEVER pass on your info to anyone else. Period.

One click unsubscribe option in every email.

You can sign up for FREE here.

Happy New Year! All the best for 2015!

Understand your emotional energy

meter

Every morning just before you wake, the energy fairy visits you and gives you a portion of emotional energy for the day. Each one of us is allotted a similar amount of emotional energy every morning. When you have spent that emotional energy it’s more or less gone until the next day.

When that emotional energy is gone, everything you try to do seems harder. There are a few things you can do to recharge your emotional batteries and there are a few things you can do that will drain your emotional batteries.

This energy is limited so we need to be wise in how we spend each day’s allotted energy.

It is the source and power of all your creativity. So we need to understand that our best work will normally be achieved within three to four hours of waking.

This means that, where possible, we should do the most important things for the day in the morning, when our emotional energy is fully charged. Get up earlier if you have to.

Professional negotiators often plan important negotiations for late afternoon when the people they are trying to negotiate with will have fewer resources to argue with them. It’s easier for them to sell their ideas to people running on low emotional energy. So beware of agreeing in the afternoon to doing something you may later regret.

Depending on where you fit on the introvert/extrovert scale of things, you will likely gain energy in different ways. By the way, no one is either extrovert or introvert, but these are opposite ends of a scale, and all of us fit somewhere between to two. And please don’t confuse introversion with being shy or quiet either. Basically, the nearer to the extrovert end of the scale you are, the more likely that you gain energy through outside stimulus and being with a crowd. By contrast, the nearer you are to the introvert end of the scale, the more you are likely to gain energy from solitude and time to think.

introExtroScale

For example, I’m nearer the introvert end of the scale. This surprises some people because I do a lot of public speaking, so I don’t appear shy. But that’s a misconception about introverts anyway. But I do need a daily dose of solitude and quietness to survive emotionally. I need to think and process the day.

By contrast, a friend of mine is more extrovert. He gains energy from outside stimulus. When he feels low, he’ll invite a load of people round for a barbeque. This recharges his emotional energy, whereas for me it would be quite draining after a while.

Once we identify what energises us and what drains us, we need to have sufficient periods of the thing that energises us. If we let several days go past without those energising activities we will start to feel stressed.

One more thing, avoid angry, negative or toxic people. Anger, negativity, and toxic behaviour will always drain everyone. Anger drains the angry person as well as those to whom the anger is directed. Everyone loses.

So take a step back. Observe when in the day you feel most alive and energised. When in the day do you feel most drained? Can you plan your day to use your higher energy times for your more creative activities?

I try to write first thing in the morning for an at least an hour. It’s my most creative time and I want to use it well. Things like admin, meetings and other stuff can wait till later in the day.

Social media can drain us too. Taking in lots of unimportant information, amusing cat videos, and similar stuff can use up our precious emotional energy. Chose a less important time in the day for that stuff if you want to maximise your creativity.

What about you? What gives you emotional energy? What drains your emotional energy?

The simple FREE way to lose weight

weight

The UK government has woken up to our problem with gaining too much weight. In the end it will cause health problems and more so in later life. The last few times I went to the doctor for a health check he told me I’m obese. The comedy moment is that the doctors and nurses who broke the unsurprising news… were all about my size or larger!

Many if not most seem to struggle with weight. Last year, over Christmas, I realised I had become overweight, was eating an unhealthy diet, and was taking very little regular exercise. When we did go walking in the countryside – one of our hobbies – I was getting breathless much earlier.

As we approach this Christmas, I feel a lot healthier. So what did I do?

I first lost over a stone in weight over a two to three month period in January to March.

At the beginning of May, I began to tackle my three ‘addictions’ – caffeine, alcohol, and sugar.

While I was tackling my three addictions, I took my eye off the ball on the weight front and put the weight I lost back on. That’s OK because I really wanted to kill some of these ‘addictions’ first.

Now that they are overcome (though I’m still working on the refined sugar thing!) I went back to reducing my weight, and it’s working just as before.

I can eat anything I want but there is a limit if I want to lose weight.

It’s not rocket science. If you eat more than you use for energy, your body will store the surplus as fat.

My magic helper to lose weight – don’t worry, I’m not selling anything! It’s a FREE app available to anyone with a smart phone or computer. You tell it your current weight, your target weight (start by just aiming to lose a stone. You can adjust it later.) And then log your food and exercise each day and slowly and safely, the weight begins to drop after a few days.

MFPapp

The app and/or website is myFitnessPal. You can download the app to your phone. Pretty much any meal you can think of is in their database and if it isn’t just enter the components of the meal.

Going for a ten-minute walk? Log that in and it will up your daily allowance of calories. I recommend walking for 10,000 steps a day or as near to that as you can get.

When you start, you may go over the target quite a bit like you can see I did! But this is the point. You can then see which items are the problem and eat differently.

MFPfirstWeek

The week I started, I was on a road trip up North. When I stopped at the services, I saw they had my favourite junk food shop. A bought a steak pastie. Actually, I bought two! I had left it late to have lunch and felt hungrier than I really was. One would have done. Then I made it worse by eating a large chocolate bar as I drove.

You can see which day it was as I went into the red on the graph.

BUT over that week it was easy to pull it back so the weekly average was in target.

This week has been more stable.

MFPthisweek

Logging what you eat is the key to losing weight. I can easily eat two thirds of a packet of biscuits if I am not thinking about what I am doing. But when I have to log them, and see the empty calories, I manage to have one or two rather than ten!

As you can see from this screen shot – we’re not having a lettuce leaf for dinner!

MFPmeal

Some of my family lost weight on organised programs. They were effective but costly.

By contrast, MyFitnessPal is FREE.

I have no connection to the app or its owners. I am just a guy who was looking for a food-logging app and found a really great one. I highly recommend it.

At the moment the weight loss is going as predicted – a couple of pounds or more a week.

Another great feature is that you can link with a couple of friends and lose weight together, which is even more effective.

Try it. Let me know how you get on!

The four addictions

addiction01

At the start of 2014 I wanted to confront four addictions in my life.

  • Plastic
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Sugar

Why these four things? I observed that many, if not most, of us in the UK live as though these are daily essentials. They are also four things where the negative effects outweigh the perceived benefits.

Maybe you think that ‘addiction’ is too strong a word for our relationship to these things, and maybe it is. But the vast majority of people seem to struggle to get through the day without all four.

Plastic

We are surrounded by plastic. It is a useful material and is used to great benefit in many areas of life. I’ve not got a problem with that.

However, we are generating millions of tons of waste from single use plastic items like water bottles and milk containers and carrier bags and… And most of it ends up in the ocean.

There is so much plastic waste in the ocean that destroys life. Fish are eating it and when we eat the fish we are eating our own plastic waste.

That’s why I’m trying Plastic Free Tuesdays. It’s quite hard and requires a lifestyle change. We consume a lot of sparkling water, which previously came in single-use plastic bottles. So we switched to making our own sparkling water with a Soda Stream gizmo – one small example of how we have reduced our plastic waste. We are still working on this addiction.

Caffeine

Like most people, I really thought I needed that hit of caffeine first thing to crank up my body to face the day. But caffeine is a strong addictive drug. It is the fact that we are addicted to it that makes us think we ‘have to have it.’

Caffeine is in coffee but it’s also in tea – lots of teas not just ‘normal’ tea. It’s also in cola drinks and most energy drinks.

It might come as a surprise that caffeine is not just an addictive drug, it’s also a model drug of dependence

Caffeine is produced by more than seventy-five plants, which use it as a pesticide. That’s right – a pesticide! When we consume caffeine, our body thinks that some kind of emergency is happening. It floods itself with dopamine, epinephrine, cortisol, and acetylcholine. That’s what gives us that feeling of stimulation and being wide-awake and alert.

It takes about 24 – 36 hours to come off this drug so, if you are a daily consumer, prepare for a serious pounding headache for a whole day. Once you are off the drug, you’ll feel calmer, happier and less irritable. I quit thirty-six days ago and I’m not planning to go back. I no longer wake up with caffeine cravings and I can even have a cup of decaf right before bedtime and it doesn’t keep me awake.

Alcohol

I know I’ll have very few takers on this one! But… the whole nation has been brainwashed about this drug. A few facts:

  • Each year more than £800 million is spent on advertising alcoholic drinks in the UK, with the global estimate approximating $1 trillion.
  • In 2013 the UK government made £10.5 billion in tax on alcohol.
  • Average alcohol consumption has gradually fallen in many OECD countries between 1980 and 2009 with an average overall decrease of 9%. The United Kingdom however, has seen an increase of over 9% in these three decades.

For me, the thing was that alcohol is a big fat liar!

It’s a lie that it helps us relax – if alcohol caused us to relax then, when two drunks get into a fight on a Friday night, we would give them some more alcohol to calm them down… We associate it with relaxation because we often consume it in relaxing situations, and in moments when we are in relaxation mode.

It’s a lie that it ‘takes the edge off.’ If there is an edge, it was probably caused by the effects of alcohol the previous day. A healthier diet can produce a steady feeling of calm.

As I said, I’m not expecting a queue to sign up to this one(!), but having eliminated it from my life 198 days ago, I have to say that life is better. So many are cranking themselves up with caffeine in the morning and then calming the feelings of irritablilty that causes in the evening, by using alcohol numb their feelings. This pendulous swing in our metabolism places stress on the heart and other organs.

If, like some people I know, you have a small glass of something once a year if you remember to, then it isn’t an issue you need to think about.

Sugar

Here is the one I thought would be easiest and has proved to be the most addictive and difficult drug to kick. Our body needs some sugar and we can get the healthy version of this from things like fruit and honey. It’s the refined sugar that we get addicted to, and some have suggested it’s as dangerous as heroine.

Now the point of this blog is to suggest simple steps to improve your life. Tackling these three big beasties all in one year is a huge challenge. Also it may be possible to restrict or reduce them rather than giving up all together. So maybe pick the one that you think will be the easiest for you and see if you can go a week, a month, or a whole year without it.

I’ll let you know when I manage to kick the sugar (and the plastic!).

How many of these would you struggle to let go of?