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The Christmas party season is fast approaching and we all naturally want to look great at this time of year.  Reducing bloating can make a huge difference to how you look - and more importantly feel - on a night out.  The good news is that we can significantly reduce abdominal distension with some simple measures which will also contribute to reducing bodyfat percentage. So you don't have to rely on body shaping underwear!

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    1. Reduce your salt intake
      Excess salt consumption will force the body to retain more water to regulate sodium levels, leading to a distended abdomen. Adults should eat no more than 2.4g of sodium per day, which is equal to 6g of salt. However, packaged and processed foods commonly contain such high amounts of salt that 75% of the average salt intake is from everyday foods such as bread, breakfast cereal and ready meals. Reducing processed foods will therefore make a huge difference to how bloated you feel.
    2. Drink more water
      It may seem counter-intuitive, but increasing your water intake can actually help to reduce bloating, as dehydration causes the kidneys to signal to the rest of the body to retain water.
    3. Eat More Slowly
      This will reduce the amount of air you swallow, reducing bloating. It also gives the signals from the gut which indicate fullness longer to reach the brain - so you will be less likely to overeat!
    4. Exercise More!
      Regular exercise stimulates peristalsis, the muscular movement of the gut which moves food along the digestive tract.  It will definitely get your bowels moving!
    5. Eat Less Bread!
      Even if you are not gluten intolerant, bread can be a major cause of bloating. It delivers a triple whammy of high carbohydrate content causing water retention, yeast releasing gas in the gut and (in the case of processed sliced bread) surprisingly high salt content. Cut it out for a few days and feel the difference! Read more in our blog article "Bread: Less is More"
 
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I was delighted to hear last week that Simon Stevens, the new head of NHS England, has highlighted the role that business has to play in addressing the obesity crisis. 

Having called for greater “upstream preventive action” on obesity shortly after starting the role back in June, Stevens’ language has hardened.  Referring to obesity as “the new smoking”, he warned that it now represented a serious threat to the financial viability of the NHS.  Not surprising, given that the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes alone, strongly linked to excess weight, costs the NHS around £9 billion per year (an astonishing 10% of its entire budget).  Prevention is always better than cure.  So when NHS spending on bariatric surgery starts to exceed that of national lifestyle intervention programmes, it is time to take stock. Amongst the ideas to be presented this month in the NHS “Five Year Forward View” will be the introduction of financial incentives to employers to provide effective NICE-certified workplace programmes for employees.  Such initiatives could include running clubs, diet clubs, group weigh-ins or weight-loss competitions.

Not everyone welcomes the concept.  Chris Blackhurst of the ’I’ newspaper responded to Stevens’ speech with an article titled “obesity is none of your boss’s business”.   Arguing that the proposals represented “an extra mound of red tape that they could well do without”, Blackhurst accuses Stevens of passing the buck to business.Although reflecting the historically prevailing view, such an attitude is simply no longer credible.  Quite aside from the £29bn annual cost of sickness to UK business,  companies have a duty of care to their employees.  We spend more waking hours at work than anywhere else.  It is naïve to suggest that the workplace environment and culture has anything less than enormous influence on our wellbeing.   Office workers are commonly expected to sit for 8 hours or more per day at their desks.  We are simply not designed to do this.  Recent evidence suggests that prolonged sitting is an independent risk factor to our health, that cannot be compensated for even by regular intense exercise. Progressive employers are already trialling potential solutions to mitigate this risk. Innovations range from exercise ball chairs and stand up desks to even more radical concepts such as treadmill desks.

However, activity levels are only one part of the equation.  As someone who experienced 12 years in the corporate world, I am only too aware of the constant flow of sugary treats  when it comes to food in the office.  Colleagues would seize upon any opportunity to bring in cakes, biscuits, chocolates and sweets.  With offices becoming increasingly open plan,  practically every day someone in the room would have a birthday, a leaving do, or some other pretext to trigger the latest indulgence!  It takes a lot of willpower never to surrender to these omnipresent trays of temptation in a weak moment.  Of course each individual is ultimately responsible for what goes in their mouth, but research studies into the influence of proximity and visibility of food on consumption volumes cannot be ignored.  The seminal work of Brian Wansink in this area has demonstrated that our consumption is significantly and consistently affected by environmental factors.  It is time to face the facts - in the modern world of sedentary employment, obesity has inevitably become your boss’ business.

How progressive is YOUR employer in tackling these issues?  Is your workplace making you overweight?  We would love to hear your thoughts on what improvements you would like to see in your office.  Please share your comments via our Facebook Page.

 
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Eating out is no longer the luxury it once was for our parents' generation.  According to the government's "Family Food Report 2011", we each spend an average of £50 a month on eating out, with a third of meals taken outside the home.  So what we consume in restaurants is increasingly important to our overall standard of nutrition.

In accordance with a government initiative, a minority of British restaurants, including Harvester and McDonalds, have begun to publish calorie counts on their menus and food packaging. However, unlike some parts of the USA, there is not yet any legal obligation to do so.  Moreover, as we will discuss in a future blog post, all calories are not equal.  So here are some golden rules to help you stay on track with your weight loss or maintenance goals when eating out...

  1. Ditch the Fizzy Drinks.  It always amazes us when we look around in restaurants and see how many people are drinking Coke.  Diet versions are no better as they make you crave sweet foods.  Replace with free tap water and save loads of calories AND money at the same time! 
  2. Avoid the Bread.  Why spoil your appetite and ruin your enjoyment of your main course by filling up on bread whilst you are waiting? Most people are already eating too many carbohydrates.  Opt for olives instead, which are full of healthy monounsaturated fats and protect us from cancer and high blood pressure.
  3. Ask for Swaps.  Even if a dish is listed on a menu as coming with chips, there is often an alternative. Many restaurants will be perfectly happy to replace the chips with a healthier option such as salad or vegetables at no extra cost.  Remember - if you don't ask, you don't get! Ask for any salad dressings to come on the side, so you can control the portion size.
  4. Order a Fish Dish.  Eating out is the perfect opportunity to have fish without the smell invading your home.  Fish is nearly always one of the healthiest and least calorific choices on a menu (unless battered) and oily varieties such as salmon, trout or mackerel are packed with omega-3 fatty acids which protect against heart disease.
  5. Ban the Beige!  Variety of colour is a really good simple indicator of how healthy a dish is.  Anything beige will nearly always be covered in pastry or batter and/or fried and have very little nutritional value.
  6. Share A Dessert.   If you can't resist a dessert completely, then why not share one?  Most desserts in restaurants contain around twice as much fat and sugar as a chocolate bar, so half really is plenty for one person.
  7. Never Super-Size. Refuse Refills and Bottomless Chips.  If an establishment offers super-size portions, the nutritional quality of their food is likely to be very poor. As for refills and bottomless chips, anything that sabotages your weight loss efforts is never truly "free".
 
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Bread is such an omnipresent staple of western diets.  Since their invention in the 18th century by the eponymous Earl, sandwiches have become the default lunch for many, with a staggering 11 billion consumed each year in the UK.  Such is its popularity, it would be considered unrealistic for many to eliminate suddenly bread from their diets.

At JB Personal Training, we advise our clients to follow 3 simple rules on how to incorporate bread into a sustainable eating pattern compatible with fat loss:

1) Never have more than 2 slices of bread per day. 

It is very easy to consume significantly more than this, especially if you have toast for breakfast and as a snack

2) Always choose wholemeal bread

This means not granary, not "brown", and NEVER white.

3) Count the Ingredients

Always choose the least processed wholemeal bread possible. Flip the bread over in the supermarket and have a look at the ingredients.  You may be surprised to learn that even seemingly healthy choices like wholemeal wraps have a list of ingredients as long as your arm. Take Mission Wholewheat Tortillas, for example:

Ingredients: Whole Wheat Flour, Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Vegetable Shortening (Interesterified Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil and/or Palm Oil), contains 2% or less of each of the following: Salt, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Aluminum Sulfate, Corn Starch, Monocalcium Phosphate and/or Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Calcium Sulfate), Distilled Monoglycerides, Enzymes, Wheat Starch, Calcium Carbonate, Antioxidants (Tocopherols, Ascorbic Acid), Vital Wheat Gluten, Cellulose Gum, Dough Conditioners (Fumaric Acid, Sodium Metabisulfite), Preservatives (Calcium Propionate, Sorbic Acid and/or Citric Acid).

 

Contrast this with Asda Wholemeal Pitta Bread:

Ingredients: Wholemeal Flour (62%), Water, Salt, Yeast

 

The number of ingredients is a very simple indicator of how processed the bread is. So the fewer the better. A long list like the Mission Tortillas above is highly likely to have an ingredient that is damaging to one's health. A great example in this case is the presence of hydrogenated fat (Hydrogenated Soybean Oil and/or Palm Oil). This is a type of "Trans Fat", consumption of which can lead to high cholesterol levels in the blood and subsequently heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.


So next time you are shopping, take a little extra time to check the label. Don't assume that a product marketed as healthy is genuinely so - unfortunately, often the opposite is the case!

 
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