Sceptically Fit


New Years Resolutions

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , — Sceptically Me @ 19:10

Update – not everything saved when I posted it from the phone…

So it’s that time. I started the year quite well last year but did too much without looking after myself and it kind of fell apart. This year I aim to make more of an effort to look after myself.

  • get eight hours sleep most nights
  • complete the 30 day paleo challenge
  • continue eating paleo most of the time
  • improve my paleo cooking
  • be able to do a full pull up
  • do the Survival of the Fittest and be able to get over the 6″ wall without help
  • move into my own apartment
  • complete the beginners swing dancing course and finally be able to stay for the intermediate and social dancing
  • run a half marathon in under two hours in May
  • finish a book a month
  • take the time to indulge my creative side at least once a week: painting, sewing, drawing, writing
  • Email/Call/Skype more often with friends and family
  • keep my home clean and tidy.
  • keep my house plants alive


Post-Xmas DeBrief

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , — Sceptically Me @ 21:57

Travelling – that’s the hardest part. I spent five days with my boyfriend’s family for Xmas. We had an almost nine hour journey by train. And considering the state of my diet in the last month, I didn’t really feel like pushing for something approaching healthy food. In fact, I was happy to indulge.

We made two sandwiches each with lovely chewy ciabatta which I don’t regret (mozzarella and rocket with either salami or parma ham). Sandwiches are the easy travel food. We also bought a ham and cheese quiche. And the big downfall were the Mr Kipling cakes that he spied at the supermarket. I will say that the French Fancies turned out to be too sugary for either of us to eat more than one each. But the mini Battenburgs were lovely – I need to invest in quality marzipan for future treats!

So the first day down south, I already woke up feeling bloated. But its Christmas, I’m going to enjoy myself. I’m glad I didn’t bring any particularly body-conscious clothes, but otherwise I managed to not feel too crappy (aside from alcohol consumption) the whole time. In an attempt to negate some of the ill effects of eating so much wheat and sugar, I did take fibre capsules with me. I think perhaps starting them a few days before the holiday may help more by giving yourself a bit more time to adjust. But I think it did make a difference – at least I felt better (though not great) than I did last year.

Several Christmas dinners with turkey and trimmings – which made me realise that if I’d had the willpower (or more accurately, the desire) to say no to stuffing it would have been a pretty healthy meal – roast potatoes, swede, parsnips, carrots, peas, broccoli, turkey and gravy! There were Yorkshire puddings with the second Christmas dinner, I had one and realised once you are used to not eating that kind of thing, they aren’t that tasty. I’d rather mop up the gravy with roast potato.

Holiday-time, there was plenty of desserts (sherry-soaked trifle was my favourite!), chocolates and crisps at all time.  Other meals tended to be of the very easy/comfort food variety – takeaway fish and chips, and roadside Cornish Pasty. Breakfast is often held up as the hardest meal to adjust to on paleo/low-carb but on holiday its the easiest. Everyone is happy to see someone eat eggs and bacon, and no one is shocked at someone saying they are still full from the feast the night before.

I do wish I’d been a bit healthier leading up to Christmas, though maybe then the bad diet would have felt worse. And I do want to come up with a better travel food – sandwiches are a bit just so easy but low on both vegetable and protein count. When we made them ourselves that was fine – it was a treat because all the ingredients were worth it. But buying them from the railway station between changes – they were not tasty enough to warrant the bloated feeling.

Lots of Links

Filed under: Health and Nutrition — Tags: , , — Sceptically Me @ 15:54

I think the biggest story that hit over the last couple of weeks was the results of a study that showed just two days of low-carb dieting helps you lose weight better than seven days of low-calorie dieting. Just two days a week appears to show significant results in cancer prevention too.

Sugar makes us sleepy. Cooking food releases more calories. And grains rot your teeth. Hunt, Gather, Love tries a vegan paleo diet and fails – I’d like to hope it would be possible if you weren’t also sensitive to fodmaps but it seems there’s a real limit to how well an animal (us) that evolved eating animal products can remove animal products…

Its great to see more mainstream coverage of the importance of fat in the diet – Salon covers Why Women need Fat. Seth takes a look at successful experiments in treating sleeping disorders like Restless Leg with b vitamins, meal timing and regulating light exposure. Here’s two years of results of the Shangri-la diet – using flavourless calories to suppress appetite.

Conditioning Research offers a complete guide to Interval Training, and the Great Fitness Experiment suggests ways to implement Tabata into your workout. And here’s another great study on why you should do them.

ITB, the scourge of the running community, debunking the myths.

Skepchick offers a guide to Meditation for those who want the benefits without the woo. And with New Years upon us – perhaps we don’t need to keep trying to be perfect ourselves.

For anyone thinking of a Vegetarian/Vegan Resolution – Silverhydra has produced a guide to the actual meat toxins and how to avoid them.

  • Meat, unlike plants, do not contain any inherently toxic compounds in them when you eat them like ‘our ancestors’ did; stab the animal in the eye and feast upon its tissues. This isn’t how we eat meat though.
  • When you add preservatives and cooking into the mix, you can form carcinogens. These were never ’factored out’ by evolution or ‘adapted to’ since they only adversely affect human health well past reproductive age and natural selection doesn’t apply.
  • They can all either be avoided, or minimized.
  • Heterocyclic Amines are formed from cooking, and their amounts are directly related to heat exposure and time. You can reduce the amount in meat with herbal and oil marination, but it would be best to limit cooking time in order to avoid excessive HCA formation.
  • Nitrosamines are formed when the Nitrate preservative binds with amino acids, and can best be prevented by consuming reducing agents (vitamin C, or just veggies) alongside the meat.
  • Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons are formed during smoking, from incomplete combustion of fatty acids, and can best be avoided through aromatase inhibition (veggies) or allowing all meats to fully ventilate, thus preventing the ‘incomplete combustion’ from being incomplete.
  • Advanced Glycemic End products aren’t a huge concern, but are formed when meats get a crispy browning to them. They can be avoided by not browning the meats, but if you are worried about their effects in the body just get your blood glucose and HbA1c levels under control and don’t get fat.


An Unpleasant Reminder

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , — Sceptically Me @ 22:28

This December has been particularly unhealthy for me. I have managed a few short weights sessions (about once a week) which has probably helped save me a little. But in general, my diet has been terrible. December is a time when people generally eat and drink too much. And there’s been a lot of that. But aside from eating too much good food, I’ve also eaten way too much bad food.

On three separate occasions in about a week and a half, I ate  two family sized cadbury dairy milk blocks (230gm each – Caramello and Whole Nut for those keeping track). That’s not about fun – that’s binge eating. That’s the kind of eating that you get to the last few pieces and you feel relieved that its almost gone. You don’t feel physically good after eating that much mid-range chocolate, and you don’t feel emotionally good after compulsively guzzling down piece after piece.

This is not to say I’m against a good fun indulgent binge. What I think started this was a night I really just wanted to snuggle up on the sofa, while the unseasonably cold and stormy weather raged outside, watching tv and eating chocolate. My parents sent my a lovely Australian care package with a bag of Darryl Lea liquorice – and I happily scoffed most of the bag in one sitting. That wasn’t compulsive eating –  that was fun over-the-top indulgence that can’t be repeated easily as nowhere in the UK seems to stock that delicious liquorice! Oops getting off-topic…

Sugar is addictive. This is pretty well known – and this is a personal post so I’m not citing sources. It has been suggested its more addictive than cocaine. After my month of sugar highs and lows, I’d suggest its more akin to crack or meth. Its addictive, makes your body and emotions crave it up to and including the levels of opening a second block of chocolate while you are still finishing the last piece of the previous one.

Sugar, like the previously mentioned drug, also has an increasingly level of tolerance, something I’ve been reminded of. My regular chocolate treat is dark chocolate – 85% cocoa solids. I decided to start cutting back on the sugary chocolate but thought a cold-turkey approach might be too much. So I tried to have a small bar Monday – I couldn’t eat it! It was so bitter and I couldn’t taste any sweetness. The seemingly lack of sweetness meant I couldn’t appreciate the richness of the chocolate, it just wasn’t what I was now used to. Fortunately, I didn’t have any more sweet chocolate left so managed to keep the sugar out for the evening.

Of course, there must have been an emotional component to this. I have come off several busy and stressful months. And my desire to indulge the comfort eating aspect of nesting against the cold winter was a lot to do with how worn out I was. Was there more going on then I realised that comfort eating turning into compulsive binging was possible? I try to remember what I used to be like – did this kind of thing happen semi-regularly anyway? I know I have turned to food to feel good (even though we all know it doesn’t even work as temporarily as you’d hope) most of my life. Is the reason it feels like such a sudden drop into compulsiveness more to do with me normally feeling good over the last few years and less to do with this being such a severe depature from my entire life’s eating habits?

I had originally planned to just say fuck it and enjoy the rest of December with all the Christmassy treats and New Year indulgences. Then, after returning to work (not the first week – don’t be crazy!), go on a strict thirty day paleo/primal challenge to clean myself up. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like my body will let me. Aside from just the almost daily chocolate consumption, there’s also been an unusually excessive amount of pizza, white bread, pasta, cakes, desserts, crisps, icecream and other such foods. There has been a decent amount of good meals in amongst all thats – its not like I wake up and eat cheetos for breakfast! But this weekened I went to an all day event that included a good amount of drinking.  It seems drinking wine for about eleven hours – even though I consumed probably about the glass for glass of water too – was a tipping point. Since sometime Saturday evening, I have now joined the wonderful world of GERD symptoms.

I know it was the alcohol that caused this – I used to get a stomach cramps after drinking more than a little years ago. But that stopped after I started following a more paleo/low-carb style diet. The only other time I’ve had stomach cramps in conjunction with alcohol has been in the middle of a not-healthy-diet. This time I’m not so much on the agonising cramps, and more the chronic heartburn for three days. Since Monday I’ve been trying to clean up my diet. I think the symptoms have abated a little but not quite there yet. Hopefully I can get this to settle down enough before Christmas arrives – and hopefully it will give me the willpower to choose my Christmassy food indulgences a little more carefully: indulge – don’t suffer!


Link Roundup

Filed under: Health and Nutrition — Tags: , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 23:16

Norway is suffering a butter shortage due to the popularity of low-carb diets.

Stevia wins European approval – in general I try to avoid artificial sweeteners but if its safe, more choice is good. Jezebel looks at the evils of pharmaceutical companies. And now another reason to doubt rice is the benign grain – arsenic!

More evidence emerges that eating fish is good for you: helping to prevent alzheimers; and the younger a baby is when it starts consuming fish, the less likely it is to suffer preschool wheeze.

Lifehacker looks at how to stop negative thoughts. Rob Wolf looks at how to identify if your cravings are due to biological, emotional or external triggers.

Evolutionary Psychology looks at depression and chemical imbalance. Wheat Belly author, Dr Davis is interviewed at Wellness Mama.

Mark’s Daily Apple looks at how to train for a marathon the healthy way – I’m hoping this will be useful at my planned half-marathon level. I’m really not wanting to go through the carb binge cycle like last time. And while I’m thinking about it, Strength Running takes a look at the real world benefits of endurance running.

The Netherlands wasn’t always a cyclist’s paradise – a look at the deliberate planning that went into improving the cycle-friendliness of Dutch cities. Lovely Bike argues against social ideas of female modesty limiting women’s ability to talk about their experiences.

Skeptic North takes aim at the poor arguments used against those sceptical of Big Nature.

Speaking of sceptical wins – the Burzynski Clinic‘s attempts to silence their critics has backfired. Now they’re  firing their thug


Half-Arsed Health System

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 18:42

I finally got around to getting my cholesterol results from a test I had back in June. I needed to see a doctor for an unrelated reason recently and while there was told they came back fine except for the fact that  have a low enough count of red blood cells to be borderline anaemic

Now that I knew what the letters I’d been ignoring were, I bothered to make an appointment with the nurse for a follow up test. She gave me a printout of the original test results and explained that my serum cholesterol is below what’s considered good in the UK, and my HDL cholesterol is higher than the good range for the UK, to such an extent that they can’t give me a ratio. So, yay for me and my saturated fat consumption.

Now here’s where the story of my half-arsed approach ends, and the NHS’s begins.  There was no LDL cholesterol count – not just no differentiation between good and bad LDL, no LDL at all.  Why not?

Maybe it’s not cost effective. It’s not cost effective is the reason given for why they don’t test for HIV, (or hepatitis or syphilis which is usually in the same test) in the UK. Despite all the advertising from health groups; despite the awareness campaigns based on how you can’t tell by looking at someone and you can’t know yourself until you’re tested; despite the advertising saying the earlier you start treatment the better; if you want to be sure without being a gay man or an African immigrant you need to argue for it. The nurse explained that they normally only test if you have symptoms like a sore throat that won’t go away. If you are pregnant you’ll be offered a test – the nurse didn’t really get my point that knowing before pregnancy might be a better public health policy.

I am a huge supporter of the NHS despite my personal experience of it. Free public healthcare is the cornerstone of a modern society. We may not be able to do away with the massive inequality of wealth but at least we can make sure people can be healthy regardless of their ability to pay for it.  I also realise that there’s a limited budget (though I think it’s obvious that’s due to government mishandling like prioritising banks…) but prevention is cheaper. And I realise doctors only have a limited time – so I’m not offended that my doctor doesn’t remember me from visit to visit, that he doesn’t know any of the details of my history and that he doesn’t have time to read anything in my file before he sees me. In general, I’m ok with that. I don’t need to pretend someone is taking vital interest in me – not for me the attention-giving quackery of homoeopathy – but when of your patients decides they want to find out about their health why can’t you at least run a decent test? A cholesterol test is not like asking for a full body mri. A basic std screen is not like asking to be genetically screened.


A Warming Winter Drink Treat

Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , , — Sceptically Me @ 18:30

I saw this Creamy Tumeric Tea on Mark’s Daily Apple where he says “Turmeric tea will perk you up in the morning, calm you down at night and soothe sniffles and sore throats.” Feeling a little on the verge of a cold myself, I decided to try it.

  • 8 ounces (1 cup) almond or coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2-inch wide round slice of ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon honey or other sweetener
  • Optional additions: a small pat of butter, cinnamon, cardamom

I misread slightly and used a whole teaspoon of turmeric but I don’t think that was a problem – if anything my dash of cayenne may have been more generous than I meant. Adhering to the traditional hot toddy belief I didn’t stint on the honey, and added about a teaspoon of cinnamon.

Very tasty, and certainly warming. I’m inclined to think I might water it down a little next time. I don’t find the coconut milk too strong/thick, but I did find half a can was able to be drunk far too quickly.

Reading through the comments on the post – several people commented that black pepper is usually served with turmeric as the piperine in the black pepper (not present in cayenne pepper)  helps the  body absorb the beneficial curcumin from the turmeric. So I might try that next time.


The Joy of Frozen Vegetables and Warm Winter Food

Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , — Sceptically Me @ 23:55

Last year, the UK experienced winter weather that would probably make those from North America snort in derision, but it was enough to grind the country to a halt. While news of road closures kept filling the broadcasts, I was influenced by a friends warning that supermarkets would not receive any more stock and panic-shopped a bunch of frozen vegetables including a kilo of frozen shredded spinach.

At the time I was horrified – what was I going to do with frozen spinach? I certainly didn’t seem to suit my style of cooking and unlike the traditional frozen peas and corn wasn’t going to be something I’d be happy cooking up in the microwave with a nice dollop of butter.

But what I’ve since realised is that its perfect for bulking up the veggie content of chillis and curries, casseroles and hotpots.

Frozen onion is wonderful – I’m not too lazy to chop – I’m just incredibly sensitive to whatever it is that makes your eyes water. My eyes will still be sore and red several hours later! But not with frozen onion.

Basic Beef Casserole:

  • approx 500grams of diced casserole steak
  • 300gm of frozen spinach (ie probably a 3rd of a bag)
  • large cup of frozen onion
  • large cup of frozen peas
  • beef stock
  • chicken stock
  • tablespoon of lard
  • tin of borlotti beans
  • tin of button mushrooms.
  • herbs – oregano and garlic

I put the beef, lard, spinach, onion and peas in a casserole dish. Added the beef stock (I used a knorr beef hot pot gel) and chicken stock (I used two units of my homemade stock) and topped up the dish with boiling water. Give it a good stir and put in the oven on 200C for about 30min. Then I turned it down to 180C for about an hour and a half. Add the beans and mushrooms, oregano and garlic – give a good mix and turn the heat down to 160C for approx another hour.

As a cold winters night comfort dish after a good weights workout at the gym – its a good hearty meal for two – or for one, and a delicious reheatable meal for later (that’s the great thing about hotpot style dishes – they reheat well). I think I might add another tablespoon or two of lard next time – need a bit more fat to balance all that protein and carbohydrates.

Approx per serve: 715 Calories, 33grams of Carbohydrates (17grams fibre – already deducted), 109grams of Protein and 16 grams of Fat

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