How to eat well – frugally

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In my post on 13th January, I discuss the expense of living and eating well.

Here are my top tips on eating ‘clean’ and nutritiously on a tighter budget:

  1. Shop Local. I’m not talking about these fancy ‘farm shops’ where a raspberry meringue sets you back £3 (although I do LOVE wasting money in those places). Most people think that going to your local grocer, butcher or fishmonger is expensive in comparison to the supermarket but often they are surprisingly competitive – don’t forget they now have to compete with the price wars going on at top level to keep local custom. You also have the added advantage of the produce being locally sourced and often organic, even if it is not advertised as such. Delicatessens stocking local cold meats and cheeses are also fab – there’s a lot of fairly-priced artisan food out there nowadays which is sourced right here in the UK.
  2. Look Online. Brands stocked in Holland and Barrett, Tesco and Win Naturally are mostly available online for a reduced price or in wholesale packs (ebay is good for this). Often if you place a large order you also get free delivery, so it’s win-win. The internet is also fab for buying dried fruit and raw nuts, which are frankly extortionate at the supermarket and only ever come in tiny bags! Specialist foods such as gluten free flours, oils and natural sugar alternatives are also more readily available.
  3. Buy in Bulk. Whether that’s through a mail order meat site such as Muscle Food or through your local butcher, as I say in my post about prep if you are lucky enough to have the freezer space, it’s easier (and cheaper) to think ahead and stock up with a lot of food at once. It will keep fresh and you can get excellent quality meat and fish at much lower prices when you buy a lot of it.
  4. Don’t discount Aldi and Lidl. So many more people are latching on to the Aldi and Lidl frenzy now but there are still many who are slightly sceptical when it comes to buying produce. I buy loads of basics (such as oats, unsalted butter, whole milk) from Aldi; but it’s also great for genuine specialist continental foods such as big juicy olives, rich cheeses and spicy meats. The fruit and veg is cheap as chips and they’ve even started an organic range now which unsurprisingly is also perfectly priced. Both Lidl and Aldi also do a great range of raw nuts – Lidl even has a ‘pick n mix nut bar’ where you can choose your own.

All in all, eating naturally will always cost you a little more than if you relied on processed foods. However if you can afford it, the benefits are incredible. Your body is your most precious asset!! I hope that this post demonstrates that it can be done on a budget.

Any more ideas I have missed on how to live and eat well frugally? Share them here!

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Gluten-free – it’s not for everyone

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I talk about fad diets on here and my hatred of anything that encourages you to cut anything out of your daily routine completely or starve yourself as I believe that these are harmful and unhealthy – I think that they normalise a difficult relationship with food.

You may have noticed from the blog that I don’t eat gluten. I don’t eat any foods with gluten in them because I have IBS as a result of my anxiety disorder, which means I struggle to digest food in general because of my constant state of anxiety, but especially ‘heavy’ foods like bread and pasta. It’s not simply an issue with gluten; I wouldn’t be able to eat any gluten free breads and I struggle with potato too. So essentially it’s not intolerance as such and more an inability to process heavy foods rather than an intolerance to gluten in an isolated way.

Some people have gluten intolerances or allergies (known as Coeliac disease), very much like lactose allergies and intolerance. These are serious medical conditions which cause people to become very poorly if they consume the foods in question – in the case of allergies, all precautions must be taken to ensure sufferers’ foods have not at all come into contact with any gluten. In the same way if I eat heavy foods I feel very poorly but Irritable Bowel Syndrome is still an illness with very little known about the causes, triggers and treatments and therefore it’s a grey area compared to the above.

Contrary to the seriousness which is widely associated with nut allergies, we’ve become very ignorant and dismissive about gluten allergies and intolerances and often group them as the same thing, or worse group them with those on fad diets who don’t have intolerance or allergies at all. Similarly, it’s more difficult to tell now whether somebody has a medical issue, or whether they’re just avoiding the food group altogether because they have read an article in a magazine and decided to go on a fad diet. Unfortunately, all those who are avoiding gluten for genuine reasons find themselves subject to disapproval and a fair amount of eye-rolling, tutting, ridicule and sometimes anger (yes anger – it’s happened!)

Gluten-free has become the latest fad diet on the market. Celebrities have taken it up in force and magazines rave about the benefits including a ‘flat stomach’ and the fact that gluten causes undesirable effects in even the most robust digestive system. This often means that when I turn down a sandwich or tell somebody I’m not able to eat that cake or biscuit, they snort and say ‘Oh, you’re on low carb?’ or look at me disdainfully because clearly I’m just being a faddy eater and being incredibly inconvenient (having had an eating disorder, I’m used to this look as I’m sure you can imagine!) Generally, people don’t believe me when I tell them about my IBS and how it affects me (and I really don’t fancy going into detail about my bowel movements to convince them that I am telling the truth!).

I think this misunderstanding is because the popularity and promotion of gluten-free has led to people who have no history of intolerance and who have not been to see a doctor self-diagnosing an intolerance and cutting out gluten altogether in favour of expensive gluten-free alternatives, of which there is now an increasingly diverse range in the supermarkets (isn’t that just proof of the adoption of gluten free?) The problem is that because people see it as a diet and weight loss method, and not as a necessary (or unnecessary for most, as it happens) lifestyle choice, they feel they can consume as much gluten-free produce as they please and that they will be healthy and lose weight as a result. Sadly, they’re wrong.

Processed gluten-free products are often full of the same nasty chemicals and preservatives as are in foods containing gluten – and in fact sometimes they have more because they are not made in a ‘traditional’ way as some ‘normal’ products are. They contain just as much sugar too, so eating a gluten-free pack of biscuits instead of the occasional ‘normal biscuit’ is absolutely no good for your body.

There’s varying schools of thought scientifically as to whether cutting gluten out of your diet is beneficial medically-speaking, however a fair few of these contradict each other ,with some saying it may help, others which categorically deny that, unless you have medical reason to, gluten has any reason to be excluded from your diet. As I always say, eating a healthy, balanced, as natural as possible range of foods is absolutely the best thing for your body. Gluten-based foods have been around for centuries and whilst our variations of them (such as refined breads and processed cakes and biscuits) aren’t the best, gluten itself is only the enemy for a select few who genuinely struggle to process it.

Have you experienced any prejudice because of a genuine allergy or intolerance?

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Christmas Anxiety

And by this, I don’t mean worrying that you won’t get what you asked for on Christmas Day!

For lots of people with GAD, Depression and EDs, (me included!) Christmas can be an incredibly stressful time. Most ‘normal’ people (as they would call themselves!!) don’t understand this anxiety or bad feeling surrounding Christmas because after all, it’s the time of year that most people enjoy and look forward to the most. Time off to spend with family, lots of yummy indulgent food, gifts; what’s not to love? Plenty, it seems, for those who are suffering from a variety of mental health issues. Below I’ve compiled a few reasons I believe Christmas is so difficult for some. In fact I genuinely believe that through a facade of mirth and excitement that a lot of people dread Christmas, for various personal reasons. Let me know if you agree/disagree, or have any of your own to add….

1. Winter Weather. This is  a HUGE one for me. My family always say that I ‘wasn’t built for the cold’ and I have to say, they’re completely right. I’m constantly cold, my skin is dry and often blue. The nights draw in to the mid-afternoon and quite frankly all I want to do at 4pm when the lights go out is go to bed. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is very common in the UK and those who have other mental health issues are predisposed to suffering from it.

2. Food. This one really only applies specifically to those who have suffered from or are in the midst of an ED. That said, with most women and men under constant pressure to look perfect, and many dieting constantly, it’s going to apply to a lot more of the population this year. Christmas in this instance is hell. Food absolutely everywhere; on television, on the radio, and most worryingly, in the house; in abundance. To make matters worse, this isn’t just any food – it’s the most indulgent, fattening, scariest kind. An onslaught of invitations for parties and dinners arrive, filled with the prospect of copious amounts of sugary booze and frightening festive party food. I’m a guilty party here and I’ve been known to turn down party invitations simply because of the sheer anxiety I suffer knowing that the lure of a smoked salmon blini is stronger than my willpower. However I need to put this in perspective here, not only for myself but for everybody reading this who is similar to me. You really do only get one life, and so many Christmases. A few indulgent evenings won’t make you fat or unhappy. We know this, and are incapable of believing it, but please, try not to let food control your Christmas, as it controls the rest of your life. There will be more posts on this over the next couple of weeks, so keep your eyes peeled.

3. People. Staying with parties, what happens if you have an anxiety about going out and being around people? Acutely low self-esteem can leave you feeling so bad about yourself that you just can’t face presenting an ‘inadequate’ you to a room full of ‘perfect’ people. Sound familiar? Of course, we’re all expected to be sociable at Christmas and attend parties and events which usually involve dressing up and looking fabulous. But if you don’t feel fabulous, then these functions only serve to hammer your self esteem into the ground and normally end in drunken tears. Rejecting these invitations, I feel, isn’t the key to overcoming this. For me, the only things I have found to have helped is a) not giving myself too much to do/too many things to go to, and b) manning up and forcing myself to go to at least one thing a week. It’s really, really hard. But however overwhelming it is, however many panic attacks precede walking into that venue, it is ALWAYS worth it. I promise. If nothing else, just for the sheer pride in knowing that you took that huge step, stuck two fingers up to your anxieties and walked through that door with your head held high. Trust me.

4. Expectations of ‘Fun’. Lots of people say that ‘forced fun’ is the worst fun. And it’s true. When you’re expected to be happy and excited and having lots of fun (because it’s Christmas, why shouldn’t you be?), it’s so much worse because you really are not happy, excited, or having any fun at all. Those who are judgmental about those with mental health issues come out in force over the festive period, contributing their nuggets of unhelpful ‘wisdom’ from ‘Well it’s Christmas, what have you got to be unhappy about?’, to ‘You’re very lucky, some people have no Christmas and no food on their plate’. It’s excruciatingly frustrating to hear these things and unfortunately, nothing you say will pacify these people. The root of anxiety is trying to please others and worrying about what others think. In this case there really is no point. Christmas is your time of year, as well as anyone else’s, and you are free to enjoy it, or perhaps ‘not enjoy it’, however you choose.

5. Money. Lots of people feel anxious about money around Christmas. After all, it’s an expensive time. In an increasingly material world, presents a re equated to status, and how much you love someone else. When of course that’s ridiculous. Easily said, not easily felt when children are now demanding iPads and PS4s in their stockings. The Money Advice Service, or MA, is a government-run service which provides help for those struggling to make ends meet over Christmas. Money Saving Expert is another good one if you are looking for tips and tricks to make your money go further this year. Remember – it really doesn’t matter how much you spend.

6. Social Media. The root of much evil in society today, in my opinion. Over Christmas, the ‘life competition’ is extended. Cue Instagrams of people with their beautiful trees, their gorgeous children, their hot boyfriend, in the thick white snow. Enjoying mulled wine with friends, opening expensive presents, eating lots of fatty food and still pouting in an XS reindeer onesie. It’s all SUPERFICIAL and it’s the fuel for anxiety and a feeling of inadequacy and ugliness. Don’t forget that whilst these folks say they are enjoying themselves ‘so much’, if they were really having a good time they wouldn’t be spending time away from their families to choose what filter makes them look hot. This culture of vanity is difficult to get away from and easy to get sucked into because after all, you don’t want to be the one with no gorgeous pictures to display and we are conditioned to compete with our peers. My advice? Stop going on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. I have. If it’s killing you, stop looking, however tempted you are. It won’t go away, so you have to be strong and make it. Delete those apps!!

My advice after all this? Remember the fundamentals. Respect and enjoy the simple things. Do you have some food? Are you warm? Have you got some time off work to spend on yourself and your family, friends or people you care about? That’s all you need. Even if it’s cold, if the sun is shining go for a walk. Clear your head and you’ll find beauty in the small things.

Before I end this post, let me say that I am NOT Scrooge. I do enjoy the feel and festivities surrounding Christmas, and I DO make a conscious effort to enjoy it. However I wrote this post because more people than I anticipated have shared their anxieties with me in the run up to the holidays, and I would like to ensure that nobody feels alone in their thoughts this season.

Let me know what you think!

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Recovery Foods

When I was in recovery, there wasn’t much in the way of advice given on what to eat and why, to help the body rebuild and heal what has been damaged or lost. Although I had a dietician, they were focused solely on calorie intake, which of course wasn’t the best focus for me as it was one I was trying to avoid! Each week I’ll be exploring a different food and its nutritional benefits for recovery, but today I thought I would give it an introduction and an overview of my personal star foods. The yummy goodness in these following foods, such as protein and calcium, are also good for non-sufferers to incorporate into their diet.

1. Nuts. I’ve already posted about nuts – you know my feelings on these little guys! Packed full of energy and nutrients and really tasty.

2. Steak. Lean beef steak is really good for repairing damaged muscle and body tissues as it has a high protein and iron content. Lovely with peppercorn sauce and a nice dark green leafy salad. Alternatively 100% beef burgers and mince are still high in these vital nutrients.

3. Eggs. Eggs really are a wonderfood in my opinion as they are so versatile. Even if you’re not a big fan of eggs in their normal state there is so much you can do with them. I like mine poached, in an omelette or frittata, quiche, or scrambled with bacon. You can make soufflés, pies and even shakes with eggs so if you’re not a fan yet, don’t rule them out. They are full of protein which again will be crucial in aiding your body’s recovery from the inside out.

4. Greek Yoghurt. Besides being thick, creamy and ludicrously tasty, Greek Yoghurt also boasts twice the protein content of other yoghurts, as well as being high in B12, Potassium and Protein. Don’t forget that it’s also a great source of calcium which really is important during recovery as your bones need it to grow strong again.

5. Fish. Oily fish to be precise, however if you’re not a fan of ‘fishy fish’ (I’m not), then Tuna, Cod, Haddock and shellfish are also good options. The best ones to go for are Salmon, Tuna and Cod.

6. Sweet Potato. So tasty and unlike normal potato packed with Beta-Carotene, Vitamins and Fibre. You can mash it, roast it, cut it into fries or wedges – the perfect accompaniment to any meal.

There will be profiles on all these nutritious superstars – plus many more! If you see anything missing – let me know and share it with everyone else : )

 

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Children and Calories

Following on from one of my first posts about adults adversely affecting the mental health and self-esteem of their children, I wanted to see if anyone else had experienced anything similar at their local gym.

I was in the changing rooms last week, and there were several children in there after their swimming class. A couple were eating cereal bars as they waited for their mum. I couldn’t help overhearing however when the little girl (who was about 6 or 7 years old) sidled up to her mum and said ‘How many calories does this have? Is it 100?’ The little boy joined in, firing random numbers and playing a ‘guess the calorie’ game. And for him it was a game; he was a little younger and didn’t have a full understanding of a calorie. But I could see for the little girl that the calorie content of that cereal bar was very important to her.

This got me thinking – where the hell did someone so young learn about calories? In addition to adopting a negative body image to the point of needing to count them? This really upset me. I was concerned about the unimaginable harm this would be doing psychologically, and at the same time wondering how this had happened.

When I was a child, I had no idea about calories and diets. I only became aware of such things in my third year of secondary school, which was when I developed an Eating Disorder. Before leaving Primary School, I had never been aware of my body image. I was a child; I was more concerned with what I was doing, where I was going, who I was playing with. The fact that I was so severely affected by society’s crippling aesthetic pressure when I was double this little girl’s age makes me worry about her future. Increasingly, girls and boys of younger ages are developing Eating Disorders.

For me, children and calories are not a good mix. Where do we think this is coming from? Have you heard your children talking about calories? Have they learnt this from school? Or do you make a conscious effort to make them aware of nutritional content in food? Please share your thoughts.

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