Foods for Recovery: Ginger

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I LOVE ginger – in face there’s several ginger recipes in the book because it is such a favourite of mine. Warming, spicy, comforting – but also a zingy addition to lots of savoury dishes, this versatile spice is actually packed with health benefits which makes it the perfect recovery food. I’ve listed a few of its many qualities below which are relevant to recovery – I’m sure they’ll surprise you!

  1. Anti-inflammatory – Handily-titled Gingerols, found in Ginger, help to reduce inflammation and therefore help with mobility and joint pain, especially in people with Osteoporosis. Brittle bones are a huge problem for anyone after an eating disorder, so calcium is often prescribed to help improve bone density and body function. With this in mind, not-so-obvious foods like Ginger may be able to really help the body to recover better.
  2. Digestive Health – Your digestive system takes a real hit going through an eating disorder – and after it has been gently eased back into ‘normal function’, residual problems can still be present which make can life pretty unpleasant and difficult. Aiding digestion is really important as it helps all your bodily functions, allowing the nutrients from the food you eat to be absorbed properly into your body. Additionally for those with anxiety and chronic IBS like me, any relief from the excruciating symptoms is much welcome. Ginger tea is said to help this and I can certainly vouch for the fact that it tastes lovely and the simple warming taste and feel of the tea does help to calm me a little. Ginger is said to ease the painful cramps and contractions caused by IBS, so it can also regulate and keep good bowel function in those who are recovering. In turn, it helps us to properly absorb the goodies from the food we eat and keeps toilet problems at bay (I’ll leave it at that!). Fresh Ginger tea (fresh Ginger brewed with hot water and Manuka honey) is said to be the best way to aid digestion using Ginger.
  3. Circulation – Many of us suffer with poor circulation even well into recovery (and after, as I’ve discovered – my circulation is irretrievably damaged). That’s why I’m passionate about recovery nutrition – if I had consumed some of these foods during recovery then perhaps I wouldn’t suffer now with the irreparable consequences of my eating disorder. On a positive note however, anyone with poor circulation can use Ginger to help improve blood flow!

Ginger Tea

You can buy Ginger tea bags at the supermarket – but here’s a simple recipe for Ginger Tea if you fancy making some for yourself and trying it at home.

  • Ginger Root
  • Manuka Honey
  • Boiling Water
  1. Peel the Ginger Root and then grate the ginger or slice and chop thinly.
  2. Add Ginger to a mug or cup and pour over the boiling water. Allow it to steep for 10 minutes maximum.
  3. Stir in the honey. You can add Cinnamon or Lemon for additional flavour if you like!

Ginger is in a wide range of delicious foods – especially Chinese and Thai food. I enjoy Ginger in cookies and cake – recipes for these can be found here in my book, Recipes for Recovery.

More Foods for Recovery here!

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Foods for Recovery: the (not so humble) Egg

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Eggs. Often overlooked as a ‘staple’ grocery – we consume 11.7 billion each year in the UK – that’s 32 million per day! Eggs are SO versatile; just have a think about all the dishes you can make using eggs! Of course, they can either be used whole, or the yolks and whites can be isolated to make a huge range of dishes. They are also light and suitable for people who are poorly or have digestive issues. Packed with protein, they really are a tiny nutritional hand grenade and a fantastic addition to any diet.

I have eggs at least once a week – I either bake them into a soufflé or quiche (you can find my quiche and soufflé recipes here in the book), I’ll often have them poached with salmon in a salad, or scrambled or devilled as a snack.

Why are they so important for recovery though?

  1. Protein – Eggs are high in protein and good fats, so they pack a fantastic nutritional punch considering how little they are! They are filling whilst being light in texture – so one little egg goes a very long way.
  2. Other nutrients – High in selenium, Iron and Vitamin D and a host of B-Vitamins, eggs are incredibly nutritious and perfect for helping your body repair and restore itself. They also help to increase good cholesterol which is really good for your heart. Eggs also contain their very own unique antioxidants which help maintain good eye health.
  3. Digestible and light – They’re a great addition to almost any diet because they are not too heavy on the digestive system. When your digestive system has been through something as harsh and debilitating as an eating disorder, it’s going to take a while for it to get back on track. And when it does, being kind to it by eating soft, easily-digested eggs which are packed with nutrients and protein can only do it good.

More Foods for Recovery here!

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Foods for Recovery: Cocoa

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Chocolate is something many of us love – of course for you, it might be at this stage something you have recently re-introduced into your diet.

Cocoa, a main ingredient in chocolate, is actually incredibly good for us, and I’ve listed it as a recovery food because it does have specific benefits for anybody whose body has taken a bit of a bashing.

Cacao (the proper name for it in its raw state!) contains Polyphenols, which have been shown to protect the heart and maintain healthy blood flow – two crucial things for anyone in recovery. Cacao also has a positive effect on mood – as it boosts two ‘feel good’ chemicals in the brain – serotonin and dopamine. You may have heard of serotonin, as some anti-depressants are known as SSRIs or ‘Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors’. Recovery can be tough (I don’t need to tell you that!), so any mood-lifters will understandably be a welcome boost. Cocoa has also been said to help with digestive complaints as it encourages the growth of good bacteria in the gut – another welcome recovery benefit.

Cocoa powder can be used in a hair mask to help hair loss – and you’ll probably already know that raw cocoa butter is great for moisturising skin and hair.

Raw, organic Cacao is the best form of cocoa to use as it is not roasted, therefore retaining the antioxidant qualities better – however I do sometimes use Bourneville or Green and Black’s.

A great, simple way to use cocoa is to mix it with almond butter and a little agave, sweet freedom, maple syrup or honey, then roll in coconut.

You can find more yummy high-cocoa recipes here in my book:

Don’t fancy making anything from scratch? Try OMbar – read my review here.

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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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Why BMI and Weight mean absolutely nothing

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The massive importance of BMI and Weight – one of the biggest myths of our time.

As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, weight is a number on a scale which essentially tells you what your relationship with gravity is. It doesn’t tell you anything else; it doesn’t take into account other physical or personal qualities. I wanted to expand a little bit on this though because I get a lot of people talking to me about ‘weight loss’ and when I explain why I disagree with that so much I’m often met with a lot of confusion and questions!

I think the main reason for this confusion is the conditioning we have all been subject to over the last 30 plus years, which has seen the idea of ‘weight loss’ painted as a positive and ‘fat’ as a negative.

Of course in the 40’s, there was an influx of adverts promising ‘curviness’ for ‘skinny’ girls, who were ostracised just as bigger women are nowadays for their ‘undesirable’ size. Doesn’t that just go to show the power of the media, and the consequent effect it has on society? Someone, somewhere decides what is ‘normal’ or ‘good’ and we all follow blindly as we are told to do. At the moment, ‘skinny’ is in, and as a consequence we have all become obsessed with how much we weigh, with fat as a rule avoided like the plague.

BMI has long been painted by health professionals as an accurate and reliable gauge of a person’s health, based on the correlation between their height and weight. Contrary to this, many will now tell you that it in fact does the opposite and tells us very little about a person’s physical make up and overall health. Here’s an example: take a body builder who is very lean but has a heck of a lot of muscle. Muscle is more dense than fat, so they weigh quite a lot. They are however lacking in height – meaning their BMI indicates that they are clinically obese. Yet this person does not have a scrap of fat on them – so how can they possibly be obese?

This outdated system lumps people into categories of ‘healthy’, ‘unhealthy’ and ‘really unhealthy’ on opposite ends of the scale.  Another example is a naturally slim, tall person whose height and weight indicate that they are drastically underweight and dangerously so. Yet this is simply how they are made up naturally – it’s impossible for them to put on any weight.

What concerns me about this reliance on BMI is that many people are being told they are ‘clinically obese’ when that simply is not true. It focuses us even more keenly on a number on a scale, and not the health of our bodies as a whole. More recently, worrying stories of children and young adults being berated for the product of their BMI results have emerged in the press, which of course is unhelpful to say the least at such a formative stage both mentally and physically.

 

This brings me back to ‘weight’ as a whole. I admit I weigh myself once a week, same time, same day, so I absolutely cannot sit here and tell anybody not to weigh themselves at all, even though in all honesty that would be the ideal alternative. I know people who weigh themselves incessantly; sometimes twice in a day. When you have body dysmorphia or an eating disorder, gaining one pound can alter your whole perception of yourself and how you feel for the rest of that day. Clothes feel tighter, imaginary rolls of fat appear in the mirror. ‘Weight’ means nothing. The weight of our bodies depends on many different factors and varies from hour to hour, day to day, week to week. Women especially are subject to daily hormonal changes and don’t forget the contribution of our digestive systems to how much (or little) we weigh.

So what’s the alternative? Whilst I don’t suggest that this is widely used and suitable for everybody, I think it’s better to look to more accurate techniques such as fat calliper testing to get a clear indication of someone’s overall health. This coupled with other investigations can really give a true picture of how a person is made up, and where. If you are carrying excess fat, where it is on your body is important, as this often determines whether it poses a risk to your health and also the cause of its presence. Not everyone who carries excess fat eats cake for breakfast!

Next time you find yourself at the doctor’s and they insist on working out your BMI, please don’t lose heart if it isn’t favourable. It is a vague indication, if that, of your health and physical components. Not only that, there is more to you than a number on a scale. You are a wonderful person on the inside, and as long as you are also healthy, that is all that matters.

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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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Should we have nutrition advice in our schools?

 

I talk about this in the book and include a section on basic nutrition – that’s how important I think this is! Largely because I lacked this rather simple education when I was younger and instead my head became filled with ridiculous harmful advice peddled by diet companies and magazines. In light of the recent funding which is being pumped into the NHS to help tackle Eating Disorders, I wanted to see if anybody else agrees with me when I say I feel that some of the money should go into prevention as well as treatment.

Perhaps the budget is so tight that it cannot afford for any portion of it to be siphoned off for preventative causes like nutrition advice, but in an ideal world where we had plenty of money to spare I’m certain that at least a quarter of it should be invested into better education and preventative measures to bring the number of actual cases down before they get to a critical point in an already strung-out NHS, not to mention a massively under pressure mental health structure.

The NHS has been investing in preventative medicine and preventative education for some time; campaigns and adverts in newspapers or on television you see such as Stop Smoking, Dry January and Change 4 Life are examples of this. They’re usually educative or encouraging people to make positive choices in their lives which should mean that the NHS has to spend less later because people are generally healthier than they would have been had they not been given that advice.

With the NHS budget under massive strain, I think it would be intelligent and financially sensible to look to schools to administer education to young people at grassroots level, when so many of them are developing important ideas about themselves, about life and about food.

A lot of Eating Disorders tend to manifest themselves in these early years of our lives and that was especially true in my case. When I speak to others who are going through an Eating Disorder or who have poor body image many also talk of being bullied at school for being fat or ugly or not fitting in, and as a consequence turning to fad diets to improve the way they looked and developing an Eating Disorder further down the line.

I’m certainly not saying that diets and the media are wholly responsible for Eating Disorders. They’re complex mental illnesses with their roots in many facets of our lives and personalities. Many sufferers know that what they think and feel about food isn’t fact but they of course are compelled to continue anyway. I know this more than anyone.

However cases seem to be emerging at younger and younger ages. These children cannot have a proper understanding of food and how it works in our bodies; and any education they do have tends to be confusing and incorrect because it comes from their exposure to the diet industry, who as you know I think are a pretty irresponsible bunch.

I’m not saying that education of this kind would stop all cases, but certainly a few might be halted by a better understanding of our bodies, coupled with advice on self-confidence and self-care.

What do you think? Should we look at introducing nutrition education into schools at Secondary level to help them to understand their bodies and make more informed choices?

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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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Blueberries – A True Superfood

We hear a lot banded around nowadays about ‘Super-foods’ – another baffling inclusion to our diet. Like red wine and dark chocolate – one minute they are good for you, the next they are branded unhealthy. Remember my motto – everything in moderation!

However some foods really do have super powers and are great to feed our bodies inside out with yummy nutrients.

Blueberries are some of my favourites – I eat them with pure, thick Greek Yoghurt or in a smoothie.

So what’s the hype?

We’ve all heard of nutrients, but Blueberries contain a large range of micro-nutrients, including Vitamins C, E and K, and dietary fibre which keeps your digestive system moving along nicely. That’s not all! Blueberries also contain Phytonutrients which help protect against ageing.

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Blueberries – a true superfood

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Nutty About Nuts

Everyone knows nuts are good for us, right? But why? I hear so much confusing ‘advice’ about nuts everywhere, so here is my comprehensive guide. They really are only slightly different – yet packed full of healthy nutrients and vitamins. They’re a must in my diet – I can’t live without them! Just remember – always try to have nuts RAW where you can. They’re not so healthy after they’ve been coated with salt, monosodium glutamate and other nasties.

Almonds, Cashews, Pistachios – Contain Omega 3 Fatty Acids (hair, nails, skin), protein and fibre (which helps keep you full).

Peanuts – Full of Vitamin E and folate which is vital for brain development and foetal development in pregnant women.

Brazil Nuts – One of my personal favourites! Packed with Selenium and good fats.

My main reason for eating nuts is their nutritious qualities for skin and hair. I notice a big difference if I go without them for a few days. They’re also yummy and full of energy so I always have them handy as a snack when I’m on the go.

There really is no need to be confused about nuts. Some people avoid them as they are high in calories and fat, yet really they are similar to any other food in that in moderation, they are absolutely fine and full of added nutrients. What’s not to love?!

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