So what’s the skinny with FATs?

So what’s the skinny on FAT?

So now the experts are telling us that the national guidelines issued back in 77 and 83 warning us to reduce our fat consumption in order to avoid heart disease should not have been issued due to lack of actual supporting evidence.

There are still those out there who argue that fat is bad and leads to obesity but statistics show that despite the fact that we have cut the proportion of fat in our diets by 6% over the last 30 years obesity rates have trebled over the same period. The fact is that we have replaced the healthy fats with not so healthy carbohydrates and this is what has led to increased waistlines …but that is another story. Let’s get back to fat.

So some FAT related questions and answers that some of my clients have asked and that you may be wondering about…
So why should I eat fat?

Fat is an essential part of your diet. It is a structurally integral part of every single ell membrane in our bodies, every single cell for every single function. lt provides our bodies with insulation and our organs with protection. It also provides us with energy, boosts our immune system and it makes our food more tasty.
What’s the difference between SATURATED, UNSATURATED and TRANS fats?

Saturated fats are commonly known as hard fats that usually come from animal source, dairy and eggs. These are the fats that were regarded as bad, with dietary guidelines recommending that they take up no more than 10% of your of your diet. One of the key reasons was because it raises LDL (bad) cholesterol. But it turns out that it also raises HDL (good) cholesterol so the effects on HDL and LDL cancel each other out. Experts are now challenging this “bad fat” label and the dietary guidelines. Note, saturated fats are still high in calories so overindulging in cheese, eggs and butter will increase your weight.

Unsaturated fats are commonly found in the form of oils. More often than not they come from plants such as seeds but they also come from fish. These fats can be further divided into polyunsaturated (fish, nuts, oils) and monounsaturated (olive oil)

Trans fats that have been manufactured. Basically healthy unsaturated fats are hydrogenated to change the chemical structure and produce more “desirable” properties such as longer life shelf. Among other negative things, trans fats raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol. Recent studies show a definite link between trans fat and accelerated risk of heart disease. Trans fats should be avoided.
Are low fat foods the best option low fat foods?

The fats are simply removed and replaced with SUGAR and SWEETENERS. Sugar and sweeteners cause INSULIN levels to rise and this leads to storage. So low fat foods are not a good option.
But doesn’t fat have double the calories of Carbs or Protein?

This is true but nature generally packages good fat with protein such as meat, fish and eggs. This combination makes us feel fuller for longer as protein provides high satiety or a feeling of fullness. When food has been manufactured, then fat is more likely to be combined with refined carbs and processed sugars such as french fries or doughnuts. Those combination leads to low satiety or appetite satisfaction which of course leads to snacking and craving, and this in tandem with high calories.
But surely fat intake leads to fat storage

No, carbs lead to fat storage. Very simply, when we eat carbs, our blood sugar levels rise, insulin is then released to remove the excess sugar from our blood. Insulin will store that extra sugar first as glycogen (to be used later) or fat, once glycogen stores are full. Carbs or sugar mobilise insulin, not fat !
So in summary

FAT does not make you FAT, SUGAR makes you FAT!

I hope I’ve answered some questions but don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any additional questions or would like to know more about the importance and effects of fat, carbohydrates or protein in your diet.shutterstock_213656857

Why Crash Dieting Is A Bad Idea

I was talking to a new client the other day and she was telling me about her ongoing weight loss battles.
She told me that she had once found huge success with a very popular and restrictive weight loss plan. She had an important event and she wanted to lose a lot of weight to fit into a particular outfit this plan was easy to follow, she lost the weight quickly, looked great in the outfit and was happy. Of course once the event had passed , her eating became more relaxed and she put the weight back on. Some time later she had another important event, so she embarked on another restrictive diet and again the weight came off, albeit it was a lot harder to lose the weight this time. Once the event was done and eating was restored to normal, the weight came back.
This cycle continued and continued and now today, with another important event looming she is really struggling to lose the weight and says that her metabolism seems to have slowed right down.
This story sounded so familiar to me, maybe to you too, so I thought you it might be useful to set out a few reasons why crash dieting doesn’t work.

Firstly there is physiology. The body doesn’t understand the concept of “dieting”.  It simply recognises dieting as a sign of starvation so it goes into “starvation mode” which basically means that it becomes very efficient at using the calories it obtains from food and drink.
The main thing that happens is that the body starts to protect the stores of energy or fat that have accumulated and it turns to lean muscle as its calorie source. This directly leads to loss of muscle which in turn lowers the metabolic rate so that the body needs fewer calories to keep functioning and weight loss slows down.
Generally the more muscle we have, the higher our metabolic rate, the less we have, the lower our metabolic rate.
When we start eating normally again we gain weight more easily because our metabolic rate is still low.  Sometimes it take months to readjust especially if we have lost a lot of muscle mass during the diet.  Also, your body will hoard as much fat as it can, just in case the “starvation” happens again. This explains why people gain so much weight after a bout of crash dieting.
Luckily, the negative effects of yoyo dieting on your metabolism can be reversed by building muscle through exercise and eating the right foods.

The body will also set up an “anti starvation” trigger if weight loss is too quick. This basically means that it sets itself up to take advantage of any food source it finds, so when food becomes available there will be a tendency to binge as the brain assumes that this food might be the only calorie source for a long time. So when we haven’t eaten for a while and then we overeat, this is not down to lack of willpower but the physiological programming of our bodies.

Studies show that restricting calories will bring about weight loss inside a 6 month period but that the weight will be gained back within 12 – 18 months. Other studies indicate that calorie restriction is only 50% effective in achieving mathematical projections for weight loss.  In other words it is possible that excess calorie intake may not be the primary cause of obesity, just another symptom. If some hormonal or genetic abnormality has triggered an issue which causes overeating, then how can forcibly restricting food intake solve the problem? It may mask the symptom i.e. weight gain, for a while but it will not correct the underlying hormonal or genetic dysfunction. If this remains unchanged then the risk of weight gain is still present because the stimulus has been ignored.

The mind can also affect our ability to diet, as well as be impacted by our diet. Nutritionists talk about a deprivation – binge cycle which is both physiological and psychological. Not only will the  body crave missing nutrients, the mind will also crave what’s forbidden and when we give in, which experts say will happen 2 out of 3 times, it is very likely that we will overeat or binge which will then lead to feelings of guilt, which leads again to crash dieting and so on ..
Crash dieters get into a cycle of yoyo dieting and then may lose confidence in their ability to lose weight and feel miserable as a result.
Self denial and repeated crash dieting can also increase the risk of the “all or nothing” mentality where we think, what the hell I just “relapsed” so I may as well go the whole hog and eat big time and I’ll start again tomorrow.
Also extreme dieting makes you moody, irritable and lethargic and research has shown that crash diets can decrease your attention span, dull your memory and lower your IQ as early as 48 hours from when the diet was started.

So, does crash dieting work? Definitely not …

If you need to lose weight do it sensibly and slowly through exercise and sensible balanced eating rather than going to extreme crash diets which may help you lose weight in the short term but will definitely slow down your ability to lose weight and keep it off for the long term.
Take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live shutterstock_238348891

Breakfast Like A King……but try and avoid processed carbs….

Happy mid January everybody!

I am on a mission. It seems like nobody eats breakfast these days, and this seems especially true of those who are trying to lose weight. So many of my new clients are skipping breakfast and then of course over snacking during the day, and subsequently beating themselves up about it. Those that do eat breakfast generally eat some processed sugary cereal which is almost as bad as having nothing at all. See the link for  details about why breakfast and in particular a protein rich breakfast is important.

So, I am on a mission to spread the word and furthermore create a list of breakfasts that are quick and easy to prepare, won’t break the bank but are still tasty and nutritious. Can you help? If you have any suggestions at all please do share,  You might be a foodie, a gym bunny, fit bod, nutritionist, vegan. It can be gluten free, raw or paleo. All suggestions are welcome either here or post at

I’ve started the list below but look forward to receiving more exciting ideas …

Take care

My Favourite Breakfasts

Egg White Omelette
Using just the egg whites, add peppers, onions, spinach and feta to make a tasty, filling breakfast

Avocado, Toast and Egg
2 lightly toasted slices of wholemeal bread, topped with smashed avocado, seasoned with salt and pepper and then topped with slices of hard boiled eggs.

Cottage Cheese with Fruit
Nice and simple. Bowl of cottage cheese and add your favourite fresh berries and fruit.

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie
Blend 1 frozen banana, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, 1 cup almond milk and a couple of ice cubes. You can add a scoop of your fave protein for that extra protein boost.

Baked Eggs and Avocado
Slice avocado in half, scoop out the pip and enough flesh to hold your egg snugly inside. Tightly pack your avocados into a baking tray. Crack an egg into the avocado half, and bake for 15 – 20 mins or until the egg white is set. Season and garnish with pepper and herbs.

Veggie scrambled eggs or omelettes
Add your favourite veggies to scrambled eggs. Veggies that work well include spinach, broccoli, kale,tomatoes and onion.

Fruit and Yoghurt Smoothie
Blend 1 cup plain Greek yoghurt with 1 cup frozen fruit (bananas and berries work well) with 1/2 cup of milk, juice or coconut water.

Quinoa or Oats
Quinoa is a great source of protein as well as iron, fibre and calcium
Use quinoa flakes to make porridge. You can add pieces of fruit or honey to taste. Alternatively use good old fashioned oats and add fruit or nuts.

Breakfast Bowl
Cut up slices of lean turkey or smoked salmon and add to spinach, scrambled eggs and apple slices.

Yoghurt and Quinoa Parfait
Add quinoa to Greek yoghurt with your favourite berries and nuts. Pecans and blueberries work well.

Avocado and Egg Pizza
If you love love love avocado and pizza..
Mash up half an avocado and spread it onto healthy wholewheat tortilla (avoid the ubiquitous white tortilla) Top with a fried egg and season with pepper and chives….

So another New Year , and this time I WILL achieve all of my dreams…honest!

I wonder if I am the only one who woke up on the first of January, with lots of great ideas, good intentions and an absolute foolproof plan for my work and personal life, a plan that will this time completely deliver all of my dreams.

Well, it’s only the 10th January and I’m already behind schedule  grrrr!!!…so much for new beginnings and well laid plans…however I am now on it and I still have more than 11 months to complete my list so I am going to beat myself up ….well not yet anyway ….

One of the things that I had planned was a much bigger push on my own training as well as working with my clients but if I am completely honest it took me a while to get back in the gym even though I knew that when I finally got there it would make me feel great. It took me several days to find my mojo but I finally found it and now there is not stopping me. Isn’t it funny how we stop ourselves from doing the things that we know are good for us, even when we enjoy those things.

Anyway I’m now completely absorbed in the fitness industry and I am absolutely loving it but I do find some of the things I see quite contradictory.
Some things are quiet amusing, for example right now of course so many people are embarking on new fitness journeys and motivations are so varied. Of course, many people go to the gym because they feel unfit and they want to get healthy or they want to lose weight. For a few people though its more about aesthetics. There is nothing wrong with that but it is quite interesting to see some of the methods people take to achieve the healthy body beautiful. For example, people will take steroids or lots of supplements…for every person who chugs down protein drinks and supplements there will be another who swears blind that you can get all the nourishment you need from REAL FOOD and that actually ingesting anything that is processed is unhealthy. If you have ever competed in a body building competition you will know all about reducing your water intake to trace amounts in your last week of preparation and the benefits of drinking red wine before you actually compete! Then of course you have the muscle heads who can lift all day long but cannot run up a flight of stairs without doubling over or the cardio enthusiasts who struggle to bench a fifth of their bodyweight .

Other things are more concerning though. I have a client with a BMI of over 40 and her GP referred her, not to an exercise specialist or a nutritionist but to a weight loss group who’s focus is counting calories, excluding food groups and buying “special” foods… mmhhh. Now I am not dissing those kind of groups as I do think that they do some good work and there are lots of benefits to attending such groups but I think that we all know that in order to lose weight and keep it off, we need to change our lifestyles and learn new habits that we can sustain, rather than embark on a “diet” which at some point we will come off and then of course put the weight back on.
Also there is so much in the news and on the TV at the moment about the growing obesity crisis, obese people claiming disability, obese people not working. On the TV in one week you can watch Fat Surgeons, Fat Families, Shut Ins- Britains Fattest People , Embarrassing Fat Bodies, Weighing Up The Enemy. I Used To Be Fat, My 600b life, Benefits – Too Fat To Work…and I know that the list goes on…but where are the programmes about nutrition, healthy eating, healthy lifestyles. Lots of adverts about fast food, ready meals and alcohol but what about real healthy economical, easily accessible and practical food?
There is so much scaremongering but not enough real help or advice. I know that some will start muttering about a nanny state but I think that it is surprising how little people do know about real food and also there is a lot of misleading information out there.
Anyway I had better get off my soap box as this was only supposed to be a short, happy new year blog. Next time I will actually talk about some of the misleading dietary information out there especially when you look at the national strategies for obesity and diabetes but now will shut up, wish you all a great new year and speak soon.

Take care

Fat or carbs, cardio or strength: an enigmatic riddle wrapped in mystery!

Over the last few days I have had several conversations with people who are thinking about embarking on a weight loss journey and are confused about lots of things. Subjects that keep coming up are whether one should reduce carbs or fat for weight loss, the impact of slimming clubs and “special” low fat food,   whether one should do cardio or strength training, which is  better for weight loss…

There are so many myths, misleading instructions, conflicting advice. It’s a minefield out there. I would say that unless you have a specific goal like body building, power lifting or entering physique comps you should keep it simple and this is especially true if you are a beginner to exercise or embarking on a new healthy regime.

So fat or carbs? Well the simple answer is that a reduction of carbs is more effective than reducing fat but only a small reduction is required and one should concentrate more on the  source or the carbohydrate rather than the quantity, lentils, beans etc rather than cake, biscuits, white bread. Carbs are essential though as they are your main source of energy so don’t cut them out PLEASE.  For more on food and weight loss

So Cardio or Strength training?  Cardio will get your heart racing, will make you sweat and will improve your health and fitness. Strength training will help your muscles become stronger and more powerful and ultimately is a more efficient way to lose weight as this type of training will increase your muscle mass and the more muscle you have the more calories you will burn.

If you are new to exercise then I would always recommend cardio as an introduction. It gets you fit, your heart will be stronger and ultimately cardio will prepare you to work at a higher intensity but I would introduce strength training as soon as whether this is with weights or your own body weight. If you need to lose weight then you need to do strength training. For more on the benefits of exercise click

Oh, and just to reiterate if you are female and wanting to get “toned”,  you will not get bulky by lifting dumbbells, I promise you that…dumbbells alone will not make you big so get lifting!

Is that a light at the end of this tunnel?

So the sun is streaming through my window and I’m sitting at my laptop and feeling like I can finally see a light at the end of this tunnel.

These last couple of weeks I have allowed myself to get so stressed out with trying to build a new websiFullSizeRenderte, sorting out my marketing in readiness for Xmas and making jewellery for a Xmas fair (I know, random, but  it’s a long story) Anyway I think that the website is virtually done, the jewellery has all been made and I have made headway with my marketing ….hurray!

One thing that I have left slip over the last couple of weeks is working out properly, even though I completely understand and value the benefits of training on my mood as well as everything else. So I get how sometimes life gets in the way of working out, eating properly and so on but I also know that a few days off is not the end of the world and it’s very easy to get back on the wagon. With that in mind this morning I took the time to make up a lovely  green juice with broccoli, spinach, kale, lettuce, cabbage, cucumber, parsley and lime…my kitchen now smells of a freshly mowed lawn and I feel energised. Later today I will treat myself to an indulgent gym session, I cannot wait to go lift something heavy …..I’m smiling already in anticipation.

Take care

My new life begins right now…as a Personal Trainer and boy am I excited!!!!

They say that life begins at 40, a change is as good as a rest and that you should follow your dreams.

Well, in the last 8 weeks or so I’ve made some big changes to my life. I’ve decided to step way outside of my comfort zone and follow my dream of working within the fitness industry, with a particular focus on helping those who believe that they cannot be helped. Obesity  management and food addiction are two key interests of mine.

I decided to write this blog to record these changes, the process and my development. I hope this blog will record my transformation from a comfortable, employed but not really fulfilled individual to a self employed, completely engaged, fitness professional who loves what she does, and all of the highs, lows, mistakes, learnings that happen along the way. Also the blog hopefully will give you tips about making your life healthier and happier and who knows  maybe inspire you. I am no writing expert but hopefully my posts will be literate and make for enjoyable reading.

So, how did I get here? I was always a chunky child, well overweight really but “chunky” or “big boned” was always the favoured euphemism in our house. It didn’t help that both my mother and sister were slender beauties. I grew up lurching from chowing down on cake and takeaways to subsisting on fruit and laxatives.  I was actually quite a sporty child but I just couldn’t get rid of the weight and whilst everybody around me grew taller and slimmer I seemed to just get wider and wider. So I continued to battle with my weight and yoyo diet and then went off to university. Now, it could have been the combination of having too much studying to do, the reluctance to use the generally dirty shared kitchens in student accommodation, not having much money to spend on food (but lots to spend on alcohol of course)  and the subsidised gym on campus, whatever the reasons, I lost loads of weight and suddenly went from being overweight to normal. At the beginning,  the weight loss really wasn’t deliberate but the more people commented on how good I looked, the more obsessed I became. I focused almost entirely on “managing” my weight and when people expressed concerns about how thin I was becoming, that actually spurred me on to lose even more weight. Can anybody relate to that at all? My relationship with food, my view of myself, it was all horribly wrong.

Anyway cut to today and I am now a healthy individual who eats well, very well and loves working out. It took a lot of hard work, on an emotional as well as physical level but I have honestly never been happier or healthier. I qualified as a PT a few years ago and then was lucky enough to get involved in a project focusing specifically on people suffering with obesity. Just seeing the changes within a matter of weeks on those clients, not just their physical wellbeing but their self esteem, their confidence, just the way that they held themselves. It was amazing to see and it touched me.

Nikki-Carrol-fitness-image-by-light (4 of 27)So that’s how I got here. That’s why I am doing what I am doing….very scared but also very excited and hoping to one day know that I made a difference, even if just to one person.

Wish me luck.