Category Archives: weight loss

Do slimming clubs work?

The Medical Research Council believe that slimming clubs like Weight Watchers might be the answer to Britain’s obesity crisis and could be prescribed by the NHS in the future.

Whilst I have never advocated points systems or calories counting, I do believe that any kind of group meeting that motivates others to shed pounds together can only be a good thing. The power of a group to support each other in losing weight and getting fitter and healthier is often stronger than the power we have over ourselves to go it alone.

Do slimming clubs work?

We all approach weight loss differently according to our personality types. Dieters who attend slimming clubs are normally very motivated by clear structure, group support and accountability, whilst other slimmer are cheesed off and embarrassed by the whole concept, preferring to go it alone with dieting books, exercise plans or seeing a nutritionist. Whatever works for you is what matters.

Here are some extra tips..

Form your own slimming club

If you dread the thought of slimming clubs and public weigh ins then set up your own club with trusted friends and family and motivate each other. Your don’t necessarily have to use a points system, you may want to choose your own diet book to stick to.

One size does not fit all!?

Know what works for you. Successful dieters have a tried and tested method honed over many years of trial and error. So experiment with different healthy weight loss plans and get to know what works for you and your lifestyle.

Understand why you can’t lose weight

If you have tried every diet under the sun, you eat healthily, exercise and still can’t lose the weight then you need to investigate this further. Your GP or nutritionist will be able to run tests and help you discover any underlying hormonal conditions or food intolerances etc.


How many calories do I need?

How many calories do I need?

This question is often asked, but there’s no easy answer. On average women need 2,000 calories per day and men 2,500, but since we are all different with differing activity levels, heights and body sizes, this guideline doesn’t always hold true because one size doesn’t fit all!

Eat for your needs

People who stay slender do so because they’re in ‘energy balance’. In other words, they (often unconsciously) eat the right amount of healthy food to meet their calorie needs. It’s a more natural state of being as opposed to constantly checking calorie content and living with restrictions.

This means eating the right amounts and types of foods to provide enough energy and nutrition for your particular activity level and situation. If you are sedentary you obviously won’t need as many calories as an athlete. Get the picture?

Eat for what you are about to do not for what you have done

The old adage of breakfast like a king still holds true because you will have the whole day burn it off. Lunch like a queen and dine like a pauper. Why? Because you are about to go to bed for which you need less energy.

And if you really have to count, here’s how to do it

There’s an equation that works how many calories you need based on your age, sex and level of activity, or just use a basic metabolic rate calculator to work it out

Nutrition trends 2010

Immunity supporting foods

Swine flu fears have fuelled a demand for immunity boosting products in many countries, and it is likely we could see ingredients like various antioxidants, beta-glucans and botanicals such as elderberry marketed on this premise in 2010.

Even though companies cannot talk about the flu virus when talking about their ingredients or products, the current global fear over the swine flu pandemic will boost interest in all ingredients and products touting immune-support properties. But if you are into good old fashioned nutrition then just eat onions,  garlic and shitake mushrooms for their immunity supporting benefits.

Natural sweeteners – stevia, agave, maple syrup

Stevia from South America is a zero calorie natural sweetener not yet licensed in the UK but on trial in France. It can currently be used for medicinal use in the UK. European wide approval is on the horizon.

Stevia tastes up to 300 times sweeter than sugar without providing calories and as an alternative to sugar it could help with weight management. We will also see an increasing demand for other alternative sweeteners extracted from sources such as apple, agave and maple syrup. These natural, healthier sweeteners will become much more mainstream as sugar alternatives.

Food simplicity – “back to basics”

The downturn is making people nostalgic for simpler times, and simpler foods. In 2010 we will see more food simplicity driven by the demand for natural and clean-label foods.

Consumers are reaching out for cleaner foods free from chemicals and unnatural ingredients. They want to know what’s in their food and they want cleaner food labels:  no artificial food colorings (some of which have been linked to hyperactivity in children), no chemical additives (such as MSG) and no chemical preservatives (such as BHA).  If they can’t pronounce it, consumers won’t want it.

Eco nutrition and conscious nutrition

As we approach 2010 another big trend to watch out for is `eco nutrition’. Health conscious consumers will continue to grow in numbers but will increasingly question the link between food, diet and the environment and combine their passion for food and nutrition with conscious consumerism. They will not only regularly seek out nutritious food as part of their daily buying behaviours, but these products mustn’t exploit the environment or the communities from which they came.  

For example a consumer may be searching for high a quality organic dark chocolate because of the touted health benefits, however their purchasing decision will also be influenced by how and where the cocoa in the chocolate was sourced i.e. its provenance, how the workers were treated, whether those farming communities benefited if at all and how much C02 was produced.  The food industry will continue to step up in this respect by using more responsibly sourced ingredients from communities which are treated responsibly and by reducing carbon emissions etc. We will see conscious consumerism for healthy, sustainable food products becoming an increasingly mainstream behaviour.

Ancient grains – modern market rediscoveries make a comeback

We will see more ancient grains like amaranth, buckwheat, spelt, quinoa, chia, and rye in 2010. Whole grains have received so much attention in the nutrition world for their heart-healthy benefits and this popularity is opening up doors to lesser known ancient grains which have been around for much longer but people forgot them.


The use of less processed ancient grains addresses the concern that today’s foods are over processed and consumers do want fresh, natural unprocessed foods. Ancient grains also provide a great alternative to the growing numbers of consumers who are wheat intolerant.

  • Amaranth –  has a malty taste and can be popped like corn. The pre-Colombian Indians believed it had supernatural powers. Its certainly very nutritious.
  • Chia – high in protein and fibre, the Aztecs called it “running food” and used it for nourishment on long trecks .  Mila, the best of chia will be launched into the UK in 2010          
  • Buckwheat –  an excellent alternative to rice or porridge, and its flour has a mild flavour good for buckwheat pancakes
  • Spelt – a nutty flavour and dates back before even wheat. It can be used in many of the same ways as wheat, it has a broader spectrum of nutrients and it is a great substitute
  • Rye – a rich flavour and a favourite for making bread. Rich in manganese, fibre, selenium, tryptophan, phosphorus, magnesium and protein
  • Quinoa – a Peruvian grain once considered the “gold of the Incas” because its high protein content which gave warriors stamina

Healthy indulgence – raw chocolate

Raw chocolate is one of the world’s fastest growing health foods and provides a concentrated source of antioxidants. We will see more raw chocolate products hitting the shelves in 2010 as consumers indulge themselves with cheap, healthy treats they can afford in order to keep their spirits high. Raw chocolate is a health food and a great alternative to cheap, mass produced, low cocoa content chocolate. It’s full of magnesium which is nature’s tranquiliser. 

Local butchers make a comeback

The re-emergence of the local butcher will be another major trend in 2010 for the high street as well as within supermarkets.  This is because shoppers are more conscious about where their meat comes from and are choosier about selecting the best, healthiest, leanest cuts and have it ground on demand.  The popularity of the local butcher is also fuelled by our desire to supporting local enterprises vs. supermarket giants.

Dora Walsh

Head Nutritionist

Beauty breakfast

Those wanting to have a steady supply of energy in the morning, good digestion, regular elimination and beautiful skin have traditionally used this breakfast. It requires minimum preparation and is ready to be eaten in the morning.

Before you go to bed, take a tub of plain, live sugar free yoghurt and mix it with orange juice to form a shake. Throw in handful of porridge oats, linseeds, a couple of chopped prunes, sunflower seeds and a couple of chopped apricots. Leave in the fridge to ferment overnight, and eat it in the morning on its own or with some fresh fruit or berries.

You can experiment with using other juices or water, seeds and nuts. The oats, linseeds and nuts will provide you with vitamin B essential for the nervous system and mood; omega 3 fats which are important of brain and hormonal function, as well as vitamin E and the mineral Zinc – two key antioxidants which work together.


Dora Walsh

Head Nutritionist and Founder

Why did you get fat?

Why did you get fat?

You may find the word ‘fat’ politically incorrect, but most of us know why we got fat. Yes, I’m a Nutritional Therapist and I’m using the word “fat” because it’s not cool and it’s not healthy, yet we continue to get fatter.

But what if your weight gain isn’t down to a greedy streak, laziness or lack of exercise?  Then it’s time to discover what’s holding you back. You might have the best diet in the world or your own personal nutritionist, but many people follow healthy diets and continue to be overweight. It’s not a good feeling when healthy eating works for everyone else, but not for you.

There are 10 unknown factors making you fat

The most effective and overlooked path to success is to go back to basics and ask yourself why you got fat in the first place? If it’s not obvious then you will never be slim. The old adage of calories in vs. calories out holds true, but if this isn’t working you need to rule out the 10 most common contributing factors.

1)     You are programming yourself to be fat

Do you really believe you can lose weight and keep it off? If you don’t believe in yourself, then it’s unlikely you will ever have the determination and resolve to lose that fat forever.

The body and mind are so closely connected that placebo pills work because we believe them to be real. If you took a placebo fat loss pill, it’s likely you would lose weight by believing in it. So why not make your life easy? Start believing in yourself and your ability to make changes.

By really putting your mind to something, you can change the outcome and steer yourself to success, and where the mind goes, the body will follow.

2.     Stress is a fat maker too

Do you have a muffin top?  It’s because stress makes your body store fat around the middle. During difficult times stress hormones stimulate your appetite to replace the fuel your body has burned.  Eating sugary foods prompts more cortisol production, making your store more fat than needed, usually in the abdominal area. If stress is constant, then the cycle goes on indefinitely.

Avoid stress, excessive alcohol, cigarette smoking, and caffeine because they all increase your cortisol levels, thus starting the stress fat cycle. High cortisol levels will also disturb you sleep and mood which will cause further weight gain.

3.    Food intolerance and allergies will keep you fat

Have you ever binged yet felt hungrier than before? Do you crave a particular food not feeling satisfied until you get it? Then you may be suffering from food intolerances

Allergenic foods can act like drugs and nine times out of ten the foods you crave are making you fat by inflaming your tissues and causing you swell.  The top offenders include: milk, eggs, wheat, yeast, tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts), fish (such as bass, cod, flounder) and shellfish (such as crab, lobster, shrimp).

Compulsive eaters crave and continue to eat the foods to which they are addicted day after day with no idea that these cravings are based on a need to stop withdrawal symptoms caused by food addiction.  Just removing an offending food often results in a rapid water loss of five to ten pounds within a week.

4.     Are you waterlogged?

Do you gain weight from morning till night or wake in the morning with lines all over your arms and legs from the sheets touching them?  Maybe your shoes feel tight towards the end of the day or your fingers are so swollen that rings no longer fit. Can poke your skin and find it dents easily?  Guess what? Fat doesn’t dent so easily, so what is it?

Water retention can be caused by excessive salt in the diet, nutritional deficiencies, intolerances, hot weather, burns/sunburn, pre-menstrual syndrome, the contraceptive pill, pregnancy, menopause and drug side effects.  Sometimes fluid retention may be caused by a serious underlying medical condition and you should always speak to your doctor if it’s an ongoing problem.

Fresh parsley is a natural diuretic and most salad vegetables also exert a gentle diuretic action, celery in particular. Follow a low salt diet, drink eight glasses of water daily, cut out junk, excessive alcohol, caffeine and eat a balanced diet of healthy complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and multicoloured fruits and vegetables. And get checked for food intolerances.

5.     Sleepless nights will cause weight gain

A sleepless night is often followed by uncontrollable hunger pangs because lack of sleep affects the hormones responsible for hunger and satiety (fullness).

The hormone leptin is produced in the fat cells and is involved in regulating your body weight by telling your brain you are full. Ghrelin is the hormone that stimulates your appetite. But, sleeplessness causes Ghrelin to rise and Leptin to drop making you feel hungrier and unsatisfied after eating. If these hormones are out of balance you could find yourself overeating and gaining weight.

 By getting sufficient sleep you may not feel as hungry, and once you have caught up on your sleep you won’t crave sweet foods and high carbohydrate snacks just to keep you going.

6.     Constipation makes you heavier

You should pass between 1- 3 well formed bowel movements a day. But, if you don’t experience a daily bowel movement then you are probably constipated which can make you gain weight and cause bloating.

In fact, more of your body weight could be caused by compacted faecal matter than you think. Compacted faecal matter could make up anywhere from five to twenty pounds depending on your age and diet.

Keep your colon clean by drinking plenty of water and eating lots of raw fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  Drinking hot water and lemon in the morning will also to help get your system going.

 7.     Blood sugar imbalances and uncontrollable eating

Do you find it hard to control your cravings and find yourself binging uncontrollably?  When blood sugar levels are balanced you will be more successful in controlling your weight and  stop cravings.

Sugar is everywhere! And you need to know where so you can learn to avoid it. Start by limiting your sugar intake, and not just the sugar from cakes, biscuits and chocolate!

Refined carbohydrates including white bread, rice and pasta are high in fast releasing sugars  which cause a rush of energy followed by a steep fall and uncontrollable cravings. Alcohol has the same effect. Replace refined carbohydrates with slow releasing whole grains like rolled oats, rye, brown rice and wholegrain bread.

Combine lean protein and complex carbohydrates in your main meals to make you feel fuller for longer.  This combination slows down digestion and the release of sugars into your blood stream

Fiber also balances blood sugar so increase your intake from healthy cereals,  flaxseed and fenugreek seed and cinnamon, garlic, onion, bitter melon are good to reduce blood glucose levels further

Exercise also plays a very important role and you should try to exercise three times weekly.

 8.     Hormonal imbalances pack on the pounds

Overeating and lack of activity are not the only culprits for weight gain. You may have an underactive thyroid gland or adrenal burn out.

Insufficient thyroid hormones can cause weight gain, apathy, tiredness, depression, poor concentration, dry skin and constipation. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland fails to produce sufficient amounts of the thyroid hormones which help regulate the body’s metabolism.

Both nutritional and mainstream approaches can help to support your thyroid gland and normalise weight. A nutritionist will recommend zinc, B vitamins, omega 3 and 6, iodine and the amino acid tyrosine – the essential nutrients required by the body to manufacture thyroid hormones. A doctor will prescribe thyroid hormones. Both approaches work, but one approach provides the natural ingredients your body needs to manufacture its own hormones, whilst the other approach simply gives the body the hormones it’s lacking.

9.    Why poor digestion could be making you fatter

Improper digestion is the cause of many weight problems, and it’s difficult to lose weight if you have poor digestive capabilities. You are not what you eat, you are what you can digest and absorb. So with poor nutrient absorption your body screams for simple sugars just to get its glucose levels up.

The simplest way to support digestion is by chewing your food properly and eating less to enable your digestive juices to work more effectively. Eat when you are hungry and your digestive capacity will improve since your stomach is physically ready to receive food. And only drink liquids within 20 minutes of food to avoid diluting your digestive secretions further.

Digestive bitters are popular in Austria and Germany because they stimulate digestion. Yet our obsession with sweet foods means we have largely ignored the bitter taste in recent years and forgotten its benefits. Try adding bitter foods 20-30 minutes prior your main meal, a rocket salad, radicchio, chicory or some dandelion leaves.          

Taking sufficient fibre from fruits, vegetables and whole grains improves transit time throughout the digestive tract and you should also nurture your gut flora with unsweetened probiotic yogurt.

10.   Is your medication making you fat?

It’s a bitter pill to swallow but there are fifty or so medications on the market which could be making you fat. Luckily in almost every case your doctor will be able to switch you to another medication which will not cause weight gain.

Various prescription drugs used to treat mood, seizures, migraines, diabetes and high blood pressure can cause weight gain. Some steroids, hormone replacement therapy, and oral contraceptives can also cause unwanted pounds to creep up. However sometimes weight gain can’t be attributed to the drug itself and in various cases when an antidepressant makes people feel better, they restore their appetite and eat more.

Stopping prescribed medication on your own can have very serious consequences and must be done very carefully alongside your medical practitioner.