Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Weight Reduction – Reward System and Calories

Smorgasbord Health 2017

Successful weight loss does not just depend on the food you put in your mouth. It is a full on campaign that challenges your current reward system and requires project planning in the form of achievable goals and accurate measurements.

In this post –

More effective reward systems How many calories do you as an individual need each day? – How to create the deficit necessary to lose weight.

Firstly, please do not take yourself off any prescribed medication that you are on. If losing weight is going to affect either the dosage or your need for the drugs then you need to consult your doctor. Hopefully, with his support, in a few weeks or months’ time you will be able to reduce your dosage or come off them altogether.

The first topic today is about our inherent reward system. Most of us remember our parents saying “if you are good, you can have some sweeties” or ” if you eat all your dinner you can have dessert” In subsequent years most of us have refined this reward system to cover every eventuality!

I have had a lousy day; I deserve a bar of chocolate, glass or bottle of wine, a whole pizza to myself, a tub of Haagen Dazs (my particular favourite)


I have had a great day; I deserve a bar of chocolate, glass of bottle of wine etc. etc.

This is the problem I have with many slimming organisations that elevate certain foods to reward status that have little or no nutritional contribution to your daily requirements. They imply that you have been a good little girl or boy and deserve to have a little treat so that you don’t feel deprived.

Sorry, but we are grown-ups and we need to create a new reward system. Our long term health is at stake here!

Your task is to create a whole list of activities, events, purchases, gifts to yourself and others to celebrate the progress you make along the way. The only proviso is that they are not food related in any way.

For example. Activities that were uncomfortable for me at 24 stone (336lbs) included trips to the cinema, fitting into an airline seat to go on holiday, buying clothes from M&S, getting into normal width shoes, dancing with my husband, going on the big wheel at the funfair.

Mega for me was that I was unable to take a long, hot soak in a bathtub for over 10 years; unless there was a hoist and tackle on hand to get me back out again. I had to lose 90lbs before I could enjoy that wonderful indulgence and that was worth far more than a few bars of chocolate to me.

Achieving this type of goal becomes the reward and once you have accomplished that, you are very reluctant to let it go again.

So create your list, small rewards for your weekly progress, for each 14lbs, for a new dress size, for reducing your blood pressure to normal, to coming off pills for life…..

It won’t necessarily come easily but give it time and if you have a great support team in place they will be delighted to celebrate your success with you.

Measuring progress.

The second topic of the day is measuring your progress. I hate bathroom scales with a vengeance. They can sabotage a healthy eating programme as quick as anything. They are not always reliable, if old, the measurements are off and if you do not lose weight one week you can get demoralised and give up.


I have a couple of alternatives that work for me. One is to take a photograph, full length of you today and stick it somewhere you see it every day. In 6 weeks’ time having been following your new regimen of natural unprocessed foods and got into an increased activity programme, take another and compare them.  This will show you where the inches have disappeared particularly in your face, chest and waist area.

Secondly, find an item of clothing that is a size too small and every week on the same day try it on. Keep going until you fit into it. A note here. Unfortunately, we women tend to lose weight from the top down usually. One of the reasons being is that we have different hips and thighs to men. We bear children and the fat in those regions would be used to nourish the baby when we are pregnant. So perhaps an idea would be to find a top of some kind or jacket to compare sizing for the first few weeks.

As for the scales! As far as weight is concerned I suggest that you find a chemist or other outlet that has accurate scales and visit every two to four weeks – same day and time if you can – on the way to work perhaps. I try to find one that is not programmed to shout the results across the shop floor! Some of these also have a blood pressure cuff so another measurement to check on a regular basis. Do still have your BP taken officially along with your LDL cholesterol levels and Blood Sugar with your doctor or the pharmacy after 6-8 weeks.


Yes, I know, you do have to balance the amount of calories that you are taking in with your expenditure in the form of activity. However, one of the ways to approach this is to think portion size. That means that when you are out for a meal you can still have what you enjoy, just less of it. Plates seem to have got much bigger than they used to be and the temptation is to fill them. Move your meals to a smaller size plate.

I have found that 5 or 6 smaller meals throughout the day to be the most effective way to lose weight. There are two schools of thought – one that if you eat constantly you put pressure on the liver as part of the digestive process, and the other which I subscribe to, is that by eating smaller portions several times a day you do not put stress on the digestive system or the liver, and that it enables your body to extract the nutrients continuously providing you with energy.

Be aware that if you are on a diet others around you will feel they need to be too.

You will find your own strategies that work but do be wary of becoming obsessed especially if you have a young family.  Teenagers, both boys as well as girls have become very much more body aware, especially with today’s celebrity culture and fad diet industry. How you behave towards food and your body will have an impact on them.

Intermittent Fasting.

I have found that the intermittent fasting approach to healthy eating suits me. I eat within an 8 hour window every day. I did it for a year and my weight dropped by about a stone and I felt great. Then we moved back to Ireland and we stayed with a family member for three months and I stopped.. I definitely noticed the difference.  I am now back to my 8 hour window and even in a few weeks feel very much fitter and with more energy.

I eat well in that 8 hours with breakfast, lunch, evening meal with two snacks. Never hungry and more importantly no sugar cravings.

The Power of One.

You also have to understand the power of ONE. We seemed to be programmed to eating two of everything – two pieces of toast and butter – two biscuits – two chocolates, one for now one for later, two or three roast potatoes etc. If you only have one piece of toast with some butter each day you will be saving around 200 calories a day. Over six weeks that relates to 2.5lbs. Multiply that by all of the food that you have in two’s and three’s and you will be surprised at the outcome. It can represent 4lbs to 6lbs a month.

You can find more details in the last post on the accumulative factor.. link is in the directory at the bottom of this post.

How many calories do you need each day?

Basal metabolic rate – BMR establishes the approximate calories your body needs to function. At rest, with your digestive system inactive. So basically, first thing in the morning when your organs have been idling, rather than fully functional. This is dependent on your age and gender and as we age our requirement for calories decreases which is why you need to make sure you are compensating by including plenty of activity.

The simplest thing is to give you a link so that you can establish according to your age and gender what the minimum calories your body requires. However, it is important to point out that whilst calories are vital, it is also critical that those calories be as nutritious as possible. Particularly, if you are planning on cutting down calorie intake to lose weight.

For example my basal metabolic rate at 64 is 1457 calories per day. That is not taking into account the calories required to operate my digestive system, organs such as my brain and heart, lungs, liver and kidneys etc. If you are not desk bound, walking around, doing shopping, housework, etc. you will use about 100 calories per hour – in activity and operating the body. That will add about 500 calories per day.

Men use slightly more because of body mass so I use 2000 calories basic requirement for women and 2,300 for men.

I never drop calories for an individual to less than 1500 for women and 1800 for men per day. The key is then to make sure that all those calories are nutrient dense. To increase this requirement you need to add in activity. This is difficult for someone who is behind a computer all day – however, walking to work, up and down stairs, taking a 20 minute walk at lunchtime will help elevate the calorific requirement.

An easy way to increase activity levels and to add to your calorie deficit is to walk one mile a day at 3 miles an hour. Six days a week and you will have created a deficit of 600 calories a week.

How much would you lose per week?

If you require 2,000 calories per day BMR + normal activity – plus 100 calories from exercise minimum you will create an overall deficit of 600 calories per day – 4,100 per week. Each lb. of body fat is around 3,500 calories so you should lose in the region of 1.2lbs per week.

As you continue to lose weight your BMR will change slightly and since I do not recommend dropping below 1500 calories for a woman, your sensible option is to increase your activity level as you get fitter. Increase your pace gradually until you are completing your mile in 15 minutes not 20minutes. Walk for 2 miles per day in 30 minutes and you will be still able to lose weight consistently for several weeks.

For those who are over 3 stone overweight you will obviously have a higher BMR – for example a man who is 5ft 10inches and weighs 250lbs will have a BMR of 1992 calories per day. Add in normal activity his daily calorie requirement would be around 2,500 (a little more, carrying extra weight is an activity all on its own). In this instance – calories should be no less than 1900 per day with normal activity plus one walk providing the deficit to lose weight.


Work out your BMR requirement per day – add 500 and 100 calories for each mile you walk or the calorie deficit from your individual exercise activity.

To lose weight safely you do not want to drop below your BMR – if this means 1500 calories per day – they need to be nutrient dense not empty calories such as three chocolate bars.

To continue to lose weight healthily, as your BMR reduces slightly; increase your activity levels so that you are continually creating a deficit of around 500 – 750 calories per day.

This will create a weight loss of between 1.2lbs and 2lbs a week.

You can find all the other posts in the series on Weight Reduction in this directory.

©sallycronin 2016

Please feel free to ask any questions in the comment section and if you would like a private word then please email me


Men’s Health Week Revisited – Reduce Blood Pressure and LDL Cholesterol levels in Six Weeks.

men's health


Following on from the post last week on testosterone and cholesterol, here is a six week programme that can reduce both your blood pressure and unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels. It can be followed with some tweaking, by both men and women.

If you are currently on medication for both Blood Pressure or cholesterol do not stop taking but if you follow this programme, I suggest at the end of the six weeks, particularly if you have lost weight that you visit your GP and ask if you might work together to reduce the dosage. You may with further work be able to come off medication completely.

R  Reduce your salt intake. You should not have more than a level teaspoon per day or 6 grams. If you eat a lot of processed foods you will be consuming far in excess of this. Sodium is essential for our bodies to keep a correct water balance: it is also necessary for nerve impulse transmission and prevents your blood from becoming too acidic or alkaline. However, take in too much and not only will it cause weight gain it can also drive your blood pressure too high. Look at the labels on the food and your mineral water currently in your cupboard and fridge and see how much sodium is in 100gms. Multiply by 2.5 which will give you the salt equivalent. So if a Pizza has 8400 mg of sodium you would times that by 2.5 giving you 21000mg of sodium or 21gm of salt which is 3.5 teaspoons or 3 times the recommended salt intake.

E Eat whole grain bread, oats, rice and pasta and avoid all white, starchy foods. This means cakes, sweets and white industrial loaves. Store baked baguettes that have no preservatives are fine occasionally, but you should focus on wholegrains. Not only will you be consuming more fibre which is essential for clearing out arteries of fatty deposits it will also provide you with B vitamins, essential for the metabolism of the carbohydrates and proteins that you eat. It will provide you with slow release energy throughout the day without spikes in your blood sugar.

There is much debate as to whether we should be eating grains. I believe that we should in moderation. There are important B vitamins in wholegrains and unless you have been tested by a qualified therapist or medical practitioner for Celiac disease, there is no reason for you not to eat moderate amounts. Although our activity levels may drop off as we get older, you still need the nutrients contained in oats, rice and good quality wheat. The reason many people react to grains is that the rest of their diet is full of sugar. If you are Celiac then by all means pay extra for gluten free flours but try to make your own bread. Much of the gluten free ready prepared products contain a lot of sugar.

D Drink plenty of fluids. If you are dehydrated your blood pressure will be higher. Avoid too many caffeine high drinks – restrict to one cup of coffee per day – decaffeinated would be best. Tea is still caffeinated but is fine drunk in moderation. To actively lower your blood pressure drink 4 cups of Green Tea per day – use a slice of lemon or ginger to taste or a teaspoon of honey. In addition to Green tea – drink 1 litre of low sodium mineral water per day or tap water. Do not drink diet or fully leaded fizzy drinks. Even the artificial sweeteners react with your body and trick it into thinking you have just had several teaspoons of sugar.

U Up your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables – not only will this provide more fibre to detox your whole system it will also provide you with anti-oxidants that will prevent normal healthy cholesterol becoming harmful. Clogged arteries full of LDL cholesterol will result in high blood pressure. Also up your intake of healthy fats including olive oil, oily fish, avocados and use a scrape of butter rather than industrial spreads. Use lean proteins but eating an egg a day will pack in nutrients and has been shown to encourage a healthy cholesterol balance.

C Calm down. Stress elevates blood pressure and if you lead a busy and hectic work and family life you need to find ways to relax. Learn to breathe correctly. Take in a breath through the nose slowly to the count of ten and let out slowly through the mouth to the count of 15. Repeat several times first thing in the morning – last thing at night and any time you feel you are becoming stressed. Listen to your favourite music – switch off your phone and take a relaxing bath. Take mini-breaks to relax and make sure that you are sleeping at least 7 or 8 hours per night.

E Exercise and lose weight if you need to. Your BP and Cholesterol will drop significantly after the loss of just one stone.   You will have to carry less weight putting your body and your heart under less strain. The closer to your optimum weight the better your blood pressure is likely to be. Exercise will help clear your arteries of debris, fill your system with oxygen rich blood and improve muscle tone. Not just in your legs but in your heart and lungs too. A strong heart can work harder. Walk a mile a day. Measure the distance and then time yourself. Each day work towards walking a 15 minute mile. Then increase the distance until you are walking a mile out and a mile back in 24 minutes. If you enjoy swimming then increase your swim until you are completing a kilometre three times a week in 45 minutes or less.

B Be proactive. Understand how your body works and how you can make positive changes to your lifestyle and diet to reduce this potential silent killer. Work with your doctor so that you do not face a lifetime on pills to control a condition that in 9 out of 10 people can be managed with diet and exercise.

P Pack in smoking. Most people believe that smoking relieves stress. In fact it increases it. The several thousand chemical compounds in each cigarette are toxic to the body. Your arteries will harden and become brittle resulting in narrowing and apart from high BP you are also at a severe risk of strokes and aneurysms.

What foods can you enjoy during this six weeks.


The rule of thumb is if it is completely natural and does not come in a package then you can eat it. Cook from Scratch… If you enjoy milk in your coffee or tea and some on your porridge that is fine but to be honest use a smaller amount of full fat and get the taste. A little extra mature cheddar a couple of times a week is not going to hurt either.


It is very important that you use olive oil for cooking.. Latest research has discovered that it is in fact healthier than sunflower at the higher temperatures. I suggest that you cut the frying out completely and use a griddle pan with a sprinkle of oil, steam or roast in the over without skin. You might also like to use organic coconut oil which is something I have been using the last few months. Another healthy fat that is great for all the body including the brain. If you are trying to lose weight you still need to use in moderation. Also eat lean cuts of meat but do not worry about the occasional marbling of fat in meat as this too has benefits.

When using ground beef get steak mince rather than the cheaper cuts and have less of it. You can buy frozen wild salmon which has not been farmed and is therefore healthier for you. Instead of too much butter sprinkle extra olive oil on your bread or vegetables.. If you like garlic which helps to reduce both BP and cholesterol then crush two cloves and put into the bottle of olive oil and shake it up.. Adds a wonderful flavour to dishes and helps overcome any salt withdrawal symptoms you might have


Here is an example of the delicious meals you could be eating in the six weeks. This comes to approximately 1500 calories per day which is the minimum a woman should be eating daily. If you are a man then you need to add another 300 calories in the form of an extra piece of wholegrain toast at breakfast, and extra spoonful of rice at lunchtime and add a medium jacket potato to your suppers.  If you do not need to lose weight then a woman requires around 1800 to 2000 calories per day and a man 2000 to 2300. These of course are dependent on activity levels.  I don’t tend to focus on calories for this particular exercise as it is more important that you are eating fresh produce and not eating pre-prepared packaged foods.  Just cutting those out for six weeks will make a huge difference.


Start each day with a room temperature glass of water with the juice of one lemon.

Avoid all packaged cereals as they have too much added salt and sugar.

Porridge oats with some chopped fresh fruit, apricots, peaches, banana, stewed apple, papaya, pineapple



A poached or boiled egg with a piece of granary toast with a scrape of butter.


A two egg omelette with red peppers, tomatoes and a dessert spoon of wholegrain rice.

With a tea or coffee.

Mid Morning

Coffee or Green Tea with two rye crackers with mashed banana or a sprinkle of olive oil, a little garlic and sliced tomatoes.


An Apple with two thin slices of very mature cheddar..



Savoury wholegrain rice.. Two large tablespoons with chopped cooked onions, peppers, fresh basil, unsalted cashews, dessert spoon of sultanas and a handful of wilted spinach. Topped with roasted skinless chicken breast or other lean protein. A spoonful of fermented vegetables such as beetroot or cabbage.


Lean protein, potatoes (mashed, baked, boiled with a drizzle of olive oil) Carrots, two green vegetables and a homemade tomato and basil sauce.


A large mixed salad with a roasted piece of salmon and new potatoes


Depending on your activity level -multi-grain ryvitas with tomato, cucumber topping or from occasionally a dash of set honey.  Or Fruit.

Supper as a light meal without carbohydrates.


Large portion of vegetables or salad with fish, chicken or lean meat. If you are a man or have a high activity level you can add a jacket potato etc to the meal.

Snack if you need an extra mid-evening.

Fruit or handful of unsalted nuts and seeds.

Drink your teas and water throughout the day

I suggest that you do not drink alchohol for six weeks. I love a glass of good red wine but from time to time I give my liver a break. Especially as it is the liver that stores your cholesterol.

The purpose of this programme is to reduce your LDL cholesterol which is dangerous when it is oxidised.

Sugars do this very effectively so by not ingesting cakes, sweets, biscuits or alcohol for the six weeks you should find that your LDL levels are reduced and that you have a higher level of HDL which is much healthier.

It is tough to give up your favourite foods but if I could put it into perspective.

A bar of chocolate is 500 calories. If you are in the habit of eating one a day, over a week you will be adding 1lb of body fat into your diet. In six weeks that is 6lbs.


Here is a basic shopping list that provides all the basic nutrients the body needs to be healthy. Feel free to print off and mark up for your next trip to the supermarket.

Thanks for dropping by and if you have any questions then please comment or if you wish you can email me on


Size Matters serialisation – Chapter 17 – Exercise


I have mentioned walking as a form of exercise, in Chapter seven, but there are many other effective forms of exercise. This chapter will cover the most common examples. There are also several everyday activities that we take for granted but which do qualify as exercise.

chased by predators

We are designed to move fast if we need to. Predators had to be taken seriously in the past, whether multi-legged or two-legged. We have a strong skeleton, with muscles and tendons holding it together. Our joints are flexible and can withstand considerable pressure. In this day and age, however, we have come to rely on mechanical means of transport, not only when we reach adulthood but as children too.

Thirty years ago, children walked to and from school every day, although they may have graduated to a bicycle as they got older. These days, children either use a school bus service or are driven to school in the family car. Physical education and team sports can still play a part in many children’s lives, but far too many take hardly any exercise at all. This, and unhealthy modern eating practices, means that obesity in children is on the increase in most western countries.

Exercise is not just about losing weight. There are many other benefits to us. The first is to our physical structure: the skeleton, joints, tendons and muscles. All these remain healthy if put to the purpose they were designed for. Without regular use, joints seize up, muscles waste away and fat accumulates, causing stress on the body. Without exercise, our skeleton is weakened and in later years this can lead to osteoporosis. Regular exercise improves the way the body functions generally. The immune system will work much more efficiently, making us less vulnerable to infection.

Progression of osteoporosis

                     Progression of osteoporosis

Aerobic exercise maintains the body’s capacity to utilise fuel and oxygen. This type of exercise not only burns fat, it can also lower blood-pressure and strengthen the heart, rendering it less susceptible to heart attacks or valve problems. The cardiovascular system needs exercise to keep it in good condition.

Combining aerobic work-outs with a stretching and toning program helps the joints to remain flexible and the muscles supple.

Weight-bearing activities such as walking, running and weight training ensure that the bones do not become thin as we grow older. They also tone the muscles and improve our posture, thus lessening our chances of suffering from age-related structural problems.

One of the major benefits of these forms of activity is the mental and emotional strength they foster. Most people experience a feeling of well-being about twenty minutes into a moderate work-out. This is a result of natural endorphins, which are mood-elevating substances, being released into the system. Sometimes it can be hard to find the motivation to go out on a wet, windy day, but, having done so; it is amazing how good you can feel half an hour later. People often comment on how a long, brisk walk reduces stress and tension.

Toning and exercising the body is a natural way to preserve and strengthen our entire system. We have only the one body, so we may as well get the best out of it. For years I was imprisoned in my body, with neither the knowledge nor the willpower to escape. I could barely walk for ten minutes before I started the program, yet today I have no problem walking two or three miles a day. I would be miserable without physical activity and I soon know when I have not done enough: my joints, which have been damaged by all the years of carrying the excess weight, stiffen and become more painful.

One fact that caught my attention recently is that, for every hour of moderate exercise, our life span can be increased by around two hours. I have made a decision to live to the age of a hundred and still be physically and mentally active. If I maintain my program of two hours a day of brisk walking in the winter months and three hours in the summer until I am ninety-five, I will have added five years to my life.

Some of the gentler forms of exercise such as Yoga and Tai Chi are great for those starting out but it is important to have a great teacher. Even these seemingly gentle movements can cause you joint problems if they have not been used for a long time!!


Aerobics are a good way to maintain fitness, but it is not a good idea to do such a strenuous work-out when you are severely overweight, because you can damage joints and muscles and put additional strain on the heart and other organs. Before joining an aerobics class, carry out some basic research. Begin with low-impact aerobics, guided by a qualified instructor, and watch the class for a session before participating yourself. Make sure there is an adequate warm-up and warm-down period and some stretching exercises are included in the program.

You may feel more confident if you work out at home first, perhaps using a video. I started by dancing to my favourite music in the kitchen. At the time I weighed over 250 lbs. (113 kg), but I took it slowly at first, a few minutes at a time, until I felt confident about joining a class. You will soon feel the benefits. Not only will you burn fat, but you will also improve your circulation and lung capacity; your muscles will be toned and your stamina will increase.

Do not be tempted to do aerobics every day. Two or three times a week, combined with other forms of exercise, will be more than adequate. Make sure that you wear the right footwear, providing adequate ankle support, and that your clothing is not too restrictive. Keep a bottle of water nearby and stop regularly to take a drink. For every hour of aerobic exercise, you will need an additional litre of water.


Another popular form of aerobics takes place in the water. Aquarobics is ideal for someone who is still too heavy for the dry land equivalent. The water cushions the joints and offers resistance to the muscles to make them work harder. Provided you feel comfortable in a bathing suit, you can begin this as soon as you like. Again, you do not have to complete a whole hour. If you feel you are getting too tired, stop and swim or relax for a short time and then resume. You will find that, over a period of weeks, your stamina, and ability to perform the various exercises, will improve and you may then think about joining a more conventional aerobics class.

Jogging and running

Jogging and running are classified as aerobics, with the additional benefit that you are out in the fresh air. Again this is an activity best done when you have reached a certain level of fitness. Do not push yourself too hard. Start by walking and then, when you can walk comfortably for an hour or more at a brisk pace, introduce some jogging. Walk a hundred paces and jog for the next fifty. After several days, increase the level of jogging until you are completing your usual distance in a shorter time. You must ensure that you are wearing the correct shoes. Normal walking shoes will not be suitable so investing in a pair of running shoes is essential. Make sure that your muscles are warmed up before you start to jog. Walk for the first fifteen minutes at a brisk pace and then change your stride.


Cycling can be a great pleasure, although this depends on having access to pleasant places to ride. Mountain bikes have become popular in recent years, enabling us to ride on more varied terrain than the roads, which can be dangerous. As with all these activities, you should take things easy to begin with. Plan short trips of about half an hour. Save the day trips until you have the necessary power and stamina. Wear a helmet and elbow and knee protection if you are on the road, and the bicycle should have adequate lighting if you are cycling after dark. Most gyms have a static cycle and the home version can also be effective, but they can be boring unless you can watch the television or listen to music at the same time. Cycling in the fresh air, safely, is the best form of this exercise.


Swimming can be monotonous unless you set yourself some realistic targets. You can be any weight when you start swimming. However, I found that embarrassment kept me out of the pool for a long time. I was self-conscious in a swimming suit, even when I was lucky enough to find one the right size. Usually the cup of the suit was huge and the bottom too tight. I will admit to being a coward on this one and it took me at least two years and a hundred pounds of weight loss before I ventured into the water. Once I did, however, I loved it. There is no stress on the body or the joints, and it tones everything.

Start with the objective of completing one lap without stopping and progress until you are completing as many as possible within a specific length of time. An hour is ideal.

Over the weeks you can either increase the number of laps to fill the time, or do the same number of laps in less time. No safety equipment is necessary, except for a swimming pool attendant – and strong shoulder straps!


Tennis is a game I have loved since I was a child. It is competitive and can be fast-paced so, once again, wait until you have reached a comfortable fitness level before trying it. It is easy to damage the knees and leg muscles if you overdo it, so go gently.

I began by hitting a ball off the house wall for a few minutes every day, in time progressing to half an hour. This gave me an opportunity to get used to the twisting and turning that is involved. You get an excellent upper-body work-out with tennis, but you can strain shoulder and elbow joints and your muscles. It is a good idea to take lessons at first, to ensure that you are using the correct and least damaging strokes. If you are returning to tennis, then start with doubles, progressing to singles after a few weeks. You don’t have to make Wimbledon in your first season!

Weight training

Weight training tones the muscles and burns off fat. There are some simple routines to begin with, which require no weights at all. Moving the arms and legs slowly and firmly provides some exercise. Begin with arm extensions to the side and the front, clenching the fist and slowly bringing it up and down. I moved from this to lifting tins of beans and have now graduated to a multi-gym, which I use for just ten minutes a day.

I was always worried about being left with too much loose skin if I lost weight. The walking, drinking water and aerobic exercise have all played their part in toning my skin and forming firm muscle, but doing repetitions using light weights (two to five pounds each) has added the finishing touches. It is better from a fat-burning and toning perspective to develop a routine using light to moderate weights many times. Lifting heavy weights without proper supervision can damage the back and other parts of the body. Take advice from a qualified instructor. A book may not tell you all you need to know for your particular fitness level and body type.

Household chores

Finally, we should not forget housework and its benefits as a form of exercise. An hour of active house-cleaning, gardening or cleaning the car will use up around 200 to 250 calories. This, and running up and down the stairs in a normal day, can provide you with an opportunity to work out every day – and it also keeps the home looking good too!

Whatever form of activity you choose, you must enjoy it in order to feel all the benefits. Do have an occasional rest day, when you simply take a gentle stroll in the fresh air. Too much intensive working-out can be counter-productive, since the body can become tired and possibly strained. If you have a lot of weight to lose, this obviously is not going to happen overnight. Give your body a chance to get used to the new level of activity and vary your routine so that you and the body continue to find it stimulating and beneficial the whole time.

For me, there is no substitute for the way I feel when I finish my exercise. I am restricted, to a degree, by previous injuries caused by too much strain at my heaviest weight. However, I am delighted to be able to walk, swim and do weight training.

©sallygeorginacronin Size Matters 2001-2015

Image mammoth

Previous 16 Chapters of Size Matters can be found here.

Size Matters Serialisation – Chapter Seven- Part One – Calories in, Fat in, Exercise it out.

41mynoqwwnl-_uy250_3Chapter seven of Size Matters is quite long so have split into two with the second part on Wednesday.. Faced with losing 150lbs. I knew that I had to form a project plan and then stick to it. I had a great deal more questions than answers 20 years ago and over the years and with more and more nutritional research available it is much easier today to get it right.

  1. Creating Your Own Plan

So now it is your turn. Weigh yourself. I hate bathroom scales with a vengeance. They can sabotage a healthy eating programme as quick as anything. They are not always reliable, if old, the measurements are off and if you do not lose weight one week you can get demoralised and give up. I suggest that you find a chemist or other outlet that has accurate scales and visit every two weeks – same day and time if you can – on the way to work perhaps. I try to find one that does not shout the results across the shop floor! Some of these also have a blood pressure cuff so another measurement to check on a regular basis. Do still have your BP taken officially along with your LDL cholesterol levels and Blood Sugar with your doctor or the pharmacy after 6–8 weeks.

To be honest, I find using a different method to measure progress can be more motivating. One is to take a photograph, full length of you today and stick it somewhere you see it every day. In 6 weeks’ time having been following your new regimen of natural unprocessed foods and got into an increased activity programme, take another and compare them.

Another option is to find an item of clothing that is a size too small and every week on the same day, try it on. Keep going until you fit into it. A note here, unfortunately, we women lose weight from the top down usually. One of the reasons being is that we have different hips and thighs to men. We bear children and the fat in those regions would be used to nourish the baby when we are pregnant. So perhaps an idea would be to find a top of some kind or jacket to compare sizing for the first few weeks.

Determine your frame size and decide what weight you need to be by using the BMR calculator and the addition of normal activity and exercise per day. Remember: It is not healthy to lose masses of body weight too quickly. You can start to lose muscle instead of fat and that is not good in the long term. Having said that, if you are steadily increasing your activity level, you can sustain a healthy loss of 2–3 lbs. (1–1.5 kg) a week, because you are building muscle as you lose the fat.

Most one-dimensional diets work on the assumption that you walk three times a week for 20 minutes. This is hardly enough time to get out of breath! If you are walking for an hour every day, you will be achieving seven times that amount of exercise and will soon see the benefit in additional weight loss and toning. The weight loss will always be quicker at first, but, if you average it out over a 20–week period, it usually works out to 2.5 lbs. (1 kg) per week. You do not need to do the entire hour at once. Intensive and brisk walking for 20 minutes, three times a day can actually be more effective. Also, you are more likely to sustain the level of exercise in smaller segments. For me, I find that if I listen to rock music it keeps me at a good pace although does solicit some odd looks from passers-by.

As always, especially if you are very overweight, you should not launch into an aggressive exercise program without first talking to your medical adviser.

Without the use of technical equipment, and complex calculations, it is generally difficult to calculate an individual’s calorific usage during an hour of exercise. To keep it simple, I have listed only a few exercises and divided them into two main groups: Moderate and Heavy (see Chapter seventeen for the types of exercise and activity that will benefit you most).

Moderate exercise:

Walking, cycling and swimming. These use approximately 300 calories an hour. You should then add 10 calories for every 14 lbs. (6.5 kg) you are overweight.

Heavy exercise:

Aerobics, mountain biking, running, and football. These use approximately 500 calories an hour. Here you need to add 20 calories for every 14 lbs. (6.5 kg) you are overweight.

Basic Summary:

  • Weigh yourself.
  • Determine your frame size.
  • Decide on your ideal weight.
  • Calculate the weight loss required to achieve this weight.
  • Determine the amount of calories you need each day to provide basic nutrition – BMR – then add in basic daily activity and exercise.
  • Without going below your BMR – around the 1500 calories for a woman and 1800 for a man – design your healthy eating programme to provide a 500 to 750 calorie deficit per day to achieve 1–2 lbs. weight loss per week.

You will find more details on how to work out how much you should weigh in the previous chapter.

This is not exercise.. except for the bull who was never the same again!

This is not exercise.. except for the bull who was never the same again!

It is worth noting that some weeks you may lose less than in others. As you increase your activity level, you will be toning up and this will create more muscle. Muscle weighs more than fat and so you may find that you have lost inches instead of pounds. However, in my experience, it usually seems to average out to about 2–2.5 lbs. (0.9–1.1 kg) per week. Think long term, and do not become too obsessed with the day-to-day loss of weight.

You will find a personal information sheet in the section on ‘Designing your own Program’ where you can record the information you have just calculated. However, before continuing, let’s get a few more questions out of the way.

How much fat should I eat each day?

At this point I think it is important to remember that our bodies have been evolving for a very long time – in a hundred thousand years our DNA will only have altered about ten times – I have said before that the body does not react to sudden changes very well! However, in the last 300 years and particularly the last 150 years since the industrial revolution we have thrown some curved balls at our bodies. Industrially produced foods with manufactured artificial ingredients is just one area where our nutritional needs are not being met – one of the others, which is the real demon in our diet, is refined sugars – addictive – available from birth to grave, within hand’s reach in shops, in our own fridges and store cupboards – and laboratory constructed fats to extend the sell-by-date on ready meals and other industrial foods in our daily diet. No wonder our bodies are in melt-down with increased health issues that lead to Heart disease, Cancers and Dementia. But back to fats …

We must not cut fats out of our diet – they have an essential role to play in our health and without fats and cholesterol our bodies will be open to infections, poor function in areas such as the brain, heart, reproductive system and our eyesight. I use the 80/20 rule with my diet because I have to be watch my weight – 20% of my diet comprises healthy fats – sometimes I will have more because I am out for a meal etc. but basically my everyday diet comprises mainly seasonal vegetables and fruit, whole grain rice, fish, chicken, red meat once a week, eggs, moderate dairy. No one person’s diet is the same and you have to find the perfect balance for you and this includes your fat intake – as long as it is not harmful fats.

Briefly, a quick look at the fats you are likely to encounter in your daily diet:

  • One fat to avoid all together is not naturally occurring at all and that is manufactured ‘Trans Fats” Liquid oil is hydrogenated to extend its shelf life but in the process Trans fatty acids are formed – found in most processed foods including margarines and snacks such as microwave popcorn etc.
  • The other fat type, which in large quantities is not helpful in maintaining cholesterol levels, is saturated fat – if there is too much in your diet it will raise your total Cholesterol as well as the unhealthy LDL. Mainly found in animal products but also some seafood. However, provided you are not eating the rich fat around a steak or roast every day, or eating a block of cheese three times a week, or a pound of butter on your spuds, you can enjoy what is very tasty component of your diet in moderation.
  • The fats classified as healthy fats are Monounsaturated fats – which lower total cholesterol and at the same time lower LDL and increase HDL – this is contained in nuts, like walnuts and olive oil.
  • Polyunsaturated fats also lower total cholesterol and LDL and these are found in salmon, soya, sunflower oils etc and have a very important component Omega-3 fatty acids. These can not only reduce your LDL and support HDL but are also very helpful in reducing blood pressure and the risk of developing blood clots. Even with people who have already suffered a heart attack including Omega-3 fatty acids in their diet reduces their risk of a fatal attack.
  • I love fish and living in Spain we are blessed with an abundance and variety so it is very easy to include oily fish at least three times a week. Some of the best for Omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, halibut, mackerel, sardines and Albacore Tuna.

Cholesterol is a natural occuring substance in the body which means that it needs to be there and is essential for health. One of the types of cholesterol has smaller particles and can become unhealthy when it is oxidised, usually because we have too much toxic sugars and industrially inserted additives in our diet.  For more information and how to reduce the LDL levels… here is the link


At this point a word about cooking your healthy meals – Olive oil is great and recent research has indicated that you can use at a higher temperature to cook your steak or fish. For cooking you can use the unrefined olive oil which is cheaper, but if you are drizzling over vegetables and salad I recommend Extra Virgin Olive oil so that it has not been over processed – do not be tempted to use the light versions! Cook smart and steam bake your food – if you are eating steak put in the oven in a pan with a grid so that the excess fat drains off – if you fancy a little butter on your vegetables, why not – great taste.

A little more info on Olive Oil – great stuff – potent mix of anti-oxidants that can lower the LDL but leave the HDL untouched – obviously if you are overweight it does have a high fat and calorie count but much better to use the Extra Virgin version and get the health benefits than use the diet alternatives.

The greatest gift you can give your body and its cholesterol is to avoid eating manufactured store bought cakes, biscuits, crackers some cheap breads, pasta dishes etc. If you make your own from scratch using butter and eat occasionally you will get a better tasting and healthier alternative.

To summarise – do not take fats out of your diet – use fresh, natural ingredients in your cooking, use fats and oils in moderation, eat plenty of vegetables, seasonal fruits, whole grains, dairy and eggs.

To view the other six chapters please follow this link

If you have any questions please feel free to email me on – very happy to help in any way that I can.

Please leave a comment or share.. best wishes Sally

©sallygeorginacronin Size Matters 2001 – 2015

Change – Part Two – Our changing brain function over a lifetime.

There are varying degrees of change and there are also many different reasons for that change. The two main forms are those we decide to make and those that are thrust upon us.

In this series of posts I am going to be looking at three elements that are subject to both enforced and voluntary change. Physically, mentally and emotionally we are programmed for change as our body and brain develop and age.

Today I am taking a look at the enforced hardware changes in the brain that affect us all. Also the voluntary choices we make during that process that also impact software function, particularly when we do not upgrade certain programmes.

All of us as we get into our 60s notice physical changes that are obvious when we look in the mirror and also when we exert ourselves physically. We are also aware of changes to the facility with which our major organs deal with their own aging process and the effects of a lifetime of dietary and lifestyle choices, imposed or voluntarily applied.

In all my discussions with those in their 70s, 80s and 90s there has been definitely one fear above all others that trumps the usual aging issues. Dementia. Apart from the fact that nobody wants to lose control over their mental capacity there is also the fear of being a burden, of being isolated from friends and family and perhaps institutionalised.

media headlines

The media does not help with daily reports about how dementia is going to be rampant in the aging population and that nobody is prepared for the millions that will be affected by the disease. Scientists are little better with confusing and conflicting research, usually perpetrated upon species other than our own, which points to hundreds of causes from cooking in aluminium pots to dental X-rays being the cause of this devastating disease. There also seems to be daily ‘scientific’ strategies to prevent the disease which more often than not are at odds with each other.

My opinion is this. There is a completely natural growth, development, aging, degenerating cycle in brain health. We can do nothing about some of the phases that the organ goes through in its  lifetime. We can however influence a number of factors that support the brain on its journey and even if we cannot prevent the inevitable erosion of general function we can at least ensure that we do not cause further damage by the lifestyle choices we make along the way. It is important to remember that only 100 years ago the average lifespan for a man was 50 and for a woman 54.  Today that is nearer to 78 for men and 84 for women. This means that for the first time in our human history we are most of us living long enough for our brain cells to go through the aging process themselves.

For those who are mothers it is also absolutely essential that they make the right choices for their unborn babies who cannot make those choices for themselves. As you will see as I go through the development of the brain, those first 6 months in the womb are absolutely critical for brain health.

The bottom line is that if you understand how something works it holds fewer mysteries and less fear. Appreciating and respecting the brain for the miracle that it is, will also encourage you to support it and its function for a lifetime.

How the brain develops.

We are hard wired and from the moment of conception there will be enforced changes to the structure and function of our brains. Whilst the process of development is beyond our control, there is still a powerful external influence on how well that programming is carried out. Before birth the health, nutrition, environment and lifestyle choices of the mother can impact both the rate of brain development and the health of the brain cells. After birth during the formative years up to age 15, environment, nutrition and stimulation of those brain cells is critical and if they do not receive sufficient amounts of all of these there is a chance that irreversible damage will occur.

The development of the brain does not follow a straight upward line it comes in waves with certain parts of the brain achieving full function at different times. There is however a sequence that every brain will follow.

At conception the sperm and the egg form a single cell combining to form the genetic blueprint. Over 60% of our genes are committed to forming our brain which is after all the control centre for all our other functions. Around three to four weeks into development a thin layer of cells form in the embryo, which then fold and fuse to form a liquid filled tube. This minute start is vital as it is the first stage in the development of the brain and spinal cord. This is followed by the production of nerve cells called neurons.


A miracle occurs as cells in the neural tube accelerate at an amazing rate reaching around 15million neurons an hour. This rate of growth continues for the first six months of a foetus’s development.

At around 14 weeks with millions of cells in place a change occurs as they begin to migrate to specific parts of the neural network and the inbuilt GPS usually sends them to the correct address. Some do however get lost or damaged in transit and die off.

Rarely however, some do reach the wrong destination and form incorrect connections and this coding error can lead to certain disorders such as autism or epilepsy, slower physical and mental development and in some cases more severe mental health issues.

At 20 weeks about half the existing cells are shed and those that remain are organised into compartments within the brain that govern virtually every automatic function in our bodies and also our senses and skills.

At birth we have around 100 billion brain cells and we begin the next stage in our development. Most of the connections between the neurons are barely formed and will need to be strengthened by the time we reach the age of three. A baby has most of the senses working at birth such as sight, smell, hearing and the ability to respond to touch. Immediately with that first breath the brain kicks into overdrive and forms trillions of connections and pathways enabling learning.

As with the early development of the brain, it is vital that the environment, nutrition and stimulation are available to enable the brain to process and learn from experience.

These experiences trigger the electrical activity necessary to enable the brain to develop connections and grow. These connections are called synapses. The connections are formed by each neuron putting out a long tentacle like fibre called an axon. The neuron uses the axon to send messages to other neurons. The messages are sent as electrical signals and picked up by thousands of short, hair like fibres called dendrites (also produced by the neurons). Each neuron is able to connect up with thousands of other neurons.

It is then that ‘practice makes perfect’ comes into play as repeated experiences, sights, smells or movements form well-worn paths within the brain that we remember for a lifetime. By age two our brains have developed trillions of these pathways and although they continue to form throughout our lifetime they have reached their highest density.

Our higher functioning ability is usually operational by age three and we begin to think for ourselves, use language effectively and have developed personality traits.

After three years old we continue to absorb knowledge and experience like a sponge and the constant practice etches the functions into the brain. If that absorption ceases for some reason and we stop practicing certain functions, we can lose them completely as the brain discards little used pathways in favour of more travelled routes.

This pruning process and strengthening of the connections in the brain is most active in the teen years. The prefrontal cortex is the last to mature and it involves the control of impulses and decision-making. Anyone who has had children going through this phase will have a clear understanding of the ‘challenges’ that arise during this phase! This powerful surge in the brain is accompanied by the added influx of hormones which results in a chemical and electrical ‘perfect storm’.

teenage wine

There is a strong element of voluntary change at this stage of the development of the brain. It is around this age that we start making choices about what we eat, the amount of exercise we take, to take up smoking or drinking alcohol and to stop formal education. All these elements will affect the few years left of brain development we have left and therefore our mental capacity.

The brain continues to defrag the mainframe and the strongest connections survive. By our early 20s our brain development is matured into a powerful and functioning organ with approximately 500 trillion pathways.

At around 30 years old the physical changes will wind down in the brain and this is where even more of a voluntary contribution to growth, experience and maintenance is required to keep the pathways clear of debris such as plaque so that they continue to function efficiently. This phase lasts for the next 35 or 40 years. The brain cells are active and we contribute to their health by diet, stimulation and avoiding lifestyle choices that kill them off. Such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol, not taking exercise, eating a diet rich in components that block our arteries and blood flow to the brain……you get the idea.

After 65 years old there is a natural dying off of cells in certain parts of the brain. This does not mean that you will lose all your mental capacity, but little things will begin to make an impact on your daily functioning. For example brain cells lost from the Hippocampus where we process memories will result in forgetfulness.

elderly exercise

You are NOT destined to develop full blown dementia and you can make sure that you support your brain function by eating a healthy balanced diet, getting plenty of oxygen and regular exercise, reducing stress and interacting with others and events to stimulate the pathways to remain open. More so than at any other time in the lifespan of your brain, the voluntary choices and changes you make to your way of life will bring huge benefits.

Of course if you make it to 100 then you might opt like I have to take up everything I gave up to get there!!

100th birthday

In the meantime you will find plenty on healthier options you can enjoy in the Brain Health directory.

You will find posts that look at nutritional and lifestyle support for the brain in this directory.

The first post in Change – Physical change can be found here.

Next time – Emotional Change. Instinct versus nurture and experience.

Photographs and Pinterest