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Fitness Made Simple

The KISS Principle. Fitness Made Simple

Now some of you may know I manage some corporate gyms which have been a great opportunity for me as it allows me to engage with people who would not normally be my target market. They range from the heavy lifters to the ironman to the older folk who just want a plod on the treadmill. All of these people I get to speak to about their health and fitness goals, their training programmes and how it works for them.  From this I can see whether various different approaches lead to results and why. And I’ve spotted a pattern in every training protocol of all of the different kinds of training and people doing them that determines whether it works or not…………………….Simplicity and Consistency. Or as I like to call it Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS).

You see what some of these guys are doing is not revolutionary in terms of systems and routines, but those that are getting results are the ones that come in regularly and do a workout whatever it may be. In fact sometimes they don’t do their full routine, very often they will pop in for a quick 20mins on the bike, rower, do a circuit, lift some weights whatever because that’s all they’ve got time for, but they have maintained the habit of exercising consistently and that is why the system works.

Too often people will commit themselves to an overly complicated and lengthy routine and start skipping sessions because they didn’t have time to do a full hour or they didn’t have the energy to do an hour of HIIT training, so instead they did nothing! In turn they have given themselves permission to skip sessions and before you know it that becomes the new pattern, off the wagon, results = nil.

So my dear readers I encourage you this week to commit to simplicity and consistency. By that I mean I want you to plan how many times a week you would like to work out and stick to it. If you usually like to go all out with some circuits great go for it, but if training day comes round and you don’t feel up to it, turn up anyway and go for a walk, or a more gentle routine, as long as you’ve done something that day. Usually work out for an hour but run out of time, do 20mins, even if it’s in the living room with corrie in the background just some squats, press ups, lunges, tricep dips and a plank will make a great full body workout that can be done every ad break.

The key is to stop thinking you need to be running at an 8min mile for 45 mins twice per week and incorporating a strength routine of abs and back day, legs day, chest and biceps, shoulders and triceps (still with me?) otherwise you may as well not bother. You should still bother, all activity will help you to keep fit, if Zumba is your thing great, just do it consistently week in week out, whatever is your bag I don’t care just stick at it and keep moving whether it is what your programme says or something you feel more like doing that day.

And if you are doing the abs and back, legs day, chest and biceps, shoulders and triceps plus some fasted cardio, great that is also fine just do it consistently!

So on this note I set myself a little challenge this week to do half an hour of exercise per day no matter what it is, so I have done some High Impact Pilates which were sessions with a client (almost cheating but I promise I got a serious sweat on!), a full body resistance routine and a short row, and some running with the dogs, let’s see what the weekend brings……

Why don’t you set yourself something similar even if it is just to do 1 min plank every day or 20 mins of exercise 4 x next week. Just remember KISS!

Nicola x

PS:  To one of my readers Ruth, who used to come to my Stretch and Tone Class back in the day, alas with me having only one functioning wrist it is no more. But she has been reading these emails, taken my advice (at least someone does) and has got herself into great shape and I’m sure with more to come. So well done Ruth who had to text me to tell me I’d driven past her because no I didn’t recognise your new svelte figure at first!



Sleep Deprivation is classed as less than 5 hours per night. As well as slowing down reaction times and affecting concentration, lack of sleep has also been linked to many other illnesses including depression, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, chronic pain, diabetes and cancer. Many of this could be down to the unhealthy food choices we make when tired. As our body craves energy we essentially crave sugar…….muffin and latte for breakfast, mid-morning kit kat……………….. This results in bad eating habits leading to blood sugar level spikes, long story short leading to insulin resistance type 2 diabetes and obesity, which then follow onto the heart disease, chronic pain, and cancer. So the saying “you can sleep when you’re dead” may well be true it’s just if you don’t do enough of it whilst you’re alive you may be into eternal sleep sooner than you expected.

Due to our 24 hour society many people can find it difficult to switch off, we have constant entertainment provided by the internet, shops and takeaways and even the gym is now available 24hrs a day.

So what can you do if you struggle to drop off at night?

  • Turn off electrical devices 1hour before bed, that means no late night TV or internet surfing (minds out the gutter please I meant Facebooking and The Big Bang Theory). Not only does the bright screen of these devices tell your brain its daylight preventing it from releasing sleep hormones but it is also encouraging your mind to stay active.
  • Limit your caffeine intake after lunchtime. If you find it difficult to drop off at night try to stop caffeine after lunch, if you don’t have much of a problem after 6pm so do.
  • As much as possible try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, your body clock will get used to the routine and automatically starts to wind down and wake up at the allotted time. That’s why I tend to wake up at 6am naturally on a weekend!
  • Avoid alcohol. Many people think that an alcoholic drink will relax them and help them sleep however although you may drift off your quality of sleep will be compromised and you will not achieve R.E.M (Rapid eye movement, not the 90’s band!) which is the deep sleep you need to fully recharge.

Which brings me to another point, perhaps you are getting plenty of sleep but still seem to be tired.  As well as looking at other diet and lifestyle factors, your quality of sleep may be an issue.

FitBit or a Jawbone comes as clip on device or as a wrist band and it keeps track of the steps you take over the course of the day and how active you are overall. It also generates reports and feedback on your activity levels. They will both also sync with MYFITNESSPAL in order to seamlessly log your diet and exercise for a whole lifestyle review.

Sleep Cycle is an iOS app that works by motion monitoring so the app will know when you toss and turn and when you wake in the middle of the night. The app collects its data and provides graphs, and lets you even mark conditions for the night, including behaviours you may have changed, so you can see their effect on your night’s rest. The app also functions as an alarm clock, and will wake you to your own music or any one of their own soothing alarm melodies for a gentle start to the day.

SleepBot for Android users will for track your sleep patterns and measuring how well you sleep over the course of several nights. The app tracks you sleep, but it also tracks movement overnight, auto-recording so you can hear whether you snore or if you’re having breathing problems overnight (or if you’re talking in your sleep-could be an interesting listen), and also gives you tips to help improve your sleep patterns and sleep quality.  It also pairs with the Sleepbot webapp for even more detailed analysis.

So time to stop reading, unplug the kettle and go to some restful sleep.

Nicola x

PS. Inspiring me this week is Clive on holiday using a large water bottle as a makeshift kettlebell so he can still get a workout, made me feel a bit lazy really!



Fake Sugars

Find out why Fake Sugars are are bad for your health.


Ok, I’ll admit this is another return to form from me ranting on about nutrition and the chemicals in food, but seriously it makes mad and it really is a big issue, the sooner we go back to eating real, natural food the sooner we stop putting so much pressure on our NHS with obesity related illness.  So I shall rant away……

I have written previously on the dangers of aspartame – causing near divorce in the supermarket now because of that one!

So, I’m going to highlight a few other sweeteners that you need to look out for and avoid. (What can I say I’ve got a good divorce lawyer that wants referrals ha ha)

First up.


Acesulfame Potassium (K) was approved for use by the FDA as a safe artificial sweetener in July, 1988. It is a derivative of acetoacetic acid. Unfortunately, several potential problems associated with the use of acesulfame have been raised. They are based largely on animal studies since testing on humans remains limited. The findings showed that Acesulfame K stimulates insulin secretion in a thereby possibly aggravating hypoglycaemia. This may well have something to do with the rise of type 2 diabetes whereby people have raised insulin levels for so long their bodies become resistant to it. In has been shown that type 2 Diabetes is reversible through significant diet modifications-i.e. less junk more real food. Anyhow I digress.

Acesulfame K apparently produced tumours of organs (such as the thymus gland), several forms of leukaemia and chronic respiratory disease in several rodent studies; even when less than maximum doses were given.  Due to aforementioned limited human studies no evidence can be given to show whether it causes tumours in humans but I’m not taking my chances.  It is found in Pepsi Max, Coca-Cola Zero, Diet Coke, Trident gum, and sugar free Jelly and many others.

Sucralose (also known commercially as Splenda) is a synthetic additive created by chlorinating sugar. Manufacturers say the chlorine in sucralose is no different from that in table salt.

However, stop right there you know I never believe the money makers in this.

In fact the chemical structure of the chlorine in sucralose is almost the same as that in the now-banned pesticide DDT. (I wonder then if you took a pee on your garden you could use it as a pesticide? Admittedly, it wouldn’t be particularly good for you, it should be Organic veg all the way but worth some thought……) I shall speak to my crop doctor.

Reported side effects include Head and muscle aches, stomach cramps and diarrhoea, bladder issues, skin irritation, dizziness and inflammation. Further to this research has shown sucralose can cause shrinking of the thymus gland, an important immune system regulator, and liver and kidney dysfunction. A recent study by Duke University found sucralose reduces healthy intestinal bacteria, which are needed for proper digestion and can impact the effectiveness of prescription and other drugs.  Upset Gut Bacteria can actually cause a whole host of problems but most notably food intolerances hence the above mentioned side effects. It is found in most “diet” products.

Saccharin is a sulpha-based sweetener; its primary ingredient is benzoic sulfimide.  For those with sulpha allergies, saccharin may cause nausea, diarrhoea, skin problems or other allergy-related symptoms. Early safety studies of saccharin showed the sweetener caused bladder cancer in rats.  At one point Saccharin was actually required to be labelled as potentially carcinogenic. However the FDA has now lifted this-shame. The link between saccharin and bladder cancer has contributed to saccharin being the most investigated of all artificial sweeteners. To date, no connection between saccharin and bladder cancer in humans has been proven.  However it has been shown to be toxic to children, and it has been recommended that intake of saccharin is limited in young children and pregnant women. I’ll be honest, you’re thinking well they haven’t shown a danger in adult humans so surely I’m fine, but realistically that is because no long term trials have been carried out and if it is toxic in children why do we think suddenly we hit 18 and it will no longer harm us?

High Fructose Corn Syrup.  There is a whole film dedicated to this sweetener (King Corn – available on YouTube if you have 90mins to spare!)

Due to what was originally a subsidy programme from the government, farmers have now created an excess of corn and so manufacturers decided to find a use for it-in theory a great idea, in reality they declared war on their own people.

Scientists discovered by processing and refining the corn, it could be turned into a sugar alternative, called high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  Despite the name, high fructose corn syrup is actually composed of equal parts of fructose and equal parts glucose.

Due to the government subsidizing farmers to produce corn, the cheap price of HFCS created a MUCH cheaper alternative for food producers compared to regular sugar.

Unfortunately, it turns out that HFCS, despite being molecularly similar to regular sugar, does not affect the body the same way as table sugar.  Princeton University conducted an experiment with Rats. They found that Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same. In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides.  High Levels of Triglycerides causes Heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, High Blood Pressure and Stroke.

FYI.  Some Foods containing HFCS – McVitie’s Hobnobs, Jaffa Cakes and Classic Rich Tea biscuits, Carte D’Or ice cream, Lucozade Energy Orange and Apple flavours, Yop yoghurts, McDonald’s Big Mac sauce, two flavours of Kellogg’s Special K bars and Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Soft & Fruity (You know those heavily marketed healthy products….), Mr Kipling Bakewell Slices (You should be ashamed Mr Kipling!) And probably millions more!

So really there are just 2 take home messages with this.

  • Avoid processed food as much as possible
  • And if you must indulge, be sure to check the label!

NS-PT are a qualified nutritionist liverpool based – We are also fully qualified personal trainers in Liverpool

For more information about what we do have a look around our site










Gastric Bands & Seasonal Salads

Well, I am back in one piece, me and Mr A (who we must now refer to as Mr Awesome) survived 13.2 miles of scenic Coniston.

Now, I am guessing that many of you spend the week like a holiday, not eating clean and becoming unlean, well I did a little too but I actually was on holiday!

Anyway, I hope you didn’t miss me too  much and wonder what my thoughts were on any health related topics brought up in the news as I know many of you look forward to my ranting on those…………….so I won’t disappoint you.

The NHS has revealed they will start doling out gastric bands to help prevent the obesity crisis. Now to be fair considering the cost of having to treat all of the health related diseases they will have to treat as a result of obesity versus the cost of putting bands in anyone classed as morbidly obese in terms of general number crunching they may well be onto something. However, what hasn’t been taken into account has firstly the fact that not everyone who has a band successfully loses enough weight to be considered healthy as there are way of cheating them-liquids slip right through, and also the reasons why a person may be obese in the first place.

Now I speak from some experience on this as I have trained more than one person with a gastric band, and also others who were told they had to lose some weight before they could have one fitted to make the operation safe.

All of these people had issues with food, whether that be emotional eating or genuine junk food addiction and then a following obsession with the calorie content and a reward/punishment system with food (think well I’ve been to the gym so I will have a bar of chocolate or I ate too much yesterday so I will not eat tomorrow). It is not a healthy cycle and is actually a formation of mental illness. And herein lies the problem, if the emotional or addiction problem is not dealt with these people will not be able to successfully lose enough weight and be healthy just be having a gastric band. As I mentioned earlier, there are ways of cheating it, they can stretch a little over time and the person hasn’t had to really think about what they are putting into their bodies other than they may only be able to fit less of it in at a time. Their bad relationship with food is still there. Don’t get me wrong I know some people do successfully lose weight with a gastric band and keep it off, but people have also lost vast amounts of weight the old fashion way of eat less and move more but apparently that isn’t a viable suggestion?

Anyway I’m not going to harp on instead we are all going to get back on track with our clean eating. Starting with some seasonal eating, as you veg growers will know potatoes are all ready for digging right now and New potatoes are a great addition to a lunch time salad with if you’ve got a busy afternoon ahead.

Salmon and New Potato Salad – Serves 4

1kg new potatoes

1½tbsp capers in brine, drained

12 olives, roughly chopped

8 sun-dried tomatoes in oil drained

Zest and juice of 1 large lemon

2tbsp olive oil

6 spring onions, sliced

Handful of parsley, chopped

400g Salmon (steam, bake or grilled)

100g (3½oz) watercress

Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender, drain well, return to pan.

While potatoes are still warm, add rinsed capers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon zest, juice, oil, onions and parsley. Season and mix everything together well. Cool slightly.

Flake the salmon and gently stir it and the watercress through the salad. Serve with lemon wedges.

Rainbow New Potato Salad-Serves 4

250g Jersey Royal potatoes

150g approx. drained weight chickpeas from can

140g beetroot

140g courgettes

100g peppers

1tbsp olive oil

150g small vine tomatoes

Handful rocket or other leaf

2tbsp crème fraiche

Bunch coriander, chopped

Sprinkling mixed seeds

Heat oven to Gas 4, 180°C, fan160°C. Simmer potatoes for 20 minutes, add chickpeas and bring to the boil. Drain and keep warm until needed.

Wash beetroot, cut off top and tail, chop into wedges. Roughly chop courgettes into 2•5cm (1in) chunks and cut peppers into strips. Place in a roasting pan, add oil and toss.

Roast for 20 minutes, add the tomatoes and cook for a further 10 minutes. Mix together crème fraiche and chopped coriander. Place rocket, potatoes, chickpeas and roasted veg on a plate, sprinkle with seeds. Serve dressing in small bowl.

These should both keep in an airtight lunchbox in the fridge for a couple of days so you can make ahead.

Any other veg you’ve got in abundance on your patch you need me to recipize for you? (recipize made up word but if I keep using it people will just accept it)

Nicola x

PS: Well I had the pressure on just before I went away, my lovely client Sue started training with me back in April when she told me she had bought her wedding dress for her July Wedding and at that point it did not fit, so it was my job to make sure it did. (No pressure Nicola!) And I am relieved and very happy to report that it did fit and bet she looked dam fine in it too! Congratulations to Sue and Derek!



The Conspiracy Theory

So this week the TV did my job for me by showing “The world’s best diet” on Channel 4.

I watched it taking notes-yes I am that sad! To see if I could spot the patterns, problems and the key to a good diet. And to be fair it was glaringly obvious! Anywhere with access to processed food, fast food and lots of snacking had an obesity problem-Quelle Surprise? The countries eating fresh fish, vegetables and shock horror animal fats (FATS!!!!!!!!!! Its madness!!!!) As their staple diet were all lithe and slender. I mean the French were sat there having a 3 course 2 hour lunch break of seriously rich food, but they didn’t snack between meals and they took the time to enjoy their food and appreciate what they were eating. Has anyone really ever totally appreciated a McDonalds I mean really appreciated it, like it was the best meal you’ve ever eaten. No I very much doubt it, and if you have please go out back and have a chat with yourself! You have probably eaten one in less than 5 minutes then been bloated for an hour then starving again straight after.

The Italians were making their own proper pasta by hand! Which means it isn’t the same as the low quality, over processed rubbish we get fed over here. I actually have a friend who is gluten intolerant like me go on holiday to Italy and he found he didn’t experience the same symptoms eating proper Italian pasta and Pizza as he does over here. He can only put that down to the quality of the ingredients and lack of chemical additives-read the back of your bread packet it makes for scary reading.

So firstly, it makes me wonder why the government, health bodies, doctors etc. still can’t spot this obvious link to rising disease and obesity and therefore be able to give out the right message? (Money, politics…..conspiracy theory).  And also why we as a nation still trying fight against this obvious answer like we can’t believe it is that straight forward?

I do get this a lot in my job and many people have said that it is basic common sense when it comes to your diet, but there is so much mass marketing and conflicting advice from the NHS, Government, Doctors Etc. that it confuses your brain to think the common sense route must be wrong?

It sort of goes like this……”So your telling me I should just eat real, natural food like fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, fish and dairy in their natural state as grown on the land for hundreds of years instead of chemically enhanced, factory processed, manmade mass marketed food that makes billions of pounds every year? Hmmm that’s an interesting theory Nicola but I may need some time to think about how that can be possible……………………….

Anyway, I am not going to simply rant on about my thoughts on food marketing, conspiracy theories etc. as I run the risk of sounding like one of those people that doubts Neil Armstrong’s moon landing (I bet at least one of you reading this is one of those people and I’m going to get the full hit next time I see you) I just want you to spend the next week or so (whilst I’m not here spying on you) really looking at what you’re eating, read your food labels, look at where your food is coming from in the bulk of your diet and consider how much of what you eat is as nature intended bar the cooking process.

Nicola x

PS. Now I know all of my clients are breathing a sigh of relief that I will be away for the next week, but just remember, I will come back rested and refreshed and raring to go-if you think I’m tough when I’m tired imagine what rested is like…………………………

PPS. I’m going to say well done to my client who will know who they are but I can’t say for legal reasons (otherwise I have to say other clients are available a la` the BBC) for having to put two extra holes in the belt due to some awesome weight loss goings on-Yey!


Calories in Calories Out

Sorry for the lateness of this email, I took a day out to the Cheshire show this week, as well as having another bout a goat poo sampling/vet drop off to do-such a glamorous life I lead! Anyway, I’m writing about a subject that comes up constantly in my job and indeed constantly in the media, particularly womens magazine, in the supermarket branding. The calories in calories out formula is actually waaaaay more complicated than food companies like to make out, meaning joe public has no idea why eating 1200 calories a day and exercising off 500 isn’t working for them. And now even coca cola have jumped on the band wagon-I can already see me shouting abuse at the tv (England football fan style).

So here is a link to a new coca cola advert.

Basically the ad is portraying the idea that you can have a coke, do some exercise for around 20mins and you won’t have to worry about putting on weight-simples?

Erm no! There are so many things wrong with this ad I could throw my lap top out the window in rage-but I won’t lap tops are expensive 5 mins downward dogging should sort me out.

So why has it caused me such offence? Well basically it portrays the message that you can eat whatever you want as long as you burn the calorie equivalent off in exercise.  It’s been the basis of many diets for years now without taking into consideration to the quality of the food we are putting in our bodies.

But in reality is a single calorie from sugar equal to a single calorie from fat or protein? If you asked this question to a physicist the undoubted and  scientifically correct answer would be a resounding YES along with quoting part of the first law of thermodynamics “in an isolated system, energy can be neither created nor destroyed” and that would be the end of the discussion. The laws of thermodynamics are 100% true and I’m not about to start trying to disprove them-I am no Sheldon Cooper!

However, when it comes to nutrition and the role calories play in our bodies complicates this slightly. Although one calorie is still one calorie whatever the source, when it enters our body it is introduced to many biochemical processes that will either use it, store it or dump it. So although one calorie is still one calorie how your body stores it comes down to the nutrients in that calorie and your bodies individual biochemistry. It is overly simplistic to expect our body weight to be controlled by a formula based purely on adding or subtracting calories from a predetermined energy expenditure.

So, what is the answer? Well it all comes down to taking into consideration the nutritional value of what we are putting into our bodies. We all know how bad it is to put diesel in a petrol car right? Well, think of your body in the same way, you can’t put incorrect fuel in it and expect it run (and I include burn body fat) efficiently.

When you put nutrient rich food in your body it is able to use those calories to power your organs, renew your cells etc. When you put a processed, sugar filled calorie in, it has no use for it so it stores it as fat. So if you fill your body with lots of nutrient rich calories they could total way over the suggested average of 2000 for a woman or 2500 for a man, but your body would be able to utilise each and every one thus preventing it from being stored as fat. On the other hand you could fill your body with only 1200 calories of high sugar or processed food and since your body has no use for this it would take the little nutrition in could to function and then store the rest as fat, so you’d be eating less and still storing fat!

The have been a few fitness professionals who have done experiments on this, most notably is Sam Feltham, a fitness entrepreneur who has done both a high fat low carb 5000 calorie diet and then a high carb, high processed food 5000 calorie diet.  Surprisingly (or not if your already on board with this) eating 5000 calories of high fat, low carb real, unprocessed food over 21 days he only put on just over a kilo and actually lost 3cm from his waist! I can’t say the same for the high carb, processed food diet.  There is a link below to his blog about it.

Have a nice weekend! I’m off to clear my field of horse poo and poisonous plants-the jet set lifestyle continues!

Nicola x


Aspartame is an intense sweetener, approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar, which has been used in soft drinks and other low-calorie or sugar-free foods throughout the world for more than 25 years. It is also referred to as E951. It was discovered by accident in 1965 when James Schlatter, a chemist of G.D. Searle Company, was testing an anti-ulcer drug.

The artificial sweetener has been the subject of several controversies since its initial approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1974. The FDA approval of aspartame was highly contested, with critics alleging that the quality of the initial research supporting its safety was inadequate and flawed and that conflicts of interest marred the 1981 approval of aspartame.

So why is it so bad?

Chemicals already in our body Aspartate and glutamate act as neurotransmitters in the brain by facilitating the transmission of information from neuron to neuron. Too much aspartate or glutamate in the brain can kill neurons by allowing too much calcium into the cells. This influx triggers excessive amounts of free radicals, which in turn kill the cells.

Aspartame is made up of 40% Aspartic Acid, 50% Phenylalanine,  Methanol a.k.a wood alcohol/poison/ANTIFRREEZE!

Aspartic acid is an amino acid that significantly raises the blood plasma level of aspartate and glutamate. As mentioned above this leads to killing off of our cells!

The large majority (75 percent or more) of neural cells in the brain are killed before any clinical symptoms of a chronic illness are noticed. A few of the many chronic illnesses that have been shown to be contributed to by long-term exposure to excitatory amino acid damage include:

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • ALS
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Memory loss
  • Hormonal problems
  • Dementia
  • Epilepsy
  • Brain lesions
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Neuroendocrine disorders

Phenylalanine is an amino acid normally found in the brain. Persons with the genetic disorder phenylketonuria (PKU) cannot metabolize phenylalanine. This leads to dangerously high levels of phenylalanine in the brain (sometimes lethal). It has been shown that ingesting aspartame, especially along with carbohydrates, can lead to excess levels of phenylalanine in the brain even in persons who do not have PKU.

Excessive quantities of phenylalanine in the brain can cause the levels of serotonin in the brain to decrease, leading to emotional disorders such as depression. It was shown in human testing that phenylalanine levels of the blood were increased significantly in human subjects who chronically used aspartame.

Methanol is a deadly poison. It is used in products such as bio diesel and antifreeze. (So why wouldn’t you want to drink it?)The absorption of methanol into the body is sped up considerably when free methanol is ingested. Free methanol is created from aspartame when it is heated to above 30°c. This would occur when aspartame-containing product is stored in direct sunlight or when it is heated e.g. in Jelly. Methanol breaks down into formaldehyde in the body. Formaldehyde is a deadly neurotoxin. Yes the stuff they use in embalming-nice!

As well as the more serious conditions mentioned above ingestion of Aspartame has been shown to have lower level health responses that people would not necessarily have related to that diet drink they have had. These include.

•             Headaches/migraines

•             Fatigue (blocks sufficient glucose entry into brain)

•             Anxiety attacks

•             Nausea

•             Sleep problems

•             Depression

•             Abdominal pains

•             Vision problems

•             Asthma/chest tightness

•             Memory Loss

Aspartame is predominately but not limited to use in diet, low fat, no sugar products. This is so that manufacturers can take out the calorie content making you think it therefore a healthier product but still make the product taste sweet. Some examples include:

Diet Coca Cola,Pepsi,7up, tango etc,  Coca Cola Zero, Pepsi Max ,Lucozade Sport ,Schweppes Slimline Drinks (now you know why I tell you to take the calories and go full fat!), Robinsons Orange Squash, Robinson’s No added sugar range, Muller Light Yoghurt, Some Activia Flavour Yoghurts, Weight Watchers Products (don’t set me off again!)Wrigleys chewing gum, Uncle Ben’s LightCooking Sauces, Some flavours of Walkers Crisps, Canderel, Silver Spoon Sweetness and Light,Silver Spoon Light Granulated Sugar,Cadburys Highlights,  Options Hot Chocolate Drink.

I could go on but I would suggest you start checking your labels in the supermarket!





The NHS Fails Me Again

So yesterday the NHS announced it will be referring overweight britains to subsidised Weight Watchers, Slimming World or Rosemary Conley diet clubs-aaaaarrrrggggghhhh! This has been the Personal Trainers version of the who killed Tina in corrie scandal this week. We’ve all been ranting about it on social media, in the gym and anywhere else we can force people to listen.

I’m going to try very hard not to go into a complete rant about this but unfortunately it’s stuff like this that really gets my back up.  And this topic could take several blogs for me to hit every point that irritates me about it.

We as a nation have been rapidly getting fatter since the 1980’s with 2 thirds of men and just over half of women classed as obese.  Worryingly our children are also now climbing the obesity ladder setting them up for a life of inevitable type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer……….need I go on.

So over the years the government has scratched its head over what is possibly causing this and how they can fix it. Is it our lack of activity now so much of our lives are spent sat at desks, TV’s, games consoles? We drive everywhere, can have our weekly shop delivered and basically have no reason to leave the house unless we choose to.

So the government has decided that sending the overweights to a group meeting where you are taught that all food has a points/calorie etc. value (that doesn’t necessarily stack up against it actual nutritional value) and as long as you stay inside this allocated points value all will be well, doesn’t matter if you used it up on curly wurlys as long as the points add up that’s fine.

Starting with Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers ex-financial director himself stated that they have a 16% success rate and the other 84% is where they make their money as people keep paying to go back! 16%!!!!! So essentially the whole business model is based on failure, if it had a 90% success rate it would go bankrupt as people would have no reason to spend their money there time and time again..

And whilst they are giving you your allocated point’s value they are promoting their own branded products, classing them as actual food! Now call me strange (you won’t be the first) but I like to think of my food as something that has grown, lived etc. and is therefore recognisable as a food product.

So by example here is an ingredients list for a weight watchers Shepherd’s Pie ready meal. I have highlighted in red the various forms of sugar used, I could go into the other chemicals in there but I will save that for another day, another chemistry lesson.

Reconstituted Potato (51%, Water, Potato Flake, Preservative – Sodium Metabisulphite), Water, Beef (11%), Onions, Carrots (6%), Concentrated Tomato Puree, Peas (2%), Diced Tomatoes (Tomatoes, Tomato Juice, Salt, Firming Agent – Calcium Chloride), Modified Tapioca Starch, Concentrated Beef Stock (Beef Stock, Water, Maltodextrin, Salt, Palm Fat, Vegetable Concentrates (Onions, Carrots, Celery, Celeriac), Tomato Concentrate, Chicory Fibre, Yeast Extract, Glucose Syrup, Sugar, Herb and Spice Extracts, Spice), Worcester Sauce (Barley Malt Vinegar, Water, Treacle, Soya Sauce (Water, Soya Beans, Wheat, Salt), Brown Sugar, Salt, Lemon Juice, Colour – Plain Caramel, Anchovy Paste (from Fish), Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Oil of Cloves, Tamarind, Garlic Extract, Chilli Pepper, Spirit Vinegar), Flavourings (contain Milk), Cream Powder (Cream Solids, Skimmed Milk Powder), Salt, Yeast Extract (contains Barley), Colour – Plain Caramel, Parsley, Spice Extract, Black Pepper,

Contains Gluten, Wheat, Barley, Milk, Soya, Fish, Celery, Celeriac, Sulphur Dioxide


A whole 11% beef-mmmm wait I thought Shepherd’s Pie was lamb but that’s the least of this dishes problems! You would need a chemistry degree to understand that lot.

When I make shepherd’s pie (ok when the lovely Mr A makes it as he does most of the cooking) it contains –

Lamb mince, potatoes, onions, carrots, peas, stock and some butter, salt and pepper to taste. No chemistry lesson required?

So the NHS is advising us in the battle against the bulge to favour a company that promotes a myriad of chemicals over your local butcher and green grocer?

One first view Slimming World appears to get it right, breakfasts include eggs, bacon, fruit…..

But then they suggest as one of your “free foods” i.e. eat as many as you like, Muller Light Yoghurts.

Here is the ingredients list of said offending yoghurt (honestly I do find them offensive!)

Yogurt (Milk)       Water  Fructose              Modified Maize Starch  Lime Juice from Concentrate (0.5%)        Coconut Milk Powder (0.5%)  Gelatine               Flavourings         Stabiliser: Pectins             Sweetener: Aspartame                 Acidity Regulators: Citric Acid             Sodium Citrate

Aspartame!!!! Aspartame!!! Seriously, anybody who listens to me talk about diet foods will know that I hate this substance with a passion – potentially a whole blog on its own –which I’m sure you’re now looking forward to. Aspartame is addictive and been linked to several side effects including

Migraines, seizures, dizziness, numbness, muscle spasm, rashes, depression, fatigue, tachycardia, anxiety, heart palpitations, tinnitus, vertigo, memory loss, joint pain, insomnia, vision problems and wait for it you’re going to love this last one…………………..weight gain! It is basically a poison, and it is currently in most of our labelled diet/low fat foods which is why I always tell people to go full fat every time. There have been several campaigns over the years to have it banned but unfortunately I think the failure to do so proves the power of big business over what is right and wrong…….

So almost slimming world but not quite, I can’t agree with a company that will willingly promote poison.

Rosemary Conley – Now I have to admit back in the day she was a bit of an icon, I remember doing her hip and thigh video with my mum in the living room.  I imagine the sight of me and my mum shuffling along the floor on our bums would look quite comical and yes that was an actual exercise!

Her approach on the weight loss club is to combine a weigh in meeting followed by an aerobic exercise class. Bravo someone spotted that exercise was a missing link in the other two. If I were forced at gun point to join one of these groups it would be this one, purely for the fact that she promotes exercise and there are no chemicals in her branded ready meals. Although they do all contain sugar so I haven’t given them the green light.

However, once again it focuses on counting calories rather than considering the nutritional content of the food we are eating.

And this is where the problem lies. We are constantly surrounding by these marketing messages, low fat, low calorie, must be healthy for you because the packet says so-the clue that it’s not is probably the fact it’s in a packet. With this NHS scheme I think they have missed the point. We aren’t getting fatter because we don’t know how to count calories- I have a client who can tell me the calorie content of most foods (you know who you are) and still she struggles to lose weight! We have forgotten to consider what is in our food, and how this makes us feel, how this affects our bodies, how it helps it function, restore and repair.

I say this time and time again to my clients, if you know exactly where your food came from and what’s in it you can’t go wrong-no one ever had a weight problem over eating broccoli. And before I am accused of being part of the problem encouraging you to sit down and read at your lap top for large lengths of time I will leave it at that………………………..for now.

Keeping Fit With a Family

Keeping fit with a family


Let’s be honest, sometimes life gets so busy it can be a struggle to find the time to exercise. Especially if you have a full time job, partner, kids and if you’ve still got the energy a social life!

I totally understand why after all that you’d be thinking you can’t possibly still have enough energy to get through a work out? Well firstly I will kick that excuse to the kerb because exercising releases endorphins that give you more energy meaning you’re more alert for your working day, time with the kids etc. Secondly, exercise has been proven time and time again to be good for your health and help to prevent heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes so if you haven’t got time to exercise you will need to make time to be ill in the future.

But that doesn’t stop the problem that you have got many other responsibilities to deal with first. An emergency at work, kids after school clubs, a friend’s birthday.

I bet if you do currently make time to exercise you sometimes feel guilty about the time you are spending away from your partner, kids or housework. Well don’t! Easy for me to say because I don’t have kids? Erm, just because my kids have 4 legs rather than 2 does not mean they don’t need lots of love! But, if it you are struggling why not get the family involved in your active lifestyle? That way you will all benefit.  If you’re a parent encouraging your kids to lead an active lifestyle that will give a them a great grounding for the future that exercise is a normal part of life.


That being said I do understand that sometime the guilt will get you and family time is important  so today I’m going to give you some ideas on how your family can spend some quality time together whilst being active.

We often think of exercise as something to be endured rather than enjoyed. (Admittedly if your training with me there will be an element if love/hate to some of your sessions!) When fitness is looked at as a chore, it’s a REALLY tough habit to build. So, you need to find exercise you enjoy.

If you’re exercising with kids then it doesn’t even have to be official “exercise”. Think about it – kids will jump over stuff, climb on stuff, make up imaginary games (don’t stand on the cracks!), and they are having so much fun that they don’t realize they’re exhausted and just had a workout.

So, I hereby give you permission to act like a giant child.

You could do something slightly more conventional. Take the family for a walk, do a nature trail check out Geocaching, where you find treasure left by other geocachers. Pretend to be explorers! Check out Dora for inspiration-Spanish speaking optional!

Just embrace the simple stuff, skip, hula hoop, do cart wheels whatever you fancy; roll down hills, Jump in puddles, Climb trees, play a game of tick! (Your it!!)

Now, let’s say you still enjoy doing structured exercise, but maybe life is too busy now that you have kids. Well the key is to get organised. With kids and families, every minute counts.

We all know that eating right is 80-90% of the battle, so that final 10% can come in any type of exercise you can fit in, whenever you can fit it in.

Things aren’t going to go according to plan, and you’re not going to always have that perfect 60-minute window to get to the gym. So you need to have a plan B (and a plan C) for when things go wrong. Once you stop allowing yourself to use excuses as to why you’re not exercising, suddenly finding the time to get it done takes care of itself.

What’s that? You are busy from the time the kids wake up until the time they go to bed? Wake up just 5 minutes earlier and do a quick hiit workout, 10 squats, 10 press up 1 min plank as many times as you can!

Do something! I don’t care what you do, but it’s vital for you to do something.

Exercise is not all or nothing. It’s not “I need 60 minutes or why bother.” It’s “do the best you can, with what you have, where you are.” You’ll be surprised at what results you can achieve will just 10mins a day.

So be ready to squeeze exercise anytime, anywhere. Your family will thank you for instilling that habit in them!

I want to leave you with one final thought: you’re a superhero to your family, whether you realize it or not. You’re probably the person that makes sure all the important stuff gets done.

It’s time to decide what kind of superpower you have. Is it super strength? Lightning fast reflexes? Or the ability to sit on the couch and watch TV for hours on end?

If we can instill the habit of health, fitness, and happiness in ourselves, our families are more likely to grow up healthy and not deal with the health issues that come with being overweight and out of shape. And that people is a great thing for securing your families future. Right I’m off to play tick with my goats…….


Nicola x


Pie is Good For You!

Pie is good for you?


Ok after last week’s blog I had some feedback that it’s great that I recommend you all eat steak and drink champagne-not technically what I said……………..and then it was suggested that all I needed to do was say pie was good for you and I’ll be pretty much classed as the ideal personal trainer.

Well having been born and raised in Wigan I think it is actually against my religion or in fact illegal for me to tell you not to eat pies; or I would be struck down by a giant Uncle Joes Mint Ball claimed to be a tragic accident…..

Anyway, whilst I can’t actually say that Pie’s are a health food, I can at least give you some tips on how to make them healthier.

Unfortunately it is not necessarily the filling that makes Pie a problem, it is the pastry.  If you make the pastry yourself your half way there no additives just butter, flour, water, salt, water. Unfortunately it’s the flour that I take issue with, namely the Gluten. I’m going to go into this on another day but bottom line is whether you think you’re sensitive to it or not you need to get flour/gluten out of your diet. Particularly if you’re trying to lose weight.

So here are some ways to add some more goodness into your pies-so then I can say they are good for you!

Try making your own pastry using either coconut or almond flour, these can both be used with sweet or savoury dishes.

Coconut/Almond flour shortcrust pastry


70g coconut/almond flour

100g chilled butter, chopped into pieces

pinch salt

1 egg



Place flour, butter and salt in the food processor and mix until they resemble breadcrumbs. Add water and egg and knead to form a dough. As the consistency will be slightly different than that of normal dough you may find it easier instead of rolling it out, to press it directly into the tin and mould it. Don’t forget to save some for the lid though!

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C until it just starts to turn golden. Add filling and of course the top and return to the oven for further cooking.


Or maybe you want to forgo the pastry all together and you could try topping your pie with potatoes, sweet potatoes, mashed cauliflower or other veg-probably wouldn’t do this on a fruit pie though! For fruit you could always make a crumble as you would ordinarily but switching wheat flour for almond or coconut.

Then you can wash it down with a nice healthy pint of …………………………………water!

I may just make a pie this weekend, send me a picture if you do too!

Nicola x