How to get back on track post-Christmas

The festive period is so filled with temptation and indulgence it can be a real struggle to revert to healthy eating and exercise habits come January. Lack of sunlight lowers the feel-good brain chemical serotonin, so your enthusiasm often feels lower than ever at this time of year.

Here are some top tips to help you to get back on track and feeling your best:

  • Re-train your brain

Instead of resenting the changes you’ll need to make, think of the nutritious food you eat as high quality fuel that will help you look and feel better with every mouthful. Make a list to remind yourself of all the benefits of regular exercise (such as feeling less sluggish, reducing digestive discomfort and being able to wear clothes you don’t currently feel comfortable in) and ensure you create positive associations with your new healthy lifestyle.

  • Ditch the detox

Before you attempt a strict January detox, it’s time to cleanse yourself of the concept that we need to be periodically detoxified. Restrictive detox diets might claim to liver-detox-smoothie-copyrid your system of toxins, but your body already does that job for you; working to break down what goes in, absorb the good and excrete the not so good. Restricting your food consumption limits intake of energy and important nutrients needed for good health, which can cause unhealthy side effects such as headaches, dizziness and low energy. If you want to maintain optimal health then the best approach is a balanced diet.

  • Be realistic

Rather than focusing on one ultimate end result, try dissecting your goals into smaller, bite-size pieces to make them seem less intimidating. Take it one day at a time (for example eating a healthy breakfast, or going for a daily walk) then gradually up the pace. By being realistic with your goals, you’ll be far less likely to feel overwhelmed and throw in the towel by the end of the month.

  • Be prepareddetoxification-camtreatments

By keeping a well-stocked kitchen, you’ll be better equipped to keep up your healthy eating plans. Cheap and easily available, lentils are high in protein and fibre but low in fat.  Keep a few cans in your cupboard, rinse thoroughly then add to salads, soups, casseroles and stir-fries for a nutritious protein boost. Frozen and pre-chopped fruits and vegetables are also a godsend for throwing together smoothies and quick, nutrient-dense meals.

  • Try something new

You’ll find it particularly hard to get back on the wagon if you’re not excited by the meals you’ll be eating. Have a good look through recipe books, magazines and blogs and plan to cook something tempting and delicious each week.

  • Get some support

Let your friends and family know what you’re trying to achieve and that you would appreciate their support. It’s likely that someone close to you will have similar health and fitness goals, and working together can be a great way to stay motivated.

How to stop calorie counting and prevent overeating

A lovely client of mine recently cracked her complicated relationship with food and a few months on has kindly emailed me to thank me for my support and let me know what particularly worked for her. I am so delighted for her and wanted to share her techniques as I think they’re spot on and very inspiring.

Happy-WeightThis approach really works to help extract yourself from a miserable cycle of disordered eating (rigid calorie counting interspersed with overeating and guilt) – although it takes a strong will and determination to change!

Tried and tested tips:

  • Rather than rigorously calorie counting and obsessing over your ‘allowed’ foods all day long, listen to your body. Do you really want it? WHY do you want it? Are you really hungry or are you just bored? If you’re hungry, eat it. If you’re not, choose not to eat it (rather than deny yourself it).
  • Think about how you’ll feel after you’ve eaten something – happy? Or guilty? If you want something – and really want it, don’t just want it as a distraction – then have it, and savour it. Don’t make the anticipation of you dinner more enjoyable than the food itself.
  • Allow yourself to get hungry rather than panicking about feeling your stomach rumble. It’s OK to feel hungry between meals – you don’t need to constantly snack to ward it off. Allow yourself to work up an appetite and then really enjoy your meals when you eat them.
  • If you’re full before you’ve cleared your plate, stop eating; don’t mindlessly carry on just because it’s there in front of you. Alternatively, stop eating just before you feel full – even if there is more food available to you. This might kick against any “clear your plate/waste not want not” instincts but it means you will eat less and will also feel less bloated and uncomfortable when you’ve finished.
  • Look at the nutritional content of items rather than just instinctively eating or buying them – being more aware of what you’re putting into your body may cause you to reassess!
  • Give yourself specific meal times and plan what you’ll eat, rather than being caught short and having to grab something on the run.

© Sarah West Nutrition

The dangers of ‘detox diets’

Thinking of embarking on a detox diet to boost your health or lose a few pounds? Before you do, it’s time to cleanse yourself of the intriguing concept that we need to be periodically detoxified through our diet.

What is dLiver-detox-smoothie-copy.pngetoxification?

Strict diets might claim to rid your system of toxins, but in actual fact your body does that job for you; working to break down what goes in, absorb the good and excrete the not so good.

Real detoxification of foreign substances takes place in your liver, which works to modifies their chemical structure and enable them to be excreted by the kidneys (which filter them from the blood into the urine). This is a constant process, meaning you’re actually detoxing all day long. If you’re not detoxing- you’re dead!

Why detox diets are counterproductive

Many detox diets suggest fasting or existing on ftumblr_mfks50fRHX1ryp4qio1_1280ruit and vegetables alone to help aid good health. Whilst it’s true that you are likely to see rapid weight loss from this approach, any weight loss will be from water, glycogen (the body’s carbohydrate stores) and muscle loss, rather than fat.

Restricting your food consumption to this extent also limits your intake of energy and important nutrients needed for good health. When you starve your body of calories in this way, you will ultimately start to build up chemicals called ketones. These chemicals can result in nausea, dehydration, weakness, light-headedness and irritability.

Furthermore, a prolonged lack of protein can cause your body to break down its own muscle stores which will eventually compromise your immune system. Proof that whilst fruit and vegetables provide vital vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre, they are not so good for you in isolation!

And finally, if you are depriving your body of nutrients in this way, you won’t have adequate fuel available to help you carry out sustained exercise and activity – an important aspect of any health and wellbeing plan.

What is a healthy alternative?

So now you know that traditional detox diets are marketing myths rather than nutritional reality, what can you try instead?bodybuilder  velvettangerine 3084405810

It is quite simple; if you want to maintain optimal health then the best approach is a balanced diet containing a variety of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables, plenty of wholegrain cereals, protein in the form of lean meat and fish (or vegetarian alternatives such as beans and pules) plus low-fat dairy products.

And why not add in some exercise while you’re at it? The skin is the body’s largest organ and plays a large part in helping the body stay healthy through perspiration. Working up a sweat helps your internal organs stay cool by lowering your overall body temperature and aids with the removal of toxins from the body through the skin. So if you want a quick ‘detox’ fix, try eating a balanced meal and sweating it out at the gym instead.

Nutritious, anti-detox meal suggestions:


  • Homemade oat and nut granola served with fresh fruit and live yogurt
  • Scrambled or poached eggs on wholemeal toast
  • No added sugar muesli with nuts and seeds


  • Lentil and vegetable soup with wholegrain rye bread
  • Mixed salad with avocado, beetroot, pepper, tomato plus chicken pieces/ mozzarella pearls and a reduced fat Caesar dressing
  • Vegetable omelette served with salad


  • Lentil ragu served with wholemeal spaghetti and reduced fat cheese
  • Smoked salmon in a reduced fat crème fraiche sauce, served with steamed green beans and broccoli
  • Homemade prawn and cauliflower curry with wild or brown rice

© Sarah West Nutrition


Re-train your brain


In order for any weight loss regime to succeed, you need to start looking at healthy food in a different way.

Instead of resenting the changes to your lifestyle, try thinking of the food you eat as high quality fuel that will help you to look and feel better with every mouthful. The positive association could make all the difference.


Instead of fixating on the negative aspects of exercise, try making a list of all the benefits; such as  looking leaner, having more energy, receiving compliments on your appearance and being able to wear clothes you don’t currently feel comfortable in.

Imagine being your goal weight and how it would make you look and feel. Surely that’s worth going to the gym for?


A common dieting pitfall is the belief that you can eat as much as you like as long as you exercise. However, the truth is that your portion sizes are an important part of the plan.

However long you spend in the gym, you won’t see results if you consistently consume more additional calories than you burn off. You can’t out run your fork!

© Sarah West Nutrition

Happy, Healthy Christmas


The average Christmas dinner comes to a massive 6,500 calories. However, enjoying a hearty Christmas lunch whilst still following a healthy eating plan is still perfectly achievable; all you have to do is make a few minor adjustments. With a bit of planning you can breeze through the season without it registering on the scales.


Christmas is the season to enjoy a little over-indulgence – but it’s also time to keep up the exercise. Research has revealed that keeping fit actually affects how much we eat in the first place. A recent Harvard University study found that physical exercise encourages a healthy diet, so regular exercise (such as a brisk walk or jog each morning) might help you to limit the damage this year.


The skin on a turkey, or any other roasted poultry, is where most of the fat is; if you remove the skin you can save around 40 calories per portion. Light meat also has slightly fewer calories than dark meat, so always choose breast instead of leg or thigh. Before you cook your meat, prick the skin to allow the fat to drain out. Cook it on an upturned ovenproof plate so it’s not sitting in the fat. Serve with lots of steamed vegetables and you have the perfect Christmas feast, without all the extra calories.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Eating out the healthy way

Many Britons eat at least one main meal a week from a fast food outlet, and the choices you make can have an important bearing on your health. An investigation by consumer magazine Which? found that a 300g portion of takeaway pepperoni pizza can contain more than two-thirds of the recommended daily allowance of salt for an adult and more than a whole day’s worth of saturated fat, while a Chinese meal contained more than 19 teaspoons of sugar.

The Food Standards Agency says it is confident that a voluntary partnership with the catering industry will eventually result in widespread calorie labelling on menus in the majority of British food outlets, helping people to make healthier choices when eating out (or ordering in). In the meantime, the following tips may help:


Try to choose pizzas with a thin crust, a var6122149462937122_EMGepxLS_ciety of colourful, nutrient-rich vegetable toppings and steer clear of high fat meat toppings such as bacon and salami. Many pizza chains now offer ‘lighter’ pizza options (with less pizza and added salad) which is a good way or keeping track of your calorie intake. Steer clear of  side dishes like garlic bread, chicken wings or dippers, wedges and stuffed potato skins as these push up the calorie and fat content considerably.

If you fancy a heavier starter or a dessert, opt for a salad as a main to reduce the overall calorie count. Make sure it contains a form of lean protein such as chicken. Protein is a blood sugar stabiliser, meaning you’ll feel fuller for longer (on less calories than a pizza). Always ask for the dressing on the side so you can control the portion size.


Healthy-Chinese-BroccoliTry to avoid anything battered or marked as “crispy” on the menu, as this means it’s been deep fried. If you’re likely to have a high calorie main, skip the crispy seaweed, spring rolls and prawn crackers and opt for vegetable dishes, dumplings or steamed soups.

Main dishes such as szechuan prawns and stir fried mixed vegetables with tofu are flavoursome and nutritious but relatively low in calories. Try to choose dishes with spices that also contain healthy properties, such as turmeric and ginger (both great digestive aids) or chilli (which may help boost metabolism in high does). Fried rice has around 50% more calories than plain so always order plain boiled rice and try to share it with someone else. Rice is very easy to overeat but a serving size should ideally be no larger than the size of your fist.


Tarka-Dhal-2Indian food offers a great selection of  richly flavoured vegetable dishes so try skipping the poppadoms and filling up on a colourful side dish instead, such as brinjal bhaji (aubergine with spiced tomato) or Tarka dhal (lentils with garlic). As a general rule the more colours in a meal, the more nutrients it contains. Avoid deep-fried entrées such as samosas, bhaji and pakoras. Even though they may contain vegetables, they are high in fat.

Opt for a tomato-based sauce such as tandoori or madras (rather than fattening cream or ghee based dishes) and choose chicken or prawn (which are lower in fat than beef or lamb). Veggie curries are also a good option as they have all the kick and spice of a curry, plus they’re packed full of healthy vegetables. Choose one accompanying carbohydrate – either boiled rice or naan – rather than both (to save on calories and allow for a Cobra beer instead!).

© Sarah West Nutrition


How to lose weight, the healthy way

We’re bombarded with so many new fad diets and quick-fix tips that working out how to lose weight effectively – but healthily – can seem very confusing. These tips will help show you how (and there’s no fasting or detoxing in sight):

1.Swap simple carbs for complex carbs

Carbohydrates are essential for a fit, healthy body and should never be removed from the diet entirely.

However, refined carbohydrates (such as white bread, white pasta, white rice and processed, convenience foods) are devoid of natural nutrients and can wreak havoc on your weight because they’re digested very quickly, leaving you feeling unsatisfied and more likely to overeat.

3In contrast, complex carbohydrates provide a gradual, steady stream of energy throughout the day. Obtaining the majority of your daily carbs from more natural sources (such as wholegrains, vegetables, beans and pulses) will therefore fill you up for longer, on fewer calories.

2. Eat little and often

Studies suggest that your body releases less insulin (the fat storage hormone) when your food intake is more evenly distributed throughout the day, even when you consume the same amount of calories overall.

Eating five or six nutritious mini-meals of 250-300 calories each may therefore help you to lose weight faster, without going hungry.

3. Include protein with every meal

Protein is a blood sugar stabiliser, helping you to feel fuller for longer and reduce hunger and sweet cravings. Including a source of protein (such as eggs, dairy products, lean meat, beans, pulses, nuts or seeds) with each meal or snack can therefore help you to feel satisfied on less calories.

vintage-fitness-devices-04-thumb4. Don’t be too restrictive.

When you want to lose weight, there’s nothing more motivating than seeing fast results. However, whilst many quick-fix diets might offer rapid results, dramatically restricting your calorie intake can lead to deficits in the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients your body needs to function properly.

This often leads to unpleasant side effects (such as headaches, dizziness, low mood, cravings and fatigue), which make it hard to stick to fad diets for long enough to see tangible results. Eating too few calories also slows your metabolism, making it difficult to maintain exercise intensity or duration.

Focusing your meals around appetite-suppressing protein and filling high-fibre vegetables is a far more effective (and sustainable) approach.

5. Drink plenty of water

Studies have suggested that overweight people who drink two cups of water half an hour before each meal eat around 75 fewer daily calories and lose 5 pounds more than those who don’t. Water drinkers have also been shown to keep the weight off long term.

Game-Card-Glass-Vintage-GraphicsFairy001Water is no magic potion; it is believed to help people shed pounds simply because it contains no calories and fills up the stomach, making you feel less hungry and less inclined to overeat. However, drinking more water does stops you from reaching for high-calorie, sugar-filled beverages; and the fewer calories you get from drinks, the healthier (and slimmer) you’ll be.

6. Change the way you train

Interval training is one of the most effective ways to burn fat. It get can applied to many forms of exercise simply by incorporating brief bursts of high-intensity activity, followed by a more mellow pace.

The key is to build up these intervals so that with each high intensity burst you’re working harder than the one before. Our bodies are quick to adapt to this sort of exercise and if you work hard you should see a reduction in body fat within 4 weeks.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Healthy eating for aeroplane flyers

Going away this year? With so much to think about when travelling, what you’ll be eating along the way is likely to be the last thing on your mind. However, a reliance on airport food will often mean an overdose of bad fats, processed foods and sugar that may leave you feeling sluggish, fatigued and uncomfortable.

Whether you’re a frequent flyer or holiday maker, a little bit of effort and willpower can make a difference to your overall health; leaving you feeling healthier, happier and more alert.

To help you stay on track when making food choices at the airport, I’ve created the following guide in association with

It includes tips and meal recommendations for airport chains for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, as well as what foods to avoid when travelling.

Here’s to a happy, healthy holiday!

© Sarah West Nutrition

Get beach ready


The holiday season is nearly upon us and it’s time for swimming trunks, sarongs and bikinis to emerge from their hibernation.

If the thought of baring your body on the beach fills you with dread then it’s time to really focus on getting in tip top shape. Don’t put it off… start today and you’ll soon be shedding those layers with confidence.


Interval training is one of the single most effective ways to burn fat. Try exercising at your normal pace for several minutes, then briefly at a more intense pace (as fast as you can!), before slowing to your normal pace again.

Slowly build up these intervals so that with each high intensity burst you’re working harder than the one before. Our bodies are quick to adapt to exercise and if you work hard you should see a redcution in body fat within 4 weeks.


To see a noticeable difference in your weight (without resorting to questionable fad diets), try focusing your meals around appetite-supressing protein and high-fibre vegetables. You will naturally feel satisfied for longer, helping you to resist the lure of calorific snacks between meals.

Protein consumption also helps you to retain muscle whilst losing fat, which is vital for achieving a lean, enviable physique.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Common mistakes


Whether you’re new to the gym or have been going for years, there are some mistakes that gym-goers make time and time again.

If you’ve reached a plateau in your progress or you’re just not getting where you want to be fast enough, there’s a good chance you need to change your approach.


We all tend to repeat the things we like doing, so it’s no wonder that once we find a workout that suits us we stick to it. However, this may not not be doing you any favours.

Try changing your your programme after about 4-6 weeks to avoid getting into a pattern that stops producing results. Try using a machine you’ve never used before, or if you usually stick to cardio then add in some weights or a body pump class.


You’ve been eating lots of reduced fat products specially designed for weight loss but are still finding it hard to lose weight?

Reduced fat foods often have a very high sugar content to make them more palatable. Try swapping reduced fat products for unprocessed, low GI alternatives. These result in a more steady, balanced insulin release, making fat easier to burn and less likely to be stored.

© Sarah West Nutrition