How long will you live?

How long will you live?

I was browsing the Daily Mail website earlier and came across this life expectancy test which will give you an estimate of how long you might live based on your diet, whether you smoke or not, how much exercise you do and so on. I thought since I’ve generally got what I think of as a pretty healthy diet, based on all the paleo stuff I stick to, and exercise regime, I’d do pretty well so decided to give it a go…

life expectancy test

87.2 years! I’m pretty impressed! Although I am a bit shocked about the fact that it says my highest risk is alcohol because I didn’t think I drank much to be honest, at least not compared to my mates who’ll generally have 2 or 3 pints every night then more at the weekend. The first question to do with alcohol asked me how often I consume alcoholic beverages with the options being “1 or more times per month”, “less than once a month” and “none at all in the previous year.” To be honest, I thought that was a bit restricting considering once a month and several times a day can make a very big difference to your health! It also asked how many drinks I’d had in the past week, to which I answered 3, and the most I’d had in one day in the past week, to which I answered 2 – I had a couple of drinks at a BBQ the other day, then I had a glass of wine at home on Friday night. I think that’s a lower than average amount, so I’m surprised that’s my risk factor.

You also had to answer questions about your weight and height; despite my diet, I’m still just over the upper limit of healthy for my height, so I imagine if I just pushed myself back into the healthy range, my life expectancy might increase a bit.

And I thought the exercise questions were a bit strange. It asked first how long I’d spent running or jogging this week (2 hours), then asked how much time playing ice hockey, soccer, basketball, volleyball or rollerblading (0 hours – this test is designed by Canadian scientists!), then how much time at other activities including walking, cycling, gardening, exercising, golfing, bowling, skating, fishing, baseball and tennis (I put 10 hours for the Insanity DVD and walking and gardening I do). What I thought was weird is that “exercising” in the last question covers a huge range of things – I get my heart rate up way more when doing Insanity than when I’m gardening. And for example, things like bowling and fishing really aren’t doing much to your body, whereas tennis and cycling are, so it’s strange to put them into the same category. If I’d spent 10 hours doing Insanity this week and someone else had spent their 10 hours fishing, I think I’d have worked off quite a bit more than them!

So I think the questions might have been done a bit better, but it’s reassuring to know that my diet and exercise can’t be too bad if the small amount of alcohol I had was my highest risk. I’ll just have to work on cutting that down a bit now to be as healthy as I can be.

How the diet’s going: 1 month

How the diet’s going: 1 month

stoneledge farms CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Local FarmingYou might remember a month ago that I explained about how my Paleo diet had caused me to put on a bit of weight because I hadn’t really been keeping an eye on what I was eating, how well I was exercising and all of that. So I made a plan to try to get my health back on track and start losing a bit of that extra weight.

The first issue I had was eating too many calories each day – it was averaging at about 3500 calories daily, and there was even once where I think I must have had about 4500 calories! I started by reducing my portion sizes a bit; rather than filling up the whole plate with carbs and meat, I’ve been making sure to have just one portion of whatever food I’m having, meat or fish, with a small amount of carbs and plenty of veg. I’ve got my calorie intake down to about 2000 to 2500 a day. The recommended amount for men is 2500, but I need to have it below that if I’m to lose some weight, so I’m working on getting down a bit further. I’m trying to have less fatty and calorie rich snacks too now, including these healthy ones I listed here.

I’ve also started doing different exercise too, since I was stuck in a rut of just running at a normal pace and not getting my heart rate up high enough. I’m working towards being fit enough to try the “Insanity” DVD that my mate recommended to me, but as the name suggests, it is apparently crazy and you need to be prepared for it. I’m thinking about trying out a personal trainer at some point too and seeing how that goes, but I’m not quite ready to spend the money on that yet.

And finally, I’ve been attempting to get better sleep, but it’s pretty difficult when you’re used to being up till the midnight hours. I’ve cut down on the alcohol before bedtime, but that was more in an attempt to cut the calories rather than to get better sleep, but to be honest, I still haven’t been sleeping that well. It’s only been a month though, so maybe I’ll make that the focus for my next month.

All in all, I think I’m doing alright. I’ve only lost a couple of pounds, but I’m trying to work my way into it and make it an overall lifestyle change rather than a quick fix diet which I know I would completely fail on. I’ll come back with another update at some point and let you know how I’m getting on. I’m definitely feeling a bit healthier already though, like when I started the Paleo diet.

Image courtesy of smith_cl9.

Planning a winter break

Planning a winter break

SkisSo I know you’re probably looking at that title and wondering what I’m on about – it’s only just getting into summer, I’ve been talking about BBQs for months on end, and I’m planning a winter break?! To be honest, I’ve done a load of summer holidays in the past few years including Greece last year, and I’ve been really wanting to do something different, so have starting dreaming about places to go over winter.

When I started looking at prices, I realised how much cheaper it is to go away during the winter. I was looking at places like Tenerife and the Canary Islands where you can get some winter sun, but thinking about it, I’m not sure I’d like to go somewhere hot during winter – it just seems a bit weird.

I’ve been looking recently though at skiing breaks. I went a few times when I was younger, and it might surprise you to know that I’ve actually got all my own gear including ski boots, skis and all the clothes, although I’d better get on with working on this weight loss if I’m going to fit into them again!

In the past I’ve had to carry all my own stuff and pay extra on the plane, but since I’m trying to do this without hassle, I started looking at ways to get my stuff over to the resort without having to carry it with me. SendMyBag.com is a company I came across on Facebook and seems like the perfect solution – they’ll send your stuff for you for basically nothing compared to what airlines charge you.

verbiers

 

I was thinking at first of going to one of the places I’ve been before, such as Meribel in France which had great apres ski, but not so great slopes. But I think I might try somewhere new like Verbier in Switzerland (photo above, look at that slope!) which apparently has miles of pistes and excellent snow. Obviously I’m not booking anything up now, I’ll probably wait a few more months, but it’s a good idea to start thinking about it now. I’m thinking about asking a couple of mates along too, but we’ll see when it gets closer.

Images courtesy of Anders Ljungberg and Valais Wallis.

Tesco to remove all checkout sweets

Tesco to remove all checkout sweets

5493872431_d7f59d2b2d_bAlthough I stick to my paleo diet as much as possible, there are the odd occasions where I can’t help myself when I see a Snickers or a KitKat Chunky in the supermarket and just have to give in, so I was really pleased to read about this big move that Tesco are planning to take.

Everyone knows that supermarkets keep their sweets by the counters and checkouts to entice people who wouldn’t otherwise be buying them. You might think it’s only so kids will grab them and beg their parents for them, but think about how often you’ve picked them up from that area and dropped them onto the checkout belt – I know whenever I have bought sweets, it’s always been from the temptations of that area.

Tesco had committed to taking confectionary away from their checkout areas 20 years ago in larger stores, and are now planning to roll it out in all stores, big and small, throughout the country. Tesco are responding positively to customer feedback: according to their research, two thirds of customers said that taking away the sweets from the checkout area would help them to make healthier choices about their food, and I think if I’d been asked, I would have said exactly the same.

A parent from Mumsnet stated the following: “Popping into a shop with a small child in tow can sometimes feel like navigating an assault course. If you’ve made it to the checkout in one piece it can be really frustrating to then be faced with an unhealthy array of sweets designed to tempt your child.”

While that’s very true, I think those sweets are also aimed at adults too who aren’t able to resist the temptation, even when they try to eat a healthy diet like I do. I’m hoping this will help me keep on track with my weight loss, because in the past I’m pretty sure those chocolate bars will have been contributing to the gain!

Image courtesy of Meng He.

Paleo BBQ: Shrimp Skewers

Paleo BBQ: Shrimp Skewers

 

Prawn skewersFinally the sun managed to show its face during the weekend, and I managed to get the BBQ out for the first time this year. I had a couple of neighbours round who I’ve spoken to around and about who were interested in finding out more about my paleo diet. They seemed to think it was some kind of crazy, hippy diet, like the one where you only eat things that have fallen off the plant so you never kill anything, but I think they’ve realised that it’s actually pretty normal now – it just means not eating things that are processed really.

 

I wanted to do something a little bit different, because really most things on the BBQ are paleo-friendly anyway, so I had a bit of a browse around on the web to find a few interesting dishes. I decided to do my all-time favourite summer salad, the mango, pomegranate, avocado and mint salad I gave the recipe for in this post, and wanted something fairly light to go with it. I was inspired by all these recipes for “shrimps” (I kept finding them on American websites, but they’re just prawns to us Brits), and to be fair, isn’t “shrimp on the barbie” an Aussie thing? Anyway, I put together my own recipe for them based on what veg I already had lying around and it was definitely a success. Here’s what I did for four people:

 

Ingredients

For the marinade:
20 peeled king prawns
Juice of 2 lemons/limes
3 cloves of garlic (chopped finely/crushed)
2 tsp chilli flakes
2 tbsp olive oil

For the skewers:
10 cherry tomatoes
1 courgette
Pineapple

Directions

Mix together the marinade ingredients in a bowl with a twist of salt and pepper, then marinate for a minimum of an hour, preferably overnight if you can.

Soak wooden skewers in water for 10 minutes (this will stop them burning on the BBQ, and metal ones might burn you!).

Chop the courgette and pineapple into chunks (you should only need about a quarter of a pineapple, so save the rest for something else).

Thread the prawns, tomatoes, courgette and pineapple onto the skewers then barbeque for around 5 minutes on each side. Once the prawns are opaque and the vegetables slightly charred, they’re ready.

New computer arrived

New computer arrived

tamper proof boxI’ve been in need of a new computer for a couple of months now. I really didn’t want to have to part with the money, but when your home computer is the main source of your income like it is for me, it’s really something that you can’t be without. I was considering going for an Apple Mac because my mate’s always going on about his, but decided to go with another trusty HP desktop computer like my old one since I don’t want the hassle of having to figure out a new system. I ordered it online and was surprised to find it turned up only a couple of days later. So far, it’s been pretty good – everything’s working a lot more quickly than my old one that had got clogged up with stuff.

The only annoying thing about it is actually an aesthetic thing. I’d seen pictures of it online and picked that one in particular because it was fairly streamlined and stylish, but when it arrived, it had a big label stuck on the side. No problem, I thought I’d just pull it off, before noticing it had “Do not remove” written on it. Of course, the first thing I tried to do was remove it but soon found it was impossible – every time I scratched it away with my nail, it broke off into a tiny piece. It would take me hours to remove the whole thing! So I decided to leave it alone and look it up online, and what I found was actually quite interesting.

The label is what’s called a tamper proof destructible label: they’re made out of vinyl and designed to tear apart into pieces if you attempt to remove them. The purpose of them is to prove that the item you’ve received hasn’t been tampered with and isn’t stolen or counterfeit. About a year ago, I did a post about barcodes, so I was surprised to find that you can get security tags from Data-Label where I’d found all my info on barcodes.

wax seal

Destructible labels aren’t the only kind of security you can get though, there are also void polyester labels which will leave the word “void” on the product and you can’t reuse it. Some of the more common security tags you see are on clothes, some even have ink inside that will destroy the item if you attempt to remove it, and stickers on CDs and DVDs in shops to prevent theft. This might seem like modern technology, but it’s been around for years, with jars that have pop lids to prove that they haven’t been opened and contaminated, and even earlier than those, wax seals on letters so that only the recipient will be the reader. It’s fascinating to see how this technology started out and how it’s used now, but if only I could get this irritating label off my computer!

Images courtesy of Scott Cutler and Charlotte Gilhooly.

House extensions

House extensions

The other day I sat down to watch some TV – it’s not something I do a lot, because once I’m sat down in front of it with a cup of tea, there’s no moving me for hours, so I try not to sit down in the first place. But the weather was looking down, I wasn’t feeling so great and didn’t feel like getting on with my recent writing project, so TV it was. Being the middle of the day, to be honest it was mostly all rubbish, including Jeremy Kyle (which is always good for a laugh) and This Morning. I eventually found something I was interested in though, a programme called Double Your House for Half the Money, which is presented by property genius Sarah Beeny.

garden room extensionI know I talk about it a lot, but moving out to the countryside is one of the best things I’ve done, and since arriving here, I’ve never stopped thinking about ways I can improve on my house and the things in it. Now I’ve got it mostly kitted out with furniture, I’m thinking about new ways I can work on it. I was considering getting some sort of shed for the garden since I’m slowly collecting gardening tools in the shed, but after watching this programme, I’ve got even bigger ideas. There’s plenty of room around the house, so I’m starting to consider some sort of extension. Obviously it’s only in the early days, but I’ve managed to save quite a bit of money on living costs already living here, so it’s slowly adding up and I’m on my way there.

I guess I won’t be doing anything until at least the middle of summer, if not next spring, but there’s no harm in planning already. I found a list of suppliers that were used on the programme here and have started looking through them to add up costs and get inspiration. I’m thinking some sort of garden room, perhaps an extension off the side of the kitchen since that opens out onto fields at the back so I wouldn’t be intruding on the neighbours’ space. I’d definitely want big windows on it to see the views, but would need some good ones, including a good door too to keep the heat in. To be honest, I haven’t thought at all about a colour scheme or what furniture I’d put in it, but that’s all the fun of planning, finding out what you want and what’ll work for you. Once I’ve got some plans set in stone, I’ll update them on here, but it might not be for a while yet, need to keep saving for a bit longer first.

Image courtesy of Pete Turnbull.

Millions wasted on Tamiflu

Millions wasted on Tamiflu

SneezeI’ve always been a bit interested in health, and increasingly so recently with noticing how the paleo diet has affected my lifestyle positively (aside from that weight gain!). One of my major annoyances is colds and flu. When I lived in London, taking public transport was a nightmare because it meant being crammed into tiny spaces filled with bacteria-ridden people. I was forever washing my hands and eating oranges to try to stave off colds.

I heard on the news today though about Tamiflu and how it’s apparently not even any more effective than paracetamol for treating the symptoms, preventing and curing flu. I was really surprised because the government has spent more than £473 million on stockpiling Tamiflu in case of global pandemics.

The experts are saying that it definitely does nothing to prevent the spread of flu or reduce any of the complications that can arise from it, and it only has a small impact on the symptoms.

I was actually prescribed Tamiflu a few years ago when I had swine flu, and to be honest, I didn’t really think it did much then because I still felt absolutely awful. Apparently the most it does is reduce the persistence of flu symptoms by about two thirds of a day, from 7 days down to 6.3 in adults, but a simple paracetamol or cold and flu medication off the supermarket shelves could do the same thing.

In fact it’s claimed that the side effects of the drug outweigh the positive impact it has. It has been known to cause nausea, headaches, kidney problems, hyperglycaemia and psychiatric events.

I’m pretty shocked that it’s been around for so long and nobody’s realised how little effect it has on flu symptoms. In future I’m going to be thinking more carefully about what medication I take and doing a bit more research into it – you don’t want to be pumping your body full of chemicals that aren’t even having much of an effect.

Image courtesy of mcfarlandmo.

5 Healthy Paleo Snacks

5 Healthy Paleo Snacks

carrot and celery sticksSince discovering the cause of my recent weight gain, I decided that I should make an effort to choose healthier and less calorific snacks. I can’t go from one meal to another without having some form of snack, and while the nuts I was eating before were generally healthy, they turned out to be high in calories, so here’s a list of 5 healthy paleo snacks I’m looking forward to trying out now I’ve cut out the more calorific ones. The important thing to remember with these though is portion sizes, not to go overboard but just allow yourself enough to curb any hunger or cravings.

Kale Chips

I’ve already tried these as I had some kale that was getting close to unusable because I’d had it for a while, so I whacked it in the oven with a bit of coconut oil (there’s another use for it!) and sprinkled a bit of salt and pepper over it. It was really yummy and had that satisfying crunch.

Aubergine Jerky

Jerky is a big thing in the US, but hasn’t really taken off over here. It’s often a staple snack of hard core paleos over there too, and this is a twist on the original beef jerky. You simply marinade thin slices of aubergine in oil, vinegar, maple syrup and paprika then leave to dry on the lowest setting of your oven overnight. It’s apparently chewy and sweet, which sounds great to me.

Fruit Leather

This is fairly similar to the aubergine jerky in that it’s a dried out strip, but this time, one made of fruit. Remember those fruit roll ups you used to get when you were kid? I imagine these are similar, but with no additives or chemicals. You just boil up some fruit (the recipe I have says apple and strawberries) then mix with cinnamon and a bit of lemon juice in a blender and spread the mixture thinly onto an oven tray which you leave on a low setting (about 120C) overnight. It can then be peeled off and cut into strips.

Coconut Flakes

Coconut flakes are a bit of a cheat snack because you can buy these as they are at the supermarket. They’re great to have on hand to satisfy any sweet cravings.

Carrot and celery sticks with a guacamole dip

This is one of the easier ones because it doesn’t necessarily need preparing in advance. If you can get hold of a paleo style guacamole, you can keep that in the fridge, or knock some up yourself with ripe avocados, tomatoes, garlic and seasoning. Then all you need to do is chop up carrots and celery to dip into it.

Image courtesy of Yumi Kimura

Gaining weight on a Paleo diet

Gaining weight on a Paleo diet

Scale-A-Week: 7 March 2010Despite living on my healthy paleo diet for a long time now and doing plenty of exercise such as mat work and running, I’ve been putting on weight recently. It’s been fairly gradual, so at first I wasn’t worried about it, but I realised that since I’ve moved house, I’ve put on almost a stone! It isn’t a huge amount in total, because when I started on the paleo diet I lost a bit, but I’ve put that back on plus a few extra pounds – completely defeated the purpose! So I decided to take a visit to the Doctor to find out what was going on, and I was pretty surprised by some of the things he told me so I decided to share them.

He recommended keeping a closer eye on the amount of calories I eat. I’ve never bothered keeping track before, but since paleo is usually pretty high in protein and healthy fats in things like nuts, it turns out the calories do add up quickly. I followed his instructions, keeping an online diary of what I was eating and it totalled out at….almost 3500 calories on average a day! My portion sizes are just a little bit too big and I’ve been overdoing it on the healthy snacks – one day I even had 1000 calories worth of cashews without realising! So I’m going to carry on keeping track of it all, put less food on my plate, and keep an eye on what snacks I’m eating.

Weirdly he also said too much exercise can actually stop you losing weight. I’m not sure if I qualify for this because I don’t do too much intense exercise, just a bit of mat work and running as I said before, usually 4 or 5 days a week. The doctor advised 3 days of exercise a week though because apparently more can cause your body to retain water and stress your body. I think I need to change my exercise routine around a bit though because I’ve been doing the same thing for a few years now.

We all know how important sleep is to a healthy body, and this was the final recommendation. I’m a bit of a night owl, often staying up till 2 or 3am to get pieces in before their deadlines, but I do try to get up at a regular semi-early hour. I’d estimate I get about 5 hours sleep a night, and according to the doctor, that’s not enough. You should be aiming for 8 hours every night, and you need them to be hours of “good” sleep – so you really shouldn’t be having alcohol or excessive food just before bed because your body won’t rest properly if it’s still processing them. Goodbye midnight snacks!

I’m going to give all these things a go and I’ll report back to you on how it’s going in a few weeks. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back down to the weight I started at in the next couple of months.

Image courtesy of puuikibeach.