My first Year with Fitbit

Last week  I received an email from Fitbit to tell me my stats for the past year.

My flexible friend was a Christmas Gift in 2013 and I knew I had walked over 1000 miles and worn out a pair of trainers but my stats were really quite surprising.

In 2014 I walked 1128 miles and 2552,528 steps.  Now when I was teaching I know I moved about 13,000 steps every school day and that would have been no surprise to me. Once I stopped that and life revolved around the home office and the garden I knew pretty soon I was in trouble. My stamina and endurance had gone and the pounds began to pile on. In late 2012 and all of 2013 I was trying to go for a walk every day and building extra walks into my daily life.

It’s true what they say about every little helping if you park the car at bottom of car park and get off the bus a stop early. I have even walked round the malls in Abu Dhabi to get my daily Fitbit fix (nice and cool in there). In fact the hotel manager was the first other person I saw wearing a Flex band!  I walked up and down the hill in my sister’s housing estate  in South Africa and along the pristine sand at Kersbosstrand.

Mostly though I just walk down the town and back via the beautiful seafront we are blessed with in Seaford or over the golf course into the South Downs National Park.  A trip to London or Brighton is a reason for a longer walk. Down to the station and back then London Park and city walks with a friend plus great conversation and coffee and lunch stops are my favourite easily clocking up over  6 miles in a day.

Tide Mills round walkstats

Tide Mills round walkstats

As a successful weight loss maintaining member of MyFitnessPal I was encouraged by  very active long term pal to join the monthly Move Your @ss Challenge  aka MYAC and over the year  have gradually increased my monthly goal (we only challenge ourselves so no major hassles there)

The Fitbit community itself was an eye opener. No sooner had I said hello in the over 60s section when I got loads of friend requests from people doing 20K plus steps a day. My 6k or 7k would leave me at the bottom of their chart and feeling superior so it seemed given they sent taunts! …so I soon knocked that on the head.

It seems there is a similar though younger element on UK Fitbit Fanatics on Facebook where up to 50K steps a day are being paraded by non runners. Sorry good for you, but I don’t find that very encouraging!  Another good thing though is there seems to be plenty of young mums pushing their buggies for miles.

I did discover a sensible shopping voucher earning system through that called and I have already earned £5 for doing what I do already. If you want to join use my code brett1102 to get a bonus and I will get one too. It connects to Runkeeper, MapMyWalk, Strava, Garmin  etc too and can be used in some gyms and strikes me as  a cost effective way to incentivise  and get the obese more active without costing the NHS more than the price of a Flex band. I mentioned this to the consultant at this week’s hospital appointment and she thought it was a great idea.

The Accuracy of all these smart devices has been called into question lately and yes there is a slight discrepancy between Mapmywalk and Fitbit with the former measuring distance as slightly longer; but my point is does it matter if it gets idle people like me moving?


Why is orange juice so popular?

Last week I watched a TV programme called Eat Well for Less. I was really hoping it would focus on healthy eating as a way to get people to be more mindful of what they eat ie. cut out the junk and unnecessary extras, waste less food and also help people choose cheaper options without forgoing quality and nutrition. It succeeded to some extent on the last point.

oranges 2

I was staggered to see this apparently average family consume 4 litres of high sugar orange juice very week. Not sure if they rely on BOGOFs but it is a product you often see in these.

Since when did orange juice become such a staple? As a child growing up in the 50s and 60s (yes I have got he grumpy old woman badge) juice came in tiny 50 ml glasses in the B and B’s of annual holidays or as tiny bottles of very sweet Britvic served in pubs! At home we had squash well diluted or Adams ale. Later as a 1980s holiday maker in Greece I remember the reps warning us off drinking the large cartons in a day as it could lead to upset stomachs- due to the acid I presume?

These days in hotels the juice is on tap and people fill large  200 plus ml glasses with impunity. In Boston a few years ago we had to keep saying no to hotel waiters as it seemed they topped it up all the time over breakfast and with a newly diagnosed type 2 diabetic in tow, it was off limits. None of them seemed to have any awareness of the sugar content in even a small glass (6 teaspoons) no idea about diabesity then.

More recently the fashion for smoothies has increased sugar from juice intake and now I am told there is a new must have gadget called the Nutribullet which juices up fruit, vegetable, nuts, seeds etc to make an allegedly  more healthful drink. If you would not eat all this as a snack when whole, why do you need all its calories in one go?

Ask yourself do we really need all these new products?

What’s wrong with eating an actual orange  or satsuma instead? That way you get the fibre from the fruit as well as some vitamin C which actually counts towards your 5 a day and takes longer to digest as well as damaging teeth less.

Nothing wrong with eating a whole orange

Nothing wrong with eating a whole orange

Baking with less sugar

With the current fashion for home baking thanks to The Great British Bake Off and other media influences I have been trying to extend my repertoire of sweet treats that will not add to the diabesity and heart disease explosion.

I was always taught to follow cake baking recipes to the letter in order to get the texture right however experiments with sugar substitutes when I was teaching just did not taste right hence my efforts to cut the sugar in many of the recipes we used. Fruit or plain scones without the sugar, muffins with 20% less all seemed to work well and taste fine.

At home I went further and started to look at some of our old favourites. Tea bread with 20% less sugar than the recipes and ditto lemon layer pudding or cheesecake. I also served up custard powder custard with no sugar at all in it over a crumble with no comments.

Fruit crumble is one of our all time favourites so this is the one I focussed on , Did I need to add sugar to the fruit –no not if it was canned in juice or had been frozen. How about apples? Well the secret is not if you add some home picked blackberries or fresh plums.

I experimented with the toppings for a while and although this does not have the solid texture of a traditional crumble it works for us!
Mix 400g blackberries – picked from the golf course last Autumn  during my foraging expeditions and frozen . Add  200g sliced apples – Bramley’s or dessert it make no difference. Place in oven proof dish
Make the topping by rubbing in 30g butter to 50g spelt flour and 50g plain white. Stir in 20g brown sugar and 10 g porridge oats.
Sprinkle over the fruit. Finish with 10g mixed seeds.
Bake at 180 for 25 minutes. Serves 6 and gives about 168 calories a portion

Blackberry and apple

Blackberry and apple

Celebrity Chefs and Healthy Eating


Hairy Dieters jerk chicken with home made low fat coleslaw and brown rice

In the UK we love our food porn, people spend a fortune on recipe books they probably rarely use and love TV programmes like The Great British Bake Off. Problem is most of these programmes and recipes are not very good for our waistlines, heart health or sugar and salt addictions. If eating out I am forever asking for the chef to not add any extra salt for instance (often with limited results)
During my 25 years as a food teacher I became very disenchanted with many of our TV chefs . Back in the 80s we watched and learned to broaden our horizons from the likes of Sarah Brown –in Vegetarian Kitchen. Inspirational chefs like Ken Hom and Madhur Jaffrey enabled me to get some skills in ethnic food preparation and I can even remember Gary Rhodes giving helpful hints on scone cutting. In the past we enjoyed the Galloping Gourmet and the antics of Keith Floyd. Moving on to the 1990s there was an explosion of what were now called ‘celebrity chefs ‘ and I soon became bored and switched off. I certainly rarely bought a cook book either. As the internet became more important, we would google for something we were interested in rather than buy a book which would sit on the shelf for decoration waiting for a rare read. I have been gifted cook books which I have hardly opened too. Cookery programmes have long passed into the realms of entertainment and competition . Twitter means they are a kind of spectator sport. Everyone has an opinion they can share.
Luckily we are starting to see a shift in focus and some of these now very well-known and affluent chefs are starting to think about the Nation’s Health, This started with Jamie Oliver and his school meals campaign followed by this efforts to get the locals cooking in Rotherham. He bit off a bit more than he could chew trying it in the USA too but all power to him for trying. More recently we have seen James Martin be the first chef in 21 failed attempts by other well-known faces to actually improve the Hospital food offering in Scarborough and the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham. The Hairy Bikers got a meals on wheels service going again In various places; then owned up to their own Obesity. They took on a 3 month challenge to do something about it by changing their own diets and taking up exercise. Now they have started the Hairy Bikers Diet Club in an effort to help more people change their lifestyle and still eat the sort of food many of us have come to enjoy. Yes they charge a monthly fee if you want to use their App and get more support than the recipe books but then Weight Watchers and Slimming world charge too. BUT This is where I think they have a good point – their meals are made with ingredients from scratch. There are no low fat (high sugar) special ‘diet ‘foods as far as I can see. Yes dear readers I actually bought the book and find that the curries and spicy recipes they suggest work very well indeed. Many of the other recipes are similar to those I have already adapted for our own new lifestyle but I have certainly picked up a few more ideas from them too. My only concern is adding sugar to things that don’t need it IMHO – including savoury meals. Not good in a house where we have turned back type 2 diabetes.

Hairy Dieters recipe for Marinating jerk chicken no added oil


I am hoping that we are going to see more of this in the near future, after all I don’t think it is rocket science to adapt recipes to make them healthier. So come on chefs- who will be next to help fight diabesity?

Yes its official – all that sugar added to processed food causes obesity.

I did not know whether to cheer or sigh at this week’s news in the UK that obesity experts are now launching a campaign to put pressure on the government and industry to cut the sugar content of food and drinks by up to 30%. ( see @Actiononsugar on twitter ) I could hardly believe it when on BBC breakfast this morning Louise Minchin expressed her amazement that 300g Heinz tomato soup contains 4 teaspoons of sugar. (My food of choice incidentally when feeling poorly as was childhood comfort food) Clearly she was never in a Food class taught by me or my colleagues over the last 30 years. I am amazed that more people do not seem to realise how much sugar they are eating
Indeed healthy eating has been on the curriculum for many years and I recall stacking up the sugar cubes with the bottles of cola and sauces as well as breakfast cereals- the ones aimed at children being the worst offenders. 36% sugar in one chocolate flavour cereal when the class collected the packets. Then there were the pies and canned foods students might not have realised were sugary. We even tried to dissolve a tooth in cola once!
Later on in the age of nutritional software we challenged classes to produce snack bars that were less sugary and fatty than many of the premium commercial ones. Yes we succeed too with fruit and nut flapjack, scones and the like. We went on company websites like Starbucks and saw for ourselves the calories from sugar (and fat) in those coffees so many people love tocarry around and from the mega double chocolate chip muffins. Sadly not everyone stopped buying them though and not just as a rare treat but regularly.
For my entire teaching career Professors like Philip James have been advising us to change our habits and develop more awareness. It must be so frustrating for them. Apparently Industry believes we all read and understand food labels and balance our diets by eating less ! so sugar does not need to be targeted…


Plums and greek yogurt

Plums and greek yogurt

Dr Aseem Malhotra cardiologist and science director of the new group has highlighted the link between sugar consumption and diabetes (type 2) whether we are overweight or not. As a partner of someone who has turned back the tide on type 2 I can assure you that reducing sugar content in his daily diet as well as alcohol (sugary) has played a large part in this. #Diabesity can be reversed
Everywhere I go children are snacking on sugary products popping into the bakery for doughnuts and cakes on the way to school, some of those fruit flavoured packed lunch strips and ‘Childrens yogurts’ make me want to weep for their future health.
Our most recent builders never stopped to eat but they got through a half a kilo of sugar in their tea and coffee in 4 days….
Maybe this time industry will take some responsibility and allow us to control our sugar intake better.

Why is there such poor availability of Healthier Options in local supermarkets? rant!

My other half has been trying to get me to do a food blog for ages but I have always felt it was an overloaded l area on the web, however since moving to beautiful Seaford on the South Downs  of East Sussex UK   in August I am finally moved to share my frustrations.

As an older woman  I have been working hard since I left teaching  2 years ago to have a healthier lifestyle. I now walk by the sea or on the Cliffs nearly every day.  I have also managed to lose nearly 2 stone in weight  (thanks MFP but that’s another story) and get rid of most of my middle aged spread. My partner has also lost weight, changed his eating habits  and is no longer type 2 diabetic. He has long called me ‘The Food Police’

I was looking forward to being able to access fresh fish from the fishmonger (who is great and tells me good ways to cook it) , use a real butcher and  enjoy all my usual products and more at the enormous Sainsburys in Newhaven which is about 4 times the size of the old one in Warlingham. From my first visit to the latter I could not have been more disappointed and frustrated.

Where was my regular spaghetti ?– the Hi fibre  white (with oat fibre) that we use so much of to help keep our  cholesterol down. I spent time on the phone with their customer centre  but they did not seem to know what I was talking about.  Where were Blue Dragon whole wheat noodles and Alpro Unsweetened Almond milk about which I also wrote to the manufacturer.  The customer service desk said they have no power over what comes into the store – in fact I was told today they only stock what there is demand for.

Aagh if you don’t stock things they will not build up a following will they ? and how many customers just go elsewhere – I was told the Eastbourne Sainsburys is much better but why should I drive 15 miles how ecologically unsound is that?  Anyway this has turned out to be untrue because would you believe it about a month later I was doing my weekly shop and there they were- my spaghetti and my noodles- the following week the two hi fibre pasta versions appeared.  Next came Alpro unsweetened almond milk though I have to say this has not always been there since. Still no sign of the Sainsburys own brand plain passata jars though of course you can buy all sorts of pasta sauces with added  flavours sugar etc. The store stocks far more highly processed food  including endless cakes, biscuits and ‘snacks’ than I am used to seeing  on display which is a bit depressing in an area like this.

Seaford and Newhaven is a community where there are many older people  who  need to manage our modern day ills like type  2 diabetes and heart disease There is also a significant sector of low waged working  families and people living on benefits. Surely they  deserve the choice of  healthier options? My initial foray into Morrisons in Seaford filled me with dismay- such poor quality fruit and vegetables and you can’t even get  a couple of slices of  unpackaged cold cuts from their so called deli counter. They cut it and pre-package.  The less mobile  and  many of them  appear very elderly tend  to shop here and they are not well served as far as I can see.

So the straw that broke the camel’s back was yesterday when I went to get the Non dairy Koko milk with added calcium which I enjoy after my daily walk. The shelf was bare- was told they get one case at a time- 12 cartons and for the first time ever I actually ordered it meaning I had to waste time and petrol returning today to collect it.

It makes we so angry that the big supermarket chains who let’s face it have so much power over the growers, manufacturers and  consumers can’t even stock a few wholegrain staples like  large packs of plain brown rice, pasta and a wide range of vegetables both fresh and frozen. They have the chance to show social responsibility and promote these products instead of forever coming up with new pre prepared options. There  is a place for the latter in our busy lives but not  for everyday or at the expense of real food for good health.

 Does anyone agree?