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You may have seen in the news earlier this week that the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, which represents most doctors in the UK, has advised that a 20% tax should be introduced on sugary drinks. This is supposed to make people drink less of them and is just one of a series of recommendations made with a view to tackling the UK’s growing obesity crisis. Well it’s good to see that doctors are finally taking an interest in doing something about obesity; but will taxing these drinks really work? In my local supermarket you can buy two 2 litre bottles of cheap pop for a pound. A 20% increase applied to that will bring the price up to £1.20. Is that really enough to put off those who simply can’t get through the day without their regular sugar fix? I don’t think so. And why pick on the manufacturers of these products in particular? People eat and drink plenty of other things that are bad for them. What about cheap booze, doughnuts and ready meals?! In my view it would be far more effective to educate people about why very sugary drinks are unhealthy so that they can make their own informed choice to avoid them.

 So why are these drinks so bad for us? Well, basically because consuming large quantities of them puts you on the fast track to obesity. Sodas contain large amounts of high fructose corn syrup that spikes your blood sugar, adds inches to your waistline and could in time can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes; although of course sugary drinks are by no means the only cause of this. I truly believe that most people, especially young ones, have no idea what a serious condition type 2 diabetes is and simply don’t realise how much damage they’re storing up by drinking large amounts of sugar, for example thinking nothing of supersizing their McDonalds meal with a large Coke.

This is how much sugar Coke contains!

 Of course you could just switch to diet versions of fizzy drinks, which contain no sugar; but these are harmful in a different way – full of artificial sweeteners plus scary cocktails of colouring and flavouring chemicals. I believe that one of the single most positive things you can do to help yourself become more healthy is to replace fizzy drinks and squashes with plain water – and it doesn’t have to be the pricey bottled stuff. I meet so many people who consume frightening amounts of sugary drinks, people who would never dream of turning on the tap and having a drink of what my Nana used to call ‘Corporation Pop’. Only this week I watched an episode of Supersize vs Superskinny featuring a woman who drank at least a pint of cola with every meal – sometimes two – and wondered why she weighed over 20 stone! I can guarantee that if you drink vast amounts of pop every day you’ll feel miles better if you simply replace it with water; less tired and headachy, more energetic.

Learn to love water!

Of course some people say they need sugary drinks and (even more worryingly) energy drinks such as Red Bull to get them through the day and stop them feeling tired. If this is the case you need to look at what you’re eating too. Junk food won’t give you the energy you need to sustain a busy lifestyle – good nutrition will.

 Rather than taking a reactive, negative stance on obesity by simply taxing everything that’s bad for us, the government should be doing more to educate people on how to make positive choices about what they consume and why they should do that – not just children in schools, but adults too. What do you think?

 

 

Feet. Most of us really take them for granted, don’t we? They sit there at the end of our legs and work pretty hard, but usually get very little back in return. They really deserve better, especially at this time of year when most of us are doing a lot more running around than usual. So when I heard that my friend Andrea Morrison, who’s just set up her business Eden House Holistic, was doing taster sessions in reflexology I thought I’d give it a go. Of course reflexology isn’t just about pampering – Andrea is a clinical reflexologist, which means she identifies and concentrates on particular reflexes, depending on the needs of the client.

Most people are aware that reflexology involves the feet, but how does it work exactly? Basically it’s a holistic therapy working on the principle that the body’s organs, glands and other parts are mapped out in zones or reflexes on the feet, and that stimulating these points in a certain way can assist in the body’s well-being. Reflexologists are not allowed to make claims regarding its effectiveness for specific conditions; however, medical trials have been carried out apparently demonstrating that it can help many common complaints such as IBS, cancer, back pain, sleep disorders and stress.

Example of a chart showing how the various areas of the foot correspond to the organs of the body in reflexology.

Reflexology has roots dating back to Ancient Egypt, India and China, but was not introduced to the West until Dr William Fitzgerald developed Zone Therapy in the USA in 1913, claiming that reflex areas on the feet and hands were linked to other areas and organs of the body within the same zone. In the 1930s nurse and physiotherapist Eunice Ingham further developed this zone theory into what is known as reflexology. Her opinion was that congestion or tension in any part of the foot is mirrored in the corresponding part of the body. Therapists use their hands to apply pressure to the feet to identify and treat areas of concern.

Andrea’s treatment room at Eden House.

 So how was it for me? Sitting in a special super-comfy chair in Andrea’s tranquil treatment room and covered with a blanket I felt very cosy during the brief consultation! Andrea explained that she would usually take a full medical history from patients having an initial consultation. The actual treatment consisted of Andrea applying some lotion to my feet, then working her way carefully around them with her fingers and thumbs. Luckily this didn’t tickle at all – in fact in a couple of places it was slightly uncomfortable or even a bit crunchy! The part relating to my slightly dodgy lower back showed up (unsurprisingly). More surprisingly, Andrea identified that the area relating to my throat felt slightly uncomfortable, and in fact I had had a bit of a sore throat for a couple of days previously – so I definitely think there must be something in it!

Although fairly brief, the session was very relaxing – a nice treat for my running feet apart from anything else! Andrea explained that reflexology isn’t just for treating problems, it’s also a great way to just have a bit of me-time and chill out. I would say it’s a great idea for anyone who might feel a bit self-conscious about stripping off and being covered in oil for a full massage. I’d definitely do it again!

If you’re interested in finding out more about reflexology you can do so on the Association of Reflexologists website. If you’d like to book an appointment with Andrea you can find her contact details on the Eden House Holistic website, as well as details of her latest special offers. One of her vouchers would make a great Christmas present for a stress-head – or a runner!

 

Several people I’ve met recently tell me they don’t sleep very well. It seems to be a growing problem, with many of us getting by on less sleep than we need and feeling continually exhausted. It’s more important to get a good night’s sleep than you might realise; sleep deprivation doesn’t just make you feel rubbish – it leads to poor mental and physical performance, disrupts your hormones and can even make you put on weight! Of course there are times when disturbed sleep just can’t be helped – like when you’re coping with a new baby or, for some women, going through the menopause – but generally everyone should try to get some quality shut-eye every night. If you find this difficult, here are some tips that might help. 

  • Eat your main meal early in the evening so your body isn’t still digesting food when you go to bed.
  • Avoid caffeine after lunchtime – it can linger in your system for up to ten hours!
  • Avoid excess alcohol; drinking a lot in the evening can cause a big dip in your blood sugar during the night which could wake you up. Wine is not a good aid to sleep!
  • Don’t go straight to bed straight after finishing work. Take some time to let your mind relax before you settle down to sleep.
  • Exercising late at night can also make you too alert to go to sleep.
  • Try to develop a regular sleep routine, getting up and going to bed at about the same time every day, even at the weekend.
  • Go to bed earlier – don’t just veg out in front of the TV or computer until late at night!
  • If you have trouble dropping off to sleep have some hot milk before you go to bed (yes, it really does help) and sprinkle some lavender oil onto your pillow.
  • If you wake up in the night, don’t lie in bed tossing and turning – that will just make things worse. The best thing is to get up and do something really boring. I know people who’ve had success with ironing or reading instruction manuals! After a while you should start to feel sleepy and can go back to bed. 

Hope this helps a bit. Sleep well! xx