By Megan Smiley, Feb 4 2016 09:54AM

Entomophagy, the act of humans consuming insects. Although the norm for many cultures (around 80% of the world's population) across South America, Asia and Africa, most Brits' exposure and knowledge of eating creepy crawlies starts and finishes with having watched celebs eat them as a challenge on I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. And for them, the idea of it isn't an appealing one.

However, with the detrimental environmental effects (air and water pollution, deforestation and overfishing) of farming such vast quantities of livestock 'needed' to fulfil the growing demands for meat and fish, then eating insects might be the answer. It is a cost-effective and eco-friendly process and they're packed with protein, minerals, vitamins, fibre and healthy fats.

The availability of insect based products in the developed world is increasing and cricket flour is one of the main ingredients you'll see. Smash Nutrition have Madagascan Vanilla and Peruvian Cocoa flavoured protein powder made from natural protein sources including soy, casein, pumpkin seed powder, spirulina and, of course, cricket flour. Protein bars using cricket flour are also popping up for your 'on the go' insect fuelled protein hit!

We are yet to see much of a take up of using insects as a main component of a meal, though apparently cheesy locust croquettes are pretty tasty! There is now a restaurant dedicated to entomophagy in Pembrokeshire called Grub Kitchen and Wahaca did feature grasshoppers on their menu for a while, but apart from that, insects are a rare sight on most menus.

I personally don't have a problem with the idea of eating insects, I might not hanker for a cricket 'burger' in the same way I do a tuna steak, although I don't know that as I've never had one. But I can see the massive benefits and I care about our planet, and if we don't change our eating habits, with an increasing global population and an ever increasing meat and fish consumption, then the impact on the environment could and will be catastrophic.

I understand not everyone will like the idea of eating insects, but if we don't shift our stubborn and unfounded views and move this very sustainable, eco-friendly and nutritious source of protein away from a taboo food and into an everyday food then we're asking for trouble. Many of us don't think twice about eating seafood which isn't dissimilar to insects in many ways, and who's had those delicious garlicky buttery snails in France?

There are other ways in which you can help as well:

- Go meat-free for at least one day a week. There are plenty of non-meat products that contain protein that aren’t insects, think lentils, beans, soya, nuts and seeds.

- Buy ethically where you can. Fairtrade helps human rights of producers, Organic helps environment sustainability, and Farm Assured helps the quality of food, animal welfare and environmental protection. Also, think about about buying local and seasonal products, reducing the 'food miles' of your groceries.

- Don't waste food! This is one of my top pet hates. If you have leftovers, great, keep them and eat them. Don't let food go off, and if it is a little after it's best you can still use it. I'm not talking gone off meat and fish but over ripe fruit and veg - great for smoothies and soups, stale bread - great for bread crumbs etc. And remember you can pretty much freeze anything, there's really no excuse!

Now, anyone for some mealworm fried rice?

By Megan Smiley, Dec 1 2015 11:43AM

Most of you will have heard of clean eating, a term and lifestyle choice that's grown in popularity over the past few years. Clean eating is pretty much exactly what it says; eating cleanly by avoiding 'dirty' foods such as anything processed, and opting for whole and fresh foods.

With Christmas, comes a month of social events, indulgence and eating and drinking scenarios out of the norm. So can you get through the festive period without becoming a 'dirty eater'?!

I'm an advocate of clean eating and I do pretty much stick to it. I rarely eat processed foods, I cook most of my meals from one ingredient items, as in from scratch: no packets or jars, and I eat whole foods and lots of fruit and veg. Having said that I'm also an advocate of the 80/20 diet, being good 80% of the time and then letting your hair down 20% of the time. It's all about balance, don't you know!

So how am I feeling about the festivities on the horizon, as there will be way more than six days (20% of the month) where there is festive fun to be had.

Well firstly I'm excited – I love Christmas. And secondly a little anxious of the inevitable slip up in my health and fitness levels. This anxiety has been amplified the last couple of years by worrying about squeezing into a made-to-measure bridesmaid dress for a wedding on New Year's Eve last year, and this year heading on a beach holiday on the 27th December. But I do think you can have a clean Christmas.

Eating clean doesn't mean no treats or tasty stuff, it just means thinking and picking a little more wisely when it comes to food. Clean eating isn't about calorie counting, it's about the quality and the balance (in terms of macronutrients e.g. the ratio of carbs, proteins and fats) of food you're putting in your body. So there can still be over indulgence but just the right type of over indulgence! Think salmon rather than salami, dates over doughnuts, roasted chestnuts over chocolates, you get the picture.

There is one thing I haven’t mentioned though, alcohol. Clean eating, unsurprisingly, encourages reducing alcohol consumption… I'll just make sure I drink it in that 20% 'letting my hair down' window and it'll all be fine!

By Megan Smiley, Oct 23 2015 04:52PM

Yesterday, Public Health England (PHE) released their long awaited report into sugar. There's no surprise in the fact that it clearly states that sugar consumption in this country is out of hand and if action isn't taken, weight gain and health related issues will increase even further from the current worrying levels we're already at.

With almost 25% of adults in England classed as obese and significant numbers also being overweight, and treatment of obesity and its consequences (type-2 diabetes being one of the most significant) already costing the NHS £5.1bn every single year, if we let this problem escalate further there will be not only catastrophic health, but also economic issues.

The Scientific Advisory Committee of Nutrition (SACN) have recommended the public to halve their sugar intake, so that just 5% of their calories come from sugar. This currently looks pretty unachievable without some drastic change. One can of fizzy drink contains way over the amount of sugar to stick to the 5% recommendation.

I strongly believe that Government, organisations such as PHE, SACN and food manufacturers have a vital and urgent role to play in this battle, and if the recommendations in PHE's report, listed below are fulfilled then this would definitely be a start to addressing this problem.

* A sugar tax between 10% and 20%

* Significantly reducing advertising high sugar food and drink to children

* Targeting supermarkets, takeaways and other food outlets special offers and promotions

* Setting clear definitions for high sugar foods to help create better regulations

* Sugar reduction in everyday food and drink

* Ensure the sale of healthier foods in hospitals and other public places

* Ensure training in diet and health is delivered to influencers of food choices in catering, fitness and leisure sectors

* Continue to raise awareness of this issue to the public, health professionals, employers, the food industry and provide and encourage practical steps on how to reduce sugar intake

The last point above touches on this: it is also down to individuals. Yes, the public needs more information and needs educating, and to not be tricked or persuaded into marketing traps e.g. low fat foods being healthy options when they're actually loaded with extra sugar. But, ultimately, people need to take responsibility for their own health and look after their bodies.

The sugar crisis is pretty much due to added sugar – yes, all sugar is sugar. However when you have a piece of fruit yes, it contains fructose but also vitamins, minerals and fibre. Plus not many people eat excessive amounts of fruit like they do cakes/ biscuits/ fizzy drinks etc. Processed sugary foods like that have very little, if any nutritional value; this is why they're known as “empty calories”.

So, guess what? Yes that's right, if people avoid/reduce processed foods and eat natural unprocessed foods then this problem would slowly but steadily disappear!

Read more on this on the Guardian and BBC websites.

By Megan Smiley, Sep 10 2015 08:48AM

As the days get shorter and the weather starts to feel more wintery, I always feel a pang of sadness to be saying goodbye to summer (not that it felt much like summer over the past six weeks!).

There are many reasons for this: I am a sun worshipper; I could spend hours lying in the sun soaking up the rays, and I feel the cold. So the fact I work outside in parks all day means I really notice the change. Plus on a more practical side the shorter days mean there are fewer hours in the day I can train people. And getting up when it's still pitch black, makes those 5.30am mornings that bit harder!

However, once I’m over that initial sorrow, I start to get excited about what the coming seasons have to offer. This might sound like a complete contradiction to what I just said above, but autumn is actually my favourite season. There is less of an expectation for good weather therefore less room for disappointment, and the colours are magical. Trees become things of real beauty, layers of leaves become glossy carpets and on those clear days with the sun sitting low in the sky, long slender shadows make everything look stunning.

Also, in summer the parks are full of picnickers and 'fair weather' park goers, but as the days get colder the parks get emptier, with only your hardcore people made up of fellow exercisers, dog walkers and a few random others. This creates a more peaceful (and fulfilling – I'm out in the cold when most others are sitting indoors) environment to be in.

Finally, with autumn follows winter, and those who know me, know how much I love all the festivities around Christmas, and then a cheeky ski trip in the New Year makes a very positive start to the year!

Basically, I love seasons and the change in nature, activities and people's behaviour you see throughout the year, and I would hate to live somewhere where it gets dark at the same time all year round and where you don't need a winter coat. So if you do hear me moaning about being cold, tell me to be quiet as you now know I secretly like it!

By Megan Smiley, Jul 30 2015 08:48AM

I've always loved a bit of sportswear from the days of shell suits and over sized Kappa t-shirts to C&A's brightly coloured ski range. So it's lucky that I ended up in a job where I get to wear sports clothes every single day as my 'uniform'. In fact, I sometimes feel a little strange when I pop on a pair of jeans and a top that doesn't have a racer back!

However, the lack of decent, affordable women's sportswear has been an issue over the years. As with many things in sport, it is dominated by a focus on men, and it has felt like women's clothing has often been an afterthought. But there's been a shift. Stylish and functional sportswear for women has started to pop up all over, rather than being a pleasant surprise when you found something decent, now you have a choice.

This has been down to a number of reasons: the big established sports brands expanding their women's range, and collaborating with designers and significant style icons - the most famous being Stella McCartney for adidas. Also, high-street shops like H&M branching out to sportswear. And not to overlook the growing number of female specific sports brands such as Sweaty Betty and Lorna Jane.

All of the above and more, means you can choose your clothing for what exercise you're doing (be it tennis, yoga, gym sessions, running, cycling etc), colours, fit, style, or what brand you want to be seen in. I'm obviously a purist when it comes to sportswear as I still love the originals like adidas, nike and puma. There is a downside to this, for me anyway, and that is that as there are so many great pieces around now, that I could end up spending a small fortune on sportswear (I obviously need it all, it's my job!). I am in double figures, at least, for the number of sports leggings I have!

But I would much rather have the choice of good looking, good fitting and good performing sportswear and have to show a little self-restraint at times, than how it used to be!

By Megan Smiley, Jun 5 2015 09:04AM

Last Saturday night I didn’t get to bed till 5am. This is pretty much unheard of for me these days, I’m normally getting up around that time and if I'm out in public past about midnight I normally fall asleep!

However, I wasn't out socialising but being a Ride Angel for Women V Cancer Ride the Night. In it's second year, the ride saw around 1,800 women cycle 100km from Windsor into London and back again for three charities: Breast Cancer Care, Ovarian Cancer Action and Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust.

It was an amazing night. Of all the organised rides I've done, I’m always in the minority being a woman, so it was brilliant to be the majority, in fact men weren't allowed to do it! Also, to see so many women on their bikes, more than I’ve ever seen, was incredible.

Setting off at around 9pm it was still light, so the impressiveness of the fancy dress that pretty much everyone had, didn't show it's true colours at that point, but as the night went on and got darker, the fairy wings with lights, the tutus with lights, the helmets with lit up mohicans, and all the other wonderfully creative outfits, became quite a spectacle, receiving well deserved cheers, encouragement and some slightly drunken attention whilst cycling through Richmond at midnight. At a glance people might have thought it was a massive cycling hen do!

As a Ride Angel I was there to support riders, checking people were ok if they had pulled over, helping with any minor mechanical issues or calling for the 'official' support if needed, as well as keeping up morale. However, I was hardly needed, partly because there were few punctures (perhaps due to most not being on road bikes with thin, easily punctured tyres), but mainly on the morale front. Even with the rain starting at 1am on Sunday morning spirits were high, and motivation and determination levels were ever higher, as many people were cycling in memory of a lost loved one.

Finishing at just before 4am pretty drenched and a little sleep deprived, I couldn't help feeling a warm glow inside. This was a truly unique event, that has so far raised £768,000 for the three charities, and they are aiming to reach one million. What really makes this ride unique though, is all those women on their bikes in their fancy dress laughing and chatting and doing something amazing for a cause dear to them, and I felt privileged to cycle alongside them.

By Megan Smiley, Apr 27 2015 02:37PM

SAD is Seasonal Affective Disorder. According to the SADA (Seasonal Affective Disorder Association) it is a depressive illness caused by shortened daylight hours and lack of sunlight. Only 2% of the UK population suffer from full-blown SAD, but there is sub-syndromal SAD where the symptoms of SAD cause discomfort but not to a debilitating level, this effects 20% of the UK population.

I whole-heartedly believe I'm affected by SAD, probably in the sub-syndromal SAD category as the symptoms aren't life altering but my mood and motivation levels are definitely affected: sunshine gives me energy and makes me feel happy. I would honestly struggle to live in a home that is dark and lacking natural light; no lower ground floor flats for me!

The theory behind SAD is that as living organisms we need sunlight, specifically the vitamin D in there. There are many issues that are linked to lack of vitamin D including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and dementia as highlighted in The Guardian's recent article on How to avoid vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is also in oily fish, and vitamin D supplements can be taken which the Government advises for pregnant and breastfeeding women, children from six months to five years and over 65s.

Humans historically worked outside: hunting, farming and such, and until relatively recently - the past century or so, that was still the case, therefore getting enough sunlight wasn't an issue. However, now the service industry has taken over, the air conditioned office is the main working environment, meaning many of us don't see any daylight during the winter months.

When you mention SAD many people seem to think they are affected by it. So does that mean everyone is happier and less depressed in summer? Well I can definitely say most people are cheerier on sun-filled days. But on these sunny days, with long working hours how do you obtain enough sunlight to battle this problem? Get out and about more: at lunch times, weekends and days off. Make the most of the time you have to get some sunshine. A walk on a sunny and frosty winter's day can give you the same boost as being in your bikini on a beach all day.

As with many things in life, it's about time management and making the most of a situation. The expression make hay while the sun shines couldn't be more apt!

By Megan Smiley, Mar 2 2015 04:50PM

What with New Year's resolutions still clinging on and Lent in full swing, there is an air of abstinence around at the moment. However, I'm confident in predicting that many of these self-issued challenges will not be achieved, but why? Too much temptation? Too little willpower? Or are these things we're trying to give up actually an addiction that need more help than an agreement made with yourself in a moment of slightly unrealistic aspirations.

Addiction is often a taboo subject; something that is not spoken about or not even accepted that it exists. Saying that, you also have people throwing around the statement that they're addicted to something or another: “I'm literally addicted to exercise/ food/ a TV programme”. I can hear myself harping on about my 'addiction' to a can of diet coke.

So what is an addiction? Have we high-jacked the real meaning of the word like we have with the word 'literally'? Definitions of addiction include:

"The fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance or activity" 1

"Physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance" 2

"An unusually great interest in something or a need to do or have something" 3

So it's a severe connection to a particular thing, and usually a negative connection. Although the last definition doesn't really have a negative connotation and is actually the one I think best describes what I class as an addiction.

As I believe an addiction to be the uncontrollable need for a particular thing: you have to have/do/ consume that certain thing, in my opinion you can categorise addiction into two main types: physical and mental. Of course these types aren't by any means mutually exclusive but for the purpose of this blog I'm looking at them as separate issues.

Physical addiction is perhaps the more straight forward of the two. Your body physically needs a certain thing to keep operating without causing you severe discomfort. I guess with a physical addiction, it's a spectrum of severity and also down to the individual's willpower and support.

Mental addiction, as with all mental health issues, is a very complex matter and there's a lot we still don't know or understand. It's something I know little about therefore will not expand much here apart from saying that in my opinion it is potentially the more difficult side of addiction. For example changing your habitual behaviour could prove much more difficult than giving up a physical need for a substance or thing.

So when are you actually addicted to something and when do you just really like something? A lot of people say: I could stop if I had to but I don't want to. But could they really?

For example, when people say that they're addicted to exercise and need to do exercise, is that true? Or do they just really like doing it? The body releases hormones called endorphins when you exercise. These create a euphoric feeling, so the more exercise you do, the more endorphins released and in that case your body will get used to that level of endorphins. It could therefore become a physical addiction to this increased level of endorphins. If that's the case I guess people can be addicted to exercise, and really like it too!

BBC's Horizon Special 'What's the right diet for you?' is interesting as it looks at a group of overweight people identifying specific reasons for their overeating, from physical issues: genes that don't make them feel full and misfiring gut hormones, to mental issues: emotional eating. Maybe if we used a similar approach to working out the reasons for your addictions, then these vices we have may be easier to give up.

I guess what I am trying to say is that if the outcome of your addiction isn't harmful to you, others or your environment, then it isn't really a problem, and if you could, if necessary, give it up then you are ok. And things such as New Year's resolutions and Lent provide a great opportunity to prove that.

If you're one of those people who say “I could stop if I had to but I don't want to” and you tried to do so for as a New Year's resolution or for Lent and haven't succeeded then please stop saying that, as it's blatantly not true, and maybe take a more in-depth look at your addiction to understand why you have such a 'severe connection' to that particular thing. And for those who are succeeding, well done and keep it up!




By Megan Smiley, Dec 2 2014 09:26AM

Now December is here, your calendar is no doubt starting to get very full with Christmas parties, lunches, dinners and drinks. Which means, unless you have the willpower of a saint (which I assume is equally as endless as their patience!), you will eat less healthily and more, and of course drink substantially more over the festive period. And, to make matters that bit worse, due to all the lovely socialising, you will probably have less time to exercise and train. So you, like the majority of people, will lose a little bit of fitness and put on a little bit of weight.

So what can you do about it? Well, reading the numerous articles addressing this issue that are out at the moment, there are loads of tricks and tips of how to avoid the dreaded Christmas weight gain; from wearing your tightest fitting clothes to social gatherings (rather than your elasticated joggers like so many of us do) to encourage you from eating too much from the buffet table, to the '3 rule' that includes taking 3 steps away from any food so if you want more you have to walk back to it, or take 3 deep breaths between each mouth full, or my favourite, take 3 sips between each mouth full. Although the '3 rule' may work in making you eat less, the first one might make holding a conversation with someone rather difficult. The second might make you look like you're trying out some breathing techniques you picked up at pre-natal classes, and the latter, well would you rather be the person who ate too much at a party, or the drunk?

I believe the way to deal with the festive season is to embrace it! Accept you might put on a little bit of weight but one bad month out of 12 isn't going to have a catastrophic impact on your health. I'm not saying go for it hell for leather. Yeah try and not have a mince pie for breakfast (although I think an advent calender chocolate alongside a healthy breakfast is completely acceptable!) and don't 'write off' December. Ok you might not fit in your usual 10k run on a Wednesday evening but you can still get up 30 minutes earlier that day and do a 5k run in the morning. December is busy so fit in small amounts of exercise where and when you can; nip out at lunch for a power walk, it's better than nothing. It's about time management.

I love December. It's by far my favourite month of the year. You get to spend lots of time with all your favourite people, you get to eat lovely food, drink mulled wine, but what I love most about it is that people are happier. Strangers smile at each other, even wish each other a Merry Christmas. So please don't dread December, enjoy it!

By Megan Smiley, Oct 6 2014 02:28PM

I like reading about it, I watch programmes on it (loving Great British Bake Off at the mo and always a MasterChef fan), I talk about it (a lot), I cook it, and most importantly, I consume it. At my flat, friends' houses, restaurants, cafés, pop-ups, parks, I'll consume it anywhere really. I have to admit, I love and am a little obsessed with food!

I have always loved food, but in recent years my relationship with it has changed. This is partly due to being more involved and interested in it due to becoming a fitness professional, which has led me to understand and eat a more nutritious and balanced diet. But also the increasing availability and easiness to develop and nurture this inherent interest of mine. On social media I follow food reviewers and bloggers, health food shops, restaurants and the list goes on. Instagram provides millions of 'food-porn' photos to inspire and drool over. And yes, I am one of those annoying people who post photos of my dinners, often featuring quinoa, tofu or fish– you get the picture!

I get over excited about all food, but I love healthy eating. I'm a fruit and veg fan so that helps, but I genuinely would rather cook a cauliflower base pizza than a normal one. I prefer wholemeal rice/pasta/bread (I'm now making my own bread rather than the rubbish in shops or ridiculously over priced artisan bread you can get). I consume a ridiculous amount of kale, mainly because I grow it so have an abundance of it. I prefer almond butter to peanut butter, rather dark chocolate to a kitkat, cook with coconut oil, have at least 10 different types of nuts and seeds in my kitchen, and so on.

I really enjoy healthy eating and it's not just because I think that's what I should eat. Yes that helps and encourages me as I know the 'fuel' you put into your body will effect what you get out, performance wise and generally with the way you look and feel: but I actually like it.

However, as with many things in life, it's all about the balance! Every nutritionist would advise variation in your diet, this helps you get the range of nutrients, covering all the macronutrients – protein, carbs and fats, as well as micronutrients – minerals and vitamins, that you need. So use your common sense to both enjoy and eat a balanced healthy diet.

I find planning, preparing, cooking and eating food is a pleasure. The process is relaxing and enjoyable and I love the social aspect of it; I rarely do anything sociable that doesn't involve eating!

This is why I find the thought of Soylent, a nutritional drink used as a substitute for food, absolutely bizarre. Soylent is not marketed as a weight loss product. It's for people who don't want to or don’t have time to make or eat meals. In their own words it was “developed from a need for a simpler food source... after recognizing the disproportionate amount of time and money spent creating nutritionally complete meals. ” But, if you hadn't guessed from my rambles above, I think there should always be time made for the love, appreciation and enjoyment of food!