I’ve been eating lots of nuts lately. You get really good nuts in Holland. I buy them on the market where they are roasted on the spot and given to you while still warm...mmm! They are so cheap here too - at less than 2 Euros per 100g for really good macadamias, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews and brazils. Well it would be silly not to stock up. Only problem is I have bags of them lying around and can’t help myself from dipping into them all the time. I’m probably over indulging in the nut department at present but before you gasp at the thought of all that fat and the extra calories I’m consuming and disregard me as health and fitness professional, allow me to redeem myself (and justify my nutty gluttony - must be all that running giving me an appetite.) by providing you with you a few health and diet positives about nuts.

1. Nuts can help you lose weight
Nuts are your diet friend not foe as studies show time and time again that consuming nuts does not lead to weight gain. Eating nuts can help you lose body fat by suppressing hunger, raising your resting energy expenditure and actually resisting absorption in the intestinal tract – apparently 10-20% of the calories pass through  unabsorbed! Clever little nuts – bet your Doritos can’t do that!

2. Nuts make you beautiful!
The essential fatty acids in nuts are vital for healthy skin and hair and nuts have very high levels of vitamin E, an antioxidant which is great for anti aging.

3. Nuts improve your health
Nuts contain mainly monounsaturated fats have been shown to raise good (HDL) cholesterol and lower blood pressure - all of which reduce the risk of heart diseases. Nuts are rich in protein, dietary fibre, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and folate. Nuts also contain lots of arginine, which helps to improve the health of your artery walls and make them more flexible and less prone to blood clots

4. Nuts help to prevent disease
Some nuts, such as almonds, contain trace amounts of cyanides, which may kill off cancerous cells. These cyanides are too little to cause much damage to healthy cells, but can destroy cancerous cells.
The Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to prevent breast cancer and the higher levels of selenium have been shown to reduce bladder cancer (Just one Brazil nut provides a day’s supply of selenium!)
The Nurses study showed that women who reported eating 30 g of nuts at least five times per week reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes by almost 30 percent. The mono and polyunsaturated fats in nuts are also good for insulin sensitivity.

so there you have it - 4 wonderful reason to enjoy nuts. But make sure you enjoy in moderation. The healthy fats in nuts are very calorific, but eating just a handful at a time and allocating part of your daily calorie budget to them will mean you pack in a lot of nutrition for your calories.

Whats your favourite nut?

My nut man in his nut van in Amsterdam
The past 15 days have been unusual. After moving out of our Notting Hill flat we’ve been like a couple of nomads roaming from my family in Yorkshire to my in-laws in Amsterdam and back again, all the time house hunting for something suitable in London.  With no home to call our own, I think we’re getting a little stressed. Stress is something that I find it difficult to recognise in myself as I’m never aware of having any physical or psychological effects of stress apart from my breathing, which becomes slightly deeper and more laboured and the tremendous urge I have to run. Isn’t that what also happens to Forest Gump?

So at the moment I’m doing just that. An awful lot of running and I use the word awful literally – all this running is just not part of my training plan.  It’s exactly what I try to stop my clients from doing – lots of long, steady state running. Gone has my yoga practice, I can’t remember when I last saw the TRX and my weight training has fallen by the way side. Running is essentially a catabolic activity and so does nothing to increase lean mass or strengthen muscles.  If you’re not taking on adequate nutrition then your body will even draw upon its own lean mass for energy. It is really important to do strength training along side your running, even if it’s just to prevent muscle wastage and injury.  Thing is it’s just so therapeutic. It makes me soooo happy. The extra oxygen uptake makes me feel vital, alert and clear headed - my best ideas always come to me when I'm out running. The endorphin kick makes me feel tipsy happy and the detoxification from sweating cleanses my body…but probably more my mind!  I’m like a happy, tail wagging puppy after a run and its addictive.

With all those endorphins coursing through my veins I found myself signed up for the Paris marathon. I didn’t plan on doing a marathon next April but it just happened. I love a run but I’ve always had by suspicions about marathons. It’s just unnatural to run that far – we’re hunter-gatherers with eyes on the front of our face. We’re designed to stalk out our prey and then when the time is right – go all hell for leather over a short distance and strike! Not sweat it out for 4 or 5 hours chasing buffalo (or whatever!) all over the whole savanna. So I kind of think that marathons are a bit too strenuous on our bodies. Maybe it’s the yogi in me talking but you only have one set of knees that have to last you a while and 26 miles will cause a bit of wear and tear. Then there's the training, which can actually make some gain weight due to a heightened appetite and the body’s response at becoming a more efficient runner which is to expend less calories. There’s also the increased levels of Cortisol you get from sustained periods of stress which happens when you train for periods longer than 60 minutes at a time. Cortisol makes you hold on to belly fat and hands up if you know a few marathon runners that are not quite as svelte around the middle as you may expect.

That said running a marathon is a great physical and psychological achievement and it will be a tick in the box for me but I know from experience how addictive this stuff is, look around - doesn’t it seem that everyone’s at it and loving it a bit too much?  Even writing this has given me the itch to get my trainers on. I’m at it again – time for my daily fix. Hopefully I’ll be rolling out the mat and reaching for the dumbbells again soon but therapy first.

Yesterday's Sunday run was a cool 7.5 miles in the Dutch countryside. I did it in 1 hour 5 mins and would of been faster if it wasn't for the old love who wanted to stop and talk for a while...honestly even the 80 year old's speak near perfect English which is a good thing as my Dutch is limited to say the least, even after 10 years of being married to a native. I didn't plan on a long one yesterday and it was even a toss up between a nap and a run as I sat relaxing with my in-laws. Well I am on holiday after-all and I'd done lots of running that week to try and run off the remnants of the Hummingbird Bakery disaster.  But a Sunday run it was and I'm pleased as it was moi (as the Dutchies would say) All those flat green fields, cute little bridges and windmills...beats running in the 'Big Smoke' any day!
Lovely Dutch landscape
I'm also pleased I did a calorie busting 7.5 miles as following that we went for all you can eat Sushi! Now I usually avoid 'all you can eat' like I avoid all inclusive holidays or the chocolate bar in Harrods - experience has taught me that I'm not to be trusted. Good lord did I eat a lot of Sushi. So much so that it's now 12.15pm the following day and I still feel full. I never skip breakfast but I honestly couldn't manage it this morning. Not ideal but I love Sushi and I was starving after my run. I tried to stick to the good stuff too- sashimi, seaweed, edamame and miso soup but there were definitely more than a few crispy (read: deep fried) and glutenous (read udon) things that got in the way! So definitely not my usual practice but it was just coffee for me this morning and I have to say that I've never felt quite so special in Starbucks. When my coffee was ready, imagine my surprise when my name was called rather than 'Grande skinny latte!' Well Dank je wel I said and proudly drank from my 'Nicola' cup. I love Amsterdam!
This deserves a blog post of its own rather than a quick rant but when are Starbucks going to get in some organic milk? Surely its not just me who's always complaining about this. I think we should petition! Or is it just me?
Starbucks UK - this is how it should be done. I'm so easily pleased!
Get me - I'm only the new SparkPeople UK Fitness Expert! If you're not already familiar with SparkPeople then have a look, its an amazing resource. Whether you're trying to lose unwanted pounds or just improve your health and fitness - it's a health and fitness treasure trove full of useful tools and supportive and informative forums and articles.  Its a maze of a website - there is just so much information on there and the community is so huge - they have millions of members world-wide and 200, 000 in the UK alone. I'm a total newby, floating around and trying to find my own space there - so sign up, its totally free and I'd like to see some familiar faces.
This is my first blog post in September - oh dear I am sorry about that but times have been a changing! I have departed from my lovely little Notting Hill pad and sadly I have also departed from my wonderful twenties. I hope the two are not connected and now I have to move out of the city and into a quaint little village in the middle of nowhere, buy a Chelsea tractor and a Weimaraner. Actually that doesn't sound too bad at all...worrying.  I did have a Beagle on my birthday list but I receievd only the promise that I will have one in the future. bah

I did have a bit of a party to celebrate - Venetian ball style!  Well perhaps 'Ball' is too strong a word, it was a Venetian masked party and muchas fun was had by one and all, although probably a little more by one than all. I love a party, especially when there is cake and there was cake a plenty thanks to my husband who was under strict instructions from me to order in a surprise birthday cake for me. He prevailed!

Well its not everyday a girl turns 30! We had two huge cakes, which were three layers deep- one for each of the birthday girls (it was a joint party) and lots of cup cakes, all from my favourite cake shop - The Hummingbird Bakery. The red velvet cup cakes went fast, you had to be quick and luckily I was. Anyway I needn't of worried about the lack of cake as the next day I went to my parents and they also had a big chocolate cake for me and the next day I got treated to afternoon tea at Betty's. Needless to say - it's been a bit of an over indulgent week which has been balanced out with a night on the dance floor at the party and lots of running! I have been running as fast as my little legs will carry me every day since and it was worth every mile!

That's the thing about over indulging - whatever treat you chose to over indulge with has to be worth the 'balancing out' period of exercise and/or healthier eating that follows. So unless you just love the treadmill - choose those treats wisely. I have a serious penchant for cake and I'm just not to be trusted in its company but I am willing to work for it. I dread to think about the calories in just one piece of that chocolate fudge cake and the Hummingbird bakery will do well not to divulge such information... but I'm betting that it equates to more than a 10k run!

What over indulgences are worth it for you?