The Body Retreat

The Body Retreat

Women Only Weight Loss & Wellbeing Retreats

Are you intoxicated by Carbohydrates?

Are you addicted to carbohydrates?


Take this short quiz to find out.


Do you often feel hungry very soon after you have eaten?

Do you feel that a meal is not really complete unless you have some form of starch included (bread, pasta, rice, potato, qunioa etc)

Do you sometimes feel sluggish after you finish a meal?

Do you find it difficult to say no to starchy or sugary foods?

Do you struggle with energy levels?

Do you need to snack between meals, especially mid afternoon?

Do you crave starch or sugar?

Do you find your concentration improves quickly after you have eaten starch or sugar?

Do you find it difficult if not impossible to stop eating certain foods until they are all gone?

Do you snack or graze daily?


Now.. count up your Yes answers


0 – 2  You are probably not addicted to carbohydrates

3 – 5 You appear to have a mild carb addiction which, at times, you may be able to control and with some difficulty.

6-8 Your score indicates that you are moderately addicted to carbohydrates. At times you may be able to control your eating but you may find that stress, premenstrual changes, tiredness, boredom, unexpressed anger or pressure may increase your carbohydrate cravings.

9-10 You have scored in the severe carbohydrate addiction range. You may be struggling to control your eating without realizing that your body has been fighting you, literally driving you to eat and then storing the excess food energy as fat.

You may not be surprised by your score or you may think that surely everyone is in some way a little addicted to carbs in some form.

Perhaps you know that you have a problem with carbs in whatever form that takes but you cannot seem to break the cycle of eating.

Hands up here….I am a total Carbohydrate addict!!!

I thought I was just greedy or that I didn’t have enough willpower to resist the sugary or starchy delights.

I was wrong…. Being a carb addict is not about greed, hunger or willpower.

Let me explain.


It all starts in childhood.

I was brought up in the 1070’s by an Irish grandmother.. It was the beginning of the snack era. I can still remember the adverts for Milky way Chocolate bars..”the treat you can eat between meals and not ruin your appetite”.  I could eat about a dozen of those little morsels, then there was the lemonade van that came door to door every Wednesday I was allowed two bottles for the week of whatever garishly coloured highly sweetened beverage I liked.  But its wasn’t only the treats that were changing, the food we eat regularly at home changes too, the bread became more processed, in addition to meat and two veg there was now exotic dishes like pasta or curry and rice…  add into the mix that an Irish grandmother is also a big fan of having a pudding after supper EVERY EVENING and you can see where the trouble began.

My sweet tooth was almost insatiable.

Next comes college.. living on cheep student fodder of pasta, pizza, cheesy chips, pot noodles ( no judgement pls) choosing to fill myself up on cheep stodgy foods actually felt like I was nourishing myself. But basically when you add in the alcohol consumption as well the college years are just one long carb feast!!

Then there are the corporate years.  For me that meant years of working in hospitality, so shift work and availability of restaurant food meant that I was often eating rich indulgent foods at all times of the day and night…oh and then add in the social life. More eating out, more alcohol…more sugar , more starch, more carbs!!!

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

This is the story of how I became addicted to carbs.  Your story may be slightly different but it probably follows a similar pattern.

Year after year, decade after decade you have eaten progressively more and more carbs.

You began to change your taste buds, you changed your glucose tolerance threshold, you change how your brain reacts to sugar and starch… slowly but surely you become more addicted.  Need just a little more sugar, a little more starch, more carbs to just feel normal. Its feels difficult to function properly if you don’t have enough “fuel” and for you fuel need to be fast acting…fuel needs to be carbs!

The diet industry doesn’t help…for years we were told to eat less fat…fat makes you fat!!  Of course the problem was that what we were left with was CARBS… and when you take the fat out of a dish or product you have to replace it with something that adds in not only flavour but also texture… enter in sugar, starch and artificial sweeteners.

You can find yourself on a starchy sugary carb fuelled rollercoaster.  Needing more each day to get through the day.

We meet so many women week after week at The Body Retreat who are are struggling to regain control from addiction to carbohydrates they try to quit the habit at home but find it too difficult…if not impossible to get through those first few days.

The problem with many at home plans is that they focus too much on what you need to tae out of our daily eating…this void leave you at the mercy of cravings.   Which is why on our retreats we focus equally on what you put into your daily diet alongside those foods you are looking to remove or reduce.

Rather than building your diet around carbs we focus on increasing the amount of protein, fat and fibre.. which help to keep you feeling satisfied and not at the mercy of blood sugar cravings.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to starch, sugar and carbohydrates?  Do you think of yourself as being addicted to carbohyrdates? Let me know in the comments below.



The Invisible Damage Sugar Causes

The Real Worry About The Damage Sugar Causes To Health & Wellbeing

One of the most obvious signs that high sugar consumption is causing damage to health is excessive weight gain but the damaging effects of sugar are not always visible,..yes over consumption of sugar can make you gain weight but most of the damage is happening internal, increased inflammation, diabetes, impaired mental function, imbalanced energy or mood.  This is long and growing as we learn more about just how damaging sugar can be.

This is borne out in the women who join us on the Sugar Detox Retreat over half the women who join us are not particularly overweight. They come because their energy levels are unstable and they have been propping themselves up with carbs and coffee and know that cant last.  Or they are concerned about the lack of control they have around certain foods, usually simple sugars or processed carb based foods.  They want to regain control.

The key interest for us here at The Body Retreat about the impact of sugar was firstly as a clinical hypnotherapist and women’s wellness coach I was fascinated by the effect of sugar on the brain, in particular the reward centres of the brain and how this in turn leads to over eating and ill health.

Sugar behaves in the same way as alcohol, drugs even gambling and sex…sugar fires off the reward centre of the brain which we know with repeated reinforcement can become compulsive addictive behaviour.

We are programmed to enjoy sweet foods and to dislike bitter foods…this is an evolutionary protection that meant that when foraging we would be less likely to eat anything poisonous.  So we are born with a sweet tooth…. but when you mix and sweet tooth with reinforced reward at a cellular level in a society when sweet stuff is available 24/7 and for a fraction of the cost of whole foods then its trouble.

What we have found is that it is exactly the addictive nature of sugar that makes it so hard to kick…even if you want to.

Lets say you cut out bread and cakes..they are famously sugar laden…so instead you eat Rye Crackers and Fruit Salad.

Except that its just sugar again in a different form.

Your sweet tooth will find a way to sate itself… but you feel that you are doing something good.

But actually this may prove to be more harmful because now you are over consuming “healthy” invisible sugars… Disaster.

Or even worse you buy the sugar free alternative so you can keep the great sweet taste with no sugar…. so now you are consuming artificial sweeteners, they may be zero calorie but that doesn’t mean they are a good sugar alternative.  Your brans still registers the sweet taste and so your pancreas is tricked into releasing insulin, and the sweet taste also means that you are keeping your sweet tooth artificially heightened…actually making your crave more sugar in the long run ( the hormone leptin is released in response to the sweet tastes, but when the calories don’t come the level is not sufficient to make you switch off eating as you would with whole foods)

What we have found at our Sugar Detox Retreat is that we remove up to 80 of all sugar…so thats fruit, starchy veg, dairy, grains.  The reason is firstly to reset the taste buds.  This means at the end of the week as you start to reintroduce real whole foods with natural sugars …say an apple..it will taste off the scale sweet..this happens time and time again.

We are also looking at rebalancing leptin levels by having a diet that is high in good quality proteins, fats and fibre..the fill you up foods.

By the end of just one week appetites are rebalanced and energy levels are stable.

Next up its looking at the brain and finding new ways to manage the reward pathways… nature hates a vacuum if you just remove the reward you will feel depressed, anxious and very likely to relapse. so we look at tangible ways to fill that gap.

Just this week I watched a video of a health professional claiming that sugar is not addictive…it only creates addictive behaviours…I’ll leave you to think about that one.  They suggested that you simply replace the reward with something else that makes you feel good…a hug from a loved one or some breathing exercises!!  Obviously they have never really experienced the pull of sugar addiction when you would sell a kidney to get your hands on some thing to give you that lift.

Sugar is complicated.  It comes in so many forms.  So even when you think you are eating clean you may still be unwittingly creating problems for yourself.

What is Clean Eating?

Have you heard about Clean Eating?

If you have been reading the newspapers recently then you could be forgiven for thinking that there’s a whole new diet craze in town. It’s called Clean Eating.

Just this weekend the lovely Nigella Lawson told the papers that she was against clean eating as it could promote eating disorders. I’m not sure that Nigella gets what Clean Eating is really about. Clean Eating is not a diet, it’s a healthy lifestyle.

True there are a number of high profile trendy advocates of Clean Eating, some of whom add their own twist to Clean Eating, so you may have read that you should avoid wheat, dairy, red meat sugar etc etc.  No reason to if you don’t have an allergy or intolerance.

What is Clean Eating?

Clean Eating is a deceptively simple concept.

The heart of Clean Eating is consuming food in its most natural state, or as close to it as possible. It is not a diet; its not a craze and its not a dangerous fad….it’s a lifestyle approach to food and its preparation leading to improved health – one meal at a time.

The idea is to avoid processed foods and only eat ‘real’ and so therefore Clean foods.

Unprocessed foods to include in your daily diet:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Dried legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Organic Free Range eggs

Minimally processed foods include in moderation in your diet:

  • Unrefined grains, like whole wheat bread and pasta, oats, quinoa and brown rice
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Unprocessed Organic meat
  • Hormone-free Organic dairy
  • Sustainable Fish and Seafood
  • Oils
  • Raw Honey or Maple Syrup

Sticking to this golden rule of choosing real clean foods can involve a bit more cooking from scratch, but when you choose to eat clean then you can enjoy anything from steak to cake.

Why Eat Clean?

Going back to basics, by reducing the chemicals, preservatives or additives along with heavily processed foods tend to be higher in salt and calories, and may also be less nutritious places additional strain on your body, especially your liver, which means that your overall health can be compromised in the long term.

Clean Eating emphasises whole grains, lean cuts of meat, sustainable fish and seafood, healthy fats and lots of fruits and vegetables. No whole foods are completely banned, and the plan promotes an overall balanced diet of grains, fruits, vegetables, fats, and protein.  Nothing faddy here.

Six Simple Strategies to Eat Clean

 Only eat ‘real’ foods: Put simply, this means buying recognisable ingredients to prepare at home and avoiding processed and packaged foods.

Cook your own meals. Instead of buying meals in a box or packet, cook the majority of your meals from scratch. That’s not as hard as it sounds. Clean, whole foods need little preparation beyond a bit of chopping and light cooking to make satisfying, delicious meals your family will love.

Keep meals simple: Delicious, healthy food doesn’t have to mean hours in the kitchen. Keep your ingredients to a minimum. Just be sure to include a source of whole grains, lean protein and healthy fat at each meal.

Eat regular meals: Don’t let more than four hours go by between meals or snacks. This will help regulate blood sugar, which will keep you energised and help curb your appetite.

Eat Proteins and Fats. When you do snack or eat a meal, make sure that meal is balanced. For the most satisfaction from your diet, and so you’ll be less tempted to eat junk food, combine protein with carbs or carbs and fat. This simple act will fuel your body and quash hunger pangs, meaning you are less likely to be tempted by quick and convenient processed foods.

Listen to your body: Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied, not full up or over-stuffed.

So there you have it , Clean Eating in a nutshell.  Eat what you like, just make a conscious choice to eat real whole foods where possible and then enjoy it in moderation.

Get Label Savvy To Root Out Stealth Sugar

You Want To Reduce The Sugar In Your Diet?

If you are trying to reduce the amount of sugar you and your family are consuming then you need to become label savvy.

Wether your goal is to lose weight, balance your blood sugar and energy levels or you just want to choose when and in what form you eat sugar then you need to be aware of all the sugars and sugar substitutes that are turning up in every day products.

Sugar comes in many forms and manufacturers know that those pesky health conscious shoppers are becoming wise to the sugar content of foods.   Unfortunately many manufacturers have resorted to stealth tactics to reduce the appearance of the sugar load of their products and they add several types of sugar. Often your ingredients can read like a chemical experiment so long is the list of ingredients. So picking out the sugar can be a tough call.

So how do you pick out that stealthy sugar… so first things first, remember that ingredients are listed by volume on the ingredients listing so the closer to the start of the list the more the product contains.

Sugar in All its Forms

Start by looking for the word “Sugar”… it’s a given, Its often there written in it most simple from. I would say that if you are surprised to see the word sugar in the ingredients, as I was when looking a some sausages recently, then choose another product. Also if the sugar is the second or third ingredient and the product isn’t a sweet or baked good then that’s a lot of sugar and you might want to consider an alternative.

Next look for the “Natural Sugars”, listed as Honey, Agave Syrup, Maple Syrup, Date Syrup, Concentrated Apple or Cane Juice, Raw Cane Sugar, Corn Syrup, Caramel, Molasses, Carob remember that just because its natural doesn’t mean you can consume without limit.

Now it’s the “Oses”. When you find ingredients that end in Ose it’s a good chance that these are sugars for example Glucose, Fructose, Dextrose, Maltose, Poly Dextrose, Sucralose.

Finally look for anything else on the list below…they all turn up in both savoury and sweet products all the time. Glycerin, Matodexrin, Diatase, Ehtly Maltol, Saccerides, Pectin, and some starches.

I know this seems like a long and exhausting list , but don’t despair. You don’t have to live a life without sugar, we all need a little sweetness but sugar should be consumed in moderation. With so many forms of sugar lurking in unexpected places, it’s hard even with the best intentions to limit your intake. Finding sugar on food labels is tricky, but not impossible. When you are armed with the right information and a willingness to read food labels, hidden sugars won’t sabotage your healthy eating goals.

It Only Takes A Moment

The next time you are in the supermarket just spend a few extra minutes looking at the labels of the products you buy most…you might just surprise yourself.

I’d love to hear from you about the most surprising product you found sugar or sugar alternative in. Leave me a comment in the box below.


Why Counting Calories Will Not Achieve A Beach Body

Its that time of year when the world goes “Beach Body Crazy”.

Of course it can be pretty hard to not feel a certain pull of beach body worthiness when our society is so image obsessed. Put to one side for a moment that a lot of the images we look at in our media are not real, having had the support of some tech wizard and the mighty Photoshop pen.

But if you are hitting the beach or poolside this year then it’s quite natural to want to feel good.

Feeling good poolside is very different from a desire to look like a Photoshop model poolside and just to be clear, there is no such thing as a beach body…your body is your body, summer, winter, spring and autumn. Feeling good inside and out is a 365 option not just for two short summer weeks. Ok…rant over.

But if you have been thinking that you want to shed your winter poundage (those unwanted pounds that have crept on since you layered up and started hibernation eating over the winter) then I want you to think differently about how you approach your weight loss this year.

In the interest of full disclosure I will say that I am much more an advocate of Gaining Health , not Losing weight. But I live in the real world and I know that there are times when we all want to trim down and tone up.

For decades now we have been told that when it comes to weight loss you need to count calories and then reduce them.

Put less in than you use up and hey presto you lose weight. It’s the perfect equation…except that it isn’t!

Playing the calorie counting game doesn’t work in the long term and even in the short term it may do more harm that good as you can actually gain weight and upset the hormones that control your metabolism, your sleep patterns even your sexual appetites!!

Why Counting Calories Doesn’t Work


All calories are not created equal.

For example you want an afternoon snack and you have budgeted about 250 calories. What to have?

How’s about a chocolate bar? A Mars bar has 260 calories or a Kitkat is even better at only 230 calories.  Or how about a boiled egg and half an avocado coming in at 270?

The chocolate bar will give you a real rush, your blood sugar levels will be flying for about 30 – 40 mins then you will feel totally flat as you crash and burn. Your insulin levels will be sky high coping with the sugar. You are also training your brain to respond to sugar and so set yourself up for a lifetime sugar addiction.

By contrast the Egg & Avocado option, while not as attractive from a calorie perspective of is full of good fats and proteins and so the energy is slowly absorbed, avoiding those blood sugar and insulin spikes. You will literally feel fuller for longer and you will have had the vitamin, mineral and antioxidant boost from this snack. It’s also much less likely to have you chewing your arm off on the journey home from work or craving carbs in the evenings.

Choose the chocolate and you could have saved yourself 30 calories, but you will most likely eat much more than that to climb out of the sugar crash.

It’s not about the amount of calories but rather the type of calories that you are choosing to consume.

You May Be Tempted to Eat “Fake Food”

The saviour of any calorie counting diet plan are the artificial sweetners, and processed foods.

“Need an afternoon snack? Why not enjoy our chocolate flavoured yoghurt with mini crispy balls on top for only 99 calories!!!”

Why not? Well, before you tuck in take a quick look at the ingredients list. Does it read like a chemical experiment? Are there lots of words you cannot pronounce and have no clue what they are? You are consuming chemicals, chemicals which fool your brain into thinking you are eating real food. Yes you have only consumed 99 calories but you have consumed a whole lot more “stuff” that messes up your metabolism and endocrine system.

Hormones Regulate Metabolism, Not Calories.

This is a good time to give a quick plain English explanation of metabolism.

We tend to think of metabolism as a furnace that gets switched on or off depending on what you eat and how much you exercise. But actually is much more than that.

Metabolism in your biochemistry, its actually hormonal reactions in your brain, your gut and even your fat cells that tells the body what to do with the energy you have consumed. Burn it as energy, store it as fat or use it to build muscle its your hormones that dictate that and its much more about what type of food you eat rather than the calories composition that makes these reactions.

When you eat Fake Food or very low calorie food you aren’t giving your hormones much to work with and so your metabolism gets sent into free fall.

You might lose weight this week and then having eaten a fewer higher calorie food the next you put on 3 or 4 pounds!! How did that happen? Well your metabolism’s is out of whack. You need start eating real clean food all the time…no exceptions and no exclusions. Your hormones will love you for it and so will you waistline.

When You Calorie Count You Stop Listening to Your Body.

We have all done diets. Day after day of having a fixed reduced calorie intake goal. “Today I’m eating 1,200 calories” and so you plan the day out, splitting the calories into manageable portions.

Picture the scene, you are sitting down to dinner with your calories counted portion and towards the end of the meal you start to feel full. But you still have all those calories left on the plate that you allocated, it would be a shame to waste them…so full or not… most people keep eating and clear the plate. After all they are still within their calorie budget so no problem right????

Not really.

Firstly, when you eat to feeling full that means exactly that, your stomach is full. Which means that you are every so slightly stretching your stomach. So the next time you eat, you find that you need to eat just a little bit more to gain the same feeling of fullness, then the same thing happens the day after and the day after… before you know it your stomach has stretched and you cannot seem to find that same feeling of fullness you once did.

Admittedly you are not very likely to stretch your stomach on a diet of lettuce leaves, but the problem with diets is that they never last…never! And once you have created the habit of always eating until you are full you continue this habit with the higher calorie foods, consuming the same sized portions of food that will now stretch your stomach and are stored as fat.

You Can Become Obsessive About Food

 Viewing foods only in terms of their calorific value encouraged disordered thinking about food. You can so easily become obsessed about hitting the lowest number of calories per day or working out to burn off as many calories as possible…leaving yourself under nourished and over exerted. What you fail to see is the real nutritional value of the food. Often times choosing a high calorie whole food is a better option for your waistline. Note the word whole food, we are talking organic meat and diary, fatty fish, avocados, nuts, seeds and great oils…not donuts and takeout.

What’s the Alternative?

We our top tips at The Body Retreat when you want to tone up and trim down are pretty simple..and nothing to count, measure or weigh.

Eat Clean Whole Foods…cut back on the starchy foods and increase the lean proteins and lots of green. Green is Good!

Only Eat When You Are Truly Hungry…get out of the habit of eating. Don’t eat when you are bored, stressed, upset. Learn to listen to your body, listen out for the signs of real hunger.

Never Skip Meals, (if you aren’t hungry after about 4 hours or so are you listening to your body?) You will probably eat about 4 times a day, about every 4 or so hours, this is about how long it takes for your body to use up the energy you have given it along with some of your fat stores.

Keep Hydrated…don’t confuse hunger with thirst. Stay hydrated all day, your skin, hair, eyes and waistline will love you for it.

Move More Every Day…there is no getting away from it. You do need to move. Aim for about 20 – 30 mins of activity every day to help control your blood sugar levels.

Get Your Rest….sleep helps to reset those all important hormones meaning your energy levels and hunger levels are better balanced during the days.

Relax… your body is already beach ready. When you make the decision that it’s ok, but you now choose to nourish your body and mind with real whole foods, enjoy moving your body and feeling how strong it is, how much it can do then your confidence to peel off those extra layers will be right there.