healthy eating

Cut the crap and embrace healthy eating

Ruth Field’s best-selling book Run Fat Bitch Run was written as a way to vent her frustration when she was under doctor’s instructions not to run when she was pregnant with her twins. She writes a regular column for The Irish Times on motivation and fitness as well as blogging and tweeting. Her other books include Get Your Shit Together and the recently released Cut the Crap.

In Cut the Crap Ruth, also known as the ‘Grit Doctor’, tells us in her now notoriously blunt but brilliantly humorous way, to cut out the junk food in our lives and embrace a healthy eating lifestyle. We caught up with Ruth to ask her a few questions about her new book and how the mother of two can give advice to both new mothers and pregnant women alike on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle:

Q Why do you think it is easier for people to develop a sustainable healthy eating plan and lifestyle rather than going on a diet until they achieve their desired weight loss?
A: I never said it was easier! I just think it is more sustainable and realistic. Unless and until we can transform our entire attitude to food and our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, we will only ever be papering over the cracks.
Dieting doesn’t work long term. 97% of dieters fail, so there has to be a more sustainable way to lose weight and, crucially, for the weight to remain lost.

Q What advice would you give to pregnant women and new mums to maintain a healthy lifestyle while dealing with the stress of pregnancy and parenting?
A: First and foremost, be kind to yourselves. I found regular walking and yoga kept me really fit and healthy throughout my twin pregnancy.

healthy eating

Q What would you say to new mothers who are determined to lose their baby weight quickly by going on a fad diet?
A: Don’t do it to yourself! It’s stressful enough having a baby without piling on all that unnecessary pressure.

Q Why do you think people respond more to your humorous, brutal honesty and tough love approach than to being gently pushed in the right direction?
A: It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I find humour to be both extremely motivating and a great stress reliever – when we can laugh at ourselves, that’s often the first step towards self-awareness, especially in those areas where we can all be ultra-sensitive (our weight, looks, etc). Self-awareness is followed – sometimes – by a grain of motivation where humour again can be a powerful weapon to get us going. Also, I think some people are a bit bored of the softly, namby pamby approach to everything. Plus, it’s clearly not working in the areas of diet and exercise because as a nation we have never been fatter or more sedentary and, sadly, that also applies to our increasingly porky children!

Q Do you think this approach is the push they need to deal with both motherhood and the other important aspects of their own lives?
A: Yes! New mothers shouldn’t be thinking about losing weight, but focusing instead on looking after themselves, eating well and getting enough energy to see them through all those sleepless nights, surviving the strain on their marriages and bonding with their babies. If they can get outdoors with the buggy every day for a good long walk, that’s fantastic. I did nothing for ages after having the twins, although when I did (once the boys were about seven months old I started running again) everything seemed to get better for me.


Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….


Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.