If BMI is rubbish how do you know if you’re healthy?

Body Mass Index (BMI) has been back in the news this week. Does it need to change? Is it misleading? What does it actually tell us?

Now I make no excuses that I think BMI sucks. I speak both professionally and personally here too since I hate being told I’m overweight by a statistic when I’m actually quite happy in my size 10 jeans. The trouble is, BMI fails to take into account your muscle versus fat ratios or your bone density. It can’t show us how fat or toxic we are on the inside. Activity levels, muscle mass and ethnicity all have a part to play in our overall weight.  However, when it comes to analysing a large group of the population what else can we use? I suppose we have to trust our GPs and health care providers to have a modicum of common sense alongside their scales and calculators.

It’s got me pondering that if BMI is so cruddy, how can we know if we’re healthy?

Well in my years of researching as both a journalist and fitness professional, there are a few factors that crop up time and time again. So here are a few:


You can’t ignore it. Obesity and visceral fat will increase your risk of disease and put a strain on your heart.  Everything is harder if you’re carrying excess weight, from breathing and sleeping to running or even just fighting illness or recovering from surgery. But don’t get fat and weight confused. As a general rule fat wobbles. Muscles don’t. If you’re size is slowing you down it’s time to get a handle on it. If your squidge is beating your solids then it’s time to slow down on those pasta dinners.


Sweet zzz’s are vital to a healthy you. Sleep regulates our hormones and appetite. It’s what helps us to recover. And if your mind is busy in the dark hours it’s a sure sign that you’re not processing your stressors. Don’t ignore sleep issues, they matter. For better sleep avoid caffeine after midday (it has a seven hour half life), exercise in the morning and turn of technology an hour before bed.


Poo matters. As a mum, I’m fairly in tune with my son’s digestive health. It’s a great indicator of his wellness. And the same goes for you. Dodgy digestion means you’re not optimally absorbing nutrients from food. It’s your body’s way of saying something doesn’t agree with you. You’ll probably notice that your skin looks duller and you don’t sleep as soundly when your tummy’s out of sorts. Milk, wheat, sugar and yeast are all common trigger foods for bloating. To help tummy troubles take a course of probiotics and make sur you’re getting plenty of essential oils, dark green vegetables and water,


Now I’m going to say this gently, for fear of getting my head snapped off, but are you feeling a little hormonal? Rapid mood shifts from Jolly Jo to Grumpy Greta in seconds can indicate anything from hormone imbalance or poor nutrition (ever felt hangry?) to low immunity or of course stress. It’s not always the other half’s fault! Pay attention to swingy moods. Accept how you feel for the moment and take a time out.


CRAVINGS (especially for sweet food)










Acid/alkaline forming foods

SO far my musings on alkaline forming foods have been, I hope, fairly straightforward to follow and action! Across the UK there has been much lemon squeezing, watercress blending and cauliflower roasting taking place.

Well that was entry level. I’m about to take it up a notch. Especially for those of you who are really into trying new recipes, new foods and generally feeling better. And especially for those of you who are contemplating some kind of detox or kick start but are dilly dallying because you can’t find the right one or the right ingredients.

The great thing about alkalising your diet is that you can make gradual changes. Find things that work for you on a daily basis. This isn’t all about getting skinny, this is about making changes to the way that you eat that will improve your skin, digestion, fitness levels, and longer term reduce your risk of disease. If you are carrying extra weight then of course, turning your body into a super efficient fat burning machine can’t hurt either.

Here’s my Brit version of the acid/alkali table.

Remember this is the effect of metabolising these foods on the body. Milk is an alkali but when metabolised creates acidity.



Take a look at my other posts on alkalising foods:




Watercress soup

HERE’S a quick one. A few of you have been asking about watercress soup. So I gave it a try yesterday. It wasn’t what I was expecting. I’d been expecting a lovely green, smooth soup, instead I got an orange soup with little green bits!

This version is very garlicky but is really easy to do with a stick blender and/or a mini processor. It takes around 20 minutes all in but you can be doing other stuff whilst it simmers.

Watercress Soup


  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 medium carrot chopped
  • 1 sticky of celery chopped (celery leaves too if you have them)
  • 3 large or 5 small cloves of garlic
  • 1 handful/bag of watercress (chunky stalks removed)
  • Chicken/vegetable stock cube/tub or bouillon

Cook the onions on a low heat with a few tbsp of olive oil until translucent.

Add garlic, celery and carrot to pan and cook for a further five minutes, or until soft.

Add 3 cups of water/stock and simmer for 10 minutes.

Blend soup until very smooth.

Add watercress, bring to boil then immediately turn off.

Blend soup again and serve!

We had ours with a few scallops and prawns on top. Just because that’s the way we roll!


Three tasty ways with greens

THANKS for all the fantastic feedback on my alkalising post. It seems the local shops are running low on lemons and watercress and suddenly women everywhere are looking more fabulous than usual – and I didn’t think that was possible!

In keeping with the theme of simple ways to alkalise your body, this post is all about easy and tasty ways to include green vegetables in your diet. These are all things that family Laing eats on a regular basis!

Roasted Cauliflower

Move over boring, steamed, white dullness. Quake in your dairy boots, cheese sauce. Roasted cauliflower is where it’s at. And here’s how to make it:

  • Pre-heat your oven to 200/GM6 (or just put this in at the end of your normal roast).
  • Break an organic cauliflower into florets and spread them in a small roasting tin.
  • Liberally splash them with olive oil and pink salt (or sea salt), bearing in mind that where oil meets vegetable and heat = delicious crunchy bits.
  • Cook for 20 minutes or until you see brown bits.
  • Make a dressing of 1tbsp each of olive oil, lemon juice, dijon mustard (opt) and season with black pepper.
  • Pour dressing over cauliflower and serve warm – you can also add toasted almonds or cashews.

Steam Fried Greens

Who thinks cabbage is dull? What can you do to make curly kale less, well, earthy. My favourite way of cooking anything from spring cabbage to curly kale is so easy and tasty I’m not sure I even want to share it!

  • Heat a large pan with a little oil (groundnut, olive or coconut) and a knob of butter.
  • Wash and prepare your greens. Sliced is best. You can use any cabbage or brussel tops for this but I love kale or pointed cabbage best.
  • Add the greens to your pan and add a couple of tbsp water (for the steam frying) and a slug of either chinese cooking wine, white wine or sherry.
  • Season with salt and pepper. Black mustard seeds go well with this too.
  • Put the lid on the pan and leave to cook for around 10 minutes, shaking or stirring occasionally, or until cabbage stalks are tender.
  • Serve immediately.

Super Salad

Most nap times see me glued to my desk and taking time out for a proper lunch is, I’ll be honest, a rarity. So creating a quick salad which can go with anything or just be munched at my desk is ideal.

  • Grab a bowl, a chopping board, a knife and open your fridge.
  • Base your salad with dark green leaves like watercress and spinach then chuck in a small apple, chopped, some celery and walnuts.
  • Now add what ever else you might have in your fridge. Some left over roasted veggies (squash is great), pre-cooked beetroot and tomatoes. Anything goes.
  • Dress your salad with some olive oil, sesame oil and balsamic plus seeds, salt and pepper.
  • You could have this with a roasted sweet potato or a piece of smoked mackerel.

Tonight I’ll be trialling a watercress soup recipe so assuming it’s a success, that’s what’s coming up next!


Three steps to alkalise your body: Lean means greens.


IF the 80s was about hip and thigh diets and the 90s was all about low fat and the dreaded WW starvation style diets, I believe the future of health and nutrition lies in our acid versus alkali balance.

Did you know that certain foods, like sugars, dairy, meat and grains create a highly acidic state in your body? We’re not talking necessarily about the sorts of acids that rot your teeth but about the bi-product of digesting certain foods and the way it affects your body at a cellular level.

From cancer, to obesity, digestive complaints, thyroid and adrenal function, an acidic body is a toxic body, which, over time is literally rotten.

In the short term, an acidic body wants to store fat and has a slower metabolism. It’s a protective mechanism, a way of preventing acid damaging vital organs and tissues. An alkaline body on the other hand is a fat burning machine, with a stronger metabolism – an alkaline body is lean, mean and green!

So where do we start:

STEP ONE: Cut out the cr*p

Processed foods, sugars and highly refined foods are hugely acid forming and provide little nutritional benefit. Put simply, on a pros and cons scale these foods are B.A.D. Nasty. Just no need to go there foods. So scrap them. They will make you feel like garbage. End of discussion.

STEP TWO: Neutralize your vital food stuffs

Foods like meat, eggs, some dairy and grains are important for you to function but are also acid forming. So in order to neutralize their acidity, choose high quality protein sources and eat them with a plate full of (you know what’s coming) veggies! Yes. Yummy vegetables like kale, broccoli, spinach, watercress … mmmmmnnnn. And if the thought of green vegetables leaves (ha ha) you cold, never fear, my next blog will be all about interesting ways with vegetables.

STEP THREE: Start the day in an alkaline way

You may have heard those earthy, naturally slim types chattering about how they start each day with a mug of hot water and lemon. Well it works, one way of alkalising your body first thing is to go lemon tastic. Your body gets acidic over night so the first thing that crosses your lips needs to be alkali.

If lemon doesn’t float your boat then try a 1/4 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in a glass of water. It’s cleansing and also a top tip for pepping you up if you ever have tummy troubles or gripes.

You could be really brave and try a greens drink. You can create your own in a juicer/blender by whizzing up spinach and watercress with apple juice, avocado and lemon or buy one. Now I’ll come clean, powder green drinks are pretty grim.  The best one I’ve found was created by a fitness colleague, Paul Mort: http://www.leangreens.co.uk/

And that’s it. If you only do two things to reduce your acidity I’d suggest green veggies with every meal and lemon and hot water first thing.

More posts on alkalising: