Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Post 34: Cowlean's Kickstart Advice - Lunches

Hi Guys,

It's getting tough to find these pictures now...
Welcome to this week’s post, the third in my kickstart series. If you haven’t read parts 0,1 and 2 yet, here are their respective links (here, here, and here). Fast forwarding the preamble: I want to create a series of posts for people just starting out; a set of easy to follow posts which will lay the groundwork for any sustainable and successful diet.

The structure of the series is that you bring something new to your diet every week. I’ve used this technique before and found it was great for keeping results and motivation high.

This week I want you to introduce these three lunch ideas, which are simple to prepare and highlight the delicious food which you can and should be eating! If you’re following this series, then I want you to eat these three meals once a week, for lunch, say Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Or maybe put one on the weekend if a family member likes what they see! I can imagine the spicy chicken thigh and sausage rice would go down well with a lot of people!

The reason I’ve focused on lunches rather than dinners or breakfast is because I did a post earlier this year on the latter (found here), and because you are more likely to only be preparing lunch for yourself. That way there’s no pressure to make a separate meal for you and then another for the family. Also, there’s a lot of contention around lunches and what exactly to eat if you can’t have a sandwich. If not a sandwich, then a salad? That’s good and all, but you need ideas beyond that. Ideas which will keep you going and allow you to turn this into a lifestyle rather than another yo-yo diet phase.

I’ve made sure they’re all quick to prepare, with simple, natural ingredients, which can all be bought cheaply/in bulk to save on costs.

Lunch 1: Avocado, Bacon and Egg Salad

Ingredients: 2 rashers of bacon, 1 avocado, 2 boiled eggs, large handful of lettuce, large handful of salad ingredients

  1. Prepare the boiled eggs and let them cool
  2. Slice the bacon into strips, heat coconut oil in a pan and frazzle the bacon (I like it crispy :) )
  3. Half, hull and dice the avocado
  4. Combine all the ingredients (including scraping the bacon grease from the pan) in a mixing bowl
  5. Dress with EVOO and serve

This is a great recipe for healthy fats, is low carb, and has a good amount of protein. The fats, together with the salty bacon, will lend itself to an amazing flavour.

Lunch 2: Salmon and Courgette Noodles

I admit that this one was posted back in Post 18 (my ketogenic diet meal plan), but I think it’s a great recipe which will satisfy any pasta cravings you have. It’s light, delicate, and delicious.

Ingredients: salmon fillet, courgette noodles (now widely available already prepped in supermarkets), a lemon, an egg yolk, some grated cheese, some basil

  1. Bring a pan of water to the boil
  2. Put the oven on 150 degrees celsius, smear some coconut oil on a salmon fillet, and put it on a tray in the oven for 12-15 minutes
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add the egg yolk, half the juice and zest of one lemon, the cheese, and the basil
  4. Add courgette noodles to the boiling water, and when tender and 3-4 minutes, drain them off, add them to the mixing bowl and combine. The heat from the noodles will cook the eggs.
  5. Serve with the salmon

Spicy Chicken Thigh and Sausage Rice

Ingredients: 2 thigh fillets, 1 sausage, 50g white rice, large handful of broccoli

  1. Bring two pans of water to the boil, then add the rice to one and the broccoli to the other
  2. As the water is boiling, heat some butter in a pan, cut open the sausage using a knife/scissors and empty the contents into the pan. Include any seasonings you want at this point (I like using chilli and a little cumin)
  3. Slice and add the chicken thighs and a splash of water to the pan
  4. Drain the rice (~10 minutes) and broccoli (~6 minutes)
  5. Once the thighs and sausage are cooked, chuck the rice and broccoli in, use the excess liquid to  scrape the flavours off the bottom of the pan and serve

This is a great meal to eat on a weekend because it is really indulgent. It’s flavourful and amazingly meaty.


I hope you enjoyed these three recipes, and remember to incorporate each of them once over the next week. While this post is much shorter than usual, I promise the length (and punctuality) will get much better after this weekend once my schedule clears up considerably.

This weeks takeaways:
  1. Healthy lunch doesn’t mean endless salad drudgery; get creative.
  2. Eat these three lunches, once, at some point during the week
  3. If you cook for your family, show them this post and see if they like the look of any of the recipes! :)

Until next time,

Monday, 21 November 2016

Post 33: Cowlean's Kickstart Advice - Exercise

Hi Guys,

We’ve got a bit of a series forming here...

First we talked about the excuses that people erect to stop themselves from starting (find it here). That could be considered the prologue. Next we looked at the three simple changes to make to your diet which will actually be the three greatest contributors to your results (find that one here). That was part 1 of an impromptu series which I’ve decided to put together, to help people get on track with their diets and ultimately a body of work which is simple and easy to implement.

What I want, is a series of easily digested (pun intended) posts, which I could hand to someone just starting out. As much as I want to give this to the community, and lay out my basic ideas for how someone could begin, I also need a medium to collect my own observations and advice. When asked the simple question: “where do I start?”, my mind can go into overdrive thinking of all the possibilities.

I intend for someone to follow this series on a week-by-week basis. So at the end of this series you should have a four to six week (I’ve not decided how many steps to include yet) induction process. Better still, you’ll have built an impressive set of habits which will carry you forward.

This is a schedule I have used to great effect. I think it works really well because it gives you something to look forward to, something to build upon, every week. It offers constant progression, and little in the way of plateaus, because you are consistently upping your game. Lastly, it allows you to see the marginal benefit of your actions, with each week’s results largely coming from your new change.

So after succeeding in week one, where you made simple and impactful changes to your diet, this week you will introduce a little exercise. And when I say a little, I mean a little!...

Low’n’slow or fast’n’dirty

As much as I love puns, I love inappropriate phrases nearly as much, hence the monikers I’ve given to the types of exercise I recommend.

If you go back to my post on ketogenic workouts (find that here), you can learn the in-depth science behind aerobic and anaerobic exercise, what it does, and why. But in essence, you need to know the following.

Low heart rate (HR) is aerobic exercise and will burn more fat for fuel. I recommend walking because you can’t trick yourself into going faster without it being obvious! On a bike or rowing machine, you can always go a little faster or with greater intensity, but there’s a clear difference between walking and jogging/running. Since it is getting cold outside now, use a home exercise machine if you have it, but be very strict with yourself to take it easy.

High heart rate exercise is called anaerobic exercise, and utilises more of your stored glucose. Used correctly it can be a positive stressor/adaptogen, which leads to muscle growth. The type of exercise I am talking about includes high intensity interval training (HIIT) and lifting weights. This will provide you with the “toned” look more than endless hours on the treadmill ever will.

This leads me onto why cardio, or more specifically chronic cardio, sucks. It’s the worst of both worlds. This is what most gym goers engage in consistently. They raise their HR up and out of the aerobic (fat burning) zone and cause elevated stress on their body for extended periods. This type of cardio is not good for burning fat, or for building muscle. It is inefficient, a waste of time, and very costly (think about your gym membership…).

Exercise Plan

In week two we introduce your exercise. Now remember what I said earlier about how little you need to do? Good. Now think about what you’ve read before or seen in newspapers about the punishing routines celebrities maintain to stay thin. The truth is, they’re wasting their time and still have spare tires which require photoshopping.

What I want you to do is the following: go for a 15 minute walk, three times a week, before you eat anything. That is it.

As we sleep we enter ketosis, the fat burning zone, and therefore by moving when in slight ketosis (there are levels to it) you will mobilise more fat to provide energy. It will also benefit your circadian rhythms, because your body expects you to be the most active in the morning. If you’re going outside (preferred), you’ll also get some sunlight (hopefully…). This will doubly aid your circadian rhythms, leading to better sleep the night after.

If you want to, you can do this *optional* workout as well, and I really mean optional with asterisks! This workout should be very, very quick, lasting no more than 45 minutes.

Deadlifts (five sets of five)
Bench press (five sets of five)
HIIT: two minute warmup, followed by 30 seconds of full effort, then 90 seconds of normal intensity. Repeat this 30/90 cycle five times.

Perform the weight lifting first, so that you can express maximal strength, and rest 90 seconds between sets if it was easy, three minutes if it was hard, and five minutes if you failed to hit five reps (rest pattern credited to 5*5 Stronglifts). Each week increase the weight by the smallest increment you can find.

After the weights perform the HIIT part of the workout. You can do whatever type of exercise you like, but my favourite is to use bikes.


So let’s take stock and look at what I’ve asked for this week: not much at all. If you don’t do the *optional* (!!!) workout you just need to go outside and walk for fifteen minutes, three times a week. This is how easy it can be.

Endless exercise and treadmill hours is such a common misconception it is almost laughable. When it comes to exercise, working smart is more important than working hard.

On top of that, you could quite easily quit your gym today and never go back, or simply pay as you go rather than have that expensive membership.

Here’s this week’s takeaways:
  1. Stop doing chronic cardio; it’s the worst of both worlds
  2. Exercise should be either low’n’slow, or fast’n’dirty; choose whether you want to burn fat or build muscle
  3. Walk for 15 minutes, three times a week, before you eat anything

And that’s it. All you have to do now is leave a like and post a comment down below. I’ll see you next week for part 3.

Until next time,

Monday, 14 November 2016

Post 32: Cowlean's Kickstart Advice

Hi Guys,

This is a quick one coming at you. It touches on the same theme as last week’s post: getting started, because the first step is always the hardest. While that may sound woolly and self-helpy, just doing something rather than nothing allows you to surmount the psychological barriers to entry. The enduring message of this post is “take action”.

Having read post 31 you’ve identified and mentally conquered the three top excuses/myths which hold people back. At this point you want to take action, but you need to know what exactly to do. Like I said last week, forget intermittent fasting, ketosis, exercise, sodium manipulation, and supplementation. Get the foundation down. Enjoy the 80/20 rule. What we’re going to discuss today will account for 80% of your results.


In post 31 I strongly agreed with Mark Sisson’s statement that the best way to start out is cut out (or at least reduce) grains, gluten, and industrial oils. These are accounting for the majority of your health and weight problems.

Gluten is a contentious issue, but the truth is it’s best not to eat a lot of it. Perversely, it gets a bad wrap for being associated with health conscious individuals, leading a lot of people to “protest eat” gluten. The truth is that it is a gut irritant and raises your risk of suffering from autoimmune diseases. It is a toxin to the body, and the real issue is that it can take up to six months to entirely eliminate its effects. I’m not expecting the beginner to stop eating it entirely, the aim is just to reduce it. I personally don’t go out of my way to not eat it, it is more of a byproduct of my paleo/keto lifestyle.

The next item to reduce or remove is grains, and in doing so you drastically reduce your gluten exposure. Grains contain a high carb content and therefore are bad for fat burning and weaning your body off of carb reliance. They’re also low in nutritional content. This is probably the most impactful change that you might make. Congruent with what I said earlier, cutting out grains probably has accounted for 50-80% of all of my weight loss, ever. The added benefit, is that I suddenly realised the difference between feeling bloated and feeling full. Prior to cutting grains, I thought they were one and the same. How wrong I was…

The third change is to stop using industrial/vegetable oils such as rapeseed, sunflower and safflower oil. Instead, use animal fats such as goose fat and lard, or dairy fats such as butter and ghee. To produce industrial oils requires such a high level of pressure and heat, the oil is almost certainly rancid before it reaches your mouth. This heat oxidises the fat, which will mean that your body will contain a higher number of free radicals which accelerates aging and correlates with higher risk of cancer. This point is a key directive in cleaning up and expanding your fat intake, but is usually the easiest change for a person to make. I don’t know many people who would turn down the option to eat less butter.

By getting these three aspects of your food in place, you will lose weight near instantly. I’ve seen many people lose up to half a stone (over three kg) in a week using this advice. While there will be a solid chunk of water weight in there, the psychological impact is huge.


“If it can be measured, it can be managed”

Pick the metric that you want to follow and track it. For most people this is their weight, but it can be more specialised such as blood sugar readings, bodyfat % and waist circumference.

Here we touch again on woolly, self-help issues. I want to say that the idea of “the mirror being your judge” is wrong. When you’re starting out you need to be measuring something quantifiable because the best way to form a habit is to do something which contains quick and effective feedback.

If weight is your chosen metric, weigh yourself every day, and follow the underlying trend of your numbers. Pick out a specific day of the week and map them out to visualise them, once you have some data. Pay attention to the daily figures as well, though, because there is valuable information there which shows how you respond to certain foods, and on which days of the week you tend to weigh more.

The latter comment is a little hack which you can take advantage of; place your big weekly weigh-in on a day where you tend to weigh less. Commonly this will be midweek as you’ve shrugged off any extra water weight from the weekend and have committed to your diet. It just feels good to succeed at these “big” weigh-ins. Do yourself a favour and let them help you out.


I’ve touched on this before, but in order for a good behaviour to continue you need to reward yourself in a way which makes the good behaviour more enjoyable. So frankly, you’re out of your mind if you think that eating a huge pizza in return for diet compliance is a good idea!

Instead, you should treat yourself to a lavish, but still compliant, meal. Go overboard with the portions and be a true glutton. Alternatively, buy yourself something for your kitchen which is going to make cooking easier or more fun.

But out of all the alternative rewards, clothes are the best, for both men and women. Buying new clothes is the ultimate visual reward for your weight loss, because that’s when the mirror comes into play. You’ll truly be able to appreciate your new figure and not just be the same clothes hanging off of a new body.

I went from a 44” waist all the way down to a 34” waist, and every time I happily replaced my jeans when they were getting too baggy. Replacing your old clothes with new ones gives you the chance to enjoy the full actualisation of your actions.  


Here’s this week’s takeaways, followed by a little (literal) call to action:
  1. Reduce, or better yet eliminate, gluten, grains and industrial oils
  2. Pick the metric you want to measure and track it often
  3. Reward good behaviour with things which further encourage that behaviour

What I really, really, like, is when people approach me and tell me they’ve already started cleaning up their diet. When I hear that, I immediately think that this person is going to succeed.

So ask yourself, when was the last time you ate the three foods described above? If it was three hours ago, well then you’ve been healthy for three hours. You’ve already started. You’ve already taken action!

All the planning in the world is insignificant when compared to a modicum of action. All of the excuses in the world are bullshit, which you realise by taking the first step.

Please leave a like or share this post if you enjoyed it. Leave a comment below if you want to discuss anything written here, and please feel free to contact me on social media. I’d love to get more people started.

Until next time,

Monday, 7 November 2016

Post 31: Top 3 Diet Excuses

Hi Guys,

The idea for this post came to me while I was out of London for a long weekend. While catching up with old friends, they relentlessly teased me for my healthy lifestyle and for writing this blog (in a friendly British way of course…), but what they said struck a chord. Or at least what was underlying what they said, struck a chord.

What I picked up, were the excuses people give either to other people or to themselves which stop them from starting a diet, or more importantly, from getting healthy. Because overall, that’s what this is all about. If you’re healthy then by definition, you’re not overweight, your metabolism is working as it should, and your hormones are in top notch condition.

These are the excuses that help you to weasel out of getting started; the slippery thoughts which people employ to put off what can be started today, to tomorrow. These weasels are misconceptions or myths which have been propagated by a combination of media, government recommendations, and branding, and really need to be eliminated.

So what are the three biggest excuses that people employ?

I’d have to count calories

That, and/or, you need to restrict calories and food intake. Well, if that was true, then why is it that countless people, including myself, find that if they eat the right kind of diet that they can actually eat more calories  and still lose weight?!

Food quantity and content is so much more important than the amount that you eat. We’re designed to use certain types of food for energy immediately and some to build and preserve muscle. Certain other foods induce low satiety, are easily converted into and stored as fat, and lead to a host of metabolic problems. Food is not all just one gelatinous cube which we take bites out of i.e. a calorie is not a calorie.

This links back to what I was saying about how these excuses are formed. The notion that one big number (the calorie content) is the only important factor, is straight out wrong, and assumes low intelligence in the consumer. You’re having the wool pulled over your eyes!

This is why my main starting advice is completely in line with Mark Sisson’s; in fact, this is exactly where I started. Forget keto, fasting, and HIIT, just cut out grains, industrial oils, and gluten, then eat to satiety.

I don’t have the time

There is a big misconception that healthy food requires a lot of time to prepare. And who would blame you? When we see healthy recipes or cooking shows, they contain endless lists of ingredients. What’s worse is they desperately try to recreate unhealthy food in “healthy” ways e.g. gluten free pizza bases. At some level, you need to come to a different agreement with these foods i.e. they’re not consumed regularly and instead saved for cheat days/meals or as treats.

The truth is that demand for healthy, and in particular low carb, options is skyrocketing, and companies are working hard to meet it. There’s a salad bar on every corner, you can even get them in Subway and the number of “local” supermarkets which will sell pre-made salads is through the roof.

If you’re making your own food, you just need to break your connection to the idea that a meal has a base of potatoes or rice. Every meal can be built up around lots of different vegetables together with a delicious, fatty, dressing.

The point is it doesn’t have to be fancy so don’t let all your ideas come from over the top cookbooks! Healthy food is easy to make and you can eat as much as you want of it. Like I said above, quality and content trumps quantity every time.

I have to exercise

This is the killer excuse which I’ve heard over, and over, and over again. There seems to be a deep seated nostalgia that many people have of when they would spend their entire days, as children, running around like maniacs. Well of course you were thin then, you had a sky-high metabolism and were moving non-stop! People say “once I start to run/row/cycle/swim again”, that they’ll get their whole act in gear, but it’s missing the point.

Firstly, the effectiveness of altering your food massively outweighs the benefits of exercise. Your first port of call has to be the food! Remember the 80/20 rule. Well in this case, 80% (probably more actually) of your results are going to come from your change in diet and 20% from exercise.

The next point is that people are going out and doing completely the wrong sort of exercise. Whereas they should be doing some low, slow, activity, they want to pound out the miles on the treadmill which is going to trigger sugar cravings anyway! The exercise which is really effective (HITT, low’n’slow, and weights) is overlooked and even then, if you’re seriously overweight you might injure yourself. If I was to give some advice regarding exercise then I would say get your diet in place just for two weeks so you have the fundamentals down.


There was a secret fourth excuse I want to mention, which is alcohol. You don’t need to give up alcohol entirely to be healthy, but there are certainly benefits to a good strategy for consuming it (which is a perfect plug for my post of alcohol which can be found here).

I also want to finish on a disclaimer. I talk a lot about the ketogenic diet (no carbs) and I pursue an avenue which a lot of people would consider “extreme”. But to be able to sit here and write about this subject, I also feel that I need to walk the walk. I need to be in the forefront, testing out the advanced and extreme approaches so that I can report back. People I’ve known for years almost apologies for eating carbs in my presence, and while it’s mildly hilarious to experience such foreboding, I don’t want to give off a “health extremist vibe”.

But that doesn’t mean you have to follow exactly what I do. As I said earlier, my immediate advice to someone just starting out is cut out grains, industrial oils, and gluten for two weeks, and see how you do. Leave the ketosis, HIIT and fasting strategies for later on down the line. I’m a firm believer in the low hanging fruit principle when it comes to health. Take the easiest and most effective option available to you, and continue to do so until you’ve reached your goal.

Here’s this week’s takeaways:
  1. You don’t need to count calories at all; like with media, content is king
  2. Being healthy is not a time sink; there are quick options every. Just change your psychology a tad and think differently about what builds a basic plate of food
  3. You don’t need to start exercising; the marginal benefit of exercise is puny when compared to getting your diet down

There you go folks. Short, sweet, and succinct. If you’re one of those people who are thinking about getting started then I hope this post helped out.

As always, please leave a like on your respective social medias, share this with your friends, and comment down below.

Until next time,