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Reviewed: Diet Chef

Dieting effectively is a huge challenge to do yourself - getting the right balance of nutrition without under- or overdoing calories counts can feel like a full-time job. That's why delivery diets seem like a great idea: nutritionist-planned, pre-set meals dropped at your door so that you all you have to worry about is eating them. But many of these diets are prohibitively expensive: that's where Diet Chef comes in.
At £38 per week, the cost of Diet Chef is probably not too much more than what you're already spending on your weekly shop...if not less, if you opt for restaurant meals now and then.
The plusses? There are a really wide variety of meals - porridge and granola for breakfast, soups or milkshakes for lunch, and stews and pasta for dinner , plus a couple of snacks, like granola bars and oat crisps - and nothing needs to be refrigerated (it comes in vacuum-packed bags), so it's easy to stash meals in your handbag when you're on the go. If you do the diet for a month or more, you won't be eating the same thing every day by any means (unless you want to, of course).
The minuses? The food is not amazing - we got pretty bored with it pretty fast.  You do have to supplement the supplied meals with fresh fruits and veg and milk (or soy milk) which means that it is not quite as cheap as it sounds...and also means that you do have to make visits to the supermarket, which can be tempting and dangerous!
The diet is very low in calories (1200 a day) so we felt hungry a lot of the time when we were doing Diet Chef...but you can pretty much eat as much fresh fruit and veg as you like, so it was possible to take the edge off with an apple (or, er, 7). And, OK, it IS a diet. Being hungry should not have come as a surprise.
The final important point: did we lose weight? Even with a couple of cheats (giving up cheese for an entire week proved to be impossible), yes! In just a week we ended up about four pounds lighter. Were we able to keep it off once we finished our Diet Chef regimen? Not so much...but that's probably more our fault than that of the diet!

Like The Wind!

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Running is one of the best ways to keep fit: it's inexpensive (free, except for cost of shoes and other kit), you can do it anywhere, and it's a great, simple way to enjoy the outdoors while getting fit. But if you haven't done much running since PE at school, it's not always easy to get back in to it.
That's why we asked Bud Baldaro and Clifton Bradley, members of the ASICS running clinics PRO team, to give us their top five tips for girls who want to get running - but don't know where to star...
1. Shoes are important. Yes, this is an opportunity to go shoe shopping, too, even if they're a little less sexy-looking than your Jimmy Choos. Wearing the correct category of running shoes is essential. Have your gait and foot type analysed by a reputable running store or podiatrist; they'll be able to recommend a running shoe that suits your individual needs. They may not be cute, but they'll make a big difference. This is particularly important if your feet pronate (roll inward) or one of your legs is longer than the other - in this case, see a qualified sports podiatrist.
2. Do your own thing. In the early stages, the most important thing is that you take your time and work at your own pace. Doing it with friends may be a good motivator, but joining a running club too soon may mean that you are pushed along by more experienced runners - you may feel like you're going nice and fast, but it can also increase your risk of injury. Six months after starting to run is often a good time to consider joining a club.
3. Develop your own style. Let your natural running style come through - your body will tell you. For example, if you're a heel-to-toe runner, don't force yourself to run on your toes, and certainly avoid barefoot running until your leg muscles are really strong.
4. Change your pace. If you're aiming to run a 5K for the first time, switch up your training: running the whole distance slowly, or running less than the full distance at a faster pace than that which you expect to run the race at. Vary your training methods and terrains, so your body is used to changing things up, and practise running at your goal pace (which doesn't have to be fast, mind you) on a measured circuit. And don't forget that sometimes your pace should be dialed down altogether - the body needs a recovery phase to cope with the new stresses of your new form of exercise, so have a cycle of easy/hard days, with the occasional day off, too.
5. Go shopping again. When your running shoes look worn out, they are worn out - this can happen faster than you think. Changing old shoes for new frequently may seem expensive, but it's cheaper than seeing a sports injury specialist.

Opting Out

Rex Features
Naomi Campbell isn't known for holding back when it comes to expressing her opinion. The latest topic on which she's passed judgement? Social networking...
Naomi doesn't like it. 'I don't do Facebook,' she said, speaking to a reporter from New York Magazine at a party thrown in New York last night by Dolce & Gabbana, celebrating her . 'I don't do Twitter. None of that. I don't have to do any of that. I just don't want anyone to know where I am.'
OK...we won't be Tweeting her, then. But while we can't quite imagine what life would be without our favourite social networks  - even though sometimes we do feel a little bit overwhelmed by all of the internet noise. And it's kind of amazing that refusing to use online social networks is quite a newsworthy thing for a celeb to do these day.
So, Naomi's nay-saying got us thinking: now that social networking seems to have infiltrated every aspect of our social lives, is it socially acceptable for anyone to opt out of communicating through Facebook and Twitter? Would dropping out of the electronic grid effect your lifestyle and friendships? Let us know in the comments...or, you know, via Twitter or Facebook!

25 Signs...

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Adulthood: what are the magic signs you've crossed the line? Here are our top 25 - tell us yours in the comments!
1. You wonder if it's a little bit icky for you to fancy the boys in Glee (but feel better when you check and see that they're not actually in high school).
2. You remember how you got home last night…
3. …And you also remember taking your makeup off before you went to bed…
4. …And you drank a pint of water before doing so, in order to feel fresh for your post-booze gym session
5. When your best friend tells you she's pregnant, you say, 'congratulations!' not, 'oh no!'
6. You spend most Saturdays in July and August going to weddings.
7. When someone invites you to a party, you say, 'shall I bring a nice bottle of wine?' not 'I can bring a half-bottle of leftover vodka?'
8. …And when people at the party start talking about mortgages, you're not immediately bored.
9. You live with fewer than six flatmates. And you clean the bathroom without having an argument about it first
10. You use less spot cream, more anti-ageing moisturiser.
11. Shopping for kitchen equipment and sofa cushions is as much fun as shopping for shoes.
12. When your mate suggests one for the road, you consider what you need to do the next day...and say 'no, thanks'. On Tuesdays, at least.
13. Half of your Facebook friends have photos of their babies as their profile photos.
14. You've never been so confident about sex - what you like, how you like it, how your body works.
15. You stop arguing with your mum, and start wondering why you didn't realise how cool she was when you were younger.
16. Your attention span for sexy-but-unsuitable men shrinks considerably.
17. You're no longer the most junior person at work.
18. You don't feel awkward calling your friends' parents by their first names.
19. And for that matter, you have friends who are old enough to be your parents.
20. You have money in your current account at the end of the month.
21. Youth hostels are no longer considered acceptable holiday accommodation.
22. You run in to your sixth form crush - and he has a receding hairline.
23. Two words: Radio. Four.
24. Eating a tub of ice cream does result in weight gain.
25. When did men with babies become so...sexy?

Get Cross

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Down an alleyway in East London, past a second-hand furniture shop and just before a hipster gallery is a 'gym' in a railway arch, but it's unlike any gym we've seen:  instead of treadmills and elliptical machines, think scaffolding, giant elastic bands, and sand bags.
This is CrossFit - a fitness movement that was originally developed to train elite military units, now taking root in the UK, and a favourite of celebrities like Kelly Clarkson and Malin Akerman. The goal of CrossFit is to be a well-rounded athlete, balancing strength with cardio fitness.
Their solution is to take the best of all sports and training systems and wrap them into one package, to create athletes with power and agility, strength and stamina. CrossFit combines gymnastics with Olympic weightlifting, kettlebells and circuits with cardio like rowing and mixes in a healthy dose of squats, burpees and lunges.
"CrossFit's approach is multi-disciplinary and it teaches you really cool skills" says Andrew Stemler, co-owner of CrossFit London. "It is varied, meaning you never know what's coming, and never get bored."
A typical class consists of a warm-up, a 'skills and drills' practice for handstands, rings or weightlifting and then the dreaded "WOD" or 'workout of the day' - a brutal 10-15 minute circuit.
Kate has been crossfitting for 3 years.  "I never dreamed of doing Olympic lifting or kettle bell swings, but my partner introduced me to the elements as small games or challenges.  Little by little I gained confidence."
Kate's confidence turned into results: she has lost 5 stone and gone from a size 20 to size 10.  She now assists in teaching the beginner classes, where new crossfitters learn the fundamental movements and techniques before they are allowed to join the regular classes.
We won't lie: CrossFit is hard. Really hard.   We were pushed to our limit at each class in a new way and at times thought we might even cry.  But luckily, the large muscled man next to us was also close to tears, so we felt OK.
"At the beginning, I just wanted to make it through without fainting" says Millie, a crossfitter of less than 4 months.  "But now I can do full men's pushups and I've done my first handstand.  Achieving things I've never thought possible has been a real thrill.  It's completely changed my attitude to fitness."
"You can say goodbye forever to fitness boredom and lack of results,' Kate says. "And you will have the best laugh with the friendliest bunch of people around!"  The personal support and attention from the team at Crossfit makes it a great option for anyone looking to drastically improve their fitness level and achieve real results...and if that's not enough incentive, there are a lot of cute boys there who quite often take their shirts off!

Eating For Immunity

Rex Features
Cold season is just around the corner, but boosting your immune system for winter can be as simple by the choices you make at mealtimes. Nutritionist Nigel Denby gives us the rundown on how to boost your body's defences through the food you put on your plate.
Essential ingredients for a healthy immune system are found in the everyday foods that we eat. Here are the most important ones that will help you keep healthy this winter!
Vitamin C - people with low intakes of Vitamin C have been shown to suffer from colds more frequently, and for longer periods of time, than those who keep up their C levels. Instead of reaching for supplements, eat Vitamin C rich food everyday to keep your intake up: think citrus fruits and juices, blackcurrants, peppers, leafy green vegetables and potatoes.
Garlic - a plant compound called allicin that is found in garlic is believed to boost immunity as it has been shown to have potent germ-fighting capability. Soups, sauces and dressing can all benefit from a garlicky kick (or if you're very brave, you can eat it raw...you may want to keep a toothbrush close at hand).
Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish and the Omega-6 fatty acids from seeds like pumpkin and sunflower seeds are known as essential fatty acids that the body needs, but does not produce - which is why we need to source them from food. Eating salmon and mackerel a couple of times a week may be the easiest way to get your fatty acids.
People with low intakes of Vitamin A, which the body makes from beta carotene, have been shown to suffer from more frequent infections. Beta carotene is found in yellow and orange coloured fruits and vegetables, margarine, butter and that oily fish that you're already eating for Omega-3 benefits.
Folic acid is important for a healthy immune system, especially for pregnant women, and should be replenished daily due to the fact that the body cannot store it for long periods of time. It can be found in breakfast cereals fortified with whole grain, leafy green vegetables like Brussels sprouts and kale, as well as beetroot and pulses like black eyed beans.
Certain probiotics support the body's defences by helping to maintain a healthy gut, which is essential for a healthy immune system. Probiotic drinks like Actimel have been shown in clinical studies to help enhance immunity and reduce the duration of winter infections.
Zinc, found in wholegrain cereals, shellfish and lean red meats, is a mineral required for a healthy immune system as it increases the number of infection-fighting T-cells

Power Box!

Power plate workouts: we always thought that they sounded like a good and totally implausible idea. Working out on a vibrating plate makes you burn calories and tone muscles in a fraction of the time of a regular workout? Pull the other one, right? That's what we thought, anyway - until we got the chance to try out a Power Box class at a new London gym...
Power Box is an instructor-led, 25-minute workout where participants go through a routine that will be fairly familiar to devotees of boxercise classes - but the addition of the vibrating plate. From the moment it was switched on we realised that we were in for a workout a bit more challenging than what we anticipated...and indeed by the end of every session we were sweating and panting more than we would after a 10K run - not a mere 25 minutes of exercise. Even though we were only doing the class once a week, we noticed a real difference in our muscle tone - and our ability to take on our usual, non-vibrating workouts. Vibrating plates work! Who knew?
A further plus: three twenty-five minute sessions a week will do you, exercise-wise - efficiency is a big plus in our busy lives when scheduling in workouts is not always easy...and when (we confess) our short attention span means that we can get kind of bored with a standard, hour-long class.
The only drawback? At £20 per session (slight discounts are available if you sign up for packages), with three sessions a week recommended, this is one get-fit method that requires quite a serious investment. But if you consider that you're looking at a fit body for less than the price of many a handbag...well, let's just say we may just redirect some of our Mulberry fund.

CARB-O-PHOBIA

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Have you developed an irrational fear of eating carbohydrates? Do you quiver at the thought of a freshly-baked loaf, shy away from rice and gasp at the mention of pasta?
You're not alone: thousands of women across the UK have developed an aversion to these essential food types, due in part to the popularity of rapid weight loss programmes like the Atkins and South Beach diets, which advocate the total elimination of carbs in favour of foods rich in fats and proteins.
And, with celebrity endorsements for the Atkins diet from the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and sinewy Victoria Beckham, it's not hard to see why so many of us have come to believe that carbs are the route of all weight gain.
But it's time to reconsider: eating fibre-rich carbs such as wholemeal bread, brown rice, and pulsescan help to lift your mood, burn fat and even protect against heart disease. Here are our top five reasons why you should ditch the Atkins attitude and get stuck in to a bowl of spaghetti:
 
1)      Boost your brain
Carbohydrates are fuel for the mind as well as the body, helping to power your brain and keep you on the ball. But that's not all: eating wholegrain carbs promotes the production of feel-good chemical serotonin, which helps to lift your mood.
A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine revealed that people who followed low carb programmes like the Atkins diet experienced more depression, anxiety and anger than those who stuck to low-calorie, high-carb diets rich in grains, fruits, beans and low-fat dairy products.
 
2)      Lose weight
Contrary to popular belief, eating carbohydrates can actually help you lose weight and stay in shape by giving you the energy you need to burn calories, feel fuller for longer, and stifle sweet cravings.
"Wholegrain foods tend to be higher in fibre which bulks out the diet and are low in fat," says nutritionist Sara Stanner, of the Nutrition Society.  "Fibre can also aid appetite control.  So eating plenty of wholegrain foods can aid weight loss."
 
3)      Protect your heart
"People who eat more wholegrain foods have lower rates of heart disease," Sara continues.  "This may be due to the fibre content of such diets, which tends to be higher, or some other nutrient in wholegrain foods, such as vitamin E or selenium, which are both antioxidants. Alternatively, it could also be that they are eating less of other foods that are bad for the heart, like foods high in fat. "
 
4)      Burn more fat
If you want to turn your body into a fat-burning furnace, then eating a breakfast rich in slow-release carbs is essential.
Insulin (the hormone that tells our bodies when to store sugar as fat) levels are lower in the body when we consume slow-release carbs.  However, when we eat fast-release carbs (think white bread and sugary drinks) or deprive ourselves of carbs altogether, insulin levels soar, sending a message to the brain to store that energy as fat.
"People often believe that eating carbohydrates will make them fat, or that they can only lose weight by cutting carbohydrates," says Dr Lilian Cheung, a nutritional expert from the Havard School of Public Health. "The truth is, you can lose weight on any diet, as long you burn more calories than you consume."
 
5)      Optimise your work-out
Think exercising on an empty stomach will help you burn fat reserves faster? Think again - you're not even going to make it to the gym if you don't have the energy to get there in the first place.
"Carbohydrate is the most important form of fuel for exercise and sports activities," says Helen Riley, a nutritional scientist from the British Nutrition Foundation. "The body can store carbohydrate in the muscles and liver, but these stores are small so it is important to keep them topped up. If you get tired during physical activity this might be because your carbohydrate stores are low."

They'll Be There For You

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Every now and then a girl finds herself in the position of feeling a little bit lonely - whether it's because you've moved halfway around the world or simply started a new job. But there's no need to despair: finding a good friend is not unlike finding a good boyfriend. It takes time, a bit of trial and error, and you rarely know who the best ones are going to be at the very beginning - but going through the process can make your life a lot richer. Here are our top five tips for meeting new friends, whether you've lived in the same place your whole life or have just moved to the other side of the globe.
Get out of the house If you want to make awesome new friends, it stands to reason that you increase your chances if you meet as many people as possible. Yes, it's tempting when you're living in a new place to stay at home with your box sets, but make yourself get out there - we promise, no one will look at you funny if you turn up to events on your own (if anything, they'll be a bit jealous of how cool and brave you are). Scour Time Out and other local listings for cool events and signing up to groups on MeetUp.com.
 
But be somewhat selective You don't want to be friends with just anyone - in other words, you don't want to make friends with people you have nothing in common with just so you have someone to have a drink with on a Friday night (think: those people who you met at Fresher's Week in uni and haven't spoken to since). You want to be friends with people you actually like. It's not dissimilar to dating: spread your net wide, but don't make too many commitments until you really get to know each other. So: your new friend invites you a dinner party - great; your new friend invites you to go halves on a mortgage with her - hold back on that one.
 
Find out what you love, and pursue it Think about who your closest friends have been up until now: they're likely to people you met through some activity or other: clubs and societies at uni, youth groups, sports teams, co-workers, and so on. Pursue the things you're passionate about, and you'll meet others who share your passion.
 
Make the first move You meet someone you like? Ask them to hang out with you. It's a little scary at first, but most people are flattered and happy to make a new friend. If they're not flattered and happy? Well, they don't sound like much fun - so you probably don't want to be friends with them anyway.
 
Be the organiser We're not just talking about coffees and club nights. Attending events that interest you is cool - organising them brings 50 times the benefits, as people who love them will want to approach and talk to you, suggest working together, or invite you to other events where you'll meet other great people. You'll be spoiled for choice!
 
A version of this post was originally published on Rachel's personal blog

Don't Derail Your Diet

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A new study has found that up to two thirds of women worry that eating at restaurants will ruin their diet plans. It's true that restaurant meals can be packed with unnecessary calories, but we also think it's no fun to give up eating in restaurants altogether. The solution? Here are our top five tips for dining out without over-indulging.
1. 1. Check out the menu before you go. It's a rare restaurant these days that doesn't have their menu posted online, so have a look at it before you go to see what kind of choices they have, and plan accordingly - it means that you'll be less likely to impulsively order something that is doused in cheese and butter (not that there's anything wrong with cheese and butter, of course).
2. 2. 'Shall we get a bottle?' It's a classic line uttered at the beginning of many a restaurant meal, but be strong - if it's just the two of you, opt for a glass and save 200-300 calories...which you can then consume in the form of dessert if you fancy it.
3. 3. Do you really need three courses? Probably not. Of course there is something to be said for the gracious pace of a three-course meal on a special occasion, but if you're concerned about calories, split a starter or a dessert with your companion and focus on your main. And feel free to eschew the side dishes, too: unless you order a plain salad or steamed veg, they tend to be cheese-laden.
4. 4. Order off-menu. It may make your waiter frown, but you are paying for this meal - so you should be able to eat what you want to. Obviously, you're not going to be able to get a lasagne without cheese or cream, but if there's a dish centered around a piece of chicken or fish, chances are you'll be able to get them to grill it instead of frying it. And don't forget that you can almost always ask for sauce to be served on the side - it doesn't look as pretty, but it will help you control how much you consume.
5. 5. Say no to the latte. We love lingering over a post-dinner coffee as much as the next person (especially if our dining companion is a handsome one), but even a skinny latte packs 160 calories. By contrast? A black coffee with milk and no sugar has about 20. Feel free to go crazy and have two.