Health

Louise Parker: “This is freedom from the madness of dieting”

January 19th 2017 / Anna Hunter

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The Founder of the Louise Parker Method doesn’t believe in punishing workouts, fads, gimmicks, superfoods, or, more importantly, diets, and here’s why…

Body transformation expert Louise Parker’s refreshing take on health and fitness is neatly summarised by the national treasure that is actress Emma Thompson:

“Louise isn’t holier than thou, yet somehow miraculously gets my reluctant arse into gear and sometimes even keeps it there. I love that her method is NOT a diet, and is genuinely sustainable, so I can have my glass of wine and manage to avoid the rest of the week eating cheesy wotsits. She toughens me up without driving me round the bend with kale juice and the more depressing style of sprout. She just gets it. We all use her, because she’s discreet and funny and that’s really important.”

Without further ado, we’ll hand over to Louise to dispel dieting myths, quash health boredom and rubbish the hocus pocus that often surrounds the health and fitness industry. Plus at the end there’s a Chocolate French Toast Recipe waiting for you. You’re welcome.

I’ve been on every diet under the sun - why are they not working?

“Any plan that feels rigid, unsustainable or unpleasant, will never be achievable or allow you to be consistent. A new way of living needs to be consistent in order to achieve a ‘wow’ result - and one that lasts.”

“Most diets work for a bit, and then people ‘snap’ and they’re back to square one. Many clients say ‘it worked for me, I lost two stone, but then I couldn’t keep it up and so I put it all back on again’. I hear this daily. Our frame of reference is that the ‘diet’ didn’t work, because it didn’t sustain you, and that the client is not the failure-the diet failed them. A plan just won’t work if it doesn’t slot easily into your lifestyle. It has to be do-able, realistic, adaptable to eating out and travel and ultimately be a total lifestyle shift, and one that allows celebration and eating out and letting your hair down. If it doesn’t and it’s viewed as a ‘sin’ and ‘you’ve cheated’ you’re engaging in mental language that sets you up to fail. Your quest for a healthier lifestyle should not feel all consuming - it needs to slot into your life, so that you can sort of wear it comfortably forever. And forever is a really long time, so it absolutely must feel enjoyable.”

Right, I’ve ditched the diet. What should I be doing instead?

“We teach the habits of eating in balance and actually going back to basics. For many it’s about learning how to eat again; it’s based in science but taught in a really practical and realistic way. We’ve all just got so much conflicting information in our head. It’s fabulous that ‘wellness’ is so on trend these days, this certainly wasn’t the case when I started my career 20 years ago.”

“That being said, we’re bombarded with information and it’s utterly confusing for people. Our method is coached by dieticians and so every aspect of a client’s plan is grounded in science and totally fad and gimmick free. We go back to basics and teach the science so that you understand the reasons why you choose to eat certain foods at a certain time, in a really attainable way. There’s nothing weird: three meals, two snacks and no exclusions of food groups. We support you throughout the journey until you reach your goal, and then teach you the trickier part of learning how to balance the method with eating anything you like, just in balance. It’s all about cramming in as much nutrition whilst we have a gentle calorific deficit, we add in working out intelligently (getting a good return on your time investment), living well (resting, de-stressing and sleeping better) and changing your mindset regarding how you view yourself and your habits.”

“All four pillars of what we do work together to get you the most thrilling result, and one that most of all lasts. People are amazed that you don’t have to punish yourself doing it. To the contrary, we want you feeling amazing and loving your new lifestyle. We’re really about changing lifestyles, and your body transformation is one of the many side effects of that.”

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I’m scared that my willpower won’t hold out. Any tips?

“Willpower is always just a temporary surge, no matter what your personality. If a regime you are on is unpleasant or just bizarre, you’ll crack. We use your initial swell of willpower in getting a client firmly planted in all four pillars of the method and then the habits take over, so that you are not relying on willpower.”

“Once good habits kick in, your hormones behave, and they really they control our appetite, mood and everything about us. Your habits will sustain you and long term you won’t need to be relying on willpower alone. It’s all about habit.”

I’m on a budget, both time and expense wise. What’s your advice when funds and ‘me time’ is lacking?

“There are heaps of recipes that are cost effective and most of all, take very little time to throw together. In my first book Louise Parker Method; Lean for Life the recipes involve mostly fewer than eight ingredients and should take less than eight minutes to prepare.”

“I’ve no time or inclination to spend any more time in the kitchen or getting my workouts in than the next person. Our approach is gym-free and relies on very little equipment. Most days I train for 20 minutes, with a couple of 40 minute workouts thrown in each week, all at home or in the park or sneaking it into my lifestyle. When you’re new to the routine it requires that extra bit of planning, but that soon becomes habit and I find that you save so much time. You’re so full of energy that you get more done in less time and you’re not having to spend a fortune on weird ingredients or gadgets or memberships.”

“It’s good to really stand back and assess your lifestyle - learn to say no to things that bring you no joy or serve no purpose and really just have a good look and edit of where you spend your time and money. It’s about living a beautifully balanced lifestyle that suits you. Finding ‘me time’ is tough - you have to actually make time for it. My toughest habit to keep in check personally is simply switching phones and screens off at 9pm, having a bath, reading in bed and getting a good night’s sleep. It’s amazing how much this simple habit improves your mood, productivity and sleep. And with sleep, every other pillar of the method is so much easier to keep in check.”

What can I expect in terms of transformation from your Method? Should I start with a goal or go with the flow?

“It’s good to have a crystal clear goal in mind and one you can literally feel when you visualise it. Wanting smaller jeans just doesn’t cut it. Also, be greedy. Anything is possible if you want it and if you’re consistent.”

“Goals differ. Many will come to us simply wanting to drop a few pounds, sculpt a strong body or to get off the diet treadmill. We’re seeing more and more come to us with utter exhaustion and in need of a lifestyle overhaul, some with little weight to lose and some with a great deal more. Our ethos is to make sure that the lifestyle shift and ‘getting the habit’ is the focus - the body just adapts as a side effect of that. The principles ensure that the ‘weight’ we are targeting is the pure fat, and that we are building precious muscle mass too. This is so important as it drives our metabolism. Often we have to build up metabolisms for clients who’ve been on endless diets where muscle is the prime source of ‘weight loss’ and this can take a little time. A client with say 20 pounds to lose will drop that on a 12 week programme, and we ensure that it’s all body fat and that muscle mass isn’t compromised - we aim to add to it so that what you’re left with is a beautifully sculpted body with a really healthy metabolism.”

“Once you’re into the ‘lifestyle phase’, you’re then able to let your hair down. So 70% of the time you just continue to eat in the style in which you’ve become accustomed, and when it’s worth it, you eat a gooey cake, a real one and not a raw, gluten-free one (unless of course they have a real allergy). Clients do primarily come to us for weight loss, but leave with a long list of added bonuses that they didn’t really know they wanted or were missing. It’s just lovely to see people transform in so many ways - glowing skin, how they dress and hold themselves, let go of insecurities and assured that they have a plan that suits them, that will work for them forever and they can just sort of ‘zone out’ every time a new fad is brought up in conversation, safe in the knowledge that they have one, and it works and it’s comfortable - it’s freedom really from the madness of dieting. We like to think we are the ‘method’ in the madness.”

Recipes from Lean for Life: The Cookbook, by Louise Parker

Salmon & Artichoke Tray Bake

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Fresh artichokes are one of my favourite foods and I loved eating my dad’s home-grown ones with him as a child… I think partly because they allowed so much time sitting on his lap, peeling away the leaves and learning to carve out the heart like a surgeon. As lovely as they are when fresh, they’re a faff, so I cheat and use ready-prepared hearts in olive oil, which work brilliantly in this tray bake.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE TRAY BAKE

A little olive oil
400g (14oz) jarred artichoke hearts in oil (drained weight)
400g (14oz) asparagus spears
4 x 150g (5.oz) salmon fillets
100ml dry white wine
Sea salt and black pepper
1 lemon or orange, plus lemon or orange wedges, to serve
Handful of dill, chopped

FOR THE TOPPING

2 tablespoons flaked almonds
1 tablespoon pesto
½ teaspoon finely grated unwaxed lemon zest

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7.

Lightly oil a baking tray and make a layer of the artichoke hearts and asparagus. Place the salmon, skin side down, on top and pour in the white wine.

To make the crunchy topping, chop the almonds and mix with the pesto and lemon zest.

Spread a layer of the mixture on top of each salmon fillet and bake for 15 minutes, or until cooked through.

Season with sea salt and black pepper.

To finish, squeeze the juice from the lemon or orange over the tray, sprinkle with the dill, then serve with lemon or orange wedges and extra green veg, if you fancy it.

Chocolate French Toast with Vitality Sauce

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I often make a vanilla version of this toast and serve it with grilled peaches, plums, nectarines or figs, adding a little dollop of my ricotta cream (see page 202 of the cookbook). For a savoury version, simply leave out the stevia and vanilla and serve hot with a slice of Gruyère cheese and ham hock and some roasted tomatoes with basil.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE VITALITY SAUCE

300g (2 cups) frozen summer berries
1 teaspoon stevia
Squeeze of lemon juice

FOR THE FRENCH TOAST

4 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1–2 teaspoons cocoa powder
½ –1 teaspoon stevia
4 pieces of wholemeal bread, crusts on, each cut into 2 triangles
4 tiny knobs of unsalted butter

METHOD

First make the sauce. Always use frozen berries, as they’re available all year round and are packed full of vitamins. Simply throw the frozen berries in a pan, add the stevia and lemon juice, place over a medium heat and leave to simmer away for 3–5 minutes until it has reduced a little. Set aside to cool slightly.

Now take a bowl and whisk together the eggs, milk, cinnamon, cocoa and stevia. Pour into a large flat dish and, in batches, soak each piece of bread for at least 1 minute on each side.

Place a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, add a little knob of butter and swirl until the pan is coated in melted butter, then fry each slice on both sides until nicely browned and fluffy.

Serve the French toast with a generous helping of the vitality sauce spooned over the top.

The Louise Parker Method – Lean for Life: The Cookbook by Louise Parker, published by Mitchell Beazley, £20 www.octopusbooks.co.uk

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