Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: Bests & Worsts

With about half an hour of 2010 left in my part of the world, I'm at home for the first NYE of my life. Why? Today, the temperature in Melbourne surpassed the 40 deg C mark, which is a deal-breaker in my relationship with the outside world. I had plans to go out and party, but the image of riding on public transport with sweaty, BO-drenched folk just to get to a club full of more of the said-same folk vehemently replaced the positive prospects of a fun night of dancing.

So, as my household counts down til the end of the first decade of the 21st century, I am encouraged to reflect on the mixed bag that has been 2010. Long-time readers will be familiar with most of the ups & downs that this year has brought me, but since I still receive some comments and emails that demonstrate a lack of knowledge about where I've been on this journey, I figured it would be helpful (to me as well as you guys) to have a look at what knowledge and experience I am bringing into 2011.

Let's start with the bad stuff:

The absolute worst event of 2010 was my February run-in with the horrific DepTran, prescribed to help cure a damaged, overly sensitive nerve ending. Within 24 hours of my first dose, I became desperate for food, with a raging appetite that could not be sated, even with 7000 calories thrown at it on one particularly memorable day. I stayed on the primal path, but watching my fat cells balloon whilst I miserably tried to stick to my usual intake levels left me with depression. I was allowed to cut out the drug after a month, since it was not helping the nerve ending, but by then I was back to my original weight. It felt like my efforts throughout 2009 were wasted. The hormonal effects of the drug stuck around for a good six months, and I have not been successful in my attempts to resume fat loss except for brief positive stints that keep inexplicably rebounding. Even following orthodox paleo, even tracking my carbs and calories, even exercising, even fasting, even with everything I know about health and nutrition - I'm still left feeling like a big, fat failure because I'm back to the size I was before I started trying to get healthy.

I know I've made positive steps and that it's not in vain, but try telling that to the clothes that don't fit me anymore and the people that - just 12 months ago - commented on how well I was looking. For the first time in my life, I was being told that I was 'gorgeous' and looked really healthy, and now that positivity has been stolen away from me. Saying that probably makes me look vain, but those comments, just like the newly-positive experiences I had shopping at clothing stores such as Alannah Hill, were so foreign and delightful to me that it was like I was finally granted access to this other world where normal people lived. Now I've been kicked out again - the lack of positive comments don't just remind me how much fat I've regained, but they also remind me that the average person will assume that I've regained it because I've been eating crappy food & that I'm ignorant about health.

I can no longer confidently be a positive role-model for the primal lifestyle - if I told anyone that I create and maintain a blog about healthy living, they would scoff and roll their eyes. Perhaps that is a little over-stated, since I have not regained fat in my face but only around my waist and hips/thighs - a sign of health and even fertility, really. However, there's nothing more compelling to an audience than having seen someone go from chubby to stream-lined, and I've lost that ice-breaker. When I get it back, I'll feel like a believable figure-head for the primal/paleo lifestyle once again.

So, I have learned a lot from this horrible experience: I have learned more about how my hormones work and what it feels like when they become imbalanced; I have been reminded just how dramatically my psychological aspects are impacted by physiological changes in my body; I have learned that when your body is being told to accumulate fat that it will succeed even during caloric restriction (I wonder how much muscle was eaten to feed my demanding fat stores...), and; I have had my hatred of Western medicine compounded, thanks to my specialist Doc who didn't bother to mention the "typical" side-effects of DepTran given that my experience on a similar drug had not caused any problems! The nerve damage is due to a problem that went improperly treated for too long, despite my pursuit of third, fourth and fifth opinions before finally finding this guy who picked up on the issue immediately. The kicker, of course, is that without sugar in my diet, that specific condition would not ever have flared up.

Time for some good stuff, please!

The psychological impact of the DepTran incident caused strain and damage in almost all of my personal relationships, but somehow we've come out the other side barely scratched. Rather than calling it quits, the beau & I are on the hunt to buy our first house, and everyone in my family is still speaking to me (even the ones who don't speak to each other!). I am in regular contact with good friends, some new this year, and look forward to maintaining those connections more effectively than I have in the past.

2010 brought me my best year of teaching thus far, despite my depression, with really enjoyable classes and mostly positive collegiate experiences (better than the bullying torment of 2009, at least!). I played Hero Teacher by orchestrating the inception of two new school traditions that were passionately adopted by the students, without causing me too much additional stress.

I discovered belly-dancing, a new passion of mine, and also rekindled my singing, which had been on hiatus since 2002. I have joined a belly dance performance ensemble, am on call for a couple of semi-professional choirs for when they need a strong voice to support their performances (so I don't need to be a paid member nor attend rehearsals, which works for me since I don't find their repertoire challenging enough to require rehearsal), and have made some contacts who will be part of my planned a cappella group next year. I hope that my 'recreational' participation in the performing arts will continue to grow in 2011, without adding too much stress to my already-busy life.

Of course, my knowledge about dietetics and fitness has continued to expand in depth and breadth throughout the year, with my growing blogreel devouring the time I used to have to spend on daily blogging! I plan on making an effort to photograph my meals again, since I feel that my cooking is my most visible and effective proponent of this way of life. I feel bad that I didn't photograph all of my Christmas meals, but I do have some waiting to be posted!

I finally took the next step in my jewellery making, devoting more time to the construction of new pieces (ironically, as part of my stress-reduction effort!), and starting a store online now that Zibbet has made it economically feasible to do so. Today, I also paid up for a full Zibbet membership, which means I no longer will be limited to only listing 50 items in my store. I have about 250 items waiting to be listed, so those will be posted incrementally over the next few days. Thank goodness I'm on holidays for another four weeks!

The final piece of positivity I'm bringing with me into 2011 is the newest member of my family, adopted just two days ago from the Lost Dogs' Home in North Melbourne:

Meet lovely little Oreo, our nine week old kitty - and the only Oreo you'll ever find in MY house! He's very energetic, and already prefers fresh fish to the carb-inflated dry kibble the vet recommended should make up 80% of his diet!

All the best for 2011!

Dr. Briffa's Christmas List

I am catching up on blog reading after taking a Christmas break to my parents' farm. I have a few things to post about, when I'm done updating my jewellery store, but this particular post by Dr. Briffa was too perfect a reminder of the knowledge we should take into a happy and healthy new year:
1.     For weight loss, neither ‘eating less’ nor ‘exercising more’ appears to work particularly well in the long term. While the calorie-principle has underpinned weight loss advice for some decades, its application in the real world has, generally speaking, been a crashing failure.

2.     Low-fat diets are not effective, overall, for weight loss either (despite what most doctors, dieticians and health agencies would have us believe).

3.     Low-carbohydrate diets generally outperform low-fat diets for weight loss, and also lead to greater improvements in a number of disease markers including triglyceride levels, blood sugar levels, blood pressure and measures of inflammation.

4.     Low-carb diets have the potential to improve blood sugar control in diabetics, and often lead to much lower requirements for medication, and quite-often, the ability to dispence with medication altogether.

5.     Lower-carb diets tend to be more satisfying than higher-carb, low-fat ones, which means individuals quite naturally tend to eat less (sometimes a lot less) without hunger.

6.     There is no good evidence that saturated fat (found, for example, in meat and dairy products) causes heart disease.

7.     There is no good evidence that eating less saturated fat has benefits for health.

8.     There is no good evidence that taking dietary steps to reduce cholesterol has broad benefits for health.

9.     There is no good evidence that margarine is healthier than butter (and at least some evidence exists which suggests quite the reverse).

10.  There is no good evidence that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame promote weight loss, and considerable evidence exists which suggests they have the potential for adverse effects on health.

11.  There is no good evidence that insoluble fibre (e.g. bran) has benefits for health.

12.  Fructose is not a ‘healthy sugar’, and despite the fact that it does not raise blood sugar levels in the short term, it nonetheless has the capacity to damage health.

13.  The consumption of dairy products is not required for good bone health (we did fine without it for over 2 million years, by the way).

14.  Not all of the nutritional information we get is in our best interests, and is often driven by a motivation for profit. That’s one of the reasons why, some of the time, there can be a yawning abyss between what we’ve been told repeatedly for decades and the truth of the matter as revealed in the science.
If I hear anyone I love talking about their weight-loss resolutions, I know where I'll be sending them.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Fall-back Favourites: Fried Cauliflower Rice

When I'm pressed for time, I have a range of meals that I make without having to think about the details. Chop chop and in the pot - curries, stir-fries, etc. So in my new series of Fall-back Favourites, I will note the details of some of these recipes where measurements are open to interpretation, and effort is minimised. Check out the first two recipes in this series - Roast Leg of Lamb  & Stuffed Capsicum (Peppers)

I was grilling some salmon a few nights ago, and was out of cabbage, so could not make my usually fatty side dish of sautéed veggies. I improvised with the foods I had in the fridge, and  came up with a really tasty way of making fried cauliflower rice, the perfect accompaniment to seafood dishes or spiced meat mains that could do well paired with absorbent sides.


Cauliflower, riced in a food processor (one head feeds at least four people)
Other vegetables - I used spring onion, capsicum, carrot, and broccolini
Fats for frying - I used bacon grease and coconut oil
Eggs - one or two per person
Optional - during step 2, add herbs such as coriander, and/or add a splash or two of sesame oil or soy sauce.


1. Heat fat in a large frying pan.

2. Add veggies, and sauté gently.

3. When veggies are done, remove from pan, and set aside. Keep warm.

4. Add eggs to the pan and scramble until cooked well.

Serve fried cauliflower rice topped with egg.

If you want the rice to be the main meal, rather than a side, try adding crispy bacon or diced chicken.

Here's the beau's meal, with the rice and eggs serving as a base for a delicious salmon fillet.

Fall-back Favourites: Stuffed Capsicum (Peppers)

When I'm pressed for time, I have a range of meals that I make without having to think about the details. Chop chop and in the pot - curries, stir-fries, etc. So in my new series of Fall-back Favourites, I will note the details of some of these recipes where measurements are open to interpretation, and effort is minimised. Check out the first recipe in this series - Roast Leg of Lamb

This is a fantastic way to glam up some leftovers in a tasty capsicum (or what Americans call bell peppers). Whatever meat and veg you have in the fridge will work - chicken and chives, beef and broccoli, lamb and leeks... You name it! Here's a breakdown of the last batch I made:


Bacon grease or coconut oil, for frying
Diced vegetables - I used spring onions, red onion, and tomato.
Meat - I used sliced ham
Eggs - one per capsicum
Capsicum/peppers - one per person


1. Preheat oven to moderate (150 deg C).

2. Slice tops off capsicum, and remove all seeds. Put the tops aside, and sit the capsicum on a tray.

3. In a frying pan over moderate heat, melt oils and add onions. Sauté until cooked through.

4. Add tomatoes and meat. Once they are slightly cooked, add eggs and scramble until all ingredients are cooked.

5. Scoop frying pan mixture into the capsicum, sharing the mixture evenly between the peppers. Replace capsicum tops.

6. Place pan in oven and bake until capsicum is starting to brown. Top with cheese if you like.

Serve carefully, as most capsicum don't like to stand upright and will spill their guts if toppled. If your capsicum is particularly uneven, wrap the base in aluminium foil and create a steady base.

This meal is an absolute favourite of ours - I love the adaptability, and the beau is obsessed with the flavours. In terms of vegetable-based foods, this is second only to cauliflower pizza in my book!

Fall-back Favourites: Roast Leg of Lamb

When I'm pressed for time, I have a range of meals that I make without having to think about the details. Chop chop and in the pot - curries, stir-fries, etc. So in my new series of Fall-back Favourites, I will note the details of some of these recipes where measurements are open to interpretation, and effort is minimised.

First up, a classic leg of lamb. As an Australian, I take pride in my preparation of lamb, and now that my kitchen is equipped with excellent crock pots, fats and spices, my roasts are unbelievably tasty, even without using sauces or elaborate dressing techniques.

Secret ingredient: organic, grass-fed lamb! I imagine that grain-fed/finished lamb needs quite a lot of dressing up to mask the flavour of rank chemicals and tasteless meat, but pure lamb, fresh from Farmer Dan's farm is the pivotal ingredient. The preparation and cooking technique is to enhance the flavour, not change or mask it.

You will also need: coconut oil, bacon grease or other animal fat, dried or fresh rosemary, dried basil, fresh or dried garlic, salt.


1. Pre-heat your oven to moderate (150 deg C).

2. Place leg of lamb in a pot with a lid - it needs to be big enough to house the lamb comfortably, with space all around the leg.

3. Melt your fats, and combine with the herbs and spices.

4. Rub your seasoning all over the lamb, including the underside and under any flaps of loose fat. If you want to cut strips across the fat so that the seasoning reaches the meat, you may. I don't bother when preparing grass-fed meat.

5. Cover pot and place in oven for a couple of hours. You can leave it for longer if you need to - just lower the temperature to 100 deg C.

6. For the last ten minutes, remove the lid and raise heat to 200 deg C so that the fat on the roast sizzles and crisps.

7. Remove from oven and allow the roast to rest for 10 minutes in the pot, before removing roast and placing on a wooden board. Be ready for the juices - catch them if you can.

8. Carve and serve the meat, drizzling with fats and seasoning left in the pot. You could add some cauliflower rice to the pot to soak up the juice, but this is too fiddly for my fall-back plans.

Et voila!


The holidays are here! After many long weeks of hard work, with the last few weeks spent furiously marking exams, writing reports, and making sure everything was all set for next year, my colleagues added a new layer to that stress by inventing an 'office/row of desks decoration competition'! It proved to be a wonderful bonding exercise, since for most of the year the people in my row are too busy to socialise, and reminded me that very little of our lives and choices are in a vaccuum - there is almost always a support system there, waiting for your call of help. It was all hands on deck for the last week of term, following my theme of 'recyclable & hand made White Christmas', building a tree out of paper, wreaths out of old plastic bags, putting cellophane on the windows, making snowmen out of wire and cotton wool, and grabbing shredded paper to scatter on the ground to look like snow. Other rows/offices let one or two people do all the work, spending lots of money at fabric and decoration stores, and some didn't bother to do much at all.

My row won! We celebrated as a team, and now have the newly-generated inaugural banner hanging at the end of our row, to remind us throughout 2011 how we worked together to create something beautiful and very personal.

Now that the working year has finished for me, and doesn't start up again until February, I can return my attention to participating in my other tribe - the paleo/primal community. I have been reading all of my blog and news feeds throughout the busy year, but have given very little back of late. I intend to make the most of my Summer outside and getting lots of sun, air, and activity, but at the moment it is SNOWING in parts of Victoria, suggesting we will have the cool festive season of 2006. Boo! I'm already betting that we won't get the scorching hot weather until school resumes in Feb and we're stuck in classrooms with piddly little fans or broken air conditioning. Bleeeeurgh... Just give me a few weeks of perfect weather in January, please?

So, how's the primal living going, Jezwyn? Well, I'm glad you asked. I was continuing my experiment of having a few carby days a week, enjoying mashed sweet potato and lots of berries. However, as of today I'm cutting those foods out again for a while, as I was starting to crave sweet foods almost constantly. Now that I'll be home most days (going out at night, usually, since the beau only gets one week off work), the pull to grab tomatoes and carrots out of the fridge for constant snacking is dangerous, so I'm going to start monitoring carbs again to see if that kills the cravings. I suspect higher carb days (especially starchy carbs) are quite good for me physiologically, but perhaps they do mess with my blood glucose/insulin too much and affect me psychologically. With Christmas lunches and dinners coming up, I don't want to be falling face-first into the Fruit & Nut balls I've been asked to make! I also wanted to try making a lower-GL dessert in the realm of fruit puddings to share at Christmas, but I would have to be tasting the recipes as I played, so that one will have to wait until next year too.

So, although it'll be hard to fast since I'll have few distractions, I will be eating more meat (yay for Christmas!), eggs, and fats, plus leafy greens which I will track to be sure I'm not going to be breaking out of ketosis too much. I've found myself turned off from meat a bit lately, but hopefully the variety of roasts and seafood that are synonymous with this time of year will help shake that feeling. I'm usually fine once the food is ready to eat, but getting uncooked beef and lamb out of the freezer doesn't inspire me at all. Weird...

My belly dancing class is on a break as well, with no classes for two weeks, so I'm looking at the other group fitness classes to go and play in. They have circuit training, so I think that's probably a good choice since I could use some strength work and a bit of cardio given I'm not walking/riding to school every day nor lugging around great tubs of books.

Blatant plug: As a stress-release activity in the past few weeks, and now as a creative outlet to keep me inspired during the holidays, I have been making jewellery again. I love getting feedback on my designs, so if you like jewellery you can look at my Facebook Page where about 150 of my pieces are currently visible in albums, or you can look at my Zibbet store, although I can only list 50 items at a time. I feel a bit dirty mentioning it here, but jewellery making has been a big part of my life of late, and is the main reason I haven't been updating this blog as much as I'd like. It's also a great way to stay busy whilst trying to ignore carb cravings! ;)

I have a couple of recipes that I've been waiting to share with you, so I'll end this post with a little comic strip that summarises so neatly the problems the world is faced with in terms of food:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Time To Begin - How To Get Started

A friend of mine is currently keen to follow in my healthy footsteps, but finds the extremes of the "Paleo" lifestyle a little hard to tackle. She asked me to create an ease-of-entry plan for her, and I figured it would make sense to share it here for anyone who needed to get back on the wagon, or wanted a list to send to loved ones to help them with their transition.

My own path: I started my weight-loss plans after readings a low-carbing article in a magazine, and lost a fair whack of fat whilst still consuming artificial sweeteners, thinking organic foods were for rich suckers, and only watching my carbs (no matter what the source). After finding Son of Grok and MDA, I started cutting out chemicals and streamlining my eating to meat, veg, eggs, some fruit, some nuts, and lots of oils. I've tried different ways of eating along the way, and battled interference from drug therapy for an ongoing nerve damage issue, but ultimately I'm happy and pretty healthy. I still have some weight to lose (again), but I'm not in a rush now that I know so much about metabolism and cellular health. I am also deeply engaged with examining psychological factors behind fat accumulation and maintenance, since I recognise that my mindset towards the end of 2009 and into 2010 would definitely be labeled orthorexia. Crying in a restaurant after finding out there were breadcrumbs in the food, anyone?

To create my 'How To' plan for others, I considered the ideas of Dr Kurt G Harris's Get Started guide on PaNu, Mark Sisson's PB Basics and book, as well as other less-authoritative write-ups from various sources. I am also learning from Matt Stone (there's a wealth of information there once you become immune to his thick facade of bastard) and Jon Gabriel, who are experts in physiology and psychology, respectively. My ideas don't exactly match any other guides that I've found, though I understand the ideas supporting the priorities and progression of the aforementioned lists.

The Beginning: The first thing you need to do is work out your goals - do you need to lose weight? add muscle? improve your health? Your goals will change your focus and process slightly, although overall your choices will fit under the following headlines:

1. Eat real, whole, nourishing food. Eating live foods (meat, eggs, fruit, veg) will supply your body with necessary nutrition, whereas 'dead carbs/calories' like flour, refined sugar, and most white potatoes will leave your body starving for nourishment.

2. Eat enough food. Not too little, not too much. Eat until you are satisfied, and then stop. If you concentrate on eating nourishing food, and really savour it by eating it slowly, you will recognise satiety and won't be left with cravings or feeling over-stuffed.

3. Use your body, and enjoy doing so. Being physically active is key to health. However, if you force yourself to exercise against your body's will, you will build mental barriers against the activity, and disrupt your health efforts. If you fulfill #1 and #2, you may find yourself wanting to move more. Find something you love doing, something that involves your whole body, and have fun!

Don't worry - this will be easier than it looks, and maybe even fun!
Time To Begin The Transformation:

1a. Start your day with a grain-free, sugar-free, protein & fat breakfast.

Fuelling yourself with fat and protein helps your body run smoothly for a multitude of reasons, including blood glucose stability, hunger management, fat-burning maximisation, and neural benefits.

Try: eggs and bacon, grain-free sausages or burger patties, chicken and egg salad, frittata (can be made ahead of time for an on-the-go brekkie), grain-free granola (Nola), or maybe even coconut or almond pancakes! Dinner leftovers like roast meat are also perfect protein-rich breakfasts, though you may want to add some animal fat (butter! Yum!).

1b. Add more healthy fat to the rest of your day. Saturated and monounsaturated fats are your friends. Animal fat (lard!) is wonderful, coconut oil has many exciting health properties, pastured/fermented butter is nutritious and tasty, and olive oil is great to drizzle on salads (but avoid cooking with it). Snack on high-fat foods like boiled eggs, avocados and macadamia nuts to keep hunger at bay. You'll soon find you don't need to snack - you may even stay satiated from breakfast until dinnertime! Eat when you're hungry, and when you eat, eat fat.

Did you notice I said 'healthy fat' and then didn't talk about margarine?! Margarine, and other bogus vegetable oils (and most nut oils) and BAD. Refined, adulterated, abused, rancid, and heavy on omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. We need omega-6s, but we need to keep our intake of them balanced with our intake of omega-3s. Right now, many people in the developed world consume omega-6:omega-3 at a ratio of 20:1! The recommended level is closer to 3:1, if not 1:1. When your omega fatty acids are out of balance, inflammation is caused. Inflammation is bad news for your body, causing internal upsets that lead to heart problems, digestive issues, autoimmune problems, obesity... Avoid inflammation as much as possible. Here are two more foods which, when industrially processed, cause major inflammatory responses in the body:

2a. Completely eliminate wheat, and minimise other grains & legumes. Aim for a maximum of one grain-based meal per day, and then try for grain-free days. Rice and corn (including popcorn) are grains. You can read about the dangers of grains on my Science page.

2b. Completely eliminate all processed sugar. This one can be hard work since some of us are addicted to sweet tastes. For now, try to substitute natural sugars like maple syrup and honey for table sugar, and then start replacing your natural sugars with chopped up fresh or frozen (unsweetened) fruit. If you find yourself craving sweetness, you might want to go completely cold turkey, cutting out all fruit. This can be particularly helpful if you are looking to lose weight. You can read about the dangers of refined sugars on my Science page.

3. For fat-loss: you will probably see some weight loss once you have eliminated grains and sugars. Some of this is 'water weight', but some may also be fat. To keep this fat-burning process going, restrict starches such as potatoes and root vegetables, limit sweet fruit, be careful not to over-consume nuts, and prioritise fatty cuts of meat as they are very nutritious and satiating.

If you are not needing to lose fat, you may wish to continue consuming fruit and nuts, but prioritise sweet potatoes and yams over white potatoes as many varieties of potato have minimal nutrition.

4. Once your hunger is under control and you've cut out the foods that interfere most with hormones and bodily functions, you should look to adjusting other lifestyle factors that may impact inflammation:

Chronic stress is inflammatory due to increased cortisol circulation. Find time to play and rest. I play by belly dancing, and riding my bike. I love to hang out in my hammock, soaking up some sunshine. I also find time to get pampered with a massage, and hope to work more yoga and meditation into my life next year.

Having fun can also have bonus benefits - dancers' legs are hot!
Sleep! Treat sleep like it's your job - make sure you're in bed snoozing for a set number of hours. Keep your bedroom very dark, and make your bed a sanctuary away from TV, computers, and other distractions.

Get some sun. 'Vitamin' D is crucial for reducing inflammation. Depending on your skin colour and geography, get your blood serum D tested and see how long you need to spend in the sun to get your levels into the preferred range. If your lifestyle limits your outdoor hours, consider supplementation of D3. A bonus of getting outdoors and lapping up some sunlight is that you'll probably end up sleeping better due to chemical reaction and hormone circulation.

Exercise - excessive, long cardio sessions is a form of chronic stress, especially if you don't enjoy yourself. Try interval exercises like Tabata protocols, sprints (running, swimming, cycling, etc), and other activities that involve short bursts of intensity. Short and sharp - our bodies love acute stressors since they make us stronger, but chronic stressors wear us down.

You too can be beautiful!
And, if you can, be sure to get lots of sex.

5. Continue perfecting your food choices.
If you're having digestive issues, try cutting out dairy products. Source farm-fresh foods - avoid conventional, grain-fed meat, and limit your exposure to pesticides by going organic. Be sure you are getting enough protein (1g per kg of body weight - use a food tracker like FitDay to check your intake).

Eat until you are satisfied, then stop.

The Goal Food List for Health & Well-Being

Each category is followed by a list of the top choices in priority order.

Meat: 1) beef, lamb, bison etc, 2) free-range pork, 3) wild-caught fish, 4) free-range chicken, 5) other seafood...

Fats: 1) animal fat, 2) coconut oil, 3) butter/ghee, 4) olive oil...

Nutritious veggies: 1) leafy green veggies, 2) low-starch veggies, 3)sweet potatoes...

Fruit: 1) berries, 2) other low-sugar fruits, 3) higher-sugar fruits as post-workout refuelling...

Nuts: 1) macadamia nuts, 2) everything else except peanuts & cashews (which are legumes).

Drink water whenever you are thirsty, and you might like to experiment with tea, coconut water, etc. Do not drink soft drinks or fruit juice - it's just sugar/sweeteners. Coffee is okay in moderation, as is straight alcohol (wine, some spirits). Beer has gluten in it, though you can find some gluten-free craft beers.

Cook your food gently and properly - avoid burning at all costs. You can also learn how to properly prepare nuts and dairy products through the Weston A. Price Foundation's website.

Eat real food, avoid the nasty stuff, live like a human animal (not a robot!), and prioritise your health since your life really does depend on it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Get Real!

The most artificial things I have done in the past year (other than flying halfway around the world) have been to dye my hair (as a post-show mood booster), and get a spray tan for Halloween. Naturally, now that the red I put through my hair has all but faded, leaving me with a warmer brown tipped with lighter streaks from sun bathing, and that my fake tan has faded but my real summer tan has started to show, I am constantly being asked whether I've had my hair done (often 'have you had a haircut?' which intrigues me...) and being told I look really nice and healthy! Message received world - stick to what evolution gave me.

It makes sense for my real food diet and grounded approach to living be reflected in how I look; however, hippy fashions really don't suit my curves. so I guess I'll have to stick to fuelling my addiction to curvy-friendly and feminine couture. Ah well... Alannah Hill herself looks about as far from realistic as you can find wandering the streets these days, but this cavegirl needs her frills!

As for the no-frills aspects of my life, I have been asked via comments and emails to share the details of my way of eating, especially since I'm finding my health improve in leaps and bounds now that the DepTran repercussions seem to finally have been eradicated from my system. I can't quantify how amazing it is to be rid of the psychological drive to eat, to feel satisfied by food again, and to see other improvements such as skin clarity, better sleep, tolerance of heat and cold, and insusceptibility to the colds and other bugs going around. I attribute this restoration of health to the long process of ridding the body of detrimental substances, since I've seen gradual improvements every week since the low points mid-year. However, that in itself isn't enough to start driving fat loss once more, so that achievement I can attribute to my current lifestyle.

Let me break it down:

I don't have 'rules' anymore, but instead make decisions based on a consolidated understanding of my body and evolutionary science and medicine.

Obviously, processed foods including grains, sugars, and vegetable oils are permanently off the menu.

However, now that the weather is getting better and I'm getting out more and being more active in general, I am finding that I can tolerate real carbs more and more with repeated exposure. At the moment, I can eat up to 150g carbs (including fibre) without significant weight gain afterward. I may hold a little extra water if many of those grams came from fructose, but it leaves my body again after a couple of days.

My exposure method had mostly been to eat sweet potato (mashed with butter and nutmeg - yum!!) with dinner on the weekend (Saturday, usually), and eat some berries one or two times a week or so. I eat copious amounts of vegetables - I've overdone it a couple of times, eating a kilogram of veggies over the course of a couple of hours! Not advised... - usually sautéed in butter. Cabbage and zucchini are still my favourites, adding in asparagus, spring onions, and leafy greens like spinach and bok choi when the mood strikes me. I count these carbs (usually around the 30 - 60g per day mark, though I log at the end of the day) even though other experts suggest that veggie carbs don't really count.

Breakfast of primal royalty!
Essentially, this is my 'Keep It Real' Diet - I eat what I feel like eating, when I feel like eating it, and apply logic to my impulses to explain why I might be drawn toward one meal and not another. Sometimes my choices are made for me - today is 'fresh wild-caught salmon day' at my butcher's, so sashimi was a done deal for dinner:

...with a big bowl of sautéed veggies and bacon, of course.
Sometimes I have to force myself to eat whatever's in the fridge - I'm still disinclined to eat beef, even though I love rare steak once it's in my mouth, but whilst I stand in front of the fridge it's the last thing I want. And if I find myself getting to excited by the prospect of sweet potato mash (and why wouldn't I be?) I stop and check whether the excitement is coming from my taste bus or from the dark place in my brain that wants to ride a sugar rush. The temptation of berries often fails this little test, but sweet potato hasn't messed with my blood sugar very much at all. My post-carb test is to have a shower early the next morning - I tend to feel nauseated and light-headed if I've eaten too many carbs the night before, suggesting blood glucose imbalance. It's worrying in the pre-diabetes sense, but it's also a reminder why I keep my carbs low - no, it's not because I'm following the advice of the latest fad diet guru, but because my body has been damaged from years of carb abuse. I now look younger and healthier than I have since my childhood, even though I'm almost as curvy as I ever was. It's not a coincidence, and I listen attentively whenever my body has something to say.

Lately, it's mostly been saying "Seriously, isn't 500g of sautéed cabbage enough?? You're a bloody slave-driver! You'll be sorry..."

Even minced beef works in the pan with my veggies - so much broccolini!
So here's a run-down of my usual intake rhythm (not an eating plan but a reflection on what I've been naturally doing):

Monday - Friday (working days): Fast til I get home (somewhere between 4pm and 6pm usually), unless calories have been a little low, in which case eat bacon for breakfast and hoard the drippings for veggies later! Dinner: usually meat with a hefty side of sautéed veggies. Calories and carbs are variable - I eat to appetite.

Sautéed bacon and veggies, topped with runny fried eggs
Veggies, mushrooms, and rare porterhouse steak
Weekend: breakfast/lunch and dinner, sometimes separated into three distinct meals. One lunch or dinner will include sweet potato mash or similar starch, and fruit and nuts are free game.

Sweet potato mash must always be eaten by using crispy bacon as the spoon. Always.
I tend to hit a bit of ketosis during my fasted days, of course, yet I'm keeping my metabolic bases covered by cycling carbs all over the town, and not letting my calories find a routine. Sometimes I feel like I've eaten too much, but I never leave myself hungry. This, in turn, is keeping my cortisol in check, as reflected by my sleep habits, skin, and overall mood.

The only victim of this process has been my digestion - hitting it with larger, veggie-heavy meals has been tricky at times, but it is adjusting very well. Now that the weather is heating up, I've found it hard to keep my liquids up given I already inhale water all day, but now have to additionally compensate for water lost through sweat and digestion 'hurdles'. My water bottle is a permanent fixture in my hand or bag, and now that I teach only two classes (pared down from my usual six thanks to the seniors finishing up this week), I'm never far from the filtered water in the staffroom. You know you're keeping it real when your 'naughty treat' is chilled filtered water! With a violent Aussie summer approaching, it doesn't stay chilly in my Sigg bottle for long...

So, on the carbs front, it has been great to build up my tolerance again, which I suspect couldn't have been done without a long healing period between early 2009 and now. I am in touch with primal peeps on Twitter who are still in my old boat - they touch one gram of carbohydrate over their 20g threshold, and their weight jumps up. Even when I was lapping desperately at the Gary Taubes pool of information, I thought it couldn't be healthy to be that impacted by such a subtle sway in diet - yet I proved it to myself again and again. As I have now shown, a healthy(-er) body should be able to deal with all sorts of diet and lifestyle changes without immediate, negative consequences. I still feel best on a meat-only diet, and I'll happily throw in a meat-only day into the mix whenever it's convenient, but it's good to know that I can be more flexible.

On a psychological note, I know that I enjoy the flavour of food more when I've put effort into its production. This is a known psychological behaviour - we prefer anything we had to work for. Rodent studies have shown mice who have to work harder and harder to get sweet water (hello carbs) end up preferring that flavour to other sugared waters once all are freely available. People who learn how to do origami end up rating their own works as highly as they do origami made by experts. t makes sense from the evolutionary perspective - we form attachment to the fruits of our labour, we enjoy the food we have laboriously hunted or foraged for, we care for our children and will protect them before looking after our own well-being, etc. So, with this in mind, my enjoyment of the vegetables I prepare potentially exceeds that of the meat I slap onto the grill or toss into the oven because my brain doesn't register the meat as 'something I had to work for'. The combination of real food and real effort results in real enjoyment - I savour both aspects of my typical meat & veg meals because, overall, it took me time and effort to prepare and cook. The physiology and the psychology are both piqued and I am left deeply satisfied.

It seems like I've put a heap of time and effort into organising what I should eat, when and why to maximise my fat loss, but really everything has fallen together with a bit of sensibility, hormonal balance, and a willingness to fast frequently. Reading the work of blogger like Chris Masterjohn, Martin Berkhan, Matt Stone, and others who don't follow the typical paleo WOE has been interesting, and has given me new ideas to play with. Many of their ideas won't work for my body and lifestyle, but their articles have resulted in a follow-the-yellow-brick-road perusal of all sorts of other information online, tweaking my understanding here, and pushing my self-reflection there. Stephan Guyenet's message hits home more and more for me: neither carbs, fat, nor saturated fat make you fat, but rather modern, refined, industrial foods bring in the diseases of modern civilization.

One caveat - despite my increasing tolerance of carbs and understanding of the incredibly wide range of evolutionary diet components humans have evolved upon, I still can't handle it when the middle-aged ladies in the aisle of desks next to mine cluck at lunchtime about their Weight Watchers canned tuna and yoghurt. Vom. Get real, ladies. I've yet to snap and rant at them about the idiocy of their processed & calorically-restricted diet, and experiences like that of Primal Muse sure help me bite my tongue for just one more day...

One final note of what's real in my like - realty. Ooh, see what I did there? Yes, I'm house hunting, hoping to buy my first home, so the beau and I have been trekking around our neighbourhood, falling in love with some gorgeous modern townhouses and snarling in disgust at the state of older, uglier homes carrying the same price tag! We're lucky in that we have quite a bit of dosh with which to service a loan, so we're not having too much trouble finding aesthetically pleasing places that are still in walking/cycling distance from my work, have a yard for the animals we'll get, are near parks so the dog(s) can go for a run, don't need renovating (neither of us are patient enough for such things), and can fit all of our amassed frippery (piano, huge couch, big dining table... Yikes!) I'm in charge of vetting online properties, organising our inspection schedule, whilst the beau has been lining up meetings with financial planners and agents. The bureaucracy is horrible and so unreal. So much fuss over which bit of money goes where and why and crunching figures and planning loans and sorting out insurance and BLAH! The beau is in London right now to collect some massive geek prize for being the best geek or whatever, so that leaves little non-driver me to bus/ride/walk around the nearby suburbs all day on Saturday, trying to get to properties whilst they're open for inspection. It should be interesting... Just give me a sunny day, okay?

Forecast for Saturday

Partly cloudy. Winds northwest to southwesterly averaging up to 20 km/h tending southeast to southwesterly up to 25 km/h during the afternoon.

City Centre   Partly cloudy.   Min  9   Max   23


(Aren't you glad I didn't say 'For real?!')

You asked for it!

Last post, I introduced you to the herbivores in my life, but lest my quirky picture forever brand harmless, vulnerable (and boring) little cavies (guinea pigs) as vampiric terrors in your minds and dreams forever, let me off-set that image with some more shots of my photogenic boys.

A photo album isn't complete without baby photos:

Baby Sunny

Baby Toffee
 The rest are from a trip to my parents' farm, where the boys had their first experience of sitting in the grass - something sorely lacking in the Collingwood apartment we were all living in at the time!

Look ma, no bloods!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bits & Pieces


I'm still fasting til dinner most work days, with a couple of low calorie days and some high calorie days, and things are going really well! Here are some of the nourishing dinners propelling my metabolism and nutrition as I focus on trimming down and improving my belly dancing:
Tangy Italian Chicken in Bacon
Chicken drumsticks, roasted whilst woven with bacon, served with a sauté of green cabbage, zucchini, green capsicum, carrot, and fresh basil.
Cauliflower Pizza
More cauli pizza, with grilled salmon and a typical veggie sauté.
Jonathan's chipollatas, scrambled eggs, and a veggie sauté.
Chunky Chicken Burger, a hard boiled egg, beetroot, and veggie sauté.
Beef pocket steak, and veggie sauté.
I dressed the beau as a Hulk Hogan-esque 80's wrestler, complete with artificial abs and injuries! I really should have been a stage make-up artist, considering the number of people who were convinced by the gash and the six-pack! ;)
It wouldn't be fair to post a shot of the beau without also putting my own goth-ish belly dancing costume up for speculation! Baring my less-than-twiglet-esque midriff took some serious, er, guts... But thankfully everyone was pretty much distracted by my bust! Note the wig and the fake tan - now that's commitment! 

I've officially worn through my VFF KSOs! Pretty happy with the location of the dull zone too - hip hip hooray for VFFs! What's more, the number of stockists in Australia apparently exploded in the past year, and one in Melbourne is having a MASSIVE 60% off sale, bringing all styles down under the $100 mark! That's a big change from the $200+ I would have been paying before, or $150 if I shipped from the US again... Woohoo!
Glad it's fine weather right now, since this tiny patch of exposed fabric will have to keep me going for another few weeks!

The beetroot that I served myself in a meal posted above was pretty tasteless (and not organic, which I found out later, explaining everything...) so I fed the raw leftovers to the guinea pigs. Now, from certain angles, Toffee's beet-fest was only minimally noticeable, but from others...

Recipe: Tangy Italian Chicken In Bacon

November, thus far, has been a whirligig of playfulness in the kitchen, experimenting with my new grill and warmer-weather fare. First up, I wanted to try making a buttery filling to go inside chicken, without having to resort to using chicken breasts. Solution - using whole chicken thighs, and wrapping in bacon!

Serves two hungry primal eaters.


4 free-range chicken thighs
4 slices of middle bacon
3 spring onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2T butter, diced
8 stalks asparagus, halved
1 tomato, diced
Fresh basil, finely chopped
1t chili powder/flakes
Salt & pepper to taste

1. On a wooden board, lie out bacon strips and chicken thighs. Flatten the thighs with a rolling pin if they are on the small side.

2. Excepting the asparagus, combine all other ingredients in a bowl, mixing thoroughly. If your home is a bit chilly, you may wish to soften the butter first so that it will take up the spices.


3. Being the layering process: place the flattened thigh on the eye of the bacon, then add one quarter of the filling mixture in the centre of the thigh.  Place asparagus across filling, perpendicular to the bacon.

4. Carefully roll the bacon, from eye to tail, pressing down the outer edges of the thigh as you go to secure the fillings in place. 

5. When all thighs have been filled and wrapped, place into your grill (or barbeque, or onto a tray in a hot oven) and cook until chicken is completely done - around 15 minutes on my grill. Watch out for signs of burning bacon - reduce heat if the bacon is done before chicken is finished.

6. Serve with fresh salad or roast veggies - it works both ways!

Crunchy, moist, tangy, with a bit of a bite! Yum!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Jiggle jiggle!

Greetings primal peeps! A spot of meta-blogging: In less than a week, my Year 12s sit their final exam, and there will be a whoosh of released anxiety and spare time flooding my way! I can't wait! I haven't been able to spend nearly as much time as I'd like on this blog since I've been getting home quite late most nights and wanting to crash, or I've been out, savouring the gorgeous sunshine as much as possible before finally capitulating to the army of mosquitoes and hiding indoors... and then crashing. So much crashing. One particularly memorable crash occurred in the hammock very recently - the hoards of twilight bugs very thoroughly savaged the top of my right foot before I finally came to once more. Thankfully, the book I had been reading was flopped across my face, so I was protected from facial swelling and subsequent blotchy goodness.

Anyway, I have been thinking about how my blog fits into the paleo blogosphere of late. I have been somewhat disheartened by the wrenching turn some blogs have made from being personal journals with scientific curiosities being discussed, to blatant agenda-pushers in the guise of pursuing further scientific knowledge. Some have always been unashamedly biased - I read Charles Washington's ZIOH blog with the expectation of one-eyed discussion of current findings/reports - but some are masked, giving the illusion of scientific objectivity whilst conveniently ignoring other possible understandings or research. Bleh. So even though I would love to include documentation of the interesting things I read about health and nutrition, and my own opinion on scientific research, I would hate to annoy readers the way other blogs do me. Thus, I will continue to share my online findings via Google reader (check the right-hand navigation bar for current shares and how to subscribe), and update my Show Me The Science page as necessity dictates.

In the meantime, I am going to continue my blog in the opposite direction - it will continue to be a personal documentation of my journey, my culinary experimentation, and other such things. So nothing will change, except perhaps the frequency of posts now that things are winding down and days are getting longer and hotter! End of meta-blogging.

With the sun peeping out for increasingly long periods during the day, I have been getting as much sun as I can, and building up a nice tan (read: blood serum D level). I'm still supplementing D on the days when I remember to supplement, and am also taking fish oil, Mark Sisson's multi (til I run out), potassium & iodine, magnesium, and a pro-biotic (since it's in the fridge anyway..). I am taking care to cover my bases there since I've been playing around with fasting quite a bit of late, and am also pushing for fat loss and muscle gain.

Fat loss: I began documenting my weight at the start of the month, after a few weeks of experimenting with alternating between high carb / low carb / zero carb / fasting. Interestingly, I didn't find much of a change in energy level during the experimental phases - no boosts after a dinner of sweet potato or a snack of fruit, no drops during 24 hour fasts... I also noted that my weight was rock steady throughout, even though I was eating now lower than my BMR required, and sometimes significantly more. This suggested to me that perhaps my physiology had finally achieved homeostasis post-hormonal imbalance & carb resistance acclimatisation (translation - my body was back to normal after DepTran screwed up my hormones and (maybe) long-term low-carbing left my body unable to deal with the intake of more than a few carbs). Before, I was highly affected whenever I would vary my food and activity choices, and my weight fluctuated wildly. It's significant to note that the weight where my body decided it was happy to stay was two kilograms more than my pre-primal weight. According to modern theory, this can be attributed to caloric restriction - although I often ate quite a bit of food, especially when I followed a meat-only diet, I suspect that overall I was eating a lot less than I did in the past. Metabolic studies would expect that any diet is going to have the long-term result of increased belly fat, so it looks like my results fit this description even if other factors drove the gain. For this reason, I'm trying to be very careful about monitoring my eating patterns.

Although I am not following a particular regime, here's a loose description of what I am doing to encourage fat loss without the rebound effect described above:

I am fasting quite regularly - at the moment, this is more a time conservation activity, since if I don't have to organise breakfast, let alone lunch, I can just get about my business. I usually have something to eat once I arrive home, and have a big dinner. Whilst the beau was overseas, this was wonderfully freeing - I would eat what I wanted, when I wanted it, rather than have to worry about making sure he ate his dinner early enough. I recently read about Martin Berkhan's 'Leangains Diet', which supports my typical work-day fasting habit.

To avoid my body adjusting to a caloric intake standard or building upon my carb resistance, I include some sweet potato or fruit at least once a week - usually on the weekend. I ensure my caloric intake varies every few days, whilst making sure my overall average is at or slightly below my BMR.

Most days I eat just meat and vegetables, favouring my preferred preparation method: heat a big pan, put fat in pan, put meat in pan, fill rest of pan with veggies, serve when everything is cooked to taste, and sprinkle with iodised salt! Even though this is leaving me with fewer and fewer opportunities to construct exciting new recipes, it's making me really happy! All I use is a knife, a chopping board, and my gigantic cast-iron frying pan, so washing up is a breeze (and I don't even bother to wash up unless I've used raw meat).

I'm eating a LOT of vegetables - most days I easily clear the 500g mark, and sometimes I hit a full kilo of veg if I've eaten two or more meals! The incredible (to me) aspect is that even with all that plant matter, I still rarely clear more than 30g net carb per day! When I think of how timid I was back in the low-carb days pre-primal, serving myself only one floret of broccoli, and running away from carrots, I want to slap myself! I love veggies, and now that my system seems to be healed, I don't notice any digestive issues whatsoever - no bloat, no farting (not even after I eat cauliflower and broccoli!), and no sluggishness. I don't regret my meat-only days - they would not have adversely affected my carb resistance any more than my more varied 20g carb days did - but it's still good to discover that I can incorporate vegetables into my diet without sacrifices the digestive benefits of being carnivorous. Whether the few sugars from plant foods are speeding up my eventual aging or not, there's no way to tell, but I still know that I'm better off than the average SAD person, and have a slightly better chance of finding suitable foods at functions and outings. I also note that consuming slightly less meat per days could have an impact on sustainability, but given the fact that I eat more veggies by weight than I would be eating meat, I'm not sure which way that impact leans. I also know I'm not saving any moolah in the process, since I buy organic veggies 80% of the time (I relax when it comes to low-pesticide varieties of veg that are grown locally and sold in supermarkets or conventional groceries). The veggies are still primarily a tasty way to transport added fats, but the volume also helps to fill me up.

As noted, I add in some fruits and maybe sweet potato and other starchier roots weekly, and if I'm feeling particularly underfed I'll enjoy some nuts. I still have a bit of a problem with nuts being hyperphagic for me - I actually noted a flash of desperate 'eat more nuts!' desire after finishing a bite of walnut last night! Not good... Plus, my gut doesn't deal with nut binges very well, so if I can't happily control my portions, it's better if I avoid them. Once I post this, I'll be heading to the kitchen to use up the current nut stash in a batch of Nola, using the subsequent leftover egg-yolks as an addition to dinner.

Since the start of October, I have lost 4kg, with my scales reporting a decrease in fat percentage. The figure on the scales does tend to bounce around, but I monitor my flab by feel - I've already been through once phase of jiggliness/shedding, and am onto phase two. Unfortunately, tomorrow is a friend's Halloween party, and I was planning to go as a gothic bellydancer with exposed midriff, but right now my gut is as wobbly as a skinny-fat person's cellulite-stricken thighs! The blubber sits away from my muscle - my stomach undulations give the impression of foam floating atop the ocean - not sexy! But anything could happen in the next 24 hours - I will be avoiding bloat, drinking lots of water, and crossing my fingers... And speaking of belly dancing:

Muscle Gain: Belly dancing is re-shaping my body dynamically! The current teacher taking my group whilst the usual teacher (and half the class) is in Egypt is an expert in upper body work and floor work, and even though we've only had two classes with her I'm seeing an improvement in my arm tone and shoulder flexibility. Belly dancing in general is whipping my abdominal muscles into shape, with my obliques refining particularly noticeably. My love handles are still present, yet my overall silhouette has become more slender in this area, meaning I can get away with wearing my airy-fairy summer dresses without worrying around hiding the bulge with stockings or granny panties! My thighs are getting stronger, but hopefully not bulkier - it's impossible to tell whilst I'm burning fat simultaneously. I'm not sure whether my 4kg weight loss has been impacted by muscle gain at the same time, but I would tend to guess not. I'm not seeking a gain in muscle bulk but muscle tone, and I think I'm well on my way! I don't really practice in between my weekly lessons, but with some more time available to me in future I might start up some sessions. In the meantime, my hula hoop still gets a spin every now and again, especially when the beau is around to be mesmerised... :)

As you can see, the proportions of my health efforts are heavily biased towards diet, of course, but with my new gym membership and hot weather coming up, I intend to be more active in my free time, given that I'll be spending more and more of my working hours stuck at my desk. Here's hoping I can get back some swimsuit confidence before the beach weather really hits!

Finally, for your viewing pleasure, a few samples of my dining habits from the past fortnight:

Porterhouse steak, drenched in garlic butter, with a side of sliced veg

Chicken Caesar salad

Bad photo of an amazing squid & veg sauté

Roo burgers, with asparagus and button squash

At the Valedictory dinner for the graduating class: salmon steak and steamed veg (the salad was dressed). Had to fight to get my needs met, but in the end I was very pleased!

Rare roo steak with sautéed veg

Chicken drumsticks with sautéed veg

Jonathan's classic Italian sausages and sautéed veg

How to eat well at a shopping mall: pork roast and veg from Rhumba's at Westfield Doncaster

Bacon & veg sauté to go under some grilled chicken (two serves here - this is my big cast iron pan!)

The finished product!

PS - You may have noticed some Amazon & Google advertising on my site or in my posts. This is a test to see whether this kind of monetising generates enough income to buy my own domain name. I'm going to try it for a couple of months to see what the interest is. Don't go out of your way to click on ads, of course, but if there's something you're genuinely interested in, then hey, that's a few cents towards my domain. I want a true impression of likely activity in future.