Just like in modern times, all work and no play made Grok a dull boy. Hunter-gatherers have always generally worked fewer hours and have had more leisure time than the average 40-hour-plus American worker. Once the day’s catch was complete or the roots, shoots, nuts and berries had been gathered, our ancestors spent hours involved in various forms of social interaction that we might categorize today as “play.” Young males would chase each other around and wrestle, vying for a place higher up in the tribe social strata. The males might also practice spear- or rock-throwing for accuracy or chase small animals just for sport. Young females might spend time grooming each other. To the extent that play was considered enjoyable, the net effect was to solidify social bonds and to prompt the release of endorphins (feel-good brain chemicals) and to mitigate any lingering stress effects of life-threatening situations.
From Mark Sisson's Definitive Guide to the Primal Blueprint
Whilst the irony of using play to deal with stress caused in part by my play is not lost on me, I'm enjoying a range of activities to take control of my cortisol levels, lower my food obsession, and get back into the activities I always found truly enjoyed and felt inexplicably driven to do. Thus, I have vanquished my preference for lazing on the couch, snuggled in my tie-dyed purple comforter, steadfastly avoiding the bitter chill of Winter (yes, once it drops below 20 degrees Celsius, I claim that the 'freezing' weather is too painful to endure), and have been getting creative:
I have been experimenting with a few culinary tricks that don't really warrant their own recipe post. I tried making osso bucco for the first time, using the appropriate cut from my beef delivery from Farmer Dan. After searing the meat, I stewed gently it with lots of spices and herbs. The meat tasted wonderful, as did the fatty marrow, but since I was rushed, I didn't have time to allow the gristly sections to soften and break down completely. I don't mind a bit of chewing, but the beau ended up cutting all the tougher sections off and discarding them, along with the succulent meat still clinging to the gristle. Shame.
The next experiment was inspired by the beau coming down with a nasty cold - ergo, meaty soup was required! I acquired some smoked pork bones, to be different, and boiled them until the entire house smelled like bacon. Mmmm... After removing the bones and noshing on the softened pork goodness myself, I chopped up and seared some topside beef steak, red onion and leek, then added them to the pot, along with diced turnip, sweet potato, tomato, carrot, and celery. Then it was time for the epic simmer, serving some to the boy and then topping up the meatiness with diced ham and fresh basil. The wonderful aspect of soup is that it stores in the fridge so well and reheats elegantly.
Finally, I revisited my Zucchini & Coconut Slice as an afternoon treat for the sick beau, taking down the more savory aspects (cumin) and topping the loaf with Nola. I indulged in a slice - I felt like it and the concept of dabbling in a small amount of carbs on the weekend works well for me so I don't obsess - and topped it with salted butter to avoid triggering a sweet craving. It ended up being my dinner, since it kept me full all afternoon and evening!
In terms of my eating this past week, for those who miss scrolling through food porn shots, know that I've been eating much of the same meals that have been my favourites throughout this primal journey: bacon and eggs, lamb chops, salmon sashimi, smoked salmon, and chicken curry, and then some rarer bits and pieces like been steak, beef burgers, white fish, and roast pork. It has been very interesting desisting my 18 month long habit of logging my food on SparkPeople. I no longer weigh my food. I am trying not to consider the caloric density of my food. I am simply eating what feel like normal portions at normal and necessary intervals. I have been taking lunch to work when possible in order to limit the potential cortisol response of my usual two-meal routine, but given my ability to leave work when the students do, no longer held back for hours by rehearsals and University tutorials to run, I've been happy to wait until 4pm for a late lunch. I'm still turned off by drinking plain water so I've been supping on organic white tea, and also fresh water with a dribble of lemon juice added for flavour. So no major changes in terms of my menu, just a release of my mathematical analysis of my food and its potential for instructing me to eat more when I don't need it, and for beating myself up when I 'fail'. I haven't felt much satiety, so that hasn't changed, although the zucchini slice today hit my gut and had me feeling far from hungry for hours! I'm a little worried I'm going to get some serious munchies when I head to bed in an hour...
I have been doing my best to get to bed before midnight, sleeping for at least 7 hours on work days and longer on the weekend. I'm hoping to kick my numbers up to a steady 8 hours each day, though it's very hard to get to bed by 11pm when the others in the household don't care to... Without sounding tragically co-dependent, I don't like falling asleep alone! Nyawwwww... It's cute until I point out that I just really don't like being woken up when some inconsiderate 6'2" lug flops into MY bed! Stresssssssss... :)
Visualisation & Meditation
Another struggling venture is my Jon Gabriel experiment. For the uninitiated, Jon Gabriel believes that he solved his weight and over-eating issues through a process of visualising his ideal body and other meditative activities, and over the course of two and a half years, lost weight steadily because his body now "wanted to be thin". I acquired the meditation recording from his CD (it comes with his book) and have been listening to it when I go to bed. Apart from the stress that comes from trying to follow a relaxation process whilst my bedmate shines his iPad in my face and coughs his guts up, the recording is quite interesting and listening to a calming recording has helped me off to a very sound sleep. One downside has been that, the first night, I fell asleep before the recording had finished, and woke up an hour later with my headphone cord wrapped around my face. Panic! And since part of the visualisation is to imagine yourself waking up in the morning feeling energised and alert, the jolt awake triggered the rest of my visualisation and I felt revved up and ready to meet the day! Not the best sensation to be faced with at 1am...
As you've probably picked up from my tone, I do feel that Jon's description of his process ("the weight will simply melt off and you will achieve your ideal body just by visualising it!") is overly simplistic. The power of positive suggestion is its ability to train your subconscious and unconscious mind to stop obsessing about food. Jon also attempts to encourage listeners to find physical activity more desirable, to get in touch with their body, but I can't vouch for his success there because I beat him to it!
One of my favourite activities at University was to head down to the sports centre at least once a week and attend yoga, despite my weirdly short calf muscles. It was led by an amazing European bloke that inspired absolute confidence and could lead 30 beginners through a series of postures whilst also spotting every single mistake happening in the room and correcting it. He also would always demand that any women currently menstruating would inform him of the fact before the class commenced. I would understand if he then varied the postures to somehow accommodate the particular physiology of menstruation, but I never noticed such activity... Anyway, I continued with yoga when I joined Fitness First in 2006, but then failed to pick it up again after moving out to the suburbs where I currently reside. The classes were always held too far from home for this non-driver.
However, this Tuesday I bit the bullet and walked down to Balwyn Yoga for a class. Despite the 45 minute walk on a "bitterly cold" evening, I was revved up for my first session in a new space. I was put in the 'beginners area', a small alcove adjoining the main yoga room, where four young, pregnant women had their legs akimbo and there was very little space to move. We were led through a strenuous series of poses, much more difficult than my Uni/Fitness First days, whilst the girls chattered about due dates and baby names and (awkward for me to hear without commenting) breast-feeding/formula and hospital food! I had to pay for 5 classes at once, so I will definitely be attending sessions for the next two Tuesdays before we head overseas. The location of the classes really is inconvenient though, so I will be treating these classes as 'lessons' to inform my own practice at home. I'm also stocking up on free yoga videos and iPod applications to assist me. My enjoyment of yoga has been fully reawakened - I've been finding any old excuse to spend 15 minutes on some poses every day (it helps that I should be doing lots of assessment and writing reports - any reason to procrastinate!), and love watching my flexibility improve. Doing the splits is a long way off, but I'm feeling my leg muscles lengthen and release rapidly! Since yoga is a mixture of strength and resistance training, it is perfect for my body type and primal outlook regarding exercise.
Sprinting & Moving Slowly
My usual walks to work have been literally dampened of late, with rain water encroaching into my Vibrams and through my Injinji socks! Not a great start to the morning. On wet mornings, I have to therefore succumb to the necessity of my old runners. Bleh. I also had the urge today, a cold Sunday, to take a walk at dinnertime (since I was still satisfied by my zucchini slice and butter), and headed out in my KSOs after dark. Once I reached the vacant walking track, I was inspired to do a series of sprints! So I would run or sprint all out for short distances, and then resume walking quickly whilst I escorted my unbridled breasts back into their bra. That's the downside of spontaneous sportiness - lack of pre-meditated sports-bra encapsulation.
My plan to get a massage at least once per month has kicked off as I now have a membership with a mobile massage service in Melbourne. However, I bought a full 'beauty' treatment from them as a present for myself and my beau, charging the massage therapist (whom we had not experienced before) with the task of exfoliating, foot soaking & reflexologically rubbing, facial masking, and aroma-therapeutically massaging both of us in pursuit of relaxation. Whilst the beau enjoyed his treatment, having asked to trade in the facial for more massage, my treatment was anything but relaxing: 1) my massage was first, whilst the therapist still reeked of cigarette smoke; 2) the therapist apparently forgot that he was supposed to massage my feet - and (apparently) being a Pisces, I carry stress in my feet; 3) my shoulders were also ignored - a key zone!; 4) during the back massage, the therapist DUG his thumbs into my hip bones repeatedly, causing bruising! The beau suffered similar marking, and; 5) the therapist applied my facial mask OVER my make-up! Ew! And the combination caused a stinging sensation and, later, a disgusting break-out!
Here's hoping I can get the other therapist that the company has sent to me before, since she was an absolute ninja when it came to my body and my tension patterns. This week's therapist may have been a gorgeous, buff, blond boy who gave off waves of heterosexuality, but give me my 40 year old, red-headed stick figure of a woman with scary arms like Madonna any day!
A trip to one of my favourite clothes stores proved to be a very poor idea, since nothing fit, so I thoughts more broadly - cosmetics & glasses! I now have a range of delicious miessence products to minimise the harsh chemicals present in my make-up & removal regime, and I have a sleek black pair of sass & bide glasses being fitted with my prescription in the lab! Good news - I had to have an eye test to update my prescription, and my eyesight has improved since my last test two years ago! Hmm, what's changed in that period of time? Hello, primal!
I also splashed out on a bunch of Injinji socks, at last, to help keep away with winter chill:
On Monday night, I went with the beau and his workmates to see Jimeoin at the Comic's Lounge. Although two obese warm-up acts made unimpressive jokes about their size and assumed gluttonous eating habits, the night was relaxing and enjoyable. I do love Jimeoin's style, and I can say that without being biased by my little role in one of his films... I also splurged and had some champagne to help me REALLY relax! Although the bubbly did kick my energy up a notch (and I'm sure I burnt off all the sugar through my constant limb-jiggling and more generous laughter), I proved to myself that alcohol isn't all that helpful in my pursuit of calm since my dangerous knowledge of the effects of alcohol on metabolic & other physiological processes kept me from enjoying my buzz too much.
On Friday night, we had tickets to 'The Ugly One' at the MTC, and enjoyed the twisted narrative that somehow avoided the usual cliches of plastic surgery whilst viciously attacking the usual target of superficial society. The show involves some very witty staging and theatrical devices, with the actors exceeding expectations and throwing themselves into their roles with vigor. Since good theatre is anything but escapism, the relaxation value is mostly due to the hilarity of the piece rather than the opportunity to sit back and lose oneself in the story.
All in all, I'm feeling good! I'm trying not to monitor myself for signs of fat loss, but it's difficult given the prospect of having to don a swim suit in two weeks. I've been finding my old, chipper mood dominating my outlook throughout the day, and have been finding the energy to be more active and involved in the classroom. During my fat gain, I would find myself feeling really sluggish and stuck at my table up the front of the room, even during Drama classes! The fat-cell greed process does far more damage than just encouraging over-eating - my diminished metabolism meant that I couldn't even find the spark of energy to get me out of my seat, so even when I was eating very little, I was burning even less. I'm thrilled to see that turning around!
Two more weeks of work before the Canada trip - I can't wait! And in the meantime, I will be enjoying my meat, stretching & flexing, and enjoying fine entertainment to keep that smile on my face and my cortisol levels dropping. Viva bio-chemical normality!