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!