Saturday, June 25, 2011

Life

Motivation is a funny thing.

I do think about popping on here to update you all with the minutiae of what I'm up to, but the primal-related bits aren't anything I haven't already covered in posts gone by. I refuse to be boring, hence the silence.

Here's the plan: if and when I come up with cool, new recipes for the clean-eating lifestyle, I'll be jumping on here straight away and sharing them with you.

Dinner photos, complaints about cravings, stubborn fat, blah blah - I'll keep that to myself.

Who has the time? Not me.

So, here's what I would have said in the past few months, and you can assume it will stay true of my life for the next while at least:

I'm over-allotted at work, teaching more lessons per week than I should, as well as running the school magazine and Theatresports Club.

I spent the past six months composing, directing and designing the school production, which went up three weeks ago to great applause.

I have formed an a cappella singing group and am writing/arranging new pieces for us at a prodigious rate.

I've joined a band and have a couple of gigs next month for which I have to prepare.

I'm making jewellery as my 'down-time' activity, and am going to get back into selling at markets as well as updating my Zibbet store.

I'm not worrying about food, trying not to really think about it whenever possible, beyond noticing the fact that I feel full earlier than I was last year, and find little urge to over-indulge on nuts, etc. This has given me a chance to see how the same can NOT be said for industrial foods. I finally feel like my hormones are back in order in that respect.

I know that I don't feel as well all the time as I used to; now I swing between being really keen to be active, and needing to sit down. Two years ago, I was happy to walk around the classroom all lesson, last year I'd do anything to stay seated, and now it's more back and forth. When I'm ready, I will be tweaking aspects of diet and lifestyle to see how this effects the subtle shifts in my energy levels. In the meantime, I'm getting a recumbent bike slash rowing machine combo for the living room, to help improve my fitness and reduce the cardio variable in the energy equation.

And then there are my social engagements, quality time with my family, friends and pets (I'm currently caring for a sick guinea pig), time set aside for relaxation (not enough of that), time taken up by marking many, many essays (too much of that)...

My life is too full to justify taking up any more of my time blogging about diet. My journey is boring now. I know lots of things, and I keep reading to learn more. Half the time, when I find something I want to blog about, someone else covers it that very day.

So, this blog will sit here as an archive of recipes, and a health journey which was unfortunately derailed. I'll add to it when I have something of value to say, or hopefully an awesome recipe to share. I'm not going to waste your time with 'filler' material like how to steam a fish. Seriously. When I see that stuff popping up in my feed, it's unsubscribe time. If you haven't got anything interesting to say, don't tell us about your vacation rental.

Bon voyage!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Recipe: Easter's Fruit Buns Gone Primal!

(Before I begin, please let me apologise for the SUCKY quality of the following pics - the food was delicious, but the time of night was far from ideal for phone-cam photography :(

For the last two years, there have been many a delicious aroma flooding the air of the staff corridor at school: buttery popcorn, pizza, crepes... Yet, no delicious scent tugged at my nose hairs (...ew) so much as that of freshly toasted Hot Cross Buns! Both years, I have planned to try my hand at a grain-free, sugar-free version, and somehow missed the boat.

Not this year!

Despite my punishing holiday schedule of play rehearsals, holding choir auditions, hosting visitors, supporting friends' Melbourne International Comedy Festival shows, and recovering from a post-term stress flu, I put today aside as a cooking day, making a huge batch of Nola for the beau, and a pile of cauliflower pizzas for tonight's dinner and tomorrow's lunch.

Then - bun time! With bonus biscuits!

Daylight was done by the time these beauties come out of the oven - a sun-struck snap will get pride of place once dawn breaks tomorrow!

Ingredients:

2 cups almond flour
1 cups coconut flour (or just another cup of almond if you don't like coconut)
250g butter, finely diced
2 T cinnamon (or more, if you love it like I do!)
1T nutmeg
Pinch of salt 
6 eggs, separated
1/2 cup maple syrup (optional, but encouraged if you're not using fruit)
3 large apples, peeled and finely diced

Optional - substitute one apple with a cup of juicy fruit of your choice (I would have liked to add sultanas/raisins but the beau's gut doesn't like them)

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 175 deg Celsius. Line muffin pans or grease/paper a slide.

2. In a large bowl, combine almond flour, coconut flour, spices, and butter. Using your hands - yes, do it! - rub the butter into the flour mix until the whole lot resembles fine crumbs. Then, add the maple syrup and egg yolks, and still well. Feel free continue the manual manipulation, but be prepared for stickiness.

3. Add the chopped apple (and other fruit, if using), and stir. Be sure to dice your apple more finely than I did - I had to use my stick blender to make the apple-y dough more consistent, and lost some of that delicious baked-apple crunch.



4. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until fluffy. Add gently to the large bowl, and fold until both mixtures are combined.


 5. Softly roll balls of the mixture and place onto greased slide or into muffin pans. For a glossy finish, top with some egg white and/or milk (I didn't bother this time).


BONUS: I decided to save some mixture to see how it would go as biscuits, so I lined another slide , rolled some smaller balls of apple-y dough, and topped a few with 100% cacao buds.


6. After 45 - 60 minutes in the oven (or about 30 - 40 minutes for the biscuits), the buns should be golden brown on the outside and should withstand a prod without feeling at all squidgy. The photo below is a decent indicator of the final product as produced by my temperamental oven, despite the lack of natural light.


Although I'm not at all religious, why pass up the chance to top my baked goodies with chocolate?? For these criss-crosses, I melted some 100% cacao with some butter, then lead the mix across the cooled buns with a knife. Of course, at any other time of year, you can use the excuse of aesthetic merit and drizzle the chocolate stylishly over the fruity goodness.

 

Thus far, they've received the nod of approval from the beau's sister, who is visiting for a few days, and I've enjoyed a couple of the biscuits. The beau will be trying one when he gets home, and I have high hopes...

Serving suggestion - slice the buns in half, then toast in the oven. Top with a generous amount of butter, and some sliced banana or strawberry compote. Of course, some whipped cream never goes amiss! These could easily pass as scones, given the lack of yeast, so they're perfect for High Tea.

Keep your extras in an air-tight container to maximise their lifespan. Don't forget that coconut flour tends to be quite drying, and this effect increases as the buns age.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I'm Still Here!

I can't believe that it has been a month - a MONTH! - since my last post! Time flies when you're being worked to the bone and doing your best to make relaxing use of any and all downtime! I only have time for a brief post today (the backlog of recipes will have to wait!) but I wanted to check in. :)

The b*tchy blogosphere - has anyone else noticed how desperately depressing and negative the blogging circles have become lately? I have 700+ posts sitting in my rss reader that I can't seem to make any dent into, since I keep hitting these cynical and peer-sabotaging posts from the most surprising of sources. Blog reading used to be a relaxing and exciting passtime - now it tends to be another stress that I should do my best to live without. I don't feel like I'm missing much though, since most of the half-decent posts are about topics I already know about, or have surpassed in my own learning. One of the only blogs I'm keeping pace with is Matt Stone's 180 Metabolism, since some provocative statements have been coming out of there of late! I still love blogs where the quality of the comments draws you back for more.

Following on from that, I had a backlog of unpublished comments to approve, and found some ZC nutjob screaming at my PCO post, telling me that the amount of protein I was eating was too much (and where exactly did they get my quantity info? Not even I could tell you that number...), and and that same time I should be eating more beef and lean fish, plus lots of fat... Nice. Great that these 'anonymous' commenters take the time and effort to read all of my blog so they can make such helpful comments ;)

Now, I am still mid-experiment when it comes to what I'm eating lately - I'm trying to nourish my body as well as my mind, which means continuing to step off the orthorex-pedal and lessen the stress. I'm fatter than I think I have ever been in my life - my muffin-top is more of a full loaf - but my face is still more slender than it was 5 years ago. Everything else is generally blorpy. I've been buying more fat clothes so that I don't have to put myself through the pain of ill-fitting clothing every morning. While I'm not about to make my peace with being this fat, I'm trying not to think about it whilst still monitoring some other health markers. I'm not going anywhere near scales though - I don't think I've been on one at all this year. Anyroad, the image that is developing is that I will need to be very careful about hormonal balance when it comes to my body, metabolic processes and fertility, so I have a bit of a path worked out so that  I can sustainably pursue the shedding of excess fat without shocking my system, etc. I'm totally drug-free, even though this means my damaged nerve ending will stay damaged for a while yet, and possibly become more sensitive as time goes on.

Now for something entirely stream-of-consciousness:

I've been making popcorn in a cast iron crock pot, with coconut oil and raw butter! It makes me feel so retro! :)

I have broken my 11-year make-up habit and have pared my routine back to just a finely buffed layer of mineral powder by Bare Minerals. A touch of eye, and I'm good to go. I also now own nine pairs of prescription eyewear, so I can still add some visual interest to my face without straying into drag queen territory. My skin is thanking me! My summer tan has worn off, so it's time to take out the blonde lights in my hair - my project for today! Even the natural dyes stink though - blech...I'm a theatre baby though - I love dressing up!

I'm noticing a very strong force of satiety hitting me during or after meals of late. On primal/paleo/carnivore WOEs I would feel satisfied, but not like I would throw up if I kept eating. And I don't mean 'stuffed' in either case. It's very interesting to me. I've also found that my body really doesn't like the prospect of eating meat lately, although once it is cooked and I'm tasting it, I love it. I feel a bit ill some mornings and late-afternoons, suggesting blood glucose fluctations or something, so I think I'll go invest in a BG tester and have a look at what's going on there. Some days I'm not interested in food til after work; others, I feel like I'll collapse or chuck unless I get something down before school. I've followed the insulin theories and the Matt Stone theories, but my responses haven't lined up well with either, so it's time for bloodwork I reckon. I still eat mostly whole-foods, so I tend not to blame my diet just yet... We'll see!

The school play is in full-swing and I've been spending a lot of time working on the music. It's a huge job but I love it!

Last weekend, my family stayed in Daylesford, in a luxury holiday house that had a room for each of the three couples, and one for the cat ;) We went horse riding on the Saturday - I had to ride in my Vibram KSOs since they didn't have boots for us, like most trail riding places do. It was lovely to wear them and feel the horse's flank more clearly; however, my saddle was too small to cater for my extra thigh blorp and consequently I was in a lot of pain when it came time to canter and I had to try and grip the horse with my legs. Ick. On the Sunday, I took my jewellery to the Daylesford Sunday Market and spent the day (including far too many pre-dawn hours) showing off my stuff to folks wandering between junk stalls and carnival food trailers. I sold quite a bit though, and it was nice to see people finding pieces they really like and trying them on. It's much nicer to see how pieces will look in person than dealing with the mystery of Internet purchases, for seller and buyer! Market stalls are a lot of preparation, cost and work though, but if I didn't work full-time I could image doing the market circuit... Now to set up at a market in the city..!

Despite all my time commitments, my kitten still rules my world. :)

I had better leave it there - lots of essay to mark, and I'd like to get them all done today so that I can go and participate in a massive dance 'performance' (more like 'interactive event') in the city tonight. Should be fun!

Hope all is well in your world and that you're finding the fun!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bits & Pieces II

I have so many things I want to post about (including some new recipes!) but, with my birthday coming up on Monday, and the school play kicking into rehearsal mode, I'm finding myself spending fewer and fewer hours in front of my computer.

However, the latest gargantuan post by the even-handed and intellectual Denise Minger from Raw Food SOS (the writer and location of the exceptional take-down of The China Study), is an elegant dissection of the sat-fat-phobia that remains all-pervasive in the USDA, influencing their 2010 Food Guidelines. As Denise says:

Bottom line: These guidelines will guide you alright—straight to your spot in the pharmacy line. Look elsewhere for advice if you’re serious about your health.

 In a recent discussion with an old friend of mine, I listened to a description of frustration: my friend was spending 8 hours a week in the gym, mostly doing cardio, "not dieting" but somehow restricting herself to 1600kcal a day and not consuming ANY saturated fat. This friend is trying to slim down for a special event, and yet is finding herself gaining belly fat. I tried to explain to her the causes of her gain (over-training, cortisol imbalance, insufficient food, no dietary fat so minimal vitamin absorption, etc) but the likelihood of her taking my word over the dominant messages coming from 'health' magazines, websites and most medical professional is, for want of a better word, slim.

Weight Watchers is happening at my school again for interested staff, so I have to try to block out the rants coming from the other part of the staffroom explaining how good these 5-point buns are, the perfect morning tea, keeps you full til lunch! ... *facepalm*

Even though I'm still relaxing my approach to food, at least I know what I'm doing and why, and I'm following the advice that my body gives me and that my reading has developed. My anger over the lies the diet industry and lipophobes have spread since before my lifetime was strong enough - I almost hope the Weight Watchers folks never see the day when the media finally reports the current metabolic and dietetic science; what a way to then regret the wasted years.

Let's hope that, in any case, the information comes out soon so that this generation's bevy of genetically-cursed children of metabolically damaged mothers and fathers have a hope of out-living those parents.

Think of the babies! Won't someone think of the babies?!!
Now I will leave you and return to my song-writing for my little vocal group, play with my kettlebells, help my kitten burn off some energy, and get excited about seeing Lily Tomlin tonight! Last night: Tim Minchin! This birthday girl is truly spoiled!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Pursuit of Health - No more PCO (for now?)!

Apart from a bout of pneumonia when I was very young, and picking up the annual cold or spatter of gastro, I have always had a rock-solid constitution and have never suffered chronic or acute health woes.

It''s a shame that I've almost always been a bit chunky - having a bit of a gut when you're young promotes rude or judgemental comments from adults (who usually think they're being funny and that the jokes will go over your head), and over-reactions from parents. Having a muffin-top in your teenage years soon develops into self-consciousness and ridicule. Kids can be very cruel.

Society, and the medical industry, say it loud and proud - being overweight is unhealthy.

Really?

I was a champion in the 'throwing' events at school, and was a competitive swimmer - until one of my teachers made a comment about the fact that I wore a towel around my waist to 'cover up' (I just thought my towel was pretty and wanted to show it off). I walked up to 3km from the bus stop to my farm almost every day, with a couple of musical instruments and a heavy bag of books in tow.

(Men who don't like to read about women's issues might want to skip this next bit)

The first real health battle of my adult life is/was my PCO - a reproductive situation which appeared as incomplete ovulation and resulting lack of menstruation.

Given recent events, it would seem that this issue may have stemmed from my pursuit of weight loss.

Just over two months ago, I finished my Yasmin-driven menstrual cycle. I stopped taking my pill, and waited to see if nature would take its course. I have been trialling this method of 'testing' every three months or so for the past year.

What made this trial different? I was back to my original weight (more fat than before, though), and I was enjoying sweet potatoes and fruit regularly. Stress was diminishing as the teaching year tapered away to nothing, and the weather was showing signs of pending loveliness.

Three weeks after I stopped taking Yasmin, my period arrived. With the severity of the cramps and the brevity of menstruation, this clearly was not the doing of the pill. This was back to my high school suffering. Four weeks after that, I had another one. Crampy death pain hell.

Hurrah!

So kids, what to make of this?

Was it the sudden drop of 5kg of body fat in January '09 that threw my body for a loop, and stopped it recovering until that fat has been restored? I have read many times that a girl's weight during puberty sets the normality level for her reproductive system, and swings this way or that in weight or body composition can confuse said system...

Was it the fact that I cut carbs to 20g per day, except for Christmas '09 and much of '10? Was running on ketones insufficient to adequately feed all systems in my body?

Was I failing to meet my caloric needs? We can scrub this one since during my carnivore experiments I ate far beyond my caloric needs, although the ketone question may come back into play here.

Was it the combination of drugs - BCP and another nerve-repairer like DepTran? This is possible if the problem started pre-2009 but was masked by the pill - but then why weren't other 'tests' successful?

The only way to know is to try self-experimentation and to gather the experiences of others with PCO, but this would not be enough to establish a cause. The medical profession still has no idea what causes PCO. I would have been quick to blame environmental factors in the past, but the return of ovulation defies this hypothesis.

Nevertheless, I wanted to put this bit of intimate detail into the blogosphere since the PCO post is the most visited of my posts, and since my situation is reversed, I want to let fellow sufferers know that there is hope!

Additionally, although PCOS is related in some way to insulin resistance, and shows some improvement when treated with a low-carb diet, there's a chance that non-PCOS PCO could actually be caused or impacted upon by a low-carb diet. I would be interested to hear from others who try or have tried tweaking their diets and what results they've seen.

But first, I will be trying the harder of the possible 'causes' of PCO to see whether my periods cease - lose fat. Since I'm eating paleo foods at least 90% of the time (including sweet potato, but not normal potato, rice, or dark chocolate), it's easy for me to stick to my new 'normal' eating plan. I don't think about it much, but I fast all day on work days since I'm not usually hungry and don't have time to futz in the kitchen or sit in the staffroom and watch colleagues eat garbage whilst they talk about Weight Watchers..! I eat something (often mashed sweet potato and butter) when I get home, and then have dinner with the beau. Ultimately, I'm trying to ignore food until hunger kicks in, and this will be made easier when fruit season finishes! I haven't been eating enough meat either, with this hot weather keeping me away from my usual home in the kitchen. I'm sure you will have heard about the manic weather in Australia of late - massive flooding, cyclones, heat waves... Good times! The hot weather is also partly to blame for the lack of posts - the computer room is usually the hottest place in this house, and the laptop is too hot to have on one's lap too long. The other reason for the quiet period was because I was waiting for my, er, period so that I could write this post!

With this year's school play about to begin rehearsals, I need time flexibility. Fasting works elegantly for me, and now that the house is no longer a giant sauna I will be capitalising on the fast by working out before dinner. Rather than paying for my belly dancing and circuit classes, I'll be looking for shorter, harder workouts like the Tabata training I played with last year, though my fatty misery meant I didn't enjoy the experiences, thus becoming unsustainable. I'm in a better state of mind now, though you couldn't pay me to get on the scales! I received a big discount on some Zumba classes across town, so that will become my 'play' time. I know that exercise is not enough to cause fat loss, but I'm hoping that physical stimulation will signal to my brain that it should crave healthy food and discourage over-eating since excess with be-labour my digestive process and slow me down!

Mission: Retain reproductive health. Encourage my body to physically reflect the healthy state it is in. Continue to relax my attitude toward my excess chub. Eat really well. Continue to use this blog as a feeder into the primal community, since clearly my experiences are not unique.

Finally, I recently began to doubt whether I really wanted to be a teacher, given the prospect of teaching a subject I'm not that interested in, and not getting much support for the programs I have started and continue to run alone for very little monetary and time compensation.

Today was day four with students back at school.

I knew by the middle of day one that I was where I was meant to be.

I was born to be a teacher, I love students, I love my subjects, I love my relatively short but intense work day, and I love the fact that I can give extra experiences to my students by means of running plays and so on even if I don't get that much in return! Let's face it, I'm a giver.

For myself, I have my dancing, cooking, jewellery-making, reading, and entertainment pursuits. This blog helps me to get my ideas in order and keep my recipes at hand, but it's really here for the rest of you, whether you have fellow health-seekers in your social circle or only online. I am pleasantly surprised by positive comments, and shake off the negative ones, but could quite happily run this blog without a comment section since I write it like a book, not as a beacon of attention. I consider comments as the commenter's book, sharing ideas as much with fellow readers as with me. Read and write on, lovely visitors - your experiences and perspectives have just as much a chance of inspiring someone to health success as my posts. :)

FOOD PORN TIME!

Oh hey, ten litres of awesome coconut oil, sup? (Let's just ignore for the moment that I actually ordered ten 1L containers, and that nui have ignored all my emails requesting empty containers to 'decant' the oil into, since it was bought to give to friends & family... Nui = crapness. Their oil's okay, but they won't be getting any more of my money.)

Bacon & veggie frittata!!

The leftovers

Homemade beef burgers cooked on the BBQ, and summery salad.

I made sushi! Rice is for lame-o's.

Typical dinner - hunk of meat (chicken), mashed sweet potato, assorted green veg. Yum!

See above, though with tomato instead of sweet potato. Obviously was too hot to be boiling things that night!
Happy February!

Monday, January 17, 2011

My Previous Post in One Photo:

Resistance is not only futile - it'll screw up your mind grapes.

Like An Animal

 A couple of comments on the last post inspired me to further my explanation of the fundamental mind-shift I am pursuing personally. I responded in the comments, and want to add to those points here:

I always had a good attitude toward food. I always enjoyed fresh fruit & veg, loved meat, and treated junk food as occasional indulgences, but never really thought about it. Going low-carb, then primal, then carnivore, and eventually paleo - that's what screwed up my attitude towards food and, most of all, my body. Exercising 'mindful eating' immediately makes you over-think eating. Just eat real food, and your body will stop you when you've had enough. Counting anything will mess you up. I sure learned that the hard way.

So much of the primal/paleo movement revolves around humanity's return to earlier states of civilisation - even pre-civilisation - when it comes to how we eat and live. We're not eschewing the creature comforts of housing, electricity, transport, etc - the only area we really concentrate on is food. Yet, we seem to pursue this return to an animal, natural state in such an unnatural way.

Every pet I've ever had, growing up, was given big bowls of food, which were topped up as needed. There were usually a few animals living with us at any one time, yet there was always left-over food in the bowl. There was more than enough for everyone. The pets ate when they were hungry. They knew food was always there. They didn't overeat. They didn't eat as much as possible in case food was not going to be available later - they knew it would be.


We live in the exact same situation, and yet we spend so much energy over-thinking food. We use food as a crutch for when we are stressed, bored, stuck for something to say, etc. Whilst many health ills do come from eating the wrong kind of food - no one debates that living on refined carbs is unhealthy - most of us have enough money to ensure we can access and store a wider range of foods. We're not forced to subsist on the refined carbs that result in insulin resistance and physiological hunger. If you are eating meat, eggs, fruit & vegetables, but find yourself craving doughnuts, then the issue is more likely to be psychological. Even if you have a physiological disorder such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes, etc, and you need to take care with what you eat, you should not find your life revolving around food. I know people with severe food allergies who are more relaxed around food than I have been!

The attitude of being "strict" is a signal of neuroticism. A success/fail attitude is unnatural. Dieting does not make sense if it involves actively monitoring your food intake, actively denying yourself foods that your mind obsesses over. There's nothing natural about pushing yourself to do something your body doesn't want you to do. There may need to be a mind-shift to find yourself actually craving healthy foods, but if you're forcing yourself to be strict and dieting, you usually find yourself craving junk. There's a hint that something's wrong.

I'm not really saying that the individual is in the wrong; we're just products of this weight-focused culture. So few of us eat naturally - the media and societal-pressures consistently reinforce the idea that we're WRONG - the wrong size, eating the wrong food, thinking the wrong thoughts. Existing like animals is derided.


The primal/paleo movement is all about getting back to our natural lifestyles as evolution dictated, and yet we end up going further away from nature and into dark places of restriction and self-disgust when we make "mistakes", or covering our psychological issues with food in the guise that it's fine because it's paleo! Sites like PaleoHacks have certainly enhanced that perfectionist/neurotic attitude. Gosh, even Richard Nikoley of "Free The Animal" seems to be rapidly reversing the mind-set proclaimed by his blog's title, although he is still much more relaxed (I hope) than many other paleo endorsers out there. Hopefully as the hype passes, that attitude will recede and those of us who believe in evolutionary nutrition and medicine will find the groove of natural eating behaviours along with a relaxed lifestyle.

I'm not putting food up on a pedestal, like the vegetarian who dreams about bacon just because they won't let themselves eat it. Animals don't do that. Damaged, neurotic humans do. I can eat whatever I want. I desire healthy, nourishing foods because they give me energy and make my systems run smoothly. Sometimes I crave junkier food, and I'm permitting myself to satisfy that craving. Sometimes I feel fine after it, sometimes I feel a bit sick, but I never feel guilty. I am aiming to eat like an animal - food is there, and I eat it if I need it.

I aim to live like an animal as well - Mark Sisson advises us to play, to avoid poisonous things, to get enough sun, to avoid stress... My pets do all of this. I can too. I had been trying to off-set work stresses with relaxation activities like massages and sunbathing. I'm starting to think that this is the wrong mind-set as well - but there will be more about that as time goes on. In the meantime, I am spending time making and selling jewellery, and am also starting a new vocal group. These activities are my pleasures, and - if I wanted to - they could also be my primary sources of income. I do not find them stressful, or the minor stresses are far outweighed by the pleasure and relaxation associated with the activities. With two weeks left before teaching resumes, I will be living like an animal as much as possible. After teaching resumes, I will see whether the stressors outweigh the pleasures. If so, I might have some decisions to make...

I am still the Girl Gone Primal, and going primal now means a lot more to me than just following a diet. Maybe I should add a "now with more primality" sticker across my banner :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Smile!

I nearly titled this post as 'Diary of An Orthorexic', but that would be starting off on a negative footing, when the most important point I want to make is the importance of positivity!


As I pointed out in my How To Get Started post, I have spent a lot of time investigating psychology and the mind-body connection as it pertains to body composition and fat storage. The work of Jon Gabriel started me along this path; I read his book in late 2009 and cynically disregarded it as a flowery tome that boils down to encouraging fat people to eat less and move more. I was wrong. At the time of reading the book I was in a very happy place - I was at my lowest weight, I was feeling very confident in my body, and essentially felt that I was already at the end-point of the journey, which I achieved without having to 'teach my body that it was safe to be thin'. The rebound of 2010 obviously caused me a lot of psychological pain, and I remain unsure of whether it was purely the fault of chemical interference (DepTran) or whether I was bound to suffer fat regain, like 95% of dieters. What I am sure of is that every time I would work hard on cutting back carbs, calories, and sometimes all food (since it's very in vogue to fast in the paleosphere, this looked like health-wise activity), sooner or later I would find myself regaining the little weight I'd managed to lose, and then some.

I tried all the old tricks, and some new tricks as espoused by Stone & Jaminet - eating 'safe starches', cycling high & low carb days, fasting before exercise, fasting dinner to dinner most days, etc. Nothing made me feel bad, I felt pretty healthy (although I think my gut doesn't like sweet potatoes, since the oh-so delicious sweet potato mash would always give me mild stomach ache), but the fat wouldn't shift. I'm not about to get on a scale, but I'm pretty sure I now weigh at least as much as I did at the end of my pre-diet chocolate binge at the end of 2008! It didn't matter how much I knew about physiology - my results defied the science. I flip-flopped from desperate to disdainful, caring too much to not caring at all, all washed down with buckets of guilt and shame. Good times. However, I consider my 2010: Bests & Worsts post to be the finish line of that particular chapter of my life.

I returned to Jon's book a couple of weeks ago, now ready to consider the possibility that there were psychological reasons preventing me from losing the regained weight. From all the information my body was giving me, my metabolism was in great shape, my digestion was great, and my moods were pretty good (although I wasn't feeling very positive - nothing new there).  I even had a very positive reproductive message (look away now, boys with issues reading about girl business); I took my usual break from the Pill (Yasmin) after being on it for 3 months, to check how my PCO issues were going, and - for the first time in years - I had a period that was not due to a pill cycle! I'm not ready to claim my PCO is over until I have another non-pill period, so I'll let you know in three or so weeks....

I've always been interested in the power of a positive outlook, although I tended to look at the outcomes of cynicism and negativity rather than the 'healing power' of positive thinking. My reading over the past two years has exposed me again and again to the importance of minimising cortisol, and the way blood sugar fluctuations can impact moods. I understood that what was going on in my body could powerfully impact my mind, but somehow I missed the possibility that the reverse could also be true - that the way I thought (given that thought triggers chemical reactions in body, something science knows to be true) could have game-changing influence over what went on in my body.

Jon focuses upon the ways our bodies and minds cope with modern stressors. He argues that we evolve with three main stressors - predators, famine, and temperature extremes. To be safe from predators, we needed to be fit and lean in order to get away or fight them off. From famine and temperature extremes, we needed to store a layer of fat that could be consumed when food became scarce. Our bodies took cues from those stressors to signal the need to gain and maintain fatness, or to achieve leanness. Life in the modern first world is all but immune to those three stressors, but is chock-full of other stressors such as money troubles, social pressure, etc. These modern stressors are not understood completely by what Jon calls the 'animal brain' - it only understands the three main stressors of earlier eras. Thus, the mind tries to interpret modern stressors in the way it did earlier stressors - as signals to gain fat, or lose fat.

Since I'm not one to believe what I read straight off the bat (else reading the new book by Gary Taubes would leave me carbophobic and blaming my freckles on the sandwiches Mum made me as a child... of so this review would have me believe), I went and did my research, enjoying the work of the lovely Emily Deans, MD (I'm committed to reading her entire backlog of blogposts, so it's slow-going!), among many others. I encourage you all to do the same - living in this cynical and negative world, it has been very helpful to be reminded of the importance of reflecting on the successes as well as the failures, the crucial need to let go and forgive past mistakes and crimes, and to appreciate what we have rather than focus on what we want (I would add 'and need' except I doubt many of us are truly lacking in that department). It seems really basic and obvious, but I know that I don't praise myself enough - it's culturally frowned-upon to really succeed, since Australian media sources and other influential people are quick to point out flaws or mock the slightest sign of pride or pleasure in one's success. I know the power of praise, and I always apply the ' at least 5 yays to 1 nay' formula in the classroom - but not to myself!

Whilst positive thinking is the main umbrella covering everything I'm working on and researching at the moment, I will list my particular 'therapy' approach here, in case anyone is feeling like they might be circling the orthorexia/negativity bowl:

The first move I made was probably the biggest - I decided that I would eat junk food if I felt like it. I first wanted to find out whether it would have any immediate physiological effects, but no - a dose of vegetable oil from KFC chicken and potato chips left me a little queasy, but I noticed nothing after a hit of gluten and sugar in cookie form. I had a couple of bad days of cravings and feeling crap about myself, but this coincided with my first 'natural' period in two years, so I hesitate to claim that the food was the culprit. The main psychological point behind this move is to avoid my 'animal brain' feeling as though it is being deprived of anything, in case that triggers a 'famine' response of fat accumulation. I'm not finding myself truly craving junk, and enjoy the things I eat without considering it 'cheating' or worrying about weight gain. I enjoyed the novelty value of fried fish & chips from the amazing place down the road, I reminded myself what milk chocolate and white chocolate taste like, etc. The message for my brain to hold on to is that this food is available if I want it, but it only tastes good for a few seconds, and it doesn't really nourish me so it's not worth pursuing. Being able to reach this place of acceptance after building such a focus on how unhealthy those foods are is quite an achievement, since not so long ago I burst into tears in a restaurant after being told my lamb dish involved breadcrumbs, and I'd already eaten some!


Beyond the junk food hurdle, I am not worrying about carbs or calories. I regret ever counting calories, since I know so thoroughly now that caloric restriction will not give me long-term health. If that's a new concept for you, Matt Stone's guest post at Belly Fat Loser is one of his less-bastardy pieces, and nails many of the flaws in the diet industry's arguments. However, rather than dwelling on the past, I am eating what I want, when I'm hungry, and stopping when I have had enough. I haven't perfected this yet since my satiety is all over the place and I never seem to feel full when I'm eating fruit. The key here is probably that I'm actually rarely hungry, but I feel like eating, so I eat. I'm on holidays and the weather is terrible - tropical humidity and rain, in Victoria! I'm also taking care of the kitten, so I'm inside most of the time, with nothing to do except sit and watch movies and read and become bored ;) But I'm not worrying about it, because it's worse to worry (stress) about things than just live.

Beyond not counting carbs or calories, I have the aim of not really worrying about food at all. As Jon says in his meditation CD, "it's just there.. and it's just not that exciting anymore". I'm not sure how successful I'll be in this area, given that I'm a foodie and like being creative in the kitchen, but we'll see how I go! I try not to think about what my next meal will be, I'm not intending to actively fast, and so on.

Not all of my 'therapy' revolves around food though - I am also taking advantage of my down-time at home by stopping to think about everything I have, and appreciating things rather than being critical. Sometimes this is laughable - my kitten broke my skin by accident whilst we were playing, so I had to stop myself from feeling hurt and instead think about all the fun we were having despite the incident! Cynical me pipes up occasionally to point out the hippy-dippy-ness of this, but then I laugh at that little voice, and it all ends up positive. I hope I can keep it up!


Every night I listen to Jon's meditation/visualisation recording as I go to sleep, and I'm interested in trying to incorporate more visualisation into my day. His ideas have been reinforced from many other sources, but for ease of reference I'll stick with his work since it's readily available online, his book is quite affordable, and he lives in Australia! ;)

The one area I'm not currently succeeding in is the physical activity component, but I'm not going to force myself to get active if I don't feel like it. I've done bits of belly dancing and some push-ups & sit-ups when I've felt fidgety - and feeling fidgety itself is a wonderful sign of health! I was always someone who could melt into the sofa and watch TV for hours, but now I need something to keep my hands busy (my jewellery-making has continued to thrive!) and I change position quite often. I'm keen to get back to my belly dancing classes, but the teacher tends to be quite negative and we often have one or more students feeling down at some point in the class. The last class before Christmas break, this was me, since I felt unfairly picked on, so there's a bit of a dark cloud there to break through before I will actively want to return. Hopefully I will feel better about it all by next Monday! In the meantime I have DVDs I can play if I feel the urge - but with this hot weather, jumping around in the stuffy TV room is the last thing I want to do!

So that's where I'm at. I'm feeling quite happy, light and playful, I'm letting go of things that have bothered me in the past, I'm developing a healthier attitude to food and my body, and am hoping that his will have positive returns in not only restoring my state of mind but also getting my body's fat stores burning. I will still design healthy meals and share them here, and continue sharing my journey with you. I am experiencing many internal rewards already, which fuels my efforts as intrinsic motivation.

And my extrinsic motivation? I have a colleague who is incredibly fat and incredibly negative. No matter the topic, she'll find fault and voice her criticisms loudly and proudly. She lives on doughnuts and other carby nasties. Just recently, she was diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer. She hasn't changed much, is still very negative, but sometimes she looks on the lighter side of things. I don't want to be seen as negative, especially if those vibes result in obesity and cancer formation! On the other hand, the colleague who is lovely and loved by everyone, who is pretty care-free and laid-back, is also very thin. She also lives on doughnuts and other carby nasties, but doesn't sweat it. I know that she might suffer from her food choices down the track, but what is more damaging - conventional 'nutrition', or attitude? I can't be sure, so I'll be covering both bases as much as I can - but I won't be letting the former control the latter.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Recipe: Mediterranean Chicken Balls!

The free-range chicken mince that my supplier sells is, without exception, too low in fat to really produce my chunky chicken burgers with an adequate moisture level.  I have been toying with ways around this - adding fat simply renders out during cooking, extra egg tends to escape as well, and adding coconut or almond flour changes the taste too much. The solution? More (finely processed) veggies!

Ingredients (four servings):

500g ground chicken
3 or 4 eggs
5 spring onions
1/2 red capsicum (bell pepper)
1 tomato
10 asparagus spears
1 cup shredded cabbage
Optional: fennel (out of season here), bacon, a handful of basil, thyme, or lemon sage, a splash of lime juice, paprika, salt & pepper as desired.


Method:

1.  Preheat oven (or grill) to 150 deg C. If using an oven, line a baking tray or two with baking paper.

2. Prepare your veggies by washing and then processing with a food processor. You could also chop them extremely finely, if you have the will and elbow grease!


3. Combine veggies with eggs and meat in a large bowl, and stir until thoroughly combined.

4.  Grabbing small handful of mixture, roll into balls (or grab larger handfuls if you want to make patties/burgers, especially if grilling).


5. Place in oven/grill and cook until the centre of the ball/patty is thoroughly cooked. This took about 5 minutes on my grill, and 20 minutes in the oven.


Serve as is, or in a lettuce leaf, topped with cheese or tomato chutney, etc. Sorry for the lack of finished-product photo - we were too hungry to wait!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Photographic Representation of the Final Week of 2010

The one good thing about Christmas shopping is that you may stumble upon incredibly dodgy signage outside of skincare/body shops...
As we escaped the city, our vantage point from atop the West Gate Bridge allowed us to see rainbows in wisps of cloud. Click to see the full-sized photo.
Our Boxing Day feast, after spending Christmas Eve fighting my way through the crowds at the Queen Victoria Market - worth it! Mussels, octopi, scallops, a Moreton Bay Bug each, plus my own garlic butter concoction. This is after our Christmas Eve meal of fresh crayfish and prawns. It's just not an Aussie Christmas without tonnes of seafood!
After the eating part of the season was done, we visited the local waterfalls near my home town of Hamilton, Victoria. First, Nigretta Falls...
... and then to the Wannon Falls, which has been overly baby-proofed. We used to be able to walk behind the water, and were saddened to find that it had all been fenced off.

We picked up a new friend on our return to Melbourne, and he has posed certain problems when I have attempted to photograph new jewellery creations - not that you'd ever catch him looking guilty...
 Farewell, 2010!