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


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.


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!