Monday, January 9, 2012

The Blame Game

This interesting blog post got me thinking about the current state of the health and fitness industry and the sad fact of the world we live in. Do you know that they had to change the name of Adult Onset Diabetes to Type 2 Diabetes because kids were getting it?! There are also reports that suggest that the human race is in a state of de-volution, meaning we're actually digressing in the evolutionary stakes. And by all accounts, children born today are part of the first generation that won't live as long as their parents before them.
This article suggests that parents are to blame. And I mostly agree with it. Parents are children's first teachers. From birth (and even from conception) they decide what children are fed, they control the purse strings and the shopping trolley. If their children are obese, it is most likely because they let them drink Coke instead of water, let them skip dinner and just eat dessert, and feed them things like fruit loops for breakfast. And please don't tell me that parents have no control over their children's behaviour and reactions at meal times! Seriously, everyone has heard it time and time again - if a child refuses to eat their healthy dinner, they are not going to starve! They will eventually eat when they get hungry. It is not an excuse to just feed them a packet of chips and chocolate yoghurt! This is what creates the vicious cycle!
There are of course, other factors that can influence the way parents feed their children, and marketing is a huge contributor. Take "Fruit" loops for example. Some parents see this and think that it is healthy for their children because it has the word fruit in it. Now it is obviously a ridiculous notion to forgive parents for thinking this, but it is also shame on the cereal companies who exploit them! Another favourite of mine is "Vitamin" water. Many parents would, I'm sure, assume that this is healthier for their children than pure water, because it contains added vitamins. Unfortunately, the added sugar content means that vitamin water is actually no better for children than soft drink!
Education is another key factor. If parents have no idea what is healthy food and how to prepare it, then their children are going to grow up the same way. Jamie Oliver demonstrated just how poor American children's knowledge of fruit and vegetables is in his recent TV series. Perhaps there needs to be more of a focus on this in the education syllabus.
This is what has led me to consider going back to study this year. I am really passionate about making a difference and feel that working with children is the way to do it. So, I'm going to sign up to do my degree in nutritional medicine, with an aim of working with children and their parents in getting their eating habits on track!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Whole 30 Challenge

I started the whole 30 challenge on Monday. For someone who has been eating primally for a while, it’s not such a big deal, but it’s still good for me to have something solid to stick to, and to help me get back on track after the Christmas/New Years period. I honestly don’t feel too guilty about my eating over the Christmas break. Funnily enough, it’s fairly easy to stick to meat and veggies during the traditional Christmas lunch, so the only thing I really splurged on was dessert.
The primal/paleo community uses the Whole 30 to kick start a period of clean eating, usually after blow outs like holiday season eating. While primal uses the 80/20 rule, the Whole 30 has no cheating whatsoever. But hey, it’s only for 30 days, that’s nothing really! And the only differences from my normal primal eating routine are that I can’t have any dairy or dark chocolate. Everything else is basically the same!
For those of you who don't follow the primal style of eating, here's the basic premise of the Whole 30 - Eat real food. Seriously, it's that simple. But to clarify, the following foods do not count and are avoided during the Whole 30:-
-sugar (including honey, stevia, agave nectar, splenda - seriously if it's artificial, it can't be good for you!)
- grains (including wheat, rice, barley, oats, corn, soy...)
- legumes (this includes peanuts, which are not a nut but a legume, but green beans & snow peas are acceptable)
- dairy (seriously, the only animals who should be consuming cow/sheep/goat milk are their babies)
- white potatoes
- processed foods (yeah, those 'protein bars' are so not on!)
- alcohol
While it looks a bit scary, it honestly isn't. You can still eat bacon & eggs for breakfast, just substitute the toast for avocado and steamed spinach. Cauliflower rice and mashed pumpkin are two of my favourite 'carb' replacements. And don't get me started on how much I now enjoy eating chicken skin, guilt free!!!
So as I ate my beautiful 170g eye fillet steak this morning, I thought about how happy eating this way makes me. I am no longer lethargic and never get headaches. I am quickly increasing my strength at the gym, something that used to take me ages before! I am rarely ever ‘starving’ and can often go for up to 10 hours without eating and still feel fine (note, this is not starving myself, it’s simply only eating 2 nutritionally dense meals per day). People have been commenting that I look lighter, and it’s not just because I’ve lost 10 kilos! It’s because my skin is glowing, my hair and nails look healthy and strong, and my arms are finally seeing some definition in them!
And that is why I will eat this way for the rest of my life! Obviously I won’t be as strict as I am with myself on the Whole 30 challenge (I mean really, what girl is ever going to give up chocolate completely!) but I now know that I can easily survive eating like this.
It’s funny, when you stop eating sugar, everything tastes OTT sweet. I can’t stomach any chocolate below 85% now, which most people would just screw their noses up at. I even tried some 100% stuff over Christmas, and I reckon I could even develop a taste for that! Chewing gum is too sweet for me and I even struggled to get through a bowen mango the other day! I’ve pretty much figured out that my only sugar intake comes from certain fruits, such as berries and cherries – surely not such a bad thing in moderation!
So my challenge to you is to try the Whole 30. Sometimes all you need is a kick start and you’re on your way. And hey, it’s only for 1 month and you’ve most likely made a new year’s resolution about your weight/health… Why not do something different!?!?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Now that I have been really watching my snacking for the past 3 months, I’ve been careful to ensure that extends to everything I put in my mouth – even liquids! As part of the Leptin Reset, which allows absolutely no snacking, I’ve had to give up my morning cup of tea with a splash of milk. Doesn’t sound like it would be too hard for the girl who’s given up bread, pasta, and all other chocolate bar the 85% organic stuff! But this has been my hardest battle to date. I still allow myself one cup with my breakfast, since you are able to take in liquid calories while you’re eating your main meal of the day, but apart from that, my beloved cuppa is no more!
The one good thing about this is that I’ve had to seek out other options for drinking, because, let’s face it, plain water does get a bit boring after a while! I’ve started adding slices of lemon to my iced water and also occasionally indulge in sparkling mineral water just to break the monotony. The best bit however, is that in my searching I’ve stumbled across some really great alternative teas – ones that you don’t need to have milk in and therefore don’t promote a spike in my blood sugar! 

Chamomile – this has to be my new favourite tea. It’s subtle yet interesting and doesn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth. I’ve been drinking a Twinings version that is combined with Spearmint which is great, and I recently stumbled across the most amazing brew at my local Zaraffas coffee house. I’m somewhat hesitant to buy tea from a specialty coffee place, but will be going back there again as it was tea-licious!
Ginger – I usually drink this in the evenings with 1 small square of my 85% chocolate – there’s something about that ginger and chocolate combination that immediately makes me feel content! Plus, there’s mountains of health benefits attached to ginger, so I’m sure some of that is working its way into my system!
Chai – Oh chai! How I love your beautiful cinnamon and nutty flavours! I have been drinking chai tea with milk for ages, but am slowly weaning myself off the milk so I can still enjoy it. I’m certain that the combination of spices in chai are not only delicious, but beneficial for my health as well. I do keep in mind that chai still has black tea in it, so try to keep my consumption of it to before 2pm.
Rooibos – This is one that has slowly crept up on me and now I quite enjoy! I initially started drinking Rooibos during a detox that called for zero caffeine and I think I was a bit angry at it for replacing my regular cuppa. It has a fairly rich taste, so I don’t drink it on a daily basis, but it’s nice if I feel like something a bit stronger.
Other teas that I occasionally dabble in include peppermint, lemongrass and rosehip – all teas that just over a year ago, I wouldn’t have ever touched!
What’s your favourite tea?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What to say?

People have started noticing and commenting on my weight loss (6 kilos in 3 months which is by no means outstanding, but it’s obviously noticeable). With the comments come the inevitable “how are you doing it?” questions. These are the ones that I still cringe at. Not because I don’t want to share, but because I know that my answers will cause some raised eyebrows.
Here’s the thing. When you say to people “I’ve started eating 200g steaks for breakfast” they look alarmed. They also don’t understand when you say “I only use full fat dairy and put butter on my vegetables”. Other concerning statements include “I cook in coconut oil – yes it’s high in saturated fat!”, “Soy makes me sick”, and “Potatoes don’t count towards my vegetable consumption.” And the most outrageous thing you could possibly mention is that you don’t eat whole grains. EVER! 
I shall never eat this way again!

The only way I can justify some of my eating habits is with my gluten intolerance. That gets most people off my case with the bread/wheat thing, but still doesn’t explain why I don’t eat rice or beans. The fat debate is one that I know I will never win, so I don’t even go into that argument except to say that coconut oil is the absolute best thing to cook in because it has a higher heating point than most things – including olive oil! It also helps that Miranda Kerr has spoonfuls of it each day ;-p 
This is more like it!

With the start of my Leptin Reset challenge, another difficult thing for people to understand is the no snacking thing. We have had the 6 small meals a day mindset drilled into us from all angles… Most people don’t take the time to understand the logic behind this – they just hear it and think “Yay! Another couple of times I can eat!” By following an eating plan which advocates eating windows allowing at least 5 hours between meals, I don’t only feel better, I feel free-er!! It’s less meals per day that I have to think about preparing.
In the exercise stakes, it’s a similar pattern, although a bit easier to explain away. At my first session at my new gym, the personal trainer assigned to me looked a bit crazed when I said I only wanted a weights program from him. “But you need to do cardio at least 3 days per week for weight loss!” No, actually I don’t. Apart from the fact that 70% of weight loss comes from what you eat, excessive cardio actually stresses the body! I told him that my main daily cardio would come from walking, and I would do one HIIT session per week (sprints on the treadmill or intervals on the rower). The rest of the time I would divide my workouts between weights, pilates and yoga.
Now that the weight loss is showing, it’s nice to know that I’m finally on the right path. I’ve been trying the excessive cardio route for years and combined with a conventional wisdom eating plan with whole grains in abundance, I didn’t lose any weight! So much for busting my gut at 5am every morning and starving myself by eating “low – fat” (but high sugar) yoghurt and calorie restricted meals! Conventional wisdom certainly does have a lot to answer for…

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Importance of Routine

I went to visit my parents on the weekend. They’re awesome and I love seeing them, but staying at their place for 4 days threw me completely out of whack! Don’t get me wrong, they are healthier than 99% of the parents out there, this I’m sure of. But there’s something about being in someone else’s place (even if they are your nearest and dearest), with a different kitchen and fridge, that makes it harder to stick to your tried and tested eating plan.
Breakfast wasn’t too difficult as they always have an abundant supply of eggs, and I was lucky enough to scrounge some left over curried mince to add to that. It had some vegies through it but I also added some broccoli to flesh it out. Lunch and dinner too was generally some kind of meat with vegies, but it always seemed to have an additional sauce or not huge range of veg… Overall, it was still okay but there was still small room for improvement.
So what is the big deal then you might be asking? Well it was just the little things that threw me. My parents drink a lot of tea, and will usually have at least one for morning and afternoon tea. With my new ‘no snacking’ rule, it was difficult to overcome. The worst was the morning we went to my grandparents and, knowing that my brother and I were coming and it was my dad’s birthday, my grandma had baked all manner of delicious but decidedly not-primal goodies. Sitting there drinking a cup of iced water while my family chowed down on pikelets, date and fruit cake was tough!
The issue there was that because I remained strong at morning tea time, when it came around to lunch I was able to rationalise having a piece of fruit cake with my cuppa! Perhaps ‘able to rationalise’ is not the right terminology, but with everyone commenting on my weight loss and me feeling like I’ve been eating really well, I just went with it.
I know what you’re thinking… So what?!?! You ate a piece of fruit cake – oh you’re just on a downhill spiral now!!! And yes, granted it is probably a bit of an extreme reaction. But do you know what? I didn’t really even enjoy the fruit cake (sorry Grandma!) It was too sweet for my palate which now associates sweetness to the tart berries I occasionally have as a ‘treat’ after dinner. Even the chocolate (85% at a minimum) I eat is bitter. But I love it!  And so I have learnt that I still need a bit of work when it comes to emotional eating. I wanted that fruit cake because it reminded me of summers at Grandma’s!
I guess the biggest lesson is that routine is so important. There is no way I would ever eat fruit cake at home because I just don’t have that sort of stuff in my house! It’s easier to skip morning and afternoon teas because I don’t have the social expectations surrounding it. Plus there’s never going to be a load of goodies silently chanting “eat me” in my ear.
So this week it’s back on plan. I won’t see my family again until Christmas, and even I know that I will give myself a cheat day then! I figure as long as I can eat fairly cleanly up until that point, I’ll be doing alright.

Monday, November 14, 2011

There's a reason they call it "Break-Fast"

Breakfast is a funny meal. A lot of people I know don’t eat it. Or count coffee as their morning meal. I have to admit that there are times when I wake up before 6am and the thought of eating something leaves me a bit nauseous. Those times are becoming few and far between the more I commit to a primal lifestyle however.
I used to have some issues with eggs. Not all the time, but I would occasionally eat them and feel average. Luckily those issues seem to have resolved themselves (couldn’t be because of primal again could it?!) and I enjoy them freely now. Which is lucky because breakfast is otherwise fairly difficult.
You've probably heard it before, but you can get literal meaning from the "Break-Fast" name. In principle, you've been fasting for 12ish hours when you wake up, and so it makes sense to fuel your body with the best food possible. 
With the Leptin Reset, the aim is to eat 50g of protein within 30 minutes of waking. I won’t go into all the reasons for this – read Jack Kruse’s website if you’re interested. The best protein sources are meat, fish, chicken and eggs, so this is predominantly what my current breakfasts are made up of, with some sautéed vegies thrown in for variety.
I’ve been eating primal breakfasts for a while now so I thought I would share some of my favourites…
  • 4 egg frittata with ham, spinach, mushrooms & tomato (and fetta if I’m feeling generous)
  • Grilled lamb cutlets with 2 poached eggs and sautéed mediterranean vegies
  • Big Breakfast of bacon, eggs, chipolatas, avocado & spinach
  • Grilled steak with cabbage, brussel sprouts and asparagus
  • Beef rissoles with sunny side up eggs
A lot of people in the primal world have concocted ‘primal-friendly’ recipes for some of the more traditional breakfasts. For example, I’ve tried the coconut flour pancakes and almond meal waffles. I have to say however, that I don’t see the point in trying to re-create these recipes… For one, they are never going to taste as good as the original, and two, it does seem like a bit of a stretch that cavemen would have sat down to feast on coconut pancakes with blueberries and heavy cream!
For this reason I have pretty much given up any attachments I’ve had to non-primal foods such as pancakes and bread. I mean, seriously, have you ever tasted gluten free bread?!?! My advice is save yourself the trouble. If you’re really desperate, I think just eat the regular stuff, because otherwise it really just defeats the purpose don’t you think?!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

To (binge) drink or not to drink?!? That is the question...

My well meaning and loyal friends have been a pillar of strength for me during what has been the most stressful and gut-wrenching time of my life. So when they suggested a night out to celebrate my new found "freedom" I couldn't turn them down! I didn't want to turn them down either. I know that I need to get out and see the world and meet new people.
But this of course brings up a dilemma - whether or not to drink, and if so, what to drink?!?
I know that binge drinking is bad. Really bad. Alcohol is not really acceptable when you're eating primally either. Beer is definitely off the agenda, as are most spirits - mainly because they are served with soft drink mixers. I suppose I could drink them on the rocks, but not sure that would go down too well!
So I'm left with the choice of wine (if you're going to drink, this is the best choice) and cider (not really acceptable, but at least it won't play havic with my digestive system). My problem is that I don't like wine... I guess I've never been classy enough to enjoy the stuff! I mean, I can have it occassionally with a meal, but to think about drinking it all night long while I'm supposed to be socialising, dancing, and generally having a good time - well that thought leaves me a bit cold.
One of my friends who will be with me tonight is pregnant, and I did think that I could go down the 'sympathy' route. The problem with that is, I actually do feel like a drink, not to get plastered, but just to loosen me up a bit. Even though I'm on the forward path towards my (hopeful) happiness, I still have my moments every now and then... Moments when all I want is a Tequila slammer... Oh wait, no that reminds me of my ex! Ummmmm, a Cowboy then ;-p That just reminds me of high school!
So what have I decided? I'm going with the cider. I tried to find the low carb stuff but they didn't have it at my local bottle-o. I did look at the wine, but honestly, half the battle is the endless choice when choosing wine! Cider has the choice of dry or sweet, so I went for the dry stuff in the hope that it has less sugar(?!?!?)
I'm trying to be okay with my choice by reasoning that I have been eating really clean lately (even though I only started the Leptin Reset yesterday). Plus, sometimes we all just need a bit of a night off from the emotional rollercoaster that is life!