January – Recovery

 

Each month I’ll be sharing progress on my monthly wellbeing focus, and the top resources that have  helped and inspired me to live a little better than before. 

This month I reflect on reclaiming my attention, addiction, taking myself seriously, living life without sugar, and the journey to recovering the person I was meant.

 

💜 January Inspiration 💜

My focus this month has been on identifying the influence certain addictive products, namely sugar, and secondly social media, have been exerting on my life.  

As someone who has freedom as one of their top values, it’s been a real eye-opener to say the least, to realise the trap I’ve been living in.

The three books I’ve read this month that have sparked a mini revolution and a deep investigation and reflection on my addictive patterns are:

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World   – Helped me see how f$%£king shot to pieces my attention is thanks to social media, modern hyper-communication, and the source of all knowing, as well as all rubbish, the internet.

This book helped me step back from ‘busy-ness’ and question what I’m doing in life and how I’m actually adding value. Or rather, how I could be adding value, if I could just stay the f%$k off insta-crack for long enough to get something worthwhile done!

Realising how much power social media and other bits of technology were holding over my attention and the addictive loop we can so easily fall into with them, I started to contemplate addiction generally and to look at other areas of my life where I had a sneaking suspicion I was less in control than I liked to think I was.  This led me to shine my freshly-wrangled-from-social-media-focus onto another core health topic: food.

As a health lover and someone in the biz for over ten years now you’d think I’d know what to eat. And yet. I’d say food nirvana is still a tad out of reach and feeding myself in a totally nourishing and non-neurotic way is still  a habit that’s up for grabs for me.

Food Focus

These two books have been incredible resources and I highly recommend them both.

Food: WTF Should I Eat?: The no-nonsense guide to achieving optimal weight and lifelong health : Does what is says on the tin. With so much conflicting advice on what to eat it really can be a case of scratching your head and thinking WTF?? The chapter on sugar is particularly enlightening, which is what led me to read the next book:

 

 

Good Sugar, Bad Sugar This is an Allen Carr book, part of a series called the Easyway that helps people let go of unhelpful behaviours in their life by reframing how you perceive these so-called ‘treats’ and ‘rewards’.. Its most commonly known for its Quit Smoking title.

If sugar, or feeding yourself in a less than optimal way,  is something you grapple with I cannot recommend this book highly enough!! If you could press a button and remove your desire for sugar (the bad kind obviously, we’re not talking fruit here) leaving just a desire for foods that deeply nourish your body, mind and spirit, would you press it? This book is that button. So if you’re not ready to part ways with sugar, then definitely don’t read this, cuz when you’re done reading it you won’t look at it the same again.

 

💜 This Month’s  Experiment: Sugar-Free Jan 💜

A few days before the new year I was feeling sick and tired of not feeling optimal and decided something needed to change.

I narrowed down the most destructive thing in my lifestyle to sugar. That shit was bringing me down and it was time to part ways with it.

I set myself a 30 day challenge. Sugar-free January. There’s nothing like removing something completely to properly gain some perspective on what it adds and detracts from your life.

Compared to the average person I probably eat fairly healthy.  I cook my own meals and love a good kale salad.

But I also have a chocolate-tooth. It’s totally a thing.  

Cacao is still in my diet, nothing wrong with cacao per se, but I knew the sugar had to go. I couldn’t continue to fool myself that there was any place for it in the sort of high-vibe, feel-great-all-the-time-skip-out-my-door-in-the-morning life I’m aspiring to live.

Sugar has no place in a healthy human diet.  It really is that simple. It’s a fact substantiated by plenty of scientific research. There is no healthy or recommended amount, except maybe 0. It’s barely a food!

💜 Sugar: What I Learned 💜

One of the best bits of advice I got from reading Food: WTF Should I Eat is to treat sugar like a recreational drug.

Would you sprinkle some MDMA on your cereal in the morning to help you get the day off to a pumped up start? Probably not.

A quick line of cocaine at 3pm to get you through the afternoon slump?

A bag of ecstasy passed around as treats to the kids after school for being good?

It’s crazy shit I’m talking right there, and yet, we do this with sugar!

Why do we ‘reward’ ourselves and our children with a substance that’s so toxic when consumed in anything but minuscule amounts? A substance that causes obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, stroke, and depression?

How is that a treat?

We have to really pay attention to the things we expose ourselves to and be honest about whether they are life-affirming or life-detracting. This isn’t always an easy process.

We often want to continue clinging to things that we know don’t serve us because the illusion that they provide some sort of value is so strong.  That’s the hood of addiction.

But there comes a time when enough is enough.

I think I’ve reached this point with sugar.  

The books above have helped me to reframe my confused thinking around sugar and see it for what it is, a drug like substance that provides no benefit and deserves no space in my life.

 

💜 Abstainer or Moderator 💜

Gretchin Rubin talks about people falling into two camps. Those who can moderate their intake of something and those who need to abstain. You may be an abstainer for one thing and a moderator for other things.

Only you know if something is a problem for you, but if you find a lot of your mental energy being chewed up constantly debating whether you should have something or not, and if so how much , and how frequently, and then constantly having to re-asses…..maybe it’s time to just abstain. Maybe abstinence is easier.

With sugar, I think abstinence will provide me with a great deal of freedom.

 

💜 Recovery 💜

On anything addiction related Russell Brand is a great resource. I’ve read his book Recovery and love his definition of recovery as “recovering the person you were meant to be all along.” Yes!

My 30 day challenge has been freeing so far, and what’s making this stand out from similar forays into sugar-free living is that I’m taking myself and my sugar addiction seriously.

I’m taking my recovery and my extraction from the pull of sugar very seriously. I’m seeing sugar for what it is finally; a vitality-detracting addictive substance.

I’m acknowledging that it has had a power over me and it’s time to put it in its place and take control again.

Before I’d always end up making excuses as to why I should go back and ‘treat’ myself to sugary things again after a bit of a break. But as you can read above, how much of  a treat is something that leads to obesity, diabetes and all manner of health-problems?

I want to start acting like I really love myself and start treating myself accordingly by treating myself to actual treats.

Obviously it’s early days, who knows where I’ll end up with this. But I’m taking it day-by-day and letting myself enjoy life without sugar.

I’d like to look back at the end of the year and say YES – January was the month I elevated my life to next level by dialling this new habit of sugar-free living.

The Moon is my Calendar Journal pictured here is helping me track my monthly wellness focus. For every day that goes by without sugar I give myself a little love-heart, a visual reminder that I’ve done something loving for myself.

There’s no deprivation or suffering going on here, I’m actually stepping into a new level of freedom and self-love.

Big Sugar

You might say sugar is the new smoking. A widespread health epidemic that ‘Big Sugar’ – as I’ve taken to calling the peddlers of processed-edible-food-like-substances packed with sugar- are keen for us not to look too closely at.

Did you know that if you removed all the ‘food’ items in your local supermarket that contain added sugar you would be left with just 20% of what you see there?

Also, experiments by these companies were run to try and reduce the sugar and salt intake as a way to to address the health epidemic. They failed as it turns out most processed food with added sugar doesn’t taste of anything when the sugar and/or salt is removed. Because they aren’t real food!

Bonkers isn’t it. 80% of what we’re presented in a supermarket is highly addictive, engineered-food-like-substances, with little if any nutritional or taste value, salt and sugar aside,  designed to hijack our biochemistry and keep us hooked on something that will insidiously and slowly poison us.

I’ll share something straight from Food: WTF Should I Eat:If it were a brand-new product, the government would treat it like a dangerous substance to be controlled and regulated, not something that should be given to babies and added to 74% of all packaged foods in supermarkets. In fact, it would be approved as a good additive because it is so toxic when consumed in anything but small amounts. When you look at the damage caused by sugar – obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, stroke, depression – you have to wonder why we continue to eat it as we do, and even worse, why we spoon-feed sugary junk foods to our children.

The food industry is poisoning us for profit. Just like the tobacco industry did. Same shit. Different poison. 

 

A Rose By Any Other Name

 

…..would still smell as sweet, And sugar by another name will still mess you up.

The Eskimos have over 50 ways to say snow.

We have over 50 ways to say sugar.

Gives you an idea how  deeply woven into the fabric of our society this toxic substance is. Read this list of the different names sugar is coated under and soak it up. 

Next time you’re looking at an ingredients label and wishing to avoid sugar don’t be fooled by fancy names for it.  Dehydrated cane juice, agave syrup, coconut sugar….it’s all just sugar dressed up in fancy shoes.

Once it hits your bloodstream it hijacks your chemistry and brain just like SUGAR SUGAR.

Phew, that’s a hell of a lot of information and rantings on sugar. If you’re still looking for more inspiration and information to advise your own re-assessment of sugar, here’s what else I found useful this month:

 

Research Papers

Sugar Addiction: From Evolution to Revolution

Sugar addiction: is it real? A narrative review. 

Impact of sugar on the body, brain, and behavior

Podcasts

Barry Friedman: How to Detox from Sugar, Beat Cravings & Become A World-Class Juggler

https://fatburningman.com/dr-mark-hyman-what-to-do-about-fake-foods-nutrient-deficiencies-pesticides/

Russell Brand – for general addiction information is great!

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/russell-brand-on-recovery-addiction-life-love-fatherhood/id1290769207?i=1000393025416&mt=2

And this podcast, The Doctor’s Farmacy, is awesome for all things food as medicine.

Essential Oils

Of course I’ve been using my oils to support me with this month’s focus.

Cinnamon is wonderful for balancing blood sugar and banishing sugar cravings. I use a teeny-tiny-not-even-a-drop in my cacao to satisfy any need for sweetness.

Peppermint is wonderful whenever you need a pick-me-up. No longer will I grab some chocolate, my new habit is to grab the peppermint and roll some on my temples.  You can’t get rid of a bad habit right off the bat, but you can replace it with a better one!

Jasmine – sugar hijacks your biochemistry and messes up your body’s ability to regulate its dopamine. It makes you feel like you need the sugar to get a hit or high. It’s an illusion. Just like the smoker that starts smoking and establishes a craving for nicotine which nicotine then addresses i.e. the nicotine doesn’t make you feel better than a normal non-smoker feels all the time, it just brings you up to normal by feeding a craving that you’ve created by starting smoking in the first place.  Mad isn’t it? Sugar is the same.  Jasmine helps us to rebalance our dopamine function.

Rose – a reminder that this isn’t about depriving myself of anything but actually loving and caring for myself on a much deeper level,  but freeing myself of something that brings me no real joy or benefit.

 

Over to YOU

Could you give up sugar? How does the thought of that make you feel?

Is there something else in your life that you know isn’t really serving you but you find yourself constantly pulled back to?

 

 

 

Kitchen Sadhana

sadhana is a spiritual practice, or discipline, done repetitively and consistently for the refinement of Self.  Kitchen Sadhana is the practice of conscious food preparation.

My yoga teacher says “yoga starts in the kitchen.” High vibe food, lovingly made with our own hands, or “happy food” as my teacher calls it, is the earthy, most tangible foundation of awake living.

The food we eat becomes the tissue of our physical body. Happy food makes for happy, healthy tissue. Junk food, or “grumpy food” as guru-ji likes to say, makes for unhappy and ultimately confused and sick tissue. If we fill our trunk with junk we can’t hope to thrive or experience our potential.

We want to nourish to flourish, and that means shining the light of awareness into our kitchen. Us Yogis like to take control of our biochemistry to experience the bliss that is our true nature. Our bodies are our laboratory, and so is our kitchen.

Kitchen Sadhana For Modern Times

I first came across the concept of Kitchen Sadhana in Maya Tiwari’s Ayurvedic book A Life of Balance. Her kitchen sadhana involves lots of hand grinding grains and spices. I’ve taken the concept and adapted it liberally for my preference for faster-paced food prep.

I don’t like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen daily, but I love spending a 1-2 hour chunk of time each week purposefully on my Kitchen Sadhana.

When I’m hungry I want to eat NOW. I don’t want to jump through the hoops of deciding what to make while looking through cupboards and the fridge to see what ingredients are on hand. But I also want to eat well.

Behavioural science shows us that if we want to take certain actions, like making better food choices, we have to make it as easy as possible for ourselves to do this. Otherwise, it just won’t happen.

I find this to be so very true.  If I’m trying to elevate my food choices to nourish myself better than I have in the past, I need to make decisions around how this is going to happen and what this next version of myself would like to eat ahead of time.

If I wait until the moment when I’m stepping into the kitchen after a long day working to decide what to eat, it’s already too late. I’m probably maxed out on decision fatigue and in the split second it takes to decide what to make I’m highly likely to step on the old, well-worn path and repeat old patterns, because that’s easy.

It’s much easier to make decisions and consciously plan better food choices for the week ahead of time. My kitchen sadhana is my opportunity to do this. To take some time, when I’m not hungry, in a rush, or needing to make food quickly, to align my kitchen with the sort of nourishment I want to gift myself in the coming week.

Why You Want a Kitchen Sadhana

Each time we eat we’re making an offering to our physical body. We have an opportunity at every meal to shape who we’re evolving into each day through conscious food choices.

A single meal might not seem like a big deal but consider this, we eat three meals a day, 265 days a year for an average lifespan of 81 years, that’s 88,695 opportunities to have a conscious and healing and nourishing interaction with food.

Each encounter is an opportunity to step into greater health and vitality, or to create inner sludge and toxins – ama in Ayurveda- that eventually leads us to disease. So there’s a lot at stake. The foundation of our future wellbeing lies in our kitchen today. Is your kitchen set up in such a way that that making the best possible food choices is the path of least resistance?

How To Create Your Own Kitchen Sadhana

Ask yourself:

  • How do I want to nourish myself in this next phase?
  • What do I want to eat this coming week?
  • What can I prepare ahead of time to make it super easy for me to do this?

My Kitchen Sadhana usually takes places on a Saturday or Sunday. I might stick some music on and get stuck into the fun of cleaning, tidying, soaking, drying, washing, chopping, and whatever else needs doing to pave the way for a healthy week full of happy food.

Here are some of the things I might enjoy doing as part of my kitchen sadhana time:

  • Clearing up cupboards. I find things can get a bit disordered in the busy-ness of mid-week so this is a time to straighten things out and put things away in an orderly fashion so I can quickly navigate the kitchen during the week.
  • Stock check: I check what I’ve got in stock so I can plan meals around what I already have and avoid wastage, or buying and stocking more than I need. I’ll also note what’s missing and make up my shopping list for the week as I do this. I shop with Ocado and find their app invaluable, I just add things to the trolley on the app as I go along.
  • Meal planning: I’ll write out some simple meal ideas for the week. Often I’ll browse through my recipe books for inspiration and perhaps pick out a new recipe or something I haven’t made in awhile. I don’t necessarily stick to the plan religiously but it helps me to have a range of options and ingredients so I can quickly pick something each day and do whatever food prep is needed in the morning  or the night before. This might not sound that useful but honestly, it makes it so much easier to stay on track during the week when you’re tired and maybe less motivated, if you can simply look at a meal planner and read the directions from the highly-motivated-weekend-version-of-yourself.
  • Food prep: I might use this time to actually prepare some of my ingredients, maybe washing and chopping vegetables, soaking beans or
    nom nom batches of sauerkraut, fermented beets and humous!

    nuts and seeds. I’ve been making tabouleh a lot recently so I might chop some carrots, cucumber and tomatoes and have those ready in a container so that I can simply add hot water to the bulgar wheat in the morning (1 minute job) and then mix in the veggies at lunchtime (another 1 minute) to complete the meal. So fast, so easy!

  • Batching food staples: I might also make up some batches of foods thatcan be combined with different meals for variety throughout the week. I like making a big batch of hummus for instance, or sauerkraut. This week I made a big batch of vegan coleslaw which spruces up any salad in an instance and adds a nice dash of colour to most meals.
  • I’ll usually buy bulk packs of grains and legumes so I might spend some
    mmm vegan coleslaw with nuts and seeds. I can chuck a few spoonfuls onto some kale or lettuce for a snazzy salad in an instant.

    time replenishing the smaller mason jars I keep on hand with this stock.

Kitchen Sadhana allows me to make quick, healthy meals on the fly, with minimal effort or thought on days when I’m busy and pinched for time. I like to see this time I spend prepping ahead as a gift to my future, busier, self.

As a new mum this practice has become essential in allowing me to continue rustling up healthy meals in the limited time I have available.

How to Make Your Own Green Powder

Eat your greens! We’ve all heard the advice. Leafy green plants in particular are some of the nutrient-densest foods around. That means that in very few calories they pack a huge punch of nutrients that are easily absorbed by our cells.

Green plants are high in vitamins and minerals and a source of phytochemicals that function as antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory agents which protect our cells and boost our immunity.  

Green plants that grow in our locality are even better. According to Ayurveda when we eat the plants that appear in our environment the distance and time between soil and plate is greatly reduced so we consume the freshest food possible. The plants that grow locally are also perfectly adapted to our particular environment. They lend us their immunity which can help stave off allergies. Plus they connect us with the rhythm of nature, grounding us in our place on earth. We become stronger, healthier and more grounded. Not bad. 

With all this in mind, I’ve been foraging local wild weeds like a mad person recently in an attempt to make the most of all these wonderful health benefits, which are free to boot!

I’ve mostly been picking dandelions and nettles and making some simple juices and soups with these, but given the abundance of these two uber-nutritious greens I tried my hand at making my own green powder this week. This means I have the power-of-the-plant to hand to easily sprinkle in and on many dishes, or to make teas.

Herewith my recipe for DIY green powder.

Step 1: Go to your local park or woodland unashamedly armed with gloves, a bag and some scissors to gather your fresh local greens. Nettles are particularly abundant and fresh at the moment so I’ve been focusing on these. Do make sure you’re picking from within a park or woodland and not from the side of the road. Plants growing near the road have likely picked up pollution from the cars. We don’t want pollution in our health powder!

Use scissors to cut off the freshest leaves at the top of the plant. I like to cut the leaves off right at the plant to save me faffing about pulling these off in the kitchen later. Plus, you leave much of the plant intact this way which makes it easier for it to grow back and replenish the supply.

Step 2: Wash all the leaves in cold water. You’ll need to use gloves for this too as they’ll still be stinging at this stage!

Step 3: Place everything laid out on some oven trays or dehydrator trays. If you’re using an over you’ll need to set it to the lowest setting and maybe even leave the door open. With a dehydrator just pop them on. They’ll need about 12 hours on the dehydrator, less in the oven!

Nettles will lose most of their sting when they’re fully dry and all of it once blended into a fine powder

 

Step 4: Blend up your dry nettles (and any other leaves you might have used, I used dandelions also) either in a blender for speed and efficiency or if you’re partial to a bit of pestle and mortar action then that can work also.

Some people suggest that using a pestle and mortar preserves the energy of the plant and can be quite a meditative and spiritual practice. I’m a blendtec blender kinda gal 😉

 

Step 5:  Hurrah, do a happy dance, you’ve got your homemade green powder. Make sure it’s nice and fine. If you’ve got a strong blender this shouldn’t be a problem but if not you might want to run it through a sieve. 

Step 6: Find a nice jar to store it in

Step 7: Put it proudly on display where you’ll see it and use it!