Enough

A while ago, Mark Sisson wrote this blog post  and I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. If you’ve got a minute you should check it out. In the article, he says ‘I don’t want the perfect to become the enemy of the good‘, and this phrase resonated for me.

It is so easy to get caught up in ideas and plans and to become obsessed with doing things perfectly. I’m guilty of this all the time. I do the best that I can to nourish my body with natural, chemical free foods, quality sleep and regular exercise but if something slips through that isn’t optimal, now I just roll with it. Once upon a time I would have beaten myself up and promised to be more strict in the future. But, for the sake of my sanity, I take a breath and look at what I am doing and how far I have come and let it be enough.

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Do the best you can with what you have, and let good be enough.

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How To Be A Modern Day Hunter Gather

In an ideal world, I would be the ultimate hunter gatherer. I’d grow all of my own fruit and vegetables. I’d preserve them lovingly and those rows and rows of jars would sustain us until next season. I’d raise chickens, cows, sheep and pigs with care and slaughter them with compassion. I’d go fishing and bring us home a tuna. I’d carry a kick-ass basket. I’d feed us with my skills and general awesomeness.

(via lego.wikia.co)

But that isn’t the real world. I work full time, with a long commute three days each week. I go to CrossFit. I have a family and friends and sometimes I like to have a moment to read a book or play with my dog or watch Buffy. So the vegie garden is neglected, the last time I went fishing I was wearing jelly sandals (apparently they are making a comeback – ew) and my poor chickens met their untimely end in December 2011. I can’t be a true hunter gatherer, so I have to do it the 21st century way.

On the long drive to work the other morning I was listening to my favourite podcast (Relentless Roger and the Caveman Doctor). I love those guys. They deliver good information in an accessible way … and they are bloody funny. Something that rang true for me in this particular podcast was the Caveman Doctor’s discussion on being a modern day hunter gatherer.

The essence of what he was saying was this. Rather than going to the closest grocery store or supermarket and buying stuff there, be selective. Be a hunter gatherer like your ancestors were. If you can’t get the organic, grass-fed butter that you want, don’t settle for margarine because it is all they have. Get on the Google and find out where you have to go to get the good stuff. Even if you have to spend a little more money or drive a little further to get it, it’s worth it. You are hunting your food like your ancestors did, admittedly, in a different way, but still a valid way.

I’m the hunter gatherer in this family. Tyson hates shopping with a passion, so I do it, because I don’t mind. When we first moved to Melbourne I’d hit the Preston Market. It is just around the corner and have everything I needed … in theory. They have carrots. I eat carrots. So I bought the carrots. Unfortunately, the carrots were crap. So was the meat. After one particularly bad experience, I decided that things had to change.

After a few (disappointing) trips to some other stores, I discovered Terra Madre in Westgarth, and that solved most of my problems. Fresh, organic produce, niche pantry staples, Istra smallgoods and high quality eggs and dairy available seven days a week. Easy.

The missing piece of the puzzle was MEAT. I firmly believe that if your food eats bad food, it in turn becomes bad food. I want my food to eat good, species appropriate, food. I don’t want my cows eating grain or my chickens eating soy. It’s just not natural. I also want to know that the food I eat didn’t die in a pile of poop and agony. If I eat that, I’m effectively taking that poop and agony into my body, and that is not what I want.

My sister, who knows about this kind of thing, recommended trying out meat from Koallah Farm, and when I checked out their website I noticed that one of their stores is about a 20 minute drive away. So I headed down to Rosanna and checked it out and have been shopping there ever since.

So I hunt. I arrange my spare time around getting to CrossFit, the butcher and Terra Madre. I gather what I need from the sources I have found to be reliable. It doesn’t take much to be a modern day hunter gatherer – armed with a little research and a desire to give yourself something better, you can be one in an afternoon. You don’t have to wrestle a mammoth or wait for some seeds to grow. It’s all out there waiting for you.

Just not at the supermarket.

Not Eating for Productivity.

Eat-Stop-Eat-Intermittent-FastingBefore I get to the core of this post I’d like to share a little back story.
I left University with a Bachelor of Music, a stack of unread books, a catalogue of lecture notes and a to-do list the length of my arm. I was overwhelmed with the enormity of my ambition.  I contemplated my options and made a plan.  I decided to invest one year of full-time study/practice at home, working only weekends and nights.  This was for the year 2010.
My first task for the year was to study the process of learning.  I figured that if I could improve my quality of learning I could get more done in less time.  Under the umbrella of learning I studied health, nutrition, fitness, sleep, meditation, happiness, task management, goal setting, art and art related theory, Alexander technique, presence and nootropics amongst other things.  Although I did get a lot healthier and a lot happier I wasn’t getting anything done.  I knew exactly what to do and how to do it but study itself became a form of procrastination.
So, my brain working the way it does, I decided to study productivity…….
Then, about two years later I started to get things done.  I started writing my own music.
Regardless of your goals and ambitions, how you think and process the world around you has a huge impact on your life and how you go about getting things done.  Clarity of thought, focus and energy can all be enhanced with small considerations to your diet and nutrition.  I’d like to share a few things that I have experimented with that may help you stay sharp and be more productive.
First things first, you’ve got to get your base-line diet under control.  The aim is to eliminate peaks and troughs and maintain consistent energy though out the day.  Avoiding sugar, grains and high GI carbs should do the trick.
Plan your meals.
If you know what you are going to eat (and roughly when you are going to eat it) you don’t have to waste energy thinking about food during the day.  Like will-power, decision making is a limited resource and when it’s up for the day – it’s up. Save your brain power for your work.
Bulletproof Coffee. 
I’ve been drinking Bulletproof Coffee every morning for the past two months now and it’s had the most impact on my day-to-day productivity than anything I’ve ever done.  Coffee stimulates the brain, the butter gives you energy (about 6 hours) without affecting the balance of your hormones and the MCT oil cranks your body into fat burning mode (the key to intermittent fasting).
Intermittent Fasting.
When you fast you tell yourself you’re not getting any food until a specific time, and until that time, work gets done. Different people recommend different periods for fasting based on an eating window. The most common is 16-8, 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating.  Whatever 8 hours suits your schedule.
If you are interested in intermittent fasting I would recommend taking a look at Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof fasting, Leangains, Paul Jaminet or James Clear.
Supplements and Other Specific Foods.
I find that most supplements that claim to boost memory, focus and clarity of thought are not really measurable.  Because you are sitting down and doing your work, you’ll never know if the supplements are helping or you are just practicing the process of focusing your brain.  This is similar to specific foods recommended for brain health, like blueberries, wild caught salmon or mixed nuts. They’ll get you on the right track to a clean diet but they won’t make you sit down and do your work (what is actually important).
Once you have your diet and sleep under control you may need a little help getting the work done.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. 
Regardless of what you are trying to get done this book will help.  It’s short and beautifully written.
The Seinfeld Method. 
James Clear wrote this excellent post on the Seinfeld method and it is well worth a read.  Basically, your aim is to do your task every day and be accountable.  Seinfeld recommends a yearly calendar, when you start crossing off days with a red X you won’t want to stop.
 
If you would like any more information or recommended reading leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

It’s A Cookie Kind Of Day

It’s miserable outside. Drizzly, cold and grey. When the weather is like this I crave three things – hot drinks, good books and fresh-out-of-the-oven biscuits. I must have been preparing for this subconsciously – I absentmindedly picked up some organic dark chocolate chips while running the gauntlet that is Terra Madre on a Saturday morning. So when the longing for a warm baked sweetie knocked on the door of my brain, I was ready.

I waded through about a zillion websites, trying to find a grain-free, low-sugar recipe that didn’t look like balls. It took a while. Just when I thought I’d found a good one it would include something completely whack or the comments would annihilate the recipe and it’s maker.

Eventually, I found one that sounded pretty good and tried it out. You can find it here. I made a few changes (added extra choc chips; halved the recipe because I WILL eat that many cookies if they are around; subbed coconut sugar for palm sugar and cut it by a half as the coconut flour I use is quite sweet already) and they came out great … although I was not paying attention towards the end, and the cookies came out a little browner than I would have liked. But they taste lovely, have a nice texture and are just the way I like my choc-chip cookies – thick with a soft inside and slightly crisp on the outside.

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Now the heater is on, I have a full tummy and all is well in the world. Happy cookie day!

Lemon and Blueberry Cheesecake

After a delicious dinner of pulled pork and roasted vegetables, Tyson was saying how much he would like a lemony dessert (hint, hint). We argued a bit about making apple crumble – I really wanted to try out a pie or tart base and he just wanted the usual crumble we often eat for breakfast. BORING.

At the same time, we turned to each other and said ‘Don’t we have some cream cheese in the fridge?’

It was a bit weird. So we took it as a sign. Lemon cheesecake all around. I made one, loosely based on this recipe.

My normal recipe disclaimer applies – this is how I made it. I’m not a recipe tester or pastry chef, and I’m not saying this recipe is perfect. It might not work for you. It might be too dry, or too moist, or too crumbly. You might think it tastes like crap. I made it and I liked it and this is how it was done.

Filling

250g full fat cream cheese

3 teaspoons of honey

1 egg

zest and juice of one lemon

blueberries

Crust

120g almond meal

70g melted butter

Method

Put the ingredients for the filling (except for the blueberries) into a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste it, and add more honey or more lemon as you like. Go nuts and add some vanilla if it makes you happy.

Mix the almond meal into the butter until it makes a thick paste but is not too dry. If it is too dry, add more butter. If it is too wet, add more almond meal. Press into your cheesecake receptacle (I used a tart case) all the way to the edges.

Pour the filling onto the base and spread out evenly. Try not to eat too much of the filling mix or your cheesecake will be too skinny.

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Artfully arrange the blueberries onto the top of the filling.

Bake at 180 degrees until it looks ready, light brown around the edges but not burnt. Mine took about 45 minutes.

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While the cheesecake is baking, lick every utensil you used to move that filling around, then use a spatula to scrape out the last tiny bits of filling that are in the food processor and lick that too. Don’t be a clown and try to lick the blades of the food processor, it will only end in tears. That’s how good the filling should taste.

Here is the hardest part. Once it is out of the oven, you are going to have to wait for it to cool. If you don’t, the base will crumble and the filling will be too gooey. It’s going to need to spend some time in the fridge. When it is cool and set, it is ready to eat. Enjoy!

cheesecake slice

Four Ways I Improved My Health

I’m an experimenter. I like to try different things and see if they work for me. If they don’t, I ditch them. Sometimes I may be a little hasty in doing so, but I don’t see the point in sticking with something if it is clearly not right for me. That being said, here are four changes I have made that have undoubtedly improved my health, and that I have stuck with, and will continue to stick with.

1. Cutting out gluten

Not minimising gluten. Not eating gluten on cheat days. I just don’t eat it. That isn’t to say that I will never eat it again. When I go to France, one day, I plan on eating a bootload of baked goods and enjoying every bite. I also plan on spending the following 24 hours locked in a little room, holding my tummy, groaning, cursing and dealing with other unmentionable side effects that make it impossible for me to be around other humans. Until then, I’ll skip the gluten, thanks.

2. Increasing my healthy fat intake

You probably read Tyson’s post on bulletproof coffee. I’m a fan. It lets me jam in maximum fat in minimum time, and I thrive on that stuff. I physically can’t eat as much butter as I would like to – I put butter on everything. Think I’m exaggerating? Pop around one time and watch me eat butter on cheese, I dare you. How do you like your apples? Buttered, thanks. After I eat butter (or other healthy oils) I feel satisfied and rarely am I left craving sweets. It reduces the amount of food I eat but it makes it taste so good I don’t mind.

An important side note here – I’m talking about butter. Real butter. Organic butter from healthy cows. I am most definitely not talking about that monstrosity that pretends to be butter, the devil margarine. I would never encourage anyone to eat margarine. It tastes like crap because it is crap.

via tappmd.com

3. Minimising my consumption of processed food, grains and sugars

This is a bit of a no-brainer. I like having steady energy throughout the day. I like my unpregnant belly not to look pregnant. I like not turning into a demon because I am craving sugar. I like eating real food.

4. Keeping a food journal that details what I eat and how I feel after eating

This keeps me accountable. I regularly visit a Chek practitioner, Vanessa, who has access to my food journal (thank you, Google Docs) and she lets me know if and when I am getting out of balance or letting things slide too much. For example, without the journal and Vanessa’s expert eye, I would never have questioned the amount of sweet potato that I was consuming. Let’s just say it was a lot. Multiple times each day. I was taking in far too many sugars from carbohydrates through the level of sweet potato in my diet. So now I am aware, I am eating less sweet potato. Easy.

Different horses for different courses, my friends. As always, what works for me might not work for you. But what have you got to lose?

What changes have you made that have improved your health?  We’d love to hear about it!

Bulletproof Coffee……. Oh Buddy.

Bulletproof coffee is: Coffee, Organic grass-fed butter and MCT oil blended together.  It is amazing.  MCT oil is found in coconut oil (that’s what I use) and is the next best thing if you don’t have the pure extract ( http://www.upgradedself.com/upgraded-mct-oil.html).  Sometimes I just drink coffee with butter.

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Bulletproof coffee is the trademark of Dave Asprey.  Asprey is the founder and author of the biohacking site Bulletproof Executive and podcasts Bulletproof Radio.  I highly recommend both and suggest you take a look at the original post on the Bulletproof Coffee recipe.

http://www.bulletproofexec.com

https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/bulletproof-executive-radio/id451295014

I have been on Bulletproof coffee for about a week now and it has made a huge difference. I’m not sure if Bulletproof coffee is good for everyone, but I’m 100% sure it’s good for me. I noticed the difference instantly. I have increased my focus (therefore my productivity), I have more consistent energy and less hunger (without overeating the night before or interrupting the balance of my hormones). The effects of the coffee usually last about 3-4 hours. Thats solid, uninterrupted work. Also, because I’ve been interested in intermittent fasting lately Bulletproof Coffee has been very important.  Check out Bulletproof fasting if you’re interested.

Did I mention it tastes amazing?

On Bringing Your Own Food (You Weirdo Hippie)

I’m a teacher. One of the questionable perks of the job is the fun activities that you get to do. This morning I am heading off to the funnest of the fun activities – school camp.

Now, don’t be fooled. Despite what our delightful former premier tells you, it’s a little bit more than a normal working day. We are on duty twenty four hours, from the time the kids get to school to the time we deliver them back to the welcoming arms of their parents. If a kid starts vomiting in the middle if the night, we sit up with them. If they have nightmares, or wet the bed, or miss their families, we soothe them. But despite those things, camp is fun. I like camp. And I especially like this camp because we get to ride bikes all day.

What I don’t like about camp, apart from watching thirty prepubescents spend five dollars each on lollies and the shenanigans that follow with the subsequent sugar highs and crashes, is the camp food.

It wouldn’t be bad to most people. Pretty much your run of the mill stuff, spaghetti bolognaise, cereal, toast… But if I ate that, things would go seriously wrong. My energy levels would be all over the place, I’d feel sick and cranky. What’s a girl to do?

When I agreed to go to camp, I kind of forgot about the food. My dear friend Nat is the camp coordinator, and while organising the camp paperwork, she came across the section for dietary requirements. I’m sure she looked at it and thought ‘Oh shit, here we go.’

It got me thinking. What are my requirements? First and foremost, no gluten or sugar. That’s the bare minimum I could cope with. Preferably, no processed food, refined carbohydrates, sugar or low fat anything. It’s a big ask. So I decided to take my own. Two breakfasts, three lunches and two dinners.

Three hours in the kitchen last night and I was good to go. Here’s my camp food…

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Apple crumble and coconut milk for breakfast, zucchini and sweet potato frittata and salad for lunch, Spanish meatballs and vegies for dinner.

Steady energy, steady mood, feeling good – bring on the bike rides!

On Knowing Too Much

I’ve been experimenting with intermittent fasting (fasting for sixteen hours then eating within an eight hour window) over the last couple of weeks. I thought it was going great. I felt good, I rarely felt hungry outside of the eight hour window, I had plenty of energy and I was sleeping well … until I started listening to podcasts and reading articles about how intermittent fasting isn’t good for women. Hearing all of the horror stories about persistent acne, disordered eating, smashed up hormones and adrenals and other ‘side effects’ freaked me out.

(Image via ninapaley.com)

All of a sudden, little things started to turn into bigger, more sinister things. The pimple that appeared out of the blue became an omen that my hormones are out of whack and I am going to get acne that would never go away. The bad night’s sleep due to nightmares when I usually sleep well and rarely have nightmares equals stressed out adrenals. Not losing any weight from fasting – not that I really care about weight loss – equals a screwed up metabolism. A rare headache … something fishy is going on here.

When you start paying attention to what you eat and how it affects you, you notice the tiniest changes within yourself. The problem is that sometimes the cause of the change isn’t always clear.

Is it the fasting, or did I accidentally ingest some gluten when I went out for dinner? Am I just tired from work? Pushing it too hard at CrossFit? Am I being slowly poisoned because I drank tap water when I ran out of spring water? Is it because I can’t afford to eat 100% organic and I have been eating more vegetables, thus more pesticides, herbicides and who knows what else?

It’s very easy to over-complicate these kinds of things. Instead of listening to other people’s stories, I’m getting back to basics, listening to my body and doing what it tells me to do. Thankfully, there have been no more pimples, nightmares or headaches. I’m staying away from the scales because I don’t want this to turn into an exercise in weight loss. I eat when I’m hungry, and it just so happens I am usually only hungry in the eight hour window. If I am hungry in the sixteen hour fasting period, I eat. I stop when I’m not hungry anymore.

Trial and error. What works for me might not work for you. Experiment, document, research and explore, then do it all over again until you find what works, what is true for you.

What experiments have you undertaken to improve your health? What is your truth? I’d love to hear about it!