Tuesday 13 September 2011

Hello, again!

Well, to say that it's been a while would be the understatement of the century, but I'm going to say it anyway...

It's been a while huh?!

Amusingly I have an unfinished post in my drafts entitled "Good grief, is it March already?!", six months later and here we are!

I know one of my favourite expressions is that 'life gets in the way', and it would be unfair to say that wasn't partly to blame for my blogging hiatus, but I'd say there were a multitude of other factors preventing me writing here. Number one I'd say is my perfectionist attitude manifesting itself in the need to 'catch up' - how can I ever move on if I don't share the past with you?! etc...

I've actually still got long posts 2/3rds of the way written dating back from the house move and Fame 2010 contest in May last year! I should really finish those off at some point...

I've also had a lot of bad luck this year with my ankle which I will go into later, basically it's still not right :-(

Anyway, for whatever reason (writer's block, hectic social and family life etc...) I've not written here for yonks and I've really missed it!

So what's provoked this return you might ask? (I say 'you' but if there is anyone left still reading this blog after half a year's absence I'll be very surprised!!)

The truth is that I'm not entirely sure but I suspect that it's because I didn't want any new visitors to this site thinking that I'm still the same girl who eats every 2-3 hours, eschews saturated fat, stays out of the sun, drinks umpteen synthetic protein shakes a day and believes that if you skip breakfast your brain will be unable to function for the rest of the day.

Yes, I've changed my thinking a lot, and for the better. I've made a lot of mistakes with my thinking, nutrition-wise - as evidenced by my previous beliefs, a lot of which are still here on this blog (and will remain, life is a learning process after all), but I think I've finally realised that if I want my body to not only last for the next 60 years (yes I plan on surpassing 100), I want it to thrive too. I want to remain strong and healthy for life and avoid all of those preventable 'diseases of civilisation' that some people accept as 'just being part of getting old' - pah! I'm already doing the correct things with my strength training programmes, but it's not just about what I do *to* my body, it's what I put *into* it that means the difference between actually living and just merely existing.

There are many things that I've come to realise now, things like:

Conventional Wisdom is deeply flawed to the point that it is killing us.
Humans aren't designed to eat food intended for birds that is used to fatten up livestock.
Sugar is basically evil.
Fat, though much maligned, is an incredibly important and necessary nutrient, without which we would die.
Cholesterol is also incredibly important to our survival.
Ever since nutritional 'experts' recommended replacing fat with carbohydrates, obesity and type 2 diabetes levels have sky-rocketed.
Pharmaceutical companies are entirely motivated by profit and therefore the sicker you are, the more money you are likely to throw at them. They are not interested in making you better as if they did you would cease buying their product.
Doctors/GPs, although well-meaning, base all their training on addressing the symptoms of sick people and not the underlying cause. Ask your Doctor how much nutritional training they have had.
And finally, I honestly believe that there are very few illnesses that cannot be prevented, ameliorated and perhaps even cured by removing all processed foods and following the diet that we evolved to eat.

This is just a short list. I could go on, and indeed I probably will in future posts as I find myself increasingly angered by the discovery that we've been lied to for the past 50/60 years about what constitutes a healthy diet and what causes things like cancer, heart disease and atherosclerosis etc...

So instead (as I did intend to keep this as brief as is possible for me to do!), I'll give you a little background info on my year and what has catalysed this change in my thinking. I truly feel like I have had my eyes opened once and for all.

Last year onwards...
When I was dieting for the UKBFF Stars of Tomorrow 2010 show, I was advised to cut down on cow's milk because of the high carb (sugar) content so I started drinking soya milk instead. I found I liked the taste so much that I didn't return to drinking cow's milk. After a few months I tried it in a coffee and was shocked at how unpleasant it tasted to me, and then more recently I was out with family enjoying a Sunday carvery at a local pub when I was about to take back the mashed carrot and swede because I thought it had gone rancid only to discover that everybody else was enjoying it and the only reason I wasn't was because had been milk mixed in. Strange how tastes can change! (I don't actually drink soya milk any more because of the health risks, but I'll expand more on that in a future post)

After a parent's evening we all went for a meal and ended up in Pizza Express. I opted for a pizza which I'd not had in a while and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it at the time. However, on the way home I fell asleep in a cab, nothing I did could keep my eyes open. Similar things have happened following a large wheat-based meal, I found I just couldn't keep my eyelids open if I ate it!

I'd already massively cut down on wheat but it began to dawn on me that there must be a reason my body wants to in effect 'shut down' whenever I eat it so I decided to avoid it wherever possible.

I was browsing Amazon's website and saw a book called "You Can Be Thin: The Ultimate Programme to End Dieting... Forever" by a lady called Marisa Peer. The customer reviews were excellent and I was intrigued by the fact that Marisa uses hypnosis to reinforce her message (my mother was a hypnotherapist) so I bought it.

It really is an excellent book, very well written with clear points and a different take on 'diet' to that which I'd become used to reading - i.e. instead of trying to promote the low-fat high-carb approach that most diet-book authors do, she suggests removing foods that are a) harmful to your health and b) cause you to put weight on. Marisa explains the reasons why sugar, trans fats, grains and dairy are deleterious to your health and the way the book has been cleverly constructed means that the actual process of reading it to yourself creates a mildly hypnotic state.

The CD that accompanies the book is also very good and is worth listening to every day for a month as Marisa suggests... I'd recommend it personally if you're finding it hard to unwind after a day's work as I feel incredibly soothed after listening to it. The CD really helps to cement all her teaching, it's an ideal companion to the book.

Anyway, it was Marisa Peer who first truly introduced to me the idea that grains, particularly wheat, and cow's milk (believe it or not, it's meant to fatten up calves... not humans, we are the only animal to drink the breast milk of another species... it is a bit odd really if you think about it) are foods that we should restrict (and preferably eliminate altogether) from our diets. Until then I'd not really heard any convincing reasons against their consumption and was just going on how they made me feel. I already knew that processed foods were bad, it's a no-brainer really and was actively ensuring my refined sugar intake was as low as possible.

June onwards

In June I attended a free weight-loss seminar by the Personal Trainer Dax Moy entitled "The Facts and Fallacies of Female Fat Loss". It was a really insightful talk and I decided to have a go at his 30 Day Elimination Diet (which you can get for free if you sign up to his mailing list).

I followed it for a fortnight before a social engagement (cocktail-making hen party!) derailed my efforts somewhat (the diet eliminates alcohol).

I must admit though, I'd not lost a single pound. I think it was due to probably over-indulging in fruit as the diet allows you to eat it freely and I have since discovered that if you really are serious about shifting body fat you need to avoid fruit and also stick to non-starchy vegetables as much as possible.

One thing I am incredibly thankful to the Elimination Diet for is breaking my addiction to caffeine! I didn't think I was drinking that much but it was around 3 cups of coffee a day, perhaps some tea and a can of diet coke on top of it.... hmmm, perhaps not good huh?

For the first week and a bit I had the worst headache, seriously, it was dreadful this dull central ache, not fun. I'm not a fan of painkillers though so basically decided to ride it out. I can't believe how long it lasted though, I guess I truly was going cold turkey from an addiction (albeit only to caffeine!). Since then I rarely drink caffeinated coffee and have discovered a love for herbal teas (particularly "Morocco Mint and Spices" by Lipton).

Since I didn't feel that Dax Moy's plan and techniques worked for me I started looking around for others.

As I haven't blogged for so many months I also haven't kept up to date with all the other blogs I used to read *hangs head in shame*, but one of the few I have has been that of my friend Jo at http://www.jagsfitnessblog.com/. I got to know her practically as soon as I first started blogging back in 2009 and have always felt like she's one step ahead of me in terms of knowledge in diet and training techniques so have been following with interest her progress over the past few months.

Jo has been following a Paleo/Primal approach to eating for almost 5 months and has had spectacular results. She's shifted a load of body fat without sacrificing her curves and has managed it all without the aid of protein shakes or bars, just through eating a good natural diet and practising Intermittent Fasting to keep her metabolism on its toes.

And thus begun my quest for anthropological nutritional knowledge and a desire to learn the truth about what constitutes a healthy diet (and also what especially does not).

I'm not going to expand on ancestral healthy practices now as I think that deserves at the very minimum an entire post all to itself (and remember this is meant to be brief!!)

As an overview, here is a collection of the books I've been reading over the past couple of months

The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf who was mentored by Loren Cordain/ (who actually wrote the first Paleo Diet book).

I really enjoyed this book, and Robb's energetic enthusiastic style of writing. I like that he comes from a scientific background as I'm generally a huge sceptic of anyone who doesn't. The only thing that grated a little was his continued use of the word "fanny", as in "get off your...". I think if you're going to use slang and humour in a book it's important to remember that if you're planning to market it to another country, you probably want to check that it doesn't have an alternative meaning which could be something completely different altogether!! (I sniggered to myself the first few times the word came up in the text and then just got a bit bored of it - fanny overkill it would seem!)

Anyway, don't let that overshadow a great book which is both humorous and informative... two qualities rarely witnessed in literature.

I also bought this book on the basis of some great reviews. Human Evolution, Diet and Health: The Case for Palaeolithic Nutrition by Mark Hines. It's a very succinctly written introduction to the rational behind eating the foods that shaped our evolution into the species we are today. There are a great many references cited but it doesn't read too much like a scientific paper as Mark has a very accessible style of writing.

Currently I am reading The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram Your Genes for Effortless Weight Loss, Vibrant Health, and Boundless Energy by Mark Sisson and I am finding it very enjoyable indeed.

I want to talk more about Mark Sisson but I'll end up wittering on here for pages and pages so will save that for when I've finished the book in its entirety (lucky you! ;-) ).

One thing I will encourage people to do is visit Mark's site http://www.marksdailyapple.com as it is simply a wealth of knowledge (both Mark's and from other fabulous sources), links to other sites and articles and a fabulous blog which he updates regularly. I really like the fact that he keeps his site entries open to comment at it shows that he holds himself accountable to everything he believes and likes to engage with others and receive feedback.

Although it's unlikely (although not improbable) now that I'll read the original Paleo Diet book now, I have bought The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Loren Cordain and top USA triathlon and cycling coach Joe Friel for my own cycle-mad Joe and I'm pleased to say that he's reading it and that our nutritional paths seem to finally be aligned.

I can thank one book for that, Trick And Treat by Barry Groves.

I took Trick and Treat with me away on holiday a couple of weeks back and while there, Joe pinched it off me. I've not seen it since but I'm not going to complain. A few chapters of a book whose entire purpose is to dispel the myths surrounding 'healthy' eating and practices has convinced my boyfriend of what I have been unable to over the past few months - that 'healthy' eating is shortening our lifespans.

There's a lot of shocking (and very well referenced) information in that book, it's so good that I've bought it for my parents.

I'm hoping to get Trick and Treat back off Joe at some point but in the meantime I'm reading his follow-up/companion book, Natural Health and Weight Loss which is also very good. Barry Groves advocates a low-carb high-fat diet (LCHF) and explains why it is the best method for both short and long-term fat loss as well as general health (fat is infinitely superior to carbohydrate in that it has so many functions whereas carbohydrate is simply a fuel source).

Another LCHF aficionado is the esteemed scientific journalist Gary Taubes who wrote an amazingly detailed, lengthy and extremely edifying book called The Diet Delusion (also known as Good Calories, Bad Calories in the USA).

I must confess to not having finished reading that book. Although I am a very fast reader (I finished several Stephen King books whilst away as well as finally getting round to reading Dune which is over 600 pages long), I am also very impatient and I felt that I would probably end up skipping sections in order to 'get to the point' instead of devoting time to giving the book the concentration it deserves as it really is a spectacular collection of years' worth of research, painstakingly gathered and compiled for the reader's benefit.

To avoid the skipping scenario I purchased Gary Taubes' more recent book, Why We Get Fat: And What to Do about It as I know that the intention behind it was to take the information from his initial masterpiece and condense it into a volume that is smaller and also doesn't require you to have any scientific knowledge or background in order to understand it.

Why We Get Fat... presents some pretty compelling arguments as to why we should avoid sugars and starches at all costs, but the most poignant thing for me was how he made me realise that fat people don't get fat because they overeat, they overeat because they are getting fatter. The regulation of their fat cells is out of kilter and thus their body locks away fat, not allowing it to be available for fuel, so the body naturally cries out for more food as it thinks it is being starved.

It's all down to the hormone insulin, honestly. Unless insulin production and regulation is running smoothly you're pretty much hosed, but thankfully diets promoted by the Paleo/Primal/LCHF school of thought have all got one thing in common... they stabilise your glucose (blood sugar) levels thus enabling insulin to carry out its role in the body and then bugger off when it's not needed anymore, making way for its counterpart glucagon whose role, simply put, is the complete opposite to insulin. Insulin takes glucose out of your blood and locks it away in cells, glucagon releases the stored energy (including fat which we all want to release... let's be honest!) from our cells and uses it to make glucose. It should be a nice happy cycle but if there is excess glucose in the blood then there will be extra insulin present, when insulin is present glucagon is not so therefore you cannot lose body fat if you have an excess of sugar in your blood (you can see another reason why pizza and pasta might have lost their appeal huh? ;-) )

Anyway, I've now broken my rule for this post and gone into detail on a topic, grrr, but as you can see it's obviously something that fascinates me and that I feel strongly enough about to want to bore everyone in sight over! :-)

I'm going to end things now otherwise I never will, but rest assured I will be back again soon as my blogging appetite has been well and truly whetted!

So until next time, take care of yourselves and thanks for reading.