Fermentation – An easy way to store veg and promote gut health.

It has been my pleasure in recent weeks to soak up the art of fermentation.

This involves something close to pickling a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but not quite.

Lacto-fermentation does not involve added sugar, so many products are more savoury once they ferment. Nevertheless, the range of foods that you can use in fermentation are staggering, each blend unique. The process is quick and simple, yielding probiotic pickles that help support your gut biome.

I had dabbled in this for a while, reading about it online and researching recipes for a range of fermented foods like Kefir, Kimchi and Saurkraut, but I took a dive and bought The Noma Guide To Fermentation on Amazon, plunging into it’s passionate and informative manual of frothy foods and drinks.

This is a wondrous book which provides all the central theory on fermenting your own foods, and the best bit, the lack of prescription. Noma advises us to play around with fermentation, finding blends of fruits, vegetables and spices which create exceptional flavours and unique taste bud experiences.

The key is salt.

Salting your foods in a correct ratio, somewhere at about 2% of the biomass of fruit and veg, will yield a fermented product in 3-5 days.

You can also try adding spices and herbs to these ferments to bring flavours together.

Kimchi blends cabbage, chilli, garlic and ginger with salt, creating a delicious gut friendly addition. I did in fact have some of this today with my lunch. It makes a delicious accompaniment to an omelette or scrambled eggs, as well as with a sandwich, maybe even as an addition to your healthy salad.

Fermented fruits and vegetables, touting all of the above qualities of ease, health and flavour are also among some of the most versatile foods in the world. What savoury dish does not benefit from the tart fizz of fermented foods? I challenge you to come up with one! You can add fermented foods to almost any dish to enhance flavour. The juices can help to build up a stock or gravy, can be poured over a prepared meal for some added zing, and can even added to deserts to make them pop! Fermented fruits and veggies are literally oozing complexity and utility from simplicity.

Aside from Kimchi, I plan to use my monstrously fertile rhubarb plants (seriously, these ancient garden stalks are like a hydra, they cannot be killed and grow back stronger when you cut them down) for a lacto-fermented rhubarb recipe which I found here. What I love about this is the blend of fragrant cardamom and fiery ginger with a seriously unique use for a tart vegetable (yes, rhubarb is a vegetable! hard to believe, I know). Some of the most fascinating ferments involve salted fruits and veggies which you might normally find in sweet dishes. One of Noma’s most famous ferments involves the gooseberry, a sour green hairy grape that pairs beautifully with fermentation. Sour fruits and vegetables shine in this process. The natural sourness of these fruits and vegetables can create beautifully tart surprises.

To boot, fermented fruits and vegetables can last months in the fridge. They don’t really go off, if prepared correctly, but be warned, the taste can become pretty intense the longer you leave them! Nevertheless, if everything else I’ve said on the subject hasn’t swayed you, what will you do with all your greens and colourful fruits come winter (the gardeners among you especially will want to make the most of your painstakingly raised produce)? At the end of the summer season, when you harvest your garden’s bounty, what better way to pay homage to your labour, than to preserve and pickle your hard work, letting it give back to you all through the winter!

Fermentation provides a literally endless supply of opportunities for us humans. It allows us to venture into a weakly explored territory of new flavours and culinary experiences (arguably something our ancestors understood well, but largely forgotten in a modern setting). It can add something special to almost any meal you make. Every blend produces a new and exciting flavour combination, influenced by the type of bacteria growing on the fruits and vegetables you use (all the more reason to grow your own!). It naturally aids our digestive tracts, which are constantly bombarded by unnatural chemical soups and processed junk. And finally, it lasts, giving you the benefit of your hard work all through the winter!

What more could you possibly want? It’s a no brainer to get into fermentation!

Keep well and enjoy learning, and if you liked this article, please share it with a friend or loved one who can benefit!

J

Intermittent Fasting – An easy, simple and powerful aid to better health.

As with many trends in the dieting industry, us seasoned veterans apply a liberal amount of scepticism to new and rising health fads.

We know, for instance, that you’ll often only hear the good, when there are certainly hidden consequences or trade-offs that come with making these drastic changes.

It’s our job to cut the wheat (yuck) from the chaff, and make sure that we make informed decisions based on a thorough understanding of both the pros and cons.

Keto has become a massively popular dietary trend in America, and has genuinely helped epileptic patients when drugs fail, and anecdotal evidence is growing that it can help diabetics shut down a cycle of sugar dependency, lose weight and become healthier.

All well and good, but the research is up in the air.

Studies suggest that long-term, the diet is hard to stick to, and when it fails, many dieters end up back where they started. Also, what are the side-effects of a long-term high-fat, high-salt diet? Some research suggests kidney damage, dangerous blood lipid profiles, and in some cases, death. In the short term, many users can experience horrible side-effect such as serious constipation and diarrhoea, palpitations, cramping, thirst, hypoglycemia, orthostatic hypotension and low-blood pressure.

It’s all too easy to find a new diet that touts extraordinary health benefits, wrap yourself up in the concepts and notions which support it, and turn a blind eye to the criticisms. More so when we consider that the internet is an echo chamber. Youtube’s algorithms show you what you want to see. Re-affirming what you watch. It’s force feeding you a truth that you want to hear. We must remain vigilant to the comforting cotton-wool like nature of social media and video sites which wrap us up in a cosy spool of ignorance.

So, what can we do? Remain critical of dietary trends, absolutely. Search google for literature on the efficacy of Keto for example. Search for side-effects, long term success rates, dangers and limitations of current data. This will give you a much more impartial attitude to your health and hopefully lead you to some safe and healthy middle grounds.

And of course, the best way to know how effective a diet or lifestyle change is, is to try it. We perpetually offer ourselves up as lab rats, eating the latest health food and documenting the effects. Thankfully, being in an age of relative enlightenment, we usually find either something doesn’t help at all, or it helps a little, or even a lot. We’re not usually faced with things which can really make us seriously ill. Thank you ancestors for poisoning yourselves for our gain!

With that in mind, I have been trying Intermittent Fasting, which displays promising evidence for being achievable every day, simplifying a busy lifestyle, and most importantly, reducing insulin sensitivity and promoting cognitive focus!

As I said earlier, we need to be careful with these kinds of changes. Intermittent Fasting can put the body into starvation mode, slowing the metabolism and destroying the bodies ability to deliver appropriate nutrition and energy to vital organs. The impact of this can range from fatigue, brain fog and low mood, to severe eating disorders and systemic organ failure. However, this tends to become a problem when people reduce their caloric intake as well as fast and continue to do this for long periods of time – not my approach!

So I’ve been fasting for two weeks on a 16:8 plan, which means that I fast for 16 hours a day and eat in an 8 hour window. It usually means I eat at 12 and stop eating at 8, with a little give and take here and there. I usually eat 2 meals a day of a relatively good size, with my first meal containing almost no carbs from wheat, potato or rice etc and my last meal of the day may contain a moderate amount of these carbs (though I try to avoid wheat and potato as both gluten and nightshades may irritate a sensitive digestive system). This actually prevents my body from going into ketosis, which it does not tolerate well, for all of the short term side-effects already listed above.

So, what has it been like?

Well, I have been really happy with the results!

As someone who has a big sweet tooth and is a bit of an emotional eater, fasting has completely curtailed my need for sweets. I just don’t feel a craving for them anymore. I haven’t had any chocolate the whole time and I haven’t wanted any! Miraculous and probably one of my favourite things about this change. This shows that my blood sugar is more controlled and that’s really important in staving off chronic illnesses like diabetes.

My blood pressure has also come down from about 140/90 which is just about borderline high blood pressure, to anywhere from 120/ 80 – 130 -80. This is an incredible reduction in just two weeks. I tried a lot of things prior to this to bring that number down, but very little I did seemed to work. This has been such a simple change to implement and is already significantly impacting my health and well being.

My skin has cleared up. I suffered from moderate acne all of my life. I still have the occasional spot, but the number of breakouts has reduced significantly. I’m losing weight. My trousers are baggier and my stomach is flatter. I have Sebhorrheic Dermatitis which is a more severe form of dandruff, which flairs up from time to time in a very bad way. This has also reduced, though not fully disappeared yet. Joint pain had begun to set in. Periodic sharp pain in my hip and knees became less noticeable and problematic. Asthma, which I acquired recently has been barely a concern since I made this change.

Overall, I am very pleased with the progress I have been making with this change, which has also simplified my lifestyle and is really quick and easy to implement. I’m seeing real, tangible health benefits which are not coming with nasty side-effects. It almost seems too good to be true!

We’re still in the early period at the moment and the proof in how effective this change is will come after I can say I’ve managed to stick with it long-term, but so far, it’s an exciting start to better health!

Join me if you can and try it out for a week, maybe it will help you as well!

Keep safe and well,

J

Hypochondriasis

The other day I was talking to my mother about one of my closest friends who I had recently fallen out with.

A few weeks back, I had been suffering from a prolonged period of suffocation. I later found out that this was asthma, but it could as well have been exacerbated by anxiety. As anyone who has suffered from severe anxiety will know, it’s that crushing band around the chest, a weight on your lungs, not getting the full range from a breath.

This night I was suffering particularly badly and was struggling to breath so much that I messaged my friend (at the time we lived in the same house together). I told her that I couldn’t breathe properly and that I didn’t know what to do. And her response was ‘It’ll be fine’ and then she went to bed.

It struck me as an odd reaction and hurt my feelings. A bit of a betrayal if anything. I was terrified and I thought I was going to pass out. One of my closest friends couldn’t even raise an eyebrow about it. I would have liked to think, put in the reverse situation, I would have come down the steep stairs to the lower levels, passing the dusty kitchen and shadowy pot plants on twisted shelves, and comforted her. In fact, I have done in the past.

My mother is not one to provide comfort, so she immediately replied: ‘It’s like the boy who cried wolf, she probably knows what you are like and reacted like that as if it’s not a big deal.’

‘But I would have come to comfort her, if she were struggling’, I replied.

As usual, she brushed off a response that she didn’t want to hear or could not make sense of. She has an enraging habit of only hearing what she likes at the expense of the whole picture. She cannot be said to be motherly sort of mother, so her responses do not come from that soft-centred feminine place. They are entirely pragmatic.

But, it did make a twisted sort of sense. My friend has known me for a long time. I have been a hypochondriac for a long time too. I can understand how ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ factors into how people interact with me.

But, I can tell you this for a fact. Being a hypochondriac is a misery beyond all miseries. I BELIEVE I am ill. I don’t just think it. I am perpetually disturbed by thoughts about how illnesses that I cannot really confirm I have are slowly sapping my essence and dragging me closer to the cliff of death, to be tipped.

Hypochondria is a neurotic expression of the psyche’s search for many things. A prevailing sense that there is something wrong with the individual, manifesting not in a search in the subconscious, but in an obsession with the body and disease. It is also a manifestation of a need for attention and love which was not well fostered as a child. As I mentioned earlier, my mother is not much of one to give motherly feelings, even less so when I was a child. Hypochondria is a manifestation of a need for attention, for treatment, for care. On top of this, is the feverish attempts made to escape the authoritarian gaze of the care giver, be that a doctor or parent. We cannot bear the eye of those we wish to look upon us. It is a perfect storm of misery, often made worse, not better, by a simple doctor’s visit.

So, I beg you, when you deal with a hypochondriac, please, deal with them as if you imagined that they were suffering from a threefold need to be cared for, to seek their inner failings and to escape the gaze of the carer. This is distressing to say the least, but not something which comes across on the surface when dealing with a hypochondriac.

I cannot lie, I still feel justified in viewing betrayal in my friend’s actions, and unswayed by the discussion I had with my mother. I am a hypochondriac, but my suffering is real, and I am searching, perhaps often in the wrong place, for a way out. I want to be better, but like the boy who cried wolf, the more often I call out for help, the less compassion I receive.

All the while, the hypochondria churns and boils, and my mind is on fire with terrifying thoughts of death, disease and helplessness.

If you give us nothing else, give us love.

J

[Let us know in the comments if you suffer with health anxiety and how your relationships have been affected]

 

Colour Me In Trust – Sensitive Data and Colour Psychology

We all know that a great deal of marketing strategy goes into making an app, more so those apps that go onto become successful and lasting presences in our daily lives.

But what if I told you that part of what makes an app successful is the colour it conveys to us in its design?

What does it say about an app that subliminally attempts to infiltrate the user’s subconscious defences with colour? Should we trust the apps that have utilised these psychological attacks?

Facebook, Twitter, Google Authenticator, the Iphone email app. What do they have in common other than their pervasive and integrated use in society?

They are all blue…

apps in blue

A harmless coincidence, I am sure many are thinking, but when we apply colour psychology, we begin to see that blue means something to the human psyche.

Blue conveys a number of qualities. It is calming and serene, indicating stability, order and reliability. These qualities are foremost indicative of a central core quality that is constancy, which in turn coaxes trust from the observer.

We naturally trust what is dependable and unchanging. This is hardwired into our DNA. Change presents danger, constancy, safety. Our primitive and precursory nervous systems submit to fear above all else, and changes in our perception of it are strong impulses, even now as we use our more developed prefrontal cortex to modulate our feelings and primal instincts.

colour me blue

What else is trust? It does not only relate to our monkey brain response to fear stimuli, but also to the quality of sedation which is linked to calmness and tranquillity. Sedation is the quality of calmness induced usually by drug use. A major class or type of drug, the sedative artificially induces sleep, quiet or calm in the patient. Blue is a natural visual sedative because of the qualities which it carries with the subconscious.

So, your blue apps are constantly signalling, often unbeknownst to you, that they are ‘trustworthy’, that you should be calm and sedated while using them.

Some of you may be thinking, ‘this sounds like a good idea – I would like to be calmer when I use apps!’ And on the surface, it is not a bad idea to encourage trust in users, but we must look at this within the wider subtext of the apps in question.

Almost always, these are apps that deal with sensitive information, personal information, data which, if in the wrong hands, can wreak personal and social havoc.

How many political scandals have involved email interceptions or coincidental ‘misplacement’ of important records and vital evidences? How many times do we need to see Facebook implicated in public data mining incidents like the Analytica scandal?

Almost none of the apps that claim the colour of trust as their own, can be trusted to secure personal information which protects the public. In some cases, these apps are actively deceiving us into selling our information for some universal need, be it connection to one another, or communication in all variety of personal and professional lanes.

With that in mind, one does wonder: ‘What does an app that has no interest in public trust need to convey subliminal trust to its users?’ It is one thing to claim you are trustworthy overtly, but to claim it in such an insidious way strikes of ill-intent from the start.

Take care to consider the colour of the apps that you use. They are telling you something without saying it to you in a way you may consciously understand. Such covert methods must be considered in the light of suspicion.

Blue blinkers hood our eyes. Actions speak louder than words. It is what you do and say, not the colour you convey, which earns honest respect. It is time our social media giants started being trustworthy, rather than dressing up in its colours. We deserve honesty, not trickery, and that your apps are blue, while your social profiles are picked clean by your providers, like carrion for crows, we are no closer to honesty and racing towards deceit.

In nature, dangerous things signal their danger in the colour they display. Yellow is poisonous and red signals danger. The primordial flush of fear we feel is written into our DNA.

Blue is not always order and trust, but sometimes deception and sedation.

The banner must meet the carrier in action, or it is a lie.

Watch for the banner your apps carry. Turncloaks and mercenaries carry many flags, almost always for pride, power or gold.

J

Growing A Cactus To Tend To My Heart

I’m growing a cactus to tend to my heart.

It’s prickly and stickly and squat and cute, a bit like me.

We’re going to grow together, with water and sunshine and songs about the sky.

My cactus and I.

They say plants are healing and I believe it.

I’ve seen it!

Nothing more peaceful than a prickly green thing.

I’ll watch it and care from a distance, maybe I’ll even sing.

My sharp arcadia.

My green mañana.

My dewy paradise.

It’s a hot summer ahead, and we’ll do just fine.

 

 

5 Ways To Find What You Love

We spend so much of our time trying to figure out what we don’t like, in an attempt to work out what we do.

This is a surefire way to make progress over time, but what if I were to tell you, that, with a little bit of self-awareness and reflection, you can move towards the things that make you blossom more quickly than you could ever realise?

We can all move towards a happier, more fulfilling life by pursuing the hobbies and interests that bring us peace and joy. Here are 5 things you can do today to begin to divine your passions:

1. Meditate on Your Appreciation 

This means sitting down, breathing, focusing on the breath and asking yourself, in the second person, ‘what do you appreciate in your life?’. You do not enter into this expecting an answer, but just asking the question of your subconscious and letting the answers come to the surface over time. They may not come straight away, they may not come for weeks, even months, but asking guides our psyche towards what we naturally know to be fulfilling. It’s like using divining rods to find a natural spring. Ask the guiding questions in a meditative state, and eventually your mind will guide you to the source.

2. Accept and Embrace Change 

We are organisms that naturally tend towards stability. It stops us from becoming stressed and feeling out of control, but change will come whether we resist it or not, and no matter how we feel about change now, it will be necessary for us to embrace it if we want to pursue our happiness and peace in life, especially if we are not feeling much joy in our present situation. Again, meditation is a wonderful ally. Asking questions when we are in a calm state like ‘What good can change bring for you?’, or even just noticing the fluctuations in feelings, thoughts and sounds around us and internally, can give us a better understanding of change and how it can either benefit us, or, at the very least, become a familiar friend, rather than a strange enemy.

3. Pay Attention to the World Around You

If we suffer from depression or anxiety, we can spend a huge amount of our time inside our own heads. When we spend so much time trying to sort and excavate our inner demons, we can very quickly lose sight of the world around us and the many sensory joys it has to offer. Some of these joys, when observed thoughtfully, reveal hobbies, skills and activities that we would enjoy. You may, for instance, walk through the park and notice the trees and plants, or, it may be the birds that draw your attention. Ask yourself, ‘How can I bring more of this into my life?’. This may mean visiting wildlife parks on the weekend, taking up gardening, or finding a workplace which lets you do more with nature. You may even decide that you need a walk to work in order to be happier, so start searching for jobs that you can do within biking or walking distance. It can make all the difference!

4. Journal It 

After meditating, sometimes it can be a good idea to write down all the things we either enjoyed in the day or appreciate in the present. It never has to be categorised or rule based. You want to let anything bubble up to the surface and write it down, no matter how giant or insignificant that thought may seem. Over time, you may begin to pick out themes that can guide you to happier and more fulfilling pursuits, but don’t lay heavy expectations on yourself from the get go. This is a process that takes time and will work best without pressured or forced thinking, which often disrupts our natural flow of ideas and thoughts.

5. Change Your Relationship With Time and Expectations 

Many of us feel pressured to be in a certain place in our lives relative to others. We may expect to be married by a certain age, or to have travelled all over the world, or to have climbed to a certain height professionally. Remember that every life is set with different obstacles, some bigger and harder to break through, often coming at different times for different people. Life is not linear and predictable, so we cannot place expectations of linear progression on ourselves. Beginning to accept that we are where we are, and we are doing our best is the best method towards keeping our mind open and limber to new opportunities and our own peace and happiness. Imagine that you have all the time in the world to approach your goals, thus giving your mind the space and potential to accept new ideas, approaches and activities that can bring happiness into our lives.

So, that’s five things that you can do to begin to hone in on your bliss. We want to create awareness, space and receptivity to possibility in the mind. This is a slow process, but very rewarding and will ultimately help you approach your happiness more quickly than elimination does.

It can be difficult to meditate without guidance, so I want to show you a tool that I use. Headspace is an app that can be downloaded for Iphone and some other platforms, which provides a huge number of meditation courses which are short or long, and can be done anywhere. To get the full package, there is a fee, but it is small and I find the value of the app far outweighs the cost. I am in no way paid to endorse this product, I just think it’s a great app and want to share it with everyone.

Happy bliss hunting!

Please follow this blog for future posts searching for greater well-being and happiness,

J

Childhood Obesity is Not a Child’s Fault

I was always big on food.

Since my earliest memory, I coveted chocolate and found comfort in sweet fruits and sugary snacks.

And loving food isn’t exactly the problem that causes obesity, but it was a problem for me.

By the age of ten, I was significantly overweight. By my late teens, I was on the cusp of obesity.

I had experienced an extreme and persistent emotional storm up until my 20s, where I began to settle a little and figure out where I was and how to fix it. I would describe my childhood as memories wrapped in fine web. They are not clear to me, but, like the spider who spins the silk, some insidious creeping evil lingers on thin, webbed sheets. Emotional abuse? Maybe? I am not sure. Memories a mind wraps in cotton wool, like the webbing that wraps a spider’s lunch, suggests some mind gore not easily tended to or mended.

I think, my point it this…

That, before I could even process that I was eating poorly, under the trust of parents, my body was wrecked before I had a chance to realise what had happened.

The legacy of that damage has caused mental and physical health problems that have severely impacted my life in many areas.

I have some degree of hatred for my body, so internalised these days that I actively avoid bringing this up with anyone. It’s just normal for me to feel disappointed in the way that I look.

I often have feelings that link my self-worth to my shape. It’s so hard not to do this when you absorb so much of the language and feel of the culture that you live inside. A language which is very much hostile to your existence.

And, when I think about it, is that just and fair to the children who suffer with being overweight and obese?

I hated my body as soon as I realised society hated it too. I have carried that burden since I came into my prime. The years of my life which were supposed to be so enriched with vitality, excitement and purpose, have been wracked with anxiety, spiritual desiccation and self-flagellation.

So many years of my life stolen to misery for something I had almost no control over. I was a child. I had no idea the ramifications for social status, happiness, longevity and vitality, but still I have felt ostracised and vilified.

It is not fair to assume all fat people have only themselves to blame. Childhood obesity is a problem that arises outside of that individual’s control and insidiously chews at their happiness and well-being before a chance is given to process it and address it.

I have struggled with my weight all of my life and am still lighter than I was at my heaviest. I try my best to exercise and work on my health, but much of the damage is already done and it was done before I even knew.

Not all fat people come to be fat through gluttony.

Some just existed, often within houses of emotional volatility and neglect, and then they woke up to adulthood. They were fatter than they should have been, but didn’t know why.

With love and well wishes to all bodies,

J

Life, I am grateful.

Earlier, I had ripped through a vortex of pandemic news after drinking three coffees today, my hard limit. I was anxious. So, as I often do when I am highly strung, I meditated.

I meditated for a very long time.

I came to appreciate things that I have not verbalised and perhaps forgotten, but I wish to express them now.

I am so grateful to be alive. To breathe and to enjoy all the sensory experiences life has to offer. I am grateful for my friends, for the laughter and silliness we share every day. I am grateful for my freedom. Not in the sense that I am free to come and go as I please (a circumstantial freedom and one greatly tested in these times), but in that I have my room, with all my things that I love and keep. I am grateful for my job which keeps me fed and clothed and tempers a routine. I am grateful that I can observe change and accept it, rather than fight it.

Who knows how long we have on this planet, but I intend to make everything of the little time each of us spend here, a twinkle in time and space such as we each are.

I am grateful that I am pursuing what I love and working on becoming who I always knew I was, but lacked the confidence and conviction to fully appreciate (apathy, it seems, is quite a childish state). Every day, my confidence in my abilities, my values and my direction in life grow exponentially.

Set backs come, and some will be monumentous, seemingly peak-less, but they are not so. Peak-less mountains break to peak on the patter of persistent feet. One step at a time. Minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, we reach for new heights within ourselves.

So, you see, I am here. I am breathing. I am filled with wonder at my existence. I am unfurling as time intended, as expected, as anticipated. And, I accept this, and, watch eagerly as I and life unfold together.

You may not understand how I feel and I do not expect you to, but I had something to say and so I have said it.

I hope you are all safe, but most importantly, I hope you are living authentically and truthfully, and growing into yourselves every second and at every opportunity.

Life is short, but we can be so tall.

5 Things I’ve Learned Being Fat

1. Finding love should be easier when you don’t meet societal standards of beauty, but societies standards make you feel that you aren’t worthy of love.

2. Negative comments about weight perpetuate weight gain. I no longer accept malicious comments and will challenge them or turn them into positive affirmations internally.

3. My time is for creative, meaningful experiences and not absurdly weighted towards attaining punishing weight loss goals.

4. Diets always fail and eventually lead to binges. Change habits in small ways to make a global impact.

5. Challenging negative self talk. I deserve better than to project social expectations which have never served me onto myself in a bad way.

I used to be fairly thin, but I was just as unhappy and so much more of my time was spent on dissatisfying activities that stopped me from developing spiritually.

I am beginning to experience a great deal of pain just getting about normally and I need to make room for exercise, but not at the expense of my happiness and progress in life.

I’m glad I’m not conventionally attractive because at least people see me for my personality and not what I look like. That’s a far better starting point for long term happiness than beauty.

I’m not going to sit here and say ‘fat is beautiful, or healthy, or happy’, but I will say, fat teaches you to accept yourself and to challenge your limitations, to become a person people can look to for other reasons than my flesh suit.

Fat is often seen as weakness, but fat can be powerful. A desire to overcome expectation, to become happier in spite of what you look like or who you ought to be. We learn acceptance and forgiveness, both towards society and towards ourselves, so profoundly affected by it before we even have a chance to fight back.

Fat is forgiveness, acceptance and power.

J

Cutting Out Caffeine: One Week to Less Anxiety

It’s been a weird week.

I cut out caffeine.

Why did I do it? Well, I’m an addict you see. An addict, hooked on one of the last remaining socially acceptable chemicals.

I was so bad that I used to get coffee every morning before work, from fancy coffee places. My coffee was sweet, but my bank account was bitter! I was drinking 3-4 cups while I was at work. I was relying on it for focus, for energy and just to keep me moving.

And I was suffering from a whole range of anxiety related problems. Palpitations, chest tightness, muscle tightness, somatic paint, the list goes on and on.

Now, if you’ve been following my blog, I’ve been trying to tackle my mental health difficulties in a whole host of different ways. I’ve been eating vegan, meditating a lot, trying to follow my bliss, and lately, embarking on acupuncture treatments and chiropractic manipulations. I’m really making a concerted effort to become healthy again.

Caffeine is my substance. It’s my vice. I’m naturally a bit slow, a little bit spacey, like an astronaut on the moon, but this jet fuel helps me stay in tow with a fast moving world.

But at what cost?

Health problems? Anxiety? Over stimulation?

I wanted to see what it would be like to take it all away, just for a week and see how it felt. I’ve spent so many years buzzing about like a hyperactive bumblebee that I had forgotten what it feels like to not have that dynamo drink powering me up as I go.

So what happened?

Well, at first, as you can imagine with any kind of caffeine withdrawal, I felt a bit off for a few days. Headaches, lethargy etc. You know, the usual stuff.

But then, I really began to acclimatise and I noticed a couple of things.

I was eating more.

Something about caffeine suppressed my appetite enough that it was extremely noticeable when I took it away. I was eating more food and also food which was less good for me. So, in theory, that’s 1 for coffee and 0 for me.

I was spaced out all the time.

I was in a bubble. I felt like Kanye in Katy Perry’s E.T. video. And the strangest thing was that this never really wore off. I am naturally away with the fairies. I shouldn’t be so surprised, but I was surprised. I hadn’t felt like that in an age. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it put some things into perspective for me.

I work in an office. I don’t absolutely love my job, but I get by. But without caffeine, and me in my natural state, floating around like a bubble princess, I really began to realise how poorly suited I am for this kind of work. So many distractions, so many noises. So much shifting gears between activities and getting sidetracked. For me, bubble boy, this was a nightmare. I felt like I was the light silver ball in 3D Pinball, waiting for anything to space bar me into the stratosphere. Remember that game on Windows 98? What a time to be alive.

The most unpleasant side effect was anhedonia. If you don’t know what this is, it’s a total lack of interest in doing anything, even things you used to love or enjoy. It kind of fed into my realisation that my work was so unsuitable for my type of brain wiring. I was so tired with my job, tired with the same old cycle of Monday to Friday. Stopping the stimulant made this much more apparent. It was kind of amazing the extent to which I had been relying on coffee to hold my depression at bay.

In hindsight, I’m really trying not to beat myself up over this vice. My body craved it because my brain just isn’t making enough good-feeling chemicals on its own. It’s not my fault. That was a really liberating realisation to come out of the process. I have dependencies because I’m just trying to cope with a biological imbalance made worse by the demands of a modern 9-5 administrative job, not suited to my brain.

It also made me realise how much I needed quiet and solitude. I like to read, but it’s impossible for me to do it in noisy places. I need a quiet and calm atmosphere to do that. I could manage slightly better with coffee, but without, it’s just really good to know that I should be managing my environment so that I can be more productive. Maybe in the future, freelancing will be best for someone like me, where I’m in control of my space and can make the most of quiet time.

On the flip side though, my anxiety was down massively. I didn’t realise how much it was having an effect on me throughout the day. To feel genuinely calm and relaxed was a blessing. Tranquillity I had not been able to access for many years. And in a way, since my anxiety cleared up, I was able to think more clearly about everything. To really stew over my thoughts, rather than bouncing between them and losing track. It’s been really positive to slow down the pace and sit with ideas for just a bit longer.

All in all, it’s been a mixed bag. Some things have become better and other worse. I got rid of a lot of anxiety, but I also became more spacey and depressed. But that state of mind allowed me to ruminate on what it is that I’m doing wrong in my life. How my job isn’t good for my type of mind. How I should find something I love to do, at a pace that suits me. How I’m trying to be someone I am not in a society where the norms don’t benefit me.

And I guess you’re wondering whether I’ll stay away from the stuff going forward. Well, as with most things in life, balance is key. I’m going to drink less of it, absolutely. I don’t want the reverberating, painful anxiety. But for the time being, I need to be able to focus a little in a job I am not suited for. Maybe a coffee in the morning and a cup of tea in the afternoon? No more caffeine after 4pm so I can sleep well? I think that sounds like balance to me.

J