Tag Archives: nutrition

How Intermittent Fasting Reset My Habits

And how it can do the same for you

Intermittent fasting has been touted as one of the most miraculous health changes you can make. It’s trending everywhere. Seriously, everyone is doing it. You’re not doing it? Not very cool of you. Are you one of those uncool people? You are? My condolences.

They say it’s good for reducing insulin resistance, combating cravings, and burning visceral fat, but less is said about the habitual side of this activity.

Setting a definitive time to start eating — this is usually 12, noon — has really revolutionised my eating habits. Let’s dive in (no, not with you fork) below.

Brings Structure

For those of us who struggle with snacking (my hand is up, believe me), having some routine to the times we can and cannot eat is really important. Knowing when it’s ok to eat, and when it’s not, in my personal experience, gives me enough structure to eat less often. Paradoxically, structure helps free you from the whims of your cravings and appetite. If you know when to eat, you’re less likely to eat outside of these times. Pair that with your now improving insulin sensitivity and shrinking stomach (the stomach will change as you eat less frequently and in smaller portions), and structured eating has the potential to improve your health dramatically.

Made Me Choose Healthier Options

When your eating window is reduced, you’re more likely to eat better, knowing that you need the nutrition to get on with the day. Now, whenever I break my fast, I scream ‘HEALTH!’ as I blitz an assortment of fruits and veggies for a nutritional feast. My neighbors, they do not speak to me anymore.

Not only this, coffee, which I used to drench in full-fat milk, has to be black during your fasting period. No room on this one. You have to ditch the cream and milk and go black. Sooner than you realise, however, it’s like you never even missed it (unlike your housemate’s repeated heckling to ‘take out the trash’, which you miss repeatedly, even defiantly). Coffee still brings that delicious bitterness and satisfying buzz that it’s always done, just with less calories, and without the anti-inflammatory contribution of dairy.

I also increased my water intake (I am about 99% water now, like a sea-jelly), which, as the science suggests, can reduce dehydration and aid digestion — result! I try to go for filtered water, mainly for the taste (it can filter out impurities, like the yoga you do to block out Becky’s negativity at work). Even if you’re drinking more nasty tap water, it’s still a move in the right direction — well done!

Easier to Say ‘No’

Repeat after me:

‘No.’

‘No, thank you.’

‘Good day sir!’

‘Not today, Satan.’

‘Oh helllll no.’

‘Not even if you were the Dalai Lama.’

Seriously, you’re going to become an angel of divine declination. You’re going to get so good at saying ‘no’ to people, they’ll write to ‘scrooge-watch’ to have you visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future! When they get there, you’ll say ‘no’ to them too!

It’s actually a really good habit to get into with people. If you’re taking your health seriously and fasting properly, you’re going to say that word a lot, and people will get the message eventually. When it gets through, your life will get easier and healthier as a result.

The Takeaway (No, You Are Not Ordering Takeaway)

Aside from the obvious health benefits you can get from fasting, the habits it helps you form can give you a boost towards a healthier lifestyle. You’re given some structure to your eating schedule, you can make healthier choices during your fast, and you’re going to get better at saying ‘no’ to people. These are essential to turning your health around. You’ll thank me later. I am a genius. Very clever. It’s because of all the fasting I do, and the daily health-scream as I blitz my vegetables. That kind of primal energy really gives you vitality. You should try it — it’s great.

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Dieting Is Restrictive and That’s Exactly How It Needs to Be

‘Dieting’, as a term, gets a bad wrap these days. 

You hear the usual bombastic responses from people:

‘Dieting is restrictive.’

‘Dieting can lead to eating disorders.’

‘Dieting can create unhealthy relationships with food.’

The problem is, we’re already past the stage where we get to have a healthy relationship with food. The food we are given, except for the very basic wholefoods that we can buy, are laced with destructive toxins, like hormones, additives, preservatives, pesticides, and antibiotics. These chemicals are already wreaking havoc on our digestion, causing systemic toxicity, which then leads to inflammation. Sustained inflammation feeds into the development of chronic illnesses, like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. 

When we tell someone that they have an ‘eating disorder’ because they choose to be selective about their eating habits, we are often making an unfair, uninformed, and unsubstantiated comment about somebodies lifestyle choices. 

The fact of the matter is, our food has never been so poisonous. Sweeteners cause weight gain. Preservatives have been shown to exacerbate behavioural problems. Sugar (abundantly present in a wide range of shop-bought foods) definitively increases risk for obesity, leading to other chronic health conditions. Poisonous produce is abundant, poorly understood, and often advertised as ‘health promoting’. 

Is it any wonder some of us feel the need to restrict in order to survive — even thrive — under these conditions? 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not in any way saying that eating disorders do not exist — they unequivocally do, but the negative value judgements that the typical person imbues on dieters is unfounded, and even, ignorant. 

I think dieters and any person who is on the road to a healthier life, should reclaim the term. Yes, dieting is restrictive, and, unfortunately, as food corps pump more and more toxic junk into our foods, a healthy diet will have to be.

We have got to completely re-frame the way that we view dieting or lifestyle changes in society. Did you know that the American Diabetic Association is funded by coca cola? What does that statement say to you? Can you read between the lines? Big food companies do not want to help you, they want to control the information which is being given. This is a game of damage limitation, and big food companies have their fingers in all the pies. 

It is up to dieters, and those who take it upon themselves to reform their eating through big lifestyle changes, to do their research, and find a diet which works to make them feel healthier and happier. 

About a year ago, following a particularly stressful period, I started to develop symptoms. These symptoms ranged from hip, knee and ankle pain, to drastic mood swings and even periodic, uncontrollable crying and laughter. My symptoms were disconcerting. I was determined to find the root cause. 

On that journey, I discovered a lot about my particular dietary needs. I learned about lactose and gluten sensitivity, and I learned about the effects of a highly westernised diet on conditions of chronic pain and neurological disorders. My conclusion? Certain foods had to go. These are foods that I had grown up with as a child, foods that were deemed to be fine, even good for you. They were doing me harm, and I wish I’d had the courage to intervene and improve my life sooner. 

I spent years with serious mood swings and emerging chronic pain, to my mind, the beginnings of arthritis. I am only 28 years old. To be in that position at my age was devastating, but I had to act. I needed research and fundamental changes in perspective to find a way to heal. 

It’s still a process. I still eat foods that I have learned are bad for me from time to time, but the key is, I’ve significantly reduced this intake. I think a diet might cross into the eating disorder territory when it gets to the black and white elimination of an ever increasing range of foods. In contrast, a healthy tapering of some known allergens is a good route to a more sustainable and healthy life. 

I’ve cut out milk. I was intolerant to cows milk as a baby, before allergies were properly understood, but somehow, as I grew older, I lost touch with that understanding. This was the first to go, and you wouldn’t believe how easy it was. I only had milk in my coffee. As soon as I accepted black coffee as a delicious alternative, I never needed milk again, and my health began to improve. Boom, one busted, a few more to go. 

Gluten, now this is a bit more tricky. How do you get rid of something that is a staple in the western diet? The answer is, ‘with a great deal more difficulty’. Tapering has been the most effective thing in this instance. Just gradually getting rid of bread. For lunch, I’ll try a salad, or maybe a smoothie instead. More wholefoods, less gluten. It’s not easy, but it is doable with time. 

I also cut out soda — all kinds. I just drink water, coffee, and herbal teas. Sometimes this is hard, as water can get a bit dull, but to be honest, as long as I have my coffee, I don’t miss soda too much. I’m pretty happy not to touch it, and my urge to drink it is non-existent. 

My point is this, if you need to cut foods from your diet to feel healthier and happier, do it. Please. You need to look out for yourself first. If ‘restrictive’ dieting helps you feel more like yourself, more like the you you always knew you could be, then just do it. Peer pressure, judgement, and outdated views about food are not your problem. Your problem is figuring out how to make your life more enjoyable. If you’re like me, you’ve probably felt sluggish, run down, and low in mood. You may even be suffering from something like fibromyalgia, arthritis or MS. These lethargic and painful states require you to rethink your nutrition plan. Some of that may well involve restricting certain foods, and that’s ok. 

This is not a drill. Not all food is your friend, and your ‘friends’ may not support that view. Just tell them that you’re not doing it for them, this is for you. We need to start reclaiming the word ‘dieter’. We’re restricting because the food industry is no longer supporting our health in the ways that they claim to be. We have a duty to restrict where this can save us from foods that harm us. For those of you battling food intolerances, mood swings, and chronic physical pain, ‘dieting’ is not a bad word. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Dieting is restrictive, yes, but that restriction is about preservation, not obsession. Keep doing what makes you feel better. 

When it comes to your health, diet for you, for your preservation, for your livelihood, and for your well being. Never let the people around you talk you down. Trust your instincts, work out what feels right, and follow it relentlessly. ‘Restriction’ is not a bad word. ‘Dieting’ is not a bad word. Claim them back, then claim your health as well. 

The Commercialisation of Veganism

As I said in my last vegan related post, veganism has had such a warped presence in the media lately. It’s become a sign of political deviancy (definitely not always a bad thing), it’s become a trend or social statement amongst certain subcultures, but probably the most disturbing aspect of it’s image, and what has the most potential to destroy its benefits, are its aggressive commercialisation.

I believe the commercialisation of veganism is a slippery slope that takes the diet away from its root values.

Sure, it’s great that we have so many options now a days. For instance, we can get alternative milk products nearly anywhere – great for someone like me who has eliminated dairy. I can make sure I have something other than water to add to my porridge, and it means I don’t have to drink my hot drinks black all the time (though I don’t mind black coffee at all). There are so many types of tofu and other alternative meat products, and they’re getting cheaper. Even the dreaded vegan cheese is improving and I am seriously impressed with some of these options, no doubt attained through well meaning and dedicated research. All wonderful stuff.

However, I am falling into the convenience trap. I can go to any local store these days and pick up a vegan sandwich. It’s probably still healthier than the meat filled alternative, but the list of additives and preservatives in these meal deal sandwiches is, or can be, astonishing.

I am primarily a vegan for my health and secondarily for the planet and its animals. When I eat these easy-to-grab meals, I’m making a sacrifice in this aspect. These chemicals are not good for our bodies, and I now have to fend off the ever growing number of unhealthy vegan options available. This is fine if you’re not in it for the health reasons, but for me, it’s a shame to see more and more of this ‘technically vegan but not very nutritious’ commercial food being brought into our near view and within arm’s reach.

Macdonalds, the kings of convenience food, even launched a vegan meal just the other day. Again, it’s technically vegan, but it’s also deep fried. Is the market now going to become saturated with unhealthy vegan foods at the expense of one of its core tenets, health? As with most things that become popular, they tend to lose their roots, their original purpose and human benefits.

So, how do we combat this change? Campaigning is one thing, but we aren’t all into that, and many of us are using veganism as a way to recover from mental and physical illness.  We don’t have the time or energy yet to face the political and business side of commercialisation.

On the ground level, the individual only has two choices. To join groups where knowledge of healthy, free from additives foods can be found. We deserve to gain information from our like-minded peers on places that do nutritious vegan food that can still be enjoyed without cooking from scratch. Convenience doesn’t actually have to cut corners on health, but often it does and we must scan our local towns and cities intently to find those hidden gems, restaurants, diners and sandwich stores, that make the effort to produce good, nutritious food.

The other branch of focus is pretty straight forward and we attempt to do it all the time. We must try to organise our time so that we can cook healthy vegan food that we know will give us energy and help us recover from our ailments. We need to try hard to bring our enjoyment of cooking and preparation to life and to find ways to make food at home which is nutritious, simple and easy. It can be done, and like anything worth doing in life, persistence and practice makes it possible.

Well-being for the planet and the individual should remain the core focus of veganism going forward, and we can achieve this by drawing on our collective knowledge through local groups and working on our relationship with cooking and food preparation. Remember why eating vegan is important to you, perhaps even meditate and reflect on it a bit every day, so that you can focus on your goals and prepare yourself for daily success.

Good eating, cooking and learning friends,

J