Drugs, Chocolate & Diet Trends: Where Do We Get Our Fix Now

Decaf for me, but I'll be dropping some acid after this

Is it us, or is every psychedelic or otherwise recreational drug on the mkt getting a rebrand as a who-would-have-thunk-it health hero? Ketamine (you know, the date rape drug), MJ (if this is news to you, where you been?) and even acid (the one that terrified me in particular growing up because it CARVES TRACKS IN YOUR BRAIN) -- these are all getting a makeover as unexpected aids for everything from depression, anxiety, to PMS (PMT). Now that cannabis is legal in more places, both cannabinoid oil (a non-psychoactive component of the hemp plant) and the more traditional joint are being examined as potential health superstars.  Researchers (and let's be honest, excited journos) are suggesting that Mary Jane can help with everything from stress to depression, anxiety, hormonal issues...even morning sickness. What? We would have thought that the sun would come up black before someone suggested that a pregnant woman enjoy a formerly illegal substance. Or maybe enjoy anything, actually, other than a balanced meal (but not sushi, poached eggs, anything with mayo or creme brûlée, obviously) with a side of herbal tea.  Pregnant women aren't supposed to be getting high off anything other than their own surging hormones.  And actually, these days, neither are the non-knocked up.

This is my theory as to why we are suddenly feeling the ganja: we are constantly being told how to look and feel better - that a better life is available to us if we eat healthfully, meditate to calm the mind, and digitally detox (while still keeping our instagram game strong).  And underlying this message is a sense that, to be our best selves, we should all be limiting, if not down right abstaining from, um, everything that is stimulating, intoxifying...fun?

 Too much screen time, bro

Too much screen time, bro

Want to sleep better?  Put down your phone and turn off the tv (at least an hour so before bed anyway - check out Episode 1 of Life Butter Radio for details on why) Want glowy skin, bright eyes, thick hair, boundless energy, a strong immunity and permanently positive attitude? Then cut out the things that are potentially draining you nutritionally and energetically...you know: coffee, sugar, alcohol, tea, possibly gluten, maybe meat or other heavy foods...hell, even tomatoes because they are a nightshade, whatever that means. I was just listening to a podcast where Kim Snyder says she no longer eats onions & garlic, not because they give her bad kissing breath, but because they are too "mentally stimulating" according to Ayurveda. What?

 Your brain on garlic (apparently) 

Your brain on garlic (apparently) 

But the thing is, we WANT to be stimulated. We seek fun, adventure, a lift. And so those of us who haven't gone full yoga monk but who want a seat on the wellness train are looking for kicks in the earth & gut loving, gluten & sugar-free way.  For some of us, this my mean drinking straight raw cacao (or snorting it - yes, really) and ecstatic dancing.

 For others, psychedelic stimulants may seem more "natural", and therefore somehow more aligned with our lifestyle.

The sexi-fying of drugs isn't exactly new; it's been part of the way prescription drugs have been marketed and sold to doctors (who then prescribe them to us) for years.  If you're not familiar with the Pharma rep phenomenon, the following clip from Hpw I Met Your Mother will clue you in. Think ex-cheerleaders on commission.  

What does this all mean? Are the drugs we were terrified of encountering after multiple sessions of D.A.R.E. actually not as uniformly health destroying as we have been taught to believe? Could they, in the right circumstances & under a doctor's supervision, actually help people where "safe(r)" prescription drugs, therapy or, um, ginger tea have failed? That may be true, and this may be end up being another strand of western medicine that looks to alternative therapies to incorporate a broader view of how we treat and heal illness. We love this; it is the future of medicine, and so I'm happy for those it really does help. But for the rest of us, excited by these headlines and secretly hopeful that they mean there could be a penalty-free high hidden in substances we have always been taught grant pleasure at a high cost...is that true?  Didn't we try this already in the '70s?

I'm all for the highs, from ecstatic dancing, a tickle session (no one is higher than a 2 year old on belly tickles), or something more provocative, but the fact is that highs are fleeting and lows are just part of the deal.  Life has every color of the rainbow, and there is no homeostasis of awesome available for us all the time. Which doesn't meant that we shouldn't seek out exaltation, but after every lift, whether chemically-induced or otherwise, comes a bit of a comedown.  Just because something in "natural" doesn't mean that it is good for us, and if we get as attached to hemp oil chocolates as we were to our beer & nachos, for me there's little difference.  For me, wellness is realising this, and learning how to just be, however, you are, in the moment...whether that's hyped up from coffee or in shavasana calm.  If you're after a high and maybe a bit bored of your glass of red (even with all its antioxidants), then sure, try some CBD oil energy balls instead. But you could also try the occasional tequila.  And maybe some pizza.  We hear gluten is about to make a serious come back, so you could be slightly ahead of the curve.

We've got all kinds of thoughts on food, including the resurgence of the very naughty gluten.  If you haven't heard Episode 8 of Life Butter Radio yet, tune in here...it's fab!

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Food Makes Me Feel Things

Why is our relationship with food so complicated?  Why can't we just go to a restaurant blind (i.e. without having googled the menu and pre-decided our order) and casually scan the menu, not for the most "health enhancing" choice (whether that's a lettuce-wrapped hamburger or the raw bowl with a side of ferments), but for whatever is calling our name from a flavour perspective?  The concept of health food is hardly novel, and "diets" designed to keep you fit and trim have been around for decades.  But over the past few years, the conversation has intensified.  We have been bombarded with messages about the power food has over our mood, longevity, immunity, skin (the "perfect skin diet"?  Seriously?), hair, sleep, hormones & more.  Our expectations of food are now astronomical; more than pleasure, culture, family, love or even figure and physique goals, it's like the type of food we consume is part of our identity, speaking to who we are as people.  And not in the Italian way.

 Sophia said she owed her figure to pasta.  The gluten-y kind.

Sophia said she owed her figure to pasta.  The gluten-y kind.

It's been an intense moment for food.  Feeling depressed?  You aren't eating enough healthy fats.  Skin breaking out?  Try cutting out dairy.  Energy low?  Lay off the caffeine and sugar. Want to save the world?  Stop eating animal products.  Hormonal, menopausal or fertility issues?  That's a whole other mess that we'll be diving into separately, but here's a little teaser: your diet is to blame (at least in part).

Look, we will be the first to say that most of this is actually incredibly positive.  I grew up on a diet of fast food, pop tarts (brown sugar cinnamon baby!), "fruit" roll ups and basically everything in packet form.  Honestly, this was a really fun way to grow up; convenience food is specifically crafted to be amazingly flavourful and downright addictive (seriously, oreos are as addictive as cocaine, and the casein in cheese triggers the same part of our brains as opioids!  No wonder cheese is the last thing many vegans give up.). Looking back at photos, however, and remembering how I felt at the time, I'm convinced it didn't do me any favours. 😕 So I am delighted to see a resurgence of real food.  And once your palate adjusts, the flavour, texture, beauty and pure sensory delight of real food is pretty incomparable.  So when we choose to prepare more of our own meals from scratch (or those hand-made by others), we are benefiting not just from a health perspective, but enjoying high-quality, delicious food.  Unless you are making cinnamon chicken.  Sorry, but that did not work out for us!

That said, some aspects of new wave cooking are troubling.  

 

First of course are the health claims, which do not convince everyone.  I'm not going to go down this rabbit hole, but essentially the medical community is not universally convinced that gluten and dairy are unsuitable for the vast majority of us.  Google it if you want to lose hours of your life in the detail and expose yourself to some angry rants on both sides.  And yet, so many of us clearly look and feel better for eliminating (or at least reducing) our intake of these ingredients.  Is that because, when cutting out gluten and dairy, we are typically replacing processed foods with our own cooking, or is there more to it than that?  

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My own take is that science is of fundamental importance in advancing an understanding of how to treat, improve and enhance both the human body and human experience, but there is still so much that science cannot explain.  Over time, we will learn more about how food affects us both as a species and as individuals, but in the meantime, we should feel empowered to experiment and see what makes us feel good.  Most of the time, that's probably going to involve lots of greens.  But sometimes, that is going to be the pizza, addictive as it is.

Someone asked me recently what I think it is we are all trying to remedy through clean eating.  Because if the promise of so many of these regimes is "healing", does that mean that they are appropriate for the well?  Do we all have autoimmune diseases, early-onset arthritis, adrenal fatigue, imbalanced hormones, anxiety and depression?  And is there a reason why dairy and gluten free menus perhaps aren't on the agenda for health workers in Africa and Asia who are trying to help the clinically malnourished?

But actually, I'm less interested in de-bunking the health claims of this new modern way of eating, and more interested in exploring the other ways that food feeds us, and what are are potentially missing when we cut out a huge swath of edible substances by going paleo or raw vegan.  

 Salad does not make me feel like this

Salad does not make me feel like this

Because I've been downing green smoothies and saying "can I substitute..." in restaurants for years, and adjusting my diet really has helped me with a whole host of issues (as it has helped so many).  But I've grown uninspired.  I'm tired of being told that a bowl of greens with some roasted veggies is "amazing" and will make me feel sexy.  Because it doesn't; it makes me feel "good", like I've been virtuous.  And that is just feeling really boring these days.  Do I want to be the good girl who has salad, alkaline water and maybe a square of dark, refined sugar-free vegan chocolate as a treat?  Or do I want to be a sensual, free-spirited, fun explorer of the world who partakes in its delights? Didn't Kate Moss and Gwyneth Paltrow have this exact conversation once?    

Food is nourishment.  It is also entertainment, culture art (or can be), and love.

I want to eat with all of my senses, enjoying the visual beauty, the texture, smell, context, history, culture and taste of food.  Of course I want to feel amazing, so I'm not going to abandon the principles that have worked for me...but I'm changing my expectations of food.  I want to feed my hair, make my skin glow and have endless energy...but I also just really, really want to have fun.

I recently picked up the Moon Juice cook book (quick summary: lots of raw plants & nuts.  Get a juicer, a blender, and a dehydrator).  I've been in a bit of a cooking rut, and this book inspired me immensely. Unlike the vast majority of "clean eating" superstars, Amanda Chantal Bacon has been to culinary school, & has a fine dining background working in well-known restos.  She's also travelled the world, and her recipes evoke the magic & romance of, say, an afternoon in Beirut, or a warm Tuscan evening.  To say that her approach to eating is unconventional is a massive understatement (the reaction to her "what I eat in a day" for ELLE magazine was INTENSE - and hilarious).  But I find her way of looking at what food can do for us refreshing, because it truly pairs the promise of food's power (she is the creator of Sex Dust & Beauty Dust, after all) with the delivery of its pure sensory pleasure.  I don't have a juicer, but I have tried quite a few recipes from the book, and so far, they are all actually delicious!  They have also been fun to prepare (mostly because they are very different).  Are they gorgeous?  Not in my every iteration, but I see the potential.  I'm going to try a few more of the especially vibrant dishes, and report back.  Watch this space!

The other book that has been inspiring me?  Another Californian who is equally polarising (though more mainstream popular) - Chrissy Teigen.  I'm not sure if she wrote all the recipes, but I do think she wrote all the headnotes, and they are both funny and inspiring.  This is someone who loves her food, loves her body and loves life.  She's a swimsuit model, so it's easy for her to make cooking look sexy, but all I know is that when I flip through this book, I want to jump into some of the pictures and get in on the party.  Will I be eating her meatloaf every week?  Doubtful - I gave most of it to my dinner companions...who said it was amazing.  I rarely get that reaction from the "amazing" dishes I pick from one of our more health-focussed cook books.

 

 

 

 

 

I'm tired of food making me feel virtuous, guilty, confused, expectant or just meh...I want food to make me feel alive.

 

So with this as our backdrop, I'll now be diving into Life Butter's look at food.  You can expect recipes, videos, and tonnes of fun on the Radio show.  Come along for the ride - let's inspire & be inspired. ✌️

Hello, World!

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Nourish: Happy Heart Day!

It's Almost Valentine's Day!

February 14 is right around the corner, and we've been observing the tone of the 2017 Valentine's Day press with despair...maybe it's just here in the UK, but everything we see about this AMAZING holiday reeks of snark.  We know that's part of the British modus operandi, and yet it just seems unnecessary this year with all the other actually, meaningfully disturbing events flying around.  Love it, hate it, meh about it, can we all at least agree that Valentine's Day is the one bright light in the bleak armpit of the year that is February?  Single, taken, heartbroken, or hopeful, even the completely asexual should get on board with this fabulous holiday, because it is an immense excuse to indulge in sensory pleasure, whether that's scent, taste, an overload of pink kitsch, or all of the above.  This is a holiday that really overdoes it in style, so ladies and gents, let's get camp.

 Fact: there is no film as camp as Valley of the Dolls

Fact: there is no film as camp as Valley of the Dolls

Growing up, Valentine's Day was one of our host's favourite holidays because she was guaranteed to receive a flower & some zebra-striped Hershey's from Mom.  Honestly, did the holiday kisses ever taste as good as the normal ones?  Who cares; the pastel foil was everything, and the high you got from your chocolate kiss rivalled even the thrill you'd get from holding hands with your crush at the couples-skate at the local roller rink (anyone else?  We'd moisturise our hands for days in anticipation!).  Hand on heart, Mom's Valentine's Day care packs were always more hotly-anticipated and satisfying than gifts from boyfriends.  They were everything this saccharine holiday should be; sweet, slightly juvenile (in a nostalgic way!), girly and loaded with love from someone you knew really meant it & always would.  Aw!  In the purgatory between New Year's Eve and Easter, this day of all things pink really stood out.  And honestly, what's wrong with pink?  Sometimes it seems like this color has been so co-opted by "chic" that you can't admit to loving the OG Barbie look without being accused of regression.  To all the bubblegum pink haters, I invite you to spend VDay 2017 watching Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion, where their "fun, frisky use of color" comes out on top.  YES.

 Not a modern look?  R&M tell you to suck it

Not a modern look?  R&M tell you to suck it

 This is the amount of snark we can handle these days. - and the color!

This is the amount of snark we can handle these days. - and the color!

But there are some understandable reasons why people love to hate on Valentine's Day.  It's commercial, it seems kind of unnecessary, and it can come across as a kick in the bits to those without a significant other.  So I am inviting you to interpret this holiday another way - consider it an invitation to indulge in stuff YOU LOVE.  That could be all manner of things...but at Life Butter HQ, it is going to be all manner of chocolates, flowers, hearts and make up, because we are saps, and because a little bit of pink cheer seems very necessary these days!  Who says rosé is just for summer anyway?  

So now that you're fully on board the Glitterbomb Express, here's a little run down of what I'll be binging on in the run-up to heart day.

Sugar Bomb

These days, no matter what your wellness foodie tribe, refined sugar is enemy number 1.  RIP, Be-Mine sweethearts.  That's probably for the best, but what is wellness replacing with these bubblegum giddiness-bombs?  Let me guess...brownies sweetened with mejool dates, maple syrup or other "safe" sugars?  Or maybe just a delivery of fresh fruit, which for the stricty-strict no sugar crowd is still a mega concession?

Pass.  We'll be baking up some homemade treats for sure (and especially for the kiddie brunch we have planned), but we've also stocked up on a few select staples..because even if they are kind of disgusting in a certain way, in another way these treats are actually amazing.  Why weren't these Reese's hearts around in the '90s?  *Not thinking about the food colouring*...#yesplease

 
 

BUT, to be real-real, we'll also be grabbing some dairy-free chocolate...because we won't be eating Reese's on the daily (or will we?)

 
 

Glam

So here's  little secret: we like to watch YouTube make up tutorials while making dinner.  We love this space; YouTubers are immensely talented, and it's both fun & relaxing to see what these creative minds dream up.  Especially the guys!  Not so much for replicating necessary, but how much fun are these VDay inspired tuts?  YouTube make up artists truly BLOW OUR MINDS, and Valentine's Day is the most fun make up event on these channels after Halloween!  The 50 Shades Darker look is really creative, but what about that pink eye look with the lace choker?  Yes!

Sparkle Scent Bomb

Just barely above the sophistication level of Victoria's Secret perfume (Heavenly, anyone?), Ladurée does home & beauty!  They have a range of candles that smell essential of variations of butter and sugar, and a violet powderpuff that looks as if it were taken straight from the set of I Dream of Jeanie.  The candle jars make pretty make up brush holders once they burn down, though the scent is so strong that it may take you a while to get through them!

 
 

So what will you be indulging in this Valentine's Day?  Hopefully more than your loathing of the holiday - go out (or stay in) and engage with something you truly enjoy!  You'll be the happier for it, whether romance is on your mind or not.

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ENTER THE NEW

The Verb of 2017 is Nourish

So as I wrote in my previous post, 2016 has been, for many of us, a year.  Many of us have been preoccupied with big picture issues, and in light of this, it seems wrong (not to mention a bit retro, but in the naff way) to talk about traditional "New Year's Resolutions".  And yet, maybe in part because we are so consumed by worry and anxiety, both about ourselves and the state of the world, we seem to be in a season of perpetual self-improvement.  So the idea of resolutions remains, I think, current and relevant.  I've seen a few different approaches to a modern take on resolution season.

At the start of 2015, Vogue suggested an "eat this, not that" approach to resolutions, subbing out some of our usual list items for more modern and perhaps more achievable counterparts.   This seemed a bit gimmicky, and I didn't really vibe with what they picked (I for one always prefer a black cab to Uber anyway).

ELLE UK called for 2017 to be The Year of Not Being Perfect - which I really like in theory, but their model/celeb references don't quite convince for me, because as much as Gigi Hadid stresses her imperfection and highlights her work ethic (both of which I applaud her for), it's hard for me to feel a sense of real camaraderie with a supermodel. I doubt I'm alone on this one. It's not her fault, but dems da facts, I'm afraid.

Gretchen suggests picking a theme word of the year.  This I like - I too am a fan of a framework, and an even bigger fan of simplicity.  One Word to Rule Them All has promise - not too much to think about, easy to check back in, and vague enough to give yourself lots of outs if you find that you're not really hitting your benchmarks throughout the year.  Not that you would be anyway - because there aren't any when you keep things this loose.

But I want to finesse this a little bit - keep the simplicity, but make this more of a call for action, which seems to match our #currentmood much better, being one of action.  And thus the verb of 2017 was conceived - mine is nourish.

 Does vino nourish?  It's going to be part of my routine.

Does vino nourish?  It's going to be part of my routine.

What does the idea of "nourish" mean to you?  

When I think of how I have typically related to myself - whether it's my physical body, or my mental state, or my achievements, it is with anything but a nourishing state of mind.  I am often critical, exacting, ungenerous and occasionally downright mean; I know that I am not alone. This year, I want to spend time feeding myself.  I want to indulge in beautiful images, sounds, experiences, sensations and tastes.  I want to spend less time thinking about what the implications of my choices are, and more time observing and celebrating how they make me feel - both in the moment, and after I have thoroughly enjoyed them.  I want to open myself up to trying things that are new, stepping outside of my comfort zone.  I want to find more physical, spiritual emotional and mental experiences that feed me and those around me.  I want to end the year feeling, if not restored, closer to "full" than I feel now.  That is my aim.

So in kicking off my year of nourishment, I'll be spending some time on Life Butter Radio looking at one of the most important (and obvious) ways in which we nourish ourselves - through the foods that we eat and how we treat our body.  Looking forward to catching up with you on the podcast; I think it's going to be a fun season.

x

 Bread will be making a come back in my house

Bread will be making a come back in my house