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. πŸ˜• 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.  

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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.

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

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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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How to Sleep When You've Overindulged

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and it's all too easy to find yourself in bed with a spinning head, especially this time of year.  

So here are a few strategies for times you know you're going to be out, and for when you've had more than you intended.  Because we all know that though a green juice/vitamin infusion or coffee/fry up (as per your preference) can help the next day, the only real cure for getting over the night before is sleep.  So here's how to get the best sleep when you need it the most.

When You Know You're Going to Rage πŸ’€

You're going to a birthday or, given the time of year, the holiday party.  You're going to be eating late, eating all the things, and drinking ALL THE THINGS.  So first can I say: just own this.  Be unapologetic and excited because, for all the charm of hyggethese exist for a reason!  BUT, maybe it's a Wednesday, & you're going to work in the morning.  So you want to rage but not to the point of destruction. Ok - let's go.

Painful as it is to admit, we all know that prevention is better than the cure, so if you really want to hit the pillow feeling good, this will involve some self-control that may, depending on your temperament, take you a little bit out of the moment.  Still, I think you can have fun while being, dare I say it, mindful, but you need to acknowledge that you will need to think a bit about your choices.  Pretty much true of anything in life.  Now, how do we make this easier?

Can I suggest that you make an effort to go to the party in a good mood?  It may seem obvious to say this, but you are going to be so much less likely to arrive & immediately drink 2 glasses of prosecco if you have left work (or whatever) stress behind, aren't hyped up and feel content.  So maybe try to fit in a yoga session (if that's your jam), exercise class, some sweet tunes, or anything that makes you feel good before you go.  Because if you go relaxed and happy, it is going to make it so much easier to have the experience you want to have, and make choices that will set you up for a better night's sleep and following day.

If you even suspect that you may struggle with this, or you are actually hell-bent on destruction, maybe rearrange your schedule so you don't have important meetings or work assignments to tackle first thing the next day.  And if you do get caught getting unexpectedly trashed, and you end up eating pizza at 2 AM dancing in your pants (true story), it is OK!  I feel like these days so many of us are afraid to let go and enjoy ourselves, and would rather feel consistently good but maybe a bit stultified rather than occasionally OOC and silly.  As long as you aren't a jerk (and maybe you don't use your camera phone), it's ok to go for it from time to time!

The Drinking 🍷

So with all that in mind, your evening.  If you want a sugary cocktail (YES), try to just have 1 (or so), and really, really enjoy it.  Honestly, that is the key to anything related to moderation and health.  If you really take your time and enjoy your food and drink, you'll probably end up consuming less and have a better chance of staying on track than if you slam a few drinks quickly upfront and try to ease off as the evening goes on.  You can also feel very chic and French (right?  Seems like a French thing to do).

After that, low(er) sugar cocktails like vodka soda are your friends.   If you like coconut, you could try something like this.  Keep drinking water, of course - alcohol is a diuretic so it's dehydrating, and dehydration makes you feel like crap (simples!).  You may have to hunt down the H2O, but water at least you can chug and then discard, or, alternatively, disguise as one of those boring cocktails so no one is the wiser.  If you are at an epic dinner, you may have to watch overzealous waiters or hosts who constantly top up your glass...this is where you are taken slightly out of the moment, which is a bit annoying, but I've been caught too many times having no concept of how much I've actually had to drink because the level never dips below half a glass.  You'll need to pay attention to how you're feeling, and gauge when it's time to back off.  If you are veering dramatically off course, one of your friends or partner may be happy to do this for you.  Winky-face.

The Eating πŸ”

Source   100soft.us

Source 100soft.us

When it comes to food, anything fattyspicy otherwise difficult to digest will make sleep harder, so just be aware of that.  Those of us who are based in the UK know that these parties can start early, so you can try to have anything particularly indulgent early on (which is when you're in best shape to enjoy it, actually).  if it's late, go easy.  If you don't think you'll be eating much but do plan on drinking, a good trick is to eat a big spoon of nut butter just before you go out.  It won't bloat you, but will line your stomach and should prevent you from feeling trashed after 3 sips of champagne.  I love this one, this one and this one - which is great for on the go, travel & kids.

If you ate early or not a lot and you're peckish before bed, you obviously want things that are easy to digest.  Simple sugars will help restore blood sugar levels and make you feel better; the banana is a classic for a reason.  Honey & toast is recommended too, but I personally think it's too easy to go crazy and have a million slices when your self control is low - a single piece of fruit works better for me.

The Actual Sleeping πŸ’€

Once you're home, try to drink a large glass of water and take a magnesium supplement (I love this one); magnesium help us sleep and it also calms your muscles, promotes good digestion (go easy, it's powerful stuff) and can help clear your head in the morning.  A friend shared that for strategic celebrating she sometimes drinks a bottle of pedialyte (UK equivalent) before and after she goes out, and that it wards off the hangover like a talisman.  I can't personally vouch for this remedy, but it sounds plausible.  Try to make sure your room is cool and dark, and turn off your phone.

Help I'm Trashed and I Can't Get to Sleep ☠️

We've all been there; you go to lie down, and the room starts spinning.  If it's so bad that you feel slightly sick or really dizzy, just get up.  You're not going to get any rest yet.  Don't panic though, just find something you can do to pass the time.  

Don't Do This πŸ’»

For a variety of reasons, but for the purposes of this article we'll focus on its effects on your sleep, don't get on FaceBook.  Or Instagram, or Twitter, or your tv.  Also don't sit there obsessing about what you said, to whom and how someone looked at you with a weird expression on their face. Distract your brain from destructive thoughts like these (what can I say, I like muscles).

Do This πŸ“–

Just try to chill out - listen to some music; if you can focus on a book or some easy, repetitive task like colouring (never tried it but some people love it!), do that.  This may not be the time to get in the bath or light a candle, but you can still try find a calm space with soft light to chill out in until you are feeling like you can lay down.

Help I Woke Up Wired at 4 AM

 
Source   wifflegif.com
 

Of course you may have passed out immediately, only to wake in the middle of the night.  That's because of something called the "rebound" effect - basically once alcohol is out of our system, we are rocket-launched into lighter sleep where we are more likely to wake.  This is why it's better to stop drinking way before you hit the hay - all the alcohol is already out of your system.  But that ship has sailed.  So if you do wake at this time, your brain may be going crazy and you may feel super anxious.  If that happens, I've found it most helpful to simply recognise that this is what is going on, and that I may have to ride out some internal brain craziness.  

If it gets to be too much, you can get up and read a book for a bit (maybe something like this rather than this) - I've found that my brain is calmer once again in the very early morning, and I can usually get back to sleep then.  I personally don't think meditation is going to work in this scenario; your thoughts will just be too all over the place.  But monks pray in the middle of the night and apparently the rest of us used to do this too; so that could be a centring practice as well til the craziness passes.

Do try to get some more sleep though rather than simply starting your day at some insane hour.  You will feel so much better if you can get a few more hours.

Finally, remember that often the best memories are made when we've been able to loosen up and revel a bit.  Try to be kind to yourself, but learn from your experiences too!  They more we get to know ourselves, the easier it is to manage how we feel, which is what this whole wellness thing is really about.

Happy celebrating...and sleeping! 😴😴😴

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Bananas & More: Foodie Sleep Aids & Thieves

We are such stuff as dreams are made on...but what ingredients make up a good night's sleep?.  This is an area where you can really geek out and get all tech-y about the best kind of mattress, the most relaxing music to listen to (sorry, but no), and the exact order your bedtime routine should take.  That's cool, but not really our style.  Ditto for wearable sleep monitors; I personally don't feel like I need super specific stats on my sleep patterns and activities (!).  I'll know I've gotten a good nights' sleep because...I slept, and I don't feel tired the next day.  I actually think devices like this can be damaging; what is so pernicious about tracking technology is that it excuses us from really engaging with ourselves and monitoring how we feel.  And with everyone looking for painless ways to unplug and digitally detox, this seems like an obvious place to start...take a break from tech while you are unconscious - it couldn't be easier, right?  Finally, sleep monitors may not be that reliable.  Nevertheless, some people live for this stuff - if that is you, go for it.

Ultimately, as with everything related to health, there is no magic pill that will guarantee a night of awesome sleep (seriously, Ambien will make you do crazy things (starting at 5:27).). I am going to state up front that I think the number 1 thing you can do to sleep better is just spend an hour before bed in your PJs reading a book (free easy and fun - yay!) BUT let's be real: none of us are doing this on the daily. So when you are struggling to fall and/or stay asleep, it can be helpful to have a sense of some tricks you can try to improve the situation. Therefore, welcome to the first post in a series dedicated to briefly cataloguing the things that are supposed to help and hurt our ability to fall and stay asleep. Keeping with our holistic theme, we'll look at everything you can do from how you design your room to how you design your day, touching on diet, movement mentality & more. We'll conclude with what to do when you've gone ahead and done it - had dinner at 10 PM plus half a bottle of rosΓ© (I'm still nostalgic for summer, clearly).

We'll start with food, because it turns out that there's a world beyond warm milk and dry turkey to prime your body for your best bedtime.  Some of the key chemical components of good sleep are calcium, magnesium, B6, and the famous tryptophan.  The concept though isn't to eat foods containing these nutrients immediately before bed (though if you are going to midnight snack, these are better options) but to work them into your diet on a general basis. Nothing groundbreaking here I'm afraid; healthy food is healthy food, but if you are struggling with sleep, it might be worth checking to see if you can include more of these guys in your meals.

Snog, Marry

Melatonin is the hormone released by your body when you sleep, and a recent study has shown that drinking 2 glasses daily of tart cherry juice (which contains melatonin) helped with sleeplessness.  Interesting, but, given that most of us would probably have to go on a bit of expedition to find tart cherry juice, and that, for all it's "tartness", it still quite sugar-laden, I would class this under one to try only if you're really struggling.  Some people find melatonin tablets helpful, but in my experience they don't promote deep sleep and I've recently been told they can be habit forming, so sadly that is another potential shortcut I won't be taking.

More appealing beverages may be warm milk (I guess - yuck) and classic herbal teas like chamomile and lavender.  Again, not exactly novel, but there are some ranges that do more interesting blends these days, like this one.

Avoid

The list of what not to eat is obvious and boring - caffeine in the afternoon, heavy or sugary foods late at night (boo) and too much fun booze all compromise our sleep. Welcome to the world of adult living. What's more interesting is what to do when you've done these things and still want to try to sleep well. That's coming up in another post - check back in soon. Here's a little preview: befriend some mamas, or invest in some pedialyte.

Happy noshing!