I talk about the pro’s and con’s of convenience food. Do we really need whole meal replacements like Soylent? Are we spending less time preparing and eating our food to our own detriment?
Juice! It's so healthy right, this orange juice only has one ingredient, it's all natural. That's what we've been lead to believe at least. But turn that little bottle around and there are 39 grams of carbohydrate in that juice, nearly all of it pure sugar. Think about it this way, you need to eat more than those two oranges to get the same amount of carbohydrates. When have you sat down to your two eggs and bacon breakfast and then polished off two large oranges? I'm prepared to say that it's much less common than polishing off a tall cold glass of juice. Plenty of people still drink juice as part of their "healthy" breakfast or give it to their kids. Recent research presented at the 2018 European Congress on Obesity has shown that children that start their day with juice as a part of their breakfast are 40% more likely to be overweight. How could this happen? It's just fruit, right? I made the quick video below talking about exactly this.
Talking to a friend recently they were very surprised that I don't snack between meals. Really? No snacks? Personally, I'm satisfied in between meals and use those times to hit my water goals because I don't like to drink a lot of water right before, during or right after a meal. Here's my first foray into video, I talk about why we are driven to snack between meals and what we can do about it.
Nuts, nuts, nuts
Everywhere I look there are new recipes with some sort of a combination of nuts with nut butter, chopped nuts and seeds. All combined and rolled into one. Or even meal ideas with yoghurt alternatives based on nuts, topped with paleo nut granola and then more nuts or seeds. I feel like we have woken up to the fact that fats are healthy and that nuts are good for us but when does it cross the line into nut overload? A complete meal of just different types of nuts sounds about as balanced as eating only chicken for a meal. It sounds about as extreme as when people assumed Paleo eating meant you just ate only meat for 3 meals a day.
That’s not to say that some people won’t do well on meals based on nuts - we are all bio-individual with different nutritional needs. But I’m definitely not the only one who doesn't feel great after eating more than a handful. Usually bloating and gas follow after I eat too many nuts. Nuts are also extremely easy to overeat so I tend to avoid them mostly, you go from a handful to snack on to having eaten 600 calories in about 1.5 seconds flat. I love a spoonful of almond butter on my toast but basing whole desserts or meals on nuts doesn't agree with me.
Nuts and digestion
Nut’s contain anti-nutrients like phytic acid that can bind to minerals in the GI tract and prevent absorption. Soaking or sprouting nuts reduces this but this makes the nuts very expensive or if done at home is very time-consuming. I have tried soaking and dehydrating to activate nuts and it’s not a quick process. Nuts and seeds also contain mainly Omega 6 oils which we can easily overload on. Ideally, our diet should have a ratio of 1:1 Omega 6 vs Omega 3, and this can already be tough to achieve even if we are avoiding processed vegetable oils like canola, soy, corn etc.
Nut’s can overall be very irritating and allergenic so shouldn't be eating in huge quantities. In nature nuts were never the base of meals. Think about how time consuming it is to shell each individual nut or seed and imagine doing that now just to eat a dessert using two cups of almond butter and topped with more chopped nuts. I remember being young and eating sunflower seeds from the dried head of a huge sunflower, I can’t imagine how long it would take to pick and shell enough sunflower seeds to make a batch of cookies or a raw vegan cheesecake.
I think most people do best with balanced meals based on half the plate being non-starchy vegetables, a quarter plate of protein and quarter something starchy with extra fat added to the plate, be it nuts, seeds, avocado, butter, etc. A meal based on all three macronutrients works best to keep us fueled and satiated between meals. I think the meal based on nuts is just a modern phenomenon with so many new health products on the market it’s easy to go overboard on one thing without realising it. If we had to make everything from scratch including the nut yoghurt, nut milk, nut based granola, nut butter it would be easier to visualise exactly how much nuts are involved in a meal like that and see that it’s not the most balanced option to have very regularly.
Camping and health, until recently I never gave much thought to how the two could have anything to do with each other. I never camped as a child or growing up, and my first real camping experience was in my mid 20’s with my twin sister. By my late 20’s I was a turned into a camping pro by my love for rock climbing. I have camped at altitude, camped by myself on many occasions, camped in my car in rest areas and on the side of empty roads, camped on snow. But what does camping have to do with health? I started thinking more about what camping can add to my life and realised what a positive impact it can have on health.
When we spend day and night in natural light we are exposed completely to the light-dark cycle of the sun. I noticed I slept better and when the sun set’s you feel sleepy because I wasn't in an electrically lit up room. A study found just a few days of being exposed to the natural light and dark pattern of the sun re-set our circadian rhythm and resulted in an easier time falling and staying asleep afterwards back at home.
Cooking is more of a fun activity instead of a chore. We can all get involved in preparing the meal, cooking it and then eating it because it’s part of the adventure. We can invest the time into cooking a meal mindfully since we are not in a rush to check emails or watch Netflix. When car camping I always buy sturdy vegetables that last without refrigeration for days, no processed packaged convenience camp food here. Even when snow camping on Mt Baker where I had to carry in all of my food I made sure to sneak in some fresh items!
Back to our roots.
No electricity means fewer devices. When camping, by default I tend to unplug more from my phone and computer. Being in a beautiful place in nature is the best time to really be present. Take in your surroundings, spend quality time with your companions or make new friends around a shared campfire. We don’t need to see what’s happening on social media. When I’m camping it’s naturally the best time to take a technology detox. Take some photos sure, but then put the phone away.
None of these previous benefits take into account the powerful impact of being in nature. Getting away from urban life, stepping out of routine, being amongst the green of trees or desert plants or lakes, rivers, the ocean. I can observe for myself the impact these surrounds can have on reducing stress and improve mood. Research is now starting to show that not only does nature have a positive impact on our emotions but it can also help our physical well being by lowering the stress hormone cortisol and lowering blood pressure.
I didn't get into camping for the health benefits but it is interesting to see that there are explanations for the natural feeling of well being it brings. I’m sure there is plenty more research being done on explaining the positive effects of camping and nature but I don’t need to dig any deeper to know that the impact it has on me will have me coming back again and again.
When trying to live a more intentional life and stripping away mindless consumerism, mindless consumption of media, mindless eating. What activities will add to our lives instead of subtracting? Are we “switching off” to cope with life instead of living intentionally?
A large number of people use shopping, watching TV or eating as a day to day crutch or band-aid. Tired from a long day? We watch an entire season of a new show without moving. Stressed from work? We go all out on a pint of ice cream or a bag of tortilla chips. General doom and gloom? We hit the shops for some retail therapy. Mostly these self-soothing mechanisms are tried and true. But do they really work? In the end, are we left back where we started, or maybe worse off if we have sabotaged goals we had in place?
Long-term habits and lifestyle over perfection.
It can be hard to analyze our own coping strategies, especially if anxiety and negative thinking make an appearance in our lives. It can feel a whole lot easier to just not think about what is impacting us and space out. I watched two great documentaries, one about hoarding and the other about alcoholism. Both of these are just the extreme version of seemingly coping mechanisms, spun totally out of control. The people afflicted have lost the ability to handle stress in any other way. Some could even pinpoint what could be the root cause of their issue or that they needed therapy to work through historical issues but had no means to do so. This doesn't mean it’s like this for everyone who has extreme hoarding tendencies or alcoholism. A similar problem is those who constantly overeat, with shows like My 600-pound life showing us another stress mechanism gone extreme. When the seemingly only comfort or self-soothing is to eat in unhealthily large amounts; past the point of normal satiety. This is all done just to feel good, but it can form a vicious cycle of negative emotions.
When we have made a goal to eat more healthfully, we are doing ourselves a disservice by using junk food as a treat after a bad day. When we have made a goal to be more intentional with our purchases and reduce the things we own, we are sabotaging ourselves by using shopping as a reward. If our goal is to start a business, write more, build closer relationships with our family and friends or volunteer, we are disrupting our plans to achieve these things. As with all things in life, moderation is key. And when we moderate these activities let’s do it mindfully.
When we do want to eat something delicious, how about limiting it to a serving, say a few squares of chocolate and taking our time eating it and enjoying, don't distract yourself with emails or eat it while driving your car. Sit down and have a moment to savour and relax. If it’s shopping, then spend time researching what you intend to buy, consider if you really need it or if you need a quick hit how about buying something for charity? Groceries to donate to a food bank, or toys to a shelter. And with media lets put a limit on how much we consume, and when. If you find yourself scrolling through suggestions on Instagram and see hours swim past acknowledge what you’re doing. If you are watching something that doesn't interest you just because it’s there, set it aside. These are habits like anything else, and if we want to, we can change into whatever serves us best.