Really loving my new low-carb life

I love my skulls sunny side up.
I like my skulls sunny side up.

Last month I deleted sugar from my diet and started eating low-carb. So far so good.

Here is what I’ve learned:

Beware of withdrawal symptoms

To my surprise I experienced them on day 1: Intense sugar cravings, a mild headache and total brain fog. My productivity was non-existent.

I increased my water and salt intake. By the next day the listlessness was gone. However, the sugar cravings lasted another week.

Apparently I’m quite lucky. Many people need several weeks for their body to adapt. Maybe it’s because I don’t drink any alcohol or soda?

Lesson learned: I was more addicted to sugar than I thought. Luckily, even Dr. Weil agrees that I don’t need to give up my dark chocolate of 86% cocoa. The universe smiles upon me.

People get emotional about food

Lately I’ve been listening differently to friends and family. Some of them struggle with diabetes, overweight or a history of eating disorders. Everybody has an opinion, often a strong one. Not everyone has an open mind.

Look healthier if he ate low-carb, yoda would.
Look healthier if he ate low-carb, Yoda would.

Vegans and vegetarians speak to my conscience and remind me of my “meat is murder” stint that lasted 3 years.

Now I eat bacon on most days, even though I know pigs are smarter than dogs. And when I prepare mussels, I’m aware that I’m boiling them alive.

Happy thoughts!

But the guilty feelings are short-lived and easily trumped by my bodily reactions.

As it happens, I’m almost drooling on my keyboard right now. My wife just took a large chunk of Tony’s Chocolonely from the fridge and passed behind me while I’m writing this in our kitchen. It’s “milk caramel sea salt”, my favourite flavour!

This makes me very emotional.

Lesson learned: Nature trumps nurture. Emotion trumps logic.

Cheat days, fails and Belgian junkfood

One of our finer family traditions is to eat junkfood on Saturdays. We go to the “frietkot” (chip shop?) for fries, satays, sausages, burgers and all kinds of delicious rubbish… As if that’s not enough, the owner always gives the kids candy.

A dodgy pic of dodgy food. But it tastes so good.
A dodgy pic of the dodgy food. But it tastes so good.

In the past I’d sometimes get all holier-than-thou. Then I’d eat something proper anyway (like a salad) while my wife and daughters feasted on deep fried high-carbs.

But who am I kidding? I love that stuff just like the next Belgian. So I allow myself a cheat day a week (more or less) because I don’t want to be that guy at family outings, visits with friends, baby showers, weddings…

Lesson learned: Perfection is pointless. Cheat days are crucial.

They put sugar in everything

I heard about this, but never paid much attention until now. Ingredient lists show that there’s dextrose, glucose, fructose… (sugar by any other name) in foods like prepared bacon, chicken filet, sausages…

But why?

Would you like some sugar with your chicken?
Would you like some chicken with your sugar?

I tweeted this question to a supermarket I buy from. After some reminding, I got a friendly, lengthy direct message.

Their answer in short:

  • Sugar syrup is used as a carrier for flavours (herbs, aromas),
  • It helps with colour rentention
  • 1 portion (30 grams) of the product in the photo (chicken strips) contains 0.3% of the recommended daily allowance.

I appreciate the reply, but… Sugar in meat? Seriously? I just want my chicken to be chicken. I’ll gladly add salt & pepper myself.

Lesson learned: Processed food is no good.

Just test it. Give it a month.

I thought it would be harder to go low-carb and give up on sugar. I guess these are the keys why it’s going rather smoothly:

  • I wasn’t eating that bad to begin with.
  • Science convinced me that sugar is poison. I keep that in mind.
  • Keeping a foodlog on Twitter is very helpful.
  • Cheat days!
  • Sticking to it 1 month at a time.

I believe that last one is a big key.

If you want to try the low-carb life yourself, just test it for 30 days and see what happens. Less than that is too short. The first week(s) might suck because of withdrawal symptoms.

These are the benefits I experience so far:

  • Bacon and eggs for breakfast!
  • Back on my weight from a decade ago.
  • Less hungry. I eat breakfast around 7:30. I used to be famished by 10:30. Nowadays it’s around 12:30 or later before I’m hungry again.
  • I feel calmer.
  • It’s great to be free of sugar cravings.

Have you tried it yourself? Or would you like to? Let me know how it goes. You can comment below, send me an e-mail or a direct message on twitter.

I’m curious about your experience.

What’s next?

I thought I’d be tired of keeping a food log by now. But it still doesn’t feel like a chore, so I’m sticking to it for now.

My new parenting habits are going well too. The next post will probably be about that.

I want to share how I now manage to spend daily one-on-one time with both of my daughters. It’s magic how they behave better because of it. Well, most of the time at least.

Supertime!
Supertime!

Oh, one more thing.

If you’re at a family party and want to start a heated debate, just ask people “Which is worse for your health: sugar or fat?” Or even better: “How many eggs are good for you?”

Then just sit back and enjoy the show. 😀

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Pokémon made me do it

2016-07_PokemonGo_meme

A confession

I’m writing a book that puts a lot of emphasis on dealing with distractions.
And… since a couple of days I’m addicted to Pokémon Go.

I’m not a total junkie but it’s bad enough.
Let me give you an idea:

  • I’m 38.
  • Where I live I haven’t yet seen anyone my age or older playing it.
  • When I go for a 10 minute bike ride, I come home an hour and a half later.
  • I talk incessantly about it to my daughters (now 8 and 6). The oldest one isn’t impressed.
  • I catch Pokémons while I pick up my kids from summer camp in the evening.
  • So far this week all my Instagrams are screenshots of the game.
  • I ask strangers with smartphones if they are playing it and if they have tips for me.
  • I started a local Pokémon Go Facebook group.

Yesterday I started wondering: “How can I turn this into meditation practice?”

The urge

This morning I decided not to give into the urge to play before 14:30. I turned off my phone and set an alarm to remind me when I could turn it on again (14:25).

All morning I noticed I was thinking of the game, resisting the urge to Go or browse forums and watch vlogs about it.

Even though I’m thrilled about my book project, the past hours I struggled to focus on it. It took more effort than usual to finish the draft of another chapter.

Just now (10:42) I took a pause to go for a walk.

I played with the idea to simply turn the game on without really playing, so this Pokémon egg that’s about to hatch would come out. I tried to convince myself that I would mute the sound and not look at the screen until I was back at work.

But I didn’t fall for it. I deliberately left my phone at my desk. It was just me, a juicy red apple and my (low-tech, off the grid) camera.

As for meditation practice…

I’ve set limits on when and how long I play.

While I’m out and about, I focus on my breath and observe what’s going on in mind and body. I keep coming back to that after (or sometimes even while) swiping at Pokéspots and training at “gyms”.

When I’m doing other stuff and suddenly catch myself (!) craving a Pokémon fix, I observe mind and body and inquire: “Who is it that wants to catch ‘em all?”

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What I learned from being a lousy vegetarian

omnipleasant-spaghettimonster

Bad breath and good advice

Yesterday I went on a lunch date with my wife. We picked this new spaghetti restaurant where I had a whole grain “Green Hugger”. A delicious overdose of veggies, herbs and spices. Today I can kill vampires by breathing in their direction.

Before lunch, I’d been to physio. (Short story: my barefoot running stint resulted in painful achilles tendinopathy.) My physiotherapist Koen is a friendly guy who’s big on eating healthy. While electrocuting my ankles, he explained that people should be educated about food:

“They diet for a while, but soon it’s back to eating chips in front of the TV …”
“You need to avoid those glucose spikes … “
“Do you know what aspartame was originally? A pesticide! It kills things!”

Which brings me back to my wife.

Information is not enough

I told Koen that my wife drinks a lot of Coke Zero. He promptly gave me printouts with scientific data about the dangers of aspartame. I thanked him but said that no amount of information has ever changed her mind. Res just likes Coke Zero. Period.

She does not (want to) believe it’s bad for her. It doesn’t help that the scientific research is inconclusive. And she experiences no disadvantages from ingesting aspartame. Therefore she has no intrinsic motivation to avoid it. Unlike me.

It’s very easy for me not to get hooked on diet soda. I tried it a couple of times, hated it and got headaches on both occasions. I don’t need scientific proof. My body protests immediately. Case closed.

If mere information was enough, no one would smoke, everyone would eat healthy and I’d be worshipped by young maidens. But that’s not the world we live in, is it?

Willpower is not enough

Decades ago, I annoyed friends and family by being a hardcore vegetarian.

PETA opened my eyes to the cruelty animals go through just because they’re tasty. I also learned that the simplest and cheapest thing anyone can do to reduce our impact on the planet is to eat less meat.

For 3 years this motivated me to:

  • Stop eating meat and fish
  • Check labels for hidden animal ingredients
  • Be a pain in the ass at weddings, barbecues, family parties, evenings out with friends …

The truth is that it was HARD. I still loved the smell of cooked meat. The thought of smoked salmon made me drool. People gave me flak. Also, back then there weren’t many shops or restaurants that took vegetarians into account. You had to be determined!

One evening I got the new job I wanted. Res and I decided to celebrate. It was getting late and we couldn’t find a restaurant that served vegetarian meals. So I had some fish “just this once”.

Yeah right.

Make it easier

So if information and willpower aren’t enough, what does it take then?
Over the years I learned that to change bad habits:

  • You do need good information to start with.
  • Intrinsic motivation is essential. This is why I don’t drink diet soda but my wife does.
  • The influence of our environment can’t be underestimated.
  • To make lasting change, you’ll have to make it easier for yourself.

I’ve already mentioned the 12 habits I want to do everyday. Some of them are going pretty well, like: sleep enough, meditate, choose priorities … while others are more challenging: exercise, repeat intention, be calm or be quiet …

What challenges have you failed at so far? How can you make it easier?

Take care,
David

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The “batch it crazy” technique (Part 1)

I admit it. I made this meme … on the toilet. In this age of mindful eating, mindful parenting, mindful business, mindful everything, how could I sink so low? Read and weep. (Spoiler: there’s a happy end.)

The decline

Until recently I had this outdated hand-me-down phone. The pharaohs of ancient Egypt used the same model to stay in touch with their alien ancestors. Half of the apps did not work. Half of the sites did not load. It only had wifi. Perfect!

I used the old thing primarily to text my wife or set reminders. (I have no social life.) But some persistent thoughts kept nagging at me. They whispered:

  • With a proper smartphone you could leave your camera, MP3-player and notebook at home.
  • You’d take more pictures again.
  • You’d always have a GPS with you, even on your bicycle.
  • You could Skype or listen to TED-talks while cleaning the house.
  • You could update your calendar and Trello wherever you go.
  • You’d finally join the 21st century.

I ignored these arguments for years, because I saw how people around me were being bossed around by their phones’ bleeps and peeps from morning till evening. It’s worse than having children.

But I’d join them eventually.

Pure heroine

I was addicted the moment I sat down and browsed the Play Store. After day one I had to remove Facebook ASAP before my IQ dropped irreversibly. But Coach.me and Instagram already had their hooks too deep in my mind, even though I had disabled all distracting sounds and push notifications.

Sure it’s fun that I was taking more pics again. The phone fits more comfortably in my pocket than any camera ever did, so I take it everywhere.

However, this is how I used to take pics:

  1. Take camera out of manly bag (if I had it with me)
  2. Take camera out of case
  3. Turn camera on
  4. Take picture

With Instagram, this became:

  1. Take phone out of pants
  2. Unlock phone
  3. Tap camera app
  4. Take picture
  5. Tap picture to tap share
  6. Tap Instagram
  7. Crop picture
  8. Adjust brightness and contrast
  9. Spend minutes going back and forth between filters
  10. Think of witty caption
  11. Think of hashtags
  12. Decide which social media to share on
  13. Check who used the same hashtags
  14. Get lost on instagram commenting and liking
  15. Check if anyone responded to my pic
  16. Repeat steps 14 and 15 compulsively
  17. Finally put phone away
  18. Feel internal pull to repeat steps 14 and 15 compulsively

And that’s just 1 app!

It was the same with Facebook, Twitter, Coach.me, WordPress… Each one demanded my attention and chipped away at my precious time. Enough!

I didn’t want to go back to my pharaoh phone, so I sought a middle way.

Batchman to the rescue

I happen to be the ubernerd of a small company. My colleagues routinely turn to me when their computer says “no or when a client has trouble with our products. In the past this meant my real work was constantly getting interrupted. It was awful! Then I turned it around with the “batch it crazy” technique.

Now I work at home 4 days out of 5.  In the morning I begin with my most important tasks. I don’t let anything interfere until 11 AM. Then I take an hour to check e-mails and social media in case any colleagues or clients need me. Once a week I’m at the office to help where I can.

This batching approach really pays off. So I decided to apply the same principle to my smartphone abuse.

After testing some apps (the irony!) I find Stay Focused quite helpful and easy. I’ve set it to block attention hogs like Instagram if I use them more than 10 minutes a day.

Now I’m back to taking pics without posting them online immediately. I batch all the filtering, uploading, captioning, hashtagging and whatnot into 10 minutes in the evening or during lunch break.

So what exactly is the “batch it crazy” technique?

  1. Identify what scatters your attention.
    (troubleshooting? social media? phone calls? recurring worries?)
  2. Schedule a recurring time slot for it.
    (an hour a day? one day a week?)
  3. Batch it into the time slot, instead of letting it distract you many times a day.

How can you apply it?

P.S. Are you reading this on the toilet? Here’s that meme generator. 🙂
P.P.S. This is me on Instagram. Come say hi!

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A better approach to Work-Life balance

omnibrooding

I’m onto something here. It started off as a long article about Work-Life balance. Then it took the proportions of an e-book, and now … well, you’ll just have to wait and see.

In the meanwhile it’s keeping me away from blogging. If you want know when it’s finished, drop me an e-mail and I’ll keep you posted.

Here are some teasers:

  1. 10 minute recipe for a successful day
  2. Should you always treat others like you want to be treated yourself?
  3. Taking breaks like a boss

Be a dear and mail me your feedback. Don’t hold back, I can take it!

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Don’t take yourself too personally

David Allen and David Demets
David Allen and David Demets

Grey is the new black

I’m 36. My first grey hairs have appeared. In my eyebrows! I didn’t expect them there. They just pop up when and where they please. I have no say in the matter.

I’m taking control! (Right?)

I read a lot about life-hacking, productivity, effectiveness … I adopt better habits and see how they lead to positive changes both at work and at home.

For example: years ago at the office, we just took work as it came. In between copywriting, audio editing, video editing, designing websites, brochures or posters (and occasionally serving as a substitute yoga instructor), I did whatever landed on my desk.

There was no clear focus. Things didn’t get done when they were due. Stuff piled up. I had little to say and felt like I was constantly putting out fires. Something had to change, and it most certainly did when I introduced GTD at work.

Now surprises still pop up and there are a lot of loose ends, but we deal with it in a more relaxed way. We’re better prepared, take more time for what matters and our service has improved a great deal. I even work from home a couple of days a week.

It feels like I’m proactively taking life into my own hands.

But am I really?

If I pause to take a better look, I notice how this body and mind do everything by themselves. The heart beats, lungs breathe, eyes blink, hairs turn grey … The body keeps on hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling and feeling while the hands move to type these words.

Where do the ideas come from that lead to this text? I don’t know what my next thought will be. Yet: suddenly there it is! Something approves of it or rejects it. All by itself.

Meanwhile a nineties song is on repeat in the back of my head, ever since I heard it yesterday. I’d prefer something by Jamie Lidell right now, but I can’t simply will Hole away.

It all happens automagically. And yet I take it all so personally. Without much thought I feel responsable for what this body and mind do. But if “they” do it all on their own, what is this “I” anyway? And what is this “you” then?

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10 minute recipe for a successful day

Ingredients

  • 10 minutes
  • 1 timer
  • 2 pens (different colors, red and blue are nice)
  • 1 scrap sheet
  • 1 notebook

Preparation

Sit somewhere comfortable with a scrapsheet and a pen. Set the timer to 5 minutes. Close your eyes and think of 3 life areas you want to prioritize during the coming 6 to 12 months. Open your eyes and take brief notes on your scrap sheet. I have: health, relationships and work.

Done? Set the timer to 5 minutes again.

Now, for each of these 3 life areas, come up with 1 concrete action you can take tomorrow. Make sure it’s actually finishable tomorrow. (Yes I wrote ‘finishable’. I’m allowed to because I’m Belgian.)

If it’s not finishable (I looked it up, apparently it’s an actual word!), then it’s a project you need to chop into smaller chunks. For now, just pick the first finishable chunk. (FI-NI-SHU-BULL!)

Take your notebook and red pen. On a blank sheet, write down tomorrow’s date, followed by your 3 priorities for that day, preceded by their corresponding life areas, in the order they are most likely to get done. One more thing : write them down as if you have already finished them.

No it’s not complicated, have a look:

Friday February 28th 2014

  1. Work: I have published my weekly blogpost for Omnipleasant.
  2. Health: I have practiced my daily hour of yoga.
  3. Relations: My wife and I have planned a meetup with friends and family.

Now, very important: block out time on your calendar tomorrow for these 3 actions, and reserve a smaller block of time later for other stuff that comes up.

Breakfast Of Champions

Your 3 priorities are best served first thing in the morning. Before all distractions break loose. While you work on them, stick to single tasking. (Taking breaks like a boss helps.) When something else comes up, postpone it. Jot it down at the bottom of your notebook with your blue pen, you’ll get to it later. When you finish a priority, cross it out, do a little victory dance and move on to the next.

I usually work on my priorities (the red notes in the picture) from 8 to 11, before I take an hour to deal with stuff that came up during the morning (the blue notes).

Why prepare in the evening and serve in the morning?

If you’re a morning person like me, this makes sense. In the evening my creative superpowers are mostly dormant, but I still have energy to review my day, plan for tomorrow, empty my inbox, answer e-mails …

It’s great to be able to jump right in at the start of the day. My past self has already done the thinking the evening before. Now I don’t have to waste time and energy on making decisions, procrastinating and whatnot. This leaves more room for creativity and focus. Divide and conquer!

This Lift habit helps.

Enjoy!

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