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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Better parenting through hashtags

parenting-tip-never-yell-at-your-kids-t8P

 

Recently I rediscovered Twitter (during a social media fast) and lost 2 kilograms in 2 weeks.

How are these facts related? And what has this got to do with parenting? Read on. All shall be revealed.

At the start of August I decided to quit sugar and start eating low-carb. (Short story: sugar = poison). To get some accountability going, I looked for an easy way to keep a food log. Twitter proved perfect.

For a couple of weeks now, all food that enters my mouth gets tweeted about. This approach helps me stay motivated and consistent. It happens to be educational as well. 

I learned a lot of nutritional wisdom on Twitter and a slew of English words. My native language is Dutch, so I had to look up the translation of things like peultjes, rucola, courgette, aubergine, kurkuma… (snow peas, arugula, zucchini, eggplant, turmeric…)

But this isn’t an article about food.

Because my new logging habit served me so well, I figured it might also help with other life areas, like parenting.

So besides keeping a #lowcarb #foodlog, I now also tweet about parenting habits and regulating emotions, with hashtags like #mbslog, #bcbqwin and #bcbqfail.

Let me explain those…

#mbslog

Short for: Mind, Body & Soul Time log.

Mind, Body, & Soul Time is time spent one-on-one with each of your children, consistently and individually with each parent, on an activity they choose. Not only will it give you a better bond with your kids, but the attention and power boosts will fuel better behavior.

— Amy McCready

Most days I work at home and spend a lot of time with wife and kids, but Amy McCready’s book made me review the quality of that time together.

I sure saw the importance of daily one-on-one time with each of my daughters, playing something of their choice. To be in “child mode” with them, instead of constantly parenting them around.

For a while Res and I stuck to this habit and reaped the benefits. But it proved challenging not to let it slip. And let it slip we did. Life can get pretty busy, right?

Starting an #mbslog rekindled my intention to give Mind, Body & Soul Time priority again and find new ways to make it happen.

As I write this, it’s not a daily habit yet, but at least it’s firmly back on my mind.

#bcbqwin #bcbqfail

Short for: Be Calm or Be Quiet Win (or Fail)

Our most important responsibility as parents is regulating our own emotions, which is essential for our children to learn to manage themselves.

– Dr. Laura Markham

Few people push my buttons like my kids do.

The thing is, children tend to pick up more from our behavior than our words. So if I get a little tantrum of my own when they’re disobedient once again, guess what will happen next time they don’t get what they want?

I’ve learned that anger has a lot to do with feeling powerless. Especially in stressful moments when you feel pressed to find a solution. When nothing seems to work, you can get emotionally overwhelmed and lose the ability to think logically. Result? Chaos!

Meditation has helped me to find a new baseline of calm in my life. And I’d like to say that I’m always equanimous because of it, but that would be a lie.

It’s not a cure all. It tends to work non-linear instead of providing a quick fix when difficult emotions suddenly arise.

That’s why I believe we need more tools in our toolbox, like a good parenting philosophy, better communication skills and a go-to method to calm down faster.

For the latter there are techniques like The Work, The Sedona Method, box breathing, tapping… (see links below)

Which one is best? Whichever works for you to “let go” of difficult emotions or negative thoughts so you can respond from a place of peace.

I have found it takes daily practice to make real progress. Publicly tweeting about my trial and errors sure keeps me on my toes.

Feel free to join in, if you dare. 😉

If you’re on Twitter and decide to give it a go, let me know. You can send me a direct message or an e-mail.

Take care,
David

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A method to be calm or be quiet

Be Calm or Be Quiet

Some of my friends at coach.me have asked about my “BCBQ” habit.
Here’s what it’s about…

Bonkers!

Are you a parent? This might sound familiar.

This morning my daughters were dawdling in the bathroom again. Nothing Res (35) or I (37) said convinced them to get cracking. Their fun and games soon turned into hitting and kicking.

At breakfast Amp (7) threw a milk carton at Midi (4) because she claimed the cereals first. A bit later Amp accidentally knocked over her cup and spilled milk on her chair and the kitchen floor. Moments later Midi did the same.

We were finally out the door and on our bicycles when Amp realised I was right about the clumsy bag she had wanted to take to school. It was impossible for her to carry it while riding her bike.

We could hear the first school bell ring in the distance. But Amp still had to go back inside and transfer her things to her regular bag.

Stress anyone?

Be calm or be quiet

Could you spot the 7 triggers that drove me insane in the past? Today I didn’t even raise my voice. Read on and I’ll tell you how this change happened.

Eventually the girls stopped fighting (twice), made it downstairs in time and cleaned up their mess. Amp apologized to me (without being asked) and solved her schoolbag problem herself. Finally they were in school on time, smiling. And I rode my bike home, smiling.

All the time I didn’t raise my voice, nor did I threaten with punishment. I did not clean up for them or nag (well, only once or twice).

I’m not saying I never loose my cool anymore. Yes, I often get into a trance and add fuel to the fire by starting a big rant, but the difference with some months ago is significant.

Here’s how I’m making progress.

The 4 Ms

Whenever I notice unrest in myself or people around me, I use the same heuristic:

  1. Mouth: My mouth is shut with the tongue curled inside.
  2. Mudra: Some fingertips touch lightly, as if I’m holding a pen.
  3. Mantra: Synchronised with the breath, I think: “This is temporary. I remain quiet.”
  4. Meditation: I observe how all sensations change constantly (mind, body, environment …)

When I feel peaceful myself, I only apply this loosely.
I try and help the other to calm down, while I keep words to a minimum.

The instant I feel the slightest unrest growing in myself, I get back to being quiet and using the 4 Ms deliberately. Often I leave the room before negative feelings get intense. I take some time to be alone and focus on all 4 steps. The insight “this is temporary” works like magic for me.

It also helps to write down what I want to discuss later on, when I’m calm again. This reminds me I don’t have to try and force a solution right here and now. Usually it’s not a matter of life and death.

It doesn’t happen overnight

BCBQ is a test I’ve been running for a couple of months now. It’s the hardest habit change I’ve done in my life. I’ve tried it in the past with less success.

The difference now is that I’ve made it my number 1 priority.

  • I train myself to rehearse the 4Ms when I wake up, at breakfast, lunch, dinner and when I’m in bed before falling asleep.
  • During morning meditation I think “This is temporary” when I breathe out and “I remain quiet” when I breathe in. (When you know about non-dualism or the 3 characteristics of existence, you can appreciate these words on a different level.)
  • I apply the 4 Ms as often as I can. Not only with my kids or when there’s a conflict, but whenever I notice frustration, impatience, irritation … big or small.
  • All over the house there are “BCBQ” post-it notes to remind me.
  • I’ve asked my wife and kids to say “calm please” when I start to rant.

Celebrate

I used to be quite hard on myself when I had snapped at my kids. But beating myself up about it, didn’t help at all. Since I prioritize the BCBQ habit, I focus on celebrating every time I succeed.

The biggest payoff is that I get to help my kids to be calm or be quiet as well.
Lead by example, right?

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Should you always treat others like you want to be treated yourself?

computer says no

I love the Golden Rule: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” But …

  • What if your friend incessantly vents about his problems whenever you meet or call? Should you hear him out every time?
  • What if your kid wants 36 kisses and 18 hugs before she relucantly lets you leave her room at bedtime, only to call you back 6 or 7 times every evening? Should you let her sleep in your bed like the Jon Kabat-Zinns of this world?
  • What if you happen to be the ubernerd at the office and your colleagues routinely ask for your help whenever their computer says ‘no’? Should you drop your important tasks several times per hour?

Even though that might be what they want or need in that moment, I don’t think the relationship with your friend, kid or colleague benefits from this approach in the long run. It’s not genuine. You’re not showing your true feelings. And they notice.

I have found it’s better to have a difficult conversation sooner than later. Otherwise small frictions turn into huge frustrations and resentment.

Instead of faking interest or affection in the moment, I believe I show true love by communicating how I really feel and then try to find a solution that benefits everyone.

Win-win or no deal.

So I tell my friend I sympathize, but he needs to let go of the drama. I reassure my kid I love her to bits, but now daddy wants some rest. I ask my colleague if the printer issues can wait until 11 o’clock and explain I have to update our homepage in time.

Maybe it won’t make you look saintly or excel at unconditional parenting, but your relations will grow in a genuine way that leaves room for your unique quirks without feeling fake.

Diplomacy becomes the new challenge.

Tough love trumps fake love. I prefer it if people lovingly say ‘no’ to me in stead of ‘yes’ when they don’t truly feel that way. That’s how I want to be treated myself.

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The most honest answer in the world

I know nothing. I'm from Barcelona.

What do you want for Valentine’s day?
What will your life look like in a year?
What will happen at work today?
What if we all stopped ironing our clothes?
Why can’t I fart in public daddy?

If you look deeply into yourself and you’re really honest, don’t you think your answer to most questions would be “I don’t know”?

I hear you think “Oh but I do know why people don’t fart in public David!” Really? Well, tell us then!

When I first got the idea for this article, I smugly asked my wife “What is the most honest answer in the world snotball?” (I don’t know how I come up with these terms of endearment.) I was confident her answer would be “I don’t know.” But instead she replied without hesitation: “I love you!”, pleasantly proving my point. (Or not?)

In 2004, if you would have told me things like:

  • soon you’ll be working at a school for self-development (since 2005)
  • you won’t make music anymore (since 2006, relapses excluded)
  • you’ll live in Roeselare (since 2007)
  • you’ll have 2 daughters (born in 2008 and 2010)
  • you’ll sit in meditation an hour a day (since 2009)
  • you’ll be passionate about vegetable gardening (since 2012)

… I would have taken you to a doctor.

Looking back at the past decade of your life, aren’t you just as surprised as I am? Did you expect all those things to happen?

Next time someone asks you a seemingly easy question, pause to check yourself first. Be brutally honest. There is no shame in replying “I don’t know.” I find this answer opens up a lot of possibilities.

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How do you sleep at night?

Thinking is fatal

First a confession, then a tried and proven method to get back to sleep after being woken up.

Let’s face it: we all mess up now and then. I know I do.

Just one example. If you wake me up in the middle of the night, chances are you’ll meet Mr Hyde. Do it 3 times and I nearly self-combust. My kids will tell you. That’s probably part of the fun for them.

Perhaps you wouldn’t expect this from a guy who sits in meditation for an hour a day since 2009, who writes about slowing down and says his core value is peace?

Apparently ideals and reality are two different things.

Luckily Mr Hyde stays out of the picture most of the time. More than ever really. And I do find meditation plays a big part in this, not as a quick fix (do those even exist?) but by showing me time and again that I’m not in control and I shouldn’t take life personally. It’s slowly sinking in.

Get back to sleep

After getting my kids back to bed, they’ll be in dreamland after a couple of minutes. But I don’t get there so fast. My thoughts won’t let me get back to sleep. They run in circles about how things should be different, how I should have handled the situation better, what I’m going to do next time, judging myself for not being able to let go, blah blah blah … Until I rediscover the truth: thinking is fatal. It only keeps me awake and tenses up my body.

So here is what to do:

1. Tense up and relax
Laying on your back, deliberately tense up all muscles, from the feet up to the face (grimacing). Hold all this tension for couple of breaths. Make sure it’s not too intense (or you’ll risk a cramp) or too soft (defeating the purpose). On an out-breath, relax from head to toes, notice how different everything feels, including the breath. Feel the afterglow of the released tension now the body is at ease. Enjoy. Do this tensing and relaxing 3 times.

2. Do a body scan
Focus on one part of your body at a time. Think “left foot” and then notice what you feel there for a couple of seconds. Then think “big toe”, notice what you feel there, then “2nd toe”, “3rd toe” (Can you locate that one? Really?) and so on, until you’ve scanned the entire body, bottom to top, left to right, or whatever order makes sense to you.

3. Count exhales
Usually I won’t make it past the body scan. I’ll be drifting off before I reach my shoulder. But sometimes a 3rd step is needed: counting exhales.

Notice the breath, count 1 on the next inhale, then 2 on the exhale, 3 on the inhale … up to 10. When you get there, go back to 1. If you lose track, go back to 1.

Remember: thinking is fatal. Sweet dreams!

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