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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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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Allow me to get corny for a moment

2014-03-28-me-so-corny

What are the odds of us being alive at the same time? Homo Sapiens have been around for about 200.000 years. Suddenly you and me appear on stage. Where I live, average life expectancy is 80.5 years. So there’s hope for me to be around for another 44 years. How long have you got? In the small overlap of shared lifetime we have the privilege to connect, thanks to technology or proximity.

What are the odds of you reading this? There are 1.77 billion pages out there, next to the endless messages in your social media streams and inboxes. It’s been rumored that some people still read stuff on paper as well.

What are the odds of us agreeing? We’re born with our unique genetic makeup, into families with disparate backgrounds. Our cultures might be quite contrasting, with a different set of beliefs, habits and desires. Still, there you are: living, breathing, reading my blog. WordPress shows me you’re from Belgium, Canada, Greece, India, Malta, Netherlands, New-Zealand, Russia, UK,  Ukraine, USA, South-Africa …

If I were that kind of guy, I’d believe there’s greater meaning to be found in all of this. But being who I am, all I have to say is:

Thank you, come again!

David

PS: We have so much potential and information at our disposal, with approximately 16 waking hours in front of us every morning. It’s easy to get distracted or overwhelmed.  Are you clear on what you will do today? Don’t hesitate if you have something nice to share. Tomorrow we might no longer find each other.

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I cannot succeed (or fail)

I cannot succeed (or fail)
So I’ve been ill all week. Fun times! For 5 days I did little more than cough, sweat and sleep. An awful lot of sleeping. Psychedelic fever dreams. Surprisingly empty mind during daily meditation. Probably because I was unable to do anything anyway, so why worry? Sweet!

Now as I get better, the mind is less concerned with sfinx cats being worshipped by trunks and whistles, and more with day to day business, voicing all kinds of importantness to tackle:

  • must improve immunity!
  • must eat healthier!
  • must restart vegetable garden!
  • must turn compost heap!
  • must cook more!
  • must write weekly blogpost!
  • must must must!

Apart from the cooking, not much has happened yet. Through sheer sluggishness the mind sabotages its own projects. It has no problem telling me what to do, but when I sit down to oblige and ask to help me write about the planned topic for today, it falters and turns all lazy and indecisive. Where did that big mouth go now?

So here’s a quote to comfort myself and you, my precious reader:

If you surrender your attachment to the results of your actions, that will purify your mind and provide a path to liberation.

Rather than performing actions focused on achieving something that you want, perform actions as they arise with no attachment to the outcome.

Remain open to whatever occurs instead of operating with the sense of you as a doer who will succeed or fail. This will loosen the grip of your mind and open the way to freedom.

– Ramana Maharshi & Gary Weber
(from the book Happiness Beyond Thought)

Now I’m going to turn that compost heap! (Or else I won’t.)

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Taking breaks like a boss

Taking breaks like a boss | Omnipleasant

Disclaimer: This approach is inspired by the Pomodoro Technique, which I don’t fully apply.

First I’m going to tell you a secret habit of mine that is good for body, mind and soul household. Then I’ll elaborate a bit.

The Secret

I often work from home, mostly on the computer. In the morning I make a “to do” list with tasks in decreasing priority. I also use a “doing” list. More about that one below.

I open these tabs in my browser:

  1. www.timer-tab.com (update: nowadays I use www.magicworkcycle.com)
  2. www.sworkit.com

I start the “doing” list where I only write down the first task. I focus on that single task for 25 minutes. When the timer goes off, I put an X next to the task, which indicates I’ve worked at it for 25 minutes. Then I take a short break – and the following is important – AWAY from the computer (A.K.A. hypnosis machine).

Depending on what feels right, I do just one of the following, for no longer than 5 minutes:

  • meditate (this can be super simple: let me show you)
  • sketch
  • dance like an idiot
  • eat some fruit, drink some water or tea
  • a full body workout guided by Sworkit
  • lie down on the floor (yoga pose ‘dead man working’ :-))
  • sit in a comfy chair not doing anything
  • clean a toilet
  • pick up dirty laundry from the bathroom
  • fill or empty the washing machine, clothes dryer or dishwasher
  • put stuff where it belongs
  • fold some clean laundry
  • feed the chickens
  • water the veggie garden

The timer goes off again after 5 minutes (I set it quite loud to be able to hear it wherever I am) and it’s time to return to work.

Back at the desk, I put a dot next to the X on the “doing” list, indicating that I took the break. I write down the next task or continue with the one at hand.

I repeat this many times throughout the workday.

Elaboration

Usually the breaks feel welcome. But sometimes when I’m really in the middle of something – like writing this article – I just want to carry on. However, I have found that I’m always more content when I take the breaks consistently. I’ve been doing this for some months now and I’m still very happy with it.

Why I like it:

  • my head feels lighter
  • the day is more spacious
  • I drink more water and eat more fruit
  • the breaks are cues to pay more attention to my posture
  • I catch myself quicker when I get distracted (by Facebook, Twitter, email …)
  • away from the computer I often get fresh insights about work
  • back at the desk I can quickly review priorities that may have changed because of new information
  • it’s amazing what can be done around the house in those short breaks
  • more exercise
  • no more regrets because of never making it to the gym
  • our home is less cluttered (you should see it in the morning when I come back after taking the kids to school)

Have you tried this or something similar? Let me know your experience in the comments.

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