Tuesday, August 12, 2014

No-Bake, Vegan Chocolate Marble Cheesecake


Click Here for Printable Recipe

I really shouldn't use the 't' word, should I?  If I slip up again, it's best to remember that, in my world, 'tomorrow' might mean 'the next day' or it could be interpreted as 'sometime soonish'. Sometimes the requirement to make money just cuts into my blogging time (I know! So unfair...). 

I also took a night off to see The 100 Foot Journey, which is definitely worth a look.  A reviewer described it as 'feel-good food porn', and that's pretty accurate. The food shots fired me with a passion for French cooking, and Indian. Why did they have to ruin it with  *spoilers!* a depressingly predictable bit where the oppressed Indian boy gets propelled to greatness by a rich, white French woman (of course he did)?

Without further waffling on, below is the recipe for my Vegan Chocolate Marble Cheesecake. The next post is going to address how to fit such treat foods into a healthy eating plan. There is so much crazy around this issue right now, that it deserves a blog work up before my brain seizes from trying to process an unprecendented influx of irrationality.

For now, just let me confess that I do eat treats like this, about twice a week, smallish serving.  I love vegan desserts, but it's not for moral reasons. I personally think that vegan desserts are just the best. They deliver on taste, keep very well in the fridge or freezer, are often no-bake and easy to make, present few worries about food poisoning, and as a welcome side-effect, are often (but not necessarily) more healthful. Here ya go.

Ingredients: 

For the Base: 
1.5 cups almond flour
1 cup of pitted, chopped medjool dates
¼ tsp salt
¾ tsp cardamom

For the Topping: 

3 cups of cashew nuts (soaked for 3 to 5 hours)
½ cup coconut oil (melted)
½ cup coconut milk or coconut cream
½ cup maple syrup or other liquid sweetener
 2 Tbsp Raw cacao powder
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt

For the Optional Ganache:

4 tablespoons of coconut oil
2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
1 Tbsp honey, maple syrup or other preferred sweetener
1 tsp vanilla essence pinch of salt

Instructions:

For the Base: 

Mix the almond flour, coconut flour, salt and cardmom in a food processor. While it is running add the dates slowly, allowing each handful to be fully processed before adding another.

The base is ready when you squeeze it and it sticks together. Add more dates or a few teaspoons of water if not sticky enough.

Press the base firmly into the bottom of a springiform or silicone baking pan and set aside.

For the Topping:

Drain the cashews and blend them in the processor at a high speed until they are relatively smooth.

Add the coconut milk, vanilla and salt and continue to blend until the consistency is very smooth – like cream cheese.

While the processor is running, add the liquid sweetener and coconut oil. Blend until any and all nutty lumps are gone.

Drop large dollops of the mix randomly on the base Use half the mix.

Add the cacao to the remaining mix and blend. Drop the chocolate topping into the gaps left between the vanilla dollops, then swirl the topping exactly once with a knife.

For the ganache:

Melt all incredients on low heat in a saucepan then pour over the cake Freeze for at least two hours until solid, remove from the pan and let sit in the fridge for about half an hour before eating.

Nom, nom, nom.

Source

And here's a 'Berry Chocolate' version (just added berry powder and some fresh berries to the 'vanilla' part of the above recipe).



Next Post: Navigating the Nuttiness, how to fit treats into your healthy lifestyle.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Example Day - July (Weekend Day)

Middle of winter, glorious sunny day!  I just got back from a short walk up a slippy, muddy hill and couldn't feel better.  I hope the trees don't get confused and start to blossom.  Are they smart enough to realise this is an abnormally warm coupla days?  Nature can be whacky sometimes.

It's time for another example day.  The next one will be a working day, so you can see how it all rolls when I have to navigate the office.

Breakfast - Pancake with Berries


Pancake made with 2 eggs, a tbsp almond meal and dash of salt.

That's green tea in the cup. 

In order to get to the eating part more expeditiously, 
I tend to cook the pancake and defrost the berries simultaneously.  
Like so:

I sprinkled erythritol through the berries, but have in the past stirred some honey in.

Lunch - Carrot and Cauliflower Soup

This one came out of the freezer. Leftovers from a dinner last week.

The mysterious lump in the middle is a piece of poached white fish (terakihi).

As it didn't feel quite substantial enough, I added a tbsp of white rice left over from 
last night's Thai takeaways (it was a lazy Friday around here)


Mid-Afternoon

Green Smoothie.

Kale and WPC. Nothing else.
I'm not usually so virtuous on a Saturday, but, I felt the need for a little penance from last night. 
The reasons for this shall become clear momentarily.

Dinner - Apricot Chicken

The one hasn't actually happened yet (it's 4.30pm), so here's a pic taken previously 
and a link to the recipe.

And here's why I was slurping green goop, instead of munching my usual 85% Green & Blacks mid-afternoon pick-me-up.  

I've been working on a recipe for a vegan no-bake cheesecake and it worked out nicely, very nicely. It seduced me with promises of healthy MUFA's, cacao polyphenols and paleo-ness and then delivered with an explosion of flavour.

erm... did I just take 'food porn' to a whole new level? *blush*  


I'll share the recipe for this feisty beasty tomorrow.  You have been warned.  ;)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Random Acts of Real Life Eating 1

When browsing the blogosphere, it's quite easy to get the impression that foodies have it sorted.  Every meal is a well presented "event" and each snack a lovingly constructed work of nutritious art.

Real life is not like this.  Reality is not a scripted cooking show.  It's more like improvised theatre. You usually have to wing it. In fact, making good choices on the fly is an essential skill of staying healthy in an unhealthy world.


Much of the stuff I eat doesn't make it onto the blog. It's way too idiosyncratic, and none too photogenic. Not only that, but it's usually thrown together in a frenzy and scoffed before it crosses my mind to take a pic.  

Here's a (possibly disturbing) insight into my 'time to eat' thought process when working from home. 

... hungry! (stomach goes grrr.. grr..)

What shall I have? (looks in the fridge, sees the leftover bits of pumpkin pie cake that weren't pretty enough for the photoshoot).  That'll be fine.


But.. it needs something else.  What?

I feel like...... (opens the freezer), ah! Blackcurrants! Yay for antioxidants.

..but they're frozen. :(

What's the quickest way of defrosting them?  Frypan. There we go.

Better put some water with that or it'll burn.  I wonder what it would be like with chocolate? (throws in a couple of spoons of raw cacao powder).

Mmmm.... probably too bitter now (add a few spoons of erythritol.. taste test... good... dash of salt).


Ok, good enough.

Splat.


And now it needs some.....? (looks in the fridge).  

Yogurt.  Buffalo or Sheep's Milk?

Buffalo is already open.  That one.

 Done.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Protein Pumped Pumpkin Pie Cake - sugar-free, grain-free

I read a study recently, where hidden veges were used to secretly get people to eat fewer calories.  They didn't even know that their mac'n cheese had been spiked with vege pulp. Sneaky little researchers!

Today's recipe is a little more overt than that, because the main ingredient is clearly pumpkin, and it's called "Pumpkin Pie Cake", which is a glaring clue. However, it's still a deceptively tasty way to get a healthy dose of veg.  


Although grain-free and sugar-free, this recipe does contain protein powder.  That's not exactly ancestral nutrition, but if you are ok with it, then it's good way to pump up the protein of baked goods.

In this 'pie-cake' thing, I've used Sana unflavoured protein, but you can make it with a vanilla flavoured one and leave out the erythritol and stevia. The result is usually firmer as the thickeners tend suck up a bit of moisture. The vanilla recipe was in the last Sana newsletter.


Ingredients

I've linked up the Sana products below, but you can use whichever brand is available, just check for additives.  The stevia particularly is quite difficult to get without freeflow agents added.

3 cups loosely packed pumpkin flesh
1 cup unflavoured whey protein concentrate
Optional: 1/4 cup coconut flour (this makes the cake much more firm)
3 eggs (or 2 eggs, 2 eggwhites)
1/4 cup erythritol
1/2 tsp stevia (no fillers!)
cacoa nibs to sprinkle on the top
tsp cinnamon
tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp salt

Method

Mix everything in a food processor.  I have noted that, if you leave out the coconut flour, and aren't afraid of raw eggs, the mix makes a nice eggnog... just saying.

Pour into a baking pan (I used a square silicone one), sprinkle with cacao nibs and bake for 20 minutes at about 160C. When done it should be bouncy to the touch.

Turn out while still warm and let cool on a rack.

I often eat this for breakfast with a dollop of yogurt, but it's also good for mid-afternoon or post-dinner munchies.

Ok, back to the kombucha! I'm experimenting with a 'second ferment', this time by adding kiwifruit for 24 hours after removing the 'shroom. It adds a certain exotic fruitiness.  I wonder what else would work?  Berries?


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Grain Free Apple Dessert Ideas

Here are a couple of grain-free apple desserts. They're not fancy looking,  but hit the spot for a light end-of-meal treat.

The first one was supposed to be an 'Apple Tart without Dough' from French Women don't get Fat (recipe on the link). As you can see, I'm not really an apple-peeling kind of girl, so it lacks the beauty of, say, this one here, and I used erythritol instead of sugar.  


The second dessert was an emergency Friday nighter. An experiment.

Into a loaf dish I layered:

Apple slices
Chia seeds
Blobs of coconut oil
Nut butter
Dark Chocolate
Walnuts
Sprinkles of erythritol, cinnamon powder and a little cardamom powder.

The last flourish involved dousing it all in a little maple syrup, after which it was popped in the oven for 15 minutes, until the apples were soft.


I then pressed it all down with a fork and let it cool a bit. It firmed up and became a glorious, sticky mess.  Like a spicy, fruity, chocolatey pudding.


It was a sticky, delicious mess that went amazingly with a blob of coconut cream on top.  


Happy tastebuds. ;)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Venison, Blue Cheese and Pear Salad with Balsamic Dressing

This recipe was inspired by a meal I had recently at the Fox and Ferret. I wanted to recreate it, but better. It was practically begging for a berry sauce.

What makes the recipe great is that it's no-fuss, but full of interesting flavours and looks quite flash. The only part that needs any real attention is the sauce, and that's minimal attention. It won't burn in 30 seconds if you take your eyes of it.

Instructions:

Start the sauce / dressing early (it takes 15-20 minutes to reduce)

Ingredients:

1 Shallot (finely chopped)
2 Tbsp berry jam
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup beef stock
1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp fresh (or 1/2 tsp dried) thyme

Method:

In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the olive oil.

Sautee the shallot until slightly translucent.

Add all other ingredients.

Keep the heat high until the sauce is boiling, then turn the heat down and let it simmer, uncovered, until it has reduced to a thick sauce.

Here's one I prepared earlier...


While the sauce is reducing, assemble a plate of green salad.  Mine contained mesclun, 'micro greens', sliced onion and a few random herbs and flowers from the garden.

On top of the salad sprinkle blue cheese (I use 'grotta' from Emilio), and sliced pear.

When the sauce is nearly ready, pan-fry some venison, about 100g per person. I use Silver Fern venison - 'stirfry' version is good, but I've used diced and also venison roast. Don't overcook it. Venison should always be rare.

Add the venison to your salad, and then dress it all up with the sauce.  


Obviously, if you're dairy or sugar-free, you can adjust accordingly by leaving off the cheese and tweaking the sauce.  I made a paleo version of the sauce when I was on the autoimmune diet.  I used fresh berries instead of the jam, apple cider vinegar instead of balsamic, and added a tsp of honey.

These days I'm a bit relaxed. The sauce is such a small part of the dish that I'm not concerned about the tiny bit of sucrose in it.   I'm living dangerously.  On . the . edge.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

New Zealand Ancestral Health Symposium - Part 3

Hello! this is the third, and last, installment of my NZ Ancestral Health Symposium recap.

For Part 1: Click Here
For Part 2: Click Here

Kate Callaghan - Nutritionist
Kate's blog:  Against the Grain Nutrition Kate's twitter: @ATGnutrition
The Ancestral Woman in a Modern World: Strong, Sexy and Fertile

Kate is rather gorgeous, inside and out.  She walked on stage looking the picture of health, promised that her talk would feature boobs, and then offered to hug anyone, anytime. Also..that dress!! I want it

Starting with herself as a case study, Kate described the situation in which many of us (myself included) have found ourselves when striving for the perfect bod.  A few years ago, Kate was a fitness instructor, exercising many hours a week and dieting. She looked fit, with chinky abs and modelesque thighs, but underneath, all was not well: she had symptoms of hormonal disruption - missing periods, low energy, sleep disturbances and premature greys.  

Kate's talk was very female focused. She approached the concept of 'Ancestral Health' holistically, as a lifestyle which can keep women healthy, sexy and fertile and restore these things if modern life has robbed us of them.  Kate identified the following concepts as cornerstones of female health:

* Hormones: she got sciency, talking about the HPA axis and the pregnenalone steal - a system whereby the body will divert pregnenalone toward cortisol, rather than estrogen/testosterone production when under stress.

* Nutrient dense foods: organ meats, eggs, blood/bones/connective tissue, seaweed. Eat enough! Many women restrict their calories below that needed for health.

* Intelligent movement: think hunter/gatherer days - lots of wandering / slow movement interspersed with occasional predator-evading sprints and lifting heavy things. One thing ancestral man probably didn't do is hours of cardio. Chronic cardio is the best type of exercise if you want chronically elevated cortisol (hint: you really don't).

* Female bonding: I loved this.  Hanging with girlfriends, and doing stuff together, sharing resources is not just good for our mental health, but can actually help hormonal regulation. Kate spoke about how dysfunctional female relationships have become: we compete with, rather than support each other. Let's not do that, hey?  


Julianne Taylor - Nutritionist
Julianne's website and blog: Paleozone Nutrition Julianne's twitter: @juliannetaylor
Ancestral Principles in Managing Autoimmune Disease

Julianne is not only a fellow Massey postgraduate nutrition student with scary intelligence, but was also my houseguest for the weekend.  It was great to have her visiting and we did talk rather a lot about all things nutritional (so good for the soul). My cats loved her, and that's a sign of someone exceptional.

Julianne's talk was about something close to my heart: autoimmunity. For those at the back, I have an autoimmune condition (ITP) and am slowly nailing down which aspects of diet and lifestyle affect it, one way or the other.  

This talk was packed with information, from the etiology of autoimmunity and leaky gut, to issues with gluten, to the specifics of an immune-balancing lifestyle.  Julianne also introduced epigenetics and the complicated interactions of factors that must be present for an autoimmune condition to flourish.  An example that stuck in my memory (I think Julianne was referencing a case study from her nutrition practice) is that of the HLA-B27 gene, which is linked with ankylosing spondylitis (AS). For a start, although there is a correlation, you can have symptoms of the disease without having the gene, and you can have the gene without developing AS. Along with the gene, there are two other factors which affect AS symptomology: dietary starches, and the presence of kleibsiella bacteria. Kleibsiella metabolises starch, so it could be that the problem is actually the bacteria, and that starving it is what creates the AS improvement, rather than it being an issue with starches per se.  Interesting, yes?

Julianne talked about zonulin, and presented the work of Jean Seignalet as compulsory reading for anyone interested in autoimmunity.  He is quite possibly the only physician to have tested a paleo diet on his autoimmune patients and recorded the results. Click here for Julianne's blog about Dr. Seignalet.

Julianne's lifestyle tips for autoimmunity:

* Gut healing diet: paleo, remember to eat your gelatin/collagen and organ meats. Avoid gut irritants.

* Sleep and circadian rhythms: Get your 7-9 hours and try to respect natural light/dark cycles.

* Sunlight:  Sunlight seems to have an immune balancing effect, and it's not just to do with vitamin D.

* De-stress.

* Movement: slow movement with bursts of speed.

* Community.


Dr. Anastasia Boulais - Medical Practitioner
Anastasia's blog: News at the AHS site Anastasia's twitter: @primalmeded
Sunlight: Friend or Foe? Skin Cancer Controversies

Anastasia had the difficult 'last speaker of the day' slot but managed to hold my attention for the entirety of her 30 minutes.  As I have the attention span of a kitten, that means she nailed it.

Anastasia talked about sunlight, which we in NZ (and Aussie) are warned to avoid at all costs. It causes fatal melanoma, we are told.  While acknowledging that skin cancer is indeed an issue, Anastasia clarified things somewhat. For example, the majority of skin cancers are not melanoma, and if caught early are quite easily treated. Not only that, but melanoma, when it does occur, is more common in indoor workers and on skin that is not often exposed to sunlight.  How about that?

Delving quite deeply into the differences between UVA and UVB rays, Anastasia explained that common methods of sun avoidance such as being indoors and using sunscreen primarily reduce exposure to the shorter wave UVB rays. UVB's are the ones that stimulate vitamin D production, and protective skin adaptation (skin thickening, synthesis of melanin). UVB has been targeted because it is the one that causes burning and direct DNA damage.  UVA, which is barely affected by sunscreen, and can pass through glass, is also damaging, but by more indirect methods (primarily oxidation). Interestingly, UVA can actually break down vitamin D.  UVA is the one you'll get from a sunbed, and sunbed use is positively correlated with melanoma.  Don't tan in a sunbed.  

There was a lot more to Anastasia's talk than I've summarised here - which is just one of the many reasons why you should try and get yourself to the next AHS, which will be in Wanaka, 25th October this year. However, the take home message seemed to be that sunlight is good for humans, you just have to be smart about it.  Sitting for hours with a reflector pointed at your face is just asking for trouble (and wrinkles, nobody wants those!).

************************************

That's it!  

What impressed me most about the whole symposium is that it had a truly holistic feel to it, and everything presented was down-to-earth and doable.  There wasn't a hint of woo-woo, weirdo paleo dogma. Nobody was wearing sandals, sporting an unruly beard or trying to lead a 'grains are evil!' chant.   

In addition, no presenter bashed the audience with macronutrient ratio's, encouraged use of diet-tracking software, or approached the paleo diet as a method of attaining the 'thin ideal'.  The emphasis was on vigorous health, good food and a sense of community. It was a superb effort for a first conference and I hope to attend the next one, although I return from Europe the preceding day.  I'm not sure paleolithic man had to contend with jetlag....

Thursday, July 03, 2014

New Zealand Ancestral Health Symposium - Part 2 of 3

This post is a continuation of my blog report on last weekend's Ancestral Health Symposium in Christchurch.
For Part 1 Click Here

James Murphy - Nutritionist, Synergy Health
James' Blog: Evolved Running   James' Twitter: @primalRUSH
Urban Design and Health: The Spaces in Between


James talked about the importance of Green Spaces within urban environments: how it is important that they are both there, and that we actually use them. 

Chch residents, when did YOU last take a walk up the Rapaki track or into Hagley Park??  I know, I know... we can do that anytime, but do we? 

James introduced (to me) the concept of biophilia, which has nothing to do with books, but refers to the natural affinity that humans have for other living things. 

Bio-philia = love (philia) of life / living systems (bio). Very cool.

Drawing a parallel between the chronic health problems of zoo animals, and the poor state of many modern humans, James described the progressive 'concreting' of modern environments as human 'habitat loss'.  When viewed that way, it is no wonder we have the issues that we do. Urban environments are overstimulating, fatiguing and lack biodiversity, whereas exposure to nature - even if within a city park, has a rebalancing effect that is similar to mindfulness-based stress reduction.  Nice :)

Jamie Scott - Health Researcher
Jamie's blog: That Paleo Guy  Jamie's twitter: @_Jamie_Scott
I See Weak People: the Under-appreciated Role of Muscle in Health and Disease


I forgot to photograph Jamie during his talk, probably because I was beginning to fantasise.... about lunch, so here's one from earlier, when he introduced the conference.


As a long-term reader of the Paleo Guy blog, I'd been looking forward to Jamie's talk, and he didn't disappoint, jumping right into it with some extremely impolite observations about the people one sees while out and about. Specifically, he spoke about the alarming, and increasingly prevalent, muscular weakness that can be spotted in people's posture, and in the way they move.

Like other presenters, Jamie expressed concern for future generations. Did you know that there are studies (UK) showing a 100% increase in numbers of 10-year olds that can't hold their own bodyweight?  I didn't, but I do now. Check it out.

Using big words like sarcopenia and dynapenia, Jamie explained what happens to muscle when it is not utilised.  I'd heard of saropenia (muscle wasting) before, but dynapenia was new-to-me. Essentially, it refers to a loss of muscle power due to changed innervation, particularly of the fast twitch fibres. Therefore, even before muscle wastage sets it, a person may progressively lose the ability to perform power moves, such as climbing stairs or getting out of a chair.  This becomes a vicious cycle: as movements become more difficult, people move less.

Jamie came down hard on the 'fat focus' of health messages, and of health evaluation.  Strength is not fashionable.  Why mess up your shirt climbing the stairs, when you can take the lift?  Why concern yourself with a stable posture or muscle mass when you are size 6 and therefore 'sexy' and assumed 'healthy'? 

Lastly, Jamie talked about the role of muscles beyond just holding us up and moving us around.  I hadn't thought much about this, but muscle (particularly contracting muscle) functions as a secretory organ, expressing hormones and cytokines that, for example, modulate inflammation, affect muscle/bone mass and suppress cancer.  This part of his talk made me forget lunch and settle into an uncomfortable 'how did I not know this??' moment. I like that. From now on, I'll not consider any conference a success unless it stimulates a deep personal crisis.  

************************

And then it was lunchtime! (always a significant part of my day). Jase, Julianne and I sprinted drove like maniacs to C1 cafe, which was packed, inhaled the most ancestral things on the menu, and got back in time for the woman tasked with harnessing the attention of a post-lunch crowd. Big job.


Mikki Williden PhD - Senior Lecturer and Researcher, AUT
Mikki's Website: www.mikkiwilliden.com  Mikki's twitter: @mikkiwilliden
Food for Thought: Nutrition and Brain Health


Mikki spoke about one of my favourite topics, which is the link between nutrition and brain development and function.  She started by emphasising how much energy the brain actually uses, compared to it's relative size within the body.

The brain is an energy hog, accounting for approximately 20% of the Basal Metabolic Rate in adults. She discussed the problems caused by glucose toxicity in the brain and that ketones (which the brain uses for fuel when nutrition is low in carbs / high in fats) have a neuroprotective effect which can be therapeutic for conditions such as MS and epilepsy.  There was some discussion about the benefits or not of extended ketosis in healthy people. The consensus on that seemed to be that short-term ketosis is not harmful, and may be beneficial, however there are no-long-term studies (yet) which could answer the question conclusively.

Mikki discussed the disturbing fact that the human brain appears to be shrinking. This 'could' be because we are becoming more compact and energy efficient, or it could be more sinister.  She referenced a Mayo clinic study, which showed that blood glucose levels in the high range of normal were correlated with cognitive impairment and reduced size of the hippocampus. I found an article about that study here.

In terms of childhood brain development, Mikki did speak about faulty nutrition being linked with hyperactivity, lower educational achievement and stunted cognitive development, however I didn't take many notes on that, as I was busy scrawling down this nutritionally dodgy list:

Coca Cola
Spaghetti
Coca Cola (in a different size)
White bread
Baked Beans
Bananas
White Bread (toast slices)
Sprite
Wholegrain Bread
Coke Zero

What's that? It's a list compiled in 2009 of the top ten supermarket purchases (excluding alcohol) in New Zealand. 0_0

Thought provoking, yes?

For Part 3: Click Here

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

New Zealand Ancestral Health Symposium - Part 1 of 3

Today I'm giving some blog love to the Ancestral Health Society of NZ Symposium, which happened this Sunday-just-been.  As it's late, and I'm minding my circadian rhythms, tonight's commitment extends to snapshot summaries and unedited pics.  There were ten presenters, so this will be a 3-parter.


What exactly is 'Ancestral Health'? What is that thing?

I think the Symposium name 'Ancient Genes vs. Modern World' summarises it nicely.  The idea is that life has changed more rapidly than the human organism can adapt, particularly in the last century. This creates stress to our bodies and minds, which are designed to hunt, gather, socialise, exercise, be in nature, rest, rise with the sun and sleep or watch the stars at night, as our ancient ancestors did.

The Ancestral Health movement aims to resolve the conflict between our ancient genes and modern life, without necessarily shunning 21st century living.

Gene-friendly nutrition is a cornerstone of the movement and most, but not all, Ancestral Health proponents are paleo diet fans. However, as you can see, ancestral living is far more than just what you eat, and the symposium speakers reflected this holism.

Brad Norris
Director of Synergy Health - Workplace Wellness
Are Health Professionals too Focused on Health?


Having dragged along invited along someone whom self-identified as a minimally-interested-possibly- leaving-early-participant, I was praying for an opening speaker that delivered approximately as much excitement as the big bang.  Once Brad started talking, all my fears just drifted away. He's an 'edge-of-your-seat'-er.

Brad is an ex-PT with a Master's degree in Organisational Psychology, and his presentation addressed the radical idea that not everyone is motivated by the idea of becoming healthier. In fact, it often takes a health crisis for people to see the value of eating well and exercising.

Indeed, motivating clients 'at the top of the cliff' is a very big deal in all areas of healthcare.  Brad discussed values as the huge, unseen force that shapes our behaviour.  He spoke of stress being a result of a lifestyle which consistently undermines our values, and that enjoyment, motivation and resilience are a result of living in harmony with ones personal values. Healthcare has traditionally not done a great job of linking into values as a motivating force, however less healthful institutions have: e.g. McDonalds (fun, play), Red Bull (excitement, adventure) and Facebook (belonging, recognition).

As regards exercise, someone that values recognition and group play (but not necessarily health) may become motivated by a competition.  To this end, Synergy Health has developed ways of 'gameifying' movement and diet goals (such as reducing sugar), essentially taking the video game concept, and making it real life. Competitors earn points through daily behaviour goals and it's all tracked online through interactive software (SHIFT).  Cool, huh? There's a media article about it here.

Dr.Pam Olver and Dr. Greg Brown
G.P's
Greg's Blog: drgregbrown.com   Greg's twitter: @drgregbrown
Pam's twitter: @kiwikaidoc
Ancestral Health in General Practice: Art, Science or Quackery?




Firstly, I'd like to suggest that if Greg Brown decides to give up medicine, he'd make it as a comedian. I'm sorry that my photograph makes him look like a television evangelist. Preach it, Greg!

Pam and Greg shared the stand, discussing the challenges of being an ancestral ('Eat, Sleep, Play') type of doctor in a system that wields the 'evidence based medicine' bat.

While not dismissing the value of the scientific method, Pam and Greg did point out the limitations of it: biases, conflicts of interest and a heavy slant toward pharmaceutical intervention. What do you do when a patient plops into the chair that doesn't conform to the 'average population' upon which evidence-based medicine must be based? Perhaps they have tried something 'unscientific' and it is helping them, what then?.  Herein comes the 'art' of medicine: the ability to see the evidence walking through the door, to 'wing it', and to apply ideas that may partly, or completely, contradict the EBM 'dogma'.

Pam and Greg finished with case studies: patients with disorders that conventional medicine can't do much for, but whom had improved or recovered on the paleo diet. In each case the reaction was complete disbelief from the patients' specialists.  

Aaron Callaghan

Peak Performance Coach

Aaron, a high-end international athletic coach currently taking his own advice by 'laxing out in Wanaka, got us up and moving, demonstrating the role of visualisation in perceived physical ability. This was via the 'thumb exercise'.  We stretched our arm behind us (for which my grumpy shoulder was well pleased) as far as possible while looking at our thumbs, then did some deep breathing and mental imagining of being able to go further next time.  Judging by the surprised noises around the room, I think most people did.

I copied down these things as Aaron's main techniques for health, happiness and stress management.

* Meditation
* Gratitude Log
* Visualisation
* Tai Chi/ Yoga
* Rituals / Habits
* Training Volume (adjust according to how the bod is reacting)
* Cold thermogenesis
* Self talk
* Quality sleep
* Diaphragmatic breathing
* HRV (heart rate variability) training
* Environmental toxins

Part Two: Click Here

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fatsville Revisited and the Metabolic Winter

A while back... say 7 years ago (what??), I found an article called Ten Roads to Fatville in NewScientist magazine and wrote a little blog post about it.


Since then, I've spent a hella lotta time at university, studying psychology, and then nutrition, and have often considered and reconsidered the main theme of that article, which is: our bodies may actually prefer intermittent hard times and manageable levels of stress. Everyone has heard of hormesis, right?

I've come to think that a life of unrelenting physical ease could be toxic. Yes, I'm here to encourage you to be less comfortable. I can tell this will be a popular blog post.

A few days ago I read this journal article: 'The Metabolic Winter Hypothesis', which discusses seasonal calorie fluctuations, mild cold stress and (briefly) circadian rhythms as mechanisms which historically countered obesity.  I decided it must be time to revisit the idea that, in many cases, unhealth is a condition of too much good stuff. Radical idea, isn't it?  First a little background about the clues in our physiology that support my perspective.

One of the difficulties with figuring out the 'perfect diet / lifestyle' is that the body is a master of adaptation. 'Perfect' is a constantly moving target. Popular health literature might give you the idea that the human system runs somewhat mechanically, taking in fuel and disposing of waste in a standardised way, with little variation in what happens between input and output.

Not so.  The body is genius. It's clever. It's cleverer than you, your vitamin pills and your diet books.

When investigating nutrient metabolism (particularly micronutients; macronutrients are a bit different), I became fascinated by the intelligence at play within the body. The functioning of nutrient receptors and transporters is truly amazing. I won't get into the sciency stuff today (because it's quite complicated and I might mess it up), but in summary, the cells of your body, including those in the gut, are festooned with devices that pick up nutrients (and hormones) and transport them into the cell. A good example is the VDR: vitamin D receptor which is found in nearly every cell. 

What is cool about receptors and transporters is that they are under genetic regulation and the body will upregulate or downregulate expression (numbers) of them depending on supply and demand. So, when a particular dietary nutrient is lacking, receptors and transporters are increased and you will absorb and store more of that thing. When there is lots of that same nutrient around, the opposite happens. Vitamin B12 is a very interesting example.  The body stores vitamin B12 very efficiently, often hoarding 3 or more month's worth in the liver.  I can imagine how this adaptation was useful to cavemen. You hunt down a massive beast, everyone chows down on meat and offal for a few days, restoring the B12 stores, and then you're all good if it's another month before downing the next mammoth.

Upregulation of receptors in times of deficit is why most micronutrient deficiencies resolve very quickly. The body is primed to deal with a deficiency as soon as that nutrient becomes available. This is also why it's smart to pulse your micronutrient supplementation. It doesn't take long for your cells to deduce that you have entered a time of vitamin abundance, downregulate uptake, and with callous regard for your finances, increase elimination of those pricey supplements.

Do you see where this is leading?

What all of this suggests is that the body expects times of lack and times of plenty and is not designed to be inundated with the same foods, in unlimited quantities, year round. I've noticed in the farmer's market that eating seasonally creates a natural ebb and flow to nutrient delivery. Berries are a good example.  There they are, berries everywhere, lots of antioxidants, vitamins and phytochemicals, and then they are gone for another year. At other times it's mostly hardy green veges, and a few winter fruits. The body knows how to store most nutrients efficiently when they are available, how to avoid storing too much, and how to release and use those stores when needed. There are a few exceptions there, for example vitamin C, which for some reason, doesn't accumulate - probably this indicates that our natural state is to consume it daily.  

We are great at stacking on fat in times of plenty, and using it in times of lack. We are also made to shiver in winter and sweat in summer.  We are made to release stress hormones when in danger, and then use them to fuel a physical escape.  This brings us back to the Ten Roads to Fatville. The problem is that our huge brains have figured out that scarcity, hardship and physical effort are uncomfortable, and should be avoided at all costs.  We eat overly-tasty foods without a break. We spend all day in air-conditioned comfort. We don't sleep enough (how can one sleep when Pinterest exists?). When stressed, we flop in front of TV, percolating in our own stress hormones, perhaps adding a bit of alcohol to the liver's burden. If we have a health problem, our approach is to add something (a pill, a potion), usually because someone is trying to sell it to us. Basically, we never really stop

In my opinion, this is where 'movements' such as paleo are slipping up, and why simple things like Intermittent Fasting, should be getting more attention (although again, you can be too dogmatic about that and it does not suit everyone).  Reading paleo/primal blogs is beginning to piss me off.  A paleo lifestyle (or any healthy lifestyle) is not about sticking to a list of approved items with little variation, or making complicated meals so that you can continue to overconsume without chubbing out. These things are also crucial:

* Sleep
* Social Relationships
* Intelligent Movement (and it doesn't have to be Crossfit)
* Stress Management and REST
* Unprocessed food 
* Not stuffing your face
* Time spent not thinking about food (it's 'eat to live', not 'live to eat')

When I read a 'primal living' blog that is full of more, more, more! (make this treat! buy this thing in a packet! 101 ways to use coconut flour! join our online forum! butter! bacon! coffee! do this workout! try keto! try safe starches! comment here and I'll tell you how to make paleoblissamazeoballs!!) I feel  a sort of despair.  

How about.. just stop. Button off. Eat less, but better, and with more variation.  Go for a walk in winter.  Get hungry now and then. Explore. Go to bed early. Kiss someone. Get sweaty. Punch your boss.

Ok, don't punch your boss. Violence is not the answer. ;)