Wellness Wednesday – pack your snacks

Hello All,

While I am traveling, I am reflecting on wellness practices that I use during my trips (anything lasting longer than about 3 days). In situations where you will be navigating time changes, or spending time on trains, where there is some schedule uncertainty, it may be wise to pack some snacks.

Pack your snacks
My packed snacks are on the bottom in Ziplocs. I also discovered the most excellent Sea Salt & Black Pepper cashews at the Tesco market here in Salisbury.

I am not opposed to some “trip fasting” when you don’t get to eat a meal at the usual time. We all carry more than adequate stores of fat on our bodies (at least most of the Western World) that we can survive many days (indeed weeks) without food.

However, given the uncertainty of meals and the fact that many train stations and  cafes are stocked with carbs and sugar or foods likely fried in trans fats, I like to have healthy alternatives stashed in my backpack. I like mixed nuts because they pack a lot of nutritional value in a fairly small space. I am not a perfect minimalist when it comes to travel, but they take very little space. A small handful of nuts can go a long way when you’ve missed lunch and are on a delayed train. My hubby notices that I can get a little “hangry” when it has been 5+ hours since I’ve had a good meal.

This is less urgent in recent years since I’ve typically fasted overnight for 12-14 hours,  and one day a week I fast for 16-18 hours by skipping breakfast on Saturdays when I attend morning yoga. My body has become sufficiently “keto adapted” that I do not typically have any problems with low blood sugar. However, it is the mental game sometimes, not the physical one, that can get us into trouble.

When traveling, your mind can be taxed to capacity, particularly if you are unfamiliar with an area. You have been calculating currency conversions in your head. Your train is late, so you missed the connection. Your wi-fi isn’t working on the train and you are running out of clean laundry.

Any of these circumstances are fairly benign. But added up, they can make you feel fatigued and cranky. So you do not need to add to the problem by yelling at your spouse or allowing your tension to boil over. Even if I never access my snacks on a typical travel day, just knowing they are there helps me avoid “famine brain,” which can stress me out unnecessarily.

Sometimes hunger is true and physical. It is best to wait for this physical signal in order to eat, if we do not want to add extra weight. Sometimes our hunger is actually more of a emotional issue. We may hunger for rest, or connection with our partners. Eating is the solution in these cases. However, for me, my primitive brain seems to do better when it does not have to work overtime to solve any scarcities.

Do you pack food for travel? What are your favorite trip snacks? 

cristy@meximinnesota.com

Together at Stonehenge
Photo of me with my hubby at Stonehenge on Sept 11, 2018. There is a fine cafe there with delicious steak pasties and cheese and onion pasties which we had for brunch before our tour.

Saturday share – Eating Alone — Longreads

I really enjoyed this piece from Longreads.  Of course, it’s on a theme I enjoy contemplating. It made me want to dine alone in public now and then, even though I have little objection to room service when I am traveling alone.

We’re eating alone more often than in any previous generation. But why should a meal on our own be uninspired? Why shouldn’t the French saying “life is too short to drink bad wine” still apply?

via Eating Alone — Longreads

Wellness Wednesday – food & social pressure (part 2)

Last week I wrote about this topic and there was some interest in a further exploration. I think it is appropriate to post about this on a holiday (at least for those in the U.S.) because that is often a time when we can feel pressure to eat or drink, at parties or social events.

hot dogs
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I remember growing up my extended family would often have a barbecue or picnic event, and everyone would be eating hot dogs (which we cooked on the grill or at the camp fire), potato chips and dip, potato salad, beans, etc. Then there would be dessert: cookies, bars, brownies, cake or pie, and sometimes ice cream as well. Thinking back to this makes me a little hungry now, actually…

There was always a little pressure to eat. Typically I ate 2 hot dogs on buns, my Grandma’s yummy potato salad, some beans. I saved room for dessert, which I always enjoyed (sweet tooth then & now). There was not necessarily pressure to eat a lot, but if you didn’t eat, someone would invariably ask why you didn’t try their dessert.

Probably three quarters of my family members would describe themselves as overweight. Not all of them are obese, but clearly we do not hold back very much when it comes to eating at social (family) events. Taking a second helping of a food is considered flattering to the cook, and so that can lead to additional pressure.

Isn’t it weird that people always prod you if you do not eat much, but they do not say anything if you are serving up vast quantities of food and shoveling them down? I mean, to me that is an indicator of discomfort, as I see it in myself, so it now makes me wonder what someone might be experiencing emotionally.

cafe
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Food can be a way to bond and share experiences with people and I think this can be done in a healthy way, when nobody feels pressured to eat. I like to share a dessert sometimes with colleagues, when I want a little taste of something sweet, but I really don’t need a full dessert. “Going for coffee” in Latin America is a very common event, a chance to sit down and get to know someone, whether you drink coffee or not.

I realize I am still a little self-conscious about my eating habits when I am in a social setting. I am gradually learning to trust my hunger signals, and I stop when I am full rather than worrying about how much is socially acceptable to eat. I also try not to eat as much sugar and flour these days, as I find they create unnatural insulin spikes for me, and mess with my metabolism and brain chemistry.

It is getting less important to me to explain myself when these episodes occur, but I find it interesting that we still have to justify these choices. People ask if you are on a special diet, and then that topic comes up. Ugh, do I have to explain again?

I am curious about other cultural social norms that exist around food. Definitely Americans take everything to the extreme, and I think most other cultures take more time with their food, enjoy it more and obsess less about it. Perhaps we can learn to relax and see food as source of nourishment and pleasure. We can allow people to eat what they want, and not add to the social pressure.

May you enjoy the holiday (if you celebrate) and partake in the foods you enjoy, only in the quantities you want.

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Wellness Wednesday – food and social pressure

This week I am introducing a topic which may be one of a series, since it is complex topic. But it arose for me as I was attending a work gathering last night and observing the way in which I and others approached the food and alcohol service on a patio restaurant for a social event.

First let me say that work social events have always made me a bit uncomfortable. Over the years I have learned ways to enjoy them (generally without alcohol) but as an introvert, they wear me out. Especially after a long day of meetings, a work event to attend can feel like a special brand of hell to those of us who just want a break from having to interact with people.

For many years, my approach was to be sure I had a glass or two of wine, or a beer, to help myself relax during these events. Many of us know alcohol to be a “social lubricant” and rely on it for loosening up our tongue and not feeling as tense or nervous about having to make small talk.

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A couple of years ago I decided to stop drinking completely for a period of time. While I am not alcoholic I noticed I was relying too heavily on wine to relieve my discomfort, and I did not like the habitual nature and automatic desire every evening. It was at the same time that I realized I am in a work culture where many, many people drink at work social events. It is a norm, and I suppose among a lot of introverted engineer types, social lubricant many seem like a necessity sometimes.

When I was not drinking, I felt a lot of pressure from colleagues, and the only answer that caused people to back off from asking why I was not drinking was to tell them it interferes with my sleep. Somehow, then it is less socially acceptable to pressure someone to drink.

But the same goes for pressure around desserts: when you do not have a dessert on my team, everyone gives you crap about it! Tons of pressure.

So the point I want to make in this brief blog (since I will need to run off to meetings again today) is that we often eat, not because we are hungry, but for other reasons, like social pressure. We drink for reasons like that as well.

There is a great episode of Hidden Brain which discusses this topic, and I encourage you to listen if you are interested in the topic of food and psychology. Why we eat goes far beyond actual physical hunger. It sometimes has to do with being unable to tolerate social pressure or personal discomfort.

But we can teach ourselves how to pay attention to our own hunger signals and become comfortable with the momentary discomfort of rejecting food when we really do not want it. Learning this skill we strengthen our ability to make other challenging choices as well, and for me, that has transformed my ability to manage my weight.

Okay, time is limited and I think I will make this into a series, continuing the topic on my next Wellness Wednesday when I will be home and not at all-day work meetings. Happy hump day!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Chocolate and waffles?

On Saturday I will leave for a work trip to Belgium for the upcoming week. I will spend a day in Brussels before heading to La Grande Abbaye de la Ramee for meetings.

All I know about the Belgians is that they make the best chocolate in the world. My husband argues that the Swiss make the best chocolate, but I am pretty sure I am right on this one. 😉

The other thing I know about the Belgians is that they invented the Belgian waffles, which I also enjoy. I do not eat waffles so much these days, since cutting down the flour and sugar seem to help my brain chemistry.

I think they have really good beer too. Too bad I do not drink anymore…

Have you ever been to Belgium? What did you like most? Any advice if I have only a Sunday and perhaps a Friday to sight-see?

I appreciate your advice as I get my packing list together. Cheers, friends!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

belgian waffle
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Powdered substances

For those who have a.d.d. or struggle with an attention issue, getting a healthy diet and plenty of health fats every day is critical. I take fish oil supplements every day because these are helpful to balance brain chemistry. I also love avocados, olive oil and coconut oil, all healthy fats for our brains.

I realized about a year ago that powdered substances like flour, sugar were not serving me. I knew sugar was bad for me (don’t we all know that by now?!?) but I was surprised to find out that flour has almost an identical effect on our hormones. Flour, a ground up and powdered substance, basically causes us to release an unnatural amount of insulin and thus causes us to store fat. It also releases dopamine in the brain (as does sugar), making it very addictive.

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For those of us who struggle with attention, some observation can show us that processed foods, typically laden with flour and sugar, is NOT good for our focus. In the short term, maybe the little shot of dopamine will feel good, and will help us focus for about 20-30 minutes.

The effect rapidly diminishes and we end up distracted and logy. Also, we have that post-insulin fat storage mode icky feeling to which almost everyone can relate, not just those with attention issues.

Is it any coincidence that cocaine is a similar powdered substance that people who are attention-deficit prone are also vulnerable. I read Elizabeth Wurtzel’s biography More, Now, Again years ago when I was first diagnosed with a.d.d. She tells a compelling story and explains her addiction to cocaine and other substances to compensate for her a.d.d.

If you are a person who takes ANY kind of focus medication please please please, take it only as directed. Take it sparingly if you need it. Try to do everything you can to take care of yourself nutritionally as well. This will help your health, your weight, your sleep and your focus.

Your diagnosis can be an asset. You canuse your brain for creativity, flexibility and innovation. You switch direction easily. You perform well under stress, better than most people. If you manage it well, you can be successful in your life. If you become overwhelmed and over-committed, you may suffer from depression an anxiety.

Take good care and ditch the powdered substances. 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

 

Solving for scarcity

We are not going to solve a broken health care system with a food system that is poisoning our population. Until we begin to understand that sugar, flour and other processed and “powdered” foods are killing us, and that we are addicted to them, both systems will remain broken.

When I began to understand the role that food was playing in my life as a comfort mechanism and a way to “medicate” my emotions, I started waking up to what I needed to do in order to promote vitality and health in my life.

What I see in our national discourse is a lack of understanding of how privilege and knowledge function in keeping some people focused on their next meal, rather than on the future they can build. 

I love personal empowerment literature and believe many of us can control our destinies because of the choices we can make. But there are systemic problems in our schools, communities, cities, states and the world that do not allow every person with high potential to thrive.

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Hidden Brain replayed an episode on the scarcity trap a few weeks ago, on the problem we have of the “tunnel vision” that develops when we are desperate for something. We spend our time and mental energy focusing on the scarce item item (whether it is food, or time, or health) so obsessively that there is little time for anything else.

But really then we have a scarcity of insight, because we focus so strongly on the current problem that we are unable to see the bigger picture. We are unable to make good decisions for the long-term because all we see is the lack, the need. We may sacrifice long-term rewards because we are stuck in that cycle of lack.

When people feel they lack power over their own lives, they make decisions that may not be in their own best interest. They fall back on “what they know” rather than trying something that may feel risky to them, or that could jeopardize what they do have.

Taking good care of our health and well-being is not something we see modeled for us in this culture of “busy-ness as a status symbol” (thank you Brene, Brown). It is indeed a radical act of self-love and self-compassion to attend to our wellness regularly and without apology.

Taking in only what nourishes us and rejecting or minimizing anything that depletes us is the way to true health and lasting joy. For those of us with enough privilege to know where our next meals are coming from, and who have decent health care and a good support system, we have amazing power to choose in our lives.

Let us now empower those around us to get what they need as well. In a country of plenty, what if nobody lacked basic necessities such as food and health care? Imagine the explosion of creativity and innovation that could exist if we could empower every person to live up to their full potential.