Flo in Full Flow…

Flo in Full Flow…

Sorry, that is a ridiculously cheesy post title. Please forgive me…

Well, it’s nearly four weeks since I left my job and it feels good! My asthma has calmed down, my joints are aching and creaking less; my energy is gradually increasing and the brain fog is lifting. Boom! See ya evil black mould!!

The knock on effect of the brain fog lifting has been that I have been able to start doing some more concentrated work on my business florenceneville.com and producing some information sheets for clients. I had forgotten the complete bliss of losing three hours at a stretch in flow state. I have written info sheets on Autumn Health Support, Sleep Tips, An Introduction to Cortisol and also Ten Ways You Can Support Your Cortisol Cycle; and I have loved writing every one!

I also noticed today that I have forgotten to drink coffee for the last few days. Forgotten! I have instead been experimenting with blending up some gorgeous elixirs with ingredients like dandelion coffee (from Paula Grainger and Karen Sullivan’s beautiful book Infuse), butter, nut butter, raw honey, cacao and maca root powder. Can I just say, right now, that this combination beats the taste of any hot chocolate I have ever had? And that, in the interest of full disclosure, I have drunk a LOT of hot chocolate in my time? I shall try and remember to measure the amounts next time so that I can give you a recipe!

Right. Flow state is all very well and good but I have now been at the laptop for four hours and that just ain’t healthy. Time to do such mundane but vital stuff as dragging the vacuum cleaner around the house, walking the dog and making some lunch. On which note, can I just tell you my major foodie revelation for the week? Brussels Sprouts, which I normally loathe, are really, really good when roasted in plenty of pork lard and with a liberal dusting of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Peace out…. xx

 

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Autism South West 2017 and A Shameful Tale

Yesterday I got to speak about “Sugar, Stress and the Spectrum” at the Autism South West conference. Specifically I was building on Dr. Luke Beardon’s excellent equation: 

Autism + Environment = Outcome

to explain how internal stressors (internal environment,) such as high or erratic cortisol levels, change the outcome for any autistic person. 

Let me explain. Now it’s pretty well known that being in a supermarket (an external environment stressor) is highly stressful for autistic people (maybe for you too, but definitely if you are autistic.) When somebody is stressed their adrenals ramp up production of the hormone cortisol which raises blood sugar levels in order to deal with threats. (If you have to run away from a lion – you need glucose in your bloodstream to fuel that race for your life.) But unfortunately your body doesn’t distinguish between real or perceived threats. It just acts without question. 

What else happens when your cortisol is raised? Here’s one of my slides:

Now, think how difficult navigating a simple supermarket shop might be when your brain is affected like that… (This is why my shopping gets done online!) Imagine living in a world where a great deal of your environment causes the outcome of reduced abilities to remember, to regulate your mood and behaviour, to organise yourself and make good judgements?

Next in my talk we discussed how consuming excess carbohydrates quickly raises blood sugar levels, causing the body to employ insulin in order to reduce potentially dangerous levels. And then, because your body likes balance, it fires up our friend cortisol again, because low blood sugar is also a threat! The low blood sugar is an internal environment stressor. 

As far as autistic anxiety is concerned: being hunted by a lion = going to the supermarket = low blood sugar!

Anyway, we covered some other useful stuff too but, in the interest of brevity, that’s probably enough for you to understand my shameful behaviour yesterday evening. Shameful because I am a nutrition and health coach. Please don’t judge…

So the conference was fab! Well organised and with brilliant key-note speeches (Sarah Hendrickx and Dean Beadle) that made me both laugh and cry. But, you know, a conference is still a difficult environment for an autistic to navigate. And so my cortisol levels were pretty high…

Now I knew I had a fridge full of delicious and nutritious organic veg and meat at home. I could have rustled something nourishing up in 30 minutes flat. But my memory and good judgement failed me and I demanded we stop off at tesco for ready made pizza (the shame.) And I looked at those huge, insipid, crappy pizzas and could not for the life of me work out how many we’d need and which types we, as a family, would like. My husband found me crying in the chilled aisle and took over. At which point I wandered off and filled the basket with packets of biscuits. I had acted out my own talk perfectly! My high cortisol response had perfectly reflected my slide’s bulletpoints! Oh the irony…

A few things:

  1. If you’d like me to come and talk about diet and autism please contact me here. (Rest assured that I will prepare my evening meal in advance for future talks.)
  2. I didn’t actually eat the biscuits. I was asleep soon after the pizza!
  3. I’m not really ashamed of my choices yesterday. I’ve learned not to blame myself in those situations and am taking care to rest my adrenals today.  

Grief

It’s been a helluva year! While the storms of political egomania, brewed from ignorance and fear have raged around the world; tidal waves of very real threats to the marginalised, the environment and to any hopes of a more peaceful existence have been triggered. The collective grief to these metaphoric event hazards has been overwhelming. 

And, on a more personal level, grief is very much a part of me at the moment. Six months ago I found out that I was autistic. An explanation as to why social interaction has been so, so difficult for me over the years. 

Through this new information and self-understanding, I’ve finally been able to piece together why so many of my relationships have been dysfunctional and have ended so badly; why breakdowns, shutdowns and meltdowns have been such frequent intrusions in my life; and why I’ve never been able to match up to either my own or other people’s expectations. 

And so I’m grieving for missed opportunities, failed friendships, and for years spent wasted in beating myself up for not scoring higher on a set of values that were not, after all, appropriate for me. I was hoping to have finished and done with the introspection by now. Enough already! Get over it!

But I remembered this week that we, in the Northern hemisphere, are currently in the season ruled by the Chinese Five Element of Metal, that of Autumn. Metal governs grief, personal and metaphysical boundaries, the lungs (I’m finally recovering from a month long chest infection) and large intestine. 

The Metal element describes the final leaves falling from the trees and rotting down in time for Winter’s period of stillness and restoration. Metal is the element of of pure blue skies and clean air, of the final harvesting of crops and of fields to be ploughed and picked over by the birds. Metal governs old age – a time of reflection; questioning and refining core beliefs and of purifying and eliminating anything that is no longer useful, whether stale air, waste material, ideas, beliefs or emotions. If there were ever a good time to grieve, that time is now. 

But grief is not a comfortable emotion. And it’s hard to control its outward flow. Like adjusting a pressure valve it can be a delicate act to find the balance between stomping grief down and becoming all consumed by it. But the process of letting go is, particularly right now, vital to being able to greet the stillness of Winter with a clear heart and a calm mind. 

We cannot stop the destruction of hurricanes created by climate or politicians but by honouring time-honoured spiritual rhythms we have a better chance of refining and fortifying our personal resolve and conviction to create those micro-eddies of love, humour, warmth and kindness that help return humanity to a place of balance. 

Science and Nature

I’m going to go out on a limb here. I’m going to say that every time I hear someone say that something has been scientifically proven, or scientifically unproven, my immediate thought is, that doesn’t sound very scientific!

Let me explain. I am not anti science. I think it’s a great thing. But I think that people have somehow forgotten or just not realised that scientific “proof” as non-scientists are presented with it is often a potent mix of economic and political bias baked with a liberal interpretation of the statistics involved and served with a healthy dash of media fear-mongering. Pure science is rarely deemed newsworthy. 

Let’s take the health of western society which (and yes, I am going to be very general here for the sake of brevity) for tens of thousands of years thrived on a diet high in organic fat, protein, seasonal produce and un-treated water. Walking, running, climbing, swimming and swinging daily in all elements without sunscreen, sports drinks or orthotics. Sleeping when tired. Socialising in small communities while hunting, gathering and caring for each other. 

Modern medicine was necessitated by an increasingly intensive agriculture and industry based society in order to invent ways to keep the population alive and useful without easy recourse to the basics that had allowed the human population to thrive thus far. And now, guided by medicine, by science we have scientific proof that we need low-fat margarine, fluoridated water, sunscreen and gym memberships. Please! 

You may be aware that science is becoming  increasingly interested in autism. This is evidenced by the sheer number of cause claims and “cure” research turning up on the net. Now, let’s be clear, autism is down to a difference in brain wiring. It seems unlikely that any one trigger, such as genetics, stress in pregnancy, or vaccination will cause such a specific deviation from the “norm.” It also seems rather fanciful to suggest that any amount of therapy, whether conventional or complementary, is going to re-wire the brain so dramatically that it causes such an exact reconfiguration of the neural pathways. 

As I see it, we have three factors at play in autism. Perception, Interpretation, Action. Any claim or cure needs to be able to address each and all of these to effect a permanent change. To my knowledge, this has not yet actually happened (although much effort has been put into researching these factors separately.)

It is important to note here that many autistics would not wish this to be so either, for while our perception of most types of stress is generally far higher than that of allistics (as is often evidenced by our actions) our interpretation of information is unique to each individual and is as valid to the benefit and evolution of society as the next persons. 

Now, I have a theory. It may not be a scientific theory, but it is my current theory and if anyone thinks it’s worth researching further please do! My theory is that the further we (the population and the individual) strays from the food, water, movement, direct sunlight quota and work/rest/play model that sustained humankind for most of our existence, the more stress we subject our bodies to. Now it is stress that causes our physical selves to adapt in order to keep us alive. It is these very adaptions that our physical selves make that give feedback to our brains as to how to react to stress. Acute stress is vital to existence. But accumulated chronic stress? That’s always going to cause problems. Chronic stress forces adaptive responses that, whether structural, biochemical, digestive, neurological, behavioural etc. may not be beneficial to either the individual or the community at large. 

Meanwhile, any therapy that enables us to return to an earlier lifestyle model is going to help to relieve stress, allowing our adaptive systems to stand down and informing our brains that everything is ok. Autism itself is not the problem. Stress is. 

If I’ve been on an ancestral based diet, had some time away from  people other than my immediate family and/or a close circle of friends, slept well and spent time walking barefoot through a forest you’d be hard pressed to pick out any of my more autistic traits. But on a binge-eating cycle, after a winter of multi-tasking under fluorescent lights and having to communicate daily with strangers  I’m going to be spending all my energy on trying to behave “normally”, and I will go into meltdown and I, along with anyone in the vicinity, will have to suffer the consequences. 

I don’t need an explanation as to why I have autism and I sure as hell don’t need a cure, but I will take any therapy that enables me to thrive with, rather than despite of, my autism. 

And I know from experience that the therapies that help me to do this, from natural nutrition, to acupuncture and to homeopathy are the ones most often hounded by and “disproved” by science. And I feel that the energy used by the scientific communities, the pro or anti activists and the media to argue whether or not structural therapies, precaution used in vaccinations, and the overuse of antibiotics are valid in preventing an apparent rise in autism, could be far better spent in helping all of us, whether autistic or allistic, to more closely emulate a lifestyle that predates the study of science altogether. Because living a life more closely aligned with nature allows all of us to thrive, without need for either cause or cure. 

Serendipity

 So, my understanding of autism (I had a diagnosis of Aspergers a few weeks back) is that there is no “cure” but that many of the symptoms can be alleviated with various therapies. And guess what? The most accessible therapy seems to be that of supporting the body in detoxifying. In a nutshell that’s doing massive amounts of work on the gut and its microbiome; helping the liver, kidneys, skin, lymph and lungs to hasten toxicity out of the body and cleaning up the external environment. How serendipitous it is that I’ve got an interest in the detox field already!

Regular readers of this blog might recall that making the switch to a roughly ancestral diet a couple of years back pretty much eradicated my depression and significantly lessened my anxiety – two of the most crippling symptoms of Aspergers. And that, as I have gradually been converting to a more minimalist home and have significantly reduced chemical toxins in my life I have become calmer, slept better, breathed more fully and become, well, healthier and happier.

But, before I can properly crack on with more physical clearing, I am concentrating on getting really, really comfortable with the idea of resting up and taking time out. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been good at curling up on the sofa with a cuppa and a good book. And a blanket. And lots of cushions. But, I have always felt ashamed that while other people managed full time jobs, did outdoorsy stuff with their families and maintained social lives I was just being lazy. Once I read up on what it actually means to have Aspergers I found it  a revelation that shutting the outside world right outside where it belongs and retreating to my cosy spot with a latte and the cat has been as crucial to my brain as rest-days are to an athlete. No guilt required!

Related post

The Art of Selfishness 

I Can’t Believe You Don’t Eat Butter

 Flojo’s Easy Detox Tip #3

OK, this is a supadupa easy tip. Stop buying margarine, spreadable “butter” and any fancy schmancy low-fat, cholesterol-reducing, poly-whoodyamaflip tubs of yellow gunk! And, before you ask, even that one. And that one! Sorry, that ones gotta go too. I know it says pure/organic/healthy on the side. It’s still no good for you.

I don’t care what claims that crap makes on the side of its plastic tub; humans did perfectly well on good old butter from organically raised, pasture raised cattle for – like – ever without replacing it with bleached, purified, chemically interfered with, heated (and so damaged) artificial and additive-laden muck. The blame for the downturn in the general population’s collective health can largely be left at the door of the fake butter-peddling industry’s doors. And don’t be fooled by actual butter with “traditional values” packaging either. The nutritional content still doesn’t compare. A bit of research into seeing what commercial dairy herds are fed, how they are raised and how they are treated should put you right off.

Butter from organically raised dairy herds is the bomb! It has a great Omega 3 to 6 ratio, higher levels of vitamins D & K, more CLA (linked to weight loss) and tastes so much better than spreadable rubbish or inferior butter. Butter is a magnificent accompaniment to steaming plates of broccoli, asparagus or kale while carrots or cabbage sliced and gently fried in butter are far tastier than boiled. Not only does veg taste better with butter but the fat soluble vitamins,  such as A and D become more bio-available once served with the rich  golden stuff. In the meantime, I am more than happy to let my daughters eat it by the slice, happy in the knowledge that it’s a bonafide health food in its own right.

Further Reading:

Soil Association Definition of Organic Dairy Farming

Mark Sisson: Is All Butter Created Equal?

Defining Detox

When I put Flojo’s Easy Detox together (workshops and online coaching) a few years ago I believed detox to be the process of releasing toxicity at cellular level and enabling this rubbish to leave the body in an orderly fashion: quietly and calmly (much as you should leave a building during a fire); thus allowing the body to work more efficiently.

Over the past year I’ve revised my opinion. I now see effective detoxing as the release and removal of anything and everything that doesn’t enrich your life. Call it detox, call it de-cluttering, call it healing, call it minimalism. If it doesn’t contribute to your well-being physically, mentally or emotionally, it’s time to acknowledge it and wave a firm but polite goodbye. In a few years I hope to re-start a detox programme with this approach at its fore.

I am joyfully celebrating my 43rd birthday today with a new sense of direction and purpose. Yippee!! Armed with advice from the likes of Mark Sisson (Primal Blueprint), Katy Bowman (Move your DNA), David Perlmutter (Brain Maker), Daniel Vitalis (the ReWild Yourself podcasts), James Wallman (Stuffocation), Bea Johnson (Zero Waste Home), Marie Kondo (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying) and countless other inspirational writers and educators I am now on a mission.

Firstly I’m setting out to clear all the stuff I don’t need from my home, whether it’s unnecessary chemicals, single use plastics or just stuff accumulated for sentimental or lazy reasons. All of these send my subconscious the false message that I need these props to thrive and survive. I don’t. It’s just unnecessary ballast. I’m also aiming to further reduce food that doesn’t serve to nourish me and my hardworking microbiome. And, perhaps most importantly, I’m actively looking to banish fears that hold me back from experiencing a long life rich in experience. That’s a lot of stuff to get rid of!

What do I want in my life to replace all this rubbish? I want to be free. Free to travel, socialise, learn new things and just, well, do stuff whether with friends, family or by myself. We’ve kept various rescue rabbits over the last few years. Not in a hutch, although there was one left open for the rare occasion they chose to take shelter from the rain, but wild and running free in the garden. They dug burrows, ate fresh grass and practised a spectacular type of bunny parkour at twilight. I can’t understand why anyone would keep rabbits cooped up with just a few hours in a run daily for entertainment. But we humans increasingly create our own hutches and limit our “run time,” and then we wonder why we’ve lost our zest for life.

This year I had my Success Story published on Marks Daily Apple, completed a Wolf Run, donated an estimated 50 large carrier bags of belongings to charity, ditched conventional toothpaste, moisturiser, suncream and haircare; swapped all my home-cleaning products for environmentally friendly ones, learnt to embrace cold showers, a lower set thermostat and one less pillow; noticed a significant reduction in binge eating and saw the back of self-loathing, depression and anxiety! What a start to my seventh seven year cycle! It’s like camping in the wild and seeing the sun rise while sipping hot, fresh coffee. I’ve got a glorious day ahead of opportunities and possibilities at my disposal and I want to make the most of them. All I need to do is decide which direction to head off in.

The only thing is, I think this blog needs a new direction too and I’m not sure which way to take it. Or if it will just decide its own route and destination. Hmm. Any thoughts? Should I document my progress? Give you authoritative sounding bulletpoints on what’s working for me (Five Easy Tips to…)? Outline and review specific diet and exercise approaches I’m taking? Go back to just writing down recipes? Or just continue to haphazardly ramble on and on, elaborating on my own philosophies and random streams of consciousness…? Drop me a line please! Your input is much appreciated!

Big love to you from me! X