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

Why Eat Fat?

Why Eat Fat?

The human race consumed around 60% of it’s calories from fat until, a mere few decades ago, we began consuming less fat (and consumed more commercially produced alternatives) and as a result our health has suffered. I massively ramped up my fat intake about a year ago and both feel and look noticeably better. It’s become something of an obsession so today I’d like to give you a very basic outline why I think eating fat is important. I’m also going to give you some links to other resources because a) I believe very strongly that pretty much everyone needs to consume more fat in order to improve mental, physical and emotional well being and b) other people explain this stuff so much better than me!

Fats and oils (collectively known as lipids) have been the subject of much controversy over the last few years; food, supplement and drug manufacturers have all looked at the part that lipids play in health while many doctors and nutritional advisors alike have had to revise their points of view depending on what paradigm they originally based their knowledge on. If you’ve got the time and interest please do research the specific health benefits of Essential Fatty Acids (The Omega 3s, 6s and 9s), what makes a fat saturated or unsaturated and / or how fats become Trans Fatty Acids. It might make you look twice at that tub of cholesterol-reducing spreadable stuff you have in your fridge. And that can of stuff you spray on your frying pan in the belief that if you cut fat you’ll lose fat. Hellmans, Nutella, cheese strings? You really want to treat your kids with those? Then soften  the blow and make yourself this gloriously fatty Hot Vanilla Shake before you read on because, along with proving some very useful brain nutrients, it tastes damn fine!

The diet and exercise elite are currently focussing on fat burning as opposed to sugar burning. Ketones, low-carb and intermittent-fasting are the new buzzwords. Weight-loss, muscle gain, energy increase, disease healing? All attributable to decreasing the inflammatory nature of sugar and grain consumption and increasing useful fats. To save myself the hassle of trying to explain the theories I’d be grateful if you’d take a minute to cast your eye over the following articles. Please take your time, have a browse, see where the information takes you and come back when you’re ready. I shall just be here sipping coffee and eating one of these rather delicious Fat Bombs that I made yesterday from a fellow blogger’s recipe.

Weston A Price Foundation: Know Your Fats

Mark Sisson: The Context of Calories

Mark Sisson: 9 Signs You Need to Eat More Fat 

Danielle Sasaki: Sugar Burner vs Fat Burner

A fat molecule’s structure is that of a chemical chain, known as a Fatty Acid Chain. Essentially it is the shape of a fatty acid chain that determines how useful or damaging it will be in the body. Unsaturated fats such as flax oil are bendy, chemically reactive and extremely useful in the body (in particular the anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fatty acids found in seeds and fish oils); but are also very easily damaged by light and heat exposure. What gives them the ability to be broken down and utilised in your body also leaves them vulnerable to the factors that cause rancidity (often detectable by a fishy aroma.) Food manufacturers use high temperatures and/or chemical treatments to stop these unsaturated fats from going rancid during long periods of storage but these very processes damage the delicate fatty acid chains. Damaged fats change their shape so dramatically that the body doesn’t recognise them and so is unable to process them usefully. Instead, the chains lock on to receptors on your cells and block them from the undamaged chains that your cells need. A bit like sticking your car key in your front door and breaking the lock so that you can’t get in. 

Meanwhile saturated fats are highly resistant to heat damage and are excellent carriers of valuable nutrients within the body. Butter? Full of vitamins A and D. Egg yolks? Every compound necessary to sustain a chick until it’s hatched. Coconut oil? A natural microbial. Want an easy way to make your veggies both tastier and far more nutritious? Top them with butter!

So often you’ll see someone who’s been on a diet, lost a load of weight and just doesn’t look right. Their glow is gone, their hair is dry, their abdomen looks soft. You want to congratulate them for their hard-worked for efforts, but they just seem a bit brittle, they’ve lost that bubbly and cuddly status. Meanwhile, anyone who has lost weight while increasing their fat intake gains better skin, better hair, more glow, a more defined waistline, better energy and more. More bubbly and just as cuddly. Here’s why:

Each and every one of our cells has a phospholipid outer layer. If you want to think of a cell as a mini home (I do!) then imagine those flexible fatty acid chains as being the render that that weatherproofs your cellular-home walls. If you don’t provide your cells with the right mix of high quality and undamaged fats (sand and cement) to reproduce and repair the membrane (wall) then you have the cellular equivalent of a cracked and crumbling wall. Obviously this is no good for the health of your cell any more than for the long term protection of an actual wall, so rather than cutting costs with your cellular-home building materials make sure you actively avoid any product that lists hydrogenated fat or vegetable fat (which is highly processed) in the ingredients, “Lite” oils used for low-fat frying and all processed and fast foods.

“I used to think I was being healthy when I opted for ‘light’ margarines and cooking oils. Since adding flax oil and fish oils to my diet and using organic butter instead of margarine, my acne has cleared up, my skin glows and I feel great. What a massive difference these small changes have made!” Emma

What about cholesterol?

Remember my absolutely superb story about Club Glucose? No? Please humour me and re-read it while I mop my tears of self pity. If you really can’t be bothered here’s a quick summary as to just one of the many reasons cholesterol is vital:

  • sugar creates inflammation
  • inflammation creates damage to tissue walls
  • the body uses cholesterol to repair the damage to the tissue walls
  • everyone freaks out about the high cholesterol count
  • statins are used to reduce the high cholesterol count and the patient is advised to reduce their intake of fat and cholesterol
  • the body can’t effectively use cholesterol to repair the damage to the tissue walls and, due to the reduced fat intake, sugar cravings are let loose
  • sugar creates inflammation

This cholesterol article by the Weston Price organisation is excellent. Please read it. Pretty please?

And this catchily titled article just caught my eye this week: Why Doctors Finally Called a Truce on Cholesterol in Food. 

Also Seven Reasons to Eat More Saturated Fat is a good and easy read. 

Convinced yet? I once watched a friend pour all the fat off a chicken she’d just roasted. When I asked why she explained that the thought off all that fat clogging up her arteries made her feel sick. Think it through. Fat will clog up a sink. Because the pipes are cold and non-porous. Are our blood vessels cold and non-porous? Hell no! What a ridiculous metaphor. Those valuable fatty acid chains aren’t clogging up your arteries, they are providing the best, most vitamin rich, anti-ageing, anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, smoothing and glow-enhancing internal moisturiser money can buy! Treat your insides, treat your outsides. Use those roasting juices as a gravy and you won’t regret it. Talking of which, I’ve got a cold roast to pick at. Catch you later my lovelies! Xx

Further Reading

(While these books don’t necessarily agree on the finer points I recommend them all wholeheartedly if you want a broader understanding of why we need to eat fat):

Skye St. John: No Fail Fat Burning for Women

Mary Enig and Sally Fallon: Eat Fat, Lose Fat

James Abel: The Wild Diet

Jimmy Moore: Keto Clarity

Liz Wolfe: Eat the Yolks

Dave Asprey: The Bulletproof Diet

Maria Emmerich: Keto Adapted

Zana Morris and Helen Foster: The High Fat Diet

David Perlmutter: Grain Brain

Dr Malcom Kendrick: The Great Cholesterol Con

Grain Brain by Dr Perlmutter

  One of the hardest parts of working in a pharmacy is seeing the stark contrast between the cheerful 90+ year olds who waltz in to buy cod liver oil or vitamin D tablets; and the 60 year olds who resignedly hand over their prescriptions for 5+  medications sagely muttering, “when you get to my age…” Statins to swallow alongside fat-free diets, laxatives to knock back after chewing through high-fibre bread; hundreds of capsules of tramadol, thyroxine, and pain killers dispensed every day. And picking up a weekly prescription seems, for many of our customers, to be an inevitable way of life, staving off surgery or death for just a few more years. 

It would be neither ethical nor professional for me to suggest customers ditch their margarines, low-salt condiments and low fat breakfast cereals when they look for over-the-counter relief for joint pain, heartburn and inability to sleep at night. I am unable to offer advice when I take their blood pressure and give them readings of 180/100. I can only apologise when they ask me how I look so well and I have to answer high-fat, low-sugar and no sunscreen. 

But, if I could, I would recommend Dr Perlmutter’s Grain Brain to every customer who walks through our door. Because, while the book focuses on brain function (depression, migraines, bipolar, Alzheimer’s etc) the advice would be equally relevant to anyone looking to relieve digestive issues, inflammatory conditions, circulatory diseases and diabetes, to name but a few. 

Grain Brain is authoritative, comprehensive, well referenced and a surprisingly easy read. Perlmutter’s case studies are presented with compassion, the four week plan is totally do-able and his recipes realistic. (Quick Flat-Roasted Chicken with Roasted Seasonal Vegetables and followed by Chocolate Truffles anyone?)

When I coached nutritional therapy clients one of the major stumbling blocks in avoiding gluten was that breakfast was boring. And this despite an enormous array of options, from Flojo’s SuperSmoothies to full fry-ups to eggs on gluten free toast. And this was from people who had only had toast for breakfast for years! Here is Perlmutter’s excellent explanation for that scenario, “We’ve known since the late 1970s that gluten breaks down in the stomach to become a mix of polypeptides that can cross the blood-brain barrier. Once they gain entry, they can then bind to the brain’s morphine receptor to produce a sensorial high. This is the same receptor to which opiate drugs bind, creating their pleasurable, albeit addicting, effect.” Sound familiar?!

Gluten-Free has become big business in the last decade or so and for every desperate soul who purchases commercially produced gluten free bread and sadly passes on the offer of biscuits in order to alleviate bloating, control their weight or deal with other seemingly inexplicable ailments there is a sceptic who believes that there is no scientific explanation for avoiding the very grains that have apparently sustained the human population for thousands of years. If either of these sounds like you, your friends or your family, please read Grain Brain and then lend your copy out! Your brain and body will thank you tenfold!

Related Post: 

How Flojo Got Her Mojo Back

Some Gluten Free Recipes:

Cheap n Cheerful Chocolate Chilli 

An Easy Curry Recipe

A Curried Chicken and Coconut Soup

Chia Breakfast Bowl 

Peanut Butter Muffins