I want to be Oliver Sacks.

January 26, 2013

“He reached into the pocket of his sports jacket and produced a Japanese fan – the first of several startling objects to emerge from there, so that I came to think of the coat as having magic pockets.”

It wasn’t that line from a Wired article that made me want to be Oliver Sacks. Well, like Oliver Sacks, really.

It’s that today I had the sudden impulse to begin simplifying and planing all of my food consumption. Like, scheduling exactly what I will eat and at what time. And as I was typing this schedule up, I remembered the quirky neurologist who eats the same thing. Every day. And has, for many years. 1/2 a gallon of soy milk, prune juice, sardines, tabbouleh, 7 apples, 7 oranges – “I am very greedy and impulsive, so I have to have a rule.” Strangely, though I listened to this story a few years ago, I actually had 7 apples, 7 pears on my newly organized weekly shopping list. (Just to clarify, I will not be eating sardines and prune juice).

Oliver says he never gets bored with his daily food – he claims he “enjoys it with equal relish every time.” Additionally, each day he goes to a nearby chocolate store and gets exactly one dollar’s worth of broken 72% chocolate. 

He has been doing this for years. Once he accidentally got 22 pounds of kidneys rather than 2 pounds; too shy to point it out, he took the 22 pounds of “palpitating kidneys” home, and ended up eating kidneys for 10 days straight, before vomiting uncontrollably and never eating kidneys again.

To listen to the fascinating Oliver Sacks clip on Radiolab – one of my favorite podcasts of all time – click here. (It’s a clip from episode about Choice, when a lot is too much).

Have you ever heard that Einstein would wear the same clothes so as not to use up precious mental energy on the mundane and unimportant decision of what to wear? Well, Oliver has similar motivations. 

Making choices is draining, and scientist have found that too many choices actually make us MORE unhappy than too few choices.

I notice that I’ve generally heard about men doing this kind of thing – perhaps it’s a form of mild Autism… the founder of Facebook wears the same clothing every day too. And Steve Jobs did, before he exited the planet.

So, here’s what I’m going to try eating for this week:

6am: Hot water + lemon

8am: 1 apple + 3 dates + 10 almonds + 1 spoon chwanprash

10:30am: Matè

1pm: Kitcharee (½ cup mung, ½ cup basmati) with squash & carrots

3:30: 1 apple or pear + 3 dates or figs

6:30pm: Leftover kitcharee + asparagus

I haven’t done a challenge (or a cleanse) in a long time. We’ll see how it goes!

 

To read the Wired interview from whence the opening sentence about the fan and magical coat was taken, click here

This is your brain on sugar. Street art in Buenos Aires.

I know I’ve done a horrible job at sharing Argentina with you via this blog. Not to mention my road trip across the US last summer. I was reviewing some photos and video last night, and there are some beautiful ones. Perhaps someday when I’m bored and have absolutely nothing to do, I will finally disinter those photos and videos for you. But considering the infinitude of interestingness on the interwebs, and immediate access to practically every book known to man on my Kindle, I’m not sure if that’s realistic.

Anyways, as far as Argentina goes at least, I’d like to make it up to you by directing you to my friend’s blog, Go!Dream!Live! No wait, it’s Dream!Go!Live! Which, when delivered to my inbox, I always read as “dreamg olive”. She does what I aspire to do – consistently shares her experience and photos of life in Buenos Aires.

It’s not that I haven’t been writing. I have been writing, lots, every day. I just haven’t been converting any of that into bloggage. I think I just need to get back into the habit of posting, and the only way I’ve successfully made habits for myself is by doing Challenges. But I’ve been focusing on the No Sugar Challenge. One at a time.

So! The No Sugar Challenge!!! On March 13th, in two days, I will have officially and successfully completed 30 days of No Sugar. This is, by a long shot, the longest I have ever gone without eating refined sugar.

What did this lack of sugar do? (And coffee – I didn’t really drink coffee at this time either, as they pretty much go together for me – I can drink coffee black, but here in Buenos Aires coffee means medialunas or cookies, and those were definitely out).

-Skin: My skin cleared up. The acne and little bumps I get, especially on my forehead, have pretty much gone away, and my psoriasis is less red. However, I did up my dairy intake exponentially while not eating sugar, so I continue to have a few pimples around my jawline and my psoriasis didn’t fully clear.

-Energy: I started waking up earlier. 5:30am most days. I love getting up early, and I love not feeling groggy. That could be as much from stopping coffee as from stopping sugar. This past week I’ve been feeling exceptionally exhausted, but I think that’s mostly due to the intensity of the Vipassana course I did last week, and a lot of emotional processing I’ve been doing. And, probably, my body trying to digest all the cheese.

-Weight: I lost a little weight, but not much, due to the large quantities of cheese and  organic yogurt (sugar-free) that I’ve been eating. And steak, and pizza…  I met a wonderful Dutch girl at Vipassana and during her four days in Buenos Aires I HAD to take her to all the best food spots. Of course. And, um, I bought a beautiful book called Pizzerias de Buenos Aires…

Oh and near the end of the month I also found that amazing raw sugar-free chocolate at Buenos Aires Verde, and a few days ago discovered sugar-free helado at Juaja, my favorite of which is the lemon ginger. YUM!

-Clarity/Mood: I have a lot more clarity when I’m not eating sugar – clarity as to what I want in life, what really makes me happy, insights into myself and others. Last time I gave up alcohol/sugar for a few weeks, a series of events occurred that led to me leaving Los Angeles and moving to Argentina. And this time, a series of events occurred that led to me making plans to move to Patagonia. Anyways there’s increasing research about the drug-like negative effects of sugar on your mood and body, and things react differently with different people. I definitely have a negative reaction to sugar. I’m aware of this. It doesn’t mean I won’t be eating sugar on March 13th – I will! – but I hope that sugar (like alcohol) will become an increasingly rare addition to my diet.

I love not eating sugar. I also love eating sugar. So, that’s that.

And aside from the dairy and sugar-free treats, 70% of my diet this month has been fruits and veggies, so that’s awesome. I’m quite proud that I went a whole month without caving to medialunas or the apple crumble and dulce de leche they had the last day of Vipassana, or the other things that tempted me every day of the last month.

As I was saying at the beginning, my apologies for not having shared more of my journey with you up to this point. I’ll be posting some photos and maybe a video tour of my current home here in BA, and hopefully filling you in on some of the best eateries and cafes (like the very photogenic Bardepan). My 33rd birthday is next week and a friend is flying down from San Francisco; we’ll be revisiting all of my favorite things about BA before heading down to Patagonia.

Love and light and cheese!

 

Sugar + Honey + Frank

February 19, 2012

I’ve been refined sugar-free for six days now!

I’m feeling happier. I think there are two reasons: 1. Sugar causes mood swings and 2. I’m not hating on myself for sugar binging or not acting in integrity with what I want to be: healthy.

The cravings haven’t been too bad. I did eat a lot of dried fruit and nuts the first few days, and I’m eating more dairy than I usually do (which is barely any). But I’m ok with that!

Yesterday I bought some freshly-made organic yogurt and honey from the El Galpon Farmer’s Market in the Chacarita neighborhood of Buenos Aires (the only place I know of where you can get organic stuff in BA…). The yogurt comes in a big beautiful bottle and was delish with the super-dark grainy honey:

Argentine Yogurt and Honey, fresh from the farm.

Yes, honey’s technically a sugar but, unlike refined sugar, honey’s not toxic to your system, doesn’t cause dramatic blood sugar spikes (it may actually IMPROVE blood sugar control)  and has an insane number of health benefits: it’s anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral. You can use it to help heal burns and wounds, you can use it on your face to clear up acne (which I do occassionally). It can help with sore throats, allergies, even weight loss! As I’m reading more about honey the list is getting way too long (athletic performance, free radicals, cholesterol, immune system, anti-cancer…jeez!) so for more info check it here and here and here. (I’m pretty sure all of these are from raw honey, not the honey you by in a regular store, which is probably counterfeit honey from China.*)

Unfortunately, according to one of those honey sites, the answer to the question “How much honey can I eat every day?” is NOT “Eat as much as you can.” Damn.

Even the Bible mentions honey, according to the editors of Wikipedia. Funny honey quote:

“While Jonathan was passing through the woods during the war against the Philistines, he found honey dripping on the ground; he plunged his spear into it, and ate enough to restore his lost strength. He was, however, sentenced to death because he ate honey on a day of abstinence”.

D’oh!!!

 

So, this next part has nothing to do with sugar or honey, but… Well, actually, it does, in a roundabout way.

I was reading The Daily Love and came across this awesome blog by Mollie Angelhearthttp://thedailylove.com/always-come-back-to-love/

Some of my favorite bits:

“All those paths lead to one answer “we are all one and our only job is to be unconditional love and remember”.

It’s all in the remembering… From broken and alone to whole and complete and part of the whole that is The Uni-verse…

I am broken when I forget and whole and complete when I remember.”

Mollie’s bio led me to google the documentary she produced, May I be Frank, a documentary “exploring the transformations possible through healthy eating and positive thinking”:

Which looks AMAZING.

So, to tie this all together – I’m pretty sure Frank was eating way too much sugar. I haven’t seen the entire movie yet, so maybe honey even played a roll in his transformation.

I think we’d all do a little better with less sugar, more honey!

 

*If you are getting your honey from Walmart, Target, Cost Plus, Sam’s Club, Walgreen’s, Rite Aid, CVS, or individual packets from Smucker’s, McDonalds or KFC, there is a 70-100% chance that it’s not actually honey, as defined by the food industry (containing pollen), and could be watered down with high fructose corn syrup. Trader Joe’s honey, thank goodness, is legit.

30-Day No Sugar Challenge

February 13, 2012

Photo by Lauri Andler from Wiki

 

I am addicted to sugar. I never felt truly addicted to smoking or alcohol or drugs – none of which I put in my body anymore – but sugar still kicks my ass. Anyone who’s followed my blog these last few years has read about my trails and tribulations with sugar many, many times.

I am also allergic to sugar. It makes my system acidic, causing inflammation, which makes me break out (little tiny pimples all over my face) and contributes to flare-ups of psoriasis. I’ve had psoriasis consistently for almost two years now.

I’ve given up sugar a few times in the past, but never made it longer than a few weeks. I tried again at the beginning of 2012, but after 6 days (during which I felt amazing) I caved and went back to my cycle of sugar binging.

So this time, I’ve decided to place a wager. I’ve bet my friend China Brooks that I can go 30 days without eating refined sugar, starting today. She also is going sugar-free, and if either of us give into temptation during the 30 days, we have to Paypal the other $25. I don’t generally make bets but I’m pretty sure I’m too proud and stubborn to lose one. 😉

Many people are unaware of the truth about sugar – how addictive it is, how toxic it is, and how prevalent it is in processed foods. I’ve experienced the physical, emotional and spiritual gains that come with giving it up. I’ll be exploring these over the next 30 days as I share my experiences and struggles and, hopefully, win my bet.

 

 

Dr. Chimp Prescribes…Plants

December 13, 2011

Well well well, look who else knows how to use plants as medicine. Chimps!

An extensive look at what chimpanzees consume each day reveals that many of the plants they consume aren’t for nutrition but are likely ingested for medicinal purpose.

The findings, published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, indicate that the origins of medicine go way back, beyond the human species.

From an article in Discovery News

I first read this article, and was rather irritated by the closing lines: “That’s one reason medical research is so important. Scientists can isolate the effective medicinal compounds of such plants while removing their more dangerous agents.”

Pure hubris. Isolating compounds destroys or greatly diminishes their effects. Just say no to Reductionism! Nature is not a machine that can be disassembled!

And what’s this claim about ‘removing dangerous agents’ when every single drug produced by man has negative side effects? But of course, pharmaceutical companies don’t want you eating plants – they’re free (or very cheap)! Do you realize that the pharmaceutical industry is the MOST PROFITABLE INDUSTRY in the United States? More than Wall Street… Check out this infograph on how doctors get paid off to push pills (I don’t even want to know how much money they give to politicians).

And did you know that Americans spend more than $200 Billion every year on prescription drugs – BILLION, that’s $200,000,000,000.00 (I think?!) – when the vast majority of what’s being medicated could be treated with diet and exercise? The top-selling (and heavily advertised) prescription medications treat with heart disease, depression, and diabetes, all treatable with diet and exercise. Which, again, are free, or very cheap.

But I digress.

Chimps know what plants to eat in order to medicate themselves. That’s pretty cool.

If Chimps are eating anti-tumor plants…why aren’t we?!

As Bill Mahr said: “Someone has to stand up and say that the answer isn’t another pill. The answer is spinach.”

 

P.S. Chimps have much, much lower rates of cancer than humans do.

An Argentine Thanksgiving

November 24, 2011

It’s a beautiful 83-degree spring day.

I’m in Argentina.

And it’s Thanksgiving.

This whole seasonal shift thing is just so weird. It’s Thanksgiving. That means it’s supposed to be a bit chilly, maybe overcast, perhaps even a dusting of snow up at my mom’s house in the mountains of Southern California.

But it’s not chilly. It’s tremendously sunny, and this evening it’ll be a lovely 71 degrees.

Since no one down here talks about Thanksgiving, it snuck up on me. On Monday I realized the holiday was in a matter of days, so I started researching online to find out what other Americans do here in Buenos Aires for Turkey Day.

Argentina is not a country that eats turkey. Lots and lots and lots of beef, pork, some chicken, a little seafood, but no turkey. Also, I don’t have any American friends down here.  My friends are Argentinian or Australian or Scottish or British.

I didn’t want to hunt down and cook a turkey myself, so with a bit of googling I discovered that there are a few locales in Buenos Aires that have turkey dinners – Kansas Grill, which is like a Houston’s, and CasaBar in Recoleta. I figured it might be fun to meet up with some random expats and American travelers and bond over poultry and potatoes and Pinot (or, more likely, Malbec, but that doesn’t begin with a P).

However, I’ve only been out to eat a handful of times here – maybe four in my first 40 days – and I have yet to try the legendary Argentine Beef. I’ve really been wanting to go to La Cabrera, a restaurant which, I’ve been told by other expats, serves up some of the best beef around.

And then I started liking the idea – instead of celebrating my first Thanksgiving outside the US by finding something similar to what I’d be eating in the US, why not go Argentinian? My first expat Thanksgiving, my first Argentinian steak… sounds like a memorable combination, and a good story to tell when I’m old.

So tonight I plan to dine and give thanks at La Cabrera. With an Australian friend.

Before you go on to celebrate your Thanksgiving (or perhaps you’re already in a food-baby coma), watch this indescribably beautiful video about nature and life and gratitude; guaranteed to make you FEEL grateful for this beautiful life (and maybe bring a few tears to your eyes, give you goosebumps, make you want to go hiking, etc).

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, full of love and gratitude and good friends and family and delicious and nourishing food!

Thank you for reading and sharing this journey with me; thank you for your comments and support; thank you for being a beautiful light in this world.

Natural is NOT Natural!

November 20, 2011

Well this is the most disappointing news I’ve read today:

Kashi Go-Lean cereal uses genetically modified corn and soy.

So does Puffins, a popular Trader Joe’s brand.

So does the ‘Back to Nature’ brand, owned by Kraft.

 

Natural does not mean organic.

Natural doesn’t even mean Natural!!! Genetically modified organisms are NOT natural.

 

Be aware of marketing manipulation:

http://www.rodale.com/11-natural-cereals-arent?page=0

What’s In Your Fish?!

November 14, 2011

I’ve been learning some awful things about seafood lately. For example:

The U.S. inspects only TWO PERCENT of all imported seafood.

What percentage of all seafood in the U.S. is imported?

EIGHTY FIVE PERCENT.

Of that two percent that’s actually tested, FORTY PERCENT of seafood tests “positive for banned drugs that are not safe for human health,” carcinogens like nitrofuran and and malachite green. And there are many, many more chemicals aren’t even tested for.

On top of that, half of the world’s seafood is raised in farms, and antibiotics are liberally dumped into the water of farmed fish.

Most people consider fish to be the healthiest of meats. But considering the carcinogens, chemicals and antibiotics that come along with the fish, it’s looking like this belief is incorrect.

On to the environmental consequences of seafood: did you know that for about 7-8 shrimp caught by commercial fishing, TEN POUNDS of ‘trash fish’ are killed and thrown, dead, as trash, back into the ocean?? I learned that fun fact from this TED talk by Brian Skerry, a man who’s been photographing the seas for the last 30 years.  He’s witnessed the changes that have happened  in that brief timespan, and shares some incredibly beautiful, and incredibly awful, underwater photos.

In this fish-related article, which you should read, since it’s by one of my favorite writers Mark Morford, Morford vacillates between hope and despondency when faced with the reality of running out of tuna. There are a mere 9,000 bluefin tuna left in the Gulf, now surely many fewer after the BP spill and the dispersal chemicals the company dumped into the ocean – which turn out to be even more toxic than the oil itself.

“Destroy them, and we destroy more than just another everyday, “disposable” species. Their destruction will be a profound marker, a signifier of something far larger and more ominous. Like the honeybees, like the drowning polar bears, like the fresh water crisis, the end of tuna will be of those epic fails we look back upon in a few years and say, “There. Right there. That was one of the signs.” We don’t get many more.

My Republican moment came as I was nearing the end of the piece, feeling sickened and increasingly depressed, to the point where a sense of abject fatalism finally struck, a sense of just giving up, that wickedly painful moment where the heart has to step away from the scene before it implodes, and the survivalist/capitalist mind takes over and just powers through the nightmare, greedily gabbing on to whatever bits of gristle it can suckle.”

Our oceans, aside from being poisoned with runoff and heat and acid and chemical pollution and oil spills and dispersals, are being fished to the point of emptiness. From overfishing.org:

Worldwide, about 90% of the stocks of large predatory fish are already gone.

In 1900 our oceans contained at least six times more fish than they do in 2009.

I could go on, but I’m sure you’re already getting depressed.

While I love seafood, I cut way back a few years ago after my Ayurvedic doctor counseled me against consuming it. He says that seafood rots quickly in your digestive system and contributes to acidity; I tend towards acidity anyways, so it’s something I should avoid (this may or may not be true for other people, though the American diet is heavily acidic).

I am planning on attending one last high-end sushi dinner at a closed-door restaurant here in Buenos Aires in December, but after learning all of the above, after that I am considering giving up seafood entirely; for my own health and the health of the planet. We’ve all heard the Gandhi’s quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Well, the change I wish to see is the end of the destruction of our oceans, and I definitely wish not to get cancer. So if giving up seafood is a step in those directions, that’s what I choose to do.

And I think it’s awesome!

I don’t much care about Marc Zuckerberg. I have some issues with Facebook. I didn’t see The Social Network.

But reading this article gave me a newfound respect for Zuckerberg. He does challenges, just like me! This year he’s only eating meat that he’s killed himself – lobster, chicken, and goats so far. While I haven’t taken on the kill-your-own-animals challenge, I wouldn’t be opposed to it, since I do want to live on my own sustainable farm someday, and I also think that the healthiest way of living is for people to be physically connected to their food sources. Here’s a quote from Zuckerberg:

A bunch of people told me that even though they loved eating pork, they really didn’t want to think about the fact that the pig used to be alive. That just seemed irresponsible to me. I don’t have an issue with anything people choose to eat, but I do think they should take responsibility and be thankful for what they eat rather than trying to ignore where it came from.

 

My thoughts exactly. Be a carnivore, be a vegetarian, be a vegan, but be aware of the reality of your choices, and make them consciously.

Most of you know I tinker with my diet a lot. So far this year I’ve done a 10-week no intoxicants challenge, a no refined sugar/processed foods challenge, and the Paleo Diet.

Why all these odd restrictions? Because:

1. I’ve found through experimentation that my life is better when I “eat clean” – no alcohol, caffeine, sugar, processed foods, red meat. Specifically, I feel better physically and emotionally, I look better (people start using words like radiant/luminous/vibrant to describe me, even if they have no idea about what I’m eating), I have more energy, my skin clears up, I lose the squish on my stomach, and my mind is clearer.

2. I use food as an avoidance/procrastination tool and as a mood booster, which I want to change.

I’m doing a yoga instructor training program at Bhakti Yoga Shala in Santa Monica, and the other day in class I finally learned the name of diet that I’ve been trying to define these past few years – the Sattvic Diet.

Basically, eating Sattvic foods helps you along your path to enlightenment (or at least along your path to a healthier, happier life, which I can say with confidence  is something we all want). Sattvic foods lead to “clarity and equanimity of mind while also being beneficial to the body,” according to Wiki. I have found this to be true in my own personal experience by experimenting with cutting things out. Until you’ve experimented with these types of things, you can’t know how it’s going to make you feel. So I’d encourage you to make a pact with a friend to take a vacation from “normal” food for a week or two and see how you feel!

The Sattvic diet centers around organic vegetables and fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, grains, organic milk & its derivatives (ghee, yogurt), honey, water and herbal teas.

According to yogic belief, there are three types of foods – Sattvic, Rajastic, and Tamasic. Rajasic is stimulating (not in a constructive way), and tamasic is dulling.

Here’s a definition of the Sattvic Diet:

Sattva is defined as the quality of purity and goodness. Sattvic food is that which is pure, clean and wholesome. A sattvic diet is food that gives life, strength, energy, courage and self-determination. In other words, sattvic food gives us more than the gross physical requirements of the proper mix of proteins, carbs and fats etc. It also gives us the subtle nourishment necessary for vitality and consciousness. Food is seen as a carrier of the life force called prana and is judged by the quality of its prana and by the effect it has on our consciousness.
More: http://www.yogachicago.com/jan05/diet.shtml

A list of Sattvic foods:

Adzuki beans, Almonds, Amaranth, Aniseed, Apples, Apricots, Artichokes, Arugula (small amounts), Ashwagandha (herb), Asparagus.

Bacopa (herb), Bananas, Barley, Basmati Rice, Bean Sprouts (all kinds,) Beets, Black Beans, Blackberries, Black-Eyed Peas, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Buckwheat, Buttermilk (fresh).

Cabbage (red or green), Calamus (herb,) Cantaloupe, Cardamom, Carob, Carrots, Cashew Nuts, Cauliflower, Celery, Chard, Cherries (sweet or sour,) Chestnuts, Chinese Cabbage, Cinnamon, Coconut, Coriander, Cornmeal, Cranberries, Cucumbers.

Dates (fresh).

Endive, Escarole.

Fava Beans, Figs (fresh or dried), Filberts, Flax Seeds, Flowers (edible and sweet,) Frish Juices (fresh).

Ghee, Ginger, Gingko (herb,) Gotu Kola (herb), Grapefruits, Grapes (including dried), Green Beans.

Honey (raw), Honeydew Melon.

Jatamansi (herb), Jerusalem Artichokes.

Kale, Kohlrabi.

Lassi, Lentils (black or tan), Lettuce, Lima Beans (small amounts), Loganberries.

Macadamia Nuts, Mangoes, Maple Syrup, Milk (organic, unpasteurised), Millet, Mother’s Milk, Mung Beans (whole), Mung Dhal (split), Mustard Seeds.

Nutmeg (herb).

Oats (steel cut or berries), Oranges (sweet).

Papayas, Parsnips, Peaches, Pecans, Pineapple (sweet), Pine Nuts, Pinto Beans, Plums (sweet or sour), Pomegranates, Prunes, Pumpkin, Pumpkin Seeds, Purnarnava (herb).

Quinoa.

Raisins, Raspberries, Rice, Rutabaga.

Saffron (herb), Sesame Seeds, Shankhapushpi (herb), Shatavari (herb), Soybeans, Soymilk (fresh), Spinach, Strawberries, Sugar Cane (raw), Summer Squash, Sunflower Seeds, Sweet Potatoes.

Tangerines (sweet), Tea (herbal), Teff, Tulsi (herb), Turmeric, Turnips.

Walnuts, Watercress, Watermelon, Wheat, Whey, Wild Rice.

Yacon, Yams , Yoghurt (freshly made).

Zucchini.

http://www.essential-yoga-for-men.com/sattvic-food.html

Notable foods that don’t make the Sattvic list: Garlic (damn!), onions, salt, pepper, chocolate (damn!), meat (including fish and eggs), mushrooms, leeks, and leftovers.

I’ll be experimenting with eating off of this list for the next week or two. You’ve only got one body in this lifetime, why not play around with your diet and explore its effects?