Sunday, May 25, 2014

Keep Going, It All Counts

Me at gym today. Clearly not a morning person. 

It's the first day of week two, and I need to confess that although I had an excellent week of eating well and avoiding all bad carbohydrates - I had a bad day on Sunday.

It all started out with no breakfast. I was rushing in the morning to get somewhere and didn't get time. I was starving. My parents got back from Taiwan so I was visiting them for lunch. While there I had a fresh salad of homegrown greens and pumpkin soup. But there were hot crusty bread rolls (not even wholemeal) on the table and I couldn't resist.

Then I ate a Nutella sandwich on white bread.

Suddenly I felt guilty, as if I'd ruined my 'day' of clean eating. I gave up. So when it came to heading over to a friend's place for homemade wood fire pizzas in their new alfresco oven, I didn't resist. And after four or five slices of the warm dough, I ate a whole mini-pizza smeared with Nutella. I was mortified.

Instead of giving up on my new healthy eating and living plan entirely though, I've seen this as a incident that I can recover from and continue on. I mean, no runner would start a race from the beginning if he'd fallen over three kilometers into the race. He'd just get up, dust himself off, and keep running.

So that's what I'm doing. I've 'dusted myself off' by drinking litres of water and lemon juice to detox, and I'm prepared for another week of gym, healthy food, and feeling good. It's a journey. In fact, I got up early again this morning for a quick super-set session of weights and then some stretches. I'm feeling better than I did yesterday already.

As a side point though, I did feel different after eating the wheat and processed carbs and sugar. I actually felt bloated, sluggish and even a little nauseous - something I didn't feel once all week when I was eating well. That's something to take note of. It reaffirms the fact I'm on the right path.

So if you're struggling, or you've started and have a relapse, don't feel bad. Just get up, and continue your positive changes. It all counts.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Coming Clean

So, it's been a full work week and I am already feeling some of the benefits of my new diet and health plan. I have more energy, my skin looks healthier and brighter, I have stopped craving Savoy biscuits dipped in a jar of Nutella (yes, that is something I was doing previously), and I think I feel a little bit more positive.

I've been eating really well and pretty much stuck to the eating plan of no bad carbs, no processed foods, and no sugary snacks/drinks. I've been eating a lot of enormous salads, bolstered with bean shoots and Sirena tuna. It's helping me feel a lot better.

At work there is a weights room - and I decided to talk to the person who oversees it. He suggested I come down after work on Thursday and have a bit of a workout. I went feeling a little bit apprehensive because I really haven't done anything weights and gym related for a long time. A really long time. But instead of making excuses like I have been doing for the past year or so, I just did it.

I think it takes a great deal of humility to get back into it. People years younger and thinner than me are doing weights that I used to do two years ago when I was training properly, and more. But instead of being gym-timidated by them, I just grabbed the weights I'm capable of now and used them. That way, I'll build up my strength as I go.

I just did 3sets of 12 reps on the lat pull down machine. Then did some rows, some shoulder press, and some chest press. Nice.

Today, I decided to get up a bit earlier, get myself into my gym clothes and do another session this morning! Now that is proof I'm making changes. This time it was more structured and I had a much better workout. I feel myself changing. I mean, I couldn't get out of bed even to have a coffee two weeks ago. Now I'm getting up early to exercise!

So, I hope you're making changes in your life too, using those 6 steps. You already have the power to do so. Just start by listening to your body - the rest will follow.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Making Positive Changes

"Every ending is a new point of beginning." - Louise L. Hay

So I got married eight months ago, and leading up to getting married I had little time (or more more accurately made little time) to exercise and focus on healthy lifestyle choices. I began to get comfortable and relaxed. I realise this is a natural part of being newly married, but I focused less and less on living a healthy life because I was so wrapped up in my happy life.

I felt like I was losing the grip I had previously had on my fitness and health. I was putting on weight, losing muscle definition, feeling tired every morning, and generally feeling sluggish.

Looking at my diet, I noticed that although I ate well most of the time I had increased the amount of bad carbs I was eating (like refined wheat, bread, pasta, etc.) and was allowing myself to 'snack' at nighttime on sweet biscuits and chocolate. Terrible. Especially because I knew better.

I follow Belle Gibson on Instagram and use her Whole Pantry app all the time in the kitchen. I read about health and wellbeing. But I was drinking too much caffeine. Eating too much sugar. Consuming copious amounts of butter. I definitely needed to make changes.

I felt as if I wanted to make changes, but I also struggled to do so.

And that has lead me create this list of steps to getting out of a 'rut' and getting yourself back on the path to wellness.

1. Listen to your body. 

It's vital to really stop and listen to the messages your body gives you. What could they be?

Well, your body could be telling you about your health daily, but you may not be tuned in to hear it.

For example: How do you feel in the morning? Are you exhausted - not just because you were out singing karaoke and partying on rooftops til 4 AM - but virtually every day? How do your eyes feel? Are they dry? Red? Are you hungry or have you lost your appetite? How strong is your urine? Does your lower back hurt? Are you getting sciatic nerve pain in your legs? Do you feel refreshed? How's your breath? Are you sweaty? Cold?

All of these indicators are important as they are your body's way of letting you know how it is feeling. Listen to your body and focus on what needs attention.

2. Identify what you need to improve. 

Once you have listened to your body and the messages you may have previously been ignoring, you now need to identify what it is that you need to improve upon.

I felt sluggish in the morning. I was hungry early in the day then ravenous in the afternoon, where I would pig out on carb-heavy foods to feel "full". I also looked at my diet and realised that I needed to make changes - more vegetables, less sugar and refined carbohydrates. I also noted that my energy levels were low. I remembered back to when I was exercising several times a week and saw that I don't have that kind of energy anymore. I listed all of these down.

3. Have a look at yourself. 

What you look like says a lot about your state of health. I'm getting a gut. My chest is shrinking. My arms aren't half as impressive as they used to be. I look tired. My skin is dry. I have dark circles under my eyes.

This all hinted at three things:
  • I wasn't getting enough sleep (8-9 hours a night is what I needed, I was getting 6 on a good night).
  • I wasn't eating the right things (I needed more 'good fats' and oils, leafy greens, iron, etc. and a lot less processed foods, fatty snacks, and Nutella).
  • I wasn't drinking enough water, and consuming too much caffeine (dark circles around the eye indicates a lack of sleep, but also dehydration, a build-up of toxins in the blood, and too much caffeine).

4. Choose a date. 

It's an important part of a process to build anticipation. Getting excited can help you stick at something. So, I spoke to my wife, and we decided to start the following Monday. That meant we also had time to prepare. We briefly noted down the things we'd need to do to make the changes successful:

- buy a tonne of vegetables
- get up early so we had time to eat a healthy breakfast
- make salads and time-consuming lunches the night before
- talk about our weekly routine and fit in exercise activities

Then, when the date came we were prepared.

5. Make a time limit. 

We've decided that we'll stick to these changes for 3 months (or about 90 days). That way, when we're struggling not to eat a Caramello Koala at 4:30 PM one afternoon we can think about the fact that the strictness will relax a little after that time, and avoid temptation.

Also - it's achievable. In that time I will be taking waist and arm measurements, weighing myself, etc. This means that I will actually achieve results. If I did it for two weeks and didn't see any changes, without the larger goal of three months, I may've given up. But by giving myself the longer time period I am guaranteed results.

In one month I'll start looking and feeling a lot better.
In two months other people will notice the changes.
In three months I will feel, look, and be a lot healthier and fitter!

6. Make it fun and achievable. 

I'm making sure I create opportunities for me to do activities that I enjoy (cardio, group workouts, running, Epsom salt bath soaks, herbal teas, etc.). That way, I'm more likely to stick to it.

Also, I'm not cutting out some things completely - like alcohol and coffee. I will still have that morning coffee and have a flat white out with friends. I'll still have a beer with mates or a wine with dinner some nights. Don't be afraid to do this within reason, and don't feel any guilt for doing so. Life is for living, so make sure you enjoy it! Just also keep in mind that you want to keep enjoying life, rather than developing chronic illnesses from poor diet and a lack of exercise. That way, you'll be balanced and happy.

I hope these 6 steps help you make the changes you need to, to create yourself a wonderful tomorrow. Every step you make now ensures you reach your goal earlier. So take notice, listen to your body, identify the changes you personally need to make, then make them. And make them fun.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Stupidity is Unbearably Cool

This is the part where I go on a rant about what I can't stand for another moment. This time, even at the risk of sounding like a 47 year old winging prat, it's going to be aimed at some of the young people of today.

All you need to do is jump onto Instagram and have a look at the feed of someone around the age of 15. What do you see?

Pouting selfies in the bathroom mirror, sometimes with the delightful addition of the family toilet in the background. Flower headbands and bindis, as if they're on their way to Woodstock. If of course they knew what Woodstock was. Or where it was. Or why it was. Or in fact could name two bands that played there.

And this is the problem. When did it stop being cool to be smart and start being cool to be an idiot?

I overheard a conversation (if you could call it that) the other day on the street between two girls. It went something like this:

"I dyed my hair. Do you like it? I love it."
"Yeah I love it too."
"Yeah, it's pretty much the same as Arianna Grande."
"Oh, I love her. I'm obsessed with her."
"Me too!"
"Shut up. No way!"
"Yes way! Aha!"
"Haha. That's, like, hilarious."
"I'm so obsessed. I'm obsessed with Audrey Hepburn too."
"Oh, she was so classy. Like, really classy and stylish."
"Oh yeah, she totally was. I love her in Breakfast at Tiffany's"
"That's my favourite movie!"
"Have you seen her in anything else?'
"Um.. No. But I watch Breakfast at Tiffany's all the time. And Mean Girls."
"Oh, Mean Girls is so funny. It's like my life.'

And so it went on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. Although, they wouldn't know that I was quoting The Great Gatsby, because I'm fairly sure they don't read anything. Other than perhaps the fashion section of Cosmo.

They are "obsessed" with Audrey Hepburn, yet have seen only one of her movies. Hardly an obsession.

Are they aware that she could speak five languages (English, Spanish, French, Dutch, and Italian) fluently? I doubt it. These girls could hardly speak English properly. Do they realise that during Nazi occupation in the Netherlands she was forced to eat tulip bulbs and attempt to bake grass into bread just to to survive during WWII? Do they even know when WWII occurred? Or why?

It's both frustrating and horrifying to think that in a time of smart phones, we're churning out stupid people. At no time in the history of the universe have humans had access to the amount of information at their disposal now, and yet we've never been stupider.

The knowledge they are missing is not optional - it's part of being a valuable and productive human in today's society.

It's important to know why world wars developed and how they were stopped. It's important to know how many people have lost their life in past protests, and for what purpose. It's important to be able to recognize the Mona Lisa, identify Picasso's trademark cubism, have an opinion about live exports, know where your vegetables comes from, explain photosynthesis, choose what chemicals you will and won't ingest, understand what antibiotics do to your immune system, and question the origins of life on earth.

It's not optional. It's an integral, yet often absent, part of human existence. With this greater understanding of how our minds work, what art is, what countries need our help and why, and what 'fair trade' means, we can move forward.

That is what humanity needs now, not Arianna Grande's hair.

Murder, She Wore

If I make one fashion prediction for 2014, it's that everyone will either knowingly or unknowingly start modeling their wardrobe after Murder, She Wrote characters.

The audacious woolen knits, oversized spectacle rims, brooches, shoulder-pads, side parts, and burgundy blazers will be back. It'll be enough to make Angela Lansbury sigh with content.

The 90s were great. We had mobile phones and the internet, but they didn't rule our lives. People had enough pride in themselves to look nice when they went out, and it was cool to be smart. The newspapers were read daily and people ate well - but didn't obsess over "eating raw" and exercising 'til they collapsed in a  pile of sweat and humiliation. You could eat a bowl of sugary cereal every now and then without some health guru making you feel guilty. Although you could pop into gym for a quick jazzercise session to Mariah or Britney if you needed some trimming down.

Men were handsome and debonaire in suits and blazers, when a watch was a timepiece and the pen you carried around with you was a status symbol. Women were powerful in their shoulder-padded jackets and slacks, they could be your corporate boss and still have time for a blow wave and a cigarillo.

It was a time that should come back. I'm already half there I think. I'm literally one tortoise shell pair of round-framed glasses and a baggy t-shirt with a tight neck away from being an extra on an episode of Murder, She Wrote. And loving it.

Unconsciously Mindful

"The subliminal aspects of everything that happens to us may seem to play very little part in our daily lives. But they are the almost invisible roots of our conscious thoughts." - Carl Jung

Earlier in the year I went to Lorne in Victoria, Australia for a surf camp. Lorne is a wonderful beachside town, nestled in amongst the rainforest-covered hills of the Great Ocean Road. It has a collection of quaint shops and chipper coffee haunts. And it has a fabulous bookshop.

I went there a few times to have a gander and start coveting some of the titles on display, and while there I was drawn to a book entitled 'Subliminal' by Leonard Mlodinow. It is a work devoted to the subliminal mind and how it works. Moreover, it is an exploration into what is termed as the 'New Unconscious' and the lessons we can learn from it.

Mlodinow explains the 'New Unconcious' as "the new science of the unconscious", which of course is the result of the new technologies we have in the present day that allow for the accurate understanding of how the subliminal mind works. And the results are astounding.

I genuinely encourage you to read it, as it explains what is possibly some of the most incomprehensible areas of psychology in a way that is not only accessible, but also entertaining and inspiring.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Tiny Little Houses Give Me Another Reason To Like Them

Tiny Little Houses, the band fronted by creative Caleb Karvountzis, a while ago released the single 'everyday i wake i find another reason not to' and it does not disappoint. The band is changing their direction slightly, veering away from their paradigmatic folk and exploring a vivid, echoey layered world of reverberating detail and darkness.

The lyrics themselves, sung by Karvountzis, take effort to decipher - hinting at depressive ideation, but suggesting a much warmer and univocal clarity. It evokes thoughts of hazy Sunday mornings, uninvited sunlight, cold floors, and an unshakable intellection of the pointlessness of capitalistic westernness.

It reminds me of Youth Lagoon with its stratum of distant percussions, melody and words, but varies in its perceptibility. Definitely one for the music library.

Listen online and purchase on band camp:

Nomadic Cafe Berwick

I was looking forward to Nomadic cafe opening to see what it would be like and I finally got to go last Saturday for a late breakfast. I can only describe the food here as superb. 

All four of us had something different and every meal was both visually and literally delicious. I had a combination of homemade baked beans (in a unique sauce of herbs, spices, mushrooms) on thick slices of toast and their crunchy hash browns. It was perfect. The people I was with were all equally as impressed with their meals. 

The staff were very friendly. I was discussing the interior of the building with my friend (and we have rather loud voices) and we were overheard by who I assume was the owner/manager. He ended up joining the conversation and explained that some of the features weren't finished yet. I noted that the large plywood bench facade wasn't in keeping with the overall feel of the place. He explained that he has originally planned for a local artist to create a black and white sculptured facade to run along the bench - but had been let down just as the cafe had opened and thus was left with no option but to use the plywood. I can't wait to see what it will look like when it's finished though. 

Even if the actual design of the restaurant is a work in process, the bones of the cafe are in and they are very promising. With some art on the walls and a few pot plants to liven the space, this will be my local hangout for Seinfeld coffee catchups and great food. 

In fact, they are opening a bar at the back of the restaurant to develop a night scene as well. The outside space looks really industrial with its bare oversized light bulbs hanging from a black ceiling, enormous red graffiti mural wall and rusty metal bar. I can't wait for that to open up soon. 

I love it. If you live nearby Berwick in the South East of Melbourne, I definitely recommend you go. 

Made From Stone

Ogami notebooks are made from what they term "Repap", a composite material made up of 80% calcium carbonate (which comes from limestone that they recover from quarries and waste produced by the building industry). The other 20% is non-toxic resins, which gives the paper a soft, almost plastic feel. The end product is a resistant, recyclable, waterproof paper - and the best part is that it comes in superb colour covers, including my favourite: turquoise.

So, grab yourself one. I got mine at MagNation in Melbourne, but you can get them online too.