It’s not just about the food

Life is good. I’m using my home ‘tens’ machine, trying to find the delicate balance between just enough neurostimulation on my calve muscles to loosen them off and electrocution. I’ve just arrived home from brunch with the Conlan-Bangs, at the absolutely awesome café Marcello’s who do amazing omelettes (4 fillings, $14), good coffee and everyone (bar us) who walks in gets a hug. Very Friends-esque. We hypothesised as to how many visits it would take to get a cuddle and it’s likely we will find out because we will definitely be back – so I will update you. I also remembered to buy handwash for the bathroom (finally), the slow cooker is releasing an aroma of lemon, garlic and olives and this song is playing on the radio.

Such a good price for such an Amazing omelette! Marcello's on College Rd in Freeman's Bay.

Such a good price for such an Amazing omelette! Marcello’s on College Rd in Freeman’s Bay.

It had been too long since I’d seen HCB in person, and we had a lot to catch up on. We identified Steve (HCB’s husband) should NOT do the 100k at Tawawera Ultramarathon and instead do the 60k (because you can legitimately walk and not feel like a fraud, and not get to the point where you want to kill anyone) – and then he should go and do the 70.3 half ironman in Kona so I could join HCB as the support crew. I’m such a triathlete wannabe. I love it, but experience has taught me that the cycling is not for me. I don’t do props. We also had actual belly laughs over ‘paleo’ conversations that we’ve been a part of lately. It reminded me of a very funny you tube clip “Sh*t paleo people say” (watch it – hilarious). Three such conversations this week:

Our friend Cam’s post on facebook re Louise slice. Click on pic for a better view. LOL!


HCB’s conversation with someone re having a paleo approach to diet. When explaining that she’d given up wheat and sugar, the person responded with “oh, so you’ve given up having a life, then? What’s next, you’ll start doing cross fit and preaching about it on Facebook” LOL!

Another conversation HCB had with a friend about ‘paleo’ who said their hesitation for the whole food approach to eating was “I just don’t think that I can do paleo”; They had just finished dinner at a Spanish restaurant where they enjoyed steak, salad, sautéed vegetables. HCB responded with “It’s not hard, I just did it then” which made us both crack up as we then slotted that comment into just about every conversation afterwards.

So that last one might be a ‘you had to be there’ moment, but the idea that applying ‘paleo’ principles is ‘doing’ or ‘not doing’ something is quite funny, when you think of what it actually means. In fact I’ve been ‘doing’ paleo all morning: I got up after a great sleep and started with a very easy run with Grant around Devonport, taking in both Narrowneck and Takapuna beach. The sun was shining, the water was calm and we both acknowledged how happy we were that we were as unfit as each other. (Yay! Running!) Then I made my way around Takapuna market to buy eggplant, lemons, coriander and parsley for my slow cooked lamb roast and to make babaganoush (all Greek like). Then I caught up with HCB and Steve for brunch where we had the aforementioned omelettes and some good laughs and a catch up. And now, after finishing this blog I’m going to go through the InStyle magazine I bought, look for outfits I like then see if I can emulate any of them in Glassons. How is all of that Paleo?

  1. Sleep (rest and recovery)
  2. Gentle exercise outside in the sun (and the sun was shining) with a friend: (social and environment connections)
  3. Buying food direct from the local growers and supporting the community
  4. Preparing a slow cook roast (slow, whole food, made from scratch)
  5. Catching up with friends (social connections)
  6. Reading magazine (relaxing, and surely the desire to to try and get a bargain represents some Darwinian, evolutionary advantage)

Paleo. It’s not just about the food. But, clearly, food plays an important part. This has been quite a good segue into something that I wanted to share with you this week.  But because I’ve gone on a bit already, I’ll keep it brief:

Digestion starts in the brain, not the mouth: Diane Sanfilippo was talking about this on an interview with Jimmy Moore on Ask The Low Carb Experts.

If you eat your food when you’re feeling stressed, for whatever reason, your stress hormone cortisol will be elevated. Historically, high cortisol levels signalled to your brain that your life is in danger and puts you into the ‘fight or flight’ mode. Of course, you’re not actually going to be doing either. You are just about to eat. This response, which once kept us alive in times of stress, is now working against us. Cortisol causes blood sugars to rise (preparing us to ‘fight’ or ‘run’) and results in an increase in circulating insulin. Over time, chronically elevated insulin levels contribute to inflammatory processes responsible for poor metabolic health – weight gain, storage of fat around our stomach, increased blood pressure, risk of heart disease…. In addition, insulin release will also signal for cortisol to be released, thus creating a cortisol-insulin cycle

Why does this matter to you? Think about the environment you might normally eat in.

  • Do you often eat standing up, while doing something else?
  • Do you often eat in your car on the way somewhere, and may be stuck in traffic?
  • Do you eat at your desk at work because you don’t feel like you have time to take a lunch break?
  • Are you often rushing from one task to the next, and eating is something that is secondary to all of the other things you are doing?

Then you may be creating an environment where your body isn’t responding appropriately to the foods you are eating. This isn’t just about weight and fat loss, it’s about your ability to absorb and utilise nutrients properly. Slim people can have metabolic health issues too.

So… what to do? Something I encourage all of my clients to do is to make time to eat. Doing this takes discipline – it can be more challenging that actually changing the foods we eat, but just as important.

  1. Breathe. Properly. This is the easiest way to promote a calm state in the body and takes no time at all. Practice breathing from your stomach (as opposed to your chest) a few times a day, particularly just before eating
  2. Get up 15 minutes earlier to eat breakfast in an unhurried manner
  3. Eat at the table where possible with little distraction so you can focus on eating and relaxing
  4. Write down whatever is on your mind that might be causing undue stress, (be it a list of tasks you need to do, or a problem that needs your attention) so you feel that you’ve taken some steps to address this before eating.
  5. Take a proper lunch break so you can remove yourself from the physical environment of work

By focusing on creating a relatively stress-free environment to eat in, this will become a habit over time and ultimately aid your body to have an appropriate hormonal response to the food you eat. On that note (food), I made two soups this week that you’ll find in the recipe section: broccoli and blue cheese soup and a beetroot and cauliflower number. As these are relatively low in protein, I’d definitely back them up with a source of protein such as a mini frittata, a couple of chicken drumsticks or a tin of salmon. There you have it: lunch.

4 thoughts on “It’s not just about the food

  1. So important! I’m a huge proponent for mindful eating because our culture is all about eating on the run or scarfing down lunch at your desk. The whole preparation (shopping, cooking, etc.) plays a huge role in digestion – it prepares our body for food rather than buying a meal from the drive-through.

  2. Hi Mikki many good and thoughtful points in your article, thanks. One thing I most definitely recommend to friends is the fact that for me breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it is such a good idea as your suggestion “Get up 15 minutes earlier to eat breakfast in an unhurried manner”. By breakfast I don’t mean a bowl of cereal and toast, my idea of a great start to the day is bacon, eggs and mushrooms or similar. If I eat like this it keeps me going for hours. Just makes so much sense.

    All the best Jan

    • Hi Jan, thank you for your feedback, and I agree: for most people cereal and toast don’t cut it. Your breakfast sounds great actually!

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