Musings on Lockdown and coffee

Funny what lockdown reveals you really miss isn’t it?

Turns out coffee in cafes is my number 1. Not that I went all that often; perhaps once or twice a month. I’d enjoy it chatting with a friend and I’m happy on my own too.

I learned (as I supposed JK Rowling did) that I can work really well in a cafe, surrounded by the gentle hubub, while sipping cappuccino and eating a handful of nuts. I don’t need to know anyone. I might smile, say hello or connect over a few shared pleasantries – or not.

People need people and there’s something comforting about their very presence.

So, missing the coffee, in the end I got out my (30 year old) espresso machine. It takes ground coffee not the environmentally unfriendly pods. So far, so good. But as I’m reminded every time I use it, when it comes to mountains of frothed milk, sadly, I lack the knack.

Then this month, my excitement was huge when I noticed a cafe open in town. I went in, had a coffee and thanked them for being there and being open. I sat reading and watching the world go by outside.

Why is it so insanely relaxing??? The tricky part came afterwards when I wanted to pay – they were doing cash only! Now I love to use cash most of the time but with almost everywhere asking for contactless these last weeks, I’ve stopped carrying my purse and I didn’t have a single penny with me! I was mortified as I walked down the street to the cashpoint to bring back some cash.

The following week I met a friend in department store rooftop cafe – a lovely spacious, airy place. It was the highlight of my week and top news point when I spoke to family. A huge, exciting happening in a restricted shadow-life.

Anyway I still haven’t had a really great coffee because the place I most like to go for that still isn’t open. I could go somewhere with a push-button machine but, to misquote Douglas Adams, they invariably produce something almost, but not quite, entirely unlike coffee. I won’t use disposable cups – they’re not sustainable and it’s impossible to get a decent cappuccino in one because of the size and shape. Back at home my attempts to foam milk continue to be dismal. But in any case, the coffee isn’t really the point. It’s the whole experience – it’s having coffee with people around. And that’s what life is all about.

Top tip: Hurray for Cafes – support your local

Eat Yourself Well

I’m about to deliver an Eat Yourself Well day for The Create Escape in Milnthorpe, Cumbria.

They run lovely days, each on a special topic like pottery, creative writing, photography, chemical-free cosmetics – plus a cookery demonstration followed by a 2-course lunch, in a delightful farmhouse with an entertaining double act from hosts Angela and Debs.

Some questions I’ll be asking are:

  • how well are you now?
  • how well do you want to be?
  • how high is food in your priorities?

Helen Gerson said there are only two root causes of chronic disease: Deficiency and toxicity.

She was talking about non-infectious things like T2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, aches, pains, digestive woes, skin problems, lack of energy.

Food can boost your health or damage your health.

You can do yourself good by stuffing in lots of untainted goodness.  Think back to the 70s – meat and two veg, cooked at home.  It simplifies your shopping, it’s quick, it’s cheap, it’s satisfying, you can make it tasty and you’ll feel so much better.I fear that marketing is now the number 1 factor governing what we buy rather than the effect on our bodies.

Manufactured food is much more profitable than home-cooked food so it’s thrust under your nose all day long. Sadly it has lower or damaged nutrients and often contains health damaging chemicals. It’s addictive by design, leading to over-eating and leaving many people over-fed and undernourished. If you buy anything with an ingredients list, read it. Avoid sugar, sweeteners, vegetable oil and anything with more than 5 ingredients.

The good news is that you can easily choose to take care of yourself with a quick trip to the butchers and the green grocers.

Your body will say, “Thank You” when you eat yourself well.

TOP TIPS

  • Food is not just fuel. Think about goodness rather than calories.
  • Eat natural, local and seasonal: fresh vegetables and fruit, grass-fed, free-range meat, non-farmed fish, natural fats.
  • Minimise sugar, vegetable oil and processed food.
  • Drink water to quench your thirst.
  • Buy real food, cook with love, eat with gratitude and enjoy!

What would I recommend off these promotional flyers?

Just the eggs on the first one and the beef, chicken and cheese on the second.

Quote of the Month – a Calorie is not a Calorie

 

It’s extremely naive of the public and the medical profession to imagine that a calorie of bread, a calorie of meat and a calorie of alcohol are all dealt with in the same way by the amazingly complex systems of the body.

Professor David Haslam

Chairman of the National Obesity Forum

He’s absolutely right –

           – which makes it puzzling that the National Obesity Forum is completely hung up on calories. The main detriment of drinking sweet drinks (sugary or zero Cal artificial) is not the calories they contain but the fact that they make you hungry – and particularly hungry for junk foods.

Magnesium

The days are shorter, the sun slants at a shallower angle and we won’t be able to make vitamin D until next March/April. At this time of year I usually remind you that a vitamin D supplement is a good idea. And since with all micronutrients they work together, something you’ll need for your Vitamin D to work is magnesium (plus vitamins K2 and B6).

Magnesium is important for your heart, for your brain, for energy production, for insulin sensitivity and so much more. It’s essential if you take calcium. Deficiency is linked to: acid reflux, anxiety, panic attacks, ADHD and depression, constipation, fatigue and insomnia, muscle problems like cramp, fibromyalgia and post exercise soreness (the dreaded DOMS).  I heard in July from Dr David Unwin about how it helped a patient whose fitting had not responded to medication and turned out to be magnesium deficiency caused by other medication.

Having suffered with for years, I was thrilled that it also helps with Raynaud’s. As soon as there was a cool, damp day (even in summer), I’d touch something cold and the circulation in my fingers would just switch off. I’ve even had to warm up cutlery before eating and have occasionally been in so much pain with it that I cried. But since I started taking magnesium a year ago, my fingers have stayed pink.

Most people are deficient but it doesn’t show up with a simple blood test because your body will keep levels constant, even scavenging from your bones and muscles for the sake of your heart.

The main food sources are kelp, wheat (only wholegrain), nuts, soya (best only eaten fermented) and coconut. You could also take tablets, soak in an Epsom salts bath or spray an oil mixture on your skin.  There are different compounds of magnesium available as supplements.  Dr Mercola discusses their merits here.

Check out The Magnesium Miracle by Caroline Dean or her blog.

Top tip – Boost your health with magnesium

NB There are a few reasons why you shouldn’t take magnesium

  • if you have kidney failure,
  • very slow heart rate,
  • bowel obstruction
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • and check with your doctor about any medication.

Eat to Save the Planet

Climate change is in the news again and saving the planet looks like a challenge the human race is not taking seriously. Surely it’s a good idea to reduce consumption of energy and resources and not be wasteful.

Sir David Attenborough said about saving global eco systems,

The enemy is waste; when you see what’s thrown away, it’s shameful.”

The most environmentally damaging industry is air and sea travel, next comes fast fashion but food is right up there in importance. The ways we farm, process, eat and waste food are unsustainable. The UN has estimated that we waste 1/3 of the food produced – that’s 1.3 billion tonnes a year. Other estimates are as high as 50%. It’s been shown that the third most effective way to tackle climate change is to reduce food waste. So when I was putting the bin out I started thinking about how we can do our bit for the planet.

Our council collects rubbish once a fortnight. Perhaps your wheelie bin is nearly empty, like mine, but I see overflowing bins all over town.  Recycling is also collected once a fortnight. Again, I noticed boxes overflowing with bottles and mountains of cardboard boxes.

What’s going on? Could it be partly down to the type of food we buy and the way it’s packaged?

The more processed a food is, the more of its sale price goes to on advertising – including making the products’ packages look appealing even if the tempting images bear little relation to what’s inside.

A great way to reduce waste (food and packaging) and save lots of money is to do a little planning, buy real food and do your own cooking. Last August I ran a series of costed recipes and these plus others and some tips on healthy eating and weight loss are in my Eat Well and Save recipe booklet, now available £3.95 or £5 with postage.

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Leftover salmon with kale, sun-dried tomatoes and blue cheese

Cooking your meals from scratch gives you control over portion sizes too which could be good for your waistline. If you make too much, save any leftovers to eat another day rather than bin them.  Also see this blog Love Leftovers.

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To help you get organised try this useful weekly plan sheets from Wilko – with thanks to Elsa one of the Eat Well Gang who told me about them.

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and my shopping list prompt to help you think about the week ahead rather than walking round the shops buying whatever takes your fancy or what they promote the hardest, then ending up with too much or something missing that you need.

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As well as reducing waste, we can support regenerative agriculture (small scale, mixed, grass fed animals and arable farming) which has negative carbon emissions (ie reduces global warming), supports rich ecosystems with plants, insects and mammals and enriches the soil. Intensive (factory) agriculture (indoor livestock fed on grains and large scale arable using chemical fertilisers with pesticides and herbicides) causes greater emissions, loss of wildlife and biodiversity plus soil damage.

See Feedback Global.

When you buy meat from a supermarket, you get a plastic box. You can buy meat from a butcher and come away with a small, flimsy plastic bag. Yes it’s still plastic but a tiny fraction of the amount.

Buying local and in season saves food miles. It will be British asparagus season soon. Buy some to eat and some to freeze then you won’t need asparagus all the way from Peru later.

Grow a bit of salad or some soft fruit in the garden.

And even if you don’t have a garden you could grow some herbs in a pot on your kitchen window-sill.

Top tips – Include environmental impact when choosing the food you buy.

– Buy what you need, in minimal packaging and eat all of it.

More ideas at Love Food Hate Waste.

Quote of the month – Smoking

Did you give up smoking last week (no smoking day 13th March)?  If you did and you’re finding it tough – stay strong.  If not, the best day to do it is today.

I lost my wonderful Mum and my fabulous Nana to lung cancer.

Mum and I in Keswick – happy times

For the sake of your loved ones who will miss you, and your own health, please stop smoking.

Helen Gerson said “There are only 2 sources of non-communicable disease – deficiency and toxicity”.

So don’t think vaping is much better; you’d still be taking chemical fumes into your lungs.  Read this sobering article from Dr Mercola.

 

Why Diets Don’t Work and What to Do Instead

We’ve passed Fail Friday now (3 ½ weeks into the year apparently) so most people will have given up on their New Year Resolutions, abandoned their diets and stopped going to the gym.

Diets are 10-a -penny and there’s always a new one to try, from boring to bizarre. You’ll lose weight on them, then pile it all back on later. That isn’t what most people want so it seems to me that diets don’t work.

Don’t blame yourself – it’s actually the diet that causes the weight regain (happens to 95% of dieters). Your body is a wonderful survival machine and you can’t force it to keep on losing fat long-term through deprivation. Restrict energy intake and your body will slow your metabolism to protect you against your self-imposed food shortage. Much of the weight you’ll lose isn’t fat anyway but lean tissue that you need to hang onto. A better way is to invest in your health and happiness by learning to eat well.

Have you heard that a calorie is a calorie? That’s right from a physics point of view but it isn’t helpful for weight loss because your body reacts in different ways to different types of foods. The result is that some calories put weight on, others help you lose weight. Your body’s responses include fat storage or fat burning, increased hunger or satiety. Obsessing about calories is also bad because it takes the focus off the goodness in food leaving you lacking in important nutrients.

A Colin Shelbourne cartoon from Survival Guide for the Skint.

What really causes weight gain? Sugar is number 1, via the production of insulin and increase of appetite. Then there’s processed carbohydrate (called ‘soon to be sugar’), including flour and breakfast cereals. Then there are fructose and alcohol which create fat via the liver. Next come seed oils which your body loves to store. And don’t think sweeteners come free; they confuse your brain and upset your body’s appetite controls so you eat more. All those chemical additives can make your body produce fat to safely store them as a toxin-protection response.

The key therefore is to avoid these fat-storage triggers. They’re in most processed foods including: ready meals, takeaways, fizzy drinks, pastry, crisps, chocolate, booze, diet foods. These are the things people snack on all day.

For healthy weight loss, eat home-made meals that satisfy you for 4 or 5 hours to see you through to the next meal without snacking. Each meal should contain plants, proteins and fats. Breakfast in particular should contain enough protein and fat so that you don’t get hungry mid-morning. Here’s a piece I wrote on breakfasts to give you some ideas. Cook your own natural, nutritious food and let your excess weight melt away.

If you want to know more, including your personal metabolic type and the mixture of food that’s right for your body, my next Eat for a Better Life course starts on 20th February at The Foyer, Irish Street, Whitehaven.  Or have a one-to-one consultation any time by ‘phone or Skype.

Top tip – Give up diets, Learn to Eat Well!