There ain’t nothing quite like hanging with a gal pal over glorious food and brilliant conversation on a cold and drizzly February Sunday morning. Especially if that brilliant food is made by someone else and all you have to do is show up. I’m really good at showing up.
I’m also behind, for those of you who noticed that I just said ‘February’ in a post dated ’27th March’. I am leaning towards blaming my trip down to California for the backlog of Big Breakfast Adventures, although having been back for 5 weeks now that seems a bit of a stretch. I maintain my stance that glorious food on a Sunday in February is awesome – whenever it is I finally get around to writing about it.
I arrived early. So early Joule’s doors were a good 20 minutes from unlocking. Wendi was late. A good 30 minutes after Joule’s doors were flung open. She had a great excuse – the 520 bridge was closed. If you know Seattle then you’ll know that when they close the 520 bridge the trek to get across Lake Washington is not short. But let me tell you – Wendi is worth waiting for. She is the funniest lawyer I know.
Perched on my bar stool at the Chef’s Counter I supped on peppermint tea while watching the chefs busy themselves preparing brunch for the hungry hordes that descended moments after opening. If you want a seat at Joule, come early.
Sunday Brunch at Joule is decidedly different to your average brunch. There’s a list of dishes on the menu – several of which are *SANE – but also included is helping yourself to the communal buffet, and as we soon discovered, Joule’s buffet is a revelation. Fresh veggies everywhere! Hurrah!
Hello, Kale Salad!
Hello, Shrimp and Cauliflower Salad!
Hello, Coconut Milk & Citrus Salad!
I decided on the Omelet with maitake mushroom, Chinese celery, and truffle oil to accompany my pile of vegetable *SANEity from the buffet. One of the most interesting meals I’ve had in quite a while.
Wendi opted for the Pancetta with bacon, breakfast sausage, and apple salad. I had toyed with the idea of the bacon, too. As it turned out I got to share some of Wendi’s since she added scrambled eggs to her plate and found she couldn’t tuck away all the bacon as well. It’s good to have friends.
I am entirely enthused about our visit to Joule. The food was fantastic, and I didn’t have to change a thing to reach my goal of a lovely *SANE plate of fodder. The staff were a delight, the atmosphere was relaxed and welcoming. Plus there was Wendi to inject witty and enlightening chatter to the mix. What a great Sunday brunch!
As we were getting ready to depart Wendi asked me if I had ridden the Seattle Great Wheel down on the waterfront. I hadn’t.
“Let’s go ride it!” she squealed.
Never mind the drizzle or the vestiges of snow left from earlier wintry offerings, it was a beautiful ride soaring high above the city and the Sound, it’s slow, gentle pace making a very relaxing and peaceful moment in time. A brilliant reminder to sit back, breathe, and take a look at the big picture every once in a while.
Then there was a steaming mug of peppermint tea at Starbucks before heading to our homes for whatever else Sunday had in store.
Eating good food, connecting with good friends, and riding the big wheel even though you don’t have children. Whatever makes you feel good – do more of that.
I am almost as famous for my dislike of exercise as I am for my once-legendary appetite, my adoration of leeks, and my penchant for photographing my feet. I am not sure when I started to dislike exercise so much, and really it’s rather odd given that I took up ballet at the tender age of 2½ (no I do not have any pictures of me wobbling around in my pint-sized pink leotard) and then plié-d, jeté-d, and pirouetted every week thereafter for 17 years. Perhaps I just never viewed dance as exercise. In my late teens and early twenties I spent a not-insignificant amount of time at the gym weight training – sometimes daily – which I enjoyed immensely. Or maybe it was the trainers. Who knows. The only thing that matters, when all is said and done, is getting me to exercise now. And I am deliriously happy to tell you that I have crested the I-hate-exercise hump!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have zero shame about using that many exclamation points. This is BIG, people.
My eccentric exercising and interval training went south a while back, not due as some may have supposed to dislike, but due to near-constant exhaustion and an obnoxiously busy schedule – only some of which was self-inflicted. A case of not putting the most important things first leading to not being able to put the most important things first. Not good. Not good at all. Especially when you are cheerleading the world on with their eccentrics but not getting it done yourself. Bad. Very bad. Then this happened; getting back on track became critical, so I made a commitment to myself, and exercise was part of that commitment to my overall health. It was also key to switching on my fat-burning hormones. Love that.
Once I had made headway in the sleep, supplement and *SANE eating departments I found I had the energy – and the desire – to begin doing the eccentric exercises and interval training in earnest. If you are struggling to exercise you might want to start by looking at those things and seeing if there’s anything there that needs a tweak. If you are constantly exhausted, even catching sight of an exercise bike or a dumbbell can feel like you’re standing at a Mt. Everest base camp staring up at the summit with days and days of strenuous physical activity ahead of you. And if you suffer from depression, oh my. The irony is that depression can be helped enormously by exercise. It’s a funny old world.
The first thing I did was get back on the bike for that 10 minutes of interval training. I knew it would be hard but I also knew it would be over in 10 minutes, and I could do 10 minutes. Now this next bit may all sound a bit woo-woo, but I decided a mantra would help those 10 minutes along, so every time I started to push the pedals around I said out loud, “I have a strong, lean, healthy, fat-burning body! I have a strong, lean, healthy, fat-burning body!”, until the pushing was over. And you know what? It DID help those 10 minutes along. It DID make it easier when I focused on saying those words instead of focusing on how hard those pedals were to push round. And you know what else? Saying that out loud, over and over again started to change how I viewed my body. I started to see myself as already having the strong, lean, healthy, fat-burning body that I wanted rather than the weak, exhausted, fat-storing vessel I was walking around in. This switch of focus dramatically increased my desire to do what I needed to do. Whoop whoop! With enthusiasm in place, everything becomes easier.
The second thing I did was recognize that I had not been getting enough resistance into my at-home eccentric workouts to make them effective. Consequently, when I was ready to get the eccentrics back into my routine, I bit the bullet and joined a gym where I could use machines with endless resistance opportunities. I am lucky to live in a community where there are two gyms a 3-minute drive from my house. As well as use of all the machines, the gym I chose offers a wide range of other fitness classes, one of which is Restorative Yoga. Bonus! Joining the gym got me unlimited resistance for my eccentric workouts and a yoga class – at no extra cost – to boot. Score! The drop in my grocery bills easily covered the $12-a-week gym membership.
The other thing I noted was that for me, deciding which day and time would consistently work best with my schedule to go to the gym, setting a recurring appointment in my calendar, and making a commitment that no-matter-what I would go, worked much better than seeing the weights in the corner of my bedroom at home and thinking, “Oh, yes, I’ll do that later today”, which usually lead to, “Oh I am too tired now, I’ll do it first thing in the morning”, which lead to, “Oh I have so much to do today, I’ll do it tonight”, and on and on. Needless to say, the eccentrics never got done. Getting a gym membership is putting your commitment out there, and I found that really motivated me.
Now I go to the gym first thing on a Saturday morning. I do the 4 exercises that Jonathan recommends in The Calorie Myth – shoulder press, chest press, row, and leg press. It’s 20 minutes including the drive there and the drive back. And then I’m done for the week. Magical. It’s amazing how fast you build strength when you do eccentrics on the machines – I raised my leg-press weight 40# in 3 visits, which is hugely exciting. The leg exercises are the most important ones to work because your legs and glutes are your biggest muscles, so you get maximum overall benefit from working them. I take my mantra, “I have a strong, lean, healthy, fat-burning body! I have a strong, lean, healthy, fat-burning body!” to the gym with me, except I don’t say it out loud. I may be all brave and bubbly – or obnoxious depending on how you feel about me – on our shows, but put me in a gym with a bunch of strangers and you won’t hear a peep out of me. Talking of shows, when I walked into the gym last Saturday and saw the wall of people pounding away with their headphones in I wondered if any of them were listening to Jonathan and I as they ran or cycled, and then I giggled all the way up the stairs.
The first time I went to the gym I took my copy of The Calorie Myth and worked through each exercise slowly so I was sure I had the right machine and was doing it right, but I only had to do that once. Most gyms will also offer you a free session with a personal trainer who could work through them with you so you have the confidence that you are doing them right. I find my body lets me know the next day – loudly – whether I did it right or not.
The effect of increasing resistance on my eccentrics has been dramatic. The first time I went to the gym I couldn’t even believe how sore I was
the next day for the next 3 days. Within days I began to see my clothes get looser and my body shrinking. I could feel the fat-burning switch had flipped. My appetite was cut in half and I had tons more energy. I was excited for my next trip to the gym. Wait. WHAT?!?!?!??! I know, right?!
The only other eccentric exercise I do on top of the four machines is leg lowers – where you lie on your back with your legs straight up in the air and slowly lower your legs to the ground to a count of 20, never letting them touch the floor. Then bend your knees and stretch your legs straight up again. I do this 6 times, at which point I reach eccentric failure and have to stop. Why do I do these? It makes me feel better mentally to think that I am strengthening my core.
Now I have got into my stride and set a routine I am finding getting my eccentrics and interval training in easy. They are just things I do, like doing the laundry or washing the car. Ok, no, I don’t wash the car every week, but you get my drift.
In other news, my BFF Alisen – galpal extraordinaire and Big Breakfast Adventure cohort – moved her eccentric exercises to the gym the week before I did and is experiencing similar results – moving up in resistance and down in body size. Hurrah!
I hope – if you struggle with the whole exercise part – that this will help you unlock whatever it is that has been holding you back or making it hard. While I don’t think for one minute that exercise was my cure-all for switching my fat-storing to fat-shifting, it definitely played an important part.
Not least of all it has made me feel good, and whatever makes us feel good – we should do more of that.
PS. If you are just getting started with exercising you would be wise to check-in with your Dr. before getting started. Just to be on the safe side.
PPS. If you are looking for a bike for interval training, this is the one that Jonathan and I have.
PPPS. You can see the images in The Gallery here (lock) and here (post and chain).
Hello, dear readers. It’s time to talk supplements!
Before we get started on the specifics of what I take and why, I want to be clear that I am not making recommendations here. I am simply sharing what I do, why, and how I have found it to be beneficial. Your mileage may vary depending on where you are and what your goals are. Your supplementation should be specific to your needs. I also want to be clear that there is no magic pill or potion that will do for you what eating *SANE foods and doing eccentric exercise will when it comes to reducing body fat. I don’t take any of these supplements to help me lose weight, although it is true that when our bodies are working optimally they will naturally burn body fat instead of storing it.
As always, you would be wise to consult a Dr. before starting any supplementation, especially if you are taking any medications.
If you are new to supplementation you may find, like I do, that you have to take them with food. If I take them on an empty stomach I can pretty much guarantee that they’ll be coming straight back up again.
These are the supplements that I take daily. If you’re going to supplement you need to be consistent. Taking them here and there will not help you, so do whatever you have to do to make taking them routine. Set them out the night before, use one of these so you know whether you’ve taken them or not, keep them somewhere visible in the kitchen so you always see them, have a reminder posted on the ‘fridge door, set an alarm, or you know I am sure there’s a app for that.
To save time in the morning, every couple of weeks (but you can do whatever frequency works best for you) I get a pile of small Ziploc baggies and put a days-worth of supplements in each one. This means I can just grab a baggie and go without having to take the time to undo a multitude of bottles every day. Yes I could get up 5 minutes earlier to make sure I have time to take supplements, but a) I value my sleep more, b) it gives me one less thing to do as I start my day, and c) I never miss taking them. Winning!
MULTI-VITAMIN AND MINERAL
This is my make-sure-all-the-bases-are-covered supplement. While eating lots of veggies means that in theory you are getting enough of everything, the amounts of nutrients vary according to many factors, not least of which is how long they have been harvested. You don’t know exactly when your romaine lettuce was plucked, and the nutritional value falls the longer ago that was. We have no absolute way of telling exactly what we’re getting. Plus, who has time to keep track of everything you eat in order to calculate whether you’re getting enough selenium or vitamin K in your meals? Not me. Even if you had the time, it would probably drive you crazy. The multi-vitamin / mineral is my buffer for getting a basic daily amount of everything. I get my multi from Melaleuca, which unless you’re already a customer – or know someone who is – it’s a pain to get them. I recommend doing your own research to find a high-quality (there’s lots of rubbish out there!) multi. I am big fan of Now Foods supplements so that could be a good place to start.
I am deficient in vitamin D. It seems like everyone I know here in Seattle takes a vitamin D supplement to top up what we get in the way of natural sunshine. The other reason I take it though is because research shows that vitamin D may play an important role in mental health and in depression. We don’t know if being deficient in vitamin D causes depression or whether depression causes a deficiency in vitamin D, but either way, I am going to take steps to get my levels up. I use Now Foods Vitamin D.
This is the supplement that my Naturopath recommended to get my adrenal glands healed and back on track. You can read about my long-suffering adrenals here. I have found this supplement enormously beneficial, particularly in getting my brain jump-started in the mornings and giving me more energy. I use Vital Nutrients Adrenal Support.
This is an amino acid that Jonathan recommended I try to help with the constant fatigue and loss of mental focus that I was experiencing at the start of the year. L-Glutamine is a major fuel and energy source for the body and brain. Research has shown L-Glutamine to improve brain functioning, promote alertness, focus, memory, problem solving, and overall intellectual functioning. L-Glutamine has a high priority in brain health. It also supports protein synthesis, builds muscle and stores glycogen for energy in the muscle tissue. L-Glutamine has also been shown to decrease addiction cravings and I have definitely noticed a decrease in my food cravings since I’ve been taking it. Hurrah! I use Now Foods L-Glutamine.
BEEF LIVER TABLETS
This is another recommendation from Jonathan to help me in the energy department. Reported benefits include reduction in fatigue, increase in energy and stamina, greater gains in lean muscle from workouts, a reduction or prevention of muscle loss due to aging, and reduction or prevention of muscle soreness. Each tablet also provides 2g of protein. I have gone from being too exhausted to exercise to being able to increase resistance at the gym every week since I’ve been taking these. I use Beverly International Ultra 40.
CURCUMIN / TURMERIC
I have had psoriasis (some Drs. say eczema) since I was 11, so when I read that turmeric is an incredible anti-inflammatory I had to try it; slowly but surely my psoriasis is improving. Turmeric has been credited with a whole host of other beneficial properties – a great antioxidant being one of them – but it has also long been used in Chinese medicine for treating depression, so it’s no surprise I was all over it. I use Now Foods Curcumin.
I have been using niacin for several years to help with depression. It has also been found to lower total cholesterol and relieve joint pain. I have enjoyed all 3 benefits since taking it. If you are considering taking niacin I strongly recommend you read this post to determine how much you need, which kind to get and how to take it – the tips and tricks are towards the bottom (it’s a long post). I use Now Foods Niacin.
A quick search on the web will bring you countless benefits of supplementing with omega-3. I do it for 3 reasons – it’s anti-inflammatory benefits, for joint health, and because there is evidence that omega-3 may be useful for depression and bi-polar disorder. I use Now Foods Ultra Omega-3.
That’s all, folks!
It seems I’ve known Kate for longer than I’ve been alive. We worked together in England some 17 (SEVENTEEN?!?!?!?) years ago, and now here we both are by some lovely quirk of fate living 26.4 miles apart in Seattle, Washington. When you think how enormous the world is that’s pretty wild.
Kate left England almost exactly a year before I did although prior to that we had drifted apart when our work paths forked in differing directions. I don’t recall now how we did reconnect all these years later but I suspect Facebook had at least something to do with it.
A couple of months ago we decided it was high time we met up for coffee and filled in all the gaps in our respective lives. When we did I was thrilled to hear that Kate still talks with a funny accent, although not as funny as mine given that she now uses ‘d’s’ where the ‘t’s’ are – like a real American.
Kate was quick off the mark to sign up for The Big Breakfast Adventure when I announced my weekend breakfasting intentions a while back, and despite not being a morning person she bravely agreed to meet at The Wandering Goose at 7 am on a Sunday for a spot of grub and a cup of tea. We Brits do love our tea. I opted for peppermint since the green tea on offer was Genmaicha – made with brown rice and a complete mystery to me. Meanwhile, Kate put all Britishness aside and plumped for coffee.
The Wandering Goose is a delightful little spot – warm, cozy, and, once you’re in the door, every bit as inviting as a crackling open fire on a cold winters day. I arrived right at 7, settled into a well-loved oak bench and watched as a stream of regulars stopped in to grab a coffee and a muffin, or linger over a plate of something more substantial.
Kate raced in after whizzing past a few times looking for a parking spot. It gets busy early on 15th in Capitol Hill. I knew when I caught sight of a Mini whooshing past the window that it must be her. What else would she drive? Still bleary-eyed she chose a large bowl of granola with various accoutrements. By all accounts it was very sweet and it was later blamed for it’s heavy nap-inducing properties. Those oats, you just can’t trust them.
For me it was a toss-up between the Bubble and Squeak – how entirely British! – and the Veggie Hash. I opted for the Veggie Hash with the potatoes removed and some sausage added. It came with greens poking mischievously out the sides and a couple of messily poached eggs nestled on top. It was a hearty, filling skillet of yum. The sausages were mildly spicy, adding some extra warmth to a dreary winter day. I suspect that some of the veggies included in this dish were not altogether the *SANEst choices, but I wasn’t going to let a couple of pieces of parsnip spoil my enjoyment of this tasty concoction.
Kate is a marketing wizard so we brainstormed for a little while on some ideas for getting my cookbooks out there. Kate is a big, big fan of my soup and veggie cookbooks so she is gun-ho to tell the world what healthy deliciousness awaits them within the pages. And I’m always up for spreading the word to help more people eat smarter and live better.
Kate then shared her recent experience with Laughing Yoga, and I have to say just her lively description had me in stitches. She is trying to persuade me to go to a class with her, and while there’s a big part of me that can see how beneficial this would be, there’s a bigger part of me that is just too shy to contemplate spending an hour with a bunch of strangers laughing my head off over nothing at all. I think for now, anyway, I’ll stick to my Restorative Yoga, which, I must tell you is doing me the power of good.
Catching up with Kate was lovely. We’ve since spent more time over coffee and a leisurely walk in the park. It’s good to connect with people you enjoy.
Whatever makes you feel good – do more of that.
If there is one thing I would credit more than anything else with my recent transformation I would say it was sleep. Yep, fixing my insomnia was key. That may not be the key that you were hoping for, but you know me – I have to say it like it is. I say sleep was the key because I have learned recently that it doesn’t matter what else you are doing right, if you are not getting enough good quality sleep then nothing else works nearly as well as it could. Sleeping well and for long enough on a consistent basis allows everything else to work better and faster. A lot better and faster. So get some sleep.
Oh. Wait. Sleep is not always as easy as that, is it? By a long shot. I don’t think I have ever been more frustrated by anything, ever, as lying in bed, night after night, completely exhausted but completely unable to sleep. Some nights I would lie there in the dark, Mr. McHenry draped over one leg, Daisy curled up by my side, and cry – tears rolling down the sides of my face in utter despair – until after 3, or 4, or 5 hours I would finally nod off for 45 minutes, just about the time the alarm shrilled me into consciousness again. Sometimes I would get up and go camp on the brown leather couch in the den, Mr. McHenry in tow, like changing the décor would somehow lull my body into sleep mode. So yes, I understand how difficult it can be and if you are in that spiral of misery my heart goes out to you.
I was going to write a long, wieldy, and wildly informative post about every nuance of sleep that I could. But then I found this post and realized that I could never hope to write a piece as staggeringly comprehensive, so if you’re suffering in the sleep department I strongly recommend that you read this first and then come back and see what specific actions I took that solved my sleep dilemma. Even if you think you sleep pretty well and feel pretty good when you get up I encourage you to read this article. You may discover you are not doing as well as you thought you were, and it would be really sad if the efforts you are making in other areas of life were not getting the results you’re after and it turned out that tweaking your sleep was all that was required to super-charge everything else.
Did you read the article yet? It’s OK, I’m happy to wait while you do. Goodness knows you’re worth waiting for. In the meantime, here’s a picture of some milk churns I found in California the other week in a delightful town whose name completely escapes me.
Here’s the steps I took in my campaign to regain my sleep sanity:
- I turned off the heating in the bedroom at night. We sleep better when our brain and body temperatures are lower.
- I gave up my love for a big, fat, down duvet (comforter) and starting sleeping with just two micro-fleece blankets. I immediately stopped waking up drenched in sweat. It didn’t take me long to stop missing the duvet.
- I stopped drinking any caffeine after noon. In fact, I switched to decaf coffee and green tea in the mornings too until I got my sleep down.
- I stopped drinking any liquids after 6 pm so needing to pee didn’t wake me up.
- I started going to bed at the same time every single night. No staying up late at weekends. No waiting until I was tired. I set a schedule and stuck to it.
- I set my alarm for the same time every day – regardless of the day of the week. Our brains and bodies – not to mention our circadian rhythms – love routine.
- I started a “going to bed” routine an hour before bedtime – feeding and putting the ‘kids’ to bed, closing all the blinds, locking all the doors, showering, reading, you get the drift – that reinforces to my brain and body that I am winding down for sleep time.
- I stopped getting any ‘blue light’ at least 2 hours before bed time, where blue light = TV (that was easy, I don’t have one), computer, tablet, smartphone, LED and fluorescent lights. ‘Blue light’ suppresses the production of melatonin, something we produce that makes us sleepy at night. The upside is I now have a red light bulb in my bedroom which I think is a total hoot for a single girl who lives with 6 cats. NOTE: If you must use a computer close to bedtime then download this handy little app: http://justgetflux.com/. It changes the light from your computer screen to less ‘blue’.
- I closed all the windows in my bedroom to stop any noise from outside. This was hard for me because I love to have a roomful of fresh air, but sleep was more important.
- I closed all the blinds so there was no stray light in my bedroom. I like waking up to sunlight pouring in through the windows, but sleep was more important.
- I started taking a melatonin supplement an hour before bed to help my brain know it was time to sleep.
- I worked really hard on reducing the stressors in my life (that post will be up soon!) so that my brain wasn’t kept awake worrying about or obsessing over stuff.
All of these things helped. I was getting a lot more total sleep, but I was still waking up every 2 hours and sometimes found it really hard – if not impossible – to get back to sleep again. You might find that one or a combination of these tricks is all that you need.
- For me, once I had done all these things and was still a ways from getting an uninterrupted 8 hours a night, I bit the bullet and called in The Cavalry. I hate taking medication that I don’t *really* need, but in this instance, getting back in the sleep game was the most important thing in my life that I could do, so ego be damned, I headed to the Dr. and got some Trazodone, which is actually a non-addictive sedating anti-depressant, but these days it is most widely used for treating insomnia, especially in women. Obviously, Trazodone might not be right for you, so you will need to be guided by your Dr. if you need to go down Medication Avenue until you get your sleep back on track.
I am now getting 8 – 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep most nights.
IT HAS COMPLETELY CHANGED MY LIFE. It made all the other things I needed to work on possible.
Now go get some sleep.