Living in a world of no deadlines and some thoughts on self-sabotage

As a follow-up to the last post about the “Bird by Bird” strategy and fear of deadlines, here are some tips on how to overcome the overwhelming feelings of not having enough time to do the things that make you happy. I am trying to implement them as I write.

How to put yourself in a state of mind where no deadline exists, even though you might have a scary one waiting for you around the corner? This is something I will try to apply to my own situation today.

  • Imagine what your life would be if there were no deadlines whatsoever. What would your day look like? You might want to imagine this being a working day or a vacation day. For writers, (un)fortunately, there is no such thing as vacation days.

Think about the stuff that makes you happy. Is it playing with your children? Is it having a romantic dinner with your loved one? Is it creating something? If no one and nothing were stopping you, what would you do? I, for one, would write a book. The funniest thing is, that instead of doing so, I have spent an unimaginable amount of time doing absolutely nothing, stressing out because of the things I have to do, instead of doing the things I like. One would think that with all the time I spent procrastinating, I could have written two or three books by now. But the fear of the deadline made me unable not only to do the things I had to but didn’t want to, but also to do the things I wanted to do but persuaded myself not having time for. I mean, wtf? Sorry for the outburst.

If I had no deadlines, that is, if I didn’t have to finish my dissertation by the end of September and didn’t have to prepare for my teaching job, my day would look something like this:

  1. I would wake up really early, at 5 am. Because I love early mornings, when everyone is still asleep and you feel like you are the only one in the world.
  2. I would stick to my morning routine. I have found it to be soothing. For the past few months now, I have stuck with it, even if some days the only thing I’m consistent with is doing my thirty push-ups. But this makes me feel anchored. For great ideas about morning routines, I urge you to take a look on this blog.
  3. I would start writing right away. For as long as I can before getting hungry. Writing is what makes me happy. Playing with ideas, trying to put them into words. Truthfully, it doesn’t matter what I write: it can be a blog post, a chapter of my dissertation or the beginning of a novel. A pushing my limits makes me a little scared every time, but also proud of myself. It is still scary for me to write my dissertation consistently, because it seems like it is never ending. Every time I finish a paragraph or a page, I want to do it over. This is one of the things I want to come to terms with. I have to come to terms with the fact that I can make mistakes and learn, and never stop learning.
  4. I would go outside. There are days I don’t go outside. One day is ok, but sometimes it can last for up to three or four days, and I just know it isn’t good for me. Because in a world with no deadlines, I would follow my instincts and go breathe some fresh air every day.
  5. I would exercise. Because I like it. Same as the morning routine, makes me feel anchored.
  6. In a world of no deadlines, I would follow my instincts. I would eat whenever I am hungry and never overeat. I would take a nap if I feel like it and not stay in bed too long because I am trying to escape my problems. I would read the books that I want to read but that make me scared because I fear I might find ideas in them that would make me challenge my perceptions, i. e. books about the subject of my dissertation that I am scared to open even though I know I have to because they might put into questioning every thing I have written so far.

In other words, in a world of no deadlines, I would be free. This is what this is all about, and this is the philosophy I am committing to stick to for the next twelve months. Because this is how long I think it will be until it becomes a habit.

  • If no one were to push you or scare you into doing things, what your priorities would be? Why?

For example, I have to (there is no really a way around it) read five or six books in the next two weeks and prepare a teaching program for at least one semester for my new job that starts in September. I realize now, having not touched a textbook in the last two weeks, that this plan might be unrealistic. I have to set priorities: choose the books I will read thoroughly, map out the semester without going into details and fully prepare only my first lessons.

My desire for perfection made me want to do everything at once and prepare almost my whole year in advance.

The funny thing is, I should know by now, having taught for the past three years, that the effective way to do it is not by being a control freak but by adapting your expectations to your audience. So actually, shifting my priorities, even though the need to do it comes from me not lifting a finger for the past two weeks or so, is a good thing that will turn out to be even more productive. Adopting the “Bird by Bird” strategy is knowing that you can make the best of a situation by accepting it.

Even if you plan out everything, something will always come and ruin your perfect plan. By accepting to take a step by step approach, you actually save yourself much more time. (I know there are people out there who manage to do everything the way they planned. I’m not one of those. When I plan everything in advance, I almost always end by not doing anything: one small set back is enough for me to think that the whole thing is now ruined).

  • Take time to breathe. This is a hard one. Almost as hard as it is to remember taking it one step at a time. This is more of a trick than anything else, but it has worked for me in the past. When you’re slouching in front of the tv instead of doing the things that make you truly happy, there comes a time (even if it lasts for only a second) when you question your choices. When you think “God, I should be doing something, and I’m too scared, stupid, weak, to take my ass off the couch”. Well, at these times, take a deep breath. Then take another one. And another one. By the time you’ve taken five or ten deep breaths, your body will relax, even just a little bit. And the fog will clear out a little bit too. You’ll be faced with the choice you’ve made, but instead of being scared, you’ll be more able to think straight. Look inside yourself and ask yourself the question: are you happy with what you are doing right now? Listen to your instincts. Are you tired? Are you feeling energized? Are you hungry? Or satisfied? Are you stressed? Or numb? I think asking yourself these questions is the biggest step towards answering them. If you really want to keep doing what you are doing, ask yourself why. Is it because it gives you pleasure, or is it because it makes you forget your problems? Is doing what you’re doing will make your problems go away faster? Or at all? Is there something else you think you should be doing but are afraid of? Why? Again? Will doing what you’re doing make you do what you’re supposed to do better? We all need to wind down sometimes. I really believe that even though I objectively find that when I wind down by reading a good book or listening to classical music I become sharper, brighter and more relaxed than when I watch ten episodes of a show I’ve seen a million times before. But then again, sometimes watching the show is just what I want. Of course, it would be healthier to go for a walk. Of course it would be better to just go to bed early, or to take a bath, but there you go. Nobody’s perfect. The only problem is, after I’ve spent a night like this, I feel guilty.
  • Say no to guilt. Guilt is what makes a world with no deadlines practically impossible to imagine. When there is no one else to make us feel bad about ourselves, we are the best to get the job done. And boy are we effective. It is so easy to be passive-agressive towards yourself. So easy to kick yourself in the chin when there is no one else to do it for you. And let’s face it, unless your family and friends are perverts, the shame you feel when a loved one admonishes you about your behavior is all your own doing. We are so good at making ourselves feel bad. We never let ourselves to cut ourselves some slack. Although we can spend a whole day and night reassuring a friend, we are the first ones to behave with ourselves like our worst enemy. We know our weak spots. The behavior that results from this kind of thinking is of the schizophrenic kind: instead of trying to be whole, we try to sabotage our other self, that is oneself, all the time. Here again, I believe the path to integrity lies within following your instincts.
  • What about willpower? This is a scary word. Almost as scary as responsibility and commitment. The funny thing is, for me anyway, is that when I have to do something for someone else than myself, I do it right away, no procrastination involved. When my boyfriend asks me for a favor, like going to an embassy and stand in line for hours to pick up his visa because he can’t do it himself, I do it without frowning. When my thesis supervisor asks me to spend some time reading the work of an undergraduate student, I am happy to do it. When my friend needs help, I drop everything and try my best. In other words, when I do it for someone else than myself, no matter how hard or annoying the task is, I finish the job. Following this train of thoughts, the reason I am unable to get the job done when it comes to writing my dissertation, for example, is because deep inside I think that I am not doing it for others but for myself. And since we’ve already established that being nice to yourself is maybe the hardest thing there is, the conclusion is simple: when it comes to defending my own best interests, I weaken and bury my head in the sand. Somewhere deep down I must believe that I’m not important enough to take the time and to put in the effort to do something for me and only me (or at least mostly me). Do you ever feel that way? So, the solution is pretty obvious, but alas not easy: You have to think of yourself as a friend to whom it is of paramount importance to do the task ahead. This is all the willpower you’ll ever need.

So, next time you have to do something you don’t want to do, mostly because you are scared of doing it and of the consequences it will have on your life, think of it as of a favor you’re doing for your best friend. Of course, things are not this simple and really one has to dig deep to understand why doing things for yourself is so hard and why you feel like you actually don’t deserve to be happy. I’ll try to tackle this subject next time.

What do you think? Do you ever feel like you’re able to go to the moon and back for someone you love, but when it comes to defending your own best interests, you suddenly become lazy as hell? If so, why do you think it is?

Feel free to reply in the comments below!

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About the fear of deadlines

Sometimes you need to reach the lowest low to be able to give your most powerful push 

This is not exactly how the saying goes, but I idea behind it is very true: sometimes when you hit rockbottom you do exactly this, you hit the ground beneath you and you push yourself up. Not because someone said so or because it’s the normal thing to do. But because you cannot go any further down. You can lay still, of course, but then what’s the fun in that. You’re bound to come up for air sometimes and when you do, you find yourself more motivated and powerful than you’ve ever felt before.

I don’t believe anymore that it is enough to change your behavior to make true and deep changes in your life. Of course, implementing new habits, one at a time, is great. And it works. But then something hits you and you discover that your new, improved, way of living is just as brittle as a house of cards. You have to want to make a commitment every day.

The most powerful thought about going through life when everything seems to be working against you is Anne Lamott’s metaphor for writing that she shares in her book Bird by bird. Some instructions on writing and life:

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our  family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

This is what you find on the back cover, and it is one of the most insightful idea there is. “Bird by bird” is what I tell myself when I’m down and the lack of motivation makes me want to drown and forget about everything. It is powerful. Not always powerful enough to make me switch from the tv screen to my laptop and actually start working, but it is the most accurate motivation tool there is.

Why? Well, because I’ve found that my biggest problem is not the work itself. I actually enjoy doing what I do. It is the getting to it part. Because right before I finally sit at my desk and decide to finish a chapter of my dissertation, I feel overwhelmed by all kinds of emotions.

I am scared.

I start to think of the time I have left to finish my dissertation and realize it isn’t enough.

I start to regret all the bad decisions I’ve made so far, like wasting time watching tv-shows and not going to bed early enough.

I start to think that what I’ve written so far isn’t what it’s supposed to look like and that even if I go on writing it isn’t going to be good enough.

I start to think that at this point, anything I’ll do will only be disappointing and it isn’t worth the trouble anyway.

So I don’t do anything. I dive into unconsciousness. I switch the tv (or the Internet) back on and try to escape.

Or I eat and try to escape.

Or I try to think of an excuse.

The result is always the same: I wake up the next day feeling awful and even more scared. And instead of facing the problem head on, I dive a little more into my oblivious behavior an continue with the self-destruction.

But today I’ve decided to listen to my inner Ann Lamott’s voice and go with the “bird by bird” strategy. The trick is to follow it to the letter. It means putting yourself in a state of mind where only today exists. Not like today is the first day of the rest of your life. Not in the motivation sense of those gurus who invite you to live each day like there is no tomorrow. Even though these thoughts may help some of us, to me they are even more overwhelming and scary and make me want to hide in my bed all day. “Bird by bird” means setting the smallest goals possible and achieving them without thinking about the big goal. Once you shift your attention from the small goal to the big goal, the magic is gone and you’re back where you started: scared, overwhelmed, feeling sorry for yourself.

It might sound weird to set small goals without thinking about the big ones. After all, the small goals are just steps towards what you really want. Like finishing the PhD dissertation that is hovering over you for the last three years, or getting muscle into your butt, or learn how to sew, or learn a new language, or write a book. But if you stop and think about the big goal, you might also start thinking about the consequences, which are scary: even though I envision myself with my diploma, I also am scared of not knowing how my life will be without the constant academic pressure. Even though I know I would love to get fit, I am also scared it would mean I will have to change my lifestyle completely, never eating potato chips again, exercising every day, always worrying about the way to keep my figure. Even though I would love to finally be able to sew pants and dresses, I am worried that once I’ve reached my goal, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy myself while sewing, because now that I’m good at it there will be no room for error. Same goes for the writing.

So is it possible to try reaching “perfection” while enjoying yourself? I don’t think so. I think the pleasure lyes even more in the process than in the achieving. Or should, anyway. Because once you’ve achieved something, you have to do it all over again. Because life never stops.

I think maybe one way to look at things and not be scared is to stop wanting to achieve, but instead focusing on your desire to do something. Wanting to achieve a goal is setting yourself a deadline, and we all know how that works (well, the procrastinators among us do anyway): once a deadline is set, the goal becomes to reach it anyway possible, sabotaging yourself in the process more often than not, actually confusing the goal with the deadline. But when there is no deadline, well, you’re free to choose how to spend your time.

What do you think? Leave comments below!

I’ll be sharing some strategies in the next post about how to enter a “no-deadline” state of mind.

The journey to adulthood

Hello!

I’ve decided to make some changes in my blog that’s been a little rusty the last few months. The same as I’ve decided to make some changes in my life. Nothing big, though. I’ve long learned that making huge changes on an impulse and going cold turkey about it doesn’t amount to anything good. Very soon after I’ve made some drastic decision, I’m back on the couch eating potato chips and binge watching tv-shows. It works sometimes, because, well, sometimes things are a matter of willpower. But then again, some outside event (good or bad) can be overwhelming and make me return to my old ways of dealing with important stuff. That is close bury my head in the sand.

Perfection is an illusion. I’ve learned that. Nothing you do or achieve is ever permanent. Not the important stuff anyway: the relationships you built over time with yourself and others, the way you behave on a day to day basis, the size of your waistline, the good mood you’re in after a sweaty workout. You always have to move forward, because things don’t stop changing. One workout doesn’t make you happy for the rest of your life. You have to exercise regularly to yield all the benefits. One day (or even month) of a diet doesn’t make you slim forever. You have to make smart healthy choices every damn day. When you say “I love you to someone” three months into a relationship, it doesn’t mean you have to stop showing affection for the next ten years. You have to be affectionate every day to make the person you love feel it. If you have a project to finish (a big one, like a dissertation), one day of hard work isn’t enough for the whole thing to be over.

In other words, you have to put in the work.  Every day. And when one project is over (some of them are, take the dissertation for example), the next one is just waiting around the corner. A “project” is not always something you choose to work on. It is often something you have to do. It might be work, or getting a degree in college. Your job is to do it, either by tricking yourself into doing it because you want to, or accomplishing it because you are used to follow outside orders. Either way, not doing anything isn’t an option.

This blog is here to help me be accountable. To reach a level of discipline that I hope someday will come from within rather than from the outside world. In other words, I need to grow up, and I’m going to try my hardest to do so. To me, growing up is about facing my fears and confronting my problems instead of avoiding them. In the last months, I’ve achieved harmony. But then it all fell apart. Outside events made me realize my willpower wasn’t enough to make me behave on my own the way I behave when people I care about are around me. That means I can be accountable to other people but not to myself. That I am not enough.

I want to try and work on this. I want to be enough. I want not having to show off a “good” and productive behavior. I want to be the person that knows being productive is the way to make me happy, not to make happy other people.

I would really appreciate the support and insights, as I will be sharing, hopefully everyday, my progress in this never-ending journey.

I also hope my experience will be a source of inspiration and motivation.

Today is another day.

 

Binge eating and punishment

Ah, the eternal problem of binge eating! I don’t think any of us can honestly say they’ve never experienced a binge. Whether you’re trying to lose weight and get healthy or are fit and skinny, chances are, it has happened to you: one night (because let’s face it, the perfect time for bingeing is at night) you just threw all your rules and precautions away and munched on an entire bow of cookies, or ate a whole jar of ice cream, or an entire pizza. Whichever you like best, preferably something carby and sugary. Right afterwards, you felt ashamed of what you did, and your guilt took a few days to go away, as did those extra pounds (of water) you packed. Also, you probably felt really bad physically: your stomach ached, you felt bloated, maybe even your vision got blurry (especially if you are gluten sensitive and indulged in gluten treats).

The next day, chances are, you tried to purge yourself, going the extra mile during your workout and eating no carbs, all of this in effort to erase the horrible experience you put your body through the night before.

You swore it would never happen again.

And yet it did.

And thus the vicious cycle begins. That’s the problem with the very definition of binge eating: it’s emotional, it happens when you’re stressed out and it throws you off, making you “quit your diet” for one night, only to resume it the next day. But if you stop thinking about your lifestyle in terms of dieting, it can help you overcome overeating urges that may rise occasionally, and cease seeing food as a solution to problems in your life.

For that, a few simple steps can help you overcome those urges and, in the case you give into your imaginary cravings, help you start fresh the day after:

1. Identify the problem and write down how you feel.

This is easier said than done. Usually, when you binge, you don’t think, so it’s very difficult to pause and write stuff down. If you can though, on your way to the kitchen cabinet where you keep you “goodies”, try to stop for one minute and take a few deep breaths. Close your eyes. Ask yourself, are you really hungry? If you’re not, why is it that you want to continue eating? Is it to fill an emotional void? And it that case, wouldn’t it be more efficient to stimulate your senses with something else that food (think bath, scary movie or chickflick, talk with a friend, or even a short kickboxing workout – I like the 8 minutes Tae Bo drill – to really punch that anxiety in the face)? Is it because you are stressed out? And in that case, how eating (and the consequences of a binge) will help you? Is it something else, but that is following a pattern you are already aware of? Is it because you feel too much pressure, and you need to “unload”? Is it because you know that a load of carbohydrate rich food will make you sleepy and make you forget about what’s bothering you? Again, you can find other ways to distract yourself from the problem: go for a walk, or go take a nap, or run a bath.

The writing part is useful if you already had your binge eating episode. Now you can identify precisely what is that has triggered it and how do you think you can avoid it next time. Without shaming yourself (remember, you might feel bad for the next day or two, but it isn’t one night of cookies and ice cream that’s going to throw you off your weight-loss journey).

2. Look at your surroundings.

It is rare that we binge while surrounded by people, or when we have our meals in a calm environment, with beautiful place mats and nice music. Chances are you like to eat a lot (as I do), when you watch TV. That is, when your mind is entirely occupied but something else that eating, and when, at the same time, no intellectual effort is required from your part. This is why it is harder to overeat while reading, though it is also very much possible.

When the moment comes, that is when, after dinner, you feel like you need to munch on something, switch the TV off for just a sec (or cut the sound off), and take a deep breath. Focus on the food. If afterwards you still feel like you’re hungry, go and eat. But better watch your program while just relaxing on the couch, or doing a few light exercices.

3. Figure out why you want to punish yourself.

The thing I have discovered after my most recent binge, was that I actually was not only conscious I was eating too much, but that I somehow forced myself to eat to the point of having a horrible stomach ache. As if I wanted to hurt myself. I realized that I must have wanted to hurt myself subconsciously, to punish myself for not working enough, and, last night, for watching a few episodes of a TV-show in a row instead of just limiting myself to one. I had made a deal with myself, that I wouldn’t watch TV anymore before I finished my dissertation, so I guess when I “broke this vow”, I immediately decided this meant I was back to my old ways, which also included heavy binge eating followed by deep feelings of guilt and dissatisfaction with myself. So not only did I eat out of guilt, but I did so to punish myself for not being consistent with my new way of life.

When we binge eat, we don’t simply indulge in sweet stuff, we eat so much it hurts. So why do you want to punish yourself? Binge eating is nothing like a “treat” you’re having, in fact, it’s exactly the opposite. Identifying the problem will be the first step towards dealing with it. Maybe you just need to relax and see the big picture.

4. What to do next : getting rid of guilty feelings!

So you slipped. So you were hard on yourself. So your stomach aches and you hate yourself. But if you are the one who can harm yourself, you are also the one who can do nice things for yourself, forgive, and move on. Take some time to do a quick therapy session with yourself, and treat your body and mind as if they were your patients and best friends at the same time (which they are!). Go to sleep, be thankful for what you’ve learned and for the new experience, and promise yourself just one thing: that in the future, you will always try to treat yourself with love.

6. And finally, the next day.

Drink lots and lots of water. Chances are, you’ll be very thirsty anyway because of all the extra carbs you’ve ingested. So as soon as you wake up, drink up to several litres of clear water, with a squeeze of lemon if you like, and take it easy. If you feel like working out, work out. If you don’t, or if it’s your rest day, rest. Go for a walk, preferably in a park, where there is a lot of green going on. When you’re hungry again (maybe later in the morning, maybe only in the afternoon), eat something light: I go for eggs, because they give enough energy without making you lethargic. Have a good stretch too, because your extremities might be bloated from the extra water you’ve retained. If you drink enough liquids, you probably will be as good as new by the same evening.

So there you have it, a few guidelines to help you deal with binge episodes and, hopefully, make you feel at peace with your body.

Tell me what you think! What are your strategies?

Controversial stuff

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I started this blog a while ago when going through some changes in my diet. After being a vegetarian for years (well, more accurately speaking, a pescatarian), I started Atkins, then went vegan overnight. The vegan thing lasted for two years, until I decided that I needed to start low-carb again, because when I was following Atkins, I was feeling my best, and I wanted to experience that again. It wasn’t an overnight change this time. In august, I travelled through North India, and started eating vegetarian again (that means included dairy and eggs). Then, I decided to give vegetarian-low carb a try (that’s when the blog came in), and before you know it, I was craving meat, so bad I went and ate half a roasted chicken. Then, a few weeks later, I ate a steak.

Before taking the leap, I searched all over the Internet for testimonials of people who went back to being omnivorous after eating a vegan or vegetarian diet for a long time. Although there were a lot of those who only had tried being vegetarian for health and diet reasons, there were also some people who had followed this lifestyle out of ethical concerns, and I was one of them. Almost all of them advocated their bodies’ cravings and almost all of them had to face hundreds of nasty comments from “compassionate” vegans who either told them they weren’t nourishing their bodies with enough nutrients or blantly accused them of being traitors to the animal cause.

I don’t know exactly where I stand. Sure, the way I was feeling when I was vegan had to do with poor nutrition, or better yet, with me not liking the taste of many vegan products (like hemp, for example, or almond milk), but it also had to do with my state of mind at the time: I was stressed out, and a bit depressed, too, so I can’t blame it all on the diet. What I know, though, is that I have tried: I got passionate about vegan cheeses (and made some that were delicious), about vegan baking, about fruit too (so much that I also went raw for a while). But weirdly enough, as soon as I went vegan, I started to crave the most unnatural things, as if I was missing something and couldn’t get satisfied from eating “only” veggies, fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds. I didn’t know measure and was always trying to find the balance that was missing, either by turning to comfort foods, or to the national Russian cuisine (the one of my childhood, that is primarily oats, black bread, cabbage, beets, etc.)

So you see, the problem wasn’t only on my plate. It was in my life in general.

But now that I am in a better place, I have to say I have found the way of eating that works for me, and it includes dairy, and eggs, and, yes, meat.

I have to say I was the first one surprised at how quickly my body responded to the meat, and how positive that experience was. I was also surprised at how easy it was to trick my mind into separating the though of live animals in nature from the one of cooked meat. Maybe we are designed this way and some people, that are more conscious, never forget that as humans, we can overcome our “animal” and omnivorous impulses. Anyway, that was my biggest argument when I was vegetarian, and I felt very proud for it, quoting Tolstoy or Bernard Shaw whenever rose the occasion.

But the most uncanny thing is with no doubt the fact that this mental transformation was put into motion while travelling in India. Most of the time, when people go there, they don’t start eating meat, they do the exact opposite. But what I experienced in India wasn’t a calling for veganism, it was the deep understanding that the universe is chaotic in appearance (take indian traffic, for example), and yet has a structure, and follows rules, so that balance is always achieved: not once during our month’s trip had I witnessed a traffic accident. The same goes with life: we are all mortal, and everything that is alive has to die at some point, but when an apple falls off a tree and rots in the ground, it gives life to another tree. When an animal is chased and killed by a predator, it allows the predator to live, etc. All life takes life.

What do you make of humans, then? If we kill an animal to eat it, we sustain our own living. But how our death (or life, for that matter) sustains the living of animals? Is going vegan really good for animals? Yes, you don’t participate in the cruelty of slaughterhouses, and that’s good. But by doing that, don’t you also exclude yourself from the cycle of life? I know this brings up a lot of arguments: are we really designed to eat meat? isn’t it outrageously arrogant to place the human beings on top of the food chain and wouldn’t it make for a better world if we all stopped eating animals and torturing the planet in the process? Is there such a thing as “compassionate” raising and killing of animals?

Back when I was vegan, I asked my mother: “how would you feel if when you were dead, somebody ate you?” She told me she wouldn’t find it terrible. In fact, she believed we were all part of the process, part of the cycle. Our civilisation condemns cannibalism, and for good reasons. Since the dawn of humanity, we have instituted death rituals to honor the spirit of the dead, and the thought or being eaten is, quite frankly, repulsive. But is it? Shakespeare wrote about rotting bodies and how once we die, vermine eats off our us. Romantic poets dreamed about being buried in the ground with trees planted “in” them, so that they could continue to “live” within nature even after their deaths. It is all beautiful images of course, with people slaughtering animals by millions and being buried in stainless coffins, but the idea of the cycle of life can be sustained.

On the small level, by only buying local meats and eating fresh products, and of course, swearing off all the processed foods.

On a bigger level, by feeling yourself part of the eternally renewing cycle of the universe, where all life ends, and all death leads to more life. All life takes life.

What do you think?

Best. Pancakes. Ever.

It might sound like an exaggeration, but it isn’t. At least not to my tastebuds. Of all the “adapted” pancake recipes I have ever tried, this is by far the best tasting one: it’s low-carb, it’s gluten-free, it’s nut-free, it’s whipped in 10 minutes and cooked in 5. It has a crumbly yet moist texture, and it’s… well, it’s just divine.

Pancakes1

The very few ingredients you’ll need to make 8 pancakes

– 2 eggs, room temperature

– 1/2 cup (a little less) or sour cream

– 3 tbsp Erythritol or sweetener of your choice

– 3 drops of liquid stevia

– 1 tbsp coconut oil

– 3 tbsp coconut flour

– 2 tbsp flaxseed meal.

Mix all the ingredients in that order, add some salt and/or baking soda, and cook for 1 or 2 minutes or each side in a heated pan.

 

Here are the nutrition facts (1.27 g of NC per pancake) :

Capture d'écran 2015-03-24 10.22.26

Enjoy!

Daria

My favorite breakfast & Chocolate muffin recipe!

Hi!

Just a quick word before I (finally) start working on my dissertation this morning.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, and since this is primarily a food blog, I will start by listing all the stuff I’ve made in the past month to give you an idea of what’s ahead:

– A scrumptious veggie and cheese lasagna.

– Cumin bread

– Chocolate muffins (below)

– Coco pancakes

– Morning frittata

All of those are of course low carb and induction friendly. I’ll be posting the recipes real soon, with photos! (The first time I’ve made those dishes I ate them so quickly I didn’t even have time to make pictures!)

Today, I just wanted to share a powerful though I had a few days back: it’s been a month now since I’ve started a low carb lifestyle again, and though I’ve lost a few pounds, I felt that I wasn’t loosing fast enough, at least not as fast as I was the first time around. I spent hours searching the Internet and reading forum posts trying to figure out why my weight-loss wasn’t as powerful as I has been in the past, stressing and wondering what I should do to get things moving. Then I took a step back, so to speak, and found the answer:

I had to be my own coach.

Often, when we are faced with a problem, we try to find answers anywhere but in ourselves. If we don’t lose weight the way we want to, we might look at other people’s diets and exercise plans, comparing and trying to decide what we should be doing. If the work we’re doing isn’t yielding the results we want, we often try to find excuses and end up pampering ourselves instead of taking a hard look at what we are doing and figuring out the problem. It is usually very difficult to do something if we don’t have the inspiration, or if no one is supporting you and telling what to do.

Well, if that’s the case, you have to be your own coach.

I though, what if I were to coach someone back to their ideal weight? What would I tell them to do? Would I encourage them to sit on their ass for hours at a time glued to their computer screen? Would I encourage them to indulge in “frankenfood” everyday, or even a few times a week? Would I tell them it’s okay to skip the gym because, well, they’ve read somewhere that working out might “slow the weight-loss process”?

No. I would tell them that they need to commit to a fitness program. I would tell them that eating low-carb is not trying to trick yourself with sweet low-carb foods, but instead nourish your body with fresh, local grown, real-tasting foods that are, in the end, much better for your health as well as for your wallet. I would tell them that if they want something done, well, they need to do it, and start right now!

So, for breakfast, on weekdays, I will have an omelet, and an intense workout at the gym, and some meditation, and, last but not least, ten minutes of writing down the things I have to do during the day.

And my inner coach will always be battling with the little voice that’s full of excuses and doubt, but my inner coach will always be right, because when I’m at the gym early in the morning, and run on the treadmill like I have monsters chasing me, I feel like a superhero discovering his inner power. Because when we spend our day on the couch, or at a desk, without moving a bit, we find it tremendously hard to believe that we can run fast, and lift weights, and commit to writing for three or four hours straight, until we try.

So listen to your inner coach, and for your next birthday party, try these chocolate low carb muffins:

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Before giving you the recipe, I have to say it was a work in process for several days. At first, I wanted to make chocolate pancakes with some Sunwarrior protein powder I had left, but they didn’t turned as good as I hoped, so I kept adding stuff and finally they turned out to be muffins (you never know!)

What you’ll need:

– one or two scoops of chocolate protein powder (you can skip it if you don’t have it on hand, just be sure to add some stevia drops to your preparation).

– half a cup coconut flour (coconut flour is full of fiber, so be sure to add some exra liquid)

– 1/3 cup unsweetened chocolate powder ( or a bit more, if you don’t use the protein powder).

– half a stick of butter, melted.

– 1 cup and a half of liquid heavy cream.

– 1/2 cup erythritol

– 1 teaspoon baking powder

– a pinch of salt

– 3 large eggs, room temperature (if you keep your eggs in the fridge, just put them in warm water for a few minutes before using them)

– a pinch of cinnamon (optional).

Whisk the wet ingredients first in a medium bowl (eggs, cream and melted butter), then add the salt and the erythritol. In another bowl, whisk together the protein powder with the coconut flour and the baking powder. Mix all together, pour into muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes at 150 C°.

If the mix is too thick, add some water, until you reach the desired consistency, that is of a traditional chocolate cake batter. You’ll want the muffins to be soft inside.

You’ll get 12 mini chocolate cakes that you can freeze or share!

Here are the nutrition facts with the protein powder:

nutrition facts muffins

And here without:

Nutrition facts muffins 2

Enjoy and leave comments!

Falling

Hi!

I seem to be into one word titles nowadays. It’s because one word contains sometimes so much more meaning than a full sentence, and because it can convey a large display of emotions. Falling, for example, can be a negative word. If you fall in the street, or from a flight of stairs, you get injured, and it’s no good. But if you are falling from the sky with a parachute, you actually almost fly. Falling can be freeing. Like letting go. Or like falling off, when speaking of weight, or when a scab comes off of your skin and it regenerates.

This morning, things were literally falling from my hands. I dropped the omelet I was making for breakfast when transferring it to my plate. I dropped the fennel I was weighting when picking it up from the kitchen scale. I think I dropped one or two spoons, too. And it made me laugh. Because I thought: usually, when things like this happen, I get angry and try to find an explanation for my clumsiness, thinking either I haven’t slept enough, or it is the lack of carbs in my body that leaves me with no energy to concentrate, or that I am just dangerously clumsy and need to work on that. And then I thought that it was funny, because no matter how many things fall or get dropped, I always pick it up and go on. It’s like a wise man once said: you are not determined by the mistakes you make, but only by the way you deal with them and grow from that experience. There is something similar in one of Adele’s songs: “mistakes and regrets are just memories made”. They are, and while I’m currently on the second go-round of the low-carb diet, this has become my mantra.

A little less than three years ago, I had made some mistakes. Some were little, almost insignificant, like not including enough variety in my meals and getting bored. This I’m fixing now by cooking simple yet satisfying recipes, like the one I’ll share a bit later. But I’ve made one or two big mistakes as well. The first one was not believing enough in the long term success of this lifestyle and sabotaging it psychologically in every way I could: even though, like I have previously stated, this was “the best time of my life” regarding my well-being and body image, I kept blaming the low-carb diet and Atkins for every little thing that went wrong with me. When I caught a cold because I went running in a cold morning with not enough clothes on, I blamed it on the lack of carbs. When I got a skin rash from stress and anxiety (I was, at that time, beginning my first year of PhD), I blamed it on the lack of carbs. Even when I got stung by some kind of insect while in the country and without any antibiotics on hand, I thought it was my body telling me I needed carbs. So I became insufferable. I blamed carbs for everything, and tried to convert everyone to my faith by firmly believed that carbs were evil, even though I myself kept blaming the diet for the little things that went wrong. So one day, I got enough, and indulged. I indulged so much, in fact, that I spent almost a whole week eating almost exclusively pasta, from breakfast to dinner. Evidently, I had big body image issues, and a slight eating disorder, and couldn’t bear trusting myself enough to stick with a plan that made me look radient and skinny.

The second mistake is actually the biggest one, and yet the most predictable. I pushed myself too hard. This is a tricky one. Because on most days, before I decided to go on the diet again, I found it very problematic to find a balance between getting some rest because I actually pushed myself too hard (at the gym, or at work) and just plainly flunking because I used the argument as an excuse. You have always to be accountable for yourself and your actions, but it is the hardest thing to do. On the first go round, the reason it blew in my face wasn’t because I was eating right and exercising intensely, but because I couldn’t get away from the “all or nothing” approach. If I woke up at five am every day for several days in a row, then went for a run and stuck to the meal plan, I felt that if I woke up at 8 or 9 am (or even later) on the weekend, I had failed. If I exercised for a whole week and then found myself too lazy or too tired to exercise for seven days straight the next week, I felt like I failed and there wasn’t any point in going on. If I caught a cold, I felt like I failed, because, let’s face it, I am supposed to be healthy now, so if I get sick, it means I have failed…

And even though I knew all the tricks (I knew I had to relax more, and stop being driven only by high expectations the nasty evil me had), I couldn’t be patient enough to learn from my mistakes and kept trying new things to attain some “perfect” goal. The key is and always will be consistency. But yet again, it’s not an easy thing to do. Consistency doesn’t mean you have to force yourself to follow a hard regimen beginning next Monday and that you’ll stick with until the end of your life. Consistency means, for me at least, being able to listen to myself most of the time and knowing when to downsize your efforts, and when to push harder. Consistency is not a behavior, it is  a state of mind. It is knowing that hard work and practice will get you to your goal, but it won’t happen overnight. It also means that you have to actually get rid of the “goal” thinking, at least for a while. Because when you finally attain it, through very hard work, you usually don’t know what to do next and how to live with it. So you have to try and enjoy the process. Enjoy cooking and eating good food without obsessing. Enjoying going to the gym because it feels good and yes, because you see yourself getting fitter every week. Enjoying even the little failures, like dropping your fennel on the kitchen floor, because, well, a skinny and beautiful body doesn’t come with a new personality.

I found that praising yourself and implementing small changes along the way works wonders. You got up at five and trained for an hour before making your egg-white omelet? Great! You woke up at five thirty and it took you half an hour to actually feel ready to exercise, and you only did 20 minutes of a workout instead of the whole hour and then you ate two extra pieces of cheese with your coffee? Great as well! I have always been passionate. Passion is good, but passion is also irregular. It means if I have to hand out twenty written pages of my thesis in two weeks time, I will most certainly get to it the night before because I “love” the adrenaline rush. And when I force myself to work regularly, I get bored, because I can’t bear with the thought that from now on, I will have to do the same thing everyday. So I take a moment to relax and think, and instead of asking myself the question “what will others expect from me”, I ask myself this: “what can I do to feel good?” And so I get to work, because when I do it, I will feel all right all right all right.

And it doesn’t matter if you don’t get up at the same hour every morning. It if suits you. No matter what sleep studies show. If, on the other hand, you find that this way, you’ll have more time for yourself, and you’ll feel so much better afterwards, then go for it. The skinny you that will emerge after you’re done with your exercise program or after your diet will still be there, it will still be a living, breathing, loving, mistake making, hesitating, sometimes angry and sometimes blissful human being, and not a cardboard model.

I think I’ve rambled enough, so there’s the recipe:

Fougasse style leek and olive gratin. Low-carb and Gluten-free.

Fougasse is a french type of bread, made with either olives, or bacon, or cheese mainly in the south of France.

Here is a low-carb variation that tastes like the real thing.

 

What you’ll need for 8 servings at 2.43 gr of NC:

– 6 eggs

– a pinch of salt

– a handful of olives (about 10)

– 3 oz emmental cheese (or any other kind of hard cheese. If you eat rennet, try with parmesan)

– 3 big tablespoons of ground flax seeds.

– half a cup of sliced leek

– olive oil for the pan.

 

What to do with all this:

– preheat your oven at 350 F° (or 180 C°)

– slice the olives and the leek

– grate the cheese

– beat the eggs, add a pinch of salt, and incorporate the sliced olives, the leek and the cheese.

– beat well and add the ground flax seeds.

– pour the mixture in a baking dish smeared with olive oil so it doesn’t stick.

– let bake for 25 minutes or so, until the crust is golden brown.

Et voilà!

IMG_3508

 

 

 

Yeah, I couldn’t resist and ate a piece already 🙂

 

Share your thoughts!

Yours,

 

Daria

Breathing

Hi!

Today, I won’t post a recipe, at least not an edible one. I would like to write about another kind of food, the one everyone out there calls “food for the soul” ( and why not, it’s a great metaphor!)

A few days ago, I noticed I had trouble breathing. Literally. I could breathe of course, but I couldn’t inhale deep enough, as if something was pressing on my chest. I though, it was the bra that was too tight, but taking it off didn’t really help. I though it was the smoking, but the fear or this though made me light up immediately. Then I felt like I was too heavy (which, objectively, I’m not), and decided to change my eating habits. Hence the blog. I have this difficulty to breathe sometimes at the gym, when I frequently feel the need to yawn to let more air into my body. Even when I stop smoking, I still feel the urge to grasp for air.

Yesterday, on my first day of Induction, the need was gone. I was breathing perfectly and feeling free. So I thought, it really was the extra food. But today I woke up feeling tense and almost unable to inhale deeply again. So I thought, maybe it actually is an anxiety problem, before being an eating one.

I believe our bodies send is signals of things we ought to change in order to function at our full potential. I believe that while a breathing problem can come from an allergy or lack of exercise and extra weight, in most cases, it can be explained metaphorically. You experience trouble breathing normally when you feel scared, or angry, or trapped. And if you certainly can feel trapped if you find yourself in an elevator that wouldn’t move, you can also feel trapped in a relationship. And if you usually feel angry in a certain situation, like when there is someone to be angry at, you can also experience an underlying, almost subconscious, feeling of anger: against the world, against yourself, against the person who wronged you in your childhood and you didn’t get over. The same works with fear.

Especially when starting a new chapter in life, like a new exercise program, a new diet, a new job, we fear we won’t live up to certain expectations. They say you have to be patient, but patience is maybe the hardest thing to attain, especially in a world where everything changes so fast, from cookies recipes to role models. I do not pretend to be patient, or to be able to give tips on how to become a zen person. For everyone, it’s a different journey. Some choose yoga and meditation to calm their minds down, some have actual happy places they go to when they are feeling overwhelmed. It’s an everyday challenge, even if I don’t like the world. We are all supposed to challenge ourselves to achieve great success, but if you are constantly challenging yourself, you won’t have time to live a little enjoying the benefits of your efforts.

For me, I found that the only thing that works is letting it out. Whether it be in writing or in punching something at the gym, it has to be an activity that makes you feel in the present, gorge yourself on the present and leave you feeling completely empty, ready to breathe the world in again.

It’s not an original thought. Live in the present, carpe the f&@** diem, enjoy it (without Coca-Cola), let go, etc. But there are times when the most simple thoughts have to be repeated, and times when you have to succumb to your urges. A few years ago I felt desperate because, as much as I wanted to become a writer, I realized I could only write when I literally touched the bottom. And, even worse, pouring it out on paper didn’t make me feel like a Phoenix. I finally got that writing wasn’t ment to make you rise from the ashes, it just makes it easier to shuffle through and find a few carbonized pieces that you may or may not want to glue together again.

Sometimes, you only have to let yourself feel, like nobody’s watching you.

Yours,

Daria

Hungry no more

Hi!

First day of Induction for me, please!

I think the general feeling about my first day is: this was MUCH easier than expected! The awesome effects:

– I felt little to no hunger at all during the day. I had breakfast at about 7:30 am, than had a snack at 10 am before going to work, then ate again at 5 pm. It is now almost 10 pm and I’m still not hungry. Boy, is this feeling refreshing! I have always struggled with hunger. I was always amazed (and still am) by people who can have a smoothie for breakfast and not feeling hunger pangs until lunch time, and by those who ate a salad at lunch and carry without food until late in the afternoon. I know from experience that when you eat vegan food, and practice portion control, your belly shrinks and you get satisfied with less food. The problem is, it only worked for me while on vacation. When working (and I write a thesis for a living with only a couple hours teaching during the week), I always found myself nibbling on something and persuading myself that I needed sugar to function properly. As a result, I would often eat munch on too much food and slowly but surely transfer from the desk to the couch, replacing the book in my hand with the TV remote…

– The thing is, I love to munch. So smoothies are not really for me. Vegetable frittatas, on the other hand, like the one I made this morning, work great. Here is the recipe, it’s delicious, and super filling, and has 8 grams NC for the whole thing:

VF1

First things first, what you’ll need:

– 4 or 5 eggs

– 300 gr frozen spinach

– 1/2 red bell pepper

– 1 ounce hard cheese. Of course, you can use more, but I had only one slice of Leerdammer cheese left in the fridge, so I diced it.

– salt and some fresh or dried herbs. I used some dry dill and onion flakes, only to add more taste.

– One tablespoon or two of olive oil or the oil you use for cooking. Coconut, sesame, avocado, etc.

– Oh, and I ate it with some mayo (made from organic eggs laid by happy chicken).

What to do next:

1. Defrost the spinach in the skillet, and once these is no more excess water, add some oil.

IMG_3486

2. Dice half of the red bell pepper and put it with the spinach, lower the heat.

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3. While it gets yummy, whisk the eggs with the cheese and the spices.

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4. Then pour the mixture on the veggies, cover and let cook for about 15 minutes, turn in and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. It will look like this in the process:

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5. It’s ready, enjoy!

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Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll try this out. It is simple, yet effective, and gives your vegetarian Induction phase a nice gourmet touch (as in it looks elaborate but actually is very simple).

Tomorrow I’ll post my favorite low carb toast recipe and talk about bearing with low carb lifestyle while eating out.

Yours,

Daria