Titans and sex goddesses: on Tim Ferriss and Helen Gurley Brown

January 14, 2017 at 9:30 pm | Posted in Anti-ageing, depression, health, Living creatively, nutrition | Leave a comment
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What do you have for breakfast? This is one of the questions that Tim Ferriss asks those he interviews in his Tools of Titans: the tactics, routines and habits of billionaires, icons, and world-class performers (Vermilion, 2016). Protein shakes are popular with many of these titans.

Tim Ferriss (See www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog ) is the best-selling American author of The Four-Hour Working Week: escape 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich (Crown, 2007) and other books and podcasts.

Tools of Titans is ‘a compendium of recipes for high performance’. Some of these ‘recipes’ are intriguing and some sensible. Some of them I do already and some I can’t wait to try. Continue Reading Titans and sex goddesses: on Tim Ferriss and Helen Gurley Brown…

Eating real food: a quick comparison of cookbooks

January 4, 2016 at 2:12 am | Posted in Books, Cook books, food, health, nutrition, recipes, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

‘Gosh it’s easy to write a cookbook. Well, it’s easy if your primary role is “quality control”, and all the actual work is done by seasoned professionals and my slave-driven wife,’

writes David Gillespie in the Acknowledgements of his The Sweet Poison Quit Plan Cookbook (Melbourne, Viking, 2013, p. 199). He states that he ‘did practically nothing (other than eat pudding on a regular basis)’.

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Having your (sugar-free) cake: two of David Gillespie’s books

David Gillespie presents the facts about serious and complex subjects (how sugar makes us fat and exhausted and gives us chronic diseases like diabetes Type 2 and certain cancers) simply and clearly. Equally clear are his reasons why we should avoid vegetable oils. The facetious self-deprecating humour in his Acknowledgements quoted above is typical of his style, and at other times the mental dexterity with which he expresses himself is highly amusing.

The highly unamusing fact is that food manufacturers well know how addictive (and cheap) sugar is, which means ever-escalating profits for them, so they are putting sugar in virtually everything on the supermarket shelves. It’s not just sweet things you need to avoid; it’s all the savoury things too. This means that if you do what Gillespie advises in his Eat Real Food (Viking, 2014), you will be okay. This book is written as simply and compellingly as all his others. The sugar-free recipes work well and taste good.

The David Gillespie recipes in all his books – see www.howmuchsugar.com – are more consistently better than the ones in Sarah Wilson’s books, which you can see on. www.sarahwilson.com Many of Sarah Wilson’s recipes taste good but some are dodgy. While they look good in the photographs the taste and texture don’t always live up to their food-styled, gorgeously photographed visual aesthetics. I have a hunch about this.

David Gillespie and his wife test their recipes under the severe conditions of catering for their six children, (a domestic kitchen in Brisbane catering for the palates of childhood, adolescence and the adults) while Sarah Wilson and her hip young Sydney-siders I Quit Sugar team, I’m willing to bet, have more money and more time and are more interested in creating quantity than quality so perhaps some recipes get a tick when they shouldn’t. That said, the Sarah Wilson ones that work (e.g., almond butter bark, I Quit Sugar, p.175) are wonderful, and it is of course a subjective thing, as you see with the positive and negative comments on her website about the same recipe.

David Permutter’s Grain Brain (NY, Little, Brown and Co., 2013, p. 291) contends that gluten is also a cause of today’s escalating rate of chronic disease. Haven’t we been eating grains for thousands of years? Yes, but the food manufacturers have engineered the grains to contain a much higher concentration of gluten than previously, to give their products longer shelf life. Permutter maintains that today’s low fat, high grain and other carbohydrate diet is the origin of headaches, insomnia, anxiety, autism, depression, epilepsy, schizophrenia, ADHA, inflammatory diseases like arthritis, and dementia.

Grain Brain: The surprising truth about wheat, carbs, and sugar – your brain’s silent killers contains evidence, recipes and case studies. You can get access to his latest research and recipes etc at www.DrPerlmutter.com

This book is a controversial best-seller. Many disagree with his theories. His research is not expressed nearly as clearly as David Gillespie’s. The website quackwatch.com disagrees with his findings and Alan Levinovitz ( www.nymag.com/scienceofus.2015.06problems-with-the-grain-brain-doctor.html presents a detailed critique of his research. The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that sugar (the fructose half) is the worst thing that has happened to our health in the last two or three generations.

An award-winning website about food and flavours is www.bizzylizzysgoodthings.com and it features Lizzy’s beautiful photography as well. She is an engaging writer and her recipes are well and truly tested, and they do work consistently well. Her recipes are not necessarily sugar-free or wheat-free, and neither are Jules Clancy’s – thestonesoup.com – but they are both healthy overall and quick, easy and reliable. My copy of Jules Clancy’s 5 Ingredients, 10 Minutes: Delicious, healthy recipes for tired and hungry cooks (Michael Joseph, 2013) is ingredient-spattered and book-marked all the way through – I use it when I’m tired and hungry or not – it really does take ten minutes and every recipe I’ve made is a winner.

 

A kinder way to treat a potato

October 5, 2013 at 11:39 pm | Posted in Books, food, health, nutrition, recipes | Leave a comment
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‘Don’t get your food from the same place your car does.’

This is the advice of writer Michael Pollan. American petrol stations make more money from food and cigarettes than from petrol. It’s very probably the same here in Australia. And the food is all ‘Highly process non-perishable snack foods and extravagantly sweetened soft drinks…’ Pollan writes that petrol stations ‘have become processed-corn stations: ethanol outside for your car and high-fructose corn syrup inside you.’ (In Defense of Food, 2008, p. 192)

I don’t know that Australia uses as many corn products as the US but the principle remains the same – petrol stations sell food that is very high in sugar and this is very bad for us. Very addictive too.So-o-o-o-o hard to give up.

I liked Pollan’s book a lot. His basic advice is this: ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’ It sounds a bit Zen. I love the simplicity of it. It doesn’t say anything about alcohol but grapes are food, are they not? You’re not supposed to have more than two glasses a day if you’re a woman. And the size of that glass is probably smaller than you imagine. Sadly.

Men can get away with a bit more than two glasses a day because they have bigger livers. A bit more though – not a lot more. I think it’s three glasses a day.

In Defense of Food is well written, informative and funny. I think people should read it because they need to know about the massive number of poisons and toxic chemicals in manufactured food today – and how this desperate situation came about. They can see the desperate consequences of it all around them: unhappy, sick, obese people everywhere and a national healthcare bill that is completely unsustainable.

Australia, like the US, has staggering levels of disease and ill health. Nearly 300 people in Australia are diagnosed with diabetes (Type 2) per day! With a population of only 22 million, that is awful. David Gillespie – http://www.sweetpoison.com.au – writes about this and has a similarly clear, witty style as Pollan. His books are a pleasure to read. A danger on public transport because you burst out laughing sometimes.

Pollan quotes Wendell Berry’s essay, ‘The Pleasures of Eating’ where he writes about monoculture and the increasingly vast size of farms. Of course this generates vast profits. ‘But as scale increases, diversity declines; as diversity declines, so does health; as health declines, the dependence on drugs and chemicals necessarily increases.’ (Pollan, p. 159)

And so, if we don’t want to be plagued by the ill health that makes us dependent on drugs and chemicals, Pollan advises to eat as many plants as possible – they all have different anti-oxidants and these help the body eliminate different kinds of toxins. The more toxins there are in the environment, the more plants we should be eating.

‘There are literally scores of studies demonstrating that a diet rich in vegetables and fruits reduces the risk of dying from all the Western diseases. In countries where people eat a pound [you know, that’s about half a kilo – Pen] or more of fruits and vegetables a day, the rate of cancer is half what it is in the United States. We also know that vegetarians are less susceptible to most of the Western diseases, and as a consequence live longer than the rest of us.’ (Pollan, p. 166)

‘A man of my spiritual intensity does not eat corpses.’ George Bernard Shaw said. When he was on his death bed – actually, he lived for years after that – he thought that his hearse should be drawn by all the animals he hadn’t eaten.

I’m not really a vegetarian. I just have never liked the taste of meat. I do like fish and chicken. When we lived in the bush (East Gippsland, Victoria) chicken used to be only for birthdays and Christmas. (Yes, they do run around the yard for a bit just after their head’s been chopped off. Ugh. But as kids we never felt Ugh.) On my father’s sheep farm, he’d cut the throat of a sheep and we’d live off that for a while. We lived on porridge in the morning (we had a cow) and mutton and mashed potatoes, mashed pumpkin and boiled peas. Oh, and bread. My mother made that as well as the butter and jam. (She even made the soap.) I always loved Fridays because we were Catholics and forbidden to eat meat on Fridays. To this day, decades after I could eat whatever I wanted when I wanted, Friday still has a great taste for me.

My older brother Bill told me that my father thought I was just being stubborn when I didn’t want to eat my meat and vegetables. So the last time I saw him, Bill was recalling when I was two, and our dad forcing me to eat my mutton, and I projectile-vomited all over him! From then on, I still had to eat it – there was nothing else and we lived in an extremely isolated place – but I could take my time to do it. This went on for years. I have memories of still being at the table at 10 o’clock at night; I wasn’t allowed down until I’d finished. Ugh.

No wonder I so enjoy eating now. And yes, I do eat mostly plants. No more mutton. No more mashed spuds and no more pumpkin. I know the latter two are plants but there are kinder ways to treat them. I still can’t stomach pumpkin (except in scones or the wonderful American invention of pumpkin pie) but the best potato recipe is Aussie food writer Jill Dupleix’s Crash Hot Potatoes. Ooooh, so good! And easy.This is how you do it:

16 small spuds or chats
Handful of thyme
Carraway seeds (or any herbs you have on hand, fresh or dried)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Parboil about 16 small spuds or chats. Put them on an oiled baking tray. Squash them flattish to about half-way through, with a potato masher. Then drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle thyme and caraway seeds – or whatever herbs you fancy – plus sea salt and ground pepper on them, and put them in the oven – 350 degrees, you know, average temp – for 20-30 minutes. Yum! They will emerge hot, crispy and aromatic.

Have with a green salad and some protein – meat, if you eat it, or grilled fish or chicken. Plus a glass (or two) of wine. The crash hot spuds are also very good cold the next day.

Eliminating the Inessential

July 20, 2013 at 11:55 pm | Posted in creativity, depression, nutrition | Leave a comment
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‘Creativity has more to do with the elimination of the inessential than with inventing something new.’ Helmut Jahn. That’s out of a book by Alena Hennessy called Cultivating Your Creative Life. I buy these things but never have time to read them. But I can flip through them and get a lot from the gorgeous images and little quotations like the above. When I retire I can read them properly!
That quotation in the first line reminded me of one I heard long ago: ‘Life is getting rid of everything that is dead.’ It’s an instinctive thing I do in interior design. It’s a kind of visual editing. In my editing career spanning 20 years or so, it was common to be able to delete one third of a person’s writing to improve it. (Yes, I was very diplomatic.) Most people write very repetitively, as you will know from editing your own work. The electronic cut-and-paste options made so easy with computers exacerbated this tendency.
I mentioned interior design. I’ve never done that professionally, though looking back, that would have been an obvious career path. In the days when I was at high school art was where I shone. But did we have career guidance? Nope. And at this new school I was allowed to drop Maths, which I hated. And so I did. The place to go after leaving school – the only place – the place where every famous artist had gone to in those days – was East Sydney Tech. No one told me and I was without the nous to find out that in order to get into East Sydney Tech, one needed not only to be great at Art but to have Maths.
In my uncompromisingly adolescent way, after I left home at 17 straight after the Higher School Certificate, I worked at a variety of jobs and only had time to paint on weekends, and I decided that I didn’t want to be a “Sunday painter”, so I dropped it. Idiot!
I’m sure that the sudden loss of creative expression contributed to my severe depressions in the following years. Through a circuitous route of different jobs and different countries, those experiences led to Canberra (Queanbean, actually next door to Canberra but in a different State: New South Wales – through my now ex-husband’s job at a high school there) and to ANU, that’s the Australian National University, and an English (Hons) degree. And after that a writing and editing career. And along the way, I had the worst depression of my life – and was forced to go to a counsellor someone recommended.
I was so clueless that, even though I couldn’t stop crying, I thought I’d just go once. I remember that was the first time I heard the word, ‘ongoing’. She was American and Australians didn’t use that word then. But I picked up the meaning from the context, and said, ‘Do you mean I have to come again?!’ Ha! Okay, 18 months of sessions later, I’d done it – got to the bottom of those apparently random, meaningless depressions that had been incapacitating me from time to time for 15 or so years. It was to do with repeated loss when I was little, when too young to make sense of it or to conceptualise the future – that the future would be different from this, that this was definitely temporary, something my older siblings could work out.
And after I’d worked out the reasons for my depressions intellectually there was another six months before that knowledge was incorporated into my emotional self. So it was a long process, involving one of those horrible tendencies in life of things to get worse before they can get better, but afterwards I was free. I was 33 and I was free of those debilitating depressions for good! I knew that there would still be pain and loss, I knew that there would be grief, but I knew that I’d never suffer depression again, and I was right. And it’s very good to create from a clear psychic/emotional space.
Some Zen person figured out this metaphor for what I mean: you want to pour some tea into a cup. If that cup is already full, when you pour the tea will overflow. But when you pour into an empty cup the tea will simply fill that space without any messy spilling over. Does that make sense? It made sense to me at the time, although now I can see it might be a bit simplistic.
I prefer to think of it as when painting a picture you want to put your beautiful colours onto a white or pale piece of paper so they’re clear and not onto paper with paint already there, which would sully your new colours.
Eliminating the inessential – that tenet of creativity above – is expressed by blogger Sarah Wilson in many of her posts. She lives simply and eats simply. I love her way of life and her writing – and her recipes. I’ve mentioned her before but her blog is at http://www.sarahwilson.com
And you can get her Friday missives once a week with great sugar-free recipes and her advice about interior design etc. She is a creative person and seems very smart and generous and kind. She and Jules Clancy http://www.stonesoup.com.au are my two favourite food and nutrition people.
For the moment – well actually for the next year and a half – I must eliminate the inessential in all aspects of my life in order to finish the book I’ve been commissioned to write. More about this another time. In the mean time, remember that less is more, to eat simply and well (see those websites above), and that creative expression is very important.

My father gave me the gift of sleep

June 29, 2013 at 10:54 pm | Posted in arthritis, nutrition | 4 Comments
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‘At our most moving moments are we not all without words?’
Marcel Marceau, the famous French mime artist said that. Or wrote it, I suppose. It’s enigmatic and powerful, I reckon, because it says so much. Doris Lessing had a phrase about the thinning of language against the density of our experience. But you wouldn’t be reading this unless you were interested in language and words, and people like us will try to find the words, no matter what.
A friend of mine died. He had a rare cancer. He was 52 but he still looked like a schoolboy. That was what was holding my words back. And part of why I didn’t write a blog for the past fortnight.
Homer wrote, ‘There is a time for many words, and there is a time for sleep.’ It seems so apt for Paul Mees http://theconversation.com/vale-paul-mees-australias-leading-transport-and-land-use-researcher-15385 whose words flew so fast and furiously and funnily about public transport and politics and people and everything under the sun. And he is out of his pain now, having his time for sleep.
Psychoanalysts believe that insomnia can sometimes be a fear of death – that long sleep. I would never suffer from that, even if I were afraid of death. I’m a champion sleeper. Is this hereditary? Some of my siblings seem to have inherited our mother’s chronic insomnia. Not me, and not my brother who died recently. We inherited our sleeping patterns from our father, who died young too of the same heart-related thing. We neither of us got along with him. But he gave us the gift of sleep. Priceless. No matter how bad things get, I almost always can sleep – and when things get bad one really needs that sleep! So I’m lucky that way.
If on a rare night I can’t sleep I get up and have a chamomile tea and scribble in a notebook to tease out what is bothering me, and resolve it, and then go back to bed and sleep like a dead person. Chamomile tea is a soporific substance; have two teabags in a mug – double strength – and fall asleep at the kitchen table! I don’t take drugs or medicines so herbs affect me a lot, I guess. They seem really strong to my system.
I’ve inherited something else: osteoarthritis. It was getting so I’d wake up in the morning feeling as if I was suffering the early stages of rigor mortis. Whoahh! You’re really not supposed to be that way in your fifties.
This stopped it: acupuncture took the pain away (that’s a scientifically verified effect of acupuncture, the only thing the scientists could verify about it with their western methods) plus a horrible rigmarole involving cod liver oil, more on this later, plus tai chi.
The cod liver oil thing, got from a very old and tattered book found in my mother’s house when we were cleaning it out after she died: for six months, every day you first of all, drink a big glass of hot water. (That’s the worst part.) You can’t have eaten or drunk for three hours before. So that makes first thing in the morning a suitable time, but of course you’re going to miss that tea or coffee first thing, it really mucks up your morning. You can time it for between meals, just before dinner, say. Second thing is you wait ten minutes after the water. Thenm, third, you drink a tablespoon of cod liver oil or flax seed oil mixed with two tablespoons of strained fresh orange juice or of milk. Not nearly as bad as it sounds. Then after, (fourth thing) don’t eat or drink for at least 30 minutes. Every day for six months (during which your skin will look amazing – a nice side effect), then just a few times a week. For the rest of your life. (Ugh.)
The tai chi? It’s pretty easy to learn the basics but like the English language not easy to get really good at it. My teacher, Fontane, is like a little tiny peach blossom, so petite and graceful and pretty. She’s good on the philosophy of it too, a very good teacher.
It has been a time consuming journey over the past year which I’ll write about at another time but those three things have made me much, much better. And the more I practise tai chi the better I will get, the more flexible, the stronger. I will never be a little peach blossom like my teacher; I’m a giant in comparison, two inches taller than the average western woman and with my father’s big swimmer’s shoulders – but in my own way, I will become more graceful and refined. (Ha! Refined – me?!) Plus tai chi is a sort of meditation. It is calming and you focus just on it so, practised regularly, it helps you come to terms with people you love dying young, for example.

Playing with language and playing with food

June 9, 2013 at 2:18 am | Posted in Books, food, linguistics, nutrition | Leave a comment
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This blog is about language and literature and health and life so today I’m going to share the websites and blogs of three people who improve our mental and physical lives by their brilliant ideas – the first one is Jules Clancy, the second Sarah Wilson and the third a Canadian guy called James Harbeck.

The first two are wonderful young Australian women who have great ideas on things like nutrition and cooking, chocolate and health, and how to save time and have more energy. All three are really good writers. I notice that about Nigella Lawson too – she was a journalist before she was a food presenter and cook book writer, and it really shows. At our house she is popular for a number of reasons, but one of my reasons is that I can curl up on the sofa with one of her cook books for the sheer pleasure of reading her prose.

Reading the prose of the following three people is a joy too.

Jules Clanchy looks like this (photo didn’t paste but you can see it on her website) and has the following to say about herself:

: Ready to discover the secret to quick & easy cooking?
Stonesoup is all about helping YOU become the best cook you can be.
The thing is, you can make delicious, healthy meals without spending hours in the kitchen.
This is her website:
http://www.stonesoup.com.au

Jules Clancy is a country girl and her recipes are fabulous – easy, quick, nutritious and she makes a feature of vegetables. She makes them really exciting.

Sarah Wilson’s website and blog can be found at http://www.sarahwilson.com.au
This is a quote from her site:
I’m a journalist + TV presenter. I write about how to make life better. If I had a resume it would list the following: editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, host of MasterChef Australia, Sunday Life columnist, host + producer of the Lifestyle YOU channel (under “hobbies” it would say: eating + riding a bike).
I’m on a mission to find ways to make life bigger, more meaningful, nicer, smarter, heartier.

James Harbeck can be found by googling his name or his blog, Sesquiotica. Many of his monologues are on You Tube. The linguistic analysis of seven rude sounds teenagers make is a favourite of mine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZY2R_K3NFPo

These three make life richer and funnier and better in so many other ways. Bon appetite!

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