Book Review: Carbophobia! The Scary Truth About America’s Low-Carb Craze

 read for free: http://www.veganmd.org/writings.html

 

Everywhere you go these days, it seems, the Atkins “A” can be found. In the first six months of 2004, no fewer than 1864 new “low-carb” products were launched – everything from low-carb pasta to low-carb gummy bears. Yet warnings from medical authorities continue to pour in. How have low-carb diet gurus managed to mislead millions of people onto a diet opposed by so many – including the American Dietetic Association, the American Medical Association, The National Academy of Sciences, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health?”

 
Carbophobia is a very important book to read if you have ever considered or know those around you who are following any version of low-carb diets. In this book, Michael Greger, MD, (known also for his Latest in Clinical Nutrition DVDs which stand out for their emphasis on scientific evidence when discussing diet and natural health) discusses the history and faulty science behind the “low-carb craze” and more importantly, documents the scary short term and long term side effects and dangers of such diets before offering a safer alternative (a wholefoods plant based diet with unrefined “good” carbohydrates, good fats (like nuts) and good sources of protein like beans, nuts, whole grains, fruit and vegetables).

Although only a small book of around 100 pages, Michael Greger once again shows the importance of good science and research, including no fewer than 58 pages of references at the back of the book which one follow for further comprehension.

Even if you are not interested in following a low-carb diet I would still recommend reading this book because it is interesting not only in its diet information but in it’s clear documentation of how large cooperation’s can ‘bend’ the truth, create the illusion of good science and research and, create a deep set (and dangerous) belief amongst great numbers of people that endures over time. It’s important to understand these things because it is not just with the Atkin’s diet that this has happened!

This is especially seen in the last chapter entitled “The Atkin’s Cooperation responds.” The legal department of the Atkins Corporation sent Dr. Greger a letter threatening to sue him for speaking out against the Atkins Diet on his website www.AtkinsFacts.org (now AtkinsExposed.org). claiming that his website “impinges on Atkins’ rights” by making “defamatory” statements that “continue to harm Atkins’ reputation and cause injury to Atkins.” Dr. Greger posted the company’s entire legal threat letter online for all to see, accompanied by a point-by-point rebuttal, and in this chapter covers the major points addressed.

 
Carbophobia can be read for free on Michael Gregers website: http://www.veganmd.org/writings.html

 

Silence Your Mind – Book Review

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Book Review: Silence your mind  – Ramesh Manocha M.D.

I found this book to be a fantastic read – informative, practical, thought provoking.

The cover is a tad misleading about the contents of the book – “The new, scientifically proven approach to meditation that will enhance your wellbeing & performance – in just 10 minutes a day” to me this makes it seem like the entire book focuses on how you can meditate, and on a “revolutionary NEW approach” when in reality the meditation approach the book describes covers only a few pages in the entire book and is based on a very old ancient form of meditation – Sahaja Yoga.

The bulk of the book covers meditation research – it clears up the mystery of what ‘real meditation is’, it explores meditation from its earliest descriptions in Ancient Eastern texts and other early writings, it looks at the western view compared to the eastern view, it explores the many ways that meditation can help people of all ages and all walks of life with examples of how it helps reduce and cure illnesses and conditions such as epilepsy, depression and ADHD and includes many case studies, research experiments and testimonials.

Particularly interesting was the discussion of the common Western View towards meditation – this is (according to our dictionaries for example) usually considered as “thinking really deeply about one thing” or “concentrating really hard.” Or, on the other hand it is considered simply ‘relaxing.’ This is a far cry from the Eastern view of meditation which is about finding a silence space between thoughts and staying in that state – not thinking about anything. The book features a number of scientific comparisons between meditation and meditation this is really just ‘relaxation’ in terms of results such as stress reduction etc. clearly showing they are not one and the same. There is also the western view that has sprung up from Descartes famous words “Cogito ergo sum” I think therefore I am. This has influenced the notion that if we stop thinking we are less human and we can see the impact and value that ‘thinking’ has through our education system. There is a fear in some people of not thinking, that this will make us less intelligent, lose ourselves etc. Nothing could be further from the truth – letting the mind control us will keep us from realising our true selves.

Another particular aspect of interest was the chapter about “Flow” or the state of being “In the Zone” which is common talk in the West mainly in regards to elite athletes and sports people. This is that space where we become completely immersed in a task so much so that we are not distracted by external factors or internal factors such as thoughts or emotions. This is sort of something we are obsessed with obtaining in peak performances and is the direct counterpart to the Eastern “silence of the mind” meditation and shows that all humans seem to be striving for this optimal state of being. We are all pursuing happiness but more importantly, the author writes, rather than being overly concerned with achieving happiness we should be primarily concerned with achieving flow. “From flow and peak experiences positive moods and feelings naturally follow within the context of a fruitful and productive life.”

It is refreshing to have a science based cover of such a spiritual topic. All this research is important in helping us balance the left and right sides of our brains, in helping our society understand what it is to be human to reach optimal state of being and to harness an important tool to help us navigate our earthly existence and go beyond.

If you don’t feel like reading the book you can also find a wealth of information for free from http://www.beyondthemind.com/

“It is useful to understand that it is not that you do meditation; rather, there is an energy of meditation within you, a mechanism or ability that needs to be awakened in order for you to experience it. ….”

“You are not your problems.

You are not the things you own.

You are not your body any more than you are the clothes that hang on it.

You are not your career, your achievements, nor your failures.

You are not even your thoughts, memories or emotions.

You are something beyond all of these things, beyond the mind.

You are the infinite silence that is hidden in the space between each thought.

When you silence your mind, you will find yourself,

In the eternal present moment, the pure awareness, reality and joy,

The self itself.

This is true meditation.”

–        Ramesh Manocha

Swadhyaya – the importance of constant self-study

reflect-on-life

Today I was reading an issue of The Australian Yoga Journal (July 2013) which is filled with many enlightening and inspiring articles on how to live  a healthy, natural energising life.

 

In one article, entitled “Opening up to Love” by Helen Hawkes, she talked about a term I had not yet come across – Swadhyaya.

 

“Yoga practitioners are in a constant process of swadhyaya or self-study – the fourth niyama. Any activity that cultivates self-reflective consciousness can be considered swadhyaya – it teachers us to burn out unwanted and self-destructive tendencies…”

 

Although this specifically seems to mean self -study in ways of a spiritual quest/development I think that self- study and reflection is an important matter through aspects of life to ensure that you  are the best person you can be at any given time, to make life easier for you, and to make life more fulfilling for those around you.

 

I have always been a self-analyser, self-reflector, self-studier. Constantly I ask myself questions, how do I feel about something? Why did I do something, why didn’t I do something? What path am I on and am I happy with that path? Some people find me crazy to constantly be asking myself these questions and reviewing and analysing things in such detail, but by constantly reflecting on these things I see patterns that I might otherwise have missed, I bring to the for subconscious emotions so that they can be dealt with, I learn from the past. But it self-study isn’t just about asking question or reflecting on events – sometimes it is simply about giving yourself time to calm down, go somewhere quiet, give yourself time to breath and stop thinking about all the things you have to get done, and then in that space, see what comes to mind, what you start thinking about. That is also a form of self-study where you may learn things about yourself that surprise you.

Some people it may be because they feel that it is a waste of time, to take the time in their days to actually self-reflect. Others feel like this puts them in the category of ‘needing help’ (like a psychologist). But this process is something that needs to be intertwined into everyday life, so much so that it becomes natural. I’m not talking about being hard on ourselves or critical of ourselves at every turn,that will of course hinder us but we owe it to ourselves to try to look at things as unbiased as possible, the more we practice trying to reflect on our own behaviour unbiased the better we will become at it and this can be incredibly beneficial in our learning processes.

Keep a diary/journal, blog, meditate, or just give yourself some quite reflection time, even if it is just 5 min a day, reflect in a patient, understanding way, and don’t be harsh on yourself

From the age of about 11 I kept a diary, and still keep a journal. When I have a lot on my mind or significant things happen in my life I write them down and in that process often I discover more about myself, see connections or figure things out. And if I don’t , I still ease some of the weight off my mind knowing that it is written down and if I need to re-reflect on things at a later date it is written down instead of  just buried into my subconscious ready to re-emerge without warning or effect future events without my understanding. Yes I make mistakes but thanks to this constant process of swadhyaya I can see the benefits and learning from every experience so there is virtually nothing I regret in life – which greatly sets me free.

Self-study is also important for you to check that you are not stagnant – everyone should constantly be growing as an ever learning student of life. You should be able to look back on yourself and see positive changes, improvements, or developments/skills etc that you have worked towards, acquired or things you have overcome or understood that make you proud and keep you forever moving forward. If you feel like you are exactly the same person you were a year ago, then you need to be making more changes or bringing new challenges/options into your life.

The reason I wrote this post is because I know far too many people that simply do not want to self-reflect. They think that they know themselves but they don’t allow themselves a pause to reflect on their actions or journeys, they simply throw themselves into constant action and if there are things they are not so proud of or feeling things they can’t understand or say things they regret, rather than reflecting on the matters they would rather pretend they didn’t happen. They build walls and refuse to revisit this giving some excuse like the past is the past and we cannot dwell in it. Self-study is not the same as holding onto the past, if anything it is the opposite. Things happen to us in life so that we may grow and learn from them, but how can we learn if we just keep moving forward without a second beat?  This is not the way to growth or happiness. If you are already into the practice of self-reflection good on you, but if this sounds like something you don’t do enough, just try every day to think about how you went that day. Are you proud of the choices you made, the way you behaved? How are you feeling? Is it the same way you felt the day before? What changes can you make to set yourself in the right mindset for the upcoming day? Don’t get bogged down in this. Even to just write down one note for yourself, such as “I feel good about helping (name) today, I must make an extra effort to find new ways to help or encourage those around me” creates a link in flow of constant swadhyaya!

 

Vegan Brunch

Who doesn’t love brunch?

I never thought I would see the day when my family could all be eating a vegan brunch and not one complains. When not everyone is vegan they usually feel like they are missing out if they don’t bring their meat or other animal products to the table. But there is still so much variety to vegan food and so many great vegan versions that no one is missing out and for me It is just a nice relaxing energy. For this occasion I made some banana choc chip muffins which I will post the recipe at the end. 

1st Up, Coconut Yoghurt (Coco-yo!) fruit and granola parfait served with freshly juiced pineapple, apple and orange….Image

 

Next course…

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Veggie sausages, roast smashed potato, roast tomatoes, “chicken” poppers,  with couscous and buckwheat herb salad (also photo below)

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This was followed by cups of tea and vegan cinnamon buns and chocolate chip peanut butter banana muffins!

Image for these i followed the recipe on http://vegannskitchen.blogspot.com.au/2011/08/cinnamon-irene-hurricane-buns-vegan.html but i made a traditional vanilla icing/glaze. 

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The recipes for these muffins can be found http://italltastesgreektome.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/vegan-chocolate-chip-banana-muffins.html

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Take the Time to Relax Every Day and My Favourite Chill Out Music (at the moment)

“Who among us hasn’t envied a cat’s ability to ignore the cares of daily life and to relax completely?” – Karen Brademeyer

I have a gorgeous 6 month kitten who is a joy to watch. Sure, there are times when she experiences certain stresses, when she is anxious, when she wants food, wants to go outside, wants to reach something she cannot reach, there are times she is frightened, from a loud noise, uncertain people etc. But, every single day without fail, she finds times to completely and utterly relax. To let go of the cares of the world. To rest with a smile on her face 🙂

It is her ability to completely relax and let go, enjoy the moment and be in the NOW that is so inspiring and also allows her to be so forgiving. If we can learn to capture this same feeling, we can use it to let go of negative feelings that would otherwise take hold, we can stop ourselves from letting our stresses affect others around us, and even in hard times, we can find reasons to love and enjoy being alive every single day.

Too many people have an uneven balance in their lives. We need a work, health (physical) and social balance, but we ALSO need to devote time each day for our mental peace of mind and our own personal development. To me this includes things like furthering your knowledge through reading or participating in deep discussions, participating in a hobby or an art, and/or  taking the time to just completely relax or mediate.

Yes, often we we go through periods where we have virtually no time left for ourselves with very little choice in the matter. But we all have much more power than we may realise in creating our lives and our realities. We must make choices to build our lives and pave the pathway towards balance, so that these periods of stress are not permanent or long lasting, but exist only in small bursts amongst periods of appreciation, relaxation and rejuvenation. You may think that you have no time for yourself, but living a life of stress is no life, and will only result in you letting stress control you, eventually eating away at you so that you become a run down, hollow, shell of a person, affecting those around you rather than inspiring them, instead of a shining, energetic, bright being loving life and full of potential.

Sometimes I do not get any time for myself throughout the day, there are too many things to get done. In these cases, I like to relax by playing some chill-out music while I am doing other things that need to be done such as cooking, or work that does not require complete mental focus, or some other chores. It is great to let lose with your favourite music, but some music can hype you up or in some ways (even if it is enjoyable) cause more stress to the mind and body. Relaxed flowing chill out music however has a soothing effect that can last for a long time.

I love many different kinds – relaxing jazz music, spiritual ethnic music, and others! Here is a small sample to inspire you!

Romantic Saxophone

Relaxing Lounge Music

Cosmic Inspired Lounge Music

Arabic and Indian Chill Out Mix

Africa/Asia/Oriental influence Chill Out Mix

Native American Spiritual Music

Chinese New Age

 

The Mind-Body Harmonisation of Physical Exercise or Why Exercise is like Meditation

 

Physical exercise is so much more than just attempting to look good.  It’s not something necessary for ONLY some people nor should it be about being vain. Yes’s it is about losing weight if you need to for health, sometimes it is about rehabilitation after injuries, but much much more than that working out is about discovering your INNER STRENGTH, developing COURAGE, WILL POWER, SELF DISCIPLINE and DETERMINATION.

Working out teaches you to take the time for yourself and realise your SELF WORTH, the importance, benefits and the amazing results that come from looking after yourself.

The mind that was once the enemy, at first resisting everything, saying you’re not strong enough, fit enough, that you can’t do it, with practice because a powerful ally, connecting to the body in a harmonising union that not only teaches you how to power through the tough times in your workout but likewise builds strength to get through anything life throws at you.

It is not enough to do a workout a one or two times a week or just on the weekends, we must make being active a part of our everyday lives, till it becomes so natural that we don’t even question it. In a world filled with desk jobs, and couch potatoes it is my wish that everyone could make regular exercise such a normal occurrence in their lives that they too can experience the life altering benefits of increased strength, stamina and endurance to both mind and body and live their lives as we are all meant to full of ENERGY ❤

As with all things nothing worth having comes easily. Too many people give up in the early stages saying it is just too hard. But if they just stuck with it, the results are so beautiful and it is so much more than just being physical healthy but about a different outlook on life, a different mindset.

Go for gold! Discover yourselves, amaze yourselves because each and everyone has SO much untapped potential inside them if only they are brave enough to dig deep and bring it out!

In meditation we calm our mind so we can connect with our higher selves. So to with exercise we can learn to reach for something deeper and connect with that source, find out who we really are and who we want to be.

Beach Running, Tips and a Helpful Video

Running is actually far more complicated than one would initially think. Especially if you, like me, hardly did any running for a huge period of your life after childhood and if you don’t participate in sports. Having a break from running and then getting back into it in your adult years – well simply mastering the correct technique for the most efficient movement and speed, and the least wear and tear on the joints can take some practice no wonder there are specialists you can go to just to analyse your running style.

I only started getting into running last year, and at first it was so hard to run outside for even three minutes straight. I used NHS’s free Couch to 5k running podcast program to help me go from 3 min to 20 minutes running straight in a relatively short time and I highly recommend downloading the podcasts if you are new or just getting back into running. http://www.nhs.uk/LiveWell/c25k/Pages/couch-to-5k.aspx

Running it appeals to me for the convenience, no equipment necessary, just put on a good sports bra if you’re a girl, and some supportive sports shoes and out the door you go. It can bring a sense of freedom and a feeling of naturalness few other exercises can replicate.

Beach running is truly one step (if not more) about running on the street. The numerous benefits include:

–        The gorgeous landscape and feeling of freedom being near the ocean

–        Much less impact on the joints thanks to the absorption effects of the sand

–        Not having to worry about being run over by cars

–        Strengthens the foot muscles and works into the calves more

–        Running without shoes is slightly different from running with shoes and many people would argue is more natural and healthy

If you are new to beach running, take it slowly. Even if you go for runs regularly on the treadmill or the pavements, running with shoes trains you to run in a certain style, and running bear feet will always be a new challenge and work slightly different muscles, so don’t rush into it. I recommend no more than 1-2 times per week for the first month at least. Don’t confuse cardiovascular fitness with readiness for going harder faster – especially when it comes to running we have to remember that our cardiovascular fitness can often develop faster than our tendons, ligaments and muscles can adjust. I should know because I made the mistake of ignoring this advice and paid for it when my knees began hurting and took days to recover 😦 (I backed right off, slowed down, and now am fine. Don’t push through that kind of pain.)

The first time I went for a run on the beach was using a walking/running interval program (the podcasts) for 20 minutes. My Achilles tendon and knees ached a lot the next day and I suspect I was running slightly different from how I do on the pavement and with less support from shoes my feet move differently as well. When you run barefoot and on the sand you have to put more of an emphasis on landing on the ball of your foot, and on floating over the tops of the sand rather than sinking in.

My knees hurt the second week as well, though I recovered quickly (I know just the thing I am trying to avoid by sand running!) But I found this video on youtube and since practising it haven’t had any more pain. It has a  series of easy exercises to strengthen your feet and associated leg muscles important for running without shoes and I think that really helped! I recommend when you are getting into this kind of running to give this video a go:

I am really enjoying my weekly beach runs now and would go more often if I could. They are a real treat and give a feeling of connecting with nature, releasing all the stress and tension of the week, forgetting everything and just getting lost in the feeling of the ocean, the sand, the sunset and your feet connected to the ground as they were meant to be – with nothing in between!

Doesn’t that photo just make you want to find the nearest beach and go running along it now? I think I have become a bit addicted to the feeling because I look forward to it all week, and even feel feelings of sadness when i look at those photos and am trapped inside and away from the beach.

Fartlek!

I love using the treadmill to improve my running skills when its too hot or rainy outside, and an easy warm up/cool down before other exercise. But when working on cardiovascular training I do find it painful to force myself to stay on that treadmill and not get off out of boredom. The movement of walking, jogging and running comes so naturally that its easy to lose focus and instead focus on how tiring/painful it is! At least when you are running out doors there is more to look at.

I often run intervals on the treadmill to work on developing speed and being able to endure going faster for longer, but I tend to wear myself out too fast to keep going for a full 20-30 min.

I tried out a Fartlek system today and found that having a set pattern to follow really helped me. I stayed on the treadmill for 35 min (including a short warm up and cool down).

Farlek I have been told means “speed play” and really is just about randomly adding intervals of faster speeds. I followed this pattern I got from a magazine:

2 – 3 – 4 – 3 – 2 

After a warm up run for two minutes, jog/walk for two minutes, run for three minutes, jog/walk for three minutes, run for four minutes, jog/walk for four minutes and then back down followed by a cool down.

It’s very effective, boy do those 4 minutes run go on forever, but luckily the four minute jog/walk is pleanty to recover for the second round.

 

 

 Haha I know this picture definitely applies to some people!  Although the majority of the time I’m at the gym the people next to me are just walking on the treadmill not running so there’s isn’t any point in even pretending its a race. :p

I have nothing against people speed walking on the treadmill, especially if using the incline. But please don’t waste your gym session holding on to the handles that’s cheating!