In general I work as a manager or program/project manager on interim basis (if you are really interested check my bio at LinkedIn?). But right now I’m without a project or job, so at home these days. Although I really enjoy my free time right now, being able to work on my square foot garden project, write these blogs, spent time with family and cooking a lot. I too have to pay the bills and must find a new project and/or job no matter how enjoyable it is to be ‘jobless’ especially in spring season. The biggest advantage however of my temporary all-day-freedom is the ability to run almost every morning. It is exercise and meditation at the same time and so this morning during my run it dawned on me. Just out of the blue an insight popped into my head: ‘I’m taking my life too seriously’. Oops! … I did it again.
Square Foot Gardening (or in Dutch ‘de Makkelijke Moestuin’) is based on the method invented by Mel Bartholomew. It is introduced in the Netherlands and Belgium by Jelle Medema.
As a kid I had to play outside a lot. My sister and I played in the streets, in the woods, in the meadow or near a ditch. Playing soccer, jump ropes, catch butterflies, pass a ball, feed small ducks and occasionally some fishing (we needed our neighbor to unhook the fish). Only during pouring rain we stayed inside, most likely playing a board game or fight each other. But most of that time we were getting really bored. There was no distraction yet via daytime TV or internet. We only had TV after 17.00 or 18.00 pm watching series like the A-team, Miami Vice, Dynasty and Dallas. Those were the days!
Taking care of nature
Most of the time I took nature for granted, but in some moments I was in awe. At those moments I could feel both overwhelmed and astonished by nature and its way of interaction. I felt small and insignificant AND part of nature at the same time. Fascinated by all species (including myself) interacting with each other and their physical environment. Ecology wasn’t something I had heard of at that time, but as a child I was able to witness it.
In a previous blog ‘Improving my health‘ my biggest insight was that I didn’t know my body and it’s functioning at all, let alone the impact of my diet on my health. Due to this insight I decided to start taking full responsibility again for my health. Which meant two things; 1) change my diet and 2) educate myself more how to change it. What elements did I need to (re)consider? So I started reading books. And one book turned out to be a real game changer for me personally. Gulia Enders pictures in her book ‘Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ’ (in Dutch ‘De mooie voedselmachine’), our gut as second brain.
Gut as second brain
And apparently she wasn’t the only one recognizing the importance of this organ (microbiome) on our health. On Facebook I found several articles on this topic and I kept on reading more articles and books. This is extremely fascinating information and a completely new area of scientific research. There’s an entire ecosystem of bacteria and a vast neural network operating in our guts. This ecosystem is our second brain, and comprises some 100 million neurons, more than the spinal cord. This is not a thinking brain—it does not reason, write poetry, or solve multi-linear regressions—but mounting evidence suggests that your gut’s health strongly influences your mood. If you are interested you can check out this video I found on Youtube from AsapScience for more information about the second brain and its connection to everything from food cravings to autistic traits.
So, our gut bacteria produce hormones and neurotransmitters that our bodies require for emotional stability and cognitive function. They also adjust the immune system, switch genes on and off, and send messages to the brain via the vagus nerve. One of the articles I have read ‘Microbiome: The Body’s Great Conductor‘ is even quoting the renowned ancient physician Hippocrates. As this approach connects to an old idea about health.
Both my daughters have reached their teen years or ‘terrible teens’ as so often described. I already experienced some raging hormones and emotional changes and we are only at the beginning of this phase. So, can someone please help me out with some good advice?
I’m actually quiet scared that I’m going to fail in this phase of parenting and find myself as opponent of my daughter(s). Meaning that I’m afraid of getting sucked in by the emotional outbursts of one of my daughters and find myself as a 11-year-old, masked as a grown up, on the other side. This is nothing new and happens to me on a daily basis, which I call my vortexes (in Dutch: draaikolken) of life. I have written a blog about these situations as they can be painful and funny though!
Vortexes of life
On a daily basis I can find myself in a situation, which would ask for an adult response or reaction, however my first instant reaction (verbally or body language) is a childish one. Not something that I like to admit easily. It can happen to me in a conversation with my mother (eye rolling), with a friend, on my job or even in a supermarket. And in these cases I wish I had taken just 2 seconds to not respond. Nothing, just utter silence.
As even a cashier in a supermarket can get to me and drag me into a vortex of life. What will be the impact of ‘teen years’ with raging hormones of one of my daughters. Let alone two of them :-)?
How to survive my daughters’s teen years?
Although I’m fully aware of the importance of adolescence for my children as a means of becoming independent of their parents. I’m not looking forward to this process at all, with neither of my girls. Not because I’m expecting too much difficulties in their behavior, I expect them to be first class adolescents. In my opinion teenagers must be:
- occasionally moody and restless
- concerned about their appearance and spent hours in front of a mirror
- hanging with their friends
- curious and experimental
- and so much more
What is worrying me however is my feelings, my emotions, my response and my behavior towards them.
11-year-old-child in an adult appearance
Although I’m over 40, most of the time I still have this child in me. And this child is confused, because I as adult should know how life works and how to respond to it. And in fact I’m clueless. But in this game of being an adult we all pretend we know things and most of the time I play along. And playing along means ‘blame someone or something outside your control’ once things don’t work out. In this particular case I can always blame my daughters being in their teen years and calm myself down. But what will really happen is that they (un)consciously push a button which triggers an emotion in me. That button, entirely based on my past, can and most likely will define my response. Thus my response will not be based on what’s happening between me and my daughter right now, but is based on my unsolved past. Buttons that can be easily pushed, which are my open wounds are:
- the fear of rejection or separateness
- feeling of being unseen or under valued
- my fear for commotion and/or tension
My inability to define my boundaries, related to my fear of rejection AND my fear for turmoil, isn’t beneficial. To phrase it lightheartedly. So, now you probably understand a little bit where I’m coming from and why I ain’t looking forward to these teen tears. Not because of my daughters, but because of me.
As a starter I bought this book about the adolescent brain to read and get a little bit more understanding of what’s happening ‘inside’ my girls. However that will not prevent me from stepping into my own emotional traps. That’s my journey and any experiences, tips, tricks and/or insights from any parent are very much welcomed!
If you want to change your lifestyle, new routines are very important. A daily routine has the ability to help break bad habits. Think about it — if you get yourself into a bunch of good habits, and they become your new “day to day-thing,” then it doesn’t leave much room for your old, bad habits. And instead of trying to avoid bad habits, its easier to start to create new ones. Stick to your new daily routine, and bad habits will be naturally eradicated from your life. Or does that sound too easy?
If it sounds too easy your mind is playing games with you again, as it is always looking for reasons not to change at all. And my mind is always playing games with me, so when I decided to change my habits and lifestyle it immediately told me:
- You are not a great cook, so you will never persist, don’t waste any time on this!
- You look great, why would you change your lifestyle?
- With two children at home it is not feasible and they need their nutrients. As a mom you have to bring stability and clarity and not confuse them
- People will think you are mad….
- It will cost a fortune
- You know nothing about food and its nutritional value
- Do you want to become someone who’s always counting calories and eating salads?
In 2015 I got challenged: eating 100% all sugar free. So no sugar at all, not even fructose. Main idea was to find out how hooked I was on sugar. I didn’t think this challenge would be a tough one, because if it comes to taste I prefer both sour and salt over sweet. So I accepted and without much preparation Matthias (my husband) and I started this challenge together.
What to eat on 100% all sugar free diet?
Every day we started with a glass of water with pink Himalayan salt and a multivitamin Omnium. The rest of the day we could drink as much water, tea, coffee or coconut water and eat some nuts (Brazil (in Dutch: paranoot), cashew, almonds and hazelnuts) as snack. But not all teabags or coconut water are allowed, so you really have to read the nutrition facts labels first. And at that moment our poor preparation became a huge burden in this challenge. You don’t want to read nutrition facts labels in a grocery store feeling hungry and moody and finding out almost every product contains any form of sugar….
So during this challenge we had to find out what we were allowed to eat. I began researching various bloggers’ journeys to their sugar free lifestyle, but it turned out the majority was allowed fructose. Understandable, as a 10 days all sugar free challenge is a totally different approach than a sugar free lifestyle. We ended up reading the Facebook-post of the personal trainer of Matthias. He had done this challenge before and was the one inspiring my husband to do this challenge as well. One big difference though besides being a personal trainer, he is a top athlete (several Ironman’s, including Hawaii 2015) and he knows much more on nutrition and it’s impact on your body.
Next to some nuts, we found out we could eat: eggs, salmon, arugula (in Dutch: rucola), homemade mayonaise, mushrooms, parsley, sesame seeds, trout, cod and olives. Not much unfortunately…
If you have the intention to biohack your blood sugar by going all sugar free (so no sugar at all not even fructose) for a week. It might be helpful to have some tips upfront. I really would have appreciated them, the first time I accepted the challenge. I didn’t consider myself a sugar addict and because of that I totally underestimated the impact of this entire experiment. So the following 6 tips all sugar free will get you going.
6 tips all sugar free
Tip 1 Preparation
There are many ways to prepare yourself. Educate yourself about different types of sugar and it’s impact on your body and emotions is one way. Read the experiences of other bloggers (check out for example my experience) can help as well. Put a grocery list together of foods you are allowed to eat and stock some items in your kitchen. While doing this go through your kitchen cupboards and get rid of items you are not allowed to eat, so your mind cannot play games with you and you’re not tempted.
Tip 2 Team up and laugh about it
Something that I found pretty helpful in hindsight was doing this biohack together with some one else. It is good to be able to share your emotions, the struggles, the learnings and everything else you encounter on a daily basis. Some one who understands and can support in the tougher moments. It’s great to be able to share your astonishments and laugh about what’s happening to you at the same time. Don’t take it too serious.
Okay today I start my challenge: going 10 days all sugar free, so no sugar of any kind. To make sure I get sufficient minerals and vitamins, I start each day with a glass of water with Himalayan salt and a multivitamin Omnium. I’m allowed to drink as much water, tea (coffee or coconut water) and eat some nuts (Brazil (in Dutch: paranoot), cashew, almonds and hazelnuts) as snack. I don’t drink coffee or coconut water, so have to stick to water and tea. That might become real boring….I’m going to keep a diary 10 days all sugar free. I cannot imagine giving up sugar for a week will have that much impact.
Day 1: Wednesday June 3rd 2015
My weight: 53,8 kg. I’m hesitant about this challenge. Just today my menstrual cycle started and already I’m craving for different tastes and want to snack whatever is available. Must be my mind playing games with me already. At 7.30 I start my day with one boiled egg and some salmon. I run 7 km in an easy pace and at 11.00 I eat 4 Brazil nuts and I can feel a light headache coming up and the feeling of depression. At 12.45 I have arugula, smoked trout and a teaspoon homemade mayonaise (oil, eggs, vinegar) for lunch. Apparently arugula is the only type of lettuce I’m allowed to eat, all the others contain sugar. Have to be better prepared and I am getting a bit worried now!
Around 16.00 I have 3 chicken breast cubes, spiced up with some homemade sambal. For dinner I have sashimi salmon with some sesame seeds and go to tennis practice for an hour. Nothing special. After practice I felt like drinking a cola, but I don’t. Around 21.30 I feel nauseous and tired and go to bed at 22.30. I’m done.
Day 2: Thursday June 4th 2015
In general I don’t eat breakfast so this time I skip it as well. Preparing curd cheese with fresh strawberries for my daughters is a real challenge! Every fiber in my body wants to put that spoon into my mouth. I can resist and at noon I eat scrambled eggs with parsley and sesame seeds for lunch. I consider myself lucky not to have to go to work this week. But on the other hand distraction might have been helpful. Dinner is served early today at 17.15 tuna with some mayonaise and capers. During the day I have been active in my garden; pruning, mowing and cleaning up. Early in the afternoon I felt a slight headache, but at night I woke up feeling nauseous again (like a had a hangover). The entire day I crave for fruit, I love to eat an apple or grapes or anything else…
In one of my previous blogs I mentioned that in my opinion food determines your personal health and how you feel on a daily basis. And the same applies to exercise or sports. So why did it take me years, or to be more accurate, decades to actually start exercising?
Swan with elephant legs
The female body can be described in many ways and there are even some pre-described body shapes; like straight, apple, pear. These descriptions try to refrain of judgement whatsoever. But my mind is not judge-free at all. I have many judgements and thoughts about my body, my appearance, my looks throughout the day. And one specific frame about myself was of ‘the Swan with elephant legs’. I don’t think that needs any additional words. At that time I was very happy with my face and upper-body and despised everything below the belt.
Last year my husband (although we don’t have the legal status, it is the best way to describe the nature of our relationship) came across Bulletproof Coffee. And thus in contact with, Dave Asprey (founder of Bulletproof and author of the bestseller ‘The Bulletproof Diet’) and his many biohacks. Immediately we both were fascinated by his approach and especially the joy he expressed in his podcasts doing some of the weirdest hacks. Biohacking was a complete new phenomena to us.
So, what it is biohacking?
Biohacking is about changing both your external and internal environment so you have more (full) control of your biology. Allowing you to upgrade your body, mind, and life. Or by quoting Dave:
The art of using technology to change the environment both inside and outside of your body to take control and make it do what you want.
Just some examples of biohacks, to get a better understanding:
- Cold therapy (the Wim Hof Method for example, as mentioned in an earlier blog, or cryotherapie)
- Drink coffee with butter (Bulletproof coffee) as morning routine
- Taking supplements (like ketoprime or MCT-oil to increase brainpower)
The curious, geeky and playful child in me had awakened and wanted to be part of the fun. After my 10-days-100%-sugar-free challenge and 30-days-no-cheese-at-all challenge I was ready for the next step :-)!