new year's resolutions - why you don't need to detox

New Year’s Resolutions: You don’t need to detox

What is it about our future selves that we are so optimistic will be different from our current selves?  Why, oh why, do I think “January me” will be so much more attracted to exercise and healthy food than “December me” and am annually shocked that I am not magically enthusiastic after NYE?  I mean, considering that “January me” is the direct result of everything “December me” ate and drank, my expectation should be quite the opposite.

If this harsh realisation has also dampened your healthy resolutions (again!), you’re most definitely not alone – despite your instagram feed being overloaded with #detox, #healthy and #newyearnewme.  “Detoxing” as a process has many very well educated sceptics, with members of the medical community quite at a loss with the popular buzz word.  Your body has been breaking down and eliminating toxins (or “detoxing”, if you must) long before the word was used to sell everything from soup to mini breaks.  Your liver is responsible for a lot of the heavy lifting, and yes of course after overdoing the festive season you can feel a bit sluggish.  However, there is far more to be gained by treading gently, than by any extreme, restrictive punishment you can put yourself through (and as one to “go hard or go home”, believe me I’ve tried my fair share of juice cleanses and the like).  Usually, putting your exhausted body into shock with a low calorie diet and a bootcamp like exercise regime (when carrying a tray of jaegers is the closest thing to weight lifting your arms have done since November) will merely slow your metabolism, and give you a worse case of the fear than too many G&Ts.

new year's resolution: you don't need to detox

So, what do you do when you’ve eaten all the spiced beef sandwiches, your jeans are no longer “eating pants” and you just feel awful?  Three old faithfuls I can always rely on, not even find painful, and constitute the closest things to new years resolutions that I can admit to.

Tidy up
About 6 months ago I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever by Marie Kondo.  If you’re not familiar with the international bestseller and the “KonMari method”, I would definitely recommend reading it.  I have moved house a total of 10 times in the last 6 years (an excellent way to declutter, should you want to try it), and yet was still able to clear out bags and bags of junk that I didn’t need or want.  Marie Kondo boasts a stellar reputation – should you want her services directly, she has a 9 month waiting list, but has had no repeat customers to date.  She also claims “Not only will you never be messy again, but you’ll also get a new start on life.”  And while this remains to be seen, life does become a whole lot simpler when you can find something to wear within 30 seconds of getting up, you can find both gloves when it’s freezing outside and everything fits neatly into a tiny closet.  The psychological impact of decluttering is not to be underestimated – everything seems to run so much more smoothly, which really fits in with the whole “new year, new me” thing but is relatively pain free!

new year's resolutions - you don't need to detox

Figure out what you want
Apparently 92% of goals fail by January 15th, so we are (almost) all in this together.  Now while the idea of new years resolutions make me vaguely nauseous, January does feel somewhat like a clean slate – weddings and sun holidays are on the (distant) horizon, if you’re a student the most important semester is ahead of you (yet contains enough possible study time to avoid a freak out, if the previous term was not your best) and those shiny new diaries and calendars are yet to be scribbled on.  Many people set goals for the months and year ahead, however only 3 out of every 100 people write their goals down – although people with written goals are 50% more likely to achieve them than those without.  Even a simple bucket list can clarify what you want in the future if you write it down.  Jack Black (not the comedian, the author of Mindstore) does a goal setting workshop on Youtube that is ideal for this time of year.

new year's resolutions - you don't need to detox
Focus on nutrition
Rather than depriving yourself, and the self-destructive mindset that goes with it, I tend to focus on feeding my poor body the nutrients (not calories) it has so sorely missed over the last few weeks.  And so I add – smoothies, broccoli for breakfast, roasted sweet potatoes, omega 3 supplements, avocado on toast, poached eggs, homemade bread, mangos as a treat (the good ones are pricey, my friend), smoked salmon, homemade granola with hot fruit salad and coconut yoghurt…there are plenty of healthy foods that I do enjoy, they just tend to take a bit more effort to prepare than a toasted cheese sandwich.  It’s funny how when you focus on adding all these things in, and nourishing yourself properly, it doesn’t feel anything as difficult as jumping on the gluten free, dairy free, sugar free bandwagon.

new year's resolutions - you don't need to detox

January is a depressing enough month as it is (particularly if you didn’t escape the flu epidemic that is apparently taking no prisoners) and beating yourself up for not sticking to a strict detox is not going to help.  There are many ways to start 2017 off on a good note, without resorting to lettuce leaves alone.  I would love to hear any resolutions you have that don’t involve “skinny tea” or burpees!

wheat free bread: porridge bread

A recipe for wheat free bread

I started 2017 by sleeping through midnight and dosing myself up with cough syrup and paracetamol, due to being the 7th person I know to go under with the flu…not exactly hitting the ground running like I had planned.  So while I’m eating all the chocolate that’s left in the house (how else is it going to disappear so I can start this “new year, new me” sh*te?), I decided to bake some porridge bread to keep me on the somewhat straight and narrow for the rest of the week.

There are numerous “porridge bread” recipes out there, as a quick Google search will show, however this is the one my dad uses (the aforementioned super-baker) and as I’ve had a few requests for a recipe, here is his.

porridge bread - oats

  • 2 teaspoons soda bicarbonate (bread soda)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 500g natural yoghurt
  • 1L ish porridge oats (and obviously make sure these are gluten free if you’re coeliac etc) – I use an old 500g yoghurt tub to measure the oats and then adjust the consistency by adding more. You want a dryish consistency, so depending on the type of yoghurt you use (low fat, full fat, greek etc – I use full fat, or whatever Super Value has in stock when I need it) you will need to keep adding oats until you have a texture similar to this:

porridge bread

  • Sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds or whatever else you like

Mix the yoghurt and the bread soda in a large bowl and let them “work” while you preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. The yoghurt will start to swell and air bubbles will appear. I tend to do this while unpacking the shopping/making dinner/cleaning the house etc as the longer you leave it the better a rise you’ll get out of the bread.

yoghurt porridge bread

Grease a baking tin with butter or coconut oil.  When the oven is hot, mix in oats as described above, followed by the salt, and any other seeds you fancy.  If it gets too dry, you can always use a little bit of water to adjust the consistency further, and pop it all in the bread tin.

porridge bread

The lower shelf of the oven is better, otherwise you can end up with a burnt  top and undercooked centre.  50 minutes is a general guideline, but I always check it after 40-45 minutes and if your oven is fan assisted it might be done at this stage.

You can slice this and freeze it, as it does go off pretty quickly (but if you’re anything like me when it comes to bread, this won’t be an issue).  Typically, this is made with dairy yoghurt, but a vegan friend of mine has made it with soy yoghurt and achieved a general bread-like consistency – so feel free to experiment with it if you want a dairy-free option.  Let me know how you get on!

porridge bread: the benefits of giving up gluten

3 things that happened when I gave up wheat

Gluten-free is everywhere these days, and has been credited with curing almost any ailment you can find – ranging from controversial claims to downright crazy things.  Wheat is our primary source of gluten, as many people do not really consume extensive amounts of other gluten-containing grains like barley or rye.  A gluten-free diet is essential for anyone with coeliac disease or a true allergy to gluten and wheat, and it really is wonderful how awareness has grown over the last 10 years, improving the quality of life for many people.  However, it has also become fashionable to denounce this naturally occurring protein, and many of those jumping on the bandwagon don’t actually even know gluten is a protein (gluten is the storage protein of the wheat plant and is what makes bread rise, dough stretchable and rollable, and gives the final product a chewy texture).

So while the the concurrent increased availability of gluten- and wheat-free products has been fantastic for those that require them, this causes two issues in my opinion – firstly, you have a number of people jumping on said bandwagon, mindlessly condemning gluten-containing-anything because Khloe Kardashian apparently lost stones of weight doing the same, and secondly, people with a serious intolerance, are in danger of being brushed off by blasé wait staff, sick to death of gluten-free requests from every Tom, Dick and Harry.  Accidental consumption of gluten by those that are genuinely allergic or sensitive to it is very serious and can result in hospitalisation, even if it is a tiny amount – and making these events more widespread is not exactly what the gluten-free community is aiming for I’m sure.

the benefits of giving up gluten: gluten free pancakes
I am not a dietician, but due to numerous skin and medical problems over the years I take a keen interest in what I put into my body.  I was previously vegetarian for 16 years, and have cut out sugar, caffeine and dairy at different stages to observe the results (full disclosure: these were experiments, I am not consistently sugar and dairy free, and I am not trying to be – although I have greatly reduced my consumption of both, and I have a vaguely obsessive relationship with coffee) so I have learned a lot about what works for me, and what most certainly does not.

A few months ago I was quite run down, and my G.P. suggested, among other things, cutting out wheat.  I already had what I would have thought was a “low-wheat” diet – I tend to only buy pitta bread, not regular bread (simply because I prefer it!) and wouldn’t have thought I ate an excessive amount of pasta, bread, pastries etc.  However, I find it hard to resist an experiment – particularly if clearer skin, a healthier body and more focused mind were potentially up for grabs – so I checked Wheat Belly out of the library (which I would seriously recommend for anyone interested in finding out more about gluten, wheat and the effects it can have on you body – it’s written by an American cardiologist, and therefore more reliable than say, The Daily Mail) and set about clearing out my kitchen cupboards.

gluten free breakfast: the benefits of giving up gluten

The results?  Mixed.  It was difficult to stick to a strict wheat-free diet while on holidays (my dad’s baking is hard to beat) and eschewing my daily pitta bread was tough at the start.  I did learn how to make the currently popular “porridge bread”, and really only fell off the bandwagon a few weeks ago.  I’ll eat bread, etc when I’m out for dinner sometimes, and the very occasional pizza but in general my gluten/wheat intake has hugely reduced – so you can clearly disregard all my talk about already being on a low-wheat diet, I was not at all!  The considerable amount of gluten/wheat in the typical western diet was something that really surprised me – particularly as I’d always thought I didn’t eat that much.  I noticed 3 big changes (and quite clearly the reverse of these changes in the last few weeks since slacking off), which I’ve outlined below.

Less sugar cravings or blood sugar crashes
Low glycemic index, or low GI, foods do not spike your blood sugar.  Maintaining a steady blood sugar level is important for controlling food cravings, mood swings and mental focus – diabetics have trouble with this, and experience numerous health complications due to wildly uncontrolled blood sugar that can affect their heart, kidneys and sight.

The higher the GI rating of a specific food, that the greater it tends to spike your blood sugar, which is then followed some time later by a crash – leaving you feeling tired, hungry and/or unable to focus.   That mid-afternoon chocolate or coffee craving is not just habit, but usually a dip in your blood sugar that sends your body looking for something to bring it back up again.  Much has been publicised about the benefits of low-GI diet (where a steady blood sugar is maintained, with foods that release sugar/glucose over a longer time and therefore avoid extreme highs or lows), especially for overweight and diabetic people.  Carbohydrates, and starchy carbohydrates in particular, tend to have a higher GI rating.  Dr Lancer (dermatologist to the stars, including Queen Bey and Kim K)even promotes a lower-carb diet to improve skin quality,   something that can apparently be negatively impacted by the blood sugar and related insulin spikes.

What is not so well-known is the capacity of wheat, even the organic “healthy whole grain” variety to seriously cause a serious spike in blood sugar.  The GI of glucose is 100, and this is what everything else is measured against.  Fats and protein have a negligible effect on blood sugar, and effectively have a GI of 0.  By comparison, the GI of a Mars bar is 68.  White bread has a GI of 69 – very marginally worse than a Mars bar, but whole-wheat bread shockingly has a GI of 72 – a worse effect than a bar of chocolate…and I know which one I’d enjoy more with my mid afternoon cup of Barry’s!

giving up wheat
Not surprisingly, after the first few days, I found myself more able to concentrate at work and experienced less sugar cravings.  I stuck to protein and fat based snacks like nuts and seeds and my 6 hour work shifts were much more manageable – previously I had been ready to eat my own arm or fit for nothing but bed by the end of them.

Less bloating
This may be in part due to a reduction in processed carbs, although I have increased my intake of oats, rice and others grains so I doubt it is the complete explanation.  My stomach became flatter than it had been in months – and I had not changed my gym/exercise routine at all.  What I have reduced by cutting out wheat is the above mentioned daily blood sugar repeating rollercoaster – and as a result the insulin surge that follows blood sugar wherever it goes. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that allows your cells to take in glucose (sugar) and use it for energy or convert it to fat – thereby reducing blood sugar levels.  If high blood sugar is triggered repeatedly, fat accumulation can increase, and it seems to affect abdominal fat in particular.

I ate more vegetables
This was an indirect effect of course, but, I suspect, one of the major reasons people feel so much better when they give gluten, wheat etc – and a nutritionist friend of mine agrees.  You cut out pasta, bread, sandwiches etc, what do you replace it with? Salads, stir-frys, soup, lean protein, while likely also reducing your sugar intake – of course you’re going to feel better.  I think for me this was quite an eye-opener – the extent to which we rely on bread and wheat based foods is alarming when you consider the above effects it can have.  I think the enforced creativity in cooking when you cut out such a central ingredient is no bad thing either – and the more varied diet that results is more likely to include nutrients, vitamins etc that you might be currently missing out on.

the benefits of giving up gluten - eating more vegetables

Last week was noticeably tougher, and I don’t think that was purely due to the previous long weekend – I definitely struggled through the afternoons more than usual, and fell asleep before 8pm on Friday (yes, I am that cool).  After experiencing the clear-headedness and lack of cravings for so long, I am eager for them to return – and for now I think restricting wheat to nights/dinners out is the way forward for me.  The realisation of exactly how much of my diet was composed of starchy carbohydrates really amazed me, and I’d say most of us could benefit cutting back in this regard.  Have you ever given up wheat, or considered it?

Banish your hangover

hangover-cure

 

Anyone else out there sorrier than usual that it’s Monday?  If you’re still feeling worse for the wear after Saturday night’s antics…welcome to the club.  Hangovers are never fun, and just like “grown up life responsibilities”, seem to get harder to handle as time goes on.  I am not one to aim to get drunk per se, but occasionally (!) get carried away by bubbles, prosecco and general merriment.  Steering clear of certain types of alcohol and mixers can help, but what about when it’s too late?  After 5 years of college, numerous festivals and a stint in the Australian outback (with no air-conditioning, yup no matter how bad you were feeling yesterday morning, you should try it in 40 degree heat, a scorching sun and no Taytos), there are a few things I have found that not only help the headache, but also the grey, uneven skin  – an added bonus.  So aside from the standard paracetamol/berocca/cold 7up cures, these are the best remedies for your aching body.

 

Hydration is key

Water generally tastes pretty rank the morning after the night before, but the headache associated with a hangover is usually due to dehydration .  A dioralyte sachet mixed in a glass of water is probably the best thing to drink – if you can stomach it.  Coconut water comes a close second and some of you may even like it.  I find the best cure is a smoothie, composed mainly of coconut water  – with some spinach and a banana thrown in too.  This tastes nice (basically just banana) and helps replenish the fluids and sugars you’re probably missing.  The green colour makes you feel healthy AF too.

hangover cure

 

Detox

The green goodness from above is the first step to speeding up the detox process.  Sweating is the next one (I know, you’re sweating anyway, and not in a good way), as this is one of our bodies’ natural mechanisms for flushing out alcohol.  If you’re up for it, a run or cycle or some form of exercise will work best, however if (like most of us) this is downright impossible, a steam room or sauna visit, or even a hot bath with do the same thing.  Just make sure you’re drinking water throughout to stay hydrated.

hangover cure

 

Balance your blood sugar

Your blood sugar takes a nosedive after excessive alcohol intake – and this can be responsible for you feeling tired and weak or shaky.  The sugar from the banana in the green smoothie can help replenish this, but you will need something more substantial (and I am not talking about McDonald’s) to stabilise your blood sugar levels.  Something sweet will bring your blood sugar levels back up but they’ll dip again pretty quickly – so seeking out some protein and other low-GI (glycemic index) foods will prevent your blood sugar yo-yoing up and down for the day.  Eggs on toast with some avocado and bacon is an excellent (and delicious) choice, and bonus points if you add in some green veggies.  The best avocado I’ve had recently was in Buckle Up in Sandymount – as a self-confessed avo snob, I hate when it’s not properly ripe.  Their coffee is pretty good too.

hangover cure

The only thing the above may  not target directly is the dreaded “fear” – although you may feel like you can handle life a little bit better when your head is clear, something that does chip away at the blanket of guilt/impending doom (however I did once resort to buying “Be Happy” tea and turning up at a friend’s house looking for a hug, so not always).  The best fix for the fear is realising that everyone else can be just as stupid on occasion, and life is only going to get better – it’s Monday morning and that means the worst part of the week is nearly over already.  So buy yourself a coffee and entertain yourself with some memes, and the world will feel like a more friendly place.

Do you have any tried and tested cures or ways of dealing with the morning after?

 

 

 

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